Tragedy struck during training hours at Del Mar Sunday morning as talented four-year-old sprinter Bobby Abu Dhabi collapsed and died. According to initial reports in Blood-Horse and Daily Racing Form, the Peter Miller trainee was stricken toward the end of his workout. In the process he unshipped Hall of Fame rider Victor Espinoza, who was injured and had to be transported to Scripps La Jolla Hospital.
Brian Trump of co-owner Rockingham Ranch shared the heartbreaking news on Twitter:
It is with great sadness that I can confirm this morning we lost our boy, BOBBY ABU DHABI to a sudden cardiac arrest on the track. While we are deeply saddened and heartbroken by this loss our thoughts are currently with HOF jockey @VictorEspinoza. Please keep him in your prayers pic.twitter.com/sp30wUqYH7
— Brian Trump (@realBrianTrump) July 22, 2018
Del Mar publicity later reported that Bobby Abu Dhabi was working with stablemate El Huerfano around 9:05 a.m. (PDT) when he went amiss in deep stretch, past the sixteenth pole but before the wire. He died on the track. El Huerfano, who had been withdrawn from Saturday’s San Diego H. (G2), finished his five-furlong move in 1:01.
Espinoza was down for a few minutes, motionless. A neck brace was put on to stabilize him as he was positioned on a stretcher and into the ambulance. Espinoza was able to describe pain in his shoulder and numbness, as his agent Brian Beach relayed to track publicity.
By Sunday afternoon, Espinoza was diagnosed with a C-3 vertebra fracture that will keep him out of action for an indeterminate period. He also sustained a “stinger” in his left shoulder and arm, but that is improving.
“He has regained about 50 percent of the feeling already,” Beach said in a Del Mar release. “Doctors are optimistic he’ll fully recover fairly quickly. It’s the kind of thing that football players get all the time.
“It’s all good for now. It looks like we dodged a bullet.”
Indeed, it could have been far worse. Espinoza did not incur paralysis or break any additional bones, and his status may even be listed as “day to day.” He will remain hospitalized, however, on Sunday night.
Monday update: Beach tweeted that Espinoza will stay in the hospital several more days and he’s not projected to ride again until after the Del Mar meet.
Victor’s condition has improved today to “stable” . He has been up and walking but they are going to hold him in the hospital a few more days for more observation. He will be moved from ICU later today but unfortunately will miss the remainder of the 2018 Del Mar meeting.
— Brian Beach (@Cougzag) July 23, 2018
Campaigned by Rockingham in partnership with David Bernsen, Bobby Abu Dhabi was just beginning to make his mark on the sprint division with nine career starts under his belt. The Macho Uno colt scored in his debut at Del Mar as a juvenile, found two turns too far when a distant fourth to Mastery in the 2016 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), and rebounded when reverting in trip. Subsequently second in the San Pedro S. and fourth in Pimlico’s Chick Lang, he was sidelined until a successful return on New Year’s Eve back at Santa Anita.
Bobby Abu Dhabi opened 2018 with a terrific second to City of Light in the March 10 Triple Bend (G1), finishing 4 1/2 lengths clear of third. The chestnut took the next step in the April 21 Kona Gold (G2), where he dethroned defending champion Ransom the Moon. Shipped to Belmont Park for the June 8 True North (G2), he was a hard-trying third to Imperial Hint and Whitmore. Sadly, that turned out to be his final start.
Bred by T/C Stable in Kentucky, Bobby Abu Dhabi first sold for $85,000 as a Keeneland September yearling before Rockingham Ranch purchased him for $335,000 as a two-year-old in training at OBS April. He was produced by the winning Saint Ballado mare Wadena, who is also responsible for stakes-placed Papa Turf.
Bobby Abu Dhabi bankrolled $375,100 from his 9-4-2-1 record. He was gearing up for Saturday’s Bing Crosby (G1), a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).