Congaree King, Killed After Walking Off

As you’ve probably noticed, I am now regularly reporting all Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses vanned off American tracks after actual races (training accidents are closely guarded secrets). One pro-racing reader took umbrage at the implication, arguing that not every horse who is vanned off is destroyed. While technically true, in an industry that does all it can to squelch ugliness, calling for the ambulance in full public view is an option of last resort, typically reserved for horses in distress. Fragile from the start, a racehorse unable to walk back to the barn is a bad omen.

In any event, it is equally true that catching a ride with the paramedics is not a prerequisite for euthanasia. A recent case in point, courtesy of the sadly unique NYS database:

5-year-old Congaree King ran the 4th race at Finger Lakes last Tuesday, finishing 8th (out of 9). The chart notes were unremarkable: “broke sluggishly, lagged back four wide on the turn and tired.” That’s it. Now, he is dead. The database: “appeared lame after race-x-rays next day revealed Fx LF leg.” This is the 34th kill of the year at Finger Lakes.

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  1. It is cheaper and quicker to kill than to treat any of these horses. They are not “worth much” in the business. As I’ve said before the horse is a disposable commodity and especially at that level of the business. Well, he can’t suffer anymore or be injected/blocked and given drugs in order to squeeze a few more dollars out of him.

  2. I am also aware from personal experience that frequently the trailer is REFUSED by trainers as they want their horse to make it back to the stall because then they can do whatever they want with the horse. When vanned off, the racing commission vet or racetrack vet is there to recommend and perform euthanization which gets in the way of selling the injured horse to slaughter. By refusing the “horse ambulance” a fancy name at most tracks for a horse trailer painted white, they can simply tell whoever asks that the horse sold to the kill buyer is “rehabbing”.

    • Jo Anne, thank you for your post. I didn’t know that trainers refused the ambulance as a way to squeeze the last dollar from the horse. I have said this repeatedly but I’m going to say it again. Racing is a corrupt and sinister industry and I pray for the day that this so called “sport” is shut down. I know a lot of people will be out of work if that happens, but I can’t justify the way the majority of the horses are treated. Anyone who puts up with an industry where slaughter and drugs are part of the culture becomes part of the problem. Yes, racing enthusiasts, you are part of the problem!

  3. And yes, that is surely squeezing the last dollar out of the unfortunate victim. Nice clean “sport”, right ?

  4. Ok I believe I am the “Pro-Racing Reader” of note and i made the statement “I have been around racing for 34 years and have never seen a horse walk back and be euthanized”. I stand by that statement,doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. “I” have never seen it. I am sure people on here will hate me,call me names, but one thing you will get out of me is the truth. Not the “Way I see it”, the way it is. If I am wrong I will say i am wrong. Once made the comment they took my post down. Honestly I thought they did,could not find it. After a while i did find it, I was wrong. Sorry. In response: Rose not only is it very expensive to operate or rehab horses with certain injuries, the horses don’t heal well (not the greatest way to explain that). They are 1000lb animals on 4 legs. So while one leg is healing they put the their weight on the other limbs. Then usually the other side will end up with a major problem.Founder,laminitis just a few. Point in case Barbaro. His broke leg was healing his off side got so bad he had to be put down. Also they will not take it easy on them selves. Jo Anne I am not sure what track you go to but any i have been to there is NO van refusal. The trainer has zero say in the matter.PERIOD. Also state vets don’t “Recommend” euthanasia.(I don’t think euthanization is a word) They preform the duty.Again you have zero say in the matter. They don’t haul them off and do it, it is done before loading. Again my reason for coming on here is that there ARE reputable people in this business, there are a lot of scumbag too. No matter what the reputable people will get lumped in with the others. There are people that love their animals,they don’t drug them, they don’t block them, and if some thing goes wrong they try their best to do what is right for the horse. Hard to believe but true…

    • Another Country, the problem is the “reputable people” in the business are hopelessly outnumbered by those who treat the horse as a disposable commodity. Just recently a very well known trainer made an unfortunate and telling remark when his horse, Silver Max, won the Shadwell Mile and beat Wise Dan. He said: ” In the beginning we threw him to the wolves”. He may have let the remark slip in the excitement of the moment, or else he sees nothing wrong in throwing a young horse of 2 and 3yrs of age to the wolves. And there are horrific stories in the claiming game and I think you must know that. Further, you must know about the nurse mares and the fate of their foals ; the shilling at the sales and the steroids given to young horses in preparing for the sales… goes on and on.
      Basically, the business is all about money at the expense of the horse, period.

      • I agree Rose on mostly everything you just said. They do get over whelmed by the scumbags. I have seen trainers say “So and So has a horse in this race do not kill my horse chasing him” They knew that trainer “Has the Juice” and you can only hurt your horse trying to beat them. For the sales “Wow” do not buy a 2yo in training. As i have said before i have been here 34 years and “I” have no clue what they give some of those horses. Have seen numerous horses ,high dollar horses get on the van to there new home and 3 hours later had to be all but carried off the trailer. Have no love for them,but there may be some that do it they right way. I did not hear anything on Silver Max, but I see he only ran 1 claiming race and that was his first start. You can not take every thing people say literally. I guess he meant the claiming ranks as “The Wolves”. Not a lot of “Wolves” will spend 50k on a first time starter. As for now I would bet that horse is being better taken care of then we are. His stall is immaculate, he stand in fours, and pampered by a very good groom..

  5. Patrick Battuello thank you for changing your vocabulary on some of these posts. If they break down by all means say it. This horse or question Congaree King. i don’t know him never been to Finger Lakes and know none of the connections. One thing I can do is read between the lines a little. Tell me if I am wrong. This was his first start, tragic. His first start comes late in his “5yo” season.Unusual to say the least. He was not one of the horses “rushed” to the races. His works were not really one on top the other. I have seen horses work 3 times a week. Only one published work out the gate,which tells me he had a gate card before. So he was in training before and someone stopped on him. Most of the time the reason for that is soundness issues. Sometimes they are just too slow for the trainer that has them. Trainer of record has had 34 starts in 3 years and only start for the owners this year. Not what you call a major stable. The breeder sold out about the same time the works (that I have) started showing up. My guess and ONLY A GUESS. He trained as a younger horse had an injury and more then likely not much horse. Given maybe years off and the break was part of the old injury. Probably the same injury. Most likely should have never been put back into training. Again only a guess,i could be 100% wrong…

  6. “Another Country”, call you names? That is childish and not the purpose of this blog. You want credibility yet hide your identity. Why would you do that if you are one of the reputable people in racing and your horses race drug free which means no Salix either? We could follow your horses as they race and see that you are indeed “reputable”. We could see if your name is on the WHOA website and who else you work with to pass the SAFE Act and the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act.

    You state that “reputable people will get lumped in with the others” who you call “scumbags” so it seems you are doing some name calling. Why have the “reputable” people not succeeded in getting rid of the “scumbags”??? The reason for that is simple. Reputable people are so outnumbered that in FORTY YEARS of Congressional hearings on drugs in racing and the welfare of the Thoroughbred racehorse, racing still remains a 40 billlion dollar a year gambling entity with NO central oversight. All of Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa and Australia BAN drugs on race day and spot check for drugs during training. Repeat violators are banned for LIFE. Here violators get nominated to the Hall of Fame or for racing’s highest annual honor The Eclipse Award. I think FORTY years proves the “reputable” people are ineffective and we are tired of the horses paying the price with their injuries and their lives and jockeys too yet they had a CHOICE.

    With reference to your belief that all injuries are useless to repair surgically, I would ask what is your specific experience and where is your data on this? I have mine. As the founder and executive director of CANTER MI, I supervised the intake of over 100 horses each year into our MI rescue. Our rescue spent over $50,000 a year on surgeries to make injured horses capable of moving into a new career. If owners and trainers would not race horses with injections into fractured joints and with legal and illegal pain killers, the vast majority of those surgeries would not have been needed saving those that provide the rescue of your racehorses a lot of money! With reference to horses leaving the racetrack that are later euthanized, the reality with our rescue was that 30% of the horses that came into our program for the years I was involved were so badly injured the orthopedic surgeon labeled them “unsalvageable” and they were euthanized. This information I even provided as an exhibit to a Congressional hearing after Eight Belles died in 2008. The majority of these horses that we had to euthanize made it back to their stalls without an ambulance yet they were “unsalvageable”. I personally know that at Detroit Race Course and Great Lakes Downs the trailer would NOT be used if the trainer refused it.

    Your statement: “They don’t haul them off and do it, it is done before loading.” is absolutely incorrect. Horses are only euthanized on the track if the injury is so severe that it is “unsalvageable” to use a veterinarian’s word. Otherwise, they are vanned back to their shedrows where the owner and trainer can have a better evaluation done that might include x-rays and ultrasound before the veterinarian DOES give you, a lay person, their recommendation and indeed it is sometimes that the horse is “unsalvageable”. Granted, at racetracks the role of veterinarian and trainer are reversed and trainers routinely tell the veterinarians what drugs to give and what they want them to do and the vets take their orders and do it but “reputable” trainers and owners will ask for advice from the veterinarian on what their options are. Yes, they can choose to not euthanize a horse and so it waits in pain in its stall, meat on the hoof with people willing to pay a few hundred in cash to take the offending injured horse away quickly.

    Apparently, you have never had a horse breakdown or stop in a race so you do not have direct experience with what conversations take place. I have. One of our horses was pulled up in a race. The jockey dismounted. The horse was standing on all four legs and appeared fine yet the horse trailer painted white (with no Kimze splint and no slings to keep an injured horse stable because a displaced fracture can mean life or death) picked him up and brought him to our shedrow. Both the racing commission veterinarian and our private track veterinarian followed the van and met us there. On examination, I was told by both of these veterinarians that he needed to be euthanized. THEY made the decision. I was insisting I would spend any amount of money to repair his fracture but they insisted that he needed to be euthanized. They were the experts and they were correct and I was wrong. The horse still on the trailer was vanned to the “acres of death” behind the shedrows where horses were taken to be euthanized. Depending on the weather, the bodies would remain there until a rendering company using a closed large rig would come to pick them up. They preferred not to come for one horse.

    You say we may find it hard to believe that there are “people that love their horses” but I agree with you because I was one but I would suggest you read my book Saving Baby – How One Woman’s Love for a Racehorse Led to Her Redemption because it is nonfiction and I lived it. I come to this knowledge with over 20 years of involvement with Thoroughbred racing both as an elected member of the MI HBPA and MI TOBA board of directors when we were actively breeding and racing, as the founder of CANTER, and now as an author, lecturer and consultant and as the co-founder of Saving Baby Equine Charity. In addition, you can read about other horses in the Shedrow Secrets section of this blog which were written by myself and Joy Aten. The horses are not anonymous. They are identified. The truth is the truth.

    • First of all I do not want my name out there because I don’t want the attention,slander or ridicule of being one of the only people on here to be “PRo-Racing”. Again I DO NOT personally train nor own any horses. If I did I would not come on here claiming to be reputable, that would be simply patting myself on the back. Nothing worse then a person telling everyone how great they are. If I am that great I don’t need to tell you ,you should already know.
      Why have the reputable people not been able to get rid of the scumbags in any other business, the government, or even other horse businesses? ie: most of the so called rescues. Why hasn’t canter been able to weed them out? My opinion there are too many and when one goes another takes it’s place. Just try to go and get an honest mechanic if you get stuck while traveling.
      You would be wrong when implying that I have never had direct contact when horses break down and hear what is said by vets and trainers. I worked the starting gate for years and on dozens of case would be the first one on the scene. Every state vet I have worked with doesn’t ask any questions they start drawing up the needles. Most of the time I say about 90% the trainer won’t even set foot on the track, they stay up in the box. There has been many times when a horse would be “Salvageable” that we couldn’t even get the groom to show up.
      If the state vet sends the horse back to the barn they must think that the horse has a legit chance.You have me confused,you want them saved or not? If sent back you talk about meat on the hoof.You say my statement is incorrect. Then you back up my statement saying only horses that are deemed “salvageable” are sent back. The ones not salvageable are put to sleep on the track.I have held many of them.Would you want them to destroy salvageable horses?? You are talking in circles. I am sure I do the same. I would hope you know we are both passionate about this issue.
      I have had very little experience with Canter but have seen them walk around taking picture many times, the young ladies always seem overly nice. Now I know what they really think of the trainers that they are smiling and joking with and the tracks that let them come around do there business and in some cases donate to Canter .Seems like they may be a little deceptive as well. I think they do a needed service but if they think so badly of the people they work with they need to come out and say it and maybe send a letter to the tracks to inform them how horrible they are.
      Maybe some other people should not be so free with their personal information….

    • Jo anne one thing I have not been able to find in all my research is the name of the horse that was vanned back and euthanized. I have looked on equibase for any owners with your last name and zero have come up. What would the name of the horse that inspired this “Nonfiction” book????

  7. another country … first: why do you bother to post here at all ? I do not get you! You are obviously thinking it is fine to USE horses as sport instruments and then euthanize them when they are done. So, additionally you basically state horses do not heal easily (what IS right as I know from my own experiences) … if you do the math propberly, then … why do you support horse racing? Did you EVER look closely at what goes on? Did you ever bother to go deeper into Jo Anne’s live and all her experiences nationwide? So, please, quit coming here, and I will quit wasting my energy and time on you (by the way, in case you detect any grammatical errors in MY post: I AM from another country, not a native English speaker, so do not bothet to point this out). Enough said, I have to go outside and take care of my OTTB that still suffers from what happened to her as a 2 year old (she is 16 by now) …

  8. Susanne, I understand your frustration with “Another Country”, but I would encourage him to stay and maybe learn a few things…yet, that being said, I have also come to realize that those in the racing industry who continue to defend it simply hold a different value system than those of us that abhor the abuse doled out on a daily basis to their “athletes”. No amount of education, no stating of facts we’ve compiled of the abuses, no telling the true accounts of the horses injured, killed, sold for meat matching prices to rescues, or sold to slaughter will change what these folks do or say…they SIMPLY do not value the horse for what it IS – a living, breathing, sentient creature. Our work is to educate the public that is unaware of the abuse. Just as I, for years, saw only what was televised, there are scores of people that just don’t know the horrors. They don’t know about the small tracks with the cheap races, and the horses that labor there. They are unaware that the majority of the races ARE these low-level claiming races, run by sore horses with existing injuries…horses that were stakes winners, and horses that have always been just “cheap horses” (words uttered by a well-known owner). THEY are the target audience, and in that audience, there will be those that, also, share a deep appreciation and respect for the Thoroughbreds forced into this billion-dollar industry. The public is becoming aware, and with social media, the racing industry is finding it increasingly difficult to sweep the injuries and deaths and abuses under the rug. Abusers hate the spotlight, and the spotlight of scrutiny we shine on them and their deeds make them squirm and scramble for excuses.

    I find it incredible that Another Country has been in the industry for over 30 years and has NEVER “seen” an [injured] horse walk back and be euthanized (and I’ll go out on a limb here and assume he didn’t mean “seen” literally…but rather, that he has never KNOWN about such an incident). That is truly incredible, given that I could only tolerate my involvement in racing for just under 10 years and found this to be commonplace! Not only that, but I was aware of horses entered with existing injuries that still raced (even though the RC and the state vet were notified prior to the race) and after that last race came into the rescue with the injury irreparable and not compatible with a pain-free life…and the horse was euthanized. I guess it is certainly possible (he’s never known about such an occurrence), given that I drive my car every day yet have never seen a drunk driver kill another driver, something that takes place approximately every 52 minutes. But it does take place, regardless of if I have witnessed it or not…and the same is true of the injury, death and abuse of the TB racehorse – it takes place every day whether Another Country has seen it or not.

    Lastly, it does raise red flags when someone hides behind an “alias”. It is almost humorous that Another Country doesn’t want to use his real name out of fear of attention, slander, or ridicule. Really?…if he said his name was Richard Johnson, I would say the same things to Richard Johnson as I would to Another Country! If he wants to claim stating only truths, we do the same! No need to hide behind some name other than our own. Why in the HELL would we make this stuff up?!? And fear of ridicule?…what does he think we are going to do?…hunt him down? No, too busy with our own lives and trying to make things better for those without a voice.

    So Susanne, no worries…maybe something will sink in and touch a nerve when Another Country comes here to read the truth.

  9. Ok you got me, you knew the whole time. My name is Richard Johnson. Is that all you needed. Does that make me credible now?? <<<–That is a Lie. I could have easily gave a fake name but I rather not. I understand people don't like what I am writing, but if you have noticed I am not staunchly defending,race track, trainers,owners ,or vets. Within that group i make a living. So my livelihood could be a stake for simply speaking my mind. So I did not give a false name, I gave a name everyone would know is an alias.

    You can think I am heartless or have a different value system if you like. What you don't know about me will fill a book. I am not saying everything is A OK or what is posted here are all lies. I know things happen at tracks that should not be happening. I also know it is not limited to race tracks. Now I am sure there will be people denying what I am going to write because they think "These People" are better then race trackers. The same things are going on with eventers, show jumpers, show hunters and even the show ponies. Do you think those horses are not tapped, drugged and simply vetted the hell out of. I am sure there will be doubters to this but i have also seen the these elegant rigs pull in to the 'Race Track" clinics filled with show horses. They are not coming there to get coggins drawn. They are there because they are race track vets that have shall I say different specialties. Not that their regular vets are above doing what ever needs to be done. Also I figure track clinics may be less expensive. Even worse a couple of years ago there was a big 6 horse head to head that would pull up to one of the clinics seemed like twice a month filled with 13-14 hand show ponies and would literally be there for hours. The cutest little ponies you have ever seen. They would go in 2 at a time and the others would stay in the trailer patient as could be for what seemed like half the day. They didn't paw, didn't holler just waited their turn. Now I may be dumb but I aint all dumb, why would these very expensive show ponies spend all day in a track clinic??? This is what is known as "Routine maintenance". In other words they get tapped whether they need it or not. You say "they wouldn't do that" look at it this way, people have a $300k eventer going into Rolex(yes i know what Rolex is) he has been training and preforming almost everyday. Training that would kill a regular race horse. Now he come up a little off. Do they just skip Rolex, because they are a better class of people or do they go into those joints??? Please take a minute and think about the answer to that one.
    These are not my number i had someone more familiar with the sport look it up. Fairhill International CCI two star and three star 3 day event. 126 horses started the event and 69 finished. What a great day at the races!!! I am not going to sit here and say they all "Broke Down", I am sure there were some. They don't have equibase comments. There lingo is "Retired on Course". Could be soundness issues, horse or rider could be in over their heads,(I would think falls into that pushing a horse past their limits),I am sure some fell, some went off course and some refuse. Yes refuse,don't want to,why are you making me.
    Why are these stats not talked about or scrutinized?? I am assured they do some "Spot Checking" for drugs (If you tell me different I have no argument) if so I am sure someone somewhere came up with a positive. I don't see that being discussed. Do they not make that info public say like TB racing???

    I am not saying it is happening here so it is ok there. I feel it is wrong on both ends but these sites are targeted on thoroughbred racing..
    Please think hard about denying what i have posted because like it or not their training regiment for these horses is 10 times as hard as Tb race horses. Do you not think they come up with the same if not worse injuries????

    • And to POLO I will go. The real “Sport of kings”. Admittedly I know little about polo. Everything I do know is BAD. Polo ponies (not horses ponies) are shipped to and fro in,what seem to be 18 horse slant load trailers. I know you guys hate the way horses are shipped. For some reason they need an awful lot of horses to play a match. I know the reason, they break down OH sorry “van off” a bunch of ponies. You have small framed horses carrying huge guys, purposely running them in to each other, spurring them (Check out Prince Harry cutting in to the side meat of the one) Oh no spurs in horse racing, turning them on a dime,running them ragged in the hottest weather possible (there is NO cold weather polo) and swinging a “Mallet” all around them. Yeah lets skip polo and tell the world how bad Thoroughbred racing is….

      Lets not forget the 21 dead after being injected with “cleaning fluid”!!! So please tell me they give a damn what the put into the veins of these animals. Please tell me these horses aren’t “Hopped Up” 7 days a week.

      Polo goes through an ALARMING amount of horses/ponies. Don’t think their retirement plan is real good. I don’t know anyone with a retired polo pony. Never even heard of such a thing.I am sure they are out there somewhere.???

      I figure everyone thinks I am trying to shift the blame. No I am just asking why Thoroughbred racing is being singled out???

  10. why waste more time on Another Country ? Better things to do , some people just don’t want to learn …

  11. MAN I am really happy someone acknowledged my RANTS. I was getting ready to get into rodeos and those damn walking horses. Patrick if it is all indefensible, why are so many people attacking horse racing and so few eventing or polo?? I have heard so many times from people commenting in here how they will never watch another horse race, but I feel SOME of those same people have passes for Rolex or the other major events in the country. There is actually a CANTER high point award at ROLEX. So these horses are getting saved from racing and praised for 3 day eventing??? REALLY?!? Do people really think those horses aren’t treated the same as track horses?? Do they not know the training regiment of those horses?? Do they think those horses don’t get sore?? Don’t get tapped and don’t get treated?? Well I am sure they have a Grand Ball and a Champagne Brunch so I know they would not do that. Now who wants to say “I” am heartless or “I” have a different value system??? You really should not throw stones from your glass houses…

  12. You know Patrick I believe YOU, but I feel this is going to hit some others where they roam. Like the hospitality tents at these major 3 day events. Lets see how many of them or people in their organizations are hob-nobbling at the Breeders Cup this weekend. Attending the black tie affairs and other festivities. Then they will tells us how horrible race trackers are….

  13. Another Country, all your experience and all that research and you don’t know that people also own and breed racehorses under corporate names?
    Since you care about the horses, you will be pleased to know that your purchase of Saving Baby will help fund Saving Baby Equine Charity (no one takes a salary and I resigned from CANTER over 7 years ago) and my memoir will also provide you with our corporate racing name and the names of the horses we bred and raced.

  14. I am friends with the trainer of this horse, Congaree King, and I saw him about a week before the horse’s first start. I can tell you that his horses are well taken care of. Most of the time, he is training one or two horses. Three at the most. He buys beautiful hay and alfalfa, and their stalls are bedded well. I will ask him when I next see him what the nature of this fracture was. The horse was a homebred and the owner may in fact have wanted to save the horse and was advised against it, for whatever reason. Horses have a more complicated healing process than we do, obviously. I can tell you that this is not a horse who just fell through the cracks and they needed the stall empty to bring in another one. I’m guessing that the decision was not an easy one to make. But when I know more details, I can surely follow up!

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