Photo: NYRA / Adam Coglianese
In the wake of the tragic loss of Saginaw, Monzante, the name that has come to symbolize all that is wrong with
our sport, was immediately thrown around and comparisons were made. One Twitter
user asked the loaded question, “Shouldn’t we be just as mad about Saginaw
running at 7 as we were about Monzante?”
The answer to that is irrevocably and resoundingly “No!”
The loss of Monzante,
while horrific and tragic, did not come under even vaguely similar
circumstances to today’s heartbreaking accident. Monzante, once a Breeders’ Cup
contender, was in for a $4,000 tag and running for a $8,000 purse. After being
passed from owner to owner and trainer to trainer, he had ended up in a barn of
ill repute, namely that of multiple drug offender Jackie Thacker. His ability to race and will to win had clearly
begun to erode as evidenced by the last 5 races of his career. He went from
winning a $12,500 claimer to finishing 3rd at the next level up to
running 6th after being dropped back down in class. In his second to
last race, he finished 9th and last when in for a $12,500 tag. We
all know the result of his very last race.
Saginaw’s tale reads much differently.
Saginaw was beloved by everyone. Since Drawing Away Stable
and trainer David Jacobson claimed
the gutsy gelding, he quickly rocketed to the top in terms of popularity. Fans
loved to see the “Win Machine” race and win, and he was a barn favorite for
many of his connections. Owner Robert Hachemeister once described the gelding
as “gentle as a stable pony” around the barn and revealed a heart-warming
anecdote about how docile Saginaw was around his pregnant wife and, later, his
Part of his success came as a direct result of smart
management. After being claimed, he was moved up in class. He won, so he was
moved up another level. Because he was again successful, he was placed in an
overnight stakes race. He won two of those and was moved up in class again,
this time to take on some heavyweight stakes winners in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap. He finished
sixth and last that day, and rather than try to push him to do more than what
he was capable, DAS and Jacobson dropped him back down to the minor stakes level.
That was where he had much of his success.
The gelding was loved and cherished, and when the time came
for him to retire, he already had a good home lined up. He would be taken care
of for the rest of his days. He had only to let his owners know that he was
ready to hang up his tack and that would be that. There was no pressure for him
to keep racing. He raced because it was what he loved. He won 14 of 17 starts
for DAS and Jacobson, with 11 of those wins coming in stakes races. Clearly he
was a happy and healthy gelding, otherwise he would not have been so
As for today’s race, it might have been a starter allowance,
but he and his 4 rivals were running for a $70,000 purse, $42,000 of which went
to the winner. The conditions of the race had been written specifically for him
and Caixa Eletronica so that racing
fans could see a match-up that most were anxious to see happen under
circumstances that would be favorable to the two stalwart fixtures of New York
racing. Saginaw was not pushed to race to his death because his owners needed a
pay check. He was entered to race because he loved what he did and the fans
loved watching him.
When he took a bad step in today’s race, jockey Junior
Alvarado did everything he could possibly do to pull him up. At first, the
situation looked promising as a boot was placed on Saginaw’s foot and he walked
into the ambulance. The Saratoga crowd gave their champion a standing ovation
as he was taken off the track, and back at the barns, Saginaw reportedly
attacked his hay net with relish. Then came the devastating news. X-rays
revealed that he had fractured both sesamoids in his left front ankle. Surgery
could be done, but the doctor could only give a 50-50 prognosis for survival
and the chances of him developing founder were high. Rather than letting
Saginaw languish in pain in the selfish hope that he eventually would be okay,
the decision was made to humanely end his suffering. Money was not an issue.
The only thing at play was the comfort of the gelding.
Trying to lump Saginaw and Monzante into the same category
is a gross injustice and an insult to those that loved the son of Peruvian
best. My sincere condolences go out to David Jacobson, Robert Hachemeister,
Sandy Levine, Junior Alvarado, and the rest of the DAS team. He was a champion.
He was the People’s Horse. He was SaginAWESOME. He may be gone, but Saginaw
will live on forever in the hearts of all that loved him.