Friday, November 28, 2008

Trato to Retire After Injury


EXACTLY! This is a story about a horse whose retirement won't be generating any headlines. A tough, hard knocking type that races everyday across North America with little fanfare but carries on his back the hopes and dreams of small time owners.

Trato (pictured above before his last race) was bred in California by Megali Ventures LLC and was sold at auction for $13,000. A son of Lit de Justice/Calm Seas, Trato was bought by John Cavalli, trainer Armando Lage and Thomas Thompson-led (at the time) Owner's Stable. Trato won over the turf at first asking in a $32,000 Maiden Claiming event at Golden Gate Fields at two, but quickly disappointed in allowance company before winning again in a $25,000 claiming race on the dirt at Bay Meadows. This win emboldened the group a bit and Trato was sent south to try the $40,000 claimers at Santa Anita to start his 3-year old season. He ran mid-pack and went to work on his next race. Trato appeared sore while training and after some investigation and a series of x-rays, a condular fracture was found in the right front ankle and a screw was installed to stabilize the joint. It was unsure if Trato would race again and he was away from training for 10 months.

During those 10-months, ownership let the horse guide them. Trato was turned out and allowed to roam and play and test the joint on his own. When it appeared that the ankle had healed better than expected, some light training began to see how the young gelding would respond. He seemed eager to run again and the slow road back began.

Thirteen months after his last race, Trato was back in a $16,000 claiming race at Bay Meadows. While well placed throughout, he was flat - which was to be expected. What was not expected was that, despite training well, you could tell by watching him that there may have been a fear to test that joint in a stretch drive. After three more flat races there was talk about retiring the feller. He knew and got excited about race day, he was solid in the morning and his joint, by all indications, was as sound as a pound, but something was missing in the afternoons. Armando decided to give him a shot going longer (a mile and a quarter) in the Bay Meadows Triple Play claiming series and something seemed to click. He finished fourth, but it was a good fourth and three weeks later he was brought back in an $8000 claiming race and the streak began.

The streak wasn't about wins, though there were some, it was about a horse regaining his confidence and re-igniting the dreams of the owners and trainers (when sent south, Armando entrusted Trato's care to Doug O'Neil). In seven races, with the exception of one flat 5th place finish, Trato finished no worse than 3rd, won the Humboldt County Handicap from 15 lengths off the pace, a Starter Allowance at Fairplex and was barely headed out of the win in the $50,000 Cal Cup Starter Handicap during the Oak Tree Meet at Santa Anita. Trato was sharp and he was back! It was apparent that the longer the race the better and after these three stellar race at 1 5/8, 1 3/8 and 1 1/2 miles, plans were being laid for a marathon stakes race at Turf Paradise after the first of the year.

On Thanksgiving, Trato was back in Doug O'Neil's barn and was sent out in a $40,000 Optional Claiming race that was taken off the turf. He was tracking the leaders in a nice spot for most of the race. As the pace picked up heading into the final turn, a point where Trato typically unwinds for his late kick, Trato started sliding off the pace. Then the words no one wants to hear from track announcer Vic Stauffer, "Trato pulls up!!! Something is wrong with Trato and he is out of the race!!"

Trato had bowed a tendon (other leg from the ankle injury) and was returned to the barn. From partner Jeff Deeney:

...we went back to the barn, and Trato was walking albeit very gingerly, he was favoring that leg, and he was also VERY drugged up. They must have given him some really good stuff in the van. Once they finished walking him he could barely keep his eyes open. We looked at the leg with one of the guys there, and you could just see where the tendon was injured, didn't even have to feel it. They put a couple wraps on him and put iceboots on his two front legs and put him back in his stall. We spent about 30 minutes with him, he was really out of it because of the drugs, he stuck his head out so Janette would pet and scratch him, but that was about all the energy he had.

Major kudos to Martin [Pedroza, Trato's jockey] for handling Trato so well, and also to Doug and everyone in his barn. The handlers there once he got back were really good with him and also to us.

Work has actively begun on rehabbing Trato and finding him a home away from the track. Partners like Jeff and Janette Deeney, Lloyd and dad Noli Dalmacio, John Cavalli and others along with trainer Armando Lage will make sure that it happens. There were no photographers or reporters waiting at the barn. There are no stud fees in waiting or fanfare accompanying the retirement. Just an everyday horse that was anything but to his connections.


Christine Orman said...

Thank you so much for writing this wonderful story on Trato and his efforts to be a good racehorse.

Though he and so many other "blue collar" racehorses like him don't receive the media attention and public adulation that is bestowed upon the multiple stakes winners, they form the backbone of the sport and deserve a retirement equal to that of their more famous counterparts.

Not only do their successes elude the public eye, but so do their tragedies--no less sad because of their lower earnings. EVERY racehorse deserves humane treatment during and after his or her racing career.

Cheers to your career, Trato. Everyone here at ReRun, Inc., appreciates you for the beautiful Thoroughbred you are and wishes you much happiness in your retirement.

Christine Orman
ReRun, Inc.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this tribute Ted. Though Trato never won a major stakes or was featured on national TV, everytime he was scheduled to run, my dad and I were filled with excitement in anticipation of his races. I will always treasure the 4
winner's circle photos of Trato's wins and he will always have a special place in my heart.

Thank you Trato for fulfilling a lifelong dream for me and my dad. You will always be our first winner and our favorite runner.

Sharla said...

Having met the lovely Trato I was especially sadden to see him in this race. I thank you so much for reminding your readers that the industry is built on not the Big Brown's of fame and fortune, but the "browns" that each and every day run to support an entire industry that often times forgets that. Great story Ted!
Sharla Sanders

Ted G said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. I could not agree with you all more - these unsung heros are "sung" to some of us and deserve our praise, love and adulation.

Anon - I debated long and hard before rejecting your comment. All I could find through researching your allegation was innuendo: nothing definitive. For all that is known, what appeared to be a good home was found and THEN the horse was shipped off. Without back up details, I can't let the comment go hiding behind anonymity. If you want to republish with proof of a direct link and sign your name, I will publish it.

Thanks for reading all.

Mary Forney's Blog said...

Great story, Ted, and one that should be told more often -- this type of horse is truly the unsung hero. Nice job! Mary

Sandra Warren said...

The reference to the anonymous comment intrigues me. I am the person who is keeping Trato right now. I picked him up from the trainer's barn at Golden Gate Fields. I can tell you that he came to me in very fine condition for a horse that was transitioning out of racing due to injury. Often I pick up horses that look like they haven't had their stall picked since they broke down. Trato, on the other hand, was well groomed. His feet had been recently shod, and he had dapples in his coat, which is difficult to achieve in winter. He was obviously currently receiving anti-inflammatories for his tendon, which had rubbed and wrapped. Trato has a very pleasant demeanor typical of horses that have been treated kindly, and he knew how to eat carrots. He did not have any appearance of being a horse which had been discarded.

When I contacted Mr. Lage and scheduled a pickup for the horse, there was later some confusion about transferring ownership of the horse, and I had to call him back to delay pickup. He was very accepting of this, which I appreciated because I am often threatened with immediate disposal by other trainers.

Some of Trato's former owners have visited him at my farm, and others have sent me periodic emails inquiring about him. Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue has received donations for his care from some of the former owners. It's important to note that Trato has successfully transitioned out of racing because he had a safety net: he had owners that wanted to make sure that he went on to a kind home, and he had SCTR that followed up on him after he vanned off of the track. There are many horses that leave the track after the owners have been told they were going to a good home, only to be hauled to slaughter within a few days. Owners should always check out the new owner first, and then follow up to make sure that the horse did indeed go where he was suppose to go. It's just so easy for horses to become commodities, and when a trainer needs to get rid of one, for him to have a groom tell him that he has a place that will take the horse. An hour later that horse is $200 cash to the groom at a local feedlot. Owners should not believe any story unless they check it out for themselves.

Regarding Trato's current condition: I can report that he is not limping, and in fact travels very sound. He does have rather large ankles, so he probably was reaching the end of his career even before the bow occurred. The tendon is a middle bow. It is still in a stage where it is rather large, but it has little heat left. I turned him out last week from a stall/paddock to a 1/4 acre paddock. He enjoyed the freedom very much, and now he is hanging over the fence to get out to the seven acre pasture. He likes other horses and has enough poise and confidence to be introduced into a new herd without much squealing. He is a very pleasant character and I enjoy being around him very much. I expect that in two years, the bow will be reduced to a near normal size. If I could tell him about his blogosphere fame, he would really enjoy having fans!

I hope this update can help anon to know that this horse is indeed alive and well, visitors are welcome at my farm in Brentwood, and not everyone in racing is evil.