After record 2023, Second Stride looks for bigger ’24

Fundraising kicks off with raffle for boxes to 150th Derby, Oaks

(Second Stride release; Gwen Davis/Davis Innovation photo of Anne Wasiljew, Second Stride’s equine care and training manager, with one of the donated off-the-track thoroughbreds)

PROSPECT, Ky. (Tuesday, January 23, 2024) — Second Stride — one of the nation’s leading programs for rehabbing, retraining and rehoming retired Thoroughbred racehorses for second careers — comes into 2024 after a record year that saw a 36-percent increase in adoptions.

Second Stride founder and executive director Kim Smith said by all measurements last year was a record for the thoroughbred aftercare organization launched in 2005. But she hopes that’s just a springboard for bigger things this year — starting with the over-arching goal of finding more retired racehorses safe homes as they launch post-racetrack careers that match their physical capabilities.

The non-profit is poised for a fast start out of the gate. Second Stride is kicking off its 2024 fundraising with twin raffles for third-floor boxes for six people, one box each for Kentucky Derby and Oaks Day donated by Churchill Downs. In the spirit of May 3-4 being the 150th runnings of America’s favorite race and its filly counterpart, only 150 tickets will be sold at $150 apiece for the Derby and for $125 apiece for the Oaks. Buy raffle tickets for the all-inclusive boxes (including food and alcoholic beverages) here.

The drawings will be Thursday, February 15 at 5 p.m. ET and streamed via Facebook Live. More details are at the bottom of this release.

Second Stride rehomed 169 horses in 2023 and directly assisted a total of 197, up from the 124 adoptions in 2022, when the facilities expanded to include Chorleywood Farm in Prospect. The former racehorses (and some non-racing thoroughbreds in need, such as broodmares and unable-to-race bloodstock) came from 49 tracks, training centers and farms and went to new homes in 26 states and Canada this past year. The average stay at Second Stride for horses being rehabbed and/or retrained before adoption was 57 days, covering more than 2,500 training sessions.

Second Stride. Gwen Davis/Davis Innovation photo

“We spent 2022 working on expansion so we could take care of and find second careers and forever homes for more retired racehorses,” Smith said. “Aftercare for horses coming off the track is a race without a finish line. So now we look to build on 2023, which across the board was our most successful in terms of horses served, rehabbed and adopted as well as financial growth including fundraising and grants and volunteer hours. And just to put the 197 horses we assisted last year in perspective, that number is slightly more than the 1 percent of North America’s 2023 foal crop.

“We can’t thank Churchill Downs enough for donating a prime box to these historic runnings of the Derby and Oaks. Every dollar raised will go toward the horses. This will get our fundraising off to a great start and hopefully make more people aware of Second Stride, how the horse donation process works and how our staff and volunteers prepare each donated horse individually for a second career, whether that be eventing, in the show ring, trail riding or as a wonderful, loving companion.”

In 2023, Second Stride:

     • saw a 12-percent increase in charitable financial support, going hand-in-hand with the number of horses served.

     • received the Thoroughbred Charities of America’s Ellen and Herb Moelis Industry Service Award.

     • joined Horse Country, which connects guests to tours that provide a behind-the-scenes look into Kentucky’s equine industry.

     • had 10-year-old Second Stride graduate Tavish (who raced as Black Tavish) repeat as the Jet Run award winner as the TAKE2 High-Score Hunter Champion in the prestigious competition for off-the-track thoroughbreds. The 7-year-old mare and Second Stride grad Congrats Cat won the TAA High Point award in dressage at the T.I.P Championships that highlight The Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Incentives Program to encourage showing retired racehorses.

Since its 2005 founding, Second Stride has placed more than 1,600 retired racehorses and other thoroughbreds in need with qualified adopters around the country.

“The strides we made in 2023 wouldn’t have been possible without long-standing supporters such as Skychai Racing, Hot Pink Stables, Florida Horsemen’s Charitable Foundation, The Right Horse, Thoroughbred Charities of America and, of course, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance,” Smith said. “Churchill Downs supports our work in countless ways, and we were honored this year to pick up MagnaWave as a corporate sponsor, which allowed us to grow into our Chorleywood facility.” 

More Kentucky Derby and Oaks box raffle details:

Each box includes reserved seating for six people, with raffle chances costing $150 for the Kentucky Derby box and $125 for the Oaks box with a maximum of 150 tickets sold for each raffle. The boxes are located in the third-floor grandstand, with a great view of the entire track and a spectacular view of the final turn. The reserved seating is all-inclusive of food and beverages (non-alcoholic and alcoholic) and access to off-site parking with shuttle service from the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center is available. Tickets can be purchased until all are sold or until 12 p.m. ET on Feb. 13 to allow time for processing prior to the raffle drawings. Winners will be notified immediately following the drawing Feb. 15 at 5 p.m. ET and need not be present to win. The certificate for the box at Churchill Downs will be emailed to the winners. The box tickets will be made available no later than mid-April and distributed electronically. All proceeds from the raffles go directly to Second Stride, however the raffle ticket purchases are not a tax-deductible charitable donation.

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.