This story is excerpted from “Why Are Good Young Racehorses Ending Up As Meat 7,000 Miles Away?” | DEADSPIN | Written by Ryan Goldberg | May 2, 2019
APRIL 17, 2017, a sunny morning in Ocala, Florida, marked the start of the largest sale of two-year-old thoroughbreds in the country.
Ace King, a bay colt then still unnamed and known only as hip number 200 from the sticker attached to his side, was one of 1,208 entered in the catalog.
The auction itself was still a week away, and first Ace King and the others had to breeze a short distance—an eighth of a mile or a quarter-mile—in front of onlookers at the Ocala Training Center.
His workout made headlines, and over the next week, interested buyers visited his barn not far from the sales ring.
At Ocala’s first of four full-day auction sessions, Ace King sold for $170,000 to K.O.I.D., a South Korea–based company that had become a familiar presence at Ocala and other big U.S. sales, where it handles logistics like shipping for the horses selected for purchase by Korean owners and trainers.
He and most of the other purchased horses arrived in Korea in early June. He joined a stable at Seoul Racecourse in the city’s southern suburbs, where expectations were high. But there on the other side of the world, Ace King just didn’t pan out.
That summer and fall, the best he could do in four races was a third-place finish. In early 2018, he finished second, a sign, perhaps, of his natural talent emerging.
But his veterinary log filled with entries for exercise-induced fatigue and arthritis, and in his next starts he was nothing but cannon fodder. Finally, in a race on January 27, 2019, he staggered to the finish line last of 12. Two other graduates from his auction finished eighth and ninth.
Within two weeks he was ferried south to the island of Jeju, a mountainous resort destination for millions of Koreans and Chinese, and the epicenter of South Korea’s livestock and horse-breeding industries.
There would be no return from the island.
On the morning of February 18, he was trucked to South Korea’s largest slaughterhouse. Its owner, an enormous conglomerate called Nonghyup, controls agricultural and livestock businesses along with banks and other financial services.
Ace King was the first of eight horses that day to be prodded down a narrow concrete-and-metal chute to his death. A bolt was fired into his brain before he was hoisted up and his throat was cut.
He was the 109th horse killed at that slaughterhouse since the start of the year.
His meat was then processed, packaged, and likely sent to one of the Nonghyup-owned grocery stores on the island.
Tragic, and shameful. If they don’t kill racehorses on the track, they find a way to kill them off of it. Horse racing needs to end. Forever. It can never be cleaned up. Never. — Tuesday’s Horse.