Death of a Derby Winner
Blood-Horse Magazine Reports
Kentucky Derby Winner Ferdinand Believed to Have Been Slaughtered
Kentucky, July 21, 2003 In an exclusive report in the July
26th issue of The Blood-Horse magazine, the Thoroughbred industry¹s
premiere weekly news and information magazine, 1986 Kentucky Derby-winning
horse Ferdinand is reported to have been apparently slaughtered
in Japan. Upon retiring from racing, Ferdinand originally stood
at stud in Kentucky but was later exported to Japan.
following news item published on bloodhorse.com summarizes Barbara
Bayer¹s exclusive feature in The Blood-Horse magazine:
the 1986 Kentucky Derby winner who went on to capture the following
year¹s Horse of the Year title with a dramatic victory over
1987 Derby hero Alysheba in the Breeders¹ Cup Classic, is dead.
The Blood-Horse has learned the big chestnut son of Nijinsky II
died sometime in 2002, most likely in a slaughterhouse in Japan,
where his career at stud was unsuccessful.
Barbara Bayer, as detailed in an exclusive story in the July 26
issue of The Blood-Horse, attempted to learn of Ferdinand¹s
whereabouts after a member of the Howard Keck family that owned
and bred the horse inquired about having him returned to the United
States, where he began his career at stud in 1989. As a racehorse,
Ferdinand won eight of 29 starts and earned $3,777,978, retiring
as what was then the fifth leading money winner of all time. His
victory in the Kentucky Derby gave trainer Charlie Whittingham his
first success in that classic, and it was the final career Derby
win for jockey Bill Shoemaker.
was retired to stud in 1989 at Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky., where
he was foaled. His initial stud fee was $30,000 live foal, but he
achieved little success as a stallion from his first few crops of
to Japan¹s JS Company in the fall of 1994 at a time when Japanese
breeding farms were aggressively pursuing American and European
breeding stock, Ferdinand spent six breeding seasons at Arrow Stud
on the northern island of Hokkaido, from 1995-2000. Initially popular
with local breeders (he was mated to 77 mares his first year), Ferdinand
was bred to just 10 mares in his final year at Arrow, and his owners
opted to get rid of him.
efforts by the farm staff to place Ferdinand with a riding club
failed, he passed into the hands of a Monbetsu, Japan, horse dealer
named Yoshikazu Watanabe and left the farm Feb. 3, 2001. No attempt
was made to contact either the Keck family or Claiborne Farm.
at first was told by Watanabe that Ferdinand had been ³given
to a friend.² When she asked for more information, she was
told Ferdinand ³was gelded and I think he¹s at a riding
club far away from here.² In fact, records showed Ferdinand
was bred to six mares in 2001 and then two in 2002. He spent a period
of time at Goshima Farm near Niikappu, where a former handler at
Arrow Stud had seen him.
when Bayer told Watanabe she wanted to see Ferdinand, the story
changed yet again. ³Actually, he isn¹t around anymore,²
she was told. ³He was disposed of late last year.² Ferdinand¹s
registration in Japan was annulled Sept. 1, 2002, Bayer learned.
Japan, the term disposed of¹ is used to mean slaughtered,²
Bayer wrote in The Blood-Horse. ³No one can say for sure when
and where Ferdinand met his end, but it would seem clear he met
it in a slaughterhouse.²
to those well-versed in the realities beyond the glitter and glory
of the racetrack, it comes as no surprise,² Bayer wrote. ³Ferdinand¹s
story is the story of nearly every imported stallion in Japan at
that point in time when the figures no longer weigh in his favor.
In a country where racing is kept booming by the world¹s highest
purses and astronomical betting revenues, Ferdinand¹s fate
is not the exception. It is the rule.²
just disgusting," said Dell Hancock, whose family operates
Claiborne Farm, upon hearing the news of Ferdinand's likely fate.
"It's so sad, but there is nothing anyone can do now except
support John Hettinger's efforts to stop the slaughter of Thoroughbreds
in this country. That wouldn't change anything in Japan...to have
this happen to a Derby winner is just terrible."
the Japanese are among the societies that consume horse meat, it
is more likely a slaughtered Thoroughbred would be used for pet
food, since the meat consumed by humans is a certain breed of horse
raised specifically for that purpose. The slaughter of no longer
useful imported breeding stock and many domestic Japanese Thoroughbreds
is not uncommon. Shortages of land and the high cost of maintaining
a pensioned horse are reasons slaughter is considered an alternate.
As in the U.S., where slaughter is also an option available for
horse owners, a number of organizations are attempting to provide
homes for retired and pensioned racehorses, stallions, and mares.
The Japan Racing Association funds one program that currently benefits
the people Bayer met and spoke with while trying to learn of Ferdinand¹s
fate was Toshiharu Kaibazawa, who worked as a stallion groom at
Arrow Stud during the horse¹s years there. He called the former
champion ³the gentlest horse you could imagine. He¹d come
over when I called to him in the pasture. And anyone could have
led him with just a halter on him. He¹d come over to
me and press his head up against me. He was so sweet.²
want to get angry about what happened to him,² Kaibazawa added.
³It¹s just heartless, too heartless.²
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