Four racehorse adoption agencies went home from the Spiral Stakes (gr. III) March 23 with checks totaling $13,740 from the Turfway Aftercare Program, a joint funding effort by Turfway Park and owners who race their horses at the Northern Kentucky track.
TAP collects one dollar from racehorse owners for each horse they start at Turfway. At year's end Turfway matches the donation, and the fund is divided among partner agencies based on the number of "Turfway horses" each took into its program during the calendar year. A "Turfway horse" either ran its final race at Turfway or was stabled at Turfway at the time it was sent to an agency. The program works with agencies either based in Kentucky or that have Kentucky satellite locations.
All together, 34 "Turfway horses" were transitioned from the track in 2012 by the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, New Vocations, Second Stride, and CANTER Kentucky. The agencies work to rehabilitate and retrain the horses and/or transition them into second careers as show horses or trail and companion horses.
"Winter slows down adoptions but increases all related care and feed bills, so getting funding in March really makes a huge difference," said Kim Smith, founder and executive director of Second Stride in Prospect, Ky. "Our fundraisers don't gear up until April when people are getting Derby fever, and the major Thoroughbred-related grants start to pay out in May and June. So the Turfway donation is a ray of sunlight for sure.
"We always make sure we have enough money to properly care for and feed the horses we have, so when funding dips and expenses increase, we have to restrict the intake of new horses--right at the time many trainers are wanting to retire older runners," Smith continued. "Thanks to the educational push and prominence of (the aftercare issue) trainers are retiring older runners sooner. They're ready to replace older horses with 2-year-olds coming from the training farms. So we need money to get these older fellows off the track now, not two months from now."
The Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association worked with Turfway Park management to define contributions to the opt-out program. TAP wrote its first checks to adoption agencies last year for horses accepted in 2011, but 2012 marks the program's first full year of funding. The program was launched in mid-2011, and while Turfway made its own contribution retroactive to the meet that began Jan. 1, owners' contributions did not begin until the race meets held in September and December. In 2012, contributions from owners and the track both commenced Jan. 1, the start of the winter/spring meet.
Agencies that received TAP funds for 2011 and 2012 met standards established by the track and the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance, an industry organization that accredits racetracks. Going forward, TAP partner agencies must also be accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Broadly supported across the racing industry, the TAA was founded in early 2012 to confirm agency compliance with standards addressing operations, education, horse management including euthanasia policies, facility services, adoption policies, and status as recognized charitable organizations.
Turfway has been accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Safety and Integrity Alliance since its inception in 2009. Turfway's own efforts to assist trainers in transitioning racehorses off the track began a year earlier with the establishment of a surrender stall program. Provided certain conditions are met, the surrender stall program gives owners the option to leave a horse in Turfway's care while the track arranges placement with one of its partner agencies. In practice, most owners instead continue to pay their trainers to keep a retiring horse in familiar surroundings while placement arrangements are made.
"While we keep the surrender stall ready, we're more and more seeing trainers retire horses in good time and take the initiative to contact agencies on their own," said Turfway Park general manager Chip Bach. "The agencies also send volunteers to the track to educate trainers and keep them aware of their options. The entire racing industry depends on the wellbeing of the horse, and we are proud to partner with these groups and to help fund their efforts."