Monday, April 11, 2011

Race Horse Chito Mono Inspires the Crowd; Running With All His Might, He Goes Down Stumbling Before Making the Finish Line in a Sweet Heart Story

By Diana L. Chapman

My girlfriend – who owns three horses including a thoroughbred named Kaia  who used to race  – warned me Sunday before I left for an afternoon at Santa Anita Park: This sport is remarkably hard on horses.

That’s why she never goes to the races. Still, my husband and I were excited to go with my son, Ryan, and his friend, Derek, both 17. We love to watch the equines and make small bets. There’s nothing more beautiful then to witness them streak by in a speeding furor.

But Sunday was a different day at the track. We almost watched a horse die before our eyes. Instead, he riveted us with his drive and grit.

As the start of the fifth race approached I had paid little attention to a smaller horse, named Chito Mono, opting to place my bets on Afleet Cowboy. In fact, none of us wagered on Chito Mono, the son of High Demand, and “probably a long shot,” according to the race pamphlet.
As the horses sped along the backstretch, however, there was Chito Mono ahead of the pack, running with all his heart.  He was a long shot alright. At the official start of the race, the officials odds of him winning was 99 to 1.

The horse ran on guts, spirit, courage, and determination, this ever so slight guy. It seemed Chito wanted to win badly that day, perhaps to please his owner and trainer. Quickly, we lost interest in our own horses and started watching Chito Mono who looked ready to charge to  a gallant victory.

But when he reachedthe far turn, suddenly he faltered. He fell so far back he was soon in last place. Well after others cross the finished line right in front of us, Chito Mono limped by. Before our eyes, he lurched down to one knee, and then the next and then crumbled like a house of cards.  The jockey jumped off and scrambled away.

The collective breath drained from the once enthusiastic crowd, now stunned and silent.  A posse of rescue crews rushed out.  Privacy screens of green canvas were set up on the track around the stricken horse. 

“Daddy, why did the horse fall?” a little girl asked.

A man behind us explained to his friends: “They are going to put him down.”

I started crying as my son cautioned:  “Don’t listen to him. That man doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

But, according to some horse racing enthusiasts, if the screens go up its not usually a good sign.

Because we were so close, we could see Chito Mono's head through a small opening at the bottom of the screen. 

He was breathing. He tried to get back up, but an attendant crouched over him, holding his head down and covered his eyes to try and calm him. Then another
crew member started bringing in buckets of water, one after the other. We could see water splashing all over Chito Mono. His nostrils flared steadily, but he still didn’t get up.

More buckets. More water. Sponges and hands circled and rolled over him.
The crowd waited breathlessly, for about 10 minutes to learn the fate of one-small horse.

When the attendants helped him lurch back upright, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause as Chito Mono bounced up.  As the crowd kept clapping, he seemed to prance happily over to a wagon before he was taken away for further treatment.

Minutes later, a security guard explained the horse had suffered from heatstroke.
His recovery was like spring arriving with fresh crisp air. With those impossibly long odds bearing down on him,  his courage never faltered -- even if his body did.

Although a horse named Trueno won the race, the crowd was entranced with another one's will to win.