In the face of fallout from across the racing world, Tom VanMeter, a prominent Kentucky horse owner and breeder, apologized Tuesday for racist remarks he made last week on social media.

Tom VanMeter-Racist Comments
Tom VanMeter is one of the most prominent owner/breeders in Thoroughbred racing. He apologized Tuesday for racist comments he made on social media last week. (Image: Keeneland)

A well-known figure in the Kentucky horse industry, VanMeter owns Stockplace Farm, the birthplace of 2015 Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. He also owns Pretty Run Farm in Winchester, Ky. His brother, Laurance VanMeter, is a justice on the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Known as a leading Thoroughbred consignor and farm owner, VanMeter’s remarks over the weekend earned him notoriety outside the typically insular horse racing industry.

So much so that in a statement he wrote to Thoroughbred Daily News, VanMeter apologized for the racist comments he made on Facebook.

“Over the weekend, comments I made on a private page of a social media platform surfaced which have since come under scrutiny due to their racist nature. I will not attempt to deny that I wrote the comments, nor will I attempt to justify my actions. Certainly, I am frustrated with the current social situation in our country, however, what I wrote was unjustifiable. I was wrong and am disgusted by my actions. Contrary to what these comments might suggest, in no way do those responses represent my true feelings toward my friends and community members of color.”

Fallout Comes From Inside the Family

VanMeter went on to write he made a donation to the NAACP. His son, Griffin, however, posted on his Facebook page that his father’s comments weren’t an isolated incident.

“Today my Dad wrote racist comments on a racist post on Facebook. Luckily for him, he got called out for it as he should have. I’m glad that it was public because his racism is a conversation I wanted to have with him for over 20 years, but never had the courage to start,” Griffin VanMeter wrote.

The comments in question came in a June 30 post made by Donnie Snellings, the yearling manager for Denali Stud and president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club. Snellings asked people to repost his post if they planned on boycotting the NFL season.

VanMeter initially responded with a three-letter abbreviation of the offensive n-word, referring to the NFL as the “n-word football league.” He followed that up with a post saying “Put em back in their cage!!!”

Industry Responds Swiftly

VanMeter’s post went hyper-viral by Monday afternoon, and the industry response was nearly as quick. The Jockey Club announced that his OwnerView account will be suspended “pending further review. OwnerView is a website co-owned by The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association that promotes racehorse ownership.

National Thoroughbred Racing Association President Alex Waldrup tweeted, “The racist remarks and views posted on social media on an account belonging to Tom VanMeter have no place in society, let alone the horse racing industry. The NTRA no longer will accept financial contributions of any kind from him or others who share his views.”

And Sue Finley, publisher of the Thoroughbred Daily News, which received VanMeter’s apology statement, informed him by letter it would no longer accept advertising from him.

Other industry entities stopped short of a full-bore boycott, but issued statements condemning VanMeter’s remarks. Bob Elliston, Keenland’s vice president of racing and sales, told the Lexington Herald-Leader VanMeter’s business may no longer be welcome.

Keeneland Swings a Big Stick in the Sales Industry

That would be a damaging blow to a horse owner and breeder. Keeneland operates the largest Thoroughbred sales operation in the US. Last year, VanMeter-Gentry, the company VanMeter ran at the time, consigned 59 yearlings at Keeneland’s September yearling sale. The 38 that sold brought in total sales of $4,253,000. Two months later, at Keeneland’s November breeding stock sale included 13 sales from 24 VanMeter-Gentry consignees which earned $669,000.

“We’re looking at all the avenues that are in front of us to appropriately respond to that behavior on Tom’s part,” Elliston told the Herald-Leader. “[We are] Encouraged quite honestly that he made an apology today. That’s a first good step, but it doesn’t erase what was said. And we’re evaluating all those consequences right now, and we’ll look forward to bringing those forward as we have a decision on that.”

Given the times and today’s incendiary racial atmosphere, VanMeter’s comments are even more egregious. Especially when they came from an individual who epitomizes the uncomfortable fact that the upper reaches of the Thoroughbred racing industry is one of the least diverse in American sports. There are those in the industry who understand that more than others.

“If you buy a horse from Tom VanMeter in September, YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM. End of story,” Tweeted horse owner Robert Masiello.

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