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MIAMI — When rescuers found the horse, he was tied to a palm tree on a Northwest Miami-Dade County farm where animals die for meat: a skinny, diseased wreck with rotting hooves and hide. Only the tattoo inside his upper lip hinted at his regal bloodline: Freedom's Flight, descendant of Triple Crown winners Seattle Slew and Secretariat.
"Anything that could be wrong with a horse was wrong with him," said Richard Cuoto, now Freedom's Flight's owner. "He's a fighter, but he had his head down, like, 'Just shoot me."'
Freedom's Flight's descent from the thoroughbred circuit's pampered paddocks into equine hell took just three months after a mishap at Gulfstream Park. It's not possible to document each step of his sad journey, but Cuoto, a board member of the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, believes he was destined for the underground horse meat market.
"He was thrown away three, four times," Cuoto said.
Freedom's Flight was born Feb. 16, 2005, at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky's Bluegrass region, linked to greatness by sire and dam.
His father, Pulpit, is the grandson of Seattle Slew, who won the Triple Crown in 1977. Freedom Flight's great-great grandfather, the legendary Secretariat, won it in 1973.