One of the most widely known and far reaching aftercare-focused organizations in Thoroughbred horse racing, Thoroughbred Charities of America is gearing up for its signature fundraiser, the Stallion Season Auction and Celebration. Now in its 27th year, the annual auction runs online from January 2 through January 6th, with a gala-style party, silent auction and select live auction in Lexington at Keeneland's Entertainment Center on January 7th.
Roughly 150 seasons to stallions from around the country will be available via online auction. At the January 7th gala, seasons to Medaglia d'Oro, Blame, Into Mischief, Speightstown and Malibu Moon, among others, will be up for bid in the live auction, along with a selection of other items, including a John Deere mower, a two-year lease on a Jeep and a 20-year-old bottle of highly coveted Pappy Van Winkle bourbon. In addition, there will be a silent auction which will include a wide variety of items for people from all walks of life.
While the organization has mastered the art of hosting a money-making event, it's their work throughout the rest of the year that makes a difference in the lives of so many, both horses and humans.
“TCA provides grant funding to non-profits across the country who are helping horses transition into new careers after racing,” said TCA Executive Director Erin Crady. “We also balance this model by supporting health and human services organizations that assist racetrack and farm workers, as well as those organizations who are marketing these Thoroughbreds and incentivizing more people to purchase and compete with them after their racing careers are over.”
Crady has noticed a trend in recent years toward not only aftercare awareness but also action throughout the racing industry. As both the primary gatekeeper of the grants awarded by the group each year and the voice of the organization, the trend is one she works hard to maintain.
“We've been afforded more speaking engagements the past few years to educate people about responsible aftercare,” said Crady. “I think that speaks to the evolution of increased awareness and concern for aftercare issues. Recently I've spoken at Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) ownership seminars, OwnerView conferences and the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) conference, to name a few. There are more opportunities to share knowledge with racehorse owners – new, prospective and existing – than ever before.”
Another foray into educating the public about Thoroughbred aftercare has been through the TCA's involvement with the Retired Racehorse Project's Thoroughbred Makeover, the Thoroughbred Incentive Program (TIP), the TAKE2 Program and others, which support aftercare efforts by providing educational and competition opportunities aimed at enhancing the value of off-the-track Thoroughbreds.
This marks the key difference between TCA and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), which has become widely regarded as the Thoroughbred industry's aftercare accreditation body.
“The TAA was formed out of a TCA board meeting, where then-Vice President Jack Wolf asked a very important question – how are we going to establish mandatory and permanent funding for aftercare. Our president, Dan Rosenberg, suggested he form a committee to work on the issue and that's how the TAA began,” said Crady. “I think the two organizations complement each other very well. Our board believes very strongly in funding aftercare, but we also have the flexibility to offer grant money to non-profits doing other worthwhile work on behalf of horses and the people who care for them.”
In addition to the offering of grant money, TCA also honors individuals or organizations at the state level who are upholding their mission locally through the TCA Award of Merit program.
“It's an opportunity to honor people at the local level who might not otherwise gain that recognition for what they're doing,” said Crady.
One initiative recently undertaken by the TCA is the Horses First Fund. The fund, established by LNJ Foxwoods to aid in the care and placement of the 43 horses discovered abandoned and starving in Mercer County, Ky., earlier this year, will serve to help first responders care for horses found in similar situations in the future.
“At this year's Stallion Season Auction and Celebration we're doing something a bit different than usual, in that we will be honoring the volunteers involved with the Mercer County rescue,” said Crady. “LNJ Foxwoods has been a tremendous supporter of TCA.”
While fairly new to racing as compared to many other owners of their caliber, LNJ Foxwoods has quickly become a visible advocate for racehorse retirement and aftercare. In addition to starting the Horses First Fund, they are this year's platinum sponsor for the TCA Stallion Season Auction and Celebration, and with Olga Aguilar, donated the bottle of Pappy Van Winkle to the event's live auction lineup.
“I just scheduled the last Sallee van to take the last horse from her foster home to TRF this week, which brings it all full circle,” said Crady. “We're excited to honor those who made that possible and to raise money to ensure a proper retirement for many more horses coming off of the track at next month's event.”
Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others. While she currently has no plans to build an arc, she is the go-to food source for two dogs, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.
Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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