LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The early favorite for the Kentucky Derby was eliminated hours before the race.

Forte was ruled out of the 149 Derby on Saturday, according to Churchill Downs spokesman Darren Rogers. No immediate reason was announced.

It was the fifth scratch this week of the race.

The colt had stumbled on the track during training Thursday, though trainer Todd Pletcher had played it down.

Five horses have died at Churchill Downs in recent days, including two trained by Saffie Joseph Jr. He was suspended for the track and his Derby horse Lord Miles was scratched.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission veterinarians were at Pletcher’s barn early Saturday to observe and examine Forte, who galloped around the track and then trotted out of the barn. Co-owner Mike Repole was also in attendance.

Forte went on a five-race winning streak and was the early 3–1 favourite. That leaves 18 horses to run in the 1 1/4 mile Derby.

It was another pre-Derby disappointment for Repole.

He owned Uncle Mo, the early favorite for the 2011 Derby who was dropped the day before the race. The foal had a gastrointestinal infection and was eventually diagnosed with a rare liver disease. He resumed racing before retiring in November of that year.

Other horses that were scratched this week were Practical Move and Skinner, both due to fever, and Carry On.

Pletcher, a two-time Derby winner, will continue to saddle Tapit Trice and Kingsbarns.

The Derby post time is just before 7 pm EDT.