05/09/2012 3:48PM

Thoroughbred Retirement Fund defends itself in open letter, releases inspection reports


LEXINGTON, Ky. – In response to a recent New York lawsuit claiming it has allowed its horses to be neglected, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s board has released veterinary reports showing the results of recent inspections at their farms and satellite facilities.

The TRF released the reports as part of an open letter published Wednesday in the Thoroughbred Daily News. In it, the Saratoga Springs-based charity provided veterinary inspection reports from 19 farms, most of those facilities caring for TRF horses. All received a rating of 4, for “good,” or 5, for “excellent,” for the overall appearance and health of its horses. There were occasional problems noted, ranging from arthritis to a thin appearance in new arrivals at the farms or among their older residents. The facility at the Wallkill Correctional Facility in Wallkill, N.Y., received low scores of 2, or “fair,” for vaccinations and dental care. The inspecting veterinarian at that facility, Jennifer Lowry, noted on the report that “Due to lack of funding, some of the herd are not routinely vaccinated” and “Due to lack of funding, only the minority of the herd receives dentals.”

The inspections took place between March and May of 2012 at facilities in New York, Vermont, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Florida, Missouri, Massachusetts, Indiana, and South Carolina.

The TRF cares for about 1,100 horses at 24 facilities around the country.

New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed suit against the TRF on May 3, alleging that the group’s board “put horses in danger” and allowed the organization to fall into financial trouble by “engaging in a series of financially irresponsible transactions, borrowing to pay off existing debt and invading TRF’s restricted endowment fund,” according to the court filing.

In its open letter, the TRF board – chaired by John C. Moore – claims the attorney general’s office distributed misleading information to the press, including the New York Times, whose 2011 coverage of TRF facilities prompted the attorney general to review the charity.

“The fabrications in the story are too numerous to list here, and the charges will be debated when the TRF has its day in court,” the TRF’s open letter said. “The list of mischaracterizations and outright mistruths will be posted online within the coming weeks on the TRF’s website.”

A New York Times story covering the lawsuit included photographs of two unidentified horses at the Wallkill facility along with a caption referring to the animals as “emaciated.”

The TRF said that the horses in question are 32-year-old Sir Prize Birthday and 31-year-old Mornin’ Jig. “The inspectors showed up at the farm and asked to see ‘the two worst horses,’ and they photographed them,” the TRF letter said, adding, “No information was given to the reader by the New York Times about the horses themselves, their condition, their history or the amount of extra care they receive. No photos were released of the other old horses at Wallkill who tend to hold their flesh better in the winter than Jig and Sir Prize. . . . Did they TRF really single out these two out to starve, while continuing to feed the others? That’s what the New York Attorney General and the New York Times want you to think.”

In an e-mail to Daily Racing Form , Times sports editor Joe Sexton said: “The New York Times, citing on-the-record interviews and formal inspection records, published an article last year reflecting concerns about the effectiveness and stewardship of the foundation. The New York State Attorney General has now filed suit, and those concerns have now become formal charges. The foundation says it looks forward to its day in court. We’ll be there to cover it.”