Friday, August 7, 2009

California Retirement Management Account (CARMA)- Ray Paulick Writes About Good Karma

Photo of Frank Alvarado at Golden Gate Fields. Ex-race horses in retirement are helped by the opt-in horsemen's program (CARMA) in California. CARMA will be holding a "Texas Hold'em" Poker Tournament on Thursday, August 13 at the Del Mar Hilton Hotel. Here is a reprint of the Ray Paulick written article from the blog The Paulick Report on CARMA's efforts and director, Madeline Auerbach from 8/7/09

By Ray Paulick The California Horse Racing Board has taken a lot of heat in the last several years for some of their actions, but they deserve a great deal of credit for approving a unique program in December 2007 allowing horse owners to give a small portion of the purse money they earn to the California Retirement Management Account (or CARMA), a fund-raising organization that contributes to retirement, adoption and retraining operations for retired California Thoroughbreds.
It’s doubtful the program would have gotten off the ground were it not for the efforts of Madeline Auerbach, who is passionate about many facets of the Thoroughbred industry, particularly animal welfare issues. “This is an idea whose time had come,” she said
CARMA is unique in that it is an opt-out program, meaning that CARMA will receive three-tenths of one percent from purses unless the owner instructs the racetrack paymaster that he does not want to participate. Some other programs that have raised money for retirement homes have done it on an opt-in basis, meaning you have to try and recruit people to contribute.
As a result, Auerbach said CARMA has roughly 80% participation from California owners. “It’s staggering,” she said.
“A lot of people were pushing to make this opt-in,” said Auerbach. “I knew people wouldn’t participate. I said it’s either opt out or we won’t do it.”
With a $200,000 endowment contribution from the Jan, Mace and Samantha Siegel Foundation, CARMA was off and running in 2008. A fund-raiser made $150,000, and the owner’s contributions could be right around $200,000 annually. CARMA made its first group of grants of $150,000 last year.
Auerbach, who chairs the 501(c)3 organization, said CARMA will be focusing more on programs that place ex-racehorses with new owners or retrain them for second careers.
“We have a great process,” she said. “We look at the financials and fundraising efforts of the organizations applying for grants. We also go look at the facilities.”
CARMA relies on volunteers for many of those duties. Lucinda Mandella, who shares her time working for Thoroughbred Owners of California, is CARMA’s only paid staffer.
The program is making a difference, Auerbach believes. “We make surprise visits to the farms,” she said. “We’re seeing improvements in the condition of the horses. Their teeth are getting floated and they are receiving more veterinary care.”
Auerbach is also riding high on the success of Unusual Heat, currently second in the California sire list by progeny earnings after leading that list in 2008 with record earnings for a California stallion and getting 16 stakes winners.
The son of Nureyev stands at Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif. He raced for Auerbach and her late husband, James, after being claimed by them for $80,000. They didn’t have much luck with Unusual Heat on the racetrack and tried to sell him for $50,000 after he bowed a tendon. No one was interested so Unusual Heat was bred to some of the Auerbachs’ mares in 1998. He had 11 winners from 15 foals, and has only gotten better since.
Auerbach, however, says she deserves no credit for Unusual Heat’s success. “It was pure luck,” she said.
Auerbach races many of Unusual Heat’s offspring with her longtime trainer Barry Abrams. She recently decided to package a group of six Unusual Heat 2-year-olds in a syndicate that will be sold through Billy Koch’s Little Red Feather Racing, which will manage marketing and client relations. Auerbach and Abrams will make the racing decisions. Fifteen shares are being offered for the group at a price of $90,000 per share. CARMA will get a portion of proceeds from the sale.
“I’m trying to get people excited,” Auerbach said. “I want more people to come to the races and have as much fun as I do.”
Auerbach is spending a lot of time this month preparing for CARMA’s annual fundraiser, a Texas Hold ‘em poker tournament called “Gitty Up, Belly Up & Pony Up.” It is being held at the Del Mar Hilton on Aug. 13 at 6 p.m. The early bird registration fee of $200 ended Aug. 6; the price is $225 at the door. TVG/Betfair is sponsor of the event, which also includes a silent auction plus food and drinks.
For more information on CARMA, click here.

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