For a third straight day, trainer Dale Romans had to take time out to field questions regarding one of his higher profile Grade I runners. Unlike his previous couple of sessions, the subject matter Romans was discussing Monday was due to far less enjoyable circumstances.
Two days after saddling Shackleford to victory in the 136th Preakness Stakes, Romans lost one of his other stars when it was announced Grade I winner Paddy O'Prado was retired from racing due to a sesamoid injury sustained while winning the Grade II Dixie Stakes on the Preakness undercard.
Owned by Donegal Racing, Paddy O'Prado established himself as one of the top turf horses in the country last season. The gray son of El Prado recorded three straight wins in the Grade II Colonial Turf Cup, Grade II Virginia Derby, and Grade I Secretariat Stakes last summer and was second in his first try against older horses in the Grade I Joe Hirsch Turf Classic.
The 4-year-old Paddy O'Prado closed brilliantly off tepid fractions to win the Dixie Stakes on Saturday — his first start in nearly six months — but was found to be favoring his right front leg shortly after the race.
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"He came back to the winner's circle fine and I was actually saddled for the Preakness when the vet called me and said he was off in his right front," Romans said. "He wasn't in any distress but we knew it was a problem. It wasn't until we flew him back to Churchill the next day and x-rayed him ... he broke the top part of the outside sesamoid off.
"It's an injury that would heal and maybe an average horse would race again. But we didn't want to take any chances. He doesn't owe us anything."
Jerry Crawford, managing partner of Donegal Racing, said he has received numerous inquiries from stud farms but that a stallion deal has not yet been finalized.
Paddy O'Prado got all of his five career victories on the grass, but he was a top contender on any surface. He ran second in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes last April over the Polytrack at Keene land before finishing third to Super Saver in the Kentucky Derby.
His final outing of 2010 saw Paddy O'Prado come home fifth in what was widely regarded as one of the toughest Breeders' Cup Classic fields in recent memory.
"We're still caught up in the sadness of what might have been," said Crawford, who bought Paddy O'Prado on behalf of Donegal for $105,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale. "He's given us so much. He's changed our lives for the better. One of my biggest disappointments is I know he had it in him to win a Grade I on dirt."
Bred by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Paddy O'Prado finished off the board just three times from 14 career starts and amassed earnings of $1,721,297.
"To be disappointed is a little selfish on our part. We ought to be celebrating this is not a catastrophic injury," Crawford said. "After a few days of stall rest, he's going to think he's as good as new and wonder why he's not going to track."