The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has completed the rebuilding of its board of directors after losing several members during years of turmoil that included a lawsuit filed in 2012 by the New York Attorney General's office.
The foundation announced March 15 that its last seat on the board will be filled by Lenny Hale. For 11 years, Hale worked for the New York Racing Association and was a senior vice president of racing and properties when he left NYRA. In his long career, he has worked as starter; paddock, placing, and patrol judge; and racing secretary at Hialeah Park, Garden State Park, Delaware Park, Calder Casino & Race Course, and Colonial Downs. A former vice president of racing for the Maryland Jockey Club, Hale has also been a trainer and consultant and handled the boarding of broodmares and lay-ups at Rockburn Farm in Virginia.
"Thoroughbred racing has been very good to me throughout my long career from hotwalker and exercise rider/pony boy to senior vice president of racing for NYRA and the Maryland Jockey Club," Hale said. "I am honored to be accepted on their board and will certainly do everything in my power to advance the mission of the organization."
Michael Lakow, the CEO for the TRF, said: "I have known and respected Lenny for many years and feel his experience, expertise, and passion for Thoroughbreds makes him a perfect addition for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation board."
Other relatively recent additions to the board are Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association, and Suzie O'Cain, stallion manager for Highcliff Farm and board member for New York Thoroughbred Breeders. The remainder of the TRF board includes chairman John Moore, Hayward Pressman, Leslie Priggen, Peggy Santulli, TRF director of external affairs Diana Pikulski, and Lakow.
The TRF, founded in 1982, is one of the world's oldest and largest equine rescue organizations. Its mission is providing homes and necessary medical care for Thoroughbred horses that have been retired from racing. Hundreds of these horses have been retrained for other horse careers.
"It is so important for us to have people who understand the demands of Thoroughbred racing and why there needs to be a no-kill Thoroughbred home for these athletes who give us so much," said Moore, noting that the TRF is the only rescue organization whose charter restricts it to accepting only Thoroughbreds with a racing record. "Lenny Hale certainly understands that, and we are lucky to have someone like him. We believe the industry cannot afford to look the other way and must provide a solution."
In May 2012 New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a suit against the foundation, accusing the organization of "recklessly" allowing the size of its horse herd to grow at a time when its financial condition led to underfunding of basic equine care programs. When the suit was filed, one of Schneiderman's goals was to have a state court remove the foundation's board of directors. However, four members of the nine-member board were not serving when the lawsuit was filed.
The TRF has contended in court documents that the attorney general complaint is without merit.
"We are in the early stages of discovery in what promises to be a long, senseless, drawn-out litigation," Moore said. "The AG has been stressing the urgency of this suit for several years because of the health of the horses, but the horses are as healthy now as they were several years ago."
The TRF has almost 1,000 Thoroughbreds under its care at 24 farms around the country.