The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation is starting off 2017 with a huge gift from Virginia businessman Randy Rouse.
The 100-year-old horseman from Arlington, Va., donated the Middleburg Training Center, located in Middleburg, Va., to the TRF, which was founded in 1983 to care for retired race horses.
Rouse, who was an avid foxhunter and jockey, bought the 149-acre training center in 2006 for $4 million, but he had no luck selling it in recent years, even after reducing the price.
He told the Fauquier Times that he opted to take the tax write-off, and the donation was finalized on Dec. 29.
“It’s been a loss operation for me,” Rouse told the newspaper. “It’s not viable, and no one was interested in buying it. I just figured that giving it away and taking the deduction would be the best way out.”
Lenny Hale, the TRF president and chief operating officer, knew Rouse and his wife Michele through the racing circuit. Hale formerly served as senior vice president of the New York Racing Association and held the same position with the Maryland Jockey Club.
“I got wind that he was thinking of donating it,” Hale said. “I called and said, ‘Let me throw our name in the hat.’ We’ve got 820 horses we’re taking care of at nine prisons and 26 farms. I met with lawyers and accountants and laid the groundwork, and a couple of days later met with some more folks, and the deal was done. We’re very excited.”
The property boasts 11 barns with 220 stalls, a 7/8-mile track and grooms’ quarters. There are currently about 80 horses in training.
“We’re going to talk to people about bringing their stables back and filling us back up again,” said Hale.
TRF’s 2015 financial statements show a budget of $3 million, with more than $2 million in donations. Their largest expense in 2015 was for boarding (more than $700,000). Hale hopes to improve the training center, involve the local community and eventually turn a profit.
“The barns are old and in need of some repair,” he said. “There’s some spare land we can fence to put at least 50 of our horses from our herd on the grounds and close down the two most expensive farms we’re dealing with.
“We’ve got a lot of people around there in the horse world in different disciplines that aren’t necessarily attuned to the Thoroughbred retirement situation. But they’re all interested in not having the training track turned into a housing development,” he continued. “We’re hoping we can gather everybody together, and if everybody kicks in a little bit we can keep the wolf from the door for quite a while until we get things up and running and to the point where the facility is showing a profit.”