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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Shortcomings of Full Circle

No, this is not on the level of Sydney Seelster, a horse which was claimed from one of racing's biggest promoters.who happens to be a handicapped young woman, and unlike the Sydney Seelster story, it doesn't have a particularly happy ending (as of now).

This is a story of a stable pet entered into a claiming race, which is claimed away.  Quite honestly, this is one of the problems of the claiming game and until we adopt a better method of getting these veterans raced, this story part of the story will be repeated.  However, the claim is not the story, it is what happens afterwards which is what makes this story worth telling.

Just a note here.  There are two sides to every story but not being able to talk to one side of  the story, I will withhold the name of the horse and the parties involved.

The horse in question, quite honestly was racing in low claimers when it was claimed.  The horse wasn't much of a race horse anymore; the stable which raced him looked at him as a family pet and if not for RUS, this horse would have been a pensioner by now.  However, he was still racing primarily because he was a RUS candidate on the fair circuit.  When claimed, the original owners were upset, primarily because it made no sense for anyone to claim the horse. When it came to this horse, it would have been more appropriate to wager whether or not the horse would stay flat instead of whether or not he would win the race.

Knowing this horse was going to be a bad claim for the claimant, they were apparently approached several times with an offer to buy him back for what they claimed him for only to be rebuffed and told the price would be more than the original claim price; perhaps trying to cash in on the emotional ties the original owners had for the horse.  As a result, the original owner had no choice but to keep an eye out for the horse when the new owner would acknowledge it was a bad claim and be willing to sell the horse back.  In the meanwhile, the original owner and the breeder signed up for the USTA Full Circle program, a means to tell anyone who owns a horse there is someone willing to take the horse on as a retiree.  Problem is a voluntary program is as good as the people involved.

As the original owner suspected, the horse would be decent on the Fair RUS circuit, having won a race and finishing in the money in three other races.  Unfortunately, the RUS circuit is currently short and the earnings weren't enough to support the horse for the whole year so the horse also raced in the traditional manner. As the old owner knew, this horse would be a disaster in harness and they were right as the horse earned $0 for the new owner.

The new owner, apparently realizing this horse was not going to earn its way, decided it was time s to remove the horse from their stable.  Knowing the horse had people who wanted to buy him, including the rider who rode the horse to victory in a RUS event (an individual with no connection to the original owner), the logical thing would be to go back to those who expressed an interest in the horse to see if they still want to buy him; failing that, one would think they would have checked the Full Circle program to see if there was someone out there who wanted this horse.

But alas, if this is what the new owner did, we wouldn't be talking about this.  For whatever reason, the owner decided to Amish the horse.  Who knows why they didn't contact the prior owners, no contacting the rider who rode the horse to a RUS victory for the new owner who expressed an interest in the horse.  No checking the USTA Full Circle program to see if someone was interested in retiring the horse.  Instead, the horse was sold to the Amish where he likely would become a carriage or plow horse.

How well the horse will be treated remains to be seen but fortunately, if sold for the reported price, he will not be ending up in a kill lot anytime soon.  Of course who knows what the future holds for him six months to a year from now?  For those attached to the horse, it is time to try to hunt the horse down and hopefully make a deal for him now or after he has been used up.

Let me make it clear, the new owners, had every right to claim the horse.  They were within their right to sell the horse to whomever they wanted.  That being said, when there were others who wanted the horse, why sell him to the Amish?

As for the racetrack, which had previously decided any horse being sold must be transferred into the dealer's name before it leaves the ground, one must ask what happened?  The horse was not transferred into the dealer's name and remains in the name of the last owner, the person who sold the horse.  Why has the track gone back on their word?

The biggest shame here is the Full Circle Program failed the horse because the owner appears not to have consulted the Full Circle Program.  There needs to be a rule change which requires consulting those listed in the Full Circle  Program before being sold to any dealers.  This doesn't mean they have to give the horse away, but they must show they attempted to negotiate in good faith with those listed in the program before selling to a dealer.

It also shows how there is a need for another system of racing available for horses besides the claiming game when they run out of conditions or are not competitive in any conditioned level.  Why tracks don't offer senior conditioned races for these horses, say those six years old and up in addition to open conditioned races (any age) puzzles me.  This would be a way for people to race those horses they are attached to without having to risks losing their horse.

On a positive note, here is the video replay of the RUS event held at The Red Mile this past Saturday.  Only six horses raced in that event as another RUS event was contested at Colonial Downs that day.  At this point, without wagering there are only so many horses and drivers available to compete, henc it was not possible to get a full field at Lexington.  Once wagering is available, expect the population of horses and riders to explode.

The Meadowlands has announced its 2015 Winter Late Closing Series schedule.

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