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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Epsom Derby Another Big Bummer

- Another potential black eye for the sport this morning, as Horatio Nelson, the second choice for the Epsom Derby, broke down gruesomely during the stretch run after the TV cameras showed jockey Kiaran Fallon consulting with a track steward and trainer Aidan O’Brian just prior to the race. Excellent job on TVG spotting this before the race (it actually was a phone call by Gary Stevens that alerted them to what was going on); the word was that the horse could be scratched, and the start was delayed for a couple of minutes.

After the race, TVG showed replays that clearly showed that the horse was badly washed out as Fallon spoke with O’Brian and seemed to jog the horse away from the rest of the field as if to test him. Unfortunately, he was not scratched. (Stevens explained that it’s very difficult to get horses scratched under these circumstances there, adding that monies wagered with bookies at the racetrack would not be refunded once they are placed.) Horses very rarely break down on the grass in Europe according to Lyons and Stevens, so it will be interesting to see the reaction in the UK. We read last week that British TV wouldn’t even carry replays of Barbaro’s breakdown, and this accident was far more difficult to watch.

It was a rousing finish, as Sir Percy squeezed up the rail and got his nose down right at the wire to just nail maiden longshot Dragon Dancer, with pacesetter Dylan Thomas hanging on for third. The best horse in the race, however, may have been the 4th place finisher Hala Bek, whose rally was badly interrupted by him bearing out badly in deep stretch, before recovering and re-rallying to miss the whole thing by probably around ¼ of a length.

Amazing finish, but as in the Preakness, the race itself will be overshadowed by the breakdown of Horatio Nelson and the inevitable finger-pointing regarding what happened before the race, and why he was permitted to run.