Wearing battle scars sustained far from the glow of horse-racing’s limelight, an older gelding was saved last week from slaughter by the director of racing for a Pennsylvania racetrack, with key assistance from Thoroughbred advocates, who all mobilized to find a soft landing for the forgotten racehorse.
Suffering an ulcerated eye and missing some flesh on the bone, chestnut ex-racehorse Archie’s Echo, 26, a one-time New England racer at the now-defunct Rockingham Park and Suffolk Downs, was saved from the New Holland kill pen by Sam Elliott of Parx Racing, who pulled out his credit card before he even saw the gelding’s photo.
Sire: Palace Music
Dam: Chic Star
Foal date: May 8, 1989Handing the card to Danielle Montgomery of the Parx retirement charity Turning for Home, he said simply, “Pull him.”
And with that directive, and the final go-ahead from her superior, Michael Ballezzi, Montgomery set about saving the old timer from a fate no horse deserves, and securing a layup facility where the T’bred could receive medical attention to address his eye, weight loss, and any other ailments. “His eye is ulcerated and he is blind from some sort of former trauma,” Montgomery says, noting that he was referred to as the “one-eyed horse” when she went to pull him.
As the transaction was completed, and Archie’s Echo was put on a path to freedom, Elliott and some old friends from the New England racing circuit pulled together for the old horse.
Lorita Lindemann, a longtime race trainer and Thoroughbred advocate who, back in the day, worked closely with Elliott on Suffolk Downs’s zero-slaughter racetrack policy, took one look at the old chestnut and immediately recognized one of the first horses she ever groomed when she was just a kid herself, working her first racetrack job at Rockingham Park.
“After Danielle texted me Archie’s picture and I saw the chestnut with white blaze, I remembered him right away, and got goosebumps all up and down my arms,” Lindemann says. “I told her, ‘I used to rub that horse!’ He was one of the first horses I ever rubbed, when I was first starting out at Rockingham. Whether you’re grooming or training, you never forget a horse, and when I saw a picture of him at New Holland, I told her to walk into Sam Elliott’s office and show him.
“I’ve known Sam since I was 10 years old. I knew he’d pull the horse.”
And after the first steps of the effort to save Archie was underway, Lindemann and Elliott turned to a third New England connection, a man who turned his passion for horses into the world-renowned Thoroughbred charity: Old Friends.
Michael Blowen, upon hearing the sad story told by his longtime friends, readily agreed to give a permanent retirement home to the old gentleman.
After Archie’s Echo clears quarantine at a New Jersey layup farm and is deemed fit to travel, he will be loaded into a trailer and taken to his new home to live alongside horseracing greats Game On Dude, winner of 14 graded stakes, and Silver Charm, winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Both superstars were retired to Old Friends by Triple Crown winning trainer Bob Baffert. After Baffert-trained racehorse American Pharoah won the crown jewels of racing in the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes June 6, he donated $50,000 to Old Friends. That funding, says Blowen, made it possible to give a home to Archie’s Echo.
“We just got our check from Mr. Baffert, so we have a little breathing room,” Blowen says. “So when Lorita called to tell me about Archie’s Echo, and though I didn’t remember what he looked like, I remembered his name, and that he used to run night races at Rockingham Park. I said we would take him as soon as he’s fit to travel.”
So instead of taking the long ride to the slaughterhouse, Archie’s Echo, now a little careworn and missing an eye, will live with Game On Dude and Silver Charm. All thanks to some old friends from the New England circuit.