Juddmonte Farms' Spanish Fern died Saturday evening from internal bleeding that resulted from a fractured pelvis, suffered at the start of the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs. The 5-year-old daughter of El Gran Senor pulled herself up shortly after the break, noticeably favoring her left hind leg. She was removed by ambulance, examined by Dr. Ken Reed, treated for early signs of shock, and transported to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington.
Dr. Scott Hopper examined Spanish Fern at Rood and Riddle, where she was found to have a fracture of the left side of her pelvis, with internal bleeding associated with the fracture. She was given intravenous fluid and blood volume replacement, plus corticosteroids and treatment for shock. Though veterinarians were able to stabilize her, Spanish Fern began hemorrhaging again in the evening and died from internal bleeding around 9:30 p.m.
The following statement is from Dr. Larry Bramlage, a noted equine surgeon serving as a media contact as part of the American Association of Equine Practitioners' On-Call program: "Fractures of the pelvis are occasionally seen in the horse as the result of trauma of muscular exertion during exercise. Fractures of the pelvis are seen in horses while racing, training, or while turned out in a field. The pelvis serves as the anchorage for all of the major musculature of the hind limb. As we all watched the 'break' as the gate opened for the Filly & Mare Turf race we could see Spanish Fern accelerate and then immediately become lame on the left hind limb. She created the fracture with the force of her own musculature acceleration. The immediate swelling indicated that she lacerated one of the large blood vessels, which lie within the pelvis, when the fracture occurred. The first aid and care of this filly stabilized the situation. Unfortunately, she began to hemorrhage again late Saturday evening, a few hours after being admitted to the intensive care facility at Rood and Riddle.
"Fatal hemorrhage is a rare, but well documented sequele of fracture of the pelvis in the horse. This is one of the situations where absolute bed rest is the prescription for stabilizing the hemorrhage and allowing the vessels to clot. Unfortunately this is not possible in the horse and they become victims of their innate desire to remain mobile and unrestrained in times of stress. In this instance that instinct re-initiated the hemorrhaging and proved fatal to Spanish Fern."
Spanish Fern was trained by Hall of Fame horseman Robert Frankel, who said hours after the incident that she had never indicated any soundness problems. The Juddmonte homebred won six of 19 careers starts, including the 1999 Yellow Ribbon Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) and this year's Santa Ana Handicap (gr. IIT).