News & Politics

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.

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.

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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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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