Siren’s Song Sidelines Sharp Cat

Sharp Cat, undefeated this year and once likely to be the shortest betting price on next Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup card, won’t run in the $2-million Distaff after a wild, potentially life-threatening day at Churchill Downs.

During training hours Saturday morning, the track siren blew for about 15 minutes when another horse threw its rider and got loose near the finish line. This caused Sharp Cat, who was waiting in the track chute to begin a 1 1/8-mile gallop, to hyperventilate. The 4-year-old filly began breathing heavily and broke into a mild sweat.

When the siren stopped, Sharp Cat calmed down and trainer Wally Dollase schooled her in the paddock before she completed her gallop. But on the way back to the barn, Sharp Cat “tied up,” a backstretch term for a form of muscle cramps that can range from a mild stiffness to a life-threatening situation.

Veterinarian Alex Harthill was called to Sharp Cat’s barn. He worked on Sharp Cat and treated her for about five hours, until mid-afternoon. At one point, the big filly wanted to lie down, and it took four horsemen--Dollase, Harthill and two others to keep her up.


“This was the worst case of tying up I’ve ever seen,” Harthill said.

Dollase reported Saturday night that Sharp Cat was out of danger.

“She was dehydrated, but the main thing is that she’s drinking a lot of water now,” the trainer said. “She was even chewing on a few peppermints. She’s fine now, but this was a real scare. I’m sorry that she’s going to miss the Breeders’ Cup. For two reasons: The trauma of what happened, and the fact that she’ll continue to be treated with medications that she wouldn’t be allowed to run with. It’s disappointing, but we’ll get her home [to California] when she’s ready to go, and the plan is to run her next year.”

With Sharp Cat out, the Distaff is down to eight horses. The favorite becomes Banshee Breeze, a 3-year-old filly who won her last race by 12 lengths.