Despite advances made in horse rehabilitation in the last decade, the tragic death of Go for Wand in Saturday's Breeders' Cup was unavoidable because of the severity of the injury, according to veterinarians and horse experts.

The filly was in a stretch battle with Bayakoa in the $1 million Distaff when she stumbled and collapsed about 110 yards from the finish line, breaking her right front ankle. Veterinarian Neil Cleary examined the horse, then gave her a lethal injection.

"You could see the limb was only held by skin, which means the blood supply is missing from the limb," said Jim Stewart, a veterinarian at Laurel Race Course.

"I think from the horse's standpoint, as clean as that break was, it would have put the horse through a lot of stress and pain to go through rehabilitation," said John Hartsell, a trainer at Laurel.

According to Jim Rooney, a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Kentucky, the breakdown of a horse generally is caused by the failure of the fetlock structure, a group of tendons and tissue that hook into the sesamoids, a pair of small bones on the back of the joint.

"When these two bones are broken, the racing is over," Rooney said.

Destruction of the horse is virtually the only recourse.

Since horses cannot lie down for a long period of time because of the danger of pneumonia, treatment options are limited.

Stewart said there might have been a chance to save Go for Wand, but it would have necessitated reattaching the ankle. "But that's got dead tissue. It's a dead appendage," Stewart said. "That means the animal is an amputee."

Stewart said a large portion of horse amputees are "terrible failures."

Go for Wand's accident was reminiscent of the fate of the filly Ruffian 15 years ago on the same Belmont track. However, Stewart said if that same accident happened now, Ruffian probably could have been saved through use of swimming pool rehabilitation.

"We {also} can really do surgery on horses now, where 20 years ago we really couldn't," Rooney said.

Because of the severity of her break, Go for Wand had none of these options. Watching the replay, Stewart said "on step one, you see {Go for Wand's} leg bend. On step two, you'll see it not support her at all."

"It could be one small weakness in the bone structure, one small uneven place on the track," Hartsell said. "It was just that one little amount of pressure in the wrong place and she couldn't handle it. It's amazing how all of that weight, going that fast, is put on one joint at one time."