SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Hall of Fame jockey Randy Romero died at the age of 61 late Wednesday night.
He had been in hospice care in Lafayette, Louisiana, since June due to stomach cancer, another in a long line of serious health problems that plagued him since 1983.
He was best known for having been the regular rider aboard Personal Ensign during her undefeated career, which included the 1988 Whitney at Saratoga Race Course, where she was the last female horse to win that race.
A native of Erath, Louisiana, Romero won 21 meet championships at 10 different tracks, and his mounts earned over $35 million in purses before he retired in 1999 with 4,285 victories.
He and Laffit Pincay Jr. are the only jockeys to win the Breeders' Cup Distaff two years in a row. Romero did it with Sacahuista in 1987 and Personal Ensign in 1988. Some of his other top horses included Go for Wand, Polish Navy, Creme Fraiche, Risen Star, Banshee Breeze.
Crème Fraiche, Risen Star, Polish Navy, Banshee Breeze, Housebuster, Hansel, Seeking the Gold, Skip Trial, Yankee Affair, and Java Gold.
Besides Personal Ensign's Whitney, Romero's Saratoga highlights included the 1990 Alabama on Go for Wand.
He was inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame in 2010.
His health trouble started in 1983, when Romero suffered major burns in the sauna at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Having rubbed himself down with alcohol, he started a freak fire by accidentally breaking a live light bulb, igniting his body.
Romero also suffered multiple riding injuries and damaged his kidneys while trying to make weight, frequently through forcing himself to vomit meals. He also had liver damage and contracted hepatitis C in 2008.
In her career debut, Crystalle showed that she may not flash early speed, but that she can run down horses down the stretch.
Still, it's not ideal to spot the field two lengths out of the starting gate.
That nearly cost her in Thursday's feature, the $100,000 P.G. Johnson for 2-year-old fillies on the turf, but Crystalle and Joel Rosario caught up to the leaders, stalled momentarily, then went ahead to the wire first by a neck over Sweet Melania.
"Actually, at about the eighth pole, I said, 'I don't think so,'" trainer John Kimmel said. "Then I guess they got a little tired up front, made her kick a little stronger and she was able to get up just in the nick of time."
Crystalle also finished first in her first race, on Aug. 14, at odds of 41-1, but was disqualified and placed third. She did it in similar fashion to the P.G. Johnson, this time without the DQ, but handicapped by the slow start.
"These horses, second time out, you're always wondering what they'll change in demeanor, and now that they know something about it, will they be a little more aggressive and not settle?" Kimmel said. "So I was a little worried that she wouldn't settle, but the way it worked out, she was well behind the field and gradually picked up her horses and had to go pretty wide around them."
He said they'll chart a path to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, probably by racing in the Miss Grillo at Belmont Park.
RUN FOR THE HORSES 5K
The 10th annual Run for the Horses 5k/walk and kids' fun run will be held at 8:30 Saturday morning at the Orenda Pavilion in Saratoga Spa State Park.
The event, which will feature a dozen former racehorses throughout the course, is designed to raise awareness about aftercare of thoroughbreds and standardbreds. There are hundreds of former racehorses in the Capital Region in the care of organizations like the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, New Vocations, ReRun and Heading for Home.
The 5k entry fee is $30. Check-in begins at 7.
The 5-year-old gelding Go Big Or Good Home was vanned off the track and euthanized after the eighth race on Wednesday, the third equine death from a racing incident at the meet.
He took a bad step at the top of the stretch and was pulled up by jockey Dylan Davis, then was walked onto the horse ambulance. No other details about the catastrophic injury were available on the New York State Gaming Commission Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database.
Since the Oklahoma Training Track opened for workouts in April, the site lists 11 equine deaths, three from racing, five from incidents that occurred during training and three from non-racing circumstances. Eight have occurred since the July 11 opening day.
AROUND THE TRACK
Get Set, the 2-year-old gelding whose 7-year-old dam, Enthusiastic Gal, returned to racing after having given birth, is entered in the eighth race on Saturday. He has raced twice, both at Parx, and was entered at Saratoga on July 24 on the same card that his mother ran, but he was scratched when the turf race was moved to the main track.
Enthusiastic Gal finished fourth in her race that day and ran on Sunday, too, finishing third. ...
Cross Border, a 5-year-old ridgling trained by Mike Maker, won the second race Thursday for his third victory of the meet.
Two years ago, Voodoo Song won four races at the meet, the first to accomplish that since Hall of Famer Native Dancer, who went 4-for-4 in stakes races as a 2-year-old at Saratoga in 1952.
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @Mike_MacAdam.