SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – This new year is a milestone for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation as we celebrate our 40th anniversary. You only have to look back to last August to one event that best illustrates what the TRF is, and why we have been so successful for so long. The BBQ at the Barn.

Although this annual mid-summer celebration is one of Saratoga’s more popular seasonal events, it was the 2022 edition that demonstrated the dedication of TRF’s staff and volunteers, and the loyalty of supporters.

Held for the fourth time, the sold-out BBQ at the Barn started a deluge of camaraderie that was, started by a deluge. Lightning provided the backdrop and thunder the soundtrack as a relentless salvo of wind-driven rain pelted The Saratoga Winery. The whole show was forced indoors, power was knocked out, and everyone’s patience was tested. Yet, the TRF volunteers and personnel kept to their tasks and guests kept their faith. By evening’s end, the power came back on. Everyone ate well and laughed off the evening. Our spirit never wavered and more than $50,000 was raised for the TRF. As we have done for more than a generation, the TRF persevered.

NYS DOCCS at TRF’s BBQ at the Barn

“While we planned for the worst and hoped for the best, we never imagined what Mother Nature would bring our way, but there was never any question that our staff and volunteers would rise to the occasion and do whatever was needed to make the evening a success,” said TRF Executive Director Pat Stickney. “Through all the years, our team has been there 110 percent.”

The TRF’s first big announcement of the year came in early February. The TRF, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, announced the expansion of the successful TRF Second Chances Program to a new farm located at the Wyoming Correctional Facility in Attica, NY, about an hour east of Buffalo. By summer, ground was broken and the program was underway. As of late fall, six retired broodmares were relocated to their forever home at the facility where they will teach vocational training and valuable life lessons to incarcerated individuals.

March brought more good news. The Thoroughbred Education and Research Foundation (TERF) awarded the TRF $10,000 for educational materials for the TRF Second Chances Program, while nationally known blues artists Mark Tolstrup and Jill Burnham helped local Saratogians.

The Lose the Winter Blues Festival with dinner and a blues concert at the Principessa Elena Society raised additional funds for the TRF. Later in the year, the Society would host jockey Kendrick Carmouche’s Gumbo Dinner for TRF, raising more awareness and funds for TRF Second Chances Programs.

TRF’s Fran LaBelle (left) Kendrick Carmouche (right)

The winter blues were left behind with April news that the TRF had raised more than $60,000 from its Second Chances appeal for New York programs, with half of that total coming from a “Business for Good” matching grant. That same month, the TRF moved its headquarters to its new location at 112 Spring St. in Saratoga Springs.

For the second consecutive year, Stoneware & Co. offered a signed, numbered and limited-edition Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottle to benefit the TRF. The bottles, signed by winning trainer, Doug O’Neill and jockey, Mario Gutierrez, commemorated the 10th anniversary of racehorse I’ll Have Another winning the Kentucky Derby.

In June of 2022, TRF supporters adopted the cause of Merrywinds, a mare who had a large keratoma (tumor) in her right-front hoof wall. In September, Dr. Patty Hogan posted the following on social media, “Took care of a wonderful [TRF] mare today. Fortunately, [the tumor] was benign but expansive and painful. Gat MRI imaging from VA Tech helped surgical planning. Removal done thru a small hole in the bottom of her hoof. All went well with a good prognosis!”

Because Dr. Hogan generously donated her time and talent, donations from Merrywinds’ fans went to her care and rehabilitation. Merrywinds is now thriving under the care of farm manager, Chelsey Truesdell, and the participants in the TRF’s Central Maryland Second Chances Farm at Sykesville.

The TRF’s cause of providing sanctuary homes for former racehorses continued to garner more support from the racing industry. At the historic Adelphi Hotel, members of Saratoga Race Course’s summer jockey colony autographed bottles of Casamigos Tequila that were sold at the TRF’s “Jocks and Horses” Benefit. The generosity of the hosts and the enthusiasm of the jockeys, trainers, owners, and fans who participated, was matched by the hard work of TRF’s volunteers in making this party a hit.

TRF Board Member Maggie Wolfendale-Morley (left) Sharon Dominguez (right) enjoying the Casamigos event

Collaboration and a willingness to follow through on ideas remained a strong trait among the TRF’s allies. Continuing a tradition that started in 2015, Debbie Green hosted a pair of fundraisers for the TRF. In the winter, Debbie and her daughter, Sara, welcomed TRF volunteers to Orchard Hill in Wellington, FL, the winter home for the nine horses of Sara’s Dogwood Farm. On August 28, Debbie again hosted an end of summer music concert at her 15-acre Green Hills Farm in Sherborn, MA for TRF. That event featured The Back Pages Band, TC Scoops Ice Cream Bus, and about 80 friends and neighbors!

June brought several non-profit and aftercare organizations together at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs for the first annual Celebrating Equine Sanctuary day, where hundreds stopped by to learn more about aftercare and the important missions of the TRF, Old Friends Equine, Therapeutic Horses of Saratoga as well as the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame.

Late July brought focus to Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, NY for the annual Art in the Park celebration. Free and open to the public, Art in the Park brought artists and vendors to the city. Presented by the Community Arts Center at Saratoga Arts, the event did a good job bringing attention to its non-profit partner, the TRF.

Also stepping up was TRF volunteer, Vince Verro, who headed Art Revival’s Paint By the Paddock event. For the price of their ticket, participants got a two-hour guided painting class, materials, and light refreshments, all to raise money for the TRF and the Backstretch Employees Service Team (BEST). The Fourstardave Bar at Saratoga Racecourse proved to be the ideal setting.

October brought cooler temperatures to Kentucky in time for the inaugural StoryFest at Chestnut Hall Farm. The event featured live music, storytellers, food trucks, pumpkin decorating and more with all proceeds going to support the horses at Chestnut Hall.

In December, Nancy deCavaignac hosted a holiday party with the help of long-time TRF friend and volunteer, Jacquie Basha, to benefit the horses at TRF’s Second Chances Program at Lowell Correctional Center near Ocala, FL. In addition to raising thousands of dollars, they received a wide assortment of donated equine products for the Lowell horses.

Lowell ladies with Nancy deCavaignac

That same week, Brook Ledge Horse Transportation rolled into Saratoga Springs loaded with a trailer full of donated saddles, blankets, tack. and other supplies collected by a group of generous volunteers and friends in and around Ocala. The shipping was donated by TRF’s valued friends at Brook Ledge.

Brook Ledge at Lowell

To cap off the year’s events, the TRF hosted the second annual Holiday Designer Show House at Chestnut Hall. Local designers were featured and used their creative talents to showcase each room of the restored farmhouse, as well as the barn with proceeds going directly to the horses at Chestnut Hall.

The barn of Chestnut Hall decorated for the Holiday Designer Show House

Our volunteers, donors, and staff are the reason racetracks, businesses, and individuals throughout the country stepped up and hosted TRF fundraisers on our behalf. They provided steady support of the TRF’s Hay Drive, appeals, and most recently, our Farrier Fund, and On-Line Auction. Their kindness is embodied by all who have believed in the TRF and its mission from 1983 through 2022 by adopting, sponsoring, or fostering former racehorses or donating time and dollars to provide ex-racehorses a safe and comfortable retirement.

Thank you all, and may you enjoy health and happiness in 2023! Please consider this your personal invitation to join in our year-long celebration of TRF’s 40th anniversary.

We could not have gotten this far without you.