Sometimes, winning a horse race can have far-reaching effects no one can anticipate at the time.
When Drosselmeyer romped home to capture the Breeders' Cup Classic Nov. 5, it helped trigger an idea that has brought joy to racing fans and hope for ex-racehorses needing a place to call home.
The folks at WinStar Farm had been mulling the idea of a charity auction that would benefit the Thoroughbred industry in some way. After celebrating Drosselmeyer's win, the WinStar team started brainstorming and realized racing fans might enjoy getting their hands on a piece of history.
“We realized we had so many fantastic things that people valued,” said Jenny Barnett, director of WinStar StableMates, the farm's “insider” membership program for fans. “It started with the hats and grew from there.”
The hats were official Breeders' Cup caps signed by Drosselmeyer's trainer Bill Mott, jockey Mike Smith and WinStar owner Kenny Troutt. The hats would be among the many items auctioned off Dec. 9-13 on eBay. Other memorabilia included handmade halters worn by Drosselmeyer, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and two-time Breeders' Cup Classic champion Tiznow, a Breeders' Cup blanket and Drosselmeyer's Belmont Stakes-winning shoe. A Grade 1 StableMates membership was also up for bidding. All of the proceeds benefited the New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.
“We have had such a good relationship with New Vocations over the years,” said Barnett, who also works within the Bloodstock and Stallion Seasons department at WinStar. “We decided we wanted the auction proceeds to go to a specific charity, and we wanted to draw special attention to the fact that so many former racehorses need a good home.”
Since its founding in 1992, New Vocations has placed more than 3,000 Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds into qualified homes. Some of the horses are retrained for other disciplines like hunter/jumper. Others require both retraining and rehabilitation from injuries. Still others that can't perform sports are retrained for some other useful purpose so they too can find a good home.
Barnett says in all, the auction raised more than $15,800 for New Vocations.
“The money we raised is going directly into the horses, and with these new funds, New Vocations will be able to take in horses that require a much longer rehabilitation time that they normally wouldn't be able to take in,” Barnett said.
New Vocations Director Anna Ford expressed gratitude for the support from the public and for WinStar's initiative in putting the auction together.
“WinStar has been a great supporter of New Vocations efforts to rehab, retrain, and rehome retired racehorses,” Ford said. “The funds raised will go towards the board and care of the horses at our Lexington facility. One of our goals for the new year is to continue to grow both our Lexington, Ky., and Marysville, Ohio, facilities. Our largest expense is the daily board and care of the horses and both facilities have room for us to increase the number of horses we take in if funding is available.”
Barnett said the feedback from fans about the auction was amazing. She said one lady called and told Barnett she was so disappointed not to win the Tiznow halter but offered a $1,000 contribution to buy it for a young friend who is a huge Tiznow fan. WinStar found a different Tiznow halter and gave it to her for the $1,000 donation.
“We got a really positive response,” Barnett said. “Currently in our industry, people are worried about the fan base, and I think this shows that there is a tremendous fan base that loves the horses and loves the races. We love our horses, we love our fans, and we want to secure a long-term future for our industry.”
The StableMates program is another way fans can interact with WinStar through events, giveaways and VIP tours of the farm, Barnett said. For the holidays, the farm is offering 25% off Grade 2 and Grade 3 memberships. Of all the items at the auction, the StableMates G1 membership brought the highest bid – $3,250.
Barnett said WinStar is considering a similar auction next year and that the farm will continue to look out for the horses it owns and breeds and provide help to groups like New Vocations that find homes for so many others.
“Seeing our WinStar horses race gives us such joy, and we are most certainly in debt to these great athletes. It is, therefore, our responsibility to ensure that we do our best by them after their career on the racetrack comes to an end,” Barnett said. “We do our utmost to support charities like New Vocations, who do just that, they really save horses' lives. Every horse deserves a purpose in life.”
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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 New Vocations. 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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