Louisiana Horsemen Aim to Strengthen Aftercare Support

Lawmakers considering changes after stories showed Thoroughbreds in kill pens.


The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association supports state legislation that would make changes to its aftercare program the organization believes will lead to greater participation.

Lawmakers are considering changes after stories and social media posts showed Thoroughbreds who had raced at Delta Downs in kill pens. Industry groups also are rallying to put additional safety nets in place.

The issues in Louisiana proved a timely topic for a panel on aftercare at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association convention March 15 in New Orleans.

Louisiana HBPA president Benard Chatters said his organization supports the proposed legislation, which would have all horsemen participate in a program of financial support for aftercare that could be based on a per-start basis or a commitment from purse earnings. Chatters said the current Louisiana HBPA program allows horsemen to opt in to support aftercare, but he believes moving to a system where horsemen are in the program unless they opt out will see improved participation.

“If they’re already in the program, a lot of them won’t make the effort to opt out,” Chatters said, noting that there may not be full awareness of the current opt-in program.

Patrick Richmond, president of Louisiana Horse Rescue Association, said similar legislation has been proposed before, but he thinks the recent effort has a better chance of passing because of support from the Louisiana HBPA; Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs owner Boyd Gaming; state Quarter Horse breeders; and the racing commission. They expect support from the state’s other two track owners, Churchill Downs Inc. and Harrah’s.

Richmond said aftercare groups would like to see a commitment of $5 a start. Chatters said Louisiana HBPA might be more receptive to a plan that makes a commitment from purse earnings after a horse has won. Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance operations consultant Stacie Clark, who moderated the panel, said either type of approach can work.

Michele Rodriguez, founder and president of Elite Thoroughbreds and a board member of the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association, said Boyd will commit to matching funds by horsemen, and she’s certain CDI also will get on board.

Chatters noted, with the emergence of social media, a small percentage of horsemen not acting properly can endanger the sport.

“The largest percentage of trainers and owners are responsible,” Chatters said. “It only takes one person, or one horse. … Something happens in some remote corner of the state, and all of a sudden it’s all over the nation because of social media.”

Panel participants and National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback said that something as simple as improved communication between horsemen and aftercare facilities can make the difference for a horse.

“We have to make that connection and keep them together,” Hamelback said. “Aftercare needs to become part of your business plan.”

Jessica Hammond, program administrator of Maryland’s Beyond the Wire—a state aftercare initiative of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, and Maryland jockeys—encouraged horsemen from states without similar aftercare programs to take the initiative.

She said owners are contributing $11 a start, and it’s enjoyed about “99% participation.” She said jockeys will contribute about $60,000 this year. The program works with six TAA-accredited facilities.

“Just jump in. … You kind of just have to get the idea on how you want your program to run and just start it,” Hammond said. “You’re not going to have everything perfect from the get-go. You’re going to have to tweak things along the way, and that’s OK. There’s no reason for not starting.”

Hamelback emphasized that the stakes are high, and not having an aftercare plan in place is no longer acceptable.

“We have to educate people that there is a second chance after racing. We have to stop these horses from getting to the pen,” Hamelback said. “We need racetracks’ help, but we also need horsemen’s help when it comes to education.”

Prominent Owner Tom Benson Dies

Owner of New Orleans Saints, Pelicans was active in Thoroughbred racing.


Tom Benson, a Louisiana sports icon who took his football and his basketball with a healthy side of horse racing, died March 15 at Oschner Medical Center in Jefferson, La., with his wife Gayle Marie Benson at his side. He was 90, and was hospitalized with the flu Feb. 16.

For all his success as owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, including the Saints’ Super Bowl XLIV victory and a plaque in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, there was one sports trophy the Louisiana native joked he might not want to claim. As much as he loved Thoroughbreds, as a savvy businessman Benson recognized how horses pull you in.

Greg Bensel, general manager of the Benson family’s GMB Racing—who confirmed Benson’s death through his role as senior vice president of communications and broadcasting for the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans—spoke Wednesday at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association convention in New Orleans. He recalled how Benson approached the morning of the 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), just two years after GMB Racing was formed.

“We’d rented a home in Louisville. At breakfast he said, ‘You know, Greg, I don’t know that I really want to win the Kentucky Derby today.’ I said, ‘Why is that, Mr. Benson? He said, ‘If we do win, we have to buy more horses, a farm, and really get into this,” Bensel said.

While they dabbled in racehorse ownership in the 1970s and 1980s, the Bensons returned to the sport after a multi-decade absence with renewed vigor in 2014, inspired by the rags-to-riches story of two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome .

“He said, ‘Greg, what would it take for us to get in the business?’ I said, ‘Why don’t you give me a check for $2 million—that will be a start—and we’ll go out and hit the Keeneland September sale and we’ll buy some horses,'” Bensel said.

From their first modern crop of yearlings, they campaigned not one, but two starters in the 2016 Kentucky Derby—graded stakes winner Mo Tom (eighth for trainer Tom Amoss) and multiple graded stakes winner Tom’s Ready  (12th for trainer Dallas Stewart).

“We finished eighth and 12th, which I thought was respectable, but he ended up buying more horses and one of the most beautiful farms I’ve ever been on,” Bensel said, mentioning Benson Farm at Greenwood Lodge in Paris, Ky., home to a broodmare and boarding operation.

“We had tremendous, uncanny success. He realized that was not the norm in this business,” Benzel said. “It started out as a hobby for us, and now it’s nearly a $21 million business.”

Benson was born Thomas Milton Benson Jr., on July 12, 1927, in New Orleans. The son of Thomas Milton Benson Sr. and Carmelite Marie Pintado Benson, he was raised in the 7th Ward neighborhood of New Orleans and graduated from St. Aloysius High School (now Brother Martin High School) in 1944.

Benson enrolled at Loyola University New Orleans to study business and accounting. He interrupted his education to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he was assigned to the USS South Dakota. Upon the conclusion of World War II, he returned to New Orleans and continued his business administration studies.

In 1948, Benson went to work as a bookkeeper for the Cathey Chevrolet Company in New Orleans, and by 1956, at age 29, was on his way to managing a Chevrolet dealership as a junior partner. Six years later, he took full control of the company and established a multi-dealership organization, with outlets throughout the New Orleans area and South Texas. In 1972, Benson entered the banking business and eventually took his banking network public as Benson Financial World.

In 1985, Benson purchased the New Orleans Saints after learning that the NFL franchise was on the verge of being sold to parties interested in relocating the team. He purchased the Saints on May 31, 1985. In 2012 Benson purchased the New Orleans Hornets NBA franchise and renamed it the New Orleans Pelicans the following season.

Through his sports teams, business interests, and the Gayle and Tom Benson Foundation, Benson was dedicated to assisting myriad charitable, faith-based, and educational causes in the New Orleans and South Texas communities. Under Benson’s direction, his businesses and sports teams annually have put millions of dollars back into the community in financial support, in-kind donations, charitable appearances, and the donations of goods and services.

“It is a sad day for Louisiana. Thank you for everything you have done for our state, our country, and the sport of horse racing,” Amoss said of Benson, in a statement posted on his Twitter account. “It is hard to put into words what you have meant to all of us. I am honored to have been a small part of your story.”

Details regarding public visitation and funeral will be forthcoming.

No Human or Equine Injuries in Small Oaklawn Fire

Dorm room fire has displaced several residents.

No people or horses were injured March 6 after a small fire in a dorm room on the Oaklawn Park backstretch.

Track spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyt said the fire occurred at about 5:45 a.m. local time Tuesday in a dorm above the Swaps barn on the backstretch of the Hot Springs, Ark. track. She said firefighters quickly responded and put out the fire before it spread.

Hoyt said about a half-dozen residents were displaced by the dorm fire. She said Tuesday morning that track officials were assisting them in relocation efforts.

About 40 horses were moved from the barn during the fire. They were able to return to their stalls in the same barn by about 7 a.m.

“It was impressive to see our horsemen working together, helping one another,” Hoyt said. “They’ll compete on the track but when somebody’s in need, they all just jump in.”

Equine Artist Stone Dies at Age 87

Through his work, Stone supported many racing charities.

Equine artist Fred Stone, whose works are in the White House and Buckingham Palace, died Feb. 4. He was 87.

On his Facebook page, Stone’s family reported that the artist died due to complications from cancer. They said he was surrounded by family.

Born April 13, 1930, in St. Louis, Stone’s family moved to Los Angeles when he was 3. He studied art at the Otis Art Institute as a child. Later, he attended The Art Center School and Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. Stone worked as a commerical artist and painted backgrounds for the film industry. In the late 1970s he turned to painting racehorses.

In a 1990 BloodHorse story, Stone described that transition.

“At first they all looked alike,” Stone said. “But I fell  in love with racing and once I studied horses, they becamse individuals—full of emotion and power.”

Stone’s large murals can be found all over the world, including the world’s largest horse mural at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.

Stone supported worthy charities in the racing community and beyond, including families of New York firefighters impacted by 9-11, handicapped children on horse back foundations, disabled jockeys, and finding homes for retired racehorses, among others. On his passing, groups like After the Finish Line noted his contributions.

Throughout his career, Stone donated proceeds from the sale of various prints to many equine-related charities.

“I have been fortunate,” Stone said in the 1990 BloodHorse story. “I made my career from horse racing and I want to share that with others.”

Fred Stone and Hall of Fame jockey Bill Shoemaker

Lasix Study Backs Four-Hour Administration Time

Pair of Lasix studies of interest outline results.

A study that has some potential to reshape the timing of Salix administration ahead of racing determined that the current four-hour timeframe is more effective than administering 24 hours out in reducing the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

The study, led by Dr. Heather Knych, was one of two studies on Salix (furosemide, commonly referred to as Lasix) with results outlined at the American Association of Equine Practitioners convention in late November. The other study, led by Dr. Warwick Bayly, found some potential for a low dosage of Salix 24 hours out combined with controlled access to water in reducing EIPH in racing.

The Paulick Report first posted a story on the results of both studies Jan. 30.

According to the AAEP’s 2017 Convention Proceedings document, the study by Dr. Knych of the Ken L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory looked at the efficacy of administering Lasix 24 hours out, instead of the current four hours out called for in racing’s model rules. The study concluded that administering furosemide four hours before a race was more effective in reducing the severity of EIPH than going to 24 hours out.

The Knych study saw 15 Thoroughbreds administered furosemide either four or 24 hours prior to a five-furlong simulated race. Blood samples were collected before and after the simulated race for determination of furosemide, lactate, hemoglobin, and electrolyte concentrations.

One hour after the race, an endoscopic exam and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) was performed. Horses were assigned an EIPH score based on previously published criteria. The number of red blood cells in in BAL fluid was also determined.

“There was a statistically significant difference in EIPH scores between the four-hour and 24-hour furosemide administrations,” the study determined. The study noted that none of the treatments prevented EIPH in the horses but that reducted red blood cell counts in bronchoalveolar fluid post-race indicated that administering furesomide four hours before a race was the most effective.

According to its introduction, the study came together following anecdotal reports that suggested furosemide administration 24 hours prior to strenuous exercise could be equally effective at decreasing EIPH.

The United States is one of the few countries that allows the raceday administration of Lasix. A study showing efficacy in preventing EIPH at 24 hours or beyond had potential to reshape current raceday policy of administration four hours before the race.

In the study led by Bayly, it was determined that a 0.5 mg/kg administration of furosemide 24 hours before strenuous exercise combined with controlled access to water shows potential for reducing the severity of EIPH.

The study used six horses who underwent treadmill exercise to fatigue after seven different protocols that adjusted the dosage amount of the Lasix and timing of the administration. The study concluded that, “Furosemide, 0.5 mg/kg, combined with controlled access to water, significantly reduced the severity of EIPH,” adding that, “No ill effects were detected in the horses.”

In its AAEP presentation outline, the study noted that “Although the findings were promising, the number of horses used was small. The effects of furosemide on water and ion excretion were evident for 24 hours but did not adversely affect the horses, likely because of increased absorption of wager and ions from the colon.”

In September 2015, Grayson Jockey Club Foundation announced it had launched funding of the two projects. The AAEP also played a prominent role in funding the projects, along with a number of racetracks.

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