Moreno's boys had intended to butcher Chivo. That was the plan. But that was before Chivo cozied up to La Cosa Nostra and took an interest in Social Welfare. He had eyes, too, for Lovely One—and all the other horses in Henry Moreno's stable at Santa Anita Park.
So Moreno's stable hands had a change of heart, and goat was taken off the menu. "They all fell in love with him," says Moreno. "No one would even consider butchering him."
That was 15 years ago. Today, Chivo is alive and well and still making the rounds at the trainer's stable.
Chivo and La Cosa Nostra, Prince Hal and Falstaff, Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts: In the stables, as in literature and gossip columns, what appear to be unlikely pairings often make perfect horse sense. "Goats are excellent soul mates for horses," says John Veitch, who has trained several celebrated horses, including Alydar. "Horses live a very solitary life in the stall. These animals offer a great deal of comfort."
Like many trainers, Jack Van Berg often uses goats with stall walkers—horses who pace in their stalls. "You take a real nervous horse, and sometimes it walks the stall like a damn airplane buzzing around in there," says Van Berg, who trained Alysheba, the alltime money-winning horse. "You get them with a goat, it settles them right down."
Assistant trainer Toni Tortora, who used to keep a potbellied pig named Piggy Sue at her Calder Race Course stables in Miami, bought goats Whitney and Brittany for two of her horses, both stall walkers. Not only did both horses mellow, but one even began napping lying down. "When horses stay up all night walking around, they don't get much rest, and they don't have much energy," says Tortora, adding that "goats are a lot of fun. You laugh every day because of the things they do."
And the things they eat. Tom Kelly, a New York trainer, has had Danny for 10 years. "He eats soap powder, cotton, everything up and down the shed. He usually chews something up, and you figure, well, that's the end of Danny, but hell, the next morning he's standing there." Says Jackie Brittain, who trains at Calder and has owned a goat, Billy, for 11 years, "He used to eat cigarettes. He loved tobacco. It was a phase he went through. All of a sudden he just said, 'That's it.' "
Tom Skiffington's goat, Cupid, likewise on a health kick, used to wander into other trainers' stables at Belmont Park in search of her favorite nosh. "She ate everybody else's vitamins. Do you know how much a racehorse's vitamins cost?" says Skiffington. "Every day I was trying to cool out a bunch of trainers who were mad at me. She was eating 100 dollars' worth of vitamins a day."
A goat with expensive tastes is no laughing matter for Florida trainer Sonny Hine. "No goats! They're barred!" he says. "The last goat we had ate the track stickers off my car. That was enough for me. We're always having trouble with everyone's goats. They're always wandering into someone else's barn. You hear them paging trainers every now and then, 'Come get your goat.' "
Racing Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham says it's been years since he has used goats, or "big pests" as he calls them. "I had a stall walker and put the goat in the stall to stop the horse from walking," says Whittingham. "The horse got the goat stall walking."