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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

New York State Senate Gets an Earful

Jeffrey Cannizzo, executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc., warned State Senate Committee members that some of the things they may have been told in Albany on June 5 might not have been the whole story. Senator Joseph Addabbo directed the action, which at times seemed more fitting for dogs and ponies. There were a few self-serving statements and a sprinkling of alternate facts. Others who testified actually do good things for horses. The most sincere testimony came from Susan Kayne, who blew the lid off the industry’s favored retirement foundation, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

By Mark Berner

The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance “does not have the best interest of the horse at heart,” said Susan Kayne, founder and president of the Unbridled Thoroughbred Foundation. “I believe they have the best image of the industry stakeholders at heart.” 

Kayne gave testimony at a joint hearing of the New York State Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering and the Domestic Animal Welfare Committee.

Kayne said of the TAA, “It’s a slick PR machine. It is propaganda for the industry to cover up the carnage and the reality of the number of horses that go to slaughter.” I have heard the same story from others who need to remain anonymous or risk losing grants. 

Kayne is proud to be an independent voice for Thoroughbreds and can speak without fear because she refuses to get in bed with the TAA.

TAA code of standard says, “Whenever possible, accredited organizations should work cooperatively with the Thoroughbred racing community to share media resources and increase public awareness of Thoroughbred aftercare to uphold the image and integrity of the horseracing industry.”

The TAA will cut funding if any person or organization says something negative. It is part of the ‘see something-say nothing’ policy preferred by the stewards of the sport.

Unbridled is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and Kayne, who homes 20 head in her small herd in Climax, NY, runs the most transparent operation I have witnessed.

In the interest of transparency and full disclosure, I ran a charity campaign for my birthday on Facebook that raised $675 for Unbridled. Through a $500 membership fee in the New York Thoroughbred Horsemens Association Empire Racing Club, a 501(c) 7, I contributed to NYTHA’s Take the Lead, a retirement program for Thoroughbreds stabled at New York Racing Association racetracks. NYTHA supports and contributes to the TAA.

Dr. Scott Palmer opened the testimony and Senator Addabbo, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Racing, Gaming and Wagering, made it clear that this was his man. Speaking of Palmer, Addabbo said, “You are the agency. You are the enforcement.”

It was their way to state that they are doing a great job and while they are spending a lot of money, they are spending it wisely. The remaining three hours saw a slew of people testify about rescue, slaughter, and racetrack deaths. A lot of it was nonsense.

Addabbo asked Palmer how he is able to track all the horses and Palmer told him that he gets daily information from The Jockey Club, which tracks every horse in its registry.

TJC can track every horse but its leaders do not want to let out all the facts, like where do the horses go that never make it to the races? Approximately half of the 20,000 horses bred each year never race according to Equibase data.

The old boys’ network of breeders never had much to do with retirement, and if it were not for the press and animal rights’ activists, they would not be now to any major degree. Instead, they likely would throw a few dollars at it, hoping to deflect their neglect, and pray that the women of rescue will clean up after them. 

The $3-5 million per year donated to, and then distributed by, the TAA falls short by about $115 million, which is needed to care for the 20,000 Thoroughbreds born each year. 

The TAA runs a numbers game. They require accredited retirement organizations to continually rescue and rehome horses, or the grants dry up. Then the TAA puts the onus to follow-up upon the member organizations and the TAA does not, according to interviews with TAA members. 

In fact, a real dog and pony show exists; it’s how people dress up their farms and reflect the animals with smoke and mirrors to gain TAA accreditation. The TAA has no comprehensive follow up plan to spot check already accredited foundations. 

On the other hand, both Unbridled and Take the Lead, under the expert guidance of trainer Rick Schosberg, offer a money back guarantee. If for any reason a re-homer of a horse can no longer do so, both organizations will take back the horse.

Kayne recently went and took back several horses she originally rehomed with Mary Lu Dolce of Claremont Farm that were in a bad situation. In fact, she puts the caveat in all her rehoming contracts that she will peacefully enter the property and retrieve any neglected horses. 

Kayne said, “I’ve had horses at Unbridled that came out of TAA organizations that were skinnier than when they came out of the kill pen.” Kayne is currently preparing to go through the accreditation process to become a member of an international organization, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Kayne summed it all up perfectly: “Responsible breeding and aftercare is not a matter of money, it’s a matter of morality. It’s a matter of choices that individuals within the industry make, and it demonstrates how grossly the industry as a whole has failed at aftercare.”

© Mark Berner,, June 11, 2109, All rights reserved.

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