A Path Forward through Collaboration
GROUP EFFORT BRINGS NEIL’S DIAMOND HOME TO CANADA
By: Stacie Clark-Rogers
Originally published in the June 2023 edition of BloodHorse magazine
In 2017, I hosted a small pizza party for affiliates of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance who were attending Equestricon in Saratoga Springs. During the event, my athletic two-year-old Whippet managed to jump over a not-so-secure three-foot fence and ran down the back alley. At the same time, someone at the party yelled “loose dog!” and without hesitation, all the affiliated Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance members ran down the alley to find my naughty canine. We later joked that at any other party, one might not have witnessed such a committed group reaction, but it should come as no surprise that these horse-loving heroes worked together.
COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS IN PUERTO RICO
As the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance enters its 11th year in 2023, its accredited organizations continue to come together and support one another to ensure horses from the Thoroughbred industry have a soft landing. One example is the cooperative efforts made with the accredited groups to help horses get from Puerto Rico to mainland North America for better aftercare opportunities. With only one racetrack in Puerto Rico, there is only one accredited aftercare group to support Thoroughbreds after their racing careers are over—Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare (CTA). However, keeping retired Thoroughbreds in Puerto Rico is not always a viable option due to limited space and adoption opportunities.
“The Thoroughbreds are always being imported to the island,” says Kelley Stobie, Executive Director of CTA, “and we don’t have enough homes here in Puerto Rico, and there are not enough places to go.”
Despite limited funding and support from the racetrack in Puerto Rico, Kelley works to find connections that will take horses back to mainland North America. Kelley only sends horses that are rehabbed and retrained so they can be adopted out within a month under the transferred group. Over the last ten years, CTA has shipped more than 90 Thoroughbreds to Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredited organizations on the mainland.
Enter Neil’s Diamond, a Canadian-bred ten-year-old Thoroughbred who had a successful career in Puerto Rico, winning the Gr. II Clasico Mister Frisky Stakes at Camarero Racetrack in 2020. When Vicki Pappas, founder of LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society, a Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance organization located in Ontario, learned that Neil’s Diamond was running in Puerto Rico, she asked Kelley to keep him on the “watch list” and let her know when he retired from racing.
Kelley did so and reached out to Neil’s Diamond’s owner Carlos Casillas, who told Kelley that the gelding’s breeders, Franz and Danielle Crean, had offered to give Neil’s Diamond a retirement home to retire in Canada.
JOURNEY BACK TO CANADA
The next steps were not the easiest but once again the two Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredited organizations worked together to get Neil’s Diamond home after his racing careers.
The cost to transport Neil’s Diamond from Puerto Rico to Canada totaled over $3,500. The Puerto Rican owner covered the expenses to get Neil’s Diamond back to Florida, a process that involved 10 days of quarantine, a 2–6-hour transfer through customs and onto the plane, and a 2.5 hour flight to Ocala. From there, LongRun covered the expenses and, in coordination with Kelley, expertly managed the process. After a month-long stay in Ocala while shipping to Canada was arranged, Neil’s Diamond finally arrived at LongRun’s Ontario farm in May. He rested there for a few weeks before shipping to his final destination – his birthplace and home.
A SECOND CAREER IN FOX HUNTING
After gaining weight and recovering from his long journey, Neil’s Diamond was sound enough to start his second career, and Franz introduced him to Fox Hunting at the Caledon Hunt Club.
“I rode him every day for a month, and I asked our Hunt Club if I could bring him to the last hunt of the year, to get him used to everything. He was super!” said a smiling Franz. “He got off the van and went out with the hounds and he never batted an eye.”
“We are so thankfrul to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredited organizations who were instrumental in making Neil’s Diamond’s retirement a success,” said Danielle, “with LongRun coordinating his transport and rehabilitation, and Caribbean Thoroughbred Aftercare facilitating his transfer from Puerto Rico to Canada.”
A NETWORK TO RELY ON
The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance’s accredited organizations have been working together for 11 years to provide retired Thoroughbred horses with the care they need. Networking and collaborating are critical to their efforts, particularly since Puerto Rico has limited space for retired racehorses. Kelley is quick to note that the support given by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance organizations comes from all over.
“For example, Jim Rhodes from Equine Rescue of Aiken and Bev Strauss from MidAtlantic Horse Rescue have been particularly supportive of CTA’s efforts,” says Kelley. “Many of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredited organizations offer more than just placement opportunities, as they also provide support for rehabbing and retraining horses, answering questions, and helping with logistics.”
“It is wonderful to work with other Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance organizations to facilitate the happy retirement of the horse,” Vicki remarked. “This is a big plus of being part of this network. It would have been difficult for LongRun to do this on our own.”
HOW CAN WE CONTINUE THIS SUPPORT
Sustainability is a concern for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and its accredited partners. The work of these accredited organizations to help retired racehorses find new homes should be commended, and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance’s efforts have been instrumental in supporting aftercare organizations across North America. Second Stride and MidAtlantic Thoroughbreds have significantly increased adoption numbers since becoming accredited, while other organizations have expanded their capacity to provide sanctuary for horses at risk of being euthanized. The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance has accomplished many goals since its inception in 2012, and it remains committed to providing the best possible care for retired Thoroughbred horses.
The story of Neil’s Diamond’s successful retirement and transition to a new life is a testament to the power of collaboration and support in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Even in the face of limited resources and challenges, with the help of Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance accredited organizations, retired racehorses can find happy and fulfilling second careers.