While the California Horse Racing Board has yet to act on a proposal that would make it mandatory to provide veterinary records for post-mortem examination of horses that died at CHRB licensed facilities, trainer Bob Baffert voluntarily turned over vet records on Secret Compass, the Discreet Cat filly who suffered a fatal injury in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Secret Compass, who five weeks earlier became the first Grade 1 stakes winner for Westrock Stables when she captured the Chandelier Stakes by a head over She's a Tiger, suffered a lateral condylar fracture, with dislocation, of her left foreleg while approaching the far turn of the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile Fillies. “It is the worst type of injury we get,” said Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, who was serving as the American Association of Equine Practitioner's On-Call veterinarian at the Breeders' Cup.
Jockey John Velazquez suffered internal bleeding from the accident and underwent surgery to remove his spleen. He is out for the remainder of 2013.
Bred in Kentucky by Liberation Farm and Brandywine Farm, Secret Compass had won 2-of-4 starts and $216,120 after being purchased by Westrock for $425,000 at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Donato Lanni bought her in the name of Reckless Farm for $90,000 six months earlier at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
Baffert turned in veterinary records dating back to March, when the filly was purchased.
It was the first fatality in a Breeders' Cup race since Rough Sailing was euthanized after slipping on the turf during the 2010 BC Juvenile Turf, but the third high-profile breakdown of a Baffert-trained horse at Santa Anita in less than a year.
On Dec. 30, 2012, Tweebster, a 5-year-old multiple graded stakes-placed gelding by Tapit was euthanized after pulling up with an injury following a $12,500 claiming race at Santa Anita. Tweebster, who'd earned $246,968 after being purchased by Kaleem Shah for $300,000 at the 2009 OBS March sale, had finished second in a pair of G2 races in 2011, the San Fernando and Strub Stakes, and had previously run for a $40,000 claiming price.
The necropsy report's case summary on Tweebster said, “This horse had complete rupture of the distal sesamoidean ligaments of the left front leg. In addition, several chronic, pre-existing lesions were observed in several structures of both front legs. Histology of the ruptured sesamoidean ligaments is under way.” An update later said: “Histology of the distal sesamoidean ligaments of the left front leg showed acute hemorrhage, consistent with the gross observation. However, histology also revealed the presence of large numbers of hemosiderin-loaded macrophages, suggesting that chronic hemorrhage occurred in those tissues.”
On Oct. 17, just over two weeks before the Breeders' Cup, the 6-year-old A.P. Indy horse Take Control fractured his right foreleg while said to be in training for the BC Marathon. Produced from Horse of the Year Azeri, Take Control had raced just four times since 2009, and finished last of 10 runners in his most recent start, the G1 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita won by BC Classic winner Mucho Macho Man Sept. 28. Also owned by Kaleem Shah, Take Control made the record books as a $7.7 million buy-back at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. He sold the following spring for $1.9 million at the Keeneland April sale of 2-year-olds in training.
Earlier this year, Baffert turned in veterinary records on seven horses from his barn that died from non-musculoskeletal injuries over a 17-month period from November 2011 to March 2013. The seven deaths, attributed to a variety of internal ailments ranging from heart attack to pulmonary and internal hemorrhage, accounted for nearly 20 percent of all of the sudden deaths tracked by the CHRB's necropsy program in California during that time frame.
For more than three years, the CHRB has looked into amending the state's necropsy program in place since 1990, making it mandatory for six months of veterinary records to be provided when horses die. To date it has taken no action.
Owners, trainers and veterinarians have opposed the veterinary records amendment in the past, but Joe Morris, president of the Thoroughbred Owners of California, said his organization supports the proposal if the records “are provided anonymously and are for science only.”
The original version of this article erroneously said George Washington in the 2007 Classic was the last Breeders' Cup fatality.
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