On Tuesday, four retired thoroughbreds from Suffolk Downs arrived at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Second Chances at Plymouth County Sheriff’s Farm, where they were brought to their new stalls in a barn renovated by inmates. They will be joined by additional retirees in the future.
Founded in 1982, the TRF’s mission is to save Thoroughbred horses no longer able to compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse and slaughter. In pursuing this mission, the TRF has found an ancillary purpose to provide much needed and successful programs for incarcerated men, women and juveniles. This unique program began at the Wallkill Correctional Facility in New York and has been replicated at facilities in Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, Iowa, Indiana, Virginia, Maryland and now Massachusetts.
“We are pleased and honored to be the first correctional agency in Massachusetts to participate in this worthy program,” said Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph D. McDonald, Jr. “This program is appropriately named as it will offer a true ‘second chance’ or new lease on life to both the retired Thoroughbred horses and our inmate trainees. To me, this is what our correctional mission is all about.”
The Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department operates the 90-acre Plymouth County Farm in Plymouth at the site of the old jail. The farm was placed in conservancy in October 2008 as a living reminder of Plymouth’s agricultural heritage. The farm has experienced a tremendous resurgence as a horticultural center and petting zoo under Sheriff McDonald, while at the same time serving as a vocational program for inmates housed at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility.
Led by principal owner and horse enthusiast Richard Fields, Suffolk Downs has demonstrated a commitment to the lifetime care of Thoroughbreds once their racing careers are over, becoming the first racetrack in the country to implement a strict anti-slaughter policy for owners and trainers with horses stabled on its grounds.
“The horses are the real stars of our great sport and they deserve to be taken care of appropriately when they are retired from racing,” said Fields. “I applaud both the TRF and the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department for their hard work and cooperation in making this day possible. I would also like to thank the Massachusetts State Racing Commission for its help in establishing this great partnership. It’s great to know that Suffolk Downs horses have a safe place to go right in their home state.”
The Fields Family Foundation, founded by Fields, provides support and resources to charitable organizations, focusing on the needs of children, law enforcement, medical research, and equine causes throughout the United States.