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Racehorse Retirement Discussed In Saratoga Springs

Three County Fairgrounds Horse Barns

The New York State Gaming Commission recently invited stakeholders to discuss racehorse retirement and aftercare in Saratoga Springs.

With the thoroughbred racing meet at Saratoga Race Course winding down amid a series of news stories about the number of horses injured or killed at the track, the New York State Gaming Commission held a discussion Tuesday focused on responsible aftercare for horses.

Leaders of aftercare organizations brainstormed ways to keep track of horses whose racing days are done.

Gaming Commissioner Peter Moschetti greeted the group of participants that included representatives of several aftercare organizations.

“That’s one of the things we need to do before we can fully determine what the best way is to channel whatever we can to you folks, is we have to figure out whatever the needs is,” said Moschetti.

According to a research project undertaken bythe Gaming Commission, there are 3,894 New York-bred thoroughbreds active between 2010 and 2012 that are no longer racing. 

Of that number, 1,871 horses, or about 48 percent, have been located.Three were confirmed to have been sold at auction, 356 were deceased, and 1,512 were retired in some shape or form.

Ron Ochrym is acting executive director of the New York State Gaming Commission.

“We will continue to try to locate these New York-bred horses, however that fact that in two years we have only found about half the horses speaks volumes about the challenges of definitively stating the number of horses that are out there,” said Ochrym. 

Ideas floated at the meeting to keep track of horses included entering health certificates into a database and developing a sort of racehorse “passport.”

While commenting on the possibility of scanning microchips in each horse and entering information into a database, Dr. Scott Palmer, the Gaming Commission’s Equine Medical Director, said that the cheapest and most efficient way to go about any database project would be to go “big.”

“All the local stuff is nowhere. It’s gotta be big because these horses go everywhere,” said Palmer. “Without a database that includes all states, for example, or all racing states, you’re still going to lose horses.”

A common thread was brought up several times during the discussion that stretched on over an hour and a half: money.

Stacie Clark is with Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance….

“The basic problem we have…and it comes always to ‘Well, then there’s this variable and that variable and that variable’…it comes down to funding,” said Clark.

Just one retired racehorse can cost thousands of dollars a year in care. Less scrupulous owners have even sent champion horses to the slaughterhouse.

In addition tothe efforts to better track New York-bred horses, last year the Commission produced a film to draw attention to the importance of aftercare in the state.

The film is required viewing for any owner, trainer, or assistant trainer seeking licensure or renewal in New York.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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