from The Exceller Fund
New York-based trainer Gary Contessa has been named president of the Exceller Fund, a non-profit organization that transitions former racehorses into new careers.
A Long Island, N.Y., native, Contessa began his career in the early 1970s at Belmont Park before obtaining his trainer’s license in 1985. Based year-round at the major New York tracks, Contessa currently ranks among the top 10 trainers in the United States.
“My whole life has been built around racehorses, and I see this as an opportunity to give even more back to these wonderful animals,” Contessa said. “I have numerous retired Thoroughbreds at my farm in upstate New York, and I have been a major supporter of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and Equine Advocates for many years, but I want to do more. My primary focus will be raising awareness about the Exceller Fund and raising funds for the continuing care of the fund’s horses.”
The Exceller Fund was formed more than 10 years ago to honor Exceller, the Racing Hall of Fame Thoroughbred who died in a Swedish slaughterhouse in 1997 when he was deemed worthless as a breeding stallion. His accomplishments included the unique feat of defeating two Triple Crown winners—Affirmed and Seattle Slew—in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in New York.
The Exceller Fund’s mission is “providing a future beyond the finish line” for racehorses that are no longer productive at the track. Some are offered for adoption as riding horses or companions, while others remain under the Exceller Fund’s care at a number of farms throughout the nation. The organization is financed through tax-deductible donations.
Contessa replaces Bonnie Mizrahi, an original member on the Exceller Fund board of directors who will maintain her position of treasurer. Niki Smith has accepted the newly created position of executive director after serving as vice president of the volunteer-based organization. Billy Huntington, owner and operator of Huntington Equine in Lexington, has been added to the board of directors.
“I am very excited by this new development,” Mizrahi said. “I have always considered The Exceller Fund to be fans of racing who are seeking to help the horses that provided the thrills, the beauty, and the nobility that make racing the Sport of Kings. To have a major trainer such as Gary Contessa want to be the president and champion our efforts is a thrill and an honor.”