Shedrow Secrets: Flipping One of Racing’s Feel-Good Stories

Shedrow Secrets: Flipping One of Racing’s Feel-Good Stories
by Mary Johnson

About a year and a half ago, Ms. Jen Roytz, a paid mouthpiece for the racing industry, wrote a Paulick Report Aftercare Spotlight “story” entitled “12 YEAR OLD BOY CLAIMS 12 YEAR OLD HORSE FOR RETIREMENT.” That horse was Good Credentials. I’m sure everyone is always up for a “feel-good story,” especially when it surrounds a 12-year-old horse getting his “retirement.” However, this “story” was a bit different because it venerated the boy’s parents, George Iacovacci and Kelly Spanabel. Frankly, I was horrified that this couple would be given the amount of praise depicted in the article. I reached out to Ms. Roytz and asked her how well she knew Iacovacci and Spanabel, and she quickly replied back that she didn’t know them personally at all. However, she had heard conflicting reports on them, including one from a close personal friend of hers. But she said the article focused on their son, and she didn’t feel that the negative publicity about the couple was relevant. “Relevant”? Read on.

I first met Iacovacci and his partner, jockey Kelly Spanabel, at Beulah Park well over twelve years ago. I can tell everyone that neither is quite as wonderful as depicted in the article. Everything I state here can be documented and none of it paints a pretty picture. All of the following were owned/trained by Iacovacci:

SUNDER BAY – Iacovacci raced him with a bowed tendon. 90% of the tendon and ligament was torn away from the bone. Joy Aten was involved in buying him from George and he was euthanized due to the severity of his injuries.

ONE HUNDRED LAUGHS – Iacovacci raced him three weeks before the horse was “rescued” and retired to a well-known farm in Kentucky. When he arrived at this farm, he was so weak and emaciated that he fell out of the trailer and the farm’s vet felt he might have to be euthanized. Again, he was raced three weeks prior to arriving at this farm. He did recover. His Shedrow Secrets story can be found here.

ACADEMY DANCER – I was asked by a CANTER coordinator to pick Dancer up at Beulah Park. When I arrived, Spanabel was babbling that the horse had “bruised” his shoulder in his last race. I brought AD into my barn and fostered him for a few days until Nancy Koch came down to Columbus and picked him up and hauled him back to Cleveland. Upon further evaluation, it was discovered that he was running with a fractured sesamoid. CANTER paid for his surgery and he was adopted out.

Academy Dancer

SAY YES DEAR – This horse was still in training when a group of us were able to “buy” him from Iacovacci. Since he was a Kentucky-bred, we were able to get him into the Kentucky Equine Humane Center. After 2 1/2 months of downtime, it was ultimately determined that Say Yes Dear should be euthanized due to the severity of his injuries.

WINDS OF LOVE – This horse had to be euthanized within two weeks of racing due to the complete breakdown of his ankles. His Shedrow story can be found here.

Three more Iacovacci horses who had to be euthanized due to the severity of their injuries: Buckflanker (according to one site, two fractured knees), Magic Conqueror and Whitmark. Whitmark’s knees were so bad he couldn’t lay down. Three more animals run into the ground. But who cares when there is a heartwarming story to be told. (Spanabel was the last jockey to ride five of the above eight horses.)

Now, I want to share a very personal story about the couple. About twelve years ago, I was contacted by the CANTER coordinator at Beulah, Chris Colflesh, and she told me that Iacovacci had two horses that he wanted to “get rid of.” If someone didn’t buy the horses, they would go to Sugarcreek. Of course, I decided to step up and buy both. Chris said that George wanted $1,000 for them, so I took $1,000 cash to the track and handed it over to Iacovacci. Both horses came home with me. Applejack was thin, lame and had patches of hair falling off his body. Harvey was thin with ribs visible.


Iacovacci told me that Harvey was a QuarterHorse, but he was actually a Thoroughbred by the name of Mister to You. Applejack was a Saddlebred. Although Iacovacci told me that they had been his grandkids’ horses and the children had outgrown them, I later discovered that both horses had been sent to an auction in Indiana when a mounted police force had been downsized. Three of the unit’s horses ended up at auction: Harvey, Applejack and a horse named Junior. I spoke to one of the officers who rode Harvey and reassured him that two of the three had landed in a really good place. No one knows what happened to Junior. Applejack was with me for a little over eight years and was humanely euthanized with me by his side and buried on my farm. Harvey went to the Cleveland area and was adopted into a good home.

You never have to incriminate the racing industry because they are perfectly capable of incriminating themselves. Below there are links to two Paulick Report articles. In them, you will read about Star Plus, a horse who was supposed to be retired from racing but instead ended up with Spanabel/Iacovacci. They ran him four times after it had been determined that he should never race again due to a “severe ankle injury.” Days before a hearing with WV racing officials, Spanabel, on her FB page, said that “Star Plus was being sold to overseas interests and that his racing career would continue [in Belize].”

Spanabel went on to say: “Good luck Star. He left this afternoon on his long journey out of the country. I hope they take care of you. Forced to send you where you can race and won’t be harassed.” Harassed? Can you imagine the audacity of these people? As it turned out, Spanabel was lying: SP had never left for Texas in order to be shipped out of the country. She and her partner had held Earle Mack, SP’s previous owner, hostage the same as George Iacovacci had done to me. The upshot here is that these are not good people, and that Jen Roytz needs a lesson in responsible journalism (this is not her first time appearing on this site). Oh, and the Paulick Report should look up the definition of ethical consistency.

“Saga of Star Plus: Doesn’t This Horse Deserve Better?”
“Finally Peace for Star Plus”
“12-Year-Old Boy Claims 12-Year-Old Horse For Retirement” (part 1)
“The Story Of Good Credentials” (part 2)


  1. I am no longer shocked at these accounts. Patrick, you are a dream come true for horses. No, racing has not ended yet but you are their voice and tell stories almost all of us would never have known. Which, I hope, will help in the movement to end racing. You, being someone from the inside, can tell the secrets that the industry participants want kept. I will keep sharing and sharing and reading and reading. Thank you again.

  2. What is wrong with these people? I just don’t understand how ANYONE in good conscience and with even a partially functioning brain, can race any animal with any injury? More than that it’s the lies and cowardice.

  3. Thanks to Mary for this article that exposes George Iacovacci and Kelly Spanabel for who they really are.
    They are both racehorse abusers like most apologists are.
    They subject their racehorses to the vile business practices of horse racing which qualifies for Felony Animal Cruelty charges in any other setting.
    Just follow the money because anybody who makes money off the bones, backs, and bodies of these non-consenting beings, in any capacity, fall into either racehorse abusers, enablers of the abuse or both categories.
    Jen Roytz, Natalie Voss, and the Blood-Horse publication derives their living from this vile business.
    George and Kelly are pure evil, but abusers exist because a system of abuse is in place that promotes, enables, and validates the abuse.
    This is horse racing.

  4. Racing’s “feel good” stories? – every single one of them, try though they may to make it look like racing cares, incriminates the industry. Every. Single. One.

    Senor Dominguez, another of this duo’s horses, has a story, as well.

  5. A 12 yr. old boy is used in one more “feel good” story in an attempt to say racing cares about the horse. Evidence to the contrary is easily accessible and overwhelming.

    The article is particularly disingenuous because the parents, Iacovacci and Spanabel, do not treat their horses humanely, are known to lie brazenly and even hold a horse for ransom. The author must have known the history of these people. Yet, the good deed of a compassionate child is used to give the impression that Iacovacci and Spanabel are caring, responsible horse people.

  6. – How many heartbreaking stories never come to light ?
    – How many times do officials say” there is nothing we can do” ?
    – How many times do “punishments” fall pathetically short of fitting the “crimes” ?
    – How many cheating horse abusers are there in racing ?
    – How many of the most egregious offenders are ousted ?
    – How many are given a pass ?
    – How many horses are run sore and with injuries ?
    – how many horses wait for help that never comes ?
    – How many times do we hear about all the good people in racing ?
    – How many good people are there ?
    – How many illegal drugs are used in racing ?
    – How many and how often are “legal” drugs used inappropriately ?
    – How many rules are there to protect the horse ?

    These are but a few of the questions that come to mind when thinking about horseracing.

    • Yes, Rose, “how many, HOW MANY”…ad nauseum.

      The horseracing industry only benefits the humans who make their living and/or find their entertainment in the use of the horses they exploit. There is NOTHING about it that benefits the horses. Not one thing.

  7. Hi Mary, what do you mean by they “held Earle Mack… hostage just like they did to me”? Are you referring to the money and sale?

    • Yes, Laura, that is what I mean. There is more to the story than what is posted here. I felt that if I didn’t buy Applejack and Harvey both could have possibly ended up with the kill buyer. It was a risk that I wasn’t willing to take. Although I certainly didn’t need two more horses at the time, I have never regretted stepping up for them.

      I would be happy to fill you in on the additional details if you are interested. Please let Patrick know that he has my permission to share my phone number and email with you.

    • Laura, what I also find reprehensible is that Roytz, Wirth (a “boutique” attorney in Chicago), and Hirt chose to “use” a twelve year old child to shine a favorable light on this family. Reprehensible….

  8. Here we go with yet another story that actually ends good only because of people who are not involved with the exploitation of racehorses.
    This time, the Blood-Horse exposes this story:
    There are many comments from racehorse supporters calling out Louisiana for the horrific state of racehorses going directly to kill auctions from Fairgrounds and other tracks there.
    However, many of these people still support/participate in horse racing while claiming to be the “good folks.”
    You can’t be good for racehorses while continuing to support the very business that is SOLELY responsible for dumping, and killing racehorses.
    All this going on while the horse racing industry boasts about BILLION dollar wagering, and sales profits.
    I continue to support HRW because their stand on horse racing is clear: END horse racing now.
    This is the only position and action that will end the horrific massive suffering of racehorses.

  9. Spanabel and company have been in Chicago for the last 3 years. They are such bad caretakers they have not won a race. At least in Chicago that is. Years ago they wouldn’t have been allowed on the grounds. But with a dwindling horse population race tracks are most interested in field size. Would like to see these derelict’s ruled off for life.

    • Isn’t it amazing that nomadic parasites like these 2 can bounce from track to track and nothing happens to them? The low level tracks are willing to take in these parasites so they can desperately try to fill the race cards, regardless of how many offenses they have in their past history and how incredibly worthless “trainers” they are. It’s just more of the pathetic behind the scenes reality of the world of horse racing.

      • Yes. And what’s even more amazing to me is that one of the Stewards actually defended her in a hearing we had regarding her attempted sale of a club foot 2 year old last year. Unbelievable! The whole scene is disgusting.

      • I’m not a bit surprised, Laura (sickened, as usual, but not surprised). I’ve found that stewards are absolutely useless when it comes to the welfare of the horses. Their jobs depend on horses filling races – and those horses belong to the blatant abusers who shouldn’t be within a mile of a defenseless creature. Get rid of the abusers and the horses go, too. No horses, no races, no jobs.

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