They come in various shapes, sizes and degrees of beauty, but the harness racing industry has a solid selling point that it says sets its pacing and trotting horses apart for life after the track.
‘‘Temperament — they’re ideal,’’ Aldebaran Park principal Duncan McPherson said at the announcement on Friday at his Wahring property of a $362000 joint funding package for the Harness Racing Re-homing Opportunities (HERO) program.
Racing Minister Martin Pakula said the state government was providing $181000 from the Victorian Racing Industry Fund to match the contribution of Harness Racing Victoria to the program that saw 200 horses rehomed or placed with registered HERO retrainers.
He said the uses for the retired standardbreds were ‘‘only limited by imagination’’ and ran the full gamut of equestrian life from trail riding to pony club, eventing, carriage driving and showing.
He said money from the RVIF pot was allocated annually and while funding for HERO could not be described as an ongoing guarantee, any application would be considered positively.
HRV board member Catherine Ainsworth said the HERO initiative created positive pathways.
‘‘People have a retirement plan and we think that’s something that needs to be invested in for our horses,’’ Ms Ainsworth said.
Mr Pakula congratulated the board for its foresight and agreed it was important for racing money to be directed back into animal welfare.
Centrestage at the announcement were Villagem, ridden by HERO program retrainer Tanya McDermott with Shepparton rider Julie Duffy, also a retrainer, aboard Tanabi Bromac.
It was a long way from their heady days on the harness racing circuit, but the two high-mileage pacers have adapted well to their new roles as ambassadors for the HERO program, standing quietly and posing with ears pricked.
Eleven-year-old Group 1 winner Villagem, by US stallion Village Jasper, raced 109 times for $626585 in stakes from 25 wins and 27 placings.
Tanami Bromac, 12, with 107 starts under his belt, had a similar impressive record of 24 wins, 31 placings and earnings of $465928.