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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL, May 24, 2023 —  After every world class horse racing event, viewers and readers are inundated with stories about how an animal can impact a horse-lover’s life in a profound way.

Owners talk about all the places that a horse has taken them, the great people they have met because of horse racing, and how a horse can make a fervent wish, a childhood dream, reality.

On a recent afternoon at Gulfstream Park, a friend reminded me of one fateful tale forgotten, one so unpleasant that it was banished from memory’s dustbin at once. Sometimes racetrack dreams are too real life.

It’s the story of one trainer whose whole existence was dedicated to horses, one particular horse who was odds-on to make a lifelong dream come true. The summit within reach loomed, until it didn’t.

There was a seriously fast juvenile of 2016, a son of Trappe Shot from a Mr. Greeley mare named Triumphantly. What could be more apt, a precocious gelding who proved one afternoon that lightning can be bottled.

The entirety of the backstretch knew about him before he even started. On debut he entered the starting gate as a 3-5 choice to vanquish the nine rivals lined up against him.

It was a perfect start, especially considering that most of the horses had never run, just like debuting phenom The Chilli Man.

With jockey Joe Steiner sitting up against him, The Chilli Man emerged from mid-pack within the first 50 yards quickly opening a 2-length lead as the field entered the bend in a 4-1/2 furlong sprint, a lead that doubled at mid-turn, and doubled again at headstretch.

“The Chilli Man is flying out there, look at him go,” said the announcer, his voice rising in excitement. “The Chilli Man has opened up an eight-length lead, and he’s not stopping,” his enthusiasm rising another notch.

And finally, with a furlong to go, “here is a rising star, the Chilli Man, look at him stride out down the lane, he must be in front by about a dozen lengths… The Chilli Man, very, very impressive and he’s one to watch.”

The Emerald Downs surface is glib but the announcer was right, he was flying. The short sprint practically is all turn, and he went around there in 21 4/5 and 44 1/5, coming his final sixteenth in 6 seconds-flat with Steiner sitting motionless.

Trainer Monique Snowden was getting closer to realizing her dream. Divorced at this time point in her life, she dealt with depression, but you’d never know that according to friends. “Sweet” and “kind” were the words most often used to describe her.

Snowden was hands on to a fault, hot-walking, grooming, applying standing bandages beginning at 4 a.m. until long after supper feed time, she did it all.

It wasn’t long after that maiden race that opportunity came knocking. Dean Reeves saw the race on a simulcast feed and contacted trainer Kathy Ritvo and bloodstock agent and adviser, Jay Stone.

They made an offer the connections of The Chilli Man could not refuse, pending veterinary inspection follow the colt’s second start–his stakes debut in the Emerald Express for juveniles. The gelding chased away all but four rivals; he went favored at 2-5.

Reeves and Ritvo went out to see their new acquisition run and meet with Snowden and owner Heidi Nelson. According to reports, The Chilli Man earned an 81 Beyer Speed Figure in his debut, the fourth highest figure among North American two-year-olds at the time.

The purchase would have helped Snowden acquire more horses, but The Chilli Man went wrong shortly after leaving the gate. The injury he sustained was inoperable and the horse was euthanized.

That night, 37-year-old Monique Snowden jumped 160 feet to her death into the Green River from the Kummer Bridge in Enumclaw, Washington, where her body was found the next day. The loss of that horse was simply too much to bear.

“She fell in love with every horse she was involved with,” said ex-husband Dennis Snowden. “And with all the hype and attention this horse was getting, not only in the Northwest but from all over the country, the horse’s death really affected her.”

“They were her family,” explained a friend. “They knew her, recognized her, they whinnied to her. She fed them treats. And she knew absolutely everything about every horse in her care. To a lot of people in the race world, horses are a commodity, but they were not a commodity to her.”

I’ll never get over this,” added Snowden. “This woman was one of the smartest women I’ve ever been around. She was always looking for something that would make her horses better… Words can’t describe how dedicated she was, and what a great person she was.

“These horses were her life. She loved them. It was always more about the horses for her than it was about the money.”

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11 Responses

  1. As stated Patti, it was so profoundly sad that I put it completely out of mind. When I was reminded of the story, and was jolted again with the fatal injury at Pimlico, I wanted critics to know that it’s not always all about money, it’s a labor of love and a calling for so many of us who are tethered to thoroughbreds. Thank you for taking the time…

    1. Thank you for the bittersweet memory. I had horses in Monique’s barn. She was very special. As one hard bitten racetracker said at the time, it was the saddest story he’d ever heard at the track. RIP dear Monique.

      1. So gratifying to hear that she is missed by those who got to know her all these years later. Checks for checking on and sorry for your loss…

    1. As I said to Patti and the friend who recalled the story, I knew at the time but put it out of mind. Funny that I feel a sense of loss through those who knew her well; wish I had gotten to meet her…

  2. Don’t ask why, but I always found the connections between horses and women appreciative, mutually respectful, almost natural. When the only female jockey to ever win the Belmont, Julie Krone, would be riding mares on the turf, be it Belmont or Saratoga, I felt an inclination to add ‘points’ to the female duo. Never thought about when some other female rider would be riding in a similar situation… Maybe because some other female rider would not be as good as the “Queen” of the modern jockey colony…

  3. Julie indeed was the best female rider I ever saw, and she really didn’t like the qualifier. At her Hall of Fame induction, she spoke of how she wished the award wasn’t genderized.

    Got to appreciate Julie as a person after interviewing her on the first NYC-OTB cable show. I remember her for two other things: How she, IMO, was unjustly taken down on a horse she rode for Scotty Schuhofer at Saratoga, costing me a Pick 6–although I admit that at times she did have a little ‘Irad’ in her.

    The other was how on some dark Monmouth day at a pool party at the Jersey Shore, she hauled off and decked a male rider, who shall remain nameless. When I recalled that incident to a colleague shortly thereafter, he dead-panned “the lady shaves.”

    I thought the only female I saw to rival Julie’s talent was Rosie Napravnik-Sharp. Different style, but no less effective…

    1. You reminded me of Julie Krone’s response to a foolish idiot who mentioned something sexist to her after she dismounted and was passing by us on her way to the dressing room. That guy ran away zig- zagging thru the crowd, while she was still following his get away… with a burning look. Belmont Park, 1990s. Saw several female riders at the Delaware track in its early days, but none came close to her bravura, achievements and love for horses. Last I heard about her was when a couple of yrs ago, I wrote in your site about Krone representing a hot female jockey whose name has long been forgotten. Let’s not forget her 30th Anniversary in winning the Belmont… 1993. Congrats, Ms. Krone, wherever you are.. You won’t ever be Forgotten! (How about a statue of her at Belmont?? Seriously!)
      ‘Til after the post positions and pps, respect the uniforms on Memorial Day, from a former, proud US Air Force person..

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