Laura Hillenbrand, bestselling author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend and Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, announced last week that she will sponsor a great-grandson of Triple Crown winner Affirmed in his retirement at one of her favorite charities, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
Hillenbrand’s pledge to support ex-racehorse Thoroughbred Quite Rightly, a beautiful bay who resides at the Central Maryland Correctional Facility’s Second Chance Farm, was offered to honor a dear friend who lost his Affirmed mare to colic, and to show her support for the horses and people at the TRF.
In an interview with Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com, Hillenbrand explains that shortly after her friend Jeff Morris, a former breeder and trainer, lost his beloved Affirmed mare North Park Legend to a severe case of colic last Wednesday, she went to the TRF website in hopes of finding another descendent of Affirmed whom she could sponsor.
Foal date: March 17, 1998
Earnings: $149,770 in 45 startsShe sought to pay tribute to Morris and North Park Legend, a mare who was in foal when she died with her head in Morris’ arms.
“I was so heartbroken for (Jeff), and wanted to do something that would balance the terrible loss,” Hillenbrand says. “I could do nothing to help North Park Legend, but I could do something to help another horse in need.”
His grief in losing the sweet-tempered mare he’d hoped to protect and keep happy was impetus to make a soothing gesture, she adds, noting, “It was my way of making something good come of something so sad.”
Having lost count of the number of TRF horses she has sponsored in the past, Hillenbrand says she is proud to be affiliated with a “wonderful organization,” which is passionately devoted to the welfare of horses, and that has helped find happy homes for horses she has sponsored in the past. New homes where they are “lavished in kindness and the best possible care.”
Hillenbrand further praises the TRF for its yeoman’s work caring for thousands of horses over the years, and for its innovative inmate program at correctional facilities, which offers inmates a chance to connect and care for horses who might otherwise be forgotten, or worse.
“The communion that forms between these once-outcast horses and their inmate caretakers is so special, and I find it so moving that in helping to save these horses, the inmates are saving themselves,” Hillenbrand says. “The TRF has rescued some 4,000 horses over the years, saving many from a hideous fate in a slaughterhouse. It is an essential organization, and I’m proud to contribute anything I can to it.”
Before retiring at the TRF, Quite Rightly earned $149,770 in 45 starts, racing primarily in Florida, New York and the mid-Atlantic region.
Not a horseplayer, Hillenbrand says she has enjoyed watching equine athletes she describes as “extraordinary creatures,” and she would hope that others who have also enjoyed watching horse races would consider contributing to the TRF or another organization supporting retired racehorses.
“I don’t ever place bets on races, and am not financially involved in the racing industry. But I think any of us who draw pleasure from watching these extraordinary creatures race owes something to them.
“If I have cheered a racehorse on, if I have marveled at his beauty or his performance, I feel like I should give him something back. The thing racehorses need more than anything else is a happy home after retirement. I feel an obligation to do my part to see that they receive that. It’s the least we can do. My involvement in the TRF is my way of doing that. I hope more people will do the same.”