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Updated on 07/26/2013 9:33AM
Monzante deemed 'salvageable' before being put down, regulator says
Monzante, a Grade 1 winner who was euthanized Saturday after suffering an injury in a $4,000 claiming race at Evangeline Downs, was not put down on the track, as indicated by the chart of the race, but was euthanized after being sent back to the barn of his trainer after a state veterinarian had determined that the horse was “salvageable,” according to the Louisiana Racing Commission, which is investigating the incident.
Charles Gardiner, the LRC’s executive director, said two state vets had examined Monzante prior to the race and determined that the horse was sound. After the horse was pulled up by jockey Carlos Lozada at the eighth pole, a state vet put a brace on the horse’s injured leg and directed the ambulance to return Monzante to the barn of Jackie W. Thacker, the owner and trainer who had claimed Monzante for $10,000 on May 5, 2012, in a race at Evangeline Downs.
Thacker then directed a private veterinarian to euthanize the horse, Gardiner said.
“In the opinion of our vet, the horse was salvageable,” Gardiner said. “Maybe not for racing anymore, but he was salvageable.”
Veterinarians typically use the term “salvageable” to mean that a horse may be capable of surviving an injury “with aggressive treatment,” according to Dr. Mary Scollay, the equine medical director for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. She said the salvaged horse is typically one “with a life of very limited options.”
“To me, ‘salvageable’ means pasture-sound, with very limited functionality,” Scollay said, stressing that she did not know any details about the injury suffered by Monzante. “There are lots of quality-of-life issues that go with that.”
According to regulatory records, Thacker has been fined four times since 2007 for medication violations. In one case, a horse he trained tested positive for three drugs – methylprednisolone, prednisone, and dexamethasone, which are all anti-inflammatories. Such corticosteroids are highly regulated in racing because of their ability to reduce pain.
In addition, a Louisiana licensee with the name Jackie Wade Thacker was charged with six counts of animal cruelty in 1990 after “three emaciated horses were taken from his farm and the bodies of three others were found,” according to a news article from the time. It is unclear if Thacker was convicted of the charges.
Gardiner said he was trying to determine if the two individuals were the same person. The 1990 news article by the Associated Press said Thacker was able to retain his training license because the charges “were not related to racing.”
Thacker, who has started 41 horses this year, has not responded to multiple voice mails left since Monday.
The death of Monzante, a 9-year-old gelding, has drawn heated responses from within and outside the horse-racing community. The winner of the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap in 2008 and a lifetime earner of $583,929, Monzante switched barns three times in the past two years through the claim box as his racing ability seemed to erode.
Gardiner said the horse had been placed on a veterinary “watch list” after passing the requirements to get off the vet’s list following a poor performance in November at Fair Grounds while under Thacker’s care. The horse was scratched from a $5,000 claiming race June 8 at Evangeline after a private vet reported that the horse was exhibiting signs of colic, according to Gardiner. The scratch resulted in the horse being placed on a three-day vet list.
Monzante was examined the morning of the race by a state vet, who applied stricter standards to the examination because the horse was on the watch list, Gardiner said. In addition, a state vet required the horse to jog behind the gate prior to being loaded, and the state vet also asked the jockey for his opinion on the horse’s soundness as a precaution, according to Gardiner. Lozada responded that the horse felt sound, Gardiner said.
“Everything that could have been done was done,” Gardiner said. “We are not able to prevent a horse from running if he passes the soundness exams, and, in fact, the state vets took extra measures on this horse because he was on the list.”
Gardiner said the commission is in the initial stages of the investigation and hasn’t been able to interview Thacker yet. He said he did not know the exact nature of the injury Monzante suffered during the race, though he expected his chief vet to report on the injury after arriving at Evangeline late Tuesday.
Nine years may be old for a race horse, the reason is they are all abused children because they are started too early. The growth plates in their knees may be closed at 18 or 24 months, but the growth plates in the rest of their bodies close progressively until they close in the thoracic spine at approximately 7 years of age. Most of the old ranches never put a horse into hard work until they were around 7 years of age. Many times they were not even started until 5 years of age. Those horses last a long time, I have had dude horses that were useful into their thirties. I never recommend to my clients they buy either a thoroughbred off the track or a cutting or reining horse most often, they are all started too early and by the time they are in their teens they are used up. They become annuities for veterinarians, or are sent to a sale and from there to Mexico. The football player analogy someone made is apt as the majority of professional football players knees are shot by the time they are in their 40's. The problem is that horses tend to be started too early. Money is the reason, owners don't want to pay to feed and keep horses in training the extra couple of years until they are more developed. My opinion is, if horses weren't permitted to be put in training until they were four and couldn't compete until they were six there would be a lot more sound competition horses when they were retired in their teens. That will never happen of course. One of the top steer wrestlers was using his horse into it's twenties and he used it because it was a better competition horse than younger horses that was available to him. If there is a god, horse abusers will ultimately "get theirs".
I wish to reply to Jessica Shier. Jessica, I think you are correct that the trainer made the right call, the poor animal needn't have suffered further, but the fact that a Grade 1 animal who can't breed is seen as disposable fodder is what is reprehensible. You say, "It is irrelevant that the horse used to be a good race horse and his," and his old owner made a lot of money off him," and I disagree. This is the attitude that leads a horse like Exceller being sent to a Swedish slaughterhouse and an old arthritic horse of prior grade 1 greatness racing for 4k at Evangeline Downs. Shame on you and all others who share your reprehensible attitude. I pity your kids (if you have any) to have grown up with a mother of such heartlessness.
The person that owned him when he won that stakes race no longer owned him. In the horse industry it is common and accepted that if a horse does not, or no longer meets your needs you can sell him or give him to a person where he will. I’ve done it, my friends have done it. In this case when the horse was sound but no longer preforming well against the younger stakes horses so he was sold to an owner who happened to run in some of these lower grade races. It is irrelevant that the horse use to be a good race horse and his old owner made a lot of money off him, the new owners can likely not afford to keep a stable full of used up geldings, and in reality the original owner likely could not either. I think the trainer made the right call. This horse likely would never race again; he was already really old for an active racer (like a 37 year old football star!) and the likelihood of him finding a non-racing home as a light riding companion or pasture pet was low especially at his age! Rather than incur potentially thousands in vet bills while trying to find a home that may not exist the trainer decided to humanly euthanize him. I cannot justify his past drug infractions but I can say this was not an example of his moral ineptitude.
Of course since he's a 9 year-old gelding most owners don't do the right thing. I applaud owners of Fourstardave and Funny Cide. They refused to drop their stars in cheap claimers and retired them with the dignity they deserved. EVD and DeD is second only to New Mexico is lawlessness racing.
If he had insurance and the horse was deemed salvagable, they wouldn't just let him be put down. If there are means to saving the horse, the insurance company will go for that. I was at an equine hospital with one of my horses some time back and an owner tried to have his horse put down but the insurance company denied it because three different vets stated the horse could be saved. So the horse was saved... at least that day.
Why the hell is Thacker still in racing.? This animal should be banned for life, and the possibility of him being euthanized. The one positive to this tragic story, is that Monzante, is finally at peace, and without pain. I was a former owner, and am quite familiar with horses that have a similar health issue. You end their racing career, and place them with a loving family who has a farm, and pasture, so they can live out the remainder of their lives in peace and comfort.
Did he have insurance on the horse?
Shame not only the trainer that should be banned for life, but also the former owner Anastassi, MONZANTE made him over $500.000.00 and he did not care about him. He also should be banned for life.
3 horses starved to death and 3 more heading that way and this guy is still allowed to train on the grounds, this is a lousy excuse for a human
You have your good trainers and your bad trainers in every equine field. Do I believe they should be more strict on the ones that get into trouble yes. That horse earned enuff money to retire him self to pasture w good care for the rest of his life. These are animals and they deserve consideration they feel pain and stress. To bad life is not perfect:(