The highs and lows of horse racing were on full display this past weekend when Brian Trump, racing manager for Rockingham Ranch, saw one of his horses win a major stakes race, only to be greeted by news the next day that another of his horses had died.
Trump had just stepped off a plane Sunday at LAX after returning home from witnessing X Y Jets victory in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen when he heard the horrifying news about Arms Runner, who became the 23rd fatality of Santa Anitas winter meet when he was injured during the San Simeon Stakes and had to be euthanized.
“The range of emotions in the past 24 hours has left me at a loss for words,” Trump said in a text message Monday afternoon. “From winning the Golden Shaheen with X Y Jet to losing our sweet Arms Runner … the emotions have been more than I can handle.”
This is the sixth year that Rockingham Ranch, run by Trump and his father-in-law, Gary Hartunian, has been in business. Arms Runner was the first horse theyve lost since the meet began Dec. 26.
“As I reflect this morning, I can tell you that the accident at Santa Anita (Sunday) was just that, an unfortunate accident,” Trump said. “As you saw, Arms Runner took a misstep when crossing from the turf to the dirt and was coming down the hill with such momentum that the jockey (Martin Pedroza) was unable to slow him down before he collided with another horse (La Sardane).”
Rockingham Ranch has experienced more than its share of highs in the sport. Trump and Hartunian own a pair of two-time Breeders Cup winners — Roy H (Sprint) and Stormy Liberal (Turf Sprint). They had hoped to also run Roy H in the Golden Shaheen, but he developed a sore foot and was scratched three days before the race.
X Y Jet, who has undergone multiple knee surgeries, went gate to wire in his victory Saturday after disappointing second-place finishes in the Golden Shaheen last year and in 2016.
Still, the 7-year-old geldings victory hardly made the news about Arms Runner any easier to swallow.
It was the devastating part of the sport that all horsemen hope to avoid.
“The Santa Anita track has had to deal with record-breaking rains this fall and have brought in expert after expert to provide the safest possible surface for these horses, and after speaking with other horsemen and jockeys, we are confident that the track is safe,” Trump said.
Of the 23 fatalities, seven have occurred on the main dirt track during racing, six (including Arms Runner) on the turf and 10 during morning training. One of the deaths was the result of a heart attack.
Interviewed by the Southern California News Group two weeks ago, Trump said he was in favor of moving the remainder of the Santa Anita meet to Los Alamitos or Del Mar if thats what it took to continue racing and ensure the horses would be safe.
“I would be in favor of whatever it takes to keep racing in California,” he said shortly before Belinda Stronach, president and chairman of The Stronach Group, released her open letter that outlined a list of sweeping changes at TSGs two California tracks, Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields.
“As long as we can race our horses here and keep them safe. Ultimately, the safety being first and then racing second.”
Trump reiterated Monday the importance of safety.
“Our team would never put a horse out there to race if we didnt feel that the track was safe and our horse was 100 percent healthy,” he said. “Point in case, we just had to scratch two-time Eclipse Sprint champion Roy H from the Dubai Golden Shaheen after shipping him across the world to run in the biggest purse ($2.5 million) available for dirt sprinters. And two months ago we scratched Stormy Liberal from a race in Florida after they endured rain and the race was switched to a dirt surface.
“The safety of our horses always comes first and if they ever show any sign of potential injury, we immediately scratch them from the race and remove them from training until they have recovered. Our horses receive the best available care that you could imagine and each one of them holds a special place in our hearts.”