What happened to a Thoroughbred after it finished racing barely registered as an issue with most industry stakeholders 25 years ago.

“Nobody cared,” said Delaware owner/breeder Herb Moelis, a New York businessman who bought a farm he named Candyland in 1986. What awoke Moelis and his wife, Ellen, to the fate of ex-racehorses was an article about horses being abandoned at Delaware Park when the track’s meet was done.

“The good horses moved on, and the poor runners were just left in the stalls,” Moelis remembered. “They just shut the gates, and they died there.”

The Moelises’ eyes had been opened, and they began looking for solutions. They started with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), an organization supported by a trust created by Paul Mellon, and a handful of small rescue organizations. Moelis said he quickly discovered the root of the problem: the funding didn’t exist to provide anything approaching adequate retirement or retraining options for these horses.

“The TRF couldn’t help because it was everything they could do to fund their own operation,” Moelis said. “We realized the smaller organizations needed help, so the concept of a United Way-type group came about.”

The Moelises and prominent owner/breeder Allaire duPont organized a stallion season auction to start raising money. Five stallion seasons were sold through a silent auction in the living room of the Moelises’ home on Candyland in 1990. The fledgling event raised $15,000.

“Even to raise $15,000 was a lot of money at the time,” Moelis said recently