Race of the Week 2017

Fallout around Cost of Freedom's retirement is black eye on industry

Cost of Freedom 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
It all began with a horse named Monzante. Winner of the G1 Eddie Read Handicap in 2008 and a participant in the 2009 edition of the Breeders’ Cup Turf, the gray son of Maria’s Mon saw his stakes form decline through 2010, 2011, and 2012. After finishing dead last in a claiming race at Delta Downs while running for a $12,500 tag, Monzante disappeared from the track for eight months. He then showed up at Evangeline running for a $4,000 tag. The severe drop in class did little to affect the gelding’s performance, not that it mattered as that race would be the old warrior’s last.
Despite being allegedly put through strict soundness and vet tests, Monzante injured the right-front sesamoids during the running of the 4th race at Evangeline on July 20, 2013. Back at the barn, the gelding was deemed salvageable, but trainer Jackie Thacker made the call to have his charge euthanized because he appeared to be in a lot of pain. Afterwards a country-wide cry of “foul” was heard as both those inside and outside the industry struggled to figure out why a Grade 1 winner was running in the lowest levels of the industry and subsequently lost his life doing so.
The silver lining to Monzante’s otherwise dismal story is that his tragic death brought renewed focus and attention on retiring the sport’s “old warriors,” horses that have been campaigned for years and have done more than enough to earn their happy retirement. With well-known industry figures showing the way, horses such as Fuhrever Dancing, a 12-year old gelding who earned $695,148 over 99 starts, Tortuga Straits, a 10-year old multiple stakes winning gelding, Flashman’s Papers, an 8-year old stallion who ran 61 times for winnings of $303,835, and Cost of Freedom, an 11-year old gelding who won the 2008 G1 Ancient Title as well as other graded stakes, were successfully retired.
Unfortunately, the story of Cost of Freedom has not been an entirely happy one. John Malone, head clocker at Santa Anita, and Carl O’Callaghan, best known as the trainer of Kinsale King, joined forces to buy the gelding from owner Rick Wiest, who had just claimed him out of race 8 at Hollywood Park on December 21. Malone graciously paid for Cost of Freedom out of his own pocket until he could be reimbursed from donations sent to a Paypal account that had been set up for the sole purpose of getting Cost of Freedom off the track. With donations pouring in from around the world, including a $2,000 donation from trainer John Sadler, it seemed that it would only be a short amount of time before Malone was reimbursed for his generous, kind-hearted act and that would be that. That did not turn out to be the case, however.
What then ensued can only be described as a battle of words and will via social media. I do not have all the details concerning exactly what happened as I was not involved in the process and I have no experience with Paypal. All I know is that a dispute that should have stayed private was aired for the world to see on Facebook. Owner Maggi Moss accused trainer Carl O’Callaghan, who was acting as the “middle man” in the retirement process, of essentially stealing funds that were entrusted to him. O’Callaghan fired back, stating on his Facebook page, “It was a holiday week and the personal checks that were made out to me, Carl O’Callaghan, had to be deposited in my bank to be cleared. All have cleared, and of course I will send John the lump sum of the accumulated checks, along with a printed bank statement, and any monies transferred from Paypal at the end of yesterday (January 3).”
Both O’Callaghan and Moss are well-known, upstanding figures in the horse racing industry. Moss has worked diligently in recent months to help get old warriors off the track and into happy retirement. O’Callaghan used Kinsale King’s Dubai success to create the book Wish’s Derby, the proceeds of which are all donated to charity. The purpose of the book is to raise awareness for the up-and-coming charity Wish Upon a Teen, which aims to make a difference in the lives of teenagers challenged by Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or those recovering from injury or chronic illness.
To see these two duke it out via social media has been heartbreaking at best and a black-eye on an already beat up industry at worst. Rather than fans being able to celebrate the fact that Cost of Freedom has been happily retired, lines are being drawn in the sand. Those that believe Moss’s version of events have hurled insults at O’Callaghan while praising Moss for bringing the alleged fraud to light. Those that believe O’Callaghan have encouraged the trainer to stand strong and have thanked him for being so instrumental in getting the popular gelding retired. At one point during the process, the Paypal account linked to the address costoffreedomfund@yahoo.com was closed “in order to eliminate the inconvenience of transferring funds from one account to another” and donators were encouraged to send their contributions directly to an account, “Mtnhikerjim@yahoo.com”, that would go directly to John Malone. Whether this change had anything to do with a suspected fraud or if it truly was for convenience is not immediately clear.
Regardless of which version of events you believe, I think we can all agree that this was a dispute that should not have been aired on Facebook. Incidents like this one just add to the pile of reasons why horse racing’s fan base has been shrinking and the public perceives it to be such a foul, corrupt sport. Rather than people focusing on the need to do a better job of taking care of our equine athletes, people are going to be worried about where their money is really going. This is problem the industry hardly needs and that our old warriors can ill afford.
If there was a question as to how the money was being handled, it should have been addressed specifically to O’Callaghan and handled privately. Since it seems to have been nothing but a misunderstanding at this point, there was no reason to air dirty laundry in such a public way. Let the feel good story be what people focus on rather than the alleged possibility of wrong-doing. Should evidence of the alleged fraud actually be exposed, then obviously I will sing a different tune. I have the utmost respect for both O'Callaghan and Moss and all that they have done for our industry, but even those with the best of intentions can make mistakes. Regardless of how I feel about either, all I have to say is that the whole incident was handled unprofessionally. 


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Older Comments about Fallout around Cost of Freedom's retirement is black eye on industry...

Oh, dear, I can't help myself. Ask Bob Baffert if Paulick does opinion pieces....
Ray doing opinion pieces!?! Surely you jest. Traditional journalism, what's that?
Floridaf. When you find it, look at Ray's tweets. Because it is there that he talks about the Vegas pictures and that Carl took down his entire Facebook page to delete these photos.
Ahhhh, I see. You were referencing the OTHER article. I need to go back and read that one again, but Paulick isn't given to opinion pieces, is he? He strictly does traditional journalism, yes?
Floridaf. I wasn't referring to Ray's article that came out last night or this morning, but his original article where he made allegations about Carl including a tweet below the article that asked about the removal of photos on Carl's Facebook page showing him in Vegas during this matter. No today's article had a lot of detail about all the discrepancies etc.
I must have read the updated article then, because what I read had tons of information. For Maggi Moss, that is a good thing as she only made herself look bad by the social media storm without adding unfounded accusations to the mix.
True Floridaf. Ray also jumped the gun too, because the first I saw was on his website with not much info. Sadly it does look bad for Carl. Too many discrepancies in donations and amounts credited. Incomplete pages on the pay pal account and checks he deposited into his own account, but others that he endorsed over to Malone. No it doesn't look like he was telling the truth. At best sloppy record keeping, at worst...
Thanks for referencing Ray's article, Buckpasser. THAT is the way people NOT directly involved in the situation should have found out about this mess rather than the way it was aired on social media for the world to see. I truly hate that it does appear that Carl was misappropriating funds, but it isn't over yet. He could still be telling the truth, but it sure doesn't look like it right now.
Thanks for the info Ashley. Very good article.
Ray Paulick has a long article detailing this entire matter and the timeline.
People need to remove the judging of this situation. I myself have been involved with all kinds of animal rescue. It's always started with GOOD intentions... The handling oft this situation on a public social media setting once again was NOTHING short of middle school antics. The initla accusations should of been a private conversation, not blasting on facebook. Noody in their right mind should doe that if they want to be taken seriously as an adult professional etc. The witch hunt which pursued only a few weeks after all would really cause someone to think twice before stepping up, it would me for sure. Its sad that the whole focus of what was being done was taken off a horse who has done nothing but run it's heart out for it's people to a witch hunt. Shameful.. on many many levels.
It would ONLY make me think twice if there is in fact any merit to the accusations. But you're absolutely right, Crystal David, in that this situation, whether or not any foul play comes to light, WILL make many people think twice about answering a call to arms for our old warriors.
I hope this issue does not stop individuals in the future from wanting to put themselves out there to help a horse in need. I know this would make me think twice about initiating something like this......
I am sure it's a misunderstnading which in turn quickly morphed into an ugly situaiton that was handled less than stellar. I hope everyone can learn from this and please stear away from social media with accusations set to a public setting. Right wrong or not, it's not the adult professinoal way to handle yourself. IN the end all the focus on the COF was removed to he did this and didn't do this witch hunt. This is not a glorious momemnt and in my own little eye, the initiaitng source should of thought twixe before dodging down to antics reflective of middle school children.
Hopefully, it is a silly business mistake as the pay pal account has been changed over from Carl to Maline and checks totaling $4k have also been turned over too. Personally, to me the main thing here is that COF gets the monies donated for his care by the fans. Legally when you are dealing with a private fund like this, if there is wrongdoing, you have to find it quickly or much of the evidence disappears. As I know this problem from experience.
I am inclined to believe it is a misunderstanding perpetuated by some unwise decisions. I have too much respect for both Maggi and Carl to readily believe that there has been anything worse in this situation than general unprofessional-ism.
This cannot be more than a HUGE miscommunication or misunderstanding.
Floridaf. It is indeed a lesson for all here.
Comingling his funds with the donations certainly wasn't the smartest move. He could have saved himself a lot of grief by setting up a separate account to begin with. There is definitely a lesson to be learned from this.
The problem Carl is facing is why you do not commingle funds, because it is very hard to do a proper accounting and more importantly it is viewed with enormous suspicion, and rightfully so. I know you have sympathy for Carl Floridaf as the guy was trying to do a good turn and you feel the truth of the old adage " no good turn goes unpunished. "

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