On June 15, racing apologist Jen Roytz wrote an article in which takes umbrage over the way a recent rescue effort was handled. Unsurprisingly, the story was biased and skewed, with but one side – the industry’s, shockingly – presented. So today we offer the other, as told by someone who was directly involved – Joy Aten, our primary “Shedrow Secrets” contributor. Before reading, know this: Joy Aten’s reputation (resume) where equines are concerned is beyond reproach.


The Dr. Mohrbacher Saga
by Joy Aten:

As I see it, the main difference between the pro-racing and anti-racing camps (other than the obvious) is the use of facts. Our basis for choosing to support the horses, and not the industry that exploits them, rests on facts – injuries/deaths, slaughter, etc. On the other hand, those in and around racing circles try desperately to refute these (documented) facts, denigrating the message (and the messengers) with the only weapons at their disposal – inaccuracies and lies. Case in point, the Jen Roytz article, “When Helping Is Hurting.”

The first inaccuracy didn’t take long: “On June 4,” she writes, “Doug O’Neill Racing Stable was contacted about a horse…” In fact, The Doug O’Neill Racing Stable (DONRS) was contacted about the tattooed TB gelding identified as Dr. Mohrbacher on June 3, not June 4. I know because I am the one who posted this – on June 3: “This is Dr. Mohrbacher – he is currently owned and in the possession of kill buyer Brian Moore. He needs your help, Doug O’Neill…racehorse advocates are inundated with trying to rescue racehorse cast-offs and there is NO ONE for Dr. Mohrbacher. Will YOU help your former horse?”

Roytz quotes two individuals in her article, both of whom support the industry, one – Sharla Rae Sanders – the DONRS Operations Manager. Sanders: “First off, I do my research when I’m contacted [about a former DON racehorse in need of rescue]. We have a database of every single horse Doug has trained…” Yet, despite her “research,” Sanders, in an email to me, said, “We did not have a horse with that name in training with us.” Yes, they did; in fact, he had won for O’Neill his first time out. Sanders later acknowledged that she had made a mistake in her “methodical” research, stating she was looking for Mr., not Dr., Mohrbacher.

The other Roytz source was Bev Strauss, former insider and co-founder of MidAtlantic Thoroughbred Rescue: “It’s the vigilante types…[that] don’t understand that it wasn’t the racing connections that put the horse in the bad spot.” Regarding the need for long-term care, she says: “These are things that so often the vigilante-types don’t concern themselves with. They fancy themselves professional Facebook horse rescuers, but they don’t do anything constructive to help support the horse long term.” “Facebook rescuers”? Those who know us know better – but then Roytz never bothered to interview me; the truth would have gotten in the way of a good story. It most certainly would have discredited Strauss’ remarks since I had a reputable non-profit ready and willing to take the gelding once his bail was met.

Regarding my purported harassment of Sanders, the entirety of my attempts to reach her for assistance with the gelding included two posts I put on the DONRS FB page, posts that were completely ignored and deleted, and two emails I sent in response to hers after Mary Johnson was finally able to get in contact with her. Yet, when the misidentification of the horse became clear, I immediately offered an apology on the DONRS FB page (where I had made the initial pleas). But Sanders continued to email ME, even angrily stating “I could not find an apology” when the apology had been there for nearly 24 hours…on the site SHE manages.

The Roytz article has many more false accusations and inaccuracies, all of which I will eagerly address if asked. I hope Jen Roytz herself comes here, to this public forum, and at last does what any credible journalist should do – get the “rest of the story.” And the same for Sharla Rae Sanders…I’ve got every correspondence between her and I. No stone will be left unturned.

So while Roytz and her interviewees made certain to exclaim how there was “hurt” and “damage” done (to what or whom I have no idea), and that reaching out for help via the only avenue I had available was not the “proper way,” none of the three uttered a single word about the real tragedy here – Dr. Mohrbacher.

A postscript:

Three days after my original plea for help – and after I had updated Sanders that the gelding had indeed been bailed – I was told that O’Neill would offer assistance. In that email, Sanders also told me that their former racehorse, Dr. Mohrbacher, was “named for his brother’s cancer doctor.” Now wouldn’t you think that that horse would have some special meaning? Although Reddam and O’Neill got Dr. Mohrbacher off their books nine years ago – when they sold him in a claiming race – surely they followed up on him…called the current owner or trainer from time to time…checked on how the oncologist’s namesake was doing. Right? Guess he wasn’t that special after all. Because if he was, when I asked for help on June 3, Sanders would have responded, “that cannot be Dr. Mohrbacher because he died 6 years ago!” Dead for six years, and they didn’t have a clue. “Beloved family members”? Please.

Friday at the races (“broke down”: racing-speak for dead; “vanned off”: horse required an ambulance to get off the course – good chance dead)

Jesse Pinkman, Arapahoe, “hit rail, vanned off”

Going for Miles, Arlington, “pulled up, vanned off”

Lonesome Jay, Belterra, “eased, vanned off”

The Conception, Churchill, “eased, vanned off”

Lingeringobsession, Fair Meadows, “fell suddenly, vanned off”

Dixie Delta, Fair Meadows, “hit fallen rival, stopped”

Posture, Indiana, “bled, vanned off”

Bansky, Indiana, “pulled up, vanned off”

La Fortunada, Los Alamitos, “fell”

Mike the Hab, Penn, “broke down”

Superb Owl, Santa Anita, “weakened, vanned off”

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(source: Equibase)