From the Off-TrackThoroughbreds archives. This story was first published June 6, 2010.
When Palmer’s Approach was born into the top-tier racing stables of Kim and Nick Zito in 2005, he had only two good legs to stand on. Fortunately, the “scrawny chestnut” with a bone cyst in the right stifle and a fracture in his left knee had many two-legged friends to lean on.
Beginning with the Zitos themselves, both outspoken opponents of horse slaughter, the couple balked at suggestions they euthanize the animal, and sought the opinion of Dr. Scott Palmer. Palmer, for whom the horse was eventually named, treated the horse over the next year at the New Jersey Equine Clinic, and says the animal emerged “like a butterfly.”
“I remember him well,” Dr. Palmer told Off-Track Thoroughbreds. “I gave him a look and I said, ‘Don’t kill him.’ People were advising him to put the animal down … but we were able to treat the cyst with medication and the fracture with stall rest and a controlled exercise program.”
After a year Dr. Palmer called Zito with good news. “I said, ‘You’re not going to believe this horse. He turned out to be really beautiful.’ In the long run, I guess he was a success.”
Name: Palmer’s Approach
Sire: Najran/Dam: Spotted Feather
Foal date: March 26, 2005Palmer went on to a racing career that included a win at the 2008 Suffolk Downs MassCap. Palmer wound up running at the East Boston track with MassCap winner Commentator, another Zito horse, after the Hall of Fame trainer announced his support for Suffolk Downs’ decision to ban horse slaughter. Zito told the Associated Press he wholeheartedly endorsed the track’s decision to become the first in the nation to take a zero tolerance toward slaughter.
Palmer returned to Boston two months ago to start the next leg of his career.
Lorita Lindemann, Suffolk Downs Stall Superintendent and champion for the track’s anti-slaughter policy, adopted Palmer and has put him on a path to successes as a hunter/jumper.
Already, he is off with flying colors. “He literally came off the track on April 1st of this year and he just won two blue ribbons, two third-place ribbons and a championship of his division,” Lindemann says. “This is his first time at a show.”
While Palmer was winning ribbons with rider and track pony girl Jaime Mustapha, Lindemann was on the phone with Kim Zito, reporting the horse’s progress. “It was amazing. Here’s a woman whose husband has two horses in the Belmont Stakes and she’s on the phone screaming for Palmer’s Approach,” Lindemann says.
Well known for her work with Suffolk Downs owner Richard Fields, and his family foundation to end slaughter practices in East Boston, the volunteer with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has been at the forefront of efforts to rehabilitate ex-racehorses.
She is a firm believer that many of them possess the temperament to move into next careers.
“Racehorses are handled so much” that they are very adaptable to new situations, she says. “They’re temperament and attitude changes so much when they go from the track to farm life. Palmer is literally like a dog now!”
His rider Jaime Mustapha agrees.
“He didn’t do a thing wrong in the show,” she says. “Palmer is a just a classy horse to ride, and it’s like he was born to be a hunter.”