The world of sports is replete with hypotheticals, or “what ifs,” and such an intriguing hypothetical arose last week when the undefeated 3-year-old colt Nadal suffered a lateral condylar fracture during a work at Santa Anita.  While it is impossible to answer hypotheticals with surety, the owners of Nadal cannot help thinking about what might have been if:

(a) There had been no coronavirus pandemic that caused the Triple Crown races to be rescheduled and (b) the colt would have been stabled at a more horse-friendly racetrack than Santa Anita.

Had the Kentucky Derby been run on May 2 and the Preakness on May 16, as planned, Nadal on May 28 (the day of his career-ending injury), conceivably would have been prepping for an attempt to complete the Triple Crown on June 6.  Further, on the morning of May 28, he might have been working at Belmont Park rather than on the perilous surface at Santa Anita that has produced so many racehorse injuries and fatalities.  In this scenario, the injury to Nadal might not have occurred at all.

At the very least, had the Triple Crown races not been rescheduled owing to the pandemic, Nadal would have had a chance to run in the Kentucky Derby and likely the Preakness as well.  The injury he suffered could have come under the stress of one of these races, but there is no way of knowing.

Although hypotheticals cannot be definitively answered, one aspect of the Nadal injury is certain based on plenty of conclusive data: that is, Nadal was being worked on a racetrack proven to be unsafe, as evidenced by a plethora of well-publicized injuries and fatalities that forced a temporary closure .  How many incidents must there be at Santa Anita before owners and trainers recognize the track’s dirt and grass surfaces are hazardous? Why was a Kentucky Derby favorite subjected to the Santa Anita risk?

The connections of Nadal had no control over a pandemic forcing the rescheduling of the Triple Crown races. But they had absolute control over where the colt trained.

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