Tragedy at Saratoga

Published Aug. 30, 2013 1:00 a.m. ET

Trainer David Jacobson stood a few yards away from where Saginaw was standing in his stall, munching on his hay rack as veterinarians performed X-rays on the gelding’s injured left foreleg.

“I can’t believe we’re standing here,” Jacobson said. “I thought we’d be back here after standing in the winner’s circle.”

A few minutes later disbelief turned to despair when Jacobson was told that Saginaw had fractured both sesamoid bones in his left ankle. Jacobson was advised that Saginaw, a 7-year-old gelding, would have to be euthanized.

“It’s a very sad day,” said Jacobson, who since March 2012 trained and owned Saginaw in partnership with Drawing Away Stable. “He brought us a lot of joy. It was an honor to work with a horse of his caliber.”

Saginaw, one of the more popular New York-bred geldings in recent time, suffered his injuries during the running of Friday’s third race, a highly anticipated optional claiming race. Saginaw was facing another stalwart, Caixa Eletronica, an 8-year-old horse who was making his 67th career start. The race was won by Bernie the Maestro in front-running fashion.

Saginaw, under Junior Alvarado, was in stalking position when he took a bad step leaving the seven-sixteenths pole and was pulled up. He was equipped with a boot on his left foreleg and vanned off to Jacobson’s barn, where he was made comfortable by his handlers until the veterinarians arrived to take X-rays.

“He’s got multiple comminuted sesamoid fractures,” Dr. Michael Galvin said.


Galvin talked about possible surgery where metal plates would be used to fuse the joints together. But Saginaw would endure pain over the next few months and there was no guarantee of survival.

“It was explained to me he’ll be in pain for two or three months, and there’s a very good chance he could develop founder,” Jacobson said. “It doesn’t seem to be the right thing to do based on the experts that have advised me.

“Money is not an issue,” Jacobson added. “It’s just the pain that he would go through.”

Saginaw, who raced for owner Ted Taylor and trainer Chad Brown before being claimed a few times, won 21 of 41 starts and earned $974,690. He had the bulk of his success for Jacobson and Drawing Away, who claimed him for $30,000 on March 8, 2012.

Saginaw won 14 of 18 starts for those connections, including 10 stakes. In 2012, he won 10 races, equaling the most races won by any horse in North America for the year.

“He would be very hard to match,” Jacobson said. “Not only his accomplishments, but the way he did it. He had those races where he was beat, he refused to lose.”