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Updated: 10 hours 57 min ago

Outstanding Breeder: John Gunther

Thu, 2019-01-24 20:30

John D. Gunther, breeder of Triple Crown winner and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Justify (Scat Daddy), was recognized as outstanding breeder at Thursday evening’s Eclipse Award Ceremony at Gulfstream Park. Also the breeder of Justify’s Grade III-winning half-brother The Lieutenant (Street Sense), Gunther’s high-class operation at Glennwood Farm was also responsible for GII Wood Memorial S. hero and Belmont fourth-place finisher Vino Rosso (Curlin) and closed the season on a high note when Competitionofideas (Speightstown) took out the GI American Oaks.

Champion Sprinters: Roy H and Shamrock Rose

Thu, 2019-01-24 20:20

Roy H (More Than Ready-Elusive Diva, by Elusive Quality), a back-to-back winner of the GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint, became the first horse to earn consecutive champion sprinter honors since Housebuster (1990-91) at Thursday evening’s Eclipse Award Ceremony at Gulfstream Park. The Rockingham Ranch and David A. Bernsen colorbearer, bred by Ramona S. Bass, is trained by Peter Miller. He was a $115,000 KEESEP yearling and a $310,000 KEEAPR juvenile.

Manfred and Penny Conrad rolled the dice and supplemented Shamrock Rose (First Dude–Slew’s Quality, by Elusive Quality) into the GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, and the decision paid off in spades, as the Pennsylvania-bred became the third 3-year-old filly to be named Eclipse champion female sprinter. Bred by Best A Luck Farm LLC, the $120,000 OBSAPR graduate is trained by Mark Casse.


Champion 2-Year-Olds: Game Winner and Jaywalk

Thu, 2019-01-24 20:11

‘TDN Rising Star’ Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}-Indyan Giving, by A.P. Indy), unbeaten winner of the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, has been named champion 2-year-old male at the Eclipse Award Ceremony at Gulfstream Park. The Gary and Mary West colorbearer, a $110,000 KEESEP yearling, is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. He was bred by Summer Wind Equine.

Jaywalk (Cross Traffic-Lady Pewitt, by Orientate), a jaw-dropping winner of the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, was named champion 2-year-old filly. John Servis trains the $190,000 KEESEP yearling on behalf of D. J. Stable and Cash is King LLC. She was bred by Gainesway Thoroughbreds.


CHRB Tweaks Microchipping Rules

Thu, 2019-01-24 16:30

In 2014, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) was ahead of the regulatory pack in terms of crafting rules that required the microchipping of racehorses for identification purposes.

However, as a Dec. 26, 2018, effective date loomed for the ambitious plan, regulators and track officials realized there might be adverse practical implications on the horizon because not every racehorse in the state had a microchip implanted.

In addition, some of the rule language that seemed solid when first adopted now seemed problematic to board members.

As a result, the CHRB voted unanimously at its Thursday meeting to suspend the implementation of four microchip-related rules. The board then unanimously voted in proposed amended rules with new language, which must go through a mandatory 45-day public commentary period before they can be voted into place for good.

The areas of concern centered on:

1) Horses needing to have a microchip as a requirement of entry in a race. A more practical workaround, the CHRB decided, would be to allow horses to be entered, then in the interim before race day, be fitted with a chip prior to racing. A horse could still be scratched if it didn’t get a chip in time.

2) The initial version of the rule gave stewards the ability to grant a waiver for non-chipped shippers for stakes races only. The CHRB instead opted to allow for a one-time waiver, regardless of what type of race the horse would be running in.

3) The track identifier–and not the stewards–will become the officially mandated point-person at each track for microchipping. Previous rule language included both entities.

“California was very aggressive with microchipping,” said commissioner Madeline Auerbach. “We went into a pilot program with The Jockey Club originally, and we felt we could get this accomplished in this time frame. And as most of us know when we’re working with government protocols and procedures, sometimes it takes forever to get things done….So this is just our way of saying, “Okay, we didn’t do this correctly. Let’s back up before we have a problem, and fix it.”

Or, as CHRB executive director Rick Baedeker put it, “We realized that this [set of rules] was cumbersome, and the purpose of this was never to compromise the entry box.”

Baedeker added that “when we were rapidly approaching the deadline of Dec. 26, we found that we had 95% of Thoroughbreds covered throughout the state. We only had about 80% of Quarter Horses covered. And we faced an imminent situation where horses would not be allowed to enter races” without the microchips.

“At this point, we believe it’s in the best interest of the sport to get it right,” Baedeker explained to board members. “We don’t think these changes will take as long as some might going through the entire regulatory process. So when they come back [from the public commentary period], and if you adopt them, we think we’re going to have a much better set of rules.

“But in the meantime,” Baedeker concluded, “let’s just admit the fact that we couldn’t quite get the whole population chipped, and, as a matter of fact, in our opinion, some of the rules were flawed.”


Unique Oaklawn Penalty Resolution: Move Jock’s Days to N.Y.

Thu, 2019-01-24 13:55

After re-sparking his career last season by climbing to third in wins in the Oaklawn Park riding standings, jockey David Cohen is understandably keen for Friday’s meet to start. He is named to ride 20 horses in Hot Springs over the three-day opening weekend.

But because of two carried-over three-day stewards’ suspensions for interference that Cohen had incurred at Oaklawn last season, those riding opportunities were initially threatened.

Last year, Cohen had appealed both his early-March penalties to the Arkansas Racing Commission (ARC). But the ARC didn’t get around to hearing his appeals until April 14, the closing date of the 2018 season. Thus, when the ARC upheld the stewards’ suspensions, they were ordered to be served at Oaklawn starting on opening day of the 2019 meet.

Cohen subsequently appealed the ARC’s decision to Garland County Circuit Court in Arkansas. But before the case could be adjudicated, the ARC agreed to renegotiate when and where the six days of suspensions would be served, according to ARC ruling 2019-OP-2 dated Jan. 24.

“To resolve the issue before it was heard in court, the ARC and Mr. Cohen agree that Mr. Cohen would take a three-racing day suspension at Belmont Park and the remaining three days would be served at Aqueduct,” the ruling stated. “Both suspensions were satisfied.”

Fasig-Tipton Adds 52 Supplemental Entries to Winter Mixed Sale

Wed, 2019-01-23 16:18

Fasig-Tipton has catalogued an additional 52 entries for its 2019 Kentucky Winter Mixed Sale supplemental catalogue. Those entries, catalogued as hips 477-528, may now be viewed online. They include stakes winners True Royalty (Yes It’s True), Frost Wise (Frost Giant), Spring Tempest (Spring At Last) and Way to Versailles (Tizway).

The Kentucky Winter Mixed Sale will be held Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 4-5, in Lexington, Kentucky. The Supplemental Catalogue will be offered Tuesday, Feb. 5, following the conclusion of the main catalogue. Print versions of the supplemental catalogue will be available on-site at Fasig-Tipton. The supplemental catalogue is also available via the equineline sales catalogue app.

Wednesday’s Pegasus Trackside Report

Wed, 2019-01-23 15:55

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL.–Though the temperatures were in the low 70s, it was a cloudy, blustery morning at Gulfstream Park with winds gusting between 20 and 30mph as Pegasus World Cup week began to rev up.

Morning-line favorite Accelerate (Lookin at Lucky) arrived in Florida Tuesday evening and apparently was not jet-lagged after his trip from California, hitting the track early under the cover of darkness. In traditional D. Wayne Lukas fashion, MGISP Bravazo (Awesome Again) also put in his morning exercise before dawn. Also on the scene early was GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero City of Light (Quality Road).

As the sun began to shine through, pushing away the clouds, around 7:45a.m., just after the renovation break, the Japanese runner Aerolithe (Jpn) (Kurofune) caught the eye as she jogged the wrong way towards the gate. While the striking gray schooled in the gates, one of her inaugural GI Pegasus World Cup Turf S. competitors Magic Wand (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who will represent the powerhouse duo of Coolmore and Aidan O’Brien, passed by at an easy gallop.

“It was [Aerolithe’s] first time with a gate boy, but we think it would be advantageous for her to have one, so she gets a nice clean start. If she gets one, she will have every chance in the world,” said Kate Hunter, Pegasus World Cup field representative and translator for the Japan Racing Association.

After completing her gate schooling without incident, Aerolithe returned to the track, jogging the right direction through the stretch before picking up the tempo on the backside. With trainer Takanari Kikuzawa in the irons, the stunning dappled gray breezed an easy four furlongs in :51.15 (15/19) into a very strong headwind, finishing up well and with ears pricked (video).

“Typically in Japan, we do breezes on Wednesday,” Hunter explained. “We gave her some rest and relaxation when she got here, so it was always the plan to breeze her on Wednesday. She has been going really well over the dirt so far. Her trainer commented about the horses going every which way, with everyone making their own decisions. That is not how they do it in Japan. It is a little bit more controlled there, so her trainer had to get used to that going out there in the mornings.”

Several other contenders for both Pegasus races took their time getting to the track, putting in their morning gallops after the next renovation break around 9:30a.m., including Mexican sensation Kukulkan (Mex) (Point Determined) and Stronach Pegasus runner Something Awesome (Awesome Again). Also on track during that time slot was striking GI Shadwell Turf Mile winner Next Shares (Archarcharch), who successfully stretched out in the nine-panel GII San Gabriel S. and looks to repeat in the Pegasus Turf.

The rest of the contenders for both Pegasus races based at training facilities around the Sunshine State made their way into Gulfstream after training hours concluded Wednesday in compliance with the 72-hour policy. Among them were GI Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Gunnevera (Dialed In) and last term’s GI Florida Derby hero Audible (Into Mischief), who also schooled in the paddock before the fourth race with stablemate and GIII Fred Hooper S. contender Copper Town (Speightstown).

Well-Bred Dansili Filly Prevails as Favorite on Tampa Debut

Wed, 2019-01-23 15:03

Peter Brant’s BLOWOUT (GB) (f, 3, Dansili {GB}–Beauty Parlour {GB}, by Deep Impact {Jpn}), a €450,000 purchase as a foal out of the Wildenstein Dispersal at the 2016 Goffs November Sale, became the latest first-time starter winner for Chad Brown with a battling victory Wednesday at Tampa Bay Downs. Favored at 19-10, the second foal out of the 2012 G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) victress settled a path or two off the fence from midfield and with some cover behind a moderate tempo. Advancing into fifth for the run into the second turn, Blowout was pulled out into about the six path at the entry to the stretch, hooked up with her chief market rival Chancetheracer (Quality Road) at the furlong grounds and narrowly outfinished that rival to graduate. Tiple (Ire) (Requinto {Ire}) was third. Blowout was bred by the Wildenstein Family’s Dayton Investements and is out of a full-sister to Barocci (Jpn), a stakes winner in France and multiple graded placed in this country. Blowout’s third dam was broodmare of the year Benediction (Ire) (Day Is Done {Ire}), the dam of 1999 Australian Horse of the Year and seven-time Group 1 winner Might and Power (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}). The third dam also includes Hong Kong champion miler Lucky Owners (NZ) (Danehill). Brant is also the owner of Beauty Parlour, having paid €1.4 million for the mare in foal to Kingman (GB) out of the dispersal. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0. O-Peter M Brant; B-Dayton Investments Limited; T-Chad Brown.

Chris Kay Resigns from NYRA

Wed, 2019-01-23 12:29

An abrupt resignation by New York Racing Association (NYRA) chief executive officer and president Chris Kay was shrouded in mystery Wednesday, when no official explanation was given for the unexpected departure and no NYRA board of directors members were willing to speak on the record about it.

A concise, four-paragraph midday press release from NYRA said its board of directors announced the acceptance of Kay’s resignation “effective immediately.”

David O’Rourke, NYRA’s senior vice president and chief revenue officer, was named interim CEO.

Kay could not be reached for comment.

TDN‘s attempts to contact individual NYRA board members in the two hours after the release went public resulted primarily in unreturned phone messages. One board member was willing to take a call, but only to say that he could not speak on the record about specifics of Kay’s resignation because of its sensitive nature.

The Times Union of Albany cited an unnamed “source familiar with the decision” who said the NYRA board had requested Kay’s resignation.

Daily Racing Form‘s David Grening further reported that multiple sources told him the reason was “Kay had used NYRA employees to do private work for him at the house he owns in Saratoga, considered a breach of company policy.”

Kay joined NYRA July 1, 2013. According to NYRA’s Jan. 23 release, under his direction, “NYRA improved the quality and safety of racing operations; enhanced the overall guest experience; and was returned to private control.”

But Kay, who came to NYRA after spending five years as chief operating officer for Toys ‘R’ Us and a stint as a consultant to Universal Parks & Resorts, was often criticized for his lack of knowledge of the sport, and for the impression that his public comments and presentations often took on a optimistic, superlative-laden tone that championed NYRA while stepping nimbly in corporate-speak around more difficult political and racing industry issues.

Yet at the time of Kay’s appointment, the hiring of a “racing outsider” seemed to be exactly what NYRA was looking for when it vetted more than 100 applicants for the CEO position.

The Daily Gazette of upstate New York wrote upon Kay’s hiring that “NYRA decided to go outside of the racing industry, board members said, because of the complexities facing the CEO, including returning the board to private hands in less than three years.”

O’Rourke joined NYRA in 2008 as director of financial planning. Since 2011, he has been responsible for NYRA’s business development strategies across a range of disciplines including industry relations, simulcast markets and contracts, television and ADW operations, and capital projects.

Sales Vetting: Agree to Differ, or Differ to Agree?

Tue, 2019-01-22 16:43

Dr. No must have been a veterinarian. Such, at least, was the implied verdict of many horsemen and women responding to a tweet posted by Gray Lyster of Ashview Farm the other day.

One of Lyster’s many appealing qualities is that you are more likely to find him breaking powder at Jackson Hole than glazing his eyeballs on social media all day. On Saturday, however, he was prompted into one of his sporadic messages by the fact that the “two worst vetted yearlings” in Ashview’s past two crops had both won on debut last week. “When you are vetting horses to purchase, please keep that in the back of your mind,” he added.

The reaction was impassioned: “likes” by the hundred, retweets by the dozen, each comment creating ripples of further comment. Mark Taylor, for instance, observed that Taylor Made’s poster of a hundred Grade I winners could equally be titled the “failed vetting poster,” adding: “I actually believe that failing the vet as a yearling could be the most accurate indicator of elite talent we have!” Bluewater Sales, endorsing Taylor, said that its clients are told: “This one may have just enough wrong with it to be a runner.”

Yet those most incensed by each other’s perceived positions often turn out to have plenty in common. As so often, the difficulty comes when nuances of grey are stripped out for a black-and-white, right-and-wrong polemic; reduced, in this case, to the catch-all notion that a horse can “pass” or “fail” the vet according to some objective and immutable scientific standard.

Even the most cursory consultation of vendors, buyers and veterinarians quickly shows that different people, with different priorities, are absolutely entitled to different perspectives on a highly subjective challenge. They’re all dealing with adolescent, changing animals, whose inevitable and hugely varied imperfections of flesh and bone place them somewhere on a spectrum of risk.

Few know the market better than David Ingordo. “The term ‘pass the vet’ is totally subjective,” the agent says. “Vetting is a tool. Some people live or die according to what the vet says. We take a different approach. I can’t read X-rays; don’t want to. I can’t scope horses, don’t want to. So I send a vet in there and he comes back with the information. I only ask him to vet a horse if I have an intention to buy it. I’m not asking him to practice using a scope: I want the okay to buy a horse and sometimes, in a nice way, it becomes a big fight. We’re not just failing them wholesale if a horse has a problem. But I do want the information that’s available.”

As one who understands both sides of the deal, also being a pinhooker, Ingordo stresses that different standards must be applied to horses for different purposes.

“Horses have problems that may or may not affect their racing ability,” he says. “But if you’re going to resell you must have a horse literally everybody can buy. When I’m doing that, I’m not trying to sell the horse to myself next year; I’m trying to sell to a pool of buyers that have money to spend and an opinion about how to spend it. And what I can accept and what they can accept are two different things.

“There are tons of horses with issues that will be fine to race. But when you’re buying them, there’s an associated amount of risk. And it’s a dollar amount. I’m willing to lay out $30,000 for this risk, associated with this vetting report; or I’m willing to shell out $1 million on this one. So there’s a risk and reward in it.

“I buy a lot of horses that don’t pass everybody else’s vet but that pass my criteria for what I’m doing. It may be a simple case of some sesamoiditis, the ultrasound shows the branches are clean but the horse just needs an additional 30, 60 or 90 days for the bone to settle down so I can move forward with it. So it ‘passes’ for me, because I’m willing to take the time—but it ‘fails’ for someone else, because they aren’t. These things get labelled in general terms but there’s always more layers to this conversation.”

Equally he remembers his vet producing a research paper that surveyed 100 horses with the same problem they were contemplating in a yearling: a spur projecting from the back of the knee into a ligament. Not one of the 100 had made the track. Yet this horse, duly rejected by Ingordo and his team, changed hands for $475,000. So he plainly “passed” the vet, and big time, for someone else.

Different things work for different people. Carrie Brogden of Machmer Hall, who applauded Lyster for igniting the debate, gives an example from the recent January Sale at Keeneland. She was underbidder on a $40,000 colt, who had been certified by a vet she recognised. Subsequently she received a call from the consignors explaining that the buyer, who had not had him vetted beforehand, was “freaking out” after his own vet subsequently diagnosed moderate sesamoiditis in the front ankles.

“This buyer was having a meltdown, wanted to return the horse, so I said send me the pictures,” Brogden says. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a vet, but I’ve seen hundreds and thousands of X-rays now. And when I saw them I was like: ‘Huh!?’ So we ended up purchasing the horse for a discount. An example of a horse being completely failed for something my vet wouldn’t have called. Nor had the original vet. But the purchaser’s vet is killing the horse. It’s this stuff we deal with all the time.”

To Brogden, the key is trust between consignor and buyers. Tepin, the champion who put her on the map, herself had an issue not dissimilar to this colt. “And she didn’t have a perfect throat,” Brogden recalls. “That’s why she was $140,000 as a Saratoga yearling. I lost a lot of buyers.”

But the Greathouses knew they could take Brogden at her word, and did so when she assured them that the young Bernstein filly’s hind ankles had never blown up. As the other side of the same coin, she recalls frankly turning Niall Brennan against a very handsome and well-bred horse, whose ankle problems had indeed reached a clinical level. Sure enough, that horse never got to the track—and she trusts that Brennan will remember her candour whenever she gives him the green light in future.

“It’s the same farms that raise the graded stakes horses year after year,” she notes. “And to me, the ones that raise a lot of runners don’t raise them like sale horses. They raise them tough and strong. We don’t separate our yearling colts until they go into sales prep and sometimes I watch them and think, ‘My God they’re going to kill each other out there.’ It’s the clash of the titans, a battle zone. So, sure, somebody’s going to get a defect in their sesamoid; somebody’s going to chip here; somebody’s come up with this there. But we try to walk that line. And plenty of times we kick on to the 2-year-old sales with horses that have gotten crunched by the vets as yearlings—just like Maximus Mischief (Into Mischief), for what I thought was b.s.—and… surprise! They vet great.”

Ingordo, coming at it from a different side, equally deplores the notion that horses have to be bubble-wrapped to get past a sales vet. “That’s absolutely the opposite of what should happen, if you want horses to perform and be sound and be horses,” he says. “A little cosmetic thing, a cut or whatever, who cares? It’s frustrating [to hear that] because it’s never as simple as someone giving a rubberstamp to say these all vetted, and these didn’t.”

If anything, Ingordo wonders whether there might be a chicken-and-egg element, in that prepping young stock is nowadays so intense. If a horse is forced through the commercial process too early, it may come up with marginal issues that simply require a little patience. And that’s where the guy signing the check comes in. Sometimes he will want a horse to be in Ocala on Oct. 1 to start the breaking process. Ingordo will sometimes plead on behalf of a nice horse: it only needs a P1 flake [first/proximal phalanx] taken out, say, the equivalent of a tonsil for us. But if his client doesn’t want to wait, he doesn’t want to wait.

“You know, nobody has a crystal ball,” Ingordo says. “But good vets will tell you that in their experience a problem may not manifest itself in one race, or ever, but could become a problem somewhere down the line. And then the people getting the information have to be able to process it. Unfortunately, in the sales environment we’re in today, some people don’t know [how to do that]. Their reliance is on the vet—and the vets, through no fault of their own, are then in a no-win position. Because if they ‘approve’ the horse and anything goes wrong, somebody’s going to get blamed.”

Lyster himself actually takes a similar view on that: unlike many consignors, he does not resent the vets themselves for failing horses, instead suspecting that they are given little margin by their patrons.

“I don’t buy the ‘vets-are-screwing-us’ scenario you hear from some peers,” Lyster says. “I think it’s the principal, at the end of the line, we need to try to educate a little. It’s all a risk assessment, right. And people are spending a lot of money. And a vet is saying: ‘Hey, to me this yearling is more risky than this yearling.’ And then basically someone takes a pen and marks that number off their list. Any kind of blemish, the horse becomes valueless to that person. So the term ‘a horse fails the vet’ has turned into ‘well, he doesn’t have a perfect set of X-rays.’

“I do think fewer and fewer principals have hands-on horsemanship. They’re not familiar with a lot of the advice they’re getting, and simply sum it up as: ‘Well that horse doesn’t vet.’ And part of me understands that. Honestly, vet work has become very difficult to understand. It used to be you’d have a vet go over something and if there wasn’t a big problem you’d buy the horse. But now it’s become that when a vet talks to an owner, I’ve got to tell you—as a professional in this industry—a lot of the time I can’t understand what the heck they’re saying. When I get confused and owners get confused it turns into: ‘Well, that horse failed.’ What was it? ‘Oh, something in the ankle.'”

Lyster accepts that in a crop of 20 there will typically be one that comes with blatantly high risk. But nowadays he feels that a major issue will be made of anything that is “remarkable,” rather than significant: anything, literally, you can “remark” on. And he reckons that maybe half those 20 horses will today be “crucified” for something of that ilk: something merely mentionable.

A couple of years ago a prospector came up to him at the sales and said: “I had six horses on my list today but they all failed the vet.”

“Do you know what you need to do?” replied Lyster.

“No, what’s that?”

“You need to fire your vet!”

As he elaborates: “Because it’s not possible to hand-pick six yearlings and for all six of them to fail the vet. It’s not possible to vet 20 horses and have 14 fail the vet. You’ve X-ray machines that all of a sudden are seeing three or four times the detail they used to see, and I don’t think that’s benefiting anyone. Because they’re finding more reasons to say: ‘Oh my gosh, that doesn’t look like what the perfect X-ray looked like when we went to vet school.”

Brogden concurs. “I don’t think the horses have changed,” she says. “What’s changed is digital X-rays. Before, in 10 years I had one horse called for a knee spur. One horse, a Mr. Greeley colt. Fast forward to digital X-ray, now have maybe 20% called for 2mm knee spurs, and probably 40 or 50% of yearlings called for sesamoiditis.”

Of course, the ultimate corrective to the market is the racetrack. If people are letting good runners slip through the net, there is value there for the discerning shopper.

“I understand how we have a limited amount of buyers, and how each year people are taking tons of risk in our industry,” Lyster says. “If you’re going out there to buy one or two yearlings, I understand why you’d want to be super picky. But it’s got out of control if horses with a couple of ‘remarkable’ findings, that rarely bother horses, become valueless.

“But there are people out there smart enough to go out and target that value. If Horse A and Horse B are both perfect X-rays, they’re both worth half a million dollars. But if Horse A has perfect X-rays and Horse B some ‘remarkable’ findings, Horse A becomes worth $750,000 and Horse B $150,000. The gap just seems to get wider and wider. It seems like with 10% more risk, Horse B will be literally 20% of the cost of Horse A.”

At the same time, in Lyster’s view, the gap is narrowing between the horse that legitimately shouldn’t be touched with a bargepole, and those with a “laundry list” of trivial drawbacks. One of the Ashview graduates who won last week had a congenital defect in an ankle—not that the technical diagnosis made particular sense to Lyster. “All I can tell you is that I was told this horse will never stand training,” he says. “So when he runs off the screen you think: ‘Woah, I didn’t think he was able to breeze a half-mile!'”

To be fair to the veterinarians, they too object when their own judgements on matters of degree are presented as absolutes. And, as both Ingordo and Lyster have acknowledged, often it is actually the vets’ clients who do that.

“We would very rarely use the terms ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ when we’re looking at horses,” stresses Dr. Scott Hay, president of Florida racetrack practice Teigland, Franklin and Brokken DVMs and vice-president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. “Now, some clients don’t understand anything other than pass, fail; and sometimes they drag us into that terminology. But we really resist it. The most important part, typically, is to be working for people with whom we’ve developed a good relationship over time, and whose tolerances for certain findings we have come to understand.

“Now over time we may change our level of tolerance for a certain finding, if we realize that maybe we missed a horse because we had a prejudice against a certain finding. The flipside is that sometimes we may prove too tolerant, and horses have a poorer racing career than expected because of something we were happy enough to accept.

“We try not to get prejudiced about findings we think will probably be all right for a horse’s racing career. The issue is that some clients just don’t want to take a risk of any sort. I’m not trying to sit here and tell you it’s always the clients, if we miss a good horse. Sometimes the vet leads them down that path as well. But I do think we all take a bad rap for turning down a horse.

“My philosophy is that we report on what we see; try to explain what we think that means; try to weigh up the risk tolerance; and let them be the ultimate decision-makers on whether or not to buy. We try to educate them the best we can. But it’s their money they’re spending. And they’re the ones who know how much they want to stick their neck out on something that may, or may not, be an issue.”

Everyone knows of champions rejected as young horses on veterinary advice. One consignor who sold a horse now at stud remembers how his spectacular physique was legitimately undermined, as a yearling, by severe question marks over an ankle. A big Kentucky farm sent three different vets to try and get him cleared, but none was prepared to oblige. Nonetheless the horse met his (relatively conservative) reserve. After his championship campaign, the trainer rang the consignor and asked for his yearling X-rays, because they had just taken a new set that suggested they must have deteriorated to a shocking degree. “No problem,” said the consignor. “And I bet you’ll find they’re exactly the same as your new ones.” On receiving them, the trainer rang back and said: “This is incredible. Our vet can’t believe that this horse has never been clinically lame.”

But stories like that shouldn’t necessarily alter anyone’s position. If it’s all a question of degree, then those that do survive doubt and prosper as runners don’t—in themselves—prove that the original doubt was misplaced.

“Sometimes you’ll see a beautiful horse by a leading sire out of a Grade I winner,” Ingordo says. “And he’s an A-plus physical. And he brings 30 grand. He’s been vetted 20 times, and he brings 30 grand. Were all those people wrong? And if he breaks his maiden by 15 lengths, and goes on to win a Grade I, were all those people wrong on their assessment at the time? I would argue probably not. Everyone would say: ‘Look, he didn’t pass the vet and now look what he did!’ But how many of the horses we all turn down never run because they have an issue that gives them a 1% chance to make it?”

“People hire us for a reason,” Dr Hay says. “That’s not necessarily to overly protect them, but certainly to protect their interests. You’re talking about percentage risk—and any time you do that, some of them are on one side of that line and some on the other. If we could figure out which, we’d all be geniuses. But we’re not, so we have to weigh it out and see where that individual lands. Hopefully, we make the right choice and take the right risks but that’s not always going to work out in everyone’s favour. Somebody’s going to miss that horse, and someone else’s going to buy that horse. And they’re the ones who are going to do good or bad, with that horse, because of that risk that was there.”

As Ingordo said at the outset, the same issue can look radically different from one perspective to the next. And, as he also emphasises, nobody—on any side of this equation—is always right.

“Vets vary in opinions but they all have the opportunity and the right to work,” he says. “So there are some who would turn down Secretariat at the head of the stretch in the Belmont and say he doesn’t vet; and there are others who’ll pretty much wave them through, no matter what. Buyers can be too stringent. Myself, I’m pretty forgiving. We have good clients and use horsemanship in every process. But the buyer’s the one putting up the money and if they want things a certain way, that’s their prerogative. Nobody’s perfect in this game. But the term ‘does not vet’ is very subjective and needs qualification.

“I understand people being frustrated when they’ve never had a problem with a horse. Okay, it’s never had a problem for you. But as buyers our job is to assess whether it might become a problem. You hear about the ones that go on and are successful—but never about those that didn’t make it.”

Again, different ways of looking at the same thing. Brogden turns it round: “As one of my very dear friends, a 2-year-old consignor, said to me: ‘Carrie, you have to look at it this way. They fail as many horses that can run as they pass horses that cannot.’ And I thought that was spot on.”

But that beauty of this business is that we don’t establish who’s wrong or right by arguing about it. We have that oval out there, with a wooden stick opposite the stand. And we can sort it all out there, every day of the week.

That said, you would be very welcome to carry on thrashing things out in the horseman’s forum that is TDN. If so, we’d love to hear your views. Email us at if you have comments for publication.

Significant Purse Hikes On Tap at Finger Lakes

Tue, 2019-01-22 12:52

An agreement reached earlier this month between the New York Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund (“the Fund”) and Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack (FLGR) will see purse enrichments that will finance 40-50% increases for maiden special weight races and at the first two allowance levels this coming season at Finger Lakes Racetrack in upstate Farmington, NY.

Maiden special weight race purses will increase by nearly 49% in 2019, with total money available of $31,270, which includes up to $4,770 of open-company awards from the Fund’s incentive program. Horses bred in New York won 90$ of FLGR maiden specials last year, of which 68% were won by New York-sired progeny.

First-level allowance races are set to be worth $30,680 (including $4,680 open-company awards) while second-level allowance races will be contested for purse money of $31,860 (including up to $4,860 of open-company awards).

“By enhancing multiple conditioned races, we hope to provide a strong incentive for horses to come to Finger Lakes and stay stabled on the grounds for subsequent conditions of value,” said Jeff Cannizzo, executive director of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders. “Also, breeders, owners and stallion owners will get the additional benefit of an opportunity to earn increased incentive awards from the Fund commensurate with the increased purses. This year will see the largest purses at Finger Lakes on record for maiden specials and the first two levels of allowance races. Breeders, owners and stallion businesses will now see 40-50% increases in the awards they earn on these races. It’s a win-win for everyone. Horsemen with stock that belong at this level across the northeast region should truly give Finger Lakes a close look when this enhanced purse structure appears in the spring condition book next week.”

Finger Lakes will continue to offer state-bred restricted third-level allowance races. In 2018, New York-breds won 97% of all allowance races at the track, 54% by New York-sired progeny.


Belinda Alleges Frank’s `Fanciful Schemes’ Eroded Stronach Family Empire

Tue, 2019-01-22 12:22

Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of The Stronach Group (TSG) and the primary defendant in a bombshell October lawsuit initiated by her father, Frank Stronach, has chosen the week of the racing company’s highest profile race, the GI Pegasus World Cup, to fire back with her own allegations of financial mismanagement by her dad that she claims have cost the family empire some $800 million (CDN).

In a statement of defense and counter-suit filed Jan. 21 in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Belinda Stronach’s legal team is arguing that “The conflict that underlies this lawsuit is a fundamental disagreement over the proper test to be applied to managing the business and affairs of TSG. Frank Stronach firmly believes that, having been the principal creator of the family wealth, he may direct the business and affairs of TSG as he sees fit. Belinda and other TSG management firmly believe that their obligation is to manage the business and affairs of TSG in a prudent manner that is in the best interests of TSG and its stakeholders.”

The 217 pages of court documents obtained by TDN paint a picture of ill-advised “passion projects” initiated by Frank Stronach, the 86-year-old family patriarch, including $55 million for two bronze statues of a 12-story high Pegasus horse. One statue is the signature focal point of Gulfstream Park, while the other is crated up in storage in China and has never been publicly displayed.

“While Frank had great success in creating one of the world’s largest automotive suppliers, he has also experienced significant failures in nearly all of his other non-auto parts ventures and his political affairs,” Belinda Stronach’s filing contends. “[Frank’s] lawsuit is an attempt to force TSG to fund Frank’s imprudent, and, in some cases, fanciful schemes to the detriment of TSG and its stakeholders.

“Belinda has engaged in no unlawful conduct. To the contrary she has taken steps to rectify the irregular affairs of TSG she inherited from Frank,” the documents allege.

“Over time…Frank began to engage in activities, many unauthorized, which placed the business and assets of TSG at considerable risk. These activities escalated to a point where they became a significant distraction for the management of TSG,” the documents allege.

TDN will be updating this story through the day on Tuesday.

(This story was reported and written collaboratively by Bill Finley, Perry Lefko, and T.D. Thornton)


Accelerate Mid-Gate in Pegasus, Yoshida Favored From Gate 2 in Turf Counterpart

Tue, 2019-01-22 12:19

Hronis Racing’s reigning GI Breeders’ Cup Classic hero and Horse of the Year candidate Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) was assigned gate five in a field of 12 and was made the 9-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s $9-million GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park. Joel Rosario has the call for John Sadler, who was more than satisfied with the draw. He will try to become the third straight Classic winner swansong victoriously in the Pegasus.

“It’s a good post,” Sadler said. “We didn’t want to be on the outside and we didn’t want to be on the inside. We were hoping for five or six, so we’re very happy with the draw. He has a style that doesn’t get in trouble, typically. Hopefully, he gets away good and gets a good trip from there.”

City Of Light (Quality Road) handed Accelerate his lone defeat of 2018 in a stirring renewal of the GII Oaklawn H., but cut back in distance for the GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, in which he defeated fellow Pegasus entrant Seeking the Soul (Perfect Soul {Ire}) by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths. Javier Castellano has the call for trainer Mike McCarthy.

“I’m very pleased to be drawn into the three-hole,” McCarthy said. “It got down to the wire there with the three or the 12, so we were obviously very grateful to have the three-hole. He’s a horse that carries his speed a long way, so hopefully we get a nice, clean break and find ourselves in a good position going into the first turn and turning up the backside.”

WinStar Farm, who will be represented in the Pegasus Dirt by last year’s course-and-distance GI Florida Derby winner Audible (Into Mischief), will send out Yoshida (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry {Jpn}) in as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Turf. Winner of the GI Turf Classic on Derby Day last May, he defeated Gunnevera (Dialed In) in the GI Woodward S. and returns to the grass off a very respectable fourth to Accelerate in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“We’re happy with that,” WinStar’s Elliott Walden said. “I always like saving ground, especially on the turf, and we’ll go from there. I always like to be the favorite, because it feels like you’re in the right spot if you’re the favorite. It doesn’t mean he’s going to win but it means he’s in with a big chance.”

Yoshida is one of two Japanese-breds in the race, as the filly Aerolithe (Jpn) (Kurofune), a Group 1 winner over a mile at home, adds a fair bit of intrigue to the race. Last year’s G2 Ribblesdale S. victress Magic Wand (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) invades for Team Ballydoyle off a solid fourth to Eclipse Award candidate Sistercharlie (Ire) (Myboycharlie {Ire}) in the GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Nov. 3.

PEGASUS WORLD CUP INVITATIONAL S.-GI, $9,000,000, 3yo/up, 1 1/8m
1 Bravazo (Awesome Again), Lukas, Saez, 12-1
2 Something Awesome (Awesome Again), Corrales, Prado, 20-1
3 City of Light (Quality Road), McCarthy, Castellano, 5-2
4 Seeking the Soul (Perfect Soul {Ire}), Stewart, Velazquez, 12-1
5 Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky), Sadler, Rosario, 9-5
6 Tom’s D’Etat (Smart Strike), Stall Jr., Bridgmohan, 20-1
7 True Timber (Mineshaft), McLaughlin, Bravo, 30-1
8 Gunnevera (Dialed In), Sano, Ortiz Jr., 8-1
9 Kukulcan (Mex) (Point Determined), Gutierrez, Dettori, 30-1
10 Audible (Into Mischief), Pletcher, Prat, 10-1
11 Imperative (Bernardini), Quartarolo, Gaffalione, 30-1
12 Patternrecognition (Adios Charlie), Brown, Ortiz, 10-1

PEGASUS WORLD CUP TURF-GI, $7,000,000, 3yo/up, 1 3/16mT
1 Magic Wand (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), O’Brien, Lordan, 9-2
2 Yoshida (Jpn) (Heart’s Cry {Jpn}), Mott, Ortiz, 5-2
3 Channel Maker (English Channel), Mott, Castellano, 12-1
4 Aerolithe (Jpn) (Kurofune), Kikuzawa, Geroux, 8-1
5 Next Shares (Archarcharch), Baltas, Gaffalione, 15-1
6 Fahan Mura (English Channel), Cerin, Maldonado, 30-1
7 Bricks and Mortar (Giant’s Causeway), Brown, Ortiz Jr., 5-1
8 Delta Prince (Street Cry {Ire}), Jerkens, Dettori, 15-1
9 Catapult (Kitten’s Joy), Sadler, Van Dyke, 7-2
10 Dubby Dubbie (Ice Box), Hess Jr., Panici, 30-1

Tom McGreevy Joins Fasig-Tipton

Tue, 2019-01-22 11:57

Leading bloodstock agent and yearling buyer Tom McGreevy will join the Fasig-Tipton yearling inspection team this spring for the company’s 2019 selected yearling sales. McGreevy will continue to serve as the exclusive agent and advisor for client Michael Stinson.

“We are delighted to have Tom join our yearling inspection team for 2019,” said Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning. “He will bring a new and different perspective to the process as he joins our other highly qualified inspectors to provide guidance to our customers on sales selection and placement.”

McGreevy has been a fixture on the sales scene for nearly 35 years. Top horses purchased by McGreevy include Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, two-time champion Songbird, champion sprinter Midnight Lute, GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle of Midway, GISW Joyful Victory, in addition to many other graded stakes winners.

“I’m very much looking forward to working with Fasig-Tipton, with whom I’ve had a close working relationship through the years as a buyer,” said McGreevy. “To be involved in their selection process is a unique opportunity, and I’m most appreciative to Mike Stinson for allowing me to work with Fasig-Tipton this spring. I will continue to work for Mike on an exclusive, year-round basis.”

Fasig-Tipton’s 2019 selected yearling sales consist of The July Sale July 9-10; The Saratoga Sale August 5-6; and the New York-Bred Yearlings Sale, scheduled for August 11-12 in Saratoga.


Regally Bred Forge to Stand in Argentina

Mon, 2019-01-21 16:51

Forge (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}–Heat Haze {GB}, by Green Desert) was purchased by Heritage Stud and will stand the upcoming South American breeding season at Haras Carampangue in Argentina. Bred and campaigned by Juddmonte Farms, the son of MGISW Heat Haze (GB) (Green Desert) was a three-time winner. He was twice Group 3-placed in Europe for Sir Michael Stoute, and hit the board in four more graded events Stateside for trainer Bill Mott, including a close second to champion World Approval (Northern Afleet) in the 2018 GIII Tampa Bay S.; a third finish behind Heart to Heart (English Channel); and most recently a nose second in Saratoga’s GII Bernard Baruch H.

By top international sire Dubawi, Forge’s dam is one of five highest-level winners out of the legendary Hasili (Ire) (Kahyasi {Ire}). She is also responsible for 2018 Group 3 winner Mirage Dancer (GB) (Frankel {GB}).

The deal was brokered by Perhaps Bloodstock and Forge will be shipped from the United States to Argentina in February. Haras Don Arcángel and Haras Las Raíces will also support Forge in his first season at stud.


Arnold Named WinStar Rehab/Breaking Manager

Mon, 2019-01-21 15:21

Terry Arnold has been hired as WinStar Farm’s Rehabilitation and Breaking Manager, the farm announced Monday. Arnold, a third-generation horseman with 35 years of farm management experience, has been responsible for breaking, training or rehabilitation of the likes of Graded winners Alphabet Soup, Yes It’s True, Clear Mandate, Larrier, Tareef, Tricky Creek, Benny the Bull, West By West, and Annie Apple.

Arnold studied agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky, and upon graduation served as farm manager at Payson Stud, followed by six years at Waggoner Farm helping that operation become a top 10 breeding farm in the country despite a broodmare band of only 12. Arnold has served as the farm manager at Dixiana Farm for the past 16 years.

The son of trainer George Arnold, Sr., Terry Arnold’s brother is accomplished conditioner George “Rusty” Arnold. His grandfather James Russell Arnold managed historic Elmendorf Farm.

“Watching a horse run first out after being a part of that horse’s maturation is the part of the game that is most enjoyable for me,” Arnold said. “A personal satisfaction is receiving a horse from the track, then getting that horse back to its trainer sound and healthy with many starts in its future. I am really looking forward to the quality stock, first-class facilities, and the state-of-the-art technology at WinStar.”

Arnold and his wife Barbara have two children, James and Alex. They reside on their family farm in Lexington.


Derby Museum Opens Annual Student Art Show

Mon, 2019-01-21 14:37

Hundreds of works by student artists went on display Monday for the Kentucky Derby Museum’s 33rd annual Horsing Around with Art: A Student’s view of the Sport of Kings competition, presented by WinStar Farm. The competition is open to 1st-12th graders from the Louisville, Kentucky area. A total of 223 pieces were submitted by 30 schools this year.

“Every year we look forward to the unbelievable talent and creativity showcased by all the students who participate in Horsing Around with Art,” Kentucky Derby Museum President Patrick Armstrong said. “It is a wonderful way to celebrate and champion the arts in our local schools as well as the extraordinary event that is the Kentucky Derby.”

WinStar President and CEO Elliott Walden added, “WinStar is proud once again to sponsor the Kentucky Derby Museum’s student art competition. It is such a wonderful event that supports the student’s artistic talent, but also encourages them to immerse themselves in the Thoroughbred industry. It’s a great way to connect new fans to the sport and generate excitement for one of the industry’s most celebrated events.”

Works will be on display through Feb. 17 in the Museum’s Matt Winn Gallery, and a panel of judges will select winners in a number of categories. For more information, visit

TDN Derby Top 12 for Jan. 22

Mon, 2019-01-21 14:34

There’s a fair amount of parity within this week’s edition of the Top 12. The dozen GI Kentucky Derby hopefuls are sired by 10 different stallions. Three of them are homebreds, and auction prices for the rest of the pack range from $32,000 up to $1.2 million. The horses ranked as Nos. 1-3 have held their positions all season long based on strong 2018 credentials, Nos. 4 and 5 delivered eye-penning performances in their first 2019 starts, and everybody else has flashed talent, but will need to more to solidify their standings against a competitive crew of “On the Bubble” contenders.

1) GAME WINNER (c, Candy Ride {Arg}Indyan Giving, by A.P. Indy)
‘TDN Rising Star’. O-Gary & Mary West. B-Summer Wind Equine (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $110,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: MGISW, 4-4-0-0, $1,496,000.
Last Start: 1st, GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile , CD, Nov. 2
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI American Pharoah S., SA, Sept. 29; 1st, GI Del Mar Futurity, DMR, Sept. 3
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 30.

When ‘TDN Rising Star’ Game Winner collects his Eclipse Award on Thursday for his 4-for-4, GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-winning season, it will be the 100-day mark until the GI Kentucky Derby–and 44 days until the divisional champ’s next expected start. Having just two sophomore prep races leading up to the first Saturday in May is so in vogue right now that it would be a shock to see a top contender deviate from that plan of attack, but rest assured that a Bob Baffert trainee won’t be the one to do it intentionally any time soon. Baffert has trained four previous 2-year-old champion males: Vindication (2002) did not start beyond age two. Midshipman (2008) missed the entire 2009 prep season and Triple Crown series. Lookin At Lucky (2009) ran sixth in the Derby, then won the GI Preakness S. in 2010. And the 2014 champ, American Pharoah? Well, you know what he accomplished. We’ve seen Game Winner score on the lead, stalking from just of it, and coming from off the pace, so one wonders what tactics Baffert is honing beyond fitness leading up to the GII San Felipe S. on Mar. 9. This $110,000 KEESEP Candy Ride (Arg) colt drilled a solo half mile in :48.60 (15/88) on Sunday (and looked good doing it), his second published work of 2019.

2) SIGNALMAN (c, General Quarters–Trip South, by Trippi)
O-Tommie M. Lewis, David A. Bernsen, LLC & Magdalena Racing (Sherri McPeek). B-Monticule (KY). T-Kenneth G McPeek. Sales History: $32,000 Ylg ’17 FTKOCT. Lifetime Record: GSW & MGISP, 5-2-2-1, $448,990.
Last Start: 1st, GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 24
Accomplishments Include: 3rd, GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, CD, Nov. 2; 2nd, GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 6
Next Start: Aiming for GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 18.

Signalman, in a way, is carrying the flag for underdog auction value and the concept of conformation trumping pedigree. His sire, General Quarters, now stands in Turkey, and Signalman’s buyer/trainer Ken McPeek, told TDN that this $32,000 FTKOCT colt compares favorably to 1995 Kentucky Derby runner-up Tejano Run, who McPeek also conditioned after a similar bargain buy ($20,000 KEESEP). Already displaying a fondness for the Churchill surface (both wet and dry), Signalman rebounded from a third-place try in the Breeders’ Cup to win the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. in adept fashion, catching the eye with a professional, covered-up, rail-skimming bid from five furlongs out before swatting away several strong challenges in the stretch. He’s recently been stretching his legs in light training at Payson Park, and the GII Fountain of Youth S. at Gulfstream Park Mar. 2 is his under consideration for his first race back as a sophomore.

3) IMPROBABLE (c, City ZipRare Event, by A.P. Indy)
‘TDN Rising Star’. O-WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd. & Starlight Racing. B-St. George Farm LLC & G. Watts Humphrey Jr. (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $110,000 Wlg ’16 KEENOV; $200,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $269,520.
Last Start: 1st, GI Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity, LRC, Dec. 8
Accomplishments Include: 1st, Street Sense S., CD, Nov. 2;
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on Improbable. KY Derby Points: 10.

Improbable’s big white blaze flashed through the Santa Anita homestretch Sunday in a solo :48 half-mile training move (7/88), and while it’s not worth trying to pick apart January workouts to try and prognosticate what might happen on the first Saturday in May, it is worth noting that this undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ does carry himself pretty lightly and efficiently in both morning and afternoon assignments. This $200,000 KEESEP City Zip colt doesn’t have an announced 2019 debut race picked out yet, but by process of exclusion you can bet it won’t conflict with stablemate Game Winner’s planned comeback in the San Felipe S. at Santa Anita Mar. 9. Improbable has been so far ahead of his competition in the latter stages of his two daylight-margin stakes wins that it remains an open question as to how he’ll fare once he finally has a true stretch fight on his hands. But at least when he widened by five lengths late in the lane of his GI Los Alamitos Futurity romp, Improbable finished like he had plenty left in the tank, stamina-wise.

4) WAR OF WILL (c, War FrontVisions of Clarity {Ire}, by Sadler’s Wells)
O-Gary Barber. B-Flaxman Holdings Limited (KY). T-Mark Casse. Sales History: $175,000 RNA Ylg ’17 KEESEP; €250,000 2yo ’18 ARQMAY. Lifetime Record: GSW, 6-2-1-1, $251,569.
Last Start: 1st, GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 19
Next Start: Possible for GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 16
Equineline PPs. Caulfield on War of Will. KY Derby Points: 10.

War of Will’s four-length throttling of Saturday’s decent GIII Lecomte S. field wasn’t a seismic jolt to the Top 12 rankings. But it did put the 1-2-3 kingpins on notice that the gap between them and the rest of the pack just shifted uncomfortably tighter. Trainer Mark Casse–hardly known as a tout of his own horses–had been telling anybody who’d listen that this turf-pedigreed €250,000 ARQMAY War Front colt is the real deal in terms of being a Derby-caliber dirt horse, and War of Will (who ran in two Grade I stakes as a juvenile maiden) capably proved he could handle two-turn graded stakes company. A sharp break gave jockey Tyler Gaffalione his pick of positioning, and he opted for clear passage four deep through he first turn with War of Will resisting restraint before settling into rhythmic stalk mode down the backside behind moderate splits. He always looked primed to pounce, and took over in hand about a quarter mile out. When his rider asked for more oomph with a vigorous hind ride, War of Will uncoiled into another deep-stretch gear but was never fully extended before galloping out with high energy. “I never turned my stick on him,” Gaffalione said post-race. “I just let him open up a bit. He really is special.”

5) MIHOS (c, Cairo Prince–Feline Flatline, by Lion Heart)
‘TDN Rising Star’. O-Centennial Farms. B-Wayne, Gray & Bryan Lyster. T-James Jerkens. Sales History: $320,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: SW, 3-2-0-1, $108,880.
Last Start: 1st, Mucho Macho Man S., GP, Jan. 5
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Mihos shares a name with the ancient Egyptian lion god (fitting for a Cairo Prince colt out of a Lion Heart mare). At this early point on the Derby trail, horses usually attract attention because of sheer physical dominance, with the caveat that they may not mentally be ready for prime time. But the connections of this ‘TDN Rising Star’ say his poise and professionalism have been evident since they bought him as a $320,000 KEESEP yearling. Yet even though the long-framed Mihos displayed a high level of confidence when he launched into a length-of-stretch drive to nail a breakaway pacemaker in the Mucho Macho Man S. at Gulfstream (his first start after an Aqueduct MSW sprint win), we may be still be a race or two away from witnessing this colt’s “A” game in terms of raw prowess. Mihos switched leads a tad late when winding up for his Jan. 5 winning bid, and it looked like he left himself too much to do inside the final furlong. But he did kick immediately when jockey Jose Ortiz cued him for acceleration, and Mihos appeared to relish the reeling in of his target. Another Gulfstream stakes start is under consideration.

6) VEKOMA (c, Candy Ride {Arg}Mona de Momma, by Speightstown)
O-R. A. Hill Stable & Gatsas Stables. B-Alpha Delta Stables, LLC (KY). T-George Weaver. Sales History: $135,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 2-2-0-0, $151,250.
Last Start: 1st GIII Nashua S., AQU, Nov. 4
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Vekoma has breezed three and four furlongs the past two Saturdays at Palm Beach Downs, recording his first two published works of 2019, but his connections have yet to publicly commit as to which prep will be the 2-for-2 colt’s first sophomore start. Based on limited afternoon action, we know this $135,000 KEESEP Candy Ride (Arg) colt can be a pace-pressing threat against top-notch competition (his brief company lines feature several subsequent stakes winners). But he’s also been green in both stretch runs, which can be forgiven considering he won both starts and is a May 22 foal. As such, Vekoma is a work in progress, and he’s still yet to race around two turns (his GIII Nashua S. score at Aqueduct was a one-turn mile). So while there’s plenty of upside, there are still quite a few unanswered questions.

7) INSTAGRAND (c, Into MischiefAssets of War, by Lawyer Ron)
‘TDN Rising Star’. O-OXO Equine LLC. B-Stoneway Farm (KY). T-Jerry Hollendorfer. Sales History: $190,000 Ylg ’17 FTKJUL; $1,200,000 2yo ’18 FTFMAR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 2-2-0-0, $144,000.
Last Start: 1st, GII Best Pal S., DMR, Aug. 11
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Instagrand (Into Mischief) has now strung together two three-furlong works followed by a pair of half-mile training moves in anticipation of his yet-to-be-divulged 2019 debut. He sailed through a solo four furlongs in :47.60 (5/88) on Sunday morning at Santa Anita, but until Instagrand steps into the starting gate for an afternoon engagement, his chief narrative will continue to revolve around how owner Larry Best cut short the reportedly healthy 2-year-old campaign of this $1.2-million FTFMAR co-sales-topper with the aim of having a fresher, more durable sophomore. Instagrand’s bedazzling pair of juvenile efforts–winning his maiden and the GII Best Pal S. by a combined 20 1/4 lengths–certainly tipped off potentially freakish talent. But both of those races are now nearly six months behind in the rear-view mirror, and none of the nine other entrants he beat in those sprints are currently considered even C-level contenders on the Derby trail.

8) KNICKS GO (c, PaynterKosmo’s Buddy, by Outflanker)
O-KRA Stud Farm. B-Angie Moore (MD). T-Ben Colebrook. Sales History: $40,000 Wlg ’16 KEENOV; $87,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISW, 6-2-1-1, $672,515.
Last Start: 11th GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 24
Accomplishments Include: 1st, GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 6; 2nd, GI Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, CD, Nov. 2; 3rd, Listed Arlington Washington Futurity, AP, Sept. 8
Next Start: GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 9
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 18.

Sporting more weight and muscle than when last seen in action in a race nearly two months ago, Knicks Go fired a bullet off the bench with a :47 half-mile breeze at Tampa Bay Downs (1/71) on Saturday, his first published workout of the year in preparation for the GIII Sam F. Davis S. The announced plan for the Eclipse Award finalist–known for seizing the lead and outrunning long odds–also includes the GII Tampa Bay Derby and the GII Blue Grass S. This $87,000 KEESEP yearling who was the 40-1 runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will aim to build on a string of “firsts” that propelled him to prominence in the span of just a few weeks last autumn: His 70-1 wire job in Keeneland’s GI Breeders’ Futurity S. represented the first graded stakes winner for sire Paynter; the first Grade I wins for owner KRA Stud Farm, trainer Ben Colebrook, and jockey Albin Jimenez, and the first major win of any kind for breeders Angie and Sabrina Moore, the mother/daughter bloodstock team whose GreenMount Farm in Maryland is relatively new to the business.

9) MAXIMUS MISCHIEF (c, Into MischiefReina Maria, by Songandaprayer)
‘TDN Rising Star’. O-Cash is King LLC & LC Racing. B-Martha Jane Mullholland (KY). T-Robert E. Reid, Jr. Sales History: $165,000 Wlg ’16 KEENOV; $170,000 RNA ’17 FTNAUG; $245,000 RNA 2yo ’18 FTFMAR; $340,000 2yo ’18 FTIMAY. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-3-0-0, $192,100.
Last Start: 1st, GII Remsen S., AQU, Dec. 1
Next Start: GII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

In the interim since the last Top 12 rankings, ‘TDN Rising Star’ Maximus Mischief got a jockey change and had plans solidified for his two-prep path to the Kentucky Derby. TDN‘s Bill Finley reported last Friday that Jose Ortiz will replace Parx-based jockey Frankie Pennington (who had ridden in all three starts), and that the game plan for this $340,000 EASMAY Into Mischief colt will now include starts in the Feb. 2 GII Holy Bull S. and the Mar. 30 GI Florida Derby. Although the score by Maximus Mischief in the GII Remsen S. gives him the theoretical advantage of a win over nine furlongs at a time when few other Derby contenders have even attempted that distance, history has not been kind to winners of that stakes: Only three horses in the last 55 years–Thunder Gulch, Go For Gin and Pleasant Colony–have parlayed wins in the Remsen into a blanket of roses at Churchill Downs. A :58.02 five-furlong bullet breeze (1/57) at Gulfstream on Saturday has Maximus Mischief heading in the right direction, though.

10) MIND CONTROL (c, Stay Thirsty–Feel That Fire, by Lightning N Thunder)
O-Red Oak Stable (Brunetti) and Madaket Stables LLC. B-Red Oak Stable. T-Gregory Sacco. Lifetime Record: GISW, 5-3-1-0, $323,400.
Last Start: 1st, Jerome S., AQU, Jan. 1
Next race: GIII Withers, AQU, Feb. 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Right now this homebred Stay Thirsty colt is the boss of the New York winter prep path, which can be a lonely Derby road to travel at this time of year. But because Mind Control is a Grade I winner (last summer’s Hopeful S.), he is likely to remain focused on Aqueduct’s preps, because the presence of a Grade I winner in the GII Wood Memorial triggers a purse bonus that raises the purse from $750,000 to $1 million. He’s reportedly training well and on target to start as the fave in the GII Withers S. on Feb. 2, the only graded nine-furlong Derby prep stakes on the calendar between now and late March. His sire won the 2011 version of the GIII Gotham S. (which this year is Mar. 9 at a mile), and although Stay Thirsty ran twelfth in the Derby, longer-distance races were not a problem for him, as evidenced by his second in the GI Belmont S. and a win in the GI Travers S.

11) CODE OF HONOR (c, Noble Mission {GB}–Reunited, by Dixie Union)
O/B-W. S. Farish (KY). T-Shug McGaughey. Sales History: $70,000 RNA Ylg ’17 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GISP, 2-1-1-0, $146,750.
Last Start: 4th, Mucho Macho Man S., GP, Jan. 5
Next Start: Aiming for GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Mar. 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 4.

I’m willing to give Code of Honor another shot within the Top 12 after initially ranking him highly at No. 4, then relegating him to the “On the Bubble” list after a blah fourth as the 4-5 beaten fave in the Mucho Macho Man S. Circumstances have been against him, and despite the poor showing earlier this month, trainer Shug McGuaghey is fully behind this homebred Noble Mission (GB) colt. Code of Honor ran a crackerjack second in the GI Champagne S. despite trip trouble, then he spiked a fever and missed the Breeders’ Cup and a subsequent planned start in the Remsen S. McGaughey said last week on “At the Races With Steve Byk” that he will be training Code of Honor more aggressively going in to the Fountain of Youth S., and that the colt will be allowed to revert to an off-the-pace running style. Because this is an owner/trainer combo that does not generally push young horses onto the Derby path if they don’t belong, I’m betting that this May 23 foal still could be the real deal given time to mature both physically and mentally.

12) AVIE’S FLATTER (c, Flatter–Avie’s Empire, by Empire Maker)
O-Ivan Dalos. B-Tall Oaks Farm (ON). T-Josie Carroll. Lifetime Record: MSW, 4-3-0-0, $251,834.
Last Start: 1st Coronation Futurity, WO, Nov. 18
Accomplishments Include: 1st, Cup and Saucer S., WO, Oct. 7
Next Start: Aiming for GII Tampa Bay Derby, TAM, Mar. 9
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Avie’s Flatter is the presumptive favorite to win the Sovereign Award for 2-year-old champion colt in Canada, and this Flatter homebred (from the breeder who produced 1998 GI Belmont S. winner Victory Gallop) is aiming for a prep or two at Tampa Bay Downs followed by a start in the Florida Derby if all goes well. Although he’s unraced on dirt, Avie’s Flatter ran a much-better-than-it-looks fourth on grass against a deep field in the GI Summer S. right off his maiden score, (finishing close behind this week’s No. 4-ranked War of Will). He then won two stakes against Canadian-breds on both dirt and Tapeta at Woodbine. After a brief break, Avie’s Flatter had his first published work of 2019 last Friday, breezing three furlongs in :38.45 (6/9) at Palm Meadows.

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order)
Bankit (Central Banker): New York-bred entered in Friday’s opening-day Oaklawn feature (Smarty Jones S); will try to build off sharp Springboard Mile S. second.
Bourbon War (Tapit): Fountain of Youth S. could be next after sharp allowance/optional claiming win at Gulfstream on Friday. Trainer Mark Hennig: “I think he’s ready to take the step back into graded-stakes company.”
Coliseum (Tapit): Speedy ‘TDN Rising Star’ worked from gate on Sunday at Santa Anita after slow-start sixth at 3-5 odds in GIII Sham S.
Gray Attempt (Graydar): Stretching out from sprints and should be the outside (but not the only) speed in Friday’s Smarty Jones S.
Gunmetal Gray (Exchange Rate): Off-the-pace move won the Sham S.; likely to return in another SoCal prep.
Long Range Toddy (Take Charge Indy): Likely fave in Friday’s Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn after back-to-back stakes wins at Remington.
Moretti (Medaglia d’Oro): Half to Battle of Midway (Smart Strike), who was third at 40-1 in 2017 Derby. Todd Pletcher trainee has already won at nine furlongs and will take aim at Withers S.
Network Effect (Mark Valeski): Chad Brown trainee now up to five-furlong breezes at Palm Meadows after New York seconds in both Remsen and Nashua S.
Mucho Gusto (Mucho Macho Man): ‘TDN Rising Star’ training at Santa Anita but could hit road for next start considering glut of talent in Baffert barn.
Roadster (Quality Road): Last summer’s “now” juvenile within the Baffert barn started season ranked within the Top 12, but has not worked in over a month. Quarter cracks are the issue, DRF reported Sunday.
So Alive (Super Saver): Pletcher colt won Tampa allowance/optional claimer with blinkers added Jan. 6 and now could aim for Davis S. there, following similar Derby prep path as half-brother Vino Rosso (Curlin) traveled last year.
Win Win Win (Hat Trick {Jpn}): Set new track record for seven furlongs in 7 1/4 length Pasco S. romp at Tampa on Saturday.

The Week in Review: War of Will Shows War Front’s Versatility

Sun, 2019-01-20 17:30

When you go all the way to France to buy a 2-year-old who is by War Front out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, you might have dreams of winning the GI Belmont Derby, the GI Secretariat S. or a Breeders’ Cup race on the turf. But the GI Kentucky Derby?

That didn’t cross Mark Casse’s mind when War of Will (War Front) showed up at his barn after being purchased by his brother Justin last year at the Arqana May 2-Year-Old Breeze Up Sale. Why would it? On behalf of client Gary Barber, Justin Casse paid the equivalent of $298,550 for a horse whose pedigree, when it comes to grass racing, is as good as it gets.

War of Will had previously RNA’d as a yearling at Keeneland September for $175,000.

Casse did what any trainer would have done with a horse with that sort of pedigree. He plotted out a grass campaign, and he came away without a single win. War of Will did run second in the GI Summer S. at Woodbine, but, after finishing fifth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, his career record stood at 0-for-4.

War of Will was hardly a bust on the grass, but he now has a new lease on life, and in the last place you’d expect it–in dirt races.

He won his first career race in a Nov. 24 maiden special weight run over a sloppy main track at Churchill Downs. With Tyler Gaffalione aboard, he drew off to win by five. Casse and Barber were so impressed that they immediately started to plot a route to the Kentucky Derby.

“We went to New Orleans to get him ready for the Kentucky Derby,” Casse said. “I thought that when he broke his maiden that was as impressive a race I saw all year from any 2-year-old in a maiden race.”

A much more important test came last Saturday. Stepping into stakes company and facing off against 11 challengers, he romped in the GIII Lecomte S. at the Fair Grounds, winning by four lengths. That made this son of War Front 0-for-4 on the turf and 2-for-2 on the dirt.

“Is it a surprise that he’s done so well on the dirt?” Casse said. “Yes, a little bit. But when you work him on the dirt, he works an A-plus. I still remember one morning at Saratoga before his first start. Julien Leparoux was working a horse for me up at Saratoga that we liked pretty good. He worked out of the gate and my exercise rider was on War of Will and War of Will just blew him away. Julien said, ‘My horse can run, but I want to know who that other one is?’ Who would think you would buy a War Front in France and bring him to the U.S. to be a good dirt horse.”

Casse said he and Barber considered going on the dirt in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but that didn’t seem like a logical spot to try the dirt for the first time. Once the Breeders’ Cup was over, Casse couldn’t get the horse on the dirt quick enough. He will, of course, remain on the dirt for now, and his next start will come in the GII Risen Star S. Feb. 16.

War of Will is not the first War Front to have success on the dirt, but it is less common. The Factor (War Front) won four stakes on the dirt, including the GI Malibu S. Departing (War Front) won the GII West Virginia Derby, the GII Super Derby and the GIII Illinois Derby, all on the dirt.

But War Front is best know for his ability to produce stars on the grass. Throw in that War of Will’s dam, Visions of Clarity (IRE), never raced on the dirt and it’s hard to explain why this particular colt has prospered on the dirt. Then again, it’s breeding, an inexact science.

Another Baffert Star?

Here we go again.

After being among those who hyped Coliseum (Tapit) after he broke his maiden only to watch him run sixth in the GIII Sham S., I ought to remember that trainer Bob Baffert is, well, human. But it’s pretty hard not be excited about the debut of Dessman (Union Rags) in Saturday’s seventh race at Santa Anita. With Flavien Prat, who doesn’t ride that often for Baffert, aboard, Dessman whipped a field of maidens to win by 7 1/2 lengths. Once upon a time, the fact that he did not race as a 2-year-old might have discouraged some when it comes to his Kentucky Derby chances, but as memory serves me, didn’t Baffert just win the Triple Crown with a horse that didn’t race at two?

The bottomless well of 3-year-old talent in this guy’s barn never ceases to amaze.

In Appreciation of Roy H

Largely because sprinters don’t get the sort of fanfare that routers do, Roy H (More Than Ready) might just be one of the most underrated horses in years. Now seven years old, he kicked off his 2019 campaign with a four-length win in the GII Palos Verdes S. Saturday at Santa Anita. His next stop will be Dubai for the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen.

Before he departs, trainer Peter Miller and owner Rockingham Ranch will pick up their second straight Eclipse Award as Roy H will be named 2018 champion sprinter. He will be a repeat winner. The last horse to do that in the sprint category was Housebuster in 1991 and 1990. Based on the way he ran Saturday, there’s no reason why Roy H. can’t win a third straight Eclipse Award this year–something no horse has done since Zenyatta, who won the Older Filly & Mare title in 2008, 2009 and 2010.


Tiznow Filly Backs Up Reputation to Become Latest Baffert Rising Star

Sun, 2019-01-20 17:21

Flor de La Mar, universally tipped leading up to her debut, proved worth the hype with an easy romp at Santa Anita to earn the ‘TDN Rising Star’ nod Sunday. Bought for $500,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling, the dark bay showed a typically sharp series of drills for trainer Bob Baffert, capped by a five-furlong spin in :59 1/5 (2/17) here Jan. 13. Off on top as the 1-5 chalk, she deferred to sit a close third past a :22.24 quarter and drew on even terms three deep passing a :45.82. Shaking loose soon after straightening for home, the Godolphin colorbearer was given occasional reminders by Joel Rosario en route to a five-length score. Blue Moonrise (Malibu Moon), the only horse in the sextet with experience, completed the exacta. The victress has half-sisters by Empire Maker from 2017 and 2018 and her dam was bred to Arrogate last season.

5th-Santa Anita, $55,351, Msw, 1-20, 3yo, f, 6 1/2f, 1:17.45, ft.
FLOR DE LA MAR, f, 3, by Tiznow
1st Dam: Sacristy {GSW, $252,112}, by Pulpit)
2nd Dam: Christies Treasure, by Belong to Me
3rd Dam: Roses at Sunset, by Valid Appeal
Sales History: $500,000 Ylg ’17 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $33,000. Click for the chart, free catalogue-style pedigree or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.
O-Godolphin, LLC; B-Don Alberto Corporation (KY); T-Bob Baffert.