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The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA) works hard to protect and provide for the Parx Racing horsemen through the guarantee of live racing, horsemen’s rights, health care and pension for horsemen, benevolence programs, and more.


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Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (PTHA)

  /  Legislative   /  Kelsey Lefever Case Appalling, Retirement Group Makes a Difference

Kelsey Lefever Case Appalling, Retirement Group Makes a Difference

BENSALEM, PA — Amid concerns on the state and national level about the practice of racehorse slaughter, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA) announced today that nearly 700 horses have been safely retired through a program it implemented in May 2008 called Turning for Home. Since its creation just under four years ago, Turning for Home — the PTHA’s racehorse retirement program — has served as a model for other racetracks across the country that want to find new homes for retired racehorses.

“As an organization representing the owners and trainers of Thoroughbred horses that race at Parx Casino and Racetrack, we recognized the need to provide rehabilitation and new careers for horses that race at our facility,” said Michael P. Ballezzi, Esquire, Executive Director of the PTHA. “These Thoroughbreds are equine athletes who, through their racing careers, have provided jobs for thousands of Pennsylvanians and serve as a major economic driver in the agriculture and other economic sectors. We owe it to these horses to help them find new careers and new purpose after they leave the sport of racing.”

The PTHA’s Turning for Home program has received national and statewide attention because of its success and professionalism, including being featured on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel as an alternative to slaughter. It was also highlighted on Wild About Animals, a nationally syndicated television program hosted by Emmy Award winning actress Mariette Hartley; Marty Moss Coane’s Radio Times; NBC 10 in Philadelphia; and in the industry magazine BloodHorse, which identified Turning for Home as a model program for the racing industry.

“We took a carrot-and-stick approach to dealing with this problem by adopting a zero-tolerance policy regarding the sale of horses to slaughter auctions and establishing a full-service adoption program that provides regular updates to the former owners and trainers on the status of their retirees,” said Ballezzi. “Thanks to this program, our Thoroughbreds have gone on to new careers as therapeutic riding horses for people with disabilities and at-risk youth, polo horses, trail horses, event horses, and even Western reining horses.”

Ballezzi noted that this program was made possible only through increased purses and the Race HorseDevelopment Fund which was created by Act 71. That legislation legalized slot machines at the state’s racetracks and allocated a portion the casino’s take to advancing the success of the horse racing industry in Pennsylvania, which has had an economic impact in the state of more than $875 million through the end of2009. Thanks to the increased purses, the PTHA is able to assess a $10 fee on owners for each time they start a horse at Parx. In addition, every winning and second place jockey also contributes to the program.

“Without the current level of funding for our purses through the Race Horse Development Fund, this program would not be possible,” said Ballezzi.

In addition, the PTHA, Parx Racetrack, and the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, financially commit to help provide rehabilitation including surgery, retraining and adoption to every horse from Parx that needs a secure new home. Veterinarians, blacksmiths, horse transporters and feed companies lend a hand to secure the success of the program.

“The recent alleged conduct of Kelsey Lefever and her alleged deception of horse owners through the sales ofThoroughbreds to slaughter has appalled the PTHA and its members,” said Ballezzi. “The horrific ending to the lives of these animals is totally unacceptable and is not tolerated by the PTHA. We are very proud of the success of Turning for Home and the relationships we have forged in the past four years that enable us to find new caring homes and careers for the thoroughbreds that race at our track.”

Contact: Pete Peterson, 215 893-4297