Shedrow Secrets

Diva’s Kitten
by Joy Aten

Aftercare. The TB racing industry’s buzzword these days. Recognizing the public’s ever-increasing awareness that vast numbers of racehorses are sent to slaughter, the industry and its apologists boast, ad nauseam, of their drop-in-the-bucket aftercare initiatives. Their incessant chatter on the subject begs some questions: If racehorses are the “beloved family members” the horse people gush they are, why are they not providing their spent and injured horses with post-racing homes? Why does this multi-billion dollar industry not fully support the horses it bred and used, but instead plead with an over-solicited public to help foot the bills?

And we see them every day. Racehorses begging for homes. Everywhere. Still at the track. At auction barns. In kill pens. In rescue and placement programs. On social media. Listing services. “Watch Lists.” Craigslist. Endless lists. And if a home is secured? The financial demands to meet the horse’s needs for the next 20 or so years will far surpass what any racing owner’s were for that same horse. Bred for racing, used in racing, but ultimately, not supported by racing.

Diva’s Kitten was one such horse – no longer wanted, in desperate need of a home. Here is what a listing service had to say about the 4-year-old filly: “**Please Note she has a chip in her Upper Knee Joint** Extremely Classy Dappled Beauty!! It was found recently that she’s got a chip in her Upper Knee Joint. She could continue to Race but her connections would rather see her retire. Great Broodmare Prospect!! She could also be a ridding [sic] horse for someone willing to give her a chance since a chip doesn’t mean they can’t still have a career! Our meet is ending and needs to Move ASAP!!” She was priced at $650, but within a day, it was changed to “Make Offer.”

So what do you think? Clearly, the ad depicts the following as facts: 1), R&P Racing Stables (owner) and Rodney Faulkner (trainer) appear considerate (“She could continue to Race but her connections would rather see her retire.”); 2), the “chip” is dismissed as inconsequential as not only could DK “continue to race,” she is also a riding prospect; 3), a $650 price tag, given the preceding, seems more than reasonable (with negotiating room – “needs to move ASAP” – to boot). Looks great, right? Buyers see a bargain in a young, serviceable filly, and apologists will praise the connections for retiring her when they could still be racing her. Red flags, anyone?

from the ad…

First put to the whip as a 2-year-old, Diva’s Kitten would be raced 32 times in all for Faulkner, R&P, and Skipper Hamilton, “earning” over $100,000 along the way. But in her last race, September 17 at Thistledown, she “trailed, stopped, jogged to wire” – finishing last, nearly 30 lengths behind. At some point between then and October 15, her connections had knee x-rays done, and by the latter date she had been put up for sale (the ad’s info coming directly from Faulkner). So, while it looked a great deal to a prospective buyer, the outcome was more likely to be pasture pet/money pit, and with that, a huge risk of Diva landing in the slaughter pipeline. This is where rescuers Mary Johnson and Rose Smith come in, ultimately purchasing (and saving) Diva.

right after rescue…

Having been told Diva’s Kitten came out of her last race lame but without possession of the x-rays (Mary tried unsuccessfully to obtain them several times), it was decided to take more films – and of both knees. The diagnosis was as bad as anticipated. For this 4-year-old to have any chance for a comfortable life, she needed surgery.

Diva’s Kitten underwent bilateral knee arthroscopy on November 14. Her left knee had taken the worst of the pounding. From the operative report: “large defect on the weight-bearing surface of the intermediate carpal bone, along with a large fragment…loose cartilage on the entire dorsal margin [and] a distinct fragment buried deep in the joint capsule [that] could not be removed.” Diva’s Kitten was, obviously, not sound to race. And “riding” horse? Not without surgery, followed up with a series of joint injections and monthly supplements. And then, only maybe.

That is how her “job” left her. At four. Without surgery, she would have quickly deteriorated to “broodmare only” condition, followed by “pasture-pet” status – while, likely, in her teens, if not before. In less than one month, the cost of her post-racing needs has climbed to just shy of $5,000, and, of course, that’s just the beginning. Bred for Racing. Used by Racing. Maimed by Racing. But not a penny in help from Racing.

Had Diva’s Kitten not been rescued by Mary and Rose, it would only have been a matter of time before photos of her at an auction or in a kill-pen surfaced (if, that is, she was lucky enough to be noticed). There would then have been a scrambling for donations to save her life. But with the revelation that her last race was several months prior, the apologists would have made certain to absolve her “connections,” prattling: “Her racing owner didn’t send her there! She’s been off the track since September – couldn’t have been Racing that dumped her at auction!” Not responsible? Please. Didn’t they use her? Take her “earnings”? Wasn’t she maimed in their care? Yes, yes, and yes. Not only did Faulkner ignore the injury she suffered while making him money, he set her up for disaster by presenting her as something she was not.

Diva’s Kitten, of course, is not unique. Racing owners don’t attend to their horses’ injuries unless it’s to salvage for breeding or continued racing; they just pass the “problem” on to the next guy. Countless racehorses found at auction have the same story as Diva’s Kitten…and while their connections might not have personally delivered them into the kill buyers’ hands, they might just as well have. They set their spent, injured, and unwanted horses up for bad endings; they open the door to slaughter and send them through it. Again. And again. And again.

Where is the aftercare for Diva’s Kitten? Racing didn’t supply the funds to cover her purchase, veterinary expenses, board, transport, and follow-up care. And racing isn’t going to provide her with a home for the next 25 years. Bred for, used in, damaged and discarded by Racing – moral bankruptcy defined.

Mary and Diva, after surgery…

Shedrow Secrets

Stand Pat
by Joy Aten

Stand Pat won his first race at Saratoga in 2007. Just two years old at the time, he was claimed that race from breeder/owner Ralph Evans and trainer Rick Violette. Less than one month later, he finished last – 25 lengths back – in the Futurity Stakes at Belmont where his competition included Kentucky Derby/Belmont Stakes-bound Tale of Ekati. Just 14 months later, Stand Pat’s racing “career” would end in a lowly 10K claiming-race at Aqueduct for owner Sunny Meadow Farm and trainer Mitchell Friedman. He was three. That was November 2008. At the end of 2017, the bay gelding was owned by a kill buyer.

I’m quite certain most of you have seen the “Winner’s Circle” celebration after a race. Think on Stand Pat after his win at Saratoga Race Course – “The highlight of summer in Saratoga is the summer racing meet, featuring world class thoroughbred horse racing. Throngs of people from all over the world gather [here]…” Picture Stand Pat in the “Winner’s Circle” – you can bet he was gorgeous and fit, and those around him were reveling in his victory. Get a good look at him in those moments. A beautiful, young Thoroughbred in a picturesque, historic setting. See it.

Now picture his final hours. Stand Pat laid in a cramped, filthy kill-pen, his body so wracked with pain that he didn’t even rise when other horses urinated and defecated on him. See that. Think on that. Get a good look at him in those moments. And understand that the racing industry put him there.

(Stand Pat was purchased to spare him the horror of slaughter and was humanely euthanized. He was 12.)

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.

Academy Dancer

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.

“Saga of Star Plus: Doesn’t This Horse Deserve Better?”
“Finally Peace for Star Plus”
“12-Year-Old Boy Claims 12-Year-Old Horse For Retirement” (part 1)
“The Story Of Good Credentials” (part 2)

Shedrow Secrets

One Hundred Laughs
by Joy Aten

Racing “royalty” – NetJets founder Richard Santulli and celebrity chef Bobby Flay. Racing “royalty” – WinStar Farms’ successful sire Distorted Humor and elite broodmare (and former million-dollar track earner) Wonder Again. Being the offspring of multiple Graded-Stakes Winners and bred/owned by racing’s privileged, One Hundred Laughs would certainly be one of those racehorses who was – as apologists exclaim – treated like royalty. Yes, the Santulli/Flay-bred and Santulli-owned One Hundred Laughs, by Distorted Humor out of Wonder Again, must have been pampered, treated like a “king,” right? Read on.

The 2007 chestnut horse’s first race was at Laurel Park in August of 2010 for Santulli. Second start, Belmont. Not showing much promise, in his third start Santulli dropped the 3-year-old into a 5K claiming race at Penn National. Although he wasn’t claimed, he was with a new owner and trainer when he ran his fourth race (another cheap claiming), on November 4, 2010: last, over 31 lengths behind.

Fast-forward nine months. One Hundred Laughs has now been racing for one year. That’s 1 year, 5 owners, 6 tracks, 13 races. Never finishing better than third, the now 4-year-old is coming in 20, 30, even 50 lengths behind. In August he is raced four times…August 22, “stopped, eased,” over 50 lengths back. Five days later, with a new owner, at another track, he is raced again – second-to-last. September brings three more, including a “struggled,” last of 9, 21+ lengths behind. Another four races in October. His “performances” don’t deter his owner from running him, for first place through last puts checks into connections’ pockets. They just need to have him finish.

A new year, 2012, and his speed figure is half what it was in 2010. Yet One Hundred Laughs is raced another 20 times. When Jo Anne Normile and I learned of him, he had just been raced for the 40th time, on December 22 at Beulah Park: last, “never close,” over 26 lengths behind. 0 for 40 for his “career.” He was a horse at risk of simply disappearing – but to his “royal” prior connections, he already no longer existed. So we got him. Only 11 days after our initial call to his current owner and agreeing to the 1K purchase price, One Hundred Laughs was removed from that cheap Ohio track. Although I was told by the transporter he “needed a lot of groceries” and was “really hungry,” I didn’t learn how crucial his timely removal was until months later.

During a visit to the farm to which he was retired, the manager spoke of the day the chestnut horse arrived. They were expecting “thin,” he told me, but were horrified when One Hundred Laughs collapsed upon exiting the trailer. The vet was called immediately and after an emergency evaluation, it was determined his emaciated condition was due to one thing – lack of food. One Hundred Laughs had a body score of 2 and was “fighting just to live.” When I asked the manager if he happened to get any photos of the starving horse, he replied, “All I could think of was that if he made it, I never wanted to look back at what terrible shape he was in that day.” That day was less than one month from his last race. How’s that for royal treatment?

Shedrow Secrets

Tyme Champ
by Joy Aten

Week after week we see the “Casualty Lists”…the “Weekly Reports” – the horses who were “pulled up lame,” “in distress,” “vanned off,” “went wrong,” “fell,” “returned sore,” “bled,” and most ominous of all – “broke down.” As Patrick has stated, many of the horses on these lists will later be identified (in the FOIA reports) as having been euthanized. But not all. For some, a fate worse than humane euthanasia awaits. Dealers. Auctions. Kill Pens. Slaughter. In early 2014, the gelding Tyme Champ was on course for that final finish line.

The 4-year-old leggy chestnut with a lackluster record of 0-1-2 in 21 starts raced for owner/trainer James Duncan at Beulah Park on February 17, 2014. Tyme Champ was on the Casualty List that next week, as the chart noted his next-to-last-finish with “in distress late and subsequently vanned off.” He was, in fact, first on that list – that, and his location, caught Mary’s [Johnson] and my eyes.

After being told in a phone exchange with Duncan that Tyme Champ “could not be transported” due to his “injury” – a vague (no details were offered) assessment reached without diagnostics – I contacted Greg Veit at the Ohio Racing Commission. Our concern for the youngster’s physical state and questionable future relayed, I was assured he would look into things and get back to me.

Within just several hours, Veit called back with the news that Tyme Champ’s ownership had been transferred to a “good friend” of his and that the gelding was “going to a rescue” (curiously, Veit did not know the spelling of his good friend’s name or even how to pronounce it – this I learned when I called his “friend,” T.R. Haehn). With a “good friend” and “going to a rescue.” Hands washed.

As it turned out, Tyme had been passed from Duncan to Charles Lawson and finally to Haehn. In a matter of days. And the rescue organization Veit boasted about? Didn’t exist…only an individual who, according to more than one credible source, was questionable at best, moving as many as 40 horses “in and out” in only two months’ time. A dealer…Tyme Champ’s fourth owner in eight days was going to be a dealer.

No, not all horses on the Casualty Lists are euthanized – some spend their last days or weeks going from dealers, to auctions, to kill pens, to slaughter. THOUSANDS of them.

A postscript:
Mary and I were able to acquire Tyme Champ from Haehn before he was brought to that dealer. The much-loved and good-natured gelding lives here in Michigan with a colleague of mine – an emergency room physician – and his family.