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St Liams Halo Running for Veterans in Tom Fool Handicap

By Jon Forbes | 02/28/2013 01:47 PM ET
Gary_Contessa_Inside
Gary Contessa
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

One year ago, thoroughbred owner Chip McEwen was on a flight on which one of the passengers was a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He had his mental faculties but no longer had the necessary motor skills as the result of an [improvised explosive device],” recalled McEwen. “His dad helped him walk off the plane. His wife was also there, and she was in her 20s, and so were his children, who were about 2 and 4 years old. I realized we need to do more for these individuals, but we also need to remember [PTSD] affects their whole family.”

Witnessing the veteran and his family cope with the effects of combat motivated McEwen to rename his racing operation Wounded Warrior Stables and donate 10 percent of his horses’ purse earnings to the Wounded Warrior Project and other organizations that assist veterans and their families.

The Wounded Warrior Project serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness, or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after September 11, 2001 and their families.

“I thought this might help keep their process in the forefront,” said McEwen, a 50-year-old pharmaceutical distributor from Fort Myers, Fla who has been involved in horse racing for approximately 15 years. “It’s one small way for me to give back.”

Through Wednesday, Wounded Warrior Stables horses have posted a record of 4-5-4 in 34 starts and earned $143,056. St Liams Halo, claimed for $50,000 by trainer Gary Contessa for Wounded Warrior Stables in his most recent start, will attempt to give the operation its first graded stakes victory when he steps up in class for the Grade 3, $200,000 Tom Fool Handicap on Saturday at Aqueduct Racetrack.

“We’re hoping for a miracle,” said McEwen, with St Liams Halo 30-1 on the morning line for the Tom Fool.

In addition to the Wounded Warrior Project, Wounded Warrior Stables also supports Retrieving Freedom, which trains and places service dogs with veterans and autistic children, and The Navy SEAL Foundation, which assists Navy SEALs and their families.

McEwen said he owns 33 horses, including broodmares. He has become increasingly involved at yearling and 2-year-old sales in recent years and hopes his expanded operation helps bring additional publicity to the Wounded Warrior Project.

“Nobody is in this game who’s not an optimist,” said McEwen. “Maybe the next one is a great one, or so we all hope.”

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