Some people require more than one monument to do justice to the lives they led, and John Hettinger may be one of them.
Hettinger himself was a monument in New York racing. He raced and bred horses in New York; he owned Akindale Farm in Pawling, New York; and according to his 2008 obituary in Thoroughbred Times, he was a member of the board of trustees of the New York Racing Association and chairman emeritus of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.
He was also a powerful force in the Thoroughbred auction world. From Thoroughbred Times:
During tough financial times for Fasig-Tipton in the early 1990s, Hettinger rescued North America’s oldest Thoroughbred auction company by supplying 40% ($2.4-million) of the firm’s $6-million recapitalization plan. He then supplied another $1.2-million from the trusts benefiting his sons, James and William. The funds were primarily used to pay off the sale company’s debts. The Hettingers gained voting control of the Fasig-Tipton in 1991 and held approximately 58% of voting power.
In 2001, Hettinger founded Blue Horse Charities, a division of Fasig-Tipton that was established to help those committed to ensuring that Thoroughbreds who can no longer race or breed can live safe, comfortable lives. Akindale Horse Rescue, founded in 2006, is an arm of Hettinger’s Akindale Farm; according to its website, “horses that can no longer race, are still in their prime and are ready for new careers or even just as pasture ornaments or companion animals are given safe haven at Akindale.” Akindale made news in 2008 when it became the retirement home of New York racing favorite Evening Attire.
So when, at the end of 2008, NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes and racing secretary P.J. Campo were reviewing stakes races and creating the 2009 stakes schedule, it was natural that they made the decision to honor Hettinger with an eponymous race.
“The Hettinger Stakes will be a regular race on the calendar,” said Byrnes. “John Hettinger was a long-time breeder, owner, and supporter of New York racing.”
Designed to fill a void in the filly/mare turf division, the Hettinger, which was run last weekend at Belmont, serves as a prep for the Ticonderoga, part of New York Showcase Day on October 24th. Both the Hettinger and the Ticonderoga are for fillies & mares three and up at a mile and an eighth on the turf.
In the summer of 2009 in Lexington, Kentucky, as the Fasig-Tipton Festival of Racing was being created for the Saratoga meet, Fasig-Tipton officials sat down to decide what to name the overnight stakes races that would be run on the weekend of August 8th and 9th. According to marketing assistant and client coordinator Anna Seitz at Fasig-Tipton, director of marketing Terence Collier and president and CEO Boyd Browning made the decision to name a race for John Hettinger because of his importance to Fasig-Tipton and because they wanted to honor him and his family.
“We had no reservations about having two races named after him,” said NYRA’s Byrnes.
And indeed, New York racing could do far worse than to have two reminders of the vision of Hettinger, whose legacy will lie not only in races named for him, but in horses who escape the fate that he so dreaded for them, and whose post-racing lives are a monument to the man who worked so indefatigably on their behalf.