Cost of Freedom retired by Santa Anita clocker

Cost of Freedom earned over $1 million on the track before Santa Anita and Del Mar head clocker John Malone purchased him for retirement this Christmas. Photo by Megan Malone

Cost of Freedom earned over $1 million on the track before Santa Anita and Del Mar head clocker John Malone purchased him for retirement this Christmas. Photo by Megan Malone

Scanning the entries at Betfair Hollywood Park’s claiming races last week, John Malone stared in disbelief at a familiar name: Cost of Freedom. The one he calls “an original class horse,” and winner of more than a million dollars, was running for an $8,000 claiming tag at age 10.

“I just felt bad,” Malone says. “He ran third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (in 2009) and won over a million dollars. All I could think was, ‘Why is he still here? Hasn’t he done enough?’ ”

Decades in the horse business himself— as a Thoroughbred trainer in the past and currently presiding as head clocker at Santa Anita and Del Mar, Malone has heard it said often enough that a horse long in the game “just loves to run.”

Cost of Freedom
Sire: Cee’s Tizzy
Dam: Freedom Dance
Foal date: Feb. 24, 2003
Earnings: $1,018,799
And while that may be true, Malone insists that if a horse like Cost of Freedom can’t come back and run at his previous high levels, and instead puts in a performance so poor, as he did Dec. 21st at Betfair Hollywood Park, he should be retired.

In that race, Cost of Freedom finished second to last in a gallant effort by the once great racer who finally flagged at the quarter pole. Down the stretch, Malone’s eyes were glued to the television screen, as he silently prayed the old horse would make it across the finish line without injury. And when he crossed over that line, Malone resolved to help the tired animal.

As news of Cost of Freedom’s situation spread across social media channels, and some began calling for the war horse’s retirement, Malone quietly made a phone call to trainer Robertino Diodoro, who had claimed the horse, and planned to run him at Turf Paradise in Arizona.

Enjoying a little scratch. Photo by Megan Malone

Enjoying a little scratch. Photo by Megan Malone

“I got Mr. Diodoro’s number and told him I’d like to get this horse off the track, and I offered to buy him,” Malone says. “He was really good about it. He said he had to talk with the other owner, and would let me know.”

By Christmas Eve, a deal was struck. Malone purchased Cost of Freedom for $8,650 and Diodoro agreed to keep the champion in his barn until transportation could be arranged to ship him to Malone’s farm, a cost that Diodoro offered to share.

As Malone prepared to make room on his farm for the war horse, social media channels began to light up with discussions about the horse and his future.

But unbeknownst to those on Facebook and Twitter, Malone had by this point already purchase Cost of Freedom.

“I came across a Tweet by Ray Paulick that Cost of Freedom was running for $8,000 and I tweeted back to him and told him he had just been purchased,” he says. “And he wrote the story and tweeted, ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa.’ ”

Malone notes the famous newspaper column about Santa was published on Sept. 21st, which also happens to be his birthday, and that the little coincidence seems to underscore the rightness of his decision to get involved in this particular story, and help a champion racehorse land softly.

Already captivated by the good-natured gelding’s personality, Malone spent an hour with him recently, posing for pictures for a Thoroughbred magazine. At one point in the photo session, Cost of Freedom cocked his head, and placed it on Malone’s shoulder, briefly closing his eyes.

Cost of Freedom found his person. Photo by Megan Malone

Cost of Freedom found his person. Photo by Megan Malone

“This horse is so cool,” Malone says. “The day after he raced, I went into his stall and he had his butt facing the door. I hung out in the corner and waited for him to acknowledge me, and once he realized I was no threat, he came right over.

“The next day I went back, and he was a completely different horse, as if he was saying, ‘Hey, what’s up? How’s it going?’ ”

During another visit, Cost of Freedom was standing outside his stall with Malone when suddenly behind him a tractor erupted with a loud commotion.

“He didn’t do anything. He noticed the noise, but he didn’t react. He’s a thinker, and that’s what you want in a riding horse.”

And if all goes well, Cost of Freedom and Malone will go trail riding together in the future.

A longtime race clocker and a longtime racehorse who formed a perfect friendship when it seemed the chips were down. —This story was originally published on Dec. 31, 2013.♥

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Tom Durkin to host TCA Select Stallion Auction

Tom Durkin. Photo courtesy of the TCA

Tom Durkin. Photo courtesy of the TCA

(Press Release)—Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) announced today that Tom Durkin will host its 25th Annual Select Stallion Season Auction to be held Saturday, January 10 at the Keeneland EntertainmentCenter in Lexington, Ky.

“We are thrilled that Tom Durkin will be hosting our auction and anniversary celebration,” said Erin Crady, executive director of TCA. “Tom is engaging, witty, eloquent and a born story-teller and we are really excited to kick off the 25th year of TCA with him.”

Durkin recently retired from a 43-year career as racetrack announcer. He began his career at many small tracks before joining the staff of Hialeah Race Course in 1981. Durkin was the initial race-caller for the Breeders’ Cup, a job he held from 1984-2005, and was the voice of the Triple Crown for nine years. For the past 24 years, Durkin has been the voice of the New York Racing Association’s racetracks.

The Select Stallion Season Auction is the culmination of a week-long auction that will offer nearly 200 stallion seasons and numerous non-season items. Online bidding will open at 9 a.m. onJanuary 5 and continue through 5 p.m. EST on Friday, January 9. Telephone bids will be accepted. January 9, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. EST. Interested bidders may register to bid by visiting www.tca.org.♦

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T’bred once declared dead now wins blues

Savemyspotimbeting, or Gambler for short, was pronounced dead by a vet a year ago. Today he wins blue ribbons!

Savemyspotimbeting, or Gambler for short, was pronounced dead by a vet a year ago. Today he wins blue ribbons!

A plain bay T’bred once mistaken for dead by his veterinary doctor, recovered from the colic that laid him so low he appeared to have died in 2013, and has gone on to win ribbons for children in hunter/jumper classes.

Gambler, a 7-year-old gelding adopted by Ester Packer from Florida TRAC in 2012, is often referred to as the “miracle horse” these days.

In 2013, the Thoroughbred who raced under Jockey Club name Savemyspotimbeting was taken to a veterinary Hospital in Florida, and treated for recurrent colic, says Packer.

“Gambler was so sick that the vet called me at 8 p.m. and said he was going to bring him to his house for the night, that he didn’t want to leave him overnight in the hospital’s paddocks. So he went home to get his truck and trailer, and when he returned to the hospital, Gambler was lying down,” Packer says, recalling the heartbreaking details leading up to the rollercoaster ride that followed. “My vet called me about an hour later and said he was really, really sorry, but that Gambler had died. He told my father he had nudged him, listened for breathing, and the horse was dead.”

Savemyspotimbeting
Show name: Gamblin Man
Barn name:Gambler
Sire: Vindication
Dam: Scapegoat
Foal date: May 17, 2007
Devastated to lose the horse she loved for his mellow personality and cooperative nature, she tearfully phoned her circle of friends to break the bad news. “So many people loved him that I took 20 minutes calling everyone,” she says.

No sooner did she hang up on a call than her phone rang again. It was about 10 p.m. It was her veterinarian again.

“He said he’d never had anything like this before, but that Gambler was alive. When he went back to the paddock, he found Gambler standing there, eating grass. He watched him for a while to see what would happen and then called,” she says. “He told me, ‘He’s standing right here.’ ”

After that, the veterinarians familiar with his case started calling him the “miracle horse.”

Though no reason for the colic and unusual turn of events was ever identified, Packer took immediate action with his diet. “I changed everything!”

With a shine to his coat and a new lease on life, Gambler has turned out to be a show pony miracle horse.

With a shine to his coat and a new lease on life, Gambler has turned out to be a show pony miracle horse.

“I changed his hay, grain, everything. He gets Equi 14 pellets by Seminole, and I put him on 2 scoops of Cool Calories 100, a fat supplement. And he gets lots of good hay,” she says.

Packer had been volunteering for Florida TRAC in 2012 when she took pity on the “boring bay” and offered to foster him. An animal caregiver at a chimpanzee sanctuary, she took pity on the gentle horse who suffered a terrible case of rain rot. “I figured nobody would want him, since he was a boring color and covered in rot. And I loved his laid back personality. He’s so calm that he’s more like a Quarter Horse.”

Since his bouts with colic, the shine has come into his coat, and Gambler has proven to be a perfect lesson horse. On Nov. 16, he packed around one of Packer’s students at the Twin Rivers Saddle Club, winning four blue ribbons. And another young rider is schooling him over 2-foot-3 fences.

“He’s my amazing horse. I’m so glad he’s still here,” Packer says. “It broke my heart when I thought I’d lost him.” ♥

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