Kentucky Derby Champion Saved From Slaughter

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3 min read

Update: Thanks to successful negotiations by the Thoroughbred rescue group Old Friends, 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic is back in the United States after being sent to Japan for breeding over a decade ago. He joins War Emblem, who was rescued and sent to Old Friends’ farm in Kentucky last year. PETA first revealed these horses’ precarious futures in our 2009 investigation of the horse slaughter industry in Japan—see the video below. Despite being world-famous champions, both War Emblem and Charismatic may have been indanger of being sent to slaughter, since they were rarely being used for breeding. In Japan, 90 percent of former racehorses, including thousands of Thoroughbreds imported from the U.S., are sent to slaughter. Negotiations to bring them home to the U.S. followed the release of PETA’s investigation on ESPN.

Originally posted on June 5, 2009: 

In 2002, the 1986 Kentucky Derby champ, Ferdinand, was slaughtered after his breeding days in Japan were done.

Fast-forward to 2009: Two more horses, Charismatic and War Emblem—Kentucky Derby champs from 1999 and 2002 respectively—may also face slaughter as their usefulness to breeders comes to an end.

This upcoming Belmont Stakes marks the 10th anniversary of Charismatic’s tragic breakdown.

After breaking his leg in the 1999 Belmont, Charismatic was sold to breeders in Japan. His value as a breeding stallion has dropped dramatically (to approximately US$5,000), and he has been moved to the lowest-ranking of breeding farms.

War Emblem was sold for $17 million and hauled off to Japan to become one of 33 stallions used for breeding at the Shadai Stallion Station. Despite the use of steroids, hormones and psychological measures, he has refused to breed with most mares.
War Emblem

Just a few years ago, horse-racing fans cheered as Charismatic and War Emblem ran away with top prizes at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Now, PETA’s most recent undercover investigation shows what could be in store for these once-celebrated stallions and thousands of other horses sold into the Japanese thoroughbred industry.

Each year in Japan, more than 20,000 horses, including many horses once used for racing, are slaughtered for dog and human food. This video shows the slaughter of a young thoroughbred. As stated in the New York Times, “The video is disturbing. It shows in graphic terms what happens to the unfortunate thoroughbreds who become spare parts in a contracting industry.”

You can blame the U.S. horse-racing industry for the carnage. It routinely breeds tens of thousands of “surplus” thoroughbreds every year, then sells thousands of them to breeding facilities in Japan. More than 2,000 U.S. thoroughbred horses and breeding mares have been shipped to Japan since Ferdinand was slaughtered in 2002.

Just last year, Americans watched in horror as racing filly Eight Belles suffered fractures to both her front ankles and was euthanized just moments after running the Kentucky Derby. How can anyone not be disgusted by the shuffling of thousands of horses off to Japan and into slaughterhouses?

Join us in defending former Derby and Preakness champs Charismatic and War Emblem—and thousands of other thoroughbreds. Demand limits on breeding and a ban on the export of horses to Japan.

Written by Karin Bennett

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