When a horse wins the Kentucky Derby, the jockey, trainer and owner get all the credit. The horse gets a place in the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Everybody thinks that when the horse’s racing days are over, they are retired to a picturesque pasture to live out the rest of their days. However, that was not the case of Ferdinand, winner of the 1986 Derby. He was sold to a Japanese breeder, and when that owner was done with him, he was slaughtered in 2002.
Since then, Charismatic, winner of the 1999 Derby, and War Emblem, winner of the 2002 Derby, have been sold to Japan, where it’s very likely both could suffer the same fate.
Kentucky prides itself on the Derby, but that “pride” had no meaning to the owners of these horses. It’s a stain on the industry that a Derby winner could end up as pet food. And this won’t change as long as champions are considered as mere “property.”
The owners of these champions should be banned from the Derby, and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association should use their legislative influence to insure that future champions are not sold out of the country. Another option would be for owners to donate their Derby winners to the museum, where people can come see the real, live horses.
From the March 24-30, 2010 issue