Industry Response to Horse Being Raced for 156th Time Today: No Worries, Trainer “Loves” Him; He’s “Part of the Family”

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.

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  1. Is it not possible to get a good place for retirement for this horse and to buy him from his owner? As I said, I would also donate for this cause. Is there no way??? He should not end in a slaughterhouse or injured being “put to sleep”. He gave all he could – his owner should acknowledge it and not squeeze the last out of him. Please try to get him out of this. I am too far away and unfortunately I don’t know anything about the racing business – so I am not a great help, I only can donate…

    • Can one not get him with his own words in this interview – “Rusty’s goal for “Eighty-Eight” is the same as for all of his horses that are retired, and that is finding a good home for him.” He should show that he means what he says! And what could be better for a horse then going to a good organisation where he can live without pressure… And if the horse is sold to someone where he will have a good life, why should he prefer to sell him to a uncertain future? That would really speak against the so called “good guy in the horse racing world”…

      • We tried to get him, Elke. We tried to get him to stand true to his words back in 2018…but the track didn’t care, the regulatory body in AB didn’t care and Smith…well, he couldn’t care less. Infuriating to say the least.

  2. Here in Ohio, a pre-race exam consists of a vet watching a horse walk in the paddock prior to the race. That’s it. As long as a horse appears sound in order to be able to pass a paddock inspection, the horse is allowed to race.

    Also, here in Ohio, there is no age limit for a Thoroughbred. For a Standardbred, it is 14 years of age.

    Anyone who believes that these horses are loved like “family” will also believe that the earth is flat.

    • Thank you, Mary. I am sure that Mr. Rusty Smith will love his horse until EIGHTY EIGHT is in a condition to necessitate euthanasia. Why can’t he find a different job for the horse? Racing is too strenuous! He could have micro-fractures and, as you pointed out, not even a licensed veterinarian would be able to have an X-ray vision to see them with the naked-eye.

  3. It is all about greed!!! I hope that someone gives this horse a good home and not the slaughter house!

  4. Re: the trainer who supposedly loves the horse which is set to race for the hundred and 56th time. He doesn’t love the horse he loves what the horse does for him.

  5. In some ways I feel the FEMALES have it worse-forcibly impregnated,numerous foals,and then sent to slaughter.

  6. Stupid is as stupid does! Give this horse his freedom Mr Verlik. He deserves to rest in a safe sanctuary far away from you!

  7. This horse has suffered enough and deserves to be retired to a safe, loving forever home.

  8. He was last by at least 30 lengths. Couldn’t even keep up for more than 3 furlongs of this race. He was also definitely not a happy horse, as he was completely dull in the walking ring then essentially had to be dragged around by the pony rider. Poor horse also did not look to be a sound horse coming down the homestretch.

    • Yes, Peggy. He came in last. I did not watch the race but was praying for him to finish….oh God…30 lengths back??! This poor, poor soul! I am so sorry to hear they had to drag him around. I hope he is as ok as he can be after 156 starts and we can save him. I am assuming after today’s race, Smith would be willing to drop the price on him…just an assumption.

  9. He is very lucky he is still alive. Most aren’t. Did they deserve less?,because they were still running in somewhat ‘real tracks’? (Aqueduct,etc.) Don’t they ALL deserve to not be KILLED by this industry? I know too much.

    • Of course that’s what they deserve, Peggy. Every single one of them. I honestly do not believe another industry more devoid of empathy and goodness and more full of evil exists.

      • Sorry, Andrea – I’m not sure if this response is to me or Bonnie, but I don’t think any horse deserves to be near any racetrack, and especially not as dumpy of one as this one was!

      • Sorry Peggy, you are right…i meant to respond to Bonnie. And yes, this track is a dump. However, if you ask me, they are all trash considering what is going on there and how they are treating these beautiful, sensitive, amazing beings.

  10. This is about as disgusting as it gets.i hope the humans who answered the phone re the inquiries made on behalf of this horse feel real good they did such a great.”gatekeeper”job.

    • I don’t even think they care, Nancy. To them, it was just another race and another horse who came in dead last. Oh well…NEXT! In order to feel something relative to your actions you have to actually have a heart, a conscience at least. These people have neither. They are pure evil.

      • Andrea. Here’s hoping the horse got back to his stable without some kind of health issue. What a sin

  11. I feel worse for the ones who are still EXPECTED to perform. Those NEVER make it to age 14. They face-plant in the DIRT.

  12. His speed figure for 2020 is 12. I can’t believe anybody in their right mind would do this to a horse.

  13. Perhaps he has the horse insured and by inciting his horse’s death, he can collect the insurance. It is sickening to know that are so many heartless human beings who will explode an animal for money. That is the only kind of love they have!!!

      • Most have lameness (pain) issues that make getting old miserable. If they aren’t raced then they go to the horse shows and jump fences, hard on the back and joints. There are very few Thoroughbred pleasure horses. I rode trails, but I am an odd ball.

  14. I got Dot Stein’s voicemail and left a message for Smith tho call me if he will sell the horse.
    There needs to be a place for him if Smith agrees to sell him. I can’t take him on – full house!

    • THANK YOU, Rose! I am waiting to hear back from 2 places in Alberta I inquired with and I am hoping they can take him or at least suggest another place that might. Thanks again

    • Hi Rose! Was wondering if you heard back from Ms. Stein. I sent the fax and…AND… nothing!
      I sent email upon email to all kinds of rescues and only heard back from 2. They either have no room or they are not taking TB’s.

  15. Andrea…THANK YOU for your excellent e-mail to Mr. Verlik in support of retiring Eighty Eight. Verlik responded like every other racing-employed individual would to your compelling words – clueless and calloused. These folks must take classes on how to lie through their teeth.

    • Thank you, Joy for the kind words! Maybe I am very naive but expected just a little bit more from the CEO of a regulatory body. I should have known they are all the same …from the owner/trainer to the whipping jockey all the way up the ladder. Just a bunch of heartless, disgraceful bastards. And, as always, the horses have to suffer. It really breaks my heart.

      • Andrea, you made a request in good faith. I don’t think anyone could have done better. It’s on him to respond in kind, which he did not. I want to believe that somehow everything will come together and the horse, EIGHTY EIGHT, will be spared from the “love” of his racing connections and be given a chance to enjoy a true retirement that all racehorses deserve but relatively few actually get.

  16. These degenerates care ONLY about the money. “Part of the family”? Bullshit. Do you try to sell your family members? You are vile as are all the members of the Rocky Mountain Turf Club. The next stop for Eighty Eight is the slaughter house. Everyone knows that.

  17. This poor horse must be retired to a farm where he can peacefully live out the rest of his life. If the Rusty Smith treats Eighty Eight as “part of his family”, I would hate to be Mr. Smith’s son.

  18. Evil industry overall. These poor horses are run to death. If they happen to survive, the Owners ship them off to slaughter.

  19. Greed, cruelty and ignorance are what is happening here, not ‘love’ and ‘part of the family’.

  20. Loves them like family, hmm? In that case, I hope when Mr. Verlik is old, worn-out and would like to do nothing more than sit in a comfy chair, I hope his children whip him and make him run around a jogging course and then throw him back in his room with no care and take him out to do the same every day til he’s dead. POS.

  21. Love him like he’s part of the family……yea right, NO, they only ‘love’ their horses whilst they’re running, winning and earning filthy, stinking money for them. And when that’s finished, they can always send them to the slaughterhouse house and get s few more bucks. Lets hope this so-called owner’s family ‘love’ him, especially when he’s old and perhaps senile and they ‘dump’ him in a back-street nursing home and forget how much they ‘love’ him until they cry false tears over his wooden box. ,

  22. Really this is exploitation. If you really love him, keep him and pamper him, allow him his freedom in the field with suitable safe companions. Stop squeezing every last cent.

  23. my god man. turn him out and let him be a horse. ive been around racehorse for 36 yrs. retire him before he breaks down.
    to run that many times he might be a machine horse cause he knows how to cheat by now

  24. Is there any reason we couldn’t get his or their phone numbers, and tie them up in knots? At appointed times, everyone call their numbers so no one else can call in.
    Also, try to crash their website?
    Could you organize that?

  25. Thanks and admiration to Andrea, – you walk the walk. I believe that horses unfit to race are entered to be ‘broken up,’ which is to say that resultant injury to health and body would necessitate euthanasia. Collection of insurance follows. It is probably an easy matter to have a horse declared fit to race, it’s a dark world.
    Thanks for the work, and for giving us all an opportunity to submit our thoughts on a cruel industry.


    • I will definitevely donate for him !
      I also send an email to Old Friends Canada, asking for help. I don’t know if it helps but at least it is a try….

  27. If this horse is 14 years old and “part of the family,” why not get a younger family member to race in his place?
    Finishing “dead last” doesn’t tell you something??

  28. It’s a bit like fox hunting, the dress up, the excitement, the bright colours, the atmosphere, then there is the horrendous cruelty. !!!!! Nevertheless they both need banning. 🤬🤬🤬🤬

  29. Did you all post this to Facebook? Look at this post the Alberta Horse Racing Commission posted 8/21/20 about how much they CARE about their care for the horses!! Everyone should ask them how their statement is true when they allow a horse to race 156 times at 14 yo.

    This is the 8/21/20 post:

    Horse racing in Alberta has a long and storied history. In order to protect our horses while ensuring the integrity of our sport, we are always looking to improve. Horse Racing Alberta has introduced new safety protocols with complete, thorough vet checks, stricter drug testing with harsh penalties and suspensions, amendments to rules and regulations, and improved track conditions. In Alberta, horses really are part of the family.

    Horse Racing Alberta…employing Albertans, contributing to the economy, caring for our horses.

      • Hi Andrea, I would like to communicate with you by email and phone so please send me an email at please. I have high hopes about this effort to get EIGHTY EIGHT into a place where he can have a true retirement from racing and not be sent to slaughter.

  30. A Big Thank You Andrea. I hope you can get this horse to a better place and way from the horrible person who owns him.. .

  31. Mr. Verlik,

    Please retire horses that have served above and beyond. Limit their exposure to countless races. If you feel they are family and you love them then you wouldn’t subject them to such cruelty. I can’t imagine to see someone who I love and cherish suffer in pain.
    Please be kind!

    Vanja Hathcock

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