The death of former Grade 1 winner, Monzante, in a $4,000 claiming race at Evangeline Downs Saturday has galvanized race fans and prompted an investigation by the Louisiana Racing Commission.
The 9-year-old gelding broke down during a race at about one mile and was euthanized. It was the 43rd start of his career, one that saw him win eight races – including the G1 Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar in 2008 – and $583,929 in earnings.
Stories on the Paulick Report and elsewhere prompted a passionate response across social media. A Twitter account called Project Monzante was launched with the 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.”
At Change.org, a petition called on the National Thoroughbred Racing Association to investigate the circumstances of Monzante's death, although the NTRA is not a regulatory or investigatory body. The petition was addressed to the NTRA, Blood-Horse, Daily Racing Form, and Paulick Report and had gathered 750 signatures as of Tuesday morning.
NTRA president Alex Waldrop issued the following statement, urging racetracks to apply for accreditation by the NTRA's Safety and Integrity Alliance. Since the program began in 2008, Evangeline Downs has not applied for accreditation, one of many U.S. tracks not participating:
“We know very little about the specific events surrounding the recent death of the gelding, Monzante, but the death of any horse while racing is a cause for concern,” said Waldrop. “The 25 racetracks accredited by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance adhere to a rigorous set of standards and protocols to foster a safer racing environment, including pre-race veterinary examinations, post-race veterinary inspections, reporting of injuries and fatalities, post-mortem veterinarian examinations, the establishment of an injury review committee, and retirement and retraining options for owners and trainers of older and infirmed horses.”
Meanwhile, Charles Gardiner, executive director of the Louisiana Racing Commission, told the Daily Racing Form the commission had launched an investigation into Monzante's death but was still in the information-gathering stage.
Monzante, a son of champion Maria's Mon out of the stakes-winning mare Danzante, was bred by Juddmonte. He began his racing career in 2006/2007 in England but sold in the the 2007 Tattersalls July Sale for 100,000 guineas (about $213,444) to an American group that sent him to California trainer Mike Mitchell. Monzante spent the next several years with different connections, at first competing in graded stakes races, but by age 7, in claiming races.
He was claimed last year by owner/trainer Jackie W. Thacker, who ran Monzante eight times in 2012. Saturday's race was Monzante's first in 2013. Equibase showed just one workout for the gelding, a five-furlong breeze of 1:02.80 at Evangeline Downs on June 1, as he prepared for his 2013 debut.
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