Last week, Stacy Wren, who owns the farm, took in an emaciated three-year-old Thoroughbred that is in the most important race of his life – survival.
After making two career starts at Arlington Park this year, “Lucky,” as he is now called at his new home, left the track when his owner was unable to continue his racing operation. The trainer was told that Lucky was going to a boarding stable and it seemed that he was in safe hands while making the transition from the track to a new life.
From the trainer’s perspective, Lucky had a home. And, having seen Lucky at the track with my own eyes, he was a healthy and shiny three-year-old Thoroughbred when he left racing.
However, Lucky ran through a series of hands in the months that followed his last race at Arlington. His racing owner was unable to continue to board him. A second farm offered a home for Lucky, and, although they had the best of intentions, they simply weren’t equipped to deal with his mounting health problems caused by malnourishment.
At the second farm, Lucky ate poorly and continued to decline in health. He wasn’t aggressive and let the other horses bully him in the paddock. Lucky had marks from being injured by other horses and became further emaciated, to the point where his life was in danger.
His second farm thought Lucky wasn’t going to live and shared their concern with Stacy Wren, owner of Diamond Bit Farm.
In response, Wren offered to take Lucky in order to try to save him. She brought in a vet, who diagnosed several infections ranging from his left eye to his skin. She invested her own money to provide bedding, feed and alfalfa hay in an attempt to nourish him. And finally, Wren made a decision to give him a name that bore the outcome she hopes to bring to the brown gelding’s fight for survival today.
She named him “Lucky.”
And, while Lucky is showing signs of improvement, he remains in a fight for his life, when only a few months ago, he was fighting to win a maiden race. His vet bills continue to mount and Wren is paying for his medications from her own income. Yet, he has finally found a safe home outside of racing, which, given his track record, is the first victory for “Lucky” in his life.
However, the relatively invisible “Racing Life of Lucky,” stood as a curiosity to West when the gelding joined her barn. She spent a lot of time learning about the history of his bad and good “luck.” Wren tried to locate his foal papers to learn his name and was unable to do so. People at her farm made calls and described his appearance to try to figure out where he came from. Finally, through his lip tattoo and unique blaze on his head, West was able to identify him with certainty. At that point, she began to track his ownership, pedigree and racing record.
She wanted to know how he got from the races to her farm.
As Wren tracked his transition, she found a long line of well-intentioned people who had either thought Lucky was in a safe home or had tried their best to provide one. Lucky did not come from a negligent trainer nor a farm that was intentionally mistreating him. At worst, Lucky’s trouble began with an inexperienced owner that wasn’t equipped to retire a horse at the end of their career, and, for those for stepped in to help, their best efforts simply didn’t match the needs of the horse.
In racing, we should have better answers to the questions that Wren had when this horse arrived at her stable. Because, without more stringent standards on the transfer of ownership after racing, there will be “unlucky” ones that slip through cracks in cases where all parties sought a responsible outcome.
But, the debate on that issue is one to less critical to Lucky at the moment.
Today, Lucky is showing early signs of improvement on his medications and now stands a fighting chance of survival. But, as a non-rescue farm, Wren isn’t receiving any funding or donations to support her one-woman fight to save Lucky. And, in my opinion, this fight shouldn’t be found alone by a well-intentioned horsewoman and sick racehorse.
If racing is a community, saving this former racehorse should be a community effort.
In the spirit of the season, I suggest racing fans give a donation to Lucky to support the vet bills that are part of his race for survival. Put it in a Holiday Card to Lucky, a “Thank You” note to Ms. Wren or simply a blank envelope. Choose any amount that you can afford to give.
As racing fans know, a small wager and some luck can lead to a longshot victory at the end of any race.
And, in this race, I’m rooting for “Lucky.”
Root with me.
Donations for veterinary expenses and care can be made to Ms. Wren at Diamond Bit Farm, 270 South Berta Road, Coal City, Illinois 60416. Checks should be made payable to “Diamond Bit Farm.”
NOTE: Please note that the trainer was contacted during this story and was completely unaware of Lucky’s fate. The trainer and Ms. Wren are now in communication to help with his recovery.