09/29/2011 12:31PM

Q&A: Madeline Auerbach

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Benoit & Associates
Madeline Auerbach and Pat Valenzuela celebrate after winning the Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar last month with Burns, who is a son of Auerbach’s stallion Unusual Heat.

Recently elected to The Jockey Club, the California resident is a prominent owner and breeder and founded CARMA, the California Retirement Management Account, which assists and retrains retired racehorses in California.

Birthdate: Oct. 4, 1944, in Yorkshire, England

Family: sons Harris, Patrick; daughter, Erin

Got into racing because . . . My late husband, Jim, who was a terrific handicapper. He loved to go to the track. He went as often as he could. He thought it would be great fun to own a racehorse. We had three kids and were in the furniture business. I told him, "It's great you want a horse, but we can't afford it." I told him, "You're a great gambler. If you make enough gambling to pay for the horse and the maintenance, go ahead." And he did.

How did you feel when you found out you'd been elected to The Jockey Club? It was not on my radar at all. I never would have aspired to it. I was very surprised. Shocked. Euphoric. There has been a major sea change at The Jockey Club. To elect someone like me is so out of character for them. But, logically, I do understand it. The public relations for racing is so negative and so destructive to the industry, and I'm so active and vocal, being all about retirement issues.

What do you hope to do with The Jockey Club? The Jockey Club, all of the sales companies, the NTRA, and all the racing associations in the Kentucky scene are involved in a committee for horse retirement, and I joined the committee. I've attended meetings via phone. Some of the big owners are not aware of horse retirement and the realities. The retirement farms contact the farms that bred the horses, and if I gave you names of the farms that don't contribute you'd be shocked and embarrassed.
The problem as I see it is one of massive education. CARMA is getting involved with the group. I'm going to go back to Kentucky for an upcoming meeting and have some face time with people there. When we get the request for money at CARMA, we require the race records. On equineline, that's $6 each. I'd like a way to verify they raced in California without that charge. Those are among the things I'd like to accomplish now that I have an entrée. I'd like to find an egalitarian way to go regarding this particular situation. My greatest wish for racing is for CARMA and all the other people who do this to become irrelevant.

You were a driving force behind the start of CARMA. Are you happy with the progress you've made to date? I'm ecstatic. We worked hard, we've kept our noses pretty clean. I wish we could do a lot more. I don't get any resistance from anybody for CARMA. It's an opt-out situation. It's a portion of the purse money. Once people get into it, we don't have people opting out. Last year we gave $314,000. That sounds like a lot of money, but for all the horses you help, it's not a lot. But from where we started, it's great. There are hundreds and hundreds of horses that we assist. There are some rescues that would have gone out of business if we were not helping them. This year, starting in October, all of the funds that are generated by the owners' purse account for CARMA are going to be matched by The Stronach Group. That will be a sizeable addition to CARMA's funding.

Do you think CARMA should be used as a model for other states to adopt? I think part of it should be, except I don't think the opt-out should be available. We know that every part of the industry is going to have to contribute. This is a relatively painless way for owners to contribute. But breeders should have to do it, as well as buyers and sellers and truckers and the Daily Racing Form − everybody who has an economic interest. Jockeys have been noticeably absent. This is a good way for owners to contribute.

You hit the jackpot with your horse Unusual Heat, who has been a top sire in California for more than a decade. Did you ever imagine he'd be so productive? Of course not. Like when I said I never aspired to be part of The Jockey Club, I remember looking at the top of the stallion lists, seeing Bertrando and other horses up there, and never in my wildest dream did I think he would rise to that level and dominate. It's been really rewarding.

What are your thoughts on the state of California's breeding industry overall? Truthfully, I'm very concerned about it. I don't know if we support the industry as well as we should here. I don't know the answers. I don't even know how to attack the problems. The sales in Kentucky bounced back, which I'm happy to see. The Barretts sale is so late in the year. It has been so not supported by people in California. All the guys here will take the money from buyers in California and go to Keeneland and spend lots and lots of money and bring some of them back here, and I can't sell a horse from a stallion who has done nothing but fabulous things. I can't sell a Cal-bred when all the money at the track here is in owning Cal-breds. I don't get it. Cal-breds are just as competitive as any other group of horses. If you race horses in California and you want to stay here, why would you go to Kentucky and buy horses in Kentucky and bring them here when they're not eligible for the Cal-bred bonus money? You can't run in restricted races. The best shot to stay in the black here is running an d owning Cal-breds. Have the breeders done a poor job of making people aware of what we have? We have a bonus program, all of these advantages."

Are you bullish or bearish on the future of racing in the state? I'm very concerned about our lack of inventory. If anything is going to hurt us, it's that. The extra purse money that owners get from SB 1072 kept a lot of owners and trainers in the game. Without that money, I don't know what would have happened. I don't think we would have gotten extra horses at Del Mar. We were very forceful that Del Mar had to be five days a week. They did a fabulous job. The Ship and Win program worked extremely well at Del Mar. A lot of people are staying. I hope we have a carryover into the fall and winter.

Future ambitions? I would like to see CARMA and anything like it become a fixed part of the industry and no longer be viewed as something outside our industry. We need a structure in place for when these horses retire. I'd like to work toward that.