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Condylar Fractures in Derby/Belmont Stakes Contenders


2020/07/05


An X-ray of Nadal’s repaired condylar fracture (photo courtesy George Bolton)

Maxfield in his stall at Keeneland (photo by Anne M. Eberhardt)
Compiled by Nancy Brannon, Ph.D.

Bloodhorsemagazine reported that Nadal, winner of one division of the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in May, was retired on May 28 with a left front lateral condylar fracture, co-owner George Bolton announced.

According to Bloodhorse, “the injury was diagnosed after the 3-year-old colt worked a half-mile Thursday (May 28) in :48 4/5 at Santa Anita Park for trainer Bob Baffert. He went into surgery at the equine hospital at the Southern California track, Bolton said.” Two screws were inserted (see X-ray), and the colt will remain at Santa Anita for the early part of his post-surgery recovery. Bolton said the horse has been withdrawn from Derby contention and is now being retired to stand at stud.

Nadal had been the leader on the Road to the Kentucky Derby with 150 points and sat atop the latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top 3-Year-Old Poll, Bloodhorse reported.

Then, on June 10, 2020 Godolphin’s Kentucky Derby hopeful Maxfield suffered a non-displaced lateral condylar fracture of his right front leg during a half-mile workout at Keeneland, KY. The horse worked well, breezing a half-mile in :49 on a fast track, but soon after began showing discomfort in his right front leg. X-rays revealed a non-displaced lateral condylar fracture. He underwent surgery at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. Orthopedic specialist Dr. Larry Bramlage said the surgery was a success, with two screws inserted into the injury.

According to Bloodhorse, this is the second bone injury for Maxfield, who was diagnosed with a bone chip in his right front ankle before the November 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park. The bone chip was removed via surgery.

A Case Report by the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) on condylar fractures states: “Condylar fractures are common injuries in Thoroughbred racehorses (Bassage and Richardson 1998) as a result of the stress accumulation in this area during high-speed exercise (Riggs and Boyde 1999; Riggs et al.1999). The forelimb is affected more frequently than the hind limb, and the lateral condyle more frequently than the medial (Martin 2000).”

In an interview on The Horse Talk Show on March 18, 2017, Tim M. Lynch, DVM, Diplomate, ACVS, ACVSMRdescribed condylar fractures in horses.

“A Condylar Fracture is a fracture of the condyle or the distal end of the front or hind cannon bone. It’s usually to either one side of the center of the leg, at the bottom of the cannon bone. They can be of different configurations…they can be medial and complete, meaning they go up the medial side of the leg and they break out. Or they are incomplete and they go up through the medial side of the leg or even the lateral side and they don’t break out and you just see the lines. The bone responds to the pressures applied to it, meaning the bone will remodel and through training will try to heal itself or make it stronger.  The problem is that the healing and the repair process falls behind the training and the pressure applied to it. So now it’s out of balance. As far as healing the bone, of course when you run at high speeds, the bone will undergo some strain, stress and some microfractures, and then it needs to heal to get stronger so it can take the next training bout. Unfortunately, most of condylar fractures are due to repetitive bone strain or repetitive bone trauma. They either take a bad step or they load it beyond its mechanical abilities and they fracture through that weak spot.”

Dr. Lynch affirmed that these fractures are more likely to happen to younger horses, although they can happen to any horse. “Younger horses are more prone to it because they’re still growing,” he said.

Charlatan, winner of the other division of the Arkansas Derby, was also withdrawn from the Kentucky Derby because of an ankle problem, according to the Paulick Report. “He’s got a filling in a front ankle,” Baffert said. “They (veterinarians) found something there and we'll probably have it taken out (surgically).”

The Thoroughbred Daily News reported that an X-ray and MRI were performed on Charlatan to determine the cause. “It is so small that the X-ray couldn’t see it, but the MRI picked it up,” Baffert said. “You can see a tiny little something irritating the area. His ankle had a little fill in the front. We will take it out immediately and flush it. It is really small, but we have these MRIs now that are pretty good. You can really see a lot. It is minor, but we just have to do right by the horse. He will be back.”

Charlatan was one of the two Baffert-trained horses who tested positive for the Class 2 medication Lidocaine in May at Oaklawn Park.
 
Sources:
Ehalt, Bob and Byron King. 2020. “Unbeaten Nadal Retired With Condylar Fracture.” May 28. https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/241451/unbeaten-nadal-retired-with-condylar-fracture
Hammonds, Evan and Byron King. 2020. “Maxfield Off Derby Trail With Condylar Fracture.” Bloodhorse magazine. June 10. https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/241680/maxfield-off-derby-trail-with-condylar-fracture
 “Taking a Closer Look at Condylar Fractures in Horses. https://www.petersonsmith.com/taking-closer-look-condylar-fractures-horses/
Perez-Olmos, J.F., W.L. Schofield, F. McGovern, H. Dillon, and M. Sadlier. 2006. “Standing surgical treatment of spiral longitudinal metacarpaland metatarsal condylar fractures in 4 horses.” Equine Veterinary Education Case Report. December. https://aaep.org/sites/default/files/issues/eve-8-6-perz-olmos.pdf
Frakes, Jason. 2020. “Bob Baffert-trained Charlatan to Miss Belmont and Kentucky Derby with Injury.” Louisville Courier Journal. June 6.
Paulick, Ray. 2020. “Filling in Ankle Sidelines Charlatan; Will Miss Kentucky Derby.” Paulick Report. June 6. https://www.paulickreport.com/news/triple-crown/filling-in-ankle-sidelines-charlatan-will-miss-kentucky-derby/
DeBernardis, Christie. 2020. “Charlatan Forced to Miss Belmont With Ankle Injury.” Thoroughbred Daily News. June 6. https://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/charlatan-forced-to-miss-belmont-with-ankle-injury/


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