A full house of about 300 people turned out July 24 for a poker night to raise funds for the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), which benefits retired racehorses. Though final figures weren’t immediately available, the event raised an estimated $70,000.
Owners, trainers, breeders, and jockeys ponied up the $200 buy-in to play during Poker in Paradise Presented by TVG-Betfair, held at the Del Mar Hilton across the street from Del Mar. Rick Rudman won the tournament and the grand prize of an original piece of art by Erica Nordean.
"Everybody comes and has fun at the event," said Madeline Auerbach, president of CARMA. "It’s about raising money for CARMA, but it’s also about trying to develop a sense of community within the industry. I was thrilled with the turnout."
Attendees also made donations through a 50-50 drawing and a silent auction, which included a Zenyatta saddlecloth signed by trainer John Shirreffs, jockey Mike Smith, and exercise rider Steve Willard. They could purchase potent CARMArita drinks that featured 901 Silver Tequila, an event sponsor. That allowed them to enter a drawing for a diamond donated by Prince Jewelers.
Doug O’Neill, Ron Ellis, Julio Canani, David Hofmans, Jay Robbins, Brian Koriner, Howard Zucker, and Dan Hendricks were among the trainers who participated. Though the conditioners enthusiastically jumped in as the first cards were dealt, with their early-morning schedules they were soon looking for ways to tap out. As luck would have it, most of them then began drawing winning hands.
Several industry groups purchased corporate tables: Auerbach, the Jim Rome Show, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, California Thoroughbred Trainers, the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, WestsideRentals.com, Liberty Road Stables, Oak Tree Racing Association, and Hollywood Park.
The money raised will be used to provide grants to organizations that provide homes for retired racehorses. CARMA is especially interested in programs that find second careers for these horses. In just two years, CARMA has distributed more than $400,000.