We’ve all seen the listings or read the stories about horses that gave their heart and soul to the racing industry, won hundreds of thousands of dollars, and are now racing in the the lowest level claiming races with uncertain futures.
Well, thanks to some crusaders in the racing industry some of these horses are getting the happy endings they deserve. The “Top Bunk” list is a list of horses that are still racing which have won more than $500,000 but which are currently running for purses of $5,000 or less. At any given time, there are between 6-10 horses on the list.
The program has been spearheaded by the Fans of Barbaro and journalist and anti-slaughter activist Alex Brown, who identifies and tracks horses at risk through his Daily Racing Form. It was inspired by the horse Top Bunk. In his 89th start (a $6,000 claiming race), Top Bunk suffered a suspensory injury severe enough to require him to be removed by ambulance from the track. He had been claimed in the race and the new trainer planned to race him again after rehab.
At this point, Top Bunk had won more than $500,000 for his various owners, and had only finished out of the money 7 times in 89 starts! A group of concerned racing fans, lead by the Fans of Barbaro, raised the $5,000 needed to claim him in his 90th race, thus assuring his safe retirement.
Since then, the Top Bunk project has enabled the safe retirement of several other old campaigners:
Ask The Lord, an 11 year old gelding, who won over $769,000 in his racing career, was retired on July 4th, 2008. Ask the Lord came in first, second, or third in 54 of his 83 starts but was no running in the lowest level claiming races. He had been claimed three times in five months and his future did not look promising.
Lights on Broadway, an 11 year old gelding that had been named Texas 2001 Horse of the Year, was purchased off a truck headed for a Canadian slaughter house and retired. He had won $572,000 and was finally purchased for $200 after last running in a $2500 claiming race.
RudiRudy, a 13-year old gelding who won more than $700,000 from more than 100 starts. At the time when he was retired, he had run last in his final race. Rudirudy was retired on September 14, 2008.
Witt Ante, was retired by his breeder after winning $618,000 in 55 starts.
Judge’s Case, was retired off the list after winning $704,000 in 104 starts.
Unfortunately, one horse on the list, was not able to be retired. Sky Diamond, an 8 year old gelding, who won $539,000 in 47 starts, broke his sesamoid bone while racing and was euthanized at the track. Despite the break, he finished the race.