Special Work

By Lucy Young Hamilton

As a member of The Jockey Club, and a trustee of the New York Racing Association and Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, I am aware of the importance of Grayson-Jockey Club. My late father, William T. Young, served on Grayson's board before me, so it is particularly gratifying for me to be involved. Over the years, the foundation has been instrumental in supporting veterinary research that has aided progress in areas such as disease control, reproductive problems, and the prevention and treatment of injuries of horses.

Many aspects of veterinary research today are building on the progress of the past. The origins of the foundation date to the late 1930s. Although horses were still a key part of warfare, leaders in the horse industry recognized government could not support extensive research benefiting horses. So, leaders of the day, including William Woodward Sr., The Jockey Club chairman, decided to establish a privately funded foundation.

Adm. Cary Grayson, who had been the personal physician to President Woodrow Wilson, provided key guidance to the fledgling effort. The founders chose to name the organization the Grayson Foundation in his honor. In 1989, the original Grayson Foundation merged with a similar entity founded by The Jockey Club. Grayson had a long relationship with the research community, and The Jockey Club Research Foundation had financial wherewithal. The merger was a natural, and the annual allotment to equine research has multiplied accordingly.

A few of the breakthroughs assisted by foundation funding include the development of the vaccine used to combat Equine Viral Arteritis in the 1980s, control of Wobbler Syndrome, and development of a vaccine for virus abortion.

Such vital research projects funded by Grayson-Jockey Club continue to save horses. When Charismatic suffered an injury during the Belmont Stakes a few years ago, the attending state veterinarian, Dr. Celeste Kunz, used information from a Grayson research project. She said that "Dr. Hubbell's guidelines (using Xylazine as a sedative) enable us to treat within safe parameters and have improved the emergency care of injured horses." Charismatic survived. I am proud that the project she referred to was conducted by Dr. John Hubbell at Ohio State University and had been funded by the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.

It was a privilege to chair this year's Belmont Celebration, which raised approximately $240,000. The emphasis of the evening was, "what can we do for the future of our horses." As NYRA chairman Barry Schwartz said at last year's party, Grayson-Jockey Club Research is "the best friend a horse ever had."

Many causes connected to racing deserve our best efforts and generosity. I am personally connected with several, and believe in each of them, but the work of Grayson-Jockey Club is special. Here the good graces of those in racing directly benefit the animal that makes it all possible.

Because more than 30 scientists and veterinarians serve on its Research Advisory Committee, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation dollars hit the right targets. When this committee presents its recommendations to the foundation board of directors, we have confidence that we are funding projects outstanding in their scientific merit. The foundation does not pay any university's overhead, which means our funding is placed directly toward the research itself.

The foundation in recent years has been funding stem cell research. In horses, this does not involve embryo cells, so we do not have to worry about the philosophical and political concerns excited by that controversial topic. We are just beginning to perceive some of the positive aspects that stem cell injections might have in helping repair certain problems in horses.

This year, Grayson-Jockey Club is funding 20 projects for more than $850,000. We are proud of that figure, but unfortunately, many other worthwhile projects have to be turned down. If we had more dollars in the foundation grants budget, more projects could be funded that would greatly benefit horses and their owners.

I urge those not yet involved to join us in these worthwhile causes.

LUCY YOUNG HAMILTON is the daughter of the late William T. Young, the founder of Overbrook Farm near Lexington.