Suddenbreakingnews Preparing for 2017 Campaign
Suddenbreakingnews has returned to Oaklawn as a gelding to begin his 2017 campaign.
Or is it a ridgling? Or is he a bilateral cryptorchid, a more rare sexual classification of a horse?
“He’s a gelding,” trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said.
The gender identity confusion surrounding Von Hemel’s first Kentucky Derby starter since 1989 became, literally, sudden breaking news after his fifth-place finish May 7 at Churchill Downs.
Post-race drug testing, Von Hemel said, indicated the testosterone level in Suddenbreakingnews was higher than what is typically seen in a gelding. An ultrasound examination revealed Suddenbreakingnews actually had two undescended testicles in his abdomen, making him a bilateral cryptorchid, Von Hemel said.
Suddenbreakingnews, a 4-year-old son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, had been listed as a gelding in his first nine career starts, including a last-to-first victory in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 15 at Oaklawn.
“The odds that he would be a bilateral cryptorchid and end up running fifth in the Kentucky Derby are astronomical,” Von Hemel said.
Von Hemel said confusion over Suddenbreakingnews’ equipment began when owner Samuel Henderson purchased the horse for $72,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
Suddenbreakingnews was catalogued as a “colt” in the sale, but Von Hemel said Henderson told him he bought the horse as a ridgling (one testicle had descended). The trainer said Henderson decided to geld Suddenbreakingnews, which would have occurred in November or December 2014 when he was at a Florida farm.
“Well, they didn’t geld him,” said Von Hemel, who was not involved in the horse’s purchase. “They looked up underneath him and said, ‘Well, he didn’t need to be gelded – he’s already gelded.’ ’’
Because Suddenbreakingnews’ testicles were in his abdomen, Henderson had asked the horse to be gelded and official paperwork listed the horse as a gelding, it was always assumed that he had undergone the procedure, Von Hemel said.
“His framework looked like a gelding,” Von Hemel said, adding nobody realized the mistake until after post-racing testing for Kentucky Derby starters.
Von Hemel said he immediately began making phone calls and even asked Henderson to check his vet bills to see if he was ever charged for gelding Suddenbreakingnews.
“He didn’t have it on his bill anywhere,” Von Hemel said.
Following the Kentucky Derby, Suddenbreakingnews was listed as a ridgling (there is no designation for bilateral cryptorchid, Von Hemel said) for his final two starts of 2016 – a ninth in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) June 11 at Belmont Park and a fifth in the $750,000 West Virginia Derby (G2) Aug. 6 at Mountaineer.
Von Hemel said Suddenbreakingnews was gelded about two weeks after the West Virginia Derby, his second consecutive sluggish performance.
Von Hemel said the surgery had no impact on a potential stallion career because
Suddenbreakingnews was sterile.
But being a bilateral cryptorchid may have affected his racing performance, Von Hemel said.
“Post-Derby, we ran a couple of not-to-good races,” Von Hemel said. “Sometimes those horses with testicles up in their abdomen will start kind of pulling on them.
They’re not as comfortable as they should be.”
Suddenbreakingnews resumed training in mid-October and has had five published workouts since Nov. 19, including a 5-furlong bullet (1:00) Saturday morning at Oaklawn.
Suddenbreakingnews – truly a gelding now – is still listed as a ridgling by Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
“When we put the papers in here, they’ll update that,” Von Hemel said.
Oaklawn’s first major two-turn race for older horses is the $125,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 13, but Von Hemel said he’s still pondering next-race options for Suddenbreakingnews.
“We’re looking forward to the Oaklawn meet, wherever it is we run,” Von Hemel said.
And, for the first time, without any confusion over gender identity.
“He looks like a gelding,” Von Hemel said with a laugh.
After winning the Southwest, Suddenbreakingnews ran fifth in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and second in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn.
Suddenbreakingnews has a 3-4-0 record from 11 lifetime starts and earnings of $745,032.
There was no training Monday because of freezing temperatures. Training was scheduled to resume at 2 p.m. (Central) Tuesday. … Oaklawn had 1,022 horses on the grounds Tuesday morning. … Oaklawn’s track kitchen opened Sunday. Normal operating hours are 6 a.m.-1 p.m. (Central) throughout the season. … Street Strategy, unraced since winning the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes last January at Oaklawn (leg injury), worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.80 over a fast track Saturday morning for trainer Randy Morse.