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Breeders' death toll reaches 3

Life went on Sunday at Belmont Park. Nine races were run without injury or incident around the same oval on which two horses drew their final breaths a day earlier, turning the climactic day of the thoroughbred racing season into the sport's darkest afternoon.

The death toll from Saturday's Breeders' Cup races rose to three with the announcement Sunday that Shaker Knit had been put down late Saturday night.

Nine hours earlier, Shaker Knit had suffered severe spinal trauma after falling over Mr. Nickerson, the colt who was felled, apparently by a heart attack, during the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Those incidents preceded the one from which the sport and its fans will take the longest to recover: the filly Go for Wand's collapse just 100 yards from victory in the Breeders' Cup Distaff, and her death minutes later as she lay sprawled a few feet from the winner's circle.

Casual fans were left seeking explanations, while industry insiders tried to explain that this was a horrible concentration of a rare aspect of the sport.

"We all live with this situation every day," said trainer Leroy Jolley. "Every time you go out on the race track you are asking them to put their lives at risk. But with the thousands and thousands of races and workouts, you just have to be thankful it doesn't happen more often."