01/15/2012 12:50PM

Special Task

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No one asked me if I was okay with acknowledging the accomplishments of the claiming horse Rapid Redux with a special Eclipse Award, to be presented on Monday night in Beverly Hills. So sure, why not. A season of 19 wins at any level without a defeat (now 22 straight over three seasons) deserves a nod, and this is a pretty big one, seeing as the 6-year-old son of Pleasantly Perfect takes his place on a list of Special Eclipse Award winners that includes Bill Shoemaker, Laffit Pincay, Sheikh Mohammed, C.V. Whitney and Richard Duchossois.

To stop at those hallowed names would seem to characterize the Special Award as exclusionary, suggesting Mount Rushmore, but it's not. The Racing Form's talented cartoonist, Pierre Bellocq, was honored. So was the Keeneland Library, repository of so much racing history, as well as Russell Baze, for his habit of winning 400 races in Northern California year after year, and both Jack Landry -- "the Marlboro Man" -- and Anheuser Busch for pushing great piles of money into the sport.

More recently, the Special Award has taken on a tone of advocacy, tweaking at the conscience of the Thoroughbred industry. Cash Is King Stable, the folks behind champion Afleet Alex, were cited for their charitable work as both inspired and perpetuated by the horse. Roy and Gretchen Jackson shared the Special Award with the good people at the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania, not only for their brave attempts to save the severely injured Barbaro but also for the veterinary insights his struggle may have nurtured.

A Special Award went to the Kentucky Horse Park for being such a cool place, a hands-on equine Disneyland with a Hall of Champions that through the years has included Forego, John Henry, Cigar, Alysheba and Da Hoss, in the flesh, no animatronics required. The American Association of Equine Practitioners got a Special Award nod, presumably on the most general of altruistic principles, since their membership spreads across many breeds and on occasion adopts positions not entirely in sync with the Thoroughbred world.

At the dinner in Beverly Hills in January of 2010, the Special Award went to Monique Koehler, whose work as the driving force behind the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation helped inspire countless similar efforts throughout the Thoroughbred culture. Her words that night echoed the challenge thrown down nine years earlier on a New Orleans Eclipse Award stage by John Hettinger, avatar to those most deeply concerned with the fate of racehorses beyond their usefulness on the track.

That the prospect legal horse slaughter is once again raising its barbaric head in certain regions of the United States should be a crushing embarrassment to anyone who has anything at all to do with Thoroughbred racing and breeding. That a comprehensive law to ban the sale or transport of horses for slaughter continues to languish in Congress is stark testimony to the sober reality that people can not, in fact, be shamed into doing the right thing. And so it will take constant pressure, phone calls from high places, well-placed funds and fifty percent plus one (or 60 votes when and if it gets to the noxious U.S. Senate) to get the job done once and for all.

Can Rapid Redux help? You bet he can. John Hettinger, likewise honored with a Special Eclipse Award, died in 2008. His work was far from done, but at least the hook was set. If his people are so moved, Rapid Redux -- the working man's hero -- could pick up the banner and lead the charge all the way to an American promised land for Thoroughbreds that is not only free from the horrors of slaughter, but also one that gives their owners humane alternatives -- free vet exams and euthanasia when warranted, well-funded retirement and retraining facilities -- backed and bonded by the same money that brings these amazing animals into the world and markets them for pleasure and profit.

Robert Cole, the owner of Rapid Redux and many more horses besides, has indicated he would like to see his stable star retired somewhere the public can come to pay tribute, while at the same time further the cause of safe and humane retirement of others not nearly as well known. Good for him. It's one thing for people in formal attire to stand up and applaud for a horse so honest he wins 19 races in a year without a defeat -- as will happen on Monday night in Beverly Hills. It's quite another to do the same in spirit for a horse who's run 22 times and lost his share, but still comes back for more. Special Eclipse Awards are nice, but all any horse asks for is a kind hand and a bit of pasture grass at the end of the line.

judy berube More than 1 year ago
Dear Mr. Hovdey: Thank you for putting the horse first. For acknowledging they deserve a life after racing regardless if they are Champions or Low Level Claimers. The slaughter of our beloved Thoroughbreds (and all horses) should be ended. Thank you for speaking for these innocent beings. Judy Berube
Blackseabass More than 1 year ago
The Bu in Bute is the same bu thats in Ibuprofin. Dog food. Thats good . Dogs deserve food thats not made from petroleum extracts. Domestic animals are property no matter how many yo-yos say they aren't. PETA and their ilk are the same morons that insist that a fish caught and released is being abused and that it feels pain even though it has no limbic region in its brain so it can't possibly feel pain. Heck, even PETA came out and said the anti-slaughter laws were doing more harm than they considered when they crammed through the stupid laws with the help of the Walt Disney generation. I don't like driving past a field of skeleton framed horses that could've, would've been put in a can and saved the suffering. Horses cannot be humanely slaughtered like other livestock can ? Why not ? Horses are special ? Be serious. Slaughter is not undoing this industry . Filthy rich stronach holes that want me to pay to take care of their discarded property through ever increasing excessive take-out is. Saying only one kind of horse is edible is like saying only one kind of goat or one kind of chicken is edible. I had a pet chicken that I saved from being run over in the middle of Victory blvd. & she didn't starve by any means. She lived a good life long after she ever laid an egg. She was a pet. My other pets are fat and sassy . Racehorses are not pets. Many horses at so-called retirement facilities DO starve so the stronaching humans that run the place them don't have to get a real job. I've fed horses and mucked stalls for HORSE LOVERS that never showed their stronaching faces even to give their horse a little brushing or a peppermint & a beer. The peppermints & beers were on me. I'm 6' 2" and weigh 150 lbs. I miss meals regularly and always have. Not because I have to but because I'm not a fat pig. Don't waste your breath MJL these people live in a fantasy world where they think animals are equal to people. I get it perfectly . Some militant stronach holes want to tell other people what to do with their property. Their next breath will be used to say that racing itself is inhumane. Some of the big brains think you can turn out a racehorse in the desert like a burro and it will survive. The "Electric Horseman" was a movie people get that through your thick heads.
Chandra More than 1 year ago
Go Bless the people who are fighting to save these beautiful innocent souls!
Pat More than 1 year ago
Thanks, Jay, for this well-written piece. I hope there will come a time when articles such as this are not necessary.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
I think Barb3000 ingested something toxic. May I suggest viewing "War Horse" a movie by Steven Spielberg. I'm told that this Book, made into a play, that is now a move is.. "Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War (WWI) The story begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets-British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter-before the story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man's Land." It is fiction, but probably more real than the rants of lunatics. Straight enough, until the review. Thanks.
blackseabass More than 1 year ago
If Exceller was mine he'd have never been sold to anyone for any purpose. That being said a little balance and perspective is called for. Foundations whatever the named purpose are generally SCAMS for the benefit of the scammers. Barbaro's owners are Rockefeller heirs yet they beg money from the public. Opening this door will lead to no ribeye steaks or pork chops in the future. mmmm,delicious. Personally I worry more about starving people than I do about farm animals. Lewis & Clark ate horses & dogs . It isn't more humane to starve a horse than it is to eat him. The constitution gaurantees the right to USE your property. Horses are property . The people that own them should be able to use them as they see fit. EuthaniZing then burying 1200 pounds of meat in a ditch isn't being very humane when there are starving people. Funny thing is most of the people that are so indignant about horse slaughter would like to dismantle all social saftey nets for poor people. They have no intelectual integrity. I'm not saying that is you Jay, buttZ ... its an accurate description of many. I say let John Bolton worry about what he wants to do with The Factor when he's done running and don't try and squeeZe the player for any more money .
seahawk1977 More than 1 year ago
Thank you for bringing up the Exceller case. His tragic demise, years after being one of the best runners of the late 70's, was horrifying to me when I first read it years back. As a teenager, I spent most every weekend at Santa Anita, and was able to see him run on numerous occasions. What happened to him should not happen to any horse, let alone a racehorse of his caliber.
Barb3000 More than 1 year ago
You don't get it do you? The poor can't afford to buy horse meat in addition to the fact that horses coming from the US is not fit for human consumption in any country. These race horses are given pain killers such as phenylbutazone or bute daily and many more drugs that people are not supposed to ingest. This drug does not leave the horses systems. No matter how long the horse is kept in a feed lot waiting to be slaughtered be it six months or six years it does not disappear. Almost all of the over the counter meds a owner can buy for their horse such as wormer states on it not to given to horses sent for slaughter. Bute was taken off the market for human use years ago because it eventually killed the user. Children are not to eat horse meat if the animal has been given Bute because it can lead to Aplastic Anemia. Only the nut cases starve their animals be it a horse or a dog. I have never seen a person that was arrested for animal cruelty such as starvation ever look as if he or she ever missed a meal. And as far as doing with a animal as the owner wants to do be it starve it, beat it and cruelty there happen to be animal welfare laws in every state that that says you can't. The constitution didn't mean cruelty! And just who are the people indignant about horse slaughter that want to dismantle the social safety nets for the poor???? I have never heard of such nonsense. I would get my information straight if I were you.
HB More than 1 year ago
You are way off base! These horses that are sent to slaughter do not go to feed starving people, as they are not fit for human consumption. Instead they end up as dog food. There is only one breed of horse, specifically bred for human consumption and its not a Thoroughbred. Do a little research before you spout off some ridiculous crap like that. Yours is the worst argument I've ever heard and it shows how little you respect the horses. Animals arent just property- they have rights now. They have the right to not be abused, which is what slaughter is. It is frightening how little people understand about slaughter. Horses cannot be humanely slaughter as other livestock can, so they suffer horribly. Slaughter is what will undo this industry. It's not a dark little secret anymore.
KWebers More than 1 year ago
Is US horse racing ever going to get sustainable? The time is now or never. The sport is dying on the vine and instead of re-tooling to capture new fans, it allows commercial slaughter to be the end for these brave campaigners. The revision that I call out for is horse welfare, via the condemnation of horse slaughter. Until NTRA, USTA etc condemn slaughter, support the federal slaughter ban bills, and embrace re-homing/retraining programs, there is literally, no future for US horse racing. I agree with PBewley: Funding for the horses is in the purses, the owners of racetracks, the mutuals , the slots. The horses deserve a portion of the spoils folks , a universal funding program from all the tracks , at every race , every day. These so called voluntary per start fees just don't work. Until there is mandatory funding from the revenues this industy will continue to be " embarrassed " by thoroughbreds ending up in kill pens. Don’t let the industry be its own problem. FL's Calder race course has a re-home effort going that gains funds from entry fees, everyday, every race. http://www.calderracecourse.com/news/archives/calder-donates-25000-florida-thoroughbred-retirement-and-adoptive-care-trac That should be standard operating procedure – at minimum – at US race courses. Oh, and strong, active support for the federal bills banning horse slaughter . . . that's a 'must' too.
Oldhorselover More than 1 year ago
From your lips to Gods Ear. Thank you
Dave Schuler More than 1 year ago
Get them, breed them,raise them.break@race them.make or loose money on them , retire them,they allmost all give you all they have,(all men @ animals are created equall,lets treat all as such)(we would not sell grandma)lots luck ,Dave Schuler
Shawn More than 1 year ago
Thank you for being a voice for horses! God bless you! I call the President, my Congressman and Senators weekly to support hr2966 and s1176! I ask the President to issue an Executive Order, too!