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Updated: 6 hours 6 min ago

Injured Former Jock to Compete in Half-Marathon

Fri, 2019-03-22 16:20

Armando Rivera, 58, a paraplegic since a northern California racing accident at 18, will race his wheelchair in the March 30 “Run The Bluegrass” half-marathon in the area surrounding Keeneland. Keeneland will be sponsoring Rivera who has competed in over 40 such races around the country.

Rivera’s racing attire includes a shirt or cap with a Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund logo and often uses the monthly stipend he receives from the PDJF to pay his racing entrance fees.

“I’m on a mission,” he said. “Racing gives me a challenge and I have to keep pushing. I’m racing to raise awareness for my fellow injured jockeys and that’s important to me.”

Rivera was one of the six catastrophically-injured jockeys honored at last summer’s Jockeys and Jeans Event at Canterbury Park and will attend the group’s PDJF fundraiser at Santa Anita June 22.

“At the event last summer we all noted Armando had biceps bigger than most jockeys’ thighs,” said Barry Pearl, the group’s president. “He is a shining example of the overcoming spirit inherent in all the jockeys who suffered catastrophic injuries. We thank Keeneland and their President and CEO Bill Thomason for making this possible and we hope a lot of folks come out to cheer for him. But in Armando’s case, no matter where he finishes, he’s still a winner.”


Trio of FL Derby Contenders Breeze

Fri, 2019-03-22 15:29

Bourbon War (Tapit), Hidden Scroll (Hard Spun) and Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) all breezed Friday morning in preparation for the Mar. 30 GI Florida Derby.

GII Fountain of Youth S. runner-up Bourbon War breezed a half-mile in :49.88 (19/30) at Gulfstream (video).

“He did well,” trainer Mark Hennig said. “He came home in :49.88, I think they caught him in. I was looking for a little quicker than that, but the track was not real sharp this morning. I told my rider I’d rather you err on the side of too slow than too fast. The horse is fit. We just want to get him safely over there next Saturday.”

Over at Payson Park, ‘TDN Rising Star’ Hidden Scroll worked in company under exercise rider Neil Poznansky, covering five panels in a bullet 1:02.40 (1/7) (video).

“It was a very nice work,” said Hall of Famer Bill Mott. “He worked with a stablemate. The time of 1:02, the way the racetrack was today, I think it was a very useful work. He sat off his company and he finished up and went by inside the eighth-pole with a reasonable good gallop-out. He seemed very good in the work. He was very manageable. We sat him in behind a horse and he was real calm. They went off slow enough and he wasn’t anxious. He was content to follow another horse. He approached the quarter-pole and got into the bridle and finished up well.”

The Juddmonte homebred was last seen finishing fourth as the favorite after setting the pace in the Fountain of Youth.

“I think it was a matter of learning for us,” said Mott, who also conditions fellow Juddmonte homebred and GII Tampa Bay Derby winner Tacitus (Tapit). “We thought from the beginning we could do anything with him. The last work we sat him right in behind and ate a lot of dirt. He was fine doing that. Today we sat him in behind, but we sat him off to the side, so he wasn’t getting dirt. He saw daylight but he saw another horse in front of him and he seemed kind about that as well.”

Undefeated Maximum Security breezed a slow half-mile in :52.95 (63/63) at Palm Meadows Friday. The Gary and Mary West homebred is a perfect-three-for-three at Gulfstream, but takes a big jump up in class next weekend.

“I thought he had a good breeze. He came home in :12,” trainer Jason Servis said. “I would still like to not commit, but I would say we are on schedule.”

The Wests’ Final Jeopardy (Street Sense) also breezed four furlongs in a soft :52.80 (59/63) and is being considered for either the Florida Derby or the Apr. 6 GII Wood Memorial S. at Aqueduct.

“We’re looking at the Wood Memorial. It’s not a definite but we’re kind of looking at that,” said Servis. “He galloped out really good. That race is a mile and an eighth so I’m feeling a little better about the work. But it’s not definite yet.” Road to the Triple Crown Throwdown: Louisiana Derby

Fri, 2019-03-22 15:27

Ed DeRosa of takes on TDN’s Steve Sherack and Brian DiDonato as they handicap each prep race leading up to the GI Kentucky Derby. The three will make $100 Win/Place bets-highest bankroll after Arkansas Derby/Lexington day wins.

DiDonato: Rebel x2 Improbable (+$120) endured a somewhat awkward trip and just missed. Jersey Agenda settled for fifth after failing to make the lead. Bankroll: $10,325.

GII Louisiana Derby – I want the horse with the most upside in the race if I’m going to try and beat War of Will, and I’m pretty sure that horse is Spinoff (no disrespect to Country House, who also ran well last time). The well-bred Wertheimer homebred flashed talent in two juvenile tries, and returned from a break to run up the score in a Tampa optional claimer last month. He dueled through fast splits with a horse who was also stretching out, and that foe stopped to be last. Trainer Todd Pletcher has successfully used an easy race at Tampa as a springboard to bigger and better in recent years (i.e. Always Dreaming, Outwork, etc.), and he already owns a record four wins in this event. Plus Spinoff is obviously bred to be any kind as a son and grandson of Grade I winners Zaftig and Zoftig. Selection: #10 Spinoff (8-1).

Sherack: Rebel x2 – Wide trip, layoff and all, it was still pretty surprising to see Improbable get run down late as the heavy chalk. Laughing Fox, meanwhile, never fired in round two of the Rebel. Bankroll: $1550.

GII Louisiana Derby – War of Will is a very deserving favorite and the clear-cut horse to beat, but I’ll go for a longshot with some upside. By My Standards ran well enough in defeat in a trio of live-looking races to kick off his career, then posted a breakthrough maiden win, clocking his final three-eighths in a sharp :31.57 going two turns over this track last time. The bay will need another leap forward, but between the flashy worktab and favorable inside draw, the price will be right to see if he’s good enough. Selection: #5 By My Standards (12-1).

DeRosa: Rebel x2 –  Corruze was a late scratch; Our Braintrust finished last of 10. Bankroll: $680.

GII Louisiana Derby – War of Will is a great study in how much you trust your eyes over data. The War Front colt has looked great winning all three of his starts on dirt, including the Lecomte and Risen Star S. heading into the Louisiana Derby, but he has not registered fast numbers in doing so with a consistent string of mid 90s Speed Ratings. That’s been faster than the rest to date, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be fastest in the Lousiana Derby, especially at odds on. We’ll take a shot with Bankit, who has a similar profile to stablemate Long Range Toddy in that he gets a jockey change for this test. Bankit flashed good talent at two that he seemed to be circling back to last out. If he busts through, he’s a player in this heat at 20-1 morning line. Selection: #9 Bankit (20-1).

Click here for Louisiana Derby Ultimate PPs from

Belmont Increases Spring/Summer Meet Purses

Fri, 2019-03-22 15:11

Maiden special weight races at Belmont Park for the spring/summer meet will see purses increase from $75,000 to $80,000, while similar $5,000 purse increases will be implemented for first-and-second-level allowance races.

First-level allowance purses will now be $82,000 and second-level will be upped to $85,000. Third-level allowance races will be worth $87,000, marking a $2,000 increase from 2018.

The 48-day Belmont Park spring/summer meet, featuring 59 total stakes races worth $18.4 million, will start Friday, April 26 and run through Sunday, July 7.

NYRA will also continue the under-20 claiming challenge, implemented to boost trainers with stables of 20 or fewer horses, where points are accumulated based on placing in claiming races.


’18 Fatality Rate Similar Year-Over-Year According to Injury Database

Fri, 2019-03-22 13:55

Data analysis from the Equine Injury Database for the year 2018 resulted in an aggregate fatality rate of 1.68 per 1,000 starts, The Jockey Club announced Friday. Prof. Tim Parkin, veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow and consultant to the EID, concluded that the year-over-year difference from 1.6 fatalities per 1,000 starts was not statistically significant.

From 2009 to 2018, the fatal injury rates were as follows: 2.00, 1.88, 1.88, 1.92, 1.90, 1.89, 1.62, 1.54, 1.61, 1.68. Detailed graphs with statistics grouped by surface, distance and age can be viewed here.

“Analysis of the EID has demonstrated that there are a multitude of factors that contribute to the risk of fatal injuries in Thoroughbred racehorses,” said Prof. Parkin. “Moving forward, we should focus on the medications present in horses during racing and training, transparency of veterinary records for all starters and the collection of injury data from morning training hours.”

Two-year-olds had a significantly lower fatal injury rate of 1.28 per 1,000 compared 1.72 per 1,000 for older horses.

Since the EID began in 2009, there has been a 16% drop in all fatal injuries, including an 11% drop in dirt races, 38% decrease in turf races and 17% drop on synthetic tracks.

Since March of 2012, tracks have had the option to voluntarily publish their fatal injury rates–of the 25 self-reporting tracks for 2018, the aggregate rate was 1.51.

On average, the lowest average rate (1.45) was seen among the following tracks that disclose their fatality rates and are accredited by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Safety and Integrity Alliance: Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park, Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, Indiana Grand Race Course, Keeneland, Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, Santa Anita Park, Saratoga Race Course, Suffolk Downs, Turfway Park and Woodbine Racetrack.

Since its inception, 109 racetracks have provided data to the EID–tracks hosting approximately 98% of all flat racing cards in 2019 are expected to contribute.

World of Trouble to Carter Next

Thu, 2019-03-21 17:53

After pondering a trip to Dubai with their star dual-surface sprinter, the connections of World of Trouble (Kantharos) will stay home and contest the GI Carter H. Apr. 6 at Aqueduct, co-owner Michael Dubb confirmed to TDN Thursday. The story was first reported by Daily Racing Form.

“He’s just a relatively young horse and we didn’t want to ask him to do too much too soon,” Dubb said of passing on sending his 4-year-old colt overseas for either the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen or G1 Al Quoz Sprint Mar. 30 at Meydan. “We didn’t want to risk the possibility of sapping him for the season and thought it was important to take it one step at a time.”

Announcing himself with a 13 1/2-length romp in the Pasco S. last winter at Tampa Bay Downs, the bay finished third when favored while stretching out in the GII Tampa Bay Derby. Running a strong fourth after contesting a scorching pace in the GII Woody Stephens S., World of Trouble annexed the Quick Call S. and Allied Forces S. when switched to grass and just missed by a neck against eventual champion Stormy Liberal (Stormy Atlantic) in the GI Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. He closed out his sophomore campaign with a dominant conquest of the FTBOA Marion County Florida Sire S. back in Oldsmar and captured the washed-off Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint S. last out Jan. 26.

Dubb added that after potentially picking up his first first graded stakes victory in the Carter, the Jason Servis trainee could be pointed to a big-money event on GI Belmont S. day, although on which surface is up in the air.

“We would look at the [GII] Jaipur or possibly the [GI] Met Mile,” he said. “We’ll just handicap the opportunities and discuss it amongst me and Jason, the partners, and we’ll figure it out. We’re going to let the Carter tell us whether we want to stretch him out and stay on dirt or go back to sprinting on turf.”

A return trip to the Breeders’ Cup remains the year-end goal for World of Trouble, but surface as well as distance will weigh in the decision. While last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint was contested over 5 1/2 furlongs on a traditional course, this year’s renewal will return to the downhill course of Santa Anita at 6 1/2 furlongs. World of Trouble has never gone longer than six furlongs on grass.

“That’ll factor in, but it’s a long way off, so we’re happy to just take it one race at a time,” Dubb said.

As Discussion Turns to Bisphosphonates, Viola Commits $500K to Research

Thu, 2019-03-21 16:03

The fallout from events still unfolding at Santa Anita have re-sparked the fires simmering under a number of horse welfare issues. Few, however, have galvanized such a swift phalanx of action as that of bisphosphonates–drugs used in humans to tackle degenerative bones diseases like osteoporosis. Their use in racehorses, however, has proven controversial.

On Thursday, prominent Kentucky Derby-winning owner, Vincent “Vinnie” Viola, committed $500,000 towards vital research behind these drugs and a better system of detection, according to Terry Finley, founder and president of West Point Thoroughbreds. “He is absolutely laser-focused on these issues,” said Finley of Viola’s pledge, adding that Viola is challenging other owners to “stamp this out, and stamp it out right away. He talks the talk, and he also walks the walk.”

In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of two bisphosphonates–Tiludronate (Tildren) and Clodronate (Osphos)–in horses four and older to help control the clinical symptoms associated with navicular syndrome. But many in the industry are concerned about the off-label use of these drugs, especially in young horses, including those being prepared for the sales. That’s because, rather than strengthening bones as intended, misuse of these drugs could make them weaker, more susceptible to fractures.

According to Finley, a group of individuals and organizations are also in the process of drafting a letter to be sent to the managing partners of veterinary clinics servicing racehorses around the country, appealing to veterinarians to discontinue use of these drugs on horses less than four years of age.

“Call it what you will, an appeal, a request, a demand, they’ve got to step up. I know the vast majority of vets want this drug to be used the right way on horses who are 4-year-olds and older. They have taken an oath to do right by the horse. It’s very clear that the administration of these drugs to yearlings and two-year-olds isn’t doing right by the horse,” said Finley, who added that it took Viola “30 seconds to decide that he was going to be a major supporter of this effort.”

Two key points…

California Horse Racing Board Executive Director Rick Arthur said there are “two key points” to bisphosphonates. The first? They can act as an analgesic for bone pain. The second? Bisphosphonates are toxic to certain cells vital to bone re-growth. “This means the normal bone repair process is inhibited,” said Arthur.

Bisphosphonates are currently unregulated in the U.S., though the TDN reported Wednesday that the Mid-Atlantic region will propose a partial ban of these drugs. In comparison, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) implemented in 2017 a 30-day stand-down period from racing following the administration of any bisphosphonate. What’s more, if a horse under the age of three years and six months is administered therapeutic bisphosphonates, they “will not be qualified to run under the BHA Rules of Racing at any point in its life,” the rules state.

These drugs, however, are difficult to regulate. And part of the conundrum is that too little is currently known about how long they remain in the horse’s system. “We have the ability to detect it in blood and urine up to about 100 days post administration now,” said Mary Scollay, equine medical director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. “But we don’t know how that correlates to duration of effect,” she added.

Another unknown? The length of time that bisphosphonates stay in the bone–potentially years–and how they behave for that duration. Then there’s the question of how to look for it.

“It’s not clear that we’ve got a terribly reliable method for detecting it in the bone,” said Scollay, who added that acquiring bone samples from live horses is clearly not an option. Most of the research thus far has been from “fracture fragments” through injured horses, said Scollay. “And we have not detected bisphosphonates. But again, are we looking in the right place? There’s a lot we don’t know yet.”

Indeed, there’s still so much unknown about the way bisphosphonates affect the physiology of the racehorse, with the bulk of the drug research done on humans and on animals other than horses. Nevertheless, we do know enough to support the fears of a growing number of leading industry figures.

What are they, and how do they work?…

In order to understand how bisphosphonates work, it’s important to know that bones are (or should be) in a continuous state of regrowth and renewal. This dynamic, adaptive process maintains the bone’s delicate balance of rigidity and flexibility. And at the crux of this process are cells called osteoclasts and osteoblasts.

Osteoclasts dissolve, break down and absorb–as part of a process called resorption–damaged or weakened bone tissue at the site of a fracture. Osteoblasts follow behind, adding new bone to fill and mineralize the holes left by the osteoclasts. This is the fundamental, on-going mechanism at play, from large fractures down to the microfractures sustained by horses and humans on a daily basis.

“Every time you walk up the stairs, you’re going to get a microfracture somewhere in your body,” said Arthur. “It might be a tiny little thing, but you’re going to go through that, and your body’s going to repair it.”

When it comes to degenerative bone diseases, bisphosphonates inhibit the work that osteoclasts do, thereby preventing the breakdown of bone tissue–a useful tool for tackling osteoporosis.

But problems may arise if bisphosphonates are used to treat, say, sesamoiditis in a yearling being prepared for the sales. While an X-ray may give the outward impression that the bone is healthy, in actual fact, the bone tissue could be made up of dead material that’s never cleaned away in the usual manner–what experts liken to a ticking time bomb, when that potentially compromised bone is put under the duress of training and racing.

Bisphosphonates also appear to stunt healing. Veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage has been outspoken about the threats that these drugs pose to racehorse populations. In this article in the Paulick Report, Bramlage explains that fractures typically show improvement after only a couple of months. But in horses treated with bisphosphonates, original fractures are sometimes visible as much as 14 months after injury, he said.

On top of that, studies have shown that that, in cases where bisphosphonates have effectively treated lameness, it’s difficult to know just how much of the improvement was due to the drug’s pain-killing effect. Experts say analgesia post-treatment can last up to a couple of weeks.

Use in older horses…

Nevertheless, bisphosphonates can be of benefit, especially to older horses suffering navicular disease, back pain and osteoarthritis. California-based practicing veterinarian Ryan Carpenter said he uses the drug on horses only in light training, primarily on sore shins, and never close to a race, he said.

“If you use a small dose in a specific area extremely infrequently, I believe it’s a safe tool that we have in our tool box,” he said. But, “if you want to just start giving all horses bisphosphonates in systemic or full-body doses, I think you’re going to get into some serious trouble,” Carpenter added. “We’ve seen people who have done that, and they’ve regretted the decisions they’ve made.”

Carpenter said that Tildren and Osphos, non-nitrogenous bisphosphonates, aren’t as powerful as their nitrogenous cousins, and he questions whether they’re as potent as is largely suspected.

“You have to have the osteoclastic signal for the osteoblast to follow, to lay down new bone,” said Carpenter. “That’s true. But where I think we’ve failed with these bisphosphonates is that we assume that it’s an on and off switch-either they’re all on, or they’re all off.”

Nevertheless, “because it’s got such a negative press, I have a very direct conversation with the owner or the trainer as to why I’m doing it and why I think it’s a good case,” Carpenter said, who added that his approach to the drug has become increasingly more conservative over the years.

Industry voices…

As to how ubiquitously these drugs are used throughout the industry, the answer appears to be largely anecdotal.

“I wouldn’t have a clue if it was [used on] 2% of the foal crop or 22% of the foal crop or 32% of the foal crop. I have a feeling it’s low, but I seriously don’t know,” said Gray Lyster, president of the Consignors & Commercial Breeders Association (CBA), who added that, of the people he has spoken with, use of bisphosphonates has been on specific individuals rather than a blanket program.

“My responsibility immediately is to try to figure out, or at least try to educate our membership as to ‘hey, nobody’s sure what the potential side effects are of these drugs, and if you’re using them, you need to educate yourself. As do all of us,'” Lyster added. “It’s a little bit of a fact-finding mission for me, to be honest, and the CBA board.”

Niall Brennan is a prominent sales consignor based in Florida. He said that he and his veterinarian, Jonathan McLellan, with Florida Equine Veterinary Associates, were alerted to the possible dangers of bisphosphonate use in young horses a few years ago, and as such, have avoided using them on the horses he prepares for the sales.

“Now that it’s out there, and we can all agree that it should be banned [for off-label usage], why did it get to this stage?” Brennan said. “Do you blame the pharmaceutical companies for not being more pro-active in pointing out what it should be used for? Do you point to the vets who were allowing their clients to use it? I think there’s blame to be shared. The bottom line is, when there’s a lot of money at stake, some people tend to check their ethics at the door, and that’s what it really comes down to.”

As to the research component of the issue, Dionne Benson, executive director and chief operating officer at the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC), admitted that “we haven’t had any meaningful research breakthroughs [in recent years], and it’s actually gotten to the point where it’s quite frustrating.”

As such, “the RMTC is working with the Grayson-Jockey Club Foundation and the [American Association of Equine Practitioners], and we’re assembling a group to essentially put together the questions we need answered,” Benson added.

The unanswered questions, said Benson, include the following: What are the pharmacodynamics of bisphosphonates? Exactly how long does the analgesia last? If we give it to 2-year-olds and we exercise them, do we see any difference in uptake? “And in the event we can take a sample from the bone, will we be able to find it?” Benson said.

“We need to see how this affects horses when they get it when they’re young, when they’re exercised. We need something that’s really relevant,” Benson said. “It’s certainly going to take more than one project, and they’re not going to be short-term projects, but it’s gotten to the point where we simply have to do it.”


Record-Setting Rebel Day

Thu, 2019-03-21 15:26

According to figures released by officials at Oaklawn Park Saturday night following the running of a $2.845-million program anchored by $750,000 divisions of the GII Rebel S., total combined handle on the local product was $16,221,639, breaking the previous record of $16,159,77 established on Arkansas Derby day 2018.

According to the track, attendance for the Rebel card has increased every year since a crowd estimated at around 30,000 watched future Triple Crown hero American Pharoah romp home by 6 1/4 lengths in 2015. Attendance climbed to 35,000 in 2016, was up to 36,000 in 2017 and roughly 37,500 in 2018. Total handle was $8,443,176 in 2015, $9,124,972 in 2016, $10,752,313 in 2017 and $10,771,984 last year to set records for March and a non-Arkansas Derby Day.

Mark Lamberth of Batesville, AR, is an owner and vice chair of the Arkansas Racing Commission, told the Oaklawn notes team that the Saturday scenes were reminiscent of when Zenyatta (Street Cry {Ire}) invaded from California for the GI Apple Blossom Invitational in 2010. Zenyatta raced away to defeat Brownie Points (Forest Wildcat) by over four lengths in her first start over a conventional dirt track.

“It was one of those magical days,” Lamberth said Sunday morning. “When Zenyatta pranced, I mean the crowd just swooned and, of course, she won easy. I thought yesterday was like that, from top to bottom. [On Saturday], we had $100,000 maiden special weights, great horses and the crowd was really into it. It was a festive atmosphere. I just think it was the best day I’ve had at Oaklawn in a long time.”

The Rebel was the final local prep for the GI Arkansas Derby Apr. 13, typically closing day in Hot Springs, but the Oaklawn meeting extends into early May for the first time in 2019.


Dobson Succeeds Farish as Keeneland Trustee

Thu, 2019-03-21 13:41

Prominent owner and breeder Everett Dobson has been appointed a Keeneland Trustee and will succeed Lane’s End Farm owner Will Farish, who has served as a trustee since 2006. Farish will remain on the Keeneland Board of Directors. Dobson was named to Keeneland’s Board in September 2018.

A native of Cheyenne, OK, Dobson races horses under his Cheyenne Stable banner and is also the owner of Candy Meadows Farm near Lexington, where his broodmare band numbers around 30. He serves on The Jockey Club’s Board of Stewards and is a Breeders’ Cup Director. He is Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chairman of the American Graded Stakes Committee.

Dobson is the CEO of Dobson Technologies and subsidiaries, operating a 3000-mile fiber-optic network and a managed IT business serving customers in his home state and North Texas. He is also a minority owner of the National Basketball Association’s Oklahoma City Thunder franchise.

Dobson joins Claiborne Farm Chairman Seth Hancock and William M. Lear, Jr., chair emeritus of Stoll Keenon Ogden, as a Keeneland Trustee.

“Everett Dobson has demonstrated his commitment to the Thoroughbred industry through his service to industry organizations such as The Jockey Club, Breeders’ Cup, TOBA and the American Graded Stakes Committee,” Hancock said. “His values are consistent with those of Keeneland: betterment of the horse industry.”

A native of Houston, TX, Farish has been a member of the Keeneland Board of Directors since 1985. At Lane’s End, he has stood the likes of A.P. Indy, Gulch, Kingmambo, Mineshaft and Smart Strike while breeding better than 300 stakes winners.

“Will Farish has been a tremendous champion of Keeneland during his nearly 35 years of service on the Board and as a Trustee,” Lear said. “His invaluable support has taken many forms–from the board room, to major consignor and buyer, to leading owner, and to sponsor of the Grade I Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup. His expertise and stature are unrivaled in the industry.”

Chairman of the Board of Churchill Downs from 1992-2001, Farish has also been a Steward and Vice Chairman of The Jockey Club and a Director and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Breeders’ Cup. He also served the United States as Ambassador to the Court of St James from 2001 to 2004.

‘And Down the Stretch They…’ Sue

Wed, 2019-03-20 18:48

Dave Johnson, the longtime race announcer whose iconic “And down the stretch they come!” signature call has put a stamp of big-race authenticity on nationally-broadcast Triple Crown and other major Thoroughbred races for over 50 years, filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking unspecified damages against the creators of the 2014 film “St. Vincent” for unauthorized use of his trademarked famous phrase.

According to the 56-page lawsuit filed in United States District Court (Southern District of New York), the actor Bill Murray, “playing the role of an alcoholic degenerate gambler,” mimicked what is widely considered the sport’s best-known stretch call “in a manner essentially identical to Dave Johnson’s use of the mark in order to…profit from these associations.”

“St. Vincent” grossed $54.8 million worldwide, according to

Johnson (who is an occasional contributor to TDN) trademarked his signature call in 2012. His suit claims that the filmmakers neither sought his permission to use the line, nor did they respond to a written demand letter to stop using it once Johnson discovered his phrase was in the film.

“The bottom line is Dave Johnson worked his whole life to make a brand,” Johnson’s attorney, Andrew Mollica, told TDN via phone. “And that phrase is his–he owns it, it encapsulates all his being, and it’s trademarked.

“Dave Johnson, as long as I’ve been his attorney, every time we see a violation, we chase it. We protect this mark,” Mollica continued. “We have sent cease-and-desist letters to racetracks, to announcers personally, to video game makers. No one else uses this mark.”

But Mollica underscored that Johnson’s vigilant safeguarding of his trademarked phrase is more of a point of pride to protect something he created rather than a way to make money by seeking damages.

“One hundred percent of the [damages Johnson has previously been awarded], after legal fees, he’s given to charities,” Mollica said. “This is not a money grab. That’s very important to put in the story because Dave would like people to know: He gives it all away to charities.”

Murray’s utterance, which involves a wheelchair race at the 1:12.29 mark of the movie, “reflects the dark side of horse racing” because of the unsavory nature of the character, the suit contends.

In that context, it also “damages, blurs, tarnishes, and dilutes the mark and the rights and reputation of the mark’s creator and owner, Dave Johnson.”

The lawsuit further asserts that Johnson “is one of many famous sports broadcasters to trademark a signature phrase,” noting that college basketball announcer Dick Vitale has a trademark for his “Awesome, baby!” exclamation; boxing announcer Michael Buffer has one for his famous “Let’s get ready to rumble!” line, and the late Chicago Cubs radio voice Harry Caray had four trademarks for his signature “Holy Cow!” exclamation.

The civil complaint contends that the influence of “And down the stretch they come!” is well recognized and “synonymous with some of the most historic race calls of the 1980’s and 1990’s and is the signature call of every Triple Crown race Dave Johnson ever announced.”

Defendants in the lawsuit include 10 corporate entities, including The Chernin Group, LLC, and The Weinstein Company, LLC, plus 10 John/Jane Doe individuals whose names were not known at the time of the Mar. 20 filing. The actor who uttered the line, Murray, is not named as a defendant.

The defendants could not be reached for comment prior to deadline for this story.

Mid-Atlantic Horsemen to Call for Partial Bisphosphonate Ban

Wed, 2019-03-20 18:42

A meeting among industry stakeholders in the Mid-Atlantic region is scheduled for Thursday and a proposal for a partial ban of the controversial drug Bisphosphonate tops the agenda.

Bisphosphonate has come under increased scrutiny since the rash of breakdowns began at Santa Anita and some are speculating that its use might have been contributing to the problem.

The drug is used to treat degenerative bone diseases, like osteoporosis, in humans. With horses, they’re used to treat a similar array of problems, like navicular disease. However, the drug has only been approved for horses that are four or older, the theory being that it is dangerous to use it on a horse until their bones are fully developed. In younger horses, the drug could cause their bones to become more brittle.

“There’s no checks and balances on this,” Mary Scollay, equine medical director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission told Thoroughbred Racing Commentary in a 2017 story on the drug. “If the risk is as real as we perceive it to be, we can be facing a real problem in terms of racing injuries and racing fractures if we don’t, as a community, come together to decide how to responsibly manage this.”

To date, the use of the drug has not been banned throughout any part of the Thoroughbred industry.

The meeting is an annual get-together of people who race and breed in the Mid-Atlantic region and is supervised by Alan Foreman, the chairman of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association who also works closely with several local horsemen’s groups in the Northeast.

“We’re going to be adopting a strategic plan to reduce equine fatalities that we actually began initiating two years ago,” Foreman said. “Many of the reforms have already been implemented. We are going to move to ask for a ban of this drug [Bisphosphonate] at the meeting and I’d be shocked if it didn’t pass. This is a bad drug and everybody has been talking about it for a long time. We’re going to take action. We’re going to ban it in the Mid-Atlantic and we’re going to go to the RCI to ask that it be banned nationally, and we are going to ask all industry stakeholders to join us in our efforts.”

Foreman said his group does believe the drug should be legal with 4-year-olds and older, since that adheres to FDA requirements.

Whether or not Bisphosphonate played any role in the breakdowns in California remains anyone’s guess. But many in the industry are convinced that the drug is being misused at the sales, that breeders or consignors are giving it to their horses so that their bones look stronger than they may have otherwise when x-rays are taken to show potential buyers. If that is the case, Bisphosphonate has potential to be a ticking timebomb that could cause the same yearling to have bone problems during its career and potentially lead to a breakdown.

“The goal here, and it needs to happen very quickly, is for this drug to be banned,” said Terry Finley, who heads the West Point Thoroughbreds syndicate. “Every sales company needs to take steps to make sure that no horse that goes through the ring is given this drug and that has to happen immediately. The consignors who are not using this drug should be outraged and vocally and persistently advocate that it be banned immediately.”

Finley is among those that believe Bisphosphonate is also given to some horses after the sales and once their racing careers begin. As dangerous as it may be, the drug could have a performance-enhancing effect.

“I hate to say it, but that’s a very reasonable assumption,” Finley said when asked if he thought the drug might be given by some trainers to horses in training that are younger than four. “I base that on what I have seen and the high-level vets that I have been talking to across the country. It pains me to say that, but I do believe this has been a factor. This is why it needs to be banned, especially at the upcoming yearling sales.”

Ten of the 22 horses who have broken down at Santa Anita were 3-year-olds. The numbers involving the breakdowns of horses that are four versus horses that are younger are skewed at this time of year because there have yet to be any races run at Santa Anita for 2-year-olds and it’s likely that very few, if any, are working over the track yet.

Racing Insights: Mar. 21

Wed, 2019-03-20 13:18

Pioneerof the Nile Filly Makes Turf Debut at Gulfstream

5th-GP, $50K, Msw, 3yo/up, f, 7 1/2fT, post time: 3:15 p.m. ET
WinStar Stablemates Racing LLC and trainer Rodolphe Brissett unveil PASSIONOF THE NILE, a sophomore daughter of the late Pioneerof the Nile. A $300,000 KEESEP yearling, Passionof the Nile is out of MSW and GSP dirt sprinter Distorted Passion, making her a half to MGSW and GISP turf router Mrs McDougal (Medaglia d’Oro), who sold for a sale-topping $1.6 million at last year’s Keeneland January sale. Passionof the Nile’s stakes-winning second dam is a full-sister to GSW and GISP sprinter Warbling (Unbridled’s Song). TJCIS PPs

City of Baltimore Sues to Keep Preakness at Pimlico

Tue, 2019-03-19 18:32

The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, plus three residents of the Park Heights neighborhood where the racetrack is located, filed suit Tuesday in a Baltimore City court against the Stronach Group in order to prevent it from moving the Preakness.

The Stronach Group has long made it known that it would like to move the race to Laurel.

The plaintiffs are arguing the state law prohibits the Preeakness from leaving Pimlico absent a disaster or an emergency and that no such disaster or emergency exists.

The suit also asks the court to condemn not only Pimlico but the Preakness itself, which would allow the city to take ownership of the race.

The lawsuit was made public as the TDN was going to press. See Thursday’s issue for more details on this breaking story.

Casse at Peace With Being the ‘Hunted,’ Not the ‘Hunter’

Tue, 2019-03-19 16:19

When asked where he thinks Gary Barber’s War of Will (War Front) falls in the pecking order among this year’s Classic crop, trainer Tom Amoss did not mince any words.

“I think he is not only the horse to beat on Saturday, he is the horse to beat the first Saturday of May if he continues the way he’s going,” the well-respected conditioner told media assembled for an NTRA teleconference Tuesday afternoon.

Amoss will send out Roiland (Successful Appeal) in Saturday’s $1-million GII Louisiana Derby, attempting to improve on his third-place effort in the GII Risen Star S. five weeks ago. But make no mistake–War of Will, who sits in pole position among the TDN Triple Crown Top 12, is the one they’re all gunning for. For his part, trainer Mark Casse is happy to have to deal with the pressure.

“I think right now it’s kind of our race to win or lose,” he said, referring to the Run for the Roses, now fewer than seven weeks away. “He’s got to come and give a big performance again [Saturday], everybody is going to be watching him. I think if he were to win Saturday and do it impressively, it would be tough to not make him the favorite.

Casse continued, “I think I’m happy to be the one they have to beat. It means you’ve accomplished a lot. A lot of people say you don’t want to be the favorite–I’ll take being the favorite every time, because then you’re supposed to have a better shot of winning. We’ve been down this road before, we can take it. Does it make me a little more nervous? Yeah, maybe a tad bit.”

As has been well documented, War of Will, a $175,000 Keeneland September yearling buyback turned €250,000 Arqana May Breeze-Up purchase, made the first four starts of his career on the grass, earning a Grade I placing in the Summer S. But since switching to the main track off a deceptively good fifth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, nothing has come close to him. After defeating the re-opposing Hog Creek Hustle (Overanalyze) by four solid lengths in the GIII Lecomte S. in January, he overcame gate 13 to best TDN Rising Star Country House (Lookin At Lucky) and Roiland (Successful Appeal) by 2 1/4 lengths in the GII Risen Star S. Feb. 16.

It’s on to Churchill, all things equal, following the Louisiana Derby, but Casse is not bothered by the spacing of the race to the Kentucky Derby.

“Honestly, it’s a little farther than I’d normally like, but that’s the bad news,” he said. “The good news is this horse is so easy to train and he does whatever you want him to do, we can easily adapt. We haven’t done a lot of big works with him between [the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby], average for him. You’ll see us pick up the pace with him a little, we’ll put a couple of stronger breezes into him. But I’m not worried, the six weeks isn’t going to be a problem at all.”

And, despite having already secured his spot in the Derby field, there will be no ‘four-corners’ offense for Team Casse, neither is he lacking for confidence.

“We’re going to ask him, we’re going there to win,” Casse said. “It’s a big race, it’s a million dollars, he has a reputation to keep. We’re not going in there thinking we’re going to get beat, we’re going to be trying just as hard as we can.

Tyler Gaffalione has the mount Saturday and Casse says there is no need for any agent representing ‘bigger-name’ riders to come calling.

“Gary’s feeling and my feeling is that Tyler is as good as they are,” Casse said, referring to the likes of Hall of Famers John Velazquez and Javier Castellano. “I have not one bit of concern, there’s never been any thought at all to make a change. He may be young, but he’s got a mind of steel and I am not worried one iota that he will give us a great effort. He has the utmost confidence in the horse as well.”

Country House Has Mott in Uncharted Waters…

That the Bafferts, Browns and Pletchers of the training trade could send multiple runners into a race like the Kentucky Derby would surprise no one. But Bill Mott?

The Hall of Famer has started a total of eight horses in the first leg of the Triple Crown, and when Juddmonte Farms’ Hofburg (Tapit)–Mott’s first Derby runner in nine years–crossed the line seventh last May, it represented his best finish in the race. In the form of a pair of Juddmonte gallopers–‘Rising Star’ Hidden Scroll (Hard Spun) and recent GII Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby hero Tacitus (Tapit)–as well as Country House, he could have as many as three horses in the Derby field.

“I think we’ve been pleasantly surprised,” Mott said. “Since the first of the year, if you take Tacitus and Country House, they were big, tall rangy individuals, good-sized horses that took some time to come around. Horses that didn’t really show a lot in the middle of last summer, they were still kind of getting it together. Neither one of those were horses that we would have even considered running at the Saratoga meet. We sort of had them identified as horses we would probably wait until September/October time and run them at Belmont and Aqueduct in the fall. That’s the way it worked out for them. As they got closer to racing, they started showing a little bit more and showed us some good things in their first two races.”

Country House is perhaps the least likely to have emerged as a Derby candidate.

“He was very slow to come around, he really wasn’t showing a lot,” Mott explained. “His works were like a half-mile in :50, very workmanlike kind of works, but nothing that really wowed you. We knew he needed to go further, so the first time we ran him, I put him on the turf to get the distance and to see a race on the grass and that didn’t pan out very well. I wheeled him back on the dirt and he ran second and showed some run and a lot of promise in that second race.”

Country House belied odds of 49-1 to finish second in a one-mile Aqueduct maiden Dec. 1, then overcame a slow start, a sluggish pace and a wide passage around the second turn to graduate and earn his ‘Rising Star’ at Gulfstream Jan. 17. He exits a green second to War of Will in the Risen Star and most recently drilled a half-mile in the company of the G1 Dubai World Cup-bound Yoshida (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry {Jpn}) in :49 3/5 at Payson Park Jan. 17.

“They’re a very good team, they worked well together,” Mott said. “Country House tends to be a little bit of a lazy horse in his workouts. They breezed the week before together and I thought they went very well together. It seems like Yoshida was able to push Country House along a little bit and give him good company. One worked equally well as the other and I was very pleased. They finished up well together and galloped out well together.”

Luis Saez has a return call aboard Country House, who is drawn two spots to the outside of War of Will in gate eight Saturday afternoon.


Gasparelli Adds Pinhooking to his Racing Portfolio

Tue, 2019-03-19 16:18

Steve Gasparelli admits his passion is for racing, but the California native has ventured into the pinhooking realm this spring and, along with Scott Dowell, will offer a pair of juvenile fillies next Wednesday at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Selected 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. Through Tom McCrocklin’s consignment, the partners have entered a filly by Into Mischief (hip 139) and a daughter of Broken Vow (hip 164).

“I’m pretty much new to it this year,” Gasparelli said of pinhooking. “I’m just kind of doing it to supplement my racing company. I’ve got about 25 horses in my Slugo Stable and this time of year–especially with the stuff going on at Santa Anita–there is not too much going on. So it’s another way to supplement the racing budget.”

Gasparelli, who owns a medical disposable supplies company based in Chino, started his Slugo Stable just six years ago, but he has been a lifelong fan of the sport.

“My grandfather loved the track and brought me there when I was really young,” he said. “We’d go to Santa Anita, Del Mar and Los Alamitos and Hollywood Park. I always loved it and wanted to own horses, but I was always too busy. I started a company and did pretty well and I sold it to another public company. And then I had the funds to do it and I was semi-retired, so I had the time.”

Gasparelli teamed up with childhood friend Scott Dowell, who along with wife Julie, own Paymaster Racing, when the two realized their interests overlapped.

“I’ve been doing [racing] for six years and I think Scott’s been doing it for about five,” Gasparelli said. “We just kind of hooked up about 2 1/2 or three years ago. We’re from the same area and knew each other since we were young. We didn’t even plan it, but he saw me and it was one of those things, ‘How many horses do you have?’ and ‘How many do you have?’ Our wives know each other and hang out, so we decided to claim a few together. Then we went to the sale last year together with Tom McCrocklin. And that was the plan going forward, that we’d have some horses for our own stable and some horses together.”

Each of the partners has a graded stakes win to their credit, with Slugo Racing winning last year’s GIII Fasig-Tipton Waya S. with Estrechada (Arg) (Offlee Wild) and Paymaster Racing taking the 2017 GIII San Juan Capistrano S. with Inordinate (Harlan’s Holiday). In partnership, they campaign first-out maiden winner Big Scott Daddy (Scat Daddy), who was recently fourth in the Pasadena S.

“I proposed [pinhooking] to the guys last year,” Gasparelli said. “When things get slow and it’s the start of the year and we have a lot of 2-year-olds, we wanted to get just a little bit more diversified.”

Gasparelli, who purchased five yearlings last year, offered his first pinhooking prospect at auction earlier this month at the OBS March Sale where he RNA’d a filly by Mclean’s Music for $95,000. The youngster had been an $85,000 Fasig-Tipton July yearling.

“I could have sold her, that was more than I bought her for, but I thought she was worth more than that, so I’m going to race her,” Gasparelli explained. “I bought two colts at Keeneland and one of them we’re going to race for sure and the other we might pinhook.”

That same philosophy will apply to the two fillies the partners send through the sales ring at Gulfstream. The Into Mischief filly is out of Specification (Empire Maker), a half-sister to Grade I winner Skimming (Nureyev). She was purchased for $450,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. The Broken Vow filly is out of Whirl (Curlin), a full-sister to graded stakes winner Pacific Wind and half to graded stakes winner Strike a Deal (Smart Strike). She was a $300,000 purchase at the September sale.

“These two fillies, who were kind of high-priced fillies, we are probably leaning more to pinhook if they bring good money,” Gasparelli said. “But if they don’t we’re definitely going to race them in California.”

Of the price tags on the two fillies, Gasparelli added, “We were at Keeneland a few days before the sale and we were going through and looking at all the horses. McCrocklin is our guy to go through and pick out horses that he thinks can, 1) and 1A), pinhook well and/or run well. And he’s a really good judge of horses. We went into it eyes open. ‘If we get this horse for a good bargain, we’ll pinhook it. If it doesn’t bring what we want, we’ll race it.’ Did we expect to spend that much money? Not really. But they looked like good pinhook prospects and they looked like good racing prospect as well. So they kind of had all the things we were looking for.”

Gasparelli admitted that, while pinhooking may help pay some bills, racing his stock is really where his heart lies.

“I want to race almost everything we get,” he said. “It breaks my heart [to sell]. I get attached to the horses pretty easily. Mike Puype trains all of my horses and he obviously doesn’t want to pinhook anything, he wants to race everything. But financially, it’s a way that, if you can get the home run, if you can pick a filly or a colt out as a yearling and they look like they have upside and it turns out you can get good money, you do it.”

Gasparelli’s love of racing isn’t limited to horses. He also drives and owns Top Alcohol Funny Cars on drag racing’s National Hot Rod Association circuit.

“I own a race team,” Gasparelli confirmed. “My father did racing when I was a little kid and I started driving in 1997. I’m still doing that.”

Asked if he finds similarities between racing cars and horses, he said, “I think the whole thing is competition. I can’t bet on my cars, but it’s the competition that drives me to do it. I think horse racing is a little more expensive at the level I’m doing it, but the rewards are bigger, too–if you’re successful. But it’s not about the money anymore, it’s more the competition.”

The under-tack show for the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale will be Monday, beginning at 9 a.m. The sale will be held Wednesday in the Gulfstream paddock, beginning at 2 p.m.

OBS Spring Sale Catalogue Online

Tue, 2019-03-19 13:03

The catalogue for the Ocala Breeders Sales Company’s Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training is now online at A total of 1,221 juveniles have been cataloged for the four-day auction will be held Apr. 23 through 26. Sessions will begin daily at 10:30 a.m.

The under-tack show for the sale will be held Apr. 15-20. All six sessions will begin at 8 a.m.

Sons Eligible to Prolong Nile’s Fertile Flow

Mon, 2019-03-18 17:20

The pharaohs had their pyramids. The Thoroughbred kings, even one cut down as prematurely as Pioneerof The Nile (Empire Maker), instead secure their immortality in the pages of the Stud Book. And if paper seems more vulnerable than stone to the passage of the years, it certifies a far more vital legacy.

Moreover the tragic precedent of the horse who sired the 21st Century’s other Triple Crown winner should reprove any attempt, so soon, at a definitive assessment of Pioneerof The Nile.

The true scale of Scat Daddy’s loss only became apparent after he, too, dropped dead out of the blue. If that process has since culminated in Justify, then how bitter now to reflect that a graduate of Pioneerof The Nile’s second crop, in slaking a 37-year thirst for a Triple Crown winner, had appeared as sensational a kick-start as any young stallion had enjoyed in a generation.

But at least Pioneerof The Nile made hay while the sun shone. Bold Reasoning had not yet had a runner when he died, leaving all his eggs crammed into the basket of Seattle Slew. Luckily, A.P. Indy then came along to salvage the Bold Ruler line. In the case of Pioneerof The Nile, not only is the Fappiano sire-line in flourishing health; even as it stands, at just 13, he has given himself every chance of establishing a lasting branch of his own.

For while American Pharoah will expect the family attorney to read out his name first, when it comes to the reading of the will, he cannot be complacent. Perhaps Cairo Prince, backing up that explosive sales debut with a solid start on the track, will ultimately prove able to reassert the principle of male primogeniture. (He was the pick of Pioneerof The Nile’s first crop.) Then there is Classic Empire, whose advent–as his second champion juvenile in four crops–did so much to stifle mutterings that Pioneerof The Nile might be a one-trick pony. These had reflected the fact that their sire had only one other North American graded stakes winner during American Pharoah’s sophomore campaign. In fairness, that was Midnight Storm who himself proceeded to earn a very legitimate place at stud.

All these rival claims to the succession, admittedly, are being staked away from the patriarch’s farm. Pioneerof The Nile was the only six-figure cover among 22 stallions crowded onto WinStar’s roster. Of the four standing at $50,000 or higher, Distorted Humor (Forty Niner) is 26; Tiznow (Cee’s Tizzy) and More Than Ready (Southern Halo) are 22; and Speightstown (Gone West) is 21.

The farm does have a bunch of promising young sires, several supported with big books, and maybe one or two will break through to improve the balance. Moreover the WinStar silks are again associated with emerging talent on the track, and you can only keep all those cogs moving together if you take a pragmatic view about, for instance, the decision to cash in Justify to Coolmore. That was an avowed wrench, however, and one that will perhaps compound the grief now being experienced among the WinStar team.

But who knows? The upgrade in his books following American Pharoah, who was conceived at just $17,500, may yet produce further competition for Pioneerof The Nile’s legacy. Only last week one of his sons realized $1.2 million at OBS, while his weanlings last year averaged over $600,000. And there would be something nicely symmetrical about bookending his career with another champion or two.

He was, after all, bred from the very first broodmare bought by Zayat Stables. Star Of Goshen (Lord At War {Arg}) herself only died a few weeks ago, aged 24. She had been sought out by Ahmed Zayat after her son Forefathers (Gone West) had been Grade II-placed in his silks, and was purchased carrying a foal by Empire Maker (Unbridled). That, of course, turned out to be Pioneerof The Nile.

Star Of Goshen’s genetic contribution should not be neglected. She was by a splendid and underrated influence, not least as a broodmare sire–in which capacity Lord At War also gave us GI Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Raven’s Pass (Elusive Quality) and GI Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem (Our Emblem). And she was a wildly talented runner herself, storming home by 11 lengths in the La Troienne S.–incidentally beating a subsequent Grade I winner in Hennessy (Storm Cat)’s half-sister Pearl City (Carson City)–before sadly derailing.

But it will doubtless be as a conduit for her son’s sire-line that people will continue to seek “the source of the Nile.” Curiously, it has been cursed by wretched longevity. Fappiano died at 13, Unbridled at 14. Happily Empire Maker himself continues to ply his trade at 19, having been young enough to be repatriated after his grandson (by a graduate of only his second crop) won the Triple Crown.

Both by their own deeds and those of their stock, this has become much the most Classic-flavored of Mr. Prospector lines, and is founded in a Nerud family seeded by epochal influences. Empire Maker, moreover, brought into play the extraordinary genes of his mother Toussaud.

American Pharoah took his sire-line’s record in the Kentucky Derby to 1-2-2-1, famously redressing his sire’s contribution to a sequence of three seconds in four runnings for the Zayats. Admittedly Pioneerof The Nile broke his maiden on turf at Saratoga and won two synthetic Grade Is as a juvenile, so may yet diversify his legacy. But his size and length and immense timber were ideally adapted to two turns of dirt.

How very sad, that those great bones should have to be laid to rest already. But there is no need for the kind of embalmment that consoled the pharaohs, for the name of Pioneerof The Nile to endure on the Turf–not just in our grateful memories, but in the deeds of his sons; and soon, with luck, those of his grandsons.

In Flanders Fields the Poppies Grow

Mon, 2019-03-18 16:09

In the wake of the death of 22 Thoroughbreds at Santa Anita, Belinda Stronach and The Stronach Group have taken the bold action to ban race day Lasix, including more stringent regulations on pain killers and more transparency in veterinary records. I believe these reforms, implemented correctly, will substantially enhance the sport’s integrity, and by this extension the very future of horse racing. For the past 50 years, as an owner, breeder, administrator and operator, the use of Lasix has been one of the most controversial and complex topics that has faced the sport of Thoroughbred racing.

These reforms have been proposed before and are under attack again today. In the history of racing, many advocates of reform have been laid to rest in a veritable “Flanders Fields” of heroes.

First, there was the great Dinny Phipps. When Mr. Phipps took over The Jockey Club in 1982, he made restoring and preserving the integrity of racing his top priority. He advocated the banning of Lasix and all race day medications. Under Dinny’s strong ride, The Jockey Club was a vocal leader on all of these issues advancing uniformity in drug medication which have sadly remained without resolution amongst state racing jurisdictions for decades.

A second hero was former Chairman of the New York Racing and Wagering Board, Richard Corbisiero. For part of the 1980s and ’90s, New York, under Corbisiero’s leadership, was one of the few states that prohibited the use of Lasix. The use of Lasix would be thrust into the spotlight, when horses who raced in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness went to the Belmont Stakes. The great Alysheba had Lasix as he won the first two legs of the 1987 Triple Crown but couldn’t use it in the Belmont Stakes and lost. That hero fell when NYRA started losing money from handle as its field sizes dwindled badly and race day Lasix was reinstated in New York.

Most recently, the “Horse Racing Integrity Act.” Sponsored by representatives Paul Tonko and Andy Barr, co-chairs of the Congressional Horse Caucus, reintroduced H.R. 1754: the “Horseracing Integrity Act,” would establish a uniform national medication program, bringing the United States in line with international standards. The bill is championed by The Jockey Club and many other fine advocates. For four years this bill has been stalled in Congress, longing to be passed. Most say its chances of passage this year are slim. Why?

Now along comes the new chair of The Stronach Group, Belinda Stronach, relative newcomer to the everyday ins and outs of the complex issues of racing, who courageously makes the decision–after the horrible deaths of 22 Thoroughbreds at Santa Anita–to ban all race day medications at the track, including one of the most controversial parts of the proposed “Horse Racing Integrity Act”–to ban race day Lasix–a courageous act which has set the grounds for great concern amongst many Thoroughbred owners and trainers in America.

Let’s hope this bold act, which some have falsely criticized as nothing more than a gratuitous gesture to save face for track after the breakdowns at Santa Anita, will win the day and set an example! Belinda has the power as an operator of many prime American racetracks to make this happen. For this initiative to succeed, Ms. Stronach must stick to her guns and initiate these reforms at all Stronach racetracks with common sense guidance. This will be the telling test for the end of the Lasix era in race day medication.

I commend Belinda Stronach–following in the footsteps of her father, Frank–and The Stronach Group for its courage and hope through their leadership that all race day medication, including Lasix, will be eliminated once and for all and level the playing field. Please don’t let Belinda be laid to rest with our past heroes in Flanders Fields.

Nota bene all racetrack operators: “The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die. We shall not sleep, though poppies grow. In Flanders fields.”

Earle Mack is the former U.S. Ambassador to Finland, current member of The Jockey Club, former Chairman of the New York State Racing Commission, and was the advisor to two New York State governors on matters pertaining to racing.


Justify Half-Sister Retired

Mon, 2019-03-18 16:05

Egyptian Storm (Pioneerof the Nile–Stage Magic, by Ghostzapper), a half-sister to Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy), has been retired from racing. The 3-year-old filly will visit Quality Road and owners Robert S. Evans and West Point Thoroughbreds expect to offer her at public auction at one of the Kentucky breeding stock sales in November.

Egyptian Storm finished fifth over the Tampa Bay Downs turf Feb. 20 in her lone start. She came out of the race with a splint injury that would have sidelined her until summer.

Evans and West Point purchased the filly for $230,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September sale, four months before Justify made his career debut. She is also a half-sister to graded stakes winner The Lieutenant (Street Sense).

Street Magic’s now 2-year-old One More City (Will Take Charge) RNA’d for $1.75 million at last year’s Keeneland September sale. The mare produced a colt by Pioneerof the Nile in 2018 and was bred back to Quality Road.

IFHA Chairman Romanet Advocates for Widespread Medication Reform

Mon, 2019-03-18 14:47

International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) chairman Louis Romanet issued the following statement in response to recent race-day medication reforms in California:

The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), composed of racing authorities and race organizers from all major racing jurisdictions across more than 50 countries, has as its core missions to protect the safety of horses and riders and to ensure the integrity of our sport. An unwavering anti-doping policy in both training and during competition is of the utmost importance to safeguarding the welfare of racehorses and the fairness of racing. I am in complete support of the actions and decisions made by The Stronach Group to bring its medication policies in line with international standards, notably those outlined in Article 6 of the IFHA’s International Agreement on Breeding, Racing, and Wagering (IABRW). Article 6 of the IABRW, drafted with input by racing regulators, veterinarians, chemists, and administrators from around the world, has served as the basis for medication regulation, enforcement, and testing for racing authorities such as the British Horseracing Authority, France Galop, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, Japan Racing Association, Racing Australia, among others.

I am calling on other jurisdictions and race organizers in the United States to adopt stringent medication principles in accord with Article 6 of the IABRW. This adoption, in addition to the implementation of the guidelines outlined in the recently introduced Horseracing Integrity Act of 2019, will apply internationally accepted measures that protect horses, jockeys, and all stakeholders of our great sport.