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Breeders’ Cup Has Been There from the Start

Breeders’ Cup Has Been There from the Start

By: Jay Privman

It was a moment of pure serendipity. The Breeders’ Cup had been having internal discussions about ways to bring a more coordinated approach to Thoroughbred aftercare, and then Jack Wolf, who heads the highly successful Starlight Racing partnership, approached the Breeders’ Cup with his idea for something of that ilk.

“It was a happy coincidence,” said Dora Delgado, the executive vice president/chief racing officer of the Breeders’ Cup. “This seemed to check all the boxes, a way to distribute funds in a fair and equitable manner, and not end up in just one bucket, not just have Kentucky benefit, but make it nationwide.”

And from that, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance was born.

Breeders’ Cup, along with The Jockey Club and Keeneland, were the three organizations who provided the necessary funding to get Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance off the ground. In the decade-plus since, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance has grown to now accredit 86 organizations and approximately 180 facilities that re-train and re-home Thoroughbreds for second careers, or give them a chance to live out their lives in dignity at retirement facilities.

Nearly $32 million has been distributed by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance to those organizations and facilities, and the Breeders’ Cup has provided financial assistance throughout. For Delgado, who is based in Lexington, Ky., support for Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance is something important to her both professionally and personally.

“From the 175 or so horses who compete at every Breeders’ Cup, just a small percentage of them go to the breeding shed and achieve greatness. So there’s a continuous need when you think of the size and scope of what’s out there,” Delgado said.

“We have a social responsibility, an industry responsibility, to care for these horses. If you make your living in any way with a Thoroughbred – owner, breeder, as a vanning company, a feed company, anything – you should be contributing. It’s in your best interest.”

The Breeders’ Cup helps keep Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance top of mind year-round by tying it to the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Program, more commonly known as the “Win and You’re In” races like the Metropolitan Mile, to be run this year at Saratoga on the Belmont Stakes card, and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. Cards on those days feature Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance signage and demonstrations from off-the-track Thoroughbreds. In addition, the race formerly known as the Breeders’ Cup Marathon is now named for Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and is run on championship weekend.

Several Breeders’ Cup winners – Eldaafer, Little Mike, and Stormy Liberal – are retirees in Georgetown, Ky., at Old Friends, joined there by the recently retired Channel Maker, who holds the record of having competed in the Breeders’ Cup six times.

“I really enjoy that they’re down the road and I can go see them,” Delgado said. “It’s nice that they can go there and just be horses.

And on a personal level, Delgado has seen the importance of a re-trained Thoroughbred who fell far short of being a Breeders’ Cup participant. Her daughter Mallory had an off-the-track Thoroughbred who was a hunter-jumper and then graduated to cross country.

“He was very slow on the racetrack, but he liked to go fast and jump over things,” Delgado said.

“Thoroughbreds are versatile and smart. They want a job to do. Think of all the great geldings who ended up being racetrack ponies. A horse like Lava Man,” Delgado said, referring to the Hall of Fame racehorse who now resides at Old Friends after working as a pony for more than a decade, “he was so headstrong, but that stood him well when teaching babies.”

Delgado said Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance’s structure, which engendered buy-ins industry wide from all types of organizations, and the continuous accreditation process for those seeking funds, make it a model for aftercare

“The way the board is comprised, everyone has a vested interest in seeing it do well,” she said.

Including the Breeders’ Cup, which has been there from the start.

Learn more about Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance’s supporters:

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