Lanny Brooks, president of the Illinois Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association, which sponsors the sale, said this is the largest number of horses to be offered in the more than 20-year history of the public paddock auction."This is the largest sale we have ever had," Brooks said. "Just to give you an idea, last year we sold 35 horses. We are expecting a really large crowd, a lot of people from the St. Louis area have expressed interest in purchasing horses to be re-trained into jumpers and dressage horses and the ones that do not fall into that category could easily fit into another trainer's barn for racing."While Brooks said there is no guarantee that representatives from slaughter companies will not be on the sale grounds, he did say that every precaution would be taken to prevent the horses being purchased for the purpose of slaughter. The goal of the sale is to find the horses new homes where they can be re-trained for new careers or for just pleasure horses."We will have representatives from the CANTER programming monitoring the sale and if a representative from a slaughter company is bidding on the horse we will have someone bidding to keep it away from slaughter," he said. "Last year with only 35 horses selling they averaged $1,038 and with the only two slaughterhouses operating being in Texas I think there is a pretty good chance that each horse purchased will be safe from slaughter."Fairmount Park and CANTER (Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses), which provides a means for the public to view racehorses retiring from the track that are available for adoption or purchase, often work together to find retiring racehorses new homes and new careers.While CANTER is not affiliated with the sale, it has posted an advertisement of the upcoming auction and listing of horses wth photos on its web site. The increase in the number of horses offered in this sale has taken Brooks by surprise but he believes the increase has a lot to do with the current state of Illinois racing.
"We are kind of in a state of limbo here in Illinois," he said. "With the purse structure and the lack of expanded gaming, I would say a few trainers are offering the horses because they can't afford to feed them for another winter."