Getty Images

Mastery wins San Felipe, but sustains post-race injury

Leave a comment

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) Mastery won the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths on Saturday, but the colt sustained a fracture in his leg after the finish, ending his Kentucky Derby hopes.

Trainer Bob Baffert says Mastery has a condylar fracture, the most common seen in thoroughbreds. The colt will undergo surgery Monday with screws inserted in his left front ankle.

Baffert says he won’t know until after the surgery whether the injury is career-ending.

But it knocked Mastery off the Derby trail, the latest setback among this year’s 3-year-old contenders. Already out of contention are Not This Time, Klimt and Syndergaard.

It was a huge blow to Baffert, who trained American Pharoah to the sport’s first Triple Crown sweep in 2015.

“He’s just a beautiful moving horse,” he said before knowing the full extent of Mastery’s injury. “He was just doing it easy. It’s very rare to get one like that. You go from seeing the next coming, and then something like that happens. I’ve never dealt with anything like that.”

Ridden by Mike Smith, Mastery led all the way and ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.28 at Santa Anita. The 4-5 favorite paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10.

Mastery was pulled up near the turn by Smith, who removed the colt’s saddle. He was vanned off.

“I felt it about 10 jumps after the wire. All of a sudden he just picked his back leg up,” Smith said. “Then a minute or so and he put it down and he was fine.”

Mastery was making his 3-year-old debut after winning all three of his starts last year. He earned the 50 points awarded to the winner, putting the colt second on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard that decides the 20-horse field for the May 6 race.

After watching from his box, an initially exhilarated Baffert made his way through the stands.

“I hear one of the fans say, `I hope your horse is all right,”‘ he said. “I thought, `What?”‘

After arriving in a strangely empty winner’s circle, Baffert watched the race replay, looking for any hint of trouble.

Standing next to his wife and Mastery’s owner, Everett Dobson of Oklahoma City, Baffert tried to process his emotions after the roller coaster experience.

“We’ve been so high on this horse,” he said. “To see what he did today was just incredible. It was going to put him best 3-year-old in the nation.”

He was interrupted by a call from assistant Jimmy Barnes, who reported Mastery walked off the van seemingly in good order.

But after being bathed, Baffert said the colt showed some filling in his left front ankle.

San Vicente winner Iliad returned $3.40 and $2.60, while Term of Art was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $5.40 to show. Both colts are trained by Doug O’Neill. Iliad was trained by Baffert in his first two starts before a split between him and owner Kaleem Shah.

Sham Stakes winner Gormley finished fourth, followed by Ann Arbor Eddie, Bluegrass Envy and Vending Machine.

Wood Memorial boosts purse to attract top horses

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK — The Wood Memorial purse could increase to $1 million as part of a bonus created to entice the top 3-year-olds to run in the Kentucky Derby prep on April 7.

New York Racing Association officials said Saturday that the presence of any horse in the field with a previous Grade 1 or Group 1 victory would increase the purse from $750,000 to $1 million if the qualifying horse starts. In that case, the winner would receive $590,000, the runner-up would earn $190,000 and third would be worth $90,000.

The Wood is run at 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct. The race is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep series that awards 100 points to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth. The top 20 horses on the leaderboard earn starting spots in the Derby on May 5.

Jack Van Berg dies at 81

AP Photo
Leave a comment

Jack Van Berg, a Hall of Fame trainer who oversaw Alysheba to victories in the 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, died Wednesday. He was 81.

He died in a Little Rock, Arkansas, hospital, according to a spokeswoman for Oaklawn Park, where Van Berg had relocated his training base after leaving Southern California in 2013. No cause was given.

Van Berg ranks fourth all-time among trainers in North America, with 6,523 victories from 41,164 starts, according to Equibase. He had career purse earnings of $85,925,482.

In the Derby, Alysheba and jockey Chris McCarron were nearly knocked down at the top of the stretch by Bet Twice. Alysheba recovered and won despite having just one career victory before the Run for the Roses. Alysheba won the Preakness to set up a try for the Triple Crown but finished fourth in the Belmont.

As a 4-year-old, Alysheba won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic and went on to earn the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.

Van Berg saddled Gate Dancer to victory in the 1984 Preakness. That same year, he earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer.

Van Berg was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985. His father, trainer Marion Van Berg, already was there, having entered in 1970.

From 1959-77, Van Berg was the leading trainer at Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack in Omaha, Nebraska. In 1976, he won a record 496 races and was the nation’s leading trainer, with $2,976,196 in purse earnings.

In 1987, Van Berg became the first trainer to win 5,000 races when he saddle Art’s Chandelle to victory at Arlington Park outside Chicago.

He trained in Southern California for 41 years until moving to Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas, after Hollywood Park closed in December 2013. Van Berg blamed the cities of Inglewood and Los Angeles and the state of California for the track’s closure.

“I just think it’s a pathetic thing,” he said at the time. “It’s ridiculous to let something like this that so many people love and thrive on close. They did everything they could to kill racing. I’ve had enough. I don’t like California racing anymore. I don’t like the way they run it and what they do.”

Van Berg mentored Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who began as an assistant to him.

Born June 7, 1936, in Columbus, Nebraska, John Charles Van Berg began training for his father in the 1960s. The elder Van Berg trained nearly 1,500 winners but was more successful as an owner, winning 4,691 races and $13,936,965. He was the first inductee of the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame, and his son followed him.