A LOT has happened. Some grand, unfortunately more sad and disappointing, all a part of and challenge to the lives of Thoroughbred racehorses.
Let’s start with the happy. American Pharoah is a hero, and has been feted on both the East and West coasts in the form of being paraded at both Churchill Downs and Santa Anita Racecourse. He’s such a kind horse and took all the attention and adulation in stride; he just marched down the track before the grandstands as he was applauded and photographed by thousands of fans.
Better yet, he has returned to training and seriously doesn’t look like the Triple Crown effort took much out of him. He continues to gallop around the track in his morning works fluidly and happily and looks the picture of health–big and strong. His next race will be upon us very soon, Sunday, August 2 in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park in Oceanside, New Jersey. The track is pulling out all the stops with festivities planned for attendees all weekend.
The fast-approaching Haskell leads to the next question and a few updates for the three-year-old crop; who the heck is going to take on the champion in the Haskell? So far, War Story’s connections have signed on. Stanford, who was initially entered and then withdrawn from the Kentucky Derby is a likely candidate thanks to his win in the Long Branch Stakes this past weekend at Monmouth. Carpe Diem and Materiality have had works recently and they may be sent to pursue American Pharoah yet again. Frosted won’t take on the challenge again, at least not at this point. He is headed to Saratoga with the Travers Stakes as the goal. He’ll likely prep in the Jim Dandy also at Saratoga.
We know Firing Line won’t be there. It was announced last week that his racing in 2015 is done. He’d been recovering from a hoof injury, but his connections have decided he’d benefit from continued R and R so he won’t be seen again until the turn of the calendar. Next race plans for Dortmund have not been announced yet, but he won’t be accompanying American Pharoah back to the East Coast.
Sadly, Danzig Moon will not be present either…he had to be euthanized following an injury sustained in the running of the Queen’s Plate Trial at Woodbine Racecourse. He’d run valiantly in the Bluegrass Stakes, the Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes. RIP.
The news doesn’t improve much among the distaff or older horses. Lady Eli, a stunning, undefeated three-year-old turf filly including being the winner in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies race has been stricken by laminitis in both front hooves. It was set in motion after having stepped on a nail as she was returning to her stall from the test barn after her latest win in the Belmont Oaks run July 4th. Right now her racing future and potentially her life is in the balance. Good thoughts and prayers for her swift recovery.
2014 Horse of the Year, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome is also on the sidelines for the remainder of the year. 2015 has proven to be a star-crossed period for the colt as he has yet to win a race, was unable to race at Royal Ascot as planned due to a bruised hoof, and now has been found to have a bruised cannon bone during a vet inspection. He had just returned stateside to prepare for a run in the Arlington Million. Nothing life threatening or career ending here unless the connections determine otherwise. He may well return to racing next year as a five-year old.
Main Sequence, a star on the turf throughout 2014, including a major win over an international field in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, has been retired from racing due to a tendon tear. Trainer Graham Motion did a stellar job with this somewhat quirky horse; he definitely turned his form around and helped him reach his potential.
Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria returned to racing last Saturday, July 11 in the Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park. She never fired as the prohibitive favorite and finished out of the money in fifth place. A 50-1 shot, Calamity Kate led just about from gate to wire and had enough left to hang on for the win in one of the biggest upsets of the weekend.
Wicked Strong, one of 2014’s leading three year olds and winner of last year’s Wood Memorial and Jim Dandy Stakes, has been off form through his first three races in 2015. Saturday, he made his first start on grass in the Forbidden Apple Stakes at Belmont Park to shake things up and see how he’d handle a new surface. He ran a decent second in the race; he didn’t hate the turf, but he didn’t seem to become a world beater over it either. It’ll be interesting to see where he appears next.
But let’s end on a very positive note. Two-time Horse of the Year (2012, 2013) Wise Dan has been completely cleared to return to full training and should return to the races late this summer or early fall. Late in 2014 he’d sustained a non-displaced fracture near the end of his right front leg. At the time of injury, his return to training and the races was questionable. Can’t wait to see him back on the track!
Thoroughbred racing can be so exciting, beautiful, and thrilling especially when a horse like American Pharoah, Lady Eli, and Wise Dan come along. They are unusually gifted athletes with an incredible will to win. As this report exposes, they can be quite fragile and the privilege to watch them run should never be taken for granted.