Archive for August, 2015

In 1920, an American legend and a Triple Crown winner met in Canada to decide who was the best thoroughbred of the year. On August 29, 2015 — 95 years later — another Triple Crown winner goes to the post in Saratoga to annex a victory in the historic Travers Stakes to his already impressive track record. And the connections between these two events weave still another narrative where past punctuates present.

Technically, there wasn’t an American Triple Crown the year Sir Barton won it. However, by 1923 the term starts to show up in occasional press releases. But it took until 1930, when Gallant Fox won it, for the term to be popularized by the Daily Racing Form’s Charles Hatton. By 1950, the Triple Crown had its own trophy and a tradition was well-entrenched in the sport; too, Sir Barton became the first “official” winner, the title being given to him posthumously in 1948.

SIR BARTON_10e491c5c80b8df5290e897afcbf47f7

When Man O’ War met up with Sir Barton for their match race, those present would have probably described the two as “Might be the greatest ever ?” and “The Greatest Ever ! ” respectively. The Kenilworth Park Match Race was the last race the mighty Man O’ War ran and, although he outran Sir Barton handily, it must be stressed that the latter — who suffered from foot problems throughout his racing career — was a great thoroughbred in his own right. In acknowledgement of his accomplishments, Sir Barton was inducted into the National Museum and Racing Hall of Fame in 1957, and was among the first thirteen thoroughbreds to be inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1976.

The good people of Kenilworth Park spared nothing in preparing for “The Race of the Century” which it indeed was. In 1920, Man O’ War was likely viewed as a brilliant upstart. Beating the incomparable Sir Barton would determine his true merit. In addition, special stables, complete with around the clock guards, were built to house the two champion thoroughbreds.

A new grandstand some 800 feet long was built, a special train was booked to transport race goers from Toronto to Windsor and the dirt track was made ready with a special attention to detail. Tickets were sold at an astronomical $5.00 each.

An old postcard depicting the former Kenilworth Race Track. Note the Canadian Emblem -- it would be another 44 years before Canada had its present flag.

An old postcard depicting the former Kenilworth Race Track. Note the Canadian Emblem — it would be another 44 years before Canada had its present flag.


Preparing the track at Kenilworth on April 11, 1920, the day before "The Race Of The Century" was run.

Preparing the track at Kenilworth as it was pictured in April of 1920.


"THE TICKET" -- at $5.00 a head, it was a pricey item.

“THE TICKET” — at $5.00 a head, it was a pricey item.

MAN O' WAR and his retinue on their way by train to Canada for the race.

MAN O’ WAR and his retinue on their way by train to Canada for the race.

MAN O' WAR coming on to the Kenilworth track.

MAN O’ WAR coming on to the Kenilworth track.

By the afternoon of Thursday October 7th, 1920 both horses arrived in Windsor, Ontario by train, Man O’ War shipping from New York and Sir Barton from Laurel, Maryland. The atmosphere in Windsor was on the weekend before the race at a fever pitch.

One can only imagine the excitement that gripped Windsor from the arrival of Man O’ War and Sir Barton to October 12. However, the race itself proved something of a disappointment since Sir Barton, now a 4 year-old, was foot sore and not the blazing 3 year-old of 1919 who had won a Triple Crown as well as the Withers in a space of 32 days. The Ross Stables’ champion led initially, but about sixty yards into the mile and a quarter distance, Man O’ War took the lead and won by 7 lengths in a new track record.

As he crossed the finish line, Man O’ War must have heard the din of the crowd, many of whom knew that they had witnessed one of the greatest historical markers of the sport. And it was, arguably, this last race against another great horse that saw Man O’ War take the throne of thoroughbred racing in North America.

To the continued chanting and applause of the crowd, Big Red was led into the winners’ circle, where he drank from a gold cup that had been specially designed by Tiffany and Co. for Abe Orpen, the owner and manager of Kenilworth, at a cost of $5,000.

Mr. Samuel Riddle and trainer, Louis Feustel, hold the gold cup while Man O' War takes a long drink.

Mr. Samuel Riddle and trainer, Louis Feustel, hold the gold cup while MAN O’ WAR  takes a long drink.

And it is this very same cup, affectionately known as the “Man O’ War Cup” that will be presented to the winner of the 2015 Travers at Saratoga, NY on August 29, 2015.

Following his death, the widow of Samuel Riddle presented Man O’ War’s solid gold cup to Saratoga, where it became officially known as the Travers Trophy. The cup is presented every year by a descendant of the Riddle family, together with a host of other dignitaries. A gold-plated replica is given to the winning owner.

MAN O' WAR'S Gold Cup, aka the Travers Trophy.

MAN O’ WAR’S Gold Cup, aka the Travers Trophy.


Man O’ War won the Travers in 1920. On August 29 his descendant, American Pharoah, will step onto the track at Saratoga with the same intention.

We wish this great colt only the best but must add the fact that America’s newest Triple Crown winner also carries Upset in his pedigree……and Upset was the only horse to ever beat Man O’ War, in the Sanford at Saratoga.

But, then again, Man O’ War put paid to his nemesis in the Travers:

Man o'War (1) passes the Saratoga stands for the first time leading his only competitors from the powerful Harry Payne Whitney stable, John P. Grier (3) and Upset (2). Man o’ War won “under restraint through the stretch” as Upset passed his tiring stablemate to gain second place at the finish.

MAN O’ WAR (1) passes the Saratoga stands for the first time in the 1920 Travers, leading his only competitors from the Whitney stable, John P. Grier (3) and Upset (2). MAN O’ WAR won “under restraint; UPSET (third horse) finished second.




Do you love THE VAULT? If you do, please consider joint other VAULT readers in contributing to THE VAULT’S fund to support professional horse rescues.

No donation is too small and all are appreciated. Thank you, from the heart. AA

HALe is in his forever home, thanks to the readers of THE VAULT and Abigail Anderson.

HALE is now safe in his forever home, thanks to the readers of THE VAULT and Abigail Anderson.





1)Another look at The Race of the Century” with new footage:

2) From Steve Haskin, North America’s pre-eminent turf writer:


3) Announcement that American Pharoah will run in the Travers, with the “decisive” workout (red cap on rider):

4) American Pharoah schools at Saratoga (TVG)

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Dear VAULT reader: As you know, THE VAULT published its very first article in 2011 and now enjoys a readership of over 280,000 worldwide. I cannot thank you all enough for your support and enthusiasm.

THE VAULT is a non-profit endeavour written out of love for the horses and the sport.

I felt it was time to find a way to give ‘payback,’ to use my efforts as a means of making a permanent contribution to the welfare of horses. Accordingly, I inaugurated a fund, in the name of THE VAULT, which will collect monies to be contributed towards organisations who specialize in horse rescue.

THE VAULT will feature the link below from this time on. Every few months I will post the monies that have been collected.


I thank you all for taking part in this endeavour. No donation is too small — every penny will help.

Finally, I give you the story behind my decision to create the VAULT fund. It is very personal and written from the heart.

And, of course, THE VAULT will continue in its tradition of bringing you great stories of great racehorses past and present from around the world, beginning with my next article.

Thank you.



“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something
that I can do.”
Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) American author, historian and minister



Like so many of you, I try to avoid looking at listings of doomed dogs, cats and horses because it overwhelms me with grief and a sense of helplessness.

But this time, for some reason, I looked. There were live videos of each horse and I suspect that was what did it. It’s easier (don’t know why) to “black out” a photo of a doomed animal in your head than it is to ignore a video, where, in this case, the horses being led or ridden by the camera trust that they are simply in a new home. Among the listings was a QH mare and her filly foal (above) — and I broke down.

You see, I live in Quebec and it is to Quebec that this particular group of unwanted horses are coming. First stop for them will either be OLEX (Ontario Livestock Exchange) in Toronto, where most will be bought by kill buyers for the current rate of $50 USD a pound. Or they will come directly here, to my home province, to either VIANDE RICHELIEU or the recently re-opened LES VIANDES DE LA PETITE-NATION.

I have stood with protesters outside the VIANDE RICHELIEU facility to no avail. Alanna Devine, our fabulous SPCA Director (Montreal), who was instrumental in getting a law passed here declaring animals as sentient beings (with penalties of 5 years in prison and more) made a run at trying to close this place down. To no avail. Brilliant advocates for horses, ponies of all breeds, wild or domestic, as well as donkeys and mules, the Canadian Horse Defense Coalition (CHDC) have been unstinting in their vigilance, reporting and communication with government. But even though Canada was responsible for the slaughter of 80,000 horses in 2011 alone, our federal government has done little (if anything) to regulate horse slaughter facilities or the industry itself.

I’m not naive. I know that even if I were a millionaire, I couldn’t save the draft horses, ponies, Arabians, donkeys, mules, Thoroughbreds, Quarter horses, Saddlebreds, Paints, Standardbreds and mixed breeds that go through kill buyers every single day here and all over the world. According to a 2013 report appearing on Pedigree Query, one North American kill buyer alone is responsible for over 7,000 horses going to slaughter annually.

Conceptually hard to grasp, but if you take a pen & paper and start making dots until you get to, say, 100, you begin to see what 7,000 represent pretty clearly:

100 dots.

100 dots.

The woman who photographs and films these particular horses is tireless in her efforts, going to the farm each and every week to photograph “new arrivals,” posting them to her FB page and helping those who are trying to rescue them with everything she’s got, from responsible shippers to those willing to quarantine a horse at a reasonable cost. But the prices on the heads of each of them is high (from about $650 – $1500 USD) and she only has until 9 p.m., exactly a week later, before she must call to give the kill buyer a list of horses, ponies, donkeys or mules who have been rescued.

As the deadline approached (August 8 @ 9 p.m.) for this particular group, literally hundreds of people on the site tried to reach out to work cooperatively to save a pony, a horse or Molly the piebald mule. Some had the space but no funds. Some had funds but no space. Some had part of the bail money and needed help to raise the rest. GoFundMe sites sprang up: places where individuals could go to contribute funds to save a particular individual.

In the meantime, I was attached by anxiety to the site — for them all, but particularly for the mare and her filly, the Belgian mare (above), a Tennessee Walking horse filly (below) and a 10 year-old mixed breed gelding. These five “spoke” to me. Fighting back rage and a sense of helplessness as the clock ticked on, I first decided to start posting these five on FB and Twitter.

Then, on the evening of August 7, I decided to establish a GoFundMe for horse rescue and to connect it to THE VAULT.

Why do human beings persist in thinking that talk IS action? It isn’t. I assume there’s some kind of “wiring” in the human brain that makes this error repeatedly, even unconsciously. We all do it. Yours truly as well. But using FB and Twitter takes a human foible and turns it into a strength. I kept updating every 6 hours or so, making it clear that the deadline was looming. In the meantime, several VAULT readers stepped up to the plate and made a donation to GoFundMe.

People exclaiming “So beautiful” on the rescue site were about as numerous as those struggling to find a way to help. And, as much as I wanted to blast the former group, I knew that they were struggling too.

The ones who pronounced those “So beautifuls” were making a doomed pony or horse significant by naming them in this way.

As was true in concentration camps, POW camps and other sites of incarceration, giving an individual — be it a horse or a human being — a number rather than a name has the immediate impact of marginalizing them, of placing them outside the classification of living beings. The human mind names things in order to store and make meaning of them. In fact, the act of naming marks the beginning of human consciousness. When people or animals are denied a name, the brain doesn’t know what to do with them. And so it moves them out of the sphere of human consciousness, and drops them out of mind.

As though they knew it, several on the site were going after the identities — the names — of those horses who carried a tattoo.

Registration for one of the Quarter Horses in this group who was saved by a family.

Registration for one of the Quarter Horses in this group, who was saved.

I immediately went back to THE VAULT’S GoFundMe and gave the little Tennessee Walking horse filly the name “HOPE” and, to the mixed breed gelding, I gave the name “HALE,” after the great teacher quoted at the beginning of this narrative.

By the morning of August 8 — the last day for the horses left — the QH mare and her filly, together with the Belgian mare, the two Shetland ponies and HOPE, as well as Molly the piebald mule, and several other horses had been rescued. The remaining dozen included HALE (below), who, priced at $1,128.88 USD, was likely to be left to slaughter.

I frantically posted and tweeted everywhere I could think of and that may have helped. Or maybe not. Because taking solitary aim at a problem this enormous is pretty much useless.

As I waited for something miraculous to happen, I reflected upon how obliterating any living thing that is not essential to our survival not only speaks to our loss of an intimate relationship with the Earth/earth, but also — quite literally — kills a part of us too. We live in a web of living particles that are interwoven like a spider’s web, even though we can’t see them. Disrupting any part of that web affects each living entity on our planet. That’s physics, but it’s also at the core of every world faith I know.

Here is a perceptible example of how this web works:

In the meantime, the hours ticked away. One group was within $100.00 USD of saving this standardbred gelding (below). We had raised $400.00 CAD/$304.78 USD on THE VAULT’S fund site.

I paid, on our behalf, the balance.

This nameless standardbred gelding was saved in part by VAULT donations. He is going to be retired by a loving teenage boy and his family.

This nameless standardbred gelding was saved in part by VAULT donations. He is going to be retired by a loving family who will also attend to his medical needs.

I kept checking HALE’s profile. I just could not turn my back on him.

Finally, in the afternoon of what was his last day before being shipped to slaughter, I re-posted THE VAULT’S fund site on my personal FB page and on Twitter. A few more wonderful VAULT readers stepped up to the bat. THE VAULT fund now stood at $555.00 CAD/ 422.90 USD. Fantastic response in a very short time. But not nearly enough to save “HALE.”



With less than an hour to go before the 9 p.m. deadline, a young woman from New Hampshire (“NH lass”) posted that she would love to have him. Her uncle had a large farm where “HALE” would have the company of another horse, together with fields and forest to roam.

But she couldn’t make his bail.

We started to talk online. I called Jen, who runs the rescue FB page, to get all the information I needed to post bail. “NH lass” also spoke to Jen, to see what shipping would cost. We exchanged fast posts. “NH lass” and her family could cover shipping, another $600.00+ (USD).

With fourteen minutes to go, I paid “HALE’S” bail with the remaining VAULT funds and by emptying my own pocket. Seconds later, “SAFE” appeared above his listing.

As tears dripped splashed onto my phone just minutes later, I managed to tell “NH lass” how happy I was that Hale was going to her, where I knew that he would be loved and cared for forever.

“I’ve never done this before,” she confessed.

“Neither have I,” I replied.

“But, you know, there was just something about him. He spoke to me.”

“Yup. He spoke to me, too. I just couldn’t look away. ‘Couldn’t forget the look in his eyes. Of all the horses paraded in front of that video camera, he was one of the few who seemed to know that something was terribly, terribly wrong, ” I added.

HALE as he appeared the week of August 3, before "NH lass," VAULT readers and yours truly saved him.

HALE as he appeared the week of August 3, before “NH lass,” VAULT readers and yours truly saved him.

As it turns out, his new owner is officially naming the gelding HALE, in honour of THE VAULT, those of you who donated and myself. Apparently, other than her own considerable courage and compassion, it was Edgar Everett Hale’s words on THE VAULT fund site that had moved “NH lass” to take action. And, in one of those magical moments of synchronicity that are very difficult to explain away, Hale’s new owner’s name is the same as that of my late mother, whose ninety-six birthday was the very next day.

….. Over the next ten days, because of the courage of a number of families, individuals (including teenagers), horse rescues,notably HIDDEN POND FARM HORSE RESCUE, “NH lass” and her family, VAULT readers and myself, Molly the Mule, a Belgian mare, a ageing Standardbred, 2 Shetland ponies, a Quarter horse mare and her filly foal, the Tennessee Walking horse filly that I had named “HOPE,” a crossbred gelding who was # 547 but is now named HALE and another 15 horses will step into lives of love and respect, to which they are entitled.




NOTE: VAULT funds collected from today (August 10, 2015) forward will go to horse rescues only.




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