‘Just Tragic’: Death Of Maiden In His First Start Since 2016 Could Spur Change In Ohio - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘Just Tragic’: Death Of Maiden In His First Start Since 2016 Could Spur Change In Ohio

The death of Mox Nix, an 8-year-old maiden gelding in the eighth race at Belterra Park in Cincinnati on Sept. 28, could result in new regulations in Ohio racing, according to the new executive director of the state commission.

Mox Nix failed to finish in the maiden claiming contest, where he was in for a $7,500 tag for owner/trainer Robert C. Bennett. He was pulled up between the quarter and half mile poles in the six-furlong contest and euthanized by commission veterinarians due to a fracture in his left hind leg.

The race was his first in nearly five years, as the gelding had been off track since finishing ninth in a maiden special weight at Mahoning Valley in Youngstown, Ohio, on Oct. 31, 2016.

The gelded son of Zanjero was more than 30 lengths off the winner in that race, and was subsequently put on the veterinarian's list in Ohio for a bowed tendon on his right front leg. He remained on the list despite a long period of inactivity, and per commission regulations was required to perform a workout of at least four furlongs in under 52 seconds before a commission veterinarian. According to Chris Dragone, who recently assumed the role of executive director at the Ohio State Racing Commission, that work was completed and duly observed by a veterinarian, and the horse passed an examination following the workout.

There was a gap in Mox Nix's workouts leading into the late September race. He posted a four-furlong breeze at Belterra in :51.71 on July 9, a :50.90 breeze on July 26, and a five-furlong breeze in 1:05.01 on Aug. 3. Then, he didn't work again until Sept. 10, when he went four furlongs in :50.35.

A commission vet also gave the horse an extra look in the paddock ahead of his Sept. 28 race. Dragone noted that the fatal injury was not in the leg that had sustained the bow back in 2016.

Bennett did not respond to multiple interview requests for this story.

The guidelines for how and whether a horse may race after a long layoff, or at what age the horse may race, vary from place to place. Those guidelines are sometimes part of a commission's regulations, but racetracks may also impose their own restrictions on whether they will take an entry. While each race has its own conditions for recent finish position and racing class, race meetings may also have minimum performance requirements for horses to stable or race on the property. This may include achieving a minimum placing within a period of time, or may exclude horses that have failed to achieve a placing above a particular claiming level in a specified period. Those requirements would be listed in the introductory pages in the physical copy of a track's condition book.

(The Paulick Report looked at minimum performance requirements set out by racetracks in this 2016 piece about claiming racing.) 

Typically, tracks that run cheaper races have lower minimum performance requirements or higher ceilings for maximum age of a runner. Dragone said he was aware that there were minimum performance requirements in place at Mahoning Valley and JACK Thistledown Racino, but was not certain if Belterra had similar policies.

Bill Couch, racing secretary at Belterra, did not return calls seeking comment.

Dragone said last week that the commission had launched an investigation into the death of Mox Nix, but that early indications were that Bennett had not violated any state regulations in entering and running the horse.

Currently, the only restrictions the Ohio commission places on runners is that they must be serviceably sound, cannot be wearing a trachea tube, cannot have undergone a nerving surgery, and cannot have impaired sight in both eyes. There are no further regulations about maximum age, maximum layoff time, or performance.

Dragone said he expects that to change.

“An eight-year-old maiden on a five-year layoff – just tragic,” said Dragone. “We're in discussions at the commission about drafting a rule because we don't have anything on the books right now that would have prevented this. Tragic, but [Bennett] did not break any rules and all the procedures were followed that we could tell, but that doesn't solve the problem, so I think we're going to need a rule to make sure this doesn't happen again.

“We're investigating it. We're taking it very seriously and it will not happen again.”

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