03/23/2011 3:43PM

Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation intends to continue evaluating horses


LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation intends to continue evaluating about 1,200 ex-racehorses in its program after a reported decision by the study’s sponsor to cut off funding, according to a TRF board member.

The executors of the Paul Mellon estate, the TRF’s largest benefactor, will no longer fund the whole-herd evaluation, according to a March 22 New York Times story. The executors, Beverly Carter and Ted Terry, have publicly expressed their anger over a TRF decision to inform affiliate farms not to cooperate with Missouri veterinarian Stacey Huntington, who had led the evaluations under the Mellon estate’s sponsorship.

TRF executive committee member Ray Paulick wrote on his website Wednesday that the remaining horse evaluations “will be funded through a TRF board member” but did not identify that member. According to Paulick, the TRF’s herd management committee currently is “identifying independent veterinarians to complete the inspections and visit many of the farms previously seen by Huntington.”

TRF chairman Tom Ludt and Mellon executor Carter did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

TRF board members, who endorsed the evaluations, questioned Huntington’s objectivity after some of her findings made their way into a March 19 Times story under the headline “Ex-Racers Starve as Charity Fails in Mission to Care for Them.” TRF chairman Tom Ludt and other board members have maintained that the story mischaracterized the situation.

“The only problem Dr. Huntington had was that she was doing such a good job that she upset the management of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation,” Mellon executor Ted Terry said in the March 22 Times story. The executors say Huntington was accompanied on her inspections by local veterinarians at each location.

Huntington had evaluated 857 horses at 19 TRF-affiliated facilities, identifying problems ranging from late hoof trimming and teeth floating to more severe issues such as malnutrition and emaciation, according to the Mellon executors. Earlier this week, Huntington told Daily Racing Form that problems were “not widespread” at the TRF facilities she visited but declined to provide specific details. Her full reports on the TRF horses she evaluated is expected in March or April.

Relations between the Mellon executors and the TRF board have been contentious at least since 2005. The TRF has faced financial trouble in recent years as its fundraising could not keep pace with an aging horse population that grew from 300 to 1,200 horses. In 2001, the Mellon estate gave a $5 million endowment to the TRF. Under the gift’s terms, the TRF can only access 5 percent of the endowment’s value – currently about $7 million – each year. That income, TRF leaders say, is about 12 percent of the TRF’s annual budget.