NY racing experts cite progress for racehorse retirements, but more funding needed

Experts on thoroughbred racing and retired horses said Tuesday that the last few years have seen progress but more funding and homes are needed to save many aging racehorses from eventual neglect or slaughter.

The New York State Gaming Commission, at a forum held near the Saratoga Race Course, reviewed measures available for horses that can live for 30 years after careers lasting only three or four years. The review followed 2011 state task force recommendations that included doing a better job tracking retired horses and dedicating 0.5 percent of New York purses and a small fraction of some video lottery revenues to retirement efforts.

Legislation has been introduced to do that but hasn't been enacted.

Meanwhile, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, established three years ago, last year accredited 42 aftercare organizations and granted $2.4 million in funds collected from industry participants. It's collected as a small percentage from stud fees, public auction consignment and purchase, Jockey Club registration, race winnings, racetracks, veterinarians and jockeys.

"I love horses. In fact, I think everybody in this room does," said the alliance's Stacie Clark Rogers.

The Kentucky-based national nonprofit expects to accredit 45 to 50 groups this year, she said.

The task force estimated New York had about 50,000 racehorses in 2005 and more than 1,800 were retired in 2007 by more than 1,000 owners.

Of the charitable groups that take them, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation is among the largest. It currently cares for more than 900 at 24 farms in 13 states, said Diana Pikulski.

Representatives of several groups said leaving the fate of retired racehorses up to charity won't adequately ensure their care. Another problem is keeping horses racing until they're injured. Those animals need veterinary care and rehabilitation before they can be retrained for second careers as jumpers, polo ponies, fox hunting or simply pleasure riding.