Recalling how all hands saved Minn. HOTY

Canterbury Park’s 2011 Horse of the Year, Tubby Time, stands in a Pennsylvania kill pen before his rescue May 7, 2015.

Canterbury Park’s 2011 Horse of the Year, Tubby Time, stands in a Pennsylvania kill pen before his rescue May 7, 2015.

In the end it didn’t matter how many titles Tubby Time earned, or how many fans were charmed by his endearing flourish to finish his turf races, win or lose, with his tail flared out like a champ.

But after the cheers had faded and the trophies grown dusty, the racehorse immortalized as the 2011 Canterbury Park Horse of the Year had lost the fine trappings of an earlier life to wind up discarded like trash into the slaughter pipeline.

(This story was originally published on June 1, 2015).

Looking bewildered and unrecognizable from the horse he’d once been, the multiple stakes winner from Minnesota, named for popular basketball coach Tubby Smith, and once so adored by all who knew him—owner, fans and racetrack officials— was discovered in early May in a Pennsylvania kill lot.

Steps away from taking the final ride to the slaughterhouse alongside other frightened horses, it wasn’t his wins, or his fans that mattered. It was a random phone call made by the meat buyer himself, who contacted a Thoroughbred charity volunteer with the words, “I’ve got some Thoroughbreds.”

The news spread fast on social media channels, hitting his former owner Dorene Larsen like a body blow, as her beloved chestnut, now 875 pounds, was rescued by charity Beyond the Roses.

Tubby Time
Sire: Devil His Due
Dam: Gentle Princess, by Tejano
Foal date: April 23, 2006
Earnings: $263,515 in 35 starts;
Multiple stakes winner
As Tubby was put into quarantine and monitored for disease, Larsen grappled with the aftermath. “If this can happen to us, this can happen to anyone,” she says.

“My sister used to say to me that in life we have to face our worst fears. What happened to Tubby was my greatest fear realized.”

Larsen fought tears, recalling the good days when she and her husband Jim reared Tubby from birth. “We took such great care of him. We loved him. And the only reason we let him go was because we were told he was going to a 14-year-old girl who would ride him in the hunter/jumpers. I never would have let him go for something like barrels, because it’s so taxing. But, when I heard that the manager of the farm where we sent him to layup after his last race had found a hunter/jumper family for him, I thought, ‘Oh my God, Tubby would love doing something like that!’ ”

Though it’s still unclear how Tubby wound up emaciated and battered in the kill lot—Jeff Larsen has been making calls to try to get a answers— his old family and racetrack are rallying to his aid.

Tubby Time reveled in his time on the turf, according to his former owner who says he often flared his tail.

Tubby Time reveled in his time on the turf, according to his former owner who says he often flared his tail.

Canterbury Park Vice President of Racing Eric Halstrom was among the first to reach out and offer financial support for Tubby’s recovery.

“We found out through a fan of Tubby’s what had happened, and after we confirmed that it was Tubby, we knew that the time was right to do what’s right: We paid for 60 days of care, Halstrom says.Canterbury Park Vice President of Racing Eric Halstrom was among the first to reach out and offer financial support for Tubby’s recovery.

“This was a really good horse. He wasn’t necessarily bred for turf, but he just took to it, and in his prime, he was unbeatable. The horse has so many endearing qualities and the fact that he ended up this way … shows that things can go astray through no fault of the people who owned him.”

As Tubby regains his health at Beyond the Roses, Larsen is working closely with founder Gail Hirt to create a soft landing for him. She is weighing the possibility of taking him to her sister’s farm, to retire alongside Tubby’s brother Taconite. But, Hirt has also been in touch with a well-regarded equine attorney, who has also made inquiries about adopting him.

Tubby strolled in a quarantine paddock at Beyond the Roses before traveling later last year to his retirement home.

Tubby strolled in a quarantine paddock at Beyond the Roses before traveling later last year to his retirement home.

Hirt says Tubby is in no shape to travel quite yet, given his emaciation. However, so far he has remained in relative good health, neither spiking a fever nor showing other serious symptoms.

When she rescued Tubby on May 7 with other Thoroughbreds, Hirt had no idea just how special he was.Hirt says Tubby is in no shape to travel quite yet, given his emaciation. However, so far he has remained in relative good health, neither spiking a fever nor showing other serious symptoms.

“When I found out who he was after researching his tattoo, I just about fell over,” Hirt says. “All of horses are special, but Tubby became a very big deal when his owners and the racetrack starting contacting us to help and tell us about him.”

And there were so many stories, says Larsen, who notes that the spirited chestnut had some real racing glory days.

“Tubby truly had his happiest days on the track. For some reason, he just loved to run,” Larsen says. “It didn’t matter where he finished in a race, he could be mid-pack, and he’d flair his tail out like he’d won the race.”

And in the end, Tubby did win; and one day will flare his tail with pride.

10 responses to “Recalling how all hands saved Minn. HOTY”

  1. Jan Herrick

    I HAVE A DEVIL HIS DUE OTTB GELDING. ALTHOUGH DEVIL HIS DUE HAS A PRETTY BAD REPUTATION, MY HORSE, RUDY, AKA DEVIL’S LIGHTENING, IS ONE OF THE CALMEST, MOST LEVEL-HEADED HORSES i HAVE EVER RIDDEN.
    OTTB’S HAVE SO MUCH TO GIVE AND ARE SO GENEROUS IN SHARING THEIR HEART AND COURAGE. LET’S HOPE THE RESCUE MOVEMENT CONTINUES TO GROW AND THESE HORSES CONTINUE TO BRIGHTEN OUR LIVES.

  2. Tonya LaFarr

    Tubby looks so happy and I’m sure he’s loving his life now in Florida. Did his brother find his forever home as well?

  3. Storm

    The saddest part of this story, Tubby is only one of many, many Thoroughbreds that after they make money for their owners suffer this fate. Not all of the owners, as shown by the Larsens, are creeps; but many of them if a horse is injured or his/her career is over give them away or sell them cheap to just whoever comes along -it is a tax write off for the owner.

  4. Laurie

    Tubby is doing great but the credit goes to Gail Hirt. She helped make his life safe and for me to adopt him in Florida. He has been turned out for a year without any kind of work or pressure in order to get over the trauma of the kill pen. He is turned out with my App gelding Jack and they are bonded. The year has allowed him to heal mentally and physically and now he is just a regular horse. When I saw his picture with the cuts and marks and that frightened look I asked Gail if I could take him. And it has been a wonderful journey with him. Thank you Gail.

    1. Lori Koestler

      Love ❤️ to you and Tubby ????????

  5. Ria

    Did anyone figure out how he ended up in the kill pen?

  6. Mary McLeod

    Is there any recent news about Tubby? What a blessing that he was saved!! Would love to have seen him flare his tail! Thank you, Susan, and take care, Mary in Boone

    1. Gail Hirt

      Tubby is fat and happy just being a horse down in Florida on a farm owned by an attorney.

  7. Lori Koestler

    so so happy ???? that Tubby is safe and retiring in security and care…
    God bless ????????????????

  8. Teresa Fasolino

    Thank God Tubby is safe. What a sad story with a happy ending. Now Tubby will be so loved and cared for at Beyond The Roses

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