Unrelated injuries led to three horses being humanely destroyed at the close of Saratoga Open House on July 15 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Twice The Price incurred a broken ankle; Autumn Riches fractured a knee, and Plattsburgh broke his humerus. Plattsburgh fell at a jump, while the other two were pulled up after fences.
“It was very uncharacteristic, unprecedented—very unfortunate, obviously—for the whole steeplechase community. I’m very upset by it,” said Bill Gallo, Director of Racing for the National Steeplechase Association. “There was no connecting thought; the turf was in pristine condition, the weather was not a factor. It was very extraordinary, but it did happen.”
Trainers Jonathan Sheppard, Jimmy Day and Joe Delozier agreed that the ground conditions didn’t seem to cause any of their horses’ injuries.
“I think the ground was actually very good,” said Sheppard, who trained William Pape’s 5-year-old Twice The Price. “I think it was just a freak thing. She jumped the fence well; her ankle just snapped when she landed and why—I have no idea. It was way up on the far side of the course. And the course being the Open House and not the actual meet, there wasn’t an instant replay to review. I can only really know what Brian Crowley—the rider—told me.”
Day, on the other hand, witnessed Autumn Riches’ mishap during the Sport of Kings maiden hurdle (5-year-olds and up).
“It looked like to me like he stuck his leg in the frame of the fence,” said Day of the Randleston Farm-owned gelding. “He was a very good jumper; [Gus Dahl, the jockey] got him in close, and it looked like with the speed they were going, he just broke it on the fence. They’re running these races so fast now.”
Four-year-old Plattsburgh suffered a broken shoulder from a fall in the Sport of Kings maiden hurdle (for 4-year-olds). Delozier, who trained the Irvin Naylor entry, had run the gelding two other times and thought the horse was learning with each start.
“The owner and I were obviously very upset about it. He actually fell his first start—at Philadelphia Park. He just made a green mistake. He’s a pretty young horse. Then, he ran at Penn National and finished fourth in the Sport of Kings maiden hurdle,” Delozier explained. “Quite honestly, they went one circuit, and Ross Geraghty had him relaxed, and he looked like he was jumping well. Unfortunately, it was just indecision at the fence. [Plattsburgh] went to leave and then decided not to.”
Day expressed concern regarding the length of time taken to euthanize Autumn Riches. “They wouldn’t put him down on the course. They wanted to load him into the trailer,” he said.
Gallo said, “The veterinarians were in immediate attendance; there were two of them. They usually do not like to make a decision [to euthanize] without someone there to authorize it. Day’s horse was vanned off and euthanized back at the barn. And Delozier’s horse walked onto the van, and they thought he might be OK. But they took X-rays back at the barn.”
Delozier stressed the rarity of an event like this. “Thank God it isn’t something that happens all of the time,” he said. “I had another horse [Night Swimming, who placed second in the filly and mare hurdle] run that day, and she ran very well.”
“Certain things happen for whatever the reason,” said Gallo. “It was a terrible, terrible day—there’s no other way to describe it. But we take great lengths in trying to promote safety for the horses and riders. We’re way ahead of the game in that way. Nobody cares and loves their horses more than steeplechasing’s group of horsemen.”