The Second Race is on

Face time with Zenyatta

Once on the fast track, Sharla Sanders was running the broker desk at a major subprime mortgage lender and overseeing 45 employees before the economic sea change forced her to look for a second career.

Two years after her employer closed its doors, Sanders found a career helping ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds get new jobs after their racing days ended.

“I always had a dream that I was going to do something for racehorses, and then I lost my job. I consulted for another mortgage company for a year, but when that job ended as well I thought, ‘It’s now or never,’ ” Sanders says. “I decided to jump in. If I waited for all the lights to turn green, it never would have happened.”

Zenyatta paints for charity

In 2009, Sanders founded The Second Race, an Arcadia, Calif.-based corporation geared toward networking on behalf of ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds.

“We’re different. We’re not a rescue, and we work by facilitating re-homing or re-training by networking through our vast resources of layup farms, breeders, horse owners, trainers and even jockeys,” Sanders says. “This is a networking and marketing business. I have a 10-year business plan; it’s not just something I’ve done on emotion.”

Not that compassion hasn’t had it’s place in Sander’s new career path.

When in 2002, the longtime horseracing fan learned Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand had been killed in a Japanese slaughterhouse, Sanders felt impelled to do something. “At that point, I wanted to help a horse—somehow.”

A To The Z under saddle

She started by sponsoring the retirement of an ex-racer through California Equine Retirement Foundation, and making monthly donations for his care. Later, she volunteered with an unusual and successful project to create and sell impressionistic “paintings” created by famous racehorses.

Using peppermint inducements, Sanders has coaxed some of the greats, including Zenyatta and Lava Man, to dip their muzzles in nontoxic, water-based paints and have at canvas a’la Picasso or Degas. Impressions in colors that match the racing silks associated with each horse have fetched as much as $1,500 for racehorse retirement.

When she started all this, not everyone understood.

Retired racehorse A To The Z

“A very dear girlfriend let me know she thought it was very frivolous in light of all the starving children, or people with cancer,” Sanders says. “And I answer that by saying you have to choose your own niche, and follow your heart toward what your passion is.

For Sanders, although the world’s problems concern her too, there is something about helping horses that ignites that spark.

Recently, Sanders was rewarded for her networking and marketing efforts on behalf of California stakes winner A To The Z. The Thoroughbred won over $700,000 in 21 starts before his career ended. His owner, Paula Capestro, was determined to find him a new career that would challenge him.

“Paula didn’t want to give that horse up because he was kind of a barn pet to her. When she called me she insisted he be retrained for a performance career” because he was too talented to retire without a job.

Partnering with Hess Equine and Silks to Show Ring, The Second Race helped connect A To The Z with a next career, possibly in the show ring. After just three months of schooling trainers are calling the horse a “jumping savant.”

Sharla Sanders in her new office

“He watched other lesson horses and he just kind of followed what they were doing,” she says, noting that A To The Z exemplifies the willingness and talent of many off-track Thoroughbreds.

As for Sander’s second career, the experience of going from hectic office to grassy pasture has brought its own happy end.

“When I worked for the mortgage company, racing was my stress reliever. Now I’m living the dream, and it’s taken off like a firestorm.”

7 responses to “The Second Race is on”

  1. The Heart Of The Horse Therapy Ranch

    WOW!!! All My Friends on the same page!!! Second Race Susan, SilverWings Tony & Gina & Rebecca!!!

    Heratige & the Monster are doing Awesome Rebecca! We are still hoping to get Costal up here! Things are Looking Up Here at the Ranch! We would Love to see you guys in Del Mar at the Clayton Anderson show. We will be there with a couple horses & Special needs Kids!!!

    Have Fun All & May God Bless What You All Do for our Friends with Fure Hoof and Heart Of A Horse!!!


  2. Rebecca Cook

    Thank you for the article on The Second Race. I’ve adopted a few and fostered a few for The Second Race and let me tell you it’s been wonderful. I can also vouch for Gina and Silverwings, great folks and will even send the hubby out to help repair truck and trailer! This January I was picking up 2 TB stallions from up north actually that I came upon from Second Race. Truck and trailer were acting up so Tracy from January Ranch call Silverwings and off they came to help in the rain. Just two tb’s they also have helped get into their new home safely! Thanks guys!

  3. Patricia Bebb

    Met a friend of yours, Robbie at Fulton55 in Fresno, California. My daughter, Gina Roberts-Caglia of Silverwings Horse Rescue in Sanger, California rescues abused, abandoned, and owner relinguished horses for the past three years. Robbie said you might be in need of Central Valley contact.

    Gina’s first year she worked at the Fresno District Fair with Thoroughbreds to gain contacts and experience. Shoveled her share of muck.

    We are currently putting together a fundraiser BBQ for her on June 4th here in Fresno. Gina was working with another rescue in the area and they pulled out and we are in process of obtaining her 501. (c) (3).

    Gina Roberts-Caglia 559-787-2575

  4. Sharla Sanders, Founder The Second Race

    Thank you Susan for your article. The Second Race, A To The Z, Amy Hess of Hess Equine and Lisa Thorpe of, Silks to Show Ring, thank you for the coverage of this wonderful gelding.

    We are all looking forward to his future show career, and his ability to be an ambassador for other ex-race horses.

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