Lost in the aftermath of Zenyatta’s dramatic victory in the Clement Hirsch Stakes on Sunday at Del Mar was the fact another breakdown occurred shortly after the start of the 10th race — a maiden claiming event for colts and geldings.
Endless Moon, with Alex Solis aboard, broke down and fell leaving the chute, and Captain Cash struck the fallen horse and threw jockey Aaron Gryder. Endless Moon fractured both his left front and left hind legs and had to be euthanized — the seventh casualty of the meet over these supposedly safer surfaces. There have been three fatal breakdowns in the mornings and four during live racing. A seventh horse broke down on the turf and had to be euthanized.
Captain Cash appeared to have injured his right foreleg, according to Del Mar publicity, and was apparently taken back to his barn. No immediate word on whether he was going to be OK.
Luckily, both jockeys escaped serious injury. Both were back in the jocks’ room shortly after the race. Solis left the track under his own power, while Gryder was taken off on an ambulance. He was complaining of a sore left hand afterward.
I’m not blaming these breakdowns on Del Mar’s Polytrack, but I am wondering why we were all told these tracks were going to be safer when they clearly are not. Breakdowns keep happening, like they will over any surface because these magnificent animals are so fragile, and the long-term effect of all the soft-tissue injuries that are now popping up on synthetics is unknown.
Please, whoever ends up owning Santa Anita, let’s go back to dirt so we’re not the brunt of jokes from other parts of the country. What should have been an experiment with horses using artificial surfaces as training tracks has cost the state’s race tracks more than $40 million. And you can’t put a cost on all the bad publicitiy and sour reviews from around the country.