Photo Credit Eclipse Sportswire / Breeders’ Cup Photos ©
Breeders’ Cup had went off without a hitch the entire weekend and the Classic was the final race of what was seemingly a very safe event. Everyone in the industry knew how much was on the line, breathes were held and nerves were a wreck for those behind the scenes for an entire week leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, let alone the weekend. There was a lot on the line for Santa Anita and for the sport of horseracing.
And then it happened. In the final race, some had reported initially that War Of Will and Mongolian Groom clipped heels however after watching the replay a few times that didn’t appear to happen. What did happen was Mongolian Groom’s rear left leg looked like it had just buckled and snapped. He almost ran into War Of Will because he was running on three legs at this point.
Abel Cedillo did the best he could at that time given the circumstances however he veered near War Of Will. Tyler Gaffalione avoided what could of been an even worse incident with both going down.
The NBC camera panned off the incident as soon as they knew something was a miss. Subsequently Mongolian Groom was vanned off in an attempt to see if his leg could be surgically repaired. Unfortunately nothing could not be done because of the severity of the injury. As a result he was euthanized humanely.
Statement from Breeders’ Cup Ltd.
Mongolian Groom sustained an injury in the Breeders’ Cup Classic today and was immediately attended to by an expert team of veterinarians, led by board certified veterinary surgeon Dr. Ryan Carpenter. During their evaluation at the equine hospital at Santa Anita, they observed a serious fracture to his left hind limb. Radiographs were taken and a complete evaluation was performed. Given the extent of the injury, Dr. Carpenter, in consultation with Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, veterinary surgeon and professor emeritus at Colorado State University, Dr. Rick Arthur, Equine Medical Director of the California Horse Racing Board, and attending veterinarian Dr. Vince Baker, recommended humane euthanasia of Mongolian Groom.
The death of Mongolian Groom is a loss to the entire horse racing community. Our equine and human athletes’ safety is the Breeders’ Cup’s top priority. We have worked closely with Santa Anita leading up to the World Championships to promote enhanced equine safety. Santa Anita has implemented numerous industry-leading reforms to enhance the existing health and safety measures with the intent of providing a safe racing environment. In addition, Breeders’ Cup always observes the most thorough up-to-date medication practices and restrictions, testing protocols, equine security and surveillance program, veterinary exams, injury management protocols and racing surface testing. These measures are in place to ensure our athletes are racing under the safest and most transparent conditions possible.
Breeders’ Cup has engaged world-renowned veterinarian, Dr. Larry Bramlage, to conduct an independent evaluation, the results of which will be published when
completed. We will continue to keep all stakeholders apprised as information becomes
available. We are committed to working with our partners in the industry to continue to
advance safety reforms, with the well-being of our athletes in mind.
Regardless of the reason for the leg injury even if not the track, many will still place blame on Santa Anita’s track surface. Some will further that with an increased all out attack on the sport of kings. I’m going out on a limb here to say that Santa Anita was maybe too safe even though there can be no such thing. The point I am trying to make here was the questionable scratch of Thais, Chad Brown’s horse, my sources tell me he was perfectly fine, yet Mongolian Groom slipped through protocols?
This brings me to my next point, Mongolian Groom could of passed all protocols and checks and yet the injury still took place. Why? Where checks random? Or- Horse racing is a dangerous sport with inherent risks. Both horse and rider are subject to this at all times. There is video footage that I saw leading up to this week that seemed as if Mongolian Groom was a little off in the rear. When he walked he seemed to favor his left hind leg. I am not an expert or veterinarian but I am also not the only one who noted this observation.
Santa Anita and the Breeders’ Cup did all they could to keep this weekend safe. This is a scene none of us want to see. When I hear people say there needs to be zero fatalities my first thoughts are; that sounds cutesy and nice but stop fooling yourself. The reality of it is this will always be this way. To say otherwise is a lie, to think it, means your lying to yourself. Can we hope that every measure is in place to ensure the least amount of catastrophic injuries are limited?, definitely. If we choose to play this sport however, there will always be risk and some injuries. As an industry we have to do all possible to minimize the risk and exposure at every level.
Racing needs PR right now and a central leader with backbone as well as a staff to handle racing affairs across the board. Let us change the racing surface instead. That will make it all better, until the next breakdown God forbid. Band-aids are for scrapes and small cuts, not lobbied goons from the Senate or the Gubernatorial level taking chunks out of our industries hyde every time it opens it’s mouth. There is far too much at stake while the industry is reduced to putting out immediate statements as the only public response.
While I understand the intent, its like going into a gun fight with a knife. The industry releases a statement, the opposition fights back with, investigations from the D.A, picketers, the Senate and the Governor getting involved. Not a fair fight!
This weekend was almost a smashing success and everyone did a great job behind the scenes to ensure things were handled better than they have ever been. It was all contingent upon no breakdowns and that obviously happened, in front of the world and a live crowd of well over 60 thousand people. When the race started I felt a sigh of relief that, today we were safe. By the conclusion of the race, we were on DEFCON 1 with PETA, the politicians and much worse off than before the weekend ever began.
We are truly sorry for what happened to Mongolian Groom yesterday, every person that is involved in any way in horseracing wished it never happened. It did, now we have the fight of our lives as an industry on our hands and Tapeta isn’t going to be the “come to Jesus moment” racing needs IMO. That moment was over the day the fall meet began at Santa Anita.
The paradox that Southern California finds itself in screams to me the following; What happens after Tapeta is installed and there is another accident? What is your next recourse? Your back is already against the wall, installing a 2nd new surface shows acceptance of fault and you placated to your adversary. We skipped the first part of where we should of handled things differently in the beginning with a Tapeta installation prior to the fall meet. At the same time racing is long past that moment and hindsight is 20/20.
Racing needs a commissioner now more than ever. You wanted your sport to go mainstream, you wanted the millennial’s to get involved and breathe new young interest in the sport. The very thing you asked for has victimized the industry because of “consensus-based leadership” and the failure to evolve with your audience and the times.
If you want the limelight and to continuously attract new blood in the industry and fans into this sport, you are forced to change your ways. You are forced to create a strong infrastructure for the sake of the sport. Doing nothing will be your self induced ultimate demise.