On Sunday, August 3rd, over 300 people filled the historic Canfield Casino in downtown Saratoga Springs to support the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s Bow Ties and Bourbon fundraiser. Traditionally held the night before the Fasig Tipton Saratoga Sales, the TRF annual gala raises awareness and support for its programming. Founded in 1983, the TRF cares for over 950 retired race horses at 26 locations around the country. It also operates the TRF Second Chances program, through which inmates are taught to care for horses, providing the inmates with vital life and vocational skills and the horses with second careers as teachers.
Co-chaired by TRF board member Jerry Bilinski, DVM and renowned philanthropist and businessman, Ed Swyer, the gala garnered additional lead sponsorship from Bouchey Financial Group, Ltd. and Hogan Equine. An Honorary Committee of individual donors from around the Capital Region, as well as notable racing communities in Kentucky and Florida, gave generously to promote Thoroughbred aftercare, as well as the TRF Second Chances program. An event committee of seasoned volunteers lent time and talent to create a very special evening.
Photos: Lisa MiIler, Studio De Luce
The Casino ballroom, adorned with farm tables, string lighting, and Mason jars bursting with sunflowers welcomed party-goers who spent the first hour of the evening in the regal parlor sampling bourbon generously donated by Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek and Basil Hayden. Sherry-Lehmann complemented the bar offerings with ample supplies of wine and Champagne. With drink in hand, guests were able to peruse the silent auction that boasted over 50 items, appealing both to the racing enthusiast and those who call Saratoga their home.
When guests entered the ballroom to the smooth sounds of Garland Nelson and Soul Session, they were greeted by a culinary palette presented by Hattie’s Restaurant that included Hattie’s famous fried chicken, mouthwatering ribs, and an array of salads that delivered the south to the north. Capturing the festivities were photographer Lisa Miller, who donated both a beautiful print from her exhibit The Foal Project, as well as her time that evening.
The highlight of the evening was the introduction of two TRF Second Chances graduates. Bryan Beccia, once incarcerated at the Blackburn Correctional Facility in Lexington, KY and now an exercise rider for Triple Crown Hopeful Ride on Curlin’, and Evelyn Spillman, once incarcerated at the Lowell Correctional Facility in Ocala, FL, and now an aspiring student, each shared stories of healing and redemption, as well as the quality equine education they received through the Second Chances program. Their stories had the audience on its feet for a standing ovation and inspired a flood of emotions that had people generously bidding in the live and impact auctions that followed.