It’s called the fastest two minutes in sports – the Kentucky Derby.
It’s the first chance at Triple Crown Glory in a sport that employs hundreds of jockeys and thousands of horses.
But after those champions cross their last finish line, many end up on a track that takes them from low-end auction blocks to Las Cruces, New Mexico and finally, to a slaughterhouse across the border.
Last week alone, 2,030 horses passed from the United States where it’s illegal to slaughter horses to Mexico where the meat get shipped to Europe or made into dog food.
In San Diego, Karen Groebli has made it her life’s work to stop the thoroughbred horse slaughterhouse trade.
“The whole plight of going to slaughter….the transport they go through to their ultimate demise…it’s disgusting,” Groebli said.
The nonprofit, The Tijuana River Valley Animal Rescue houses more than 50 horses she’s saved from kill-buyers. She’s saved hundreds.
But last week she received a disturbing call – someone had spotted a pregnant mare waiting to ship out across the border.
“It was less than 24 hours before we made our way to the lot. That morning the kill buyer told us he had already been born and he was lying on the ground,” Groebli said.
It was the first time she had to save a struggling colt. Just a few hours old, he was skin and bones.
The young colts mom was so dehydrated and malnourished she couldn’t produce enough milk to feed her newborn.
“If the baby doesn’t get enough nutrients in the first 12 hours, they are compromised and you have a chance of losing them,” Groebli said.
That’s how a former racehorse and new mother, Rough Cat, ended up at a veterinary clinic in Indio.
“She’d obviously not been fed properly for the last few months,” said Dr. Jim Clark, who cared for the mother and colt.
After three weeks at the clinic, Rough Cat is doing much better and her little colt has beaten the odds.
Saturday he’ll join Groebli’s other horses at her ranch near San Diego.
Training will be a far cry from the glory of life on the track but it’s a place where he’ll always be a favorite.