Three Chimneys presents Good News Friday: ‘Taxi’ and Takeoff

by | 03.22.2013 | 1:11pm
Magna Fortuna won by 9 3/4 lengths at Hawthorne on March 13, 2013

When Magna Fortuna dug in for the start of Race 2 at Hawthorne March 13, the tote board said he was 4-1 odds to win.

But if a futures pool existed for such a thing, the odds might have been four million to one that this 3-year-old colt would be alive, let alone anxiously awaiting the gates to fly open in a horse race.

For the first weeks of his life, no one knew Magna Fortuna, a.k.a. “Taxi”, even existed.  He was growing inside his mother, who was shipped off to an Indiana livestock auction in June, 2009.

The mare was hours away from being sent to slaughter when Gail Vacca of the Illinois Equine Humane Center (ILEHC) spotted her at the back of a pen, clearly in distress.

“I told the kill buyer, I'd really like to buy that mare.  She will not make the trip to Canada,” Vacca said.  “He didn't want to, but eventually he sold her to me for $300.”

As they nursed “Lulu” to health, Vacca and her staff discovered that she was pregnant.  They would later learn that Lulu was actually a mare named Silver Option and that the foal inside of her was a son of Magna Graduate.

Magna Fortuna with mom, Silver Option

Magna Fortuna with mom, Silver Option

Taxi was born on Tax Day, April 15, 2010.  The ILEHC staff registered him with the Jockey Club and named him Magna Fortuna, which means “great luck” or “great fortune.”  They decided perhaps this colt should do what he was born to do, and the group formed a racing partnership.

“I thought maybe he could make it to the track and become a “spokeshorse” for the way some of these broodmares are treated,” Vacca said.  “It just defies description that people can do this, throw them away like garbage the minute they can't make money off of them.”

We first met Magna Fortuna last December as he prepared to begin his racing career.  In his first outing at Hawthorne, Magna Fortuna finished ninth of 12 runners in a Maiden Special Weight race at six furlongs.  In his second start in February, he came in seventh of 11 at the same level and distance.  But the colt's partners and his trainer, Michele Boyce, were not discouraged. They felt he would improve in a longer race.

On March 13, Laura Donohoe, an ILEHC volunteer who helped head up the partnership, stood on the track apron at Hawthorne, too nervous to watch Magna Fortuna run his third race, this time at 1 1/16 miles.

“I was just listening.  I kept listening to (track announcer) Peter Galassi's call,” Donohoe said.  “I kept hearing Magna Fortuna, Magna Fortuna.  Then he said Taxi was starting to widen, and I looked up and saw him flying, and I couldn't believe it.”

Magna Fortuna hit the wire 9 3/4 lengths in front of his rivals (watch the replay, race 2, 3/13/13).  The partners jumped for joy and embraced each other as if they had just won the Kentucky Derby.

“It was just an incredible mixture of elation and I don't want to say shock or disbelief – we had faith that he could do it – it was just so emphatic,” Donohoe said.  “It was just like, that's our horse!”

Magna Fortuna before race-001There were others in the stands cheering that day who had come to the track just to see “their horse” run.

“We've gotten fan emails to Taxi, so many emails from people that saw the story and are pulling for him,” said Donohoe.  “One of the reasons that we got into this was to drive awareness around responsible ownership, so the positive response has been good.”

Donohoe said there are no immediate plans for Magna Fortuna's next race, but the partners are on the same page about his career.  He will never be entered in a claiming race, where he could be purchased, and his well-being will always be the top priority.

“Hopefully, he'll have a long, successful career in racing, and afterwards, we'll find the perfect second career for him.  He's a very smart horse, and he likes to keep busy.”

Right now, Magna Fortuna is “just chilling,” awaiting his next opportunity to break from the gates and defy the odds once more.

“You can tell he wants to run again, but we're not going to rush him,” Donohoe said.  “We're trying to set him up for a long, healthy career.  As Michele said, we'll let Taxi tell us when he's ready.”

A percentage of Magna Fortuna's earnings will go to the Illinois Equine Humane Center, where his 16-year-old mother has a permanent home.  Little does she know that her son, a colt that only she knew existed in those fateful days three years ago, is helping take care of her.

  • Don Reed

    Scott: The videos. Stop imitating what you see on ESPN. What you are is much. much better. Be yourself.

  • Stanley inman

    Great story
    reminder of
    what it’s all about!

  • La Paloma

    Thank you 3 Chimneys for sponsoring “Good News Fridays”. Hope this story makes it to all the
    States contemplating horse slaughter.

  • Victoria

    WOW !!! what an unbelievably wonderful story. Magna Fortuna, indeed!

  • Granny

    This is a horse who maybe needs to be on the Derby road–could be a fairytale come true! Great story of people in horse racing who really care about “the horse.” There are more good things in racing which the public never hears about. The media is all too quick to report the so-called ills of the sport. Kudos to Scott Jagow for an awesome article!!

  • Gambling Granny

    How do we find out how the mare ended up in this “auction” in the first place? Someone needs to atone.

    • Nancy L. Reagan

      Read the complete story by clicking “we first met” in the article above. It will curl your hair and make you cry.

  • Roisin

    What a lucky day for the mare and her foa lwhen she was taken from the pen by Gail Vacca. How could anyone send a pregnant mare to slaughter, it’s beyond heartless.

    I wish Magna fortuna and his owners a wonderful time racing and rejoicing !

  • Patti Davis

    As a (very) proud supporter of the Illinois Equine Humane Center and a new volunteer, I was at Hawthorne on Narch 13 to see “Taxi” break his maiden. It was absolutely thrilling (and I don’t own a hair of this horse): as Scott’s article mentions, there were people there just to see the horse because they’d heard about or read about Taxi’s remarkable story. They came sporting the yellow and black colors of Rescue Me Racing’s silks! Hawthorne Race Course would do well to take note.

    By the way, if you’re interested in seeing one happy group of folks in Magna Fortuna’s Winner’s Circle, check out the win photo from Four Footed Fotos (track photographer) here: (Click Race 2). It quite reminded me of Funny Cide and the Sackatoga Stable partnership.

    Hearty congrats to Rescue Me Racing, trainer Michele Boyce, the ILHEC, and (of course) “Taxi.”

    • Nancy L Reagan

      I have been to 2 of his races and I, too, am not a partner but was so touched by this story that I had to go. I have been introduced to some of the partners and have emailed congrats after the win, as I wasn’t there that day. Looking forward to his next race. He’s an IL bred so we won’t have to run against him, as I probably would be pulling for him to make up the exacta. Michelle’s done a nice job with him. I have forwarded his story to lots of people.

      • Thanks Nancy! We definitely could not have come this far without Michele!

      • Patti Davis

        Nancy, aren’t you one of Arlington’s “red coats” working up in the suites? And have TBs with Wayne Catalano? Haven’t we met? :-)

    • Roisin

      Thank you for the link to the photo, great ! I also loved the race replay. Magna Ffortuna is a nice looking Thoroughbred

    • Thank you so much, Patti! It was great meeting you on race day and we hope to see you again when our little guy runs! We truly appreciate the support!

  • Liz Morris

    I take my hat off to the whole operation that saved this mare and her wonderful foal Taxi!!! And I am grateful there team is bringing awareness to this situation. TB Racing is an awesome sport I am blessed to have a career in, although some people do not respect the game enough to take responsibility for the outcome of these awesome horses who do not choose to be breed into this career. As well as of any one else who choses to bring life into this world, with any other pet or work animal or even women having a child. There are responsibilities that come with those choices and throwing things in the garbage or the easy way or convienant way out is not the right or responsible way out. I was a jockey , those horses made me my living and still do, I repect them, admire them, and give what i can to support there second careers that they deserve, and i wish more people would think this way as Taxies partners have done for him.God will bless them all for their good deeds and kindness. Thank You!!!

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