After the 2009 season I knew I had to make arrangements to see the great Rachel Alexandra live and in person. She was my favorite athlete and I scrambled to find the best place to see her live. I thought about taking a trip to Churchill where I knew she was bound to run at least one race or possibly venturing out to Saratoga since I was also planning a move to Louisville and figured vacationing there would be a waste since I was going to be there anyway. But Saratoga sounded promising. I have never been, but hear it is sort of like a county fair atmosphere and of course, they would have my Rachel. I made the plans to go to Saratoga, nothing definite since I had to wait till for the race to be announced, and then I watched the 2010 Bashford Manor stakes. I saw another horse I just knew I had to see in person, Kantharos. So I made a complete overhaul of my vacation plans and figured the best way to see all of my favorite horses and jockeys was to hit the Breeders Cup. I reserved my tickets, made the travel plans and was all set to see Rachel, Kantharos, Zenyatta, Blame, Garrett Gomez and Julien Leparoux. As we all know Kantharos was retired in August and then Rachel in September. Well, next Tuesday I am finally going to meet my Rachel.
As I anxiously await the moment I meet my favorite racehorse of all time Rachel Alexandra, I am thinking of what retirement means to the other horses. I have no doubt that my queen is enjoying her kingdom and quite comfortable in her new digs at Stonestreet, but what exactly happens after racing for so many others. Many horses are sent to reproduce bringing in a huge amount of money, but they can’t do that forever so here are some of the places these great athletes go to enjoy their last days.
Old Friends Retirement, located outside of Lexington, KY is home to many retired racehorses. This retirement center is a place where retired thoroughbreds can be safe and enjoy the time off without having to worry about their future. It is run on donations and also offers tours for a small price. They hold fundraisers and sell gifts to help maintain the farm. If you are in the area, think about stopping by to visit. It is not far from Louisville or Lexington and is also close to other horse attractions such as the Kentucky Horse Park. Their website (http://www.oldfriendsequine.org/) offers the chance for you to look at the horses that are currently at the facility or horses who previously were at the facility. Also, there is a section there that gives you many creative ways to make a donation. This is very important for not only this facility, but for this sport. When superstar ball players retire, they go home to their mansions after making millions, they get ready to write their book and enjoy the rest of their lives, but our favorite horses cannot do that, so we have to do something for them. They have given so much to us, maybe on your way to Keeneland or Churchill you could stop by and say thank you. J
Another one I wanted to point out was CERF, California Equine Retirement Foundation. The founder started the foundation in 1986 and according to the website (http://www.cerfhorses.org/index.html) now houses about 70 horses. The foundation also has many creative ways to get involved including sponsoring a resident, attending a fundraiser or stopping by for a visit. For more information on helping out or visiting, go to the website listed above. I am sure any help is welcome.
There are also places for retired racehorses to go to get training for other ‘careers’. ReRun Inc. is a non-profit company that focuses on taking retired racehorses and training them to go into other areas. It is based out of New Jersey, but has a few chapters in the east. It is a non-profit and depends on others to help these horses, but have thought of many ways for people to contribute. They include donations of money or supplies, foster care for horses and sponsorship to name a few. If you are interested, you can check out their site (http://www.rerun.org/index.html)
There are many ways for all of us fans to get involved in the sport that has given us so much to talk about, gamble on and argue over. If you are looking for a place near your favorite racetrack to help the retired thoroughbreds take a second to search the web.
On a side note, a huge congrats goes out to one of my favorite jockeys Julien Leparoux for winning the spring meet Churchill title AND reaching a milestone 500 wins at Churchill. Fake toast to many more in his future!