$220K yearling was slaughter-bound in older age

Future Kings sold for $220,000 as a yearling, and was in the slaughter pipeline two weeks ago. Photo courtesy Marlene Murray

Future Kings sold for $220,000 as a yearling, and was in the slaughter pipeline two weeks ago. Photo courtesy Marlene Murray

The Irish-bred grandson of a champion U.S. sprinter, a Thoroughbred so fine he sold as a yearling for $232,134, was plucked this month from the kill pen moments before horses were readied to make the long, frightening journey from Pennsylvania to a Mexican slaughterhouse.

By the time Future Kings, 15, was discovered, he’d fallen far from the rarified world in which he once graced.

The silken coat of his youth was now long and dry; his ribs showed just slightly, and it had been a long, long time since his black mane and tail felt the touch of a kind hand and brush.

Purchased by a meat buyer from the New Holland auction, the gelding was saved in the 11th hour after he recognized he had a Thoroughbred in his herd, and alerted a Thoroughbred advocate.

Future Kings
Sire: Desert King
Dam: Stellar Empress, by Star de Naskra
Foal date: April 19, 2000
Instead of further processing Future Kings, the meat buyer waited as advocates did what they do so well: organize, raise funds, and get the job done.

And with the force of a lightning crack, messages were flashed to a network of Thoroughbred advocates, who rallied together to make room for one more.

“The horses find us, we don’t find them,” says Marlene Murray of R.A.C.E. Fund, who volunteered her Grantville, PA facility for a 30-day quarantine of Future Kings. “They unite and bring so many people together that would have never met or known each other. It’s amazing how they come into our lives as an organizations.”

Since he entered quarantine, Future Kings has enjoyed regular grooming, hoof trims, and nutritious meals.

Since he entered quarantine, Future Kings has enjoyed regular grooming, hoof trims, and nutritious meals.

In short order, a fundraiser was created by Gail Hirt of Beyond the Roses Equine Rescue and Retirement, and shortly after that, Texas businessman, horseman and advocate John Murrell stepped up to donate the lion’s share of the $800 cost of acquiring and caring for the animal.

And, while Future Kings was stepping onto a trailer to make his way to the quarantine facility, a home was found for him living alongside none other than the famous rescue Thoroughbred Prodigioso, known as “the Everglades horse.”

Marilyn Lee, owner of the Everglades horse and of Sherwood Farms in Ontario, stepped forward to offer Future Kings a home.

“My daughter Robin Hannah-Carlton and I both happened to be looking at Facebook and we both found King’s picture. We weren’t looking at him together, but we both recognized how cute he is. We knew nothing about his story, and there’s still quite a bit of mystery about him. He hasn’t raced since his last race at Thistledown in 2006 and we have no idea where he’s been, or how he wound up there,” Lee says.

Prodigioso the Everglades horse was taken in by Robin Hannah-Carleton and her mother Marilyn Lee. The mother and daughter have opened their doors to Future Kings now, too.

Prodigioso the Everglades horse was taken in by Robin Hannah-Carleton and her mother Marilyn Lee. The mother and daughter have opened their doors to Future Kings now, too.

Having had amazing results with hard-luck Thoroughbred Prodigioso, who was tied to a concrete block and dumped along a desolate road in the Florida Everglades, Lee and her daughter have turned Prodigioso into a show horse and envision that Kings will fit nicely in their show barn, no matter what his capabilities are.

“I’ve been talking with Marlene Murray, who has him in quarantine. She said to me that she hopes our farm will be his last stop. And I explained that he’ll either remain with us, or with a close and trusted friend,” she adds.

Mystery surrounds Future Kings’ life after racing. After putting in a 3rd place finish in a $3,500 claimer in 2006, he went off the radar until 2008, when he was listed briefly on a trainer listing by CANTER Ohio, according to Dawn Kirlin, a Thoroughbred owner and advocate, who was interested in the horse at the time.

Though she never did hook up with the horse’s connections, she never forgot him.

Future Kings takes a good look around the grounds of a quarantine facility from which a new and better road will now open for him.

Future Kings takes a good look around the grounds of a quarantine facility from which a new and better road will now open for him.

“It’s funny, but he has one of those faces that for whatever reason, I’d see somebody similar and would immediately think of Kings. I used to wonder whatever happened to him,” Kirlin says. “I’m just glad he’s safe now.”

Not only is he safe, but also he is in pretty good form, says Murray, noting that he’s a “big eater” who enjoys his grain and hay. He has put on a few pounds, and is shedding out his dry coat with help from many grooming sessions. In the weeks she has had him, Kings has not had a hint of fever or illness, and is showing himself to be of fine temperament.

“Everyday he’s feeling better. In the beginning he was a little lethargic,” Murray says. “Now he’s starting to buck and kick a little … showing some energy. He’s very nice to work around, really well mannered, and very nice to do anything with.”

Though the mystery of his circumstance will probably never be known, soon Future Kings will be among friends, says Lee, who notes that her show barn full of many fine horses and patrons is so supportive of her efforts on behalf of the unsung horses like Prodigioso and now Future Kings that they are hosting a dinner/fundraiser to help her.

Horsemen helping horsemen in the life and death race to save one more horse is the way loosely knit farms and volunteers keep fighting the uphill battle to save Thoroughbreds when the life they knew has gone.

Says Murray: “These horses, like Future Kings, are our ambassadors. We save them, and they help pull our organizations together” working for the common goal of saving horses.

20 responses to “$220K yearling was slaughter-bound in older age”

  1. Deb

    We purchased a horse dorectly from auction 200000 as a yearling, was ridden by Jerry Bailey in his first race and he was ours for 160.00.

  2. Joyce

    He looks so much like our OTTB, LastcallforParis, by A P Jet (by Fappiano)! Paris is now 17 years old and has been with us since he was 6 years.

    BTW, I, too, would like to thank the meat buyer. Horrible business that it is, he did go out of his way to help Kings, for whatever the reason, and his actions paved the way for his rescue.

  3. Karin

    I’m so grateful and happy that you are so lucky to have Kings with you. 15 is not old for any horse. My friend and I we both worked together when it came to our horses, she has so much more experience and knowledge I will ever have. Several years ago I came across a TB in a very sad situation. He was just skin and bones after talking to the owner we finally ended up buying him and of course the Quarter Horse that was with him her name was Sugar she was in better shape as the TB which we ended up naming Sampson (Sam). After we brought him home the same day the vet came when he saw Sam he said Karin where in the world did you get him. After explaining it to him that he and Sugar were in a field with only weeds no grass,hay no water i couldn’t leave them there. Sam had a lot of issues and the vet told me not to get my hopes up. We started out with having the water, grain and hay all in different areas in the pasture, because Sam’s back legs were so swollen.Sam was around 17 when we got him. He did have a tattoo but we couldn’t make out what it said not that it made any difference. Well with the vet’s help (mostly free) Sam made it. Thanks to my friend(s)family. Sam was so beautiful after he gained weight, his other problems were taken care of. We ended up selling Sugar to friends when the Family came to pick her up there 17y old daughter feel in love with Samas he did with her such a connection. Her Parents couldn’t afford to buy both Sugar
    and Sam. After talking to her parents who were in agreement with me, I asked there daughter to come with me and I gave her Sam’s leadrope and to load him on there horsetrailer. I gave Sam to her, they been together for several years now and happy. The best idea I ever had. Sam is over 25 now and still around. Yes, I lost money but when I first rescued him it was to show him love for how ever long. You just never know. About Kings also Thanks to the buyer at the meat market that he paid attention to kings and helped him.

  4. Beverly Strauss

    I applaud everyone who played a part in getting this horse safe– but please, I don’t think it is appropriate to give kudos to the kill buyer.

  5. sally hibbert

    A HUGE thank you to all who made the effort to save the King and help these wonderful horses find forever homes. Danny, my OTTB was pulled from the same kill pen sends a big thank you, too.

  6. Paula Wolf

    I am so tired of hearing these stories. The horse world is beyond difficult at this point. Thank you for taking him and Prodigioso in. Bless you! 15 is far from old, make them dance. I have rescued more horses than I can count. This world is getting way to small for those who helped build it. Damn! Enjoy.

  7. Leslie M. Bliman-Kuretzky

    Bless them for helping these horses

  8. Maw

    Sooo THANKFUL to EVERYONE who plays a part in rescuing these horses! I wish there was a way to completely stop the slaughter of ALL horses!

  9. Stephanie Morse

    Thanks to all (including the kill buyer) who helped this horse. It is sad that such a high priced horse (any horse) ends up in the kill pen. I suspect his last race owner probably give him to a ‘good home’ which maybe wasn’t so good and he kept sliding down and down. too bad when he was listed on CANTER, no one picked him.

  10. Marlaine Meeker

    If only all stories ended this way.

  11. Laura Jones

    He is lovely. Thank you for what you do. I know you will enjoy each other for many years.

  12. SusanA

    I lay awake on so many nights and wonder how I can “pray” for so(too)many horses whose names I don’t know that need rescue…..here is a answer to one of those!:-)
    Thanks to all the “angels” involved here!

  13. Melissa P

    I also want to shout out to our Michigan-based angel, Gail Hirt, at Beyond the Roses who works so tirelessly somehow finding funds to save these wonderful horses in the first place. She’s amazing what she and her small band are able to accomplish. Not only does she save them, she finds them homes with people she knows will give them the forever homes and care they so richly deserve. Thank you, Susan, for mentioning Gail and her wonderful charity.

  14. Nancy I Fleming

    Kudos to everyone involved in all of these rescues. Bless you for your willingness and compassion. The world needs so many more like you. I am at such a total loss that people would just cast aside these horses that have given their all for them. Thank you for keeping these stories alive so that we can all keep advocating for better after racing options and keep working to close down the horrible conditions of slaughter.

  15. Mary

    I’m so grateful for the TB’s that are saved but so very sad for the others. We need to stop shipping horses to boarder countries.

  16. Victoria Racimo

    I am so proud of all the people who stepped in, including the meat buyer who saw this thoroughbred in his midst. Many heartfelt thanks to all, especially the ever hard and devoted equine advocate, MARLENE MURRAY, of RACE Fund. Thank you Susan Salk for bringing this story to light.

  17. Marilyn Lee-Hannah

    We look forward to the arrival of this older gentleman. It’s really both Robin Hannah-Carlton and I who stepped up to the plate. We’re partners in our efforts to help out animals, when and where we are able. It takes a team to be able to do what we do, including the support of our wonderful clients at Sherwood Farm.

  18. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    It takes a village and a lot of angels to rescue and save thoroughbreds. Thank you Susan for telling Kings and many other thoroughbreds stories. They all deserve to live and be taken care of.

    1. Marilyn Lee-Hannah


  19. HorseAdvocate

    15 is not old! At least Future Kings has a great future ahead of him. The kill buyer knew he would make money on this horse since everyone steps out of the woodwork in getting Thoroughbreds out of these situations. Would be nice if those same people would continually support the existing Thoroughbred aftercare programs that offer a safe landing for Thoroughbreds so they don’t wind up in these situations in the first place.

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