Racing officials: Industry-wide solution needed on Thoroughbred aftercare

by | 08.15.2012 | 8:07am

The overriding message delivered by officials at Tuesday's session of the Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming conference was that racing needs to devise an “industry-wide approach” for the funding and operating of post-retirement programs for racehorses, reports the Daily Racing Form.

Several of the racing officials that spoke operate retirement programs at lower- or middle-tier tracks, and said that they “bear a greater burden for finding homes for retired racehorses than their larger counterparts because of the greater proportion of near-retirement horses that typically perform at their tracks.” Because of this, these racetracks are under more pressure and scrutiny than larger facilities, while having fewer resources to devote.

“Since we're often the last stop, we're considered to be more responsible,” said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs.

  • Thelordbaganal

    It is time to stop wagging the chin and do something .

  • Mainoffice

    How about the TB Aftercare Alliance .

    Give them a call .

    All you get is an answering machine .

    Returned e mail that tells you nothing .

    Wake up and put your words into action .

    There are great opportunities and success stories .

    Bring it out of Saratoga and into the barn and real world .

  • R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Does not anyone in the industry understand that funding for racehorse retirement and rehabilitation must be mandatory? Has it not been proven over and over that voluntary funding does not work? Besides the horses deserve a portion of the revenue for their well being. The thoroughbred racing industry is a multi-billion dollar industry nationally and the money is there to support the horses. The industry needs to stop procrastinating about this issue and implement mandatory funding at every racetrack. The majority of money needs to come from a percentage of the purses but mandatory fees must be placed on breeders and jockeys and racetrack management should commit to a mandatory fee as well.
    Of course there needs to be accreditation and  oversight of facilities as well and monitoring of horses. These programs that put horses on the Internet for adoption and then do not follow up on them or only for a short period of time does not work and many horses end up in harm’s way. The mentality that a retirement and rehabilitation program should be a “run them in and run them out” program is wrong and does not serve or protect the horses in the long run. Adopting mares out to be bred to produce more horses is not helping the situation either and should be banned.  Since 2004 our organization has asked and advocated to the industry to fund racehorse retirement on a mandatory level. It is now 2012. It is a disgrace that the very fiber of the industry, the horses are still not being financially supported properly and many are still ending up at auction or slaughter. This is not rocket science stuff here folks and can be done but it is going to take a lot of hard work, dedicated people, constant monitoring of the horses and oversight of facilities in addition to the substantial perpetual funding that is needed.  Every week, month and year the thoroughbred racing industry procrastinates about this issue there are thoroughbreds in harm’s way or standing in a kill pen and crying out for help and no one comes because of money. Surely our horses deserve better than that.

  • MelodyTS

    With the commencement this year of the new Jockey Club
    Thoroughbred Incentive Fund program providing support for competitions geared
    for retired race horses, it opens up a world of new venues to showcase off
    track Thoroughbreds in multiple riding disciplines.  Offering year end points, prizes and cash
    purses for JC TIP rated classes and divisions at affiliated competitions, this
    program will promote new careers for OTTB’s and deserves support through
    sponsorship from not just the race tracks but the entire equestrian industry in
    this country. We have come full circle in the horse show world, back to our
    roots and an appreciation of the unique talents of one of America’s great
    resources, the American Thoroughbred.

    In New England, the North East Thoroughbred Sporthorse
    Association, (NETSA) is hosting the only JC TIP show for 2012 on October 7, 2012
    and received a Title Sponsorship from Suffolk Downs! Please visit http://www.NorthEastThoroughbr
    for more information on the show. 

  • Anne

    I agree with Mainoffice. I just recently rescued one in MI. The only help I received was from 4 gals who had all quit a popular rescue group because of the rescue’s  incompetence. I called this gentleman in charge of this so called rescue group (they have rescues in other states, CA for one) who was going to call one of these gals and never did. (We knew he wouldn’t but I needed evidence), I called NY Throughbreds here in Saratoga, nothing, had someone contact the breeder, nothing, contacted other rescue farms…nothing.  Michael Blowen from Old Friends was the only one who contacted me besides one other rescue that could not help but gave me another set of so called do gooders to contact that did nothing, NO repsponses is what I mean when I say nothing. Same as below, answering machine with “will call back” or emails that have nothing to do with what you contact them about. These gals that help rescue or have rescues also work other jobs to survive. Their rescues live on donations to support their organizations.
      I mentioned how it was said by Rick Violette that a low percentage of TBs goes to slaughter and the rescue’s response was “it depends on what auction you go to and what track.  Numbers are not accuarate. Many in racing like to down play it.” I know the hell I went through with the owners of the horse I rescued and will be paying for this rescue until I die. He didn’t deserve his fate. MI is way to close to Canada and this track is the pits. This owner/trainer combo have sent horses to Canada for spite if hounded about rescuing a horse. We could not let them know our interest until we had a trainer. Not as easy as some think it is but unless they are injured to the point of no return…euthanizing them is not the solution. There needs to be TB Aftercare and these owners and or breeders who made the money on these TBs need to step up to the plate. People, such as myself, that were involved in a partnership of a claimer who fell into hard times do not have the funds to rescue them all. This horse earned $50,000 for us. Once the owner/trainer combo learned we finally had someone to claim him he was in a 4000 dollar claiming race. They laughed all the way to the bank. It is a track where trainers do not claim from other trainers… but this one trainer that we finally found agreed because of the connection to Old Friends. 4 months we worked on this claim.
     Look no farther than those mares from Asmussen’s. Thank God these gals are at these slaughter pens.. or they would have been slaughtered…one was in foal!
     This summer at Saratoga, there are 20,000 dollar claiming races filled with horses that have earned between 100,000-400,000 or more. Geldings or older mares.  
    Makes me sick and it should do the same to others in this business.

  • s/s

    Its getting near the end of the Del Mar meet where horses will make that right turn onto the 5 freeway for the 20 mile trip to Mexico for their “retirement”. Happens every year.

  • Pembury

    The members of the Northeast Thoroughbred Sporthorse Assoc. can attest to the truth of  the words of Chip Tuttle of Suffolk Downs. Suffolk Downs will be one of the major contributors to the success of NETSA’s October 7th Horse Show to be held at Saddle Rowe in Medway, MA and we are pleased with the response for support from  others in the Thoroughbred industry in New England.  The show will be the first thoroughbred show ever held in New England and there will be classes for half-thoroughbreds also.

  • Pembury

    I’d like to present an answer  to R.A.C.E. Fund’s comment  that breeding OTTB mares should be banned.  That is opposition to the beliefs of members of Northeast Thoroughbred Sporthorse Assoc., especially in view of the absolutely fantastic horses that have resulted from crossing a thoroughbred mare to a Sporthorse stallion.  Without the possibility of breeding them, there is no tougher job than finding a new career for a “sore” mare (and many people don’t want even a sound mare for such activities as eventing.}  It was with the knowledge that  breeding a mare may save her life that the NETSA organization is offering classes for half-breds at their October 7 Show in Medway Ma.
    I have been crossing exceptional thoroughbred mares to a German pinto sporthorse for a number of years and love the results. 
    check out for details about this active New England-based organization.

  • Cubs Stink

    Isn’t it about time the horseman start putting the horses first and earmark money from each start and each race to thoroughbred aftercare.  Like most things with horse racing, the mentality is backwards.   If $50k were cut from each graded stake to fund aftercare programs would anyone really care if they won a grade one and pocketed $30k less for the winners share?  The people normally winning those races usually care more about the graded win than the purse anyway.   Horse racing continues to shoot itself between the eyes, not unlike horses shipped to Canada.

  • JB56

    Without the horses theres no racing…….make EVERYONE who enjoys and benefits from the sport accountable to put something in the pot – Tracks, Owners, Trainers……..and YES, Jockeys and Horseplayers too.  Maybe some sort of “tax”….a very small extra takeout earmarked just for retirement fund….from betting handle, Jock fees, etc, etc  For all those high earners now running in claimers mentioned above… about a % of the claim price gets taken for a retirement fund every time a horse is claimed.  There are numerous possibilities.  I know about all the issues with tracks losing money, high cost of ownership……but theres still millions of dollars bouncing around this industry. 

  • FourCats

    It’s my view that the current owner should be responsible for the care of the horse when he/she retires.  I have one horse retired and pay for all his care (to the tune of close to $8,000 a year).  If you can’t afford to take care of the horse after that horse retires, you shouldn’t own him.

    It’s great that there are charitable organizations and farms that are willing to take some of the horses when they’re retired, but it’s not anyone elses responsibility except the owner.

  • Sean Kerr

    Thanks for the article post Ray:

    To all concerned: I am involved with a group of racing industry stakeholders that is drafting a
    plan which has a component that focuses solely on the racehorse welfare issues
    discussed here. If anyone is interested in getting involved please send us an
    email to [email protected] – thank you

  • R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    The thoroughbred industry is producing over 30,000 foals each and every year. Isn’t that enough? There are already too many horses and to adopt out mares to produce more is not helping the situation. Yes, they may have a home as long as they can produce but what happens to them afterwards when they cannot or what happens to all of the foals that do not turn out or down the road? People and the industry need to start looking at the long term effects of their short term actions.

  • Roisin.

    I agree. The money needs to come from mandatory contributations within the industry. The process needs to be well monitored from start to finish. I often talk to people re. the welfare of race horses and they are clueless on the issue of what the fate of the horse is once they no longer produce. There needs to be a lot more publicity in this regard. It seems the industry has, up to now, succeded in sweeping this nasty little secret under the rug.

    As an individual of modest means, I have managed to “save ” 7 Thoroughbreds that remain directly under my supervision. Every little counts. As is often said “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”. 


  • May Flower

    I agree with everything you said.

    However, for many related reasons, from safety to quality to reputation and to better manage –physically and financially– equine retirement, the racing industry needs to begin with eliminating most of its problems by preventing the normalized abuse of its horses.

    If more horses were retired before giving “all they’ve got”, more would be easier, faster and cheaper to rehab and adopt out.

  • May Flower

     Anne: Thank you for what you did, for what you do and what you took the time to write and share with us. You are someone very special.

  • horse

    Anne, you must broaden your horizons before being so passionate about small scale rescue. Go to Beulah Park, Canterbury, Charles Town, Ellis Park, Evangeline Downs, Fonner Park, Louisiana Downs, Mountaineer, Penn National, Prairie Meadows, River Downs, Remington Park, Sunland Park, Thistledown, or Turf Paradise to do some charity work, observe the horses there, then tell the readers what difference there is between the real world containing the greatest numbers of geldings and old race mares which compete in far less elite company than $20k claiming races at the SPA and the near pristine world in which you reside.

  • Maglvsracing

    I agree…It does put too much on the tracks that run horses near ‘the end of the line’…The breeders need to be responsible for contributing a set amount of dollars into a central fund (maybe run by the Jockey Club) for retirement. Then a fee again at the time of registration.  Not all fees will be ultimately used, of course, such as when a horse goes to a breeding farm upon retirement, or gets privately purchased, or dies.  However, his money will stay in the fund, to be used toward other horses in need.  We as a society are too aware of animal rights now to not address this.  It won’t be long before racing won’t have enough fans to support the tracks, and won’t get thoses fans back.  Race horses can’t be treated like an agricultural product from the breeders.  If the horsemen don’t want change, and to pay now for retirement placement options, then just wait until there is not enough revenue to even support the game any more.  The low end claiming game has got to go, too.  It does nothing to support the broken down injured horses that the horsemen are trying to squeeze one more pay check out of.  If they don’t want to change now, and are afraid of losing jobs and having to learn a new skill, then just wait till it’s inevitible by public pressure and no funds.

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