Cost of Freedom retired by Santa Anita clocker

Cost of Freedom earned over $1 million on the track before Santa Anita and Del Mar head clocker John Malone purchased him for retirement this Christmas

Cost of Freedom earned over $1 million on the track before Santa Anita and Del Mar head clocker John Malone purchased him for retirement this Christmas. Photo by Megan Malone

Scanning the entries at Betfair Hollywood Park’s claiming races last week, John Malone stared in disbelief at a familiar name: Cost of Freedom. The one he calls “an original class horse,” and winner of more than a million dollars, was running for an $8,000 claiming tag at age 10.

“I just felt bad,” Malone says. “He ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (in 2009) and won over a million dollars. All I could think was, ‘Why is he still here? Hasn’t he done enough?’ ”

Decades in the horse business himself— as a Thoroughbred trainer in the past and currently presiding as head clocker at Santa Anita and Del Mar, Malone has heard it said often enough that a horse long in the game “just loves to run.”

Cost of Freedom
Sire: Cee’s Tizzy
Dam: Freedom Dance
Foal date: Feb. 24, 2003
Earnings: $1,018,799
And while that may be true, Malone insists that if a horse like Cost of Freedom can’t come back and run at his previous high levels, and instead puts in a performance so poor, as he did Dec. 21st at Betfair Hollywood Park, he should be retired.

In that race, Cost of Freedom finished second to last in a gallant effort by the once great racer who finally flagged at the quarter pole. Down the stretch, Malone’s eyes were glued to the television screen, as he silently prayed the old horse would make it across the finish line without injury. And when he crossed over that line, Malone resolved to help the tired animal.

As news of Cost of Freedom’s situation spread across social media channels, and some began calling for the war horse’s retirement, Malone quietly made a phone call to trainer Robertino Diodoro, who had claimed the horse, and planned to run him at Turf Paradise in Arizona.

Enjoying a little scratch

Enjoying a little scratch. Photo by Megan Malone

“I got Mr. Diodoro’s number and told him I’d like to get this horse off the track, and I offered to buy him,” Malone says. “He was really good about it. He said he had to talk with the other owner, and would let me know.”

By Christmas Eve, a deal was struck. Malone purchased Cost of Freedom for $8,650 and Diodoro agreed to keep the champion in his barn until transportation could be arranged to ship him to Malone’s farm, a cost that Diodoro offered to share.

As Malone prepared to make room on his farm for the war horse, social media channels began to light up with discussions about the horse and his future.

But unbeknownst to those on Facebook and Twitter, Malone had by this point already purchase Cost of Freedom.

“I came across a Tweet by Ray Paulick that Cost of Freedom was running for $8,000 and I tweeted back to him and told him he had just been purchased,” he says. “And he wrote the story and tweeted, ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa.’ ”

Malone notes the famous newspaper column about Santa was published on Sept. 21st, which also happens to be his birthday, and that the little coincidence seems to underscore the rightness of his decision to get involved in this particular story, and help a champion racehorse land softly.

Already captivated by the good-natured gelding’s personality, Malone spent an hour with him recently, posing for pictures for a Thoroughbred magazine. At one point in the photo session, Cost of Freedom cocked his head, and placed it on Malone’s shoulder, briefly closing his eyes.

Cost of Freedom found his person

Cost of Freedom found his person. Photo by Megan Malone

“This horse is so cool,” Malone says. “The day after he raced, I went into his stall and he had his butt facing the door. I hung out in the corner and waited for him to acknowledge me, and once he realized I was no threat, he came right over.

“The next day I went back, and he was a completely different horse, as if he was saying, ‘Hey, what’s up? How’s it going?’ ”

During another visit, Cost of Freedom was standing outside his stall with Malone when suddenly behind him a tractor erupted with a loud commotion.

“He didn’t do anything. He noticed the noise, but he didn’t react. He’s a thinker, and that’s what you want in a riding horse.”

And if all goes well, Cost of Freedom and Malone will go trail riding together in the future.

A longtime race clocker and a longtime racehorse who formed a perfect friendship when it seemed the chips were down.


61 responses to “Cost of Freedom retired by Santa Anita clocker”

  1. Ellen Brayshaw

    Nice to hear, great luck together forever…..!!!

  2. Sharon

    This is a beautiful story. I remember when the photos of Cost of Freedom were streaming across social media. Thank you, John, for opening up your heart and home to help this boy. It looks like he is returning the rewards. The photos made me cry with joy. Love it!

  3. ANNIE


  4. Cost of Freedom retired by Santa Anita clocker | Pet Levrieri Onlus - Salva e adotta un levriero
  5. Nuala Galbari

    John Malone should receive a ‘Horseman of the Year’ Award for this great deed. And if any of us should think that horses don’t understand good intentions and kind hearts, just look at the image where Cost of Freedom has placed his chin on John’s shoulder — a picture worth a thousand words. Bless you, Mr. Malone.

    Nuala Galbari
    Owner of Well Ack Ack (Captain Jack Sparrow)

  6. Barbara

    Thank you JOhn Malone for doing the right thing. All older race horses deserve a happy ending.

  7. Deb Johnson

    Sadly, every race horse out there literally runs for their life every race. I’m fortunate to have one in my pasture. I found him in a kill pen. He was one of the lucky ones. We can do so much better than this.

  8. Delrene in Carlsbad, Ca.

    Thanks to ALL who participated in saving Cost of Freedom. Hats off for posting this story. What a wonderful photo that says it all. I wish so fervently that more of this type of happy endings would happen for these great warriors at the track.
    More stories like Cost of Freedom NONE LIKE MONZANTE.

    And I read that RAIL TRIP is retiring to Old Friends. yeah for many more in 2014.

  9. Susie Wojtowicz

    Awesome story to start out the year! kudos to you Mr John Malone*

  10. ann m trethewey

    YOU ARE AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Pat Failla

    Unfortunately, horse racing is one of the most cruel and heartless “sports” there is.

    This horse “Cost of Freedom” truly was fortunate, at the old age of 8, to still be living at all.

    The average age of a racehorse if 5 (as opposed to 20 if they are not bred to race) Thousands are bred with hopes of the next big star, but few ever make it that far. More are injured in extreme training at too young of an age, many are suddenly lame and the owner gets to cash in on insurance, and of course, the horse is disposed of. Those that don’t make the cut, are slaughtered (now they get to be hauled in miserable trailers for days to Canada or Mexico for this opportunity to become dog food or steaks for the countries that eat them)

  12. charlene lloyd wrightnour

    Yet another wonderful person saving a grateful horse from those cold hearted enough to run them into the ground. My dad just retired from over 30 years of tb racing he’s 78 just had open heart surgery and we have 6 remaining at our farm. Dads horses were his kids and until we find good homes they will remain under my care. All have great bloodlines and will make great companions. The day dad went in hospital I learned of a horse which had been claimed in 1998 and bought by a kill buyer. Thanks to @Equine Rescue of Aiken and the help of many others he has been saved. People are great and thank u for being one of those people

  13. gerda silver

    It feels sood to start the new year with a heartwarming story! Thank you.

  14. Teri Benson

    A beautiful act of kindness to a beautiful animal.

  15. Robyn Persichitte Gipp

    I love this horse….What a Beauty and I see a bond for
    John Malone tells me this is going to be a Wonderful connection

    Best Wishes in your journey with him….

    Cost of Freedom seems very special indeed….

  16. Judy

    This is such a heartwarming story and special to me! I was adopting Corigal Cat,
    a track record holder from Arlington. I fell in love with him and when he was going to be retired, I was planning on taking him to retrain as a riding horse. Unfortunately, he died of colic before that was to be…I guess he never wanted to leave the Track.

    Best wishes to your new relationship with this horse! It was meant to be.

    1. Nuala Galbari


      How very sad, yet your heart was in the right place, so bless you for that. Owning an OTTB has changed my life completely. Please consider finding another retired racehorse who needs a good home.


  17. Kevin

    Mr. Malone,

    You are a class act sir. No wonder you are able to work outside on those cold, dark mornings; you have a tremendous heart to keep you warm.

  18. Deb

    Thank you, John Malone, for acting on your love and respect for this great horse and all the horse out there! This is a heartwarming story to start the New Year!

  19. Alicia Kittrell

    Bless you Mr. Malone and others for letting Cost of Freedom retire gracefully before he is to damaged to save. Too many broken down OTTBs are taken to auction when they are unable to compete & end up as fodder for the kill buyers or match racers. It’s a black eye for the racing industry. Hopefully more folks will follow the example set by Mr. Malone.

  20. Pam Karlsgodt Roylance

    All the way around, this is by far the best story of 2013! John Malone is every bit as much a hero as every person on Time Magazine’s list for Person of the Year.

    1. Nuala Galbari

      I second that, Pam!

      Good wishes for 2014

      Nuala Galbari

  21. John Malone

    Thank you all very much for the love and support of COST OF FREEDOM. He’s such a cool horse and of 7 we have on the farm. Three others were also given homes on our place. Happy New Year to you all.

  22. M. L. Stewart

    Mr. Malone – Thank You for acting with your heart. Cost of Freedom looks like a wonderful guy and deserves a wonderful second career with you.

  23. Judy

    What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for caring, Mr. Malone.

  24. SusanA

    If anyone would like to help Mr. Malone recoup some of the funds needed to buy Cost of Freedom….you can donate really easily through Paypal….to the I’m sure he would be truly grateful! (I understand that John Sadler, Cost of Freedom’s former trainer, kindly donated $2,000!)

    1. Linda R. Moss

      SusanA – this is all true and Carl O’Callaghan, Trainer and owner of Kingsale King, also covered quite a bit to ensure this was a fast, smooth transaction. Bless all of them!

  25. Margo Collins

    Thank you, John Malone, for saving this beautiful animal. Wishing you many happy trails along with your Happy New Year.

  26. Patricia Bewley

    bravo Mr. Malone, isn’t is interesting that the people who win the money with these wonderful athlete’s rarely step up to save their lives and ” retire” them.

    1. Judy

      I agree !!! What the heck? Why dont they, the greedy buggers!

    2. Nuala Galbari

      I agree, Patricia; it’s pure greed and lack of heart.
      I hope such people will read this story and perhaps it may change just a few of them.

      It’s good to share this wonderful story with you.

      Nuala Galbari
      Owner, of Well Ack Ack (who only made $1,250 in six races and was thrown off the track to land in the ownership of two great Army majors, who then retrained him in English Pleasure).
      I have owned him for just over two years now, he’s only 7 and we are coming along very well in Equitation and gentle hacks.
      A loving and sweet horse who only came in third once, but means the world to us and is a good natured and playful boy.

      Best wishes to you for 2014.

  27. Wendy Scott

    Noble deed for a noble horse. Great Save!!!

  28. alex


  29. Suzanne

    How is it that owners at the time the horse was making lots if $ cant set aside some fir the retirement if the same horse. I never will understand those who race horses and claim to love the horses and still do thais.

  30. Juliet Nyholt

    Hi John…I have fairly yound retired racehorse that never won a’s all the same though, they are wonderful horses…I ride him in a Circle Y Western Trail Saddle into the woods around my house…he is so sweet..& really smooth to ride..I hope you will have the same experience…Good Luck in the New Year, my gelding was a gift, you put out a lot of money, for me, that’s awesome…enjoy your beautiful baby…

  31. Rima Christie

    John, whether you like the medal or not you are a HERO… Thank you for restoring my faith in people…….He is a GOOD SAVE!!!

  32. Sue J. Hebenton

    I love this story – very heartwarming. Thank you John Malone and Robertino Diodoro!

  33. Lisa

    There are thousands more deserving racehorses out there just dying to be adopted and loved. Do YOU have room for just one? Just Google and you will find many adoption sites!

  34. Linda R. Moss

    Dear Susan – Absolutely! I think that there are still those in the racing industry that do it the good old fashion way, which renews our faith in the sport and people involved – all around! Thanks so much for all you do, I look forward to connecting with you again soon, and hope your New Year’s is all things wonderful!!

  35. robin upperman

    What a great ending to a great horse racing career !!! So glad he could retire, and may he never be out run again!!!

  36. Linda R. Moss

    Susan – Thank YOU so much for covering this story!!! Those of us racing fans and OTTB owners here is Southern CA have been glued to any and all news as this story developed. We are delighted with the ending to this great story. I want to personally thank Trainer, Carl O’Callaghan, and owner of Kingsale King, for all his efforts; he was the 1st to get everyone fired up across the internet and social sites. He went above and beyond financially too – such a great story and great way to enter 2014 – The Year Of The Horse!! Happy New Year’s Everyone!

  37. Jayne Fronk

    What a terrific story – and a stunning horse! He is gorgeous. John Malone, thank you for caring enough to retire Cost of Freedom with dignity and offer him the life he deserves.

  38. Susan Crane-Sundell

    John Malone and Cost of Freedom have achieved Kismet. Sometimes a partnership is just meant to happen.

    One thing you may not know is there was a donation fund started for Cost of Freedom. Many people in John’s position would have waited for the results of the fundraising before committing to purchasing the horse. Not John. His commitment was so strong to COF that the first day that the TB was back at his home barn after the closing of Hollywood Park, he drove directly there with a cashier’s check from his own account and closed the deal. He wanted Cost Of Freedom retired!

    That’s a true horseman who is in it for the love of the horse!

    Congratulations on your new partnership John and happy trails to Cost of Freedom and you!

  39. Lisa Melone

    Such a great story–these always bring tears to my eyes.Glad to hear this gallant guy landed softly and that someone was watching out for him.

  40. fran Doos

    Many people have donated to help with the purchase of Cost of Freedom. If you would like to help John, contact him directly through his facebook page.

  41. Rustin Kretz

    Great story, great job to all.

  42. Paqm Mahony

    Mr. Malone, All of us who are involved in TB retirement say a big THANK YOU for doing right by this lovely, classy horse.

    But, with the samne breath, I want to say to his previous owners: SHAME ON YOU — This wonderful horse ran his legs off fo you, earned hundreds of thousands for several of you, yet you stood by and did nothing when your horse was in need of a savior.


    Can anyone find a list of these prior owners and what this horse won for each? I think that they should be outted for their heartless attitude. They are NOT horsemen, just cold hearted people who have no concept that a horse is not like a set of golf clubs that can be thrown away when no longer useful. If you want to find a sport which allows you to not give a damn about unwanted equipment, take up golf or tennis or shuffleboard, but stay out of racing.

  43. Robin Alexander

    smiling from ear 2 ear!!!! : ) God bless your heart & soul Mr. John Malone…. : ) : ) : ) : )

  44. marion mohrman

    Oh John, you have a heart of compassion and fairness, God Bless you!

  45. deb lynch

    That was a wonderful thing you did.

  46. sharon

    Got to love the heart of a Thoroughbred and the hearts of those that love them.
    Happy trails to you both!

  47. Barb Guckert

    Thanks for bringing this wonderful old horse off the track. He deserves a good man like you. The picture of him leaning on your shoulder says it all.
    May you two have many “Happy Trails” together.

  48. cheri vaughan

    Beautiful gesture for a beautiful war horse!

  49. Mary Witt

    What a wonderful thing for you to do, Mr. Malone. Best wishes for a happy 2014!

  50. Stefanie Rittner

    I love learning of stories like this, where people make smart, selfless choices for the well-being of animals. You recognized the time for this gelding to be retired was long over-due and made it happen. It makes me smile to know that long, lazy trail rides are in his future. Well deserved, well deserved.

  51. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

    My wish for New Year’s is more noble acts and more happy endings like this one. Thank you John Malone. Happy trails to you!

  52. Andrea

    Thank You John for recognizing when it’s time….

  53. Kathi DeFranc

    This is wonderful,so happy for this proud horse! Thank you for getting him,you are amazing,have a happy life with this beautiful animal.

  54. Christina

    Ahhh, bless him for buying this horse! $8,650 was the cost of freedom for Cost of Freedom and it sounds like he was bought not a moment too soon. How nice that the horse now faces a fun second career instead of a future of staggering around increasingly obscure racetracks toward a final finish line that brings no prizes.

  55. SpotOn

    Thank you for giving Cost of Freedom a safe and soft landing John.

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