by T.D. Thornton
January is no longer a sleepy part of the season for the United States racing industry. This year, the confluence of the Eclipse Awards, the inaugural GI Pegasus World Cup (PWC), and the National Handicapping Championship (NHC) made for an elite series of on- and off-track events that showcased the sport’s best human and equine participants over a stretch of about 10
But just as noteworthy during that time frame was the amount of generosity those events and their associated festivities generated for worthy racing-related causes. Particularly remarkable was the roughly $110,000 raised by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), a non-profit organization that inspects and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations to retire, retrain, and re-home racehorses using industry-wide funding.
“These are a big 10 days in horse racing, and the charity was a factor in a lot of them,” said Stacie Clark-Rogers, the TAA operations consultant, in a phone interview Tuesday. “That’s more than $10,000 in donations per day, and it’s an acknowledgment that the industry is participating and taking an active role in the aftercare of Thoroughbreds.”
Clark-Rogers said the racing industry is evolving in a positive direction with regard to making sure charitable aspects are part of the sport’s gala events. And although that inclusion might appear seamless to attendees, she emphasized that there is a lot of behind-the-scenes effort to coordinate donation opportunities so issues like aftercare are emphasized prominently yet tactfully.
“We do get significant fundraising from stand-alone events [throughout the year], but this stretch is unique in that a series of major events has come together to generate over six figures,” Clark-Rogers said. “The Eclipse Awards, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the NHC, and the PWC have all been incredible supporters. And as they evolve, each is providing us with great new ideas. Like being one of the three charities of PWC day is massive. They full-on had us on their website and they recognized us as a partner,@ even granting the TAA a 30-second commercial on the NBC broadcast of the world’s richest race.
Cross-promotions among the sport’s various charitable organizations are also effective, Clark-Rogers said.
“I think everyone wants to take responsibility for the commodity of the racehorse, and we like partnering with the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund on some events because, whether it’s human or equine athletes who need help, we all need to make sure we all work together so that everybody wins,” said Clark-Rogers, who rode as a jockey prior to finding her calling in Thoroughbred aftercare work.
Among the TAA’s recent fundraising highlights were:
- As part of the TAA being named the official aftercare partner of the Eclipse Awards, $82,000 raised from the LUXAIR auction of two private jet trips from Lexington to Saratoga (B. Wayne Hughes and Kenneth Ramsey each submitted winning bids of $41,000).
- A $15,000 donation from Gulfstream Park for being one of the three official charities of the PWC.
- $5,500 raised from the TAA being named the beneficiary of the Eclipse Awards cocktail party gala.
- $5,000 donated by the NTRA in the name of Ellis Starr, winner of the third annual Charity Handicapping Challenge; event sponsor Tito’s Vodka separately selected the TAA to receive a donation of $2,500
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