Matabari in Stitches in 2 Million Victory

Tough filly overcame severe tougue injury to win Los Alamitos' richest race.

December 23, 2012

Los Alamitos

Dr. Becky Fitzgerald had never seen firsthand this badly of a lacerated tongue on a horse.

"Her tongue was ripped two-thirds of the way," she said. "She nearly cut the whole thing off."

The injured horse was none other than Matabari, the winner of last Sunday's Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1) and the incident occurred only a few weeks prior to the trials to the Two Million.

"No one really knows how it happened," Dr. Fitzgerald added. "It's highly unusual for a (racing) bit to do that and she had just gone out in the morning to the track. They called me to come see her and I could see a lot blood when I first opened up her mouth. I came back an hour or so later to work on her because I knew it was going to take a while. We sedated her and then used some specific tongue clips to keep her mouth open. The cut was in an awkward spot to try to suture. I had to suture the muscles together first and then suture the outside. Altogether the cut needed around 30 stitches or so. It also needed different patterns and tensions to keep her tongue together. It basically comes down to the fact that she's one tough filly. She was never depressed and was unfazed by the whole thing."

After the sedative wore off, Matabari simply went on about her business. She wanted to eat right away and soon after she started her successful quest of winning the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity.

"A few days later we had to put replace a few stitches that had come off loose,” said Dr. Fitzgerald. “The laceration was in a spot that's always moist so that makes it a little tougher for the sutures to stay in place. She could have lost her tongue, but everything came together surprisingly well. This filly is a pistol. She's an original and she was so cooperative throughout the entire process. I was pretty excited when she won."

Dr. Fitzgerald has been working at Los Alamitos for the past two years. After graduating from Tuskegee University in Alabama, the native of Kentucky did an internship at a private practice in Oklahoma.

"It was about eight miles from Remington Park and we did a lot of referral surgeries," she said. "I used to gallop horses in Kentucky and I've loved horses since the moment I was born."