Bill Finley asks Who Will Save the Horses?

Kentucky Derby Winner Ferdinand by Horsephotos
1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand met his apparent end in a slaughterhouse in Japan. Image by

Tuesday’s Horse have been dancing around on how to cover Joe Drape’s reporting in the New York Times on the troubled Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF).

We do not quarrel with Drape’s action. Drape is right to expose any operation taking in millions of dollars to give sanctuary to off the track Thoroughbreds, who appear to have left some to starve, even to the point of death. It is scandalous. It is shocking. It is heartbreaking.

However, from long years’ experience, we also know that the TRF have had management issues in the past, but resolved them and done stellar work.

Our question is, and one we are looking into, is why the people managing the farms contracted by the TRF to house these horses and care for them did not alert someone, anyone, and force them listen, instead of allowing the horses to be go neglected to the point became so emaciated some actually died?

Interestingly, in a caption to an image accompanying Drape’s breaking report of March 17, 2011 (see link below), it reads, “When Gayle England, whose farm is highly regarded as a special care facility, complained of a general lack of regard for the horses, 26 TRF horses were taken from her.”

How do you explain that?

In the meantime, Bill Finley, in a special for ESPN, asks in light of it all, who will save the horses?

Finley writes:

When it comes to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, the New York Times, reporter Joe Drape and the thorny problem of old race horses going off to be butchered in a slaughterhouse, there has been a lot of finger pointing of late. I’m not sure any of it has been constructive. Today, four days after Drape wrote a story in the New York Times that leveled serious charges against the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and the TRF responded with accusations that Drape is a lousy reporter who badly misrepresented the facts, the industry is no closer to solving a problem that has existed for as long as the sport has.

Every day, horses come off the racetrack that aren’t talented enough to become sires or broodmares. They are too old, too slow or too infirm to keep racing. There are thousands a year that fall into this category. Some find good homes. Some get neglected. A lot get slaughtered. How many? No one is quite sure, but the number is no doubt in the thousands.

For far too long, the horse racing industry’s solution was to do nothing. The issue was rarely if ever raised and few had any idea that a lot of old broken-down racehorses were sent off to the slaughterhouse. It was the sport’s dirtiest little secret, and a lot of people wanted to keep it that way.

This is a gem of an article. Please continue reading here >>

Remember Ferdinand. Remember Exceller.

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3 thoughts on “Bill Finley asks Who Will Save the Horses?”

  1. Generally when someone asks me about a rescue or foundation I tell them to go look at the horses. Transparency is everything but who ever would have thought this would happen?? NO ONE!! Well I am sorry but if I can not go see a horse being cared for then I think for me that is where I will start to draw the line.

    My husband and I were sitting at Old Friends on Friday talking about how the horses there never miss a meal, at dinner time they are standing at the buckets waiting. Well I am Sorry but if I am going to give away hard earned cash then I need to know that at the very least, a horse is able to have a full stomach.

    I now worry about the 1200 horses that the TRF are still caring for and what will happen to them. They fired the vet which raised red flags for me and many others I am sure. There are ALOT of good rescues out there that help horsesand I pray this doesn’t hurt them. The horses still need our help!

    My comment to Ray Paulick:
    Ray with all due respect, I think it would have been best if you had said nothing in this sitaution. Obviously the TRF is in trouble, we certainly didn’t need you to tell us this NOW at this late point but perhaps if you had earlier on, horses may have been saved or kept from suffering. The TRF looks bad enough and now IMHO you have made them look even worse with your defensive attitude.

    From the bloodhorse article did state: “We’re current through the end of the year, and we’re not proud that we haven’t been able to keep these farms current because it is a financial strain on them,” Ludt said. “Now, due to its financial strictures, the TRF is restricting the number of horses that it accepts into its retirement program, according to Grayson and Ludt.

    How stupid does this sound? In one sentence they admit that they have failed but they are going to restrict the number of horses that they help? How about restricting that number to a BIG FAT ZERO!

    And if that isn’t bad enough, you now are comenting (I think #22) that: “In your opinion, there is a big difference between “starving” and “very thin.” Are you serious Ray, because I certaily hope not! I am upset at this commet, outraged, almost hurt and very angry. You better get yourself together and take a step back and take a real good look at this situation. A very thin horse is the same as a starving horse Ray. Lack of food is the cause for both. There is NO difference so I am certainly glad that this is “just your opinion” Who would wantto give money to a foundation where they are wanting to debate “very thin and starving”?

    The fact that the TRF has now fired the vet just goes to show that they are guilty and if they are not, they certainly need some good advice on how to handle PR situations like this in a better way. Firing the vet is certainly a huge mistake and will only cause donors to stray away.

    Well I am sorry Ray but there is no excuse for dead or starving horse. The TRF should have spoken up before it got to this point as well as the farms that keep the horses. In the end, money was the only thing that seemed to have mattered to anyone and unfortunately this is an all too familiar situation where the horses are suffering.

    Now what I fear the most now is that we have 1200 horses that are already jeopardized due to lack of funds and it is the attitude that you have just shown us that will later cause a greater lack of funds to the TRF and then the horses will suffer even more. Perhaps the TRF should allow heads to roll, suck it up and say they are sorry and then at the very least, beg for help!!!


  2. Thanks Jane. I have added it to Related Reading. At first I thought, perhaps all this attention will bring much needed awareness. Then I decided it is a tempest in a teapot that will most likely be forgotten, and it will be business as usual for most OTTB’s: slaughter.


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