By Francis LaBelle

    Alyssa Carinder’s experience with horses and her achievement at the University of Louisville combined to make her an ideal candidate for the position of Farm/Development Manager at the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s new 25-acre Sanctuary Farm at Chestnut Hall in Prospect, Kentucky.   A 22-year-old native of Columbia, Missouri, Alyssa began riding at age 6. She rode competitively, and when she entered the University of Louisville, she settled on a dual major: Equine Business and Marketing.

    “When I was growing up in Missouri, I rode an off-track Thoroughbred, Times of Change, who was pretty much the most incredible horse ever,” Alyssa said. “I was hooked on Thoroughbreds ever since. I knew that, after graduation, I wanted a job where I could put both of my majors to use.  A faculty advisor saw TRF’s posting for the Chestnut Hall position and immediately thought of Alyssa.

     On May 8, Alyssa walked across UL’s football field to receive her diploma and her dual BSBA degree. By then, she had already been working for TRF for about two months, helping 11 former racehorses settle into their new home at Chestnut Hall. “Working with these horses is amazing,” Alyssa said. “Because they are bred to be athletes, their brains are very interesting. They want to work, and they want to do what is asked of them, but they realize that since they are not on track any more, they don’t have to do everything at full gallop.”

     Understanding Thoroughbreds is a core tenet at Chestnut Hall, which is supported through the generosity of Bill Carstanjen, Chief Executive Officer of Churchill Downs, Inc. Carstanjen purchased the Oldham County property as a gift from his family to the TRF horses and the local community. Not only did he provide a permanent home for the TRF horses, he saved the historic farmhouse and pastureland from development. Chestnut Hall now welcomes the public for tours and special fundraising events for local nonprofits. Such events can help raise awareness about Thoroughbreds — proving that they are capable of a lot more than simply speed.

     One of Chestnut Hall’s is Warrior’s Club, a 7-year-old (foaled May 9, 2014) who came to Chestnut Hall at the end of April.  As a racehorse, he was the first horse offered by the Churchill Downs Racing Club (CDRC) ownership program, which allows members to own a small share of a racehorse in exchange for backstretch and paddock access, free general admission to the track and bragging rights. Organized as a not-for-profit social club, CDRC was set up to provide education and entertainment, not financial gain.  Warrior’s Club, however, overachieved in his role.

     Trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, he made 33 career starts and earned $856,504. His record of 5-9-5 includes victory in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Commonwealth Stakes in 2018 at odds of 23-1. He paid $48.80 to win. “The name describes him about as well as anything – he’s a warrior, I tell you,” Lukas said in a post-race interview. “He’s just a wonderful little horse to train. I always kid people that a used car salesman could train him; he’s not hard to train at all. He gives you every effort, every time. And to make 200 people (Churchill Downs Racing Club) happy is really special.” 

   At Chestnut Hall, Alyssa has seen a different side of Warrior’s Club.  “He was crazy successful as a racehorse,” Alyssa said. “But for the first couple of days here, he made friends with a tree. I’m not sure what he was doing; he would just hang out with his tree.” 

    On Kentucky Derby Day, May 1, Warrior’s Club expanded his circle of friends. Or rather, 22-year-old One For Seattle, 16-year-old Decadent Man and 19-year-old Dig Deeplee expanded it for him. “They like to figure things out,” Alyssa said. “So, on Derby Day, they decided to combine themselves and they figured out how to open the gate to go visit Warrior’s Club. When I got there, the four of them were in this tiny pasture, just getting along fine.”

     Alyssa began working for TRF on March 1 at its satellite Nash Farm, located about a half-mile from Chestnut Hall. Recently, Nash Farm took in 15 horses from another TRF farm in South Carolina, and Alyssa will be tending to them as well. She doesn’t see it as a problem.

This is, after all, just what she wanted.