We all saw it coming in the pressbox on Saturday. High atop the grandstand, in the unusual high temperatures a race was just run. The horses were being led back to the barn area after the conclusion of the 6th race to get cooled out and get their baths. On most days this ritual is done with little fanfare. Sure, sometimes a handicapper will follow a horse through his binoculars to see how he or she is walking back to the barn after said handicapper lost some "bankroll" on this beast. Must be some explanation as to why the horse ran so poorly, right?
But on Saturday it was different. I heard it as I poured over the past performances for the upcoming 7th race. "Hey, were going to lose one." I looked up just in time to see the three-year-old filly Ann's Gold #8 (Harlan's Holiday-Dina Gold) starting to "tie up." Sometimes, when a horse becomes in distress from the heat, or suffers heatstroke they will tie up and suffer what us humans call "vertigo." They will become disorientated and can fall or want to simply lay down until they get their bearings corrected. This may be fine for us humans, but not good for our four legged horse friends. Sometimes they will kick back, swish their tails and show other signs of being in distress and grooms and handlers can often correct this situation with a quick hose down of the horse or a few buckets of water tossed over the horses head or neck area. This will often be enough to cool down the horse and get him to the barn area where they can be attended to. But Ann's Gold wanted nothing of this and she decided to go down right in front of the grandstand to the horror of the fans in attendance.
Problem was that she didn't just lay down. When she went down, she partially rolled under the outer railing which was quite dangerous. It was obvious that when she got back to her feet, there was a good chance that she could hit her head or her back, hind area and cause further injury to herself. So the drama begins.
The vet was on the scene quickly to administer first aid. Several members of the starting gate crew sprinted across the track to help keep the filly down and calm. Even the trainer, Jack Carava and the owner were by her side. Both were visibly upset at what was taking place. At one point, you could see the owner turn away as to not want to see what was happening to his filly.
Next to arrive was the maintenance crew. They began to saw through the stainless steel railing and disassemble it so that when the filly got back to her feet there would be nothing to hinder her standing back up. However when the horse ambulance arrived and the staff began placing up the "green curtain" things didn't seem to be so routine anymore and the outcome looked to become a bad one.
The green curtain. This isn't usually a good sign. When the green curtain is put up, it's usually put in place when a horse has to be euthanize right away and keeps the public from seeing this ugly side of the industry. When the staff from the horse ambulance began unfolding the curtain several pressbox regulars began to think that perhaps the situation was more serious and that the filly had been lost on the track due to more serious complications.
Now one can only speculate as to why the curtain was put in place as it was never confirmed. My feelings on this was to keep the filly calm and to keep the public away from filming and taking pictures on their cell phones. Obscuring the view perhaps helped the filly remain calm and also kept the crowd from growing along the rail. Security did their best to keep the public at a safe distance as well.
It seemed like hours as they worked on her. Several people (starting gate crew) and the vet were kneeling alongside of her in what appeared to be to comfort her and keep her down to prevent injury. Once the maintenance crew had cut the rail above her it seemed like another few minutes passed. It was at that point that the equine ambulance crew then sprung into action as they placed what appeared to be rubber mats leading away from the scene. Again, I speculate that this was to give the filly better traction to regain her footing as the water used to keep her standing before she went down had made the area quite muddy.
During all of this it was quite funny to see the writers and handicappers in the pressbox begin to show their true colors as they began to show emotion and concern that Ann's Gold would indeed get back to her feet. During the entire episode you could hear comments and words of encouragement to not only the horse but to the people involved in getting her back to her feet. I won't mention names here as to protect the callous reputation that several have but I was one that was rooting for this filly.
Then it happened. Ann's Gold jumped to her feet and began to trot back with her groom to her barn. The crowd erupted in applause and cheers and I heard a loud "yes" from the pressbox!
Now having been covering horse racing and attending the races since I was a pup I have seen a lot. Some good and some bad. But nothing quite like this. What was impressive to me was the way this situation was handled. No frantic behavior. Everyone seemed to know what to do and knew what their role or place was. When the situation was over, the gate crew simply walked back to the gate for the next race, the vet closed up his black bag and got back into his truck and drove off. The equine ambulance thankfully rolled up the nasty green curtain and went back to the backside area. Trainer Jack Carava and the horse owner walked back to the grandstand to what may have been the cocktail lounge.
Just another day at the office. Yeah right. Kudos for a job well done people. I know that Ann's
Gold appreciated everyone's efforts as did I.
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