The Value of Goodness: Advocacy for Racehorse Retirement Precedes the Road to the Breeders Cup for Weemissfrankie.
by Jennifer Wirth
Nearly two years ago, I was talking with the retired Farm Manager of Claiborne Farm, the late John Sosby, about what it takes to find a winning horse. He gave a broad smile and said, "Give me luck and I'll beat you every time."
As he stood at Claiborne Farm, the site where he had cared for many great Thoroughbreds at various stages in their lives, it seemed that having good luck was an undisputable factor that led to success with racehorses. However, as I considered the late Mr. Sosby himself, it was apparent that he didn't rest on his laurels and wait for luck to emerge in the fields. He did something to bring its elusive character his way: He did good.
The late Mr. Sosby was good to whomever possible, wherever possible, and when it came to the horses in his care, his goodness was what he gave them. Yes, luck was a figure that followed the late Mr. Sosby. Yet, it seemed luck was romanced by his own goodness to the horses in his care.
Quite possibly, goodness is the breeding ground for luck in racing.
If a tribute to that principle exists, it may lie in the undefeated two-year-old filly, Weemissfrankie, whose ownership connections include Dawn Mellen of Bran Jam Stables, who is also the founder of After The Finish Line (ATFL), a non-profit dedicated to funding Thoroughbred rescue, retraining and retirement for ex-racehorses who can no longer race or breed.
Mellen began volunteering at Thoroughbred rescues in the mid-1990s, where she realized that a major obstacle to helping retired Thoroughbreds was funding. In response, Mellen founded ATFL in 2007. ATFL provides monthly emergency funds and yearly grants to Thoroughbred rescues to fund retraining, rescue and rehabilitation efforts.
ATFL funding is used for various purposes, including saving horses at auctions, paying for medical expenses, providing hay and feed, paying boarding expenses and transporting a Thoroughbred to safety. Through providing the monetary means, ATFL helps assist in transitioning ex-racehorses into second careers.
As a result of funding from ATFL, ex-racehorses have been retrained for dressage, trail riding or as hunter/ jumpers. If the horse can no longer be ridden, they are retrained to provide equine therapy or serve as companion animals. Through creating a funding organization for these efforts, Mellen has managed to show that every Thoroughbred has a value, even if it cannot race or breed.
In the past few years, doing good has been the sole reward for Mellen's efforts to assist ex-racehorses in their retirement. ATFL board members receive no salary. All funding directly benefits ex-racehorses in need of monetary assistance.
Then, along comes Weemissfrankie - a filly that has quite a gift for "goodness" on the race track. In three starts, the talented filly has captured two Grade I wins, the Del Mar Debutante and the Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita, for her ownership team. Currently, Weemissfrankie is heading to the Breeder's Cup to compete in the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (Grade I) on November 4th at Churchill Downs.
It appears that goodness may truly be the breeding ground for luck in racing.
Win or lose, it should be a good race. With a little luck, Weemissfrankie will prevail, not just in this race, but in the race to raise awareness for the ex-racehorses who are in need of assistance at the close their career. And, with a little goodness, retired racehorses will receive more of the public support that they deserve at the end of their racing days.
For Mellen, it seems that her kindness toward ex-racehorses has brought her the luck that the late Mr. Sosby spoke about - The unbeaten kind. Yet, when I look at where luck appears, it often follows the good people who value a Thoroughbred at every point in their career. And, as far as being good to a horse in need, nothing can beat that endeavor at the finish line.
After The Finish Line is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in which donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law. Visit the ATFL website at www.afterthefinishline.org or call 858.945.1371 to learn more or make a donation. You can also visit ATFL on Facebook by clicking this link. [https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/After-the-Finish-Line/113665201978354]