2nd horse dies in first three days of Del Mar fall meet

Fun to Dream and jockey Juan Hernandez win the $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes, Sunday.
Fun to Dream and jockey Juan Hernandez win the $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes, Sunday.

Fun to Dream and Juan Hernandez take Betty Grable stakes; second ‘sudden death’ occurs after a race at Del Mar


Fun to Dream won the featured Betty Grable Stakes at Del Mar Sunday on a program marred by the loss of a second horse in three days following a post-race collapse.

Coast of Roan died in front of the main grandstands after collapsing while walking off the track following the third race. On Friday, Kazuhiko died while walking back to the stable area after the fifth race.

Neither horse suffered an injury on the track with both losses attributed to “sudden death.”

Del Mar did not suffer a race-related death during 31 days of its summer meeting.

“It’s extremely unusual and troubling to lose two horses to ‘sudden death’ in 72 hours,” said Dr. Jeff Blea, California Equine Medical Director. “And the reason for a ‘sudden death’ loss is very hard to determine … just over 50 percent of ‘sudden death’ losses are ever traced to a cause.”

Jockey Ramon Vazquez had eased Coast of Roan before the 6-year-old gelding crossed the finish line on the turf course. The horse walked back toward the finish line with Vazquez dismounting before Coast of Roan crossed onto the main track, where he collapsed.

Dr. Dana Stead, Del Mar’s chief veterinarian, was in the chase ambulance and was the first to reach Coast of Roan.

“He had a faint heartbeat when I reached him, but it was quickly gone,” said Stead.

Necropsies will be done on both Kazuhido and Coast of Roan, although the results won’t be known for up to four months. On opening day, Kazuhido pulled up before the finish of the fifth race and walked off the track under his own power.

“Devastating,” said Jeff Mullins, the trainer of Coast of Roan. “There was absolutely no clue.”

Coast of Roan was making his 16th career start. He made two starts at Del Mar last summer and won a one-mile race on the dirt with Flavien Prat aboard. His most recent start was on the turf Oct. 16 at Santa Anita.

Meanwhile, 2-5 favorite Fun to Dream held off Taming the Tigress in a stretch duel to win the $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes by a head — giving jockey Juan Hernandez a sweep of the three stakes races on the opening weekend of Del Mar’s ninth fall season. Hernandez won seven races over the weekend in his bid for a third straight Del Mar jockey title.

The second half of the seven-furlong Betty Grable — for older, California-bred fillies and mares — was a match race between the Bob Baffert-trained Fun to Dream ($2.40) and Taming the Tigress, who had Vazquez aboard.

“She didn’t want to get beat,” said Hernandez of the 3-year-old daughter of Arrogate, who now has four wins in five starts. “There was some bumping in the stretch and after my filly got bumped, she got tougher. Taming the Tigress ran hard, but my filly did, too.”

Jimmy Barnes, the assistant to Baffert, said Fun to Dream also got bumped at the start and went to “Plan B.”

“I was thinking we’d go right to the front,” said Barnes. “She did what she needed to do. She’s a warrior and wore Taming the Tigress down.”

Hernandez and Baffert also teamed earlier in the day when Massimo ($6.20), a 2-year-old son of Uncle Mo, gave the trainer a second win in as many days in a six-furlong maiden race.


Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith gave Mullins a win with Rvalentina ($4.20) in the seventh.

With almost half the fall meeting races on turf — including the eight-stakes Turf Festival over the final two weekends, racing secretary David Jerkens has one wish: “When it rains, rain on Monday and Tuesday.” Continued Jerkens: “We want it dry on the weekends, so we need the weather to cooperate.” The Jimmy Durante Turf Course, which held up exceptionally well throughout the summer meeting, again looks in outstanding condition.

Racing resumes Friday with the first post at 12:30 p.m.

Center is a freelance writer.