‘Hearts, Hats, Heels’ fundraiser in Rancho Santa Fe to show love for former racehorses


Ex-racehorses will be getting extra love this year, thanks to a Valentine’s charity fundraiser planned in Rancho Santa Fe.

Proceeds from the third annual “Hearts, Hats and Heels” will benefit After the Finish Line, a Toluca Lake-based group that assists in the rehabilitation and care of former racehorses until they are adopted, saving them from slaughter and neglect.

“Hearts, Hats and Heels” — which consists of a fashion show, a luncheon, and silent and live auctions — is slated from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, 5827 Via de La Cumbre.

Founded in October 2007 by Dawn Mellen, who has a home in Rancho Santa Fe, After the Finish Line contributes funds to thoroughbred rescue and retirement organizations across the country. In 2014, the nonprofit spent nearly $100,000 helping about 300 horses.

“After the Finish Line continues to be the founding organization rescue organizations call upon and rely upon to help their rescued ex-racehorses,” Mellen said.

Through charity events, “we’re able to maintain our ability to help horses in need,” she said.

Mellen noted that people in the community may have previously attended one of After the Finish Line’s fundraisers during the Del Mar race meet, but this is the first time the organization will benefit from “Hearts, Hats and Heels.”

Those who attend this Valentine’s event will be treated to a day of glamour and shopping. A fashion show will feature clothing by local retailers Satori Designs, Jessie Georgina, Peaches En Regalia and Deja Vu Love Boutique. Tables will be set up for guests to buy apparel from these vendors, with items in varying price ranges.

“There will be something for everyone,” Mellen said.

She noted that After the Finish Line will receive 20 percent of the sales.

Also, there will be silent and live auctions. Among the items up for bid are gift certificates and gift cards for restaurants, beauty and spa services, hair salons, fashion retailers and rounds of golf at local country clubs; equestrian and horse racing items; bottles of champagne (such as Dom Perignon); art; and jewelry.

Lunch will also be served. The main dish is an Asian chicken salad with grilled chicken, pea pods, mandarin oranges, bean sprouts, crispy wontons and cashews; however, there will be options for vegetarians, Mellen said. The meal will wrap up with dessert.

The fundraiser’s format is free-flowing and unstructured, according to Mellen. Guests are welcome to bid on items during the fashion show, and peruse the boutique fashions at their own pace.

“This is a very happy, leisurely, enjoyable type of event,” she said.

Tickets are $75, available at Mellen asks people to RSVP by Feb. 6. She noted that “Hearts, Hats and Heels” has sold out in previous years.

People who are unable to attend but still want to support After the Finish Line are welcome to donate, Mellen said.

“I’m looking forward to expanding our donor base,” she said. “I look forward to meeting more people who want to support ex-racehorses, and meeting people who in the past didn’t know that we existed and want to come support us.

“We’re here to save racehorses, and rehome (them) for a second career off the racetrack,” she emphasized. “Many (people) don’t realize the horses are up for adoption.

“The horses are full of fire and race fast, but … they’re truly gentle, loving, wonderful companions that can be your best friends.”

For information about “Hearts, Hats and Heels,” which is sponsored by FINE Magazine, or After the Finish Line, contact Dawn Mellen at or 858-945-1371.