09/26/2001 12:00AM

Top sprinter Big Jag dead at 8


ARCADIA, Calif. - Big Jag, a top sprinter for the last four years and a stakes winner on two continents, was euthanized Monday because of complications of laminitis caused by an injury suffered last March in Dubai, trainer Tim Pinfield said.

An 8-year-old, Big Jag suffered three sesamoid fractures to his left leg while training for the $2 million Golden Shaheen, a race he won in 2000 when it was valued at $1 million.

During the spring and summer, Big Jag, a gelding, remained in Dubai and at one point was making enough progress for Pinfield and owner-breeder Julius Zolezzi to make plans for his return to the United States.

But in the last week, Pinfield said that Big Jag took a turn for the worse. He lost his appetite and was able to stand for only brief periods of time.

"In the last couple of days, he was suffering," Pinfield said. "It was like he lost his will. It was sad for such a big, masculine horse."

A winner of 13 of 30 starts and $1,807,749, Big Jag overcame a fractured knee as a 4-year-old to become one of the nation's top sprinters in 1999. He beat Kona Gold in the San Carlos and Potrero Grande Breeders' Cup Handicap and was second to Kona Gold in the El Conejo Handicap, all at Santa Anita. At the end of that season, he was third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, finishing behind Artax and Kona Gold.

It was a vintage running. Artax was named the champion sprinter of 1999, while Kona Gold earned that honor a year later.

The highlight of Big Jag's career was a four-length victory in the 2000 Golden Shaheen. His final start in California was a second to Men's Exclusive in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita last January.

"When he injured his knee, they though he'd never have a shot at a career and he went right through it," Pinfield said. "Close to $2 million later, he proved he was a great horse."