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Kentucky Derby 2017: One-eyed horse Patch will make his run for the roses

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Patch will be starting from the outside gate at Churchill Downs, but will be No. 1 in a lot of hearts.

Cheer for the one-eyed horse at the Kentucky Derby!

And starting from the 20th gate at Churchill Downs is Patch. The 3-year-old will load into the gates at the 2017 Kentucky Derby just like the other 19 horses to his left, but he won’t be able to see them. That’s because Patch only has one eye, and it’s on the right side.

But don’t let that lead you to believe he’s some incredible long shot because of his circumstances. Patch certainly isn’t letting having one eye slow him down, anyway, and has the racing pedigree to belong.

He is the son of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner, Union Rags, and the grandson of 1992 Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, A.P. Indy. Oh, and he’s racing out of Calumet Farms and trained by Todd Pletcher, so the connections are definitely there for the horse tagged with 30/1 morning line odds.

OK, yeah, it’s probably not likely. Of the prior three one-eyed horses to run in the Derby, none finished in the top 10. And the outside gate has produced just one winner in 15 attempts. And there are some pretty good horses starting inside of Patch when the field goes to the post at 6:46 p.m. (NBC/NBC Sports Live Extra).

But why not?

Patch only has 1 eye after a disease

So let’s get this one out of the way really quick: Patch wasn’t given that name because of his circumstances. It in no way refers to his left eye socket, which is empty. It’s the name he was given. The Lexington Herald-Leader notes, “Calumet manager Eddie Kane said the name was a play on his sire, Union Rags.”

Last June, Patch’s eye became swollen and showed signs of distress, the May 2017 edition of Thoroughbred Today notes. However, the infection did not respond to ointment treatment and was found to have no scratches or issues upon further examination. He was taken to an equine hospital in Sarasota a week later but showed no signs of recovery. Eventually, the decision was made to remove the eye, which had the effect of immediately lessening the pain the horse was in.

“At the time it was heartbreaking for me to watch him lose the eye,” Pletcher told the magazine. “Most of the time this sort of thing will happen to a horse before training is started. By the time they get to the track, they’re pretty used to it. It’s much harder for a two-year-old, halfway into training, to adjust.”

But after Patch was sent to Florida to recover, it didn’t take long to learn he wasn’t going to let losing an eye stop him. It just set him back a bit.

Patch, who’ll be ridden by jockey Tyler Gaffalione, won the first race he entered, and finished second in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby behind Girvin in April. That finish gave him enough qualifying points to earn his Derby spot.

Naturally, he’s become a rooting favorite since.

“He’s an underdog with a disability, but he doesn’t let that disability keep him on the sidelines,” ESPN analyst Jeannine Edwards said on Good Morning America Friday.

Patch will be the fourth horse to run in the Kentucky Derby with just one eye. He’ll be the fourth and the second for Pletcher. His 2004 Derby Entrant, Pollard’s Vision, finished 17th, however. Storm in May is the most recent, finishing 16th in the 2007 Derby. The first ever came in 1982 when Cassaleria did so and finished 13th.

Oh, and he’s on Twitter

With attitude! So go ahead and follow his journey, and follow along to see where the future takes him, too.