Thursday, 31 August 2023 14:00

Local Champions of Aftercare and Beyond

By Tony Podlaski | Sports
Rainbows End. NYRTC Photo. Rainbows End. NYRTC Photo.

With the help of the Frank and Sue Bobley’s 18 Karat Farm in Schuylerville, Bob Scavetta hosts Brunch at the Barn to recognize the importance of Thoroughbred aftercare and more for the Rainbow’s End partners.

When the term “champion” is applied to Thoroughbred racing, it is often applied to a horse or individual who had an outstanding campaign for the year.

However, there are more unsung champions who also play a vital year-round part in the industry, especially with aftercare and organizations who support backstretch workers.

Two of those people are Bob Scavetta and Sue Bobley.

Bobley, along with her husband Peter, has helped Scavetta host the annual Brunch at the Barn on her 18 Karat Farm in Schuylerville. The private event, which started as a luncheon through Kim Weir’s Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) four years ago, gave the partners of Rainbow’s End Racing, co-owned by Scavetta and Mike Iannaconi, an opportunity to interact with retired horses.

“Kim offered a little luncheon, then it started to grow. We are grateful that Sue allows us to use the property,” Scavetta said. “We have partners from St. Louis, Florida, Massachusetts, and a bunch in the Saratoga Springs area. We have people coming from [New York City] just for the Brunch at the Barn. It’s all about the comradery and the love of the horses.”

Bobley’s involvement with horse racing and retired horses started in 1982 when she purchased the late mare Sweet Amaryllis as a riding horse. However, as part of that encouragement into racing, Bobley decided to breed Sweet Amaryllis who produced Extended Forecast in the backyard of her Long Island home.

Extended Forecast won just one race – a maiden victory at Saratoga – before Bobley retired the gelding and sent him to Wallkill Correctional Facility, with the support of TRF, to work with inmates in developing vocational skills in horse care and management. Extended Forecast lived at Wallkill until he was 29 years old in 2012.

“He was too tough for me to ride and I didn’t have a large barn for him to stay,” Bobley said. “So, he was sent Wallkill and I visited him every year. That’s where I met Kim [Weir]. I have always supported the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. That’s my favorite horse charity.”

The turning point from owning horse to solely focus on retired horses for Bobley occurred in early 2012 when her gelding Pretty Boy Freud suffered a fracture during a workout over the Belmont Training Track. 

As Pretty Boy Freud was fortunate to recover over the next few weeks, Bobley decided to bring him to 18 Karat Farm and she got out of racing. Today, the 17-year-old gelding is still active around the farm.

“We saved him. What saved his life is that he could lay down, then stand up,” Bobley said. “He’s here at my farm with other ex-racehorses or horses who didn’t get to the races. I have always promised my horses that they would have a place for life, and I give them a place for life.”

Bobley has given a home to 13 retired horses, the majority of them being Thoroughbreds that include the following: 30-year-old Forest Gumption, Puppy Love (25 years), Theconfidenceman (22 years), Bea Plus (22 years), Beyond Challenge (18 years), Flying Heat (17 years), and Luvacat (14 years).

Meanwhile, Scavetta’s interest and commitment to Thoroughbred aftercare was inspired by Forego and breeder-owner Martha B. (Farish) Gerry. Scavetta still remembers Forego’s historical finish in the 1976 Marlboro Cup with his late charge in the stretch while carrying 137 pounds, then reading Bill Nack’s 1978 column “Any Distance, Any Weight” that reflected on the gelding’s career.

“I remember Ms. Gerry saying, ‘It’s time. The horse has been good to us. So, it’s time that we were good to him.’ That struck me and I was in my early 20s at the time,” Scavetta said. “There’s an owner who understands everything about horse racing. This horse gave them everything he had, every time, and they were champions of doing everything right by the horse. That’s when I thought about aftercare for the first time.”

Iannaconi and Scavetta’s model for the Rainbow’s End puts an emphasis on aftercare while making it simple for anyone to own a share. Scavetta is also transparent through the plethora of emails about the partnership that have five to seven horses – all trained by Tom Morley.

“We make the entry level very simple, enjoyable, and affordable,” Scavetta said. “We are fully transparent. That’s our motto. We send out information on how are horses are doing on a regular basis. We believe in sharing information – both good and bad on a timely manner.”

“We felt a sincere responsibility that should be shared – and is shared – by most owners. That is for aftercare,” he added. “These equine athletes live beyond 25-30 years. They deserve happy and healthy care in their second careers.”

Along Rainbow’s End providing donations to various aftercare programs that include TRF, Take the Lead through the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and ReRun Thoroughbred Adaption in East Greenbush, Scavetta and Iannaconi’s partnership is also a champion for backstretch workers through the New York Race Track Chaplaincy (NYRTC).

Last week, Rainbow’s End sponsored three races for the NYRTC that recognize the groom and hotwalker of the winning horse. Throughout the year, Rainbow’s End offers various monetary donations, provides about 400 cans of soup a couple of times, and donates 30-40 bicycles as part of the Christmas drive.

“We are big fans of the chaplaincy here in New York.” Scavetta said. “We will bring cans of soup because that’s a year-round staple, not just in the winter. Also, a bicycle on the backstretch can change a life when you think about the people on the backstretch. Our goal ultimately is to have anyone on the backstretch who wants a bicycle gets one.”

Just like with horses, Scavetta knows the importance of backstretch workers. He illustrates that for his partners, especially when one of the Rainbow’s End horses win.

“Without the backstretch worker, racing doesn’t exist,” he said. “Those people who are there from the coldest day of February and most-brutally humid days in August. They are wrapping legs every day; they’re bathing; they’re jogging and walking; they are feeding. They do everything that they do to take care of our horses.”

“We have a little tradition,” he added. “Every time when we win a race, I bring breakfast to the barn for all of the workers. We say, ‘When Rainbow’s End wins, everybody eats.’ You would be surprised how much a breakfast sandwich and a juice drink means to people who are there at 4:30 in the morning and working long hours with overtime late in the day. You have to be grateful. You have to be thankful, and you have to share within your ability to do so.”

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