HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Summer Bird was transferred from trainer Tim Ice to the barn of Tim Ritchey late Tuesday morning at Oaklawn Park following a decision by colt's owners, K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman. The champion 3-year-old of 2009, Summer Bird is one of 25 horses the couple is moving from Ice's care and distributing to at least five different trainers at Oaklawn.
Ritchey, who trained champion Afleet Alex, will also pick up five other horses for the Jayaramans. Summer Bird has been rehabbing at Oaklawn from a condylar fracture, and could resume training in mid-March.
"I'm looking forward to training him," Ritchey said. "Obviously, he's a very, very good racehorse, and hopefully, I can do as good a job as Tim Ice did. I'm thankful to Dr. J for the opportunity."
The other Jayaraman horses are being sent to a number of Oaklawn-based trainers, including Ron Moquett, Terry Brennan, Steve Wren, and Steve Hobby.
Ice said his stable will now be reduced to six horses.
Ice said he believes a slow start to the meet, where he is 2 for 15, and a colt suffering a condylar fracture during a morning workout Sunday at Oaklawn, led to the Jayaramans's decision. K.K. Jayaraman said he feels there has been a breakdown in communication between he and Ice. Jayaraman, who has trained in the past himself, has had a number of trainers through the years.
"I'm just another trainer in a long line he's hired and fired," Ice said. "But I do have empty stalls, and I'm looking for new clients."
Ice, 35, was in his first year of training last season, when he sent out Summer Bird to win the Belmont Stakes, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. The horse sustained a condylar fracture to his right foreleg while training in Japan on Nov. 29 for the Japan Cup Dirt. Summer Bird was flown back to Los Angeles and had surgery at Hollywood Park to insert a screw at the injury site to promote healing. He has since been based at Oaklawn
"I'm going to miss Summer Bird," Ice said. "He means the world to me. I hope Summer Bird goes on and is Horse of the Year. He's been very good to me. I can only hope for the best for him."
Summer Bird won 4 of 9 starts and $2,323,040 in Ice's care. The horse last raced on Nov. 7, finishing fourth to Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
Ice said he will be attending the Ocala Breeders' Sales 2-year-olds in training auction in Ocala, Fla., on Feb. 16 in order to seek new clients.
The Jayaramans and Ice have several horses entered together Thursday at Oaklawn and those horses will run as scheduled, said K.K. Jayaraman.