Zipse: On Mongolian Groom and deaths in horse racing

November 11, 2019 10:57am

"What's with all the horse deaths?"

Everyone who knows me understands I love thoroughbred horse racing. Whether you knew me at 5 or 50, it's always been true. Yet the question above is a new one to me this year.

It has been asked of me all too often. Casual fans of horse racing, and in most cases very casual, want an answer.

I find it a difficult question to address, both intellectually and spiritually. Especially the latter.

I do my best to answer the question respectively each and every time, explaining bad weather in southern California, over medication of horses, the inevitability of horses occasionally being hurt in races, and how well for which the vast majority of them are cared.

Deep down, though, I feel awful every time the question is asked of me.

Everyone that asks deserves an honest and sincere answer, but far more importantly, our equine athletes, the horses we love, deserve better.

Sadly, two more horses died Sunday when suffering catastrophic injuries at Del Mar, which went the entirety of the summer without a fatality in its races. They came one week after
Mongolian Groom was injured in front of a network television audience in the stretch of the Breeders' Cup Classic.

I'll never forget a late summer afternoon, a lifetime ago, sitting in front of the old black and white television for the big match race. What happened to
Ruffian was devastating.

It was my first understanding of how heartbreaking this sport could be.

For whatever reason, the only race that affected me more was the 1990 Breeders' Cup Distaff. Seeing
Go For Wand give everything she had to beat Bayakoa to the wire, only to lose everything in one bad step, was almost too much to take.

It was a punch to the gut, and the heart. I could not imagine how her connections must have hurt.

To be honest, no loss of a horse since has been quite the same. Sure, they've been heartbreaking at times, but nothing like Go For Wand. 

Mongolian Groom was a really nice horse. Factually speaking, he was far better than most of the many horses who have passed away at the racetrack in 2019. I'm not sure that matters. It probably shouldn't.

But he was the star of the stable. A gelded, 4-year-old son of Hightail, Mongolian Groom was only one race removed from the performance of his life, defeating McKinzie, and the rest in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1). 

Ridden by Abel Cedillo, trained by Enebish Ganbat, and owned by Mongolian Stable, Mongolian Groom could not be saved from the injury he suffered in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Their stable star is gone.

Tragic. Sad. Yet it did not affect me like Go For Wand. I've become somewhat desensitized to all the death. And that is not good.

I don't have the answers, but I know we need to do more.

I detest connections who treat their horses as only a commodity that can be thrown away when they are done with them.

I abhor those who cheat in hopes of any extra advantage to win a horse race.

In the end, the horses are the big losers.

Will horse racing be around a few decades from now? I believe it will. I really do, but perhaps a complete overhaul is required. The horses need to come first as the rule.

As strange as it may sound, I'd prefer to feel like I did watching Go For Wand when
a beautiful horse is tragically lost due to an non-preventable injury.

We need to be shocked when these athletes go down rather than numb to it all.


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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