Magician, Free as a Bird Scratch

ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 29, 2014) -- Magician, winner of the 2013 Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT), has been withdrawn from this year's race at Santa Anita Park, trainer Aiden O'Brien confirmed.

Free as a Bird was scratched from the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) after the 5-year-old mare refused to fly, according to trainer Ian Wilkes.

Magician, a 4-year-old Galileo colt, was severely lame in his right front leg when he came out to jog before heading to the track in the morning.

"It's very disappointing," O'Brien said. "We were looking forward to him, really, we thought he was coming back to where he was for the Breeders' Cup here last year. Just when he came out for his trot, he was acutely lame."

Owned by Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Mrs. John Magnier, Magician finished second in the Aug. 16 Arlington Million (gr. IT) to fellow Turf contender Hardest Core. In six starts this season, his only victory was in the May 5 Mooresbridge Stakes (Ire-III) at The Curragh.

Plans called for Magician to be retired to Ashford Stud following the Breeder's Cup.

"This is the race we were looking at all year with him," O'Brien said. "Obviously we hadn't gotten back to where he was last year, this year yet. But everything through the year had been to come here. We were just dialing him gently, gently, until this was the one we were starting to push him for. It's just a big pity."

Wilkes said Free as a Bird, a daughter of Hard Spun  —Take the Cake, by Fly So Free, became upset when engines were started on the Tex Sutton charter plane bringing horses to Santa Anita Park from Kentucky. Other than her apparent fear of flying, the mare is fine, Wilkes said.

Free as a Bird was 15-1 morning-line shot who would have been ridden by Tyler Baze from the 9 post.

As a result of the defection, Lael Stables' Ageless draws into the field for the Turf Sprint, contested at 6 1/2 furlongs down the hillside turf track. The 5-year-old Successful Appeal   mare has won or placed in 14 of 16 starts, finishing second to Free as a Bird in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes over yielding turf at Keeneland Oct. 10.

A homebred for Elizabeth Volando, Free as a Bird was riding a five-race stakes win streak coming into the World Championships. With earnings of $503,208, the mare has an 8-4-5 record from 21 starts.

Other defections from the Breeders' Cup so far have been American Pharoah from the Sentient Jet Juvenile (gr. I), and Handsome Mike from the Dirt Mile (gr. I).