Monzante: Should He Have Been Racing???

This week’s LET IT RIDE.COM HOT TOPIC comes from Andrew Champagne of The Saratogianl…take a read and VOICE AN OPINION!

Monzante tragedy, taking a look beyond the track

The saddest sentence I’ve seen in quite a while ran in the chart of a $4,000 claiming race that took place at Evangeline Downs Saturday night.

“Monzante bobbled at the start, chased the early pace and stopped and had to be euthanized.”

If you’re a fan of horse racing, chances are you’ve heard about this chain of events. Monzante, a graded stakes-winning gelding who ran in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf, wound up being passed from barn to barn as his ability deteriorated without being retired, which would have been the humane thing to do.

He broke down Saturday night, but his death wasn’t the saddest part of the story. That “award” goes to the fact that a track veterinarian deemed Monzante “salvageable,” but his owner/trainer had him put down anyway because his racing career was over.

Let’s nip one thing in the bud right now: Claiming races, for better or for worse, are an integral part of American horse racing. Without them, plenty of small tracks like Evangeline Downs would cease to exist, and plenty of good people that care about the game would be out of jobs. Getting rid of claiming races, as I’ve heard some people discuss after this incident occurred, is not the answer.

My problem isn’t with the institution, but with the fact that no organization exists to provide crucial oversight in situations like these. Horses like Monzante are out there plugging away long after their best days, and at some point, it does more harm than good to hoist a jockey on their back and ask them to do something they aren’t able to do anymore.

In past editions of this column that have discussed the issue of race-day medications, I’ve advocated for a strong, unbiased national commission that would make decisions for the good of the sport. Such a governing body could also serve to monitor entries, catch any horse that may be in danger, and do something about it, whether it be claiming the horse and retiring it or suspending trainers who run their horses into the ground.

Unfortunately, Monzante wasn’t the first horse to break down long after his form and dignity had escaped him. He may not be the last, but there is no question in my mind that we need to do more to prevent incidents like this from happening. The golden rule in this business should be to do right by the horse, and there are times where that simply does not happen.

This is what makes institutions like Old Friends and the Kentucky Horse Park so valuable to the equine world. A thoroughbred’s value doesn’t disappear when it’s done racing, even if it can’t go to the breeding shed, and these organizations recognize that.

Additionally, the options for second careers are out there. Some lousy runners make great show horses or companions, and for as maligned as it is in some circles, steeplechase racing has saved the lives of many geldings who would otherwise be in danger of slipping through the cracks.

The public outcry over Monzante’s fate has gained steam over the last week, and there is hope that this situation won’t repeat itself. In a way, the backlash rivals that of when early 20th-century champion Grey Lag wound up competing in $1,000 claimers in Canada. Fortunately, former owner Harry Sinclair bought him back, and Grey Lag enjoyed the retirement he so richly deserved.

It’s a shame Monzante never got the chance to do that.


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