Checking in on Thoroughbred retirement

I was recently given the opportunity by the Daily Racing Form to investigate Thoroughbred retirement in New York State; the article was published on the DRF website last Friday and in the print edition of the paper on Sunday.

In researching the aricle, I was able to speak to people who respresented various elements of the Thoroughbred racing community in this state: horsemen, owners, executives, non-profit directors, government, breeders. And as you will see if you read the article, the news is mostly good. (And I hope that you will read it—you may need to register at the DRF website, but it’s free.)

A variety of non-profits is working with the racing community to help provide homes and jobs for Thoroughbreds when their racing days are over, and the racing industry itself has, over the last few years, stepped up its own efforts to help provide for racehorse retirement.

As generous as the DRF was with space for the article, there was nonetheless some information that I couldn’t quite fit in. For instance: The breeders’ check-off program that the Jockey Club oversees offers breeders a variety of contribution options; when breeders register foals, they can check off an amount ($25, $50, $75, $100) or write in their own. As noted in the article, breeders in 2009 contributed $52,000 from the check-off program; contributions accompanied the registration of approximately 1,150 foals.

The article refers to a voluntary donation that NYRA jockeys can make, $1 from each of their mounts at a NYRA track. 31 New York jockeys are participating in the program that began at the end of June 2009, and last year the participating jockeys contributed $8,133.

In addition, Joe Mahoney at the New York State Racing and Wagering Board indicates that there is discussion about earmarking a portion of VLT money (yes, trying to say that with a straight face) for Thoroughbred retirement. Mahoney pointed out that in these economic times, it’s tough to make a case to taxpayers that they should support racehorses, and suggested that making the earmark a part of legislation is the “best case scenario,” because it would lock the contributions in.

Earlier this week, Joe Drape wrote about the state’s response to Thoroughbred welfare following the discovery of mistreated horses at Ernie Paragallo’s farm in upstate New York, and Thoroughbred Times reported that that the ASPCA is establishing a fund to support equine rescue. Six organizations–California Equine Retirement Foundation; Old Friends; MidAtlantic Horse Rescue; the Kentucky Equine Humane Center; the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation; and the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses (CANTER)—will receive funding.

Racing nationwide, and certainly here in New York, has its share of woes. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to identify a myriad of challenges the sport is facing. But fortunately, and thanks to the efforts and contributions of people across the racing community, at least there’s some good news about the horses who can no longer make a living on the track.

5 thoughts on “Checking in on Thoroughbred retirement

  1. kudos on the DRF piece and covering this very important part of racing. it needs publicity, funds, and more people like you and the folks who run these facilities and care for these horses.

  2. Thanks for reporting this information. I volunteer with Friends of Ferdinand, Inc. in Indiana. We have two TB racetracks in the state. Based on our annual financial report from last year, only 9% of our income came from the race industry, compared to 91% that came from grants and donations from the general public. So even in tight economies, the people still do support good causes. 🙂

  3. The quote from Mike Repole about owners having responsibility for their horses, winners or not, is the absolute truth. I grew up down the road from Old Friends and the Kentucky Horse Park, some of my first experiences with horses weren't at the track, but with retired horses. I haven't had the opportunity to visit Old Friends, but I have heard wonderful things. Taking care of retired horses is something that people have complete control over. Owners have a responsibility to make the right choices, and fans have an equal responsibility to demand that they act with decency.

  4. Thanks, everyone, for reading and commenting. It was gratifying to learn how much is being done by so many different elemens of the industry.

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