Fa­tal­ity mars Cup Clas­sic

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By BETH HAR­RIS

A vic­tory by Vino Rosso in the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic was over­shad­owed by a fa­tal in­jury to a 15-1 long shot in the $6 mil­lion race at Santa Anita. Cup of­fi­cials said in a state­ment about two hours af­ter the race that Mon­go­lian Groom had been eu­th­a­nized af­ter sus­tain­ing a se­ri­ous frac­ture to his left hind leg. It’s the 37th horse death at Santa Anita since De­cem­ber and it oc­curred in the sea­so­nend­ing cham­pi­onships in front of 67,811 fans and a na­tional prime­time tele­vi­sion au­di­ence.

ARCADIA — A vic­tory by Vino Rosso in the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic was over­shad­owed by a fa­tal in­jury to a 15-1 long shot in the $6 mil­lion race at Santa Anita on Satur­day night.

Cup of­fi­cials said in a state­ment about two hours af­ter the race that Mon­go­lian Groom had been eu­th­a­nized af­ter sus­tain­ing a se­ri­ous frac­ture to his left hind leg.

It’s the 37th horse death at Santa Anita since De­cem­ber and it oc­curred in the sea­son-end­ing cham­pi­onships in front of 67,811 fans and a na­tional prime-time tele­vi­sion au­di­ence.

Mon­go­lian Groom was part of the early pace in the 1 1/4-mile race. But jockey Abel Cedillo sharply pulled up the 4-year-old geld­ing near the eighth pole as the rest of the field charged toward the fin­ish line.

Vino Rosso won by 4 1/4 lengths, draw­ing away from 5-2 fa­vorite McK­inzie down the stretch.

The deaths prompted track owner The Stronach Group to im­ple­ment changes to rules in­volv­ing med­i­ca­tion and train­ing. The Breed­ers’ Cup also beefed up its own pre-race ex­ams and ob­ser­va­tions of run­ners.

It al­most worked, too, with the only in­jury com­ing in the last of the 14 Cup races over the two days of rac­ing.

“Ev­ery­thing had been go­ing so great,” trainer Bob Baf­fert said be­fore the death was an­nounced. “You just don’t know when it is go­ing to hap­pen. We try to keep them as safe as we can.”

A green screen was rushed onto the track to block Mon­go­lian Groom from the view of 67,811 fans and a prime-time tele­vi­sion au­di­ence. He was loaded onto an equine am­bu­lance and taken to a hos­pi­tal on the back­stretch.

Four vet­eri­nar­i­ans were con­sulted be­fore the de­ci­sion was rec­om­mended to eu­th­a­nize.

Cup of­fi­cials said they have hired Dr. Larry Bram­lage to con­duct an in­de­pen­dent eval­u­a­tion with the re­sults to be made pub­lic when com­pleted.

Mon­go­lian Groom had three wins in 17 ca­reer starts and earn­ings of $579,141. He was com­ing off a vic­tory over McK­inzie in the Awe­some Again Stakes on the same track in Septem­ber that earned him a berth in the Clas­sic.

Bred in Ken­tucky by Calumet Farm, Mon­go­lian Groom was trained by Gan­bat Enebish and owned by Mon­go­lian Sta­ble, the name of Gan­baatar Dag­vadorj’s rac­ing oper­a­tion. His best horse was 2015 Turf Sprint win­ner Mon­go­lian Satur­day, who like Mon­go­lian Groom was a 15-1 shot in the Breed­ers’ Cup.

Mike Re­pole, win­ning co-owner of Vino Rosso, said be­fore the death that an in­jury is “the worst part of this game.”

“For us, horse safety is very, very im­por­tant. Pray­ers for the horse. Pray­ers for the con­nec­tions of the horse. It’s got to be re­ally, re­ally tough. It’s very sad,” Re­pole said.

Win­ning trainer Todd Pletcher said he was con­cerned about horse safety at Santa Anita com­ing into the sea­son-end­ing world cham­pi­onships.

“We were anx­ious, not only for run­ning in huge races like this, but hop­ing ev­ery­thing would go smoothly and safely,” he said. “Every­one took every pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure they pos­si­bly could.”

How­ever, that wasn’t enough in the view of Peo­ple for the Eth­i­cal Treat­ment of An­i­mals.

“The rac­ing in­dus­try must make a choice be­tween do­ing right by the horses or shut­ting down for­ever,” said Kathy Guillermo, PETA se­nior vice pres­i­dent.

Four horses were scratched Satur­day from Cup races af­ter pre-race ex­ams by vets found is­sues con­cern­ing enough to keep them in their barns.

Ear­lier in the day, protesters an­gered by the 36 deaths stood out­side Santa Anita tot­ing signs urg­ing the end of the sport in Cal­i­for­nia. A short dis­tance away, in­dus­try work­ers feel­ing pres­sured by the prospect of los­ing their jobs ral­lied to pro­mote rac­ing.

It’s not the first time death has haunted the Breed­ers’ Cup.

In 1990 at Bel­mont Park, Go For Wand was lead­ing the Distaff when she sus­tained a fa­tal in­jury and fell in front of a hor­ri­fied grand­stand crowd and live TV au­di­ence. Jockey Randy Romero was thrown to the ground and Go For Wand got up and limped on three legs. She was eu­th­a­nized on the track.

In the 2007 Clas­sic at New Jer­sey’s Mon­mouth Park, Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton dis­lo­cated his an­kle dur­ing the Clas­sic and was eu­th­a­nized.

Be­fore tragedy struck it had been a day of up­sets and thrilling per­for­mances at the sun-splashed track lo­cated at the foot of the San Gabriel Moun­tains.

As­so­ci­ated Press

BIG RACE Irad Or­tiz Jr. cel­e­brates af­ter rid­ing Vino Rosso to vic­tory in the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic horse race at Santa Anita Park on Satur­day in Arcadia.

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