Comments made by Sweet Catomine co-owner Marty Wygod after her flop as the odds-on favorite in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 9 spurred an investigation into the champion filly's pre-race activities and condition.
The California Horse Racing Board announced late Sunday that it was reviewing events prior to Sweet Catomine's fifth-place finish in the $750,000 race at Santa Anita. More than $4.6 million was bet on the Santa Anita Derby – the second highest total in the race's 68 runnings. More than $700,000 was bet on Sweet Catomine to win, place or show.
Buzzards Bay won at odds of 30-1 followed by 64-1 long shot General John B. Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) champion Wilko and Giacomo, both 7-2, finished third and fourth respectively to complete the $27,460.20 superfecta. Buzzards Bay is co-owned by CHRB commissioner Bill Bianco and trained by Jeff Mullins, who has spent much of the Santa Anita meet under official scrutiny.
Sweet Catomine, the even-money choice, was attempting to become the fourth filly to win the Santa Anita Derby. The track built its pre-race publicity around Sweet Catomine's expected start. Since March, Wygod and trainer Julio Canani had pointed Sweet Catomine to this race as a springboard to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). As the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) champion, this daughter of Storm Cat
also was the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) future favorite.
After the Santa Anita Derby, Wygod told reporters that the filly had minor health issues all week. She also will not go on to either the Kentucky Derby or Kentucky Oaks, he said.
"I was 50-50 about running her," Wygod said. "I was thinking about scratching her after her last work (April 3) when she went :59 1/5. She bled out of that work."
The filly was sent to Alamo Pintado, the Equine Medical Center in Los Olivos near Santa Barbara, for treatment and brought back to Santa Anita before Wednesday's draw – a 280-mile round trip. When she returned, Sweet Catomine developed a minor foot problem. She also went into season.
"In my heart, I felt not to run, but (Friday) we made up our mind," Wygod said.
Trainer Julio Canani had said throughout the week that his filly "was doing super," including on race day morning.
"That was Julio Canani; you didn't hear that from me," Wygod said when told of his trainer's confident words.
On Sunday morning, Canani said that Sweet Catomine "ate up everything. I scoped her and she didn't bleed."
As for plans, the trainer said, "We'll play it by ear."
Wygod said he had discussed the filly's condition with Ron Charles, who directs racing for Magna Entertainment's California tracks, shortly after the Derby draw on Wednesday. The owner said he also spoke about it in an interview with NBC, which telecast the race. That tape aired Saturday, shortly before post time.
"I can't say what's next for her," Wygod said. "This was the only prep race for her before the Derby. (If she was scratched) I had no other race for her before the (Kentucky) Derby. In my interviews on NBC, I said the horse had problems. I was pretty explicit. No one asked me what kind of problems."
Charles said he had told Wygod that if the owner needed to scratch the filly, to do it sooner than later. "I said then that it was their decision to make [about running]," he added. "Julio is a very competent trainer, and as long as he was comfortable with running, there shouldn't have been a problem."
Wygod's statements drew ire from sports columnists, who questioned the ethics of withholding information about the filly's health from the betting public.
According to the CHRB's release, the review will include interviews with Sweet Catomine's veterinarians as well as the track's official veterinarian who conducted the required examination the morning prior to the race.
In addition to reviewing comments made by Wygod and Canani, CHRB investigators also plan to interview stable staff and security personnel. The review should be completed this week.