Just about everyone made money off Monzante, a gelding by champion Maria's Mon out of the stakes-winning Danzante, by champion sire Danzig. Monzante was foaled April 28, 2004, in Kentucky, and died on Saturday, July 20, 2013, five years to the day after his greatest racing triumph, in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar. He took his final breath after not making the course in a $4,000 claiming race at Evangeline Downs in Lafayette, La.
His breeder, Juddmonte Farm, raced Monzante six times in England, winning once, with a second-place finish and two thirds on his resume, in addition to a fourth-place finish in a Group 3 stakes. He was then sold in the 2007 Tattersalls July Sale for 100,000 guineas (about $213,444) to an American group that sent him to California trainer Mike Mitchell.
Those owners, Scott Anastasi and Jay and Gretchen Manoogian, won nearly a half-million dollars with Monzante, $240,000 of it coming in the Eddie Read. Jay Manoogian grew up near Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where he got the bug for racing, and later moved to California. He is now president of Preferred Property Maintenance, which provides a variety of services for commercial real estate properties in Orange County. Anastasi owns a real estate agency in Redondo Beach. Racing is their hobby, not their vocation.
Though he was stakes-placed again and even ran sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Turf of 2009, Monzante had seen better days when he was sent by the Manoogians and Anastasi to the Kentucky barn of trainer Dale Romans after earning just $1,040 in his final California start, a fifth-place finish in an April 2010 allowance/optional claiming race at Santa Anita. There were no takers that day when the gray gelding carried a $62,500 claiming tag.
It had been quite a run for Monzante, competing against the likes of multi-millionaire Lava Man, Santa Anita Derby and Travers winner Colonel John, Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird, and two-time Breeders' Cup Turf winner Conduit. In addition to the Eddie Read win by Monzante, there was a third-place finish in the G2 Strub Stakes, a victory in the Santana Mile Handicap, a second in the G1 Charlie Whittingham Handicap, and a second in the Windy Sands.
He didn't surface for more than a year for Dale Romans, coming back June 3, 2011, in a Churchill Downs turf claimer, earning his owners $4,100 for a third-place finish while running for a $50,000 claiming price. Three starts later, on Aug. 27, 2011, racing at Saratoga and carrying a $20,000 tag, Monzante was claimed by Eclipse Award-winning trainer Steve Asmussen on behalf of Texas owner J. Kirk Robison.
Including the claiming price, the Manoogians and Anastasi earned $512,864 off Monzante in the four years they owned him.
He was in Asmussen's barn for eight starts, winning once at the $20,000 claiming level at Belmont Park, but earning a paycheck every time he ran. Robison got $39,880 out of the $20,000 investment when trainer Keith Bourgeois and owner Christine Hardy claimed Monzante for $10,000 at Fair Grounds on March 16, 2012.
Bourgeois ran Monzante just once, in a $10,000 claiming race on the Evangeline Downs turf on May 5, 2012. He earned $2,400 for finishing second, and was claimed by owner/trainer Jackie W. Thacker.
Thacker ran Monzante eight times last year, winning his second start with the gelding in a $20,000 claiming race at Evangeline on June 22 and taking a $12,500 claimer in September. After that win, Monzante was sent to Delta Downs in Vinton, La., where the son of Maria's Mon ran three times, finishing ninth and last in his final start of 2012, a $15,000 claiming event on Nov. 23.
Equibase shows just one workout for Monzante, a five-furlong breeze of 1:02.80 at Evangeline Downs on June 1, as he prepared for his 2013 debut.
Monzante was sent postward in Evangeline's fourth race Saturday as part of an entry favored at 2-1. The other half of the Thacker entry, a 10-year-old named First Command making his 74th career start, finished last of the seven runners who made it across the finish line.
Monzante never got there. Making the 43rd start of his career, he apparently broke down. The Equibase chart wasn't clear on the injury the gelding suffered: “Monzante bobbled at the start, chased the early pace and stopped and was euthanized.”
The old warrior earned $29,965 for Thacker, his final owner, after being claimed for $10,000 just over a year ago.
Everyone made out alright on this deal, everyone but Monzante.
It really is shameful to see the life of a horse good enough to reward his owners with a G1 victory come to this sickening of an end. But other graded stakes winners have competed for a claiming tag before, and I suppose some of them have wound up at the bottom of the barrel at a place like Evangeline Downs, a casino-owned racetrack in a state that has a reputation for lax regulations on medication policies and little interest in protecting the welfare of the animals.
What could have prevented this tragedy? Stricter rules and tighter regulation by the Louisiana Racing Commission might have determined Monzante was not fit or sound enough to race again, but this was a human failure, not an institutional one.
Compassion, common sense, and decency by any of Monzante's previous owners or trainers would have stopped the horse's descent to the lowest rung on the racing ladder, where the endings are seldom good.
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