Day At The Track

Faraldo & Dadoyan trip to France for trotters

04:42 AM 11 Jun 2018 NZST
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Harness racing
Ray Schnittker, Michel Lachance and Ron Burke in France with LeTrot group

The inception of the idea of importing some French horses, cast in a comment to me made by Alex Dadoyan the executive director at SOA of NY over 18 months ago, became an odyssey that he and I initially never thought might ever become reality. 

Originally cast as just something we would try to implement in November of 2017, we concluded that this project might fail because the finances to complete it might be too lean after the fall yearling sales and we were just too busy working on showcasing the "Day of Champions and the International Trot.

Besides, all the the details had not really been thought through.More time was needed and with the break at Yonkers coming over some 10 days in May and June we thought it best to try to have the details in place by then.

Alex and I decided to acquire 24 head- if possible - from France. A few questions like price; what would we ask interested parties to do; how could we make it fair to all; and how could we do our due diligence in the selection of these horses and gain the trust, of the 24 potential new owners of horses they had never seen?

My first thought was to get someone like my friend Mike La Chance to come on board to help us select the horses. Then Ray Schnittker signed up and when Ron Burke was brought on board by Alex, all the expertise one could hope for was settled.

Thinking that we need commitments from people, a non refundable payment was decided upon to test the real intent of the potential new buyers. That filled up quickly once it was decided that these horses would be written into a series of races just among themselves so as to avoid their being thrown in with horses taught more speed over shorter distances and harder tracks. They might never initially have had a shot.

So off to management to get an agreement on the series, the number of legs and the purses. Both Bob Galterio and Steve Starr, thought that legs of $30,000 each and a $100,000 final and longer distances was the way to go. Next the details with the French Le Trot had to be worked out to get horses that were currently racing who were geldings and would only require a 24 hour quarantine, had to be found for a price of $25,000 saving an additional $3,000 for that matching cost for the shipping put up by the SOA of NY.

The SOA board approved the project that has a substantial cost but provided everyone, and anyone, the opportunity to participate. The ARK at JFK -where these horses will be shipped to-is a $62,000,000 state of the art brand new facility unparalleled in the world today.

That quarantine cost is being absorbed by the SOA of NY and besides saving the new owners money, more importantly it saves these horses from further shipping to Newburg, NY after traveling from France to their point of departure in Belgium .

While the Le Trot or Cheval Francais as it is also referred to, had an original list of 132 horses meeting our general criteria that had to be whittled down to 60 or so head. That number, we assumed, would all be shipped for our convenience to the great training center owned by Le Trot outside of Paris known as Grosbois.

Later we learned that our volunteer team of experts would travel the country by road, rail and air to get to see 12 here, 8 there, in either Paris, Nice, Normandy, Laval or Bordeaux.... France is bigger than we knew.

The team of Burke, La Chance and Schnittker proved to us that not only is the harness horse breed very tough and durable but our trainers are even tougher. The schedule was very, very tight and saw unanticipated bumps in the road like a plane cancellation and a train strike that popped up 1 hour before departure.

The audibles that had to be called by our French counterparts and guardians Damine and Emmanuelle came with the expected look of desperation but always an improvised last minute solution.

It was always apparent to me that this was strictly a working trip but I never anticipated that our team would be subjected to this kind of a work load. Our guys nevertheless went about their business and trained all 60 or so head without a complaint. Comments like, "Oh, he's real good; too slow; may have a breathing problem; is unsound; hits his knee; interferes behind; I like him a lot; we are taking this one; I hope I get that one" was precisely the best we could hope for from this team of pros.

We had vets at every place to pull bloods, scope and x-ray every horse if that was the call. In Bordeaux, Burke drew some of that racing juice out of La Chance as they had a match race while egging each other on. While there is never a guarantee how one will turn out, at least they did their best, worked like you would not believe, had a little fun and were happy to do it for the project. As Ronnie Burke commented he was intrigued with " the novel idea and felt it was creating some excitement in the game".

The journeys end will be at Grosbois where all the horses selected in the draw will be beginning to arrive on Monday and will be taken care of by Le Trot, insured by them and the SOA until their arrival at the ARK at JFK . There, additional insurance will be at the option of the new buyers. While at this beautiful facility they will be under the exclusive care of the USDA until the bloods come back from the US government lab, disease free.

The new owner will have to arrange shipping, either with their own individual trailers or can ask Global Horse Transport who will supervise all importing details and requirements once they are landed, or whoever is chosen, to ship them to their new homes at the new owners expense.

The SOA 's financial obligation to the ARK will end at the conclusion of the time the blood results come back and any longer stay, for a spiked fever, or the failure to pick up the horse the minute the release is approved will fall on the new owner.

by Joe Faraldo and John Manzi

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