A disturbing story about a pacer that was sent to slaughter with open wounds looks like it will have a happy ending thanks to a social media campaign and Dina Alborano paying his bail.
by Melissa Keith
Killean Cut Kid is a 12-year-old gelding who raced 258 times over the last decade earning over $300,000. His last charted mile was a seventh-place finish at Miami Valley on April 11.
His unusual story has more recently made the rounds on Facebook and Twitter, drawing anger, concern, praise and “trolls,” according to Dina Alborano, who orchestrated the pacer’s rescue. The New Jersey-based standardbred racehorse owner said she “paid bail” for Killean Cut Kid at Bastrop, “one of the most horrific thoroughbred auctions, in Louisiana.”
The Mach Three—Winning Lin’s son’s identity was not known to Alborano at the time. “Somewhere along the line, he had a guardian angel, I think, because he came to the attention of several of the people with Standardbred Retirement (Foundation),” she said. The pacer’s “bail” was $600, reflecting his extremely poor condition. “Sad as it sounds, they couldn’t ship a horse with open wounds across the border to Mexico for slaughter. He was marked as ‘direct ship’, which meant we should have never even been able to get him.”
Killean Cut Kid is now in a secret location, but the Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF) is appealing to the public for help.
“If Kid must retire with SRF the expenses will exceed tens of thousands of dollars,” the SRF said in a statement. “We are very hopeful that the right offer for a lifetime home for him is in the mix or will come through. Serious inquiries to home him when he is ready should fill out an application for adoption on SRF’s website. Donations are still needed, are tax-deductible and may be made by mail to SRF, 353 Sweetmans La., Office 101, Millstone Township, NJ 08535, through the website, through Paypal at [email protected], or by calling SRF at 732 446-4422. Please note Kid on your support for him.”
How Killean Cut Kid ended up at Bastrop, following Facebook posts indicating he was euthanized by previous owners in August, is a matter now playing out on social media. Importantly, the facts are also being investigated by the U.S. Trotting Association. USTA Executive Vice President and CEO Mike Tanner provided an official statement to HRU on Sept. 9:
We are aware of the situation involving Killean Cut Kid, and are disturbed by the photos that we have seen. There is no room in the sport for what is alleged to have happened to Killean Cut Kid. The USTA has assigned its contracted investigator to explore this matter, and that inquiry is ongoing. The USTA also has been in contact with the appropriate authorities to make them aware of the existence of our investigation, and have committed to turning over to them all of our findings when the process has been completed.
It is important to understand the limits of the USTA’s authority as it relates to investigations like the one pertaining to Killean Cut Kid. The USTA is not a regulatory or enforcement agency and can only suspend membership to the Association if the facts warrant it. The USTA does not have the authority to suspend a member’s racing license; that power resides with the state racing commissions. Nor can the USTA seize horses, which is a matter for the legal authorities. Our investigation is progressing and the USTA will issue another statement when it is completed.
Alborano admitted it’s frustrating that a minority of owners assume programs such as the USTA’s Full Circle and Save Our Standardbreds will take full responsibility for their retired horses. “At SRF, they call the ex-owners, and a lot of them are really good. They’ll pay the full ‘bail’ [to buy horse at auction]. A trainer will pay the full bail; a driver will pay the full bail. There are really good people in the industry.”
The USTA provided a description of the Full Circle Program, founded by the American Quarter Horse Association, which the USTA was the first breed registry to adopt. “Anyone, member or not, can enrol a horse. The Full Circle icon appears by a horse’s name in our free tattoo lookup and we have three staff available 7 days a week to provide that information to those making inquiries.”
The USTA said the program is well-utilized and helpful: “This year, we have had 17 inquiries from people who’ve identified horses in Full Circle and in need of assistance. While we wish that number was bigger, it is well ahead of last year’s pace and we expect it to keep growing. There are 9,330 horses enrolled in Full Circle by 1,242 people. Many have enrolled every horse they ever owned or bred, there is no charge to do so.”
Alborano called Killean Cut Kid’s situation “just so different” in that a horse which was destined to disappear became extremely prominent instead, attracting attention to rescue efforts, like those of the Standardbred Retirement Foundation. She said that she is independently dedicated to equine rescue across all equine breeds, but has a special place in her heart for standardbreds — her brother, Joe Alborano, owns world champion stallion Artistic Fella (p, 5, 1:48.0f; $2,604,855), a Full Circle enrolee.
She said she would rather see a program which reserves one per cent of all racehorses’ earnings, and one per cent of their sale price as yearlings, to be put toward their future, than reliance on programs and donations to support them. Not all of the animals can be retrained for use as pleasure horses, she noted, although SRF provides many to new homes. “I want an article to get out there and say to people, please don’t send your horses to someone you don’t know; don’t send them up to the Amish. Give us a call,” said Alborano, who can be found under the Twitter handle @EquineAltitude.