Schosberg Taking The Lead On Aftercare: Difference Makers Presented By Avion Law - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Schosberg Taking The Lead On Aftercare: Difference Makers Presented By Avion Law

Rick Schosberg

“I'm retired but I'm not invisible.”

Rick Schosberg ended an accomplished 35-year career as a trainer on the New York Racing Association circuit last December at the age of 61, giving him more time to devote to important causes like Thoroughbred aftercare.

In fact, before the term was part of the industry's lexicon, Schosberg was practicing aftercare with his own horses.

“When I was growing up in Virginia, we had off-track Thoroughbreds as show horses in my family,” Schosberg said. “Then, when I first started training, my very first horse was named Three Chopt Road. When he was done racing (as a 9-year-old in 1993), he'd run 99 times and he was actually entered for his 100th start here in New York. He had a little windpuff in his ankle, so I scratched him. I didn't want to run him because he had always been perfect. We retired him to our small farm on Long Island.”

The next year, Schosberg saddled As Indicated to win the Grade 1 Pimlico Special, the gelding's sixth consecutive win and 10th in 14 starts. He came out of that race with an injury that sidelined him for a year. After one more start, Schosberg sent him to his farm to join Two Chopt Road.

“We had those two in our paddock out back for seven or eight years before 'aftercare' was even a term,” he said.

When Thoroughbred aftercare did become a commonly used phrase, Schosberg was all in, encouraged by the late Rick Violette Jr., a widely respected trainer who as head of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association was a founding member of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA). Violette was also the architect, along Andy Belfiore, of NYTHA's Take 2 Second Career and Take the Lead Thoroughbred  Retirement programs. Schosberg was elected to the NYTHA board of directors in 2011, and shortly thereafter Violette asked him to help lead the programs, which he said were “right in his wheelhouse.” He serves as president while Belfiore is Take 2/Take the Lead executive director.

Schosberg remains in awe of Violette, who died in 2018 at age 65 after a long battle with cancer. The New York Racing Association renamed the Rockville Centre Stakes in Violette's honor in 2019. The Rick Violette Stakes for New York-breds will be run on Aug. 17 at Saratoga, coinciding with the third annual Thoroughbred Aftercare Day, a celebration of the off-track Thoroughbred and the various charitable organizations that care for them.

“Man, whatever drove Rick Violette, I wish I had one-tenth of it,” Schosberg  said. “He was so passionate about everything in the industry with regards to, obviously, the health and welfare of the horses, but also the health and welfare of the backstretch workers. He wanted to make sure things got done right.

Rick Violette

“He was a great mentor,” Schosberg said of Violette. “His vision wasn't just transitioning horses from the racetrack to safe and accredited organizations, but it was also spurring the demand for Thoroughbreds in their retirement and in second careers through the Take 2 program. He just had the foresight and the program developed into what I think is the industry standard for facilitating transition from the racetrack to TAA-accredited organizations.”

Schosberg is doing his part to fill the void left by Violette's passing. In addition to serving as president of Take 2/Take the Lead, he is first vice president of NYTHA, a member of the board of directors of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, and serves on the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority's Horsemen's Advisory Group as well as the racetrack safety committee at NYRA tracks.

Schosberg said one of the keys to the success of the Take 2/Take the Lead program is that it has gained the trust of the horsemen.

“If they have a horse that is in need of retirement for whatever reason – lack of competition, injury – we are there and can expedite the process,” Schosberg said. “We gather up all the information needed, set up a profile for each individual horse based on medical diagnostics and other forms of information, then reach out to our partners in aftercare and see where this horse, based on its profile, fits best and where there is availability. We can move these horses to a safe haven, usually in five to seven days; sometimes it's a little longer and sometimes it's within 24 hours.”

Schosberg is proud of the fact that the program has retired over 1,000 horses since its inception. “And I think we're going to hit a benchmark on an annual number with 200 horses this year,” he said. “We've been very busy up here.”

The New York native, whose parents, Paul and Jane Schosberg, were prominent breeders in the Empire State for many years, is quick to credit the “people who are doing the work, the boots on the ground, the guys and gals who are in the trenches, many of them working as volunteers. They are doing it for the love of the animals and the health and well-being of these racehorses for the 60 to 80 percent of their life after they're off the racetrack.”

On Aftercare Day at Saratoga, Schosberg said he will be one of those boots on the ground, making sure all goes smoothly for the various activities taking place between races – all while nursing an injured shoulder that required recent surgery.

“Aftercare Day is a wonderful, wonderful way for the public to get exposed to what we do, what our partners do, and what these horses can do once they transition off the racetrack,” he said. “NYRA has been fantastic in partnering with us and getting the organizations here. It's just a great way to get the word out there that says, 'Hey folks, we're really working hard here to see that these horses that you love to watch and wager on or see in the paddock have a safety net after they've transitioned off the racetracks.' It's a great program and it's inarguable the necessity for it.”

Even with all the progress and success of programs like Take 2/Take the Lead, Schosberg said the industry still has a long way to go. “Everybody involved in racing has a shared responsibility to see that these horses find safe, proper and useful, purposeful second careers,” he said.

“I would say we're not even close to being halfway there,” he said. “We need to come up with more creative ways to have sustained revenue. I know it's no easy task; each state has different legislative and regulatory requirements and I know it's not easy and takes time.

“In New York, we have a great relationship with our state legislators and with the racing association and the New York breeders and the Breeding Development Fund as well. We're all in lockstep. We go to Albany and we explain that this is about health and welfare, that it's good for New York state, that it's great for New York racing, and what's great for New York racing is good for the industry as a whole.”

Schosberg saddled 876 winners on the racetrack, including 1995 champion 2-year-old male Maria's Mon and a number of other Grade 1 winners. But it's the work he's doing with horses off the racetrack that may well be his legacy. That makes Richard E. Schosberg a difference maker. If you would like to make a difference, please consider a donation to the Take 2/Take the Lead program.

Difference Makers is presented by Richard Pearson's Avion Law, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm which primarily represents owners in the private aviation sector. Avion Law has a “giving back” program supporting awareness campaigns and donating to charitable organizations in and outside of horse racing. For more information on Avion Law, click here.

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