RTCA White Horse Award Winners For 2008!

by Edward Smith

This photo was snapped just seconds after the announcement was made and the White Horse trophy was handed by White Horse Award Sponsor Mr. Duncan Taylor to Larry Higgs (left of statue) and Todd Malley part of the group nominated for their rescue attempts of horses at the tragic barn fire in Vinton, Louisiana. Standing with RTCA Executive Director Dr. Enrique Torres and White Horse Awards Co-Host Mr. Pat Day.

Larry and Todd were very emotional as they gave interviews to the media immediately following the award luncheon, held on the grounds under a tent on Oct. 23, 2008 at the Santa Anita Race Track- the home of the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Races.

They recapped the tragic event that occurred on a hot summer night at the Alvin Smith Jr’s farm just at sunset. In minutes the fire engulfed the stables that housed horses that had just been returned to their stalls. Larry and Todd jumped in with Beau Smith and Jason Inabinett and other barn workers as they struggled to rescue the horses. Beau Smith had to be restrained by firemen who arrived on the scene as he continued to enter the flaming barn to try to save another horse. Jason Inabinett was injured by the horse he was attempting to rescue that through him up on the hot sides of the barn injuring his shoulder and scaling his back. The heroic efforts made at great personal risk led to the rescue of 19 of the beloved horses.

Larry and Todd gave this quote to the media at Santa Anita-

We kept trying to get them out, and you heard them screaming for their lives,” remembered Malley. 23. “There’s always going to be a piece of my heart back in that barn,” said Malley, who is also a blacksmith at Louisiana-based racetracks and farms. “Those horses (who died) were like family to me — they put food on the table.” 

“In time, we’ll get over it, but it was a tragedy that happened that couldn’t be helped,” added Higgs. “You just had to react to it — you didn’t have time to think. We love horses — horses are our lives, and we’re going to continue (in the industry) down the road.”

“(This award) means everything to us,” Higgs continued. “(Horses) are our job, our livelihood. This is what we do and who we are. It’s just wonderful to be nominated for this great award, and it’s even better to win the nomination. On behalf of everybody that was in that fire, we would like to give our gratitude and thanks.”

The other White Horse award nominees were John Porter and Robert Gaylor; Rachel Pitt, Bryan Smith, and Danny Mele; and jockey Calvin Borel, who all performed separate heroic acts over the last year. A total of twenty nominees including family were hosted by the RTCA that included two days at the Breeders’ Cup and other tours and dinners and entertainment to thank them for their acts of valor and the RTCA thanks Mr. Johnny Trotter who helped sponsor the hosting activities for the nominees.

While White Horse Award winners received a $5,000 first prize, a special edition white bronze statue by Lisa Perry, and other gifts and prizes, the three runners-up received $1,000 and all-expenses-paid trips to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

In addition to the nominees, equine artist Fred Stone was also honored with the RTCA’s Unbridled’s Song Community Award. 
Stone has raised thousands of dollars to aid racetrack workers, veterinary research, victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and families of the firefighters killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

In an interview with BloodHorse magazine Mr. Stone was quoted as-
“I think I’m the luckiest man on the face of this earth, because I’m able to do something now that every man hopes and dreams he can do, and that’s help so many other people,” said Stone.

The White Horse Luncheon, co-hosted by retired jockey Pat Day and HRTV personality Carolyn Conley also featured a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the RTMC and entertainment by Sharyn Lynn. A painting of Colonel John was auctioned live and fetched a $6,000 bid from the colt’s owners Bill and Susan Casner of WinStar Farm.

The White Horse awards is sponsored by Taylor Made, Inc and the RTCA is so grateful to the support from Mr. Duncan Taylor, the President of Taylor Made and from the White Horse Fellowship Sponsor that make this unique award possible.

After the award was presented by Duncan Taylor he told the media-
 “God wants us to be his hands, his feet, his eyes, and wants us to do the work of the world, and I feel humbled to be around people that are doing this, the more you give, the more God gives you back, and we’re humbled and honored to be able to help the Race Track Chaplaincy.”