April 7, 2017 marked the 20-year anniversary of the day that the champion racehorse, Exceller, met his death in a slaughterhouse because his owner deemed him to be of no value. At the time of his death, Exceller was 23.
The Exceller Fund was formed in September 1997, three months after the news of his untimely death was made known in an article in the Daily Racing Forum by Mike Mullaney. Ironically, Exceller’s name was listed on the ballot for election into Thoroughbred racing’s Hall of Fame in the same month that he was killed.
The Exceller Fund was started among a group of racing fans who “posted” on the original Blood-Horse Forum. These racing fans sought to start something that would achieve at least two goals: Keep the name of Exceller alive, a horse often overlooked and forgotten among the decade of superstar champions, and try to save other Thoroughbreds from meeting his same fate. The Blood-Horse Forum is long gone, but The Exceller Fund, and the racing fans who formed it, continue.
Initially, The Exceller Fund was started when Barbara Kraus asked if others on the Blood-Horse Forum would join with her to sponsor Thoroughbreds at the United Pegasus Foundation in Southern California. Twelve people signed up for the sponsorships. The group decided to call itself The Exceller Fund, in honor of Exceller.
The Exceller Fund’s first horse was a Thoroughbred named Elite Power, whose racing career was cut short by a fractured sesamoid. With his modest pedigree and race record, he had no value and ended up in a California feedlot, the last stop before the slaughterhouse. He was purchased by United Pegasus and sponsored by The Exceller Fund until he was adopted to a woman in Virginia where he enjoyed a new career as a lower level dressage horse. He remained with his adopter until he passed away.
Word about The Exceller Fund spread and in 2001 the organization officially became a registered 501(c)3 charity. Its members come from all parts of the country. They are a diverse group, bound together by their love of horses and their commitment to saving as many Thoroughbreds as possible from the slaughterhouse. Members contribute a minimum of $15.00 per month, which is used to pay for the care of their rescued horses. These contributions are tax deductible.
In 2003, Barbara Kraus stepped down as President and the task fell to Bonnie Mizrahi, one of the original board members. Bonnie served as President from May 2003 to August 2008 and stepped down in order to welcome trainer Gary Contessa as President and Nicole Smith as Executive Director. Gary brought a new industry focus to The Exceller Fund and Nicole came with extensive experience in rescue and adoptions, as well as working within the Thoroughbred industry. Nicole initially joined The Exceller Fund’s board of directors in 2007 and served as Vice President prior to accepting the position of Executive Director. In 2016, Brian Zipse took over the role of President, bringing a fresh outlook on a different side of the industry.
Officers and board members of The Exceller Fund cover most of the administrative expenses either out of pocket or by making donations. The Exceller Fund strives to minimize administrative costs and maximize funds going to care for the horses. Quality of care is our highest priority, whether a horse is a permanent resident with us or has been adopted.