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NYRA, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Team Up

Organizations from every corner of the Thoroughbred industry have come together to support a new program created by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to develop second careers for horses racing at New York Racing Association tracks. The program, forged from a $225,000 start-up grant from the Harriet E. Pfleger Foundation, will provide rehabilitation and retraining for as many as 100 horses a year. NYRA, the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and The Jockey Club, as well as the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. and The Jockeys’ Guild, have all stepped forward with commitments to fund the initiative.


“With the spark created by a large donation from a private foundation, we were able to put together a consortium of racing partners to fund and oversee this valuable new program,” TRF Director of External Affairs Diana Pikulski said. “We have a model here in New York that embodies what everyone is trying to accomplish in the industry nationwide. We are excited that this has become a reality.”


The first step will be the redevelopment of the TRF retirement farm at the Wallkill Correctional Facility in Wallkill, N.Y. Wallkill, established in 1983, has been home to hundreds of Thoroughbred retirees, all of whom are cared for by Wallkill Correctional Facility inmates. A state-accredited vocational training course in horse care and management developed by the TRF at Wallkill has served as the prototype for TRF programs around the U.S., as well as a blueprint for other Thoroughbred retirement organizations.


Wallkill will be expanded to include the capability for short- and middle-term rehabilitation. According to Pikulski, horses will be sent from NYRA tracks to Wallkill for an evaluation that will determine if they are sound enough for the program, and whether they need short- or long-term rest before they begin the retraining process prior to adoption. The TRF is also exploring potential sites to be used as the retraining centers, which will showcase the horses for those looking to adopt.  The first horses are expected to be accepted into the program early this spring.


“Wallkill has the facilities now for basic retirement, with the inmates grooming the horses and keeping them happy and healthy, but this is a genuine effort to repurpose the horses that are sound enough to have a future in other equine disciplines,” said NYTHA President Rick Violette, Jr. “That’s a significant challenge, for sure, but it’s a challenge that can be met, and it coincides with other initiatives that NYTHA and NYRA are developing to find second careers for racehorses. Horses that are physically able don’t need to be turned out – they really are much happier if they have jobs to do.”


NYRA and NYTHA have partnered to commit a total of $185,000 to the initiative. The Jockey Club will contribute $50,000, and more than $135,000 has been collected from fundraisers and private donations.


A committee comprised of representatives from NYTHA, NYRA, TRF, NYTB, the Jockey’s Guild and the public will provide oversight for the program.


“I think it is significant that all of these industry stakeholders are rallying with substantial financial support around an expansion of the TRF's signature and award-winning project,” NYTB Executive Director Jeffrey Cannizzo remarked. “We are also grateful for the very substantial generosity of the Harriet Pfleger Foundation. This is an initiative that has a documented success in the rehabilitation of criminal offenders while at the same time advancing the TRF's horse rescue mission. It's a tribute to all involved.”


Added Violette, “Everyone recognizes that, ultimately, this is all about the horses.”


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