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Colonial Downs Gets Approval for 15 Dates in 2019

Thu, 2018-12-13 16:38

After six years of closure, Colonial Downs will race 15 dates in 2019, spanning Aug. 8-Sep. 7. The Virginia Racing Commission granted the dates approval Thursday.

In addition, Colonial received permission to open its 600-unit historic horse racing operation at the track, with the machines and simulcasting anticipated to go live in mid-April.

Purse levels and a stakes schedule are pending, but Colonial has already targeted Aug. 31 as the return date for its showcase race, the Virginia Derby, which was previously a Grade II stakes.

Colonial’s 1,000-stall stable area opens July 25.

“This is an exciting step for everyone impassioned by the rebirth of live racing in Virginia and for our team delivering on our promise to revitalize horse racing in the commonwealth,” said Colonial Downs Group senior vice-president and general manager John Marshall. “We are already making significant progress preparing Colonial Downs to evolve into one of the country’s premier race meets.”

“It has been a long four years waiting for this day,” added Debbie Easter, president of the Virginia Equine Alliance. “Our owners, breeders, trainers, veterinarians and everyone else associated with horse racing in Virginia have much anticipated the return of live racing at Colonial Downs and the resurgence in our industry that we know will come with it.”

Colonial’s calling card has always been its nine-furlong, 180-foot-wide jewel of a turf course, which in previous years handled close to 90% of the races carded at the track.

In an October interview, Marshall told TDN that “for 2020, we’re looking at 30 live race dates. We have not projected beyond that…We certainly need our horsemen and the racing commission to be on board, and we’re looking to cooperate with as many racetracks as possible.”

This will be Colonial’s first season under new management.


Green Turns Business Savvy Into Racing Success

Thu, 2018-12-13 16:25

When Len Green went to his first horse race in the 1980s and watched his friend’s horse win, the CPA thought he had just discovered the “easiest business in the world” and decided to jump into the horse business himself. He quickly discovered that succeeding in the world of horse racing was anything but easy. However, once Green began to apply the business savvy and entrepreneurial spirit that had served him so well in his professional life to his latest endeavor, he turned his D. J. Stable into his latest success story, which now includes a Breeders’ Cup victory thanks to Jaywalk (Cross Traffic).

“It’s been a very exciting ride,” Green said while seated in his conference room, which is covered in racing memorabilia. “The horse business has a great learning curve. Many businessmen believe because they’re successful somewhere else, they can just walk into the horse business and do it. The problem is, the horse business is not regulated, so, in many ways, you have to learns all the things you do and don’t do.”

The Babson College lecturer continued, “Having the advantage of being a taxman, at least I knew the government was going to pay for 50% of any losses that I took care of, but that is no fun unless you win. So, we started winning in an interesting way. We got into claiming and ended up winning four different titles for owners at different tracks for most wins, but we were losing money every single year.”

Green decided to claim fast fillies with the goal of breeding them to sires who were distance runners. He accumulated 72 mares and sent their pedigrees to Ken McLean, manager of the mighty Storm Cat. Green’s wife, Lois, thought he was crazy, but sure enough McLean called and invited Green to meet him in Kentucky.

“I was in heaven,” Green recalled. “Suddenly, I thought I really had made the transition from being a businessman to being successful in the horse business because Ken McLean was interested in breeding some of my mares to Storm Cat, who at the time was the number one horse.”

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McLean chose just two mares, but both matings produced top horses with Princess Alydar foaling MGISW November Snow and Kermis producing Senate Appointee, winner of 14 stakes.

“After those two, he suddenly stood up and walked out the door,” Green said of his meeting with McLean. “I said, ‘Where are you going? I’ve got more mares.’ He said, ‘Where are they?’ I said, ‘New Jersey.’ He said, ‘No, where specifically?’ I said, ‘They are in different fields.’ He said, ‘Open the gates,’ which was a nice way of saying to me that they were worthless and to get rid of them. That was my first big shock in the business, but you learn over a period of time that this is a business, so you have to cut down the odds of failing to increase your odds of winning.”

Over the years, with the help of his son Jon, Green has done just that. He has built a broodmare band whose foals are worthy of Books 1 and 2 in the yearling sales and put together a team of trainers, short listers and partners that have increased his stable’s success. The Greens have also been smart about letting go of horses when necessary and putting them in spots that give them their best chance of winning, even if that spot is in a claiming race or at a second-tier track.

“I think we are successful because, for one, we certainly know the tax world better than anybody else,” said the Founder and Chairman of The Green Group, an accounting and equine advisory firm that has over 400 clients in the racing industry. “Two, we associate ourselves with very good trainers who we can trust and who know the game. We have consignors that we know well. We also have partners who have the same philosophy we do. Aron Yagoda has been a great help because he knows an awful lot of people in the business. Chuck Zacney has been a great partner to have because we see eye-to-eye on what to do and where to go, etc.”

Green has bred or owned the likes of Songandaprayer, Do It With Style, Rhum and Hoppertunity over the years, but he teamed with Zacney for a career high just last month when winning the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Jaywalk (video). The John Servis trainee also upended Belmont’s GI Frizette S. Oct. 7 with a front-running 5 3/4-length score at odds of 10-1 (video).

“Every once in a while, you get something like Jaywalk and that changes everything,” Green said. “It’s easy in hindsight to say the game plan was followed. She kept on improving and improving and we wouldn’t have gone to a Grade I [in the Frizette] unless we felt we had an opportunity to win. We took a shot at the Breeders’ Cup and we were the fourth favorite. The horse had a mind of her own and broke with [Joel Rosario] and never looked back. How far can she go? We will find out, because now we have a ticket to go to what is the [female] equivalent of the [GI] Kentucky Derby, the [GI Kentucky] Oaks.”

This was the first Breeders’ Cup victory for D. J. Stable and Green hopes it is just the first of many.

“I saw first of many because I spoke to Peter Brant, who has won four Breeders’ Cup races,” Green said. “I asked him, ‘Which was the most exciting one?’ And he said, ‘The next one.’ I think that is great. It was very, very exciting to go down there and it was more even more exciting to go with my family, both my immediate family and my extended family [from racing], like Aron Yagoda. It was a very big thrill. ”

With two Grade I wins, including the Breeders’ Cup, under her belt, Jaywalk also looks primed to become the operation’s first Eclipse winner at next month’s awards ceremony.

“She has proven herself to be the best in the business,” Green said. “The other horse that won the turf race [GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf heroine Newspaperofrecord (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire})] is also a very good horse. Chad Brown is a much better known person. He is also a client. So, you never know how they are going to vote, but it certainly would be nice.”

D. J. Stable and their partners have many other talented horses in the barn such as MSW & MGSP Diamond King (Quality Road), a full-brother to MGISW Bellafina; and comebacking Tap Rap Strike (Tapit), an $875,000 OBSMAR buy owned with Zacney’s Cash is King. However, it is another filly that holds some pretty high esteem in the Green household, two-time stakes winner and MGSP Sower (Flatter), who was named by Green’s wife.

A decisive winner of Belmont’s Jersey Girl S. June 10 (video), the Linda Rice pupil completed the trifecta in both the July 8 GIII Victory Ride S. and Sept. 22 GIII Charles Town Oaks. The chestnut went wire-to-wire for an impressive 5 1/4-length success in Belmont’s Pumpkin Pie S. Oct. 28 (video) and was third last time in Aqueduct’s Garland of Roses S. Dec. 8.

“It’s exciting because Lois named her, same as Jon named Jaywalk, so there is a connection with those horses,” Green said. “The horse keeps getting better and better. Linda is very, very good in the sense that her training methods are different than John [Servis]’s or other trainers we’ve had. You never see any bullet works for Linda. She has her way of doing it every couple weeks, so it’s steady. She keeps gas in the tank.”

With a stable full of talented runners, a possible Eclipse Award and a Breeders’ Cup winner with a bright sophomore campaign ahead of her, Green has plenty to look forward to, but he is taking it all in stride and trying to enjoy each moment.

“I am taking it step by step and enjoying everything,” the New Jersey resident said. “Each of these things is a thrill as long as you enjoy the moment and I’m enjoying the moment. I think you enjoy things that you’re doing because you never know what tomorrow is going to bring. So, that is what I do. I get up at 4:00 in the morning and say, ‘Hey, Lord. Thank You.’ Then I work out and I can come [to my office] or fly up to Babson. I say to myself, ‘That’s wonderful, too,’ because I am influencing future generations.”

The author continued, “Somebody asked me a long time ago, ‘What keeps you young?’ I said, ‘A good 2-year-old and teaching,’ because both of them can give you challenges. The horse business is a great game. I think the people in the game, if you get to know them, are very exciting. Even though we are competing against each other sometimes, you get to know the real person and it is a very, very exciting business.”


$424M Pimlico Rebuild Ambitious in Scope, But Who’ll Pay For It?

Thu, 2018-12-13 16:08

If the GI Preakness S. is to remain in Baltimore at a revitalized Pimlico Race Course, the recommended concept plan released Thursday by the Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) calls for the complete razing and rebuilding of the 110-acre racetrack property at an estimated three-year construction cost of $424 million.

The ambitious, sweeping plan envisions a new 15/16-mile dirt track (shortened from the existing mile oval), plus a seven-furlong turf track, grandstand, and four-story clubhouse that would all be rotated 35 degrees clockwise from the current setup so as to better dovetail with the existing neighborhood.

The expansive Dec. 13 proposal also provides for new shared land classifications in the neighborhood, including equestrian usage, green space, commercial and residential mixed-use, and a health care campus. The community’s roadways and other civic infrastructure would also undergo substantial upgrading, and the new Pimlico infield could include public athletic fields or park-like areas.

A focal point within the proposed racetrack footprint would be the construction of The Palio, a 300 by 500 foot public multi-use plaza designed to serve both as the once-annual saddling area for the Preakness while also hosting outdoor public concerts, performing arts, and markets during the remainder of the year. The design inspiration comes from Il Palio, the historic public square in Siena, Italy, that hosts non-traditional horse racing festivals twice each year.

In fact, much of what the MSA is proposing for Pimlico is built around the idea of providing basic on-track infrastructure for multi-purpose, year-round use that could be augmented for major events by incorporating “overlay” infrastructure such as infield tents and temporary buildings that would provide premium seating for an estimated 60% of Preakness attendees.

But the obvious–and thus far unanswered–question is how will this massive Pimlico project be funded and who, exactly, will pay for it?

The MSA proposal stops short of stating any specific funding ideas, and it comes with the caveat that, “This analysis is preliminary in nature and does not constitute a comprehensive master plan of Pimlico Race Course … this is a hypothetical, conceptual analysis of potential uses that could occur, not a feasibility study of what will occur.”

The Stronach Group (TSG) owns the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) and its two active racetracks, Pimlico and Laurel Park. TSG has been on the record for several years as acknowledging the sub-optimal conditions at outmoded Pimlico, which raced only 12 dates during May in 2018 for an abbreviated meet surrounding the Preakness.

At the same time, TSG has invested millions of dollars in upgrades at Laurel over the past several years. As recently as this past May, MJC officials were on record as saying that the company does not foresee putting any of its own funds into an overhaul of Pimlico, and it has been speculated that the Preakness–and possibly all MJC race dates–could be moved to the increasingly refurbished Laurel as early as 2020.

Neither Tim Ritvo, the chief operating officer of TSG, nor Sal Sinatra, the MJC’s president, returned Thursday voicemail messages requesting comment prior to deadline for this story.

Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of TSG, addressed the issues of funding and the potential future home of the Preakness only obliquely in a press release issued by the company.

“The final conclusions of the MSA report are in line with our assessment that in order to bring the facility up to par, it will require several hundreds of millions of dollars,” Stronach said, in part. “TSG is investing heavily in racing and we are committed to the long-term sustainability of the Thoroughbred racing industry and to the communities in which we operate in Maryland. The MSA study began three years ago and from the outset we have expressed the need to address Pimlico, and by extension the Preakness Stakes, within the context of the broader racing ecosystem.”

So would a publicly funded Pimlico be feasible? The MSA report also left those specifics unaddressed, but did advise that, “A logical next step in the planning process is for key stakeholders including MJC/TSG, the City and the State to agree to execute a formal agreement to enter into future negotiations.”

For comparison, consider the price tags of several other high-profile sports complexes that the state has built over the past several decades: In 1992, the MSA opened baseball’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards after constructing it for $110 million (not including land costs). In 1998, MSA opened the adjacent multi-use home of football’s Baltimore Ravens (now called M&T Bank Stadium) at a construction cost of $220 million.

So even after adjusting for inflation, the MSA’s projected $424 million Pimlico rebuild would still dwarf the combined costs of the baseball and football parks.

Tim Keefe, the president of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA), told TDN that while keeping the Preakness at Pimlico resonates from a historic standpoint, stakeholders have to maintain a long-term vision centered around what is best for the industry in its entirety.

“I think we’ve all known for years the state of Pimlico and the hopes that something would happen,” Keefe said. “Whether or not what’s in the study happens, whether it’s rebuilding a new Pimlico, the horsemen all know the commitment that TSG has in building a mega-track or a super-track here at Laurel, which is kind of what their vision is.

“I think that whatever happens, the ultimate goal needs to be not just two or three weeks of racing at one racetrack, but the year-round vision for racing in Maryland as a whole,” Keefe continued. “And whether that’s having one track, or having the track at Laurel and also this new facility for [multi-use events] at Pimlico, that’s not for me to say.

“That’s my personal opinion as a horseman here in Maryland. That’s not coming from the MTHA,” Keefe underscored. “I live here in Maryland, and I breed and race horses here in Maryland. My hope is that whatever decisions made, it’s for the Maryland racing industry as a whole, for year-round racing.”

Asked if he thought that the important concept of solidifying year-round racing was more difficult for civic leaders to grasp than the threat of having the one-day Preakness move out of Baltimore, Keefe replied:

“Oh yeah, sure. The city leaders of Baltimore certainly don’t want to have the second jewel of the Triple Crown lost on their watch. So they’re probably going to do everything they can–and they should–to keep it in their hometown.

“But I think ultimately you have to look at what’s best for everybody,” Keefe summed up. “You have to look at the whole picture–not just what it does for Baltimore or for one specific area.”

El Camino Real Derby to Offer Automatic Preakness Spot

Wed, 2018-12-12 17:24

The El Camino Real Derby, Golden Gate Fields’ cornerstone race for 3-year-olds to be held Feb. 16, 2019, will provide the winner with an automatic, all expenses paid berth to the May 18 GI Preakness S. at Pimlico, it was announced Wednesday. Any horse nominated to the Triple Crown series is eligible to earn the automatic berth.

A Bay Area fixture entering its 37th year, the El Camino Real Derby was originally held at the now-defunct Bay Meadows, but has been held at Golden Gate since 2005. The nine-furlong event held over the Tapeta track will also provide the winner 10 qualifying points toward the GI Kentucky Derby.

“We are ecstatic to offer this intriguing incentive to run in the El Camino Real Derby to our horsemen, owners, breeders and their horses,” said David Duggan, Vice President and General Manager of Golden Gate Fields. “We have seen horses in the past go on and do big things in Triple Crown races after running here in the El Camino Real Derby and we are hoping to see that trend re-emerge with this new bonus in 2019.”

The Golden Gate Fields Winter/Spring Meet gets underway Wednesday, Dec. 26 and runs through Sunday, June 9.


Japanese Filly, Kukulkan, Magical All Pegasus Possibilities

Wed, 2018-12-12 16:49

After a recruiting trip to Japan, the Stronach Group’s President Mike Rogers has secured a commitment from the connections of Aerolithe (Jpn) (Kurofune) for the GI Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational to be run Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park. The race is worth $7 million.

In addition, Rogers reports that the connections of Mexican star Kukulkan (Mex) (Point Determined) are considering a start in the $9-million GI Pegasus World Cup and that the Coolmore team has indicated that it will start GI Breeders’ Cup Turf runner-up Magical (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in the Pegasus Turf race.

Aerolithe will be five when the Pegasus card is conducted. She is 4 for 13 in her career with three stakes wins, including the G1 NHK Mile Cup. Rogers said that the ownership group, Sunday Racing Co., Ltd., has agreed to come, but there still may be a hitch

Nippon Cargo Airlines had been the primary carrier in Japan when it comes to transporting horses. Earlier this year, the airline was grounded after the Japanese government found errors in its maintenance records, which has made shipping horses in and out of Japan very difficult. Rogers said he is trying to find alternative means of shipping the horse from Tokyo to the U.S. He has been in contact with both Korean Airlines and Tex Sutton Equine Transport and is cautiously optimistic transportation can be worked out.

“We’re committed to helping support the shipping costs from Japan,” Rogers said. “It’s about growing the event, so we’re committed to helping the owner with that.”

Rogers said he was also scouting for Japanese dirt horses for the Pegasus World Cup, but the horses on the list that were considering the race all ran poorly in the G1 Champions Cup on the dirt and their connections decided to pass. Nonetheless, Rogers saw getting even one Japanese horse as a major coup for the Pegasus races.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “We really want to position ourselves to be an international race, so having a horse from Japan is a step in that direction.”

A Japanese presence could also greatly help grow the handle. Rogers said it was unlikely the 2019 Pegasus Turf would be simulcast in Japan. That country limits the amount of foreign races its bettors can wager on to 20, and there are several restrictions. However, if the Japanese continue to participate in the Pegasus events that could open the doors to players in that country being able to bet on Gulfstream’s two rich races. The first ever race simulcast into Japan was the 2016 G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Japanese bet about $35 million on the race.

“We are not overly optimistic we will get approved this year,” Rogers said. “We’re long-term thinkers and I think we will get approved in the future. We’re playing the long game on this one.”

Kukulkan is a sensation in Mexico, where he was undefeated in 13 starts and won the Mexican Triple Crown. He shipped to Gulfstream to compete in last Saturday’s $300,000 Carribean Classic S. and demolished his opponents, winning by 10 1/4 lengths.

“Kukulkan’s owner is considering running, as well,” Rogers said. “We are really excited about that. The horse is undefeated and you have to give him a lot of credit for that. Yes, he probably hasn’t run against this kind of competition yet, but the owner seems like a real sportsman and he’s taking it under serious consideration. For us, to have a Triple Crown winner from Mexico positions us even more so to be an international event.”

Considering that Kukulkan got a 71 Beyer Speed Figure in The Carribean Classic, he will likely have a hard time competing against the caliber of horses lining up for the Pegasus World Cup.

Rogers reported earlier that Coolmore, which has been a big supporter of the Pegasus program from the start, has made a commitment to run in both races. Rogers said he has been told the stable will likely ship Magical to run in the $7-million turf race. She’s coming off a stellar performance in the Breeders’ Cup Turf where she finished second behind Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}), losing by just three-quarters of a length. She would likely be heavily favored in the Pegasus Turf.

Getting other European horses to come over is still a work in progress, and January is not a good time to have a race when looking to attract European flat horses. The top quality horses from overseas are primarily put away for the winter until the flat season starts up in the spring.

“Maybe it’s out fault because we were late in announcing this race, but we’ve been told by the Europeans if they had a little more time they could have prepared to run in the race,” Rogers said. “We’re committed to this turf race. I think you’ll see more Europeans put it on their calendar in the future.”

At $7 million, the Pegasus Turf has a bigger purse than any single race in Europe.

So… Who’s Horse of the Year? Baffert & Sadler

Wed, 2018-12-12 16:24


I don’t vote and, of course, John Sadler and I are both biased. We both trained two really good horses and had really good years with them. The Triple Crown is the biggest arena the sport has. It is the holy grail of our sport. What Justify did was pretty incredible. He ran six races right in a row and won them all. That takes an incredible athlete to do something like that. I’ve been fortunate and blessed to train some great horses. He had six outs. Accelerate, who had a great year, had seven outs. But they were spaced out and John did a fantastic job of managing him. Justify had to toe the line. I didn’t have a chance to pick or chose with Justify, he had to just go. We couldn’t miss a beat with him, and he pulled it off. You can’t do that unless you have an exceptional horse. We’ve seen so many horses go down in the Belmont. I should know. They fail when they get there. It takes an exceptional , superstar kind of horse, and that’s what Justify is. My take on it is that it is incredibly difficult to win the Triple Crown and he made it look easy. With him and Pharoah, great 3-year-olds, there is something about them, their mechanics, their genetics…they are superior horses and he was a superior horse. People knocked us because the horse never ran after the Belmont, but he couldn’t run, he had an injury. Unfortunately, those things happen. I was just as sad as everyone else when we had to stop on him. I wouldn’t have had any doubts about him handling older horses. If he was that good in the spring of his 3-year-old year, just imagine how much better he would have been come the fall. He would have been twice as good.


Full disclosure to everyone: I’m biased and I do not have a vote for Horse of the Year, but if I did, it would be for Accelerate. At the beginning of 2018, we mapped out a year-long campaign that was crafted to get Accelerate to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. During that period, Accelerate hit every mark we needed him to in his training, never took a misplaced step or had a setback. Accelerate went on to compile a race record of six wins from seven starts, was the high- weighted/co-highweight horse in six of those races and five of those wins were at the highest level, Grade I, going 1 ¼ on dirt– the quintessential “Classic” distance in U.S. racing. From a historical perspective, only four other horses have achieved this feat since 1975 and three of those were named Horse of the Year in their respective years (Affirmed in the pre-Breeders’ Cup era, Alysheba and Cigar since the inception of the Breeders’ Cup…Lava Man was the other and he was defeated by Invasor (Arg) in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic, their only head-to-head meeting.) The Breeders’ Cup is, by our sport’s definition, the Championship event of horse racing. Winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic is the equivalent of the Super Bowl and more times than not, the winner of that event has been named Horse of the Year. Accelerate did all those things in 2018, ran superior speed figures (by whatever metric you use) and did not duck anyone in the process.

It would be remiss to not acknowledge Bob Baffert and the connections of Justify for their achievements. The constraints of the Triple Crown are well known and there are no “do overs” on the trail. Bob’s record in the Derby, Preakness and Belmont needs no preamble at this stage of his career and what Justify did in a short amount of time was another of his achievements that made history. I’m sure the connections of Justify are disappointed that they were not able to finish out the year due to injury. As a sport, we were all denied the opportunity to see these two horses compete head to head in our Championship event. That said, Accelerate should not be penalized because Justify was unable to run and he did.

On a final note, while Justify overcame the “Apollo curse,” Accelerate overcame my much-maligned Breeders’ Cup record. That’s a Horse of the Year achievement unto itself!

Keeneland Moves Spring Opener to Thursday, Adds Two Stakes

Wed, 2018-12-12 15:30

Keeneland is expanding its Spring Meet in 2019 by opening a day earlier than in previous years and presenting two new stakes, both $100,000 turf sprints, the track announced Wednesday. The meet will open Thursday, Apr. 4 and host a total of 18 stakes worth a season-record $4.6 million in purse money through closing day Apr. 26. The centerpiece of the meet, as usual, will be the $1-million GII Toyota Blue Grass S. Apr. 6, with the $500,000 GI Central Bank Ashland S. set for the same Saturday.

Opening on a Thursday means the Spring Meet will not lose a day because of Easter Sunday, Apr. 21, when Keeneland is closed. Prior to 1960, the Spring Meet often opened on Thursday when the season was shorter.

The new stakes added to the calendar are both for sophomore turfers, with the 5 1/2-furlong, $100,000 Palisades S. for straight 3-year-olds to be held opening day, and the $100,000 Limestone Turf Sprint for 3-year-old fillies unfolding Friday, Apr. 12 at the same distance.

“Keeneland is excited to offer these new features for the 2019 Spring Meet,” Keeneland Vice President of Racing and Sales Bob Elliston said. “The addition of two turf stakes for 3-year-olds will increase opportunities for horsemen competing during the Spring Meet and fill a nice niche in the national landscape of turf racing. We’ve also seen the growing interest of several major connections to use the grass stakes at Keeneland to prepare for summer campaigns, including competing at Royal Ascot. The new races will enrich a season anchored by blockbuster stakes racing on the first two Saturdays and one that spotlights leading 3-year-olds with classic aspirations.”

The 2019 Spring Meet will also include the resumption of Keeneland’s April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, to be held Tuesday, April 9. Preview Day, during which cataloged horses will have breezes over both the dirt track and turf course, is scheduled for Monday, April 8.

The Annual Dilemma of Setting Fees

Wed, 2018-12-12 11:14

“Price is what you pay, value is what you get.” The axiom is routinely attributed to Warren Buffett, though credited by him to Ben Graham. But there is nothing like the bloodstock market to remind us that value is subjective–making the setting of a stallion’s fee, the annual exercise that has occupied some of the most experienced minds in the business over recent weeks, an extremely delicate balancing act.

A mare owner’s sense of value, after all, may itself be determined precisely by the ambitions implied in a fee. In a world where so many purchases will be recycled, and generarally sooner rather than later, a stallion’s brand needs to be protected. Present a sire to market as a bargain, and you have to hope that he is welcomed as “commercial” rather than dismissed as “cheap”. On the other hand, you can’t price him beyond that point where the customer thinks him fair value. As with all markets, then, it’s a two-way street. Both sides need to be able to make sense of the deal.

Within any major farm, indeed, there will be people pulling in different directions. The marketing guys want the fee to be as attractive as possible; the accountants want it to be as high as it can be, without eroding book size.

“Setting a fee is an art, not a science,” reflects Dan Pride, chief operating officer of Darley America at Jonabell Farm–where they have an interesting annual ritual that not only gives their whole team a say, but allows those who make the ultimate decision to take a pulse, both informed and interested, beyond their own hopes and fears.

“Everyone who’s responsible for selling seasons or marketing stallions has to sit around a table with a piece of paper and independently write down each stallion’s name and what they think his fee should be,” Pride explains. “Then we go back and forth debating before making a recommendation. We do try to make it a communal effort, so that people have a chance internally to voice an opinion.”

Obviously the critical fee, for any stallion, tends to be the one at which he starts. In many cases, he will never again command one so high, just because it is statistically inevitable that most sires will not make the grade. But some farms are at particular pains to avoid having to take evasive action during the notoriously difficult third and fourth seasons, when breeders tend to reserve judgement on first yearlings, and then first runners.

“It’s a fine line,” says Bernie Sams, seasons and bloodstock manager at Claiborne Farm. “But obviously if you get it wrong, and have to drop one, it’s not good. If you’re going to be wrong, you’re better off being wrong low–and then be able to pick and choose through the mares. If you get it wrong high, and have to drop, then people run scared.

“The first couple of years probably we’re going to be on the lower side of where some other places may be. But then if we’re able to maintain for the third and fourth years, it evens out when you don’t have to change the fees. That is key to us. The guy who paid $25,000 the first two years doesn’t have very good taste in his mouth if you’ve meanwhile dropped to $15,000. And won’t be as quick to come back.”

One good example of thinking that way was Dialed In (Mineshaft) at Darby Dan. “He could easily have started higher than $7,500,” says Robert Hammond, the farm’s vice-chairman. “But you try to start them off at a price that gives people a chance to make their profit and to have a good experience. There are some farms you see that pitch their new sires as high as possible–but that does potentially expose their clients to a bad experience.”

Sure enough, after his first runners walked the walk, Dialed In’s fee was doubled and he has since advanced to $25,000. Darby Dan, of course, is also one of many farms nowadays to offer a variety of incentive schemes to patrons. And sometimes programs of this kind make the formal stud fee relatively academic, little more than a market peg.

“We have tried to create a synergistic relationship with our breeders,” explains Elliott Walden, president and CEO of WinStar, who reckons the farm has given away $3 million in stallion rewards over the past three years. “We’ve done that to incentivize breeders who had success with our stallions, to reward them for a job well done–and to get them continuing to breed at WinStar. It has been huge for the little breeder. We have clients who have been able to upgrade their whole program: instead of breeding to $10,000 horses, they are now breeding to $50,000 horses. And you never know where that takes someone, down the road.”

The one solecism that absolutely must be avoided, according to Sams, is to repent of an ambitious fee once it has been set. “You do that, you’re in trouble,” he says. “You start a horse too high, and nobody goes to him, and you have to drop the fee within a month or two? Then you’re behind the eight-ball from the very beginning. Then you have to go out and start hustling people, and that’s the last thing you want to do.”

That is consistent with a preference for trying to err on the side of generosity. Needless to say, however, once a young stallion’s stock has proceeded through market reception to racetrack performance, then every farm has to sit down and take a fresh look at the road he appears to be traveling.

“Essentially when they retire you’ve got three variables: pedigree, race record and conformation,” says Pride. “And you’re trying to look at the relative value of those three variables, compared to what you’re going to compete against–both on your own roster, and in the general market where you’re standing the horse. But once you have runners of racing age, and that fourth element of performance, you’re still looking at where each horse slots in relation to its competition. You always try to have a feel for what we call the right side of price.

“It’s a subjective mindset, but you try to make sure that if people are interested in your stallion, the price is really the last thing they consider instead of the first. That they go through the other aspects of the horse, and how he fits the mare, and then hope the price lines up with that.”

And it’s a moving target. As Pride remarks, you’re having a discussion in November about the value of matings that won’t begin until February. Between setting fees and the end of the covering season, there are many big races that can affect a stallion’s profile, for richer, for poorer. That is especially true of a young stallion with one or two early flag-bearers coming through.

The overall temper of the market can change prejudices, too. Walden notes that breeders took sanctuary in proven sires after the recession in 2008, but that the bull run since has prompted a return to “home-run” speculation in new sires.

Then there are the ups and downs in the fortunes of a particular stallion. Off the record, the director of one major farm cited an example of an elite sire who had hit a flat spot in his career. For where he found himself now, his fee should strictly have been halved. But the fear was that an associated air of panic would have the reverse of the desired effect, so he was given a conservative trim and is now treading water.

At Claiborne, however, they had the courage to take exactly that drastic action with Blame (Arch)–slashing his fee for last season from $25,000 to $12,500. Given that he had just sired a Classic winner in Europe, it was not as though he was wholly lacking momentum. Sure enough, those who were tempted by the new fee (taking his book up to 112 from 48) were delighted to see him enjoy a stellar campaign this year, earning elevation past his old fee to $30,000.

“They always have dips,” says Sams. “You take War Front. He went 12.5, 12.5, 10, and probably we did deals the third year and didn’t bring a lot of mares. With Blame, last year was at struggle at 25. So at the end of the year we cut him in half, and it worked. And then they started running. So it worked both ways. And now I’ve a long list of people want to breed to the horse at 30 next year. But saying that, if you went to 40, would you have the same ability to pick and choose through mares?”

War Front has earned his stripes all the way to $250,000, and it was a similar story with Tapit at Gainesway: clipped to $12,500 from an opening $15,000 by the time his stock ventured into public and began moving himself to the stratosphere. At WinStar, equally, Walden can point to Distorted Humor, now in the evening of his career but at one point able to multiply his second-year fee of $10,000 by a factor of 30.

“All these horses were just given an opportunity,” Walden says. “They weren’t given a silver spoon in their mouth. They earned it. So, you’ve got to price them where they get an opportunity. You have to adjust sometimes. You just have to pay attention to your market and adapt, depending upon supply and demand. That’s really the driver, like anything else in this country. Because if stallions don’t get opportunities, they can’t prove themselves. That’s the bottom line.

“So typically, when you sit down and evaluate where a horse is in his career, you have to think in terms of a partnership with your breeders. Because if you try to look at it singularly, just for the stallion owner or the shareholder, then you’re going to leave your breeders behind.

“There has to be a balance. There’s a tremendous life cycle to this business. If one entity tries to get too far out, it doesn’t work. The worst thing that can happen is for Grade I winners to become too cheap to buy, from a stallion perspective. Racehorse owners need to be compensated for their stallion prospects. It all kind of works in unison. You have to marry the breeders’ needs, and their ability to make a profit, and your own need to make a profit. So you try to set the fee right down the middle.”

In the end, that comes down to instinct. If your client’s view of value is subjective, then it’s a case of making a call based on experience. Farms know how their clients think. And everyone knows how stallions can fail, with the world at their feet; or equally rise to stardom from nowhere.

“Walker [Hancock] and Seth [Hancock] and I will talk about it over a period of time but really you’ve got a pretty good idea where you want to be,” says Sams with a shrug. “It’s not brain surgery. Really it’s not.”


Handle Up During Golden Gate Fall Meet

Tue, 2018-12-11 16:04

Golden Gate Fields concluded its 2018 fall meet Dec. 9 with a 19% year-to-year gain in all sources pari-mutuel handle over the course of 30 racing days. Increases in out of state wagering and off-track betting helped contribute to a total fall meet handle of $99.7 million, well above the $83.6 million wagered in 2017.

“We had another great meet,” said Golden Gate Fields Vice President and General Manager David Duggan. “We, first and foremost, greatly appreciate the support of our loyal fans and horseplayers. Additionally, the horsemen have been working tirelessly as have our front-side staff. At the end of the day, it takes a great team to make a successful racing product and we have a great team here. We have improved our product in many ways this year and we look forward to continued progress in 2019.”

Jonathon Wong was the leading trainer for the third meet in a row with 28 wins. Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer finished second in the trainer standings with 15 wins. William “Billy” Antongeorgi III topped the jockey standings with 36 victories, one more than Abel Cedillo.

With the its upcoming winter/spring meet scheduled to run from Dec. 26 through June 9, Golden Gate Fields has announced an increase in maiden special weight and allowance race purses, while also bumping up bottom level claiming and maiden claiming purses to a minimum of $10,000.


Something Awesome Possible for Pegasus

Tue, 2018-12-11 15:57

Stronach homebred Something Awesome (Awesome Again) is under consideration for Gulfstream’s GI Pegasus World Cup Jan. 26. The 7-year-old gelding won this year’s GIII General George S. and GII Charles Town Classic.

“Something Awesome is training really well. I’ve got him back the way I expected him to come back. He’s gone through a lot of things, but he’s ready,” trainer Jose Corrales said. “I don’t call those shots, but I’d love to run him in the Pegasus and I think he’s ready for that competition.”

Finishing last as the favorite after bleeding in the GIII Pimlico Special S. May 18, he was subsequently shelved and in a Laurel allowance Nov. 16, where he finished second.

“I think he doesn’t really need another race before [the Pegasus],” Corrales said. “If there’s a race that comes up somewhere we can go for it, if there’s an allowance or a little stake around, but I don’t plan to travel too far with him before that.”

The conditioner continued, “It’s something that everybody wishes for. If there’s any race you want to be in, this is it. Especially coming from Maryland, like he did to win the [Charles Town] Classic, because all the horses from everywhere come in for a race like that. If he can get a chance to run in a race like the Pegasus I think it would be something special.”

Stablemate and fellow Stronach homebred Unbridled Juan (Unbridled’s Song) is also under consideration for the Pegasus. The MGSP gray captured the Oct. 17 Grover Buddy Delp Memorial S. at Delaware and the Richard W. Smalls S. at Laurel Nov. 10. He is being pointed for the nine-panel Queens County S. at Aqueduct Dec. 22.

“I think Unbridled Juan will be a tough horse in the [Pegasus]. I’m thinking about it. I think that horse, the more distance he gets the better he is,” Corrales said. “He’s doing really good. We’re going to run him in the race on the 22nd in New York and see what happens after that.”


Cohen Named Comeback Jockey of the Year

Tue, 2018-12-11 15:44

David Cohen–who is enjoying a banner season after resuming his promising riding career following an injury-induced hiatus spanning almost four years–is the recipient of’s Comeback Jockey of the Year Award, presented by Red Brand Fence.

Cohen will receive the award during the Jockeys’ Guild Assembly luncheon Tuesday at Top Golf located adjacent to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Irad Ortiz will be honored as JockeyTalk360 Turf Jockey of the Year and Drayden Van Dyke will be recognized as JockeyTalk360 Breakthrough Jockey of the Year. The JockeyTalk360 awards are in addition to the honors handed out at the luncheon by the Jockeys’ Guild at their annual assembly.

The 34-year-old Cohen has won 109 races and almost $6.5 million in 2018 purse earnings through Friday, according to Equibase statistics, including taking the GII Hill Prince on Have At It (Kitten’s Joy) and the GIII Matron on Lonely Road (Quality Road).

Cohen was among the sport’s rising stars when he was kicked in his lower right leg by his mount in the paddock at Aqueduct Feb. 1, 2014. His badly fractured fibula and tibia required surgery involving a plate and six screws to repair.

“It was never a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘when’ I was going to return,” Cohen said. “If you’re not right mentally, it’s going to show. I wouldn’t do that to people trusting me with the horses and giving me an opportunity if I wasn’t 100% ready, not just physically but the mental state as well. It was just wanting to do it the right way.”


Who’s Horse of the Year: John Pricci

Tue, 2018-12-11 15:35

If you want to put a gun to my head, I think I am going to vote for Justify, but with reservations. There is the brevity of his career, two of the tracks that he won over were a little gimmicky and the class of the horse he beat wasn’t much. I’m not one of those people who always knock the 3-year-old crop, but you couldn’t help but notice how little this group, outside of Justify, accomplished. It turns out that there was no depth in the Triple Crown races. I guess that 1882 and an undefeated Triple Crown winner has to trump a horse who had a very good list of accomplishments over a greater period of time. You had to beat this out of me because I’ve really been unsure. You look at a body of work and Accelerate really did put together a good body of work. He came East and he finally got the trainer off the duck in the Breeders’ Cup. He’ll be champion older dirt horse, but it really is a shame that it looks like he’s not going to be Horse of the Year.

John Pricci is an Eclipse Award voter


Bill for $10M Annual Monmouth Purse Subsidy Advances

Tue, 2018-12-11 15:04

After clearing a Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Monday by a 13-0 vote, a New Jersey bill that would guarantee a five-year, $10 million annual purse subsidy for Monmouth Park could be up for a full Senate vote as early as Dec. 17.

In addition, the State Assembly and Governor Phil Murphy still have to approve SB 2992 before it becomes law.

The proposed bill would authorize the New Jersey Racing Commission to split a $20 million annual allocation from the state’s general fund equally between the Thoroughbred and Standardbred industries as follows:

“Of the funds allocated to the Thoroughbred industry, 100% will be allocated to Monmouth Park overnight purses. Of the funds allocated to the Standardbred industry, 60% will be allocated to Meadowlands overnight purses; 16% to Freehold overnight purses; 12% to the New Jersey Sire Stakes purses; 6% to purse bonuses for New Jersey-sired horses; and 6% for breeders awards purses.”

Dennis Drazin, who heads Darby Development LLC, which operates Monmouth Park, told the Asbury Park Press that he was “extremely pleased” to see the legislation move forward.

“It’s something that we’ve been working very hard on over the course of the year and Monday was a significant step forward towards solidifying a revenue stream tied to the purse account,” Drazin said.

The timing of the bill comes seven years after New Jersey’s racing industry lost a $17 million annual purse supplement paid for by Atlantic City casinos, and six months after Monmouth became the first racetrack in the nation to open a newly legalized sports bet-taking operation.


ITBOA Hosting Online Auction

Mon, 2018-12-10 17:18

The Iowa Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association is currently conducting an online auction of seasons to more than 180 stallions from 16 states. Proceeds from the online auction will fund three stakes races for all 2020 offspring of stallions whose seasons are sold at this auction: the 2022 Stallion Futurity and two 2023 Stallion Stakes races for 3-year-olds, one for colts and one for fillies. The auction began Dec. 8 and closes Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. CDT.

A list of the stallions donated and details of the auction are available at

Since 2008, the Stallion Futurity and Stallion Stakes have each averaged more than $90,000 in purses and, in 2015, a race for 3-year-old fillies was offered for the first time. The three races in 2018 had total purses of just over $280,000.

A $5,000 bonus will be paid to the winner of any of the three races if the foal is conceived from a breeding season purchased at the auction.

Stallion donations are still being accepted. Contact the ITBOA office at to donate or visit

Renovations Underway at Indiana Grand

Mon, 2018-12-10 17:05

Renovation on the one-mile dirt racetrack at Indiana Grand Racing and Casino is currently underway and the $700,000 project is expected to be completed in March 2019 when the barn area opens for training.

Gerry Porcelli, former track man for the New York Racing Association for more than 40 years and Butch Lehr, who served as track man for Churchill Downs for more than 45 years, are working in conjunction with Indiana Grand’s track superintendent Roy Smith on the project.

“We are right on schedule,” said Smith. “We’ve been busy taking all the existing cushion off down to base and have been working with GRW from Lexington, who have done a lot of design work on racetracks across the country. We are receiving all new drawings and have shot elevations for the existing surface on both tracks. Once that is completed, then we will begin laying a new limestone cap over the existing base, which will take place before Christmas.”

Smith continued, “In a project like this, everything is weather related. The stage we are at now with the renovation, the cold weather actually helps us. We will lay the new cushion down the last of February or the first of March when we get a window of decent weather.”

The track renovation was identified as a priority of capital investments by Caesars Entertainment, who assumed ownership in July 2018. In addition to the track renovation, Caesars is also replacing the existing exterior stair wells on the grandstand, which will be completed before racing resumes in April 2019.

“We are very appreciative of Caesars willingness to step up and tackle both of these capital projects during our off-season of racing,” said Jon Schuster, vice president and general manager of racing. “It really shows the company’s commitment to ensuring safety is at the forefront of their business, and improving the track at this level is a major plus for our entire racing community.”

The 17th season of Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing will resume Apr. 16 and the 120-day racing meet will run through Nov. 6.

Scat Daddy Colt Shows Promise at Golden Gate

Mon, 2018-12-10 16:47

Anothertwistafate (Scat Daddy) may have disappointed in his first racetrack appearance at Santa Anita last month, but the juvenile made amends with an effortless four-length maiden victory at his home base of Golden Gate Fields Sunday.

“I was actually relieved,” trainer Blaine Wright said of the win Monday. “He didn’t show a whole lot the first time we ran him, but that was probably my fault. Yesterday, he showed us the kind of horse we thought he was all along.”

Bidding on behalf of Canadian owner Peter Redekop, bloodstock agent Alistair Roden purchased Anothertwistafate from the Wavertree Stables consignment for $360,000 at this year’s OBS June Sale. The colt, who worked a furlong in :10 1/5  was the fourth-highest priced offering at the auction and went through the OBS sales ring just seven days after Justify, another son of Scat Daddy, sealed his Triple Crown championship in the GI Belmont S.

Anothertwistafate trained at Wright’s Golden Gate base before shipping south for his six-furlong debut at Santa Anita where he was ninth, beaten 15 lengths, Nov. 3.

“I probably never should have sprinted him,” Wright said. “Obviously, for us training at Golden Gate and taking him to Santa Anita, he took dirt in his face for the first time. Training on the synthetic, we don’t get any kickback. And he got a little green down the backside on my rider and kind of backed away from it. The only encouraging thing that we saw was, once he got clear in the lane, he did start making a move. The chart didn’t do him much justice on the race, but he did finish up pretty good and galloped out strong. I just chalk it up to trainer error. I probably should have run him a week before going a mile on the turf. He’s always shown he’s more of a stayer than a sprinter. Maybe in the end it will end up being a good thing getting some race experience.”

Stretched out to 1 1/16 miles and back on his home track, Anothertwistafate was never challenged in a wire-to-wire victory (video) Sunday.

“He galloped the whole way other than the last sixteenth of a mile,” Wright said. “He got just a touch green before that and he kind of veered in to the rail and Juan [Hernandez] straightened him out. Then from the sixteenth to the wire was the only time he really pushed on him. He never hit him with the stick. I think he really galloped until then.”

Bred by Bryant Prentice’s Pursuit of Success, Anothertwistafate is out of Imprecation (First Defence). Out of Media Nox (GB) (Lycius), the mare is a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Nebraska Tornado (Storm Cat) and graded winner Mirabilis (Lear Fan). While the colt’s pedigree might indicate his future is on the grass, Wright thinks his charge is versatile enough to perform on any surface.

“We probably will try the turf with him at some point,” Wright said. “But I don’t think surface is going to be an issue for this horse. He trains like gangbusters on the synthetic. He’s bred for turf. He’s been on dirt for the training sales and at Santa Anita. He got over the dirt well, he just didn’t handle it in the race real well. But I think going a route of ground, he’s got natural speed and he won’t be behind a :21 and change pace going a route on the dirt.”

Wright said he was keeping all options on the table for Anothertwistafate’s next start.

“We’ve got some good races at home at Golden Gate that will obviously be on our radar,” Wright said. “Most of the time those guys don’t come north to run on the synthetic track, so sometimes you can dodge the big guys in those races. We’re not going to be in a rush to jump back in with the wild boys real quick. We’ll just see how our horse comes out and trains good and see what happens. So there is no definite race picked out yet. The first-condition allowances are tough to get to fill in Northern California and we would probably entertain a first-condition allowance or a minor stakes on the turf at Santa Anita should that come up. But honestly, I haven’t opened the condition book to even look at anything yet.”

Wright, leading trainer at this year’s Emerald Downs race meet, annexed a pair of Southern California graded races with Alert Bay (City Zip). The dark bay gelding carried Redekop’s colors to victory in the 2014 GII Mathis Brothers Mile and 2015 GII City of Hope Mile S. and was recently third in the Lure S. in Arcadia.

Wright is hoping Anothertwistafate is able to follow in that veteran’s footsteps.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed that he has a bright future,” Wright said of Anothertwistafate. “Hopefully we have another one that can take us down south.”

NYSCG Updates Claim Price Rule, Advances Safety Standards

Mon, 2018-12-10 15:11

The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) voted by unanimous voice vote Monday to tweak a claiming price rule enacted in 2012 that had aimed to dis-incentivize owners and trainers from entering lame or uncompetitive horses in lower-level races that had been bolstered by gaming-inflated purses.

The new rule will allow for some flexibility in setting claiming prices that are below the required 2:1 standard mandated by the NYSGC. It reads as follows, with the new language that was added to the existing rule highlighted in bold:

“The minimum price for which a horse may be entered in a claiming race shall not be less than 50% of the value of the purse for the race, unless the commission approves a request from a franchised or licensed corporation conducting thoroughbred racing for a lower minimum price for all or a portion of a race meeting. The commission shall not approve such a request unless the track has implemented increased measures required by the commission to ensure close examination of the competitiveness, soundness and safety of each horse entered in such race.”

When the proposal first came up in September, NYSGC equine medical director Scott Palmer, VMD, had advocated for the rule change, underscoring that he supported allowing flexibility in claiming prices because other protective measures have since been successfully incorporated to try and cut down on injuries and fatalities.

According to a brief written by NYSGC general counsel Edmund Burns that was included in the informational packet for the Dec. 10 meeting, “various interested parties have requested the Commission to consider adding flexibility to the existing rule, identifying neighboring jurisdictions who have experienced safe racing with higher purse-to-claiming-price ratios.

“The proposal would allow a Thoroughbred racetrack operator, with the approval of the Commission, to depart from this limitation under certain circumstances,” Burns continued. “The Commission has added the requirement that its approval to depart from the limitation will not be granted unless the track implements enhanced measures to ensure close examination of the competitiveness, soundness and safety of each horse in such races.”

The new claiming ratio rule takes effect immediately.

Two other proposals were advanced to the 60-day public commentary period, both by unanimous voice vote.

One would set forth standards for backstretch housing at state-licensed Thoroughbred and harness tracks.

“The proposed rule, which would provide, among other things, standards for buildings and residential rooms, sanitary, water, garbage removal and pest control, is generally modeled after the New York Department of Health’s Migrant Farmworker Housing regulations,” Burns wrote. “Staff from the New York Department of Health and New York Department of Labor provided significant input in the development and refinement of the proposal.”

According to the NYSGC, of the 2,512 beds currently located on racetrack backstretches statewide, 2,261 (90%) are at facilities operated by The New York Racing Association.

A separate proposal that advanced to the public commentary stage involves updating safety standards for helmets and vests at Thoroughbred tracks.

Most notably, the proposed new rule would increase the maximum weight of the safety vest from two to four pounds “to permit the wearing of newer vest models, which provide enhanced safety,” Burns wrote.

In addition, the proposal also expands the requirement to wear a safety helmet to apply to any person mounted on a horse, plus members of the starting gate crew, including the starter and all assistant starters.

Elser Gearing Up for Gallop Year Two

Mon, 2018-12-10 13:37

Last spring, consignor Kip Elser and a longtime client came into the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale with five horses and an old idea made new again. The five 2-year-olds bypassed the typical pre-sale breeze and instead galloped down the lane during the auction’s under-tack preview show. The experiment proved enough of a success that the two men have purchased another group of yearlings this year intent on repeating the scenario at the 2019 Gulfstream sale.

“We very happy with the first year,” Elser said. “We were very well received–both in the market, which is most important, and then with the buzz created by the whole thing. It has been very positive to the point where my friend and client is doing it again.”

In addition to the five yearlings purchased this fall for the original client, who has chosen to remain anonymous, a further four yearlings were purchased by a separate group of partners.

“[The original client] decided that he did not want any partners, but he did encourage me to put together another small group,” Elser said. “He thinks there is enough room in the market to expand it somewhat. So that is what we did. We are going with nine horses this year. It’s an exciting project. It’s a lot of fun. We are doing something a little different and we think people are getting a good look at these horses. We’re really looking forward to taking them out in public.”

Three of the five 2-year-olds purchased as yearlings in 2017 under the name Gulfstream Gallop sold at the 2018 Gulfstream auction, led by a Noble Mission (GB) colt who brought $120,000 and a filly by Blame who sold for $100,000 to Dennis O’Neill. The filly, named Splashy Kisses, was a maiden winner at Del Mar in August and finished second in the GII Pocahontas S. at Churchill Downs. She was eighth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

“We feel great about last year’s results,” Elser said. “That vindicates the project. We have some later-developing horses who ran well first time and look like they are okay. But to have the one filly be graded placed in the first small group of relatively inexpensive horses is very gratifying. I’ve checked with everybody who has one and they are pleased enough. They are going to win their share, they think.”

After putting a toe in the water last year, Elser’s client decided to increase his investment going into the 2018 yearling sales.

“Last year was very much a, ‘Let’s throw a dart,’ experimental thing,” Elser explained. “It went very well and I think we ratcheted it up this year.”

Gulfstream Gallop opened its 2018 yearling purchases with a $50,000 colt by Bayern (hip 284) at the Fasig-Tipton July sale and purchased a colt by Flatter (hip 1756) for the same price at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. It made its biggest purchase of the year with a $65,000 daughter of Street Sense (hip 123), one of three purchased at the Fasig-Tipton October sale.

While most of the horses purchased in the group were signed for under the name Gulfstream Gallop, one who wasn’t is a colt (hip 229) who RNA’d for $100,000 at the Keeneland September sale.

“He is a More Than Ready colt who was in Book 1 at Keeneland,” Elser explained. “We partnered up with Jake Delhomme, who bred him. He’s an old friend who used to play here in Charlotte. So he is the only one in the group who wasn’t bought and signed for by the Gallop group.”

While the Gulfstream sale is still months away, Elser is already feeling positive about the 2019 gallopers.

“I’m very happy with the group,” he said. “They are all up and galloping and putting in the days and the miles.”

The Gulfstream sale will be held Mar. 27 next year and its date on the calendar makes it a perfect spot to sell these prospects, according to Elser.

“I think if you get a little later in the year, you don’t have a reason not to breeze,” Elser said. “These horses are sitting on ready to breeze and I think if you get a little bit later in the year, like for instance at Keeneland where they are already running 2-year-old races, I think people scratch their heads about not breezing.”

Elser stressed these horses will be doing exactly what was intended when they gallop in Hallandale next spring.

“I think it is important that people know what this group is,” he said. “They haven’t been tried and found wanting. Right from the start this was the plan. As we did last year, they will two-minute lick down the lane at Gulfstream. The intent is to go just fast enough that the guys with the motion analysis cameras can get a read on them. That’s it. Whether you call it an open gallop or a two-minute lick, I don’t know. It is not a fast breeze.”

Street Sense Colt Has the Right Answer at Gulfstream

Sun, 2018-12-09 16:28

8th-Gulfstream, $40,300, Msw, 12-9, 2yo, 6f, 1:12.90, ft.
FINAL JEOPARDY (c, 2, Street Sense–Addison Run {SP}, by Unbridled’s Song), a $110,000 Keeneland November weanling, bound home a much-the-best winner of his debut at Gulfstream Park Sunday. The bay colt, sent off at 4-1, was outfooted early and settled at the back of the field through an opening quarter in :22.35. He was still last after a half in :46.44, but was angled to the center of the track at the top of the stretch and closed with a vengeance, soaring clear to win by 5 1/4 lengths. Admiral Lynch (Super Saver) was second and Greater Cairo (Cairo Prince) was third. Bloodstock Investment III purchased stakes-placed Addison Run, with Final Jeopardy in utero, for $180,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton November sale. In foal to Constitution, she sold for $360,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November sale. Her Constitution colt sold for $200,000 at this year’s Keeneland September sale. The mare produced a colt by Runhappy this year and was bred back to Into Mischief. Final Jeopardy’s third dam is Fleet Lady (Avenue of Flags), who produced champion Midshipman (Unbridled’s Song), graded stakes winner Fast Cookie (Deputy Minister)–dam of multiple Grade I winner Frosted (Tapit)–as well as the dam of MGISP Solomini (Curlin). Click for the chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $24,000.
O-Gary & Mary West; B-Bloodstock Investment III (KY); T-Jason Servis.


Zacney Dreaming Big With Jaywalk and Maximus Mischief

Sun, 2018-12-09 15:29

Owner Chuck Zacney had quite the run in 2005 when Afleet Alex (Northern Afleet) won the GI Preakness S. and GI Belmont S. and was named champion 3-year-old male. He’s had a good horse here and there over the next many years, but nothing like the duo he’s ready to launch in the major races for 3-year-old fillies and colts next year. He’s the co-owner of both GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Jaywalk (Cross Traffic) and undefeated GII Remsen S. winner Maximus Mischief (Into Mischief) and, yes, he’s dreaming of a GI Kentucky Oaks–GI Kentucky Derby double. Can you blame him? Zacney was this week’s guest on the TDN Podcast, presented by Taylor Made.

TDN: After two ridiculously easy wins at Parx, what were you hoping to find out in the Remsen with Maximus Mischief, and what did you find out?

CZ: We knew it would be another learning experience, so I guess the first thing was the distance, adding two furlongs from the seven-furlong race. The most important thing that we saw was the way he acted in the paddock area. He was a true professional, and then he went to the racetrack and showed it there. So, we were very, very happy the way he relaxed. (Jockey) Frankie (Pennington) got him to relax, and then he won impressively by 2 1/4 lengths. We were very, very happy. And that was pretty much what we were expecting and hoping for in the Remsen.

TDN: If you get to the GI Kentucky Derby, Bob Baffert is likely going to be waiting there for you with what seems like about 10 horses. There are several other good horses in the East Coast and the Midwest. These things tend to sort themselves out over time, but as we’re talking here in the first week in December, where do you think he belongs among the soon-to-be 3-year-old crop? In your mind, is he number one? Does he have to do a little more to prove he’s as good as, say, Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg})?

CZ: I certainly think he needs to do a little more to be number one and be better than Game Winner, but as of right now, he is three for three. I consider him a top five 2-year-old. Going into next year, like I say, we’re going to be patient with him. And we think he’s going to do really well down in Florida, and he’s certainly going to face some really stiff competition. So we’ll get a much better gauge then, but going into next year, I consider him a top five. It’s not a bad place to be sitting.

TDN: Sometimes these things are difficult to put into words, but can you describe the ride and the thrill that Afleet Alex took you guys on?

CZ: It was incredible. We put a group together and went to the sale. [Trainer] Tim Ritchey picked out the horse and 30 days later, he’s in his first race, which is pretty much unheard of. He won his first race by 11 1/4 lengths and his second by 12. We go up to Saratoga and we’re the favorite in the Sanford. And I remember (co-owner) Joe Lerro and I standing in the paddock area and I’m looking up and saying to Joe, ‘Can you believe we’re 3-1 here at Saratoga?’ So it was a great ride, and then we won the (GI) Hopeful after that. We just had so many great moments. But once again, it was just a great experience sharing it with (jockey) Jeremy (Rose) and Tim and the partnership. And then at the end of 2004, we got Alex’s Lemonade Stand and Liz Scott involved, and it really was special. Alex meant a lot to a lot of different people. We were getting letters from parents who had kids with cancer. One of the things very few people know– and once again, this was Tim Ritchey’s idea–prior to each big race, Kentucky, Maryland, and New York, we went to a children’s hospital and visited the kids there and talked about Afleet Alex and gave out hats and buttons. It was all about giving back. And seeing these kids, you walk into a room and you see them with tubes and you know their prospects are not really good. But they had the biggest smiles, and that makes you realize how lucky you are. There were lots of good memories there, and who knows, maybe we’re on to another good ride with Maximus.

TDN: You guys were very new to the game when you bought Afleet Alex. You jumped into the sport, and the next thing you know, you won two Classic races. Were you guilty, as many people have been in that situation, of thinking, “Gee. This is easy”?

CZ: Oh, absolutely. Smarty Jones certainly got me going, the juices flowing. And here we come into the game, and we’re winning two-thirds of the Triple Crown. But the funny thing is we had a nice little claiming group together. At one point, I think we won seven or eight races. We were winning everything at Delaware Park too. I mean, we were red hot, and we’re looking at each other like, ‘What the heck is going on? This is an easy game. I can’t believe more people aren’t doing this.’ So it was a great ride, and as the game goes, you get a little chilly. Just make sure you’re not too chilly for too long. But sure, looking back, you kind of think, ‘Why us?’ Having all this luck, all this success so early, when you hear and read about so many people who have been in the game many, many years and did not even sniff some of the success that we had.

TDN: Between Afleet Alex and your 2016 GI Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia (Street Boss), you didn’t have much success. You spent quite a bit of money trying to find the next Afleet Alex. How frustrating was that? You learned the other side of racing, of what a tough game it can be. So tell us a little bit about that experience.

CZ: Like I said, we thought it was easy, and the partnership started to break up and go away. But I stayed in the game and continued to spend. I was lucky. My business was doing well, so I was able to spend. But we really were not seeing a whole lot of success on the racetrack. One of the things that I started to realize is not only how tough the game is, but I guess how the injuries were really the toughest part of it. Whether you’re spending $20,000 on a horse or $300,000, and then all of a sudden, they’re not even getting to a race. It happens in training, and you’re scratching your head, thinking, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ So that is really the frustrating part. But I think it really is amazing–things happening in groups. We started out hot. Really got cold for a number of years, and then all of a sudden, I would say from 2016 through now, things are going really, really well. So I’m again thinking, ‘Why am I so lucky?’