By Ray Paulick
Multiple Grade 1 winner Summer Bird suffered a fracture to his right front leg while training at Hanshin race course Sunday morning in preparation for next Sunday's Japan Cup Dirt. The injury is not life threatening but could end the racing career of the 3-year-old Birdstone colt, who captured the Grade 1 trio of the Belmont, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup and is the favorite to win an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male.
Summer Bird is owned and bred by Drs. K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman.
Trainer Tim Ice, who has been at Hanshin in Osaka to oversee Summer Bird's training, said the colt worked five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 without incident and walked back to the barn without any apparent lameness.
“It was a very good breeze, exactly what we wanted,” Ice told the Paulick Report Sunday afternoon. “He finished up strong. Once we got him off the track and unsaddled him he showed a slight limp and the further he went the more he started limping. We immediately put him in his stall, put him on ice, and took X rays an hour later.”
Ice described the fracture as going “straight up” the medial carpal bone (click here for a diagram) and speculated the fracture might require surgery and the implant of a screw into the bone.
“It's definite that he will not run in the Japan Cup Dirt,” Ice said. “Once we get him back to the States and get him to the veterinarian of our choice we'll further evaluate whether he'll have a 4-year-old campaign or not. We're taking every precaution we can to get a safe and comfortable trip home for him.
“Dr. J. will decide whether we'll need the surgery,” he said. “The plans were to bring him back as a 4-year-old as long as he was sound. We just need to sit down and figure out what to do. The one thing we don't want to do is put him through everything and waste a year of racing if he's not 100%.”
Ice said it hasn't been determined how soon Summer Bird will travel back to the U.S. and where he will go for evaluation, though he mentioned Kentucky and Colorado (where renowned orthopedic surgeon Wayne McIlwraith is based) as the most likely possibilities. Ice said Summer Bird will need to spend a couple of days in quarantine at Hollywood Park.
“Everything was going good, and I was looking forward to the race,” the trainer said. “I check his legs every morning and this morning before his breeze he was ice cold. There was nothing to indicate something was wrong. He did stumble slightly for one step when he turned around to begin his gallop, but there was no indication at all in the work.”
Summer Bird would have been the first winner of an American Triple Crown race to contest the Japan Cup Dirt.
“I'm feeling very, very disappointed,” said Ice, “not because we didn't make this race but because this had to happen to this horse. He's been a very good horse all summer long and into the fall and for something like this to happen is devastating.
“It's been a whirlwind experience. This is the letdown of the sport. I have to accept this just as I accept the good. The one thing I'm thankful for is he does have a future. I'll always remember this horse. Once he gets into the breeding shed I hope he'll reproduce what he showed as a racehorse.”
Copyright © 2009, The Paulick Report
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