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.
Sire: Desert King
Dam: Stellar Empress, by Star de Naskra
Foal date: April 19, 2000Instead 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.”
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.
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.
“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.