The Courier-Journal  Louisville, Kentucky
July 23, 2003

Ferdinand's death puzzling
: Winner of '86 Derby likely was slaughtered; many wonder why

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: The Courier-Journal 

: By Churchill Downs/Kinetic, Page A1, Above
: Ferdinand, with jockey Bill Shoemaker, won the 1986 Kentucky Derby at odds of 18-1.

: The death of Ferdinand, the popular 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, has raised concerns throughout the thoroughbred industry about the welfare of the sport's retired stars.
: According to a story in the July 26 issue of The Blood-Horse, a thoroughbred racing magazine based in Lexington, Ky., the horse died sometime in 2002, most likely in a Japanese slaughterhouse after his career as a stallion continued to decline.
: Details of the death could not be confirmed last night.
: "If this horse was put down for the wrong reason, then what in the hell was anybody thinking?" said California bloodstock agent Rollin Baugh, who has served as a liaison with Japan since the mid-1970s and has sold more than 220 stakes-winning horses to interests in that country.
: Baugh said he would be "on the phone with Japan as soon as they get up in the morning" to find out what had happened to Ferdinand.
: Yoshikazu Watanabe, Ferdinand's former owner, told both The Blood-Horse and The Associated Press that the horse was "disposed of" late last year without providing further details.
: Said Blood-Horse reporter Barbara Bayer, who has been based in Japan for 20 years : "In Japan the term `disposed of' is used to mean slaughtered. No one can say for sure when and where Ferdinand met his end, but it would seem clear to me he met it in a slaughterhouse."
: Bayer also reported that Ferdinand's registration in Japan was annulled Sept. 1, 2002.
: Atsushi Koya, administrative manager for the U.S. office of the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders' Association in Stamford, Conn., also confirmed Ferdinand had died but said, "I don't know if he was slaughtered."
: Ten Kentucky Derby winners have died since August 2000, including Seattle Slew and Affirmed, who won the Triple Crown in 1977 and `78, respectively.
: However, those deaths resulted from old age and infirmities.
: Ferdinand, a son of Nijinsky II, was Horse of the Year after a stirring victory in the 1987 Breeders' Cup Classic at Hollywood Park over Alysheba, who had won that year's Kentucky Derby.
: Ferdinand won eight of 29 career starts and earned $3,777,978. At the time he was retired from the track, he was the fifth-leading thoroughbred money-winner of all time.
: Ferdinand went off at 18-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby. His victory was the first of two for trainer Charlie Whittingham, who was 73 at the time, and the last of four for Bill Shoemaker, then 54. Both are in the Hall of Fame.
: Ferdinand went on to finish second in the Preakness and third in the Belmont.
: When Ferdinand began his career at stud, he initially stood at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., where he was bred and in whose colors he had raced. His initial fee was $30,000 for a live foal.
: When he was sold to Japanese interests in 1994, he had sired only one Grade I winner and just four stakes winners.
: Ferdinand spent six breeding seasons at Arrow Stud in Hokkaido, and his popularity steadily dwindled.
: Watanabe, a horse dealer, eventually acquired him and at first told Bayer that he gave him to a friend. However, Watanabe later told Bayer that Ferdinand had been gelded and might have been at a riding club, according to The Blood-Horse.
: Ferdinand reportedly was bred to six mares in 2001 and to only two in 2002.
: The report of Ferdinand's death brought wide reaction within the industry including regrets that the horse wasn't returned to the United States.
: "This is a bit odd to me. If in fact this is what happened, it's very sickening," said Dell Hancock, publicist for Claiborne Farm.
: Hancock, as well as officials at the Kentucky Horse Park and Churchill Downs, said they wished they had known of Ferdinand's plight .
: "We would have been delighted for him to have come to the Kentucky Horse Park," said John Nicholson, executive director for the park, where former champion thoroughbreds John Henry and Cigar are stabled. "I hope the message somehow gets out that if there's a notable horse not working out that he could possibly have a home here."
: Hancock said there would have been a strong chance of Claiborne wanting to reacquire Ferdinand, noting that the farm kept the legendary stallion Round Table until he was 33.
: John Asher, vice president of racing communications at Churchill, said the Downs also would have been interested in bringing Ferdinand back to the States.
: "I've got to think there would have been people lined up everywhere to try to bring him back," he said. "I think it would have taken about 15 minutes. There's a soft spot in people's heart for any horse, but for a Kentucky Derby winner ... they're members of a very small elite. There have been only 129 of them. They're like royalty.
: "It rips your heart out if you love this sport. Everybody I've talked to today has said, `How do you keep this from happening?' "
: Five former Derby winners stand outside the United States: Charismatic (1999) and War Emblem (2002) in Japan, Sea Hero (1993) and Strike the Gold (1991) in Turkey and Alysheba (1987) in Saudi Arabia.
: There have been concerted efforts in recent years to find homes for retired thoroughbreds, as well as to eliminate the slaughtering of horses in this country.
: Kim Zito, wife of trainer Nick Zito, and Michael Blowen, a former official with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, currently head a movement to bring Sea Hero and Strike the Gold back to this country. Zito has trained two Derby winners , Strike the Gold and Go for Gin.
: However, Baugh said he feels comfortable with the welfare of Charismatic and War Emblem, both of whom stand in Hokkaido. War Emblem is with Shadai Stallion Farm, Charismatic with the Japanese Bloodstock Breeders' Association at Shizunai Stallion Station.
: "I'm confident to the extreme," said Baugh, who was an agent for Robert and Beverly Lewis in selling Charismatic. "Where these horses are, these farms are as high-profile as Claiborne and Lane's End in this country."
: John Stuart, president of the Lexington-based TRF, said there has been a concentrated effort in the past five years to find homes for retired horses.
: "Ten years ago, approximately 350,000 horses in this country were slaughtered," said Stuart, a strong proponent of legislation pending in Congress to eliminate slaughtering of horses in the U.S. "Last year 40,000 horses were slaughtered, with our estimate of thoroughbreds about 5,000."
: Stuart said there are only two slaughterhouses for horses in the United States, both in the Dallas area.
: He noted that none of the horses are being slaughtered for human consumption in this country.
: Japan, on the other hand, does consume horse meat. However, it's likely a slaughtered thoroughbred would be used for pet food since the meat consumed by humans is a specific breed of horse.
: "We think the arrows are going the right way, then unfortunately Ferdinand pops up and we wonder why it happened, how it happened and should it have happened," said Gary Biszantz, owner of Cobra Farm in Lexington and founder of Tranquility Farm, a retirement home for horses in central California.
: "But we are making good movements in this country."
: Biszantz said more and more owners should be concerned with the welfare of horses, even long after they owned them.
: "An owner's responsibility is greater than just using the product and then throwing it away when we're done with it," he said.