Withers runner Square Shooter recovering from cut

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Monday morning, Square Shooter looked and acted like any other horse in the barn at Fair Hill Training Center. He was clean, dry, done up in all fours and munching hay as the barn crew finished leveling off the shedrow from a morning of training. If he cared about anything, it didn’t show.

And he had plenty to care about. The gray colt, sixth in Saturday’s Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, is lucky to be alive.

Heading into the first turn, he got in tight and was struck in the left front tendon by another horse’s shoe – slicing off a layer of skin and leaving a significant wound just below the knee. The damage could have severed the tendon, an injury few horses recover from.

“It’s mostly superficial, but he was centimeters away from having a very bad outcome,” said the horse’s trainer Mike Lerman Monday. “If they slice the tendon like that, there’s nothing you can do for them. I guess you have to look at the good fortune of bad fortune. He was hit at an angle, there are a couple of good shots in there but right now it looks like he’ll be OK. A slightly different angle could have left a much more significant injury.”

Lerman said the son of Trappe Shot will miss a few weeks of training while under veterinary treatment and then regroup for the rest of his 3-year-old campaign. He received anti-inflammatories and antibiotics Saturday, and will stay on both for a bit while also getting some routine care from Lerman’s staff. The trainer is reasonably confident the tendon was not damaged, but will order a scan once the early inflammation quiets down.

“It’s basically wound care, the same wound care you do in any situation like this,” Lerman said. “We use a silver sulfa cream over the wound, after the old-school way of lots and lots of hosing. You want to keep the inflammation down and make sure there’s no infection.”

SquareShooterHedSquare Shooter, owned by Gold Square, came into the race off two wins as a 2-year-old at Parx Racing – a maiden in November and an allowance in December. The $125,000 OBS April purchase broke a step slow from post nine (of 10) and was four wide headed into the first turn where he brushed slightly with Small Bear. The Kentucky-bred stayed wide throughout, made progress while five wide on the far turn and flattened out late to finish 13 lengths behind winner El Areeb. Judging from the video, and the amount of dirt on his horse’s leg, Lerman figures the injury occurred going into the first turn. 

“It could happen in any race,” Lerman said. “They’re in tight quarters at high speed, and it’s really amazing it doesn’t happen more often. It makes his race that much better, given the injury and how wide he was.”

Lerman pointed to a similar injury by On The Line in the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where the horse severed his tendon and was eventually euthanized after attempts to repair the damage failed.

“You’ve just got to be happy you’re not in that situation,” Lerman said. “I came in this morning and as we pulled off the layers of gauze and cotton, I held my breath. But I’m cautiously optimistic now. I’m relieved my horse is going to recover and still be a horse.”

See Withers preview for more on Square Shooter.