GEORGETOWN, KY – Jan. 30, 2023 – Star Plus, an Argentinian thoroughbred, who, thanks to Earle I. Mack, had purchased him, brought him to the United States to race, and then was determined to retire him, died at Old Friends on Saturday night, Jan. 28, 2023, due to a paddock accident. A reason for his death is unknown at this time. Necropsy results are pending to get an accurate cause of death.
Michael Blowen, founder and president of Old Friends, made the announcement on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. Star Plus was 20-years old and had been at the farm for 11 years.
Bred by Claudio Javier Valle and Marc Valle, Star Plus, who is by Alpha Plus–Nannar (Arg), by Big Play, was foaled on July 18, 2003 in Argentina.
The bay stallion began racing as a 3-year old in Argentina in 2006. However, his biggest win there came in 2007 when he captured the Premio Joaquin S. de Anchorena (Arg-G1) at San Isidro.
After that racing season, Star Plus was purchased by Mack and brought to the United States. He then raced him from 2008 to 2010. He was first trained in the United States by Ken McPeek, and later by Angel Penna, Jr.
Star Plus’ best finishes were a win in an allowance race at Keeneland, and a second in the Turfway Park Fall Championship Stakes (G3). Then, following his last win, which came in an allowance optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park in March 2010, Star Plus came out of the race with a severe ankle injury and was retired with six wins, eight seconds, one third, and $176,503 in earnings in 26 career starts.
With his final race in the books, Mack’s plan was to retire Star Plus so he could enjoy the rest of his life. However, the horse’s road to retirement was a long and hard fought one to achieve.
It began when Mack was advised that there was some interest in Star Plus by a small breeding farm, and he agreed to let them have him. However, he made one major stipulation, which he put in writing in the contract that stated Star Plus was never to be raced again. And, if they no longer wanted the horse, Mack should immediately be notified so that a suitable retirement home could be found for him.
However, in 2011, Mack discovered that his horse’s new owner/trainer, George Iacovacci, Sr., had put Star Plus back in training and planned to race him. And, so began Mack’s quest to get his former horse back before he got hurt, or worse, while racing once again.
In all, Star Plus raced four times for Iacovacci at three different tracks, Mt. Pleasant, Mountaineer, and Parx Racing, and finished last in all four races.
In the meantime, every time Mack saw that Star Plus was going to race, he contacted horse racing officials in those states and tracks to let them know of the horse’s medical condition and requested that the horse not be allowed to race. In addition, with the help of a number of people, including Maggie Moss, a well-known attorney and respected thoroughbred owner, letters were also sent to officials saying the same thing and requesting that the horse not be allowed to race. However, all three tracks denied the requests.
Finally, Mack took matters into his own hands, and after the horse’s fourth race, an allowance optional claiming race at Parx Racing on Jan. 28, 2012, negotiations were held, and with the help of some others, Mack purchased Star Plus back.
Then, with his horse safely back under his ownership, Mack made arrangements with Blowen, and donated his horse to Old Friends to enjoy his long-awaited, well-earned retirement. Star Plus arrived at the farm later in 2012, along with a generous donation by Mack to Old Friends to ensure the care of his horse.
“Star Plus was so much fun,” said Blowen. “We ran together (he always won, of course) and he seemed overjoyed with himself. Smart. Whimsical. Carefree. In short, a great role model.”