Graceful. Powerful. Valuable.
But what about when the racing is over – after the last call to post – for thoroughbred race horses like Splashy Gizmo, below, ridden by Patrick Husbands to victory Saturday at Woodbine?
Well, adoption, of course.
Organizations like the LongRun Throroughbred Retirement Society, based out of Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, are trying to make sure these extraordinary equine animals maintain their usefulness and value after leaving the racetrack by placing the horses at farms and facilities that can adopt, care for and find lasting utility in the breed.
Vicki Pappas, founding member and chairperson of the organization, can’t say exactly how many former race horses LongRun has placed into foster farms over the last decade or so, but the numbers run well into the hundreds, with about 50 currently waiting permanent placement.
“We’re up to about 50 horses right now at different foster farms around the Greater Toronto Area,” said Pappas Saturday at Woodbine. “Generally speaking they would be placed in the province of Ontario but we’ve adopted into Quebec and Nova Scotia.
“We do the physical inspection of the farm and a one to two year follow-up on the horse just to make sure the horse and adopter are doing well. And if they need any help or advice we offer that too,” said Pappas.
The former race horses have traditionally gone on to be companions for other horses at the adoption site, but new uses have been found such as equine based therapy to help people and their own physical, mental and emotional issues.
Fundraising, charity help, and even race fans help with the financial burden of keeping the horses until a suitable adopter can be found.
“We’re really well-supported by the industry,”says Pappas. “We’re maybe the first group of its kind that actually gets a mandatory portion of the betting revenues here (at Woodbine). We get point five of one percent, which is the base of the monies we need to set up the horses.”
LongRun recently placed a horse for Earl Mack, former US Ambassador to Finland and breeder of thoroughbred race horses for the past 50 years.
“A lot of the owners like Mack will sponsor their horse until we find them a home,” Pappas said.
Below, jockey Sheena Ryan poses with my daughter Xingyu in front of the LongRun display and autograph booth at Woodbine.
Cold weather means jockeys are covering up as much as possible, like Justin Stein, below, heading out to start the third race of the day.
And bringing her “A” game while adjusting her multiple pairs of goggles below is Emma-Jayne Wilson, who took a third place finish aboard Benita Blue.