03/13/2018 3:13PM

Giwner: Letting Foiled Again do what he does best

Derick Giwner
Foiled Again finished fifth in his latest attempt for career win No. 100.

As Foiled Again continues his search for career win number 100, I began to wonder, why does he need to retire at the end of the year?

By all accounts, the all-time leader in earnings among Standardbreds enjoys his work on the track. Caretaker Sarah Murphy was quoted in a recent interview saying that “He loves what he does. He’s not the kind of horse that is going to be happy in a field.”

So if Foiled Again will be happiest racing, why exactly will he be forced into retirement at the end of his 14-year-old campaign on December 31 this year?

I began to ponder the question as I was reading a story on Standardbred Canada about Prime Time Bliss, a 16-year-old who won at Fraser Downs on March 2 making his fifth start of the year. British Columbia allows horses to race through their 15-year-old campaign (Prime Time Bliss compiled a 20-2-0-2 record last year) and he was given special permission to compete through the end of the Fraser meet in 2018.

If Prime Time Bliss can race until age 16, why can’t the United States Trotting Association make a special exception for Foiled Again to have at least one more year on the track? After all, horses are permitted to compete in amateur races well past age 14. If you love your job and are physically able to do it, why not keep chugging along until father time says it’s time to quit?

Looking at it from another angle. At 86 years old, George Luster won the second race at Cal Expo on March 2 as owner, trainer and driver. If a man in his eighth century can compete, how is it that Foiled Again, who seems to be in good health, should be pushed to the sidelines? How do you think Mr. Luster would feel if you told him he couldn’t race?

Foiled Again has provided the harness racing world with so many great moments under the care of trainer Ron Burke and I think he is the perfect horse with the perfect ownership group for my new experiment. I’d like to see all of Foiled Again’s earnings above base costs of living and racing donated to something to help standardbreds or the industry in general. Let’s call it the Foiled Again Fund for the Betterment of Harness Racing.

While I’m certain his training bill is much higher, let’s say that $25,000 will cover Foiled Again for the year so his owners will break even on basic costs (feed, shipping, paddock, stall rent). Anything above that goes into the fund. My initial thoughts were either a national marketing fund or Standardbred aftercare, like New Vocations, which Team Burke is already involved in supporting.

Foiled Again has already earned $13,700 in 2018, which is more than halfway to the breakeven point. Imagine how much good he could do over the course of the year if he came remotely close to the $88,870 he earned in 2017.

This is a win-win for everyone. Foiled Again gets to enjoy what he loves most, the owners have no financial risk and the sport benefits. The only negative in the equation is some lost time on the part of trainer Ron Burke and his team having to care for the horse.

Which leads me to the reason why I called it an experiment earlier in this column. Ultimately, I’d like to see all capable horses that are 15/16 years old continue to race along the same guidelines.

We have seen certain members of the industry try to siphon money for a national marketing fund or aftercare from the purse account with no results and plenty of opposition. Now we have the perfect program that costs horsemen nothing in terms of money (they actually come out ahead with their 5% commission on total earnings) and keeps horses cared for by their current trainer for a longer period of time. It also helps in a small way to solve the horse shortage issue by keeping another handful of capable horses on the track.

Here is how it would work:

At the conclusions of a horses’ 14-year-old year they would be checked by an approved veterinarian to determine health. If the vet signs off, the horse would continue to race and earn money until it reaches an earnings threshold of $50,000. For that first $50,000, fifty percent would go to the owners and the other half to the fund. After $50,000, all money earned outside of the 10% for trainer/driver would go into the fund. The horse would be checked by an approved vet every quarter to ensure good health.

It is worth noting that two former 14-year-olds – Saint William A & Grecale AS – earned over $50,000 in 2017. Their earnings would have brought $63,954 into the fund to help the Standardbreds.

Maybe tracks could even contribute to the fund as well, but let’s take this one step at a time. This plan is doable and could help racing and aftercare of our horses. What more motivation do we need?