Photo: Don August
The topic of after care is a hot topic of discussion these days in the horse racing industry.
Thoroughbred horses go through so much during their racing career, they deserve a good life after. But these days, race horses do find their way to auctions which can lead to kill pens in Canada or Mexico.
Do they just slip through the cracks ? Are they used by people for money that just don’t give a damn? Or is it just a bunch of sad circumstances that land them there?
Probably all of the above. So what can be done? Well, there are organizations that help with this. Canter and Neigh Savers, to name a couple, work directly with trainers to get their horses adopted or placed in a safe place. Yes, sometimes it takes some money and definitely takes quite a bit of planning, but the flip-side can be devastating.
Golden Gate Fields recently found themselves on the sour end of a news story in which a horse that ran as recently as January, was rescued from such an auction. The connections say they did the right thing, but despite that, the trail eventually led to the auction. Whether it’s one, two or three people later that give up on the horse, it eventually falls on the last trainer of record.
Needless to say this is something that GGF and the entire Stronach Group frowns upon. In fact, General Manager Joe Morris was quoted as saying a trainer who doesn’t handle this properly would not be welcome at GGF.
Now, they are making strides to ensure this does not happen again. Enter Liz Morey.
The Morey name is well known in Northern California. She is married to William E. Morey, one of the top trainers at GGF. To say she has a vested interest in horses in the Morey barn is true. But unlike many, she has stepped up and brought her love for the equine athlete to a whole new level.
She has been hired by GGF as the Thoroughbred Retirement Liaison, and she is coming loaded and ready for action. She heads up a group that includes Canter Executive Director (California Chapter) Ali Dacher, Neigh Savers CEO and founder Karin Wagner and GGF trainer Ellen Jackson. Together, under the guidance of Morris himself, they are putting together a program that will basically be the “starting point” to giving a horse a new career.
“The trainers want to do the right thing, but their first question is, ‘where do I start’? ” Morey said. “That’s where I come in. I will help them begin the process. It’s 90 percent education and the industry has to work together.”
Morey and her committee hosted the first of a series of seminars two weeks ago, for trainers and owners to learn about the different options they have when retiring a horse. The main lesson they tried to preach ? Ask questions and keep a paper trail.
“If someone wants to take the horse and doesn’t want to come look at it first or ask about its condition, those are red flags,” Morey said.
The first duty of Morey will be coming up with a bill of sale, that releases the trainer of record from responsibility. It will be a standard bill of sale that all GGF trainers can use. Also Canter and Neigh Savers will be working with GGF making regular visits to the track to work directly with the trainers.
Morris, who will be leaving his post at GGF to head the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), has a farm of horses himself and has high expectations for the upcoming efforts.
“The welfare of our horses is a top priority at the track and we expect these horses to be taken care of before they race, while they race and after they race in their second career,” he said. “ I expect a best in industry program where these horses get re-purposed, whether it’s for trail rides or shows or whatever. Liz is a horse person and a horse show person so were excited about her heading this. This is a problem state wide, and it’s something the industry needs to look at.”The resources are in place, now it's time for the GGF community to follow and learn and most importantly, do the right thing.