Rescued Preakness contender reunited at last

Preakness contender King Congie was greeted last weekend by the West Point Thoroughbreds team. After he was rescued from slaughter by Rosemary Acres farm, West Point paid his bills, and will support his retirement.

Preakness contender King Congie was greeted last weekend by the West Point Thoroughbreds team. After he was rescued from slaughter by Rosemary Farm Sanctuary, West Point paid his bills, and will support his retirement.

A 2011 Preakness contender, plucked in early September from the slaughter pipeline for a mere $100, was reunited last weekend with the racing family who’d named him for a cherished colleague, re-homed him after a successful career, and who, after nearly losing the OTTB, stepped up to facilitate a permanent and safe retirement for the animal.

In an emotional moment, multiple graded states placed Thoroughbred King Congie, 8, greeted his former connections at West Point Thoroughbreds weeks after his rescue from auction in Delaware County. President Terry Finley and Chief Administrative Officer Debbie Finley, along with daughter and Communications Director Erin Birkenhauer placed their hands on their one-time racehorse and rejoiced. He was safely at N.Y. horse sanctuary, Old Friends at Cabin Creek.

King Congie
Sire: Badge of Silver
Dam: Wise Ending, by End Sweep
Foal date: March 2, 2008
Results: $243,740 in 11 starts
“My Mom and Dad got super emotional when they saw him,” Birkenhauer says. “He looks great, he’s put on some weight, and he’s happy. It’s just so eerie how close he came to going to Canada or Mexico.”

The family learned the horse was in trouble on Sept. 2 and quickly sprang into action, Birkenhauer says. Recalling the horrible morning she learned the horse who’d been named for a treasured colleague and mentor who died young, might have also left this earth too soon, she and her family reached out immediately to offer Congie a home.

And, while grappling with the “literal shock” of the news, she and her family facilitated a new home for Congie with friend Michael Blowen, founder of the famous Thoroughbred retirement farm, Old Friends.

Acknowledging that no horse should end up where Congie did, Birkenhauer says she was so upset by the news that she asked herself, “My God, how did we let this happen?”

Congie now enjoys the retired life at Old Friends at Cabin Creek.

Congie now enjoys the retired life at Old Friends at Cabin Creek.

“All our horses are special. My family and I know this is a business and it’s how we make a living. But all of our horses, not just the successful ones like Congie, are like family to us,” she says. But that it had to be him, a horse named after mentor and friend Congie DeVito, who died at age 35 of brittle bone disease, made it all the more poignant. Congie the man, lauded in the Paulick Report after his death as the “forever king of West Point” faced everyday from a wheelchair, but always with a smile, she says.

“I worked closely with DeVito. I was his assistant, and he mentored me. He was born with a genetic disorder, brittle bone disease, and never walked a day in his life,” Birkenhauer adds. “He had such a positive attitude. He was a sports fanatic, and made it really, really far in Jeopardy tryouts at one point … he was such an inspiration to me. When I think I’m having a bad day, I just think about Congie. Everyday was a bad for him, and he made the best of it.”

King Congie was named for West Point Communications Director Congie DeVito, who is pictured with Birkenhauer.

King Congie was named for West Point Communications Director Congie DeVito, who is pictured with Birkenhauer.

Taking a page from DeVito’s playbook, Birkenhauer worked the phones on a very bad day. And with the support of Dawn Robyn, executive director and founder of Rosemary Farm Sanctuary, who rescued the horse in the parking lot of the auction, along with Michael Blowen, and JoAnn Pepper of Old Friends Cabin Creek, Congie was at last rewarded.

“We went to visit Congie on Sunday. He’s in his own paddock, just hanging out with horses like Will’s Way. We were just so happy to see him,” she says, adding, “The responsibility to take care of our horses isn’t something we take lightly.”

As West Point still tries to piece together how Congie wound up at auction, Birkenhauer notes that aftercare for Thoroughbreds is a high priority for the Thoroughbred partnership. They now encourage owners to call them, and will take back horses when necessary. And through the Congie Black and Gold Fund, started in honor of Congie DeVito, helps find homes for their Thoroughbreds after their racing careers end.

And, now Congie has found a perfect home at Michael Blowen’s Old Friends.

“I have a great relationship with Terry Finley, and I know he personally does so much to help jockeys and horses. So when Terry emailed me to ask if we could squeeze Congie in somewhere, I was thrilled to say yes,” Blowen says. “To me, these horses are the stars. I worked for many years writing about movie stars for the Boston Globe, and I never got star struck. But, when I think about the great horses we have here, like Congie, I get goosebumps.”

31 responses to “Rescued Preakness contender reunited at last”

  1. Susan

    It is rare these days that an original owner would send a horse to slaughter. Sometimes their second or third owners either aren’t equipped to handle a horse off the track or circumstances change (illness, job loss etc). Thank goodness King Congie’s connection s stepped up to the plate.

  2. B L

    Everyone should send $100 to Rosemary Farm Santuary in thanks for the $100 they spent to rescue Congie. They run on a tight budget. Everyone is happy Rosemary Farm Santuary was there at the slaughter house at the right time.

  3. G. Kay Curry

    The point being, NO horse should be slaughtered. It’s simply inexcusable. Thank you Rosemary Farm Sanctuary for being there and saving as many as you can afford to save.

  4. Anette

    Thankfully small rescues like Rosemary Farms attend these awful auctions and step up to the plate. We need to do more to support them.

    1. Lana Marie D.

      ABSOLUTELY…if not there that day? Ending horses shipping to slaughter, therefore this horse along with many not as ‘special’ wouldn’t be in that position. Pushing the SAFE Act HR1942 S1214 Bill will close borders. Hold people accountable/responsible for what they have or produce.
      EVERY horse is just a trailer ride away from the slaughter pipeline…

  5. bmaidelis

    Rosemary Farm and its founder Dawn Robyns, does an amazing job- rescuing, rehabilitating and when possible rehoming ( but always only if is in the best interests of the horse). This was such a moving story with a happy ending. Sad and horrifying how any horse can go from a comfortable happy loved life to end up at a slaughtered auction! So happy for Congie, the horse, and for Congie, the man, who surely appreciates what has been done to take care of his namesake.

  6. Susan
    Please think to donate to this wonderful place as well!
    They rescued Congie and
    Could use help with the 65 others in their daily care!

  7. Bonita Eppert

    I didn’t even know that could happen to a retired race horse. So glad it was caught in time. Thanks to all of you out there who work hard to help with these situations.

    1. Mia

      It happens literally every day. Amazing ex racehorses silently go to slaughter with no advocates. Every. Day. It was Ferdinands death that truly put a spotlight on this.

  8. Deb

    Thanks to all who were in right place right time in the right moment. He is gorgeous pround wish I lived close to be in his presence it would be my wish to apologize for how he got that far then thank all who brought him back around to be that gorgeous horse. Thank u

  9. June

    Wonderful happy ending. May I write the screenplay please? God Bless you all for the hard work you do rescuing and caring for horses. RF and all the volunteer groups you run the Belmont everyday.

  10. rock artiste

    Good job Rosemary Farm to save this beautiful horse, after all he has been through with the broken leg and then off to slaughter. Amazing save that day 🙂

  11. Suzanne Bonilla

    I had the pleasure of meeting King Congie at Rosemary Farm while he was there. He is a magnificent horse. I’m so happy he is in a safe place.

  12. Janet

    No horse should end up at the slaughter house!

  13. Niles

    Yes, thanks to Rosemary Farm Horse Sanctuary, he was pulled from the sale and steered towards his previous connections. Thank you!

  14. Jay Romig

    wow,I remember him and the guy he was named after,he almost went the way my Victorious Recall was headed,good job all

  15. April Inloes Smith

    As a tour guide at Pimlico, I remember choking up in front of my group as I told them about Congie DeVito and the wonderful horse named after him. I had the pleasure of meeting Terry Finley once and am not surprised at his commitment to getting this horse back.

  16. Mary McLeod

    I remember King Congie well, and I am so happy you included a photo of Congie DeVito. Thank you to the giving and loving hearts that worked together to get King Congie at Old Friends at Cabin Creek…Great work!!!!!!! xoxo, Mary in Boone

  17. James Worrall

    USA needs to sort out its animal cruelty big time

  18. Carlene Lee

    I remember the year King Congie ran in the Preakness because the television station did a documentary on the horse’s namesake. I just can’t believe what almost happened to the horse!

  19. Bobbie Cromer

    Although it was not mentioned, he in at Old Friends at Cabin Creek in Greenfield NY and being taken care of by Joanne Pepper and the dedicated Volunteers who work tirelessly for these beloved horses.

  20. Lisa M.

    So glad to see a story like this. Every night, I go through the TB rescue pages on FB, trying to rehome those in dire need. And all too often, I end up in tears for those we lost, those that never got a chance.

    1. roeywrites

      Straight to heaven for you and yours when your time comes… God bless you and all who make the effort… hard and heartbreaking as it undoubtedly is…

  21. joan spence

    Fantastic news

  22. Cheri

    I feel sick at the horror some horses narrowly miss. Relieved for King Congie, I do remember him. Mixed thoughts on the suddenness with which his aftercare came about…. and how it almost didn’t.

  23. Gloria (@GU1961)

    This story made my day (and it’s still pretty early where I’m at!). I remember King Congie. I think the real Congie helped save this horse in his own way. Good work to the West Point folks who got the horse, and to Michael Blowen…well, it’s pretty safe to say there’s a special place in heaven awaiting him. Thanks for a nice story.

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

    Good job Rosemary Farm Sanctuary for saving King Congie and former connections stepping up for him. So glad he has a forever home at Old Friends.

  25. Kim Alexander

    Wow. If only more people would step up. We could get these wonderful horses out of the food chain and give them the dignity they so deserve. Even the ones who never won a race…. they’re all champions to me. Good story, Sue.

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