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After Weather Disruption, OBS Under Tack Show Concludes

Blood-Horse - Sun, 2019-04-21 23:17
Following a two-day delay, the under tack show for the Ocala Breeders' Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training concluded Easter Sunday, with a colt from the first crop of Fast Anna displaying his quick turn of foot while breezing a quarter-mile.

Sister Peacock Earns First Stakes Win in Star Shoot

Blood-Horse - Sun, 2019-04-21 23:17
Sister Peacock and jockey Jesse Campbell led gate-to-wire in the $100,000 Star Shoot Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Woodbine April 21, boosting her record to three wins from five starts. Her only two losses were both runner-up finishes.

David Anderson, Jake Olesiak Win Milestones at Fonner

Blood-Horse - Sun, 2019-04-21 23:17
Jockey Jake Olesiak and trainer David Anderson helped propel each other to milestone victories at Fonner Park April 20, with Olesiak riding his 1,000th winner and Anderson saddling his 2,000th.

Osborne Pays Tribute to Retired Toast of New York

Blood-Horse - Sun, 2019-04-21 23:17
Trainer Jamie Osborne has paid tribute to Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) runner-up Toast of New York, who has been retired, again, at 8 years old.

Fabre Says Persian King 90% Certain to Skip Guineas

Blood-Horse - Sun, 2019-04-21 23:17
Trainer André Fabre has underlined his preference to wait for the French equivalent of the QIPCO Two Thousand Guineas (G1) with Persian King, rather than head to Newmarket for the May 4 British classic.

Fog Impacts Classic Contenders at Churchill Downs

Blood-Horse - Sun, 2019-04-21 23:17
While the rain moved out of the Louisville area around 6 p.m. April 20, a dense fog rose on Churchill Downs early Easter Sunday morning and made many trainers, once again, alter their work pattern for classic contenders.

Pocono: Tyler Buter posts career win 3,000

Daily Racing Form - Sun, 2019-04-21 23:13
<p>Tyler Buter recorded the 3,000th driving victory of his career during a special Easter Sunday twilight card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Buter rallied Daddy Let Me Drive into a 28 1/5 last quarter, closing furiously in the last sixteenth to be up right on the money.</p><p><a href="http://www.drf.com/news/pocono-tyler-buter-posts-career-win-3000" target="_blank">read more</a></p>

Monticello: Horses to watch from April 17 - April 18

Daily Racing Form - Sun, 2019-04-21 22:42
<p><strong>2019 STATS: 6 - 44 / $51.60 (Stats reflect next start at Monticello only)</strong></p> <p><em>Wednesday, April 17</em></p> <p><strong>HATFIELD HANOVER</strong> (NW2) - Raced well in his first start back. Anything close to that effort and he&#39;ll win.</p> <p><strong>NIPPY </strong>(NW300ps) - Been drawing badly but racing okay; just needs a post.</p> <p><strong>DOUBLE AGAIN </strong>(NW350ps)- Continues to drop and might just wake up.<br /> &nbsp;</p>

Santa Anita purse increase to cost $1.5 million

Daily Racing Form - Sun, 2019-04-21 20:01
<div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Steve Andersen </div> </div> </div> <p>ARCADIA, Calif. &ndash; The six-week purse increase that takes effect at Santa Anita on Friday will cost approximately $1.5 million and is intended to boost fields at a time when the track&rsquo;s barn area is well short of capacity.</p> <p>Last Friday, the racetrack and the Thoroughbred Owners of California announced a purse increase of $10,000 for all overnight races for 19 racing days through June 2. That same day, track officials said five Thursday programs had been eliminated through May 23, with the status of racing on three Thursdays in June to be determined next month.</p><p><a href="http://www.drf.com/news/santa-anita-purse-increase-cost-15-million" target="_blank">read more</a></p>

Octet Share Furlong Bullet at Final OBS April Breeze Show

Thoroughbred Daily News - Sun, 2019-04-21 19:21

The final under-tack show ahead of this week’s OBS April Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training took place Easter Sunday morning in Ocala, with no fewer than eight juveniles sharing the day’s fastest furlong of :9 4/5.

Consignor Randy Miles, agent, was represented by two of the day’s bullet workers. Hip 939, a May-foaled son of Street Boss–Auntie Soph (Valiant Nature), is a half-brother to seven winners from as many to race from his dam, including three black-type performers, and hails from the Mill Ridge family of Grade I winners Dynaforce (Dynaformer) and Cetewayo (His Majesty) (video). Miles also consigns hip 998, a Shackleford filly whose third dam Clear Mandate (Deputy Minister) was a treble Grade I winner and bred GISW and Three Chimneys stallion Strong Mandate (Tiznow) (video).

Claiborne inmate Flatter was responsible for Sovereign Award-winning 2-year-old male Avie’s Flatter and another Ontario-bred grandson of A.P. Indy shared the bullet Sunday. Consigned by Woodford Thoroughbreds as agent, the May 9 foal–cataloged as hip 1214–is out of the stakes-winning and Grade II-placed Ever Elusive (Elusive Quality) (video).

First-crop sire Palace (City Zip) was represented by a $100,000 colt at the OBS March Sale and his de Meric Sales-consigned daughter of Avenging Tomisue (Belong to Me) was another to broach the 10-second barrier Sunday. Hip 943 carries a cross over A.P. Indy similar to Classics contender Improbable and counts Flaxman standout producer Chimes of Freedom (Private Account) as her third dam (video).

Hip 1111 will have many, including Becky Thomas’s Sequel Bloodstock, making a wish, and she brings a big pedigree to the table. By Medaglia d’Oro, whose top-level winners Bolt d’Oro, Plum Pretty and Dickinson are all out of A.P. Indy mares, the dark bay is a half-sister to SW & GISP Bajan (Speightstown) and is out of a half to GI Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever (Lemon Drop Kid), dam of champion Forever Unbridled (Unbridled’s Song) and her stakes-placed Medaglia d’Oro half-brother Forever d’Oro. (video).

King’s Equine’s hip 935 is already named Superbloodwolfmoon (Malibu Moon), an April-foaled bay whose stakes-placed dam A Story of Revenge (Tale of the Cat) is a half-sister to the late GISW I Want Revenge (Stephen Got Even). (video).

The session’s other bullet breezers were: hip 1168, a California-bred daughter of Lakerville (Unusual Heat) consigned by TIP Thoroughbred Investment Possibilities, agent (video); and Shanghai Bobby colt hip 1179, a Randy Bradshaw-consigned son of Grade III-winning turfer Dyna Da Wyna (Doc’s Leader) (video).

The session’s swiftest two furlongs was turned by Envision Equine’s hip 951, a colt from the first crop of Fast Anna (Medaglia d’Oro), who clocked :20 2/5. Out of the winning Tapit mare Ballad, the Florida-bred hails from the extended female family of the very talented Valid Expectations.

A pair of juveniles shared the fastest quarter-mile work, stopping the clock in :20 3/5. Top Line Sales, agent, sends out hip 928, a filly from the first crop of Competitive Edge (Super Saver), who has already been represented by a winner at the races this spring. The bay is a half-sister to SW Aaron’s Orient (Orientate) (video). Hip 1106, consigned by Harris Training Center LLC, is related to five winners from seven to the races, including GSW Calgary Caper (El Corredor) (video).

Performance Review gets first stakes victory in Neon Desert Handicap

Daily Racing Form - Sun, 2019-04-21 18:52
<div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mary Rampellini </div> </div> </div> <p>Performance Review flattered Escape Clause on Sunday when she closed for a two-length win over Baydar in the $75,000 Neon Desert Handicap at Sunland Park. It was another 1 3/4 lengths back to Kram in third.</p><p><a href="http://www.drf.com/news/preview/performance-review-gets-first-stakes-victory-neon-desert-handicap" target="_blank">read more</a></p>

Sister Peacock leads throughout Star Shoot for first stakes win

Daily Racing Form - Sun, 2019-04-21 16:30
<div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ron Gierkink </div> </div> </div> <p>ETOBICOKE, Ontario &ndash; Sister Peacock secured an easy lead and never looked back to notch her first stakes win in Sunday&rsquo;s $101,900 Star Shoot at Woodbine.</p> <p>Sister Peacock broke sharply under Jesse Campbell and proceeded to set moderate fractions in the six-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies. The Kentucky shipper Missmizz chased throughout in second, but she wasn&rsquo;t a serious threat to Sister Peacock, who prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:09.53.</p><p><a href="http://www.drf.com/news/preview/sister-peacock-leads-throughout-star-shoot-first-stakes-win" target="_blank">read more</a></p>

Frank Stronach Touts Tuesday Talk, Racing Charter of Rights In Open Letter

Thoroughbred Daily News - Sun, 2019-04-21 15:10

In an open letter in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, Frank Stronach announced that he will speak this Tuesday evening, at 6 p.m., at the Embassy Suites Arcadia Hotel, close to Santa Anita racetrack, about the future of horse racing in California, and the need for a Racing Charter of Rights that protects both the human and equine participants of the sport.

“Horse racing is much more than a business. It is a culture, a way of life, and an industry that directly employs one million people,” the letter states.

Frank Stronach writes in the letter, “I have always said that the key stakeholders within the industry are–the racetrack owners, horse owners, trainers, jockeys, breeders and veterinarians. As stakeholders, we have to prove to the public that we love and care for the horses–not only while they are racing but long after they finished their racing career.

“That is why I strongly believe we need a Racing Charter of Rights where all the participants in our industry are protected, including the horses. I look forward to bringing forth a number of different ideas to you, the people which love horses. Let’s work together to set the highest standards in horse racing! I look forward seeing you on Tuesday.”

The open letter reveals little about the intent behind and the specific contents of Tuesday’s talk, nor about the Racing Charter of Rights, but it plays out against the backdrop of a bitter internecine fight within the Stronach family concerning The Stronach Group’s (TSG) billion-dollar family empire.

In October of last year, Frank Stronach dropped a bombshell lawsuit alleging that his daughter, Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of The Stronach Group (TSG) and the person he appointed to run his empire, has mismanaged the family’s chief assets and trust funds, and has strong-armed control of the business from her father.

The lawsuit alleges that Belinda Stronach and Alon Ossip, TSG’s chief executive, conspired together in “a series of covert and unlawful actions…that have been contrary to the best interests of, and to the overwhelming detriment of, other members of the Stronach family.”

The suit seeks to remove Belinda Stronach from all corporate officer and trustee positions related to TSG, and demands $540 million (CDN) in compensation and damages.

In November of last year, Frank Stronach’s son, Andrew Stronach, filed a separate, but similar lawsuit alleging that his sister, Belinda Stronach, is guilty of “serious misconduct.”

In January of this year, Belinda Stronach responded with a statement of defense and countersuit, alleging that her father’s erratic behavior and ill-advised “passion projects” have cost the family some $850 million (CDN), “with hundreds of millions of this amount likely being irretrievably lost.”

Then, in February of this year Frank Stronach’s youngest granddaughter, Selena Stronach, joined the legal fray, filing a suit requiring her aunt, Belinda Stronach, to “pay or reimburse Selena for personal expenses that have historically been paid or reimbursed on her behalf through the trusts and/or TSG.”

In Sunday’s open letter, Frank Stronach describes his rags-to-riches personal odyssey, starting a “one-man-tool-and-die shop,” and transforming that into “one of the foremost companies in the world with 175,000 employees. That company is Magna International Inc. I believe Magna is the only company in the world with a Corporate Constitution and an Employee Charter of Rights.”

Frank Stronach writes in the letter, “It was always clear to me a strong business is driven by three forces, smart managers, hardworking employees, and investors. All three have a right to the outcome, which is the company’s annual profit. I created a unique profit-sharing environment where employees understood they own a portion of the company. That is why they would not only work hard, but also think about how to improve the business.”

TDN reached out to TSG’s chief operating officer, Tim Ritvo for comment on Sunday’s letter, but hasn’t yet received a response.

 

Are Challenges To Lasix Phase-Out Baked Into Current Regulatory Policies?

Thoroughbred Daily News - Sun, 2019-04-21 14:46

The Week In Review, by T.D. Thornton

One of the meatiest bones of contention from last week’s Lasix phase-out debate is that representatives from the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (NHBPA), the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (THA), and the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI) all told TDN they were left out of discussions that led to the multi-track proposal to end Lasix usage in juveniles starting in 2020 and in all stakes races by 2021.

You can easily flip this argument on its head by pointing out that from the perspective of the coalition tracks–those owned/operated by the New York Racing Association (NYRA), The Stronach Group (TSG), and Churchill Downs Inc., plus Oaklawn, Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star, Remington, Tampa Bay Downs, and Los Alamitos (Thoroughbreds)–it’s unlikely that this bold first step for United States medication reform would have ever gotten off the ground had horsemen been asked to actively partner in and shape the proposed phase-out.

Even Eric Hamelback, the NHBPA’s chief executive, acknowledged to TDN on Apr. 17 that his organization runs the risk of being “labeled as obstructionists” by continuing to advocate for the Lasix status quo to remain firmly in place. Hamelback is willing accept that risk, he explained, because “I like to think that we’re acting in the horses’ best interest and acting alongside with the veterinary leadership community on this issue.”

TDN’s Apr. 18 coverage of the Lasix phase-out announcement included pro and con comments from 15 different industry stakeholders. Interviews with Ed Martin, the ARCI president, and Alan Foreman, the THA chairman/chief executive, had to be truncated within that article because of space considerations. But their expanded comments (published below) yield key clues about how the practicality of the Lasix proposal might work–or be challenged–based on the regulatory structure that is already in place.

“Why are we not talking about something that’s directly linked to potential breakdowns?” Martin asked rhetorically as soon as he picked up the phone to answer a TDN query on the Lasix phase-out. “It’s a very pertinent issue, because that’s the major problem that we have.

“We are always open to anything that’s going to help address the breakdown a situation. I’m not sure that this will,” Martin continued. “But it’s certainly a hot issue. It’s been a hot issue for more than 15 years, and some people may see an opportunity to achieve something in the current [crisis-driven] environment that they may not have been able to achieve otherwise.”

Martin then ticked down a list of possible roadblocks the coalition might encounter on a path to implementation.

“It has to come in the front door. Nobody has proposed a model rule change for us to permit this, so we have not been at the table in these discussions,” Martin said. “They’re obviously going to have to go to the individual racing commissions, and I am not aware of any of the commissions being involved in this. I know the ARCI has certainly not been involved in any discussions about this.

“So the question is how the tracks wish to implement this policy,” Martin said. “[From the regulators’ perspective], somebody has to come in the door with an application [to change Lasix policy]. They did that in California, and they did it with the support of the horsemen.”

Martin is referring to an agreement between TSG and the Thoroughbred Owners of California to cut the permitted race-day dose of Lasix from 10 ccs to 5 ccs at Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields. On Mar. 28, the California Horse Racing Board approved that regulation for the balance of those current race meets.

But beyond the broad issue of whether or not other horsemen’s groups will support any sort of phase-out initiative, Martin postulated that the burden of additional Lasix testing could become a sticking point.

“The commissions’ drug testing programs are done to enforce the official rules,” Martin said. “If a commission authorizes a departure from the promulgated rules that lets the track set [no Lasix] as a condition of entry…what obligation does a commission have to perform tests to enforce a different policy for different races at that racetrack? The concept of just making these announcements,” Martin added, doesn’t solve the discrepancy between what the tracks would like to accomplish and the letter of the law.

Litigation–or at least the threat of it–is also sure to play a role, Martin said.

“Another issue has to do with if a commission does authorize this, is there any potential liability for damages from owners who might find that their horse has been excluded from participation?” Martin asked.

“Or even worse, if a horse [deprived of Lasix] suffers a bleeding incident that might exclude that horse from future participation?” Martin added.

Foreman noted that New York and Maryland tracks are currently the only THA-member entities under his direction that would be affected by the proposed phase-out. But he had a strong sense of what might or might not fly, Lasix-wise.

“New York’s in a bit of a different situation [from other jurisdictions] because NYRA can card non-Lasix [stakes] races if they choose to do so,” Foreman explained. “Under New York’s current medication regulations, I believe NYRA can establish whatever conditions it wants for individual races. They just can’t do a blanket ban on Lasix because it’s a permitted medication. So it would require a change of regulation by the gaming commission to eliminate the use of Lasix in 2-year-old races.

“In Maryland, TSG would need the Maryland Racing Commission to change its regulations to prohibit Lasix in the graded stakes races and with respect to 2-year-olds,” Foreman summed up. “They have not engaged at all with the Maryland horsemen or breeders on this issue. The Maryland horsemen and breeders have already voted to oppose any change to the current medication policy [because it is] not in the best interest of the horse, which is our primary responsibility.”

 

‘I Had Black Hair Until I Met Seattle Slew’

Thoroughbred Daily News - Sun, 2019-04-21 13:07

Possibly they don’t know all that much about him, on the Flying Start course, when John Williams comes in and shares a few thoughts about conformation. Snowy-haired guy, mid-seventies, mischievous smile, and a voice–well, if you can talk like that, in tones as warm and seasoned as barn rafters contracting in the glow of a summer dusk, then for once the envy of age for youth is reversed. Because there’s a lifetime not just in that voice, but in the words too: a lifetime with great horses, great horsemen. And, with Thoroughbreds, all the youthful enthusiasm and industry in the world is never going to outweigh sheer experience.

Not that anyone is going to surpass Williams, so well preserved inside and out, in terms of enthusiasm. Hear him on the prop he shows the students every year.

“Nashua’s shoe!” he exclaims. “When he was 27 years old–and you could bake a pie in it. It’s that round. The best horse I ever put a hand on. He was an iron horse. A phenotype. I could not fault him. He wasn’t elegant, he was about 16, maybe 16.1 [hands]. But he had something we’re not seeing much, anymore, either side of the Atlantic. Timber. He had timber.

“He was just a tree. You couldn’t tell where the radius came into the top of his knee and the cannon came out of the bottom. A flat, strong, solid knee. Good angle to his pastern. That perfectly round foot. Wonderful slope to his shoulder, deep girth. Strong back. Wonderful quarters on him. Hind leg that dropped right out of his hip. Beautiful, fluid walk.”

Eddie Arcaro once told Williams how Nashua worked “like a pig” just before the Wood Memorial. He was wondering what on earth to say as he approached Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, standing by the rail with Max Hirsch and John Gaver, when he saw the trainer gesturing violently: go again! So Arcaro worked the horse again. This time Nashua put in a bullet, and three days later he won the Wood.

“Those old, tough trainers,” says Williams, shaking his head. “Hell, these horses ran races between races.”

One thing he surely can tell the kids is something Arthur Hancock said to him once: “When you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he had some help.”

They are getting unprecedented help, of course, courtesy of Sheikh Mohammed. But when Williams was starting out, in Maryland, he had a priceless grounding of his own. Above all, from a trainer named Wilmont D. Haun: Bill Haun, who saw him wasting his talent and energy in a slapdash barn at Pimlico racetrack. It was 1964, the year Horatio Luro brought a Canadian-bred colt, built on rather less imposing lines than Nashua, to win the Preakness.

As the circus moved on, and the Monmouth meet came to an end, Haun invited Williams to switch barns.

“I can’t leave this guy,” the young man replied. “He’s in bed. I can’t leave these horses stuck here.”

“Well, if you ever change your mind, you come and see me.”

That did not take long. “And Bill Haun was probably the single most important guy for showing me the proper way to care for a horse,” recalls Williams. “A stable mostly of claiming horses, but treated like stakes horses because there’s no difference. One day he screamed at me, ‘Come in here. Look at this. You think that’s a bandage?’ ‘Yes sir.’ He said, ‘Look at that pin crooked. There’s a flap on that bandage sticking out and she might reach around and grab that. Touch this filly. You cannot do enough for her–because whether you like her or not, she feeds you.’ This was a tremendous teacher. Mean S.O.B., but I learned so much.”

This stuff was straight out of the old school, Haun having started with Ben Jones in Kansas in the 1930s. But already there had been other mentors, of similar stamp, shaping lifelong standards in the young Williams: a veterinarian named I.W. Frock, for instance; an Irishman named Tom Harraway.

“Unsung heroes, those old horsemen,” says Williams. “Their horses had a good life. Imagine telling somebody today to put a cow manure poultice on that tendon, they’d think you’re crazy. But those guys showed me that the most important person to a horse is not his trainer, not his owner, but his groom.”

That was how he had started out himself, as a horse-crazy kid, mucking out on a local farm; and why he also values his coalface education on the track. Not enough people do that today, he feels–and far too many view the sales ring as the end use of Thoroughbreds, rather than the winning post.

As it was, the flair and industry that caught Haun’s eye would ultimately underpin a career that kept Williams ringside for historic developments in the modern business: as manager of Spendthrift, then in the vanguard of a new era of commercialism, for nearly a decade; subsequently partnering with Lee Eaton in sales preparation at a time when few others, save the Taylor boys, were experimenting in what has become a vast business within the business; and, an exceptional accolade, named Kentucky Farm Manager of the Year for the way he meanwhile ran his own farm.

Williams had left for the University of Maryland when Haun’s boss, Edgar Lucas of Helmore, rang to say he had bought a farm in Howard County and would he please manage it. He was 25, and had never held a higher rank than groom.

“I always had a certain, not cockiness, but a certain degree of comfort because of the way I felt being with a horse,” Williams says. “Maybe it was blind luck, but that’s how I felt. And I had a great quest for knowledge, especially in the veterinary field. I learned by doing. Because we had a wonderful clientele.

“Michael Erlanger. Howell Jackson, fantastic guy in Virginia. Adele Paxson, just a tremendous lady. Jim Ryan, Ryehill Farm. Allaire du Pont. She certainly wasn’t interested in sales. She wanted another Kelso. Gosh, she was terrific. After I came to Kentucky, I saw her at Saratoga. And she said in her raspy voice, ‘John, we need you back in Maryland-and there are no crab cakes in Kentucky.’ Gordon Grayson. Tyson Gilpin, of Fasig-Tipton. Those Maryland breeders, they bred to race, and that’s what I was in tune with. And then some of the horses we bred to, back then: Cyane, Nearctic, Quadrangle…”

He stayed 10 years, but every time he brought his glistening little draft to Keeneland, he was told to stop wasting his gifts out there in Maryland. Eventually Williams sat a couple of interviews. The job he really wanted was with Olin Gentry, at Darby Dan, but that went to the Spendthrift manager–and Williams ended up filling his shoes at the Combs farm instead. Suddenly a reputation made on 185 acres in Maryland was to be tested across 3,000 acres of Bluegrass.

“Spendthrift was a blast,” says Williams. “Those were heady times. Imagine syndicating back-to-back Triple Crown winners. I never thought we’d see that again. But just think about some of the clients Leslie Combs had. Again, most breeding for racing. Lou and Patrice Wolfson, who had Raise A Native there. Harbor View mostly raced. Aaron Jones. Joe Roebling, his grandfather built the Brooklyn Bridge. He had a wonderful horse called Rainy Lake when I was there. He was gay and they beat him almost to death, this wonderful man. John Morris. Sonny Whitney. Joe Layman. Daniel Wildenstein had Allez France there. Franklin Groves, who developed Northridge Farm. Liz Tippett, what a character. Art Appleton, of Appleton Farm in Florida, great friend of Mr. Combs. John Hanes. Mickey Taylor and Jim Hill. Incredible, wonderful people, and that’s just a smattering.”

Still more cherished, however, were his own “crew”–especially the Irishmen he hired through Michael Osborne, many graduating from the Irish National Stud. Years before, visiting Nashua, Williams been appalled to see this great horse left to drip-dry in his stall in December while the grooms played cards in a warm room.

“A lot of those people were good, they just needed to be shown what was expected of them now,” he says. “And Steve Johnson, an excellent man who became my assistant, had already been hired by Linda Combs as broodmare manager. But I did bring in a lot of wonderful young men and women, and I’m so proud of them. More than I can name. Don Snellings from Virginia. Bill Reightler from Maryland. Peter Taaffe from Ireland. Terrific guy. His father Pat rode the greatest horse Ireland ever produced, Arkle. Ernie Frazier. Joe Williams. Black guy, used to say, ‘John Williams. I had a brother named John. He run off. You might be my brother.’ Terrific guy, saddle horse man.

“Buster Gordon, rubbed Sham. Bobby Burke, a grand prix rider I had breaking yearlings down at the training center. Clem Brooks, storied groom of Nashua. To this day, the best man I ever saw with a stallion shank in his hands. One of our most important hires was Beach Faulkner, who became the farm blacksmith.

“Rick Nichols, who manages Sheikh Hamdan’s farm. And [later, on his own farm] Digby Griffin from Ireland. Don’t think I ever had a better employee. Miss him terribly. Because these are lasting friendships too. I’m very lucky because a lot of people say, ‘If you work for me, I really can’t be your buddy. I can’t have a pint with you and still get you to do what I ask.’ I was able to do that with this crew.”

But that bond was earned. They all knew that Williams could pull a mane better than any of them. One morning a man didn’t show for work. His boss worked his whole shift: turned out his stallions, mucked out, bedded, polished the brass, the show halters. The guy slides in around 10, sees Buster Gordon. “Buster, did you cover for me?” “No, I didn’t.” “Who did?” “John Williams.” As Williams himself recalls: “He brought his tail dragging down to that office, his head down. Never did that again.”

If he really needs a book for the people, then how about the horses? Bringing over Caro for $4 million, only to find him infecting mares with a venereal disease. “They were going to shut us down, put a chain on the gate,” Williams recalls. “I thought that C.E.M. episode would be the toughest thing we ever had to face. But that was until I met Seattle Slew.”

The record $12 million syndication notoriously lacked libido when he started. Williams finally got him interested in an ancient Count Fleet mare he had brought from Maryland, a retired “old bag of bones.” Next time they brought her in, however, Slew proved more interested in the teaser. Other times they’d park the old dame alongside the mare to be covered and pull him over at the critical moment.

“He was so mad that we’d tricked him, when he dismounted you couldn’t see his ears–that’s how tight he had them pinned,” remembers Williams with a laugh. “My hair was black before that year. He just drove us crazy.”

Just as well, then, that stallion books remained in the 40s. Williams remembers protesting to Brownell Combs when as many as 60 mares were booked to Raise A Native: “Sixty! Brownell, you’re gonna kill him!” But then, as he notes sadly, that’s not all that has changed. “Affirmed won 14 Grade Is,” he says. “Show me that in the stud book today.”

But it’s the characters he misses most. “Tom Gentry, the showman of showmen,” he muses. “Warner Jones. Harley Clemens. Fun guys to be around. You’d love to see them coming in the barn. Albert Yank, he was preposterous. California agent. He had this little gnarly guy with him one day. Mr. Combs said, ‘Get Intrepid Hero ready for 1 o’clock.’ Buster rubbed him, we had him ready. Yank comes up and he’s got this little sawed off guy, about 5’3″ with an old sweater on. Yank is all over this horse, rubbing his head and patting down his neck. Then he puts his arm around this guy and says, ‘Now Earl, Leslie and I are gonna screw you a little bit. But you are going to like it.’ It was Earl Scheib, the car paint tycoon.”

Nor does Williams still see trainers who know families; who will forgive an offset knee because the mother was the same and could go flat out for six furlongs. Buying racehorses, not “curio pieces”.

“Wayne Lukas, a horseman from the bottom of his feet to the top of his well-groomed hair!” Williams exclaims. “He’d say, ‘Don’t show me that catalog, I can’t cinch up a page.’ He and Vincent O’Brien were the most discerning people I’ve ever seen evaluate an untried yearling. Vincent could look into a horse’s eye and see what he was thinking. I’d say, ‘Vincent, can I get you anything?’ ‘No, no, I’ll just stand by this tree.’ He’d be watching. He’d go down the shed row to look at a horse’s bedding, see how he’s behaving in his box.”

Of course, the very commercialism that has skewed so much of the business towards the ring was in part nourished by Spendthrift. By the time Williams left, when the farm went public in 1984, there were 45 stallions on the roster.

In fairness, Williams himself rode the wave somewhat, by teaming up with Eaton as pioneers of sales preparation; but he also started his own farm, named Ballindaggin for the County Wexford birthplace of his grandfather.

“I promised mom that if I ever had a piece of ground, I’d name it after his little town,” he says. “Mom used to say his room smelled like medicine, from the poultices and stuff he made at night. He had written everything down, because nobody in the family cared for the horse. After he died, they threw it all in the furnace. What I’d have given for those.

“The best I ever raised was Flawlessly, by Affirmed out of La Confidence, by Nijinsky II. Won nine Grade Is. A good example of you don’t have to be perfect to run. She wasn’t very impressive, physically, but so sweet; and had a great mind.

“The great old breeders I paid attention to, like Olin Gentry, depended upon strong female families. Mr. Combs said horses made their own pedigrees; and there was the adage that the hard race mares never produce. But look up Straight Deal, by Hail To Reason. She had 99 starts, and produced three stakes winners, including a Grade I winner; and every one of her six daughters produced at least one stakes winner. If you’re young enough and can keep at it, pedigree will out.”

But that calls for something of the patience of the old sportsmen. Today too many horses are expected “to put another piece of chicken on the plate.” Yet there are boons to the modern business too: the Breeders’ Cup, spread-the-joy partnerships, international competition, veterinary advances, casino funding. And, back where we started, the extraordinary Flying Start program.

Now there, notes Williams, is a real sportsman: Sheikh Mohammed. “His contribution to this game is immeasurable,” he says. “I’ve already said how important Michael Osborne was, getting good horsemen over here. When he passed away, Joe [Osborne] called and asked if I would take his father’s place on that board [Flying Start]. What an honor.”

He is palpably moved by the reflection. As it happens, the course director Clodagh Kavanagh worked for Eaton Williams when herself learning the ropes. And the esteem of the bloodstock community for the standards set by that partnership can be judged by the dispersals it handled: Warner Jones, for instance, or Sangster-Niarchos. But then it was an enterprise that absolutely complemented what Williams had achieved in upgrading horsemanship around Kentucky’s premier stallion barns.

“When I was at Spendthrift, I always thought the sales were a horse show,” reasons Williams. “Say my horse is made just like your horse, and similarly bred. But mine has a two-inch bridle path, and yours a seven-inch bridle path. My horse’s mane is on the right side of his neck, and fits the thickness of his neck; yours flips on both sides. Mine has dapples and hard flesh. The fetlock hair is cut off of my horse’s ankles. He’s got proper feet. He has been taught to walk, because I had him on a long line. I’m going to outsell you. We’ve got the same horse–but I outsell you.”

Williams stresses that there were always splendid, hardboot horsemen in Kentucky; but the fact is that there were also guys brought over from tobacco farms. Some of those European migrants, in contrast, represented umpteen generations of horse lore.

“But sales were never my prime mover,” says Williams. “I think I knew how to present a horse and I love bringing a good horse out in front of somebody. But I’m a broodmare man, a farm guy. I just feel very fortunate to have had so many people to help me climb that fence post. And the horse–the horse has been such a wonderful conduit to friendship. The horse has really been good to this old boy from Ellicott City, Maryland, I’ll tell you. It’s been a great ride. I look back over it and, gosh, I’m not just saying it: I really feel blessed.”

Aided by fine Florida weather, Maximum Security right on schedule for Derby

Daily Racing Form - Sun, 2019-04-21 12:45
<p>Trainer Jason Servis&rsquo;s decision to keep Florida Derby winner Maximum Security in South Florida to train up to the Kentucky Derby certainly paid dividends on Sunday. Whereas two of the three scheduled Derby works at Churchill Downs were postponed on Easter Sunday due to weather and/or track conditions, Maximum Security got in his regularly scheduled one-mile breeze under &ldquo;ideal&rdquo; conditions, according to Servis by phone from the Palm Meadows training center later that morning.</p><p><a href="http://www.drf.com/news/preview/aided-fine-florida-weather-maximum-security-right-schedule-derby" target="_blank">read more</a></p>

Hong Kong selections for Monday, April 22, 2019

Daily Racing Form - Sun, 2019-04-21 10:33
<p>SHA TIN SELECTIONS</p> <p>(Monday, April 22)</p> <p><a href="http://drf.com/hk"><strong>:: Hong Kong: Free PPs, picks, and analysis</strong></a></p> <p><strong>Brett Davis&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>R1: 6-2-10-12</p> <p>R2:&nbsp;2-6-3-11</p> <p>R3:&nbsp;1-4-5-12</p> <p>R4: 2-6-4-7</p> <p>R5:&nbsp;9-5-13-11</p> <p>R6:&nbsp;10-8-7-11</p> <p>R7:&nbsp;7-5-1-4</p> <p>R8:&nbsp;9-7-5-3</p> <p>R9:&nbsp;11-2-3-4</p> <p>R10:&nbsp;7-4-13-9</p> <p>Best Bet &ndash; R2: #2 Majestic Endeavour&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Longshot &ndash; R10: #7 Shining Gem</p><p><a href="http://www.drf.com/news/hong-kong-selections-monday-april-22-2019" target="_blank">read more</a></p>

Pedigree Insights: Skardu

Thoroughbred Daily News - Sun, 2019-04-21 10:32

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I reminded everyone that marked success for a stallion is likely to breed more success four or five years down the line. On that basis, it looks to be a pretty safe bet that 2019 is going to be another big year for the 3-year-olds by Galileo (Ire), Shamardal, Dubawi (Ire), Dansili (GB), Invincible Spirit (Ire) and Oasis Dream (GB). The TDN‘s 2014 table of leading European sires by group winners records that all six of these stallions were represented by at least eight Northern Hemisphere group winners. All six then commanded fees of at least €70,000 in 2015.

Cheapest of the six, at €70,000, was Shamardal, even though he had ranked joint-second with Dubawi in 2014, with each of them being credited with a total of 14 group winners, including four Group 1 winners. While neither came close to matching Galileo’s figures of 25 group winners and eight Group 1 winners, Shamardal deserved considerable credit–especially when many of his runners in 2014 had been sired at fees of around €20,000.

Nowadays it is tempting to think of Shamardal primarily as the sire of Lope de Vega, whose fee has risen as high as €80,000, but Shamardal is still no older than 17 and there are already strong indications that his 2016 crop is going to prove memorable.

Although it isn’t one of his largest, it still numbers 108 foals and it has produced three individual group winners in recent weeks. Shaman (Ire) initiated the treble with his success in the G3 Prix La Force, which may have earned this four-time winner a tilt at the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains. Next came Castle Lady (Ire)’s victory in the G3 Prix de la Grotte, one of the main trials for the G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches. The treble was completed last week when the unbeaten Skardu (GB) narrowly landed the G3 Craven S. on only his second start to put himself into the G1 2000 Guineas picture.

This crop also includes the smart Emaraaty Ana (GB), winner last year of the G2 Gimcrack S. Watch out too for Tarnawa (Ire), an encouraging Leopardstown winner for the Aga Khan and the progressive Solid Stone (Ire), who gamely won a handicap at Newmarket.

One unusual aspect of Skardu’s pedigree is that his fourth dam, the Seeking The Gold mare Spain Lane, was born comparatively recently, in 1991. Skardu is the second foal of a second foal who was the first foal of Quecha (Ire), the second foal of Spain Lane.

Although bred in the U.S., Spain Lane went into training with Andre Fabre and carried the Sheikh Mohammed colours with distinction. An impressive debut winner at Chantilly in June of her juvenile career, Spain Lane went on to be a good third to Coup de Genie in the G1 Prix Morny and runner-up to the champion filly Lemon Souffle (GB) in the G1 Moyglare Stud S.

Although her sire Seeking The Gold stayed a mile and a quarter, Spain Lane proved to be a sprinter like her grandsire Mr. Prospector. She gained her first group success in the G2 Prix du Gros-Chene over five furlongs and later added the G3 Prix de Seine-et-Oise over six. She rounded off her second season with a third behind the flying Lochsong (GB) in the Prix de l’Abbaye.

Spain Lane had the distinction of sharing her dam Regent’s Walk with Marquetry, a top-class performer sired by another of Mr. Prospector’s sons, Conquistador Cielo. A Grade I winner on dirt and turf, Marquetry won at up to a mile and a quarter, but his main achievement as a stallion was to sire Artax and Squirtle Squirt, both of whom earned the title of champion sprinter in the States.

Unfortunately, Spain Lane proved much less effective as a broodmare than as a racehorse. In a career which saw her visit the likes of Sadler’s Wells, Darshaan (GB), Rainbow Quest, Storm Cat, El Prado (Ire), Green Desert and Pivotal (GB), she clearly didn’t lack for opportunity but she had a moderate breeding record. Her final figures were just six foals, five starters and only two winners. Skardu’s third dam, the Indian Ridge (Ire) mare Quecha, was second in fairly useful company on her only start at two in France but was then off the course for 10 months and ran poorly on her return. Timeform described her as headstrong.

Again, Quecha didn’t want for opportunity early in her broodmare career, as her first three mates were Danehill, Anabaa and Sadler’s Wells, and it was Exceed And Excel (Aus) who sired her best winner, the group-placed German two-year-old Lukrezia. Her Danehill filly Quaich (GB)–now the second dam of Skardu–won a seven-furlong maiden at Thirsk on her debut for Saeed bin Suroor.

Diala (Ire), the dam of Skardu, looked potentially useful when she won a Newmarket maiden over seven furlongs on her second start at two. Although she failed to make the expected progress, she ran respectably at three. This daughter of Iffraaj (GB) (Zafonic) began her broodmare career in Bahrain before being repatriated.

It is interesting that Shamardal sired Skardu from a mare from the Gone West sire line, as one of his other recent group winners, Castle Lady, is out of a grand-daughter of Gone West. Shamardal also sired the group-placed 2-year-old winner Desert Blossom (Ire) from a Zafonic mare and the Grade III winner Oregon Lady (Ire) from a Gone West mare, while Zafonic’s son Xaar (GB) sired the second dam of Shamardal’s son Hazapour (Ire), winner of the G3 Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial last year.

Although Shamardal stayed well enough to add the G1 Prix du Jockey Club to his victory in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, the chances are that Skardu–with daughters of Iffraaj, Danehill and Indian Ridge as his first three dams–will prove best at around a mile.

Yonkers: Western Fame romps as Dube, Allard continue Levy Series final dominance

Daily Racing Form - Sat, 2019-04-20 23:38
<p>Driver Daniel Dube and trainer Rene Allard maintained their vise-like grip on the final of the George Morton Levy Series, with Western Fame giving the duo their fourth Levy score in the last five years by annexing Saturday night&#39;s $664,000 final for free-for-all pacers in 1:50 4/5, tying the stakes record.</p><p><a href="http://www.drf.com/news/yonkers-western-fame-romps-dube-allard-continue-levy-series-final-dominance" target="_blank">read more</a></p>

MATCH Series Launch Features Old and New Winners

Blood-Horse - Sat, 2019-04-20 23:17
The 2019 MATCH Series got off to an excellent start at Laurel Park April 20 with a mix of old and new in four divisional stakes won by horses based in the Mid-Atlantic region.

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