1. Freezing point (nicknamed Snowball)
Her voice stings and tears keep coming, but Mr. Randy Gutzeit tells us how a strap-on gray stallion nicknamed Snowball brought several horse lovers back to the racetrack and how I want them to know that their heart is broken.
Snowball, known as freezing point on the track, suffered a catastrophic failure He died during the undercard race at Churchill Downs on May 6, becoming the seventh horse to die in the eight grueling days leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The still-unexplained death casts a dark cloud over this year’s Triple Crown and raises new questions about Triple Crown safety ahead of Saturday’s Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.
But for Gutzeit and trainer Joe Reyzerovic, horse racing problems are just a backdrop for personal grief.
“We wanted to do whatever we could to save him, but we couldn’t,” Gutzeit said. “We miss him so much.”
Gutzeit, 71, lives near Phoenix. She ran and trained horses at the Belmont Park in her 1970s and her 80s, but she returned to school. She quit her racetrack to become a physical therapist. . Although she does research on humans, applied what she learned to horses.
She didn’t think much about getting back into the game until she talked about buying a 2011 Volkswagen from Ray Zerovic. A veteran trainer, he studied horsemanship under Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens and worked in barns from New York to California for over 30 years. Rayzerovic was also in Phoenix, selling cars and learning to deal with Meniere’s disease, an inner ear condition that causes severe dizziness and ringing in the ears, while away from sports.
He and Gutzeit quickly connected. Their love of horses made them friends, but it was their shared views on how to treat animals that made them business partners. This means not overdoing it, keeping it healthy, and choosing rest over medicine.
“We were coming out of the pandemic, but it was clear nobody’s timeline was guaranteed,” Gutzeit said, adding, “I told Joe it was time to bet on ourselves. He said.
With only $20,000 in funding from Gootzeit, it took time for the pair to return to the sport. They struck out in three auctions until Reyzerovic went crazy. No.954 Last June at a 2-year-old training sale in Ocala, Fla. The stallion was well balanced, muscular and declared perfectly healthy by the veterinarian.
Surely they thought they couldn’t afford him.
“He’s perfect, but there’s no chance of snowballing to get him,” Reizelovich told Gutzeit.
Raizelovich was confident that he would win the highest bid electronically, so he was taking a nap in his truck when someone knocked and said the stallion was his for $13,000. I was told
The pair spent time with the stallion, whose full name is Freezing Point (after the stallion Frosted), to understand his eccentricities and admire his work ethic.
“He was kind of a crank,” Reyzerovic, 53, said. “He was playful. I waved his finger at him and he tried to push it back at me.”
Reyzerovic took Snowball to Keeneland, Kentucky to prepare him for the race. Gutzeit flew in every few weeks to help train and care for the stallions. Snowball won 1 out of 3 tries at the age of 2 and began to draw attention to his extravagant clothing. Gutzeit turned down offers of $150,000, $480,000 and $600,000 after Snowball finished third in the Lafayette Stakes last month.
One of Gutzeit’s mentors had advised her many years ago to only accept horse offers if it would cost her life-changing money. It was a lot of money, but Snowball was already life-changing.
The gray stallion reminded her of her happiest times, and provided an opportunity to apply her physical therapy knowledge and test her theories of what a happy horse is.
At Raizelovich, she found not only friends, but also jockeys with whom she shared her values. “We loved this horse so much that we couldn’t leave it to someone else,” Gutzeit said.
That’s why they were at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. They watched their horses run in the $500,000 Puttday Mile Stakes just hours before the Derby.
They watched from the rails near the winner’s circle. Snowball broke cleanly out of the starting gate, but within 400 meters Gutzeit and Reizelovich noticed their horse in distress.
“His head was in the air,” Gutzeit said. “He swung left. He swung right. Something happened. I knew something bad had happened.”
Within half an hour, Snowball was diagnosed with a broken left front ankle. Less than an hour later, Gutzeit and Reizelovich tearfully bid him farewell. After the foal was euthanized, the veterinarian handed it a tuft of hair from its mane as a talisman.
Snowball will never stand in, but the pair will continue to move forward. They are looking for another healthy Thoroughbred who can let their talents flourish.
“We are not going to be kicked out of the game,” Gutzeit said. “We want to succeed honestly and cleanly and give horses the love and respect they deserve.”
2. Wild on Ice
3 year old gelding
He injured his left hind leg during practice and was euthanized.
The strong-willed Texan jockey has won more than 4,100 races, but it was his first major stakes race victory for a gelding at the Sunland Derby in March. Torhill, 60, was set to become the oldest jockey in Derby history. One morning last month, Torhill described Wild on Ice as a “gift.” He added that he “has grown well and his talent is starting to show,” he continued.
3. King’s Code
3 year old gelding
Fell over in the paddock and broke his neck
The Empire Maker progeny had plenty of hopes for a debut at Saratoga, but failed to deliver on that promise by failing to finish fifth or better in six races. According to his trainer, he was saddled with Code of Kings when he was mesmerized by the party lights of the DJ booth and flipped once, twice and finally, fatally, a third time.
4. Parental Pride
4 year old filly
He collapsed and died on April 29 during the eighth race at Churchill Downs.
The mare won two straight and earned more than $153,000, tripling her purchase price. She was her second betting choice at odds of 2-1 and was ridden by Churchill’s leading jockey, Tyler Gaffarione. Parent’s Pride was sitting comfortably in second on the backstretch, but Gaffarione suddenly pulled her up. She was driven off the racetrack in a van and fell to her death on Churchill’s buttocks.
5. Chasing Artie
5 year old gelding
On May 2, he collapsed and died after the end of the eighth race, where he finished last.
This versatile gelding has won on both turf and dirt. Two summers ago, he trusted Alvin Jimenez when he rode as a last minute substitute at Monmouth Park. “It was a nice surprise to pick up this horse,” Jimenez said. “I said, ‘It’s great. Let’s get the money.'” They did it and won the first check in the My Frenchman Stakes.
Chasing Arty was trained by Saffy Joseph Jr. as was Parent’s Pride. Churchill and state regulators refused to allow Joseph’s stallion Lord Miles to run in the Derby.
“It crushes you. It crushes your confidence and makes you question everything,” Joseph said of the death.
6. Take Charge Briana
3 year old mare
injured and fell Euthanized during May 2nd race
This mare was bred by rancher and builder Willis Horton, who died last year. She was trained by longtime Horton trainer and Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lucas. “He had a great eye for horses and understood horse racing,” Lucas said when he died last year. “He was competitive and he wasn’t afraid to step up and put his money on a good horse.”
Takecharge Brianna was ridden by the same jockey Luis Saez who rode Chasing Artie.
7. Chloe’s Dream
3 year old gelding
He fell ill during the second race of the Kentucky Derby and was euthanized.
Chloe’s Dream is named after the daughter of Brooke Smith’s business associate who runs the Rocket Ship Racing Syndicate. Smith and his wife Pam are involved with Churchill’s Backside His Learning Center, which provides education and health programs for racetrack workers and their families. Rocket Ship will donate 10 percent of his winnings to the Center. Smith took Chloe and his family to the paddock, where he said Chloe’s dreams were “beautiful.” Smith said he and his party were traumatized when the gelding staggered as he emerged from the first turn.
“You’ll have a hole in your stomach,” says Smith. He added that he and his wife are not ready to return to the racetrack. “I can never experience it again.”