Ferdinand Followup: Owners Promise to Tighten Contracts and Supervision

(Published in the Aug. 2 issue of The Blood-Horse) In the wake of the disturbing news of Ferdinand's demise in Japan, letters and e-mails from fans expressing both regret and anger have flooded in-boxes. It is likely, however, that the legacy Ferdinand leaves by virtue of his unseemly death will rival his achievements on the racetrack.

The death of Exceller in 1997 became the defining moment in the advent of Thoroughbred retirement farms throughout the United States to care for those horses who, in a thousand different ways, slip through the cracks when their primary career becomes yesterday's news. If there is to be a silver lining in the cloud of Ferdinand's death, it comes in the manner in which future business transactions will be written, and the heightened awareness that owners' responsibility no longer ceases when a horse is sold. Ignorance is no longer an option, and no one understands that better than the people who have done business selling horses to overseas interests.

"I would include a clause in contracts from here on out to retain the right of first refusal when a buyer contemplates selling the horse," said Bill Farish of Lane's End Farm. Lane's End, in partnership with Bob and Beverly Lewis, sold Charismatic to the Japan Racing Association, and he now stands at the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association Stallion Station near Shizunai.

"I don't think anyone's ever thought about this eventuality. Maybe we should have," Farish said. "But certainly there is surprise that this could happen in a case like Ferdinand's. As a rule the Japanese are awfully proud to have a (Kentucky) Derby (gr. I) winner or a Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner, a trophy-type horse like that. So it's surprising and disturbing this would happen. I think it will become standard now to include language in contracts to prevent it from happening."


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The Blood-Horse is the leading weekly publication devoted to international Thoroughbred racing and breeding. Since 1916, the staff of The Blood-Horse has served the Thoroughbred community with the highest standards of journalistic excellence to provide comprehensive and timely editorial coverage and analysis.

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