BERKELEY (KPIX 5) -- A Bay Area race track is investigating why one of its thoroughbreds ended up on the auction block, where horses are at risk of being sent to slaughter.
As KPIX 5 reported earlier this year, the policy at Golden Gate Fields bans retired horses from being taken to auction. But as we discovered, a horse fell through the cracks.
He's called New Macho Man, a two-year-old thoroughbred with a Kentucky pedigree. After a race in January, he came in third, but got injured.
Two months later, he was on the block at an auction house in Turlock. A KPIX 5 investigation found many race horses end up there, selling for pennies on the dollar.
Megan Gaynes and her partner Anne Kent run a rescue group called Auction Horses Rescue, and bought him for $280.
The group said race horses, especially injured ones, are not safe at auctions.
"Most people they want quarter horses, they want paints, they want cute ponies. Typically thoroughbreds don't sell well so typically the kill buyer will buy them," Gaynes said.
"Kill buyers" are horse traders that truck the horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.
Sending horses to slaughter is illegal in California, but our investigation found no one is enforcing the law.
In an email to KPIX 5, the California Department of Food and Agriculture admitted, "When the practice of slaughtering horses was discontinued, so were the funds for inspection."
That means no one is checking who is bringing horses to auction, or who is buying them. "It's kind of like the wild west," said Gaynes.
Since the state is not doing anything, some racetracks are taking matters into their own hands. At Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley, trainers can lose their job if their horses end up at auction.
So how did New Macho Man slip through the cracks?
"I didn't even know," said his trainer, O.J. Jauregui, who keeps 27 racehorses at the track. He told KPIX 5 he gave the injured horse to a friend, who gave it to another friend. "It's hard for us to find out what is going to happen down the line," he said.
It's a story Megan Gaynes said she has heard all too often. "Maybe they handed him off to someone that he thought was good but I am skeptical," she said.
"Hearing about it actually makes me angry," said Golden Gate Fields General manager Joe Morris. He has launched an investigation.
"It's something we are adamant on and is a part of racing here at Golden Gate Fields, these horses are going to get taken care of in their second career after racing. That needs to be tightened up," Morris said.
For now though, he's grateful New Macho Man got rescued. "I was happy to hear the horse didn't go through the auction and got taken out of it," he said.
From his new digs in Southern California, New Macho Man seems grateful too.
Despite repeated requests, the auction house where New Macho Man ended up refused to tell KPIX 5 who brought the horse in.
(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
for more features.