Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Goes to the Source

Fred Winters, operations director for the Lexington-based Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, spoke to members of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Manager's Club Tuesday about the plight of some 1,100 former racehorses in need of adoption.

"We need help," said Winters, himself a past president the KTFMC. "We all created this problem and we need to help find the solution. We're asking you to take these horses and care for them so they can care for you."

Winters said his group, headquartered at the TRF Maker's Mark Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park, currently has more than 1,100 horses nationwide in need of a new home.

"This figure has increased nearly 100% in the year and a half I've been involved," said Winters. "Unfortunately the fundraising has not followed this same dramatic increase. Our feeling is that everybody has a responsibility to the horse."

Winters said part of the large influx of racehorses is a positive trend.

"We have so many right now because our education program is starting to get through to people," he said. "What we need to do now is have these owners and trainers get together and send us as many as they can before they're so injured they're basically done."

Winters said the TRF is also working on introducing a "Social Security System for the Thoroughbred Racehorse," asking owners and/or trainers to pay a $5 fee each time one of their horses starts a race.

Owners and/or trainers can also donate based on winnings.

According to the TRF, in 2003, 489,708 starts were made by horses competing in the United States and Canada. The group estimates that if 60% of those owners and/or trainers agree to make the $5 contribution, $1.47 million could be put into equine social security.

In the same year, a total of $1.06-billion was paid out to winning owners. A contribution of 1 1/4 of 1% would equal $2.63 million. At a 60% owner contribution rate, $1.57 million could be raised.

Winters said a coalition of racetrack managers, horse owners, and trainers will administer the trust fund, a separate, not-for-profit, tax exempt 501 (C) 3.

According to the TRF, 65,976 horses were slaughtered at one of the three foreign-owned slaughterhouses in the U.S. It estimates that as many as 10% of those destroyed in such a manner are Thoroughbreds.