Spendthrift Farm donates $30K to Old Friends

Michael Blowen, left, accepts a generous donation to his Thoroughbred sanctuary Old Friends.

Michael Blowen, left, accepts a generous donation to his Thoroughbred sanctuary Old Friends.

Spendthrift Farm, one of the Thoroughbred industry’s leading breeding farms, has made a generous donation of $30,000 to Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY.

Spendthrift, owned by B. Wayne Hughes and located in Lexington, plans to donate the purse earned by a third-place finish in the inaugural “Spendthrift Stallion Stakes,” which was run at Churchill Downs on October 30. The decision was announced Nov. 25.

Earlier this year, Spendthrift Farm partnered with Churchill Downs to create the Spendthrift Stallion Stakes, a $300,000-guaranteed stakes race to be run in the fall for 2-year-olds that are sired exclusively by Spendthrift stallions.

The inaugural running in 2016 was part of Churchill Downs’ 12th annual “Stars of Tomorrow” program, which is entirely devoted to 2-year-old racing.

Third-place finisher Lawton is the 2-year-old son of Archarcharch.

Spendthrift is home to many other prominent stallions including Into Mischief, Dominus, Malibu Moon, Warrior’s Reward, Temple City, Tizway, and Wicked Strong.

“What Michael Blowen has done with Old Friends has been a great service to the industry,” said Ned Toffey, Spendthrift General Manager, who presented Blowen with a check this week. “It’s a great cause, it’s good for owners, breeders, and also for the fans and so we were very happy to do this.” Toffey added. “We as an industry need to provide for these horses.”

“We are grateful to Mr. Hughes, Ned, and everyone at Spendthrift, and can’t thank them enough for this show of support,” said Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends. “Such a contribution will go a long way in providing for our retired horses.” For more information about Spendthrift visit the website at www.spendthriftfarm.com.

Va. officer helps inmates heal with horses

Officer Shane Clarke of the Virginia Department of Corrections plays an integral role in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's racehorse/prisoner program Second Chances. Pictured with one of his favorite ex-racehorses, Toasty.

Officer Shane Clarke of the Virginia Department of Corrections plays an integral role in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s racehorse/prisoner program Second Chances. Pictured with one of his favorite ex-racehorses, Toasty.

Officer Shane Clarke of Virginia’s James River Work Center never gets tired of hearing the voices of paroled inmates who call him on the barn phone; the very barn that was at once a humble home for horses and a kind of schoolroom, where those dispossessed learned to pick hooves, feed and interact with 1,200 pound animals who in turn helped them find their way.

“I’d say that when I hear from guys who’ve gotten out of prison and are doing well, that’s about the greatest part of my job,” says Clarke, an officer with James River Work Center for 15 years, 10 spent working in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s prisoner/racehorse program, Second Chances. “When they call, it tells me they thought enough of the program to keep in touch. I heard from one guy who told me he and his wife are doing well, and they’re having a child. And another who just wanted to say hi and ask how everybody’s doing.”

Since James River accepted its first retired racehorses 10 years ago, and began training inmates horsemanship skills, Clarke has been an enthusiastic mainstay of the center, the prison farm, and on weekends off, the volunteer cook at many an Open Barn.

In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Clarke discusses how his career path led him to the Virginia Department of Corrections and the horsemanship program he admired so much, such that he jumped in and took the classes himself.

Q: How’d you wind up at the TRF’s James River program?

Clarke with his favorite TRF retiree, Scary Guy.

Clarke with his favorite TRF retiree, Scary Guy.

About 15 years ago I was working for Verizon and loved it. But as cell phones got more popular and people got rid of landlines, which in turn cut out the “trouble calls” I assisted with, our workload lessened, and I was laid off along with 41 other technicians. At the time, my wife and I had just built our home and my son was six months old. So I went to my next-door neighbor, who worked for the Department of Corrections, and asked how he liked working there. I heard good things and decided to apply for a job. I’ve been there ever since.

Q: What did you think when you first heard that horses may come to James River?

The first word I got about it came from Heather Mitchell, a counselor at James River at the time. She worked for the Department of Corrections and told me they were trying to get a horse program started here. I was ecstatic. Both my grandparents and my parents had horses. My grandparents rode Thoroughbreds and Arabians, and my mother rode and showed Quarter Horses. So, when I heard, I immediately told my supervisor I wanted to be a part of it.

Q: What is your role in the TRF’s Second Chances program?

First and foremost I was brought down here for security. But, once I met Dr. Reid McLellan (the developer of the Second Chances training and classroom materials) I decided to take the same courses the guys were taking. I’d be silly to be down here if I didn’t know how to take care of horses myself, so I asked if I could get the book, and I studied and took the exams with the inmates.

Q: Does working together with horses ease any tension that might exist between law enforcement and inmates?

Clarke and inmates see to the care of one of 28 racehorses retired at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's James River location.

Clarke and inmates see to the care of one of 28 racehorses retired at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s James River location.

Well, I very seldom butt heads with any offenders. I give them respect and they give it back. I understand that we all mistakes and as for the guys coming through the program, most of them know who I am, and am hoping they would say I’m a good guy. We’re all a big family around here.

Q: What are your best memories from the farm?

Mostly it’s those moments when I hear from the guys who’ve left the program and have gotten out. When I hear from them that they’re on their feet and doing OK, those are the best memories. Or when we’ve had some of the guys come back to teach, like we have with three of our farriers. These men have gone on to become professional farriers, and they come back to tell the new guys what they’re doing. Some of them are newly married, and they’re all doing well. That’s pretty gratifying.

Q: You’ve also watched many transformations in your time.

Being down here all the time, I see the changes that take place everyday. As a new horse comes in, I watch how they change. They’re not pushed here, and they live out in a herd, and it really transforms them. And some of the new offenders coming in are usually a little nervous to start, and they should be working around a 1,200-pound animal, so it really means a lot to watch how they all learn to adapt to one another.

We have 28 horses now, including two descendants from Secretariat—Covert Action and Multiple Choice. But my favorites are Scary Guy, a huge horse, and Toasty, who lived to be 32 before he was euthanized.

Q: I understand you wear several hats around the barn?

I like to help out as much as I can. When we have Open Barns for the general public, I come in on my days off to cook hamburgers and hotdogs for the public. Or if we have any other special event, I like to be part of it. I bring my family, and they love it.

Officer Clarke is one of the individuals within the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation who helps ensure a long and happy life for retired racehorses and a path to healing for prison inmates.

OTTB charities join the growing TAA ‘network’

A Thoroughbred enjoys a new career with the Square Peg Foundation, one of the TAA-accredited Thoroughbred charities. Photo courtesy TAA

A Thoroughbred enjoys a new career with the Square Peg Foundation, one of the TAA-accredited Thoroughbred charities. Photo courtesy TAA

As part of a growing effort by the Thoroughbred industry to take care of retiring racehorses coming off the track, eight Thoroughbred charities were just recently added to a growing network of facilities deemed to have met the “high bar” of best practices and standards for Thoroughbred aftercare.

Following on-site inspections of both horses and farms, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance welcomed eight Thoroughbred charities into the fold for the first time, as well as 19 previously accredited charities. The designations bring the total number of TAA-accredited Thoroughbred charities to 64, says Stacie Clark Rogers, operations consultant.

The accreditation, which indicates a charity adheres to a rigorous code of operations, from horse keeping to ethical practices, acts like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval, Rogers explains, noting that charities within the network receive funding, guidance and help from the TAA and the racing industry. Accreditation is awarded for a two-year period, after which organizations must reapply. All TAA accredited organizations are eligible to receive financial grants to support the care of Thoroughbreds.

An OTTB enjoys the day at the Foxie G Foundation. Foxie G was recently accredited by the TAA.

An OTTB enjoys the day at the Foxie G Foundation. Foxie G was recently accredited by the TAA.

The following charities have been newly added to the TAA: After the Races Nottingham, Penn.; Galloping Out North Riverside, Ill.; Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds Cocoa, Fla.; Out Side In Grand Haven, Mich.; RVR Horse Rescue Riverview, Fla.; Second Chance Thoroughbreds, Spencer, N.Y.; The Foxie G Foundation, Libertytown, Md.; War Horses at Rose Bower, Appomattox, Va.

The newly added charities can feel proud to have achieved this designation, she adds.

“What separates the TAA-approved charities is that we have set a high bar to be reached in order to get accredited,” Rogers says. “These charities must do their due diligence, and we monitor them. If there are issues, we can help fix them. Charities that are accredited with us hit a standard that involves good management and horse care.”

Horses in the herd of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation enjoy a romp at the TRF's James River facility. The TRF was accredited by the TAA last year.

Horses in the herd of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation enjoy a romp at the TRF’s James River facility. The TRF was accredited by the TAA last year.

Noting that the funding and goodwill that flows to TAA-accredited charities would not have been possible without the avid support of the race industry, Rogers adds, “We began with seed money from the Breeders’ Cup, the Jockey Club and Keeneland … and as we’ve grown, the industry has embraced our efforts even more.”

Jimmy Bell, TAA and Godolphin America president says that all 64 charities serving Thoroughbreds across the country, including the 27 newly accredited and reaccredited, are performing horse keeping at the highest level.

“The organizations accredited by the TAA represent the top echelon of aftercare services, ensuring that the horses retiring from racing are receiving the best possible care and opportunities to find new careers or retirements,” he says.

The 27 organizations that received accreditation this year are: After the Races, Bright Futures Farm, CANTER Michigan, Equestrian Inc., Equine Advocates, Final Furlong, Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program, Friends of Ferdinand, Galloping Out (Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Thoroughbred Rescue Fund), Harmony and Hope Horse Haven, Heaven Can Wait, Hidden Acres Rescue for Thoroughbreds, Illinois Equine Humane Center, Los Angeles Pet Rescue (Farralone Farms), Oklahoma Thoroughbred Retirement Program, Our Mims Retirement Haven, Out Side In, R.A.C.E. Fund, Remember Me Rescue, RVR Horse Rescue, Second Chance Thoroughbreds, Second Stride, Square Peg Foundation, The Foxie G Foundation, Thoroughbred Athletes, Tranquility Farm (The Harry A. Biszantz Memorial Center), and War Horses at Rose Bower.

The full list of all 64 TAA-accredited organizations can be found at thoroughbredaftercare.org/taa-accredited-organizations.