06/24/2015 2:31PM

New Vocations breaks ground on new facility at Mereworth

Barbara D. Livingston
The New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program will build a new retraining and adoption facility at Mereworth Farm in Lexington, Ky.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, joined by several prominent figures in Central Kentucky's Thoroughbred breeding and sales industry, held a ceremonial groundbreaking to celebrate the construction of its new retraining and adoption facility at Mereworth Farm in Lexington, Ky., on Wednesday.

The new facility will be located on an 85-acre tract of the historic Mereworth Farm property, and will be constructed under the direction of the Susan S. Donaldson Foundation. Mereworth is a 1,200-acre tract of land used as a sanctuary for unwanted equines and retired racehorses. The foundation was founded in 1989 to preserve the farm after Donaldson’s death.

“There are four goals when this facility is up and running," said Anna Ford, program director for New Vocations. "The first one is to take more horses, that's our No. 1 goal, that's something that is always our goal every year at New Vocations. ... We're going to be able to double our capacity in Lexington while only increasing our operating budget 25 percent, which is huge.

"We want the facility to be open to the public,” Ford continued. “We want to showcase what these amazing athletes can do once they leave the track, and we want to be a destination for people coming to Lexington to come and visit. We want to host educational clinics all [centered] around aftercare and all of the different things that come with working with retired racehorses. And lastly, we want this place to be an example of, in the racing industry, how many people truly do care about their horses when they leave the track."

New Vocations’s relationship with the foundation includes a free, long-term lease of the acreage, on which there will be a pair of 15-stall barns, an indoor arena with viewing area, an outdoor arena, an office, and ample paddocks with pastures. The foundation will donate grain for New Vocations horses, cover water expenses, and mow all green spaces. An additional 20-stall barn and paddocks will be provided for horses in need of rehabilitation before they begin retraining, and several rehabilitation cases are already in residence.

"This place [when construction is finished] is going to look like Claiborne or Spendthrift or even WinStar,” said Elliott Walden, president and CEO of WinStar Farm.

In May, New Vocations launched a $2 million capital campaign toward the construction of its facilities on the donated property. Ford said that thus far, $750,000 has been raised, with major donations from the racing and equestrian communities. Among the donors is Fasig-Tipton, which announced Tuesday that it had donated $100,000 to sponsor the outdoor arena.

"This work is just beginning,” Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said. “The creation of this facility, thanks to the generosity of individuals like Susan Donaldson, and the foundation, and the dedication of people like Anna Ford and her entire team at New Vocations, will provide countless Thoroughbreds the aftercare they deserve. I think it's just an amazing thing."

Also speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony was retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day, who offered a blessing over the land.