Monday, April 28, 2014

The Sad Story of Derby Winner Ferdinand

With Derby week upon us, it's a great time to celebrate all those famous horses who have won the most prestigious horse race in North America.  But not all winners end up living the life you'd expect on a famous stud farm with wonderful care and attention.

Ferdinand's story is one I hope will never be repeated.  Born in 1983, he won the 1986 Kentucky Derby and the 1987 Breeders' Cup Classic.  Bill Shoemaker rode him to the Derby win at age 54. He was the 1987 Horse of the Year and he entered stud in 1989.  He won eight of 29 starts and earned .$3.7M in his racing career. In 1994 Ferdinand was sold to a farm in Japan.

Much to the outrage of many horse racing enthusiasts, reports indicate that in 2002 Ferdinand was sent to slaughter in Japan with no fanfare or notice to previous owners. He likely became either pet food or steaks for human consumption.  According to some reports, efforts to place Ferdinand with a riding club failed.  Ferdinand is remembered by one stallion groom in Japan as "the gentlest horse you could imagine. He'd come over when I called to him in the pasture. And anyone could have led him with just a halter on him. ... He'd come over to me and press his head up against me. He was so sweet."

While domestic "kill markets" dried up when the last U.S. slaughterhouses closed in 2007, the lure of overseas slaughter money—not to mention the financial burden of maintaining a horse that's no longer profitable—still sends tens of thousands of horses to their death in foreign facilities each year.

"It is well-documented that many racehorses end up at slaughter auctions within a week of their last race, despite the fact that many tracks across the country have policies opposing this practice," said Nancy Perry, the senior vice president of ASPCA governmental relations.

Ferdinand's death was the catalyst for the Ferdinand Fee, an optional donation program to fund keeping old racehorses alive, and Friends of Ferdinand, a nonprofit group formed in 2005 with the goal of transitioning retired racehorses into second careers.  Rest in peace dear Ferdinand.  Let's hope we can do something to save our beloved animals.


  1. I remember reading about this around the time it was discovered he had been slaughtered. Such a tragedy! He gave so much to those in horse racing, all I could think was how could this happen? Hopefully with the organizations to track and protect these wonderful athletes this will never happen again. Thank you for continuing to draw attention to this issue.

  2. Thank you for drawing attention to this sad practice.
    - Linda, ny

  3. this is so important. A enormous tragedy. SOB!! What on earth???

  4. Beautiful Article! I like it.Derby festival all time my favorite. Whenever, I go to Louisville then must go for see that.Recently,I visited one website.Lousivlle Home Rental


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