First, the facts:

Holding Aces was born (made) on April 4, 2012. His first race came in September 2015. He “won,” earning $22,920 for his first set of “connections,” trainer Wayne Catalano and owners Gary and Mary West. Four more races followed for this team and then Jason Servis (yes, that Jason Servis) came on as trainer for two races. He was then sold by the Wests. In all, they (and the two trainers) banked $41,680 on Holding.

Holding, as a “yearling”:

On December 17, 2016, Holding was raced for the first time by trainer Domenick Schettino and an ownership group led by Salvatore Como. He finished 2nd, winning $6,800 for his people. Prior to that race, however, he was sold again – new trainer, Chris Englehart; new owner, Island Wind Racing; 12 races followed, with Holding earning $69,540 for them. Then, sold again.

On March 31, 2018, Holding finished 1st in his first race under trainer Randi Persaud (yes, that Randi Persaud) and owner Guyana Rocky LLC – payday, $33,000. In August, a new trainer, Otis Henry. A few races later, it was back to Persaud. At this point, Holding was consistently finishing far back, but because he was being raced at racino tracks, he was still bringing in cash. In December, Guyana changes trainers again. Enter Joey Martinez. This is the pairing that would have Holding till the end.

On April 11, 2019, Holding finished 6th, almost 18 lengths back in a cheap “claiming” race (“For Sale” at $4,000 prior to). It was to be his final race. Adding the $54,070 for Guyana (and their three trainers), Holding grossed $172,090 for the various human beings who had used him. You would think he had earned a peaceful retirement ambling about in an open pasture. Alas, not from these people, not from this industry.

In September – just five months after his final race – Holding Aces was found in a kill pen. Yes, this “athlete,” so recently cheered and celebrated by “connections” and “fans” alike, was headed to equine hell – the slaughterhouse. Here was his condition…

Holding was rescued from that pen. One report said this: “His feet were rotted [and] three were abscessing badly,” and he had “advanced laminitis” (perhaps the most painful equine affliction there is). And now, if you dare, imagine that this animal, in this state, was to be shipped (a horror unto itself), shot, shackled, hung upside down, slashed, bled out, and butchered. Regrettably, less than two weeks after rescue, Holding was euthanized, his unfathomable suffering at last at an end.

Horses are, of course, fully sentient beings – intelligent, aware, sensitive, loving, affectionate, the capacity (and desire) for pleasure, the capacity for (and aversion to) pain. To do what these people – including all of the named herein, and, of course, whoever dumped him at auction and left him to waste away in unspeakable terror and agony thereafter – did to this poor, poor soul is nothing short of evil. Evil.

Born in February 2000, G. W.’s Skippie was raced 17 times, earning over $123,000 for owner Glen Warren and trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. On September 26, 2004, he was injured in a race at Louisiana Downs. “Career” – at least on the track – over. Who Warren sold him to is unclear, but eventually he landed at Clear Creek Stud in 2005. And thus began Skippie’s second round of industry servitude, the breeding shed.

Clear Creek bred Skippie until 2016, whereupon they sold him to Randall and Jarett Wolfe. Flash forward to an article last month in the Thoroughbred Daily News. In relaying results from the “Ocala Breeders’ Breeze Show,” the TDN mentioned “the late Arkansas-based stallion G.W.’s Skippie” and quoted Randall Wolfe: “My son got G.W.’s Skippie from Clear Oak Stallions [sic] back in Fulsom [sic], Louisiana. G.W.’s Skippie hurt his knee in his last race and that finished him up. He is the only stallion we have had and, unfortunately, he passed about a week ago.” Wolfe added: “He was a very, very nice horse. He had a good mind and he put that into his babies too.”

To say that Skippie’s “passing” is among the worst we have presented on these pages would be an understatement. The “very, very nice horse” in the throes of death (warning: this video, which surfaced on social media, is extremely difficult to watch):


At death, Skippie was owned by Brittany Winans, who had acquired him directly from the Wolfes. Our Joy Aten was able to secure Randall Wolfe’s number from the Arkansas Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Horsemen’s Association (more on them in a moment). Joy spoke to Randall on July 14. He confirmed the handoff: “He was getting old so we gave him to this girl – she was going to breed him to a few of her mares.” Asked when, he replied, “two or three years ago.” Curiously, though, Skippie bred thrice in 2019 – and the Wolfes are the last recorded owners/breeders. So it appears the Wolfes had him through last year and probably “gave him” to Winans this spring.

In any event, the Wolfes were aware of at least some of the goings-on at Winans’. Wolfe told Joy: “[Skippie] got caught up in a fence and cut his leg up pretty bad.” Also: “He got into a pond and couldn’t get out by himself.”


When asked if he knew how emaciated Skippie was, how he could not even rise on his own, Wolfe said: “Some of these people don’t know how to feed TBs – you can’t just give them a handful of feed.” He then said he was told Skippie was in bad shape and was “put down” (“put down,” it turns out, by a shot to the head).

As for the Arkansas Horsemen’s Association, after first casting doubt that the horse in the video was Skippie (it is), they have decided to not press for Winans’ prosecution. A followup call (to ask the same) to Randall Wolfe has thus far gone unanswered.

Brittany Winans? I don’t imagine you’ll need much help from me conjuring adjectives. I’ll simply say this: What she did – torturing (or allowing the torturing of) another sentient being to death – is evil. Evil. In the final analysis, however, this is but another story of the racing-refuse pipeline: The Wolfes, instead of caring for Skippie for the remainder of his days after he had fattened their bank accounts, dumped him off to whomever; and dumping him off to whomever is no different than delivering him directly to the slaughterhouse gates. In other words, Mr. and Mr. Wolfe, Skippie’s withered insides are all over your greedy, little hands.

But as uncomfortable as this may be for some, there’s a larger truth at play here: We cannot protect horses (dogs, cats, etc.) from being tortured to death when anyone can acquire horses, and when there exists no serious deterrent to torturing them. Anyone can acquire horses because horses are things to acquire, and there is no serious deterrent because serious deterrents are reserved for violations of others’ rights. Horses are not “others”; they have no rights. Vicious circle defined.

What’s more, horses are chattel of the lowest order – manufactured, traded, used, and trashed purely on a human’s whim. There are no agencies regulating their titles, no safety nets monitoring their care. And if found abused, the victims of “animal cruelty” as defined by the law, there are no prosecutorial crusades initiated on their behalf or sentencing messages from the bench. There is no justice, not even a pretense to justice, because there is no will within society – not at the legislative level, not at the enforcement level, not at the judicial level, and most important, not at the public level – to (seriously) punish property owners for committing wrongs against their property. In the end, as long as we own them, there is nothing we can do to stop the cruelty, at least not in any meaningful way. Still, we can go a long way toward ending much of this horror (and make no mistake, there are thousands of Skippies out there) by ending the nation’s largest producer of equine products – horseracing.

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.

Scherer

(This post was made possible by the invaluable work of our vice president and chief cruelty investigator, Joy Aten.)

Bred by Homer Noble & Gayno Stable, Puxa Saco (below) began her “career” back in 2002, at the tender age of two. By all measures, she was a “successful” racehorse: 10 of her 24 races were stakes races, including two Grade 1s. She “won” 6 of those 24, and in all “earned” a not-untidy sum of $400,000. Her final race came in 2005, finishing 6th and just out of the money in a $300,000 Grade 3 at Keeneland, one of America’s most illustrious tracks. Her owner, from beginning to end, was Richard Rowan. Her trainer over her final 21 races was Jenine Sahadi.

After that last race, Puxa Saco was sold to Northwest Farms at the Keeneland Association 2005 November Breeding Stock Sale for $875,000, and consigned by Hinkle Farms. In 2015, she was sold again at that same Keeneland sale, this time to Alastar Thoroughbred for $75,000. And then once more, at the ’17 Sale to Tom Young – at this point, the now-17-year-old fetched a mere $5,000. During this period of her servitude, she birthed at least nine foals for use by the racing industry.

On June 30 of this year, Puxa Saco, 20, was in a kill pen (below). Yes, this former “winner” and “producer” was headed to equine hell – the slaughterhouse.

As one of the fortunate few who was noticed, fundraising for her rescue began on July 1: “[she] is available for $850.” While she was eventually “bailed out” – the vile term for when the kill-buyer’s ransom is met – the words of her former trainer, Ms. Sahadi, are instructive. On February 16 of this year, Sahadi, who personally banked multiple thousands off Puxa, tweeted the following:

In another tweet, she says, “We are activists for this sport, our horses and their caretakers. I for one am not interested in the extremists’ ignorant rhetoric.”

When Puxa’s situation came to light, someone on FB asked, “Anyone contact Jenine Sahadi?” The answer: “She knows, she was really helpful with confirming her id.” To which, another asked, “But not her bail?” The response:

So upon hearing her former (lucrative, I remind) charge was in a kill pen, the best Ms. Sahadi could offer was an identification? Beyond that, where was she in 2017 when Puxa’s stock had dropped to what everyone in racing knows to be an ominous level? “Complete and total devotion” – as defined by the horse people.

Of course, the rot goes much deeper than Jenine Sahadi. Where were you, Homer Noble & Gayno Stable? Where were you, Richard Rowan? Where were you, Northwest Farms? Where were you, Hinkle Farms? Where were you, Alastar Thoroughbred? Where were you, Tom Young (who may be the one who ultimately sold Puxa to slaughter)? And finally, where were the “thousands of men and women who would take a bullet for their horses”? Obscenities, all.

As a postscript, one of the commenters on the rescue thread suggested Puxa, because she is 20, be “kindly” euthanized. First, we at HW fully support euthanasia 1), if a life without pain/chronic illness/neglect is beyond reach and/or 2), in lieu of putting the horse on a slaughterhouse-bound truck. But as far as we know, Puxa is relatively healthy. So euthanasia would not have been the kind choice if (of course) a loving home could be found. So who was this person calling for euthanasia? Carrie Brogden, owner of Machmer Hall Farm, a Thoroughbred breeding operation (or, as they call it, a “livestock farm”). Here is Brogden talking about one of her recent products – “#44”:

“Paid for our kids school, my house, etc.” – that about sums it up. Racehorses, to the racers, are assets to be expended, resources to be mined, means to an end. (The specific end – a paycheck for the likes of Brogden and Sahadi or glory for the already-wealthy – is irrelevant.) So please ignore their declarations of love and protests of “we care.” Horseracing is simple, base exploitation – and the horses suffer and die for it.

“[A] good race can chart multiple arcs: the frontrunner, the disappointment, the underdog. Who holds its stride when a competitor is on its heels? Who gets in whom’s head and falls apart? Who finds out its extra gear has an extra gear? No matter who you are, there’s a horse for you.” – Seerat Sohi, Yahoo Sports

It’s rare these days that a racing article can still make me angry. But last week, Yahoo Sports published a piece by Seerat Sohi, (mostly) an NBA writer, that did just that and more. Its title: “Why horse racing can appeal to a younger crowd and overcome its ugly past.” Yes, it is as horrible as it sounds – at once, tone-deaf, ignorant, and obtuse.

(Note: I held off writing in the hope of reaching the author; I did not succeed.)

Sohi opens by explaining how, sports-starved during the pandemic, she turned to racing, albeit with low expectations: “Let’s be clear. I wasn’t planning on liking horse racing. Even though I thought it would be tedious…I was ready to play the ponies.” But then, “a dozen beautiful horses leaped from the gates, and I was entranced. I was shocked by how entranced I was.” From there, it was waxing (poetic) time:

“Watching my first race was like grazing the edges of an ancient stone, feeling its power, its ancestry, that sense of entering into an ancient lineage. … The sight of a horse on the run is life-giving, inspiring. It sets off something carnal. The way they tried to best each other, stride by stride, made me want to run.”

She then laments that, despite being “tailor-made for a generation that needs a break to check its phone every 90 seconds,” Racing is not drawing the young. And though she cites “attitudes toward animal cruelty” as a factor – the last of seven mentioned, one of which was “Netflix” (?) – it’s quickly dismissed: “I’m not sure how much that applies to an audience that tunes in every Sunday to watch men mash their heads against each other.” Not the same at all, of course, something the kids surely know. Still, she says, “It isn’t a failure of the product itself. The races are invigorating.”

Of the gambling component, she asks: “But does horse racing even need to hitch itself to gambling?” It’s not, after all, like poker, “because horse racing is a real sport. There’s intrinsic pleasure in watching it. Gambling lubricates the experience, but isn’t dependent on it.” Did I not promise obtuse?

And then, because it seems everything nowadays must be reduced to this, race:

“But the more I read about the mainstream narrative of horse racing, the more disconnected I felt from the races, and it occurred to me why…it took a pandemic and a white boyfriend for this 26-year-old Canadian woman of Indian descent to finally tune in: modern horse racing isn’t designed to appeal to me. The heroes in American horse racing culture are almost always white. That’s on purpose. … Young equestrians are now questioning the horse racing world’s lack of response to George Floyd’s homicide…challenging the sport they love to tackle diversity problems and its deep-seated white privilege.”

So, horseracing is racist. Not speciesist (she probably doesn’t even know what that word means), but racist. Precious.

She closes thus: “If you’ve never watched horse racing…there are races everywhere, all the time. Check one out. Watch the way the horses move. It’s for you.”

Vile – from start to finish.

Of the charges leveled above, however, the most unforgivable is ignorant. Ms. Sohi is a paid journalist. It’s her job to know her subject. And no, providing Wikipedia-like snippets of racing history or citing the number of black jockeys in the 1875 Kentucky Derby doesn’t cut it. Had she done a modicum of research, she would have found that contemporary racing is in the news because of on-track kills, slaughter, whips, drug scandals, and federal indictments – none of which she mentions. At all. (And no, she doesn’t get credit for the “ugly past,” as article titles typically come from editors.)

But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps it’s not ignorance at all. Perhaps Ms. Sohi is very much aware that over 2,000 horses die, horrifically, on American tracks each year; that 10,000-15,000 more are violently bled-out and butchered at horseracing’s singular retirement facility, the slaughterhouse; that racehorses are kept locked – alone – in tiny 12×12 stalls for over 23 hours a day; that they are bought, sold, traded, and dumped like common Amazon products; that 90-95% of them have ulcers; that – well, you know the drill. Perhaps Ms. Sohi knows all this – and just doesn’t care. But either way, gross incompetence or simple heartlessness (she does refer to the horses as “its” throughout), for shame, Seerat Sohi (and, of course, Yahoo Sports). For shame.

(full Yahoo article here)