West Point Thoroughbreds founder Terry Finley understands that no one person can solve the challenge of aftercare for ex-racehorses. But that didn't stop Finley and his colleagues from creating a fund that will help provide a safety net for horses that carry the black and gold colors of West Point onto the racetrack.
Finley, on the one-year anniversary of the passing of popular West Point employee Congie DeVito, last week announced the creation of the Congie Black and Gold Fund to assist in the retirement of horses that have or will race for the partnership.
DeVito, who was profiled just over a year ago as part of our Three Chimneys sponsored Good News Friday series, was an extraordinary man who bravely and cheerfully fought Osteogenesis Imperfecta (also known as brittle bone disease) throughout his short life. His death at the age of 35 brought great sadness to anyone who knew him, and the naming of a program to fund ex-racehorses seems to be a wonderful legacy.
“Congie was our first employee,” said Finley. “He bravely faced his physical challenges, was a real inspiration to all of us, and absolutely loved horses – they were a huge part of his life. I can't think of a better way to honor his memory than to secure a safe future for all runners that carry the black and gold.”
The program will be administered through the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, the oldest and largest organization devoted to aftercare. Funding will go toward re-homing, re-training, and the daily care for the West Point horses no longer racing. For every new partnership horse, West Point will allocate $1,000 to the fund, and add $10 per start from the partnership, with West Point management matching the amount. Partners and anyone else who wants to memorialize DeVito and support the West Point horses are encouraged to make additional contributions.
Thoroughbred Aftercare “is a very complex issue and challenge,” Finley said. “If it wasn't so complex, the problem already would have been taken care of. It comes down to money. The overriding challenge is funding.”
West Point staff members were looking for ways to honor their friend and colleague and also discussing how to formalize an aftercare effort on behalf of their horses. “It kind of melded together,” said Finley. “First and foremost, we wanted to take care of these horses, and we wanted to do something for Congie, too. We talked about having a day in his memory each year, but felt this really honors him in a bigger way. It just kind of fell into place. No one person came up with the idea; it was more the power of the team.
“We've got 500 partners, and many of them wanted to help provide for the horses when they were done racing, but there was no mechanism to formalize it,” said Finley. “This gives us and our partners a vehicle to make the donations and help the horses. It's a totally segregated fund at the TRF, and is not administered by West Point. We can fund-raise for the Congie Black and Gold Fund and people can write checks to it.”
The program goes into affect immediately, said Finley.
“We've done OK tracking our horses in the past, but now it's out in the open. If somebody has a West Point horse, just call us. I want fixed responsibility. It struck me that if we're not going to accept total responsibility for a horse, nobody – whether it's the Breeders' Cup, Keeneland, or The Jockey Club – nobody else can be expected to do it. It's not going to be a sea change. All politics is local, and all welfare is local.”
Why is the fund being set up through TRF, I asked Finley.
“I was frustrated when people went after the TRF last year,” he said. “I'm a loyal guy. They do good work. I'm on several boards, including one for Catholic charities, and some of these charities get criticized unfairly. Plus the economy has hurt many charities. This is a time we need to support the TRF more than ever. Hopefully this will increase donations to them.”
To learn more about the Congie Black and Gold Fund or make a donation, click here.
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Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be made in support of the Congie Black and Gold Fund. Three Chimneys will be donating $100 each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.
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