The worst part was calling the owners.
No, wait, the worst part was loading Currency Swap onto the van.
It’s not all bad for the Hopeful winner, though; in fact, it’s almost all good, other than the part about missing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs in two weeks.
Trainer Terri Pompay, a 1979 Saratoga Catholic High School graduate whose family watched her win the first Grade I of her career on Labor Day, sent the star of her Monmouth Park-based stable to Florida for ankle surgery last Saturday.
By Tuesday, he had the small chip removed and will stay at Nick de Meric’s farm in Ocala to recuperate for 60 days before being sent back north.
As tempted as Pompay could be to bemoan the circumstances and the missed opportunity, she said her overriding thought is of what a dynamite prospect she expects to work with when Currency Swap returns to her barn this winter.
“It was very hard. I kind of knew when I called the owners and told them that if there was anything wrong, they’d stop and do the right thing, but it was still so agonizing,” Pompay said on Thursday. “But what we really want is to have a great 3-year-old.”
Currency Swap, a son of High Cotton, is owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence.
He breezed five furlongs in 1:01.00 at Monmouth on Oct. 7, and over the next two days showed signs of being a little off.
“You just don’t know when it happened,” Pompay said. “He breezed five-eighths, and the next day we walked him, and my assistant said, ‘You know, I can feel a little something.’ We got him X-rayed. It’s hard to say when it happened, but it was there.”
Pompay said the injury was slight enough that they could have considered racing through it, provided the Breeders’ Cup was the following week, but Currency Swap needed two more hard works.
Under those circumstances, they made the gut-wrenching decision to skip the Breeders’ Cup, where Currency Swap likely would’ve been the first or second choice.
The good news was that the chip was free floating, which makes removing it simpler and less stressful to the horse.
“Sometimes, you can just leave them in there and it’s never a problem,” Pompay said. “But it was pinching him a little. If the race was closer, maybe you could get by, but we still needed to get two big major works into him. I made the call, and the owners agreed.”
Currency Swap broke his maiden at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 6 and went straight to the Hopeful, where he overcame an off track to win by three-quarters of a length over Trinniberg.
Pompay, a third-generation Saratoga Springs native, won the first Grade I of her career in front of her parents and dozens of other family and friends.
Pompay and Seth Klarman of Klaravich gave themselves two choices, run in the Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park and skip the Breeders’ Cup, or skip the Champagne and train up to the BC.
“I said, ‘Oh, I’d rather go to the Breeders’ Cup,’ and he said, ‘Me, too,’ ” Pompay said. “I really thought he could win. I think the main competition was going to be [Saratoga Special winner] Union Rags. I didn’t want to go there just to go around the course.”
Everything was going according to plan until the bothersome chip showed up in his left front ankle.
“When we put him on the van, he was so gorgeous, all muscled out, and I was sick,” Pompay said. “You go to his stall, and he gets all puffed up. I’m thinking, ‘I can’t believe we’re doing this.’
“The owners took it unbelievably well. I think I was much more devastated. They’re great owners. It was an opportunity for me, and I really believe the horse is very special, and now I’m not going to get a chance to prove it.”
Currency Swap is spending 30 days in his stall, after which he will be hand-walked for 30 days, perhaps with two weeks of swimming in the pool to get a head start on conditioning.
Then he’ll return to New Jersey after Christmas.
“The good thing is he knows what to do,” Pompay said. “He’s not like a 2-year-old who hasn’t raced.”
MORE BC DROPOUTS
Some other top names who won’t make it to the Breeders’ Cup include Zazu, Awesome Gem, Sassy Image and Flashpoint.
Zazu, a two-time Grade I winner who has been in the money in all seven graded stakes starts this year, was declared after showing inflammation in her shoulder after her most recent work.
With Blind Luck done for the year and Havre de Grace pointing to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Zazu would’ve been the likely favorite for the Ladies’ Classic.
She’ll get a 90-day break before resuming training.
On Monday, West Point Thoroughbreds declared the 8-year-old Awesome Gem from the Classic.
A veteran who has run in the last four Breeders’ Cups at three different distances, the California-based Awesome Gem just missed against Game On Dude in the Grade I Goodwood last time out.
“Awesome Gem’s earned a break this season,” trainer Craig Dollase said on the West Point website. “He’s a game old contender who continues to live a healthy and happy life thanks to judicious placement, and we want to do the right thing by him. He came out of his last race with a very minor hind end issue that just needs some time on the farm to resolve.”
“He’s 8 years old, and he’s turned in a great campaign this season,” West Point managing partner Terry Finley said. “He’s in that in-between spot where he’s probably not good enough to compete against the horses in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, but his optimum distance is a little further than mile, so we’re not keen to go to the other races like the Dirt Mile or the Marathon.”
Awesome Gem will get 60-90 days off and is expected to race at 9.
Sassy Image, who has been in contention for a filly and mare sprint championship, is out of the BC Filly and Mare Sprint with a hind-ankle chip that was discovered after a recent work at Churchill Downs.
That could open the door for Hilda’s Passion to still pull out the Eclipse Award despite being shut down for the year after suffering a non-displaced condylar fracture in winning the Grade I Ballerina at Saratoga for Starlight Racing, where Sassy Image was sixth.
Starlight, which is co-managed by Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg and Jack Wolf of Saratoga Springs, said she will be brought back to race at 5 if she doesn’t meet her reserve in a November sale as a broodmare/racing prospect.
Flashpoint, 14th in the Preakness and fifth in the King’s Bishop at Saratoga, has been retired with a torn suspensory. He had been considered for the Sprint.
Sarah Lynx, who upset the Grade I Canadian International against 15 males on Sunday at Woodbine, is not likely for the Breeders’ Cup and will instead look at races in Hong Kong and Japan.
“I have no idea,” said Kate Bradley, assistant to trainer John Hammond. “I’ve been asking all week where I’m going from here. I know she’s still entered in Japan. Obviously, Hong Kong’s an option, and also the Breeders’ Cup’s an option.”
Trainer Jeff Bonde said on Thursday that Smiling Tiger, third in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, probably won’t run.
He hasn’t raced since Aug. 28 and doesn’t show a public work since Sept. 28.
A final decision has to be made by Monday’s pre-entry deadline.
NY SHOWCASE DAY
Haynesfield, the 2010 Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Empire Classic today as Belmont Park hosts the New York-bred version of the Breeders’ Cup with New York Showcase Day.
Last year, Haynesfield’s connections opted for the Breeders’ Cup, where he was 11th in the Classic.
Inherit the Gold, bred, owned and trained by Jim Hooper of Haven Oaks Farm in Fort Edward, is 5-2 despite not having raced since May.
The card also includes mile-and-a-sixteenth turf races for fillies and mares (Ticonderoga) and horses 3 and up (Mohawk); seven-furlong juvenile races for fillies (Joseph Gimma) and colts (Bertram Bongard); and sprints for older horses, the seven-furlong Iroquois for fillies and mares and six-furlong Hudson.
Roddy Valente of Loudonville has Jaw Crusher at 5-1 in the Bertram Bongard off two fourths, in the New York Breeders Futurity at Finger Lakes and the Gold and Roses at Saratoga.
Spa City Princess, owned and bred by Adam Madkour of Saratoga Springs, is 8-1 breaking from the outside in the Iroquois.
She was second in the John Hettinger at Belmont after two starts at Saratoga, a seventh in the Irish Linnet and a fourth in the Saratoga Dew.
Neal Galvin of Saratoga Springs has Bug Juice at 15-1 in the Hudson off a win and a second place in allowances at Presque Isle Downs.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Mechanicville native Chad Brown could have as many as four horses in the Breeders’ Cup.
Two-time Grade I winner Stacelita is one of the top contenders in the Filly and Mare Turf, and Grade I Diana winner Zagora would have to be supplemented for $100,000.
He may also send Dayatthespa to the Juvenile Fillies Turf and Fantastic Song to the Juvenile Turf. …
The owners of So You Think, the Australian champion 3-year-old two seasons ago, said on Thursday that he’s a go for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. . . .
Jockey David Cohen rode his 1,000th career winner last Friday in the ninth at Belmont, in a photo finish aboard Bobs Pinup Girl.
HERE AND THERE
The racing museum will play host to a pair of screenings of the documentary “The Last Train from Bay Meadows” at 7 p.m. on Nov. 2, and Nov. 3, free of charge.
A discussion of the documentary with producer and director Jon Rubin will follow the screening each night.
Produced in association with the San Mateo County Historical Association, National Image Works and KM2 Communications, “The Last Train from Bay Meadows” portrays the rich history and the eventual closure of the longest continually running track in California. The San Mateo-based track closed in 2008 after nearly 75 years of operation.
MUSEUM BC PANEL
Handicappers Jeff Carle and Jeanne Wood from Capital OTB, and The Saratogian’s Nicole Russo will be featured in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s annual Countdown to the Breeders’ Cup program next Saturday.
The program begins at 2 p.m. and is free and open to the public.
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