In researching the Video Lottery Terminal issues facing the New York Racing Association, I found that the equine community is much larger, and more influential, than I had ever really realized before.
The racetrack community, in particular, affects every walk of life. Hardware stores, grocery stores, the local mall, restaurants, plumbers, construction – everyone is connected by their mutual needs. That’s community.
Look within the insular racing world and see the equestrian communities we are all familiar with. Not just the trainers and riders and grooms, but the farriers, the vets, racing officials, secretaries, stewards, dentists. Look at the breeding farms, the training centers, the lay-up and rehab farms – all of the above. All those people, all those services, all those transactions. Transactions – that’s the key here.
Herb Moelis, the out-going president of the Thoroughbred Charities of America, wrote in The Blood-Horse last month that higher expectations must be placed on all the players in the game and members of the industry if charities and adoption organizations hope to keep up with the demand for responsible Thoroughbred retirement.
Together with Ms. Allaire du Pont, Moelis and his wife founded the first and now largest Thoroughbred retirement funding charity in the country. Twenty years later, TCA can raise $20 million from their stallion season auctions in partnership with Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland. Impressive – but sadly in the horse world, not enough.
Moelis suggests in his column that funding Thoroughbred retirement cease to be a charitable donation, and becomes an industry requirement. Moreover, it shouldn’t be entirely upon the breeders. The Jockey Club’s foal check-off, a charitable donation requested when each foal is registered, is only asked of breeders. The stallion season auctions are underwritten, of course, by the breeding farms, who bear the costs of standing the stallion and covering the mares.
What if, Moelis asks, a small percentage of all the transactions in the racing industry were dedicated to Thoroughbred retirement. Not as a charity – but as an obligation?
What a step that would be, to treat the life-long welfare of Thoroughbreds as an obligation of the industry. Imagine if the Thoroughbred racing industry were at the forefront of humanitarian efforts in the United States. Imagine if suddenly the cry wasn’t about tens of thousands of unwanted foals born each year to go from racetrack to kill pen in a few short, harsh years, but tens of thousands of thoughtfully bred, carefully raised racehorses that would eventually go on to careers as show horses, as sport horses, as beloved pets.
As a member of the many communities we live in – local villages, big cities, state and national – our transactions do not go unused. Pennies from nearly every move we make go into community obligations. We pay for other people’s children to go to school – that’s an obligation, that’s the right thing to do for the community. We pay for underprivileged people to have medical care – that’s an obligation, that’s the right thing to do for the community. We pay for playgrounds and roads we may never drive on and transportation we may never use, for the community we live in. Can we step it up and pay for our retired racehorses, as an obligation, as the right thing to do for the community?