In the wake of my post on the abuse of a 14-year-old horse set to make his 156th start (today), one of our readers, Andrea Claici, reached out to Horse Racing Alberta, that province’s regulatory agency, on this poor animal’s plight. Andrea’s initial email:
Dear Mr. Verlik,
By way of this letter, I feel the need to voice my concern and outrage as it relates to Rocky Mountain Turf Club and an upcoming race this Sunday, September 13.
I became aware that owner/trainer Rusty Smith has entered his horse Eighty Eight into a claiming race. Perhaps nothing out of the ordinary thus far. However, Eighty Eight (EE) is 14 years old, Mr. Verlik! 14 years old! He was put to the whip 155 times, last time being October of last year!
In an interview and subsequent article written by Dale Johnson in September 2018, Mr. Smith stated that EE would be retired that very year and that he was looking for a good home for him. Shockingly though, 2 years later, Eighty Eight is being entered into yet another race! This horse has earned his retirement. He deserves a good home. He deserves for Mr. Smith to stand true to his words. Undoubtedly, Mr. Smith has an obligation to do so in order to prove he did not mislead the readers with his statements pertaining to EE’s retirement, albeit 2 years later. Retire him and re-home him. He has more than earned his keep. Mr. Smith is duty and honour-bound to do so.
I contacted the Manager of the racing office at Rocky Mountain Turf Club today, Ms. Dot Stein. I did so with the intent to obtain Mr. Smith’s contact details in order to express my concern for Eighty Eight’s wellbeing. If Mr. Smith is part of a legitimate business, a business being funded by public money, we all should be able to contact him, don’t you think? Ms. Stein was less than helpful advising me she would not share “confidential information.” I am yet to understand how a trainer/owner’s contact details are confidential. Ms. Stein further stated she would share MY contact details – that she requested from me and I supplied even though I didn’t have to – and she would ask Mr. Smith to contact me! We both know this will most likely not happen.
I am appealing to you, your compassion and humaneness, to please advise the track to scratch this horse from the Sunday, September 13 race. You have the power to do so. Eighty Eight has more than earned his retirement.
Mr. Verlik (who is the CEO) responded by saying that after his staff looked into the matter, they have determined that “[Eighty Eight] is eligible to race.” In addition to citing the horse’s “very respectable record,” noting that “the life expectancy of a racehorse is 25-30 years” (which, of course, is utterly irrelevant to the conversation at hand), and assuring that all horses are checked by an HRA vet “to ensure they are fit to race,” Verlik said this: “EE is owned and trained by Rusty Smith who loves and cares for his horses as they are part of his family. Mr. Smith would not race his horse if he felt there was a problem in doing so.”
Yes, of course, Mr. Verlik, nothing says “loves” like I own you and won’t hesitate to sell you (in fact, since Smith took ownership of Eighty Eight in June ’19, he has had him “For Sale” – dirt cheap, by the way – seven times; today will make eight). Nothing says “cares” like I will keep you locked – all alone – in a tiny room, pump you up with drugs, and have you flogged. Nothing says “part of the family” like the slaughterhouse (which is where most racehorses end up). Vile is too kind for these people.