Maggi Moss stays true to horses, fights for them

Maggi Moss with Apak

The New Year was coming fast as Indian Chant barreled across the Santa Anita finish line on Dec. 31, 2006.

His powerful victory brought his owner, Maggi Moss, unparalleled success. In a flash, she became the most winning racehorse owner in the United States that year, cinching a coveted spot no woman had ever held before.

Not known to be faint of heart, Moss started to cry.

“I was just so tired,” she recalls in a phone interview with OffTrackThoroughbreds.com.

“In 2006, I worked a ton of hours, and when it was finally over, the biggest revelation I had was that I felt I was using horses to a achieve a goal.”

As she wept, she began to formulate a new goal for her high-powered life that had, so far, seen few losses. The determined woman, who figured she could “out work anyone,” had long ago proven herself as a three-time champion hunter/jumper, and later, as a high-powered attorney and eventual law partner.

After her astounding victory in racing, as young and old, rich and poor, successes and failures around the world made their New Year’s resolutions, Moss did the same.

“I was leading the nation in wins, and that’s when I said, ‘No more national championships,’ ” she says. “And, I decided it was time to give back. Winning at that level was no longer enjoyable; it was like working on a four-month homicide (court) case.”

After 131 wins in a single year, life in the hard-knocking world of Thoroughbred racing started to feel as strenuous as her former career in a vigorous law practice, working high-profile criminal defense cases, and later, on victim-advocacy.

“Quite frankly, when I was a young-gun defense lawyer representing gangs, and later, when I switched to female victim advocacy, there wasn’t a day that I didn’t deal with brutal tragedy,” Moss says.

Apak wins!

Horse racing, by contrast, was a beautiful sport; in fact, for many years it was a psychological balm to her stressful legal work. From her first moments watching horses at the Prairie Meadows Race Track in the late 90s, and subsequent decision to buy her first racehorse, Apax, in 1997, racing was the glorious opposite to the grind of the courtroom and crime scenes.

But, one day, Moss was brought up short by the “brutal” side of the horse industry.

“I got a phone call in my law office. It was 2002 or 2003, and a horse-rescue group was calling to tell me they had my horse, US Gold, and that they’d just purchased him for $250 from a (feedlot),” Moss says. “That was my first indoctrination into slaughter; I went crazy.”

US Gold was racing at a track in the east when, Moss says, one of her friends reported meeting what seemed to be a legitimate representative of a riding school.

The representative offered to take the horse and provide him a good life. Instead, says Moss, the horse was sold into the slaughter pipeline, but eventually saved by a horse-rescue group.

Although she was able to place her horse in a retirement home, the exposure to slaughter drew Moss into the world of disposable Thoroughbreds, with a vengeance.

And rather than turn her back, she got involved.

Moss, in her early years jumping

“I decided that as fortunate and lucky as I’ve been in this business, that I would try to rescue and save as many horses as I could afford,” Moss says. By claiming them at tracks, and simply taking in others, Moss estimates she has successfully re-homed about 100 ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds.

She also served on the board of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation from 2007 to 2009, and, when she saw a need closer to her Iowa home, at Prairie Meadows Race Track, she founded a retirement program for horses running only at that track.

Hope After Racing Thoroughbreds, (HART), which was begun two years ago, offers a place for racehorses injured at Prairie Meadows to go and recuperate, and retrain for second careers.

“I wish I had millions of dollars so I could rescue every animal. But, I have the limitations of my business, so I do what I can,” she says. HART was born of her desire to “do good for the racehorses,” she explains, noting, “I try and take care of my horses, and I try to take care of peoples’ requests for help.”

There have been so many, in her barns alone, who she has loved, sometimes more than the people in her life. “I’m a funny person. I can go to a party, and I can manage. But, I get along better with animals than I do people.”

Considering the racing industry today, with the news reports highlighting issues with race-day medications, and the frequency of horse deaths at racetracks, Moss sees the real problem as going much deeper than that. For her, it is the slaughter issue that is the number one blight on the horse industry.

Maggi with friend

“People are talking about Lasix and yet, 1,000 horses this week are going to have their heads cut off in a slaughterhouse,” Moss says. “I was trying to tell someone about the slaughter issue the other day; people don’t want to hear it.

“My question is, why do people turn their heads when the issue of slaughter comes up? I’m not sure I have an answer for that.”

So, Moss has vowed to go on taking special care of the horses she owns. And, through the HART program at Prairie Meadows, offer a safety net for those racing in her hometown track.

It is her vow. It is her mission, as a Thoroughbred racehorse owner who has the heart to do the right thing.

13 responses to “Maggi Moss stays true to horses, fights for them”

  1. connie wilson

    its so great to hear that you are out there doing what you do Maggi. you are an inspiration rescuing so many horses. I am only able to rescue a few but if everyone rescues a few look how much better off we will be.

  2. Jim Pino

    Maggi we claimed one of your horses back in 2002 MIKES THUNDER and he went on to win some races for us (our first win ever in Saratoga) in the summer of 2003 before breaking down and ultimately we had to retire him but we kept him (we have no farm etc) but after my partner moved on …my family kept him …we placed him with the NY Police and it did not work out so we ultimately got him to a farm and kept him 10 more years until he passed away a few weeks back in KY at his home at Thunder Run Farm. We were able to see him a few times (travelling from NY to KY is not easy)but we did it and we had a great trainer in NY , ex jock Mike Miceli who always put the horse first…. figured a nice story is due we hear all the bad ones…

    Jim Pino

  3. Diane

    That absolutely wonderful… that someone cares about what happens to these wonderful thorobreds who give there all and make lots of money.. and then end up in slaughterhouses.. I wish there was a way to have some kind of investment a percentage of earnings maybe .. put aside.. for the horses sake..

  4. Michelle Falica

    When we spotlight the great people within the racing industry, it encourages others in the same industry to model those ideas and beliefs. The 100 or so horses Maggi estimates is very very low. I am sure she has a much larger impact than she thinks just by the message she sends to others. I have three daughters – all horse crazy. They spent their savings two summers ago rescuing two OTTB from a local kill pen & secured them forever retirement pastures close by to our home. OTTB’s rock!

  5. L. Melone

    So nice to read about someone in the TB racing industry helping out like this. It must feel overwhelming at times, but by focusing on her local track, she’s making a big difference and doing what she can. Go Maggi!

    So often, I look at our 3 OTTBs and think how things could have turned out differently for them. I love watching them play in the pasture, knowing how they’re enjoying the good life now!

  6. Leslie Kuretzky

    What a great story. Racing can use more people like Maggi 🙂

  7. Kim Antion

    Susan and Maggi thank you so much for what you do, I have adopted a TB that was rescued by a Thoroughbred Rescue in PA, my baby made it to a rescue in DE (changing fates equine rescue) and I am the lucky human that gets to live out the rest of my life with my Hotshot Dancer. I found out that Hotshot Dancer was heading from Kentucky to PA to be Slaughtered and all because he broke his coffin bone and his owners found him worthless and to me he is priceless. So again Thank You so much for what you do.

  8. Stacy

    I would concetrate on my home track wouldn’t you? Mine are in Florida if I could I would … Maggie does so much behind the sceens she helped me get 2 of my tb’s retired off the track. I admire her in so many ways all owners/ trainers should follow her lead but she is right I have been plugging away to a close friend and now he gets it… It only took him 2 years to get it.. Maggie thank you for everything you do. I am so privledged I can call on you and most grateful

  9. Mary Young

    I just came to know about Maggi through a mutual friend and I will say that every day since I learned of her existence I am more and more amazed by her. A true lady and angel. Maggie our world would do well to have many more like you around! Bless your heart woman, you keep being YOU!! <3 Best wishes and all the luck to ya!!

  10. Robin

    THERE IS HEAVEN ON EARTH : ) GOD BLESS YOU MISS MAGGI MOSS : ) : ) : )

  11. Jessica Boyd

    Love this story! I find it very interesting that she focuses on one track. I think we get overwhelmed sometimes trying to reach out to so many.

    She also, having been such a successful owner, has connections that I would love to have! But we’ll keep plugging away in our corner of the U.S. Go Maggi!

  12. sybil

    thank you susan and maggi!!!

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