Saturday, April 21, 2012
Finally, Some Balance from the Paper of Record
If there were a more aptly named filly, I haven’t heard of one lately.
Thanks to Bill Finley and his well crafted story in Friday’s edition of the New York Times, we can now read some good news about racing in The Gray Lady. It would have been even better if the editors had seen fit to run the piece on the front page, where the Times’ recent and damaging expose about racing had been placed, instead of in the sports section.
Nevertheless, nice stories about horses and the wonderful people around them are welcome no matter where they’re printed.
With his trademark style, Finley told the remarkable story behind an unremarkable entry that showed up on Sunday’s card at Aqueduct.
Her name is Notinurwildestdremz and she’s a first time starter for the 5R Racehorse Stable, which is also making its maiden effort. The five “R”s stand for rescue, rehabilitate, racing, retraining and retiring. This four-year-old filly knows only too well about the first three.
Notinurwildestdremz is one of the 177 horses that were discovered starving and for all intents and purposes abandoned by the once-prominent owner and breeder Ernie Paragallo on his Center Brook Farm in Hudson Valley, New York in April 2009. A year later, Paragallo was convicted on 33 charges of animal cruelty, sentenced to two years in jail and fined $33,000- a mere pittance of only $1,000 per horse.
The animal abuser got off a hell of a lot lighter than his horses, several of whom died because they were too far gone to save despite the amazing effort of members from the local humane society and other rescue organizations. Notinurwildestdremz was one of 25 yearlings when the authorities found her and all of the other horses living- albeit barely- through a nightmare and in deplorable and reprehensible condition.
Listen to what Ron Perez, the president of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society and the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who oversaw the rescue operation told Finley: “For any horse just to make it out of that place and prosper is just fantastic. To think that one could actually race would be unbelievable considering what the place looked like when we got there. When I heard that this horse was going to run, I almost fell out of my chair.”
At the time the news broke about the abuse these horses had been subjected to, people everywhere were sickened and outraged. Sean and Angelika Kerr did something about it. Although they were among the first to step up to the plate, the yearlings were the last to be adopted. So the Kerrs took three.
As repored, the Kerrs had been small-time breeders who never had a single horse make it to the races. This filly, now in training with Billy Turner of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew fame, is the only one of the three yearlings and the only one of the Paragallo horses rescued to make it to the track. The other two yearlings adopted by the Kerrs include a colt who suffered brain damage from the neglect and abuse are they are still being cared for by the couple.
As we all know, keeping a horse in training is not inexpensive. So the couple turned to social media to find partners and a post on facebook netted 120 of them. Asked to contribute whatever they could afford, one partner ante upped with only $25.
Turner has been around the track a few times, as they say, and he realizes that the filly still has issues. The veteran horseman told Finley that since she didn’t get the proper nutrition and care at the critical development stages and her growth was stunted, this is an “uphill climb”.
But despite being small, the filly is said to have all of the requisite courage, competitiveness and attitude that make a racehorse. When she lines up in the starting gate on Sunday, about 40 of the 120 partners will be there, along with an army of people, including the veterinarians, who helped her get to this point.
“Every single person in the stable is of the opinion we have succeeded already. The fact she has gotten to Belmont (with Turner) and is training, we have already succeeded. If she just races this one race, she’s already won and everybody feels quite strongly about that,” Sean Kerr said to Finley.
In these difficult times for Thoroughbered racing there is still room for an inspiring story of redemption and hope.
It's important for world outside the fences to know that these acts are as much a part of the sport as the flaws found in its medication policies.