Saturday, November 3, 2012

Breeder's Cup, Ravishly, Deborah Jones

Exceller & Willie Shoemaker
Today is the biggest Day in Horse Racing..The 29th Breeders Cup at Santa Anita Park in California…it is running as I write.

Broadcast around the world, millions of viewers tune in to watch the worlds top thoroughbreds vie for million dollar prizes.

I too am tuned in, but not with anywhere near the naivety or enthusiasm  I once had for horse racing ...

Watching the Kentucky Derby -- the first leg of the triple crown -- 41 years ago ... I fell head over heels in love with the sport of kings as I watched a little brown horse from South America charge to victory in the 1971 Run For The Roses.


Some years later I had the joy of meeting the my TV idol  Canonero II face-to-face at Gainesway Farm in Lexington, KY. During that visit I also met John Gaines, the visionary behind the Breeders’ Cup we see today.

My family owned shares in stallions at Gainesway including my personal favorite, the late great EXCELLER -- a victor in major stakes over the Santa Anita Course with Willie Shoemaker in the irons. Later in his life a casualty of slaughter.

Repeat visits to Gainesway and the surrounding iconic farms solidified my resolve to spend my life with thoroughbreds. I thought the career of a trainer or veterinarian to be noble pursuits….both front line the most beautiful creature on earth. 

Seeing thoroughbreds living at glorious bluegrass farms impressed me as to how well horses were treated…, and why wouldn't they be? Look at the amazing lifestyle they afforded their owners. I was young, naive, and quite impressionable.

What I didn't know  then… I know now. 

Never in my worst nightmare did I imagine that which I have recently learned people will do to horses. 

In my own zeal to share the "good" about racing – I brought you interviews with top racing people that I really, really believed had the best interest of their horses at heart. In the years since then I have learned, first hand, quite the opposite….and for that my friends, I apologize.

I believe adults should hold themselves accountable for failure.

Owners and trainers willing to sacrifice horse care for the sake of a win, or ship a horse out-of-state to an unknown destiny have contributed to an overwhelming problem in the racing world….the grotesque and inhumane butchering of America’s  thoroughbreds.

Many related in pedigree to the magnificent horses we see gracing our TVs today at the Breeder's Cup.

Whether dying on the track or in a slaughterhouse, the fact of the matter is -- the majority of American thoroughbreds are sent away on long torturous trips over US highways to Mexico and Canada. Terrified in a foreign land their skull is crudely fractured and their sinewy bodies hung  upside down by a hind leg to bleed out. According to USDA inspectors, some are still alive while being cut apart.

Rendering and processing it is not – it is an excruciating, horrific death. The journey begins in the breeding shed and ends at an auction -- ALL on American soil.

In my opinion .. if not acknowledged, addressed and  rectified with real solutions --- this will be the end of horse racing… and so it should be.

Overbreeding is the genesis of this train-wreck, and excessive drugging at the racetrack piles on even more innocent victims. Recently among them, RAVISHLY, a resident NY mare, owned throughout her career by IEAH Stable who purchased her for $75,000 as a two-year-old.

RAVISHLY did all that was asked of her on the racetrack and in the breeding shed. Upon retirement from the IEAH broodmare band, she became a "giveaway". No protection, no PENSION, no follow-up, and compounding the offense .... no names.

RAVISHLY was butchered the morning after she sold for $50 to a meat packing plant through an auction in Unadilla, NY. The same NY promoting and incentivizing more breeding without an effective and safe retirement plan for its equine participants.

RAVISHLY produced five foals for her owner IEAH. As the breeder, they may collect state-bred awards up to 30% of prizes earned by each offspring. WHAT A NICE RETIREMENT FUND THIS COULD HAVE PROVIDED FOR RAVISHLY.

California-based Deborah Jones revealed the plight of RAVISHLY on her facebook page, "emaciated, and injured from barbed wire, Ravishly was once again wearing a hip tag but this time there was no announcement promoting her bloodlines, progeny, race earnings not even her name....known ONLY as hip # 0715".

Deborah Jones is a first-responder on the front lines in kill pens. She saves dispirited and forgotten horses from the ultimate betrayal. Each of whom were once the apple of someone's eye. Now Deborah is their only hope.

Journalist Joe Drape featured the work of Deborah Jones in Friday's edition of the New York Times. She is a hero to every horse on death row and to those who do truly love thoroughbreds.  

So, on racing's biggest day, as winners celebrate their new found millions and championship honors, I mourn for the hundreds-of-thousands left in their wake. 

May there be a heaven for horses, Susan.

Related Links:

Exceller's Story:


Ravishly and her foals at Saratoga Glen Farm:

NY Times Article: