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NYRA's Commitment to Thoroughbred Aftercare

NYRA's Commitment to Thoroughbred Aftercare

By: Jay Privman

Anticipation is high for this year’s Belmont Stakes, to be held for the first time at Saratoga Race Course June 8 during a special four-day race week. As host to the final leg of the Triple Crown, and with high-quality racing year-round, the New York Racing Association is among the nation’s leaders in showcasing the best racing has to offer, and NYRA’s focus doesn’t end when the race does.

NYRA has been steadfast in its support of aftercare, with a multi-pronged approach that includes significant, mandated funding from its participants to aid Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. NYRA, in conjunction with the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, as well as the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, as well as owners who race at NYRA tracks, contribute more than $1.2 million annually to aftercare, according to David O’Rourke, the chief executive officer and president of NYRA.

“In 2014, NYTHA adopted a per-start fee for owners of $5 that provided funding to Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance,” O’Rourke said. “In July 2019, NYRA and NYTHA increased the per-start fee to $10. NYRA matches those contributions, and then donates the proceeds to Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at the conclusion of each race meet conducted at NYRA.

“In 2019, NYRA and NYTHA launched an aftercare assessment program that requires owners claiming a horse subject to contribute a 1.5 percent aftercare assessment on top of the claiming price of the horse, with funding allocated to Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and TTL,” he said, referring to Take The Lead, a retirement program for Thoroughbreds stabled at NYRA tracks. “For example, an owner claiming a horse for $50,000 will contribute an additional $750 toward aftercare. This program generates more than $250,000 per year.”

Saratoga’s summer meeting is a major point of emphasis for NYRA’s relationship with Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

“Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance plays a prominent role on-site during some of NYRA’s biggest days, including Whitney Day and others,” O’Rourke said. “In 2021, NYRA, NYTHA, and the NYTB held the inaugural Thoroughbred Aftercare Day at Saratoga Race Course to celebrate and highlight the work of the New York State aftercare community.”

O’Rourke said aftercare is paramount in importance because NYRA believes “the athletes who have given so much to the sport deserve to retire with dignity when their racing days are done.”

“New York is a national leader when it comes to supporting and investing in a variety of meaningful aftercare efforts,” O’Rourke said. “Fortunately, the New York racing community at-large cares deeply about Thoroughbred aftercare. That is reflected in the investments we see from NYTHA, NYTB, and so many groups and individuals who work to re-home and re-train these athletes.

“We work to educate the public about these efforts because misconceptions abound.”

Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance’s accreditation program is among the many ways quality control is maintained, and can be used as a concrete example to push back against those misconceptions.

“Our friends at Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance recognized that establishing a clear set of standards for accreditation is incredibly important,” O’Rouke said, adding that Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance is “an organization that enjoys national support from racing’s biggest entities because of their professionalism and care.

“And they are passionate about the work!” he said.

Learn more about Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance’s supporters:

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