11/04/2006 1:00AM

Injuries fell Distaff choices - one fatally


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Saturday's Breeders' Cup Distaff had a pall cast over it after Pine Island was euthanized and Fleet Indian suffered a career-ending injury during the running of the race. The two had gone off as the 5-2 co-favorites in the Distaff.

Pine Island sustained a dislocation of the left front fetlock joint shortly after entering the backstretch of the 1o1/8-mile Distaff. Javier Castellano, who rode Pine Island for trainer Shug McGaughey, said the injury occurred suddenly when his mount "switched leads" entering the backstretch. Castellano was tossed heavily to the ground when Pine Island fell but suffered no serious injuries and returned to ride Bernardini to a second-place finish in the Classic.

Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, the American Association of Equine Practitioners veterinarian on call at Churchill Downs for the Breeders' Cup, said the decision was made immediately to euthanize Pine Island because the injury was open and unstable and the risk of infection was extremely high.

"After the injury was examined by a veterinarian on the backside they relayed information to us that there were multiple injuries, presumably multiple fractures as well as soft tissue injury with little stability," said McIlwraith.

Pine Island, a 3-year-old homebred daughter of Arch owned by the Phipps Stable, had won the Grade 1 Alabama and Grade 1 Gazelle in her previous two starts.

"This was a really tough one to take," said McGaughey. "She was a really special horse to all of us. I've been in the game a long time, and this is something you just don't get used to."

The news on Fleet Indian was better. A 5-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie, she was originally though to have a condylar fracture in the left front fetlock joint after being pulled up by jockey Jose Santos six furlongs into the Distaff. But after radiographs were taken back at the barn, it was determined that Fleet Indian had suffered less serious injuries to both suspensory branches in her left fetlock.

"The joint has been stabilized externally and should be able to be treated effectively," said McIlwraith. "She should be all right for breeding."

Fleet Indian had won all six of her previous starts this season, including the Grade 1 Personal Ensign and Grade 1 Beldame. She was purchased by Paul Saylor at Keeneland's horses of all ages sale and turned over to trainer Todd Pletcher in January. She was scheduled to be sold again on Monday at Keeneland.