Spectacular Bid's brilliant career ended abruptly and anticlimatically today -- in his stall at Belmont Park.
The colt was scratched from today's Jockey Club Gold Cup and retired because of a slight injury to his left ankle. In his absence, Temperence Hill won the richest thoroughbred race ever run in North America.
Bid had been in fine condition a week ago, when he trained swiftly at Bowie in preparation for the Gold Cup. But by Friday afternoon rumors were flying around Belmont that the gray colt had a physical problem. Trainer Bud Delp denied all stories, but ordered X-rays, which revealed chips in the ankle.
It wasn't a serious, disabling injury. "There was a very fine line," said veterinarian Alex Harthill. "He probably could have run and won easily, but there was no point taking a chance."
Delp was surely influenced today by his last such borderline decision, when Bid stepped on a safety pin before the Belmont Stakes, but the trainer let him try for the Triple Crown anyway. That was an error that Delp did not want to repeat after breeders had paid $550,000 a share for Bid's future services at stud.
The colt ended his career with remarkable statistics. He won 26 of 30 lifetime starts and earned $2,781,607. He could have become the first horse in history to win $3 million in purses if he had run in the Gold Cup.
Bid helped make a shambles of New York's so-called "fall championship series." He defected from the Marlboro Cup, spoiling that race, and scared away all his opposition in the Woodward Stakes. In his absence today, Temperence Hill was able to win $329,400 virtually by default. Although he covered the mile and one-half in a mediocre 2:30 1/5, he was able to annihilate his opposition by 5 1/2 lengths.
While odds-on favorite John Henry stalked pacesetter Instrument Landing, jockey Eddie Maple kept Temperence Hill uncharacteristically close to the lead. This was not difficult, because the leaders were moving at a snail's pace, running a half-mile in 49 4/5 seconds and six furlongs in 1:15.
"I didn't want to discourage him," Maple said. "He was all horse today."
After a mile, Maple let the colt roll in earnest. Temperence Hill surged to a clear lead, and drew steadily away from John Henry through the stretch. Ivory Hunter finished third.