The 2023 Breeders' Cup has been struck by tragedy after favourite pick Practical Move died in front of fans.
The three-year-old was due to compete in Saturday's $1million (£822,000) Dirt Mile as the favourite, seeking a fifth straight win and his fourth in a row at Santa Anita Park. The venue in Arcadia, California, is set to host the 40th anniversary edition of North America's premier horse racing festival this weekend.
Practical Move was returning from its morning gallop on Tuesday when it suffered a "sudden death", which was attributed to a suspected heart attack. Trainer Tim Yakteen said he was "devastated" for all those connected to "a career-changing horse".
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“The Breeders’ Cup is saddened to report the loss of Practical Move after what is suspected to be a cardiac event while returning from his gallop [Tuesday] morning at Santa Anita Park,” read a statement from Breeders’ Cup organisers. “His rider was uninjured and the horse was immediately tended to by veterinarians from the California Horse Racing Board, 1/ST Racing and Breeders’ Cup.”
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Practical Move made his debut with a runner-up finish in the Maiden Special Weight at Del Mar in August 2022. He won his first race in the same event at Santa Anita two months later and had enjoyed superb fortune at the California track in the following 12 months.
It was only on October 6 that the rising star claimed his most recent win at Santa Anita, beating Tripoli by four lengths after a six-month break. That performance was enough to convince he was ready for a look at Saturday's Dirt Mile, but that question will remain unanswered.
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Sirens sounded and lights flashed on track at Santa Anita to alert fellow jockeys and trainers that a horse had fallen. It's the latest in a flurry of unexpected injuries and absences affecting the Breeders' Cup weekend.
Kentucky Derby-winner Mage came down with a slight fever on Sunday and was not entered in the Classic as a result. That came after another Classic contender, Geaux Rocket Ride, suffered a condylar fracture and ligament damage to his right rear leg and had to undergo surgery.
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