I consider myself a strong advocate for the thoroughbred industry, and have stood behind the industry more times than I can count in the past few years as it is attacked from every side – the economy, journalism, extremist groups like PETA, and yet there is one horse in my virtual stable that constantly makes me question everything I defend: Marilyn’s Guy.

Just a quick recap for those of you who do not know me.  I am an event riding pony clubber by upbringing, and took the plunge into the thoroughbred industry in 2009 when I was employed at Chesapeake Farm.  I then moved on to manage other farms and am now currently getting my doctorate in veterinary sciences – so horses are still, and will always be forefront in my life.  Many people now know me as someone to contact when they have a horse who is ready to retire from the racetrack, either for myself or for my connections, so few realize that only a few years ago I couldn’t tell you the difference between a Storm Cat and an AP Indy.  But this all changed when I began working on a breeding farm, and more specifically, with the lay ups that were coming off of the track for miscellaneous injuries or time off and I met Marilyn’s Guy, or Larry.  Larry was a leggy 3 year old in 2009, and had just won his maiden at Hawthorne by a whopping 13 lengths the week that I began my job.  He was all we talked about during vet work- he had been bred by the farm, and was quickly becoming our next “big hope” for his dam, Marilyn Merlot – a gorgeous grey by Unbridled’s Song who need a bit of a push for her page.  But, as is horse racing, it was detected that he had an issue with his throat, and he was brought back to the farm for some treatment and R&R.  When I met Larry he was a gentle giant; at 3 years old, he was 17.2hh and dwarfed me, but his demeanor during his treatments had us bond immediately. Through medications, hand walking, and grazing, he quickly became my favorite on the farm.  The horse that I would go visit and groom even after hours.  I craved nothing more than to swing a leg over his back and take him for a hack.

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But as it is with these athletes, he was sent back to training at the end of the summer with a hug and a kiss, and after a bumpy start, found his stride and began winning allowance races in good company.  It was during this stretch that I rarely got to see him, only occasionally when he would have a layover at the farm between shipping up north or down south.

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I would get to hand walk him, redo his bandages, and wish him good luck as I loaded him on his next van and onto his next track.  He was 4 years old, still a gentle giant, and just sparkled with enthusiasm for the life that we have spent hundreds of years breeding into these horses. My last hug was spent loading him up to Arlington, and it is to this day one of my favorite pictures.  He just exudes class and athleticism, a horse that is noticeable well taken care of – an emblem of what we fight for daily when we tell the outside world that our animals are LOVED and treated with respect.

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Larry was bought from his breeder, but I continued to follow him, set on the idea that this was my future “Rolex” pony, an exaggerated version of me saying that I loved this horse and hoped to one day retrain him for a life of XC schools and trail rides, maybe even with an event or two if he was able to stay sound – which I worried about on a daily basis as his now 17.3hh frame deceived gravity.

Fast forward a few years and many updates and I had hope that maybe, just maybe, he was soon to be done – but then suddenly Larry started moving UP the ranks and into stakes class.  I was appalled – he was 6, and wasn’t even consistently placing in the lower classed races, but began to put in bullet works.  I went and put 10 dollars on him in the Excelsior Stakes at Aqueduct on a whim and in support for my now “old man” and watched without breathing as Larry put his heart and soul across the wire to win and officially become a graded stakes winner!  I had tears in my eyes as I screamed at the TV for the horse that had gotten me hooked into this life.

Larry would not win a race after the Excelsior.  He continued to run at good tracks and with upstanding trainers for a few more months and I waited impatiently to see him possibly ship to Churchill or Keeneland so that I could go see him in person and make an offer to his trainer, but he was claimed, and then claimed again until finally ending up in cheap claimers at Parx.  He is now 8 years old, and has earnings of $430,000 dollars, but only $1,500 of that is from this year.  He will start on Saturday with a tag of $12,000 at Parx for his 36th race.

THESE are the horses that cause disgusted looks from the outside world.  They see them as pathetic and “discarded” without realizing that people still love them.  I have contacted numerous people in the pursuit of Larry, letting them know that he would have a forever home if and when he was retired – whether it be with me or someone that I can trust.  But every time that he is claimed, or drops a rank at the track, I begin to feel my own passion for this sport waiver.  It should not be this way, I should not have to falter from my platform screaming to the masses of the goodness in this industry.  I’m sure that we’ve all had a “Larry” in our early careers – that first horse that we would scream unabashedly for as they came around the final turn, that horse that you bet on even when they were at 35-1, or just that horse that made you take a step back and honestly think about just how beautiful these creatures are they we spend our lives around.

I hope to one day have some closure for this story and that it does not end with tragedy or grief.  If he is ready for retirement, I hope that the owners are responsible – as if any horse is a deserving “War Horse” it is Larry.  But if he is still sound and happy in his career –  let him run.  I will keep cheering for you Larry, I promise.

 

UPDATE: Larry’s breeder Drew as well as myself  have reached out to every hand that takes a part in Larry and have tried to secure him aftercare, getting more aggressive as the months, and now years, tick on. He has a permanent home lined up for him on Chesapeake Farm, amazingly offered by his breeder. He has shipping lined up (either through Brook Ledge, or my own personal truck and trailer if needed). And he has plenty of carrots and Fruit Loops awaiting him here in Lexington, along with the best farrier and veterinary care in the world. What we don’t have are owners who are receptive to the idea of retiring him, even though he is an 8yo GSW running for a $5k tag, and we are therefore acknowledging the idea that we might need to claim/purchase him to get him home. Please leave rude comments about the fact that we have not bought him yet off of this site, it is in the works–but scraping together $5,000 on a graduate school budget (approximately 1/3 of my annual income) is a hard decision to make. Thank you.

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8 Comments on “My boy Larry.

  1. I was sent this story of Marilyn’s Guy because I am, as you put it, one of “those” from the “outside world”. But before I go on, you need to know that I used to love Thoroughbred horseracing. I’m much older than you, so my introduction to horseracing was Secretariat as a young teen. I was hooked by the big red horse and throughout the years, I recorded every single race that was televised…first it was only the Derby, but later the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup races were shown to the television audience. In time, the Haskell, Travers, and other G1 races were televised and available to view on ESPN. I have them all, tucked away now in my video library. I believe the last race I recorded was Eight Belles’ Kentucky Derby, but I can’t be certain…and why I even recorded that race, I don’t know…maybe force of habit. Because by 2008, the year the literal baby Eight Belles snapped off her two front legs, I had come to despise racing and all of the death and destruction it brings upon the non-consenting horses. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide this…no, I had come to see what horseracing was really all about.

    Over a period of almost ten years, for 6 months each year, I walked the shedrows of a racetrack in Michigan – Great Lakes Downs – as a board member and the track coordinator of the original CANTER. We took in HUNDREDS of horses who had been racing on injuries. I loaded HUNDREDS of horses onto my trailer that could barely walk…yet they had just raced 12 hours prior. I stood at the end of too many leads, the horses at the end dropping dead from the only thing we could offer them…humane euthanasia. I watched the trucks and trailers loaded with horses leave the track at the end of each meet, late November, knowing they were simply headed to another track where they would suffer the same treatment. Some of the horses I had asked the trainers to retire, to no avail, and I knew I would never see again. Some would go to owner/trainer Jaroslav Gold…yes, the midwest’s largest supplier of horses to a Canadian slaughterhouse is also a licensed racing owner/trainer.

    After nearly ten years, I could no longer be quiet about the abuse I had witnessed, and I resigned about a month before Eight Belles had her life snuffed out. Although I continue to rescue Thoroughbreds off the track, and advocate for this multi-billion dollar gambling industry that grinds up horses to come to an end, I still think about the many I couldn’t save. Those I work with know this about me, and I guess that is why one of them sent me your story about Marilyn’s Guy…he’s much like some of those horses.

    Larry’s change in ownership is heartbreaking to read. His last couple of races where he “tired”, “weakened”, brings tears to my eyes. And seeing he is now under Scott Lake makes me want to vomit. Quote from Lake (NYTimes, 9-21-2012): “I use a lot of clenbuterol in horses”…Lake has been cited 7 times in 4 states for illegal levels of clenbuterol. The drug’s manufacturer encourages withdrawal of the drug after 30 days…long term, the horse goes into the beginning stages of heart failure. Jack Van Berg, stated in the same NYTimes article: “Clenbuterol is one of the worst things that happened to racing.” Larry is at risk…you admit yourself that you are worried about him staying sound (but now tell me THIS…you know that at only 8 years old, Larry is just about to enter the PRIME years of a horse’s life! But yet how ironic, that even racing supporters and apologists go nuts when they see a former stakes horse, maybe 9, 10, or 11, running in the low-level claiming ranks and scramble to acquire them…why is that?…and what does that say about the damage racing does to a horse?…and why the fear of them running in those cheap claiming races, the majority of races that are run?)

    Lastly, your comment “THESE are the horses that cause disgusted looks from the outside world…they see them as pathetic and discarded without realizing that people still love them.” You’ve got that wrong…the HORSES don’t cause my disgusted looks…no, it’s the PEOPLE that PUT those horses in this position that cause my disgusted look. And while I certainly view them as “discarded” (they were no longer wanted by their former owner, obviously…what else would you like to call it?), I’m not seeing the evidence that Larry is “loved”…far from it. A couple of last quotes, from Dr. Gregory Ferraro, a California racetrack veterinarian who left the practice: “The last five years of my (racetrack) practice I let my two young associates take over…I couldn’t stand it anymore.” Saying that he and other veterinarians share the blame for turning racehorses into commodities, he stated: “We took a beautiful, noble thing and screwed it up. Horses are too good to put a price tag on.” Yet that is what racing does to these sentient creatures…they are valued only for what they bring to their connections’ bank accounts…not for simply WHAT THEY ARE, a living, breathing member of the animal kingdom, same as us.

    I pray to God Marilyn’s Guy makes it out of racing alive and in one piece….sound enough to be able to live like a horse should. He is deserving…as is every single horse enslaved by this industry.

  2. Joy I thank you for your comment, but I do want to respond to some of it. Mostly – the Eight Belles “horror”. Larry Jones is one of the good guys, and I stand by him and his decisions of when to run horses and how to run horses. What happened to her was catastrophic and appalling, but could have and most likely would have happened just as likely if she had been in the Oaks against the fillies or even in a pasture. Larry retired due to the heartbreak of losing that filly and the publicity that came with it, simply because it was on national TV – and because of that – we forced out one of the “good guys” only to make room for the bad guys to fill his place. I ABHORR hearing people cite Eight Belles and infer that it was trainer caused because of doping, training methods, or anything along those lines. It was a catastrophic injury that could have happened to any horse.

    Now for the comments about Larry. I know he is at risk, and yet what am I to do? He was sold from any connections of mine four years ago, and both the breeder and myself have contacted owner and trainer after owner and trainer to let them know that he has a forever home when he is done. I am not one of the millionaires in the industry, I stated myself that I am in graduate school, so there is no option of me going and buying Larry, nor do I think that should be necessary – which was my point in the article. If he was still running in stakes races, which I think he deserves, I wouldn’t be writing this article at all, I would simply be happily watching him run and cheering him on – but when a stakes level horse is brought down to the 12k claimers and has NOTHING to earn, NOTHING to prove, then it his time to retire. You claim I do not love him, and I ask what you would like me to do? Were those CANTER horses never loved? Were they ALL lumped together under one umbrella? I currently have an Empire Maker who was retired intelligently at the right time, and then placed in a loving home to be retrained as a sport horse – is that breeder and owner negligable? I think not. I did not RESCUE this Empire Maker from anything, I simply had connections to good people in this industry – something that NEVER receives publicity because it doesn’t sell papers.

    Again I thank you for your comments, I think that they came from an intelligent place and a knowledgeable one, but now I ask – how do YOU fix this? I fix this problem by taking in and/or being a viable connection to horse coming off the track to help find them good homes, just as many sport horse riders here in Lexington are as well. I raise these horses as babies to yearlings in the best way possible, to strengthen them and prepare them for a career of training and racing, helping breed and create bones that have the best chance of enduring. We then keep some to race and put them in good capable hands, and sell others to help keep our funds alive to continue to put horses in good capable hands. I advocate for stronger drug policies – but believe that these drugs should still be allowed at therapeutic doses. Things like bute should be allowed at a dosage of 1gm on race day — the outside world thinks that we are “masking” pain and that is why horses are breaking down. 1gm of bute is the legal dosage for sport horses for many recognized shows – it is the equivalent of 2 pills of aspirin. These horses are athletes, and should be treated as so. They deserve to have anti-inflammatories!

    I would hope that people like us could come to a general consensus and find a solution, but sadly we are a drop in the bucket. The solution is not to argue, it is to get behind an industry figurehead that can DO something – I choose the Jockey Club. And I hope that those people, with the support of people like me, can clean up this industry – but until then, I will keep contacting Larry’s trainers, and keep wishing him well and LOVING him, for that is all I can do for HIM.

    • I’m certain you saw that Marilyn’s Guy finished last of four, Equibase remarks, “tired”.

      I appreciate your response, and as I agree that “arguing” is never a solution, my purpose of commenting in the first place was not to argue, but to offer a different set of eyes. Everyone has a different opinion… a different conviction, if you will…and even those who are racing supporters cannot come to an agreement on addressing the horrific problems in racing. The racing industry is incredibly fragmented, and without an independent authority and oversight, it will remain being the “fox minding the hen house”. To be perfectly up front with you (which I trust I made clear in my previous comment), I am not a supporter of any industry that uses animals for entertainment or gambling purposes…so of course, that includes horseracing. Unfortunately for the Thoroughbred, man has taken and exploited their God-given or evolutionary “gift” of flight – running – to escape predators/survive and used it in the gambling industry called horseracing. There isn’t a horse on the planet that will run at full speed for the distance a race demands, only to the left…but put a jockey with a whip on his back and in a running herd (the rest of the field) and that horse will run. So my purpose is not to argue…I know that is fruitless…but to respond to what I read as questionable, at best.

      To respond to the points in your comment;
      -I never said anything about Larry Jones…good guy, bad guy, doesn’t matter to me. But Eight Belles is dead because she was raced. You say it could have happened in a pasture, and I wish I could tell you how many times I hear that from racing apologists. I’ve had equine family members for just over 25 years, and have many, many friends and acquaintances that have horses as well. In over 25 years, I know of TWO horses that fractured ONE limb while running in their enclosures…TWO…both OTTB’s that had endured joint injections while racing. Yet it is documented that 24 racehorses die per week from racing injuries…and these are the REPORTED…this does not include the unreported NOR the horses that limp into the rescues only to be euthanized due to their racing injuries…they are also racing’s dead. There are increased risks of injury and death when a horse is put on the track. Dr. Bramlage was quoted after the death of Eight Belles, saying: “Everyone breathed a big sigh of relief that everyone came around the track cleanly”…so why are we breathing a sigh of relief?…I never have that when I watch my own horses run around in their paddock! But again and again, I see the racing supporters holding their breaths and praying for safe trips when their favorite horses are racing…the risk to life and limb are incredibly increased…and the horses never consented to risking their lives. From Jay Hovdey from the DRF, in his article about the last day at Hollywood Park: “Announcer Vic Stauffer…lapsed into a baffling recitation…even as the earnest dozen runners…were out there putting their lives on the line”. PUTTING THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE.

      -You have a problem when a stakes horse falls to the low-level claiming ranks, stating they have nothing to earn and nothing to prove. My question, when did they EVER have something to earn or to prove? They certainly are never earning any accolades OR winnings for themselves!…and they never asked to prove a thing! In addition to that, do you have a problem with the horses that ONLY EVER labored as a cheap claimer?…do they not endure the same indignities, suffer the same pain? They have VALUE as well!…they are just as DESERVING of life.

      -I do not doubt your love for Marilyn’s Guy…but to say he is/was loved by his connections, that is simply not evidenced by the gelding’s life. As you said in your response, Marilyn’s Guy was sold from your connections…and as you also mentioned, horses are sold to “keep your funds alive”. And such are the lives of racehorses…they are bought and sold because they are a commodity, and racing is a business. To say they are loved?…would you ever let go of any beloved four-legged family member? I can’t even imagine selling any of my horses…I LOVE them. I wish the racing folks would just be honest and not exclaim their love for their horses, then turn around and leave them unprotected to the scum they all admit are present in racing by selling them or dropping them into a claiming race. It’s a disconnect that is glaringly obvious.

      -And finally, the issue of medicating racehorses. You state bute should be allowed on race day, and that it is the equivalent of aspirin for humans. Firstly, as a runner, I never take aspirin/ibuprofen the day I race…if I have pain, I’m not going to run that day! Secondly, giving bute DOES mask pain…we don’t just THINK it does. Dr. Scott Palmer, NY’s Equine Medical Director: “One of the problems is use of these medications (NSAID’s) will mask clinical signs of lameness, which makes it more difficult for the examining vet to detect things.” And Dr. Mary Scollay, chief veterinarian for the KHRC states that bute and banamine are NOT the same as aspirin and other OTC pain medications…”These are drugs that you need to have a prescription for and are more powerful and given in larger doses that what’s sold over the counter”. I see what a gram of bute does for my horse with a painful hoof abscess…it is a powerful pain reliever!…I don’t need Palmer and Scollay to tell me that!

      The only other thing I want to mention is this…it is something I am asked whenever I challenge the abuse of the racehorse and the great needs that the injured and unwanted horses face every single day…and you asked it, as well…and I quote you: “but now I ask – how do YOU fix this?” To answer you, why do I need to fix the problems of an industry I have no part of, want no part of, and do not gain financially from?…I don’t ask others to take my aged horses!…why is it that the racing folks expect us, the non-race public, to “fix” their problems? So that being said…here is what I do: I co-founded an equine charity that helps ALL breeds with Jo Anne Normile, CANTER’s founder. I am an advisory board member of the documentary “Saving America’s Horses”. I am a member of the Michigan Horse Welfare Coalition. I write true accounts of racehorses that died without the public’s knowledge for Horseracing Wrongs. I acquire as many at-risk racehorses from the low-level tracks as I possibly can….my virtual stable is packed with needy racehorses, and I lose sleep over the ones that will not be saved (I just, with the help of a friend, acquired the gelding Tyme Champ from Beulah…we are paying his board at a safe farm while I look for a forever home for him). I have 3 discarded racehorses on my farm. I educate the public that was as ignorant about racing as I was just 15 years ago. And it still is not enough…

      I hope Marilyn’s Guy has someone come to his rescue…I pray he doesn’t wait for help that might never come.

  3. Joy–1gm of Bute isn’t going to cover up a painful hoof abscess. And banamine is much stronger.
    And I HAVE seen catastrophic pasture injuries, and you DO hear about them, even with big name horses. It happens. It happens to ALL animals, including human animals. Carleigh is the epitome of a loving, caring and KNOWLEDGEABLE individual in the world of sport horses. And if you choose for YOUR horses not to race or participate in any sports, that’s your decision.

  4. This is a suggestion. Why not put this up on crowd funding and then go buy Larry. Send every a pic and updates.. if you need help let me know we can go to the next claimer he is in and buy him.

    • We have gotten Larry back! You can read more in “I Got My Boy Back”! He is currently turned out on the farm where he was bred and gaining weight!

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