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Updated: 7 hours 59 min ago

Heart to Heart Gets His Grade I at Gulfstream

Sat, 2018-02-10 16:42

Heart to Heart had settled for second in Grade I company three times previously, but the speedy 7-year-old finally came out on the other end of a close one Saturday to break through at the highest level.

Boasting a four-for-six record over the local lawn and two wins from three tries at nine panels, the bay zipped to the front from his rail draw as expected. He seemed briefly like he’d take heat from a keen One Go All Go, but that one settled down into the first turn and allowed Heart to Heart to find his rhythm through splits of :24.15, :48.74 and :1:12.08. Kurilov (Chi) loomed the clear main danger as he revved up from the pocket spinning for home, and while that foe gave game chase, Heart to Heart had enough left in the tank to find the wire with a sliver to spare.

“He broke good and I got to the lead, and I was pretty comfortable the whole way,” said rider Julien Leparoux, who was climbing back aboard Heart to Heart for the 16th time, having been in the irons in only one of his last four prior starts. “I’m glad the wire was coming, too, though because they were coming fast at the end. The horse he tries, he tries hard, and he deserves that Grade I win and we finally got one. We’re all very happy about it.”

A winner of the GIII Canadian Turf S. here some 11 months ago going a mile, Heart to Heart missed by a neck when second in Keeneland’s GI Maker’s 46 Mile in April and checked in third by 3/4 of a length in Santa Anita’s GI Shoemaker Mile in June. He returned to winning ways in Saratoga’s GII Bernard Baruch H. Sept. 4, but was again collared late to play second fiddle in Keeneland’s GI Shadwell Turf Mile Oct. 7. Tenth, beaten three lengths in the GI Breeders’ Cup Mile Nov. 4, he was most recently seventh after a uncharacteristic poor start in the GII Fort Lauderdale S. here Jan. 13.

“The elusive Grade I!” beamed Heart to Heart’s trainer Brian Lynch. “Watching him come back in and blowing as hard as he blew after that race, he gave it his all to win the race. He’s an absolute deserved horse to have a ‘one’ next to his name. It’s nice to get it done here, because he’s always loved this track.”

Pedigree Notes:

Heart to Heart’s dam Ask the Question most recently sold for $35,000 in foal to Silent Name (Jpn) at the 2014 Keeneland November sale. The resulting filly, bred by Hidden Brook Farm, Everett Dobson and Chris Swann, was a $4,500 KEESEP yearling RNA, but was a maiden special weight winner up at Woodbine in October. Ask The Question’s 2-year-old Animal Kingdom colt was a $75,000 KEESEP yearling purchase by Cecil Seaman. She produced a Liam’s Map colt last term before highly coveted visit to Quality Road this past breeding season.

Saturday, Gulfstream Park
GULFSTREAM PARK TURF S.-GI, $300,000, GP, 2-10, 4yo/up, 1 1/8mT, 1:47.64, fm.
1–HEART TO HEART, 123, h, 7, by English Channel
1st Dam: Ask the Question, by Silver Deputy
2nd Dam: Fair Advice, by Cozzene
3rd Dam: Fair Astrologer, by Quack
1ST GRADE I WIN. (C$25,000 Ylg ’12 CANSEP). O-Terry
Hamilton; B-Red Hawk Ranch (ON); T-Brian A. Lynch; J-Julien R.
Leparoux. $180,420. Lifetime Record: 34-14-5-3, $1,737,290.
Click eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree. Werk Nick Rating: A.2–Kurilov (Chi), 119, h, 5, Lookin At Lucky–Kossanova, by Fly So
Free. O-Head of Plains Partners LLC, Kent Spellman, Michael
Doheny & Tom Coleman; B-Haras Paso Nevado (CHI); T-Chad C.
Brown. $58,200.
3–Hi Happy (Arg), 119, h, 6, Pure Prize–Historia (Arg), by French
Deputy. O/B-La Providencia (ARG); T-Todd A. Pletcher.
Margins: NK, 3/4, 3/4. Odds: 2.60, 4.70, 7.40.
Also Ran: One Go All Go, Channel Maker, Revved Up, Money Multiplier, March. Click for the chart, the PPs or the free catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

Tapit Firster Scores in Tampa Unveiling

Sat, 2018-02-10 14:35

MADISON’S LUNA (Tapit–Scarlet Tango, by French Deputy), a $400,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, captured his debut at Tampa Bay Downs Saturday. He rallied into a :44.64 half-mile and challenged for the lead in the two-path turning for home. Head-and-head with favored Getyourmindright (Stormy Atlantic) turning for home, he gradually edged clear from that one to score by 1 1/2 lengths. The winner is a half to GISW Tara’s Tango (Unbridled’s Song), GISW Visionaire (Grand Slam) and GSW & MGISP Scarlet Strike (Smart Strike). Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $16,500.

O-Rigney Racing. B-Stonestreet (KY). T-Philip A. Bauer.

Orb Colt Lives Up to His Name in Gulfstream Debut

Sat, 2018-02-10 14:25

5th-GP, $43,000, Msw, 2-10, 3yo, 5fT, :55.95, fm.

ALL SYSTEMS GO (c, 3, Orb–Just Louise {GSW}, by Five Star Day) displayed a steady series of works at Palm Beach Downs and shipped down the Florida Turnpike to make his debut a winning one at Gulfstream Saturday. Away in good order, the dark bay broke alertly and tracked the pace in the two path through a quarter-mile in:21.97. Ranging up to gain a narrow advantage spinning into the lane, he held strongly down the lane and crossed the wire a 1 3/4-length winner. Duncastle (Dunkirk) was second best. A $300,000 KEENOV weanling turned $450,000 KEESEP yearling, All Systems Go has a 2-year-old half-brother by Declaration of War and a yearling half-sister by Uncle Mo. His GSW dam Just Louise, a half-sister to MGSW Sara Louise (Malibu Moon), was bred back to Malibu Moon. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $25,800. Click for the chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

O-Harris Fein, Christopher McKenna, Guri Singh & Jerry Walia; B-Springhouse Farm (KY); T-Todd A. Pletcher.

Ghostzapper Colt Tagged Second ‘Rising Star’ Of The Day

Fri, 2018-02-09 16:34


Telekinesis (Ghostzapper) traveled wide throughout and got the job done late to be the second ‘TDN Rising Star’ from Fair Grounds in consecutive races Friday. He was scheduled to make his debut Jan. 28 here before flipping in the paddock and becoming a late scratch.

The bay broke from his outside post as the 9-5 second choice and traveled three wide down the backstretch, tracking pacesetter Chuck’s Dream (Take Charge Indy) through a swift opening quarter in :21.98. He stayed in the three path around the far turn as he drew on even terms with the leader and favored Nola Win (Elusive Quality) to make it three across the track turning for home. They were still locked in battle until the sixteenth pole when Telekinesis found another gear and kicked clear to graduate by 3 1/4 lengths. Nola Win grabbed second.

Telekinesis, a $470,000 weanling purchase by Stonestreet at the Keeneland November sale, hails from the same family of MGSW Family Tree (Smart Strike) and GISW Dance Teacher (Smarten). He is the second winner out of unraced Intentional Cry, whose dam is MGSW Gold Mover (Gold Fever). She has a juvenile filly named Syllable (Super Saver) and a yearling full-sister to Telekinesis. She was bred back to that Adena Springs stallion last year.

5th-FG, $41,000, Msw, 2-9, 3yo, 6f, 1:10.16, ft.
TELEKINESIS, c, 3, by Ghostzapper
1st Dam: Intentional Cry, by Street Cry (Ire)
2nd Dam: Gold Mover, by Gold Fever
3rd Dam: Intentional Move, by Tentam
($470,000 Wlg ’15 KEENOV). Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $24,600. O-Stonestreet Stables LLC; B-William D. Graham (ON); T-Mark E. Casse. Click for the chart or free catalogue-style pedigree.

FTFMAR Topper South Beach Debuts a Winner at Oaklawn

Fri, 2018-02-09 16:27

4th-OP, $75,000, Msw, 2-9, 3yo/up, 6f, 1:10.86, ft.
SOUTH BEACH (c, 4, Tapit–Bethan, by Giant’s Causeway), who topped the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale on a bid of $1.8 million, made the most of his belated racetrack debut with a handy and professional success Friday at Oaklawn. The 9-5 post-time favorite settled in midfield while a few paths off the inside rail and held his spot for the run around the turn. Fourth, but within striking distance, when heads were turned for home, South Beach swapped leads nicely at the three-sixteenths and rolled over the top of the pacesetters en route to a three-length victory. Produced by an unraced half-sister to GISW and top sire Hard Spun (Danzig), South Beach was audaciously bought back on a bid of $1.2 million at the 2015 Keeneland September sale, but rewarded his connections’ confidence after breezing an eighth of a mile in :10 1/5 a couple of days prior to the sale. The further female family includes champion and Classic winner Little Current. Bethan is the dam of a yearling colt by Flatter and was most recently bred to Tapit’s son Constitution. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $45,000. Click for the chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.
O-Woodford Racing LLC; B-Sienna Farms LLC (FL); T-Steven M Asmussen.


Smart Strike Firster Becomes Newest ‘Rising Star’

Fri, 2018-02-09 16:05

Breeze Easy LLC’s Smart Response (Smart Strike) was pounded at the windows into 9-5 favoritism for this racetrack debut and the expensive breeze-up purchase ran to the money in a performance worthy of the ‘TDN Rising Star’ designation Friday afternoon at the Fair Grounds. Drawn gate two for the in-form Adam Beschizza, the compact chestnut jumped straight into the bridle and led them along through a fast opening quarter in :22.15. Shaken up vigorously in upper stretch, she continued to sprint away from her rivals into the final eighth of a mile and cruised under the line four lengths to the good of longshot firster Flat Meadow (War Chant). A $275,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase, she worked an eighth of a mile in :10 2/5 and was hammered down for $525,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale, the most expensive of her late sire’s eight juveniles to sell from his penultimate crop in 2017. Smart Strike died in 2015 and is represented by four 2-year-olds from his final crop. Smart Response is a daughter of Salty Response, who graduated sprinting on Polytrack, cleared her first allowance condition going long on the turf and whose best career speed figure came in a five-length romp in the 2008 Lady’s Secret S. at Monmouth Park. Smart Response’s second dam Lake Huron (Salt Lake) was responsible for two-time Grade III winner Salty Strike (Smart Strike). Salty Response is the dam of a yearling filly of this year by Declaration of War.

4th-FG, $38,000, Msw, 2-9, 3yo, f, 5 1/2fT, 1:04.21, fm.
SMART RESPONSE, f, 3, by Smart Strike
1st Dam: Salty Response (SW, $132,515), by Cozzene
2nd Dam: Lake Huron, by Salt Lake
3rd Dam: My Rainbow, by Lyphard
Sales history: $275,000 Ylg ’16 FTSAUG; $525,000 2yo ’17 EASMAY. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $22,800. Click for the chart. Click for the free catalogue-style pedigree.
O-Breeze Easy LLC; B-Craig B Singer (KY); T-Joe Sharp. 

Baffert Discusses Plans for 3YO Stars

Thu, 2018-02-08 19:05

Ax Man (Misremembered) is a hot prospect and will be favored in Saturday’s seven-furlong GII San Vicente S. at Santa Anita, but he has a way to go to reach the top of the pecking order in the Bob Baffert stable. As is so often the case, the Hall of Fame trainer is loaded with 3-year-old male talent and is beginning to devise the schedule for his team as he prepares to get them to Churchill Downs. Baffert has at least seven colts at this point that he considers prospects for the GI Kentucky Derby.

Ax Man is the “now” horse in the Baffert stable. He made his debut in a Jan. 1 maiden race at Santa Anita and won by 9 1/2 lengths. Because the race was restricted to homebreds or yearlings that cost $100,000 or less, there was some speculation that Ax Man didn’t beat the best of fields. But Lombo (Graydar), who was third, beaten 10 1/2 lengths in that race, has since come back to win the GIII Robert B. Lewis.

When asked if he thought he had enough time to get the lightly raced Ax Man ready for the Derby, Baffert replied: “I think if he’s good enough he can do it. The San Vicente will be a big step for him, especially out of the one hole. He’s fast and he’s quick. He’s a light-framed horse and I haven’t seen any distance limitations with him. But you don’t know that until they’re put under the gun.”

Baffert will also start Nero (Pioneerof the Nile) in the San Vicente. He broke his maiden Jan. 13 in his second career start.

“He has a lot of talent, but was a little bit quirky at first,” the trainer said. “He’s starting to figure things out and he worked really well for this race. He likes to have a target and he’ll definitely have a target in this race. I think he should run well also.”

Baffert said he likes to nominate his top 3-year-olds to “just about everything,” which allows him to leave his options open.

“Whichever one is doing great that week gets on the plane and runs that week,” he said.

The top two in the Baffert lineup at this point are ‘TDN Rising Star’ McKinzie (Street Sense) and Solomini (Curlin). Solomini crossed the wire first in the Dec. 9 GI Los Alamitos Futurity, but was disqualified, resulting in McKinzie being placed first. Solomini has not run since, while McKinzie has since won the GIII Sham S.

Baffert said one of the two will go next in the GII San Felipe Mar. 10 at Santa Anita, while the other will go in the Mar. 17 GII Rebel at Oaklawn.

“I just go by the way I feel the horse is doing,” he said. “I know McKinzie and Solomoni have already proven themselves. I’m just trying to keep them healthy and give them a positive prep going in.”

Baffert has penciled in the Feb. 19 GIII Southwest S. at Oaklawn for Mourinho (Super Saver), who won earlier at the meet in the Smarty Jones S. Baffert expects the race to be split into two divisions and is looking at also running ‘TDN Rising Star’ Zulfikhar (Bodemeister). That colt has not raced since winning a July 17 maiden at Los Alamitos, but Baffert is high on him.

He has another lightly raced but talented horse in Restoring Hope (Giant’s Causeway). He broke his maiden Feb. 2 in his third lifetime start and Baffert is shopping for a Derby prep for him as well. Baffert normally relies on the Santa Anita and Oaklawn routes to get to the Derby, but says with so many candidates this year, you may see him in races he rarely runs in.

“I think you’ll see us in the [GII] Blue Grass or maybe we could go to Gulfstream and run one there,” he said. “We have a few here we’re getting ready.”

When asked if he thought this could be one of his best groups of 3-year-olds, Baffert was hesitant to go that far.

“The year I had American Pharoah and Dortmund, that was a really good year, and so was the year I had Real Quiet and Indian Charlie,” he said. “I’ve had some strong hands. It’s still early. Over the next month, that is when the serious stuff starts happening.”

Lombardi Relishing Quick Start

Thu, 2018-02-08 15:34

Some owners wait a lifetime to have a graded stakes winner on the Triple Crown trail, but for Mike Lombardi, success has come a little quicker with Lombo (Graydar), the first horse he wholly owns, earning a wire-to-wire to victory in the GIII Robert B. Lewis S. at Santa Anita last Saturday.

“It was unbelievable,” Lombardi, owner of the San Diego-based construction company Lombardi Contracting, said Thursday. “We couldn’t go to the race. It was one of the first times we couldn’t actually watch our horse run, but it was my youngest son’s 18th birthday and his winter formal, so we had to be home for that. We watched it on TV. I’m 51, and my wife Cori is 48 and we’re jumping around like we were in high school. It was crazy.”

Lombardi had plenty of early exposure to horse racing and traces his love of the sport to his childhood.

“I grew up in Ohio around two tracks; Scioto Downs, which was a harness track, and Beulah Downs, which was a Thoroughbred track,” Lombardi said. “They were just regular white collar tracks, so I was kind of around it when I was a kid. Then I started going to the Derby with some friends.

“Once I moved out to California, my wife and I joined the Turf Club for a few years,” he continued. “Then we realized we were too busy with the kids sports, so we stopped doing that. But we always loved the horses.”

After toying with the idea of ownership for several years without pulling the trigger, fate seemed to intervene two years ago.

“We were at a charity event and we purchased a ‘Trainer for a Day’ package that Mike Pender had sponsored,” Lombardi recalled. “We thought, ‘This sounds fun–behind the scenes, get to go to the barn, pet the horses, sit in the trainer’s box. It sounds like a great thing to do. We coordinated with Joel Fihn, Mike’s PR guy, and he said, ‘Absolutely, bring your friends. We’ll make a day of it. So we did that at Del Mar in the summer of 2016. It was so exciting and interesting. We thought at some point, it sure would be great to be an owner because this is kind of cool.”

That winter, in search of a Christmas gift for his wife, Lombardi contacted Pender again.

“I called Mike and I said, ‘I’m wracking my brain to get my wife something for Christmas, can I get her a piece of a horse?'” Lombardi explained. “He said, ‘Absolutely. I’ve got the perfect opportunity.’ So I bought this fractional share of her and I came up with a big Christmas video and surprised her with a Derby hat and I made up some silks. We just had a blast with it and we said, ‘Okay, now we’re owners.’ That horse still hasn’t run today, by the way, but we have a piece of her.”

While the filly, 3-year-old Grandma Gertrude (Lucky Pulpit), hasn’t made it to the races yet, the experience whet the Lombardis appetite for ownership and the couple was excited to find a horse who would be all their own.

“[Pender] went out to the OBS Sale in March,” Lombardi said. “I couldn’t go because I had other commitments, but we were talking on the phone and he was out there for a couple of days doing all of his research. He saw this Graydar colt, who is now Lombo, and he just kept talking and talking about him and I said, ‘If we can get him for under $100,000, let’s do it.’ I want to own my own horse. I had learned really quickly that when you have pieces of horses, especially if you don’t have the biggest piece, it’s not very fun.”

Out of graded stakes placed Burg Berg (Johannesburg) and from the first crop of Grade I winner Graydar (Unbridled’s Song), Lombo (hip 407) worked a furlong in :10 2/5 at last year’s OBS March Sale. Pender acquired the future graded stakes winner for $75,000.

Lombardi was able to experience the auction scene first hand later that month when he accompanied Pender to the Barretts March sale. The two came away with a colt by Violence (hip 90) purchased for $30,000. Now named For Him, the bay broke his maiden at Del Mar last August and was a distant fourth in the GI Las Alamitos Futurity in December.

“We bid on him and nobody really raised [our bid],” Lombardi said. “We got him on what I call the clearance rack. So I look for horses that Mike can do something with, maybe they’re not perfect and they’re not going to sell for half a million dollars, but there is something there. The breeding is there and if Mike sees what he likes, let’s do it.”

The Lombardis currently have five horses in training. In addition to the two juvenile purchases, the couple also claimed now 3-year-old Candyman Garret (Overanalyze) out of his maiden score at Del Mar last August and they own a recently turned 2-year-old colt by Boisterous.

“The Boisterous colt is up in Utah with Val Brinkerhoff,” Lombardi said. “He just turned two in January, so we are hoping to get that colt down here in the next couple of months. I figured if I was going to do this as a hobby, and maybe more than that down the road, I want to get the gist of it. I want to know what it’s all about. When they are yearlings and they’ve never been ridden, how do they get to be two?”

The juvenile sales season looms and Lombardi expects to be a part of it.

“I have the fever,” he said. “I admit it. I so have the fever. I love everything about it. I just like being at the auction. I’ve watched a lot of videos on my own about conformation. I know just barely enough to be dangerous, to at least communicate with Mike. So I do to expect to go to the sales and, knowing me, we’re probably going to end up with something. I’m not the guy that is going to go and spend $300,000 on a horse. I think there is a lot more gratification in finding the $75,000 Lombo that beat the $400,000 and the $850,000 horse. There is just something about it–I feel like we were smart that day. Mike saw something that somebody else didn’t see and I like that.”

With a 21-year-old son off at college in Chicago and an 18-year-old high school senior, Lombardi admitted the soon-to-be empty nesters have found a passion in racehorse ownership.

“Our screen savers on our phones, everything has always been about the kids,” Lombardi said. “And now, every picture is horses. My screen saver is Lombo and Flavien [Prat] crossing the finish line. My boys just look at me and say, ‘Yeh, I guess we’re not in little league anymore.’

“When you get total access to the paddock and the shedrow and everything, it’s like nothing else,” he continued. “It really makes you feel special. Our friends think we are super cool. It is fun to flash your owner badge and get in to everything. We just giggle all of the time–we’re like, ‘We are really nobody, but we seem like somebody.'”

Lombo, who broke his maiden sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita Jan. 20 (video) in his third career start, successfully stretched out to 1 1/16 miles to win the Bob Lewis (video). It was his third start in just over a month.

As for where the gray colt will start next, Lombardi is leaving that decision to Pender.

“At some point, we all understand, you’ve got to get the [Kentucky Derby] points,” Lombardi said. “That means you’re going to have to face better and better horses as you go. I trust that Mike will pick the right spot and the horse will tell us when he’s ready to go. We’ll give it a shot and keep dreaming.”

Op/Ed Feedback: “Trainers Won’t Run Horses, So Why Aren’t Owners Outraged?”

Thu, 2018-02-08 15:16

In Thursday’s TDN, we ran an op-ed by Bill Finley about the decline of starts per year by American Thoroughbreds. Finley asked for feedback, and we were inundated by the replies. Here is a sampling.

We are quite certain Lasix plays a part in the lack of horses. How could it not be? All you mentioned, Bill, in your article is true and a piece of the horse racing pie. How could Lasix not affect racing and our breeding of horses? I am sure that horses that can only run on Lasix need to be questionable breeding prospects. Maybe we have in turn weakened the breed? Maybe Lasix opened the door for more use of drugs instead of time and real healing. I know this is the 21st century. The use of drugs is prevalent in our culture, but is it overused? In human beings, we have the opioid crisis. Do we have a parallel crisis in horse racing?

To address your point of owners taking more action in their horses running in more races, I find that hard to do. Trainers train horses, not owners. One hires trainers to do just that. Most trainers given a free hand, enthusiastically supported by the owners, will do a good job for you and your horse.

–Gretchen Jackson


Bill Finley asked in his Thursday Op/Ed piece if he was “missing something.” Bill, you are not missing anything, but I think there is at least one area where more focus needs to be brought to bear.

It used to be popular in the racing office to blame a “horse shortage” for small fields. There is not so much a horse shortage, as a shortage of owners willing to pay the upkeep on racing stock in whatever one wants to call this current era in which we are racing.

Over the years plenty of solutions to lowering expenses have been promulgated to better the situation, yet very little if any initiatives have taken place. Here are some of the cost issues, with some remedies, as follows:

FEED: racing associations are certainly capable of buying feed in bulk and selling it to horsemen at cost plus labor.

VETERINARIANS: a backstretch pharmacy is long overdue, not only for selling drugs at a low cost, but for officials to keep track of what has been bought and by whom. Let vets work like human doctors and invoice clients for their time, and not try to game the system by overcharging on meds.

TACK: ditto the above.

THERAPY: therapies such as a cold saltwater spa, stalls with vibrating plates, a Euro-ciser, Aqua-tred, hyperbaric chamber, etc. are all valuable treatments for horses in training that can prolong wellness in a runner. Racing associations can erect facilities with these modalities and allow them to be used at subsidized rates.

There are other ideas, but this should be enough food for thought to get the ball rolling.

While not directly related to expenses, another issue that is causing fewer horses to race that is little known outside of the backstretch is the loss of the integrity of the condition book. You mentioned that trainers are loathe to race long shots because they want to protect their winning percentages.

Well racing offices are guilty of not wanting to run races unless the field size is large enough to attract a good handle. To this end, it is now quite common for some racetracks to card multiple extra races and to abandon book races all for the sake of field size. This makes it impossible for trainers to plan races for their horses except for stakes races that have finite dates. Trainers don’t know when to breeze horses anymore. This messing with the condition book causes many horses to miss races.

—Barry Irwin, CEO, Team Valor International


It may be foreign to American racing culture but to anybody looking from an international perspective a possible solution to the problem Bill Finley poses in “Trainers won’t run their horses…” is to put on handicap races. Handicaps may have more or less disappeared from U.S. racing, but it was not too long ago that some of the best races were handicaps, however, in many racing countries they make up the majority of races on offer. In Britain handicaps make up around two-thirds of all races, in France they not have quite the same acceptance but they are still around 25% of all races, and then in somewhere like Hong Kong handicaps account for closer to 90% of all races.

Handicaps are on the whole positive for the two principal groups of racing customers. They are good for those who bet as they provide open competitive races in which most if not all of the runners have a realistic chance of winning. Yesterday’s card at Happy Valley in Hong Kong, for instance, featured eight races, all handicaps, in which the shortest priced favourite was at 41-20. They are also good for owners as they provide winning opportunities for horses of every level of ability.

And of course they encourage owners and trainers to run their horses. If your horse is well handicapped, (you believe it is better than its rating), it makes sense to run to make the most of this opportunity, and if you think your horse is badly handicapped, (it is not as good as its rating), it makes sense to run to convince the handicapper to drop its rating.

In Britain where handicaps make up a large majority of races, all but the very best 2- and 3-year-olds compete in handicaps at some point in their careers. Most of the leading older horses in Britain in 2017, including Group 1 performers like Decorated Knight, Librisa Breeze, Persuasive, Ballet Concerto, Poet’s Word, The Tin Man and Aclaim among many others, competed in handicaps before moving on to group races. There are a series of what are called heritage handicaps which offer about

$150,000 to the winner and attract large competitive fields of high class horses at different distances throughout the year.

If there are not enough owners and horses to fill races, surely it makes sense to try offering something a little different?

–Jocelyn de Moubray


An important missing element to your story, and possibly the genesis of this problem, is the negative impact caused by the fraudulent “bounce” theory initially perpetrated by “The Sheets” guys and now morphed into the lexicon of virtually everyone in the industry. Whenever a horse runs back in three weeks and doesn’t match a prior performance, he “bounced.” Exact same situation and the horse runs back in six weeks, there will be NO mention of when he last raced. For an industry consumed with statistics, why is it that no one performs a statistical analysis that would actually analyze whether or not horses actually run better with more time off? There are a lot of factors to consider to ensure a proper analysis, but it can be done. There was a study performed by Derek Simon a number of years ago that concluded there was NO improvement in performance with more time between starts, but it never received widespread distribution. This problem is killing the industry and it’s a shame because it’s fixable. Thanks for shedding the light.

–Bill Theodore


You guys do first-crop, second-crop, etc., stallion rankings. Run a top-100 trainers list by earnings and list how many starters they had in a given year (or six months), how many starts those horses made and the percentage. I know that many owners feel that their horses aren’t making enough starts (or worse, the horse that breezes 50 times and never makes it to the races), but there was a culture built up at some point where the trainers told the owner, “I am the expert and you are not, so let me call the shots.” That culture continues today and the trainers do what they want, not what the owner wants. There is a fine line here, no doubt. We do not want every owner picking out races and saying, “run my horse here.” That could be disastrous for the horse. If we can find a way to shift the emphasis from win percentage to start percentage, that would be a start. Unfortunately, every time you open up the Form or the program at the races, you only see win percentage–it’s hammered into us all day long. Thank you for bringing up this issue.

–Braxton Lynch


I can only speak for racing in Maryland, where we race three days a week mostly, but races don’t fill! Other than maiden claiming races, very few races fill, especially at the higher levels, in the winter when there is no grass racing, and dirt races don’t fill in the rest of the year. Our horse ran a slight temperature one day and missed his race, an allowance ‘a other than,’ and it didn’t fill again for five weeks. Because of the three day a week schedule, it is hard for the racing secretary to get the races to come up on a weekly schedule. Our racing Secretary, Georgeanne Hale, does an amazing job, considering days that are lost to bad weather. Writing extras so everyone gets a chance to run must be like solving a Rubiks Cube. Also, if you are trying to run in a non-West Virginia-bred at Charles Town, for example, your opportunities are limited. Conversely, there are so many New York-breds trying to get in the New York-bred races that it can take eight weeks to draw back into a maiden race. It is not as simple as you made it sound!

–Cynthia McGinnes


I do think you are missing something. And it is actually a good thing. When I was growing up and going to Santa Anita and Hollywood Park, I would always watch the post parade and make notes about horses. There were always a couple horses that looked bad. A little off, or jogging very sloppy. These horses were not lame, but a little off or arthritic. Nowadays, that does not fly. If you have a sore horse, you can’t run. The vets in the mornings are very sharp out here and you cannot run these horses anymore. If they do pass the morning vet, and they look bad in the post parade, they will for sure be scratched. Also, with the new claim rule, nobody is going to run a bad one to get it claimed. You have zero chance of the claim going through.

So, you space out their races to make sure the are perfect before you enter. This is a great thing for the horse, which should be our number one priority.

–Dennis O’Neill


Thanks for your thoughtful article.

As a small owner (four-horse stable), and lifelong student of the game, I have given lots of thought to the same issues. My horses made 27 starts last year (my stakes-placed 2-year-old first started in June and, after three starts, needed surgery to remove knee chips). So, my other three horses made a total of 24 starts. For me, that seems about right.

Having watched racing since the early ’50s (one of my earliest memories is watching Dark Star beat a beloved Native Dancer) I think I bring historical perspective to this issue. While you are probably right that genetically these horses have not changed since the 1980s when average starts/year were much higher, I would argue that the typology of the horses selected for has changed dramatically. I am amazed every time I look back at the old photos of my racing heroes. Just look at Seabiscuit, Dr. Fager, Round Table, Kelso, Forego, Ruffian and so many others. Generally long bodied, slab sided and almost coarse looking by today’s standards. These horses and their contemporaries were tough and could readily withstand the pounding required of constant training.

They look very little like today’s desired type. Today, given the yearling and 2-year-old commercial marketplace, we are breeding big, heavy, Quarter-Horse types–fast horses that can breeze a quarter in :21. I would argue that this change resulted directly from the dominance of Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert (and their emulators) both of whom came out of the Quarter Horse industry. They wanted a certain type of horse and, given their success, the market accommodated them. Hence, we are stuck with horses that simply cannot train like those old classic types.

I am not sure I have an answer to this problem but I think Tim Ritvo is on the right track. Also, I am not totally discouraged given the increasing popularity of turf racing which will, I think, lead to future changes in the desired type of horse sought in the marketplace (I think we’re seeing the start of that right now).

Again, I enjoy your articles. Keep them coming

–Bill Greenstein, Billy Speed Racing Stable


We’re talking about such a small number of trainers here. Less than 5%. The major problem is those same 5% holding over25% of the total horse population (super trainers). Evidence is in the fact that 33% of 300 Triple Crown nominations are from such a small number of trainers. The answer to me is limiting stall numbers at tracks. Split the business up amongst trainers so

races fill. As we know, a trainer can only have two horses per race. So holding 70+ horses at one track hurts field size.

As a trainer myself, I don’t make money on day rate. I earn my living off of running my horses and those horses earning me 10% of on the board finishes. I can’t afford to not run. So in my opinion, your speaking of a very small percentage of super trainers that charge high day rate. Just my two cents.

–Tony-Michael Gattellaro


A question to ask is what did the average horse earn in purse money in 2017 versus 1987? Also, how much does the average horse cost to train versus 30 years ago? How long does the average horse still in training now versus years ago? Possibly, owners want their horses to last longer without getting hurt or sore. There is more to this than just a trainer’s winning percentage, particularly at the lower end of the sport.

Very interesting and thought provoking piece… thank you.

–Charles C. Fenwick, Jr.


Bolger Filly Adds Glamour To Goffs

Thu, 2018-02-08 14:31

Fillies and mares took centre stage on the final day of the Goffs February Sale on Thursday but over 50 withdrawals left a catalogue rather depleted in numbers. On the same day last year 216 mares were offered but with 66 fewer lots presented on Thursday it was always going to be a struggle to build on the gains made the previous two days. Last year there were two six- figure lots headed by Military Angel (Big Brown), who fetched €210,000, and despite the reduced numbers the sale still held its own by providing a higher sale topper to 2017 when multiple stakes winner Glamorous Approach (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) (Lot 578) headed proceedings when selling to Ballylinch Stud for €280,000. After three days of trade, the February Sale finished up with an aggregate of €4,807,000, not surprisingly a bit below 2017. However, gains were posted in both the average and median, which rose 10% to €14,392 and 20% to €6,650, respectively. The clearance rate of 65% was in line with last year.

Jim Bolger regularly gives fellow breeders the opportunity to tap into families that he has so successfully developed, and that chance was not wasted on Ballylinch Stud manager John O’Connor, who clinched the Glebe House Stables-offered sale topper after determined bids from both Blandford Bloodstock and Tally-Ho Stud.

“She is a lovely, active, quality mare and we will keep our options open,” O’Connor said. “She could race on for a while longer or be covered by one of our stallions in Ballylinch. She is from a great family of Jim’s that throws up champions so we are delighted to get her.”

The Tally-Ho Stud team of Tony, Roger and Henry O’Callaghan were under-bidders on the top lot but just two lots later their persistence was rewarded when they landed Harrana (Ire) (New Approach {Ire}) from the Aga Khan draft. Lot 580 was a winner for Dermot Weld at Cork last June and the close relation of dual Derby winner Harzand (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) will not attempt to further her race record but will instead be covered by Tally-Ho’s star stallion Kodiac (GB).

Earlier in the day the O’Callaghans saw off a spirited effort by Matt Houldsworth to acquire lot 558, also from the Aga Khan Studs. Elmaliya (Ire) (Sepoy) didn’t show a huge amount in two starts for Dermot Weld last year but such are the depth of the Aga Khan pedigrees that the 4-year-old commanded a price €72,000. Tony O’Callaghan was non-committal over potential plans for the half-sister to G3 Give Thanks S. winner Edelmira (Ire) (Peintre Celebre) and said, “We’ll keep our options open, we could even put her back into training.”

Lot 539, Chica Loca (Fr) (American Post {GB}), was responsible for one of the pinhooks of the year in 2017 when her Dabirsim (Fr) yearling, subsequently named Good Birthday (Ire), sold for €500,000 at the Orby Sale last September and the mare herself was offered by Confey Stud on behalf of Ecurie Normandie Pur Sang in foal to Rathbarry stallion Acclamation (GB). It was Tom Biggs of Blandford Bloodstock who eventually won the battle for the stakes winning 9-year-old at €80,000, and he commented, “She is a lovely mare, she will stay in Europe and hopefully between the Acclamation cover and her 2-year-old to race she will prove well bought.”

The Wardstown Stud team of Mark and Elaine Clarke enjoyed Group 1 success as breeders last year through the exploits of the Andrew Balding trained Blond Me (Ire) (Tamayuz {GB}) and the Clarkes were keen to bring lot 566 from Moyglare Stud back to their Co. Meath based farm. In fact, Fille Du Septembre (Ire) (Choisir {Aus}) is a filly the pair know well, having bred the former Dermot Weld trained filly before selling her to Moyglare Stud for €130,000 at the Orby Sale two years ago. It took the Clarkes’ bid of €62,000 to repatriate the winning 3-year-old and the husband and wife duo said they were delighted to get back into a family that has served them so well.

“We’re delighted to have her back and we will take our time before deciding on a plan with her,” Mark Clarke said. “We could put her back into training as Fiona [Craig] says she is sound for racing and she is only three so she has plenty of time to breed. It’s a family we have had a lot of success with. We bred December Draw, who won a Group 1 in Australia, and it’s a great commercial family that seems to be popular with buyers.”

A relatively young stakes performing Sadler’s Wells mare in foal to the Classic sire Le Havre (Ire) has obvious appeal, and French agent Paul Nataf signed for lot 598, Kithonia (Fr), for €52,000. Further appeal is provided by a now 2-year-old Le Havre filly out of the mare who realized €110,000 when bought by Peter & Ross Doyle as a yearling at Arqana last year.

Another mare with a Gallic background is Damila (Fr) (Milanais {Fr}), who was a Group 3 winner in France for Henri-Alex Pantall in 2016 before being bought by Nataf for €20,000 at Arqana last July. She reappeared under the Baroda & Colbinstown banner on Thursday as lot 545 and although purchased by the France based MAB Agency for €45,000, it appears her home for the foreseeable future at least, will be Ireland. “I have bought her for an Irish client and she will stay here to be covered, probably by Gutaifan,” Marc Antoine Berghgracht said afterwards.

The father and son team of John and Jake Warren signed for three lots on Thursday including lot 594, Kenzahope (Fr) (Kendargent {Fr}). The 4-year-old achieved five placings in her racing career but her full-brother Kenhope (Fr)’s racing CV, which includes a Group 1 placing, helped push her value to €48,000.

Lawman (Fr) has emerged as an interesting dam sire through the exploits of crack sprinter Battaash (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}), and that significance was no doubt not lost on Matt Houldsworth, who struck for lot 626, Myakka Park (Ire) (Lawman {Fr}), for €55,000. The 4-year-old, offered by Platinum Bloodstock, also boasts an excellent dam line, being a half-sister to a pair of stakes winners in Ayrad (Ire) (Dalakhani {Ire}) and Dawn Of Hope (Ire) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}).

Summing up trade at Goffs this week, Chief Executive Henry Beeby said, “Over half the sale focuses on weanlings and that section enjoyed vibrant trade with strong competition from a huge group of pinhookers who turned out in force to continue the trends witnessed at our market-leading November Foal Sale. That was especially evident at the top of the market with four six-figure weanlings this year and a number of fierce bidding duels for several of the most desirable lots. The result is a set of statistics that far outstrip last year with average and median both growing by over a third, and the clearance rate also making better reading.”

Reflecting on the market for Thursday’s breeding stock session, he continued, “Today’s session has not matched last year in some respects but such is the nature of mixed sales as there are times when a particular dispersal benefits a sale and boosts figures. However when such one-offs are not catalogued it is does not necessarily mean trade is lacking but rather that it reflects the lots on offer. So we are perfectly content with today as we welcomed a large international group of buyers back to Goffs and our €280,000 top price comfortably exceeds that 12 months ago.”

Henley Embracing Steep Ascent at Airdrie

Thu, 2018-02-08 14:18

Some people just stand out from the beginning. Ben Henley, newly promoted general manager of Airdrie Stud at 37, has long been marked out for responsibility–much like the man who appointed him. Brereton C. Jones was only 25, after all, when becoming the youngest representative ever elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. And that didn’t work out too badly, either.

Henley had barely started out in his native Australia, for instance, when the late Ann Raymond entrusted much of the day-to-day running of Sledmere Stud to the raw 20-year-old only recently promoted from the maintenance crew. Yes, Ann Raymond: doyenne of the Hunter Valley’s old school, who remembered Phar Lap being hidden on her father’s stud after someone took a potshot at him a few days before the Melbourne Cup.

“We had a family friend at Sledmere, so I’d been coming for a week or two during the summer since I was 11 or 12,” Henley said. “Hard labour, basically, but I just thought it was the best thing ever, to be on horseback, to work with the cattle and the horses, I thought it a fantastic way of life. By the time I was 16 I was a full-time farm hand; did that for two years, and then spent about four working with the horses.

“About then Miss Raymond got hurt a few times, broke some bones and was incapacitated. But that was a blessing for me as I got to pretty much run the farm, on the horse side of things, reporting to her daily. Sledmere has grown a lot since but back then it was really a private, family broodmare farm. Miss Raymond was a great horsewoman and it was a very good way to learn, hands on, doing everything.”

There was no obvious reason for Henley’s affinity with the horses. His father was a stonemason; his mother and stepfather ran a Sydney restaurant for 20 years. Sure, he had a pony as a kid; there was even a little dressage and showjumping, but he soon tired of that: “I was more interested in riding around chasing cows–‘Man From Snowy River’ style!”

Yet everywhere he has been, Henley has been fast-tracked. He left Sledmere when the local breeders’ association awarded him a scholarship to the Irish National Stud course–after which he was promptly retained as a foreman, to help train the next intake. By 23, he was helping to establish Oakgrove Stud in Wales for John Deer. How very apt, then, that when he first came to Kentucky it should have been with More Than Ready. He was accompanying the shuttler from Vinery Australia.

“I had no intention of staying more than six months,” Henley admitted. “But within a week I was just blown away, and knew I was going to be here a lot longer.”

The Vinery Australia manager, Peter Orton, was an old mate of Tim Thornton, who was running Airdrie for Governor Jones. Thornton offered Henley a place on his nominations team; and, ten years on, it was his retirement that proved the cue for Henley to take the reins.

Bret Jones, of course, remains integral both to the future of the farm and its present excellence. But if the Governor’s son exudes the same Jones appeal that won over voters first in West Virginia, and ultimately in Kentucky, then the family also knows that even the strongest stallion roster can only be as strong as the team behind it. Shortly before Henley’s promotion, for example, Airdrie recruited the highly regarded Cormac Breathnach from Adena Springs to its nominations desk.

“Yes, it’s a big step up,” Henley said of his new post. “But I’ve been really lucky the way Tim and Brerry took me under their wing from the start, giving me a lot of responsibility and involvement with all aspects of the business. And Bret shared a lot of that stuff with me, also; they’ve all been amazing: they took me in like family, treated me like one of their own from day one.”

The Governor himself, after all, was younger than Henley when first restoring Thoroughbreds to these acres–reviving a great but latent 19th Century heritage–in 1972. And it’s not hard to see why the Airdrie regime should have groomed this young man, so to speak, for high office. For Henley had gone to exacting lengths to acquire a cosmopolitan Turf education long before there was any such thing as a Darley Flying Start.

“The Irish National Stud course really opened my eyes,” he reflected. “At that point I thought racing only existed in Australia and New Zealand, I had no idea about the international market. So that was a fantastic opportunity, to meet all these people from all over the world and learn about European pedigrees. I couldn’t get my head out of those Goffs and Tattersalls catalogues. And then of course you’re also learning a totally different way of raising a horse. In Australia, they’re outdoors in large groups, and not handled anywhere near as much. Obviously in Europe the weather doesn’t allow for that style of doing things, so you’re in there with them in barns a lot more.”

During the year he stayed on, Henley assisted in some 250 foalings–notably a Giant’s Causeway filly delivered by none other than Urban Sea (Miswaki), whose mighty son Galileo (Ire) had won the Derby the previous year.

“But all the big shots on the farm came in to help with that one,” Henley said with a smile. “It’s a bit more intense, that’s for sure, with a mare like that. You want it to go right! But it was really cool to follow that filly’s race career.”

My Typhoon (Ire), as she was named, ended up winning the GI Diana S. In the meantime, Henley had put in those couple of years as stud groom at Oakgrove until his visa expired.

“It was awesome,” he said. “Mr Deer was just getting going with Averti (Ire) (Warning {GB}) and really focused on getting as many mares to him as possible, raising them well and racing them. And we had a lot of luck, Avonbridge (GB) won the [G1] Prix de l’Abbaye from his first crop. He was out of a great mare called Alessia (GB) (Caerleon) whose Machiavellian foal a couple of years before was Patavellian (Ire)–and he won the Abbaye as well.

“It was testing, to be in a position of responsibility as a foreigner and still very young,” he said. “Most of the people working there were older, so it was a challenge to learn how to deal with people–and a really good experience for me.”

His next move was instructive of the ambition and diligence underpinning Henley’s laid-back demeanour. For while he had no interest in a track career, he felt that any future stud manager should have a proper grasp of what a trainer might expect of a horse arriving from a farm. He duly served a stint with John Hawkes at Crown Lodge, learning much from Peter Snowden who was still assistant to Hawkes at that time.

Then it was on to Vinery Australia, where Orton extended his education into selling seasons, and, with dirt pedigrees and dirt racing as the final piece of the jigsaw, sent him to Kentucky.

“With the expectation that I’d come home,” Henley said with a grin. “That didn’t happen in the end, but I’m forever grateful to him–as without him none of this would have happened.”

So here he is, immersed for a decade in the Airdrie way. Yes, he misses the cricket; and, when seen at the Keeneland January Sale, the Sydney weather too. But three years ago he married a girl who had been to school with Bret, and he has long ago become a fervent evangelist for the methods and principles of the Governor, his family and their team.

“The Governor? He’s one of a kind,” Henley said. “It’s remarkable what he’s done, with Libby, building up Airdrie after starting out with half a dozen broodmares. Now it’s one of the powerhouses of the North American stallion business. He’s raced three [GI Kentucky] Oaks winners in the last ten years, all by stallions standing at Airdrie. And he’s not a billionaire with some big company that pays for the farm. It’s a self-sufficient business, and that’s a remarkable thing to do: to run it for that long, sustaining it, standing stallions, selling yearlings, racing a lot of horses every year.”

Many of Airdrie’s trademark sires–Silver Hawk, Indian Charlie, Harlan’s Holiday, Proud Citizen–have been especially cherished by the commercial clients who have developed such trust in the farm. Now their attention is fixed on young stallions like Cairo Prince (Pioneerof The Nile) and Creative Cause (Giant’s Causeway), each having passed his first tests–respectively in the sales ring and on the track–in pretty spectacular fashion.

“With Cairo Prince, the boss has been very fortunate in that we’ve great partners in Darley,” Henley emphasized. “We said we’d guarantee him a certain number of mares, we’d do the heavy lifting, it’s a win-win for everyone and we’re very grateful for the opportunity. And the horse’s sales have been phenomenal. Forty-three yearlings at $100,000 or more–off a $10,000 stud fee! That’s incredible, especially for some of the smaller commercial breeders.

“We know all our clients so well, and get all the feedback when the foals are hitting the ground, and then when they’re preparing them for the sales. So yes, you could feel it coming–but it’s still remarkable what he’s done.

“He’s a really laid-back horse, very easy to deal with, a pure gentleman most of the time. And I think that’s part of why the market really grabbed onto him: their minds seem really good, they learn things easily. And he’s stamping really well. They’re tall, leggy, [and] look like your classic American two-turn horse, with plenty of scope.”

But while everyone now waits to see whether Cairo Prince can possibly match expectations with his first runners, Creative Cause is already up and away. Though finding himself among a vintage intake, he ended 2017 as the number one second-crop sire by stakes winners, stakes wins, and juvenile stakes winners.

“Creative Cause is going great guns,” Henley said. “Quite often when they make a good start with their first crop, they can kind of slow down–but we’ve seen him come straight back again with that second crop of 2-year-olds.”

Another emerging prospect is the handsome Summer Front (War Front), whose first foals were so well received. Nor is he being treated as inevitably a turf sire by the farm: with versatile influences on both sides, he has been given plenty of partners with dirt profiles.

Then there is Upstart (Flatter), with foals now on the ground from an oversubscribed debut book; and newcomer American Freedom (Pulpit), launched in partnership with Gary and Mary West, with a guarantee of mutual support across his first three seasons. And let’s not forget Majesticperfection (Harlan’s Holiday) and old stalwart Include (Broad Brush), who between them set such standards for the young guns.

“Include’s been a great servant to the farm, with ten Grade I winners including three out of our mares, while never standing for big money,” Henley says. “And now we have his daughters doing good things for us as well. We sold a Cairo Prince colt last year for $900,000 out of an Include mare. And from Majesticperfection’s first crop we raced Lovely Maria who won the Oaks.”

Young as he remains, then, it is worth remembering that Henley has been part of the Airdrie team long enough to savour cycles of this kind. He needs no reminding of the scale of his responsibility: eight stallions, 160 of the farm’s own broodmares on nearly 3,000 acres, and around 70 staff. But what has qualified him for such a massive role is the thoughtful accretion of the little lessons: day by day, experience by experience, mentor by mentor.

“I think being around very good horsemen is the best way to learn–and I’ve been very fortunate, with Brerry and Timmy; and Peter back in Australia before that, he’s a great life coach too, I still talk to him; and even before that Ann Raymond,” Henley said. “I’ve taken bits from all those people and kinda melded it into my own.

“Bret’s been really good, too, because he doesn’t skip any steps. He makes sure he gets a horse the best group of mares possible. Sometimes you’ve got to hurt a few people’s feelings, not letting one in, but he’d only be doing it for the horse. So putting together a nice book of mares, then marketing the foals, he’s always done a really good job at that.

“For us I think integrity is a big thing. And Bret is one of the most honest people you’ll ever meet. He’s straight up, true to his word, and very much like his mother and father. So that’s hugely important to all of us, that respect and integrity.”

So much for the brand. How about the mission? Henley shook his head.

“There are huge shoes to fill,” he stressed. “Brerry and Tim have done such a remarkable job for such a long time, I guess the first thing is not to mess it up. But we really want to continue to grow our stallion business. We have eight horses at the moment, and would love to have a couple of champion sires standing in the barn in the next few years. We obviously love racing, too, so a Derby winner would be great as well–especially one by Cairo Prince or Creative Cause!”


Correas Warming Up in Florida

Wed, 2018-02-07 15:04

On winter days, trainer Ignacio Correas watches the snow in Kentucky on television, although occasional trips back to Lexington–his home base–are inevitable. Part of his stable stayed behind in Kentucky to compete on the local circuit, while the trainer known as “Nacho” temporarily relocated to Tampa Bay Downs with his son Benjamin and Frank Leal, his two assistant trainers. Correas is always flanked by Marina, his life partner, and Lola and Emma, the couple’s two adorable Weimaraners.

After his great 2017, the Argentine trainer maintains dreams that he will do even better this season. Correas has three Argentine champions in his stable: Dona Bruja (Arg) (Storm Embrujado {Arg}), Blue Prize (Arg) (Pure Prize) and Le Ken (Arg) (Easing Along), as well as several horses he expects to reach the stakes level.

“Certainly, we are very excited to enjoy another season full of joys–we no longer have Kasaqui (Arg) (Lasting Aproval) and Idolo Porteno (Arg) (Jump Start) with us [both were retired], but there are other bullets to shoot,” said Correas, hopeful and cheerful as usual.

A two-time graded stakes winner in 2017 and second to Dacita (Chi) (Scat Daddy) in the GI Beverly D. S. at Arlington last summer, Dona Bruja’s early-season goal is Keeneland’s GI Jenny Wiley S. Apr. 14. But, for the time being, she will appear for the first time this year in Saturday’s GIII Lambholm South Endeavour S. over a grassy 1 1/16 miles. Jose Ortiz will ride the bay, who Correas said is training forwardly in the mornings.

“When I draw up a plan, I always try not to leave it,” Correas said. “[Dona Bruja] looks great in the mornings, and we are confident that she will give everything, because she always does. It will be her first time with Jose Ortiz in the irons…the only thing he has to know with her is to wait.”

Le Ken will get his season underway in Saturday’s GIII Tampa Bay S. over the same trip as the Endeavour. A dual Group 1 winner in his native land, Le Ken finished off the board in two graded stakes tries on turf in America before recently finishing fifth in the Bet on Sunshine S. over the Churchill Downs main track.

“He did not like the sand at Churchill Downs in his last start,” Correas said. “It is very different than, for example, Palermo, in Argentina–much deeper. That is why he will return to the turf. In the morning, he continues to be a rocket and I think that, with time, he will repeat all the good things he does working in races.”

One major obstacle in Le Ken’s path Saturday will be the presence of GI Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and champion turf horse World Approval (Northern Afleet), who also gets his season started in Oldsmar.

“We don’t have too much luck,” Correas joked.

Correas said Blue Prize, another runner with high hopes in 2018, has also been progressing according to plan. Her return to the races will come in Oaklawn Park’s GII Azeri S. Mar. 17, with the idea of later returning to Arkansas for the GI Apple Blossom H. in April.

“She also is very good, and little by little we will start to train her a little more firmly,” Correas said. “It’s like Dona Bruja, they do it all on their own. The idea is to travel to Arkansas about 10 days before the Azeri, to give her a little time for acclimatization.”

After knocking on the door throughout 2017, Blue Prize finished last season with a victory in the GII Falls City H. at Churchill Downs.

“Nacho” is hesitant to say so, but Dona Bruja and Blue Prize could well be considered contenders for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup to be contested in early November at Churchill Downs–a track that both love.

There are plenty of reasons for Correas to be delighted at the thought of repeating–or even improving upon–his remarkable campaign of 2017. Dona Bruja, Blue Prize and Le Ken are clearly the big names in his barn, but he has others under his care who allow him to browse the stakes calendar quite often.

After years of fighting to gain a foothold, Correas has returned to enjoy the profession that he is passionate about. As many in the business know, there are few things comparable to knowing that a Grade I victory is within your grasp.

Charlie Davis, Secretariat Exercise Rider, Dies

Wed, 2018-02-07 13:27

Charlie Davis, the regular exercise rider for Secretariat, passed away Feb. 7 following a brief battle with lung cancer. He turned 78 just five days earlier.

Born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Davis would cut elementary school in order to watch Thoroughbreds train on the farm where his father worked and eventually learned how to exercise horses. He was employed by trainer Lucien Laurin and became a member of the “Holly Hills” crew, a group that also included beloved groom Eddie Sweat.

Among others, Davis galloped champion filly Quill and Belmont S. winner Amberoid. When Laurin took over Christopher Chenery’s Meadow Stable string in 1971, Davis was assigned as exercise rider to the stable’s champion Riva Ridge and later Secretariat. He galloped horses into the early 1980s and went on to work as foaling manager for several farms in the Ocala area, gaining a reputation as a well-rounded horseman.

Davis was a regular at racing venues and attended events such as the Secretariat festival, where he was happy to share stories of Secretariat and about his association with Meadow Stable.

Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte reflected on the news of Davis’s passing, saying: “Charlie was a great friend to me personally and a great friend to the sport. He and Eddie [Sweat] knew Secretariat better than any of us, and Charlie became a walking history book about those days. He was a wonderful exercise rider with a true horseman’s touch, and the achievements of both Riva Ridge and Secretariat were a result of Charlie’s work with them.”

Following the announcement of his cancer diagnosis last month, friends and fans alike raised funds to cover his medical expenses.

Davis is survived by his wife of 51 years, Caroline, seven children and many grandchildren.

“We are heartbroken that we lost him,” his daughter Katrina Davis said. “He was always so generous with whatever he had, especially his time. He loved talking about his days as an exercise rider, and he loved Secretariat. We are very grateful to all of his friends and fans who have offered messages of support and contributed to his GoFundMe campaign. That financial assistance has eased our worries as we cover Dad’s final expenses.”

Written condolences may be sent fo The Davis Family, PO Box 831072, Ocala, FL, 34483. Funeral arrangements are pending.


Dark Angel Son Leads the Way at Goffs

Wed, 2018-02-07 12:59

The second session of the Goffs February Sale was devoted to short yearlings and the current polarised nature of the European bloodstock market was evident at times during the day when trade was quite tough for many lots that were not deemed to possess obvious commercial appeal. Despite these challenging facets of the market, the right types were still changing hands for good money and it was a son of the all-conquering Dark Angel (Ire) who topped proceedings when selling to Daniel Creighton for €140,000. This top price, which smashed last year’s equivalent of €86,000, helped push the majority of the KPI’s in the right direction. A total of 110 of the 182 offered yearlings found new homes for a slightly reduced clearance rate of 60% which highlights the selective nature of the market. However, the strength at the top end resulted in a 15% increase in the aggregate to €1,624,600 which in turn lead to a 23% rise in average to €14,769 and a 45% increase in the median to €8,000.

Offered by The Premier Consignment as lot 397, the sale topper has a lot going for him on pedigree, being a son of the stakes winning mare Mary Boleyn (Ire) (King’s Best) who has already produced a stakes performer in the shape of her daughter Clotilde (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}). A return to the sales ring later this year is not a given for the colt, with Daniel Creighton commenting, “He is for an existing client and we will keep our options open with him. He could be resold or he could be kept to race.”

“It’s a lot of money but he’s a proper, handsome horse with a proper commercial pedigree,” said Jamie Railton after he signed the docket for the next most expensive yearling, lot 372. This speedily bred son of Ballylinch Stud stallion Make Believe (GB) was consigned by Collegelands Stud.

Having successfully bid €115,000, Railton added, “We’ll take him home and syndicate him and hopefully he’ll be back somewhere later in the year. I have a lot of faith in the sire and this yearling is a good advert for him. I think it’s a strong market for the right types and you have to a give the money for nice horses.”

The May born colt is a half-brother to Hamza (Ire) (Amadeus Wolf {GB}) who was a very smart group winning sprinter for Kevin Ryan a few years back and further speed in the pedigree is represented by the likes of Dandy Man (Ire) (Mozart {Ire}) and Anthem Alexander (Ire) (Starspangledbanner {Aus}).

Railton made another splash in the closing stages of the sale when adding lot 409 to his team for syndication. The son of Bated Breath (GB) was the third yearling of the day to make six figures when knocked down for €105,000 and was offered by Norelands Stud on behalf of the Niarchos Family.

The same breeder/vendor combination had earlier enjoyed a successful sale with a daughter of the ever popular Kodiac (GB), when lot 291 sold to Yeomanstown Stud for €60,000. The filly is out of Dolphina, who is by the great broodmare sire Kingmambo and who has a perfect breeding record to date, with both of her offspring to reach the track doing so successfully. Bought for resale in the autumn, the filly could well enjoy a pedigree update before then, as her half-brother Al Jellaby (GB) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}) was an impressive winner of a Salisbury maiden on his third start for Clive Cox last September and could prove a smart 3-year-old this year.

Norelands Stud manager Matt Gilsenan wasn’t surprised the filly sold well and commented, “We’re delighted with the price. She is a good walking filly and we are glad she has gone to a good home in Yeomanstown Stud who I believe will re-offer her for sale. She was a pleasure to prep and I wish the O’Callaghans the best of luck with her.”

Yeomanstown struck again later in the day when adding a Showcasing (GB) filly (lot 358) to their haul for €44,000. The filly, offered by Ballincurrig House Stud is the first produce of Just Silca (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}) who was purchased carrying the filly for 60,000gns.

David Myerscough of Baroda & Colbinstown was active as both a vendor and purchaser throughout the day and he acquired lot 299 from Ballylinch Stud. The colt, by the farm’s Make Believe (GB), is a half-brother to the Group 1 placed and G2 Richmond S. winner Always Hopeful (GB) (Mind Games {GB}) and he came with a price-tag of €42,000.

“I am a fan of the sire and have tried hard to buy one. He is a nice colt out of a proven mare and it is quite a current family,” Myerscough said.

That price was matched soon after when Glencoole Stud’s Paul McCarthy purchased lot 306 from Moyglare Stud. The chestnut colt is by Mastercraftsman (Ire) out of the stakes performing and stakes producing mare Firey Red (Ire) (Pivotal {GB}). It would be no surprise to see the good walking colt back in the Orby Sale at Goffs in September and it was that walk that made McCarthy determined to bring him home.

“He’s a great mover and for a May foal he has plenty of size,” McCarthy said. “He comes from a great farm and I really like Pivotal as a broodmare sire so let’s hope he’s lucky.”

The success of the progeny of Dabirsim (Fr) both on the racetrack and in the sale ring has been well documented the last six months and with only one yearling representing the Haras de Grandcamp stallion in the sale, lot 387 was always going to attract attention. It was Cork-based trainer John Joseph Murphy who purchased the Ballintry Stud offered colt for €43,000 with a view to reselling later this year.

Noel Hayes has enjoyed some good results on the track in recent years with the likes of stakes winners Letters Of Note (Ire) (Azamour {Ire}) and Now Or Never (Ire) (Bushranger {Ire}) (since renamed Now Or Later and a Group 2 winner in Australia last year) and he is hoping his luck and acumen extends to the sales ring as he purchased lot 249 for resale later this year. The grey son of Guitafan (Ire), offered by Baroda & Colbinstown, cost Hayes €38,000.

The BetBright executive commented, “He is a great physical with a big, loose walk. The sire is quite popular and he is out of a winning Galileo (Ire) mare who is a proven producer, so he ticks a lot of boxes. I’m not sure what sale he will be aimed at, I will make that decision in May. I have three other yearlings to juggle and decide where they go so I will wait and see. I’d rather be a big fish in a small pond so I won’t be over facing any of them wherever they may go.”

Hayes is hopeful of having another black-type race filly on his hands this year in the Patrick Prendergast trained Sunday Smart (Ire) (Dandy Man {Ire}). The 3-year-old broke her maiden on soft ground at Limerick last October and Hayes is looking forward to seeing her race on a sounder surface later this year.

“Patrick really likes her and thinks she’s a stakes filly,” he said. “She has only run so far on testing ground and despite winning on it we think she will be better on top of the ground.”

Towards the end of play, a chance to buy a half-brother to a recent Classic winner presented itself when lot 399 entered the ring and this sibling to G1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Jet Setting (Ire) (Fast Company {Ire}), by Cappella Sansevero (GB), went the way of Federico Barberini for €45,000.

The third and final session on Thursday will see just under 200 fillies and mares come under the hammer with the action again commencing at 10 a.m local time. For the complete results, go to

Thunder Snow Back For Round Two

Wed, 2018-02-07 09:35

Thunder Snow (Ire) (Helmet {Aus}) was unbeaten in two outings at last year’s Dubai carnival before capturing France’s G1 Prix Jean Prat, and the two-time Group 1 winner looks to get back on track in Thursday’s G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 after finishing second to Heavy Metal (GB) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) in Round 1 on Jan. 11. Thunder Snow steps beyond a mile for the first time since he won last year’s G2 UAE Derby, returning to that same track and trip, and is more certain to get the trip than Heavy Metal, who enjoyed the lead on the speed-favouring track in Round 1 before drawing off to win by 4 1/2 lengths. Heavy Metal, twice Thunder Snow’s age at eight, has raced beyond a mile just twice, both off the board efforts in Britain back in 2014.

Trainer Saeed bin Suroor said of Thunder Snow, “Thunder Snow has been doing well since his return in the first round and the step up in trip will suit. He is in good form, has been working well and is ready to go. We have a good record in this race and have won it with some very good horses.”

Last year’s winner Furia Cruzada (Chi) (Newfoundland) returns in search of her first win since, when she bested the eventual G2 Godolphin Mile winner Second Summer (Summer Bird) by a nose.

Frankel Colt Graduates At Randwick

Wed, 2018-02-07 07:53

Tangmere (NZ) made headlines when selling for NZ$1.3-million at Karaka’s Premier Sale two years ago, and the first-crop son of Frankel broke his maiden at third asking for trainer Chris Waller at Randwick on Wednesday. Restrained off the pace by Kerrin McEvoy, Tangmere lost a few positions as they approached the bend in the 1400 metre handicap and had about three lengths to make up as they passed the 800. Moving closer as they approached the straight, the 6-1 shot stuck to the fence. A gap initially closed on him but McEvoy remained patient and the opening materialized again at the 100. Tangmere shot through and hit the line three-quarters of a length the better of his pacesetting stablemate Schoolmates (Aus) (Redoute’s Choice {Aus}) going away (video). Tangmere, who races in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum for a partnership that also includes Coolmore and Flaxman Stables, had been last of seven on debut at Warwick Farm in October and fourth at second asking at Canterbury four weeks later.

The race closed an early double on the card for Waller and McEvoy, who also teamed to send Qatar Racing and partners’ Zousain (Aus) (Zoustar {Aus}) to the winner’s enclosure on debut in the opener (video). The A$400,000 colt was one of a handful by the sire bought by Qatar Racing and Guy Mulcaster at Magic Millions last year, and he becomes the second winner for leading first-season sire Zoustar in addition to the Magic Millions 2YO Classic winner Sunlight (Aus). Waller also trained Zoustar.

Numbers Hold Steady at Fasig Winter Mixed Sale

Tue, 2018-02-06 19:21

LEXINGTON, KY.–The overall numbers held steady at the Fasig-Tipton Winter Mixed Sale after a strong second session at Newtown Paddocks Tuesday that concluded with the very last horse to go through the ring, Girl Talk (Medaglia d’Oro), topping the sale at $310,000.

Overall, 364 horses sold for a gross of $10,436,800, compared to 2017 when 351 horses summoned $9,501,800. The average was up 5.69% from $27,071 last term to $28,613 and median also increased slightly, from $9,000 to $10,500. With 107 horses reported not sold, the buy-back rate was 22.7%, down from 25.5% a year ago. A total of 24 horses brought six figures this year, compared to 23 in the 2017 renewal, which was topped by the $700,000 mare Cinnamon Spice (Candy Ride {Arg}).

“It’s the same old story,” Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning, Jr. said. “There was significant demand for the quality offerings–there was really spirited bidding. The way the catalogue fell, I thought we had a stronger group of horses going into today. It is always kind of nice to end with a bang with the sales-topper being the last horse through the ring, but she deserved it, being by Medaglia d’Oro out of a legitimate family and a stakes performer.”

Browning continued, “There weren’t really any surprises. Most of us would have predicted the same trends continuing. There was really no reason for any changes in the marketplace. You can really sell a good horse right now. There is a lot of demand. The one thing that continues to be encouraging is the number of bidders on both the foals and the mares, especially on the horses that sold well. There is some depth in the marketplace for quality offerings. It is not fun for horses that miss the mark.”

Tuesday’s session saw 183 horses sell for $6,302,600, compared to the corresponding 2017 session when 187 horses brought $4,799,500. The median increased 62.5%, from $8,000 to $13,000, and average rose 34.2%, from $25,666 to $34,440. Forty-two horses failed to meet their reserves for a buy-back rate of 18.7%, compared to the 2017 figure of 19.7%.

The concluding session, and the sale, was topped by the 5-year-old racing or broodmare prospect Girl Talk, who summoned $310,000 from Codee Guffey of Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds. The mare was consigned by Denali Stud’s Conrad Bandoroff, who was running his family’s consignment solo for the first time. Bandoroff agreed with Browning’s comments from Monday that the market was still the same.

“As Boyd said yesterday, it is kind of the status quo,” Bandoroff said. “If you have one of these offerings with a good race record, a little bit of pedigree and a quality physical, you don’t have a problem selling those horses.”

Bandoroff continued, “It is towards the bottom of the market where it is sticky, where, if a mare has some age or some gaps in her produce record, she is harder to move. It’s kind of been that way, so it is no surprise. You kind of know going to the ring if you are going to be feeling lonely or have company.”

Michael Hernon of Gainesway, which consigned the second highest-priced offering of the day, the 4-year-old mare Tricky One (Unbridled’s Song), felt the value fell in the mare market.

“Fillies like [Tricky One] are bringing a real premium,” Hernon said. “Mares in foal are of real value in my opinion. It’s almost like people have forgotten mares are having these foals. Everyone wants to buy the weanling that’s good and there is a real divergence then, but that is the market we are operating in and we have to adjust our reserves accordingly. We sold every horse we brought here, some very well and some at a lower level. You just have to be realistic about what you have. The name of the game is to sell the horses.”

The highest-priced yearling of both the day and the sale was a Tiznow colt, who was purchased for $260,000 by Glen Brock, buying on behalf of pinhooking partnership. Ron Blake, whose Blake-Albina Thoroughbred Services consigned the colt, echoed the sentiments of most consignors about the continued demand for quality in the market.

“It is the same as it’s been,” Blake said. “All the good horses, everybody gets on them and you get a result like this. If you have what they don’t like is when it gets problematic.”

Medaglia Mare is ‘Talk’ of the Town at Fasig

Fasig-Tipton saved the best for last during its Winter Mixed Sale as the very last horse through the ring during Tuesday’s final session, the 5-year-old racing or broodmare prospect Girl Talk (Medaglia d’Oro), topped the sale, when bringing a final bid of $310,000 from Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds’ Codee Guffey. A late addition to the sale, Hip 574 was consigned by Denali Stud for owners Ramona Bass and Cheyenne Stables.

“We really liked the filly,” said Guffey, who added that he came to Fasig specifically to buy Girl Talk. “I think our plan right now is to let Dallas Stewart try to continue racing her this year and then we will retire her to our farm. We don’t have many mares, but this definitely stepped up our quality, so we are excited.”

Guffey added, “They have given her dam every chance in the world. She has a lot of upcoming offspring that we are excited about, so that page could really improve. I think there is only one way to go with that filly.”

Guffey is the managing partner for Carrie and Joe Smith’s Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds. The Smiths purchased the old Classic Star property in Versailles, in 2013. They currently have eight pregnant mares on the farm and one horse in training with Stewart.

“We obviously would have liked to have gotten her a little cheaper, but the good ones seem to cost a little more money,” Guffey said. “We are just glad to have her. We are trying to add quality to our broodmare band.”

Daughters of Medaglia d’Oro are in high demand due to the exploits of Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra, two-time champion Songbird, and MGISWs Elate, Plum Pretty and New Money Honey. Guffey said Girl Talk’s sire was certainly a factor in the purchase.

“We don’t have any mares by him, so that was a big selling feature for sure,” Guffey confirmed.

Campaigned by Bass and Everett Dobson’s Cheyenne Stables, the $390,000 KEESEP yearling’s record currently stands at 7-2-2-1 with earnings of $117,545 while under the care of Kiaran McLaughlin. The bay finished second in the Ladies H. at Aqueduct when last seen Jan. 21.

“We tossed around a few [stallion] ideas, Curlin, maybe Gun Runner,” Guffey said. “But, the plan right now is to race her this year and try to add to her race record. Obviously, that will help in the long run. We will probably take her home and give her a couple of days. This was a lot to take in for her. We will give her four or five days and then she will go down to the Dallas Stewart at the Fair Grounds.”

Bred by G. Watts Humphrey, Jr., and Louise Ireland Humphrey Revocable Trust, Girl Talk is out of MGSW One Caroline (Unbridled’s Song), who is also the dam of GSP Improv (Distorted Humor). One Caroline, a daughter of SW Powder (Broad Brush), has a 2-year-old filly by Bernardini and a yearling colt by Candy Ride (Arg).

“I kind of had her in that range being a Medaglia d’Oro out of an Unbridled’s Song mare,” said Conrad Bandoroff.

“She was a hell of a racemare,” Bandoroff continued. “We were kind of thinking in that ballpark. She was a pretty filly who showed herself pretty well the entire time she was here. We were lucky to have the opportunity to represent her for Mr. Dobson and Ramona Bass. You can run her a few more times or send her to the shed. There are a lot of options. When you have those mares who give you that flexibility, they should give you a premium.”

As for why Girl Talk was such a late addition to the catalogue, Bandoroff said, “She had her second in a stakes at Aqueduct at the end of January and the owners felt this was a great time to capitalize on her and cash in. With her pedigree and her physical, picking up that black-type allowed her to get to that level today. A lot of the fillies on the grounds here that made the money were the stakes performers with the quality physicals.”

Sumaya Strikes For Tricky One

Oussama Aboughazale’s Sumaya US has been on a buying spree at the Fasig-Tipton Winter Mixed Sale for the last two years and made headlines later in Tuesday’s session when going to $275,000 for the 4-year-old filly Tricky One (Unbridled’s Song), who sold as a broodmare prospect.

“I’ve had two or three people come up to me and say they thought she was one of the prettiest mares in this sale,” said Sumaya US farm manager Jody Alexander, who signed the ticket on the attractive bay. “She had a nice walk to her. Mr. Aboughazale was here Saturday and saw this mare prior to leaving and he liked her. He’s got a pretty keen eye.”

Tricky One will be bred to Sumaya’s MGSW and MGISP Protonico (Giant’s Causeway), who was moved to Darby Dan Farm for this season after having previously stood at Taylor Made.

“We moved Protonico to Darby Dan, so we are focusing now on the Protonico mares,” Alexander explained. “We don’t mind spending a little money to get some nice mares to Protonico. He thinks very highly of the stallion. He said he was very courageous and had a lot of heart. We are trying to get good mares to him so people can see the runners he produces.”

Bred and campaigned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Hip 498 is out of SW and GSP Simplify (Pulpit) and is a half-sister to SW Simple Surprise (Cowboy Cal). Trained by Steve Asmussen, Tricky One won two of her nine starts and earned $73,683.

“She was really a top filly,” said Michael Hernon of Gainesway, which consigned the filly. “A lot of people liked her. The mare is back in foal to American Pharaoh. [Tricky One] had a lot of ability. She won her debut impressively. She just looked the part and that price far exceeded our expectations. She was here to sell and had a low reserve on her of $40,000 just to get her off the mark. She had a strong following. My feeling was she would probably bring $150,000. This was a very strong premium. But it is indicative of this market for the quality young broodmares.”

Unbridled’s Song died in July of 2013, but his remaining progeny have been performing well both on the track and in the sales ring. He is the sire of champion Arrogate and newly crowned champion older mare Forever Unbridled, as well as her Grade I-winning sister Unbridled Forever. He has also proven to be a top broodmare sire with 2016 GI Breeders’ Cup Mile hero Tourist (Tiznow) as a prime example.

“No question he is the leading broodmare sire,” Hernon said. “She gets her size and scope from him. He has had significant success as broodmare sire and this filly has a good family behind her and is by him with that physique. We are very appreciative of both [the buyer and seller], especially the buyer, and wish them the very best.”

Brock Wins Out On Tiznow Colt

Glen Brock came out on top of a spirited round of bidding to secure a Tiznow colt for $260,000 on behalf of a pinhooking partnership Tuesday.

“I bought this horse for a group of pinhookers who would like to remain anonymous,” Brock said. “He is going to go to Ocala on Brook Ledge [Horse Transportation].”

Brock, who is Vice President of Sales for Brook Ledge, continued, “I loved him from the minute I saw him walk in the ring. He was a little more expensive than we expected, but we were sure willing.”

Hip 419 is out of the Tapit mare See Rock City, who also produced stakes-placed runners One More (Holy Bull) and Big Red Rocket (Summer Bird).

“He’s a beautiful colt, great walk, very easy to handle,” said Ron Blake, of Blake-Albina Thoroughbred Services, which consigned the colt. “He looks like he could be any kind. They are going to breed the mare back to Tiznow. She has already had two stakes horses. We are very happy with him and very happy with what he sold for.”

The bay was bred by Fredericka Caldwell and Mitchel Skolnick, who were also represented by a City Zip colt (hip 342) that RNA’d for $140,000.

“He is owned by the Caldwells in partnership with one of their clients,” Blake said. “The Caldwells are mainly in the Standardbred business. They have won the Hambeltonian Oaks four times. They own two Thoroughbred mares and they would just as soon not fool with the yearlings later in the year if they don’t have to. They would rather bring them here, hope they stand out and get the money and they are happy to move on. We had two in here to sell for them and we had one RNA, the City Zip, but we love the horse, so we will sell him later in the year. We think he will do very well. There are only about 40 City Zip yearlings left.”

De Meric & Klaravich Get Into More ‘Mischief’

Two-year-old consignor Nick de Meric broke and trained the recently retired Practical Joke, a multiple Grade I-winning son of Into Mischief, for Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence. The Ocala-based horseman called in to Fasig-Tipton February to secure another colt by that top Spendthrift sire on behalf of Klaravich for $220,000 Tuesday.

Bred by Mark Toothaker, David Meche, Tonya Jergens and Perry Judice, Hip 368 is the third foal out of Princess Kate (Orientate). The bay hails from the family of Grade I winner Free Drop Billy (Union Rags) and English Highweight and Group 1 winner Hawkbill (Kitten’s Joy).

“Lovely horse,” said consignor Stuart Morris. “I really appreciate Mark Toothaker and his partners giving me the opportunity to sell him for them. I’ve been watching the horse since early November and he has really evolved and progressed very well physically. He handled everything out here fantastically and is a really top quality colt. He has a 2-year-old half-brother by Goldencents that is training very forwardly down in Florida right now. I feel very fortunate to have a colt that nice and be trusted by those folks. I am very happy with the result.”

Into Mischief was the leading sire of 3-year-olds in North America last year by earnings and winners with his top earner being Practical Joke. His other top performers in 2017 include graded stakes winners Miss Sunset, Engage and One Liner.

The half-brother to four-time Eclipse winner Beholder is off to a good start this year with impressive GII Holy Bull S. winner Audible and third-place finisher Tiz Mischief.

Moana Proves Popular at Fasig

The 4-year-old mare Moana (Uncle Mo) was expected to be popular at the February sale and she did not disappoint, hammering for $200,000 to Roderick Wachman. Coolmore was the underbidder.

“She’s a very good-looking filly,” Wachman said after signing the ticket out back. “She’s by possibly the best sire in the country. She will be bred and resold, I imagine. We will decide who to go to.”

As for the price, he said, “I was hoping to get her a little more reasonably than that, but that is the market. I think these quality individuals by proper stallions with a race record are bringing an absolute premium. I am hoping the market will remain strong for some time to come. I know the stock market is looking a little shaky, but I wouldn’t worry about that. I think it will be a very strong November this year and September.”

A $150,000 KEESEP yearling, Moana was purchased by Eclipse Thoroughbreds and Bridlewood Farm for $300,000 the following year at OBS April. Trained by Todd Pletcher, she retires with a record of 7-1-1-2 and earnings of $91,850. The dark bay finished third in the GII Mother Goose S. last term and made her final start at Tampa in December.

Moana is out of the MSP Dixietwostepper (More Than Ready), who sold to Newtown Anner Stud for $35,000 carrying a foal by Orb at the 2017 Keeneland November sale. Hip 319 hails from the family of GISW Cotton Blossom and GSW Vicarage.

“I had hoped that she might bring in that range,” consignor Meg Levy of Bluewater Sales said. “You never know what is going to happen. It seemed the broodmare prospects were selling quite well yesterday. This morning when I saw that Midnight Lute sell for $200,000, I thought we might be there. Her reserve was reasonable. She was on the market. Eclipse and Bridlewood offered her fairly for sale and that is what she brought. I am really happy with her home. She is going to Claiborne and I think she will have a really good shot there. She is a very classy filly.”

Jorge Ricardo Ties Russell Baze Win Record

Tue, 2018-02-06 16:55

Brazilian jockey Jorge Ricardo tied retired North American-based Russell Baze as the jockey with the most all-time wins in history Monday evening at Hipodromo da Gavea in Rio de Janeiro. In his sixth ride of the day, the 56-year-old veteran rode Jubileia (Brz) (Rock of Gibraltar {Ire})) to a wire-to-wire win in a maiden special event to earn his 12,844th victory.

Spending the majority of his time riding in Argentina, “Ricardinho” said he intends to return home to attempt to eclipse the record in Buenos Aires. He returned to Argentina via plane Monday and will resume riding Wednesday at San Isidro.

Ricardo and Baze engaged in a well-publicized battle for the world record as their careers overlapped. Ricardo almost retired after a bout with cancer in 2009 and Baze ultimately retired from riding in 2016. Ricardo defeated cancer, returned to the races and recommitted himself to again set a new record. He is now very close to achieving that goal.


Chase Bank Accepting Transactions With ADWs

Tue, 2018-02-06 14:53

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest bank and largest credit card issuer in the United States with more than 80 million active credit cardholder accounts, has begun approving credit card deposit transactions with licensed and regulated advance deposit wagering companies (ADWs) within the country. Because many banks do not accept transactions that involve gambling, potential ADW customers have experienced difficulties funding their accounts. As such, the decision by a bank of Chase’s size to accept ADW transactions has widespread positive implications for the Thoroughbred industry, according to Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA).

“Credit cards are used primarily to fund new accounts, and it’s been the experience of most ADWs that when a potential new customer tries to open an account and is unable to do so because of a credit card decline, they lose that new customer,” Waldrop said. “They give up and may never place a bet on the business–either they’re discouraged, or they think there is something illegal about the activity. Making sure that as many credit cards as possible are accepting transactions is important to building that customer base.”

Waldrop, who credited Representative Andy Barr (R-KY) with spearheading the issue, noted that ADWs approved under the industry’s 7802 merchant category code report a higher number of credit card declines on major racing days such as the Breeders’ Cup or Triple Crown races, leading to a negative impact on overall handle.

While Chase is the largest card issuer in America, Waldrop said there are other credit card companies the NTRA is attempting to work with to reverse their policies. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Capital One are among the banks who continue to disallow transactions with ADWs among Visa and MasterCard-holding customers.

“You’re talking about another 30% of the credit card market that’s out there, potentially,” Waldrop said. “We intend to keep working until we can convince them that the process is safe and the due diligence that goes into approving our ADWs–which is substantial–will protect them. Those transactions are legal, predictable and have a low decline rate.”

Waldrop said it is possible that Chase’s decision leads to a domino effect where other leading credit card-issuing banks follow suit.

“We are optimistic,” Waldrop said. “Chase is a leader in the credit card industry, and they had to be convinced of the due diligence process. They inspected the process, and we came out with flying colors.”


Kodiac Filly Tops Goffs Opener

Tue, 2018-02-06 13:25

Goffs began its 2018 sale year with the February Sale on Tuesday, and the three-day auction kicked off with a mixture of 2-year-olds, older horses, horses in training and the first wave of over 300 catalogued yearlings. It was from this batch of just over 100 offered yearlings that the session topper emerged when legendary pinhooker, consignor and breeder Timmy Hyde fought off all challengers for a daughter of Kodiac (GB), eventually signing the docket at €130,000.

As one would expect for a sale of this nature, trade took a while to find its feet with the first 50 lots or so not contributing hugely to the day’s aggregate. However, at the close of business, day one returns stacked up very favourably when compared to the corresponding day of 2017. From a smaller number offered the aggregate comfortably surpassed last year’s corresponding figure of €898,000 when settling at €1,366,900. In total 119 of the 176 offered lots changed hands for a clearance rate of 67%. Last year’s average of €7,546 increased to €11,487 while the median also rose from €4,000 to €6,000.

The aforementioned session topper was consigned by Jacqui Norris’s Jockey Hall Stud as lot 145, and is out of the dual winning mare Sindjara (Include), who achieved a career high rating of 93 when trained by John Oxx for the Aga Khan. The mare was purchased from the Aga Khan’s draft at the 2013 Goffs November Sale by Emerald Bloodstock for €61,000 and this was the second significant auction result for her following the sale of her Dark Angel (Ire) yearling son for €90,000 at Arqana last year.

After fending off a late bid from the Tally-Ho Stud team Hyde, the master of Camas Park Stud, commented, “She is a lovely filly, the dam was quite highly rated and she has been bought for resale as a yearling.”

Soon after the short yearlings began coming into the ring, the pinhookers came out of the woodwork and trade took a considerable step forward. Lot 87 from the Castlebridge Consignment was the first to capture the attention of some shrewd operators and it was Guy O’Callaghan of Grangemore Stud who eventually won the battle for the son of Fastnet Rock (Aus) when the hammer dropped at €62,000. The good-moving first foal of the winning Montjeu (Ire) mare On A Pedestal (Ire), from the family of MG1SW and sire Bigstone (Ire) (Last Tycoon {GB}), will no doubt make his presence felt at one of the premier yearling sales later in the autumn. That price of €62,000 was matched not long after when Marc Antoine Berghgracht purchased lot 102, a Kodiac (GB) filly offered by Tullamaine Castle Stud. The April-born filly is a half-sister to the stakes performer Signposted (Ire) (Rock Of Gibraltar {Ire}), and after signing for the bay Berghgracht said, “She is a lovely filly by an excellent stallion and the dam is a proven producer. She has been bought for resale either here or in the UK.”

The highest priced colt of the day was a son of Juddmonte stallion Bated Breath (GB), offered by Ridge Manor Stud as lot 164 and knocked down to Goodwill Bloodstock for €70,000. The first foal of the dual winner Starlight Symphony (Ire) (Oratorio {Ire}) will likely be aimed at Book 2 at Tattersalls in October according to co-purchaser Michael Fitzpatrick, who commented, “He is a lovely horse, one of the best individuals here today in my opinion and let’s hope he’s lucky.”

John Banahan’s Ridge Manor Stud followed up soon after with another good sale when lot 177, a son of Gutaifan (Ire), was knocked down to Matt Houldsworth for €40,000.

Another yearling likely to be seen either back in Goffs at the Orby Sale or possibly Book 2 at Tattersalls is lot 97. The colt by Hallowed Crown (Aus), offered by Ballybin Stud went the way of Jamie Railton and the €55,000 purchase boasts a smart pedigree, being a half-brother to the very useful Archie Watson- trained filly Absolute Blast (Ire) (Kodiac {GB}).

Australian multiple Group 1 winner Brazen Beau (Aus) will have his first runners this year and the first of his two yearlings catalogued (Lot 192) found favour when selling to Gaelic Bloodstock for €40,000. Offered by The Premier Consignment, the colt is a half-brother to the very accomplished Group 1 placed runner The Cheka (Ire) (Xaar {GB}).

The Aga Khan drafts can always be relied upon to provide popular sorts in the ring, and the stud provided one of the early pacesetters when Karakour (Ire) (Dalakhani {Ire}) was knocked down to bloodstock agent Barry Lynch for €45,000. The 3-year-old was trained by Michael Halford to make a winning debut last month at Dundalk and according to Lynch, lot 67 will be plying his trade soon in Singapore. “He will be trained by Cliff Brown. He’s a nice horse and looks the type to do well in Singapore,” Lynch said. “He overcame a bad draw to win at Dundalk and he came well recommended by his former trainer.”

Trade continues today with a full day of yearlings and the sale will commence at the earlier time of 10 a.m.