10/26/2017 7:20PM

Giwner: An eye-opening experience at New Vocations

Derick Giwner
Winnie Morgan Nemeth and the retired Grain Of truth.

As a product of Brooklyn, New York, just a long stone’s throw south of Manhattan, horses were far from a staple of my everyday life. That’s not surprising since concrete was much more prevalent in my environment than grass and trees.

I’m not sure I saw my first horse until I was 16 years old and my initial up close and personal moment with an equine didn’t come until I was about 25. Of course there were times when horses were within a few yards on the track, but I was never close enough to utilize my sense of touch.

With this disconnect as my background, despite spending the previous 21 years in the industry as a writer, chart-caller, owner, driver and announcer, I never really gave much thought to what happens when the horse I used to wager on was done racing. Of course I knew that not all horses would head to the beautiful grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park like near $4 million earner Won The West, but my focus was so tunneled on my sector of the industry that my mind never wandered off in that direction.

That all changed to some extent after Winnie Morgan Nemeth invited me to visit the New Vocations facility in Lexington, Kentucky at Mereworth Farms. Along with Ashley Viater Tetrick (Tim’s wife) and the Umholtz’s (Clair and Ngaire) of Ohio racing fame, we toured the facility as Winnie brought me up to speed on a side of the industry that has evaded my world.

I always thought the purpose of organizations like New Vocations was to take in horses which were no longer competitive for racing purposes or neglected and care for them until a suitable home could be found. I never realized that a major function was to repurpose them to be pleasure mounts. In the hour I was on the property, a couple of trailers with families pulled up and apparently that is a good sign because it means a horse is being adopted.

There are of course horses which will make their permanent homes at one of the New Vocations locations in Ohio, Kentucky, New York or Pennsylvania. We got to meet such a group of standardbreds during our visit, including one that I most certainly wagered on a bunch of times over the years.

Grain Of Truth, a $1,507,570 career winner who spent the last 10 years of his racing life which ended in 2015 under the care of trainer Ray Schnittker, was one of the horses we encountered. He was basically chillin’ in a large field with a bunch of friends as we climbed the white fence (which I may have damaged) to get up close and personal. It was a bit surreal to see this former racing “warrior”, who grinded out a huge bankroll without winning more than $263,000 in a single season, as a retiree.

The experience made me wonder where some of the horses I used to own wound up after their racing career came to a conclusion. Some, like Twin B Sassy and Christy Rae, are easy to track since they went on to serve as broodmares. But what about Call Me Cam, Play For Silver and Kentucky Flyer? I wonder where they ended up after they were claimed or purchased to face lesser company. Hopefully they avoided slaughter and were treated humanely at the end of their careers.

It’s sad to think that for some people slaughter is an option for a horse and perhaps that negative notion is why I never really gave it much thought. That’s a problem, since if people who love the sport of horse racing and the athletes who thrill us on a daily basis don’t consider what will happen next, who will?

I would urge you to find out more. Visit an aftercare location. Contact New Vocations or another facility. Maybe make a donation to the cause.

Horses give their all on the track week after week. The least we can do is make a similar effort to ensure they are treated with the respect they deserve when retirement comes calling.