The Belmont Stakes Charity Celebration is Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation’s biggest fundraiser. This year it will take place on June 9th at Central Park’s Tavern on the Green in NYC. Hosted by The Jockey Club and Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, the celebration benefits lifesaving research that is funded by grants from Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. Since 1983, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has provided more than $32.1 million to fund 412 projects at 45 universities in North America and overseas; it is the nation’s leading source of private funding for equine medical research to benefit all breeds of horses.
Jamie Haydon has been the president of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation since 2019. He joined The Jockey Club in 2008 as the manager of industry initiatives after securing previous experience working with Breeders’ Cup, Ascot Racecourse, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Four Star Sales, and Kentucky Horse Racing Authority. Jamie enjoys implementing short- and long-term strategies for the foundation, and he also deals with budgeting and fundraising and institutes marketing and awareness campaigns. The Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit and the Thoroughbred Safety Committee are of great importance to him.
Jamie graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Arts degree and double major in Marketing & Management. Jamie lives in Kentucky with his wife, Jennifer, and son, Alex, and recently discussed his career via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in horses / horse racing and how did you break into the industry?
Jamie Haydon (JH): My love for horse racing started on April 4, 1987. I was on spring break for school, it was snowing, and my mother wanted to stay in bed, so my dad and I went to the track. With all this in mind, I wagered $5 to win on She’s A Sleeper in a $20,000 claiming race, and when I got back more than $50 for her win, I was a fan. My first jobs were on the maintenance crew at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., every summer in high school. I have been fortunate to work in this great industry for my entire professional career.
MM: Why did you gravitate towards this field and how did you become associated with The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation?
JH: My father worked in the industry for 30-plus years, and I am now working on my own 30-plus-year career. We owe these horses everything, and knowledge through research helps all horses no matter what size, shape, breed, or discipline. I first started with The Jockey Club in 2008 as manager of industry initiatives, and one of my primary responsibilities was the Thoroughbred Safety Committee, which was created in May 2008 to review every facet of equine health and to recommend actions the industry can take to improve the health and safety of Thoroughbreds. This committee worked closely with Grayson on safety and welfare initiatives. I transitioned to vice president of Grayson in 2017 and have been serving as president since January 2019.
MM: What are the biggest challenges of being a president?
JH: As president of a charity, it is a constant challenge to keep your work relevant to current donors while building connections with potential donors. There are countless charities that one can choose to support, so it is up to my team and me to communicate our message that equine veterinary research is a necessary cause to get behind for anyone whose life is touched by horses.
MM: You do a lot of work in the research field, so what are you most interested in researching?
JH: Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation doesn’t actually perform research – it funds research at universities that helps all breeds of horses. Grayson has no alliance with any one university, so the foundation is free to fund the best research regardless of where it takes place. Since the early 1980s, the foundation has funded 412 specific research projects at 45 universities. So typically, on our application deadline in October we get 50 – 70 grants from 20 universities in eight or so countries for evaluation. After an exhausting review, scoring, and debate process by our research advisory committee, the board selects projects for funding. This October we are very excited to offer $2 million on a special call for research pertaining to equine herpesvirus and the potential to use new vaccine technologies to stem this disease.
MM: How important are fundraisers like the Belmont Stakes Charity Celebration and how involved in its planning are you?
JH: The celebration, which takes place on June 9th at the Tavern on the Green in NYC, is our only annual event, so it is very important to the foundation. This year we will pay tribute to Grayson Chairman Dell Hancock with the Dinny Phipps Award, so the event is extra special. The award honors an individual who has demonstrated dedication to equine health, and I’m so pleased we are honoring Dell. Shannon Kelly, development manager for Grayson, works in our New York office, so she is the point person for this event and handles all the on-site details, but everyone on our team is involved.
MM: Why did you pick the gorgeous Tavern on the Green location?
JH: Dell’s involvement with Grayson dates back nearly 40 years to when she joined our board in 1985 before being named chairman in 2004. This is in addition to her nearly 27 years as an active member of The Jockey Club, including two terms as a steward. She epitomizes dedication to the equine athlete and mirrors Dinny’s own passion for prioritizing equine health. Her demonstration of servant leadership has provided an example for all of us to follow and has enabled Grayson to become the largest private funder of equine research. Since 2004, the year she became chairman, Grayson has provided more than $21 million to fund 231 projects as well as an additional $480,000 to fund 30 career development awards. To honor such an amazing person, we needed an iconic location such as Tavern on the Green.
MM: What has been the highlight of your career so far?
JH: The people of this sport are the best, and the relationships I have with them are the highlights. I have also had the privilege of attending some of the greatest races over the last 40 years, and I worked at Royal Ascot in 1998 and had the honor of meeting the Queen of England, which was definitely a highlight.
MM: How do you imagine the industry might expand and evolve over the next ten years?
JH: Over the past few years, our sport has focused more than ever on the safety and welfare of its athletes. The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, which was signed into law at the end of 2020 and goes into effect on July 1, will be a critical component of this effort and ensuring the sustainability of the racing industry. Additionally, the discoveries from research funded by Grayson and industry initiatives supported by The Jockey Club and other leading organizations are having a tremendous impact as far as improving the industry. These efforts are going to continue, and I believe they will ultimately help grow horse racing and bring more fans to the sport. I think wagering opportunities will continue to expand, and we’ll have more people getting involved as owners.
MM: What is coming up next for you, and the foundation, and is there anything else that you would like to discuss?
JH: We are looking forward to the Belmont Stakes Charity Celebration at Tavern on the Green on June 9th and our October 1 application deadline to see what the future of horse health looks like. To purchase tickets to the Belmont Stakes Charity Celebration, please visit tinyurl.com/BelCC622 or 212-521-5327. Additional information about the foundation and the research it funds is available at grayson-jockeyclub.org.