Saga of Star Plus has happy ending

by | 03.26.2012 | 3:56pm

Earle I. Mack, former owner of Star Plus, has repurchased the star-crossed horse and retired him permanently.

Mack initially transferred Star Plus, a former Grade 1-winner in Argentina, with the bill of sale stating the horse could never be raced again. But the new owner, George Iacovacci, Sr., repeatedly raced the injured horse, until Mack's attorneys successfully intervened with the racing commission in West Virginia.

Over the weekend Star Plus was repurchased by Mack and will now live out his days at Old Friends, a horse retirement program in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

“Through the efforts of concerned professionals working pro bono, we have reached a successful conclusion to this saga.  Special thanks to Karen Murphy and her legal team of Maggi Moss and Fred Heyman, as well as my racing manager, Aaron Cohen, who worked tirelessly to stop the injustice of racing an unsound and infirm horse”, said Mack.

Mack bought Star Plus in 2008 after witnessing him win a Grade 1 race in Argentina. Star Plus never returned to form and a severe injury resulted in him being retired. There was no interest standing him at commercial stud and a bloodstock agent tried to find him a good home.

Instead Star Plus was raced five times by owner/trainer Iacovacci at racinos in Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, losing by 20-38 lengths each time, with the chart comment “labored throughout”.

The saga of Star Plus was reported in the Paulick Report and helped rally the industry to his cause.

  • Meyer1127

    There is a horse GOD.Such happy news.

  • Guest

    thank you ray, and ambassador mack. Sad that you have to “permanently” retire this magnificent horse again. Hope those parasites that did this rot.

  • McGov

    It’s comforting to know that Star Plus gets the Disney finish.  I look forward to a day that I watch the races without seeing any hiorses “labouring throughout”.

  • Marty

    This is wonderful. I was praying that Star Plus would have a happy ending. Thanks to Maggi Moss and of course Mr. Mack who never gave up.

  • Barbara

    What, no mention of Darcy Scudero, who is now a “bloodstock agent” and didn’t even write a bill of sale in the first place, but had the buyer send her one after the fact, that she then scrawled the not to race instruction on and signed?

    I like the happy ending and all, but lets not gild the lily so much.

  • Not Shocked

    Too bad, I was looking forward to seeing him race on the turf at Keeneland next month.

  • JC

    Thank God and Mr. Paulick for drawing attention to this issue.  I need to make a donation to Old Friends anyway, and now I will make a bigger one.  Kudos also to Old Friends for making a home for Star Plus.  Prayers xoxoxo  :-)  

  • dh

    I heard Scudero and sidekick Brenda Typpo were negotiating with Old Friends on what their commision should be on the latest sale of Star Plus.

  • dh

    Not Shocked,
    I heard Brenda Typpo was breezing him just last week.

  • August Song

    Is it possible that George Iacovacci could now drop dead? Just wondering ……

  • Cher Villalobos

    Thanks for posting the follow up.  Good for STAR PLUS.

  • Bushwick

    Heard Kelsey LeFevre is pissed she was the under bidder. She liked the way he traveled and thought he would be a great project to re train.

  • Gfpowell

    Happy 4 Star Plus. Now he can really be a star. TX to Earle Mack and his legal team. SHAME on the tracks, state vets, stewards, and commissions who endorsed this abuse and cruelty to Star Plus even after they were aware of the situation.

  • JC

     Ditto Ditto Ditto 

  • Wolfwhistler

    Great story, but Mack has enough money to have bought the horse back, without letting this get this far.

  • Sahwntd05

    Racing isn’t easy for any horse, and there have been many that have made come backs! I’ve witnessed quite a few horses race ” on the drop” even ones that belong to Maggie, that was dropping in class because of soundness issues… They still ran. Everyone’s pointing the finger at George, when all he done is what Kelly told him to do. If this horse was/is sooo loved, why was he S
    OLD to begin with?! If xrays say he is able… Hope to see him perform.

  • Racherasaro

    Thank you Ray for bringing this into the light and a happy ending for Star Plus.Not all can be saved but I for one am happy to see any good news!

  • Darcy Scudero

    Hey Sunshine, Keep a closer eye for the WHOLE story and follow-up in the NY Times via Joe Drape. Karen, Fred and myself all flew in to Mtnr. for the private hearing.. along with Assistant Attorney General Kelli Talbot. Sad that it took going OVER the stewards heads to get the ‘right’ thing done… But Star Plus is safe in a stall awaiting a ride to Denali until his permenant spot opens up at Old Friends.

  • Darcy Scudero

    Unfortunately, the xrays were not good. Star Plus has Degenerative Bone Disease, and his ankles have deteriorated. Iocavacci could only ‘mask’ his pain by blocking and nerving him.

  • equine

    Many thanks to the pro bono legal team of Karen Murphy, Maggie Moss, et al. Without their valuable assistance, the retirement of Star Plus would not have been possible.

    However, the big picture issue of permanently retiring Thoroughbreds from racing with their pedigrees intact remains unaddressed by the Jockey Club; the only organization with the authority to effect this change. My hope is the JC will respond with issuance of alternate foal papers thus fulfilling the important needs of owners to safely rehome TBs without devaluing them further by loss of pedigree.

  • Darcy Scudero

    Amen. It took Assistant Attorney General, Kelli Talbot to call this hearing and push this through- ridiculous. Kelli is also investigating whether Iacovacci will continue to hold a TB Trainers license in the US. Fred Haymen and Karen Murphy will continue to donate their time to help see that he doesn’t.

  • Nucky Thompson

    You’re right, whistler. It was only after Star Plus started singing this song that we got the happy ending :

    “Earle I. Mack , Earle I. Mack, why don’t you buy me back ,  why don’t you buy me back”

  • Not Shocked

    It is an absolute disgrace that you continue to harass this trainer.  If you weren’t so irresponsibe in the first place, none of this would have happened.  Trying to get the guys licensed revoked… are pathetic.

  • Merasmag

     if u give me a little advance notice i can get the ntra press release ready

    thanking u in advance,
    sharon in chicago

  • Merasmag

     so pedigree matters 2 a horse on a pasture?…how can a pedigree b revoked???
    thats not a big picture issue 2me…tho im sure it sumhow means $$$2sum1…

    the BIG picture is

    banning which will help horses more???…people have been hearing about steroids for almost 15 years…it sounds good but those r knot gonna KILL A HORSE as soon as lottsa other things

  • Merasmag

     lasix…took sum myself this AM

  • Blinkers

    Nice that he is retiring to old friends but who foots the bill as he lives out the rest of his life…does Earl Mack get a free ride for his horse..or does he pay monthly bills….just wondering how these retirement homes for horses work

  • HappyHarriet

    A small monthly check to Old Friends, sent by everyone who has strong feelings about horse care, would be a good path to follow.  One less latte per week = $10 per month for the horses at Old Friends (or other good rescues). 

  • Merasmag

     u r talking about 5 2$wagers…wtf buys latte here? joe drape?

  • Convene

    Kudos to all who worked to get this outrageous situation resolved. Mr. Mack seems to have made it quite plain that the horse was never to race again. Where were W.Va and PA’s heads at that they didn’t think they had an obligation to refuse entries from a disqualified horse? Seems to me that, in this era of mudslinging at our sport, those in positions requiring integrity would be scrupulous in their efforts to show racing as clean and moral. Thank you Earle Mack for trying to do right by the horse, at original sale and when the truth emerged. Thank you too to Maggi Moss and everyone else who rallied to ensure that Star Plus got the retirement he deserved. Here we see the extreme contrast between the best and the worst of racing. Thank God the best won out.

  • Bvnilla

    he altered a bill of sale , he deserves anything he gets

  • Bvnilla

    they are usually a 501 3c and they operate on donations and fundraisers to let the horses live out their lives in retirement.


    SHAME on Earle Mack and Maggi Moss.  These two make me want to puke.  First the Hon. Ambassador who has unlimited money and yet needs a team of pro-bono lawyers to bail his butt out of a jam he created.  He tried to wash his hands of a bad buy and he got busted.  Then he was polished up by news reports that he wrote “Never to Race”.  I am calling BS.  Then, we have Ms. Moss Esq.  Where do I start?  What an absolute laugh her spelling, grammar, syntax, and sentence structure is.  I dare say Pro-Bono for her services is way too expensive.  I am surprised that high school English wasn’t a Pre-requisite for what ever two bit Law School she matriculated from.  What a pair of stars, we need to heap more praise on them.


    If this is the case, then Mack didn’t write “Not to Race” after all.  Maggi Moss should have had the horse transferred to one of her trainers.  Then they could give the horse Mepivicaine blocks in both legs from the knees down and run him for 5K at Retama and he would win by a football field.  Then when the horse finally has had it, they can just dump him where they dump all their injured exercise riders (I’m guessing near the Mexico/TX border).  Maggi, have any associates that can do this?  Your faux concern for horses is nauseatingly vomitous.



  • Joy Aten

    Most certainly horses are forced to continue to run with injuries, or “soundness issues”, and George and Kelly have been guilty of this for years. George actually bragged about running his unsound horses, all caught on a hidden camera interview and subsequently aired on a Detroit television news program. But nothing stops this pair, and I bet they are gleefully rubbing their filthy hands together at having pocketed more cash from the sale of a damaged, used-up Star Plus. While I am thrilled Star Plus has been removed from this duo, their other unfortunate horses must wait for help that might never come. For starters, how about the Thomas-Narlinger LLC NY-bred Gonna Wynsum, last raced by Iacovacci on 3-11-12. Or One Hundred Laughs, bred by R. Santulli and Bobby Flay, last race March 18. How nice that Gonna Wynsum’s breeders have two horses nominated for the 2011 NY-bred Divisional Champions in the 3 y/o male division…an honor and achievement any breeder would be proud of. I would bet they had higher hopes for Gonna Wynsum than to end up in the stable of Iacovacci and Spanabel, literally running for his life. Unfortunately, horses like Gonna Wynsum and One Hundred Laughs are just two representatives of the backbone of the racing industry…those “cheap claimers” that labor under the radar then disappear, while barely no one notices.  

  • Mac

    Mr. Mack repurchased the horse.   Although this was a good ending for Star Plus, the real winners here are George Iacovacci and Kelly Spanabel who are laughing all the way to the bank.  This won’t be a win for anyone until racing bans people like them.

  • Not Shocked

    So, you want to ban from the game anyone that buys a horse and then resells it for a profit ?  They made a good business decision, good for them.

  • Not Shocked

    He did no such thing.  Stop spreading misinformation.  While they may not be a pillars of the turf, they didn’t do anything wrong.  They bought a cheap horse with a little back class and tried to get him back to the races and make a profit. 

  • Not Shocked

    My head is spinning by reading your posts and the number of times you have changed your story.  Stop trying to villify these people because they bought a horse that you sold them.

  • Harry Buchanan

    Mac is 100% correct. Iacovacci and jockey Kelly Spanabel bought this horse with the understanding to find a home for this horse not race him. After breaking their promise they tried to race him and he trailed all four times being beaten 20-30 lengths each time. When a horse gets beat like that something is wrong. Normal trainer would stop running him until examining him properly to see what was wrong. Every time they ran the horse they were harming him more to the point of serious breakdown on track hurting not only himself but other horses on the track. Mr.Mac through legal action had to buy back this horse and do what Iacovacci should have done in the first place. Iacovacci not only harmed Star Plus but got paid in order to stop the hurt. Yes both he and Spanabel should be banned from racing. By way Iacovacci win % o/40 give and take a few starts.

  • Darcy Scudero

    sorry Shocked- didn’t mean to bend your little brain.

  • Darcy Scudero

    Mac, you are right- they got $7k for Star and they were thrilled. At the hearing Star Plus was banned from running because they COULDN’T prove ownership, even though they did have the JC papers signed over to them, the conditions of the ORIGINAL BOS weren’t followed. If we went to court the horse would’ve been awarded back to us… but by then they’d of dumped Star Plus. Unfortunately brains like Not Shocked, Barbara, and DH think that ALL this took place without any facts?? sure. 

  • Bristling

    she is just as guilty as George

  • Darcy Scudero

    Agreed Joy. The fact that ANYONE would condone this behavior is disconcerning. The (small) group of people that keep defending this team remind me of the people that bag up puppies and kittens. What a disgusting display of humanity.

  • DJB

    As you said, Joy, George & Kelly have been guilty of this for years & everyone in the business knows it.  I have to wonder why Scudero would sell the horse to them to begin with considering their past history?  Did she think they were going to give pony rides & feed him carrots in their back yard?  Then again maybe she is a newbie in the horse business and she learned to find out some information before getting rid of a horse for an owner that didn’t want him raced.  If not, then she sold him to some people who have made a career of this type of behavior so I don’t know why anyone is surprised.  It seems as though breach of contract would have been easy to stop if a contract was in place.  I wouldn’t bother watching the NYT story, they have never let the truth get in the way of a good story.  There is certainly no defending people who would race a horse like this, it’s despicable, but  George & Kelly didn’t chang their pedigree to get Star Plus so something doesn’t make much sense.  I am happy for the horses sake that this is over.  Hard to figure out where the culpability lies.  Allot of dodging going on, I’m sure.

  • Darcy Scudero

    DJB. I had never heard Iacovacci’s name before Kelly Spanabel told me to put him on the JC papers. SHE answered an ad that was placed on a PUBLIC site offering him as a Stallion Prospect. I knew Kelly as an ‘acquaintance’ 20+ yrs ago as a jockey from a very poor family.. she didn’t have much presence, but was always a very hard worker. I have ALL the e-mails of the dialogue between she and myself leading up to the purchase- ALL e-mails show CLEAR intent of her interest in the horse to stand in Ohio at Barbarinos farm to cover her own 8 mares for the Breeders incentive program. It was THOSE e-mails that stopped them in their tracks at the hearing. If you’d like me to send you the e-mails, I’d be happy to forward ‘how’ this happened. Thank you.

  • dh

    Hopefully Mr. Mack took the $7k out of your end, and then fired your ass.

  • Darcy Scudero

    Lol… luckily people like Mack stand behind little idiots like me, I’m sure THAT’S how he got so succussful… crawl back under your rock ‘no name’…. BTW, I’ll be up your way this summer… lunch?? xx

  • Gail0625

    Old Friends is a 501c3 and they do operate on donations and fundraisers.  Gee…let me see…over 100 retired horses..feeding..ferrier…vet bills…..   that’s alot of fundraising.  Everyone that cheers on these horses to get into retirement needs to donate to their favorite rescue to help them continue to do their good work.

  • guest

    Everyone knows Spanabel is Iacovacci’s girlfriend.  Where have you been….

  • Jnelson

    Thankfully there are people like Earle who actually care about the animals.   Posting i sent to NYRA earlier this evening:

    Aqueduct Greed-Mongers:  You people should all be arrested, tried for
    cruelty to animals and put in jail for a very long time.  Shame on you for
    what you do, placing sheer profit high above any human concern about the health
    of these helpless and graceful animals.   Every day that you go to
    work and allow the continued death of horses that should not be racing you
    should live in shame for what you do.  What if your own children were
    treated this way (irresponsible drug injections just to make money for someone
    else…think about it)   How dare you!     Let’s
    hope that someone is paying attention.



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