After some test rings last spring, Oaklawn's fund-raising efforts for local Thoroughbred aftercare began in earnest Dec. 9 with the opening of its scheduled 68-day live racing season. The final six days of the 2021-2022 meeting raised $14,000 through the new “Ring the Bell” program, which gives winning connections following each race an opportunity to donate at least $100 toward aftercare.
Money raised is earmarked for the Arkansas Thoroughbred Retirement Program and Rehabilitation Foundation Inc., a collaboration between the Arkansas division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Oaklawn. It was recently established as a safe path to a second career for Oaklawn-raced horses upon retirement.
Donations are signaled–loudly–by hand ringing a large copper-colored bell hung in the back of the Larry Snyder Winner's Circle. The idea of intertwining a bell with aftercare was the brainchild of trainer Ron Moquett, best known for his work with Whitmore, a seven-time Oaklawn stakes winner and 2020 Eclipse Award Champion male sprinter.
“I wanted to bring attention and give everybody the opportunity to, when they're at their happiest, they can help right then,” Moquett said. “Ring that bell and it starts up a conversation. 'Hey, that bell is ringing for the respect and love of the horse.' The bell is symbolic and it teaches everybody through the whole grandstand that whenever you hear that bell, that means somebody has donated money to the retired racehorse program. We'd like to hear the bell ring every race, every day. What the sound means is we're helping retired racehorses.”
For more information about the organization, visit the Arkansas Thoroughbred Retirement Program website.
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