In a CBS8 news report on a protest on Del Mar’s final day, Joe Harper, club president, said this: “Sometimes I wonder why they’re out there carrying banners when the rest of us are actually doing something about it [the “it” being horses dying] and donating literally millions of dollars for research going to the health of the animal.”

You can’t make this stuff up. (I’ve included the video link below.) By the way, Harper’s assertion that the death number is 15 does not reconcile with his track’s stewards minutes. Going into his interview Monday, 20 had died either on Del Mar grounds or while being prepped off-site for upcoming DM races. And of course Chasing Aces – by many accounts, the most gruesome of the meet – made it 21 that very day.

I’ve long maintained that some within Racing are delusional – really, they see things that just aren’t so. Things like: lashes to the flesh don’t hurt; racehorses – isolated-and-confined-in-tiny-stalls-23-hours-a-day racehorses, drugged-and-doped-without-consent racehorses, bought-sold-traded-and-dumped racehorses – lead better lives than you and me; slaughter is an “animal rights” fantasy, or at the very least doesn’t rise to the level of serious, widespread problem; and, best of all, that what they do is a “sport,” the horses “equine athletes.”

Mr. Harper is either callous and cunning or sad and pathetic. No matter, for his comment reads the same either way. To claim that the very industry abusing and killing horses for profit is doing more for those horses than the volunteer advocates whose only goal is to end the barbarity is, in a word, obscene.

Drop our banners, Mr. Harper? Sure, but you first: Drop your whips, your syringes, your bugles; scrap your “vans”; stop your transport-trucks; shutter your betting-windows. Cease and desist. Then, we won’t be necessary. Until such time, know we’ll be out there – in increasing numbers – educating the masses, making you and your entire vile industry feel more and more uneasy with each passing day.

CBS8 story

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Recently, I received an email from an eyewitness to Mariano Intheninth’s breakdown at Churchill Downs. The words are so poignant that I asked permission to publish them as a post. On a personal note, and to which so many of you can relate, advocating for animals is no easy calling. The cruelty and suffering that surrounds us can be overwhelming – soul-crushing, at times. But then along comes a note like this to lift the spirits, give us hope.

From Meghan in Kentucky:

“I am writing you because I saw what you posted about Mariano Intheninth. My family and I live in Louisville. I have never been a huge fan of horse racing but my family got free tickets to the track that day and were taking my 85 year old grandma for a day out. I was there when Mariano Intheninth broke his leg…about 30 feet away from me. I will NEVER forget it. Everyone was worried about the Jockey while I was concerned about the poor horse who was obviously afraid and in pain. I have not stopped thinking about it since.

I just wanted to thank you for acknowledging his existence and short life as well as the hundreds of others who have pointlessly lost their lives. I for one will NEVER return to Churchill Downs or any other track ever again, and this experience has only further opened my eyes to this disgusting ‘sport.’ I wish everyone knew the truth. Thank you again Patrick.”

Last October, I posted this story about 11-year-old Fighting City Hall and his 97 “career” races. Although he would go under the whip six more times – yes, that makes 103, dating all the way back to the Bush administration – I do have some good news to report. Thanks to the wonderful efforts of renowned equine advocate (and regular contributor to our “Shedrow Secrets”) Joy Aten, City (below) is finally free.

That story, in Joy’s words:

Fighting City Hall. Patrick’s post about him on October 1, 2014 brought his plight to my attention. Although no horse deserves the life they’re forced to endure in the racing industry and all are worthy to be rescued from it, there is something additionally disturbing about horses like “City.”

In my very first phone call back in October, placed in an effort to acquire City, I was told he was with “good people.” I thought, that’s nice, but I wasn’t betting on it. And as it turned out, they are the typical “good folks” of racing – when it comes right down to it, it’s all about the money (another story and another racehorse will explain that at a later time).

City’s last owner of record knows nothing about horses. How can an owner advocate for their racehorses’ welfare when they are clueless about them? I was informed that City was not eligible to run as a 12-year-old at Portland Meadows, but he did indeed run two more times in 2015. I was also told that if I couldn’t get City moved by the end of April from where his owner had put him, he would be taken to Emerald Downs to continue racing. But City was so lame (in both fronts) from abscesses shortly after coming off the track the vet wouldn’t even allow him to travel until just recently. He couldn’t be vanned due to his condition, and the owner knew that I was aware…makes it a little tough to run a lame horse and still look like a “good guy.”

Around the time of City’s 100th start there was a “nice” little article about City’s owner and the tough, nearly-black gelding in some insignificant racing rag. In it, the owner stated there were multiple offers to retire City and give him a home. Funny how the offers I presented him with were the only two he was fixated on when we communicated.

Fighting City Hall, a 2003 dark bay Smart Strike gelding, Multiple Stakes Placed and winner of nearly 270K from 103 starts. City last raced on January 27 at Portland Meadows in a 2K claiming race where he was “hustled away from the gate” then “gave way,” finishing 4th and making $360 for his people. After countless phone calls and seven long months, he is safe at last…he arrived at Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky just this morning.

Enjoy your life, dear City. It is finally your own.

City about to load for his trip to KY!

After six years – 64 races – of gross exploitation and abuse, 9-year-old Coaltown Legend (original post here) has finally been retired, owing in large part to exposure from advocate Deborah Jones. On July 28th, Susan Salk, she with the permanently affixed rose-tinted glasses, wrote a reprehensible piece on Coaltown’s “salvation.” In it, she recounts his return “home” – the place where he was bred to be used – and the contributions of former connections Kate Feron and Angelo DeFilippis toward that end.

Feron (who “cried when he arrived”): “To see him again, I can’t express what it was like. He always had a special place in my heart. This was my special horse.” ♥ (heart courtesy of Salk) Of DeFilippis, Salk writes, “De Fillipis [sic], who owned the horse at one point, but was forced to sell him during hard financial times, says he kept tabs on Coaltown Legend, and spent a few sleepless nights worrying.”

Here are some conveniently omitted facts: Kate Feron is a hugely successful trainer with over $2.5 million in earnings. She bred Coaltown and raced him 19 times before selling him in February 2010 (“claimed away from her,” as Salk asserts, is a euphemism). Her “special horse” would race for over four more years – almost all at the claiming level – without her intervention. Angelo DeFilippis is (was) a racehorse owner. He either owned or co-owned Coaltown for 2 1/2 years and 16 starts, including a July 2011 claiming race at Saratoga. In all, Coaltown Legend earned over $150,000 for Mr. DeFilippis.

Coaltown Legend and Kate Feron
Coaltown Legend and Kate Feron

Now to be fair, Angelo DeFilippis was the primary impetus behind Coaltown’s retirement. But while good for Coaltown Legend – assuming, that is, he survives; DeFilippis says he’s not doing very well – I will not commend anyone, even a rescuer, who refuses to categorically renounce horseracing: Though Mr. DeFilippis is currently inactive, it’s a matter of finances, not because he now sees racing as wrong.

So it appears, Mr. DeFilippis, we are at an impasse. Yes, you helped this horse, but your desire to climb back into an industry that chews them up and spits them out by the thousands tells me all I need to know. Mr. DeFilippis, Ms. Salk, and most especially Ms. Feron, exploitation and friendship are incompatible states. The line is clearly drawn – true equine advocates want no part of this sordid business. And that is what makes Salk’s writing – “there were many relieved past connections, and tears of joy when tired and weary Coaltown rolled into Akindale on Thursday” – so very shameful.

After six years – 64 races – of gross exploitation and abuse, 9-year-old Coaltown Legend (original post here) has finally been retired, owing in large part to exposure from advocate Deborah Jones. On July 28th, Susan Salk, she with the permanently affixed rose-tinted glasses, wrote a reprehensible piece on Coaltown’s “salvation.” In it, she recounts his return “home” – the place where he was bred to be used – and the contributions of former connections Kate Feron and Angelo DeFilippis toward that end.

Feron (who “cried when he arrived”): “To see him again, I can’t express what it was like. He always had a special place in my heart. This was my special horse.” ♥ (heart courtesy of Salk) Of DeFilippis, Salk writes, “De Fillipis [sic], who owned the horse at one point, but was forced to sell him during hard financial times, says he kept tabs on Coaltown Legend, and spent a few sleepless nights worrying.”

Here are some conveniently omitted facts: Kate Feron is a hugely successful trainer with over $2.5 million in earnings. She bred Coaltown and raced him 19 times before selling him in February 2010 (“claimed away from her,” as Salk asserts, is a euphemism). Her “special horse” would race for over four more years – almost all at the claiming level – without her intervention. Angelo DeFilippis is (was) a racehorse owner. He either owned or co-owned Coaltown for 2 1/2 years and 16 starts, including a July 2011 claiming race at Saratoga. In all, Coaltown Legend earned over $150,000 for Mr. DeFilippis.

Coaltown Legend and Kate Feron
Coaltown Legend and Kate Feron

Now to be fair, Angelo DeFilippis was the primary impetus behind Coaltown’s retirement. But while good for Coaltown Legend – assuming, that is, he survives; DeFilippis says he’s not doing very well – I will not commend anyone, even a rescuer, who refuses to categorically renounce horseracing: Though Mr. DeFilippis is currently inactive, it’s a matter of finances, not because he now sees racing as wrong.

So it appears, Mr. DeFilippis, we are at an impasse. Yes, you helped this horse, but your desire to climb back into an industry that chews them up and spits them out by the thousands tells me all I need to know. Mr. DeFilippis, Ms. Salk, and most especially Ms. Feron, exploitation and friendship are incompatible states. The line is clearly drawn – true equine advocates want no part of this sordid business. And that is what makes Salk’s writing – “there were many relieved past connections, and tears of joy when tired and weary Coaltown rolled into Akindale on Thursday” – so very shameful.