Trainer Contessa named president of Exceller Fund

Gary Contessa, one of the nation’s leading Thoroughbred trainers,
has been named president of the Exceller Fund, a non-profit
organization that transitions former racehorses into new careers.

A Long Island native, Contessa began his career in the early 1970s
at Belmont Park before obtaining his trainer’s license in 1985. Based
year-round at the major New York tracks, Contessa currently ranks among
America’s top-ten trainers.

“My whole life has been built around racehorses and I see this as an
opportunity to give even more back to these wonderful animals,”
Contessa said. “I have numerous retired Thoroughbreds at my farm in
upstate New York and I have been a major supporter of the Thoroughbred
Retirement Foundation and Equine Advocates for many years, but I want
to do more. My primary focus will be raising awareness about the
Exceller Fund and raising funds for the continuing care of the fund’s

The Exceller Fund ( was formed more than ten
years ago to honor Exceller, the Racing Hall of Fame Thoroughbred who
died in a Swedish slaughterhouse in 1997 when he was deemed worthless
as a breeding stallion. His accomplishments included the unique feat of
defeating two Triple Crown winners—Affirmed and Seattle Slew—in the
1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park in New York.

The Exceller Fund’s mission is “providing a future beyond the finish
line” for racehorses that are no longer productive at the track. Some
are offered for adoption as riding horses or companions while others
remain under the Exceller Fund’s care at a number of farms throughout
the nation. The organization is financed through tax-deductible

Contessa replaces Bonnie Mizrahi, an original member on the Exceller
Fund board of directors who will maintain her position of treasurer. In
other Exceller Fund news, Niki Smith has accepted the newly created
position of executive director after serving as vice president of the
volunteer-based organization. Billy Huntington, owner and operator of
Huntington Equine in Lexington, Kentucky, has been added to the board
of directors.

“I am very excited by this new development,” Mizrahi said. “I have
always considered The Exceller Fund to be fans of racing who are
seeking to help the horses that provided the thrills, the beauty, and
the nobility that make racing the Sport of Kings. To have a major
trainer such as Gary Contessa want to be the president and champion our
efforts is a thrill and an honor. I believe this will signal to fans
that racing does not turn a ‘blind eye’ to the horses once they are
done, and I hope it will inspire others to realize that The Exceller
Fund wants to work with racing to provide a ‘future beyond the finish
line’ for these magnificent Thoroughbreds.”