December 11, 2023

King Guillermo out of Kentucky Derby with fever

King Guillermo wins the Tampa Bay Derby
King Guillermo wins the Tampa Bay Derby (SV Photography)

Tampa Bay Derby (G2) hero King Guillermo has come down with a fever ruling him out of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1), connections revealed Thursday.

“To race in a race like the Derby, we need him at 100 percent,” trainer Juan Carlos Avila said. “We aren’t going to be able to demonstrate how good he is like this. I think we are going to have plenty of time to show his quality. He’s going to be a great horse and everybody knows we have to take care of the horse first. The next step is to try to get him ready for the Preakness (G1) and go from there.”

Owned by retired Major League Baseball All-Star Victor Martinez’s Victoria’s Ranch, King Guillermo was last seen finishing runner-up to Nadal in an Arkansas Derby (G1) division May 2. The Uncle Mo colt was kept fresh by design, and he’d been advertising his well-being throughout his morning training at Churchill Downs.

“The sad part is that Juan said yesterday was his best day here,” Martinez said. “When we left the track in the morning following training and came back in the afternoon for feed time (Wednesday), we discovered he had a fever. It’s just the sad part about this game.”

King Guillermo was examined by veterinarians, and when he did not appear on track Thursday, reports surfaced of an ill-timed issue. His status appeared in doubt, a decision that was made official later in the afternoon.

The second major defection in two days, King Guillermo follows in the wake of Art Collector’s shock withdrawal due to a foot problem shortly before entry time Tuesday. Art Collector is also expected to regroup from his minor setback in time for the Oct. 3 Preakness.

Now the field for the 146th Kentucky Derby is down to 17 starters. According to Churchill publicity, the two inside gates and one outside gate of the new 20-horse Kentucky Derby starting gate will remain open, and the post positions as set on Tuesday remain unchanged.