Program Spotlight: The Exceller Fund


Looney Lionel made 116 starts during his career and is now up for adoption with Lisa Molloy in Virginia (Photos by The Exceller Fund).

After learning about the untimely demise of multiple Grade 1 winner Exceller, a group of racing fans banded together in 1997 to create The Exceller Fund (TEF).

The group was awarded 501(c)3 non-profit status in 200. Soon after, it created a membership system where people donate a minimum of $15 a month to help care for TEF horses.

Today, TEF cares for its own horses at many different farms around the country. The program’s primary focus is on horses looking for a place to permanently retire, but it also adopts out horses if the animals are deemed suitable for a second career.

To date, TEF has adopted out approximately 45 horses with all of them having the option to come back to TEF if their new owners can’t keep them for any reason.

“Horses coming into The Exceller Fund are given an extensive transition/letdown period before they are ever put into training for adoption,” said Nicole Smith, The Exceller Fund’s volunteer executive director. “Once they do go for an evaluation and are determined to make a suitable adoption prospect, they are put into a training program for at least 30 to 90 days, depending on their individual needs, prior to being offered for adoption. 

“Typically, they will remain at the training facility until a suitable home is found so that they may be properly showcased.”

All horses adopted from the TEF go to their new homes with a clause that they cannot be sold without the new owners filling out a TEF contract. Some of the requirements for owning a TEF horse are that females can’t be bred and TEF must be notified if the horse moves to a new location.


As TEF gives as many Thoroughbreds a home as possible, any Thoroughbred regardless of condition is allowed in the program. Racing warriors, horses with a lot of starts and years on the track, have become a major focus of the program and many of those horses spend their entire lives with TEF.

“TEF launched our Racing Warrior Campaign in 2011, which focuses on the plight of Thoroughbred horses that have spent year after year racing at the bottom of the claiming ranks,” Smith said. “While we consider any Thoroughbred with at least 50 starts, regardless of earnings, a ‘Racing Warrior,’ we have several in or program with close to 100. Due to wear and tear from years or racing, most of these horses are permanently retired, but on occasion some of them will go onto new careers.”

Some of the horses affiliated with TEF are Texas Chili, a stakes winner; Grade 2 winner Bayamo; stakes winner Korbyn Gold; and Double Platinum, a gelding who made 92 starts during his career.

Smith recommends that anyone who wants to start an aftercare program, whether it’s a program like TEF that focuses on giving every horse a home or a program that focuses on adoptable horses, volunteer to see how all parts of the program works.

“Honestly, I would recommend they work closely with an already established organization that has ‘branches,’ whether it be us or another group like ReRun or CANTER,” she said. “Most people starting a program are doing it because they simply want to help horses in need and they just want to take care of those horses, they don’t necessarily think about the administrative work involved.”


TEF needs volunteers at times at different branches around the country, especially in Kentucky. The program keeps a list of potential volunteers, and those interested can contact the program through its website. In addition, TEF primarily is funded by private donations and can also take in supplies such as equine wormer. Those interested in donating funds can find various ways to send money to TEF, while those interested in donating supplies can send them to the program’s main base in Oklahoma at the address below: 

Tarjeta Ranch

355597 E. 840 Rd.

Stroud, OK  74079

In December 2013, The Exceller Fund was accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, providing them with official industry support in the form of monetary grants. To find out more about TEF, you can visit their website here.

If you know of a Thoroughbred Aftercare program that you think should be covered in America’s Best Racing’s Aftercare Program Spotlight, email Melissa Bauer-Herzog ( with the program’s name and website.

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