Updated on 07/25/2013 8:27AM

Evangeline Downs: Monzante's death leads to investigation

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Tom Keyser
Grade 1 winner Monzante, seen winning a claiming race at Belmont Park in October 2011, was euthanized on the track after suffering an injury in a race Saturday night at Evangeline Downs.

The Louisiana Racing Commission has begun an investigation into the ontrack euthanization of Grade 1 winner Monzante after the horse was apparently injured while running in a $4,000 claiming race Saturday night at Evangeline Downs.

A 9-year-old gelding starting for the first time since November, Monzante made a move toward the leaders going into the far turn of the race over a mile and 70 yards but was pulled up by jockey Carlos Lozada at the eighth pole, a video replay of the race showed. The chart of the race, which noted that Monzante did not finish, says the horse was euthanized on the track.

The winner of the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap in 2008, Monzante had steadily dropped down the class ladder over the past three years. He was claimed by Jackie Thacker for $10,000 out of a claiming race at Evangeline Downs on May 5, 2012, and made eight starts that year for his new owner-trainer but had not started since Nov. 23 prior to Saturday’s race.

Thacker did not respond to a voice-mail message Monday. So far in 2013, according to Equibase records, Thacker has had 41 starters, with 5 wins, 4 seconds, and 3 thirds.

Attempts to reach Lozada were unsuccessful.

Charles Gardiner, executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission, said the commission launched the probe into the horse’s death following a number of inquiries directed toward the regulatory agency since Sunday night, when several online commentators publicized the horse’s death while noting his rapid drop in the claiming ranks.

Gardiner said that every horse entered to race at Louisiana tracks is required to pass a veterinary examination. He said Monday that the commission had not yet gathered information about the specific injury suffered by Monzante, nor had it been able to review the horse’s veterinary records, but that the commission was seeking that information as part of its probe.

“We’re gathering the facts right now,” Gardiner said. “If there’s any mistake on our end, we want to know so that we can fix it.”

Monzante was entered in a $5,000 claiming race at Evangeline Downs on June 8 but was scratched by the veterinarian, according to charts of that day's card.

Evangeline Downs is one of dozens of major U.S. Thoroughbred racetracks that are not accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association Safety and Integrity Alliance, which certifies tracks based on their adherence to safety and welfare policies, including their criteria for passing veterinary examinations.

Mike Ziegler, executive director of the alliance, said Monday that Evangeline has not applied for accreditation since the program was launched late in 2008 with pledges from 55 tracks. The initial pledge list did not include Evangeline, and only 25 tracks have applied for accreditation since the program’s launch.

Evangeline Downs is owned by Boyd Gaming, a casino company. Like all other racetracks in Louisiana, purses at Evangeline are heavily subsidized by slot machines. Saturday’s $4,000 claiming race had a purse of $8,000.

Monzante was bred by Juddmonte Farms, which raced the horse six times in England before selling him through a horses of racing age sale in 2007. The horse changed hands three times in the past two years as a result of claims, once for $20,000 and twice for $10,000. He made 43 career starts, with eight wins and $583,929 in earnings.

Monzante’s drop down the claiming ranks illustrates a common career path for many aging horses, especially geldings, which have no reproductive potential.

According to data collected through the Equine Injury Database, horses ages 4 and older are at greater risk of catastrophic breakdown than 2-year-olds or 3-year-olds, and horses running in claiming races are at higher risk than horses who are not running in claiming races. The data also have indicated that geldings have a lower risk of suffering a catastrophic breakdown than intact males.

Approximately 710 Thoroughbreds died of catastrophic injuries at U.S. tracks in 2012, according to the data, which include the results from tracks representing more than 90 percent of all starts in the United States.

The death of Monzante appeared to have struck a sonorous chord inside and outside the racing community by Monday afternoon. On Sunday evening, an online petition drive was launched asking the NTRA to investigate the death, even though the NTRA has no regulatory authority or investigative capabilities. The petition had been signed by more than 500 people by Monday afternoon.

In addition, a Twitter handle called “Project Monzante” was launched with this description: “Because there should be no more Monzantes. A fan effort to track the old warriors, to change racing culture, and to get involved in Thoroughbred retirement.”

Though predating the age of social media, the discovery in 1997 that the former champion racehorse Exceller had been sent to a slaughterhouse galvanized a movement to ban the slaughter of racehorses and to provide retirement homes for ex-racehorses. The movement gained steam when it was discovered in 2003 that former champion Ferdinand also was sent to slaughter, leading to federal efforts to ban horse slaughter in the United States.

In a previous version of this article it was incorrectly stated that Monzante was claimed out of a race at Fair Grounds in May of 2012. He was claimed out of a race at Evangeline Downs.

Gara Thornton More than 1 year ago
I agree that if a horse has had an injury that can cause them to break down if subsequently raced, they should be retired. I did that very thing with my racehorse, Don't Quack Back. A suspensory ligament injury brought his career to an abrupt end. He is now 23 years old and blind, and I still have him. He is happy and has done many things in his life since retiring from racing. Anyone else would have had him put down or sent to auction 16 years ago, so I completely understand where you all are coming from...however... ...I have to play devils advocate here. People do not want the horses to go to slaughter, nor do they want them humanely euthanized, is that what I'm hearing? A horse in excellent condition can race at the age of 8, 9, maybe even 10. Look at John Henry. His final race record stood at 83 starts, 39 wins, 15 seconds, and 9 thirds with $6,497,947 in earnings. He was twice voted the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year in 1981 and 1984, at the age of 9! It wasn't until June 21, 1985, that owner Sam Rubin made the decision to retire John Henry, age 10, when he injured a tendon during a workout at Hollywood Park on July 19, 1985. He was subsequently unretired in a comeback bid, but never returned to racing and retired a second time. (It was at this time that I had the honor of actually meeting this racing legend at the Del Mar Race track.) But, if somebody does race their horse and he does get injured, then what is the owner to do if the horse is in constant pain and will not recover to a pain free condition?
Philthyesthoodlum_22 More than 1 year ago
Guess the horse is in a can of Alpo now that he was put down. Forget it people, some trainers are crooked as a dogs hind legs.
Gara Thornton More than 1 year ago
You cannot use a euthanized horse for dog food.
Gara Thornton More than 1 year ago
That is to say if the horse was euthanized by use of barbituates.
Jamie Coughlin More than 1 year ago
As sad as this is I can't blame the current owner/trainer. It isn't illegal to put down your horse humanely for any reason at all. The horse was not going to earn him any money and he's a businessman so he got rid of him. It happens every single day except a lot of those TBs end up in slaughter houses so their owners can get $300 more out of them before they die. I do blame his previous connections for continuing to sell him when he could have been retired and retrained or well, just retired. The people that put these animals on the earth to make money need to take responsibility for them down the road too (if they are able and I think his previous connections were probably able). Stop making every last single dime out of a horse's carcass you can and do the right thing for the HORSE before he ends up hopelessly crippled or dead. I also blame the claiming game itself. I do not understand why the US MUST have claiming races when other countries manage quite well without them. In the UK I believe they have selling races where the horses are auctioned off AFTER the race so at least the new owners have a chance of getting one sound. Or at least not hopelessly broken. People say they can't compete at their level without claimers. Well that is utter BS. I don't recall seeing Greyhounds run for a tag yet they must race their way up (and down) a grading scale. There are many many ways to write conditions and have grading systems to ensure horses compete at the correct level.
Tim More than 1 year ago
breeders need to be held accountable
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
I am heartbroken and sickened by this terrible news about Monzante. Poor horse, he deserved a far better fate than he received in life. Jackie Thacker needs to be banned from racing forever! He's a sorry excuse for a human being! Why did he not try to find someplace to retire noble Monzante? Why could he not find some compassion in his heart and do the right thing by Monzante? He just had to wring out the last penny out of him before he decided to end Monzante's life. Jackie Thacker has toxic karma in his wake from now on - and I get a feeling karma is about to boomerang big time on Mr. Thacker. I hope there is an investigation and he has nowhere to hide from the consequences of his actions. Monzante deserves to be vindicated. Rest in peace, sweet Monzante. You are not forgotten. Thank you for your excellence you showed us and your giant heart. Well done, my boy, well done. Rest in peace.
Linda Brown More than 1 year ago
Poor horse. The owners and trainers are disgusting to keep running old, broken down horses for a buck. However, his fate could have been worse than euthanazia - he could have been sent to slaughter (more than 70% of racehorses are slaughtered).
commenting More than 1 year ago
NTM Thacker has 4 drug positives in the past 6 years... One of the lowlifes of the sport without a doubt. Futural ended up here at Hastings running in the lower levels, we had him for a few races, he was great, and then another Hastings trainer claimed him from us. He ran him for a while and when he was done, not injured, they placed him with Old Friends. The old guy deserved that and I'm grateful for Dave for doing that. If we had kept him, we may not have placed him with Old Friends, but we would have found him an awesome home. That's what these horses deserve. We always find good homes for our horses when they're done their racing careers.
Me! More than 1 year ago
Here is a link to the YouTube channel of the La horse rescue facility that has the horses from the mass rescue this year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSIEEyBZWUU&feature=youtube_gdata_player The horse who survived are now thriving! They are starting to look like real TBs now. Number 16 is so handsome-- such a big, gorgeous horse!
Me! More than 1 year ago
And their Facebook page is www.facebook.com/LHRA1
bigdomvegas More than 1 year ago
While I have been flooding these messages with anger and upset, let us not forget the GOOD folks in the sport. Folks like Graham Motion, Shug McGaughey, Bill Mott, Neil Drysdale, Mike Matz, and Jonathan Sheppard just to name a few. There are plenty of good folks that put their horses first. While the above mentioned folks may have the means to do so, or have owners with deep pockets, there are still folks with less $$$ doing the same/doing what is right every day.
Kenneth Porteous More than 1 year ago
This story is so sickening, I cant go to the race track ANYMORE! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!