Beautiful Sin overcomes a significant tendon injury to race again
story by Kimberly French
After Beautiful Sin defeated the talented colt Gerry by a neck in a qualifying contest at The Meadowlands on May 18, trainer Per Engblom experienced a rush of emotion that extended far beyond satisfaction. What appeared to be a routine step in preparing Beautiful Sin for a successful sophomore campaign was much more significant, as the victory was the culmination of a quest not only to save the filly’s racing career, but her life.
“We had her up in Canada and she was turned out there before her next race (the Champlain Stakes),” said Engblom. “We are not sure how it happened, but her left front leg was tangled in the nylon fence. We had to take the fence down just to get her leg out and she had cut an artery, as well as her tendon above the knee in the back of her leg. I was with her and it was a horrible sight to see.”
A daughter of Muscle Hill and the Cantab Hall mare Sina, Beautiful Sin always had high expectations placed upon her. After all, she was the $480,000 sales topper at the 2017 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. Bred by Jeff Gural and Moon Goddess LLC, the filly was purchased by S R F Stable and sent to the shed row of Hall of Fame conditioner Jimmy Takter and his assistant trainer, Engblom.
Subsequent to three strong qualifying efforts in June of last year, Beautiful Sin captured her first two starts before losing by a nose to Starita in her $20,000 Jim Doherty Memorial elimination. She followed that performance with a neck loss to her stablemate and O’Brien Award winner The Ice Dutchess in the $357,450 final.
The filly returned to the winner’s circle on Aug. 13 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono in a $61,547 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes contest in 1:56.3, prior to traveling north of the border for her next stakes engagement.
“We were always really high on her and thought she was the better horse, even though The Ice Dutchess beat her in the Doherty and went on to have the season she did,” Engblom said. “I was with her the whole trip to Canada and she was doing great. We were very excited about her. Then this happened.”
After extricating Beautiful Sin’s leg, Engblom’s immediate concern was to stop or at least slow the blood pouring from the filly’s wound, and was overjoyed when a witness to the incident came to his aid.
“Thank god for Dr. Ian Moore,” Engblom said. “He was at the farm jogging and came right over after seeing what happened. He made some phone calls and was able to help get her to the University of Guelph right away. I drove her myself and I would have to say getting her there and seen that quickly—as it was probably about 30 minutes from the accident until our arrival—made all the difference.
“They performed surgery immediately and I’m not exactly sure of the specifics of what they did, but she was there for I think about two weeks. They took really great care of her and when she was healthy enough to travel, we took her to [Dr.] Patty Hogan. Although the wound was healing, it was late August and early September, so it was very hot. There was a lot of proud flesh and it was not a pretty sight. Patty had to surgically debride and revise the wound several times to keep everything all lined up.”
Proud flesh, or exuberant granulation tissue (EGT), is a component of the wound-healing process in horses. Granulation tissue is comminuted, or minutely fragmented, tissue which is created as a wound heals on any part of a horse’s body.
Like other tissue, granulation tissue is composed of blood vessels and fibroblasts. However, it does not have any nerves. It forms most frequently in wounds that are left open to heal rather than sutured. When this tissue grows at an increased rate, it begins to protrude from the wound. This set of circumstances results in what is referred to as proud flesh. This condition is not conducive to proper healing, as it prevents the skin cells from closing the wound.
“Proud flesh sometimes can take on a ‘life of its own’ if the healing wound is not managed properly,” wrote Dr. Christine Cable on the American Association of Equine Practitioners’ website. “The granulation tissue can become so large it appears to be a tumor, usually obliterating the original wound. Granulation tissue in this excessively exuberant form usually occurs within wounds on the distal (lower) leg of the horse, such as wounds over the cannon bone or pastern area. Granulation tissue in this form can be very difficult to manage.
“We believe excessive exuberant granulation tissue forms as a result of several different factors—excessive movement of the healing tissue, minimal soft tissue coverage around the wound, contamination (infection) of the wound, and a reduced blood supply. These factors are especially important for wounds that occur in the lower limbs. In those areas there is minimal soft tissue, such as muscle, to protect the wound and give it a rich blood supply.
“Furthermore, there is little extra skin in those areas, making large wounds difficult to close via suturing. Wounds on the lower legs are contaminated easily with bacteria since the wounds are closer to the ground, bedding, and manure. Also, the constant movement of the horse’s legs as he walks, turns, and bears weight can greatly impair healing, especially if the wound occurs over a joint. Therefore, when wounds occur in these areas, steps need to be taken immediately to prevent proud flesh.”
After remaining at Hogan’s clinic for several weeks, Beautiful Sin entered the next stage of her recovery, which involved an extended period of stall rest, prior to limited exercise, then turn-out in a paddock.
“Lennart Agren [co-owner of S R F Stable with Jan Johnson] is such a terrific owner,” said Engblom, who took over the filly’s conditioning when Takter retired. “He was so understanding and generous. He told me to just take my time with her, give her all the time she needs and allow her to tell you if and when she would be ready.”
Engblom brought Beautiful Sin along slowly and the filly made her sophomore debut with a fourth-place finish in a qualifying race at the Meadowlands on April 27. She returned on May 11 under the same conditions and over the same oval to finish second to the very talented Evident Beauty. Her third and final qualifying event resulted in the triumph over Gerry.
“I actually kept her outside in the paddock until her second qualifying race,” Engblom said. “She had a coat on her like a woolly mammoth and she was putting on too much weight eating all that grass. But I could not be more pleased with her.
“She was such a beautiful yearling and just such a beautiful horse. To see what she has gone through has been horrible and I wish something I never had to see or remember, but to where she is now is something truly special to me.” HB
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