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Breeders' Cup 2017

In Tribute to Saginaw

Saginaw 615 X 400
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 young daughter.
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 successful.
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. 


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Older Comments about In Tribute to Saginaw...

Well written Ashley xoxoxo
Saginaw was and will always be a blue collar example of everything this so wonderful about this sport. Although I never saw him in person, nor met any of his connections, the sheer charisma of his character and the joy that his fans found in his racing brought me to a euphoria every time I got to watch him run. Thank you Ashley for writing such a lovely piece on such a special horse.
Ashley, wonderful, thoughtful, loving article. Made my eyes water a little. Only someone that truly loves the horses could write an article like this.
I loved this horse from the day I painted that first stroke on his painting. This horse was magical, he brought so many strangers together banding a "Saginaw friendship". RIP Sag, you rocked the track!
I take comfort that Saginaw heard the crowd, got one last thrill from the old grandstand, and knew how much we loved him in Saratoga
Thank you so much for this article, Ashley. All of the ignorant posts are very tiresome. I usually have more paitience, but it's been just about all I can do not to call some of these people out with their ignorant and foolish statements. He was beloved by all who followed him and most especially by his connections. He was a strong, determined, athletic race horse who gave his all every time, not because they made him do it, but because he loved what he did. He'll be missed for many years to come. RIP Saginawsome, you'll be thought of and missed for many years to come.
Thanks for defending Saginaw and his connection! Tragic loss of a fan favorite...
I worked the gate for two years at Hastings...Sesamoids were the most common injury of major problems witn broke knees second.
And I want to add I think it would be Saginawesome to have him win once more This time the VOX POPULI AWARD at end of the year He showed today how he was so much the people's horse as everywhere you looked his picture was being posted and how all those folks at Saratoga were clapping as he left the track to honor him
well written annd good answer to those were saying bad stuff about him still racing and comparing him to Monzante
Amen ... bless you, well said <3

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