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Updated on 07/27/2013 12:01PM
Trainer says Monzante was put down because he was suffering
Monzante, the Grade 1 winner whose euthanization after being injured in a $4,000 claiming race Saturday at Evangeline Downs has prompted a national discussion about racehorse safety and retirement, was sound going into the race, according to his trainer, and was put down only after his condition worsened after being transported to the track’s backstretch.
Jackie Thacker, the owner and trainer who claimed the horse for $10,000 at Evangeline Downs on May 5, 2012, said the horse suffered an injury to his right-front sesamoids, the small bones located at the back of a horse’s fetlock.
Thacker said he decided to have the 9-year-old Monzante euthanized after consulting with a private veterinarian and his wife, Geraldine, after the horse appeared to be “in a lot of pain” when the sedatives administered to the horse immediately following the race wore off.
“Sometimes you got to make that call,” Thacker, 63, said. “I didn’t want to see him suffer anymore, and neither did my wife. Lord knows we loved that horse. He’d been good to me. It was like he was part of the family. It was my call.”
Thacker said that while deliberating over the decision, his wife researched the injury on her tablet computer and pulled up an article about the horse Bellacourt, a stakes winner who suffered a similar sesamoid injury while training in November 2011 and was euthanized one month later following multiple surgeries.
“They tried to save her, but they couldn’t,” Thacker said.
Thacker had not responded to multiple voice-mail messages until Wednesday. He said he was not ready to discuss the situation until Wednesday morning, and he noted that he had followed the intense reaction to news of the horse’s death.
When asked if he could have done anything different with the horse, Thacker said: “I don’t know what I could have done. If I could have, I would have done it. It’s a bad situation. I hate it just as much as anybody.”
Monzante, who won the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap in 2008, had been claimed three times in the past two years. Bred by Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms and raced six times in England as a 2-year-old for Juddmonte, he was sold at a horses-of-racing-age sale in England in 2007 for $212,867.
Owners Scott Anastasi and Jay and Gretchen Manoogian raced him from 2008 until the summer of 2011 under trainer Mike Mitchell. Under their ownership, he won the Eddie Read and finished sixth in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Turf. The partnership eventually lost him for $20,000 in a 2011 claiming race at Saratoga to new owner J. Kirk Robson.
Monzante was claimed again in March 2012 at Fair Grounds in New Orleans by Christine G. Hardy and trainer Keith G. Bourgeois. Thacker claimed the horse several months later and raced him eight times in 2012 until he “had a bad race” on Nov. 23, 2012, at Delta Downs, Thacker said.
Along the way, Monzante won eight of 43 career starts for earnings of $583,929.
Thacker said he dropped Monzante into the $4,000 claiming race to make the horse eligible for $5,000 starter allowances on turf in Louisiana.
“He would have whupped those types of horses,” Thacker said. “He always tried.”
Thacker said Monzante was administered an 8-cubic-centimeter shot of phenylbutazone, a painkiller, approximately 36 hours prior to the Saturday race. In Louisiana, it is legal to administer the drug outside of 24 hours from a race. Monzante also was administered a shot of the anti-bleeding medication furosemide and the adjunct bleeding medication carbazachrome, an anti-hemorrhaging drug also known as “Kentucky Red,” at four hours to post time, in line with state regulations.
Thacker has been fined four times for violating medication rules in Louisiana since 2007. In one case that year, a horse he trained tested positive for three different corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory drugs commonly used in racing but highly regulated. Thacker said he did not administer any corticosteroids to Monzante in the days preceding the race.
Thacker said the only soundness issue he had encountered with Monzante while training the horse was a “suspensory” that he said had healed and was present when he claimed the horse. A suspensory injury is one that affects the ligament in a horse’s leg. It is a common injury to horses and requires rest to heal, though the injury often is difficult to fully repair.
Thacker said he gave Monzante time off after the November race at Delta Downs to allow the horse to rest. “I wanted to give him a break,” Thacker said. He said he brought him back “slowly,” giving him two workouts, one in May and one in June – he claimed the May workout was not recorded – and sending him out for “four or five two-minute licks” to get him into racing shape.
Thacker acknowledged in the interview that he was charged with six counts of animal cruelty in 1990. However, he said the charges were withdrawn and he was cleared of all the counts after investigators determined that he was not responsible for the horses in question. He said the horses were owned by another person who shipped them to his farm sight unseen, and that they arrived at the farm in poor condition.
“When they found out the truth, everything was dropped,” Thacker said.
The clerk of court’s office in Rapides Parish, La., where the charges were filed, said it had no records to indicate that charges were pursued in the case. “If they went ahead with the case, we would have that on file,” the clerk said.
Thacker said he owns 16 horses, including several 2-year-olds who have not started. He has been training since the 1980s, he said. His record this year is five wins from 41 starts.
Some of the controversy surrounding Monzante has been spurred by the state veterinarian’s determination that the horse was “salvageable,” according to interviews conducted by the Louisiana Racing Commission, which is investigating the incident. Thacker said he had read those statements and disagreed with the assessment after the horse started showing signs of distress after being transported off the track and to the barn area.
“I saw where they said he was salvageable,” Thacker said. “That’s not what we saw. We saw a horse that was in a lot of pain, that was suffering. I’ve got to live with that. It was my call, and I stand by it.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly identified an adjunct anti-bleeding medication administered to Monzante. It was carbazochrome, not amicar.
Obviously Russell is looking at it from a bettors standpoint, but in reality, the racing industry does try different ways to capitalize retirement operations. So far, none have been overly successful. As far as what happens on the backstretch, it is a business environment and decisions are made, at times, without taking the horse's welfare into consideration. That is not the norm, by any standard. In regards to your statement about the bettors and the game, you are correct, but you don't have the insight into what goes on to make that race card come together. Sometimes horses are entered to fill races and sometimes those 50-1 shots win, even in the Kentucky Derby. You make some good suggestions regarding funding retirement and believe me, for every idea you have raised, ten others have been tried and not very successfully. When it comes to putting your money where your mouth is, it's not easy to pay for a dead horse. It takes about a thousand dollars a year, just to pay for the feed that a horse eats, that doesn't count the cost of the care or the cost of running the facility in which that horse will spend the rest of its life. I do have a perfect solution, but getting the right people to employ it is way beyond my scope.
I don't own horses but I do travel a good bit and I do wager on them at a number of tracks East of the Mississippi River. I have seen and heard the awful sound(s) that often accompany a bad horse injury. Some of those breakdowns place a jockey or driver in bad places too. It is not uncommon for me to have actually wagered on the same horse that just broke down in front of me. In those cases I always in as solemn respectful way I can...I tear every one of those tickets on that race into little pieces right then and there....not once have I ever cashed a ticket in a race where a horse has suffered an obvious life ending breakdown. I can say with certainty that has happened on a number of rather expensive occasions. But that is just me. Some bettors at the track are furious when a horse breaks down....and because I am not in their shoes I can only keep my comments about their publicly gruesome insensitivity to myself...but those Neanderthals do get a glare from me that is basically my eyes telling them...."Some day you too may fall down ill so a little introspection might cure your current baboon-ery" I suppose it is a pie in the sky thought of mine.....but if on those awful occasions where a racing steed.....an animal who loves to run because it is in his or her blood....but when a racing steed does break down perhaps there is some way a small portion of BOTH the public's wagering pool on that race AND the Track's takeout on that race could be automatically diverted into one of the "horse care" type funds mentioned in a number of the posts on this thread. If a portion of BOTH the betting public's pool AND the track Takeout was affected in these cases there would be natural economic pressure from two sides to keep anything untoward or unscrupulous from being involved or going afoot. The Horse Racing industry is always going to have the more militant animal rights people and organizations bellyaching about any number of things. That sector of society just won't be happy until every human (except them) is dead and animals run amok. To animal rights activists a nice infield pond or lake inside a horse track race course is only attractive if hundreds of geese and swans and ducks are allowed to create piles of smelly bird poop. I think in some animal activist's minds they are momentarily tickled pink when a Boeing 737 hits a bird on take off......as long as that results in the plane crashing and human beings perishing. In closing yes famous winning horses are important and deserve special recognition for their life contribution to the industry, the owners, and the bettors...but so too do the more lowly horses in the industry deserve such a place. Horses do not know the bank account balances of their owners....all horses know is that they love to run...some better than others....just like I love to bet on horses....
Jim don't be so sanctomonius. A lot of shady things happen at the track and horses are entered to fill cards that have no business racing. More like a workout than anything. Without the bettors there is no game or breeding operation. The game would die. What was done to this horse was wrong. And what Baffert did in December was the same garbage. I have said this before, things can be done to help retired horses. If you geld a horse maybe you should have to pay a 1k fee toward a retirement facility. They are running 80k MSW races at Saratoga. Maybe a portion of the purse should be used for retired horses. Keeneland sells almost 3,000 horses a year. Maybe a portion of the sales should go toward retirement homes.
If only you people would walk in these horsemen's shoes???? You say you are horse lovers, try getting up 7 days a week, 365 days a year, at 4 am to feed, train, and care, for the horses we love. So that you can condemn us thru the Daily Racing Form. Try spending your last buck on a bale of hay for a horse that will never run again. They don't have ObamaNursingHomes for race horses that can't race. Somewhere along the line, every horse meets their maker, in some way, not just retired race horses. Ask most of the people that have started horse rescue operations, how long did they keep doing it? They certainly didn't quit because of a lack of horses, it was always because of a lack of funds from HORSE LOVERS. Put your money and life on the line before you criticize some poor hard working professional horse trainer for making a tearful decision after a breakdown. He or she still has to get up at 4 the next morning and care for and pay for the care of the fest of the horses in his charge.
It's nice to know Thacker could live with it. He wasn't the one who was about to die with it.
I understand why the demise of a champion of Monzante's stature attracts the attention that it has, but I'm at a loss when trying to reconcile why the breakdown of a horse of the stature of, say, Nana Beach, is not treated with as much regard. On Dec. 29, 2012 in Santa Anita's 4th race the 5-year-old mare "broke down on her own" while attempting to break her maiden for the 40th time: certainly no less tragic then Monzante.
$5,000.00 claimer or Stakes winning gelding, racehorses have earned a life after racing. Unfortunately, there are not enough organizations with sufficient funds to purchase and maintain the number of horses that can no longer compete on the track. There are there not enough people willing, or financial able, to adopt. About a year ago, my wife and I acquired a retired racehorse that competed on the Pennsylvania/Maryland circuit. He is a 10 year old gelding, only started 29 times, but won 3 races, and finished in the money 13 times. In checking his past races, he raced at the $25,000 claiming level until suddenly he started to drop down to where he couldn't hit the board in $5000.00 claiming races. Obviously, he was injured, needed time off, but continued to race, fortunately he didn't break down. He is a great horse to ride and spend time with, and now lives the "good life" enjoying his retirement. Those of you thinking about adopting, contact one of the organizations and learn more about adopting a retired racehorse. 2nd Chance is one organization in New Jersey.
There are no easy solutions to this problem, as illustrated by a personal anecdote. Some years ago, I was doing my Sunday afternoon jog at a public park here in Queens. As I was running along on the running path, I came upon a middle-aged man leading a big bay horse who had the conformation of a thoroughbred and that breed's unmistakable haughty bearing. I stopped to talk to the man, and he confirmed that he was in fact a thoroughbred. He had adopted him from a friend who had raced him on the NY circuit. Being an animal-lover, I commended him for his commpassion. At this comment, he gave me a rueful smile, and told me that when he took the animal to his spread(he had a piece of land on the North Shore of LI---ovviously he had money), the horse was so wound up from the racing routine, not to mention being full of drugs, that it took almost three months for the horse to become acclimated to his new home. He didn't say it, but I got the distinct impression that he almost had to get rid of it. What its fate then would have been, we probably don't want to know. The above merely indicates the many issues with the old horse, especially the gelding, who just cannot race anymore. Obviously, there are not enough people with the money to maintain the beasts and, in some cases, there is the propblem of acclimitization. It's very sad, especially for those of us who love animals.
Maybe all of you complaining that a one time Grade 1 stakes winner was still running at 9 or is it just that he was running in a low level claimer? If he had been in an 80K claimer would that have been ok? You guys should be going complain about Jeranimo who is 6 and Richard's Kid who is 8, both are entered in upcoming races. I say that because some of you have stated horses should not be allowed to race over age 7. Why not race over 7?
To all those criticizing Thacker for running a stakes horse in a bottom claimer, realize that he wasn't a stakes winner for Thacker, just a claim that he sought success with. If you want to blame someone for the horse ending up in this situation, blame Anastasi and The Manoogians for dropping their stakes winner in for a 20,000 tag. They should have been the ones responsible for finding him a home away from the track.