12/21/2012 5:01PM

Hawthorne: Rescue horse makes his debut, and many of his caregivers plan to be on hand

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STICKNEY, Ill. – An Illinois-bred 2-year-old colt makes his career debut in a statebred-restricted maiden race Wednesday at Hawthorne. Already, the horse has attained a small measure of celebrity.

His name is Magna Fortuna. The Louisville Courier-Journal hosts a weblog that details his history and updates Magna Fortuna’s progress at the track. Stories have been written, local television crews dispatched to Hawthorne.

“He’s kind of gone viral, it looks like,” trainer Michele Boyce said.

Boyce thinks Magna Fortuna could turn out to be a useful runner, but it’s his back story that has attracted attention.

Gail Vacca is a former trainer who founded and runs an organization called the Illinois Equine Humane Center. Vacca goes to horse auctions looking for Thoroughbreds being sold for slaughter, trying to purchase and ultimately place them in a caring environment. It was at such an auction in Indiana during June 2009 that Vacca discovered a Thoroughbred she was able to buy for $300. The mare was lame and in poor health, and even after bringing her back to Illinois and performing veterinary work, euthanasia remained a possibility. A bit of sleuthing revealed she was a daughter of Silver Hawk named Silver Option. She was found to be pregnant. And when her foal came out looking like a Thoroughbred, too, Vacca kept up her inquiries and found Silver Option had been bred the year before to the sire Magna Graduate. When Silver Option had been sold, the transaction that began her downward spiral, her owner was told she had aborted.

The foal she delivered is Magna Fortuna, called Taxi by his familiars because he was born on tax day in 2010. Fifteen people, including Vacca, have gone in as partners on the horse. On what normally would be a quiet, wintry Wednesday, they figure to ramp up the Hawthorne atmosphere.

“Between the friends and family, I think we’ll set an all-time attendance record for December at Hawthorne,” Boyce said.

After being broken in Oklahoma, Magna Fortuna came into Boyce’s stable over the summer at Arlington and progressed steadily toward his debut. He has worked 10 times in preparation for Wednesday’s sixth race, the last two drills at six furlongs, and Magna Fortuna probably is fit enough to win if he’s fast enough to win.

“He’s not a bad little colt,” Boyce said. “I don’t know that he’s stakes quality, but he should be able to go through his Illinois allowance conditions.”

If not, a class drop into claiming races is not an option, the partners have said. Successful or not in the business of racing, Magna Fortuna won’t drift into the shadows the way his mother did.

Patsy Finley More than 1 year ago
i hope he does great for them and i really dont like any good horses going for slaughter wher i live we have pepole just turning loose horses all the time and they dont have any way to survive also 2 years a go a freind got to drive a truck that was neat in away for this is a real story he drove a truck and was hired to drive another mans truck out west with a load of horses on a straight deck like all of the rest i thought all horses went strait to the slaughter house what we found out was at the place they know when the trucks are coming and other horse buyers are there for broke and unbroke horses alike they select them and cull through to get the best ones out they do this till they get to baorder as they really want to save as many as they can on certain load there was one that so visious that it chrged at you and tryed to kill you he was so mean as he came off the truck he tryed to get the gate man and hit the gate post head on it broke its shoulder and they called the vet out and put it do and buried it they cant haul horses in double decks they have to come in a straight deck with room for 30 to 35 horse depending on size these pepole dont overload. the man that had them haul these horses have 200 acres and said he has went out to feed and have 2 to 20 new horses there and have no idea about them to know where to look for owners he tries to place all he can till he has to move some to buy feed for the rest to hold them longer i am justifying slaughter but ut is not preety to see one hit and killed or mangled and have to shot it for you cant get close enough to it or find one that has starved to death and that has happened here some i just know that some holding places do care but if you cant afford to feed and our humane society cant take any more and others are not equipped that is close to us to take them i am so glad Magna Fortuna and his mother was resecued and he has pepole that love him and your right so many of them get dumped at sales and some worse to pepole that has no knowledge and wants a horse but it isnt just thourghbreds Scammper Charmine James horse was a horse from slaughter yard and some of the rodeo horses are as well so good luck Magna Fortuna on your journey
Vinod Jhangimal More than 1 year ago
Update: Magna Fortuna, the second choice at 3-1 ran 9th, beaten by 16 1/2 lengths. In my eyes though, this horse and all of the owners are winners.God bless them all.
noocheroni More than 1 year ago
how come i dont here a high profile owner like mike repole with all his coin rescue a horse and have pletcher train it in new york
Bellwether4U More than 1 year ago
Ms Gail Vacca is one hell of a Human Being & this is one Hell of a story!!!...Book That...I hope He flys like a rocket & blows that field away...ty...
Jim More than 1 year ago
What finally happened to the dam? Is she still alive? Could be a better story than Secratariat?
Julie Smoak More than 1 year ago
Silver Option has been pensioned (no longer will be bred) and resides at the Illinois Equine Humane Center, where she has a home for life.
Dave Oster More than 1 year ago
hope he wins by 6 going away
Patricia Doyle More than 1 year ago
These connections and especially Gail Vacca are the exemplary and these folks are the BEST part of racing. Wish there were more people like them. I sincerely hope that Magna Fortuna does magnificently racing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Magna Fortuna is one of the lucky ones and god bless all involved in saving this colt and his dam. There are so many who don't get saved. My horse is an Arab, but there are several Thoroughbred's on the farm where we board that were slaughter bound. Most out of Mountaineer Park or Charlestown via kill pens in PA. This disgusts me on so many levels. How can these owners, trainers and other caregivers sleep at night knowing they did their parts to send these animals to their deaths ? I just don't get it. There have been horses found in kill pens over the past year associated with some very prominent names in the industry. In my opinion, there needs to be some kind of national registry where these animals can be tracked so they can't fall through the cracks. There has to be some accountability and maybe with that accountability will come breeding reforms.
richard montgomery More than 1 year ago
The greedy sobs sleep just fine.
Union_Rags More than 1 year ago
GOD BLESS you all.
Jay Romig More than 1 year ago
I've retired every horse I ever raced, and in fact have all but two of them here at home with me taking care of them personally. I hope the little stinker wins by 100 lengths. I really appreciate this entire thing,I also have bred my own horses . Good luck to all of you.