Tragedy struck the $2 million Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) Saturday at Churchill Downs when the co-favored Pine Island was fatally injured and Fleet Indian suffered a serious injury in a race won easily by Round Pond.
Two-time grade I winner Pine Island, the actual second choice at 5-2, suffered a severe dislocation of the left front fetlock as the field entered the backstretch. The Phipps family 3-year-old homebred was taken away in the horse ambulance and was euthanized.
"She was running good. We got on the backside, and I asked her to switch leads, and it happened so fast," jockey Javier Castellano said. "She broke down. I don't know what else to say."
Favored Fleet Indian, who races for Paul Saylor, was pulled up by Jose Santos near the half-mile pole after suffering an injury to her suspensories.
"I decided to take a hold, and take good care of her," Santos said. "She's more valuable as a broodmare. It was her life, my life, and everybody's life behind her."
Dr. Wayne McIlwraith said she "suffered injuries to both suspensory branches in the left front. She is in a Kinzie splint; there is no fracture.
"At some point, she'll have surgery. She will probably have screws put in her leg."
Fleet Indian, who brought an eight-race winning streak into the Distaff, was scheduled to be sold at Keeneland on Monday but Saylor said she would be scratched from the auction.
In addition to the injuries, jockey Corey Nakatani, who was aboard Balletto, lodged an objection against jockey Julien Leparoux and Asi Siempre, who finished second. After a review by the stewards, Happy Ticket was moved from third second and Balletto was moved up to third. Asi Siempre was placed fourth.
Under jockey Edgar Prado, the 4-year-old filly Round Pond registered a 4 ¼-length win at odds of nearly 14-1, completing the distance in 1:50.50. Michael Matz, who saddled Barbaro for victory in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in May, conditions Round Pond for owner Rick Porter's Fox Hill Farms.
Round Pond found the winner's circle for the first time since taking the Azeri Breeders' Cup (gr. III) at Oaklawn in March. There were few smiles in the winner's circle from Matz and Prado, who endured similar heartbreak when Barbaro took a devastating misstep in the Preakness Stakes in May.
Barbaro's injury ended his career, and he is still recovering.
"I've been in that situation and nobody ever likes to see that happen. It's very hard," Matz said.
"She was a little anxious, especially on the turns, but she settled in nicely and ran very hard to win," Prado said of the winner.
Round Pond was out of action for more than five months after winning the Azeri, returning Aug. 27 for new trainer Matz with a second-place finish in the Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Monmouth. She faded to third, seven lengths behind the winning Fleet Indian and Balletto in Belmont's Beldame (gr. I) on Oct. 7.
"The Molly Pitcher was my fault, I made the call the to put regular shoes on her, and I should have kept the glue-on shoes on her," Matz said. "It was my fault and she paid the price. We've corrected that situation since then. She has trained well since. She's a very, very nice filly with a huge heart."
Healthy Addiction set a quick early pace, getting a quarter-mile in :22.91 before leading the field through a half in :46.75. Pool Land overtook the leader at the three-quarter pole, while Round Pond was content to set just off the pace.
Prado awaited room on Round Pond nearing the quarter pole while fourth, made a move between horses entering the stretch and slipped through along the rail before drawing off for the win in commanding fashion.
Round Pond, by Awesome Again
, returned $29.80, $14, and $9. Happy Ticket paid $14.20 and $9.20. Balletto paid $5.60. The exacta returned $446, while the trifecta paid $4,335.40.
The win, worth $1,220,400 to the winning connections, increased Round Pond's earnings to $1,936,700.The lightly raced bay has won seven of 11 starts and has never finished out of the money. John Servis previously trained her.
After Asi Siempre, the order of finish was Lemons Forever, Sharp Lisa, Baghdaria, Spun Sugar, Pool Land, Hollywood Story, Bushfire and Healthy Addiction.
Round Pond was bred in Kentucky by John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery. She is out of the Trempolino mare Gift of Dance.