Monday, June 15, 2009

So let's talk race trainers!

I read the article below from the Daily Racing Form and I thought, what a lucky horse. He DID find the right trainer. How many would have just shipped him to kill? So let's talk! Who is the racing world is vehemently anti-slaughter? For an owner, which trainers can you trust to be honest with you and not to ship your horse to kill while telling you it went to a good home (apparently this happens a LOT and as the owners are often remote, they're none the wiser)?

The assumption is that the owners don't want to pay for other options but the owners tell me that assumption is wrong. They WOULD pay for retraining or rehab. They do NOT want their horse to end its life in a kill pen. Most racehorse owners are at least middle class if not better...they do indeed have the ability to take care of their failed or broken down horses, and some want to but their desires are being ignored. If you've owned racehorses, I'd particularly like to hear from you. And if you've had a bad experience or been lied to, by all means feel free to share!

And how much do MaryLou Whitney and her farm staff rock? I love them!

Endgame often depends on luck

By Jay Hovdey

Just for a moment, let's pretend this is the way it works all the time.

During the summer of 2007, a 6-year-old swaybacked gelding named

Storm Legacy was turned over to trainer Pete Tardy at Penn National,

who was told by the owner, "You don't have to train him. Just board

him." Then, in early 2008, the owner tossed Tardy the keys. "He's

yours if you want him," was the message.

The fact that Storm Legacy was a son of champion sire Storm Cat meant

absolutely squat, since he had already run 42 times and had spent the

last year in the company of $4,000 and $5,000 claimers. Also, he was

dead lame, which explains why his barn nickname was "Ankles."

"If you'd have been in the shape he was in, you wouldn't want to get

out of bed in the morning," Tardy said the other day. "Anybody but

me, he would have been in New Holland. You know what New Holland is,


To anyone who thinks Thoroughbreds deserve a shred of dignity upon

leaving the racing stage, New Holland is definitely wrong. New

Holland, Pa., is the location of a major livestock auction where

buyers for slaughterhouses converge to scoop up horseflesh by the

pound. Whether or not slaughter is still legal in the United States

is beside the point. There is no federal law forbidding purchase and

transport to foreign processors.

So Storm Legacy dodged a bullet, just by waking up in the Tardy barn.

And then Tardy was inspired to give Storm Legacy a try. He worked

like a demon on those ankles, and by springtime the horse was in good

enough shape to go back to the races. He made 13 starts in 2008 for

Tardy and his wife, Donna, and hit the board six times, finally

winning one on Dec. 29.

Along the way, Tardy took a look at the back of Storm Legacy's foal

papers and found an unusual notification.

"It said whenever the horse was no longer raceable, they would like

to give the horse a home," the trainer said. "And there was Marylou

Whitney's phone number."

By April of this year, Storm Legacy had come to the end of the line.

Tardy made the call to the Whitney farm in Lexington, Ky., and a van

was dispatched to Penn National. Storm Legacy, bred by Whitney in

partnership with W.T. Young's Overbrook Farm, was going home.

"When he left here, I took off his nylon halter and put on a leather

halter," Tardy said. "Not a new one, but a real nice one."

It was a simple gesture of respect, and a gracious acknowledgement of

Storm Legacy's heritage. After all, he came into this world as a full

brother to the accomplished mare Catinca, out of a half-sister to the

top-class racehorses Hail Bold King and Metfield, and by a stallion

who had already sired more than 100 stakes winners.

Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, are part of a quiet but

growing movement among enlightened patrons to affix end-use

assurances to official foal papers. Storm Legacy settled right in

with two other geldings in a large paddock at the Whitney spread. And

why not? He didn't have to die to go to heaven.

"We were a little worried how he'd do with the other two, him being

younger and right off the track," said Kim Nelson, the Whitney farm

office manager. "But from the start, they were acting like old pals,

trading stories."

Storm Legacy's new friends are the half-brothers Brave All the Way,

age 14, and Cviano, who is 12. Another half-brother, equipment

intact, is otherwise occupied at Gainesway Farm down the road, where

he serves a full book of mares each year. His name is Birdstone, sire

of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes winner

Summer Bird.

While Storm Legacy was able to avoid the horrors of New Holland and

beyond, Cviano could tell a different tale. Named for the late C.V.

Whitney, Cviano had been lost in a claimer in 2001. Shortly after

Birdstone added the Travers Stakes to his victory over Smarty Jones

in the 2004 Belmont, Cviano was found at New Holland, on his way to

slaughter, by a volunteer with Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue, and steered

to Angel Acres Farm in Pennsylvania. When they found out, Whitney and

Hendrickson were quick to bring Cviano home.

Among the other residents at the Whitney farm is Dear Birdie, the dam

of Birdstone, Cviano and Brave All the Way. She is in foal to Street

Cry, which sounds great on paper, and there is always a chance she'll

produce another Birdstone, or better. Of course, there is just as

good a chance the foal with turn out more like Brave All the Way, who

ran 76 times and won 10 races, or Cviano, who was 4 for 49. Between

them they earned less than $200,000.

"This is about lives we created," said Hendrickson at the time of

Cviano's rescue. "We're responsible for them."

Such sentiments are rare, and yet to be held widely enough to find

widespread institutional support. There are no safety nets, and the

downward pressures on Thoroughbreds are relentless, because of both

economics and health. Even though he never got a whiff of the New

Holland kill pens, Storm Legacy must be considered a very lucky horse

to have stumbled upon the right people at the right time.

"If you ever talk to those folks in Kentucky," added Pete Tardy,

"tell them he absolutely loves those Starlite Mints. When he would

hear that wrapper crackling, he'd come right to the front of the stall."