On June 27th, Suffolk Downs announced a zero-tolerance policy against selling horses for slaughter by holding trainers responsible for their horses. Trainers who are found to have shipped horses to slaughter will have their stalls revoked and will be denied stall space in the future.
The track management should be commended for taking this stand and for providing leadership in the movement to end the practice of selling horses to kill buyers right from the track.
An article that details the policy appeared in the Thoroughbred Times.
The plight of retiring racehorses has received a lot of attention thanks to organizations such as CANTER New England and the Thoroughbred Retirement Fund. Their efforts have helped trainers and owners connect with buyers who want to give their horses a second career and — hopefully — a forever home.
Every year racehorses who are no longer competitive “fall through the cracks” and many end up at auctions where they are sold for slaughter, even when their previous owners/trainers had been willing to retire them. In a well-publicized case earlier this year, a horse named “Little Cliff“, a stakes horse that won $202,762 in 27 starts, was found in the direct-to-killer pen at the New Holland (Penn.) auction by Christy Sheidy, co-founder of Another Chance 4 Horses rescue (Bernville, Penn.)
Little Cliff was originally purchased by Robert LaPenta for $250,000 and trained by Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. Known for taking care of his horses after their retirement, Zito had a sticker placed on Little Cliff’s Jockey Club papers, that read “If this horse needs a home when he retires, please call.”. Unfortunately, the trainer who consigned him to the kill buyer didn’t even pick up the phone to try to find the horse a better home.
Little Cliff is one of the lucky ones. After his rescue, LaPenta and Zito arranged for him to be shipped to Kentucky where they have provided for his retirement. The hope is that policies such as the one instituted by Suffolk Downs will help other horses from going down the same road, as many of them fall through the safety net.