10/26/2007 11:00PM

George Washington suffers fatal injury

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - George Washington had to be euthanized on the racetrack after suffering a catastrophic injury to his right front ankle during the running of Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Monmouth Park.

According to Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith, the on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, George Washington incurred an open fracture of the cannon bone in the right front fetlock joint and also fractured both sesamoids.

"It was a hopeless injury as far as repair is concerned," said McIlwraith. "Trainer Aidan O'Brien was on the racetrack with the horse and requested George Washington be euthanized."

O'Brien declined to speak with reporters following the incident.

The Breeders' Cup Classic marked just the second time George Washington had raced on dirt and the first time he'd ever been on a sloppy surface during his 14-race career. A 4-year-old son of Danehill owned by the partnership of Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith, George Washington finished sixth over a fast track in the 2006 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

McIlwraith said he was uncertain whether the condition of the track had anything to do with the injury.

"There have been no comparative studies or work done regarding whether a sloppy track could have been a contributing factor in the injury," said McIlwraith. "All the other races today went off without incident. But at times when you have this type of sloppy surface the horses are running on the base by the end of the day, which is always a concern. It's also possible, since this horse has raced primarily on turf, that there could have been some minor in-coordination, and he might not have been landing as smoothly as a horse more experienced over the surface."

As a 3-year-old last year George Washington captured two of Great Britain's most prestigious races, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and 2000 Guineas. He was retired at the end of that season, but had fertility problems and was brought back to racing as a 4-year-old. Overall he won 6 of 14 starts with earnings of $1,480,050.

He was bred by the Lael Stables of Roy and Gretchen Jackson, the owners and breeders of Barbaro.

Biancone watches Breeders' Cup on TV

Trainer Patrick Biancone had six horses from his barn compete in the 2007 Breeders' Cup, including Nownownow, winner of Friday's Juvenile Turf. But Biancone was unable to attend the races to see his horses race in person per the terms of his recent medication suspension by the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.

Biancone said he was not on the grounds at Monmouth Park either Friday or Saturday and watched all the Breeders' Cup races from his hotel near the racetrack.

"I knew this was the way it was going to be," Biancone said by phone. "This was part of the deal and I'm just fulfilling my end of the agreement."

The suspension is effective Nov. 1, but as part of the penalty, Biancone's Breeders' Cup horses ran in the name of his assistant, Francois Parisel.

On Thursday, Biancone was asked to leave the Monmouth Park backstretch after the New Jersey Racing Commission discovered he was in the barn that housed the Breeders' Cup horses he had transferred to Parisel.

"Under the terms of his suspension, Mr. Biancone was permitted in the barn area at Monmouth Park but not in his barn, doing work the primary trainer would be expected to do," explained Frank Zanzuccki, executive director of the commission. "That violated the terms of a trainer-transfer agreement he had previously signed with us. It was at that point we asked him to leave the barn area and not return."

Earlier this month, Biancone was handed a six-month suspension by the authority for having cobra venom in his Keeneland barn. After the six-month period, Biancone is not allowed to apply for a trainer's license for another six months.

Biancone said part of the reason he dropped his appeal and agreed to accept the suspension was to avoid the intense media scrutiny during Breeders' Cup Week.

"I do not want to cast a cloud over racing's most important day," Biancone told Daily Racing Form after he accepted his suspension two weeks ago.

Biancone said he had full confidence in Parisel.

"Francois handles the horses very well and he knows what to do," Biancone said. "We prepared all the horses as best we could, put them on the plane, and some ran well and some did not. It all depended upon how they handled the ground."

Surfaces hold up despite soaking

After taking more than 2 1/2 inches of rain over the past several days, the Monmouth Park dirt and turf tracks could have been the major story on Breeders' Cup Day. But thanks to the efforts of track superintendent Bob Juliano and his crew, they were not.

Juliano and his staff have worked tirelessly since heavy rain moved into the New Jersey area on Wednesday evening, especially following the conclusion of Friday's program and prior to Saturday's eight Breeders' Cup races.

"We floated the track out as soon as the races ended Friday," Juliano said Saturday. "We closed the track for training this morning and went out and pressed it again when we got a little break in the rain from 8-9 a.m. to get out some of the standing water that had accumulated overnight. I even went out and got two additional John Deere tractors to give us six floats instead of the four we usually work with."

Juliano said that despite the soaking conditions, he received no complaints from jockeys or trainers about the main track or turf course during the Breeders' Cup cards Friday or early Saturday.

"This is certainly the most rain we've taken here all summer and it was starting to get a little scary," said Juliano. "We put a little extra buffer onto the surface this spring and they're probably down through that buffer and punching into the base by now, but so far most of the jocks we've talked to seem pretty happy with the footing."

Friday card soggy but successful

There is no precedent for purposes of comparison, but considering the nasty weather and the novelty of the event, the first Friday in Breeders' Cup history was deemed a success by Breeders' Cup officials.

The Friday card, which included three new Breeders' Cup races, was held amid trying conditions, with steady rain leaving the track a sea of mud. Nonetheless, a crowd of 27,803 turned out, helping with an all-sources handle of $30,796,414, more than double the previous Monmouth record of $14.1 million. Earlier in the week, officials had predicted an ontrack crowd of a little more than 20,000, although BC spokesman Jim Gluckson said everyone was just making educated guesses.

"Despite the lack of cooperation from Mother Nature, we are very encouraged with the first day of our new two-day format of the Breeders' Cup World Championships," Greg Avioli, Breeders' Cup president and CEO, said in a release. "The racing fans of New Jersey displayed their great support and enthusiasm, and bettors around the country responded with a heightened sense of interest in the three new World Championship races."

Umbrellas were not allowed into the track either day, because they can obscure the view of other patrons, so plastic ponchos were at a premium and very much in evidence throughout the grounds. The thousands of seats not under cover were scarcely occupied on either day, although on Saturday fans were using them more often, at least when the races were being run.

The results of the three Friday BC races yielded generous mutuels. Maryfield won the Filly and Mare Sprint at 8-1, Nownownow won the Juvenile Turf at 12-1, and Corinthian won the Dirt Mile as the 7-2 second choice, combining for a $1 pick three that paid $795.70.

New faces in winner's circle

The substantial turnover that has taken place in recent years at the highest levels of the North American jockey colony manifested itself at the Breeders' Cup when Elvis Trujillo, Julien Leparoux, and Alan Garcia all won for the first time during the championships.

Trujillo, 24, rode Maryfield on Friday in the Filly and Mare Sprint, while Leparoux, 24, was aboard Nownownow in Friday's Juvenile Turf. Garcia rode Lahudood on Saturday in the BC Filly and Mare Turf.

"After we passed the wire, I said, 'I'm happy,' " said Garcia, 22. " 'I'm happy I'm riding this filly.' "

After winning the Filly and Mare Sprint, Trujillo caught a flight back to south Florida so he could fulfill his riding engagements at his home track, Calder, on Saturday.

"Obviously it feels great to win a Breeders' Cup race," Trujillo said by phone from Calder. "Especially doing it on my first try. But I didn't really feel any pressure because the owners had given me a lot of confidence, and I felt very comfortable since I'd ridden and won on Maryfield before."

Trujillo had won his first riding title when capturing Calder's spring-summer meet earlier this year.

Compared to those 20-something jockeys, Kent Desormeaux is a grizzled veteran and a Hall of Famer, but even he was giddy after capturing the Dirt Mile Friday aboard Corinthian. The BC victory was the first in 12 years for Desormeaux, a Hall of Famer. His two previous victories came in the 1993 Turf aboard Kotashaan and the 1995 Sprint on Desert Stormer.

"This is fabulous," said Desormeaux. "The colt I rode, he was something else. It was a great feeling to get back to winning at the Breeders' Cup."

Desormeaux, 37, has become one of the elder statesmen among American jockeys, considering the retirement in recent years of such standouts as Jerry Bailey, Pat Day, Gary Stevens, Chris McCarron, and others who hold most of the all-time BC records.

* When After Market and Wait a While were scratched Saturday, that brought the total number of scratches off the Saturday BC program to six. Cry and Catch Me was scratched Thursday morning because of illness, while Dixie Chatter and Attila's Storm were scratched later that day. Slew's Tiznow was scratched on Friday. After those six scratches, 87 went postward in the eight BC races Saturday.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee