TRF Directors Seek Dismissal of Lawsuit

TRF directors seek dismissal of New York State Attorney General's lawsuit.

Directors of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation have filed papers in New York State Supreme Court calling for dismissal of a lawsuit filed by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that seeks removal of the TRF board.

In their filing, the TRF directors say the charges made in the May 3 filing by Schneiderman are without merit, and that the attorney general had access to information from the horse retirement program showing that the claims were without merit. In seeking removal of the TRF board, Schneiderman alleged that the directors had “ruined” the finances of the non-for-profit corporation by allowing horses under the TRF’s care to become neglected.

“Over the past year, the board has engaged in a series of financially irresponsible transactions, borrowing to pay off existing debt and invading TRF’s restricted endowment fund, that have damaged further TRF’s ability to fulfill its charitable purposes of protecting Thoroughbreds from neglect and mistreatment," according to the lawsuit brought in state court against the current and former directors.

Named as defendants are John C. Moore, Robert Hinkle, Michael Lakow, Diana Pikulski, Hayward R. Pressman, Leslie Priggen, John S. Rainey, Margaret Santulli, and the TRF.

With about 1,100 horses under its care, the TRF is the nation’s largest Thoroughbred retirement organization. It is headquartered in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. According to the filing, the TRF has raised approximately $40 million in charitable donations during its 30-year existence.

“This lawsuit is a shocking case of misguided regulators knowingly and intentionally making false allegations that would constitute actionable libel if the allegations were not contained in a complaint,” states the TRF filing filed by Barry Ostrager, the TRF’s attorney and president of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders. “The complaint should be dismissed and an inquiry conducted as to how such a monumental misallocation of governmental resources has been permitted to move forward into the court in this state.”

In its filing, TRF said it had taken action to reduce the size of its herd and that it had entered into an arrangement under which Colorado ranch owner Tom McKenna would oversee about 500 TRF-managed horses at his 60,000-acre property.

Included in the supporting documentation in TRF’s filing were an affidavit from James Gagliano, president of The Jockey Club, detailing contributions of $450,000 to the retirement organization from 2009-11 on the condition the TRF not take in any more new horses, except those used in its prison programs. The TRF also defended its actions with regard to its management of an endowment set up by the Paul Mellon Estate.

Schneiderman issued a statement on the latest developments.

"Since the filing of our lawsuit, the attorney general has received additional complaints about TRF’s failure to properly execute its mission of caring for retired racehorses," said Jennifer Givner, a spokeswoman for Schneiderman. "We are confident that the courts will reject this desperate attempt by TRF’s board to gloss over the failures that have plagued the organization, and give new leadership an opportunity to bring reform."