ESCAPE TO GULFSTREAM PARK

Once the excitement and activity of the holiday season are over and the new year turns, January and winter up north have a way of dampening one’s outlook.  For horseracing fans who live in the eastern time zone, a tried and true method of coping is to head way south to Gulfstream Park for a respite.  Even a short stay seems to have a curative effect.

One of the best spots at Gulfstream Park is the walking ring in the paddock area, where a person can sit and relax while basking in sunshine.  You can watch the horses being saddled for an upcoming race, read past performances, enjoy a refreshment, and view the race on TV if you don’t want to walk the short distance to the racetrack.  Not far away in the shopping center adjacent to the racetrack is a delightful yogurt shop where one can easily stroll to and fix up a blend.

The casino and simulcasting rooms at Gulfstream are usually full of people, with horseplayers betting and watching races from other tracks.  I am not one of them.  My preference is to soak in the sunshine and watch the races live.  Betting races from other racetracks can wait until I am hunkered down back home awaiting spring.

The downside of going to Gulfstream Park is getting there and back.  I drive about 15 miles from Fort Lauderdale on I-95.  The traffic is heavy and some of the drivers are rude and dangerous, moving at excessive speed and cutting in and out of traffic.  Once one departs I-95 to Hallandale and the racetrack, the traffic slows…really slows.  Sometimes it takes nearly as long to get from the I-95 Hallandale exit to the racetrack in bumper-to-bumper traffic than it does to get from Fort Lauderdale to the exit.

Somehow, at Gulfstream Park, the world’s day-to-day ebb and flow seems far away.  Stock market volatility, government shutdowns, and other worldly concerns are still important, but have a way of temporarily fading into the background as the sunshine, horses, and a clean and modern racing venue isolate a person for a few hours.

I am looking forward to soon packing my summer clothes and heading south.  Hope to see you in the paddock area or on the racetrack apron, near the rail.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business

REAL-LIFE SANTA’S

The Christmas season is synonymous with gift giving as a token of appreciation for friends and love of family.  In the world of horses, no kinder gift can be given than one of a caring home for retired equines.  The people who save horses from bad endings truly embody the spirit of Christmas, and they work year-around for low or no compensation and usually labor in relative obscurity.  Just making ends meet is a daily worry.

Michael Blowen and Friends

Thus it was especially nice to see that the equine program in the University of Louisville’s College of Business will formally recognize a horse retirement/aftercare leader, Michael Blowen, the founder of Old Friends retirement farm in Georgetown, Kentucky, when it presents him in January 2019 with its annual John W. Galbreath Award for equine entrepreneurship.  Mr. Blowen, a former movie critic for the Boston Globe, is what is known as a “social entrepreneur” in that his organization is a non-profit, depends on donations, and does charitable work.

Once a horse’s career is over on the racetrack, he or she may find a new life as a breeding stallion or a broodmare.  But geldings don’t qualify nor do most horses with pedestrian race records.  As a result, many former racehorses face uncertain futures.  Absent individuals like Mr. Blowen and countless unnamed others who maintain retirement and aftercare facilities, the situation would be a lot worse. 

I am all but sure that the humble folks who take in retired racehorses would resist someone calling them “angels of mercy.”  But when it comes to saving retired equines at least, that is precisely what they are.

Merry Christmas.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

Angels of Mercy

FINDING BLACK BEAUTY

In 2012, I wrote an article for Blood-Horse magazine pertaining to the potential use of facial recognition software in identifying racehorses (click here for the article).  After it was published, I received an email from the founder of a Thoroughbred aftercare facility wanting to know how the technology might be employed to ascertain the names of horses in danger of being sent to slaughter.  Sometimes, lip tatoos can be difficult to read and in other instances a full-blooded Thoroughbred may never have been registered.  And most other horse breeds don’t use lip tatoos. 

A website called Finding Rover demonstrates the opportunity for applying facial recognition software for locating at-risk horses.  A dog or cat owner uploads a picture of their lost pet to the Find Rover website.  Similarly, animal shelters and Finding Rover users upload pictures of found dogs or cats.  Facial recognition software is used to find matches–and then owners are notified. 

The facial recognition software developed for Finding Rover is 99 percent accurate.  The main obstacle that Finding Rover must overcome is not accuracy, but rather is having enough pet owners and animal shelters participate.

A website like Finding Rover for horses would take a while to get up and running.  It would require a database of horse photos and widespread cooperation from aftercare facilities.  Whether a Finding Rover type of website for horses would work or not is an open question.  However, it is worth a try, given the number of animals that are sent to slaughterhouses every year.  Maybe Finding Rover could be persuaded to expand beyond dogs and cats to include horses. The folks at the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance should explore the possibilities. 

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business