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Pacificfest fundraiser benefits ‘After the Finish Line’

Pacificfest provided a rousing finish to the day of the 26th Pacific Classic, won in definitive fashion by California Chrome.

About 200 racing fans and friends of Bing Bush, Jr. gathered at his law office Aug. 20 on Camino Del Mar, to celebrate the win (or just to celebrate) at Pacificfest, a fundraiser benefiting “After the Finish Line.”

“After the Finish Line” is an all-volunteer “funding non-profit” started a few years ago by Dawn Mellen, to ensure that there is a supply of money available to award to the rescue and retirement organizations for thoroughbreds at the end of their careers that are in need of new homes, or veterinary care or surgery, or dental work, before the horse can be trained for a new line of work.

“We are the business side of horse rescue,” said Mellen. “The rescues have a hard time fundraising…Their funds are limited. Sometimes they are on a shoestring budget…and fundraisers are an expense.”

She continued, “The organizations contact us, and let us know their funding needs. They fill out an application, submit photos, and we also do a telephone interview. We check social media such as Facebook.”

During 2015, After the Finish Line awarded $100,000, helping 70 rescue organizations throughout the United States — which translates to helping 250 horses.

The silent and live auctions, and donations taken in at the door brought in approximately $7,000. Two bottles of champagne (covered in signatures by the Del Mar jockey colony) were money-makers. There was also a photo of Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh and Victor Espinosa at the Belmont Stakes that went quickly.

Spendthrift Farm, Beholder’s home farm in Kentucky, sent a box full of “Beholder” caps to offer to fans for a donation, which brought in a handsome amount.

The party’s host, Bing Bush, Jr., has had a lifelong love for horseracing. He grew up in Lexington and went to law school in Kentucky. His law practice here attracts clients from the horseracing world. He has also been cast in the role of executive director of the Breeders’ Cup Host Committee charged with creating a festival week leading up to the Breeders’ Cup races at Del Mar in the fall of 2017.

A couple of his guests merit a mention. Virginia Kraft Payson was a writer with “Sports Illustrated” from its first edition in 1954 and for the next 26 years, reporting on her experiences in dog-sledding, big-game hunting, hot-air balloon piloting and scuba diving. She has raced and bred thoroughbreds and produced two Eclipse award winners, Vindication and Fardi Amiga. She was there with her husband, David Cole.

Another guest, with whom Bush spent a day on a golf course this month, was Rick Pitino, famed professional and college basketball coach, and motivational author, who has also owned thoroughbreds.

Some of Bush’s guests are in his racing partnership, Abbondanza Racing, which has been growing since 2012. About half of the partners are from Kentucky and half from California.

The biggest success of the partnership has been this season’s $150,000 La Jolla Handicap won by their three-year-old gelding, Free Rose.

The band that provided the musical entertainment and dance music was Haute Chile; featuring April Doyle, lead vocalist; Mark Jones, bass and lead vocals; Edell Shephard, keyboards and synthesizers and Barry Chanault on drums.

After the Finish Line can be contacted through www.afterthefinishline.org.