By Don Engel
Editor, The Showcase
For one of the few times in the history of
Thoroughbred racing, a major group of owners is creating a fund that will
be distributed to the caretakers of the retired horses who once carried
their colors on California racetracks.
The funds are being collected by and will
be distributed by a creation of Thoroughbred Owners of California known
as CARMA, an acronym for California Retirement Management Account.
Beginning with the first race of the current
Del Mar meeting, an undetermined number of owners are contributing three
tenths of one percent of each purse their horses earn toward the CARMA
retirement fund. The same process was to begin in Northern California with
the start of the Sonoma County Fair meeting at Santa Rosa.
(For example, at 0.03 percent, the deduction
from a purse of $20,000 would be $60.)
Participation in the program is optional.
Each owner has an opportunity to decline to contribute, and at this point
nobody knows how many will opt out of the program. But money is being collected
by the paymaster from those who stay in, and the fund will be allowed to
grow until January, when the first distribution to caretakers is scheduled
to be made.
Any retired horse that raced in California
will be eligible for a subsidy.
Aside from the transcendent problem of finding
enough money to completely fund their retirement, CARMA's biggest challenge
is determining the best way to allocate the funds that it does collect.
The present plan is to determine the number
of eligible retirees, divide that number into the total money available,
and come up with an amount to be provided for each horse. Each horse is
to receive the same amount.
Checks will be sent to each facility housing
eligible horses, the amount to be the individual payment amount multiplied
by the number of eligible horses at that facility.
The problem with that plan is that the CARMA
money will go into that facility's general operating fund and won't be
specifically allocated to the care of the retired racehorses. That problem
can't be solved until the CARMA horses can be housed and maintained separately,
and that isn't possible at present at any of the horse-rescue facilities
now in operation..
The long-term goal is for CARMA to operate
its own facility, but there's no money in sight for that. It's likely to
be years before there'll be enough money for CARMA to buy or lease its
own facility. There may never be enough money.
CARMA doesn't consider the present distribution
plan to be permanent. It will be changed if somebody comes up with a better
idea, according to Madeline Auerbach, who chairs the CARMA operation. She
says that CARMA welcomes suggestions, calling the operation "a work in
progress." Auerbach can be reached through CARMA's parent organization,
TOC, at (800) 994-9909.
To be eligible for those subsidies,
facilities must advise CARMA of the number of California-raced retirees
under their care, then submit financial statements, business plans, and
other documents certifying that they are responsible operations. They also
must pass inspections by CARMA representatives, both scheduled and unscheduled.
They must also present evidence that their retirees actually raced in California.
Since CARMA's limited budget will provide
only a portion of the cost of maintaining those horses, the facilities
housing them will still have to continue their own fund-raising efforts,
always a major challenge.
When January comes, CARMA will see how much
money it has and decide how much will be available for each horse. Distributions
will be made either quarterly or semi-annually.
Although many other individuals and groups
profit from the efforts of racehorses, only owners have stepped up to make
an institutional financial commitment. Neither racetracks, California Thoroughbred
Trainers, nor the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association have agreed
to commit to helping fund CARMA.
Individuals are encouraged to make contributions
on their own by sending money to CARMA at P. O. Box 1086, Sierra Madre,
CA 91024 or by telephoning (626) 574-6618. Contributions are tax-deductible.
CARMA is making its own attempts to raise
money through special events, the first of which will be held on Thursday,
August 21, at the Del Mar Hilton. That event will be a poker tournament
and silent auction offering, according to the CARMA flyer, "action, food
A website, www.CARMA4horses.com, is scheduled
to go online soon. It will describe CARMA and its goals and activities.
In addition, CARMA is inaugurating a "Pocket
Change for CARMA" program that will place collection boxes at racetracks
with signs urging fans to drop in money to help retired runners.
CARMA, conceived by TOC, was made possible
when the California Horse Racing Board passed a rule authorizing the purse
deductions on a voluntary basis. Although the rule was passed early this
year, the mechanism for making the deductions couldn't be put in place
until the start of the Del Mar meeting.
Substantial opposition to the purse deductions
has been voiced by owners who contend that each individual owner should
be responsible for the retirement costs of his own horses and not be expected
to assist in funding the retirement of other owners' runners.
The fact that most owners don't pay
for the retirement of the horses that they race doesn't appear to persuade
those who make that argument.
CARMA may indeed be a work in progress, but
the importance of its existence can hardly be overestimated. After all
these years, owners have finally taken responsibility for the care of the
equine athletes upon whom the entire structure of Thoroughbred racing and
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