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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why Not A Standardbred Aftercare Alliance?

Sometimes PETA comes up with a good idea and numerous thoroughbred racing groups partially agreed, thus leading to the formation of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), an industry group dedicated to the safeguarding of thoroughbred horses from the horrors of slaughter.  While the TAA is still setting up their rules, the purpose of the TAA is to accredit thoroughbred rescues and raise funds for the care of those equine athletes who are retired or unable to compete in racing.  Funds raised by the TAA will be used for their own educational services but the vast majority of funds will be dispersed directly to the rescues who service thoroughbred horses and yes, for euthanizations when necessary.

Where there was a diffference was in the funding mechanism and amounts.  PETA had come up with the idea for the Thoroughbred 360 Lifecycle Fund to be administered by the Jockey Club, who is the only organization which can ensure mandatory contributions are made to this fund.  While this plan for funding was rejected at this time by the thoroughbred industry, an interim funding program was announced to the media.  Here is the press release which was released by the NTRA:


 New York, N.Y. - October 11, 2012 - The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) announced today that several industry groups, including 13 prominent breeding farms in Kentucky, The Jockey Club, two racetracks of the Stronach Group, the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA), Keeneland Association, Fasig-Tipton, Barretts Equine Limited and Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company (OBS), have developed plans to provide funds beginning in 2013 to support the TAA’s mission to accredit and raise funds for Thoroughbred aftercare facilities.

“This is an important first step, and we are grateful to these organizations for their commitments,” said Jack Wolf, President of the TAA. “We are hopeful other industry stakeholders will follow their lead in this important endeavor.”

The TAA received seed money from Breeders’ Cup, Ltd., The Jockey Club and Keeneland Association and some of those funds will be used for initial site inspections and accreditations planned for the last few months of 2012.

“Our objective is to develop sustainable funding from all points on the life cycle of the Thoroughbred from breeding and registration to sales, racing and all points in between, including veterinary care and transportation,” said TAA Executive Director Mike Ziegler. “Thanks to the seed capital generously provided by Breeders’ Cup, The Jockey Club and Keeneland Association, and ongoing administrative and technical support from the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and The Jockey Club, virtually all of our 2013 contributions will be directed straight to the horses—which is as it should be.”

The details of the funding are as follows:
  • Thirteen prominent Kentucky breeding farms (see list below) have pledged to the TAA a payment in the amount of 25% of each of their stallions’ advertised stud fee, effective with the 2013 breeding season. Breeders’ Cup Limited (BCL) has agreed to facilitate the collection of fees contributed by all stallion owners. BCL will also implement a fan contribution initiative surrounding the November 2-3 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita Park.       
  • The Jockey Club (TJC) announced that starting in 2013 it will increase fees by $25 for nearly all registry related transactions including foal registration, naming and import and export applications. In coordination with The Jockey Club of Canada, funds raised from Canadian customers of The Jockey Club will be directed to Canadian Thoroughbred aftercare organizations to supplement ongoing aftercare activities for Canadian Thoroughbreds. The Jockey Club will also contribute $300,000 in 2013 to the TAA from its commercial companies. (A companion press release on the new fees is available at or by clicking here:
  • CARMA (California Retirement Management Account), founded in 2007 to raise money for retired California racehorses, confirmed that it is directing funds  earmarked for California-based organizations and facilities that meet the TAA’s accreditation guidelines. In 2013, CARMA expects to grant in excess of $400,000.
  • The Stronach Group and its tracks, Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., and Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Fla., have confirmed that they are earmarking funds for organizations in California and Florida that meet the TAA’s accreditation standards. In 2013, it is expected that in excess of $200,000 will be granted.
  • Keeneland, Fasig-Tipton, Barretts and, OBS, beginning with the 2013 sales calendar, will enable buyers and consignors to automatically contribute .05% of their respective purchases or gross sales directly to TAA.  The sales companies will contribute an additional .05% from their gross sales receipts as well.  For those who do not wish to participate in the program, there will be a voluntary opt-out provision
In addition, the TAA board announced that it has met in recent weeks to discuss sustainable fund-raising strategies with a broad cross section of industry organizations including Breeders’ Cup, New York Thoroughbred Horsemen Association and owners of stallions standing in New York, California and Florida.  Meetings with racetracks and other trade associations, representing jockeys, regulators, trainers and owners, will be held later this year to encourage the broadest possible participation.

“Everything we do in this industry begins and ends with the horse,” said Jimmy Bell, President of Darley
America. “It’s time for the industry to make a tangible, long-term commitment to Thoroughbred aftercare, and I am proud of these 13 stallion farms in central Kentucky that have done just that.”

“We are proud to support the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and feel strongly about its mission,” said James L. Gagliano, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Jockey Club. “These very modest financial commitments at various checkpoints in a Thoroughbred’s career will make a significant difference in giving our equine athletes the lives and second careers they deserve after their racing days are over.”

“We feel that establishing an automatic mechanism by which to fund aftercare is both the right thing to do and the only way to do it right,” said Boyd Browning, President of Fasig-Tipton. “Our customers on both sides of every purchase share a common love for Thoroughbreds, and this systematic approach makes it easy for all to do their part in a fair and equitable manner.”

“The fundamental principle behind this initiative, and our entire industry, should be to do what is best for the horse.  That is truly the impetus behind our willingness to not only provide seed capital to this organization, but also be a sustaining member  with the widespread support of our consignors and buyers, to ensure there is a continued emphasis on aftercare, new careers and other programs for our very special athletes,” stated Bill Thomason, President/CEO of Keeneland Association.

“We are proud to support the TAA,” said Kim Lloyd, General Manager of Barretts Equine Limited. “We want to do right by the horses. They are at the heart of everything we do.”

“OBS is delighted to join the many industry organizations stepping up on behalf of Thoroughbreds,” said Tom Ventura, President of OBS. “We are pleased at the breadth of commitment being demonstrated today.”

“As one of the initial funders for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, Breeders’ Cup supports the development of an industry-wide, annually funded program committed to the placement or second-career retraining of retired Thoroughbreds on a national scale,” said Bob Elliston, Chief Operating Officer of Breeders’ Cup Ltd. “Thoroughbreds deserve to be treated in a dignified manner throughout their lives.”

“We believe strongly in the mission and spirit that is guiding the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance,” said Mike Rogers, President of The Stronach Group. “The TAA represents a unique opportunity for our industry to work together in providing second careers and aftercare to these extraordinary athletes. It also is another step in insuring that every Thoroughbred will be treated with dignity and decency throughout its entire life.”

Based in Lexington, Ky., the TAA is designed to serve as both the accrediting body for aftercare facilities that care for Thoroughbreds following the conclusion of their racing careers and a fundraising body to support these approved facilities.  Funded initially by seed money from Breeders’ Cup, Ltd., The Jockey Club, and Keeneland Association, the TAA is comprised of owners, trainers, breeders, racetracks, jockeys, aftercare professionals and other industry groups. To support the TAA, please visit or call 859-224-2756.

As the press release suggests, this is the first stage of funding as it will require a significant buy-in from industry participants to institute a mandatory program which gets funding throughout the entire lifecycle of the thoroughbred (breeding, ownership transfers, first time studs and brooodmares).  I am sure PETA would have wanted to see their plan implemented, but there should be some solace that the industry at least is beginning to do something for their retired horses.
One has to wonder why the standardbred industry doesn't come up with a Standardbred Aftercare Alliance  or do we need to wait until PETA comes knocking on our doors?  Now realistically, with purses lower than they are in thoroughbred racing, the fees in the PETA proposal are too high, but there is no reason the fee couldn't be half of what was proposed by PETA (PETA proposed a mandatory fee of $360 for registering a foal, $360 each time ownership was changed either via an auction, private sale, or claiming race, and $360 the first time a stallion or broodmare entered breeding duty).. 

It is time for the standardbred industry to understand voluntary contributions to horse rescue are not sufficient and it's the breeders and owners who have an obligation to look out and protect the interests of these horses.  Steps should be taken to begin this process as soon as possible, beginning with establishing guidelines.  Through shared services, the USTA could work with the Jockey Club and have a joint accreditation group to accredit rescues for the same standards should apply regardless of breed.

Yes, I know PETA raises an emotional response from those in the racing industry, but one can't deny that PETA got the ball rolling on this proposal.  This topic is not meant to converse about the merits of PETA or lack of merits.  Therefore, when responding please leave any comments about the hypocrisy of PETA  out of your responses.


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