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Bal a Bali: A Superstar's Return From Laminitis

Updated: Oct 9, 2022

Laminitis can be a devastating diagnosis for a racehorse. This extremely painful inflammation and damage of the laminae (layers of tissue) in the hoof causes lameness and may result in a horse needing to be euthanized if treatment does not improve its condition. Famed horses like Barbaro, Bernardini, Sunday Silence, Affirmed, and Secretariat all succumbed to laminitis. However, the battle with laminitis is not always lost. Some Thoroughbreds even recover well enough to return victoriously to racing. Brazilian Triple Crown winner Bal a Bali was lucky enough to be one of these success stories.

Life as Brazil's Superstar (2010 - 2014):

Brazilian banker Julio Bozano, owner of Haras Santa Maria de Araras, bred the Grade 3 winning mare In My Side to Grade 2 winner Put It Back to produce Bal a Bali. The dark bay Put It Back colt was a stunner from the start; he was described as having eye-catching conformation and a serene personality as a young horse (BloodHorse).

As a yearling Bal a Bali caught the eye of businessman Alvaro Novis, who purchased and would campaign him in Brazil. The colt’s talent became immediately apparent when his racing career began; he won three of four starts as a two-year-old, including the Classico Jose Calmon and Mario de Azevedo Riberio (G3). He was sensational as a three-year-old, finishing the year undefeated in eight starts including the three races that comprise the Brazilian Triple Crown: the Estado do Rio de Janeiro (G1), Francisco Eduardo de Paula Machado (G1), and Grande Premio Cruzeiro do Sul (G1). He captured the first race of the Crown in a race record and nearly world-record time of 1:31.36 for 1600 meters and the third race in the track record time of 2:23.25 for 2400 meters (Siena Farm). Bal a Bali followed up his record-setting Triple Crown wins with a victory in a Group 2 race. He then captured the Gran Premio Brazil (G1), a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf. Though Bal a Bali had secured himself a spot in the Breeders’ Cup, his owner Novis did not race his horses outside of Brazil. Thus, the calls from Americans interested in purchasing Bal a Bali started to come in.

Novis originally wanted $2.5 million dollars for his superstar, but no one was willing to pay such a high price for the horse at that point. After some negotiation through bloodstock agent John Fulton, Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farms partnered with Siena Farm and offered $1.5 million for Bal a Bali; Novis accepted and the horse was flown from Brazil to Miami, Florida.

Arrival to the States & the Start of a Long Battle:

Things weren’t well when Bal a Bali arrived for quarantine in Florida; he had a scrape and swelling on his leg. He was standing, but he did not want to move. Veterinarians knew immediately that this was not good and it was soon revealed that Bal a Bali had laminitis in both front feet, with the right being worse than the left (Thoroughbred Daily News).

The Brazilian Triple Crown winner was sent to Palm Beach Equine Clinic, where a makeshift quarantine section was set up and treatment immediately began. Siena Farm’s Anthony Mangarnaro suggested the use of a cold-water spa, which he said had been helping his own horses at the farm. The Palm Beach Clinic did not have one, so Porter found, purchased, and shipped one to the clinic from Orlando.