OCEANPORT, New Jersey (Reuters) - The Breeders’ Cup came to a thrilling but tragic end on Saturday.
Curlin outgunned big rival Street Sense to win the $5 million Classic but Irish raider George Washington suffered a gruesome injury and was put down on the track.
After two days of almost steady rain at Monmouth Park, the Breeders’ Cup looked headed for a bright finish when the sun broke through just before the start of the showcase Classic featuring the top three finishers from the Kentucky Derby, including champion Street Sense.
The event lived up to all the pre-race hype as Street Sense, Preakness champion Curlin and Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun roared around the final turn into the homestretch.
But Street Sense could not stay with Curlin whose jockey Robby Albarado pulled away for a commanding 4 1/2 length win ahead of Hard Spun on a sloppy track.
The cheers of 41,781 spectators quickly turned to gasps as George Washington, winner of four Group One races, broke down in front of the main grandstands with a shattered right front leg and had to be destroyed on the track.
“George Washington sustained an open fracture of the cannon bone in the right front fetlock and disarticulated the joint at the same time and had both sesamoids broken,” Dr Wayne McIlwraith, the on-call veterinarian told reporters.
“So it was a hopeless injury as far as repair and he has been euthanised. The decision was made very quickly.
“Aidan O’Brien (George Washington’s trainer) was on the racetrack with the horse right after it happened and he requested euthanasia.”
Adding to a gloomy day for Irish racing, Dylan Thomas fell to the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe jinx, finishing a well-beaten fifth behind winner English Channel in the $3 million Turf.
It marked the 10th time an Arc winner has run in the Breeders’ Cup and failed to reach the finish line first.
The tragedy involving George Washington overshadowed a thrilling day of racing that saw trainers Bob Baffert and Nick Zito end long Breeders’ Cup droughts.
One of the United States top trainers, Baffert has saddled three Kentucky Derby champions during his illustrious career.
But the three-time Eclipse Award winner has not enjoyed the same success at the Breeders’ Cup, celebrating just three wins in 44 tries, including his last in 2002.
His winless streak came to a quick end on Saturday when Indian Blessing opened the second day of Breeders’ Cup action with an impressive wire-to-wire win in $2 million Juvenile Fillies to keep her unbeaten record intact.
Less than two hours later, Baffert and jockey Garrett Gomez teamed up again for the Sprint, Midnight Lute storming to a 4 3/4 length win over Idiot Proof.
Zito, another of North America’s top trainers, broke his Breeders’ Cup duck when War Pass romped to an equally impressive wire-to-wire win on a sloppy Monmouth Park track.
Unbeaten War Pass, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, underlined his credentials as a Kentucky Derby threat, powering to a 4 1/2 length victory over Pyro in the $2 million Juvenile to give Zito his first Breeders’ Cup success in 10 tries.
Last year, Street Sense captured the Juvenile at Churchill Downs then returned in May to win the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s as good as anything I’ve ever touched, he’s as good as it gets,” Zito told reporters. “He did what he has had to do in all four races. He’s as good as any horse I’ve ever had.”
Lahudood provided the first surprise of the meeting, the 11-1 shot trained by Kiaran McLaughlin and ridden by Alan Garcia holding on to win the $3 million Filly and Mare Turf ahead of hard-charging Honey Ryder.