Abuse, thy name is horseracing.

Sweet Circle was born in May 2008. Curiously, his first race didn’t come till over five years later – September 29, 2013, at Mount Pleasant in Michigan. He finished second-to-last for trainer Alison Krul and owner Lauren Steen. Next race came two months later at Beulah in Ohio: dead last, 25 lengths back. Same owner, new trainer – George Iacovacci Sr. Next time out, in January 2014, “did not finish.” Oh, and yet another new trainer: Kristi Van Meter. Quite a start, huh?

The Steen/Van Meter team ran Sweet Circle six more times, then Van Meter handed him off to yet another trainer, Jimmy Williams. At this point, Sweet Circle was running “maiden claiming” – “For Sale” every time out, and still without a “win.” In August 2014, Steen brought him back to Michigan to be raced at Hazel Park – under another new trainer, Ray Patton. Back to Ohio in October, at which point Steen assumed the trainer’s role herself. On September 20, 2015, SC’s price tag had plummeted to $3,500.

A year later in Illinois, Iacovacci returned as trainer (Steen still owner). In April 2017, Steen brought in another trainer – Roger Salvino. On May 19, Steen was back training; in that race, Sweet Circle finished last, 27 lengths back. Next time out, 35 lengths back. On April 7, 2018, Steen raced the now-nine-year-old a mere seven days after his previous race. Outcome: last, 45 back. He was then sold.

On June 19, 2018, Sweet Circle ran his first race for trainer/owner Robert Fiesman. He was then sold back to Steen. Several races later, sold again – to Richard King; Robert Pompell, trainer. Five races for this pair followed, the last two of which SC finished last and last, a combined 37 lengths back. Then nothing. Until, that is, Tuesday.

After being off the charts for over a year, Sweet Circle resurfaced under – you guessed it – Lauren Steen. The result from Fairmount is what you might expect for a 12-year-old coming off a 14-month layoff: last (of 10), some 20 lengths back. But it’s worse still: Tuesday’s race was a “maiden claiming” (and a cheap $4,000 one, at that). Yes, that’s right, in a “career” going back seven years and 45 races, Sweet Circle has never finished first. Not once. And yet, Lauren Steen et al. keep throwing him back out there. They do because there’s still money to be made: That woeful finish Tuesday still garnered $93 for Steen, as Fairmount pays first-last. Oh, and of course he’s under the yoke of yet another new trainer, Michelle Booker. (By my count, that makes 10 different trainers, 11 trainer changes, and at least five times sold.)

This poor, poor animal. This vile, vile industry.

By industry standards, Green Gratto was a very successful racehorse: over $1 million in “earnings.” In April 2018, the then-7-year-old was raced at Aqueduct. Finishing 3rd that day, he “won” $8,500 for his trainer/owner Gaston Grant. As the weeks then months went on, it appeared that Green, after five years of toil and 65 races, had been “retired” (of course, “retired” in racing is, most of the time, not a good thing).

Flash forward to yesterday at Monmouth in New Jersey. Having vanished for two years, Green Gratto, now ten, resurfaced in the 2nd race. In that race – which was of the “claiming” variety, meaning he was “For Sale” prior to – Green Gratto finished dead-last, 41 lengths back. The culpable include: trainer Kathleen O’Connell, owner Oakleaf Farm, the racing secretary, the stewards, the private vet, the track vets, the NJ Racing Commission – indeed, this entire disgusting industry itself.

Born in March 2015, Reyana Reya Dreams was first put to the whip at Belmont in July 2017, at the age of two. Since, she has been raced 44 more times, most recently at Penn National last week. Nothing unusual thus far. But here’s the thing: 45 races in and Reyana Reya Dreams is still being raced at the “maiden claiming” level, meaning not only is she in a perpetual state of “For Sale,” but over those 45 races she has never finished first. In fact, she has brought up the rear 10 times and, get this, has averaged finishing almost 20 lengths back. And all the while, enduring it at the cheapest of tracks (Penn, Finger Lakes, Charles Town). As if not enough, her race last week came a mere nine days after the previous one.

Reyana Reya Dreams has been tethered to one man throughout: Randi Persaud, trainer for the first 27 races, owner over the past 18 (current trainer is Joey Martinez). This miscreant masquerading as a “horseman” is no stranger to abuse, having been suspended by the NYS Gaming Commission back in 2018 for “being caught with injectable drugs.” And, this is not the first time Persaud has surfaced on our site: Girlie’s Dream, Hear Me Purr, Channel of Love, Jesses Giant Dunk. Truth is, though, Persaud is no different than the average racer – hellbent on squeezing every last drop out of their assets. And if the Reyanas of the world should die in the process, so be it; there’s plenty more waiting in the wings.


A racehorse’s life…

Scherer Magic was made on May 1, 2010, in Iowa by breeder Joe Robson. He was first raced way back in June 2012 at Hollywood Park in California. His trainer was Craig Dollase, with Robson still owning. Even before he had completed that first race, he was “For Sale,” for $50,000. And indeed he was “claimed” – bought – by Gary and Cecil Barber and trainer John Sadler. Three “stakes” races followed, highlighted by a Grade 1 – the highest kind there is – at Del Mar on September 5 of that year.

Prior to a race on May 23, 2013, Scherer was back up “For Sale,” this time for $80,000. No takers. On December 14 of that year, he was shipped east, some 3,000 miles to Aqueduct in NYC, and raced under a new trainer, David Jacobson. Prior to another race – just eight days later – he was sold again, for $50,000. (Including that race, he made over $200,000 for the Barbers.)

On January 1, 2014, Scherer was raced for the first time under trainer Mitchell Friedman and owner Sunny Meadow Farm. Between January and April, he was sold again, and shipped to Iowa, a thousand miles away. New owners, JT & B Racing and Lester Wright; new trainer, H. Ray Ashford Jr. Nine races at Prairie Meadows followed. Then, shipped another thousand miles to Zia in New Mexico. Three races in that state, then back up to Iowa. Four races at Prairie – then back down to New Mexico.

For sale (by Wright) prior to a race in January ’17, Scherer’s market value had dropped to $20,000. Two weeks later, he was on the block for $12,500. On April 15 of that year, his tag fell to $6,250. In that race, a new owner was listed, Karon Ashford. In May, it was back to Iowa – and yet another new owner, Arden Hawkins. Prior to his next race, sold again – owner, End Zone Athletics; trainer, Karl Broberg.

This new pairing raced Scherer just six days later: “stumbled badly, DNF.” Prior to that race, sold again: new owner, Danny Caldwell; new trainer, Federico Villafranco. A few races after that, he was shipped to Remington Park in Oklahoma – yet another 1,000-mile trek. Two races there, back to Iowa – and a new owner, Martin Villafranco. On August 11, 2018, prior to what would be (to date) his final race at Prairie, he was sold yet again, to Charles Garvey, with Robertino Diodoro as the new trainer.

Garvey/Diodoro promptly trucked Scherer to Minnesota’s Canterbury Park, this trip a mere 250 miles. Raced once there, on September 14, his next stop was Hawthorne Race Course in Illinois, 430 miles away. But at some point in between, he was, of course, sold again; when he was raced at Hawthorne October 17, his owners were Patrick Sullivan and Zachary Roush, his trainer Ray Tracy Jr.

Then, down to Louisiana – yes, a thousand miles away – to be raced at Delta Downs. Oh, and once arrived, another new trainer: Tanner Tracy. In that race, Scherer finished second-to-last, 17 lengths back. At this point, the now-eight-year-old was worth, according to the racing people, just $4,000. Scherer Magic then disappeared from the charts for over six months before resurfacing in a Quarterhorse race (to this point, all his races were Thoroughbred) at Chippewa Downs on June 29 of last year. And, obviously, from Louisiana to North Dakota is a long ways – over 1,500 miles. His owner/trainer for that race, in which Scherer finished last, was Perry Cavanaugh.

Which brings us to the present. Saturday evening, after an over-one-year absence, Scherer Magic was put to the whip in the 10th race at the North Dakota Horse Park. The miscreant Cavanaugh still holds the title but, surprise, had the now-10-year-old Scherer “For Sale” at the bottom-of-the-barrel price of $2,500 prior to.

All told, Scherer Magic has:

been owned by at least 12 different men/teams (and been “For Sale” dozens of times)

been trained by at least 11 different men

been raced at 13 different tracks in 9 different states

been forced to endure thousands of miles in (inherently) stressful transport

languished (when not on a truck) in tiny stalls – alone – day after lifeless day

absorbed countless whip lashes

been injected with myriad substances

And, apparently, they’re not done with him yet. I can think of no better illustration of the racehorse-as-thing than the life – existence, really – of this poor, pitiful soul. Imagine you as Scherer Magic. How profoundly sad.


From the most recent minutes released by the California Horse Racing Board.

At the Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton, July 3: “While horses were in the Starting Gate for the first race Czechoutpappyscorona flipped; [she was] scratched for being down and trapped in the gate stall.” Same day, race 4: “Nice Blaze [fell]…multiple scrapes and a hematoma developing on her right hip.”

At the Los Alamitos Thoroughbred meet, July 3:

“Apprentice Jockey Victor Flores was in our office to answer to a complaint. The CHRB filed the complaint when Safety Steward Paul Atkinson photographed a welt on the horse The Last Ruler…after the sixth race on 2/23 at Santa Anita. Mr. Flores apologized. The following ruling was issued: Flores is fined $300 for violation of rule #1688(3) (Use of Riding Crop – causing welts or breaks in the skin).”

$300 – for open, transparent animal abuse.

Same track, July 4: “Trainer Gary Mandella was in our office to participate in a formal hearing…. Mr. Mandella’s horse tested positive for the drug Phenylbutazone on 2/15 in the eighth race at Santa Anita. Mr. Mandella stated he could have accidently [sic] double-treated the mare. After hearing all the facts and entering all the exhibits, the hearing came to an end. The following ruling was issued: Mandella is fined $500 for violation of rules #1843(a),(b), and (d) (Medication, Drugs and Other Substances).”

“Accidentally,” huh? The race in question was a $200,000 Stakes. The horse, Zusha, finished 3rd, “earning” $24,000 for Mandella, et al. She remains under his control.

Same track, July 5: “Jockey Assael Espinoza was in to review yesterday’s fifth race…. Mr. Espinoza’s horse ducked out sharply from left-handed urging at the eighth pole. The BOS and Mr. Espinoza placed the blame on the horse and Mr. Espinoza was not issued a penalty.”

He whips (“left-handed urging”) his horse (Magnificent Q T) causing her (of course) to “duck out sharply” and the horse is to blame? Vile. Magnificent, by the way, finished 2nd, “earning” $3,400 for her people, including Espinoza.

And finally, just two days after the aforementioned Flores “welt on the horse” hearing, that same jockey was back to answer for another whipping violation – “excessive use of the riding crop” – from the previous day on 3-year-old Mr. Vitamin. The Stewards: “Mr. Flores agreed he should have stopped using the riding crop and stated he was sorry and had no excuse.” Again, a mere $300 fine, nothing more. Causes a welt and lives to ride (abuse) another day. You can’t make this stuff up.