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HomeNews & PoliticsThe 1986 Kentucky Derby Winner Ferdinand Revisited 25 Years Later

The 1986 Kentucky Derby Winner Ferdinand Revisited 25 Years Later

Ferdinand Kentucky DerbyIt is that time of year. The current year, 2011, is coming to a close, and sports fans are getting ready for the holidays, and NFL teams are either making their push for the playoffs, or getting ready for the golf course, and the NBA finally decided to have a season. Hockey is going on, and college basketball is just getting started.

Sadly, while Eclipse Award Voters try to decide year end nominees, and winners, it has come to my attention that on November 18, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law, an agricultural spending bill ,and in the bill is a rider that was put in at the last minute that has reinstated the Dept of Agriculture’s ability to inspect horse meat for human consumption which COULD bring back the slaughter of horses in the United States for human consumption.

It is very disturbing. Now even though it would be bad governance to veto a bill just for one rider, and the bill was veto proof anyhow, it is heartbreaking to know that the pro-horse slaughter lobbyists won the day, especially with polls showing that 70% of Americans OPPOSE horse slaughter for human consumption. It is bad enough that horses from here get sent to Canada and Mexico for horse slaughter. We don’t need it back in the United States.

[ad 6]I want to start off by saying I am NOT a PETA person. I can not stand them. They just want to cause havoc, and they hurt their “cause, ” by doing outrageous things. I mean, way back when, they sprayed women’s fur coats , and blew up labs. I mean, if they oppose the wearing of fur, fine, just promote wearing other coats to keep warm. Don’t defile someone’s private property. If they oppose horse racing, fine. That’s their opinion. They are stupid for doing stupid stuff like disseminate FALSE stuff about the sport. In 2008, filly Eight Belles finished second to Big Brown. After the race while cooling down, she had to be euthanized on the track due to a freak accident when she broke both ankles. Well, PETA and their penchant for the limelight, started spreading so many lies that it was sickening. They said she got hurt because she ran against males. TRUTH: Had nothing to do with it. Females and Males compete overseas all the time. Just nonsense.

PETA said her jockey did something wrong. TRUTH: He didn’t do anything . They said she was on roids. TRUTH: She was not on roid per an autopsy. PETA said her trainer Larry Jones did something. TRUTH: He did nothing wrong. PETA is all for publicity. I care for animal WELFARE which is different than animal rights. I just care about how animals are treated and their well being.

Anyway, back to what this blog will be about. I knew a little about slaughterhouses because about 25 years ago or so, a great racehorse named Exceller (defeated both Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup) wound up dying in a slaughter house in Sweden. However, it was when I heard about the wonderful 1986 Kentucky Derby Winner, Ferdinand being killed in a Japanese Slaughter house, that I totally got myself involved with opposing horse slaughter. What I will be discussing is the awesome Ferdinand, and his passing, and how we have learned from his death. I also must warn you readers that there is going to be some graphic descriptions of horse slaughter. The reason for a description is that readers have to understand what happens to these horses, and what our Congress, and our President in their infinite wisdom might have allowed to return in this country.

Ferdinand was a chestnut colt foaled in 1983. He was sired by the great Nijinsky, and his dam was Banja Luka, and his Damsire (his dam’s sire) was Double Jay. He was owned by Elizabeth Keck, and was trained by legendary trainer, Charlie Whittingham. His jockey was the great Willie Shoemaker. His major wins in 1986 as a 3 year old were The Santa Catalina Stakes, and the Malibu Stakes. However, his biggest win as a 3 year old was the Kentucky Derby when he won from the dreaded number one post. He was last coming out of the gate, but Willie Shoemaker guided him to a first place finish. He finished second in the Preakness.

As a 4 year old in 1987, he won the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Goodwood Handicap, and the Cabrillo Handicap, but it was the Breeder’s Cup Classic that year that solidified him as Horse of the Year when he and that year’s Kentucky Derby, and Preakness winner, Alysheba with Chris McCarron aboard came down the stretch together, and Ferdinand won by a nose over Alysheba. Ferdinand won the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year and Best Older Horse. He did run as a 5 year old in 1988, but Alysheba had beaten him a few times, and Ferdinand was retired and entered stud in 1989, and wound up in Japan for stud duty.

It was in Japan in 2002, when Ferdinand had evidently , according to the people who had him, “outlived his usefulness” as a sire, and the 1986 Derby winner was sold to a Japanese slaughter house to be turned into human consumption. What a terrible fate for a horse that gave so much to the track. One would think that these people would call either Ferdidand’s old owner, or the Whittinghams, or the Kentucky Horse Park (where visitors can seen just about any breed of horse. located in Lexington, KY), and ask if Ferdinand could be sent to them.

No. These insensitive people sent Ferdinand to a horrible death where the following likely occurred: (WARNING A little graphic) Ferdinand and a bunch of others were likely loaded in a trailer meant for cattle as horses are thinner. The horses are bunched up on each other like sardines. They are then put in a boxcar, and held there, sometime overnight. Horses are left in there, unfed, uncared for. The workers don’t even take care of the sick. The sick and the healthy are mixed in the boxcar. If a couple of them die, so be it. Pregnant mares, and the foals (babies) are in the boxcar also.

The boxcar is taken to the slaughter house where the workers try to kill the horses by shooting them in the head where the brain is. However, a lot of times they miss the spot, and the horse, valiantly gets up. Some places like in Mexico, the workers will stab the horse in the spinal cord, and the horse will keep getting up till it dies. Of course, they try to break the horse’s legs. The poor animal tries to get up, and it slips in its own blood, or other horses’ blood. These trusting, loving animals die agonizing deaths, as did one heck of a race horse in Ferdinand.

In 2003, former Boston Globe writer, Michael Blowen started a group called Old Friends. The organization was build in response to the Ferdinand tragedy. It is a haven for retired horses. Horses we have had on the farm were greats like The Wicked North, Rhulmann (both deceased), Creator (still on the farm), Sunshine Forever (still on the farm), Afternoon Deelites (still on the farm), Black Tie Affair (1991 Horse of the Year. deceased) who got to live out their lives. As a member, I am glad we have such a group where we take stallions, and these great champions can live out the rest of their lives where they are loved and well taken care of.

No horse should die like Ferdinand did. There are plenty of uses for racehorses, and even all breeds. No horse should be thrown away like garbage. People who support slaughter say it is necessary for overpopulation. Well, don’t overbreed, and I am sure you can find a sanctuary, or someone to take care of a horse you don’t want. Don’t send it to a slaughter house. It would be even better to have the horse euthanized by a vet. I know that may sound mean spirited, but that is more humane than selling it to a kill buyer, and having the horse go through what I described earlier.

Anyway, I am very disappointed with Congress and President Obama for possibly allowing horse slaughter back in this country, and for allowing inspection of horse meat across state lines, etc. These animals are smart, loving, and are valuable resources. I am disappointed in the horse racing industry for their silence as well. I mean, it is good that when they send their stud horses to Japan, they put in return clauses (one thing that came out of the Ferdinand tragedy), but the racing industry is well aware that a lot of the horses that run in the claiming races, allowance races don’t wind up being groomed for being sires. I am not trying to say race horse owners don’t love their horses. The large majority do, but there are a lot of the small time owners who just could care less, and if someone like a Bob Baffert spoke up about horse slaughter, maybe more will come out and speak out against horse slaughter. The racing industry has to wake up about this issue.

[adinserter block=”1″]In closing, Ferdinand was an awesome horse. Awesome on the track, and from what I have heard, he was a very friendly horse to visitors as well. His death was tragic. There is no way around it. However, with the rise of groups like Old Friends, and with the help of groups like The Exceller Fund, and other anti-slaughter groups, hopefully more awareness about the tragedy of horse slaughter can be raised, and Ferdinand’s death won’t be in vain.

I have included a couple of his races, as it is his LIFE we should be celebrating:

The 1986 Kentucky Derby

The 1987 Breeder’s Cup

I have also included links to the aforementioned Old Friends, and the Exceller Fund which was created in response to the great Exceller whom I briefly mentioned who also met his death in a slaughter house in Sweden.

Old Friends:
The Exceller Fund:

Terri Bey currently blogs for about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for Terri can be found here at Facebook- and at Twitter-

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  1. Oh come on people. The killing and eating of horses is not the point of the story. The fact that these animals spent the better part of their lives racing, bringing income and fame to people and also joy for all of us watching them and then are treated in this way is the point. These horses are superstars and should be treated better when they are older.

  2. First, let me say I have horses-I've had them all my life. In a perfect world, all animals would have a peaceful end of life. When the slaughter plants closed, horses were left abandoned and abused and the "rescue" farms are overcrowded and over whelmed. Horse owners may be faced with the choice of feeding the kids or feeding the horse. It costs a minimum of $200 to "just euthanize them", plus the disposal of the animal-you can't just bury your horse in your backyard. When the plants were closed in the US horses were being shipped to Mexico, where the conditions are DEPLORABLE ! At least with the plants reopening in the US, the end of life for these majestic animals is not tragic and no, they don't "slip in their own blood"! Face it, many cultures do eat horse meat, fact of life. There are over 100,000 unwanted horses in the US. Instead of crying slaughter is such a travesty, please encourage smart ownership; you may have to feed one for over 30 years. If you want to read a great, informative article, go to the article is For The Love Of Horses, by Lauren Giannini

  3. same commenter as above. just want to clarify.

    all animals that go to slaughter are brutally murdered. a chicken will be murdered, a cow will be put to death, and a horse shall be slaughtered. none of them live in ideal conditions. everything you described in your diatribe holds true for any meat manufacturing market.

    just because you have an affection for a certain type of animal doesn't make it any less right or wrong morally to eat it. i would never eat my dog, but who are you to tell me that it's alright to eat that turkey, pig, or cow.

    culture. yours isn't the only one in the world!

    • in that case i think you should be slaughtered as well, i would feel no guilt if i was allowed to do it myself. why exacly do you think humans are any better than horses or other animals? btw you said 'so if we start racing cows will you suddenly be opposed to eating them' .. well we got athletes who race aswell: so should we eat them too?

  4. What the article is implying fool is that there are better ways and humane ways to go about putting these animals down before slaughter. As far as culture you have none.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting , Jon. Yeah, I was trying to say that if a person had a horse that they could not take care of, it was better to euthanize them, or find a shelter than to sell them to a slaughter house. That was one of my points. Glad someone got it.

  5. so if we start racing cows will you suddenly be opposed to eating them?

    look, just because your culture doesn't eat horse doesn't mean it's ethically wrong…

    • Horses are a lot smarter than cows. Cows have been bred for human consumtion since the birth of time. Horses can feel love for their humans, don't know if cows can.

      • Peggy. I think my rather negative comment was accidentally typed as a reply to you, instead of to "Only comment ever." If it was, I totally apologize. I hope you accept my apology.

        Thanks for reading and commenting. I totally agree. Horses can feel love for their owners. Definitely. Again, I sincerely apologize for the mixup.

    • Thanks for reading, and commenting. I am not trying to condemn anyone's culture. First of all, cows and cattle have been BRED for human consumption, as are pigs (pork). One of the points I was trying to make was that horses are very versatile animals. There are plenty of breeds than just racehorses who wind up slaughtered also, you know. Horses can be used as riding horses, police horses, show horses, and as loving pets, and also be used to help disabled kids learn to love animals. These horses do not have to wind up in a slaughter house is my point. I wasn't attacking anyone's culture.


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