Triumph and tragedy for Arcadius at Iroquois

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They’re not supposed to end like this. Winner’s circle ceremonies are for the good in the sport, the triumphs, the back-slaps, the excitement, the joy. Saturday at Nashville, the aftermath was anything but happy as Arcadius died of an apparent aneurysm shortly after winning the Grade I Iroquois Steeplechase.

Owned by Hudson River Stable, the 8-year-old outran Divine Fortune and Nationbuilder late to give trainer Jonathan Sheppard a sweep of the first three spots in the $150,000 race, the spring’s only Grade I. Brian Crowley rode the winner, who picked up his second Grade I and fourth American steeplechase win after beginning his career in Ireland. Tax Ruling, bidding for an unprecedented third consecutive win in the race, settled for fourth after leading early. The winner covered 3 miles and 18 fence sin 5:36 1/5 and won by a length.

The victory was an afterthought, however, as Arcadius dropped to the ground shortly after being unsaddled. He pulled up fine, walked back to the winner’s circle, was in no apparent distress. In a post-race cooldown area with water, ice, hoses, misting fans and veterinary assistance, Arcadius fell to his knees and dropped to his left side. He died in minutes, despite veterinary care.

“The horse ran a beautiful race, pulled up very cleanly and came back,” said course veterinarian Dr. Monty McInturff of the Tennessee Equine Hospital. “As he as cooling down after the race, he had a heart attack. When I got to him on the scene his heart was very irregular and he had a very weak blood pressure. We attempted to help the horse but he had had a heart attack. It appears to be an aneurysm and he died very quickly and very peacefully. It did not appear to be anything that happened during the race.”

Bred by Jayeff B Stable in Kentucky, Arcadius sold for $500,000 as a yearling in 2005 to Coolmore agent Demi O’Byrne. Trained by Aidan O’Brien in Ireland, the son of Giant’s Causeway won once on the flat as a 3-year-old and once over hurdles as a 4-year-old. Sheppard imported him and the bay gelding won once in 2009, twice in 2010 and ran just twice last year after missing nearly 12 months. This spring, he prepped with a third on the flat Charlotte April 28, went to Nashville and produced his finest victory. And his last.

Arcadius gave Crowley his first American win in 2009, won Sheppard’s 1,000th race in 2010 (in the Grade I Helen Haskell Sampson at Monmouth Park) and placed in several Grade I stakes. He earned $309,303 in his career – nearly all of it over jumps.

Other action at Nashville

– Sheppard opened the day with a $15,000 flat win by Bluegrass Summer with amateur Toby Edwards (in his first ride in 11 years) aboard. The 4-year-old son of Purge bulled past Memorial Maniac in the stretch, with Zarb’s Champion third.

– Irv Naylor’s Lake Placid (Carol Ann Sloan aboard for her first win) took the $35,000 Bright Hour hurdle for amateur jockeys, leading throughout and defeating Humdinger (Gus Dahl) and Straight To It (Mark Beecher). Trained by J.W. Delozier, the 2011 novice champion won for the second time this year and eighth time over fences.

– Hudson River Farm’s Parker’s Project (Darren Nagle) upset the $75,000 Marcellus Frost hurdle stakes, drafting into position on the backstretch and outrunning Country Cousin (Carl Rafter) and Via Galilei (Ross Geraghty) in the 2-miler.

– Half-sisters Quiet Flaine (Jeff Murphy) and Ptarmigan (Willie McCarthy) finished 1-2 in the $50,000 Margaret Currey Henley Stakes for fillies and mares. Trained by Doug Fout for Maggie Bryant, the stablemates finished ahead of Opera Heroine with favorite Sweet Shani pulled up. Quiet Flaine is a 4-year-old daughter of Real Quiet while Ptarmigan is a 6-year-old by Unbridled Jet. Both are out of the Chenin Blanc mare Flaine.

– Sheila Williams and Andre Brewset won the $25,000 maiden hurdle with first-time starter Virsito, a 6-year-old son of Dynaformer and the Turkoman mare Turkish Gipsy. Willie Dowling rode the winner, who raced up close early and held off Fisher-trained En Fuego (Xavier Aizpuru) late. Mr. Universo (Nagle) was third.

– Woodslane Farm’s Lion’s Double (Dowling) gave Fisher a double on the day with a win in the $50,000 Mason Houghland Memorial timber stakes. The 6-year-old rated last of six early, then reeled in Mecklenburg late to win for the first time over timber. Mecklenburg stayed for second with Delta Park third.