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Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Retirement at 15

2014's leading dash winner is Anvil Raider N, with 23 victories.  Season victory number 23 came last night at Northfield Park when the gelding won a $3,000 claiming event in 1:57.3 from post position eight. parked the entire mile.  Being 14 years old, Anvil Raider has won his last race he is eligible to compete in.

Meanwhile, thanks to Yonkers Raceway being closed this week, Forest Vic A scored his first and last victory at the Meadowlands in a B-1 pace as he dead-heated with odds-on favorite Road Untraveled to win in 1:50.3.  The timing was perfect as the horse is heading off to retirement as he turns 15 on January 1 and thus may no longer race in pari-mutuel events.  It's always good to see these war horses go out a winner.

The upcoming January 1 birthday of all race horses re-ignites the question "Should horses be forced to retire from (pari-mutuel) racing when they turn 15 which is the current rule?" every year.  It is a tough question to answer.  If a horse really loves to race, is sound and competitive, why should it be forced to stop racing?  On the other hand, isn't there a point where it is time to say 'enough is enough' and let the horse enjoy a second career or well deserved retirement?  Lastly, what would be the public perception of continuing to race 'old' horses?

In theory, I agree every horse deserves to be retired at a certain point but then there is reality, we know the industry doesn't do enough to make sure horses end up retired, enjoying the good life.  While some owners will retire their horses to a farm to live out the balance of their lives or give them a second career, we know there are those who reward their horse whose racing careers are ended by selling them to a 'broker' or sending them to auction, wiping their hands of any responsibility.  Of course, this can happen at any age, not just the industry-mandated age of 15.

It would be nice if the industry could adopt an industry-wide program to safeguard all standardbreds whose racing careers have concluded as the thoroughbred industry has but sadly the industry shows little inclination of doing so.

With respect to those veterans turning 15, we must recognize the number of horses impacted by the mandatory retirement age is small; in reality, the vast majority horses have their careers ending earlier.  In the absence of an industry-wide retirement program, is there something which could be done  to help our veterans (in this case, horses 10 years old and up) and keep them on the racetrack?

Hence, a possible proposal:

If a horse shows the desire to race but lacks the speed to keep up with the 'youngsters', why not have a 'senior circuit' where races would be restricted to 10 year olds and up?  This way the veterans would not have to race against the faster horses. A horse which wishes to race in the senior circuit would have to submit to a complete physical including radiographs at the start of the season and be limited to 20 starts for the year.

What do you think about horses racing past 14?  Is it a good idea or bad?  Let's here from you.

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