There is abuse, then there is egregious abuse. 9-year-old Threewisemen has been toiling away in $4,000-$5,000 claiming races at cheap racino tracks Thistledown and Mountaineer for a very long time – since August 2008, covering 94 races, all under either Rodney Moyers or Russell Polichena (who is also his current owner). In all, Threewisemen has been whip-raced 99 times. 99. And recently, not faring so well.

9 of his last 10 starts:

July 30th, last of 9
July 9th, 9th of 10
June 25th, last of 9
June 4th, 7th of 10
May 18th, 6th of 7
May 9th, 7th of 12, but 16 lengths back
April 25th, last of 11
November 15th, 9th of 10
October 9th, 9th of 10

Russell Polichena, it’s not too late to do something right by this horse: Take some of your not insignificant earnings (over $2 million as trainer or owner) – which, after all, are made entirely off the backs of horses like Threewisemen – and sponsor his rescue. Otherwise, he will end up beaten into the ground, either by you or someone who claims him from you. Or worse, on a Canadian butcher line. And yes, that’s an official prediction.

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.

Two athletes in trouble:

6-year-old Wolverton’s last six starts (all under either Stephanie or Cody Beattie):

October 24th at Penn, last, 24 3/4 lengths back
October 31st at Charles Town, last, 53 3/4 lengths back
November 13th at Laurel, 10th
December 18th at Penn, DNF
June 5th at Penn, DNF
June 28th at Penn, 10th, 17 3/4 lengths back

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10-year-old Chillin Villain’s last four starts (all under trainer/owner Burton Sipp):

May 10th at Mountaineer, last, 20 1/4 lengths back
May 27th at Mountaineer, DNF, “fold[ed] early”
June 16th at Mountaineer, last
July 6th at Mountaineer, 7th (of 8), 18 lengths back

Chillin Villain has been raced 74 times.

Sometimes, even I am left virtually speechless. Yesterday at Ellis Park, a mare named Texas Gold Digger was entered to run in the 6th race. Although she was ultimately scratched (reason unknown), her longtime trainer/owner, Robert Winstead, appeared ready to send her into battle (a $4,000 claiming battle worth $9,500). But here’s the thing: Texas Gold Digger is 13 years old. 13. When, Mr. Winstead, is enough enough?