DEL MAR — What A Song, an undefeated 2-year-old colt bought by Bob and Beverly Lewis for $1.9 million in March, broke down during a routine gallop at Del Mar on Friday morning and was euthanized a few hours later.
After X-rays, three veterinarians concluded at trainer Bob Baffert's barn that the reddish-bay horse could not be saved. What A Song, whose third consecutive victory came Sunday in the Best Pal Stakes here, fractured a sesamoid bone near his right front ankle.
"There was nothing they could do with this type of injury," Baffert told The Blood-Horse magazine. "It was the kind that won't heal. This is the worst one I've ever felt. You lose horses, but this one is devastating."
After the Best Pal, Baffert compared What A Song to Silver Charm, the 1997 Kentucky Derby winner he had trained for the Lewises.
"[What A Song] didn't have any flaws," Baffert said.
Friday was the first day that What A Song had been brought to the track since the Best Pal. Before 7 a.m., he jogged a mile with a stable pony, then was supposed to gallop a mile. Exercise rider Manuel Avila was aboard when the breakdown happened, at the top of the stretch.
The Lewises, who couldn't be reached for comment, paid a sales-record price for What A Song at the Barretts auction of 2-year-olds in Pomona. Sid Craig was the underbidder. Bred in Florida by Susan Kahn, What A Song had been sold in July 2004 for $95,000 at a Keeneland yearling sale in Lexington, Ky. That buyer, Murray Smith, consigned him to the Barretts sale.
What A Song was from the first crop of Songandaprayer, a stallion who had been bred to What A Knight, a mare who has produced two other winners. Songandaprayer's sire, Unbridled's Song, won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 1995 and the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial in 1996.
Besides being impressed by What A Song's conformation, the Lewises were determined to buy the horse after he had worked a quarter-mile in 20 3/5 seconds before the Pomona sale. Bob Lewis, a retired beer-distributor executive from Newport Beach, said that the colt was the most expensive horse he and his wife had ever bought.
What A Song, who was ridden by Victor Espinoza in all of his races, made his much-anticipated debut by winning a maiden race by 3 1/4 lengths at Hollywood Park on June 18. A month later, in the Hollywood Juvenile, What A Song edged Bashert by a neck, and then in the Best Pal, with Bashert second again, he won by 2 3/4 lengths.
What A Song, who had earned $179,700, never ran farther than 6 1/2 furlongs in his three wins, but Espinoza was confident that the horse would be able to handle longer distances. The goal for What A Song had been the $1-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.
"When he came back, he wasn't tired at all," Baffert said after the Best Pal. "He's very professional. He never turns a hair. That's the way Silver Charm was. He never got rattled about anything; he just did his job. [What A Song] is a very gifted horse."