The Turfway Aftercare Program has written its first checks, sending funds to four racehorse adoption groups in April and May. The program was developed last year to assist groups that accept retiring racehorses, prepare them for life off the track, and place them in new homes.
For 2011, a total of $11,818 was distributed among New Vocations, Second Stride, the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, and, due to special circumstances, Old Friends. The distribution was determined by the number of retiring "Turfway" racehorses each agency accepted during the calendar year 2011.
A "Turfway" horse is one that either was stabled at Turfway Park at the time of its acceptance into an adoption program or ran its final race at the track. Altogether 37 horses met the criteria to be included in the 2011 accounting.
The Turfway Aftercare Program is funded by horse owners, who pay $1 each time one of their horses runs at the track, and by Turfway, which matches the per-start fee. While the program did not officially begin for owners until September 2011, Turfway added its share retroactive to January 1, the start of the 2011 winter/spring meet.
The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association worked with Turfway Park management to define contributions to the opt-out program.
All agencies that receive funds must meet standards determined by the track, be based in Kentucky or have an established satellite location in the state, and be able to take physical possession of horses. Additionally, in the future agencies must also be approved by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
While the Turfway Aftercare Program is now in its second year as a funding mechanism, Turfway has maintained a surrender stall since 2008. The surrender stall program gives owners the option to leave a retiring horse in Turfway's care, provided certain conditions are met. The track then works to place the horse with one of its partner agencies. Although track employees have physically cared for perhaps half a dozen surrender stall tenants since the program began, most owners have opted to continue to pay their trainers to keep a surrendered horse in familiar surroundings while Turfway arranges placement and transportation.
While Old Friends has long provided horses a home in retirement, the group does not place horses for adoption. Old Friends was included in the 2011 distribution in appreciation for the group's willingness to accept Stormy Passage, a claiming horse in the surrender stall that required immediate and intense veterinary care and lengthy rehabilitation at a time when adoption agencies were filled to capacity.