Barbara Cesare's Second of June, who had been pointing for the Oct. 7 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), was euthanized Wednesday morning after suffering a fracture of his right hind ankle while working at Churchill Downs.
Second of June, one of the leading Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prospects of 2004 before fracturing his left leg, was making his third comeback and recently finished a game second - beaten a half-length - in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga.
"Dr. (Steve) Allday looked at him yesterday, and he couldn't have looked better," said trainer Bill Cesare, son of the owner. "His injury was similar to Barbaro's. Dr. Allday X-rayed him afterward and said he didn't have a shot.
"This horse was part of our family. My wife and kids are all upset, and my mom is upset. But life goes on. It's just sad he didn't have the opportunity to run in the Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup (Classic) and become a stallion. But these are the cards we've been dealt. There was nothing wrong with the racetrack, and he really wasn't going fast. It's just one of those things that happen. I have six 2-year-olds, and I have to keep plugging."
Second of June was purchased by Cesare because both the trainer and the horse were born on the second of June - an exceptionally late date for a Thoroughbred.
The son of Louis Quatorze
, out of the Spectacular Bid mare Whow, began his career in promising fashion - winning the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) and What a Pleasure Stakes - but has been a hard-luck horse ever since.
He suffered a fracture in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II), in which he was beaten neck by Read the Footnotes
after a gut-wrenching battle in the stretch. Sidelined for 10 months, he returned, finishing third in the New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) and second - beaten a neck - in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), only to be quarantined due to an outbreak of equine herpes last spring that claimed the life of one of Cesare's horses.
While prepping for the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), he suffered an inflammation of the joint in his ankle. Away from the races for 14 months, he was beaten a nose by Suave in a Churchill allowance race before finishing third in the Washington Park Handicap (gr. II) and second in the Woodward. Cesare was planning on shipping him to Belmont for the Jockey Club Gold Cup, despite the presence of Bernardini and Invasor.
Bred in Florida by Lambholm and E. Felcher, Second of June was purchased by Cesare for $7,500 from the Lambholm consignment to the 2003 Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's January winter mixed sale. The winner of four of 14 starts - with six seconds, and two thirds - Second of June earned $528,800.
"He had so much heart; he always tried," Cesare said. "The main focus has been him since he's been two years old. I've devoted pretty much all my time and energy to him. When I went to Kentucky last summer to point for the Stephen Foster, I got rid of all my horses, either selling them or having them claimed, and focused on getting him back. I eventually bought six babies, and that's all I have now.
"I put a lot of good money into June when he was laid up. But it was worth it. I was a professional athlete, and nothing was easy for me to achieve, but I played in the NFL and was one of 128 defensive backs. I accomplished a lot of things in my life due to intestinal fortitude, staying focused, and believing in what abilities I had - and then going forward. It's been the same way with June. He may not have been the best horse out there, but I would put him in the top five; I would have put him up against anybody.
"I've been so close to him from the day I bought him. He and I share the same birthday, so we've always had a lot in common. I'm sure other big-time trainers have the same care for their horses and do the right thing for them, but it was a different type of feeling between me and my horse. At Saratoga this year, he got worked up in the detention barn, and I sat with him in his stall for three hours until he settled down. Everything we've done for this horse has come out of our own pocket, and I've sacrificed a lot for him, getting rid of my whole stable and being away from my family so often. But in my heart, it's been worth the sacrifice. It's been worth it every day."