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Shon McLain and Danielle Beinars represent two generations in their path of training and caring for Thoroughbreds.
Whether is it giving back to the horses or making a difference, both have become an integral part of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s barn on the corner of Bloomfield Road and Daniels Road.
McLain, who started the Saratoga Strategic Partners 12 years ago, became a member of the TRF board in March, while Beinars, a senior at Cazenovia College, has spent her summer working with this year’s retired and rescued horses.
This year’s group of horses each has their own story before being retired and getting rescued.
Candyman E, a 12-year-old gelding, is perhaps the most notable of the quartet as he won 10-of-34 races for just over $595,000, including a win in the Grade 3 Tobbagan Stakes, several other minor stakes victories, and a second-place finish in Kid Russell Stakes at Saratoga.
Meanwhile, 8-year-old gelding Call the Iceman and 13-year-old mare Supurb Surprize each had brief racing careers as maidens at Finger Lakes; Uptown Joe was also a maiden through 13 races, including three races at Saratoga.
McLain helped bring these horses to the barn earlier this year when he heard about
“We got a call from a couple of local horse organizations and found out there were going to be some bad things happening,” McLain said. “That was an opportunity for us to come in and make something good out of it. One of the reasons I chose TRF is that we take any horse that needs to be rescued, not just ones who can be retrained into something or resold. They are here, even if it means that they just want to eat grass in the field. We are the first for the worst.”
Beinars eventually started working with them as part of
Even though TRF Director of Development and Communications Jennifer Stevens had a racing background on each of these horses, she didn’t know much about them beyond that.
“We didn’t know anything about their personalities or riding abilities or the challenges we were going to face. Danielle has been able to go through each horse. Now, we know – with someone working with them every day – where they are going to fit the best. She has been great with that. Now, hopefully, three of them can get adopted out.”
Prior to their involvement in the TRF, McLain and Beinars each had unique paths of working with Thoroughbreds.
The 49-year-old McLain went from being an architect major at University of Kansas to working for trainer Tom Pryor at Woodlands in Kansas City as a groom. Once McLain got the experience of being in the Winner’s Circle, he lost his interest in architecture.
“I must have gotten 20 win pictures. I got hooked on that,” he said. “After my fifth year of school, architecture got boring. Computer Aided Drafting came out and it was point-click, point-click. There was no way that I was doing that.”
After going through the Oklahoma circuit, McLain started working for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Along with working with a solid group of former assistants that included Todd Pletcher, Dallas Stewart, Mike Maker, Mark Hennig and George Weaver, McLain also handled Kentucky Derby winners Thunder Gulch and Grindstone, as well as 3-year-old filly champion Serena’s Song.
However, there was a moment with Serena’s Song and Lukas when McLain learned the significance of giving back. A few days before the 1995 Kentucky Derby, Lukas and McLain had Serena’s Song grazing on the backside of Churchill Downs when Lukas allowed a girl to pet the horse on the nose.
“He said it is so important to give back to the sport that has given to us,” McLain said. “He said that little girl will never forget that experience; she is the future of the sport of horse racing. That has kind of always stuck with me that giving back to the sport that has moved me to where I am today. That’s very important.”
As a father of 16-year-old daughter Katie and 14-year-old son Michael, McLain continues to believe in volunteering and community support through programs that include the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, New York State Race Track Chaplaincy, Maple Avenue Parent Newtork and Kiwanis.
“Community involvement is very important to me,” he said. “Having kids, I have done all of the regular community support like the PTA and Little League. Now that my kids are older, I know what I wanted to do community-wise.”
The 21-year-old Beinars from Foxboro, Mass. was five years old when she started riding in horse shows. She got involved in a work-to-ride opportunity from the partner of a farm owner who painted her parent’s house for a couple of years. However, Beinars was looking for more.
“She taught me to make a horse run faster, slower, and steer. After that, I was on my own,” she said. “I did a lot of YouTube watching to learn about advanced skills. I wanted to get more competitive; I wanted to horse show and do more events.”
On the last day of her seventh grade year, Beinars moved onto another work-to-ride program with some initial hesitation from the farm owner. That opportunity eventually became the foundation for Beinars working with Thoroughbreds.
“She wasn’t initially willing to give a 12-year-old a work-to-ride opportunity,” she said. “Gradually, I started working more and riding more. I was given more difficult horses or horses that people didn’t want to ride. It was great because I had the patience for them. That’s where I got the passion of working with Thoroughbreds.”
Beinars graduated from Norfolk County Agricultural High School in Walpole, Mass. where she was part of an animal science program. She learned different skills that included woodworking, equine science and applying to college with equine programs.
Over the past 12 weeks in her TRF internship, Beinars believes her experience has prepared her for the future that could include pursuing a masters in sustainable agriculture while reinforcing her personal mission of making a difference.
“I really like my internship,” she said. “I really learned whatever I do – with Thoroughbreds or not – it needs to make a difference. I am always motivated and give my best effort. However, at the end of the day, I don’t care if you win a blue ribbon with some class of a horse. That doesn’t really mean anything to me. The biggest thing that I got out it is whatever I do, it has to be meaningful.”
As a way to raise money for the after care and internships, the TRF features several community events that include the open houses. The TRF’s fundraising event is the Summer Night BBQ at the Barn on Aug. 20 from 6-8 p.m. at The Saratoga Winery.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - The David Cassidy Band returned to the stage this week to perform their first concert since the death of the singer last November. They chose to stage the show in Saratoga Springs, a place the singer himself had maintained was his favorite in the world.
The special tribute concert to honor Cassidy also acted as a benefit for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, an organization and cause close to Cassidy’s heart.
The six-member band gathered in Saratoga Tuesday morning and toured the TRF farm, located on Route 29, where they spent time with Bold Mon and Rock D.J. - two of the farm’s retired horses - in advance of that night’s show at Putnam Place.
The band’s 18-song set featured standard’s from Cassidy’s Partridge Family era – including "I Can Hear Your Heartbeat," "Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque," "I'll Meet You Halfway," and "I Woke Up In Love This Morning" – a nod to David Cassidy’s solo work (“Cherish”), and a slew of cover renditions that featured Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” The Beatles’ “In My Life,” The Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” – with drummer Teri Coté stepping up to lead mic – and a pair of back-to-back tunes popularized by the Monkees: “Daydream Believer,” and “I’m A Believer.”
Dr. Jerry Bilinski, and Gary Contessa – two close friends of Cassidy in the horse racing industry – each took a turn at the mic. “I miss him a lot, just sitting on the porch with a cigar and talking,” recalled Bilinski, before singing a few bars of “I Think I Love You.”
Contessa said he first met Cassidy at a Fasig Tipton horse sale 23 years ago and was amazed by the singer’s knowledge of horses. “He was a rock star who wanted to be a horse trainer.” Contessa then reversed that role when he donned a bass and joined the band for a blues jam.
The six-piece band featured Teri Coté (drums); Craig Snider (keyboards/vocals); Dave Robicheau (guitar/vocals); Matt Sullivan (guitar/vocals); Vance Brescia (guitar/vocals) and Darrell Craig Harris (bass/vocals). They performed admirably and provided a good time for many of the 250 or so in attendance, many of whom moved together across the dance floor, or released emotions in the way of pent-up tears. Some did both.
“This is the first time we got together and it’s a real blending of his past,” offered Craig Snider, during an interview prior to the show. “Sully (Matt Sullivan) was his guitar player before the current fellah, who wasn’t able to make it. Vance (Brescia) has been a friend of the band’s and David’s for a long time. He’s Peter Noone’s music director and a great singer. When we did the Idol Tour – which was David Cassidy, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Noone – we were the house band,” Snider explained. “So, when we thought: OK, who’s going to sing the body of these songs… Vance is a lead singer! I’m a good singer and Sully is a good singer as well, so in essence what we have are three lead singers filling in for what we had with one,” he said with a laugh. “Three divas, for the price of one.”
The rehearsal prior to the show was somewhat surreal, Snider said. “It was trippy because in my head I still hear David. It’s hard to verbalize, but when we started doing those songs, even though someone else is singing, physical memory is like musical memory so I was at times still hearing him, and kind of flipping back-and-forth.”
The event included auction items, and a meet-and-greet the band opportunity. Local artist David Hill painted a horse using the band’s live performance as inspiration. The completed painting was to be auctioned off as well.
“There’s a common thread we share, and that thread is David Cassidy. We had him come out of the TV screen and into our living rooms,” event organizer Linda de Ambrosio neatly summed up.
The TRF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving Thoroughbred horses no longer able to compete on the racetrack from possible neglect, abuse, and slaughter. The organization said details regarding the amount of money raised during the concert will be announced next week.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — On Thursday July 19, from 5 to 8 p.m., the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) hosted an “Open Barn” where visitors met retired racehorses and explored the barn. The horses at the TRF Summer Farm @Saratoga are representatives of the Thoroughbred horses to whom the TRF provides lifelong sanctuary through their network of 19 farms. These farms are located in 12 states and include eight Second Chances programs at Correctional Facilities. These five horses are from the TRF’s original Second Chances Farm at the Wallkill Correctional Facility and will be here for the summer to meet TRF friends and fans. Who are the horses? Cogs My Man is an 18-yearold, Kentucky bred gelding with 5 career starts.
His sire, Louis Quatorze, won the Jim Dandy Stakes here at Saratoga in 1996. Son of a Gun is a sweet, smart 12-year-old bay gelding, who would definitely like a human to call his own. Blown Save is a 10-year-old bay gelding, who raced 12 times. His sire is the great Smart Strike. He is the big man of the herd standing at 17 hands. Dusk to Dawn is an impressive looking 7-year-old, bay, NY bred gelding. His sire is Malibu Moon. “Dusky” had 8 career starts. He is a big horse and quite the character. He last raced in 2015 and still remembers the call to the post song when played! Bold Mon is a 15-year-old grey gelding who had a successful racing career with lifetime earnings of $170,000. His last race was at Saratoga and he is happy to be back for a visit. The farm will be open Tuesdays during racing season from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by appointment with the TRF. The retired racehorses will be staying at the Heading for Home farm located just east of Saratoga Springs. Heading for Home is a racehorse rescue and retraining facility for both Standardbred and Thoroughbred racehorses.
This partnership formed as a result of a collaboration with Racehorse Aftercare Charitable Endeavors of Saratoga (R.A.C.E.). This group of racehorse aftercare organizations was launched in 2015 and promotes education and awareness on racehorse aftercare in the Saratoga area. “We are thrilled to introduce our retired horses to the Saratoga community and to have the opportunity to elevate the conversation regarding racehorse aftercare” said TRF Director of Development and Communications Jennifer Stevens. “TRF’s national headquarters is based in Saratoga Springs, yet we rarely have a chance to have our supporters meet our herd in person. Each horse has a unique personality and a story to tell. We hope the community will visit the farm to meet them and come to appreciate and love them as we do,” Stevens continued. For more information, or to schedule a visit, please call the TRF at 518-226-0028. Because the farm is a private venue, unscheduled visits are prohibited without prior permission.
SARATOGA SPRINGS - In celebrating 22 years of equine rescue work and 17 years of holding its biggest event of the year in Saratoga, Equine Advocates will be honoring West Point Thoroughbred’s CEO and founder, Terry Finley with the Safe Home Equine Protection Award at the Canfield Casino on August 2. He will be joined by Purple Haze Stable’s Wanda Polisseni who will receive the Ellen and Herbert Moelis Equine Savior Award. Each of these outstanding individuals are being recognized for making major contributions in the area of equine protection. Finley, who is a resident of Saratoga Springs, came to the rescue of Thoroughbreds stranded in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria when he helped arrange for a plane to deliver much-needed food and supplies. He is opposed to horse slaughter and is actively involved with Thoroughbred Aftercare and equine-related charities. Terry sits on the boards of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and the Thoroughbred Charities of America.
Spring Break Overnight Camp Seeking Families with Special Needs
LAKE GEORGE – If you are part of a family that has a child with special needs or a life threatening illness, or know one – this may be the most important story you read today.
A fully funded overnight family camp program is looking to add 10-15 additional families to take part in this free, yet priceless experience. The details are below, but you must act quickly.
Camp TLC – a free camp experience that connects children who have experienced medical or life trauma by offering unique ways of coping through recreational and performing arts based activities – is expanding to include Saratoga County families, and will take place during this year’s spring break period – from April 24-28. The camp will be hosted at the YMCA Camp Chingachgook in Lake George.
Camp TLC, which stands for Together Living a Challenge, has a program model that incorporates the whole family unit into the camp experience – with an emphasis on developing necessary skills and building self-esteem as a means to overcome challenges.
According to Founder and Executive Director Caroline Baumis, herself a native of Saratoga Springs, similar camps around the country have been successful over the past five years and she is particularly excited about establishing Camp TLC in her native region. “We are honored and grateful for our connections in Upstate New York and excited to expand our program to meet the needs of more children and families in Saratoga County. Our relationships with local organizations – including the Upstate New York Austism Alliance – help us recruit new families so that we can provide a week of resources, respite, love and wellness.”
“We are especially thankful for the support of foundations such as the Alfred Z. Solomon Charitable Trust, Charles R. Wood Foundation, and the Kennedy Mulcahy Fund of the Ethel and W. George Kennedy Foundation for their continuous support of our camp program.” Baumis has previously been involved with a day camp for backstretch workers and other charitable activities such as with Medical Missions for Children. She noted that the overnight camp model has proven to be logistically easier to achieve than day camps (where daily transportation could be an issue for some) while proving to be a superior experience for participating families.
While many local families have been recruited for the April camp, the good news is that there is room for up to about 15 more. There is an application process, and it is requested that you apply by March 21, to allow for screening and processing. Here is what you do:
Families that participate in Camp TLC at Chingachgook will be able to participate in a broad variety of activities that you would expect from a comprehensive camp experience, including yoga, massage, a petting zoo, arts and crafts, bingo nights, sing-alongs with local favorite Rich Ortiz around the campfire, drive-in movie night, hiking and other outdoor activities, guitar and theater lessons, in addition to special theme days such as carnival day and color games in which kids get to ‘pie’ their parents. “That’s always a favorite,” Baumis said, laughing.
Overall, “Our campers will love the warm and encouraging atmosphere and it serves the entire family,” Baumis said.
For more information, visit www.thecamptlc.org. Camp TLC also has Facebook and Twitter pages.