The Ongoing Abuse of Semper Kurry

On July 26th, 3-year-old Semper Kurry “fell over [a] fallen rival” (DNF) in a race at Gulfstream. Since, the Ralph Ziadie-trained, Lucille Geranis-owned colt has been put to the whip six times (all at Gulfstream or Gulfstream West):

August 16th, 9th of 11, 10+ back
September 1st, 8th of 11, 16+ back
October 30th, 5th of 7, 12+ back
November 19th, 7th of 10, 11+ back
January 1st, “eased,” DNF

…and most recently: February 11th, 10th of 12, 31 lengths back

In all, Semper Kurry has been raced 15 times – all maiden claiming – with 3 DNFs and 10 5th-place or below. What do you suppose the odds are of this horse landing safely?

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  1. The horseracing industry requires a certain number of horses to participate in the races.
    This number cannot be low because of the gambling dollar.
    It also cannot be low for the “image” of racing.
    Therefore the industry goes all out to entice and promote racehorse ownership.
    In my State, $250-$275 “appearance money” is paid to the owner each time a horse competes, even if it comes home last and there are rebates for transport to and from track.
    Governments provide incentive tax benefits to racehorse owners.
    Governments get their slice of the gambling dollar from horseracing.

    My understanding is that (in my State) the horseracing authority has a contract with a betting organisation from which it derives considerable money. One of the conditions is that the racing authority must provide a certain number of meetings with a certain number of races with a certain number of horses each season. Each week averages about 16 meetings with an average of 8 races per meeting with an average of 12 horses in each race for the 52 weeks of the year (it does not stop). So we have on average 1,536 horses each week running around in a circle many of them racing with pre-existing injuries/conditions, ulcers in their stomachs (it is believed that all racehorses suffer this ailment), bleeding (90% of racehorses bleed during a race but only a very very small percentage display evidence of a bleed when blood comes out of its nostrils), dysfunctional feet, not up to the task, sore bodies from training and racing, very tight girths for the jockey’s saddle, far too young to be racing; whilst being beaten mercilessly with whips when seriously fatigued near the winning post, all in the name of gambling and “human entertainment”. The horses are being raced until their bodies are so damaged they need to be disposed of but that’s not a problem because the horses are very swiftly replaced. They are being treated like rubbish – finished with it, just throw it out. What sort of a society are we to allow this to happen.

    Semper Kurry is a classic example of a horse being exploited by this industry and this animal is being forced to race despite the fact that it is clearly struggling. If still a colt and not a gelding at 3 years of age, I suspect they have plans for him to be a sire stallion (am unaware of his breeding) and they will keep pushing him in the hope that he improves and wins some races. When he fell over a fallen horse, Semper Kurry will not have forgotten that incident and he might also be carrying an injury from that fall that may not have been detected e.g. stress fracture, he may have sustained an obvious injury and it was treated, he might’ve been “patched up” to continue. If a horse has had 15 starts with 10 of those starts performing poorly and 3 failed to finish and comes home 31 lens last start then WHY is this horse being permitted by the racing authority and its veterinarians to race??? Ooops I forgot, this industry requires a certain number of horses to participate no matter what shape the horse is in….. UTTERLY SHAMEFUL.

    • Question for Carolyn, Joy, Gina and Mary or whoever knows the answer,

      Thank you Carolyn for sharing this information.
      It is exactly this kind of information along with the stats that Patrick puts on this website that people need to know about.

      MY question is this

      Are All horses tested in All the races they are in?

      I heard on an HRTV special about Dancers Image that Only the top 5 horses in the Kentucky Derby are tested.

      If that is true, it makes no sense to me.

      All horses should be tested since there are 25 medications are now approved by the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) for therapeutic use in race horses


      I am praying for the day that people will come along and have enough money to start lawsuits on behalf of these horses and expose this abuse to the world.

      Speaking of lawsuits.

      Dancers Image was the winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby. He was disqualified 36 hours after the race was won because he had Butte in his system. At that time it was illegal to run with Bute. Aprox 3 years later, it became legal. The horse had been given Bute 6 days before the race because he had some kind of inflammation or problem with his ankles. THey said he had a “trace” of bute in there and later when it went to court they said he had “massive amounts” it was a lie and they had no proof but it held up in court anyway.

      The owner challenged the ruling and went to court. Turns out all the samples had been used and they had nothing to go on except the word of the chemist who was friends with the Vet. the chemist had sent part of the sample to another lab and the other lab could not confirm the bute. the owner spent years in lawsuits. Won several of them. lost the supreme court lawsuit. turns out he had given money to Martin Luther Kings widow after King had died. he actually gave her the winning purse of one of the races and 1968 was a difficult time in race relations so his coming from the east and giving money to her in the South was controversial..

      Only two horses were tested for drugs that day. Because of his lawsuits they started to test the 5 top runners and now they are keeping the samples on record/

      This is from Wikipedia on drugs

      “In the sport of horse racing powerful painkilling drugs may be used on a daily basis, often in combination with several other potent drugs, to enable injured horses to train and race before their injuries are fully healed. When this happens, the logical result is that additional injury can occur, rapidly accelerating the need for ever more powerful drugs to keep a horse racing.

      The widespread use of pharmaceuticals is unique to American racing and many believe it puts racehorses at greater risk of crippling injuries and death. Jockeys are also exposed to far greater risk, as medicated horses are much more likely to suffer catastrophic breakdowns during a race sending horses and riders tumbling. In a series of articles on drugs and racing, The New York Times estimates that approximately 24 horses are killed as a result of injuries incurred during a race each week in America, though the question of how many of these deaths are linked to misuse of medication is undetermined.”

      The issue of legal and illegal drug use in horse racing is again under review by the U.S. Congress[14] with legislation pending before the House of Representatives and the Senate to create uniform pre-race drug rules and penalties applying in all racing states. The Interstate Horse Racing Improvement Act[15] is endorsed by some of the most prominent names in the racing industry and by groups representing the interests of owners, betters, and racehorses.”

      • Kathleen, I cannot answer your question as to what happens in America but I can relate
        my experience here in my State in Australia.
        Every winner is drug tested post race, whether it be city, provincial or country.
        In city, provincial and country race meetings every winner is drug tested post race as well as some random tests on other horses that have competed on the day e.g.
        at a city meet about another 3 horses in each race are tested;
        at a provincial meet about another 7 horses for the whole of the day;
        and at a country meet it varies from 1 to 5 for the whole of the day.

        I once enquired as to why each and every racehorse is not drug tested – the answer I was given was that it would cost too much money. Yet money is very easily found for prime time tv advertising for the big racing carnivals as well as diamond/emerald trophies to be presented to the owners. And the horse doesn’t even so much as get a carrot! (For the whole day the horse is deprived of food [horses are trickle feeders!] – fed when it gets home to its stable in the evening. Water is only offered post race. A horse is fed say 6am and could wait until late in the afternoon before it races. The scientists have proved that a horse can be offered food up until about one and a half hours before the race without having an adverse affect – yet the trainers have this stupid idea that you do not give it any food on raceday [stuck back in the dark ages]. Also, many racehorses are close to dehydration on raceday despite being given some electrolytes).

        My view is that if they did test every horse the results could be problematic for them.

        I recall investigating the death of a racehorse once, it had fractured a bone in one of its fore legs when it was racing in restricted room causing it to be caught between two other horses.
        Quite accidentally some months later I read that the trainer of Black Beauty (the dead horse) had been found guilty of drugging another horse with a banned substance and got a suspended licence for about 9 months. When I investigated the other horse I found it had raced on the same day as its stablemate Black Beauty (they would’ve been beside one another in the tie-up stalls as they were the only two horses the trainer had at that meet). I contacted the racing authority and asked if Black Beauty had been tested and was informed, No. My information is that the authority had suspicions about this trainer and I find it somewhat puzzling that they only tested one of the two horses. Imagine how bad a look it would’ve been if they had’ve also disclosed the name of the dead horse!

        The above post is just my opinion only based on my knowledge, experience, observations and research.

    • This is an excellent article from on drugs in horse racing

      “Finding an American racehorse trained on the traditional hay, oats, and water probably would be impossible,”
      commented one reporter.

      Many racehorses become addicted to drugs when their trainers and veterinarians give them drugs to keep them on the track when they shouldn’t be racing.

      “There are trainers pumping horses full of illegal drugs every day,” says a former Churchill Downs public relations director. “With so much money on the line, people will do anything to make their horses run faster.”

      Which drugs are legal varies from state to state, with Kentucky holding the reputation as the most lenient state.
      The New York Sun explained that because “thoroughbreds are bred for flashy speed and to look good in the sales ring … the animal itself has become more fragile” and that “to keep the horses going,” they’re all given Lasix (which controls bleeding in the lungs), phenylbutazone (an anti-inflammatory), and cortiscosteroids (for pain and inflammation).

      Those drugs, although legal, can also mask pain or make a horse run faster. Labs cannot detect all the illegal drugs out there, of which there “could be thousands,” says the executive director of the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium.
      Morphine, which can keep a horse from feeling any pain from an injury, was suspected in the case of Be My Royal, who won a race while limping.

      Rick Dutrow, the trainer of 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown, openly admits to giving his horses Winstrol, a steroid that is illegal for equine use in 10 states, although not in the three that host the Triple Crown.

      Before it was banned in Pennsylvania, nearly 1,000 horses were tested for steroids and more than 60 percent tested positive.
      Big Brown’s veterinarian concedes that “without steroids, they’d lose some horses that can’t keep up the pace and race every three weeks or every month.”
      Even the most beloved horse in America next to Barbaro, the prolific winning super mare Zenyatta who benefited from sensitive treatment by her connections raced on both Lasix and Bute according to racing programs.

      For the fortunate racehorses who escape the slaughter pipeline, and accepted by an off the track Thoroughbred rehabilitation center, staff report that weening them off the medications routine to racing can take months.

      In cases where horses are also recuperating from sidelining injuries, it is difficult to watch them struggling through withdrawal symptoms from the vicious drugs they were given when they were racing to keep them on the track.”

      • Kathleen, thank you for all of this excellent information and it makes very interesting reading indeed.

      • Carolyn,

        I am sending information to a reporter friend of mine who used to work for a local CBS station and encouraging her to write a story on this. We need to get this story into the Press and keep it there so more people can be educated.

        Do you know if all horses are drug tested for each race or does it vary from State to state. I have not been able to find that out.

      • Carolyn,

        Speaking of interesting stories about race horses.

        THis is a great example of why it is Never okay to hit a horse with a whip.
        It hurts the horse physically and psychologically as you know.


        Saw a special on HRTV on “Inside Information” about Old English rancho farm (been in business for 55 years), where they allowed their race horses to be out in the paddock and let them get stronger by running around. They did not keep them locked up in a stall.

        Acclamation was born in 2006 and owned by a man named Buddy Johnston, who owned the Old ENglish Rancho farm. Johnston was the son of the original owner. Buddy let his race horses run around in the paddock to build strength with other horses.

        Buddy said that When Acclamation was running early in his career Acclamation would “take the lead and then give it up in the last 16th of a mile.” Buddy realized as he watched the tapes that When the jockey would begin to hit him with a whip Acclamation would “lose his action and slow down and lose the lead.”

        Buddy realized that Acclamation did not like the whip and told the jockey that when he hit him Acclamation thought he was being punished and would slow down.

        Buddy took the whip away from the jockey and Acclamation began to win every race.
        He was never hit again.
        He is now retired. He entered stud in 2013

        Acclamation Won 2011 award Eclipse award. (2011 Eclipse Champion Older Male) and the 2011-2012 California Horse of the Year

        Acclamation was a six-time Grade 1 winner
        Acclamation ($1,958,048), is the leading son of five-time leading California sire Unusual Heat.

        Hitting a horse is abuse and this is a great example of an owner who actually realized the damage it was doing and stopped it and his horse went from losing races to winning them with no whip.

      • Kathleen, love the story of Acclamation, thank you.
        My research/data over about 4 years on whipping has only about 4 cases where the trainer/connections have requested that the horse not be whipped by the jockey and in one of these cases the trainer requested that the jockey not be allowed to carry the whip at all. The Stewards agree to these requests. Trainers state that the horse is very sensitive to being whipped. As we all know EVERY HORSE is sensitive to being whipped! Given the fact that these 4 trainers do not have a problem with all their other horses being flogged on raceday, the real reason is that when hit with the whip even once these particular “sensitive” horses literally go beserk and there’s the risk of collision with other horses or running off the track – in other words there’s no chance of the horse winning. I do not believe that the welfare of the horse is a consideration in these cases. Interesting that the jockey that was not allowed to even carry the whip (mean with the whip, could not be trusted not to whip this horse) had no probem riding the horse hands ‘n’ heels and coped without his “precious tool”.
        Below are a couple of cases that I found interesting:
        Top jockey dropped his whip at the 300m in a long distance race 2300m. Devastating for this particular hoop who has a reputation for being vicious with the whip which has been mentioned in the media. 300 metres is a fair way from the finish line for any jockey to lose his precious whip. Just when he was getting ready to get stuck into the horse……. ohhh, nooooo me whip! Other horses were being flogged when all the horses were seriously fatigued especially after travelling 2000m. Well, this horse won without being beaten with the whip!
        This horse that won was not in the market at $16/1 – unlikely to win. Prizemoney $105,000. The horse that came 2nd busted his guts in this race and then 2 weeks later was forced to race in a big prizemoney race, again a long distance race – broke his off side shoulder and euthanased. In my many years of investigating deaths, the racing authorities only refer to the necropsies and never disclose the contents of them. I once made a formal request for one but was told that it belonged to the owners and that the racing authority of course has access to it. That may well be the case but that should not prevent the racing authority from disclosing to the public ALL of the findings of the necropsy as they choose to disclose only some of the findings. The industry claims that it is trying to reduce the deaths by conducting necropsies and finding out why horse died.
        My question is why are so very few necropsies being conducted if it genuinely wants to investigate the reasons for the deaths? They just don’t give a damn.
        One of the other horses in this race was ridden badly in my view, pushed very hard to the lead by 9 lens ahead of the field at one stage (trainer’s instructions, I do not believe this senior experienced jockey would have done this on his own volition). I believe this race stuffed her, she had to be spelled for 20 weeks after this race. She had 2 more starts and was then sent down to Victoria for the barbaric jumps racing – obviously something amiss with her. No future in flat racing, sent down to the jumps for the lucrative prizemoney as owner seeks a return on his “investment”.
        Only two starts in jumps racing and then she disappeared. Watched her last jumps race where she was obviously not coping with it (despite appearing to have the stamina for long distance and led most of the way) and knocked down a jump. She was bred in America (sired by Anabaa) and ended up racing in England where as a 2 year old she was started in a long distance race! Then came to Australia, after trialling poorly had a 32 weeks’ spell, then only 3 starts then a 30 weeks’ spell? then 5 starts the last being the one that stuffed her. You know alarm bells should’ve been ringing much earlier.
        As someone else posted on this site last year “100% predictable and 100% preventable”. A beautiful dark bay/brown mare with a lovely white blaze and look at what they did to her!
        Kathleen this one below is not unlike Buddy Johnston’s horse.
        A female jockey was questioned by the Stewards as to why she did not flog the horse which came home 2nd in a very close finish (photos scrutinized). I believe this is for the punters who expect horses to be flogged when a winning chance.
        Jockey stated she was instructed by the trainer to hold the gelding up until the final 200m and to place it under minimal pressure in the run to the line if and where possible. “She added in her opinion placing the horse under heavy pressure where the whip would be applied behind the saddle has the ANTITHESIS effect on the gelding and the gelding has shown in previous performances that it is not inclined to perform to its optimum in these circumstances. She added for this reason she only placed the horse under minimal pressure over the final 200m.” Trainer confirmed the instructions issued to her and added these instructions were not dissimilar to its previous four starts. He added in his opinion horse RESENTS being placed under heavy pressure (being flogged) and responds better to being held up and placed under minimal pressure in the straight. While Stewards were cognisant that jockey was riding to instruction, she was nevertheless advised she should always ride her mounts in a manner which would not give cause for query. Oh for God’s sake – the horse was obviously being ridden to win when it comes home by a nose. BAN THE WHIP!

  2. Thank you, Carolyn…your experiences and the knowledge you gained from them cannot be argued. Thank you for sharing them. Your posts are always spot on.

    Anabolic Steroids Still an Issue in U.S. Horse Racing

    Some excerpts below:
    “Through the first 10 months of 2014, U.S. horse racing appeared on pace to register its fewest positive drug tests for anabolic steroids since the industry moved to outlaw the drugs from racing in 2008-09. But six positives for the anabolic steroid stanozolol from Nov. 19 to Dec. 19 at Laurel Park, in Maryland, ended all that.
    While some Laurel horsemen suggested failure to adjust to Maryland’s new medication policies tripped them up, an examination of race records provides evidence that horses received stanozolol while in training.”

    “Such potency variance could endanger the horse’s health or lead to a positive drug test when the vet or trainer operates under the withdrawal times that were put in place for Winstrol.”

    “I think it is incumbent that the record-keeping requirements of state vet boards be adhered to,” Martin said. “That’s the only way we’re going to understand what’s going on with the horse. Is a treatment in place to treat some ailment, or is it to do something else?”

    “A University of Florida study of compounded stanozolol products determined that they cleared the systems of most horses in 40 days. But in one case it cleared a Thoroughbred’s system in 21 days while it lasted 56 days in another horse’s system before being completely gone.”

  4. To answer your question, Patrick…I think it’s extremely long odds that Semper Kurry will get a soft and safe landing. These people are TRULY without an ounce of compassion. I just think of Semper Kurry waiting for someone to help him….

    • No need to worry, Joy. I have been told, over and over and over, that there are “many” good people in racing. It is now time for all those good people to get up off their butts and help this horse.

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