Sunday, November 05, 2006

Death Overshadows Upset of Bernardini [Joe Drape]

Joe Drape, New York Times:

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Nov.4This was supposed to be the coronation of Bernardini, the sensational 3-year-old who had picked up where the Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, had left off after fracturing his right hind leg in the opening yards of the Preakness Stakes.

The $5 million Classic was also supposed to crown Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Bernardini’s owner and the ruler of Dubai, as one of America’s most formidable breeding and racing operations.

Instead, the Breeders’ Cup World Championships yesterday reminded the nation of Barbaro once again, when the two co-favorites in the $2 million Distaff broke down, and one of them, Pine Island, had to be euthanized. In a strange coincidence, the winner in the Distaff, Round Pond, was conditioned by Michael Matz and ridden by Edgar Prado, Barbaro’s trainer and jockey.

“Sheik Mo,” as he is known in the bluegrass, also sustained a setback — although a far lesser one. When Invasor rushed past Bernardini in the stretch for an emphatic length victory, Sheik Mohammed saw Bernardini’s six-race winning streak snapped and his bid for Horse of the Year honors dashed. To compound matters, Invasor is owned by his brother, Sheik Hamdan.

“Beating his brother was not the goal,” said Rick Nichols, the vice president and general manager of Sheik Hamdan’s Shadwell Farm. “We happened to have two very good horses in the race.”

Over eight races worth $20 million here at Churchill Downs, a crowd of 75,132 witnessed more than 100 of the world’s most accomplished thoroughbreds face one another in scintillating and often hardly predictable ways.

A colt named Street Sense rocketed to a rail-skimming 10-length victory at odds of 15-1 in the $2 million Juvenile to stamp himself as the early favorite to win next spring’s Kentucky Derby. It is a title that has carried the kiss of death: In the past 22 years, not a single winner of the Juvenile has been able to duplicate his success on the following first Saturday of May.

Ouija Board, a globe-trotting 5-year-old, confirmed that she was the best mare in the world by capturing the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf, while Red Rocks shipped in from England to capture the $3 million Turf at odds of nearly 11-1.

But the afternoon took a dark turn when Pine Island and Fleet Indian, the 5-2 co-favorites, were injured in the Distaff. Pine Island, a 3-year-old filly who had won four of her six starts, took a misstep in the backstretch, flipping her jockey, Javier Castellano, over the her head. Then, in the far turn, the rider Jose Santos eased Fleet Indian, a 5-year-old mare that had captured eight races in a row.

Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, the on-call veterinarian, said Pine Island dislocated her left front fetlock joint, an injury that was made worse because the bone pierced the skin. “Because of the combination of it being open and the instability, she has been euthanized,” McIlwraith said 20 minutes after the end of the race.