Turf champion Magician scratched from Breeders' Cup
Arcadia, Calif. — Magician was scratched from the Breeders' Cup on Wednesday, denying the colt a chance to defend his title in the $3 million Turf.
Magician is the second major defection in as many days. American Pharoah, a 2-1 favorite, withdrew from the $2 million Juvenile on Tuesday because of a foot injury.
Magician, trained in Ireland by Aidan O'Brien, was slated to make a second straight U.S. start, having run second in the Arlington Million in August.
"When he came out of a trot this morning, he was found to be acutely lame," O'Brien said of the right front leg injury. "It was an instant decision to take him out of the race."
The Turf was the 4-year-old's final race. He is headed to stallion duty at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky.
"It's very disappointing," O'Brien said. "We were looking forward to this."
Magician finishes with a record of 5-4-0 in 14 starts with $2.5 million earned.
He captured last year's Turf with a dramatic late run, rallying from 11th to win by a half-length at 12-1 odds in his U.S. debut.
There was another scratch on Wednesday when Free as a Bird refused to fly and withdrew from the $1 million Turf Sprint. The 5-year-old mare balked at entering the charter plane for the flight from Kentucky to California.
"She didn't like the sound of the engines and had to be backed off the plane," trainer Ian Wilkes said.
Free as a Bird, winner of five straight stakes, was 15-1 on the morning line. Her defection opens a spot for Ageless, who was on the also-eligible list, to enter the race.
The injury to Magician leaves four Breeders' Cup winners from last year bidding for repeat victories this weekend: Goldencents (Dirt Mile), Ria Antonia (Distaff), Dank (Filly and Mare Turf) and Secret Circle (Sprint).
Of that quartet, Goldencents looks like the best to deliver again. He landed the rail for the $1 Dirt Mile on Friday as the 6-5 favorite.
Most trainers hope to avoid inside posts, fearing their horses will use too much energy in the early stages.
That should not be an issue for Goldencents. His best efforts come when he dictates the pace, no matter how fast.
The 4-year-old led all the way in last year's Dirt Mile from post 11.
Trainer Leandro Mora says any rival who wants to run with Goldencents is welcome to try.
"He's going to run his own race and I don't think the other horses want to burn their speed against him," Mora said.
Mora is the listed trainer this year. He is the longtime assistant to Doug O'Neill, currently suspended for equine medication violations. Mora is handling the barn in his absence.
Several handicapping angles strongly favor Goldencents. He is coming off a close second in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship at six furlongs. The race was an excellent prep, and the added distance will help his cause.
Goldencents is 3-2-0 in six races here, including the 2013 Santa Anita Derby. And he is 2-2-0 in five tries at the distance.
"I am confident in Goldencents because he is doing so good," Mora said.
Mora lost a second entrant in the race when Handsome Mike, the 2012 Pennsylvania Derby winner, withdrew after swelling developed in his left front leg.
New home for an old friend
Silver Charm will return from Japan next month to a restful retirement home: Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Silver Charm helped put Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on the map with victories in the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Silver Charm, 20, was second in the 1998 Breeders' Cup Classic. He stood stud in Kentucky and Japan at the end of his racing career.
He will find another prominent Baffert runner already residing at Old Friends, recently retired Game on Dude, who ran second in the 2011 Classic.
Champion filly Zenyatta suffered a loss when her weanling filly was put down on Tuesday following a paddock accident.
The filly, who arrived in April at Lanes End Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, was Zenyatta's third foal. Her other two offspring are not yet ready to race.
Zenyatta was the 2010 Horse of the Year and a two-time Breeders' Cup winner: the 2008 Distaff and the 2009 Classic. She won 19 of 20 career starts, losing only by a head in her final appearance, the 2010 Classic.
What: Season-ending championships for Thoroughbreds (Grade 1)
Where: Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, Calif.
TV: NBCSN: Friday, 5-8 p.m. (ET); Saturday, 3:30-8 p.m. (ET); NBC: Saturday, 8-9 p.m. (ET)
The races: Friday — 5:25 p.m., $1M Juvenile Turf (1 mile); 6:05, $1M Dirt Mile; 6:50, $1M Juvenile Fillies Turf (1 mile); 7:35, $2M Distaff (11/8 miles); Saturday — 3:05, $2M Juvenile Fillies (11/16 miles); 3:43 $2M Filly & Mare Turf (1¼ miles); 4:21, $1M Filly & Mare Sprint (7 furlongs); 5:05, $1M Turf Sprint (6.5 furlongs); 5:43, $2M Juvenile (11/16 miles); 6:22, $3M Turf (1½ miles); 7:01, $1.5M Sprint (6 furlongs); 8:35, $2M Classic (1 mile).