Training Setback Forces Ipi Tombe to Retire

(from Churchill Downs notes)
South African import Ipi Tombe, who became an international racing star early this year with a trio of dominating victories in Dubai, has been retired from racing after a training setback that would have kept her from a return trip to Dubai.

Trainer Elliott Walden said that the daughter of Manshood, who won the Locust Grove (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs in June in her only start in the United States before going to the sidelines, would be bred in the spring. Plans call for Ipi Tombe, who is owned by a partnership that includes WinStar Farm, Team Valor and a South African group known as Sunmark Partners, to be sold in foal in the Keeneland November Sale in 2004 to dissolve the partnership.

"She's a fabulous filly and I'm very disappointed that we didn't get more done," Walden said. "The fact that the whole world got to see her run and we didn't in America is extremely disappointing. It's probably one of the most disappointing things that I've had to endure as a trainer."

The Zimbabwe-bred 5-year-old mare had been scheduled to winter and race in Florida in preparation for a return trip to Dubai in the spring. She was to bid for a second consecutive victory in the $2 million Dubai Duty Free (UAE-I) at Nad Al Sheba, but Walden said developments in recent days required a different course of action. Walden said a bone scan was performed on Ipi Tombe on Tuesday following a routine thermography examination, which his stable uses as a precaution to detect the early stages of heat in a horse's legs.

"She's got a little bit of an inflammation of the cannon bone from going back in training," said Walden. "She was showing some heat in her ankles, all four ankles. She was moving pretty well. But we wanted to do the bone scan before we went to Florida and Dr. (Larry) Bramlage recommended giving her 30 days. So, at the point, if she wasn't going to make Dubai, they (the owners) decided to retire her."

"We weren't going to make our goal of running her in Dubai and she was too valuable not to go ahead and breed," said Doug Cauthen, president of WinStar Farm, the managing partner in the group that owned Ipi Tombe. "She's a champion and had proved everything that she possibly could."

Ipi Tombe launched her career in her native Zimbabwe and became the toast of South Africa when she defeated males in that country's premier race, the Durban July Handicap, in 2002. She was purchased last fall by the partnership and returned to competition with a trio of dominating wins over males in Dubai that included a romp over Paolini in the Dubai Duty Free.

Her lone race at Churchill Downs was intended to launch a campaign of appearances in major U.S. turf races throughout the late summer and fall, but she suffered a minor leg injury in training in early July that ultimately kept her out of competition for the rest of the year. Walden said Ipi Tombe's recent problem was not related to the earlier injury.

"I don't feel like we made any mistakes," said Walden. "I feel like we just got unlucky."

The South African champion ends her 14-race career with a record of 12-2-0 and earnings of $1,529,799. She earned $1,416,273 of that total this year.

"It was disappointing that the people in America didn't get to see the brilliance that the people in Dubai and South Africa got to see," said Walden. "And they didn't get to see the brilliance that we saw in the mornings."