The outside temperature registered single digits the night of Jan. 7 in the Bluegrass, but there was a warm glow inside the Keeneland Entertainment Center during the 27th annual Thoroughbred Charities of America stallion season auction and celebration. The feel-good event and fundraiser gave everyone in attendance optimism for the future of the sport and the aftercare of its stars—the equines—as horsemen and fans alike dined, bid, and talked with the welfare of the horse in mind.
The event began in 1990 as a small affair conceived by Allaire du Pont and Herb and Ellen Moelis and was held at the Moelises’ CandyLand Farm on the Maryland/Delaware border until it moved to Central Kentucky in 2007.
Mike Palmer, farm manager for CandyLand for the last 21 years, was on hand to recognize the winners of the Ellen and Herb Moelis Industry Service Award. Afterward he was able to reflect on TCA, the event, and the aftercare movement.
“It all started when Delaware Park closed and Mrs. du Pont wanted to help the 11 horses that were left behind,” he said. “She had a lot of contacts and Herb and Ellen had the philanthropic and business minds. They really took the ball and ran with it.”
The event expanded from the Moelises’ living room to their hosting 300-400 people.
“It’s been quite an experience,” Palmer said. “Just to be associated with the event has been eye-opening. Everyone has given back to the horses and the backstretch. It’s been rewarding. When I think back, I get goosebumps.”
The Moelises handed the reins to Dan Rosenberg, and now Michael McMahon serves as president of the TCA.
A relative newcomer to the TCA story is the Roth family’s LNJ Foxwoods Stable, which has spent a lot of money to build a racing and breeding operation in a short period of time. With aftercare a key component of the stable’s business plan, LNJ aligned itself with the TCA in 2015 and within a year was taking a larger role. Last June 43 abandoned horses in Mercer County, Ky., became a national story, and Jaime Roth—in partnership with TCA—quickly initiated the Horses First Fund to raise funds and supplies to provide emergency aid for the horses in need.
Roth spoke glowingly of the Horses First effort at Keeneland and had plenty of backup.
“The Horses First Fund has expended nearly $22,500 in support of the horses. Thank you to all the donors,” Roth said at center stage. “In addition to the financial resources needed, the positive outcome of the horses would not have been possible without the team of people that contributed their time, resources, and effort. We are happy to report that the horses have successfully recovered and have been placed in new homes.
“The things we do today, like this massive rescue effort, will have a tremendous impact on helping these tremendous animals who cannot speak for themselves. It is imperative that we join together tonight, tomorrow, and moving forward to ensure a better life for Thoroughbreds both during and after their racing careers.”
Afterward, the crowd headed into the cold toward the valet car park. Later, Palmer had recalled a bygone event where it had snowed 15 inches a few days before and the work he and his brother had put in to clear a spot to park cars at CandyLand.
“There was a lot of stress, but the Moelises always wanted to put on the best show they could and get everything just right,” he said.
The evening’s presentation made us feel “just right” about the charitable hearts of the Thoroughbred industry.