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.