Breeders' Cup Veterinary Report on George Washington

During the running of the Breeders' Cup Classic Thoroughbred race, George Washington was injured and subsequently euthanatized. Following is a report from the Breeders' Cup notes team from an Oct. 27 interview by Erin Wing with AAEP On-Call veterinarian Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS, DSc, DrMedVet (hc), Dipl. ACVS, Barbara Cox Anthony Chair and Director of Orthopedic Research at Colorado State University (CSU), immediately after the injury.

Eric Wing: We are live in the interview tent right now. Before we bring in the winning connections of Breeders' Cup Classic Powered by Dodge winner current link, we have with us Dr. C. Wayne McIlwraith, the on call veterinarian of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). We saw George Washington was eased late in the race. Can you give us an update on what is going on with George Washington.

Dr. McIlwraith: George Washington sustained an open fracture of the cannon bone in the right front fetlock joint and disarticulated the joint at the same time and had both sesamoid fractures broken. So it was a hopeless injury as far as repair, and he has been euthanatized.

Eric Wing: Is this anything that can be attributed to a sloppy racetrack or not?

Dr. McIlwraith: No. You know, there's been no comparative work done scientifically as far as the nature of the track.You know, at times, a sloppy racetrack at the end of the day, you could have some concerns, because they are running in the base; and then obviously the base is not made for them to be running on directly; like it was a very sloppy track. You know, as you know, the rest of the races have gone off well, but it's always a concern.

Eric Wing: It looked, watching the race, as a spectator, that George Washington was maybe having a little trouble negotiating the course early on. He seemed to be struggling, at least relative to the other horses. Is there any knowledge whatsoever about when during the course of the race this injury might have occurred?

Dr. McIlwraith: Well, typically these injuries occur in the last part of the race. They are more fatigued so they have got less support to the joint. And that's when the injuries normally occur. As you know, he's I think this is the first time he's raced on a dirt surface. And he could have had trouble with being less coordinated on that, as he's used to racing on grass; those are possibilities. We generally consider these fractures to start as associated with earlier damage, so they can sustain a small degree of damage and then it can escalate into a fracture. So it is quite possible, especially when you have a horse that's relatively inexperienced at that surface and racing on a different surface. We talk a lot now about investigating the cause of these fractures, minor incoordination or just not landing on the leg as exactly the same way as a horse that's completely used to that surface does.

Eric Wing: Were any of the three owners or trainer involved in the decision prior to euthanatization, or is it an open and shut case, pardon the term.

Dr. McIlwraith: The decision was made very quickly. Aidan O'Brien was on the racetrack with the horse right after it happened, and he requested euthanasia.

Eric Wing: I wish to point out, George Washington raced in the Classic at Churchill last year, but races on grass and switches to a track with a lot of water and slop, does it have any meaning, meaning is this a bad example?

Dr. McIlwraith: You mean a bad example to switch it to a sloppy track?

Eric Wing: Are you saying it's not a wise move that it should be or should not be done?

Dr. McIlwraith: No. I was being asked for sort of possibilities as to, if you can have contributing factors, and you can certainly have many contributing factors. But, no, I certainly did not imply that it's not a wise move.

Eric Wing: I don't mean to take you outside your field of expertise or your focus today, but as an onlooker and an observer, can you characterize in any way the emotions of Aiden O'Brien or the owners from where you stood?

Dr. McIlwraith: Well, we weren't there. Dr. Bambridge and I, we were across the racetrack. So we have no we weren't present for that. But I'm sure he's extremely upset about it.
Eric Wing: Doctor, as always, we appreciate your expertise and your speed in getting in here and updating us on the situation. Thank you very much.
Produced for Breeders' Cup FastScripts by ASAP Sports

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