Budding (4-0-0) superstar colt Nadal was retired from racing today following surgery to repair a condylar fracture.
The injury occurred during a morning workout at Santa Anita Park where the Bob Baffert-trained son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame (2010) completed a normal four-furlong workout. Observers noticed an unusual gait as he left the track. X-rays revealed the injury and surgery followed immediately. The horse is expected to make a full recovery following a procedure requiring two screws.
Speaking to Thoroughbred Daily News, co-owner George Bolton said: “You understand days like this will happen. It’s a very sad day. It’s very hard to get these kinds of horses.”
He added: “I always say to get the trophies, you have to get massive scars along the way.”
Trainer Baffert was not immediately available for comment. Nadal was expected to run in the revamped June 20 Belmont Stakes. The usual third leg of horseracing’s Triple Crown is being run first this year and without spectators at a shortened 1 1/8 miles distance from its usual 1 1/2 miles due to upheaval cause by the corona virus.
Baffert’s other superstar three-year-old, Speightstown son Charlatan, seemed headed for the Woody Stephens (G1) on the Belmont undercard, a shorter race more given to his sprinter pedigree. He also is undefeated (3-0-0) and romped to a six-length win in Division 1 of the Arkansas Derby. The trainer also may not have wanted his stars to face each other in a Triple Crown race before the September 5 Kentucky Derby. The loss of Nadal may alter that plan.
Charlatan’s future also may be in doubt following a positive post-Arkansas Derby urine test for the pain reliever lidocaine. Officials at Arkansas’ Oaklawn Park announced those results Tuesday. A second sample is undergoing testing.
Nadal is a bay colt co-owned by Bolton, Arthur Hoyeau, Barry Lipman and Mark Mathiesen. He is expected to be retired to stud after successful surgery. Though there is no stallion deal in place, Spendthrift Farm near Lexington, KY was believed to be the frontrunner before this turn of events.
The colt’s injury and retirement come at a time when there are many promising three-year-olds vying for honors in a Triple Crown season changed like no other in history by the novel coronavirus. The Triple Crown now consists of the shortened, one-turn Jun. 20 Belmont two and one-half months before the delayed Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby, which comes four weeks before the Oct. 3 Preakness.
The Belmont will be run without spectators. Churchill Downs has said it “hopes” there will be spectators at the Derby. There is no final word on whether spectators will be allowed at the Preakness.
Nadal, a large impressive physical specimen, had already garnered 150 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby and was the leader in the latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association Top Three-Year-Old Poll.
He retires after an impressive string of victories that will leave his racing promise unfulfilled. He broke his maiden Jan. 19 at Santa Anita, then scored consecutive stakes wins in the Feb. 9 San Vicente Stakes (G2), the Mar. 14 Rebel Stakes (G2), and Division 2 of the May 2 Arkansas Derby (G1).
The injury is certain to return scrutiny to trainer Baffert’s home base of Santa Anita Park following two years of breakdowns and catastrophic injuries suffered by horses on its dirt and, to a lesser extent, turf surfaces. The Park was approved by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to resume competitive racing for a portion of its usual season following a shutdown ordered by California Governor Gavin Newsom due to the coronavirus.