Sarava, suffering from colic.

Sarava, suffering from colic.

Barbara D. Livingston

Day After Comeback, Belmont Hero Sarava in 'Fight for His Life'

The day after 2002 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Sarava came back from a 14-month layoff, New Phoenix Stable's 4-year-old son of Wild Again was in a "fight for his life" after undergoing emergency colic surgery, according to trainer Bob Baffert.

Sarava, winner of 3-of-9 starts for trainer Ken McPeek, was transferred to Baffert's barn by principal owner Gary Drake last winter while recovering from a cannon bone fracture that was detected one month after his upset of Baffert-trained War Emblem in the Belmont Stakes. He was entered to come back in a Derby week allowance race at Churchill Downs but suffered a training setback and returned to California. His long-awaited return came in Saturday's seventh race at Del Mar, a 1 1/16-mile allowance/optional claiming race. Sarava finished sixth, beaten just over seven lengths.

"He came back to the barn and cooled out fine," Baffert said. "But then he began to colic and we sent him to the equine hospital at San Luis Rey. He had surgery for a twisted colon."

Dr. Joe Cannon performed the surgery at 1 a.m. (PDT). "They didn't have to cut any of his intestine or anything," Baffert said. "It was a matter of getting in there and untwisting the colon. If he recovers, he'll be able to keep racing, but the next 72 hours are critical. He's in a fight for his life."

Baffert said Drake was at the clinic monitoring Sarava's condition. "It's terrible," the conditioner said. "To wait 14 months like this, and then 'boom.'"