By Ted Grevelis
EXACTLY! This is
a story about a horse whose retirement won't be generating any headlines, just
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 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 Hollywood 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, 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 father 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.