At one point Saturday track veterans were decrying the weather and the untimely arrival of heavy rain that significantly reduced attendance and all but destroyed the two feature races.
Yet there was still the anticipation of seeing Broadway Empire, who ran sixth against some of the top horses in the game in the Metropolitan Mile and was making his first appearance since as the odds-on favorite in the second running of the Mystic Lake Mile.
The switch from the drenched grass to dirt was not an issue. Broadway had never run on the grass before, and everyone knows what he can do on the dirt.
Even with multiple scratches from the Lady Canterbury and Mystic Lake Mile there was still that factor. “Well, at least we get to see Broadway,” fans agreed.
Then, just moments before the horses loaded into the gate came the news on the public address system that Broadway Empire had been scratched.
Speculation traveled fast. He was lame. Minutes earlier he was kicking and doing his thing in the paddock in anticipation of running. Now he was lame?
He certainly looked lame a number of horsemen agreed.
At one point trainer Robertino Diodoro feared the horse had broken a bone in his leg. “He was just standing and couldn’t move.”
Rider Scott Stevens gave Broadway every opportunity to straighten himself out as they awaited the signal to load. The horse didn’t provide conclusive evidence.
“It was strange,” said Diodoro. “He was good. Then he was bad. OK then he wasn’t. Back and forth like that.”
Under those conditions everyone agreed Stevens had done the right thing. You don’t take a chance in that situation.
“I felt bad for Scott,” said Diodoro, who clearly had a multitude of people and things to feel bad about.
Then, Broadway kicked and squealed all the way back to the barn. “I thought he was going to run away from the handlers,” Diodoro said. “We still got an X-ray of the foot, to be sure,” said Diodoro. “Nothing was wrong.”
Broadway Empire is OK. So what exactly was wrong with him during the post parade and shortly before?
Well, Diodoro has a theory. There is a small hole near the coronet on Broadway Empire’s right front foot. “I don’t know, maybe sand gets in there and irritates it and then gets cleared out,” he said. “The same thing happened to him in the Canadian Derby and then he went out and wins by six lengths. It’s an old quirk.”
So on Sunday, despite the emotional hangover from Saturday’s letdown, there was good news in the Diodoro barn. As handlers and others connected to the horse made their personal peace with Saturday’s unfortunate event, there was the comforting news that Broadway Empire is OK and will run again.
When is still a question for consideration according to Diodoro.
BY JIM WELLS