Pregnant horse headed to slaughter saved; race horse born

On a small farm just west of Aurora, the falling snow masks this amazing horse tale

Gail Vacca, the founder of the Illinois Equine Humane Center will proudly tell you about all of the horses she’s saved from slaughter over the years; but it’s 15 year old thoroughbred named Lulu who may take up the majority of your chat.

In 2009, Vacca found Lulu at a slaughter auction in Indiana. A former racer, Lulu was nearly crippled in pain. A man had already bought her, intent bringing her to Canada for slaughter. That’s when Vacca stepped in.

“I told him I didn’t think she’d survive the trip and he was going to lose money anyway, so name your price and I’ll buy her,” Vacca said.

The price was $300.

Here’s where this tale takes on a different color: Without knowing it, Gail not only saved Lulu but the unborn foal growing inside of her.  Lulu gave birth, and much to everyone’s surprise, the baby they named Taxi — born on Tax Day, April 15 — had the look, the stride of a potential champion.

Gail learned Taxi’s dad was also a former racer named Magna Graduate.

“When I looked up Magna Graduate’s history online, I was floored to find out that Magna Graduate had just retired from racing having earned $2.5 million,” Vacca said.

Taxi, who’s known in racing circles as Magna Fortuna or “Great Fortune,” is now three and is set to run his second race at Hawthorne Race Track in Cicero on February 15.

For more information about how you can help other horses in need, go to  www.ilehc.org

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51 comments

    • Jan

      The point is that the baby is now going to race! If you don't like the subject, why did you read the story AND take the time to comment?! Go back to your parent's basement! This makes my day and I'll be watching for Magna Fortunate in the Winners Circle!

      • Todd Pardee

        You’d do society a better deed by giving a homeless guy a sandwich than watching this horse compete in the “sport of kings”.

      • Just Wondering

        Todd, I'm reading all of your comments and I have to ask: are you hungry? Seems like your sugars are low – should we send you a little snack to nibble on?

      • wonder no more

        No, send a snack to the homeless instead of worrying about some stupid rich guys racehorse. Fact are this horse will be abused like its parents were. This horse was not saved for life on a nice farm where some little girl gets a ride every once in a while and feeds it carrots. This horse now belongs to rich people and is cared for by illegal immigrants working for less than minimum wage and sleeping in a closet sized room over the barn, probably with his family. It will suffer a fate much like its parents for the sake of some rich dude's hobby, or investment. You need to educate yourself on Horse racing in Illinois.

      • pfefferkr

        I promise you this horse is taken well care of by some of the best hands in the business. He is never abused, he is borderline spoiled. And everyone that helps with him is legal. Stop making ignorant assumptions unless you have personally been there and witnessed what is going on. YOU need to educate YOURSELF by reminding yourself you do not know everything, which your is what your statement clearly demonstrates. You're not out there. You dont know what you're talking about. No go on and be miserable elsewhere, perhaps in a subject more suitable to something you're actually "educated" in.
        Sincerely,
        Taxi's Ponygirl <3

    • Brian Millersmith

      Todd – you are the HORSE'S ASS! I don't give a crap about people getting murdered. Most of them deserve it, anyway. SAVE THE ANIMALS!!!

  • Charlene Neubauer

    I think this is a great story, God bless Ms. Vacca for saving this beautiful animal. It is wonderful that there are people like her to take care of these animals

    • Michael

      Saved one horse from being killed to prolong its already painful life and allow it to give birth to another which she is going to put into the racing industry.. right. Yeah, that's is really wonderful.

      • Caladonia

        Makes you all warm and fuzzy inside at the thought of that beautiful baby thoroughbred with its totally undeveloped bones, joints and tendons being forced to run at top speed and then go spend every minute of its life chained to a wall in a 9×9 box stall and pumped full of chemicals. Hallmark should have a greeting card for this!

      • Equiforce

        Are you smoking crack ? Totally undeveloped bones ? Forced to run at top speed then chained to a wall ? 9X9… And pumped full of chemicals.
        I've personally seen this horse. He is a big strapping boy. Very happy and well developed. I do not know a racetrack in the country that has stalls that are 9X9… They are 12X12 or bigger at EVERY RACE TRACK. We generally put them on a bungee while we brush them, pick feet, etc. usually 30 minutes on a bungee is max. Chemicals ? What chemicals do that be ? Horses are pst race tested. Before you open your mouth about something you CLEARLY have no knowledge of…..educate yourself. You sound like an idiot with your false description

      • Gimme A. Break

        wow big difference. I think that Sean should do a follow up story that shows the realexploit backside action. Where rich owners and trainers exploit the animals and the illegal immigrant grooms that care for these abused animals. Arent happy horses pastured for most of the day, and stalled at night? Where in the middle of Cicero or Stickney is this nice pasture? these horses care more resembles an inmates life, than some happy riding horses. They are kept locked in a stall almost all day and allowed out for training runs, walkdowns and washing. Why do you think they call it race horse "rescue"?

      • Gimme A. Break

        Equiforce, does this statement sound familiar? its from the equiforce website
        "In response to demand from her clients, Dr. Amy M. Gill, an equine nutrition consultant has developed a line of proprietary nutritional supplements called EQUI-FORCE™ which are formulated to promote optimum health and performance in equine athletes. Dr. Gill feels “Today’s performance horses are being pushed for fast growth and intense levels of exercise at early ages. As a result, many developmental, metabolic, immune and exercise related disorders have evolved. These products were developed to aid and promote healthy bone growth, optimum exercise performance, strong immunity and balanced metabolism."
        Why are you trying to solve a problem that "doesnt exist"?

      • Gimme A. Break

        from equiforce.com
        In response to demand from her clients, Dr. Amy M. Gill, an equine nutrition consultant has developed a line of proprietary nutritional supplements called EQUI-FORCE™ which are formulated to promote optimum health and performance in equine athletes. Dr. Gill feels “Today’s performance horses are being pushed for fast growth and intense levels of exercise at early ages. As a result, many developmental, metabolic, immune and exercise related disorders have evolved. These products were developed to aid and promote healthy bone growth, optimum exercise performance, strong immunity and balanced metabolism."
        apparently you are marketing a feed supplement that solves problems you are now claiming does not exist?

      • horse racing cruelty

        Too true Michael. Horse racing in Illinois is no pretty site. The animals and their illegal immigrant grooms are exploited by rich people. The best of the lot are investments, the rest are "hobby" of rich people. Do you know how much it costs to keep a mediocre racehorse? Special feeds and vet care, expensive trainers, outrageous barn rentals, grooms that are illegal immigrants working for less than minimum wage living in 3rd world conditions backside of the tracks…..

      • Equiforce

        Again…where s it that you get your info….ALOT of people own horses and they are not rich. For some, it is a family business. Barn rentals ? Ok, so…exactly how much does the track charge for a stall ? And, these expensive trainers, using special feeds…how much is that ? All of those "illegal immigrants" working for minimum wage, please send them to my barn, my help and most of the grooms and hot walkers I know make pretty good money. An average exercise rider, working 6 days a week…from 6-10:30 am. Takes home 700. A week. They also live in beautiful dorms at Arlington park race course doing that meet…free of charge. No utility bills either. So, why don't you tell everyone how much trainers get paid…and how much stalls at the track cost ? Show your ignorance..

      • Gimme A. Break

        Some info I get from equiforce.com
        "In response to demand from her clients, Dr. Amy M. Gill, an equine nutrition consultant has developed a line of proprietary nutritional supplements called EQUI-FORCE™ which are formulated to promote optimum health and performance in equine athletes. Dr. Gill feels “Today’s performance horses are being pushed for fast growth and intense levels of exercise at early ages. As a result, many developmental, metabolic, immune and exercise related disorders have evolved. These products were developed to aid and promote healthy bone growth, optimum exercise performance, strong immunity and balanced metabolism."
        So you are selling a product designed to solve a problem you claim does not exist?

  • Joann

    Please share more stories like this and others!!!!!! America needs to hear the good in people… Gives us hope for a better future instead of 500 murders!!!!!!!

  • Joymar

    Thank you Ms, Vacca for your kindness in saving this horse and its unborn foal. America needs more people like you. God bless you

  • Charlotte Parsons

    Amen to the beautiful comments. Magna Fortuna is truly Magna Fortunate (to Jan).To Todd…Sir, I am so sorry you prefer to read about murders. There is plenty of fodder for you to peruse daily and the Satan in people should not receive precedence over the Godly acts shown. Count the articles and those on the news. I think you have plenty to read in your preferred genre. Positive news can inspire or sometimes make those pathetic individuals think twice and even give them the incentive to seek help and refocus their actions. You are certainly entitled to your opinion and your preference, but I do wish you a GOOD day full of happy thoughts and volunteering to positively change things in our society. Oh, by-the-way, Taxi is my "Grandhorse". Happy Reading to you, my (hopefully) friend.

    • Todd Pardee

      Your right this athlete in the “sport of kings” is a a lot better than feeding the hungry people or housing the homeless…

      • Lynn Wilson

        get over it Todd! Yes the homeless and the hungry deserve our attention and a bed and food. But that does not mean that we should ignore the rest of the world. A story showing the good side of humans is inspiration to all of us (except you of course) and gives us the motivation to help the homeless and hungry. really without the good things in life, we would not be able to tolerate the bad.

  • Caladonia

    What a wonderful story this would be if it were actually true and not overly sensationalized. Stories like these are addressed and readdressed in times of a down economy and after a summer of drought when hay costs are threw the roof simply to bolster donations.

    Not a soul in the world would actually admit at one of these auctions they are there buying for slaughter so for her to state as a fact what the horses fate was is speculative. If the horse was truly intended for slaughter, it would not have mattered whether it survived the trip or not. Horses are sold to slaughter at price per pound. The average horse weighs around a 1000lb. So if the going rate was even $1.00, that man was willing to take a $700 loss to make this woman happy? Not hardly. Beyond the fact that most slaughter houses do not accept Thoroughbreds due to all of the excessive drugging on the racetrack transfers into the meat.

    Its ironic how the article expresses this horse was cripple from a career in racing and as Michael pointed out, thrust her foal right into a racing career also. Unless you have ever stepped foot onto the backside of the racetrack, please keep all of your warm, heartfelt comments to yourself. There is nothing pretty going on there.

    How this story really goes is, people like Gail stalk these auctions, flipping the lips on these horses looking for racing tattoos. They scoop up these thoroughbred, bring them back to their organization and then trace where they came from. They then contact breeders, owners, trainers informing them they have one of their former horses and try and extract donations out of them. Some people offer to donate, MOST of them dont. Articles like this serve as a gentle punishment for those who dont as anyone reading this can now research exactly who this horse belonged to and publicly scorn them for allowing it to end up pregnant at a "slaughter" auction.

    The horse industry in general, but especially in Illinois as a very dark and dirty side. The majority of these non for profits are money making machines, paying out their directors huge salaries for little to no work. Actual care of the animals is mostly done by volunteers who can know little to nothing about horses but are allowed to care for them anyway just for the free help. These places harbor injured, crippled elderly animals barely able to function, that should have been euthanized years ago, just to be carted out during fund raisers and get check books to open. But in the same breath will cry poor over how full they are and unable to feed what they have……please donate more more more we cant feed this 32yo blind quarter horse with Cushings.

    I would have been so much more fulfilled if this story was about this woman fostering children and spending the thousands and thousands of dollars it cost to put a horse in the racing industry, on them and teaching them about how growing up with horses can boost your self worth and self esteem, then a story about yet another race she will be out there re-rescuing in about another 2 years./

    • Luka

      Unbelievably, or not, I know of a case just like this here in my state of Minnesota where a rescue bought a thoroughbred mare at auction that had been dumped there by a racing barn and unbeknownst to that stable and the rescue, she was pregnant and as luck would have it she had the foal, who was by a pretty good stallion who also earned money at the track. The story goes, as it was told to me, was this rescue was going to send the foal back to the original breeder so the foal could reach its full "potential," and be trained to race. When it's career is over in racing, the rescue will then take it back. Lovely, isn't it?

      • Luka

        The rest of my comment appears to have been eaten up, but here it is:

        I think rescues, especially many horse rescues, truly do God's work, in most cases. Unfortunately, in this case and the one I know of, what's going on lies somewhere south of an example of heavenly forces at work.

        Both of these cases, for the foals anyway, one has to wonder if they should be rescued from the rescue. These rescues are just perpetuating the M.O. of one of the main culprits of why there are rescues in the first place, the horse racing industry, where the words to live by seem to be use 'em up and throw 'em away. I think it is rather unseemly for rescues to be using the labors of their hapless victims to once and for all realize a little "black ink" and not worry about financial issues. I can understand their wanting to earn money to help more horses in unfortunate situations (and maybe rescue more pregnant thoroughbred mares carrying the potential offspring of amazing racehorse sires).

        I cannot understand why in this case and the one I know of that the rescuers are overlooking the start of these foals' racing careers really at 1 or 2 years of age and all the potential physical problems that will entail; and the fact that these horses could suffer injuries because of the pounding their bodies, especially legs, will take. Look at Barbaro how his millionaire owners used the latest technology to keep him alive after his horrific racetrack injury, and all to no avail, as he had to be euthanized anyway. Does this woman in this example have a contingency plan for that?

        I agree, horses love to run. Mine love to run to their feed buckets or run with their friends. Racing is something we as humans have THRUST upon horses and it is a brutal sport, with a minuscule number actually making it, being successful at it, and then retiring to live out their years peacefully. There are many vocations this woman and the one I know about could have chosen for these two foals where they could be useful and happy without literally having to put their life and limbs at risk and just be further fodder for the thoroughbred racing industry.

  • Gimme A. Break

    Mr. Lewis,
    How about a "nice" story about thoroughbred racing and backside conditions? How about how much time these animals are left in the stall vs how much happy time grazing in a pasture? How much time are they allowed out of the stall and for what reasons? Truth is Cook County inmates get more yard time than these racing horses. How about the lifestyles of the grooms that live backside and take care of the horses?
    I worked security at Hawthorne, Sportsmans and Maywood tracks….it aint pretty. These animals are not treated like NBA or NFL stars you should know. They are more treated like inmates and slaves.

  • Equiforce

    Caledonia, you may have "stepped on the backside" once or twice, or even volunteered at a rescue, but not as a professional. For what ever reason you harbor such bitterness, I think that you should keep your false allegations to yourself. I know the people that SAVED this horse. And they love him very, very much. He is happy, healthy and doing what horses like to do….RUNNING. His human mom's will not discard him as so many do when it is time for him to finish racing and start a new career one day. We need MORE horse owners like this in our industry. Your crazy, uninformed rant and accusations are ridiculous.

    • Gimme A. Break

      from equiforce.comIn response to demand from her clients, Dr. Amy M. Gill, an equine nutrition consultant has developed a line of proprietary nutritional supplements called EQUI-FORCE™ which are formulated to promote optimum health and performance in equine athletes. Dr. Gill feels “Today’s performance horses are being pushed for fast growth and intense levels of exercise at early ages. As a result, many developmental, metabolic, immune and exercise related disorders have evolved. These products were developed to aid and promote healthy bone growth, optimum exercise performance, strong immunity and balanced metabolism."
      Apparently you are marketing a product that you claim solves problems that you now claim doesnt exist? Assuming you are the name you have chosen,

      • Equiforce

        You are an ass…..Equiforce is my stable name. I have been racing under Equiforce, Inc. for many years. In the states of Florida, KY and Illinois. Look it up….

      • Gimme A. Break

        How many horses have died for you to pursue your hobby or business interest, including your horse at Hawthorne caused by the virus from being institutionalized? How many others? Just the cost of doing business I guess.

      • Equiforce

        I've had no casualties, except for the horse that the department of Agriculture killed. In 15 years. I could care less if you like horse racing. It's my industry and there are indeed some very wonderful people in our industry. I have an issue with you posting information that is blatantly incorrect.
        Remember…people that live in Glass houses…..really should not throw stones. Take your sanctimonious attitude to a forum that you might have a more first hand knowledge of…and leave the horse racing to the professionals. :)

  • Gimme A. Break

    From equiforce.com
    "In response to demand from her clients, Dr. Amy M. Gill, an equine nutrition consultant has developed a line of proprietary nutritional supplements called EQUI-FORCE™ which are formulated to promote optimum health and performance in equine athletes. Dr. Gill feels “Today’s performance horses are being pushed for fast growth and intense levels of exercise at early ages. As a result, many developmental, metabolic, immune and exercise related disorders have evolved. These products were developed to aid and promote healthy bone growth, optimum exercise performance, strong immunity and balanced metabolism."
    apparently you are marketing a product to solve problems that you are now claiming dont exist.

  • horselover27

    Moonshadow Gold was a racehorse who wound up at Camelot sales barn in New Jersey. After making well over $300,000, he was sent there to be bought by whoever would take him. It didn't matter where he went, as long as his owner could get rid of him. But, just when things looked bad, an amazing woman bought him for $250 and retired him to Old Friends at Cabin Creek in NY. There, he helped raise a weanling named Mr Cowboy, who also ran into his fair share of bad luck when he was born not breathing and did not walk for 3 days. Mr Cowboy is now very very loved and raced when he is well prepared and well rested. He won his first race at Saratoga on Aug. 26 2012. It just is terrible that some people think they can make their money and dispose of the animal. I love the sport of horse racing, but things have got to change. Old Friends is a 501c3 non-profit organization that runs only on donations. You should stop by if you're in Kentucky of upstate NY. It truly is an amazing place.

  • Cheryl Flanagan

    Good job, Gail. Glad to see this posted on my FaceBook page. What a beautiful story. A life saved is always wonderful but two saved is double wonderful. For all horses have done for humans, in war, industry, sport and as transportation, not to mention, physical and mental therapy for humans and as companions for our heart and souls, they need to be honored. Thank you Gail for not closing your eyes to these beautiful horses.

  • Penny Grizzard

    If anyone can PLEASE send me info on "How to establish" a 501(c) non profit organization, I'm ready to get it up and running. I originally wrote a business plan for a therapeutic equine program, but as business plans go, things change. One part of the program that began to stand could happen, and by changing from a business, to a non-profit, it would enable me to offer the equipment & my service of using it, to the pre-race evaluation. The end GOAL, saving a life or two, of both horse & riders.

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