Older race horses getting a new life

July 20, 2009 4:22:15 PM PDT
When their gallop slows to a trot, race horses are getting a new lease on life thanks to an innovative program at Philadelphia Park, in Bensalem.After these thoroughbreds reach the finish line of their career, there's no promise of pension for all their hard work. But they do have a non-profit organization called "Turning for Home" that finds retired and injured horses a safe home, and oftentimes a new line of work.

"There's a lot of horses everyday for one reason or another, maybe the owners are not in a position to keep them, there was just a need," said trainer Kathleen Demasi.

10-year-old "Without a Doubt" just ran his last race this month. In his long career, he's won 15 races, making his owners around a half a million dollars. 250 horses, just like "Without a Doubt" have joined this program in the 15 months its been running. But before, it was time consuming for owners here to find a home for their horses after they've stopped making money. And the park wanted to ensure a humane future for these animals.

"We all know these horses work hard and we know people whose horses ended up in the kill pen in New Holland and we just didn't want that to happen," Barbara Luna, the program administrator.

Philadelphia Park has a zero-tolerance policy for sending these thoroughbreds to slaughter. It costs around 25-hundred dollars per horse until they can find someone to adopt them. The funding comes from a number of sources including contributions from owners and jockeys, and the bigger purse the slot machines bring.

"Without a Doubt" here will probably be a riding horse after some well deserved time off, but horses take on a variety of different second careers like polo ponies and police horses.

"Without a Doubt" could have 15 years as a good riding horse ahead of him a change of pace his trainer says he deserves.

"He's made a lot of money, for a lot of people. He really deserves to find a new home. They all do," said Daniel Velazquez.

Philadelphia Park is the first year-round racetrack to offer such a program a program that belongs in the Winner's Circle.