LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Sharp Cat, the 4-year-old filly who would have been the biggest favorite in the Breeders' Cup, rested in her stall at Churchill Downs yesterday after nearly losing her life the day before.
Undefeated in races this year -- and never headed at any point -- Sharp Cat would have been the favorite Saturday in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Distaff. But the day before yesterday, as she was leaving the Churchill Downs' track after a morning gallop, she cramped up severely, went into shock and nearly died.
"She's doing good today," Wally Dollase, her trainer, said yesterday. "But she's not 100 percent. She's still weak from what was a very traumatic day."
The adjective that describes most morning gallops is "routine." But Saturday's was anything but for Sharp Cat.
As she walked onto the track carrying her exercise rider, another horse unseated its rider and galloped off. When that happens at Churchill Downs, a siren goes off -- resembling an air-raid siren -- alerting everyone to a loose horse.
Then an ambulance drove onto the track to pick up the injured rider. That prompted officials to set off the siren again, alerting everyone to further disruption to morning workouts.
Sharp Cat became fidgety during the commotion but completed her 1 1/8 -mile gallop without incident. As she walked back to the barn, however, she began hyperventilating and sweating. Her muscles cramped up.
Dollase said he doesn't know precisely what caused Sharp Cat, high strung even in the best of times, to unravel. It was perhaps the unfamiliar siren, he said.
"She's so bright and smart, and I think that's one reason she's maybe a little more nervous than other normal horses," Dollase said. "But she holds it in. She knows I don't want her jumping and bouncing around."
Alex Harthill, the well-known Louisville veterinarian, treated Sharp Cat. He administered large amounts of fluids to stave off dehydration. It took five hours before Harthill was convinced Sharp Cat was out of the woods, Dollase said.
"He said it was the worst case of tying up he'd ever seen," Dollase said, using the racetrack term for the condition.
The California-based trainer said he didn't know whether Sharp Cat would race again this year. But he said the filly's owner, The Thoroughbred Corp., plans to race her next year.
Skip Away breezes sharply
The shot heard 'round the racetrack yesterday wasn't even fired at Churchill Downs. It came from Belmont Park, where Skip Away breezed for the last time of his career.
Skip Away streaked four furlongs in 46 1/5 seconds, the fastest of 31 works at that distance at the track. Jerry Bailey, his jockey, rode him.
"I just wanted to make sure he was sharp," said his trainer Sonny Hine. "And he was -- plenty sharp. We're ready."
Because Hine couldn't book a flight when he wanted to, Skip Away will travel by van from Belmont Park to Churchill Downs. The plan calls for him to leave tonight and, 14 hours later, arrive here tomorrow morning.
"They've all got their work cut out for them," Hine said of Skip Away's competitors in the Breeders' Cup Classic. "Jerry Bailey told me Skippy's never been better."
The Classic will be Skip Away's last race before retiring to stud.
Richard Mandella, trainer of Gentlemen, said no decision has been made on whether the 6-year-old horse will race in the 1 1/4 -mile Classic on dirt or the Mile on turf. Affirmed Success, the 2-1 early favorite in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, blazed five furlongs in 59 2/5 seconds, the fastest of 26 works at the distance. His trainer, Richard Schosberg, was delighted. Victory Gallop breezed five furlongs in 1 minute, 1 second in his final workout before the Classic. The Belmont winner hasn't raced since August, but his trainer Elliott Walden said the 3-year-old colt couldn't be any fitter. The Maryland-bred Partner's Hero, an entrant in the Sprint, breezed a half-mile in 48 4/5 seconds. Said his trainer, D. Wayne Lukas: "He's dead-fit. He's had two good races. He didn't need much." Pat Byrne trains Touch Gold and Affirmed Success, who will be coupled with Coronado's Quest in the betting because of common ownership. If Coronado's Quest ran on his own, Byrne said, he ought to be 50-1.
Pub Date: 11/02/98