Ponies, Politics, People: Howard Nolan Remembered

By Tracy Egan

Senator Howard Nolan

Former New York State Senator Howard Nolan passed away in Florida on June 16, 2023 with his loving wife Shannon by his side. The news of his passing has affected people in all walks of life. From the people he represented in the State Senate to the friends he served with on the Board of the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund and, before that, as President of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc.

One of the accomplishments Senator Nolan was most proud of was his launching of a program in 1983 with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at the Wallkill Correctional Facility that teamed up ex-racehorses with incarcerated men and women. Many graduates of the program have been able to find employment in the horse industry thanks to the months or years of education they received via the TRF Second Chances program. The legacy of the program he helped create is now helping horses and humans at correctional facilities in seven states, from New York to Florida and California.

Fund board member Dr. Bill Wilmot, DVM recalled “Howard’s positive influence spread across many lives, from the New York horse breeders to incarcerated people via the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at Wallkill Prison and beyond who got a second chance. Always positive and thinking of others. That’s how I think of my mentor and friend, Howard Nolan.”

Board member Joseph McMahon remembers sharing van driving duties years ago with Senator Nolan when they decided Florida might be a good marketplace for their registered NY-breds. “Over his fifty-year involvement in the Thoroughbred horse industry, Howard was an owner, breeder, stallion owner, farm owner, past president of New York Thoroughbred Breeders and a board member of the New York State Breeding and Development Fund, as well as a keen political advisor. He was a mentor and personal friend to me and my family. We will all miss him terribly.”

Najja Thompson, Executive Director of NYTB, Inc. and also a member of the Fund board, noted that “Senator Nolan was an influential and integral figure in helping to lead the New York-bred program to the success it has had today. On behalf of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc., we will be forever thankful for his support of New York breeders and we send his family our sincere condolences.”

Fund Board Member John Hicks credits his late friend with introducing him to racehorse ownership and breeding. “I have known Howard for almost 50 years. He was instrumental in introducing me, along with many others into the horse business and was a wonderful mentor. He cared about all aspects of the horse business and dedicated much of his time to the New York racing and breeding program. I considered him a close friend and he will be sorely missed by many.”

Nolan served his Albany-centric Senate district from 1974 to 1994, and served on the Fund Board for 18 years, from 2002 through 2020. During his term he frequently asked what measures would help his constituency of breeders to produce more competitive horses and what steps the Board might take to help those breeders stay in business. His friends will miss the sight of him sitting in his box at Saratoga Race Course and his enthusiasm for the sport that so frequently finds itself the focus of critics. Industry supporters would do well to honor his memory by pushing for positive change while enthusiastically encouraging a love for the sport, its horses and all the people who make it possible.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by McVeigh Funeral Home, 208 North Allen St., Albany. Visitation is June 25, 2023 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Click here for Senator Nolan’s obituary.

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