Last October, I posted this story about 11-year-old Fighting City Hall and his 97 “career” races. Although he would go under the whip six more times – yes, that makes 103, dating all the way back to the Bush administration – I do have some good news to report. Thanks to the wonderful efforts of renowned equine advocate (and regular contributor to our “Shedrow Secrets”) Joy Aten, City (below) is finally free.

That story, in Joy’s words:

Fighting City Hall. Patrick’s post about him on October 1, 2014 brought his plight to my attention. Although no horse deserves the life they’re forced to endure in the racing industry and all are worthy to be rescued from it, there is something additionally disturbing about horses like “City.”

In my very first phone call back in October, placed in an effort to acquire City, I was told he was with “good people.” I thought, that’s nice, but I wasn’t betting on it. And as it turned out, they are the typical “good folks” of racing – when it comes right down to it, it’s all about the money (another story and another racehorse will explain that at a later time).

City’s last owner of record knows nothing about horses. How can an owner advocate for their racehorses’ welfare when they are clueless about them? I was informed that City was not eligible to run as a 12-year-old at Portland Meadows, but he did indeed run two more times in 2015. I was also told that if I couldn’t get City moved by the end of April from where his owner had put him, he would be taken to Emerald Downs to continue racing. But City was so lame (in both fronts) from abscesses shortly after coming off the track the vet wouldn’t even allow him to travel until just recently. He couldn’t be vanned due to his condition, and the owner knew that I was aware…makes it a little tough to run a lame horse and still look like a “good guy.”

Around the time of City’s 100th start there was a “nice” little article about City’s owner and the tough, nearly-black gelding in some insignificant racing rag. In it, the owner stated there were multiple offers to retire City and give him a home. Funny how the offers I presented him with were the only two he was fixated on when we communicated.

Fighting City Hall, a 2003 dark bay Smart Strike gelding, Multiple Stakes Placed and winner of nearly 270K from 103 starts. City last raced on January 27 at Portland Meadows in a 2K claiming race where he was “hustled away from the gate” then “gave way,” finishing 4th and making $360 for his people. After countless phone calls and seven long months, he is safe at last…he arrived at Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky just this morning.

Enjoy your life, dear City. It is finally your own.

City about to load for his trip to KY!

After six years – 64 races – of gross exploitation and abuse, 9-year-old Coaltown Legend (original post here) has finally been retired, owing in large part to exposure from advocate Deborah Jones. On July 28th, Susan Salk, she with the permanently affixed rose-tinted glasses, wrote a reprehensible piece on Coaltown’s “salvation.” In it, she recounts his return “home” – the place where he was bred to be used – and the contributions of former connections Kate Feron and Angelo DeFilippis toward that end.

Feron (who “cried when he arrived”): “To see him again, I can’t express what it was like. He always had a special place in my heart. This was my special horse.” ♥ (heart courtesy of Salk) Of DeFilippis, Salk writes, “De Fillipis [sic], who owned the horse at one point, but was forced to sell him during hard financial times, says he kept tabs on Coaltown Legend, and spent a few sleepless nights worrying.”

Here are some conveniently omitted facts: Kate Feron is a hugely successful trainer with over $2.5 million in earnings. She bred Coaltown and raced him 19 times before selling him in February 2010 (“claimed away from her,” as Salk asserts, is a euphemism). Her “special horse” would race for over four more years – almost all at the claiming level – without her intervention. Angelo DeFilippis is (was) a racehorse owner. He either owned or co-owned Coaltown for 2 1/2 years and 16 starts, including a July 2011 claiming race at Saratoga. In all, Coaltown Legend earned over $150,000 for Mr. DeFilippis.

Coaltown Legend and Kate Feron
Coaltown Legend and Kate Feron

Now to be fair, Angelo DeFilippis was the primary impetus behind Coaltown’s retirement. But while good for Coaltown Legend – assuming, that is, he survives; DeFilippis says he’s not doing very well – I will not commend anyone, even a rescuer, who refuses to categorically renounce horseracing: Though Mr. DeFilippis is currently inactive, it’s a matter of finances, not because he now sees racing as wrong.

So it appears, Mr. DeFilippis, we are at an impasse. Yes, you helped this horse, but your desire to climb back into an industry that chews them up and spits them out by the thousands tells me all I need to know. Mr. DeFilippis, Ms. Salk, and most especially Ms. Feron, exploitation and friendship are incompatible states. The line is clearly drawn – true equine advocates want no part of this sordid business. And that is what makes Salk’s writing – “there were many relieved past connections, and tears of joy when tired and weary Coaltown rolled into Akindale on Thursday” – so very shameful.

After six years – 64 races – of gross exploitation and abuse, 9-year-old Coaltown Legend (original post here) has finally been retired, owing in large part to exposure from advocate Deborah Jones. On July 28th, Susan Salk, she with the permanently affixed rose-tinted glasses, wrote a reprehensible piece on Coaltown’s “salvation.” In it, she recounts his return “home” – the place where he was bred to be used – and the contributions of former connections Kate Feron and Angelo DeFilippis toward that end.

Feron (who “cried when he arrived”): “To see him again, I can’t express what it was like. He always had a special place in my heart. This was my special horse.” ♥ (heart courtesy of Salk) Of DeFilippis, Salk writes, “De Fillipis [sic], who owned the horse at one point, but was forced to sell him during hard financial times, says he kept tabs on Coaltown Legend, and spent a few sleepless nights worrying.”

Here are some conveniently omitted facts: Kate Feron is a hugely successful trainer with over $2.5 million in earnings. She bred Coaltown and raced him 19 times before selling him in February 2010 (“claimed away from her,” as Salk asserts, is a euphemism). Her “special horse” would race for over four more years – almost all at the claiming level – without her intervention. Angelo DeFilippis is (was) a racehorse owner. He either owned or co-owned Coaltown for 2 1/2 years and 16 starts, including a July 2011 claiming race at Saratoga. In all, Coaltown Legend earned over $150,000 for Mr. DeFilippis.

Coaltown Legend and Kate Feron
Coaltown Legend and Kate Feron

Now to be fair, Angelo DeFilippis was the primary impetus behind Coaltown’s retirement. But while good for Coaltown Legend – assuming, that is, he survives; DeFilippis says he’s not doing very well – I will not commend anyone, even a rescuer, who refuses to categorically renounce horseracing: Though Mr. DeFilippis is currently inactive, it’s a matter of finances, not because he now sees racing as wrong.

So it appears, Mr. DeFilippis, we are at an impasse. Yes, you helped this horse, but your desire to climb back into an industry that chews them up and spits them out by the thousands tells me all I need to know. Mr. DeFilippis, Ms. Salk, and most especially Ms. Feron, exploitation and friendship are incompatible states. The line is clearly drawn – true equine advocates want no part of this sordid business. And that is what makes Salk’s writing – “there were many relieved past connections, and tears of joy when tired and weary Coaltown rolled into Akindale on Thursday” – so very shameful.

In advance of last weekend’s Preakness, the HSUS’ Keith Dane penned an opinion piece for The Baltimore Sun. In it, he joins a choir of thousands in decrying racing’s drug culture, calling, yawn, for a national governing body akin to what every other major sport has.

He opens thus:

“With the Preakness coming up here in Maryland, it’s time things changed for the better in America’s horse racing industry, which long ago drifted far from the values of sport.”

And closes with this:

“With Triple Crown season upon us, we are calling on Congress to pass the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act to protect the sport’s athletes — both equine and human — and begin to restore integrity and confidence in an industry whose reputation has been badly sullied.”

In effect, the self-described “largest and most effective animal protection organization” in the nation is making a philosophical case for horseracing: We’re not here to take racing away; we simply want to help make it better, both for the “athletes” and the “players.” On the latter, “honest bettors” deserve a “fair shake.” Shameful. And disgusting.

Mr. Dane, no matter what supposed improvements come down the pike, racehorses will still be enslaved – bought, sold, traded, and dumped purely on an owner’s whim. And with or without drugs, they will continue to snap sesamoids, and die. And it is highly probable that there will never be enough good homes for the expended, meaning that the shackle and slash will, at least for the foreseeable future, remain the retirement program of choice.

In short, suffering of some kind is an inherent part of exploitation; thus, it is an inherent part of horseracing. And this, no matter what airy rhetoric is bandied about, for lousy $2 bets. HSUS, enough with the half measures. Take a stand, an unequivocal stand, against horseracing and use your not inconsiderable resources to help end it, once and for all.

Facts, as the great John Adams once said, are stubborn things; J.R. Anderson’s new book, The Fancy Hat Veneer, is teeming with stubborn things, none of which are good for the industry at the heart of her probe – horseracing. Using expert testimony, hard numbers, and cold logic, Anderson, a first-time author but long-time advocate, presents yet another indictment of the Thoroughbred game – from the unrestrained breeding to the callous, often violent endgame, and everything in between. It is, as the author notes, the dark underbelly that the industry wants desperately to keep hush.

The Fancy Hat Veneer would make a fine addition for the well-versed and uninitiated alike. For the former, the 200-odd pages offer a sweeping overview, a handy reference book of sorts; for the latter, a horseracing primer. Ordering information can be found here.

fancy hat