- On Saturday morning, I read on the NYRA website that Invasor was going to work out at around 8:45 for the lucky fans at Breakfast at Belmont. Later in the day, I read that he worked a bullet (of 29) five furlongs in 59.47 (hitting the wire simultaneously with Like Now) in preparation for the Suburban at Belmont next Saturday. Then, when I got home late Saturday night and put on TVG (which I guess is just reflexive for me - after all, what did I expect to see at midnight Saturday other than Los Alamitos), the news crawl across the bottom read: 2006 Breeders Cup Classic winner and 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor retired due to injury.
"He came back fine from the workout," [Kiaran] McLaughlin said. "But when we went to wash his feet, he took a couple of funny steps and we noticed some swelling in his right hind leg. We had him X-rayed shortly thereafter, and that is when the fracture was detected." [NY Daily News]The injury is not life-threatening and will not require surgery - indeed, I think it's fair to speculate before I know all the facts that he could come back if they really wanted him to.
The release of the news on a Saturday night means minimal press exposure; just a photo with no accompanying story in the print edition of the Times this morning. I imagine that some casual fans will have no idea until they tune into the Breeders Cup telecast and wonder 'where's that EEN-VA-SORE' horse? It's not like anyone will deliver any eloquent eulogies to his career, detailing how he "captured America's heart." Horses just don't run often enough or long enough to do so anymore; at least unless there's some kind of tragedy involved, I'm sorry to say. Invasor ran only five times in this country, and his biggest victory, in the Classic, was one that most people were rooting against. His trainer is a great guy, but his jockey is still a virtual unknown, and his connections elicit no compassion whatsoever. Anyone who believes that his Dubai-based owners brought him back this year strictly out of a sporting nature need only look at his rather unfashionable bloodlines that may still be a tough sell.
I feel bad, though, not only for trainer McLaughlin and rider Jara, but for the folks at Monmouth, those at the Breeders Cup and NTRA who appear to be making a sincere effort this year to parlay ESPN and the Breeders Cup Challenge series into a publicity splash for the game, and all of us who care about the sport. I recall a column that Mike Watchmaker wrote a couple of months ago; at the time, I derided the fact that he questioned Invasor's ability to rebound from his World Cup victory. But his main point was to wonder what the heck would become of the handicap division should he fail. With Discreet Cat still without a timed workout following the throat abscess which led to his World Cup fiasco, the chances of his being a factor in the Classic, a questionable proposition at that mile and a quarter distance even if he was fine, seem more remote with each passing day.
A look at Watchmaker's rankings for older horse confirms just how shaky the division has now become. After Discreet Cat, you have Lava Man, who I don't expect to ever race outside of California again, followed by Flashy Bull, with the notation: You win a Gr. 1 here, you get a mention. He's followed by Surf Cat, out for more than a year, though training steadily for a return, Magna Graduate, Master Command.....need I even continue, other than perhaps Corinthian? Can you imagine a Classic with Flashy Bull as the favorite? Hopefully, Street Sense will not have been retired by then, and maybe he and Curlin can settle matters between them on the sport's (second) biggest day.
Or, maybe Invasor's retirement will be a blessing in disguise in that it opens the way for Rags to Riches to compete in the Classic and/or become Horse of the Year herself. That would be the kind of publicity that the sport could only dream of at this point.