ELMONT, N.Y., OCT. 28 -- Trainer Billy Badgett looked out over the Belmont Park backstretch this morning and saw a dark and empty stall.

The tears that came so easily Saturday were gone, but the thought of Go for Wand was no less suffocating. The nation's outstanding 3-year-old filly -- and Badgett's best horse in six years of training -- broke her right ankle and fell during a furious stretch duel with Bayakoa in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Distaff Saturday. She received a lethal injection on-track as she lay behind the blue screen synonymous with death while observers pressed 20-deep against the outside rail.

Go for Wand had been about a neck in front of Bayakoa when she collapsed a sixteenth-mile short of the wire before a crowd of 51,236 and a national television audience.

"I still can't believe it," Badgett said. "She's been the soundest horse I ever had in my whole life, and she went into the race without a pimple on her. My wife's not taking it too good. She loves that horse more than she loves me. It's unbelievable."

Go for Wand was one of two horses who died on the track in separate races Saturday. Shaker Knit was destroyed later in the day. In addition, Adjudicating injured his right hind cannon bone in his fourth-place effort in the Sprint and will retire to stud in Japan, trainer P.G. Johnson said.

Mr. Nickerson -- in what was planned as his last start before a career at stud -- went down near the far turn in the Sprint after a possible heart attack or aortal rupture, according to veterinarians. Shaker Knit, given no chance to change course, fell over him.

Assistant trainer Barbara Leibold said Mr. Nickerson's body would be sent to Cornell University for an autopsy.

Shaker Knit incurred spinal damage, and late Saturday the 5-year-old was humanely destroyed on a grassy area outside his stable. He couldn't be moved into his stall.

"He'd lost the motor in his hind end," said trainer Steve DiMauro. "He kept trying to get up, but his hind end kept collapsing. About 11 p.m., he was in terrible pain because the pain medication was wearing off. He couldn't stand it, and we couldn't stand watching him any more."

Chris Antley, the jockey on Mr. Nickerson, broke his right clavicle in the fall. Jose Santos, who rode Shaker Knit, was bruised and shaken but rode two winners therafter. He didn't miss a mount.

Randy Romero wasn't injured although body-slammed in Go for Wand's mishap.

After two horses broke down on the Belmont dirt Friday and Go for Wand shattered her ankle so dramatically Saturday, questions surfaced about the safety of the racetrack. Belmont officials said the track surface was not altered before the Breeders' Cup races, and that nothing was done to help promote track records. If anything, the times of Saturday's races were a bit slower than expected.

"Our crews were maintaining the track all week and looked particularly closely at it after the {Go for Wand} incident," said Gerard McKeon, president of the New York Racing Association. "Everything was fine."

Santos, the Eclipse Award-winning jockey of 1988 and a regular on the New York circuit since 1985, said he detected no difference in surface composition.

"The track's in good shape," he said. "What happened had to be coincidence. It can't be blamed on the track. I've been riding the whole year on this track; it can't be better."

Badgett did not fault track condition, at least publicly for the loss of his prize. "The vets said she was trying so hard she just overextended herself," he said. "That filly {Bayakoa} wasn't going to get by her. . . . It's unbelievable."

Badgett, 38, was stoic this morning as he stood at the far end of his barn and watched his horses, in a different light, circle the shed row.

"Put a tongue tie on Biographer when he comes by, will you?" he said to one stablehand. "How long you got with him?" he asked another, but his voice was thin and wavering.

"It'll be a long time before the cloud passes," he said. "I'm doing the best I can."

Shortly after 7 a.m., trainer Howie Tesher walked over. "I feel terrible," Tesher said, his right hand extended, his left on Badgett's shoulder. "Nobody should have to go through that."

"It's like a relative dying on your wedding day," McKeon had said the day before when he offered to have Go for Wand buried in the Belmont Park infield next to another fallen hero, Ruffian. However, Badgett said owner Jane du Pont Lunger, 76, indicated she would prefer Saratoga, where Go for Wand matched the seven-furlong and 1 1/4-mile records with victories in the Test and Alabama Stakes this summer.

Less than 24 hours before the Distaff, hope and excitement gripped Badgett with Go for Wand a day away from a possible second straight Breeders' Cup victory. She had taken last year's Juvenile Filly as Badgett's first Breeders' Cup starter.

On the opposite side of the backstretch, sagacious Charlie Whittingham, 77, later considered Lively One's chances in the $3 million Classic with calm philosophy. "All you can do is hope for the best," he said, "and prepare for the worst."

Throughout the backstretch, plans were made this morning. Trainer Carl Nafzger said he would talk to owner Frances Genter and family about a possible 4-year-old campaign for Unbridled, who won the Classic and revived his candidacy for Horse of the Year; Ibn Bey, the English long-shot who finished second to Unbridled, would be heading for the Japan Cup and the final race of his career; Dayjur, the European colt who gave the victory in the Sprint to Safely Kept, was on his way to Lexington, Ky., to become a stallion; juvenile winners Fly So Free and Meadow Star would be sent to Florida before too long. Safely Kept, the third-ranked Maryland-bred at $1.75 million, will rest this winter and race next year at age 5.

Badgett turned away from his stable, holding a coffee cup but no options. "I've got to put somebody in that empty stall," he said. "My God, how am I going to do that?"