A tragic horse racing story has finally got its happy ending thanks to Hollywood producer Sam Simon.
‘The Simpsons’, ‘Cheers’ and ‘Drew Carey Show’ producer and animal lover adopted Valediction, a race horse who experienced a life of pain, for two main reasons.
“One is an animal is no longer being abused,” explained Simon. “And two, people are finding out what horse racing really is.”
And it is not pretty.
Valediction’s sad story started in 2009 when the brown stallion was born and trained from the beginning to be a race horse by top horse trainer Steve Asmussen and his assistant Scott Blasi. If the names seem familiar, it’s because both Asmussen and Blasi were recently exposed in a PETA undercover investigation drugging horses that didn’t need medication, forcing injured horses to race and talking about the use of shocking devices during races to make the horses run faster. Valediction was pictured in that undercover investigation.
At two years old, Valediction won his first race but then didn’t race again for another year, when most of his races were “claiming races.” In claiming races, watchers can claim a horse for a fixed price, buying it before they know how it will perform. In one of those races, Valediction was claimed by trainer Rudy Rodriguez for $20,000 on behalf of New York owner Andrew Gurdon. After Valediction finished fifth and limped off the track, Gurdon tried to back out of the deal but the racetrack stewards wouldn’t allow him.
PETA’s undercover investigator claims one of Asmussen’s employees told him it was very important to get Valediction off the track immediately after the race was done while adrenaline was still fueling the stallion before his pain and stress really kicked in. When the deal went through, Blasi is seen on PETA’s tapes commemorating.
“I could do a f****** cartwheel right now,” said Blasi on PETA’s undercover tape. “If they ask you how he is, say he’s my favorite horse.”
Eight days after the race, Valediction had surgery on his knee, which turned out to be fractured, and then was sent to recuperate in upstate New York. Rodriguez, who has just as much of a shady career track as Asmussen and Blasi, having been caught drugging horses with anti-inflammatories in amounts way beyond the ones allowed, planned to train Valediction to race again.
Those plans were thwarted when a buyer from Virginia offered $60,000 for the horse. That buyer was a PETA frontman for Sam Simon.
“I’m coming into it knowing that these horses are commodities, that this this is factory farming more than it is a sport,” said Simon on why he agreed to save Valediction when Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s president, told him about the horse.
After the purchase was completed, PETA got a hold of a veterinary examination of Valediction’s health.
“The future soundness of this horse given his X-rays and lameness … is questionable. I would recommend he be retired as future soundness, even for trail riding, is questionable,” said the report that also mentioned considerable inflammation, arthritis and evidence of past fracture.
“Valediction was in pain, arthritic and had suffered a fracture, and yet he was being prepared to race again, to wring every last dollar out of him,” said Newkirk. “If Sam Simon hadn’t stepped in to rescue him, I think it’s a safe bet Valediction would’ve had a catastrophic breakdown, that his next race would have been his last, and then, like most spent racehorses, he could’ve become hamburger.”
Although killing horses for meat is prohibited in the United States, race horses that are injured or retired are shipped to Canada and Mexico where they are slaughtered for meat.
Asmussen and Blasi deny that any of the story PETA exposed is true and while they are still under investigation by Kentucky and New York authorities, Asmussen has an entry into this weekend’s Kentucky Derby.
“People don’t know what they’re watching when they’re watching a horse race,” said Simon, thanks to whom Valediction is now in a ranch in Virginia where no one can even ride him.
We will feature an interview with this amazing do-gooder on Monday here on Ecorazzi.