Frank Stronach, a multiple Eclipse Award winning owner and breeder and industry leader in the retraining and rehabilitation of Thoroughbred racehorses, has announced the formation of the Santa Anita Park After-Care Program. The new program will match retired racehorses with loving owners who will make a lifelong commitment to their health, safety and well-being.
Stronach is Chairman and CEO of MI Developments Inc., the parent company of Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, and the Maryland Jockey Club. Santa Anita will support the After-Care Program by matching the money currently taken from purses for that purpose (one third of one percent) at Santa Anita. The monies will be distributed to retirement programs throughout California by the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA).
“This is very generous of Frank,” said California trainer and CARMA CFO Howard Zucker. “He has given us the opportunity to discuss other ways of helping to retire racehorses with dignity. We will try to see that each unwanted horse that leaves the racetrack in California does so with an endowment.”
Stronach was recently selected to receive the inaugural Earle I. Mack Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Champion Award for his dedication to improving the welfare and safety of Thoroughbred horses during and after their racing careers. He set an industry precedent seven years ago by developing Adena Retirement, the racing industry’s first in-house retirement program, located in Florida. Under the direction of a full-time staff of professional trainers, riders, grooms and veterinarians, Adena Retirement carefully evaluates and retrains horses owned by the Stronach family and Adena Springs before matching them with owners who will provide suitable lifelong adoptive homes. Many of the horses retrained at Adena Retirement have flourished in new disciplines, including hunter, jumper, dressage and pleasure.
According to Zucker, CARMA board member Ron Charles was instrumental in getting Stronach and CARMA together.
“Once Frank realized there was already an organization in place in California to make use of the money,” Zucker explained, “He arranged for the people from his rehab facility to meet with the CARMA staff and chair, and they have worked out a mechanism where this will happen. It is pretty exciting.”
“This is not a solution to the problem, but we feel it is another step in the right direction,” said Stronach. “While we believe it is the responsibility of every owner to find safe, after-race programs for all Thoroughbreds, we also believe in taking the initiative to develop retirement, rehabilitation and retraining programs for these equine athletes who give so much to all of us.”
CARMA, a charitable 501 (c)(3) organization was created in 2008 to raise money for retired California racehorses. All facilities must undergo a rigorous application and inspection process before being approved for funding. Last year, CARMA distributed more than $300,000 to 15 non-profit equine retirement and rehabilitation facilities.
“CARMA encourages retraining and rehabilitation over simply retirement,” Zucker said. “It is so much better a model – if a horse is capable of being ridden or perhaps becoming a show horse.
“There seems to be a trend now wherein some large farms are stepping up to the plate and offering retirement options for the horses they have bred,” Zucker concluded. “If that trend continues – given some health in the industry and general economy – it will alleviate some of the problems of these non-profit retirement facilities. If more owners would have Mr. Stronach’s sense of responsibility it would be a kinder, gentler world for the horses.”
Retired racehorse Tontine Too, winner of more than $250,000 and now known as Tino, is a permanent resident and mascot at Leigh Gray's Thoroughbred Rehab Center at Winners Circle Ranch in Bradbury, Calif.