Thoroughbred Breeders Look Out for an Old Friend

When Patricia and Richard Lenihan sold a horse they bred along with a partner at a 1998 2-year-old sale at Timonium for $80,000, they never forgot about the colt who would be named Holmdel. They watched with delight as he finished third in the 1998 Rushing Man Stakes at the Meadowlands and won allowance races at Aqueduct and Monmouth as his earnings approached the $200,000 mark. They also looked on with concern as he slipped into the claiming ranks, was claimed away from Carpeninto, and eventually wound up running for $2,500 in Pennsylvania.

Who knew what was going to happen to Holmdel? The Lenihans feared the worst. Many people in their situation would have taken the position that Holmdel's future is someone else's problem. Not the Lenihans.

"I tried to keep track of him over the years and I was sad to see him running in a $2,500 claimer at Penn National in October of 2004," Patricia Lenihan said. "I told my husband that this horse had more than earned his retirement and that because we bred him we should see to it that he got a good home. Personally, I think horses should not be allowed to run for claiming prices that are less than 5 percent of their career earnings, but Holmdel was running for a tag that was less than 1 percent of his lifetime earnings ($291,576). How much money does a horse have to earn to be treated like he actually has some value?"

The Lenihans got busy. They called Penn National and reached the assistant of trainer Jose Martinez. A sale was made and Holmdel was back where he began, safe and sound with the Lenihans. He was turned over to the TRF and, after a stay at the Clarksburg, N.J. satellite facility run by Phil Klein, he was transferred to the TRF farm at the Blackburn Correctional Facility in Lexington, Ky.

While gratified that Holmdel is well cared for, Patricia Lenihan remains disappointed that more owners and breeders do not feel the same deep obligation to ensure a safe retirement for their former horses.

"I don't believe that most breeders really think about the reality of their horses' retirements," she said. "I think they are too busy dreaming of selling their babies for huge sums of money or of running them in Grade I races. I, too, am such a dreamer, but now I also think about reality. If all breeders, broodmare owners and stallion owners would honorably accept their responsibilities to the Thoroughbreds they create by joining forces with the owners who need to retire them, no horses would ever fall through the cracks. Perhaps in the near future a group organization such as the TOBA members or the Jockey Club will unite to establish such a program. If that ever happens, the cost of retiring noncommercial horses will be negligible to any one person.

"My recent experience of retiring Holmdel was such a positive one. It was inspiring to have so much support and assistance from a large group of people, half of whom I have never met and have only spoken to on the phone. What united us was our love for horses and our desire to do the right thing for a deserving animal. I feel that these strangers are now my new friends for whom I will gladly be waiting to return a favor in the future."--Bill Finley

Reprinted with permission of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation

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