Steeplechase Eclipse finalist Pompeyo.

Steeplechase Eclipse finalist Pompeyo.

Suzie Picou-Oldham

Steeplechase Eclipse Finalist Pompeyo Euthanized

The rocketing career of steeplechase Eclipse Award finalist Pompeyo ended as suddenly as it began with his death Saturday, Jan. 19, due to complications from an injury suffered in September.

Owned by Augustin Stable and trained by Sanna Neilson, Pompeyo made his steeplechase debut in March 2000 and won seven of 11 starts, three Grade I stakes and $353,280. The National Steeplechase Association novice champion of 2000 was an Eclipse finalist that year and is part of a three-way Augustin/ Neilson sweep (with Praise the Prince and Lord Zada) of the 2001
finalist spots.

Pompeyo won his only two starts of 2001, and was recognized as the country's top jumper when shelved for the summer. Neilson had planned on a fall championship campaign that included the the Breeders' Cup Steeplechase (NSA-I), but the plan unraveled during a routine gallop.

Kicked by another horse while training Sept. 15, Pompeyo sustained a fracture to a small bone at his left elbow and underwent surgery at New Bolton Center. Complications from a cut resulted in further surgery this month to remove a steel plate inserted during the initial surgery. When the horse's condition worsened last week, ultrasounds and X-rays revealed damage to the joint.

"His elbow joint had deteriorated, although the original fracture had healed," Neilson said. "The vets were hoping that when they got the plate out his condition would improve, but that was not the case." Pompeyo was euthanized and buried on Augustin's Pennsylvania farm.

Bred in Chile, Pompeyo was imported by Augustin as a flat horse and spent several months with trainer Neil Drysdale. The son of Nureyev Dancer won his American debut for Drysdale in 1998, but lost his next five races due in part to a habit of running off with exercise riders in the mornings. Sent to Neilson in 1999, Pompeyo learned to relax in his training, thrived at jumping and harnessed his ability into championship form.

"I think he was going to rewrite the book," said Neilson of the 8-year-old. "He was tough enough to do it - he had physical toughness and mental toughness. It took us a while to figure him out, but he was definitely the best horse I've ever been around."