NYRA TV paddock analyst and third-generation horsewoman Maggie Wolfendale-Morley’s commitment to horses kicks into gear most mornings before dawn. Awakened by an early alarm, she often accompanies her husband, trainer Tom Morley, to the Belmont Park backstretch for training. Once there, Wolfendale-Morley gallops horses and assists around the barn – all the while checking in on the couple’s two daughters, 4-year-old Grace and Willow, who just turned 1.
Afternoons can get busier. On racing days, Wolfendale-Morley is stationed in Belmont Park’s paddock, where she offers the kind of pre-race analysis that has made her one of the most respected broadcasters in the game. The many responsibilities – ensuring that both she and Morley get time with their daughters while also preparing for each broadcast – leads to a packed schedule.
So how does that leave time for Wolfendale-Morley’s passion for equine-related causes, particularly Thoroughbred aftercare?
“That’s always the challenge, and the simple answer is that I make the time,” Wolfendale-Morley said with a laugh. “My dedication to racing-related causes is just something I’ve always deeply cared about. We’re not in this game for any other reason but the love of the horse. So, you find the time and make it work.”
Take a 9-year-old Off-the-Track Thoroughbred (OTTB) named Zandar, Wolfendale-Morley’s self-described aftercare “project” of the moment and a horse who the Morleys owned and trained for a time in his racing days. They kept track of Zander and brought him back home last fall.
Now, Wolfendale-Morley rides Zandar most mornings in hopes of grooming him to be a horse she can use to ride out on the track during broadcasts to interview the winning jockey after a major stakes race.
Zandar is a work in progress – a “sweet-natured and kind-heated horse,” Wolfendale-Morley says, but still a little too skittish for broadcast duties. The hope is with enough training and personal attention, he’ll succeed Wolfendale-Morley’s longtime broadcast OTTB, Yeager, who passed away last winter from colic.
Wolfendale-Morley’s commitment to Thoroughbred aftercare and other equine-related causes is deep. She serves on boards of the Belmont Child Care Association (BCCA) and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), a Saratoga-based organization accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA). NYRA and its horsemen are committed supporters of the TAA, which accredits, inspects, and awards grants to approved aftercare organizations using industry-wide funding.
Every owner competing at NYRA racetracks donates $10 per start to the TAA, which funds the aftercare organizations that provide homes for retired racehorses. New York’s horsemen also donate 1.5 percent of the purchase price of every horse claimed at a NYRA track to TAA and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association’s TAKE THE LEAD (TTL) program, which provides preliminary vet exams and treatment, as well as costs related to transportation and rehabilitation or retraining.
At Saratoga, where summers can be filled with charity-related galas and events, Wolfendale is often on-hand at fundraisers to speak with fans, interview a panel, or host an auction that benefits racing-related non-profits.
In April, Wolfendale-Morley branched into yet another phase of her aftercare commitment by launching the podcast, “Off Track.” Coordinated with the TRF, “Off Track” (https://www.trfinc.org/offtrack/) details stories of Thoroughbreds who transitioned from the track to find successful and happy second careers – and the caring owners who helped them get there.
“Maggie is so passionate about Thoroughbred racing,” says BCCA Executive Director Joanne K. Adams. “She’s exceedingly dedicated to the welfare of horses and supporting the backstretch community toward the goal of making our cherished sport the best it can be. We’re so fortunate to benefit from Maggie’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and talent, and most privileged to have her friendship.”
The daughter of Maryland-based trainer Howard Wolfendale, Wolfendale-Morley practically grew up at the barn – her father’s barn 18 at Laurel Park, to be precise. First on a horse at age 2, she began riding a collection of aftercare horses at 10, which she continued to do in horse shows and dressage competition. At 16, Wolfendale-Morley turned to galloping horses at Laurel, all the while gaining a deep appreciation for the importance of giving OTTBs a second chance.
Attending college at Towson University, Wolfendale-Morley straddled two worlds by studying broadcasting, while continuing to gallop in the mornings: “I loved working with the horses, and realized with broadcasting, I might be able be able to marry the two. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world that I got to do that.”
After earning her degree from Towson, Wolfendale worked on-camera for both the Maryland Jockey Club and Colonial Downs in Virginia. Wolfendale-Morley joined the NYRA TV team in the fall of 2010 and quickly earned a reputation as one of racing’s top analysts. Thanks to her early immersion in the sport, she is an expert on horse conformation, which she combines with considerable prep work in order to dispense tools and information from the paddock to horseplayers. And depending on the day, she often pulls double duty, interviewing the winning rider or trainer in the winner’s circle.
“There is a lot of prep work, much of which I do in between the races and in homework in the evenings at home after the kids have gone to sleep,” Wolfendale-Morley says. “But I’ve been doing this for a while now, and the reps make you better, keep you in the zone.”
The key to making it all work, Wolfendale-Morley adds, is a supportive network. Wolfendale-Morley’s mother, Tammy, is a rock in helping out with the Morleys’ daughters. She and Tom are the same page in terms of child rearing; accordingly, Maggie’s time at the barn in the mornings is often dependent on the needs of their girls.
“We’re a case study in time management,” she jokes. “Some days, you’re going to fail because there are never enough hours in the day. You accept that and keep going.”
All point back to the things that matter – family and horses – and the constant challenge of time. One look at Zandar, Wolfendale-Morley admits, is to realize that making it work is worth the commitment.
“Aftercare never gets old,” she says. “It’s so rewarding to give a second chance and a second career to a horse. To see the change in them, well, it’s time well-spent. We’ll have to see if Zandar is up to the challenge.”
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2021 Paulick Report.