10/18/2007 12:00AM

A fourth fatal breakdown

EmailLEXINGTON, Ky. - Keeneland incurred a fourth serious breakdown during its ninth day of racing this fall when Scorpius was euthanized after shattering the sesamoids in a hind leg during the eighth race Wednesday.

Three major breakdowns, two of them proving fatal, already had occurred this meet on a Polytrack surface that had yielded a total of just one such breakdown at the 2006 fall and 2007 spring meets. Eoin Harty, trainer of Scorpius, was at a loss to explain the breakdowns, particularly when the 4-year-old Five Star Day colt he trained for Darley Stable was "very sound," said Harty.

"Unfortunately when we do race horses, they do break down," said Harty. "The new surface at Keeneland probably is the best I've ever trained on, so I can't sling any arrows in their direction. It was just one of those things."

Scorpius, a two-time winner from four prior starts, had a past-performance line with constant interruptions in his racing campaign, but Harty had a detailed and plausible explanation for them.

"The only issue I'd ever had with him was allergies," he said. "He'd been sound for me since he started racing" in February 2007. "I never had any trouble with him."

Earlier in the meet, two horses were euthanized after breaking down while racing on Polytrack. A third horse, Teuflesberg, currently is recuperating from surgery performed Oct. 11 to repair fractured sesamoids in his left front leg.

Keeneland president Nick Nicholson apologized after the early rash of breakdowns, adding that "one good thing we don't see is a pattern." Scorpius broke down at the quarter pole, while the three earlier breakdowns occurred at various points on the backstretch.

Calhoun wins back-to-back races

The allowance race in which Scorpius was favored was won in gate-to-wire fashion by Mr. Nightlinger, who returned $10.40 in giving trainer Bret Calhoun his first of two straight winners to end the Wednesday card. Calhoun also sent out Mithaal ($11.80) to complete the late daily double.

"It's hard to win two on a card anywhere, much less at Keeneland," said Calhoun, who has about a dozen horses in Kentucky for the Keeneland and Churchill Downs meets.

Fort Prado nails favorite at wire

Fort Prado has won 16 races in an outstanding 37-race career, but few have come in more dramatic fashion than the one he registered Thursday in the $112,600 Woodford Stakes. With Rene Douglas guiding him through heavy traffic, the Illinois-bred Fort Prado was up in the final strides to nail favored T.D. Vance on the wire in the 5 1/2-furlong grass race.

Fort Prado, owned and bred by Team Block, returned $11 as third choice in a field of 10 after finishing in 1:03.20 over a firm surface. Atticus Kristy was third and Ever a Friend was fourth.

Fort Prado, a gray 6-year-old horse, now has earned $957,367.

"He's been a real warrior for us," said trainer Chris Block.

Dowager draws field of 10

Ten fillies and mares have been entered in the Sunday feature, the $150,000 Dowager Stakes. Likely favorites in the 1 1/2-mile turf race include Nunnery, Arosa, and Jade Queen.

After the Dowager, only one stakes remains at this 17-day meet - the $150,000 Fayette Stakes on closing day, Oct. 27. The Fayette anchors a seven-race card that will be coordinated so as not to overlap with any of the Breeders' Cup simulcasts.

* Istan, winner of two minor stakes this summer on the Kentucky circuit, was not pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and probably will make his next start in the $200,000 Ack Ack Handicap on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, according to Kenny McCarthy, local assistant to trainer Bill Mott.