Racetrack Enacts Zero-Tolerance Slaughter Policy

Sending racehorses to slaughter will not be tolerated at Suffolk Downs racetrack in Boston. Track management will now deny trainers stalls if they sell a horse for slaughter. This latest move bolsters other efforts underway to protect Thoroughbred racehorses, including retirement funding already in place by the track and local horsemen.

"I hope we never have to use this," said Sam Elliott, Suffolk's vice president for racing, who put the rule into place. "People have been working hard with all the retirement facilities, but I heard of one horse that snuck through and I felt that we should put in this policy."

"If this saves even one horse, that's a good thing." --Sam Elliott, Suffolk VP for Racing
Richard Fields, who owns a controlling interest in Suffolk, supports the policy and has retired three former racehorses to his ranch in Wyoming. Al Balestra, president of the New England Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), said that his membership also "supports it 100%.

"Two years ago we began putting aside money to donate to the retirement facilities," Balestra said. "There is no need for these horses to go to the killers. I gave a horse to a little girl in 4-H, and she's always sending me notes about ribbons they've been winning."

Under Suffolk's new rule, a trainer who sells a horse for slaughter will not be allowed to have stalls on the track's backstretch, effectively denying him the ability to race horses there.

Bruce Patten, assistant executive director of the New England HBPA, said Suffolk and the HBPA have already partnered to help find homes for horses. The track has set aside 10 stalls for horses that need care until they can be moved to a farm or retirement facility. The New England HBPA has allocated money to a TLC Fund (Thoroughbred Retirement Care) for several years.

"If a horse needs help, many volunteers step forward--trainers, vets, van drivers--to assist," Patten said.

Suffolk and the New England HBPA work with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and CANTER (the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses) to find permanent homes for horses.

"It's not really a problem right now," Elliott said, regarding the destination of horses leaving Suffolk. "But if this saves even one horse, that's a good thing."

About the Author

Tracy Gantz

Tracy Gantz is a freelance writer based in Southern California. She is the Southern California correspondent for The Blood-Horse and a regular contributor to Paint Horse Journal, Paint Racing News, and Appaloosa Journal.

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