Aristan and Selznick were not necessarily stars on the racetrack, but they still mean everything to the people who helped bring them into the world, their breeders. That is why the two retired Thoroughbreds are among the first Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation horses set to return to their birthplaces under a TRF initiative to include breeders in the care and expenditures involved in taking care of the more than 1,300 retired horses under the organization's care.
"We know that there are many conscientious breeders out there who care about the horses they brought into the world and would never want anything bad to happen to them," said TRF executive director Diana Pikulksi. "Sometimes, horses slip through the cracks and their breeders or original owners never know what happened to them. In many cases, they wind up with us. We want to give people the chance to take these horses back and care for them, just as they did when they were babies on their farms."
The TRF is only in the initial stages of the program, but has already received a positive response from those breeders who have been contacted. The first to agree to take part in the program were Marlene Brody of Gallagher's Stud in Ghent, New York and Arthur and Staci Hancock of Stone Farm in Paris, Kentucky.
Aristan, a 15-year-old gelding, was bred by Mrs. Brody and her late husband, Jerry. He came to the TRF after finishing seventh in a $5,000 claimer at Penn National in 1999.
"I think all breeders should be willing to take back a horse that they bred who needs a home, if they have a farm," said Marlene Brody. "Or everyone should pay money into a fund to care for unwanted racehorses."
Aristan has already arrived at Gallagher's Stud, where he is enjoying the good life.
Selznick, who is a 9-year-old son of Harlan, was bred by the Hancock's Stone Farm. He last appeared in a $5,500 claimer at Turf Paradise in 2001. He will soon be returned to the Hancocks.
"Because of the on-going efforts of the TRF, we are bringing Selznick back to Stone Farm," Staci Hancock said. "I haven't seen him since he was sold as a yearling in '98, but I remember him as a beautiful colt. I look forward to seeing him again. I plan to turn him out with some other geldings who have found their way back to Stone Farm also. I am looking to find them all second careers."As breeders, we can't take every horse back. We need to join together to stop slaughter so that horses who are not successful on the track have a chance for a second career. Too many times owners are impatient and take the quick and easy way out. They ask too much from their horses too early and too often and allow medications that cause permanent injury, robbing them of the chance to perform on a different level."Breeders who do not have farms or adequate space to take in extra horses can still contribute by sponsoring a horse or by making a direction contribution to the TRF.
"We are committed to taking care of as many retired Thoroughbreds as possible," Pikulski said. "Every time someone can take back a horse, that opens up space and financial resources to for a new horse in need. By taking back a horse they bred, a breeder will be doing more than just giving a home to their horse. They very well could be saving the life of a horse who otherwise might have gone to slaughter."