Amid all the hype and hoopla of today's Breeders' Cup program, spare a thought for Only.
No one paid much attention to Only this week, even though her stall in trainer John Russell's barn backed up to those of several Breeders' Cup horses.
Only, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly who had finished in the money in 9 of her 17 starts, was to have run today in the $100,000 Midwick Handicap, one of two non-Breeders' Cup races on the nine-race card.
But Monday, Only stumbled while pulling up after a morning workout on Santa Anita's turf course. She suffered multiple fractures of her left foreleg and had to be vanned off the course.
For two days, Only waited in her stall while a decision was made on whether she could be saved. In the end, the answer was no, and Only was destroyed, or, as the track prefers to say, "put down."
Only was not one of racing's stars. She did not attract the television camera crews and reporters that daily have been making the rounds of the barns in search of Precisionist, Dancing Brave and the other stars of the thoroughbred world. She was simply another honest horse who tried her best and, in the end, paid the price.
No one is to blame. Death is the other half of the daily double. You pay your two dollars and take your chances. But it would have been nice if someone had noticed.
"It's a tragedy," one stable employee said.
One that, unfortunately, happens all to often in racing. And one that is ignored all too often, too.
Wylfa, a 4-year-old English horse who was to have run in today's Breeders' Cup Turf event, was scratched Friday for medical reasons, depriving jockey Laffit Pincay of one of his seven Breeders' Cup mounts.
Pat Day is now the only rider who will be competing in all seven Breeders' Cup races.
According to Greg Otteson, assistant trainer in Darrell Vienna's barn, Wylfa's problem surfaced Thursday afternoon.
"He was running a temperature, and we immediately ran a blood count on him and it showed he had an infection," Otteson said Friday morning. "We caught it before it was a problem, but we had to treat it and that eliminated him (because of the medication he was given). It was in the best interests of the horse."
Wylfa had not been given much of a chance in a race that features Dancing Brave, Estrapade and Manila, but Otteson said Wylfa had improved since arriving from England Oct. 5.
"It's real unfortunate because he was improving," Otteson said. "I was very disappointed and I felt very badly for the owners (Round Meadow Farm and Due Process Stable). "We liked his chances because he had shown improvement."
Wylfa's owner, Robert Brennan, was refunded his $40,000 entry fee because the horse was scratched due to illness.
If Pat Day does the near-impossible and wins all seven Breeders' Cup races, he stands to achieve not only fame but fortune, too.
Since jockeys traditionally receive 10% of the winning purse, Day would collect $450,000 with seven winners--$45,000 for each of the first five races, $90,000 for the Turf and $135,000 for the Classic.
Not bad for what, in total, would be less than a quarter of an hour's work.
Santa Anita horsemen are not giving up their approximately 4% share of the Breeders' Cup handle. Instead, they have given a flat fee of $100,000 to the Breeders' Cup from their share of the revenue generated from wagering at tracks where the races are being simulcast.
At Aqueduct last year, New York horsemen gave up their share of the Breeders' Cup handle. At Hollywood Park the year before, the horsemen retained their share, primarily because the Breeders' Cup forgot to ask them to give it up.
Normally, approximately 4% of the daily handle goes to the horsemen, but Breeders' Cup officials believe that since their event is intended to benefit racing as a whole, the horsemen should give up their share.
The horsemen don't agree.
Sheik Khaled Abdullah, the owner of Dancing Brave, inspected the turf course Friday morning, with trainer Guy Harwood pointing out differences between the racing surface here and in Europe and discussing the strategy that he and Dancing Brave's jockey, Pat Eddery, will be following in the $2-million Breeders' Cup Turf.
Earlier, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner had been the subject of a brief but light-hearted snippet filed for British television by John McCririck of England's Racing Post.
McCririck, a colorful character whose superb mutton-chop side whiskers have made him easily the most recognizable of the several hundred accredited journalists covering the Breeders' Cup, suggested that British bettors back Dancing Brave to the fullest.
"The Americans will be backing the filly Estrapade," he told viewers, refering to the mare trained by Charlie Whittingham. "Some of them believe that Manila is better than Estrapade. Let them believe that nonsense. Get on Dancing Brave."