Zito horse is off to new career

Palmer at show

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, 2005
Palmer 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.”

In his earlier days on the track

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.”

6 responses to “Zito horse is off to new career”

  1. Paddy Head

    Another wonderful story, Susan. Three cheers for Dr Palmer, both human and equine, the Zito`s and my old alma mater, Suffolk Downs. I`m so proud of the Boston oval for leading the way in the anti-slaughter policy. When I rode there in the `70`s, the trainers I rode for all looked for second careers for their horses. Now, to get all the North American tracks on board with that policy.

  2. Lisa Melone

    What an amazing story–and I was able to read about the fabulous Lorita. So glad Palmer was saved! It’s so heartening to read these stories–keep ’em coming!

  3. sybil

    keep these stories coming, Sue, whether new or from the archives. not only is this a great one about second career successes, but also about an owner making the right decision to treat and rehab rather than euthanize (though that can sometimes be the best option – but as we see here, not always!) when Paynter was first stricken several weeks ago, i was amazed at how many people commented and called for him to be euthanized immediately to spare him suffering. clearly, they were wrong about Paynter, and thumbs up to the Zitos for giving Palmer a life!

  4. TBDancer

    First, another round of applause for the Zitos. I’ve heard they put a stamp or sticker on the papers of every horse they work with, letting future owners know if the horse ever needs a new career, to call them.

    Second, more applause for Suffolk Downs. When big agencies join big names and take a stand against slaughter, the word gets out, BIG time.

    Third, hooray for Palmer’s Approach. A lucky pony from the getgo.

    Another great story, Susan.

  5. Fran

    Bravo! Love to read about another successful tb racehorse who is transitioning into a second career in the show ring!!

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