When AA investigators arrived at the Hoover Horse Auction in New Holland, PA on May 7th and saw the thin thoroughbreds with the fancy gold nameplates riveted to their halters, they knew the basic story right away. Soon the details and names associated with these horses would make their poor health and rough condition all the more dishonorable and despicable. The fact that these horses were about to be sold for slaughter on the very day of the Kentucky Derby, was enough to turn anyone's stomach.
The horses were
all owned by Gerard Chiusolo, a thoroughbred breeder who owns a horse farm in Paris, KY. Chiusolo had boarded some of his horses at John Duarte's L'Cima Ranch in Orefield, PA.
Chiusolo owned them but it was Duarte who dumped the poorly kept thoroughbreds at the auction on Kentucky Derby Day, apparently to cut his losses after the horses had stayed at Duarte's for a year and a half. Allegedly, according to Duarte, Chiusolo owed him $97,000.00. According to Chiusolo, he doesn't, as they were business partners and business went sour. Whatever the facts are, selling the thoroughbreds at an auction like Hoover's was an easy, cheap way of getting out of responsibility for the horses.
Some of the horses, such as stallion "Auto Pilot" and broodmare "My Top Saint," were high profile horses not too long ago. My Top Saint was bred to Kentucky Derby Winner Fusaichi Pegasus, and the foal was priced at $50,000.00.
At the auction, the horses looked rough and neglected. Some of the horses had overgrown hooves, open sores, wounds, bite marks, scars and were very thin. The investigators saw a filly (dam Mary's Saint), just days old and many colts (dam Brilliant Bettina, Suzy Q Suzy Q and others). Many of the mares, such as "Daniella Rose" and "Indian Lite", were pregnant again.
One of the colts had a serious cut on the right front leg. A mare appeared very weak and continued to lie down in the pen the entire day; workers made her get up but after standing for a short time, she would go down again. Another mare had a wound on her left haunch.
Kill buyer Brian Moore was there ready to buy. Fortunately for almost all of these horses, many of the 'right' people found out about the sale. At the end of the day, the majority of the horses went home with rescues, off track buyers and breeders.
Duarte, as consignor, was often confused. He gave registration papers for "Make Haste Wins" and "Isabella Rose", both chestnut mares, to a buyer. It turned out neither of the horses were even present at the sale. Two mares wore halters with name plates Fiddler's Trick and Eavesdropper-Polar Miss, but further investigation soon revealed that these halters did not belong to the horses wearing them.
Horse with open sore
Meanwhile it is Kentucky Derby Day and most people are thinking of how pampered the elite horses of racing are, of the big money and all that money can buy. But the fact is that on Derby Day, the thoroughbreds of racing are being sold for next to nothing at a small horse auction frequented by kill buyers. Neglected, suffering with old injuries, poorly groomed, underfed and weak, they enjoy the very real prospect of being slaughtered - so the last buck is eked out of them so someone can get paid something, and carry on with more of the same.
Rescues and humane individuals were able to save these horses on Kentucky Derby Day, but we can't count on a happy ending for all race horses in deadly dire straits.
We call upon the Thoroughbred Racing Industry to help prevent a situation like this from happening again. We ask them to continue to work on preventing former race horses from dying a gruesome death at a slaughter plant, just because their racing careers are over.
They can do what they have done well in the recent past: Raise the bar, take responsibility and regulate effectively. Show these bad actors the same mercy they show the horses on the slaughter trucks.