ELMONT, N.Y., OCT. 27 -- Safely Kept won the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint today at Belmont Park with help from the shadows as another horse lay dying in the sunlight.
Safely Kept, a 4-year-old Maryland-bred filly, was losing her stretch battle with Dayjur nearing the finish line when Dayjur suddenly jumped a shadow on the racetrack.
Jockey Willie Carson managed to keep the English colt upright, but Dayjur lost his advantage and again leaped as he passed the wire a neck behind Safely Kept.
"I can't believe it," Carson said. "The race was over. I was going to win by a length."
The six-furlong sprint had become notable well before the stretch when Mr. Nickerson went down nearing the turn and Shaker Knit fell over him. Mr. Nickerson's rear legs had buckled and he thrust his forelegs upward before crashing; Chris Antley, thrown over his mount's left shoulder, broke his right collarbone on impact. Mr. Nickerson died on the track in his 25th race.
Antley was taken to Long Island Jewish Hospital having missed his two mounts, Flawlessly and Dispersal, neither of whom earned a purse.
According to veterinarian Neil Cleary, Mr. Nickerson was bleeding from the nostrils and therefore could have suffered a heart attack or ruptured aorta. The 4-year-old colt had won 10 races and $596,306.
Shaker Knit was alive this evening, although Dr. Albert Saer said the 5-year-old had suffered "acute trauma of the spinal cord." Trainer Steve DiMauro did not say whether attempts would be made to save Shaker Knit.
Jose Santos, the rider of Shaker Knit, spoke of pain in his back and legs but rebounded quickly. One race later, he rode Meadow Star to victory in the Juvenile Fillies, then won the other 2-year-old race with Fly So Free.
While the horses lay on the racetrack -- and Carson lamented a victory gone awry -- owner Barry Weisbord and trainer Alan Goldberg did their best to savor Safely Kept's grandest moment.
The filly had last year's Sprint in her midst until Dancing Spree passed her near the wire, but that race was marked by a jam-up at the start that did not involve Safely Kept; still, she was named sprint champion of 1989.
Goldberg said he thought Safely Kept would have beaten Dayjur regardless, but replays showed the colt was about a neck in front and edging further ahead when he left his feet.
Even jockey Craig Perret said "the horse was getting by me about the 30-yard pole."
Dayjur lost his five-race winning streak and an outside chance at an Eclipse Award. The 3-year-old had sprinted exclusively on European turf, and many questioned how he'd react to dirt in his face.
There was little opportunity to taste it, for after breaking in mid-pack Dayjur quickly advanced to second, with front-running Safely Kept safely out of his path. He moved abreast of the filly halfway through the race and was almost a half-length in front leaning into the stretch when Safely Kept drew even again. They ran side by side for 41 strides through the stretch. The 42nd made the difference.
Entering this year's Breeders' Cup races, English-based horses were one for 39 collectively.
With her 19th victory in 24 tries, Safely Kept matched Little Bold John as the only Maryland-breds to have earned more than $1.8 million. She also made it a good ending for Perret, who had abandoned her to ride Housebuster earlier this year.
"At the time, we told him he was putting money in front of an Eclipse Award," Weisbord said. "But it was his business." They agreed that Perret would ride Safely Kept in the Breeders' Cup, and today she became the second filly to win the Sprint. Very Subtle was first in 1987.
Bred by David and Jo Ann Hayden, Safely Kept sped six furlongs in 1:09 3/5 and returned $26.40 to win.
"I'll take it any way I can get it," Perret said. "You can say what you want, but the bottom line is my filly didn't make a mistake, and the other horse did."
Carson said Dayjur had jumped late in his previous race in France, but the colt had victory secured. Today it was an antic worth $225,000, the difference between first and second.
"We didn't get the money, but we had the best horse," Carson said. "It's a heartbreak."
Beyond the shadows, the term was redefined. Maryland-bred Safely Kept (5), with Craig Perret aboard, wins Breeders' Cup Sprint as Dayjur, ridden by Willie Carson, jumps a shadow.