08/14/2012 4:18PM

'Industry-wide approach' needed to fund post-retirement programs, officials say


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Racing needs to devise an “industry-wide approach” to funding and operating post-retirement programs for racehorses so that all facets of the sport contribute to the effort, several officials who spoke at the Saratoga Institute on Racing and Gaming Law conference on Tuesday said.

The officials, who run post-retirement placement programs at lower- or middle-tier tracks, said that they currently bear a greater burden for finding homes for retired racehorses than their larger counterparts because of the greater proportion of near-retirement horses that typically perform at their tracks. As a result, the tracks are usually placed under greater scrutiny than larger tracks, even while having fewer resources to devote to their post-retirement programs.

“Since we’re often the last stop, we’re considered to be more responsible,” said Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs in East Boston, in an interview following a presentation about the track’s efforts to ensure that horses retired off the track find homes. “I don’t want to sound like we’re complaining, because we’re committed to our own effort, and we believe in it. But some states and some jurisdictions are clearly doing more than others, and I think we need an industry-wide solution to stretch the economic burden more proportionally.”

Tuttle and others spoke Tuesday at the law conference during a day-long program devoted to horse-welfare issues. The conference was to continue Wednesday with a program dedicated to casino-gambling issues in the state.

The comments from officials who spoke during the program highlighted the hodgepodge array of organizations that are attempting to address an issue that has become a cause célèbre both inside and outside the racing industry. Currently, many racetracks operate individual post-retirement programs, in some cases because tracks are required to have an affiliation with aftercare organizations as a condition of a voluntary accreditation program, but also in many cases because the industry is rapidly responding to concerns about the fate of its retired athletes. Those programs also strike relationships with a smattering of individual offtrack retirement programs with their own funding sources.

Funding for the ontrack programs is usually provided through a combination of assessments on racing participants and contributions from tracks and horsemen’s organizations. Those contributions, however, are usually insufficient to provide funding for a horse’s retirement, so the organizations focus on finding adoptive homes for retired animals.

“Our funding is always a problem,” said David Brown, president of the Finger Lakes Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, which runs a placement program that can provide transition space for only 18 horses at a time. “We never have enough money. We are not large enough, nor financially stable enough,” to take any horse that retires off the track, so some horses slip through the program’s cracks.

Several organizations are seeking to involve a larger number of industry participants in providing funding for post-retirement programs, including the recently formed Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Those efforts will likely extend soon to the breeding industry and the auction industry, which do not have any programs that require funding for retirement programs (the Jockey Club allows breeders to voluntarily contribute through an opt-in program attached to foal registrations).

“It’s time for everyone in the industry to step up and contribute to aftercare,” Mike Ziegler, director of the TAA, said during the conference. He called the efforts to involve all the facets as a way to “share the burden.”

Kraig Kulikowski, a veterinarian and equestrian, said during a presentation on post-retirement programs that breeders should be required to contribute to post-retirement programs at the time that foals are registered, in part to provide adequate funding for the programs but also to discourage breeders from producing foals without considering and contributing to the costs of a horse’s long-term care.

“If your argument against this idea is economic because you do not want to put financial hardship on breeders and owners, your concern puts their wallet first and the horse’s welfare second,” Kulikowski said.

Tuttle and his family have taken in one of the retired Suffolk horses. He said it is costing his family $12,000 a year to care for the horse.

“We love him, and he’s a great horse,” Tuttle said. “But it’s not without its financial consequences.”

richard montgomery More than 1 year ago
Like others mentioned..24% takeout rates, $4-10 beers, breakage,etc. The money should be coming out of all the taxes we pay and it is b.s. that it isn't. Instead we like to use taxpayers money to pave over good roads and test ketchup flow rates.
Race Fund More than 1 year ago
Does not anyone in the industry understand that funding for racehorse retirement and rehabilitation must be mandatory? Has it not been proven over and over that voluntary funding does not work? Besides the horses deserve a portion of the revenue for their well being. The thoroughbred racing industry is a multi-billion dollar industry nationally and the money is there to support the horses. The industry needs to stop procrastinating about this issue and implement mandatory funding at every racetrack. The majority of money needs to come from a percentage of the purses but mandatory fees must be placed on breeders and jockeys and racetrack management should commit to a mandatory fee as well. Of course there needs to be accreditation and oversight of facilities as well and monitoring of horses. These programs that put horses on the Internet for adoption and then do not follow up on them or only for a short period of time does not work and many horses end up in harm's way. The mentality that a retirement and rehabilitation program should be a “run them in and run them out” program is wrong and does not serve or protect the horses in the long run. Adopting mares out to be bred to produce more horses is not helping the situation either and should be banned. Since 2004 our organization has asked and advocated to the industry to fund racehorse retirement on a mandatory level. It is now 2012. It is a disgrace that the very fiber of the industry, the horses are still not being financially supported properly and many are still ending up at auction or slaughter. This is not rocket science stuff here folks and can be done but it is going to take a lot of hard work, dedicated people, constant monitoring of the horses and oversight of facilities in addition to the substantial perpetual funding that is needed. Every week, month and year the thoroughbred racing industry procrastinates about this issue there are thoroughbreds in harm’s way or standing in a kill pen and crying out for help and no one comes because of money. Surely our horses deserve better than that.
Robin Coblyn More than 1 year ago
I couldn't agree more. From breeding farms and breeders through sales consignors, buyers and pinhookers on through the owners and trainers, jockey's and their agents, industry-wide the horses are the reason all these people make a living and all those people involved should bear some financial responsibility to ensure that retirement, retraining and rehoming are viable and well supported part of racing. And while not popular, euthanasia when indicated and concurred with by a licensed veterinarian should also be available to those who have the horses best interest in mind. Would that this could happen just with the carrot of knowing that the horses are being taken care of, but I dare say there will have to be sticks as well. Robin
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
A passionate plea, indeed. But anyone who has worked on the racetrack, and particularly at the bottom end, will know that rendition is a sad and dirty business. But it cannot be avoided, no matter how many bleeding hearts would like everyone to adopt a horse. Having said this, I do believe that veterans who have made it to eight, nine or older, after long and brave careers, do deserve to be pensioned off....IF, and only IF, a good home can be found where they are properly cared for....not a hell-hole run by someone who keeps stray cats and hasn't a clue what it takes to look after horses. The bottom line, as any Vet or truer lover of animals will tell you, is that keeping a horse or any pet alive for personal comfort rather than the interests of the animal itself is cruel. So this whole issue should be about common sense as much as compassion.
MaidMarion More than 1 year ago
You do know that race horses get medications - like Bute and Clenbuterol - that are banned for horses slaughtered for human consumption? No legal withdrawal period; one dose and it's illegal to slaughter them for food. I am tired of hearing the excuse, 'what can you do' when horses end up too lame to live the last 20 years of life expectancy, as if humans had nothing to do with it. Race day nerve blocks, Demorphen, EPOs, octopus juice, joint tapping, etc, low level claiming pounding sore joints, running horses back blocked hoping they'll get claimed away. These abuses create an impossible pool of horses too lame to perform at a second career. And it creates suffering. Voters don't like animals suffering, especially in a multi-billion dollar industry asking lawmakers for subsidies. This is the racing industry's responsibility to prevent and fix, not the horses responsibility to die for.
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
Okay...ban all the medication that causes this very sad situation. I agree with you 100%...but, as John Sparkman writes in today's Thoroughbred Times, its an Epistemic problem...thus, regrettably, virtually unsolvable.
Chip Tuttle More than 1 year ago
Daylami -- to clarify, we don't have a farm. The $12,000 a year is board, riding lessons, vet bills and incidentals. We're happy to pay it and he's had a great conversion from race horse to pleasure horse. I only mentioned it to point out that the economics of adopting a Thoroughbred can be daunting for people who don't necessarily have the resources that we do. Onward...
Frank More than 1 year ago
Daylami? you adopted Daylami and pay 12K a year for him -- well if that is true the horse earned it -- on the race track alone he earned more that 4.6million!!! Get some money from those greedy Coolmore and muslim owners!
richard montgomery More than 1 year ago
Daylami..wow!!!Champion turf horse, European horse of the year! For every Daylami there are 10 who get turned into salami.
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
There should be a percentage of all purse money off the top, an already retained piece of track, simulcast and ADW handle (don't hit the horseplayer for more), auction sale proceeds, consignor and sale company commissions, breed registration (and each time a horse changes hands privately), state award program registrations, and a small increase on all industry participant license fees contributed to a retirement fund for horses, managed by TJC, and distributed to accredited retirement organizations for caring for and retraining former racehorses.
Mark More than 1 year ago
There are 6 entities involved in horse racing: 1. Owners 2. Bettors 3. Trainers 4. Jockeys 5. Race track operators 6. State that collects taxes and breakage Caegories 1 and 2 (owners and bettors) supply all the money while categories 3, 4, 5 and 6 take that money and split it between themselves. Therefore, monies to fund post-retirement care for these horses should come from the bottom 4 categories.
Dennis Geier More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Other ideas... stallion fees and Jockey Club registration fees. Too many people breeding their pretty mare to unremarkable stallions, weakening the blood lines and creating more unremarkable horses that will need homes in a few years. I would say to the bettors, your participation in the sport enables breeding, too. Come on board the movement to treat these horses responsibly, it will be great PR. Be part of the solution if you want the sport bettors benefit from to continue.
Chuck Seeger More than 1 year ago
How about a "horseplayer welfare" program? Nobody give a F*%@ about how the players get hosed over and over in this game. Think about it all you "horse-lovers-they-must-be-taken-care-of-types" - if everbody stops betting on horses, there will be no more horses to worry about. That being said, here's a reasonable solution - fix the game so that it is once again a viable gambling platform, and direct all the outragous breakage funds that get stolen from the players every year to help take care of these animals. But in the meantime, I don't care where these horses go, as long as the industry doesn't care about the customers that fuel this industry - the players.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Mr moderator got me. So lets try this. Keep your money and get a life.
Frank More than 1 year ago
For not respecting these animals -- may you never pick another winner -- hope Karma bits you for post. You must really be bad at picking winners and now are taking it out on the horses.
Frank More than 1 year ago
Dude - Why dont you go to your local track and stand on the track at the finish line and cheer your horse down the stretch -- believe me its safe there and you get a get view! Man you sound like a guy who hasnt picked a winner in over 10yrs. Find another sport!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"...I don't care where these horses go" Unbelievable. So, you are inviting the legislators to put the VLT money elsewhere, like police and fire protection for communities, correct? Because the American voters have a low tolerance for greed causing animals to suffer. And they have a low tolerance for horse slaughter... 80% strongly opposed in the latest poll. Greyhound racing in MA was shut down because it was killing off its athletes. The voters spoke loud and clear. And that's not a multi-billion dollar industry like Thoroughbred racing, that has the money to fix its problem, and a whole lot more scrutiny in the press. The me-me-me attitude by some bettors is not helping to solve this problem, it's just speeding up the demise of a once beautiful sport. Fortunately, there are people with good minds and ideas working on after-care programs for these magnificent equine athletes. Long overdue and welcome by anybody with a heart, and a head for PR.
Justin Stygles More than 1 year ago
Perhaps if there werent so many hoop to jump through and fees to be paid for adopting, more would do it. We love our adopted standardbred and it costs about $2000 a year for him (and he competes in trail riding). If we could call up the race secretary and ask, "do you know anyone who needs a home." Things would be easier. I know many trainers would give the horse for free since, for some, there is a tax write-off. I think the adoption agencies are trying to make money to run elaborate farms. I hope that isnt the case, because most horses just want a home... outdoors. With Suffolk Downs 2.5 hrs from where I live, I would love nothing more than to take some of those depressing clm5000N2L's anyday.
wdaylami More than 1 year ago
$12,000 A YEAR for one horse on your own farm? WHAT HOGWASH!
wdaylami More than 1 year ago
$12,000 a year - WHAT HOGWASH!
Barbara Bowen More than 1 year ago
wdaylami, Chip Tuttle is a racing executive, he doesn't own a farm. His family owns a former racehorse, and yes, in the Boston metro area it can cost that much to board a riding horse, plus vet, farrier, etc.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
I'm all for this agenda. It would lower the instance of sending our athletes to slaughter houses. These horses deserve better treatment after their careers. By sharing the burden, breeders become more responsible in their practices, and racetracks as well as the horsmen can ensure a better quality of life for these animals.