JC / Railbird


Talking with Todd

Tim Wilkin interviews trainer Todd Pletcher:

Q: When you won the Kentucky Derby in May — your first — how much of a relief was that to you, especially with all the scrutiny people put on you [he had started 28 horses in the Derby, four of them this year, before getting a win]?

A: I don’t know. I didn’t really feel like I thought I would feel. It didn’t feel like a big relief. It was exciting, it was great to have done it. Maybe I looked at the Derby a little differently than most people maybe perceived it. I have an appreciation for how hard it is to win, how many factors have to go right and there are so many things out of your control that have a say in the outcome of the race. I never just assumed it would happen. People kept saying, ‘you are going to win the Derby, you are going to win the Derby eventually.’ I was certainly happy when it happened.

Understated, as always.

See also, response re: trainer Derek Ryan’s post-Whitney comments.

Weekend Review and Blind Luck over on BC360.

Interview: Vivian Farrell

“What’s really going to be key is constituent power — what we need from the American public is the realization that this is an issue for the American people. We need to hear from people who know what horses mean to American culture.” — Equine welfare activist Vivian Farrell talks to Railbird about the future of anti-horse slaughter legislation in the US Congress.

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Vivian Farrell is the founder and president of The Fund for Horses, a nonprofit organization started in 2003 to promote the welfare of horses. The Fund, along with the National Horse Protection Coalition and other equine welfare groups, was at Lone Star Park October 29-30 for the 2004 Breeders’ Cup, handing out information and seeking to raise awareness among racing fans about such issues as horse slaughter and anti-horse slaughter legislation.

Q: Your organization originally planned to hold an anti-slaughter rally outside Lone Star Park during the Breeders’ Cup. Why the change to an informational table inside the track?

A: We were going to do something that weekend. We were trying to negotiate some kind of a presence, and we talked to the Grand Prairie police — they told Lone Star we were planning to be out there. Understandably, the park wasn’t happy about a rally. Lone Star called, and asked, what about an informational table? We decided it would be more appropriate and that we could reach more people. There’s a big difference between holding signs and talking to people.

Q: Reading your account of the Breeders’ Cup, it appears that many people who came to your table were unaware of horse slaughter. Were you surprised that so many were ignorant of the issue?

A: When you do this sort of thing, when you live it, you get into the zone. You think people know more about what’s happening. Yet, many people don’t know. Yes, we were surprised, especially that people from the Dallas-Fort Worth area — local people — didn’t know about the plants just a few miles away. You would see people pick up a card, walk away from the table, and then stop dead in their tracks. “I can’t believe this,” they would say — they were absolutely shocked and amazed. It’s not their fault — there’s so much competition for people’s attention. Some things get through; some things don’t. But we did get a lot of coverage during the Breeders’ Cup. A lot of media showed up and we have to thank them for the coverage.

Q: Do you find a similar lack of knowledge among horse owners and trainers?

A: Owners and trainers are better, they are more aware. So many said, “We’re sorry you’re here, but thank you.” We didn’t want to bring people down. We opted for a conservative sort of thing. “Remember Ferdinand” — that drew people in a non-threatening way. A lot of people knew or recognized the name, knew that he was a Derby winner, even if they didn’t know what happened to him. We didn’t show any images of slaughter. That can be so off-putting. Images are out there, people can find them, and can see the barbarity and gruesomeness of the act, but we didn’t want to shock people. We weren’t protesting the Breeders’ Cup — we were protesting slaughter.

Q: The anti-horse slaughter bill, H.R. 857, has gained two more sponsors in the House, and S.2352 another sponsor in the Senate. Do you expect the legislation to progress in the next session of Congress?

A: Definitely. Some people new to the issue think this is the first time the legislation has been put before Congress. That’s not so. We’re very optimistic that we can move the bill forward this year. We’ve learned a lot, and it’s become a big issue. Never before has such a piece of legislation received so many co-sponsors. What’s really going to be key is constituent power — what we need from the American public is the realization that this is an issue for the American people. We need to hear from people who know what horses mean to American culture. Paul Revere didn’t alert colonists to the start of the Revolutionary War on a skateboard. Lewis and Clark didn’t explore the West on bicycles. We need to take this issue to America, to more than horse lovers.


The Fund for Horses
National Horse Protection Coalition
Just Say Whoa