Randall Sorrell was locked up at the Blackburn Correctional Complex in Lexington, Ky., for nearly five years. It was his lucky break!
While serving time for “making a bad choice while in Kentucky on vacation,” he started to make good choices as a participant in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s (TRF) Second Chances Program, which celebrates its 15th anniversary today.
While working with retired racehorse Thoroughbreds, Sorrell says he learned many things, including building trust between man and horse, giving and receiving. “I also learned about the effectiveness of partnership. If you look at the relationship between a human and a horse, it’s built on trust and mutual respect,” he says during a telephone interview with Off Track Thoroughbreds. “Those are life skills, some call it horse sense, and they’re easily transferable from the horse barn to interactions with people outside.”
That work, as well as a deep connection with the prison’s chapel and volunteers from the Lexington Catholic Charities prison ministry taught him to “live in service to others” every chance he gets.
“I was blessed before I went to prison. I had a moderate level of success, and a good education,” he says. “But I made a bad choice on vacation in Kentucky, and I paid the consequences. I deserved to.”
Sorrell returns to the complex today a new man. A commodities marketing consultant who works with farmers to mitigate their risk for downward price movement, he is a successful businessman with his feet on the ground, and his heart with the Kentucky program that gave him his second chance.
An invited guest and speaker at the anniversary celebration, Sorrell will talk about how the relationships he developed working with ex-racehorses as well as his involvement with the prison chapel gave him opportunities to start anew.
“I’ve always kept the TRF in the back of my mind. I’ve gone to fundraisers and I’ve talked often … with my clients about opportunities there, and options for their horses,” he says.
The Open House runs from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. today, and will feature talks by other special guests, including Bryan Beccia, a graduate who is an exercise rider who worked Preakness runner-up Ride On Curlin.
Guests will also be given a tour of the facility, which opened its TRF Second Chances Program in April 1999 after the Commonwealth of Kentucky donated 100 acres to the program. Blackburn is currently home to 58 former racehorses, including Ask the Lord, who earned more than $700,000 in 83 races, and Argentina-bred Sovereign Kit, who raced 85 times and earned more than $440,000.