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Riboletta Retired Because of Injury

Horse racing: Owner Jones blames hard Churchill Downs track for tendon injury.

November 09, 2000|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Riboletta, her horse-of-the-year chances eliminated when she ran seventh in the Breeders' Cup Distaff on Saturday, has been retired because of a tendon injury suffered in the race, owner Aaron Jones said Wednesday.

Jones also amplified his post-race comments, which were critical of the hard Churchill Downs racing surface on Breeders' Cup day.

"Churchill Downs has a fetish about setting records and hyping horses," he said. "That track was the hardest I've ever seen it. [Trainer Eduardo Inda] walked the course the day before and said it was too hard, and it didn't change on race day. Records are nice, but a track that hard can cause a lot of damage."

In a stakes race that preceded the Breeders' Cup races, Chilukki ran a 1:33 2/5 mile, breaking a Churchill record that was set in 1969. Kona Gold's 1:07 3/5 for six furlongs broke the record for the Breeders' Cup Sprint and also shattered a Churchill record set in 1986.

Bob Baffert, who trains Chilukki, thought the track was fast but not any faster than he has sometimes seen Churchill.

"It was like the Kentucky Derby," said Baffert, who won the Derby with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998. "It was conducive to fast times."

Jones and his wife Marie, who raced Riboletta in a partnership, had hoped to bring her back next year as a 6-year-old. But their veterinarian, Rick Arthur, looked at X-rays and said that if the Brazilian mare returned, she wouldn't be able to compete at the top levels.

"That was good enough for me," Aaron Jones said. "This mare's been too good to us. It would be too big of a risk to bring her back."

Riboletta's injury is in her lower left foreleg, in the sesamoid area.

"Looking at the tape of the race, I think it happened early," Jones said. "She just didn't fire, and that's not like her."

Riboletta, bought by the Joneses for about $600,000 at the end of 1998, finished her career with 13 wins in 28 starts and purses of $1.5 million. For the Joneses, she was eight for 17 with earnings of $1.4 million. She began her career in the United States with Baffert, won one of six starts and was transferred, with most of the other Jones horses, to Inda's barn last January.

Riboletta had won seven consecutive starts on dirt before the Distaff. Jones supplemented her into the race at a cost of $400,000. The way the Breeders' Cup races played out, with Fusaichi Pegasus and Lemon Drop Kid running dull races in the Classic and Riboletta's chief rival, Beautiful Pleasure, also running poorly in the Distaff, the Jones mare probably could have won horse of the year by not showing up at Churchill. Now, she will have to settle for the Eclipse Award for best older filly or mare on dirt.

"We still had a great time with her," Jones said. "It was a lot of fun, and I was so happy for Eduardo. He's a fine horseman, and it was wonderful that he got some recognition on account of this mare."

Jones said Riboletta would be bred early next year to either Forestry, a horse he raced, or Saint Ballado, an established stallion.

"I'm leaning toward Forestry," he said. "I know what they say about breeding the first time to a mare, that you should lead off with proven sire, but I'd still like to mate her with Forestry."

*

Ridden by Chris McCarron, the Breeders' Cup Classic hero on Tiznow, New Heaven beat Hookedonthefeelin by a nose in the $75,300 Safely Kept Handicap as Hollywood Park opened its 35-day fall season with a crowd of 5,193.

Dusty Heather ran third and Theresa's Tizzy, in second place early, finished sixth in the eight-horse field. New Heaven, the second betting choice, paid $8.80, carrying 118 pounds, three less than Hookedonthefeelin and Theresa's Tizzy. The time for 5 1/2 furlongs on grass was 1:02 1/5.

New Heaven, a 6-year-old Argentine-bred mare trained by Laura DeSeroux for owner Ito Yoshiyuki, made her first start in the United States in April, winning at Santa Anita under McCarron. Wednesday's race was New Heaven's first since a sixth-place finish in the Genuine Risk Handicap at Belmont Park on May 13.

"[With McCarron], we got some of that Breeders' Cup luck," said Alex Hassinger Jr., an assistant to DeSeroux.

Notes

The California Horse Racing Board assembled but was powerless to hold a meeting because its three members are one short of a quorum. Gov. Gray Davis has dawdled in filling the four vacancies on the board, which was unable to meet Oct. 27 for lack of a quorum. If a fourth appointee surfaces, the board will try again--this time via a conference call--next Tuesday. The board hasn't met with all seven members in almost two years. . . . Honest Lady, second by a half-length to Kona Gold in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, has been retired. . . . Reraise, winner of the 1998 Breeders' Cup Sprint, will make his first start in more than a year in the $200,000 Hollywood Turf Express on Nov. 24.

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