The following is our latest installment of “Shedrow Secrets” – first-hand accounts from the heroes who work tirelessly to save Racing’s broken bodies.
You Got the Silver
by Joy Aten
Three-year-old You Got the Silver reportedly had pleuropneumonia when he was two and subsequently required the removal of two ribs. Pleuropneumonia – an inflammation both within the lung(s) and within the pleural cavity – can cause thoracic abscesses which might require the removal of a rib portion or the entire rib in order to access the abscess for drainage and treatment. This procedure requires 2-3 months for adequate healing, but complications include formation of a draining tract. The little nearly-black You Got the Silver did indeed develop such a tract – but that didn’t keep him from enduring the rigors of racing.
You Got the Silver was advertised for sale on Finger Lakes Finest Thoroughbreds (August 2, 2015) after “his connections have agreed that he is not racing material.” His bout with pleuropneumonia and rib resections that left him with a chronic, pus-draining hole in his side was glossed over in the ad…“A hole remains at the surgical site which we are told doesn’t bother him and requires once or twice daily cleaning. The current trainer has had him since December and the hole remains unchanged.” Not racing material per his connections, the ad states…yet they raced him two more times after that ad – August 7, coming in 30 lengths behind, last of 6, and August 14, last of 8, 23 lengths back.
You Got the Silver – “not racing material” – was then acquired by yet another racing owner/trainer, Tito Rivera. Rivera raced the little colt EIGHT MORE TIMES – 3 times in October. With a chronically infected hole in his side, it was surely only his heart that propelled him to his first (and only) win on October 14. On that night, with a 5K price tag on his head, You Got the Silver earned Rivera $5400. But that STILL wasn’t enough. October 26, 6th for $90. November 9, 9th – no check. And then on November 25, You Got the Silver “weakened,” finished 7th, and gave Rivera another $90.
On December 5, this Facebook post on my newsfeed caught my attention: “Another URGENT OTTB” (although, this was NOT an OTTB…in fact, the post went on to state the horse was going to be running two days later, on Monday, December 7) – “needs home ASAP. You Got the Silver…had surgery to remove 2 ribs and has a permanent drain [there was no drain] in his side…Finger Lakes racetrack is shutting down and he has nowhere to go. SOUND, he is running Monday!” Pictures accompanied this post, and a close-up photo of this “permanent drain” clearly showed a moderate amount of purulent drainage coming from a girth-area hole just caudal to his left shoulder. I was appalled this little black colt was entered to race when he was unmistakably battling infection. To add insult to injury, he was going to be “homeless” in less than a week.
An “Action Alert” was posted on the Horseracing Wrongs Facebook page about You Got the Silver. The comments revealed other advocates were just as appalled as I was (and their phone calls to Finger Lakes Racing Office/GM/racing secretary ultimately led to the colt not having to run on December 7). But shocking were the comments by so-called racehorse-welfare advocates who DEFENDED Tito Rivera and his handling of You Got the Silver. The colt described as “not [being] racing material” with a “permanent drain” in his side couldn’t even get into a trot when prodded to do so by his handler in the video accompanying the ad…yet, the person who made the “URGENT OTTB/NEEDS HOME” post said (on the HW Action Alert) in defense of Rivera: “His surgery was several years ago [the colt is 3, he had the surgery when he was 2 – “several years”?] and was related to an infection at the time. He is sound and has no issues under saddle. He even wins!” Regarding Rivera, she added: “He cares about his horses and they are well treated”; on the colt: “[he] was sound to race.” Yet another irate “advocate” – the executive director of a TB racehorse retirement and placement program – stated: “[Rivera] did nothing wrong” and on the Horseracing Wrongs supporters: “[You] bitch about horses in need, but don’t do anything to help.”
I couldn’t believe that individuals who claim to be equine-knowledgeable would honestly consider a draining hole in a horse’s side to be of no concern. They should certainly know that intact skin/hide is the body’s first-line barrier defense to pathogenic microorganisms and a potential subsequent infection and/or full-blown sepsis! And there is NO equine body that will not try to heal a wound – clean and surgically made or infected. In addition, while attempting to defend Rivera’s callous treatment of this colt with a chronic and obvious infection – “he’s sound”…“he wins!”…“[Rivera] did nothing wrong” – their other comments included: “This horse was headed to a bad place” and “Plenty of Finger Lakes horses head to the killers.” So what was it? Rivera “cares about his horses” or he sends them “to a bad place”?
In the end, the HW supporters’ phone calls demanding You Got the Silver NOT race on December 7 were successful. The depleted little colt – battling a year-long infection – was spared from being raced one last time. And our opinion that the draining hole in his side was NOT just some insignificant “remnant” of an illness he once endured was confirmed. Once again, recent quotes from those who previously minimized You Got the Silver’s compromised physical state and defended Rivera: “[You Got the Silver] raced 15 times this year with a draining infected chest wound”…“the surgeons at Cornell were concerned about the chest wound” and “the vets spent over 3 hours debriding the infected tract; and when entering the thoracic cavity, encountered an infected piece of bone that had been festering for over a year.” Lastly, “He’ll be on antibiotics for at least 3 weeks…he’s not out of the woods yet…the surgery ended up over $1500.” Clearly, You Got the Silver was a colt in trouble while in Rivera’s grasp YET was forced to race an additional eight times in twelve weeks.
Imagine having to race. For a place to live. To be fed. To simply have a chance of not being sent to slaughter. Now imagine having to race with an infection in your chest – for a year. Troubling, yes?…but not surprising in this industry. But even more troubling is the minimizing of this little colt’s suffering and the defending of his abuser by “advocates.” That’s downright inexcusable.