PETA is Missing In Action Following San Luis Rey Downs Tragedy

Like the rest of you, I’ve read with great interest over the years how much the animal rights group PETA cares about the welfare of our horses.

You know the drill. They’ve picketed outside Del Mar, claiming abuse of the horses. They’ve been very vocal in their distaste for horse racing.

So like many of you, I was curious to know how much PETA chipped in to help in the aftermath of last week’s San Luis Rey Downs tragedy.

I sent emails to a couple of executives in the industry, Mike Willman of Santa Anita and Mac McBride, who’s been at Del Mar for a good number of years, to find out the extent of PETA’s involvement in the relief efforts.

Here’s what they told me: “I have not heard about them donating a single penny,” Willman wrote.

I can’t share with you the rest of Willman’s email because this is a family newspaper.

McBride’s reply concerning PETA’s involvement?

“Nada. Zip. Zilch.”

Well, I figured Willman and McBride perhaps were too busy themselves to know the amount of help PETA provided. So I went to PETA itself on its Twitter page.

Here’s what I tweeted:

“Could you let me know how much your group donated for the tragedy at San Luis Rey and how many volunteers from PETA helped out? I’d like to include info in my column tomorrow.”


So 40 minutes later, I asked again.

“I sent you a question 40 minutes ago. Could you please supply an answer. I’m under a deadline.”


I sent my first tweet two more times Thursday.


Now, I’m the kind of guy who likes to give somebody the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they didn’t reply because they were not active on Twitter.


They sent out 12 tweets after I sent my first inquiry.

Maybe PETA representatives were out to lunch?

Well, that might be the most accurate piece of info I’ve shared all year.

Santa Anita and Del Mar spearheaded an effort to raise much-needed money and supplies in the wake of the San Luis Rey nightmare. They started a gofundme page that, as of 1:55 p.m. Thursday, had raised more than $637,000.

From all accounts, not one red cent came from PETA, the self-described champion of animal rights. So quick to criticize, yet unable to lend any semblance of a helping hand when so many others were risking their lives to save horses and reaching into their wallets to aid the folks who had their lives turned upside down.

The stories continue to pour in:

• A groom from Peter Miller’s San Luis Rey Downs barn, Leo Tapia, risked his life to set many of the horses free so they would not burn to death.

• Trainer Martine Bellocq suffered life-threatening burns over most of her body while trying to rescue her horses.

• After Dream Tree won last Saturday’s Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos, the filly’s owner, Phoenix Thoroughbreds, said on Twitter that they donated “a huge percentage” of the winner’s share of $180,000 to the various charities related to the San Luis Rey Downs fire.

• Thoroughbred owner Kaleem Shah said he was personally going to write a $400 check to every groom affected by the fire.

• Jim McIngvale, a horse owner better known as Mattress Mack, donated a countless number of mattresses, box springs and bed frames for the displaced grooms, whose lives were rocked by the fire.

• Jockey Rajiv Maragh donated a portion of his earnings for a week to the victims, and encouraged other riders to do the same.

I’m sure there are many other heart-warming stories that have yet to be told. It’s just an example of how much these horses are loved and cared for and how people were willing to risk their lives to save them.

Where was PETA during all of this?



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