Just weeks away from the 25th running of the Breeders' Cup World Championships, the event lost two of its great champions.
Princess Rooney, the champion older mare of 1984 and winner of the inaugural Breeders' Cup Distaff that same year, and Gainesway stallion Cozzene, who captured the 1985 Breeders' Cup Mile and went on to sire two Breeders' Cup winners, were euthanized Tuesday. Both were age 28.
Princess Rooney was put down due to complications from the disease equine protozoal myeloencephalitis, or EPM, which affects the central nervous system.
The daughter of Verbatim had been on the Marquis medication treatment for EPM but once the course of treatment ended, the striking gray mare began going downhill again.
"What (the Marquis) ended up doing was slowing down the process, but it was still attacking the central nervous system and the muscles were deteriorating in her hind end," said Matt Howard, general manager of Gentry Brothers Farm, where Princess Rooney resided. "We had to make a decision because we didn't want her to go into any pain and suffering. Our fear was the muscles in her hind end would collapse, and we didn't want her to be in pain that way. It's probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
"If she were 10 years younger she could have possibly made a full recovery."
Princess Rooney was one of the great racemares of her generation, winning 17 of 21 career starts including five Grade I races with a bankroll of $1,343,339. In her final career start, she beat her foes by seven lengths in the 1984 Distaff.
Her level-headed demeanor carried over into the breeding shed as she took on the role of stepmom for many of the weanling fillies at Gentry Brothers Farm.
"She took on the mother role with the weanling fillies and .... that is something we'll never be able to replace," Howard said. "She taught them more than a person could. We'd stick a weanling out with her and within a couple of weeks we knew we could go catch everyone of them without them causing a fuss or anything."
Howard said the farm was still working on burial plans for Princess Rooney.
Cozzene, the champion turf male of 1985, suffered from infirmaties of old age.
The Caro stallion, who had stood at Gainesway since 1986, sired 81 stakes winners and four champions from 19 crops of racing age to date, including 1994 Breeders' Cup Turf winner Tikkanen and 1996 Breeders' Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup.
Cozzene also was the leading North American sire in 1996.