Vino Rosso etched a notch in history with a win in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Sadly, the race will not likely be remembered for Vino Rosso’s victory. Tragedy once more reared its head at Santa Anita as the track claimed the life of another horse, bringing the total number of horse deaths to an astounding 37 since December 2018.
Redemption for Todd Pletcher and Vino Rosso
It was a long and controversial rode to the Breeders’ Cup for Vino Rosso and trainer Todd Pletcher. The horse was disqualified in a controversial Jockey Club Gold Cup in September 2019. Now the connections of Vino Rosso can celebrate with a victory that many saw coming. The horse was the third betting choice when the gates opened at Santa Anita. Vino Rosso is owned by Repole Stable and was sired by former Classic winner Curlin.
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A crowd of more than 67,000 were in attendance to watch the running of the race. During the morning workouts leading up to the race Vino Rosso had impressed those at the track. The horse broke from the No. 10 spot in the gate and settled in behind the early leader War of Will.
The early fractions of the race were a respectable but honest 23:09 and 47:16, making it potentially harder for a closing horse to catch the leader. The first horse to take aim at War of Will was McKinzie while Mongolian Groom and War of Will began to decline as the race entered the far turn. While Vino Rosso began to make his own move for the lead and charge to victory Mongolian Groom suffered a devastating injury that would result in the horse being euthanized after the race was finished.
The win for Vino Rosso was the first for trainer Todd Pletcher in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and his 11th win overall in the championships of thoroughbred horse racing. Owner Mike Repole had previously notched a BC Juvenile win with Uncle Mo in 2010.
A Death on Racing’s Biggest Stage
Sadly, it is the death of Mongolian Groom that will claim most of the headlines from this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. The fact that the breakdown happened at Santa Anita only makes things worse for the racing community. A total of 37 horses have lost their lives at the track since December 2019, causing a public outcry that has even reached the US Senate.
On Twitter sportscaster Dan Leach compared the breakdown to a death in another championship series. “A horse dies at the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Leach wrote. “That would be like someone dying at the NBA Finals.”
Leach concluded his post by remarking that something has to change and he is not alone in that assessment. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the state’s long-time member of the legislature, has gone so far as to say that horse racing itself is at stake.
The number of horse racing deaths at Santa Anita has been a severe outlier when one looks at the statistics for racing-related deaths in California. Supporters of racing are quick to point out that there were no deaths at the 2019 Del Mar meeting, nor a single breakdown. What racing authorities in the state will have to determine is whether or not the Santa Anita debacle is a cruel twist outside the norm or whether it indicates that there is a problem with the track. With the new Santa Anita meet a little over a month away there is not much time for racing officials to figure it out.
What is Next for Vino Rosso?
There has yet to be an official word from the connections of Vino Rosso about the next steps for the horse’s career. The four-year-old looked strong in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, however, and recent comments from trainer Pletcher could reveal that that Repole Stable intends to campaign the horse at age five.
Of course, the question of whether or not the horse should be campaigned at the age of five will now be debated in many horse racing circles because of the death of Mongolian Groom. There will be those who will claim that the best course of action for the horse is retirement so that the risk of injury is eliminated.
The reality is that horses can be injured anywhere. It is more common that it happens in a horse race but it can also happen on a stud farm or in a paddock. Horse racing injuries are a part of the sport that no fans likes but all fans must accept as a reality. All that can be done is for racing to make an effort to protect its athletes.
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