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Monday, July 22, 2013

Ownership Responsibility Doesn't End When a Horse is Sold

Years ago the gelding Shiaway St. Pat, a winner of the first Hambletonian at the Meadowlands worked his way down the claiming ranks, ending up racing for a $2,000 claiming tag.  Fortunately for Shiaway St. Pat, the Meadowlands came to the rescue of the trotter and had the horse claimed and immediately retired him, realizing how wrong it was to have a Hambletonian winner racing in the bottom claiming ranks or even worse potentially breaking down. Shiaway became an attraction at the Meadowlands, taking up residence for quite a while in Paddock Park greeting visitors in the paddock on weekends before the infirmaties of age and the racing wars caught up with him and he had to be euthanized.

Like many horses, Shiaway St. Pat changed owners and they race them where they see fit; after all,  the fact the horse won the Hambletonian or another big race doesn't mean much to the new owners as they didn't profit from that victory in a big race,.  To them, the ledger resets at zero so when the earnings trickle in or dry up, they either drop the horse down to where they think it may win, or sell them to get rid of them.  Shiaway St. Pat was lucky, many other horses are not.

This is not unique to the standardbred world.  The Paulick Report tells the story of the horse Monzante, a winner of a Grade I race and others who won over $500,000 for his original owners.  Like Shiaway St. Pat, this horse was sold and then started the decline down the claiming ranks.  Unfortunately for Monzante, there was no guardian angel looking over him.  Monzante met his end this past Saturday at Evangeline Downs, breaking down in a $4,000 claiming race and was euthanized.

I am not suggesting champion horses can't be sold to new owners after winning a major/classic race.  There are legitimate reasons to sell a horse.  One is someone offers you an obscene amount of money for the horse you would be a fool not to sell, an owner may only race stakes horses and the horse may have aged into overnight events, the owner may need to raise funds.  There is no problem with selling a horse. 

However, the owner who won that million dollar race or made a large amount of money on a horse has a moral responsibility to keep an eye out looking for their old horse to make sure it doesn't come to situations like Shiaway St. Pat or Monzante did.  It shouldn't be left to luck nor should it come to a sitaution where a horse rescue calls the old owner to tell them the horse is at a kill auction and be asked to pay the bail on the horse.   I am not saying the original owner needs to take the horse back and pension it, but they should make sure the horse finds a good home when their racing career should be ended, be it buying or claiming the horse if the new owner doesn't do what's right for the horse. 

Ideally, any owner should keep an eye out for their old race horses but when an owner makes a life-changing amount thanks to a particular horse, this lack of concern is heinous and it puts another stake in the heart of horse racing.  A story like Monzante's should give pause to a lot of owners and wake them up to their moral responsibilities.