BALTIMORE - Trainer Larry Jones treasures a photo taken of his filly Eight Belles after she crossed the finish line in second place, before she broke down at the Kentucky Derby.
"She's galloping up perfect," he said yesterday about the photo shot by a private photographer. "It had to be probably within five or six strides of whenever she broke her first leg. It's the final bit of closure I had to have to know nobody did wrong."
Eight Belles was euthanized on the Churchill Downs track after she broke her front legs while galloping out about a quarter-mile past the finish line. An autopsy Thursday showed the filly had no diseases or pre-existing bone abnormalities that caused her breakdown.
Yesterday, the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority announced that test results showed no traces of steroids in the filly.
Eight Belles and the other 19 horses in the Derby were also tested for improper medication levels, as was the entire field in the Kentucky Oaks, won by Eight Belles' stablemate Proud Spell. All of the medication tests came back negative.
Jones said that two nights after the Derby he spent time reading his Bible and trying to understand why he lost Eight Belles. A strong thunder-and-lightning storm hit Delaware Park at the time, which Jones said he took as a sign from above.
"He [God] let me know it wasn't my horse. It was his horse long before I ever knew who she was," the trainer said. "This was her purpose, and he did not let her suffer."
Special win. Student Council finally experienced success on a muddy track in Maryland. The 6-year-old colt went five wide on the final turn and surged past Gottcha Gold down the stretch for a surprise victory in the revived Pimlico Special.
Going off at 7-1, Student Council trailed the entire race before rallying under jockey Shaun Bridgmohan to win the $250,000 Grade I race by a neck. Student Council paid $16.40, $6.60 and $4. Gottcha Gold took second and Sir Whimsey finished third.
Student Council ran 13/16 miles in 1 minute, 54.87 seconds.
Also yesterday, Sweet Vendetta closed strongly to win the Grade II Black-Eyed Susan Stakes by 11/2 lengths over Shes All Eltish. Seattle Smooth was third, and post-time favorite Bsharpsonata faded badly and finished last in the eight-horse field of 3-year-old fillies.
Sweet Vendetta has won two straight and three of four races this year. She ran the 11/8 miles in 1:49.60.