following is Falcon's story and how his misfortune illustrates a change in the
way the racing industry. Please take note of all the horsemen who rallied
around this horse. Although the trainer who sent him to auction did a
horrible deed, many others directly in the industry stepped up to responsibly
care for this wonderful horse. What follows is a letter written by Diana
McClure and the entire account written by Anne Russek.
Click here to see video of him.
Through the HBO Documentary “Running For Their Lives” I have recently become
aware of the well established pipeline in our industry sending horses from the
Backstretch to the Slaughterhouse. We n
eed to establish a core value system with
a policy plan whereby we can expose and eliminate these pipeline participants.
Several racetracks have taken the initiative to state that sending racehorses to
an auction where a large percentag
e of them end up at slaughter is unacceptable.
The first week of July Suffolk Downs told their horsemen that sending horses to
slaughter was no longer an alternative and that there would be repercussions
such as loss of stabling for those making that choice.
The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association in conjunction with
Philadelphia Park racetrack management announced the formation of PTHA’S Turning
For Home, Inc. This is a non-profit horse rescue dedicated to helping
Philadelphia Park owners and trainers secure safe homes and second careers for
their retired racehorses.
Charlestown Racetrack has publicly stated that they have banned the two
prominently known kill buyers from their backstretch.
One merely has to visit a public auction and “flip lips” to identify
Thoroughbreds via tattoo that are in “the stable to table in seven days” flow. I
personally identified 15 Thoroughbreds in the direct kill pens at The Sugarcreek
Ohio Auction. Horses had raced as recently as 5 days before at Thistledown
Racetrack. Horses were also identified as last running at Beulah Park,
Mountaineer Park, and Charlestown. There was even a retired steeplechase horse
who last raced in Fair Hill, Md.
Upon visiting the New Holland Auction in Pennsylvania last week I discovered a
three year old thoroughbred gelding. He was emmaciated , scarred from a halter
burning his skin and three legged lame with a largely swollen left knee.
I identified him through his tattoo as “Falcon Fury”. He had run his last three
starts at Delaware Park, where he had been claimed off of an owner and trainer
that I currently work for. I called them immediately and even though they had no
longer owned or trained him for his last two starts they were shaken by this
discovery. Both told me they would financially support whatever I had to do to
save this horses life and prevent him from enduring any more torture or abuse.
The trainer’s assistant contacted the racing secretary, the general manager and
the stewards. She confirmed and informed them that the horse had last run at
Delaware Park on July 2nd, was signed out of the stable gate on July 6th by the
trainer and was at The New Holland Auction on July 21st.
Delaware Park has also made it clear that they will not tolerate this behavior.
They called the last trainer of record into their offices and then sent him to
the auction to find the horse. He found us and immediately denied any knowledge
of how this horse ended up in this position, however, he admitted that he had
placed 6 other horses with the same dealer. He acknowledged that he was in a
very compromised position with the officials at Delaware Park and they insisted
that he pay the purchase price and shipping costs. This helped us at that moment
but does not fix the broken knee with a slab fracture that was neglected to a
point that it may not be surgically repairable. It also does not provide for a
lifetime of care now required for a damaged horse, but it was a start.
I spoke with general manager , Mr. John Mooney and he assured me that Delaware
Park intends to handle this situation appropriately and furthermore they are
committed to working with the horsemen to help them make the right choice when
it comes to retiring and placing horses.
This is yet another example of a racetrack stepping up and owning responsibility
to this situation. Ultimately we should be able to fix this industry wide flaw
from within. If every owner and trainer would assume responsibility for their
own horses this problem would not exist. However, it does and we need to address
and fix the problem.
I would venture to say that anyone who watched the HBO Documentary would have to
acknowledge that the pipeline exists and is well fed by many licensed owners and
trainers. Anyone who looks in the eye of one of these abandoned and abused
horses and is not affected by what they see should not be considered a horseman.
The individuals participating in this pipeline are doing the horses and the
industry a huge disservice.
An owner, a trainer and an assistant trainer proved to me last week that there
are enough good horsemen left to make a difference.
If every racetrack would adopt a policy and procedure to help horsemen handle
“unwanted” horses they would be supporting the kind of horsemen needed to secure
the future of our sport. If every track would adopt zero-tolerance for shedrow
to slaughter practices they would be moving towards eliminating the participants
that do not belong in our industry.
Any person who doubts the need for a unified movement needs to visit a public
auction where kill buyers flourish and witness the horror from beginning to end.