Following the catastrophic breakdown of a Pulpit filly on a sloppy track Monday morning, Keeneland officials cancelled the rest of the second and final under tack show for Tuesday's April sale of 2-year-olds in training. Only a handful of horses had worked in a chilly, steady rain before the tragic accident.
"Based on the forecast, the weather is not going to get better through the day, so we don't think the conditions are conducive to having an under tack show," said Geoffrey Russell, Keeneland's director of sales. "The main concern of these consignors is for the welfare of these horses. They (the horses) couldn't perform to their optimum level, so the right thing to do, in talking to most of the consignors, was to cancel it."
Russell said the track was safe, blaming the Pulpit filly's breakdown on "a bad step."
Consignor Kip Elser of Kirkwood Stables praised Keeneland's track maintenance efforts. But he walked on the track following the accident and found that dangerous problems were developing.
"They did as good a job as they possibly could with the track, but it was starting to get uneven" he said. "It's not like when you run a race and 12 horses go over it and you harrow it right away, smooth it out, and it's closed for the next half hour. Here, where there's a steady rain, the rain gets down into the (horses') footprints between breezes, and it gets uneven. That's what worried me more than the surface itself. The surface is slop on top and you go through to the bottom; that's the same way anytime you get a wet-fast track. That wasn't the problem today."
The Pulpit filly broke her right foreleg and fell nearing the first turn while galloping out following an eighth-of-a-mile work in :10 4/5. She was euthanized on the track before being removed in a horse ambulance. The rider, whose name was not released immediately, escaped injury.
Bred by James T. Gottwald in Kentucky, the filly was a $95,000 buy-back at last year's Keeneland September yearling sale. Her consignor for the Keeneland April sale was Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables, agent. Produced from the stakes-winning Blushing John mare Miss Nance, the filly was from the family of such top runners as Keeper Hill,. Fappiano, Golden Gear, Clabber Girl, and Torrential.
"It's just one of those things," Dunne said. "She was a nice filly. She was sound. This would not have been in the least expected."
On March 29 at Keeneland, a Pulpit -- Medicine Woman colt from Dunne's consignment crashed through the inside rail of Keeneland main track while training. The colt suffered lacerations, according to Dunne, and had to be scratched from the auction.
"He's doing really good, but we've had better times," Dunne said.
Consignor Niall Brennan and trainer John Kimmel, a buyer, agreed with Keeneland's decision to end the under tack show.
"It's unsafe to ask these babies to breeze so fast over a bad track," Brennan said. "When you're sitting there praying every time one of your horses goes, there's something wrong. A couple of mine went and seemed to handle it good, but I'm glad I don't have to put any more through it."
Said Kimmel: "They absolutely did the right thing. They've got to take care of these animals. It might hurt a couple of guys that didn't breeze well the first day. But the flip side of the coin is there will be plenty (of horses) that will escape any consequences of a bad racetrack."
Four years ago, during the April sale's second under tack show, a Woodman colt broke down following a work on a sloppy track in approximately the same location and was euthanized. Last year, again during the second under tack show, a Hennessy colt broke down following a work and was euthanized. The day was sunny, and the track was fast.