Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Second Race's Valentine

Last night I watched the HRTV "Inside Information" episode on Ferdinand. I wanted to watch the original airing of the show, as Ferdinand holds a special place in my heart, and unknowingly the hearts of many horses alive today, due to the death of Ferdinand.

A reporter years ago, wanted to know what had happened to Ferdinand and she began the process of tracing where Ferdinand had went since his original sale to stand in Japan...the answer was one that many could not fathom....he had been sent to slaughter. This news changed the trajectory of my life and many others. It wasn't possible that this had happened. How could a lovely horse, a Kentucky Derby winner no less, meet such a violent end?.

When Ferdinand ran, I wasn't a regular racing fan. I knew about him, but wasn't at the track on a weekly basis as I am now, I didn't grow up in racing, and never saw him in person. His reported slaughter was shocking to me. I didn't know about "racing's dirty secret", as it was later dubbed in the press. Because of Ferdinand, I went on to learn so much about what happens to some race horses when their careers are over.

To read more about the news story that broke in 2003, read Ray Paulick's article here:

The Second Race was born from the death Ferdinand. His life is a daily valentine to the horses that we have in our foster program and to so many others since his unfortunate demise. The Second Race in a small part, hopes to pay tribute to each racing hero by changing the lives of many race horses in the years to come.

Ferdinand may not have sired many winners, he may have faded from the collective memory prior to his reported death, but he gave birth to the saving of thousands and thousands of horses since 2003.

I know that The Second Race would not exist without Ferdinand being the winner he was and I know I wouldn't be blessed to live the life I do and help the horses we have, without the lovely Ferdinand, our special valentine.

"Perfect Timing"-- a Tribute to a Three Time Kentucky Derby Winning Jockey

A follow horse enthusiast wrote me an email to share the story of Isaac Murphy and how she had, had a similar experience in 1996 when she visited the Kentucky Horse Park. She said that she too, had a pull to wonder more about this Isaac Murphy. Now I am intrigued about his story.

Here is a reprint of the article that she sent to me...

Kentucky voices: Black History Month valentine to racing legend
By Patsi Trollinger

It's February, and I ought to be shopping for a Valentine for my husband. Instead, I find myself wanting to send a message to a man who died in Lexington 115 years ago this month.

He was black, and I am white. He was a born a slave; I was born free. He became a celebrity, earning headlines in New York newspapers. I have managed a few mentions in my town's small daily paper. Isaac Murphy had a life that was totally different from mine. That's the reason he could become my ideal teacher.

It was February of 1995 when the Herald-Leader ran a very brief article about him. I read it once and was desperate to know more. The article contained a grand total of four sentences, buried in a column in the sports section.

The facts were clearly stated: Murphy had been the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby three times. And yet, 100 years later, he was mostly forgotten. A track in Florida had decided to name a race in his honor.

Holding that tiny news clipping in my hand, I was overwhelmed by a burning question: How could a person accomplish something so extraordinary and then disappear for decades on end?

The question propelled me to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum and the library at Keeneland. At first, I just wanted to know Murphy's story and understand why he had been cheated of lasting fame.

But it turned out there was no way to answer the personal question without coming to terms with something larger.

Murphy served as my teacher as I tried to understand the great — and terrible — forces in American history that could turn a slave into a hero and then send him, broken-hearted, back toward oblivion.

Which brings me to that thank-you note I'd like to send him during this chilly February that is Black History Month.

When I was in school, I liked studying history and was fortunate to have exceptional teachers. But not even the best of those teachers had the power to make me really feel our nation's history.

Grief and hardship during the Civil War came alive for me only when I learned about the travails of Murphy and his mother. The sudden appearance of black achievers after the war seemed much more exciting because Murphy was there in the thick of things, enjoying newfound freedom. The violent backlash and resistance that arose from disgruntled whites in the 1890s felt like a personal affront because it helped end Murphy's career — and probably his life.

With no teacher to give me credit (and no certainty that any publisher would ever care about the book I hoped to write), I found myself willing to slog through stacks of books and old newspapers.

Murphy became my mentor and perhaps my obsession. During one return trip to the Kentucky Derby Museum, I bought a decorative magnet that depicted an old sports trading card bearing Murphy's photo.

After the magnet had been on our refrigerator for several days, I told my husband that sometimes I felt as if Murphy were keeping an eye on me. The next morning I discovered a "speech bubble" taped beside Murphy's head with a pointed question: "Hey, Patsi, have you written that book about me yet?"

Eventually I did finish the book, and I was careful to thank my husband and my daughters for putting up with my research obsession that lasted several years.

But in this particular year (when Murphy would have celebrated his 150th birthday) and this particular month (the 115th anniversary of his death), I want to thank him. He's been a teacher, an inspiration and maybe even a friend. His picture still clings to my refrigerator.

Patsi B. Trollinger of Danville is author of Perfect Timing, a picture-book biography of Isaac Murphy, recently released by Benjamin Press of Perryville.

To see the horses that didn't run in the Kentucky Derby, but are just as deserving of winning another "race" as they are adopted to a new home or career, see our website at

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An Early Valentine

Photo by Anna Priest

Anyone that devotes their energies to a cause such as animal retirement, knows that there are a lot of lonely hours spent trying to figure out where to place an animal or find a way to accomplish that which may seem impossible...many times you receive a polite thank you and other times none at all. You have to daily find the thanks in your own heart.

Fortunately, The Second Race had an early Valentine's Day "gift" come its way in the form of a lovely note sent to us by a friend of someone that had adopted the beautiful filly, Winter Bird pictured above...with permission, The Second Race would like to share their perfect valentine....

Hey Sharla,

Hope you had a great day and before I say anything else I want to thank you for all you do along with making horsey girls dreams come true.

I just spent one of the best days of my life with Rayanne helping her with extra preparation that she thought she needed on top of what she had already done for the arrival of Birdy, it was awesome seeing the brand new feeder bucket she had bought along with the water bucket and salt lick all set out in an almost perfectly graded corral : ) The halter and lead rope she had hooked on the gate she has had since she was a little girl, she told us the story of saving up her allowance and telling her Mom that, that was what she wanted to spend it fits Birdy perfect and the color suits her to a "t".

Ray kept checking her phone and putting it down in different places making her more of a dither than she already was, when the gal called for exact directions as she had driven past the street we walked down the driveway and saw the trailer coming up the road, I knew exactly how she felt and when the back of the box was finally opened Rayanne just lost it and so did I : )

She unloaded really well, it took her while to find her land legs after the haul.... but saying that she settled in extremely fast!

I'm so happy for Rayanne, it was like being little kids again at the local stable dreaming that horse was yours and now it is....thank you so much for letting her have Birdy, she is one of the ones that so deserves it : )

Best Always,


To see other horses waiting to make dreams come true go to We have several horses awaiting adoption and their own Valentine.

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