Shedrow Secrets: Flipping One of Racing’s Feel-Good Stories
by Mary Johnson
About a year and a half ago, Ms. Jen Roytz, a paid mouthpiece for the racing industry, wrote a Paulick Report Aftercare Spotlight “story” entitled “12 YEAR OLD BOY CLAIMS 12 YEAR OLD HORSE FOR RETIREMENT.” That horse was Good Credentials. I’m sure everyone is always up for a “feel-good story,” especially when it surrounds a 12-year-old horse getting his “retirement.” However, this “story” was a bit different because it venerated the boy’s parents, George Iacovacci and Kelly Spanabel. Frankly, I was horrified that this couple would be given the amount of praise depicted in the article. I reached out to Ms. Roytz and asked her how well she knew Iacovacci and Spanabel, and she quickly replied back that she didn’t know them personally at all. However, she had heard conflicting reports on them, including one from a close personal friend of hers. But she said the article focused on their son, and she didn’t feel that the negative publicity about the couple was relevant. “Relevant”? Read on.
I first met Iacovacci and his partner, jockey Kelly Spanabel, at Beulah Park well over twelve years ago. I can tell everyone that neither is quite as wonderful as depicted in the article. Everything I state here can be documented and none of it paints a pretty picture. All of the following were owned/trained by Iacovacci:
SUNDER BAY – Iacovacci raced him with a bowed tendon. 90% of the tendon and ligament was torn away from the bone. Joy Aten was involved in buying him from George and he was euthanized due to the severity of his injuries.
ONE HUNDRED LAUGHS – Iacovacci raced him three weeks before the horse was “rescued” and retired to a well-known farm in Kentucky. When he arrived at this farm, he was so weak and emaciated that he fell out of the trailer and the farm’s vet felt he might have to be euthanized. Again, he was raced three weeks prior to arriving at this farm. He did recover. His Shedrow Secrets story can be found here.
ACADEMY DANCER – I was asked by a CANTER coordinator to pick Dancer up at Beulah Park. When I arrived, Spanabel was babbling that the horse had “bruised” his shoulder in his last race. I brought AD into my barn and fostered him for a few days until Nancy Koch came down to Columbus and picked him up and hauled him back to Cleveland. Upon further evaluation, it was discovered that he was running with a fractured sesamoid. CANTER paid for his surgery and he was adopted out.
SAY YES DEAR – This horse was still in training when a group of us were able to “buy” him from Iacovacci. Since he was a Kentucky-bred, we were able to get him into the Kentucky Equine Humane Center. After 2 1/2 months of downtime, it was ultimately determined that Say Yes Dear should be euthanized due to the severity of his injuries.
WINDS OF LOVE – This horse had to be euthanized within two weeks of racing due to the complete breakdown of his ankles. His Shedrow story can be found here.
Three more Iacovacci horses who had to be euthanized due to the severity of their injuries: Buckflanker (according to one site, two fractured knees), Magic Conqueror and Whitmark. Whitmark’s knees were so bad he couldn’t lay down. Three more animals run into the ground. But who cares when there is a heartwarming story to be told. (Spanabel was the last jockey to ride five of the above eight horses.)
Now, I want to share a very personal story about the couple. About twelve years ago, I was contacted by the CANTER coordinator at Beulah, Chris Colflesh, and she told me that Iacovacci had two horses that he wanted to “get rid of.” If someone didn’t buy the horses, they would go to Sugarcreek. Of course, I decided to step up and buy both. Chris said that George wanted $1,000 for them, so I took $1,000 cash to the track and handed it over to Iacovacci. Both horses came home with me. Applejack was thin, lame and had patches of hair falling off his body. Harvey was thin with ribs visible.
Iacovacci told me that Harvey was a QuarterHorse, but he was actually a Thoroughbred by the name of Mister to You. Applejack was a Saddlebred. Although Iacovacci told me that they had been his grandkids’ horses and the children had outgrown them, I later discovered that both horses had been sent to an auction in Indiana when a mounted police force had been downsized. Three of the unit’s horses ended up at auction: Harvey, Applejack and a horse named Junior. I spoke to one of the officers who rode Harvey and reassured him that two of the three had landed in a really good place. No one knows what happened to Junior. Applejack was with me for a little over eight years and was humanely euthanized with me by his side and buried on my farm. Harvey went to the Cleveland area and was adopted into a good home.
You never have to incriminate the racing industry because they are perfectly capable of incriminating themselves. Below there are links to two Paulick Report articles. In them, you will read about Star Plus, a horse who was supposed to be retired from racing but instead ended up with Spanabel/Iacovacci. They ran him four times after it had been determined that he should never race again due to a “severe ankle injury.” Days before a hearing with WV racing officials, Spanabel, on her FB page, said that “Star Plus was being sold to overseas interests and that his racing career would continue [in Belize].”
Spanabel went on to say: “Good luck Star. He left this afternoon on his long journey out of the country. I hope they take care of you. Forced to send you where you can race and won’t be harassed.” Harassed? Can you imagine the audacity of these people? As it turned out, Spanabel was lying: SP had never left for Texas in order to be shipped out of the country. She and her partner had held Earle Mack, SP’s previous owner, hostage the same as George Iacovacci had done to me. The upshot here is that these are not good people, and that Jen Roytz needs a lesson in responsible journalism (this is not her first time appearing on this site). Oh, and the Paulick Report should look up the definition of ethical consistency.