TRF says Goodbye To Saratoga Character
Saratoga Character out-lived the odds and the neglect of people who thought nothing of racing an injured horse every six to nine days. Fortunately, he found someone to look out for him and he was eventually able to spend a happy life at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances farm at the Blackburn Correctional Complex.
For 16 years, he helped inmates learn horse care as a vocation and became the most beloved of the 80 horses that reside at the Lexington, Ky facility.
Tuesday, unable to overcome the maladies brought about by Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis (EPM), an infection of the central nervous system, Saratoga Character was euthanized at the age of 23.
“We are sad and heavy-hearted; we had to put him down because he was getting so infirm from his EPM,” said Linda Dyer, farm manager at Blackburn. “He had gotten down twice in the last two weeks and could not get himself up. He was one of our most loved horses here and was quite a character.”
It was that sweetness that grabbed Kim Zito’s attention one day at Rockingham Park. The wife of Hall of Fame trainer and former TRF Director Nick Zito, Kim noticed a forlorn horse in a nearby stall with
no bedding and no hay.
“Despite his mistreatment, he was eager to be petted,” she said “He shut his eyes and buried his head in my shoulder. The next time we went to Rockingham, I looked for him and this time, he was unshod,
with his feet curling up.”
When Kim discovered that his owner wanted to race him at the Northampton Fair, she made the offer to buy him.
“He was dead lame,” she said. “His right ankle was the size of a grapefruit. Racing him would have been a death sentence.”
Instead, he retired with a record of 11-15-12 from 78 starts and earnings of $149, 269. A son of Saratoga Six-Contrary Rose, by Seat of Power, Saratoga Character joined the TRF’s herd at Blackburn and
established himself as the barn favorite.
“You didn’t tell him anything,” Dyer said. “You asked him to come with you and he was happy to oblige; he believed that fair is as fair does. He had a very kind soul and he was a good teacher for the inmates that worked with him.”
According to Dyer, those inmates could not bring themselves to say good-bye.