By Ed McNamara
No sport can match the highs and lows of thoroughbred racing. Within seconds on Saturday, a front-running triumph by a 53-1 shot on the international stage morphed into disaster.
A few strides after setting a Meydan Racecourse record with a runaway victory in the $1.5 million Dubai Golden Shaheen, American-based Zenden broke down, severely injuring his left foreleg and unseating Antonio Fresu. The 5-year-old son of Fed Biz had to be euthanized.
The Italian was celebrating the impressive victory, tapping Zenden’s neck once with his right hand before he went flying off and landed on his backside in the middle of the track. Fortunately, the trailing horses avoided him as they charged past, although Fresu had to roll to the left to get out of the way of one of them. After some nervous moments, Fresu got up.
Carlos David trains Zenden, who paid $108.70 after going 6 furlongs in a record 1:09.01 for his first Group 1 victory. David spent five years as an assistant to indicted trainer Jason Servis before going out on his own in 2018.
“There’s no celebration or anything like that; I’m devastated,” David told bloodhorse.com. “I would rather not win the race and have my horse back, a thousand times. I was hugging my horse while they put him down. I was able to say goodbye to him but there was going to be no way to fix his leg. No money, no trophy is going to bring my horse back.”
David, a 37-year-old native of Colombia, is based in Florida. Zenden prepped for the Golden Shaheen by winning the Pelican Stakes on Feb. 13 at Tampa Bay Downs. He won six of 15 career starts for LLP Performance Horse.
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.