12/31/2008 12:00AM

Fatal injuries prompt concern over track


ARCADIA, Calif. - Even though Santa Anita's Pro-Ride surface came through a recent spate of wet weather without losing any days to training, there has been growing concern among trainers over injuries at the track, and those fears may have been further inflamed on Wednesday when Boozin' Bear sustained fatal injuries in the day's first race.

Boozin' Bear, who suffered a condylar fracture to his right hind leg, became the third horse to be euthanized from racing injuries during the first five days of the meeting. All the horses were racing on the main track.

The first death occurred in the first race of the meet last Friday, when two horses were pulled up. One of them, Warren's Zenzo, could not be saved and was euthanized.

Flashing Forward, a 4-year-old filly who broke down in Monday's seventh race, was subsequently euthanized, Dr. Jill Bailey, Santa Anita's track veterinarian, said Wednesday.

In addition, the stakes-winning filly Indyanne sustained career-ending injuries in the La Brea Stakes last Saturday.

According to Bailey, no horses have been euthanized as a result of training injuries in the morning, though she said a horse who was injured Monday morning was undergoing surgery on Wednesday.

Ron Charles, Santa Anita's president, said he could not explain the recent injuries. He said he had been in touch with Ian Pearse, the founder of Pro-Ride, and said Pearse intends soon to travel from his native Australia to look anew at the surface.

"This track has been very safe for three months," Charles said, referring to the successful Breeders' Cup held here in October, "but the last week has been different from what we had. We want it back to the safe track we've had. It's been so well received for three months. The last week has been difficult. It's so hard to explain. In the mornings it seems to be well received. I've had many trainers saying 'Don't change anything.'

"We did power harrow the track on Tuesday. Whether we're going through a horrific bad time or it's something we're not doing right, I don't have the answer. Believe me, I wish I had the answer. We're going to keep looking and see what we can do. There's just been way too many the past week. We've got to figure out what the problem is."

Boozin' Bear, a 3-year-old maiden gelding trained by Carla Gaines, was racing for the fourth time on Wednesday. He had finished third in a similar maiden race at Hollywood Park on Dec. 4.

Boozin' Bear was eased in the stretch by jockey Rafael Bejarano, who hopped off after it was apparent the horse had gone wrong in his right rear leg with an injury that resembled Barbaro's in the 2006 Preakness Stakes. Boozin' Bear was removed from the track via horse ambulance, but only after track workers came on the main track and put up a green screen, which startled the stricken animal.

Santa Anita's main track had equipment on it on Tuesday afternoon designed to fluff up the surface. New Year's Eve is often a big day for workouts - since trainers like to sleep in on New Year's Day, too, following evening revelry - but with many horses having worked on the weekend, activity was lighter than usual, with 94 horses recording works.

Eoin Harty did not work any horses on Wednesday. He was one of several trainers on Wednesday who expressed concern over the surface.

"It was dug up last night, so I'm erring on the side of caution," said Harty.

Pro-Ride is the second synthetic surface to be installed at Santa Anita in the past 18 months. Its old dirt track was replaced with Cushion Track in the summer of 2007, but that synthetic surface was removed in the summer of 2008 after it failed to drain during the winter meet one year ago.

California tracks were given a mandate by the California Horse Racing Board to install synthetic surfaces by the end of 2007.

Back at You recovering

Back at You, the horse who tried to leap over the inner turf course rail last Saturday, injuring jockey Garrett Gomez, is doing well, all things considered, according to his trainer, Eddie Truman.

"He's got some filling in a leg and some stitches, but it's amazing how well he's doing," Truman said Wednesday morning. "I just felt so sorry for Garrett. Thank goodness he's all right. I was sick."

Truman theorized that Back at You may have shied from shadows from the grandstand.

"He's had the 1-hole in all three of his races. It's not like the rail was a new thing to him," Truman said. "As a trainer, there's always a horse around the barn who acts a little excited, but this horse has never done anything.

"He didn't get up right away because he had the wind knocked out of him."

Vacare may run in San Gorgonio

In a last-minute switch, trainer Christophe Clement said Wednesday that he intends to enter Vacare for the Grade 2, $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap on Sunday.

Vacare won the Dahlia Handicap at Hollywood Park on Dec. 21. She is scheduled to be bred next year, and was expected to be retired after the Dahlia.

"She came out of her last race in very good order, and the flight to Kentucky is not until January 7," Clement said. "We will have a look at the race. She might have a class advantage. It's a little quick back, just two weeks, but she had a lot of time before her last race."

The San Gorgonio, at 1 1/8 miles on turf for older fillies and mares, was also expected to include Belmont Cat, Brushed Gold, Green Lyons, High Heel Sneakers, Marzelline, Meribel, Solar Miss, and Valbenny.

Alcala given stiff fine

Horses who have to work out in order to get off the veterinarian's list must do so while adhering to medication rules that would apply in a race.

But after Si Se Puede worked at Hollywood Park on Dec. 3 for the track veterinarian, a subsequent drug test found he had more than one non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in his system, which is a violation.

As a result, his trainer, Jorge Alcala, was fined $2,500 by Santa Anita's stewards in a ruling issued earlier this week.