Patch has been the story in the week leading up to the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Yes, the horse is missing his left eye. No, it does not prevent him from competing at a high level.
As fate would have it, Patch got the 20 post at Churchill Downs, an unfavorable draw for a horse with full sight, much less Patch. Famed trainer Todd Pletcher is quick to point out that Patch wants to be treated like any other horse.
“We thought there might be a period where he needed to adjust, that he would carry himself a little differently,” Pletcher told ESPN. “Actually, he showed no ill effects from [losing his eye] it at all.”
Patch is owned by Calumet Farms and ridden by Tyler Gaffalione who is making his Kentucky Derby debut. Win or lose, Patch has become an inspiration to fans across the country.
Learn more about the one-eyed horse.
1. Patch Lost His Left Eye in July 2016
According to ABC, Patch joins three other horses who have raced in the Kentucky Derby with just one eye. Patch hopes to be the first to find the Winner’s Circle at Churchill Downs. According to ESPN, Imperialism did the best of any horse with sight complications with his third-place finish in 2004.
The exact cause of the eye injury is still a bit of a mystery. Trainer Todd Pletcher explained the timeline of events to ESPN.
“We found him in his stall with the eye swollen, almost shut, heavy tearing,” Pletcher told ESPN. “There was no indication he had been cast, no scratches around the eye. We called the vet and treated him right away. They decided they couldn’t save the eye. [The vet] said it looked like there was inflammation in the globe of the eye.”
2. The Horse Is Trained by Notable Trainer Todd Pletcher
While Patch has overcome a lot, he is in good hands with Pletcher. According to the USA Today, Pletcher’s three horses in the 2017 Kentucky Derby tied him for the most starts in Derby history with 48. In addition to Patch, Pletcher has Always Dreaming and Tapwrit in the race.
Pletcher spoke with FOX News about seeing Patch’s popularity rise.
”I kind of anticipated Patch would become pretty popular,” Pletcher told FOX News. ”It’s an intriguing story and he’s a really, really cool horse to be around. He’s very laid back, very professional, very straightforward to train.”
3. Patch Entered the Kentucky Derby With Little Race Experience
Pletcher has explained his main concern with Patch is not his eye but his lack of race experience. While Patch qualified for the Kentucky Derby, he only had three prior races in 2017 heading into Churchill Downs.
Patch came in second in the Louisiana Derby. His two prior races came at Gulfstream Park where he won in February and came in second in January. After his eye surgery, the horse did not race as a two-year-old leaving him with less racing experience than most of his peers.
4. Patch Received His Name Before He Lost His Eye
Given he only has one eye, the name patch fits with the horse. The name is more of a coincidence than fans may think. According to the Courier-Journal, the horse was named Patch before he lost his eye.
According to the Kentucky Derby, the name was a nod to his sire, Union Rags. It would turn out to have a deeper meaning as Patch’s life went on.
Pletcher explained to the Courier-Journal that the eye injury has not been an issue.
“It’s a credit to him and his professionalism that he was able to adapt so seamlessly to it,” Pletcher told the Courier-Journal. “I was concerned that it might compromise his ability in some way or the way he carried himself. I guess you don’t know for sure but it certainly doesn’t seem like it has.”
5. Patch Was Purchased in Utero With His Mother Windyindy
She gave birth to Patch on March 18, 2014. Three years later her foal would be competing at Churchill Downs in the Kentucky Derby. Patch spent his early years training at Stonestreet Training Center near Ocala, Florida.
Gaffalione will make his Derby debut riding Patch. Gaffalione is far from a newcomer to horse racing. According to Thoroughbred Daily News, he is a third-generation jockey. He spoke about Patch’s demeanor and what it will be like to race at the Derby.
“His pedigree says he will run all day,” Gaffalione told Thoroughbred Daily News. “He doesn’t have the quickest acceleration, but he keeps coming, keeps coming. I’m really thrilled about this horse. I think he has a very bright future…I’ve never been to Churchill Downs on Derby Day but have watched the race from home for as long as I can remember. Even from home, when they show the jocks walking out of the jocks room and play My Old Kentucky Home I get that feeling in my stomach. I can’t imagine actually being a part of it.”