BALTIMORE — Ten years after their undefeated Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, broke down during the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, Roy and Gretchen Jackson endured another brutal hit amid eerily similar circumstances.
Their 4-year-old filly Pramedya broke down while in the stretch on the grass course in Pimlico’s fourth race on Preakness day. She was euthanized on the turf after fracturing her left front cannon bone. Jockey Daniel Centeno fractured his right clavicle and was taken by ambulance to Sinai Hospital, according to a spokesman for the Maryland Jockey Club.
Just like Barbaro in his final race, Pramedya broke through the gate before the start and had to be reloaded.
“Same thing, very ironic,” Roy Jackson told Newsday. Like his wife, he was shaken but philosophical about losing Pramedya. “It takes a while to digest it, but life goes on. These things happen. Now with Barbaro, that was a whole different situation.”
Barbaro fractured his right hind leg during the opening furlong of the Preakness, in which he was the heavy favorite. He was euthanized nine months later at New Bolton Hospital in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, where he underwent surgery soon after his injury. The courageous colt became a beloved cult figure, receiving thousands of cards and letters and many floral arrangements during his long stay at New Bolton.
Gretchen Jackson, like her husband, was composed not long after their Lael Stables endured sudden death. It was only the fifth career start for Pramedya, who won twice.
“I haven’t really processed it yet,” Gretchen Jackson said, shaking her head. “Horse racing, it’s unbelievable, ups and downs all the time. But you chose it, you chose this life among these animals, and it’s a way of life.”
The Jacksons’ trainer, Maryland-based Arnaud Delacour, told Newsday: “Very unfortunate. That’s the sad part of the game, but as a professional you have to live with it. I feel sorry for the filly and for the jockey.”
Adding to the eeriness was that Michael Matz, who trained Barbaro, trains Truly Together, who won Pramedya’s race.
Less than two hours before Pramedya was put down, another horse died on the track at Pimlico. The highs of the racing are glorious, the lows are abysmal, and trainer Francis Campitelli experienced both within minutes Saturday morning.
Shortly after Homeboykris won the first race and had his picture taken in the winner’s circle, the 9-year-old gelding collapsed and died while being walked back to the barn. Campitelli’s son, Chris Campitelli, tweeted: “Devastating loss. He had an apparent attack on the way back to the barn. Homeboykris hadn’t taken a bad step since we’ve had him.”
Dr. Keith Latsos, on-call veterinarian for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said the cause of Homeboykris’ death could not be determined until after a necropsy was performed at New Bolton. “You can’t assume it was a heart attack,’’ Latsos told Newsday. “We can’t say that until we get all the tests.” Latsos said all of the gelding’s organs and tissues would receive “an extensive screening.’’
Francis Campitelli claimed Homeboykris for $5,000 last Dec. 31 for Stirrup Trouble LLC after he won a race at Laurel, Pimlico’s sister track.
“He and the groom that takes care of him had gone probably 100 yards,’’ Francis Campitelli told the Baltimore Sun. “He got wobbly and fell over and pretty much was dead when he hit the ground.
“He was in really good health for a 9-year-old horse. He was a brave horse at his age, and he was a champion. I mean, he went out a winner. We’re all proud of him.”
The Maryland-bred won 14 of 63 career races, finishing second 10 times and third five times, and earned $561,454. He finished 16th behind Super Saver in the 2010 Kentucky Derby.
“The owner claimed him to assure he would have a good home after his career,” Chris Campitelli tweeted. “Freak accident.’’
PETA, an animal rights group, was upset by the deaths and said on its website that it “wants to know what condition these horses were in before the races and is calling on their owners to immediately release veterinary records and a complete list of medications that the horses were administered in the two weeks before the Preakness races.”
According to The Jockey Club’s equine injury database, there were 1.62 fatal injuries per 1,000 starts among American-raced thoroughbreds last year, the lowest total since such statistics began to be kept in 2009.