By Dick Jerardi
Turning For Home Day officially was Monday, Oct. 10 at Parx Racing. In reality, every day is Turning For Home Day.
In May 2023, TFH will mark its 15th anniversary. The brainchild of the late Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemens’ Association (PTHA) executive director Michael Ballezzi, TFH has retired more than one horse every two days since the program’s inception – 3,650 in all in approximately 5,300 days, according to program administrator Danielle Montgomery.
When Montgomery took over TFH in 2013 from its first administrator, Barbara Luna, the program was already well on its way to being the industry model. It has only solidified its status since then.
The self-sustaining funding mechanism has been the key to TFH’s continued impact. Owners contribute $30 per start which amounts to about $360,000 annually. The PTHA contributes $65,000 annually and Parx gives $50,000. The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders’ Association contributes close to $20,000, including fundraisers. Jockeys riding at Parx contribute $20 for each win and $10 for each second-place finish. That amounts to another $25,000 per year.
“They were the first jockeys in the country to give a dedicated amount to aftercare,’’ Montgomery said.
Donations from the public and fundraising also contribute to running TFH. Last spring, for the first time, a golf tournament was held at Bensalem Country Club to benefit TFH. The tournament raised $45,000 and a second tournament is set for April 2023.
“We’re looking for sponsors for that,’’ Montgomery said. “We’re going to try to make it like this one big, nice day and make it a Turning For Home Day.’’
All that money goes toward a multi-faceted effort to rehabilitate, retrain and re-home Parx horses that are no longer viable as racehorses either because of injury or non-competitiveness. TFH has 15 partner farms which are where the horses go for the three Rs. Then, once the horses are ready, adopters are found for them. And Turning For Home follows every one of the horses into their next lives.
“The farms take these horses and really give them what they call a college education,’’ Montgomery said.
Twenty TFH horses will be in Kentucky this week for the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover where newly retired horses with just one year of training in their new disciplines display their skills in a competition at the Kentucky Horse Park. The qualifiers will be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with Saturday the finale in each of the 10 disciplines which include dressage, barrel racing and eventing.
According to Montgomery, the 20 TFH horses entered in the Makeover are the most of any organization, just one more accomplishment for a program that has been a great success since its inception and just keeps building on that success.