Turfway Park opened its “Holiday Meet” yesterday – with a kill. (The loathsome Paulick Report titled its post on the death, “Fatal Injury Mars Opening Night Of Tapeta Era At Turfway Park.”) Dream High, three, broke down in the 2nd – according to Kentucky’s equine medical director, Bruce Howard, “it was an open fracture and very serious.” “Very serious,” huh? Dream High was under the whip for the fourth time.
The Tragedy of Broodmares
by Mary Johnson
Where do all the broodmares go when their productive days are over? To bucolic pastures in the Kentucky Bluegrass? Don’t bet on it. We often hear the word “aftercare” emanating from the mouths of the racing apologists as they try to peddle the belief that the industry cares about its horses and will provide for them at the end of their “careers.” Of course, those of us who have been in the trenches know that this is just a fallacy propagated by a gambling industry based on the exploitation of the Thoroughbred racehorse. Day after day, week after week, and month after month, we see the TBs who are crammed into kill pens begging for their lives, their bodies battered and bruised. Truth is, the horses who are visible are actually the lucky ones, because most go direct to kill, quietly disappearing into the underground slaughter pipeline…never to be seen or heard from again.
For the last year or so, I have been contemplating writing a Shedrow Secrets story about a particular group of vulnerable horses who, once “retired” from the track, are relegated to the dark, shadowy corners of the sinister world of horseracing – the broodmares. Here are the stories of four.
OUR MIMS – Our Mims is a mare who is well known to those familiar with racing. She was foaled 3/8/74 at Calumet Farm and was a multiple-graded-stakes winner who “earned” over $368,000, a remarkable sum for the 1970s. In August ’78, OM fractured her RF cannon bone and was retired to the broodmare band at Calumet, where she produced eleven foals over the years. When Calumet went into bankruptcy, she was sold through a dispersal sale at Keeneland in November ’90. Years later, OM was discovered abandoned and forgotten in a cattle field by Jeanne Mirabito. Ms. Mirabito, who had fallen in love with Our Mims as a teenager, went on to provide her with a wonderful home until Our Mims’ death in 2003.
JUEL DELITE – Juel Delite was foaled in Canada on 4/15/10. She never raced, but instead was relegated to the breeding shed, producing three foals by the age of seven. When Juel was deemed barren in March ’18, her owners dumped her at a local riding camp and within a month of her post-pregnancy check, she moved through Unadilla – a NY auction – and eventually landed in the most notorious horsemeat holding hub in the northeast – Bruce Rotz’s Pennsylvania Kill Pen. When Juel was discovered on April 15 (her eighth birthday), she was guarding what was left of her wasted body…trapped in a kill pen, thick with overcrowding.
As Juel’s deadline to ship to slaughter loomed, Susan Kayne, who runs a rescue in upstate NY, requested and received funds from her supporters. In a twist of fate, Juel was stabled across the street from Bill Barone’s Sunny Crest Farm, the same farm where she raised two of her three foals. As she looked out from her stall window, one wonders what memories of those vanished days lived in her mind.
It is unclear if Barone, owner of Sunny Crest, donated toward Juel’s “save.” At one point he agreed to chip in $100, but it is unclear if he ended up doing so. He told Ms. Kayne he had spent $4,000 trying to get Juel in foal and when he couldn’t, he gave her away. The systemic apathy is astounding but not surprising, as this same scenario plays out regularly. Juel was eventually rehabbed, her dignity was restored, and she was adopted and is doing remarkably well. She is now awakening to the grace of a new life and is loved for who she is…not for what profits she can generate.
SINGASONG – The story of Singasong is extremely hard for me to write and her saga still brings tears to my eyes. SAS was foaled at Marablue Farm in Ocala, Florida, on 2/4/03 and was sold for $60,000 through Keeneland as a yearling. Her sire was Songandaprayer, winner of almost $400,000, and her dam was Ribbony (more about her later). Her grandsire was Unbridled’s Song who won the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 1995. SAS raced at five different tracks for various owners and trainers, winning a paltry $20,000 before being “retired” and sent to the breeding shed.
SAS produced nine foals that we know of, including a 2020 filly born on March 10 for her last owner, James Canada…the SAME owner for whom she produced four other foals and the SAME owner who allowed her to walk her sick, skinny body into the livestock auction in Cleburne, Texas, where Canada KNEW she would most likely be purchased by a kill buyer and sold for meat. Remember, too, that she had just had a foal weaned from her a month or so prior. Although funds were raised for her “save” (by Susan Kayne and her supporters), no one could protect her from the sickness she contracted while in the slaughter pipeline.
James Canada’s response: “She wasn’t producing what I wanted so I took her to the Cleburne auction” – where, I repeat, he KNEW kill buyers would be present. When informed Singasong had been tagged and sorted for slaughter, Canada said, “Well, I’m sorry to hear that.” Canada did not contribute ANY funds to help her, and on the very day she was saved, the Texas Thoroughbred Association was welcoming Canada and his wife, Reeta, back into their ranks with a “special” Facebook post. Beyond repulsive.
Funds were raised and Singasong left Texas and arrived at quarantine on October 14. Within a day or two, her condition worsened and she began bleeding from both nostrils. On October 17, she was sent to NC State for evaluation: “Singasong had evidence of endotoxemia and marked dehydration, secondary to advanced pleuropneumonia. Due to the extensive lung damage detected on ultrasound, signs of sepsis, and a poor prognosis for life, humane euthanasia was elected.”
SAS was euthanized on October 19. The necropsy report says: “Findings revealed severe, subacute, regionally extensive fibrinosuppurative pleuropneumonia with regionally extensive pleural fibrosis, and moderate, multifocal fibrinous pleuritis with moderate serosanguinois effusion. We are sorry for your loss. She was a lovely mare.”
Singasong gave her life to the racing industry…bred, raced and dumped by those who supposedly loved her like “family.” As I’ve said before, when you use an animal FOR profit, you OWE that animal something in return. It has nothing to do with being a hero. It has to do with being a decent human being, something an industry that uses them up and spits them out is sorely lacking.
I think it is important to mention Ribbony, the dam of Singasong. Ribbony is a half sister to four stakes horses, including Risen Star, winner of both the Preakness and Belmont. Ribbony had seven foals and was run through five public auctions. She sold at the Keeneland November ’99 sale for $300,000. In January ’06, she was purchased by Clark Brewster, a “hot shot” attorney who has been mentioned on this site before. Instead of retiring her to his big, green pastures, he sold her at the ’08 Heritage Place sale in Oklahoma, where she fetched $800. She hasn’t been heard from since.
NANNY GOAT – I have a personal interest in discarded broodmares because I have one. Her name is Nanny Goat. In October ’17, a former industry contact reached out to me about a 17-year-old broodmare owned by his father. Nanny could get into foal but couldn’t carry to full term so now it was time to unload her. She had moved through multiple auctions after her brief, unsuccessful racing career. But three years in a row her reserve was not met and she was a three-time “no sale” at the Keeneland January Sale. Finally, at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Sale, she was purchased for $2,000. Her exploitation as a broodmare would continue for another two and a half years.
Nanny had eight foals, the best being Erasmo’s Dream who won $156,000. After being exploited in the breeding shed over many years, she was “done”; used up and unable to carry a foal, it was time to “unload” her. Rose Smith and I worked feverishly to place her, contacting multiple rescues, including Equine Advocates, Lucky Orphans, and Our Mims. All were full with waiting lists, (one was two years out). Finding a horse a safe place to land is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. In December ’17, Rose and I finally found an Ohio rescue that agreed to take Nanny. Within a year and a half, Nanny was once again “at risk” as the rescue was closing and the president suggested Nanny be euthanized because she was losing weight and wasn’t “thriving.” Nanny wasn’t thriving for one simple reason…she wasn’t being adequately fed. In late July ’19, I was fed up with the ineptitude. I stepped up for Nanny and two other underweight horses, and the president signed all three over to me.
Nanny Goat’s days of exploitation are over. She is at peace with me, happy in her little herd where nothing is expected of her and she is no longer being forced into the servitude of the breeding industry. She is almost 21 now and is enjoying the best time of her life. I wish all horses were as fortunate.
The stories of these broodmares needed to be told. Unfortunately, there are thousands more just like them. Those who do not meet the expectations of owners are the most vulnerable for going to slaughter. No safeguard for their protection is mandated or funded by the racing industry. The Program Director for the largest TB transitioning program in the country once told me that “all horses need a job even if that job is being a low level broodmare.” How prophetic her words were as she capitulates to an industry that breeds, breeds, breeds, then dumps, dumps, dumps.
Over this past weekend, four more mares were spotted in Bruce Rotz’s kill pen: Special Skippy, Doitforbob, Himmah, and Cupola. Funds are being raised (two are safe) but my question is why do they need to be saved by those not involved with racing? Why didn’t their connections provide for them when these mares were brought onto this earth? Why wasn’t a certain amount of money set aside to be used for retirement when their productive days were over? Every single person who profited from their labors is responsible for their long term welfare. EVERY…SINGLE…ONE.
The website for “The Steeplechase at Callaway Gardens” in Pine Mountain, Georgia, boasted the following in advance of this year’s running on November 7: “Each November, magnificent champion thoroughbred horses gather on the Callaway grounds to charge through our stunning woodland setting. Thrilling jumps and deft maneuvers will leave you breathless, while the foxhound parade will put a smile on your face. On Saturday, savor a picnic on the infield, show off a traditional race hat, and soak in the festive hunt club atmosphere.”
In this “festive atmosphere,” says the Stewards’ Report, two of those “magnificent champion thoroughbred horses” were killed. Killed. In the 4th race, Zanzi Win, five, “fell at the next to last hurdle, was not able to get up, and was euthanized on the course.” Very next race, Just a Whim, four, “fell at the last fence, did not get up and was euthanized on the course.” Two dead horses right there on the course in back to back races. Still, the stewards closed with this:
“The race committee is to be congratulated on their efforts to put on the race meet and putting in place all the procedures and safeguards to enable patrons to attend in a safe environment. The turf on the racecourse was in excellent condition and the clerk of the course is to be congratulated on providing lush turf.”
As to those “patrons” – why were they even there in the midst of a raging pandemic? – let me just say this: Shaming, the experts admonish, is an ineffective way to modify other people’s behavior. Worse, we’re told, it likely deepens divides, more firmly entrenching positions. But sorry, with the wicked steeplechase I can think of no other word but shame. If you’ve never been but are considering, there’s no excuse: information on steeplechase cruelty is readily available. If you have, you know first hand that horses fall and are injured regularly at these events – in addition to the two dead, six other horses went down at Callaway, one colliding with Zanzi – and you must know that some die (as mentioned, the two above were euthanized where they lay). Which means you consciously prioritize your own fleeting pleasure over the suffering and death of other sentient beings. For shame. For shame.
Another American racetrack has closed its doors for good. Gulfstream Park West, formerly known as Calder Race Course, ran its final race Saturday. How we got here is, regarding the industry at large, quite instructive.
Calder opened on May 6, 1971, to a capacity crowd of over 16,000. Over the years, those crowds, like the ones at the vast majority of U.S. tracks, waned. In 1999, Churchill Downs Inc. purchased Calder; in 2010, Churchill introduced casino gaming, making the track a racino (which, as we know, is designed to subsidize the horseracing). As part of its (casino) licensing, Churchill was required to run at least 40 days of racing. But as the years passed, Churchill (as it has at many of its other properties) grew less and less interested in racing. The money, after all, was in the slots, and for Churchill, a publicly traded company, profits are all that matter.
So, in 2014, Churchill leased Calder to the Stronach Group, owner of nearby Gulfstream Park, and the track was rechristened Gulfstream West. In a move that underscored how little Churchill cared about the horseracing there, in 2015 the grandstand was razed – i.e., no fans allowed. Still, it appeared that Churchill was stuck with this arrangement. Until, that is, the company found a loophole in state law.
In order to maintain its gaming license, Churchill had to offer parimutuel gambling, with the most prominent form being, of course, horseracing. But, it turns out, jai alai would do, and Churchill went about building a fronton (a jai alai arena) in the hope of supplanting horseracing. Eventually, Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (and various state courts) decided jai alai would indeed suffice, rendering racing unnecessary. And so here we are. While true that Gulfstream will absorb some of the Calder dates, not all will be made up. In the big picture, another racetrack has been shuttered. (Florida will be left with but two Thoroughbred tracks, Gulfstream and Tampa Bay Downs.) And that’s progress.
Truth is, Churchill is not alone: There are many track owners across this land who would be more than happy to rid themselves of costly, dirty, and, increasingly, embarrassing (negative coverage, dead horses) horseracing. But they can’t and still retain their gaming licenses. That’s because the “horsemen” lobby is strong and have the politicos’ ears. Recently, though, that has begun to change (see Governor Wolf in Pennsylvania). Would that that trend continues and this corporate welfare propping up a cruel, declining industry gets redirected where it belongs – education, infrastructure, property-tax relief, etc. For now, we savor another victory.
Last week on U.S. flat tracks (racing only).
“Vanned Off”: horse required an ambulance to get off the track; while not all the “vanned” end up dead, most do, as borne out by my FOIA reports
“Bled”: typically indicates pulmonary hemorrhage
Im a Patriot “fell, vanned off” at Mountaineer
Skylight “vanned off” at Parx
Bearing Secrets “vanned off” at Parx
Uncle Jessie “vanned off” at Charles Town
Atthepearlygates “eased up while bleeding badly” at Penn
That L D K Is Mine “vanned off” at Penn
Broken Key “vanned off” at Fair Grounds
Andesite “vanned off” at Fair Grounds
Stay Fond “suffered an injury,” dead at Aqueduct
Tied Up “returned in distress, collapsed fatally” at Aqueduct
Night Candy “vanned off” at Churchill
Kaziranga “pulled up in distress, vanned off” at Churchill
Magnolia’s Hope “vanned off” at Del Mar
Velvet Queen “vanned off” at Del Mar
Durango Kid “vanned off” at Hawthorne
Twirling the Gold “vanned off” at Los Alamitos
More Monique “bled, vanned off” at Mahoning
Little Miss Julia “vanned off” at Penn
Aamaal “vanned off” at Penn
Valentine Divine “bled” at Remington
Gianni Provocas “vanned off” at Lone Star
Cat Daddie “vanned off” at Lone Star
Avyator “vanned off” at Lone Star
Suitefivemagic “vanned off” at Remington
Thursday “vanned off,” dead at Aqueduct
Dancin Nicky “vanned off” at Hawthorne
Taco Twosday “vanned off” at Los Alamitos