I met City On Line last summer, on the backstretch at Saratoga. Allen Jerkens’s barn is as far north of the track as you can get, before the grounds at Saratoga give way to the old Greentree facility.
It was feeding time in the afternoon, and the Chief pulled up in his golf cart. “Let’s go see the horses,” he said. We crawled down the shedrow and around the corner, to a round pen that housed a dark bay colt. He watched us as we watched him. “That’s the French horse,” said the Chief.
City On Line (City Zip – Bebe Ani) was bred in New York but began his career in France. He made two starts at age two, breaking his maiden in his second try, at Deauville in December of 2007. He raced three times in France at age three, with a second and a third, racing at Longchamps, St. Cloud, and Deauville.
He came to the United States last summer, and the Chief worked with him through Saratoga and into the fall; he made his U.S. début last October, and at first, Stateside repatriation didn’t seem to agree with him. In six starts between last October and this February, the best City On Line could muster was a well-beaten third.
In March, though, something clicked. In a claiming race on Gulfstream’s turf, he closed from tenth to get second, and three weeks later, still in Florida, he broke his U.S. maiden by three-quarters of a length. Back in New York a week and a half ago, he was a respectable second in an off-the-turf allowance. Last weekend, the Chief smiled as he spoke about the progress the colt had made.
The trainer who believes that horses stay fit through racing, not training, entered City On Line in a state-bred allowance yesterday. According to a NYRA press release, City On Line broke away from his pony in the post parade, dumped jockey Jose Lezcano (who was unhurt) and bolted back through the tunnel to the paddock, where he crashed into the statue of Secretariat. Dr. Anthony Verderosa, chief examining veterinarian, sedated the horse and treated him for trauma in the paddock. Following the determination that City On Line had fractured his femur, he was euthanized.
The Chief always seemed intrigued by this colt, trying to figure out how to help him regain his form. It seemed to be working, and Jerkens was encouraged by his strong finish on the dirt on May 9th. How inexpressibly sad that a freak accident ended his career so suddenly, and so horrifically.