Eric Mitchell, editorial director and editor-in-chief of The Blood-Horse, shares his thoughts on welfare issues in Thoroughbred racehorses.


The public outcry over the injury and subsequent euthanizing of grade I winner-turned-claimer Monzante at age 9 shows just how complex animal welfare issues are for racehorses.

Monzante, a gelding by Maria’s Mon, won the grade I Eddie Read Handicap at Del Mar and placed second in the Charlie Whittingham Memorial Handicap (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park in 2008. After two years of unsuccessful performances and a single victory in an allowance race, the horse began a downward slide, his career ending in a $4,000 claimer at Evangeline Downs, where on July 20 he fractured the sesamoids in his right front leg. Trainer/owner Jackie Thacker got Monzante back to his barn following the race, where Thacker and his private vet determined the horse needed to be put down because he was suffering.

The euthanization of Monzante released a high-voltage, social media-fueled furor comparable to the reaction following Eight Belles’ breakdown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). With Eight Belles the outrage became focused on anabolic steroid use, even though the filly had not been given steroids. Still, her tragic death led to the relatively quick ban of anabolic steroid use in racing.

For Monzante, the issues are much trickier. Racing fans expressed a gut-level disgust at a grade I winner being passed from owner to owner until he had dropped toward the bottom of the claiming ranks—not quite the bottom but pretty close. The calls for reform hav