ARCADIA, CALIF., NOV. 5 -- Great Communicator, who won the Breeders' Cup Turf in 1988 and earned nearly $3 million in his career, broke down in today's closing-day feature at Santa Anita and had to be destroyed.
The 7-year-old gelding was 1 1/2 lengths behind pacesetting Ultrasonido in the $219,400 Carleton F. Burke Handicap when he stumbled on the backstretch of the turf course. He suffered a compound fracture of the right hind cannon bone and a possible fracture of the pastern.
Great Communicator was the second star runner to be destroyed in two days at Santa Anita. Sunday, Baldomero broke her left foreleg in the $400,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes turf race and was destroyed. Baldomero, a 5-year-old trained by Bill Shoemaker, had placed first or second in all six of her U.S. starts.
Great Communicator was running for the sixth time this year and for the 56th time in his career. He won 14 races, including his previous start, the Henry P. Russell Handicap on Oct. 17. In 1987, Great Communicator, owned and trained by Thad Ackel, finished second in the Budweiser International at Laurel.
Several other horses without the credentials of Baldomero and Great Communicator went down during the Santa Anita meeting, raising some questions about the track's safety and the possibility that there is simply too much racing.
"If it's coincidental, then there's been an awful lot of coincidence here," said one jockey, who requested anonymity. "I don't think it's so much the turf course as it is training on this main track."
"He felt 100 percent in the warmup and in the way he was running until that point," said jockey Russell Baze of Great Communicator. "He was sitting comfortably, and he was just getting himself gathered up and starting to close the gap a bit on the leader. . . . The old guy didn't want to pull up. It just makes you sick. I feel really bad for Thad because that horse means so much to him."
Rial, ridden by Rafael Meza, edged Ultrasonido by a head at the wire in the Burke, but Ultrasonido was named the winner when Rial was disqualified for interference in the stretch.