12/30/2009 12:00AM

TRF founder to receive Eclipse

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Monique Koehler, founder of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, will receive a Special Eclipse Award to recognize her work with retired horses over the past three decades, the administrators of the Eclipse Awards announced Wednesday.

A former advertising executive, Koehler founded the TRF in 1982 on a single property in New Jersey in an effort to help retired racehorses avoid suffering or slaughter. Though it took two years for the foundation to take in its first retiree, the TRF is now the largest organization of its kind in the United States, with facilities in 13 states and relationships with dozens of racetracks.

"It has been a wonderful and fulfilling journey," Koehler said in a statement, "and I am able to take a large measure of satisfaction in what the TRF has been able to accomplish."

"I can think of no better honoree," said Diana Pikulski, executive director of the TRF. "Monique took a huge, ugly problem and turned it into a life-affirming, positive program in which racing, through its support and its horses, gives back to society."

In addition to helping find new homes for retired horses, the TRF also launched the first "vocational training program" in which prison inmates were taught how to care for horses as part of their rehabilitation. The program has been adopted at prisons in seven different states.

Koehler will be given her award at the Eclipse Awards ceremony on Jan. 18 in Beverly Hills, Calif. The administrators of the Eclipse Awards are the National Thoroughbred Racing Associations, Daily Racing Form, and the National Turf Writers Association.