Sunday, May 10, 2015

Brazil's Bal a Bali Comes Back from Laminitis to Win Santa Anita Stakes Race

Every once in a while, a bad news story takes a turn for the good. This one took a turn for the great.

Yesterday in California, a horse from Brazil made his first start in the United States. Bal a Bali holds a world record and won Brazil's Triple Crown. He was purchased by American investors, and flown north to join trainer Richard Mandella's stable at Santa Anita Park in California.

But that was almost a year ago. This horse's health took a detour when something went wrong. Very wrong. Laminitis-level wrong.

Finally, yesterday he showed what he can do. And what he can overcome to do it.


The medical details of the horse's experience have never been publicized. Owners Siena Farm and Fox Hill Farms reported that Bal a Bali arrived in Florida for quarantine on or about July 31, 2014.

"The agent for the government quarantine reported him as ill, and fairly quickly we decided that he must leave quarantine and get to a clinic," Fox Hill Farms reported on their website. "We got the clearance to leave the quarantine facility though the horse had to remain in quarantine. Bali was shipped by private van to the Palm Beach Equine Clinic, and the clinic cordoned off an entire barn for Bali which was certainly an inconvenience for them and their clients."

The farm mentioned Weston Davis, DVM, DACVS, at Palm Beach Equine in the treatment of the horse.

There was drama, and mention of cold-water spa therapy, Soft-Ride boots, and hyperbaeric oxygen therapy. Would he ever race again?

The owners also brought in the consulting podiatry services of Vernon Dryden, DVM, of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital of Lexington, Kentucky and called on the internal medicine expertise of Dr. Nathan Slovis of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, also of Lexington. As the colt responded to treatment, he was transferred to Winstar Farm in Kentucky to resume training. 

On January 30, Bal a Bali finally boarded a plane for California, and this time, he made it. Six months after his trip from Brazil began, he entered training to race in the United States under Richard Mandella.

Brazilian champion Bal a Bali won the American Stakes on turf yesterday at Santa Anita in California. It was the first US start for the imported horse who won four Grade 1 races in Brazil last year before suffering laminitis on arrival in the United States. (Santa Anita photo)

Back on track:

Vernon Dryden, DVM
Dr. Dryden continued to consult with Mandella about the hoofcare for Bal a Bali, and the horse's shoes allowed him to train at the track.

"I am very excited to see this horse come back as well as he has," Dryden told The Hoof Blog Thursday, when it appeared certain the horse would run on Saturday. "I have turned the shoeing over to Mandella's farrier Ben Craft and they report that Bali is doing great."

Now five years old, Bal a Bali burst clear with a furlong to run and won yesterday's American Stakes on the grass by a length.

“It really is fulfilling to get his first race in the U.S. under his belt, because he really had a serious problem coming out of quarantine when he had laminitis,” said Mandella in an official statement to Santa Anita Park. “The podiatrist at Rood and Riddle (in Lexington, Ky.) named Vernon Dryden (DVM) did an unbelievable job of getting him back like this…I can’t say enough about the job he did.”

Bal a Bali's story doesn't end here, but it's a chance to have an optimistic news story about the type of laminitis that affects high-flying, hard-running equine athletes. When the words "laminitis" and "racehorse" appear in the same sentence, it's not normally a story that will make you smile. Let's hope for more like this one.

--Fran Jurga

To Learn More:
No Vacation for Laminitis: Brazilian Champion Bal a Bali Fights Disease in Florida

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