Issue of tracking horses part of New York aftercare meeting

By: Tom LaMarra

Posted: Aug. 30, 2017

Properly identifying horses that leave racetracks—and keeping track of them afterward—was one of the themes of an Aug. 29 aftercare roundtable hosted by the New York State Gaming Commission.

The meeting was part of broader effort by the NYSGC to expand awareness of aftercare programs. It was attended by representatives of various retirement programs at racetracks and farms around New York with a goal of identifying funding sources for aftercare and strengthening accountability.

“I’m in awe of what you guys do,” Lee Park, NYSGC Director of Communications, told aftercare representatives. “You are the real heroes, and there are many others not at the table today that should be recognized. At a base minimum, we can use the commission as a bully pulpit to get the word out about what you do and to promote the idea of retiring racehorses while they’re still sound.”

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which has two programs—TAKE THE LEAD, its official retirement program, and TAKE2, which promotes and facilitates second careers for the retirees—was represented at the meeting by NYTHA board member Richard Schosberg, who chairs the organization’s Aftercare Committee, and NYTHA Executive Director Andy Belfiore.

Belfiore said TAKE THE LEAD found homes for 98 racehorses last year, and that NYTHA donated $137,000 to accredited aftercare organizations on top of a $5 per-start fee and donations from owners and trainers. TAKE2, which offers prize money and year-end awards for Thoroughbred hunters and jumpers, is involved in about 350 horse shows in 23 states.

Part of the Aug. 29 discussion was based upon a recent NYSGC initiative to track retired Thoroughbred racehorses in the state from 2010-12 that hadn’t raced thereafter. Thus far, about 50% of 3,800 horses have been identified.

Attendees noted part of the problem is the lack of a standardized tracking system with documentation when horses leave racetracks–not only in New York. Schosberg offered his thoughts on how the system can be dramatically improved based on experiences with TAKE THE LEAD.

“We identify where every horse goes and we follow it on the path to adoption,” he said. “I don’t think any funding is needed (to document when horses leave the racetrack). All you need to do is regulate it. It should be pretty simple to put the information into a data bank. It would be like every other regulation–it would meet with resistance but once in place, it would be simple.

“It could start tomorrow at (New York Racing Association) tracks.”

Park said a regulation for protocol on horses leaving racetrack grounds upon retirement “is something we could look at it.” He also said the tracking study from 2010-12 helped create a baseline so the NYSGC could better inform policymakers and the public on aftercare needs.

Stacie Clark Rogers, who oversees operations for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, said the racing industry has an infrastructure it didn’t have even five years ago. Still, she said, “the missing gap” is keeping track of horses as they leave the racetrack.

One of the goals of the NYSGC is to determine how much additional funding is needed to cover the rehabilitation, retraining and rehoming, or long-term sanctuary, of the horses retiring from New York’s tracks. Belfiore pointed out that the data needed to make an informed estimate exists now.

“We know the identity of the horses that are leaving the tracks and going to accredited aftercare facilities, and we know how much funding is donated on behalf of each horse,” she said. “We also know how much it costs to provide aftercare for those horses. It should be a relatively easy task to determine the shortfall.”

(Photo of TAKE THE LEAD retiree Straight Fox courtesy of NYTHA)