- Practical Move was carrying out work when the Dirt Mile challenger collapsed
- PETA issued a statement calling for stricter testing for horses or an end to racing
- DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news
It was dark and cold but, through it all, we could see them galloping. A work morning in Breeders’ Cup week is something to behold and Santa Anita, even before first light, was everything you wanted it to be.
Down at Clockers Corner, we had gathered to see the phalanx of contenders emerge from their barns. When a horse is running at the Breeders Cup, their names are stitched into their colourful saddle cloths: Practical Move, a challenger for the Dirt Mile, was easy to spot as he thrummed past.
He moved powerfully and gracefully. This was a horse with a big reputation, one that could have been the Kentucky Derby winner, potentially, had a fever not intervened in May. With form figures of five wins from eight races, a Breeders’ Cup win was not out of the question.
We carried on talking, awaiting for the European runners to get their first sight of the track. But then, as quickly as you can flick a switch, the mood changed: four blasts of a siren, the kind of alarm you might hear when in an ambulance or fire station when something has gone wrong.
And something had gone wrong. As we tried to work out what had gone on through the commotion, a glance up the straight quickly told you everything you needed to know. A horse had collapsed, close to the running rail and there were no signs of life. It was Practical Move.
Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile challenger Practical Move suffered a fatal collapse at Santa Anita
No matter how long you have been in racing, no matter how much you understand the pitfalls and the potential for things to go wrong, the catastrophe of seeing one of these beautiful animals slip away will always leave you feeling hollow.
For those closest to it, the pain is increased one-thousand fold. Practical Move’s work rider, who was uninjured, was bereft when he had to carry back his saddle, reins and name cloth after his stricken partner had been removed. Trainer Tim Yakteen was bereft.
In a statement, organisers said: ‘Every year, Breeders’ Cup works closely with its host track, state racing commission, and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) in the lead-up to the World Championships to implement stringent safety and integrity protocols.
‘These processes are in place to protect the wellbeing of our human and equine athletes, and Breeders’ Cup is committed to continuously improving the ecosystem of care surrounding every horse. The horse was immediately tended to by veterinarians.’
This cut little ice with those who are opposed to racing. In a statement, PETA Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo said:
‘With the Breeders’ Cup in just a few days, PETA is deeply disturbed by the carnage in California horse racing.
‘Just this morning, Practical Move, who was slated to race this weekend, collapsed and died, and at least 71 horses have died so far this year. While California has led the way in passing measures to protect horses, it has stopped far short of all that is needed.
This was a horse with a big reputation, one that could have been the Kentucky Derby winner
‘It needs to begin with the immediate suspension of the trainer when a horse dies and the installation of low-radiation, standing CT imaging equipment that can be used to screen horses. Either the fatalities end or racing must.’
There have been some harrowing episodes at the Breeders’ Cup down the years and watching racing on dirt is guaranteed to leave a knot of concern in your stomach.
The last thing that was needed ahead of the event described as Racing’s World Championship was an incident for the world to look at racing in a negative light.
Practical Move – and the sorry fate that befell him – has changed all that. Darkness remains.