Prompted by gorgeous October weather and the chance to glimpse Azeri, a crowd of 13,120 showed up to ring in Oak Tree's 34th autumn season on Oct. 2. But the day was not without tragedy. About the same time Azeri was making her way back to the barn, a small group of track hands were gathering outside the track's receiving barn, preparing to haul out the body of Siphonic, the grade I-winning colt who died just minutes following a promising comeback. "I've been in this job for 12 years, and I haven't had this happen," explained state veterinarian B. William Bell. "This is the first one that's ever died in the receiving barn." It was indeed a sad and unfair ending for Siphonic, a son of Siphon who earlier this year was considered one of the leading Triple Crown prospects in the nation. When an untimely ankle problem stunted his progress in mid-spring, trainer Dave Hofmans merely got his bearings and set his sights on a year-end campaign. The colt's return came amid great anticipation, and he responded with a typical solid effort, dropping a tight photo going seven furlongs. Just moments following his post-race bath in the receiving barn, however, Siphonic collapsed. Bell was summoned and immediately feared the worst. "You know, I've been in this business for 35 years, and you just get a feeling for things sometimes," he explained. "Some horses come here with heat stress, but he didn't have those same symptoms." With great difficulty, the 3-year-old was urged into a nearby stall. Seconds later, he collapsed a second time and died. "Before he went in there he whinnied," remembered Bell. "Once you've heard that sound, you never forget it. It's not a scream for help. But people that have been around horses a lot have heard it. It has a tone to it--they're dying."
His body was sent to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in San Bernardino. There, a preliminary post-mortem examination, performed by Dr. Barbara Daft, revealed Siphonic had been stricken with cardiac arrhythmia--a heart attack. He was owned by John and Jerry Amerman. b