Trainer Tim Ice said he hopes to ship Summer Bird back to the United States Wednesday on a flight that would also include Marsh Side, one of the American starters in Sunday's Japan Cup. Summer Bird came out of a Sunday morning workout at Hanshin racecourse in Osaka, Japan, with a vertical, non-comminuted fracture of a bone in his right front leg that will require surgery. A decision has not been made whether to retire the three-time Grade 1-winning son of Birdstone or put him back in training in 2010.
“One of the surgeons we've consulted with (in the United States) has already seen the X rays and says the prognosis is excellent,” Ice told the Paulick Report Monday morning (Japanese time). “It will take one screw to put it together and should be no problem.”
Ice explained how some confusion over the type of injury Summer Bird suffered may have occurred in the racing press. The Paulick Report, which first reported on the injury, referred to it as a medial fracture of the carpal bone after speaking with the trainer Sunday afternoon. Other news outlets, which contacted Dr. K.K. Jayaraman, who bred and owns Summer Bird with his wife, Vilasini, called it a bone chip, based on early information provided to the Jayaramans. The Jayaramans had arrived in Tokyo shortly before the injury occurred and had not yet had the opportunity to travel to Osaka and see the horse or look at the X rays. Ice confirmed Monday that the injury is a fracture to the medial, or inside, front portion of the right ankle. The Jayaramans were to arrive in Osaka later Monday.
“The first impression I got was that there was a chip,” said Ice, who relayed that information to the Jayaramans. “Once I was able to see the X rays myself, I could see that it was a fracture, not a chip. I don't think the communications was real clear between the (Japanese) interpreter and myself.”
Summer Bird is resting comfortably and in no distress, said Ice, who said a cast was applied to the leg as a precaution.
“I've been out with him all morning, and checked on him last night,” Ice said. “He's able to lay down and takes care of himself. He's always been an intelligent horse and I think knows to take weight off it. He knows something happened. He's a horse with a very good attitude. We have a cast on him right now, but he probably doesn't need it. We're just giving him extra protection.”
The 35-year-old Ohio native took a minute to reflect back on a year that included wins by Summer Bird in the Belmont Stakes, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup, victories that make the colt the favorite to win an Eclipse Award as 3-year-old male champion. “These horses are hard to come by and what he's done for me this year and for my career is something that I can't really put into words. But you've got to take the good with the bad and this is part of the business we are in.
“I'm thankful for the year I've had with him. If he doesn't come back to run again he doesn't owe me anything.”
Ice said Summer Bird was doing very well in his training in preparation for the the Japan Cup Dirt, which is to be on a very sandy racetrack whose surface he compared with Belmont Park. One challenge would have been the clockwise-style of racing done at Hanshin, in contrast to American racing, which is all counter-clockwise. “He had adjusted to the turns,” Ice said, “and handled both turns well in Sunday's breeze.”
Summer Bird worked five furlongs in 1:02 4/5 Sunday morning and pulled up without incident. It was only after being unsaddled back at his stable that Summer Bird began showing signs of the injury that will require surgery back in the United States. Ice could not confirm who would be performing the surgery or where it would take place.
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