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Updated: 9 hours 3 min ago

On the Third Day Back, Another Fatality at Santa Anita

Sun, 2019-03-31 18:11

The welcome feeling of normalcy that had embraced Santa Anita on Friday and Saturday was shattered Sunday when Arms Runner (Overdriven) broke down during the running of the GIII San Simeon S. and had to be euthanized. The 5-year-old gelding was the 23rd horse put down at Santa Anita since the current meet began Dec. 26.

Santa Anita stewards confirmed to the TDN that Arms Runner, who was trained by Peter Miller, had been euthanized, and that he had sustained an injury to his right foreleg.

Santa Anita officials, who gave no indication that they were considering closing the track again, issued a statement on the incident Sunday evening.

“Arms Runner sustained a fatal injury during the San Simeon S. today,” the statement read. “He was racing over the 6 1/2-furlong hillside turf course this afternoon when at the dirt crossing, he fell and collided with another horse, La Sardane. La Sardane, was walked back to her barn under her own power with no reported injuries. Both jockeys, Martin Pedroza, who rode Arms Runner and Ruben Fuentes, who rode La Sardane, were examined by on-site medical experts and released from First Aid.

“While this incident happened during competition on a track that has been deemed by independent experts to be safe, we are working closely with the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) to understand if there was anything additional that we could have done to prevent today’s tragedy. Today’s incident speaks to the larger issue of catastrophic injuries in horse racing that The Stronach Group, together with our industry stakeholders, are working to solve throughout California and across the country.”

Simultaneously trying to deal with a firestorm from the local media, pressure from politicians and trying to find causes of, and solutions for, the rash of breakdowns, Santa Anita closed down after the 22nd death. During the 26-day hiatus, the track’s owners, The Stronach Group (TSG) announced a series of reforms it planned to implement, including a phase-out of Lasix and the banning of the whip. Once the California Horse Racing Board gave its permission for Santa Anita to resume racing, the track opened its gates Friday. Much to the relief of everyone involved with California racing, the first two cards were completed without incident.

But it took just four races Sunday for something to go horribly wrong. The San Simeon is a 6 1/2-furlong “down-the-hill” turf race. As the field crossed over the dirt track before returning to the turf, Arms Runner broke down. La Sardane (Fr) (Kingsale) fell over the stricken horse. Arms Runner was vanned off the track and later put down back at his barn.

Barry Irwin, the head of the Team Valor syndicate that owns La Sardane, said his mare was not seriously injured, but did have a bruised shoulder that could compromise her career.

“I don’t know whether she’s going to run again or not,” Irwin said. “I’m just thrilled that she’s still alive. That was horrible to watch.”

When the replay of the race was shown on Santa Anita’s simulcast feed, the spill was edited out of the race footage.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a constant thorn in the industry’s side since the breakdowns began, wasted little time issuing a statement. It read:

“Over the past two weeks, Thoroughbred owners and trainers and the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) have argued about medications, whipping, and the public perception of horse racing. But they did not take every measure needed to protect the horses. Both horses (Arms Runner and La Sardane) ran on the drug Lasix, which is known to cause dehydration and electrolyte loss. All drugs need to be banned entirely, and the known-safest racing surface–a synthetic track–must be used. Furthermore, PETA calls on Governor Newsom to urgently form an independent panel to investigate the training and veterinary practices in California racing, including the use of bisphosphonates and other medications that reportedly have been used indiscriminately. If the CHRB does not take every possible action to protect the horses, then racing should not be allowed to continue.”

Ward, Contreras Tie for Turfway Title

Sun, 2019-03-31 16:55

Wesley Ward and Cipriano Contreras each had 13 wins and tied for leading trainer at the Turfway Park winter/spring meet. The meet concluded Saturday, four races earlier than intended, after weather conditions forced cancellation of the last half of the card. The winter/spring training title was the first at Turfway for Contreras and the third straight for Ward, who won the 2018 winter/spring title outright and shared the 2018 holiday title with Mike Maker.

With eight winners from 25 starters, leading owner honors went to the partnership of David Neiman’s Willowbrook Stables and Jerry Carden.

Luan Machado, who moved his tack from Brazil to the United States in November, pulled away to win the leading jockey title with 35 wins from 188 mounts. Machado rode the winners of five races on the Feb. 14 card.

Maximum Security Fine after Florida Derby Win

Sun, 2019-03-31 15:15

Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) exited his victory in Saturday’s GI Florida Derby in fine shape, according to trainer Jason Servis. Servis gave jockey Luis Saez plenty of credit for Maximum Security’s front-running victory.

“Luis walked the dog,” Servis said. “He backed them up. I have to give him credit. I think it had a lot to do with it. I’m not downgrading the horse, but Luis did a great job.”

Servis plans to continue to campaign his stable at Gulfstream through April while preparing Maximum Security at Palm Meadows for a possible start in the May 4 GI Kentucky Derby.

Maximum Security began his career with a 9 3/4-length romp in a $16,000 maiden claiming race at Gulfstream Dec. 20 before capturing back-to-back starter optional claiming allowance races by a combined 24 3/4 lengths

“Candidly, if you read between the lines, there had to be a reason why I ran him for $16,000. Am I glad I didn’t lose him? Hell, yeah,” Servis said. “Is he training good and sound? Yes. But there was a reason why I ran him for $16,000.”

Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}), who raced well off the slow pace during the early going of the Florida Derby before closing to finish third, also came out of the race well, said trainer Shug McGaughey.

“I thought he ran fine,” McGaughey said. “That’s not the type of race he needs, with one horse on the lead and everybody taking back. We were kind of in between horses. He had half a racetrack on him. I thought it was pretty game what he did considering the circumstances.”

Plans for Code of Honor are still pending, but trainer Mark Hennig is hopeful Florida Derby fourth-place finisher Bourbon War (Tapit) has accrued enough points to get to the big dance in Louisville.

“He’s doing great,” Hennig said of Bourbon War, who trailed all but two horses through a half-mile while racing wide and passed horses late to wind up beaten 7 1/2 lengths, three-quarters of a length behind Code of Honor in third. “I don’t think there’s any doubt [the pace] had a large impact on us at least not being third, for sure. I’m not saying we were going to win the race or anything, but I’d like to think with a little pace we could have been a little closer. And a little better trip, too, [instead of] having to go around the whole way. If you look at his trip versus Code of Honor’s, I think that made a big difference.”

Looking ahead, Hennig added, “We’d love to be able to get into the Kentucky Derby on points. If we [have enough] points, we’d be confident going forward because he’s a horse you’d like to think leaving here would be good for him to get off a track where it’s hard to close. Right now we don’t know what that status is. It doesn’t look great, but we’re just going to stand pat and watch how the races run next weekend in the GI Santa Anita Derby, GII Blue Grass and GII Wood Memorial and see where the points stand after that. I think it’ll help indicate to us a little more about where we are.”

Bourbon War currently sits 15th on the Derby points board with 31 points.

Jaywalk on track for Ashland

Sun, 2019-03-31 14:33

D. J. Stable and Cash is King’s Jaywalk (Cross Traffic) tuned up for Saturday’s GI Central Bank Ashland S. with a half-mile work in :48.60 (12/32) at Keeneland Sunday. Working well off the rail under exercise rider Lucas Berticelli, Jaywalk produced fractions of :11.80, :23.40, :48.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:03.20.

“Perfect,” Tyler Servis, son of trainer John Servis, said of the work. “She had her major work last week [six furlongs in company in 1:14.40 at Palm Meadows] and we did what we wanted this morning without much of a gallop out.”

Jaywalk, who captured last year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and was named champion 2-year-old filly, will be looking to rebound from a fourth-place effort while making her sophomore debut in the Mar. 2 GII Davona Dale S.

“We didn’t want her to peak too soon,” Servis said of the Davona Dale. “She is a light-framed filly like a lot of fillies from the Unbridled’s Song line, and I think the heat in Florida got to her a little bit.”

Also working for the Servis barn Sunday morning was Cash is King and Leonard Green’s Lucky Lee (Flatter), who is expected to go postward in Saturday’s GII Toyota Blue Grass S. Lucky Lee covered a half-mile in :49.00 (17/32) with internal splits of :12 and :24, again well off the rail.

“Same as Jaywalk; perfect,” Servis said of the work.

A two-time winner at Parx last fall, Lucky Lee is coming off a seventh-place finish in the Feb. 2 GIII Withers S.

“In the Withers, he was just spinning his wheels,” Servis said. “He was coming off a tight track in Florida and that track was cuppy and he never got hold of the track.”

Also working for the Ashland, Mar. 16 GIII Honeybee S. winner Chocolate Kisses (Candy Ride {Arg}) worked a half-mile in :50.00 (23/32) at Keeneland Sunday for trainer Mark Casse. Working in company with the 3-year-old maiden winner Furiously Fast (Violence), Chocolate Kisses posted fractions of :12.60, :24.60, :37.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:03.40.

“She ran well here last fall and she has confidence coming into the Ashland off a win,” said David Carroll, who is overseeing Casse’s Keeneland string. “She needs pace to run at, and the Honeybee set up real well for her.”

Unbeaten in two starts this term, Chocolate Kisses was fourth in the GI Darley Alcibiades S. at Keeneland last October.

Asmussen Leading Trainer, Owner at Sam Houston

Sun, 2019-03-31 14:10

Steve Asmussen captured his 11th leading trainer title at the Sam Houston Race Park Thoroughbred meet, which concluded Saturday, and he was the Texas track’s leading owner for the fifth time.

“We are very appreciative of the Sam Houston meet,” said Asmussen, whose record 41 victories at the meet included Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute)’s win in the GIII Houston Ladies Classic. “The racing surfaces are excellent and frankly, the main track does not get the credit it deserves.”

Asmussen also gave credit to longtime assistant Pablo Ocampo.

“Pablo and his crew do such a great job,” said Asmussen. “He continues to play a key role each year in Houston.”

Jockey Deshawn Parker picked up his second leading rider title at Sam Houston with 48 victories.

“I am very fortunate to ride for great horsemen,” said Parker. “I want to thank Karl Broberg, Bret Calhoun and Steve Asmussen for putting me on such good horses. My agent Bobby Kelly did a great job. I love Sam Houston; especially the amazing turf course and have been treated very well here each year.”

Discreet Cat Filly ‘Spices’ Things Up in Beholder Mile

Sat, 2019-03-30 21:01

SECRET SPICE (f, 4, Discreet Cat–Chimayo, by A.P. Indy) was an 11 1/4-length track-and-trip romper two back in October, and reproduced that sort of effort Saturday evening to post an 11-1 upset. Third behind eventual Grade I winners Dream Tree (Uncle Mo) and Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) in Del Mar’s Desi Arnaz S. in November of 2017, she could do no better than a pair of seconds from three tries, all in allowance company, in her next trips to the post. Off that aforementioned breakthrough optional claiming tally Oct. 7, she resurfaced to be third at 11-10 over good ground and the same distance behind Just a Smidge (Into Mischief) Feb. 7. Facing a very accomplished field here led by GISW Marley’s Freedom (Blame), Secret Spice broke well from the rail and tucked in to draft behind pacesetting Selcourt (Tiz Wonderful). She was shuffled back a bit when Just a Smidge uncorked a big middle move to take it to the leader down the backside, but was back into third as they swung for home. Blowing past Selcourt in upper stretch, she won with plenty of room to spare as Marley’s Freedom closed belatedly to cut the margin of victory to 2 1/2 lengths. MGISW Paradise Woods (Union Rags) seemed at one point in the race to be dropping out of it, but got going again late to round out the triple. Secret Spice, the fifth Grade I winner for her sire–who also excelled at a mile–stopped the clock in 1:38.69. Sales history: $4,500 yrl ’16 KEESEP; $125,000 2yo ’17 EASMAY. Lifetime Record: 10-3-2-2.
O-Little Red Feather Racing. B-Godolphin (Ky). T-Richard Baltas.


No Catching New Year’s Day Colt in Florida Derby

Sat, 2019-03-30 19:09

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL–Despite the fact Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) entered Saturday’s GI Xpressebet Florida Derby with a perfect record of three-for-three, neither his trainer Jason Servis or the betting public had a ton of confidence in his ability to see out nine panels at the Grade I level. The 9-2 shot’s previous victories had come at seven panels or less in a $16,000 maiden claimer and a pair of starter optional claimers, but the Gary and Mary West homebred silenced all doubters Saturday evening with a front-running score, earning a spot in the gate for the Run for the Roses.

“I really wasn’t [confident],” Servis said in the trainer’s lounge during the post-race press conference. “I didn’t really know what to expect. He’s been beating up on lesser horses. I think the last race was a six-horse field maybe, so the jury was still out. If he had run sixth, would I have been surprised? No. I thought Luis [Saez] did a great job of getting out there and backing it up.”

Away smoothly from post seven, Maximum Security seized the early advantage and loped along through opening splits of :24.42 and :48.98 with 71-1 longshot Bodexpress (Bodemeister), a four-race maiden who made quite a fuss before loading, just to his outside. Fellow longshot Union’s Destiny (Union Rags) tracked up three deep, while favored TDN Rising Star‘ Hidden Scroll (Hard Spun) scraped paint behind the top two.

Edging away a bit under a hand ride from the red hot Luis Saez as they hit the three-eighths pole in 1:12.90, Maximum Security proved not for catching in the lane, cruising clear to a 3 1/2-length score. A determined little Bodexpress held second, while GII Fountain of Youth S. winner Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}) was ridden to pick up three furlongs from home and rallied mildly for third. Bourbon War (Tapit) was also inconvenienced by the lack of pace, but nevertheless rallied wide on the turn and was a bit green in the final sixteenth en route to a non-threatening fourth.

“The plan was not to go to the lead,” Servis, training his second Grade I winner, said. “I talked to Luis about it. I didn’t want to over-read the race. Luis agreed that there was going to be a couple speed horses that might not be as good as a Derby horse, so we were really thinking that we were going to be laying third. At the end of the day I told Luis, ‘Look, he’s yours. He breaks, and you ride him however you want.’ It was his decision 100%. They went slow early, and the rest is history.”

Servis continued, “He wasn’t beating anything, he really wasn’t, but he was three-for-three at the track and I had Luis Saez. I was like, ‘Hello, what’s the downside?’ I’ll leave it to Team West. They’ve got some really good managers and we’ll see what they think they want to do. They’ve got that horse Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}), so I don’t know what we’ll decide. I guess I have to cancel my fishing trip in May.”

“It was beautiful,” Saez said. “He broke so perfect and I just took it. He was traveling beautiful, and when he came to the half-mile pole and you feel the pressure I knew I had a lot of horse and in the stretch he just took off. My plan was if [Hidden Scroll] or somebody else took the lead I’m going to sit because I don’t want to make the race for somebody else. He took it so easy, so I just went with it.”

Of Hidden Scroll, beaten 11 1/2 lengths in sixth, Hall of Famer Bill Mott said, “I know the pace wasn’t that fast; we were close enough to the pace. If [Maximum Security] had beat us a head or neck, you say, ‘Well, maybe it would have been nice to take him on earlier.’ He was having a good trip, he was right in behind them. [Jockey Javier Castellano] said he rated beautifully, said he’s push-button, but when he really needed him they kind of opened up on him on the turn and he came up empty. We probably bit off a little more than we could chew at this point. We’ll back off and kind of start over with him.”

Dangled for a $16,000 tag on debut, Maximum Security romped by 9 3/4 lengths in a 6 1/2-furlong event at Gulfstream Dec. 20. Cruising to a 6 1/2-length triumph in a starter optional claimer going a half-furlong shorter in the mud here Jan. 24, the bay demolished a seven-furlong starter optional claimer by 18 1/4 lengths in Hallandale last time Feb. 20, earning a field-best 102 Beyer Speed Figure.

Pedigree Notes:

Maximum Security is the first Grade I winner, first graded winner and fifth black-type victor for his young sire New Year’s Day, who captured the 2013 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for the Wests. Their bloodstock agent Ben Glass picked up the winner’s dam Lil Indy for $80,000 carrying a foal by Pioneerof the Nile at the 2014 Keeneland January Sale. The half-sister to MGISW millionaire and sire Flat Out (Flatter) has produced three winners from four foals of racing age and her most recent produce is a yearling colt by Flashback. The Wests sold Lil Indy for $11,000 at to Korean interests at the recent Keeneland November sale carrying Maximum Security’s full-sibling.

Maximum Security is the first graded winner and third black-type winner produced by a daughter of Grade III winner Anasheed (A.P. Indy), a son of champion Flagbird (Nureyev) who shares second dam Up the Flagpole (Hoist the Flag) with Horse of the Year Mineshaft (A.P. Indy).

Saturday, Gulfstream Park
XPRESSBET FLORIDA DERBY-GI, $1,000,000, Gulfstream, 3-30, 3yo, 1 1/8m, 1:48.86, ft.
1–MAXIMUM SECURITY, 122, c, 3, by New Year’s Day
                1st Dam: Lil Indy, by Anasheed
                2nd Dam: Cresta Lil, by Cresta Rider
                3rd Dam: Rugosa, by Double Jay
WIN. O-Gary & Mary West; B-Gary & Mary West Stables Inc.
(KY); T-Jason Servis; J-Luis Saez. $582,800. Lifetime Record:
4-4-0-0, $649,400. *1st GSW & GISW for sire (by Street Cry {Ire}).
Werk Nick Rating: A. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–Bodexpress, 122, c, 3, Bodemeister–Pied a Terre, by City Zip.
($45,000 RNA Ylg ’17 KEESEP; $37,000 RNA 2yo ’18 EASMAY).
O-Top Racing, LLC, Global Thoroughbred & GDS Racing Stable;
B-Martha Jane Mulholland (KY); T-Gustavo Delgado. $188,000.
3–Code of Honor, 122, c, 3, Noble Mission (GB)–Reunited, by
Dixie Union. ($70,000 RNA Ylg ’17 KEESEP). O-W.S. Farish; B-W.
Farish (KY); T-Claude R. McGaughey III. $94,000.
Margins: 3HF, 3 1/4, 3/4. Odds: 4.80, 71.50, 3.80.
Also Ran: Bourbon War, Current, Hidden Scroll, Union’s Destiny, Harvey Wallbanger, Everfast, Garter and Tie, Hard Belle.
Click for the chart, the PPs or the free catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.


Country Day Filly Streaks Home Impressively to Remain Unbeaten

Sat, 2019-03-30 18:47

Unveiled on New Year’s Day, Break Even (Country Day) has been perfect in three career starts. A five-length maiden special weight over the slop in an off-the-turfer at Fair Grounds started it all and then the filly came back with a 4 1/4-length triumph over six panels in an allowance at the same track Jan. 28. She was heavily favored for both efforts, but was the 9-5 second choice here. With five works since her last afternoon outing, she racked up two bullets at Fair Grounds before the ship to Oaklawn.

Just as in her first start, Break Even went straight to the front and stayed there. Rider Colby Hernandez tried to slow her down, but she still ticked off splits of :22.28 and :45.64 with no one close. It was never a contest, as Break Even was never challenged and won in a hand ride by open daylight. She has won all three of her starts by a combined margin of 13 3/4 lengths.

“I didn’t think I would have it that easy, but she just broke so sharp and she just took me there,” Hernandez said. “After that, I was just, ‘Go ahead, girl, do what you need to do.’ I was thinking maybe we would be just right off another horse. Then she broke out of there, I was like, ‘Well, we’ll change our plans.’ ”

The third stakes winner for her young sire, who stands in Louisiana, Break Even is a member of his third crop. Her dam is by the stellar broodmare sire Saint Ballado and has also produced Hey Bro (Congrats), SP, $252,128. The winner has a yearling full-brother named Past Post.

PURPLE MARTIN S., $150,000, Oaklawn, 3-30, 3yo, f, 6f, 1:10.15, gd.
1–BREAK EVEN, 118, f, 3, by Country Day
1st Dam: Exotic Wager, by Saint Ballado
2nd Dam: Right Chanel, by Valid Appeal
3rd Dam: General Chanel, by General Holme
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN. O-Klein Racing; B-Richard & Bert
Klein (KY); T-Brad H. Cox; J-Colby J. Hernandez. $90,000.
Lifetime Record: 3-3-0-0, $138,600. *1/2 to Hey Bro
(Congrats), SP, $252,128.
2–Lady T N T, 118, f, 3, Justin Phillip–High Heeled Hope, by Salt
Lake. ($115,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP; $335,000 2yo ’18 OBSMAR).
O-Scott & Evan Dilworth; B-Castleton Lyons (KY); T-Joe
Sharp. $30,000.
3–Tomlin, 118, f, 3, Distorted Humor–Belle of Perintown, by
Dehere. ($200,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP). O-Fairview, LLC;
B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY); T-Donnie K.
Von Hemel. $15,000.
Margins: 4HF, 3/4, 2 1/4. Odds: 1.80, 6.10, 24.20.
Also Ran: Istan Council, Bye Bye J, Taylor’s Spirit, Q Go Girl, Carrizo, Splashy Kisses.
Click for the chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.


Street Sense Filly Puts It All Together in Gulfstream Park Oaks

Sat, 2019-03-30 15:22

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Champagne Anyone (Street Sense) finally put it all together Saturday with a mild upset in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks, earning a spot in the starting gate for the upcoming GI Kentucky Oaks. Dispatched at 7-1 while adding blinkers here, the bay stalked from second as Cookie Dough (Brethren) ticked off opening splits of :23.80 and :47.58. Drawing even with the pacesetter turning for home, Champagne Anyone took control in mid-stretch and held off a late rally down the outside from favored flashy debut winner Dunbar Road (Quality Road) to score. The gutsy Cookie Dough held third and previously undefeated second choice Point of Honor (Curlin) got up for fourth.

“I think the blinkers made her more tractable in the race,” said winning conditioner Ian Wilkes. “She’s a filly who doesn’t like [jockey] Chris [Landeros] to ask her to be in the race. I had to do something to where she took Chris into the race. I wasn’t worried where she was today. I didn’t mean that I needed to be on the lead. It didn’t mean I had to be second. I left it up to Chris to be where I wanted to be. That’s the idea with the blinkers–to get her to travel more and not dislike what Chris was doing on her.”

As for what’s next, Wilkes said, “[The Kentucky Oaks] has been our whole goal. We made the plan–we went in the Golden Rod last year to get experience and come back and start at seven-eighths, a mile, a mile and a sixteenth. I felt the filly needed racing. She’s a filly that’s still learning. If I ran her once, twice, she wouldn’t be ready for the Oaks, that’s why I felt I had to get more racing, more miles, more racing into her.”

“They put blinkers on her and we anticipated being a little bit more aggressive with her instead of falling out,” Landeros said. “I got her into a gear early and she went along beautifully today. She’s so naturally gifted. She still doesn’t know when to completely lay it down. But today’s a big step forward and I think the best is yet to come for her.”

A second-out graduate at Ellis in August, overcoming trouble, Champagne Anyone followed suit with an optional claimer score trying two turns for the first time at Keeneland in October, defeating subsequent GIII Tempted S. winner Oxy Lady (Oxbow) into third. Closing out her juvenile campaign with a fourth in a sloppy renewal of the GII Golden Rod S. at Churchill Nov. 24, she closed well to be third behind undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ Feedback (Violence) in the GIII Forward Gal S. here Feb. 2. The $70,000 KEESEP buy entered this off a third to 51-1 longshot Jeltrin (Tapizar) and Cookie Dough in the local GII Davona Dale S. Mar. 2. (Click here for a story by Brian DiDonato about the winning connections).

Pedigree Notes:
Champagne Anyone is the 29th graded winner and 59th black-type scorer for her sire Street Sense. The winner’s dam Lucevan is a half-sister to Argentinian champion and U.S. Grade I winner Miss Loren (Arg) (Numerous) and MGSW Mr. Light (Arg) (Numerous), who at one point held the world-record time for a turf mile (1:31.41), set at Gulfstream in 2005. Her most recent produce is a yearling colt by Wilburn. The winner is bred similarly to Justify’s GSW half-brother The Lieutenant, GSW Cigar Street and SW & GISP Elnaawi.

Saturday, Gulfstream Park
GULFSTREAM PARK OAKS-GII, $250,000, Gulfstream, 3-30, 3yo, f, 1 1/16m, 1:43.47, ft.
1–CHAMPAGNE ANYONE, 122, f, 3, by Street Sense
1st Dam: Lucevan, by Ghostzapper
2nd Dam: Luminare (Arg), by Forlitano (Arg)
3rd Dam: Luminaria (Arg), by Pepenador
’17 KEESEP). O-Six Column Stables, LLC & Randall L. Bloch;
B-Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC (KY); T-Ian R.
Wilkes; J-Chris Landeros. $153,450. Lifetime Record: 7-3-0-3,
$267,950. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Werk Nick Rating: A.
2–Dunbar Road, 122, f, 3, Quality Road–Gift List, by Bernardini.
($350,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP). O-Peter M. Brant; B-Jeffery J.
Drown (KY); T-Chad C. Brown. $49,500.
3–Cookie Dough, 122, f, 3, Brethren–Brooke’s Valentine, by
Fusaichi Pegasus. O/B-Arindel (FL); T-Stanley I. Gold. $24,750.
Margins: HF, 3/4, 3/4. Odds: 7.60, 1.30, 2.90.
Also Ran: Point of Honor, Safta, Bella Ciao. Scratched: Shacklette. Click for the chart, the PPs or the free catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

Tapit Colt Up in Time in Cutler Bay

Sat, 2019-03-30 13:50

Seismic Wave wove through traffic while making an impressive last-to-first run to go from maiden winner to stakes winner in Gulfstream’s Cutler Bay S. Saturday. Beaten a neck and a head by Chad Brown runners in two attempts in New York last term–including when second to ‘TDN Rising Star’ Demarchelier (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}) at Aqueduct Nov. 21–the Juddmonte homebred resurfaced going nine local panels to don cap and gown by a half-length over another well-regarded Brown trainee Feb. 16. Off in fine order from his rail draw, the chestnut was allowed to drop back to last and settled kindly behind solid splits set by a freewheeling leader. He appeared to be traveling strongly entering the home bend, and still hadn’t been asked by Irad Ortiz, Jr. until they approached the straight. Seemingly sensing he’d have a hard time working his way out into the clear, Ortiz kept his mount inside of foes in an attempt to thread the needle. Pacesetter Stirling Drive (Verrazano) made room at the rail when he dropped out of it in midstretch, and Seismic Wave quickly took his place, kicking through determinedly with an impressive turn of foot. The winner, who hails from the same female family as the great Danehill, has a 2-year-old full-brother named Juror and a yearling half-brother by Into Mischief. His dam most recently visited Noble Mission (GB).

CUTLER BAY S., $125,000, Gulfstream, 3-30, 3yo, 1mT, 1:34.49, fm.
1–SEISMIC WAVE, 118, c, 3, by Tapit
1st Dam: Conference Call (GB) (G1SP-Fr), by Anabaa
2nd Dam: Phone West, by Gone West
3rd Dam: Euphonic, by The Minstrel
1ST BLACK-TYPE WIN. O/B-Juddmonte Farms Inc (KY);
T-William I. Mott; J-Irad Ortiz, Jr. $75,950. Lifetime Record:
4-2-1-1, $124,750. *1/2 to Teletext (Empire Maker), G1SP-Fr,
2–Forever Mo, 118, c, 3, Uncle Mo–Natchez Trace, by
Consolidator. ($140,000 Ylg ’17 KEEJAN; $67,000 RNA 2yo ’18
OBSAPR). O-Partner Stable LLC; B-Farfellow Farms Ltd. (KY);
T-Antonio Sano. $24,500.
3–Art G Is Back, 118, c, 3, Exchange Rate–Fortune Candy, by
Milwaukee Brew. ($75,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP; $90,000 2yo ’18
OBSAPR). O-Monarch Stables, Inc.; B-Isabella A Rio & Caballo
Grande TB’s LLC (FL); T-Ronald B. Spatz. $12,250.
Margins: NK, HF, NK. Odds: 2.20, 5.30, 4.70.
Also Ran: Marquee Prince, Stirling Drive, Candy Crushem, Insider Trading. Click for the chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

TDN Q&A: Congresswoman Judy Chu

Fri, 2019-03-29 19:33

Representing the district that includes Arcadia, California, the home of Santa Anita, Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu has been an outspoken critic of many of the practices allowed in horse racing. She issued a statement saying she was “outraged” by the 22 deaths that occurred at the track since opening day and said she would call for a congressional committee to investigate the treatment of racehorses at race tracks throughout the country.

Chu spoke with the TDN and gave her latest thoughts on the state of horse racing, The Stronach Group’s efforts to lessen the use of medications and the whipping ban that was voted on Thursday by the California Horse Racing Board.

TDN: Horse racing has had similar problems with breakdowns and fatalities at other racetracks, but never before have we seen someone in the federal government not only speak out, but speak out as forcefully, as you did. Why did this situation cause you to take action?

JC: I was following the situation through the time 21 horses had died. Then Santa Anita closed to investigate. But, when the 22nd horse died, I said, ‘enough is enough.’ In addition, I watched the Fox News report where the reporter just happened to be out when yet another horse broke down, broke its two front legs. They put a tent around it and they euthanized it only moments later. It was very shocking to see that. We can imagine these deaths and think about them in the abstract, but to see one like that right in front of your eyes on television was the big shocker that led me and many other to say something had to be done about this.

TDN: Did you hear from many constituents? Were people calling your office and saying “you have to do something about this”?

JC: When I made the decision to speak out on this, I actually got tremendous feedback on my social media, calls to the offices. I got a huge amount of support.

TDN: Since you first spoke up, Santa Anita has announced some significant reforms, the California Horse Racing Board has voted to outlaw whipping, so do you feel better about the sport? Are you willing to call off the wolves, so to speak?

JC: I was encouraged by the California Horse Racing Board meeting [Thursday]. I was following it closely. I felt that they took the situation quite seriously. They went beyond The Stronach Groups’s proposals and now they want to have the restriction on whipping state wide. Actually, my greatest desire is to have nationwide reform, that’s why I am a supporter of the Horse Racing Integrity Act. That would pave the way for there to be federal standards in place. After all, these horses are transported across state lines for races. We need national standards to make sure that all horses train and race under the safest conditions.

TDN: Considering that, so far, California is way ahead of other states when it comes to reforms, are you still considering calling for hearings in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and a federal investigation of horse racing?

JC: I am continuing my efforts to have hearings. I have submitted an official letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over this. I have talked personally to the people in charge and they are quite interested in this. They know what happened at Santa Anita, and they know it wasn’t just a Santa Anita problem. That’s why the Horse Racing Integrity Act had been in the works and why it was re-introduced. They are very, very interested and I believe there will be some kind of hearing in the future.

TDN: What are some of your primary goals? What would you most like to achieve when it comes to various reforms involving horse racing?

JC: My main goal would be to ban race day Lasix. The U.S. and Canada are the only two countries that allow Lasix. The U.S. is an outlier when it comes to a lack of standards. What is it that the international community knows something that the U.S. is ignoring? I think we should ban Lasix. The banning of whipping is also a huge issue. We have had the introduction of the issue, but it will have to wind its way through the process. I hope the whip ban becomes a national policy.

TDN: Since the Santa Anita problems began, have you heard from any of your colleagues in Congress? Has anyone said, “You’re on the right track. We need to look into this.”

JC: Those people who are supporting the Horse Racing Integrity Act and members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee that oversees these horse issues, they are definitely horrified.

TDN: Santa Anita re-opened Friday. Do you believe they opened prematurely?

JC: I actually was very concerned that they opened back up. I felt that there were not enough answers yet as to why the 22 deaths occurred. On the other hand, I did talk to Belinda Stronach and others from The Stronach Group. They talked about all their proposals and I felt that they were quite serious about addressing these issues and were pushing proposals they knew would upset certain people in the industry. I really have to say that they did respond responsibly to this situation and did what they could.

TDN: While you never called for the shutdown of Santa Anita, others have and, fair or not, you were associated with the anti-racing side. Did anyone complain to you about the notion that your efforts might put a major employer in your district out of business?

JC: Nobody has said that to me. We are focused on the safety of horses. That is my main concern. I do have to say, though, that the response to this issue will play a major factor when it comes to the future of horse racing in this country.

TDN: Are you optimistic that other states will follow California’s lead?

JC: One thing that gives me hope is that The Stronach Group owns tracks in other states and I believe that Belinda Stronach said that she wants to implement these rules at those other tracks. I am encouraged by that. But I think we need to push this through Congress because there are many other states involved.

TDN: One of the sad truths about horse racing is that even if you do everything one can do to make the sport as safe as possible, nobody believes you can create a situation where no horses will die. Is even one death of a horse acceptable if racing is making a good faith effort to make the sport as safe as possible?

JC: I would be heartbroken by such a death. I do have to say that I learned something from my discussions with The Stronach Group about the difference between the United States and other countries like Hong Kong. Hong Kong has a rate of .66 horses per 1,000 starters that die. In the U.S. it is two deaths per 1,000 starters. (According to Jockey Club statistics, horse fatalities in the U.S. in 2018 occurred at a rate of 1.68 per 1,000 starters). That is more than twice the level of death of horses that they have in Hong Kong? So, what is wrong with us?

TDN: The two other major thoroughbred tracks in Southern California, Del Mar and Los Alamitos, have both come out and said they have no plans to ban Lasix. Does that concern you?

JC: I think they are being insensitive and tone deaf. I am encouraged, though, that the head of the California Horse Racing Board has said he is considering enforcing the Lasix restrictions statewide.


AAEP’s Berk Makes Bisphosphonates Statement

Fri, 2019-03-29 17:20

Dr. Jeff Berk, President of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, issued the following statement Friday afternoon in response to the announcement earlier this week that the three major U.S. sales companies will offer buyers the choice to test purchases for bisphosphonates and rescind sales for positive tests:

“The American Association of Equine Practitioners endorses the decision made by the Keeneland Association, Fasig-Tipton and Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company to offer post-sale bisphosphonate testing on horses under four years of age. This is one facet of what we hope will be a multi-pronged effort within the Thoroughbred industry to address the misuse of these drugs in young horses.

“Additionally, it should be remembered that bisphosphonates have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for therapeutic use in horses for certain conditions. It is the misuse of these products that is in question, not the drugs themselves.

“While addressing this issue, it is important to remember that we do not know the extent of the use of these products in young horses and do not wish to impugn the integrity of an entire industry based upon anecdotal information.

The AAEP supports the use the FDA-approved bisphosphonate products according to manufacturer labeling and does not condone their use in horses under the age of four.”


Homeland Security Will Allocate 30,000 More H-2B Visas

Fri, 2019-03-29 15:32

Edited press release from the NTRA

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) communicated to Congressional offices Friday that it would allocate 30,000 additional H-2B visas for the current fiscal year that concludes on September 30, 2019. This nonimmigrant visa program is used by many industries that need temporary non-agricultural help when domestic workers are unavailable. For the horse racing industry, racehorse trainers rely heavily on the H-2B program to fill various backside positions.

“We applaud Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen for her decision to allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “This will provide relief to horse trainers desperate to hire foreign workers for backstretch positions that U.S. citizens are not filling. While the number is probably not sufficient to meet the demand, it is decidedly better than the 15,000 additional H-2B visas issued in the last two fiscal years.”

Below is the complete statement from DHS:

The H-2B nonimmigrant visa program allows U.S. employers who meet specific statutory and regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs. There is a statutory cap on the total number of foreign nationals who may be issued an H-2B visa or otherwise granted H-2B status during a fiscal year. Under section 214(g)(1)(B) and 214(g)(10) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended (INA), Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with a maximum of 33,000 available during the first half of any given fiscal year and 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year.

Section 105 of Div. H of Public Law 116-6, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019, was signed into law by the President on February 15, 2019. This fiscal year, for the third year in a row, Congress delegated to the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to allocate visas above the 66,000 cap if the Secretary determines, after consultation with the Secretary of Labor, that the needs of American businesses could not be satisfied with U.S workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor.

After consultation with Secretary Acosta and carefully weighing several factors, including whether U.S. workers may be harmed, and impact statements from your constituents, Secretary Nielsen has decided to allocate an additional 30,000 H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2019. Further, this supplemental visa allocation will be available only to applicants who have held H-2B status in at least one of the past three fiscal years (2016, 2017 and 2018). Details on eligibility and filing requirements will be available in the temporary final rule and on when the final temporary rule is posted for public inspection.

NY State Gaming Commission Issues Bisphosphonate Advisory Warning

Fri, 2019-03-29 14:25

Thoroughbred horse owners, trainers and/or veterinarians who are responsible for causing or failing to guard against an administration of a bisphosphonate to a racehorse less than four years old will be investigated and could be subject to fines of $25,000 and license revocation in New York State, according to a release issued by the New York State Gaming Commission.

“The New York State Gaming Commission has determined that there is no generally accepted medical use of a bisphosphonate in a racehorse that is less than four years old; that bisphosphonates are `other doping agents’ within the meaning of the rule, and that any such administration shall violate the rule,” read the release.

The advisory said that the rule applies to any Thoroughbred horse engaged in activities, including training, related to competing in parimutuel racing in New York. This includes without limitation any horses that are training outside the jurisdiction to participate in racing in New York who subsequently race in New York and all horses that are training in the jurisdiction.

The rule also covers unintentional administration of the drug; and “any violation of this rule shall result in exclusion of the horse from racing and the license revocation of any responsible person,” the release said.

The Gaming Commission issued a separate general advisory in which equine medical director Scott Palmer recommended that no bisphosphonate be administered to a racehorse under four years old, and that such treatment is not a generally accepted veterinary practice.


Tickets Up For Grabs April 8 for Maker’s Mark Bottle Signing

Fri, 2019-03-29 12:43

A bottle signing for this year’s commemorative Maker’s Mark® bourbon bottle will take place at Keeneland Race Course’s Keene Barn on the morning of Friday, April 12. Anyone wanting to attend must first get a ticket online at after first creating an account. The free tickets will become available online at 8:30 a.m. Monday, April 8.

The fifth and final commemorative Maker’s Mark® bourbon bottle in the series features the 2011-12 University of Kentucky men’s basketball national championship team led by John Calipari, which brought the title home to the Bluegrass for the first time in 14 seasons. Bottles will go on sale at retail outlets in Kentucky April 5.

The sale of the bottles benefits UK’s Center for Academic and Tutorial Services (CATS). “Education is at the heart of everything we do as an athletics department,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “In order to continue and build on the work CATS does to serve student-athletes and position them for academic success, we must innovate. This partnership helps provide the resources to allow us to do exactly that.”
The goal of UK Athletics’ partnership with Maker’s Mark and Keeneland is to raise $2 million for the CATS through the companies’ own contributions and from a portion of the proceeds of sales of special commemorative bottles of the distillery’s handmade bourbon.
The first four commemorative bottles in the series honored the program’s first seven national championships, with this year’s bottle completing the set.

Lasix Dosage Halved for Remainder of Santa Anita, Golden Gate Meets

Thu, 2019-03-28 19:50

Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields received unanimous California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) support on Thursday allowing both tracks owned by The Stronach Group (TSG) to implement an in-house rule that will halve the allowable race-day dose of Lasix for the balance of their current meets.

TSG and the Thoroughbred Owners of California had already agreed to the adoption of an in-house rule that cuts the race-day dose of Lasix from 10 cc to 5 cc, but the CHRB’s vote made it official.

The medication reforms are part of a sweeping set of welfare changes proposed by TSG in the wake of 22 recent equine deaths at Santa Anita.

CHRB chairman Chuck Winner stressed that the rule change voted upon at the Mar. 28 meeting does not pertain to any future discussions that might arise about an eventual phasing-out of Lasix that TSG has proposed for its California tracks.

Prior to the 5-0 vote, CHRB equine medical director Rick Arthur, DVM, reminded stakeholders that “we actually had a maximum dose of 5 cc (250 mg) for Lasix in California for almost a 10 to 12 year period. We allowed it to be increased so we would be uniform with national policy. In my review of handling the Breeders’ Cup Lasix for four or five years in California, 90% of the dosages were five [cc] or less…and there were no negative consequences that were apparent.”

A separate rule passage that also advanced by a 5-0 vote will suspend the use of previously allowed race-day steroidal and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at the current Santa Anita and Golden Gate meets. This was also an agreed-upon change between TSG and TOC.

Arthur said the use of anti-inflammatory drugs “really make[s] it difficult for not only the examining veterinarians, but the trainers of those horses and the jockeys to know what the real condition of the horse is, and that’s why we’ve been looking to lower these for the last several years. These are certainly reasonable steps. We’ve met with trainers [and] we’ve met with veterinarians here at Santa Anita. I think we’re as prepared as we can [be] to properly apply the changes we’re proposing here.”

A third proposed rule that would have broadened the suspension of those race-day anti-inflammatory drugs to other race meets and for other breeds throughout the state for the balance of the year was removed from the agenda by CHRB chairman Chuck Winner after Greg Avioli, the TOC’s president and chief executive, said his organization had yet to discuss the topic with the managements of other racetracks.

“We’re not in a position to support the expansion of this rule for the full-year period,” Avioli said. “One of the reasons that we were able to get up and support [the anti-inflammatory ban through the current Santa Anita and Golden Gate meets] is that we had detailed conversations with [TSG management] and we were in agreement. I haven’t had the first conversations about this with Los Alamitos, with CARF [California Authority of Racing Fairs] or Del Mar.”

So that agenda item will be moved to the CHRB’s Apr. 18 meeting, Winner said.

Santa Anita: Reactions from Those Present

Thu, 2019-03-28 19:19

In a crowded conference room tucked away in the Santa Anita Grandstand during a meeting that was at various times somber, heartfelt, laudatory and heated, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) green-lit a sweeping set of changes that promise to alter the face of racing in California. The following lightly edited responses are a range of reactions from some of those present:

Jockey’s Guild attorney, Tom Kennedy: “The guild is anxious to work with the horse racing industry and the CHRB to develop an appropriate rule for use of the crop that protects the animal and ensures safety,” said Kennedy, in sober mood while the meeting progressed, when asked about the guild’s approach as the proposed whip rule change enters a 45-day public comment period. “But we don’t think that the rule that was adopted today is adequate for purposes of the best management of horse racing.”

Senior vice president of PETA, Kathy Guillermo: “It seemed very progressive and pretty good,” said Guillermo, whose address to the room during the meeting was met with scattered groans of disapproval. “We support the new rules that the Stronachs have proposed, and we’re glad to see the horse racing board, and at least some of the owners and trainers, get behind those.”

“It’s very interesting to me to see the discussion of the perception of racing, because there’s a persistent belief among many in racing, not all but many, that if they could just educate the people on what they do, it’ll be ok, but you’re never going to educate the public into thinking it’s ok to hit a horse, or medicate a horse, or mask injuries with legal medications. So, I think it’s very important the idea that to change perception we need to change practices-that’s what’s going to make a difference to the views of the public.”

Jim Cassidy, president of the California Thoroughbred Trainers:

“I think all the important people said the right things, and I was very pleased actually,” said Cassidy. “It’s going to affect everybody, but we’re just going to have to work around it. You can work around Lasix, certainly. As far as medications go, that’s just the way it is. I don’t think there’s going to be that much of a change for a lot of people, because the majority are not abusing the system.”

Cassidy said that only three of his horses need more than 5 ccs of Lasix–the new permitted administration level at Stronach Group owned tracks in California. “And two of them are on route to Florida as we speak. They’re bad bleeders. I wouldn’t even take a chance with them. I’m fine with the whip rule–I know how the jock’s feel. Believe me, there’s a lot of them that get on a horse, they don’t feel very secure without a stick in their hand. But they’ve just got to understand what we’re going through, and the perception that people think about you whaling on a horse–people just don’t swallow that. I understand what the riders are saying. I understand how they feel. I understand how the gamblers feel. I understand how everybody feels, about every issue. But it’s a different time, and we have to adjust to it.”

CHRB commissioner, Madeline Auerbach: “I think that the board showed courage today and I think we did the right thing,” said Auerbach, whose terse exchange with Jockeys’ Guild national manager, Terry Meyocks, was one of the more strained moments throughout the meeting. “Today, we stood up for the horse. We gave voice to the horse in everything we did today, and I don’t think anybody can argue with that.”

When asked if the measures implemented by the CHRB should be employed nationwide, Auerbach said, “It better, if the industry’s going to survive. I think it’s survival of the industry. If we don’t take the health and well-being of the horse, and what goes into that, and make it the core of what we do, we’re not going to survive as an industry. That’s my belief.”

Gary Fenton, chairman of the Thoroughbred Owners of California’s (TOC) Racing Affairs Committee: “I thought the meeting went as expected. As I mentioned before, there was a big meeting before any of this got announced, all the stake holders were in the room, and they wanted to make positive changes for the entire industry. And it was within that mentality that these proposed rules were initiated. And today was an important step to moving forward with that.”

As to the possibility of expanding the therapeutic medication changes state-wide, Fenton said that “We sat down with Belinda [Stronach], and came to a meeting of the minds, and that was important to re-opening the gates here. We haven’t had those discussions with Del Mar or Los Alamitos, and until we do, and understand how they feel, there’s nothing we can say [publicly]. Obviously, we feel good enough to agree with Belinda on some of them. I think we believe in some of them strongly, but this is a stake-holder business, right? There are the owners, there’s the trainers, there’s the racetrack management, there’s a regulatory body, so, it’s now time for us to sit down with the other racetracks to discuss how they feel. We’ve got 30 days.”

TOC’s director of racing and Northern California operations, Elizabeth Morey: Further explaining the TOC’s approach to potentially expanding the therapeutic medication changes state-wide, Morey said that, “We’re actually in our regular process of starting our horseman’s agreements with those associations as part of their licensing process, so, I would expect that we will address medication as part of our negotiations over our horseman’s agreements.”

Trainer Jeff Mullins: “I think that’s a jockey issue,” said Mullins, about the proposed changes to the whip rule. “I care, but that’s a jockey issue, it’s not for me to comment. It won’t impact me, it’ll impact the betting public.”

“Bad bleeders will be no more-they’ll be retired,” he said, about the Lasix change. “I’ve already retired one and I’m sending one to Kentucky. Owner didn’t want to see him bleed. Horse bleeds real bad, so she retired him. The other one went to Kentucky where they can use more Lasix.” As for the other medication changes, “I think it’ll be nationwide before we know it, so, we’re just going to have to deal with that,” he said. “We’re just going to have to learn to adjust.”

Trainer Leonard Powell: “I’d say it opens the window [to breaking the rules] in major races where purse money is not the only factor,” said Powell, about the changes to the whip rule which, as currently written, would lead to jockeys facing possible suspensions, fines and purse-cuts. “The residual value of a horse comes into context, and the connections of the horse could tell the jockey, ‘You know what, if that makes the difference between being third in a big race and winning, where a horse gains considerable value, we’ll pay for your fine, and we’ll pay for whatever it costs you.'”

As for the changes in medication and Lasix usage, “There’s no going back. It’s in motion, and it’s going to happen. I’m pretty conservative, so I don’t think it will affect me at all. But the main concern, it’s going to affect field size, and it’s going to affect handle, and finally, it will affect the purses. That’s the main worry, that it will affect the purses in the long term.”

Op/Ed: The CHRB May Just Have Saved the Sport of Horse Racing

Thu, 2019-03-28 17:45

When the members of the California Horse Racing Board voted Thursday to ban the use of the whip (and it is a whip and not a crop) my first thought was one of relief. That was not so much because I’ve never been a supporter of whipping animals or understood the insistence on the part of the other side that whipping was necessary. No, it’s because I knew I could go to sleep later that night a lot more confident that my sport will survive.

There will be plenty, maybe even a majority, who will disagree with me and find what I just said to be over the top hyperbole. Well, here’s my response: You people don’t get it.

The rash of breakdowns at Santa Anita was the biggest crisis I have ever seen this sport face in the nearly 35 years I have been covering it. With so many horses dying and with it happening in a major media market where every television station in town was telling its viewers night after night that horses were dying out at Santa Anita and, oh by the way, they still whip these beautiful animals to make them run faster, the public had had enough.

Horse racing is an insular society and far too many people were completely oblivious to the gravity of the situation. It’s not 1935 anymore. People love animals and don’t want to see them be abused. That’s why there’s no more circus, no more SeaWorld and why 41 states have laws on the books outlawing dog racing. It is very possible that the same thing could have happened to horse racing, not just in California but across the country. California would have been the first domino to fall, with more, surely, to come.

Yet, at the CHRB hearing, one person after another, including representatives of the Jockeys’ Guild, tried to make the argument that the new whips are softer than a roll of Charmin and they don’t hurt the horses one bit. I doubt that’s true, but maybe it is. Either way, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that does is public perception and the majority of the public believes whipping horses is animal cruelty.

The only salient point made by the pro-whipping side is that a jockey may occasionally need the whip to correct a horse that is about to bolt or do something dangerous. And that’s exactly why the CHRB will allow a jockey to carry a whip but only use it in case of an emergency.

Then you had some Quarter Horse guy, who testified that his horse couldn’t run a bit until they started hitting him, he turned into a star and they made a pile of money, money they never would have made without the blessed use of the whip. Too bad. We’ve been told over and over again that horses love to run, that the greats ones have the courage and heart to dig down and get to the wire ahead of their competition. Then why do they need to be whipped? If a horse is lazy and can’t run without being hit, they don’t deserve to be successful.

I do not believe that whipping played a major role in 22 horses breaking down at Santa Anita. It may not have played any role. Again, it’s all about perception and not reality. The members of the CHRB understood the gravity of the situation and understood that something had to be done to appease PETA, et. al. Go ahead and rail against PETA all you want. I’m not a fan either. But they have 700,000 members in California alone and the clout to get things done. You don’t necessarily have to be their friend, but you sure don’t want to be their enemy.

There was also the threat of government intervention. Congresswoman Judy Chu, who represents the district Santa Anita is located in, let it be known that she was “outraged” by the deaths at Santa Anita. She said she would call on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to investigate and hold a hearing on the treatment of horses at Santa Anita and throughout our country. We don’t know for sure, but if you connect the dots it’s not hard to conclude the Chu had a role in the CHRB’s decision. She may have been a bigger threat than even PETA and the CHRB could ill afford to go against something she clearly wanted–a whip ban.

The other choice was to sit back and do nothing or put another band-aid on the problem and if the CHRB would have allowed that PETA’s next move was clearly to try to get a measure on the ballot in California to ban the sport. I have no doubt they would have gotten that accomplished and it would have been far from shocking had the voters of California voted to close down racing. Let me repeat: there was a real possibility that racing in California was going to be banned.

That’s exactly what happened in Massachusetts in 2008 when a group called GREY2K USA got a referendum on the ballot, the Massachusetts Greyhound Protection Act, to ban the sport and it passed by a 56-43 margin. You’d have to either be very arrogant or very ill-informed to believe that that couldn’t happen to horse racing.

Racing still isn’t out of the woods. We still have whipping in all the other states and a report just came out that, among the tracks that share their casualty numbers, Churchill Downs had the second highest rate of fatalities in the country. A headlined in USA Today declared “Churchill Downs is one of the deadliest racetracks in America.” From a PR standpoint, it gets no worse than that. And the sport hasn’t made nearly enough progress on ridding itself of drugs, Lasix included.

What the CHRB accomplished was get PETA to back off. It was notable that when testifying Thursday Senior Vice President Kathy Guillermo was not her usual vitriolic self. While she said she would not support any enterprise that profited off of animals, she was clearly pleased that racing had taken what she sees as a step in the right direction. She also complimented The Stronach Group for its efforts to enact change. PETA is not against small victories, and this one all but ended the threats to have a ban racing vote put on the California ballot.

What happened yesterday can’t be the end of this. While it represented a monumental shift in the way racing will be conducted in California, animal rights activists will see it only as a first step. The train left the station Thursday and it must not be derailed. The sport must continue to do the right things, stop paying lip service to all the problems, and clean up its act.

To those who disagree with me, I’m telling you to wake up, get your heads out of your you know what and join the effort to make this a safer, cleaner sport where the deaths of horses is reduced to the lowest possible numbers and whipping is banned everywhere. Because if that doesn’t happen, you’re not going to need your whips and your Lasix, your clenbuterol and all your other pharmaceuticals much longer. They’ll be pretty useless if there is no more horse racing.

California Whip Ban Advances

Thu, 2019-03-28 15:38

By a 5-0 vote, the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) advanced a rule proposal that could become the most stringent racehorse whipping ban in the nation on Thursday.

Under the terms of the new proposed rule, the whipping of horses will no longer be permitted at any state-sanctioned track for any circumstances other than “when necessary to control the horse for the safety of the horse or rider.”

A late amendment removed a potentially controversial clause that would have allowed for the pari-mutuel disqualification of horses whose jockeys struck them with the whip in non-safety instances. That change means offending jockeys could still be sanctioned and/or lose their share of the purse, but the order of finish for betting purposes and payouts would remain unaffected.

After a state-mandated 45-day period to gather and consider public commentary, the CHRB will take a final, binding vote on the whipping ban. It then must be approved by the state’s Office of Administrative Law before it becomes official. Until then, the current “three strikes before giving the horse a chance to respond” rule remains on the books.

The anti-whipping topic has rocketed to the forefront of the industry over the past several weeks after Santa Anita Park suspended racing in the wake of 22 equine deaths at the track since Dec. 26. Some stakeholders have identified indiscriminate whip use as a factor in the catastrophic injuries.

The Stronach Group (TSG), which owns Santa Anita, on Mar. 14 announced a number of paradigm-shifting Thoroughbred welfare policies in an attempt to make racing and training safer. At the Mar. 28 meeting, the CHRB was seeking to codify some of TSG’s proposed “house rules” by mandating them at the state level.

The topic of animal abuse—both real and perceived—was central to the 50-minute whipping discussion, which was impassioned but civil in the presence of a throng of mainstream media outlets and an audience that included animal-rights protestors who have advocated for an outright ban on the sport of horse racing.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the most straightforward attempt to defuse the “us versus them” mentality that exists between racing industry participants and animal rights protesters that have recently been picketing outside Santa Anita came from Kathy Guillermo, a senior vice president for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Guillermo said she routinely fields five or six phone calls a day from people within the racing industry tipping off PETA to abusive practices on the backstretches of the nation’s racetracks.

“I’ve been working for [PETA for] 10 years, and I haven’t said ‘end racing,'” Guillermo explained. “What I have said is, ‘Get rid of the drugs, get rid of the whipping, get rid of the abuse.’ We never wanted to have a campaign against horse racing…. We got pulled into this industry because we couldn’t ignore the phone calls from the public and the phone calls from people inside racing.

“The racing industry is constantly talking about improving its image to the public,” Guillermo continued. “Well you can’t do that if you keep whipping horses who supposedly ‘love to run.’ There’s already been a compromise in allowing the jockeys to carry the whip and use it as a safety device and a correctional device. Sanctioning obvious physical abuse should not be a compromise.”

“Racing will adapt to a whipping ban,” Guillermo predicted. “The bettors will factor it in. The jockeys will adjust. And the irony here, for me, is that I’m giving the industry advice that will help it to survive in a world that has just become intolerant of abuse.”

Tom Kennedy, the general counsel for the Jockeys’ Guild, spoke on behalf of California’s riders by suggesting that the years-long series of modifications and enhancements to design a more humane whip haven’t been very well explained to the general public, leading to alleged misperceptions that striking the animals is cruel.

Kennedy also testified that “any use of the riding crop was not implicated in any of the circumstances under which, unfortunately, horses died at Santa Anita.” He added that “in our view, this proposed regulation does not reflect the level of research or factual investigation that would need to be a predicate before the process could be begun.”

That statement was immediately challenged by CHRB chairman Chuck Winner.

“I believe that’s not an accurate statement,” Winner said. “We don’t know that for sure. If you watch some of the tapes, the horses that went down in the morning, in some cases, in my view, the crop was being overused.”

Terry Meyocks, the president and chief executive of the Jockeys’ Guild, said he advocated for additional rounds of study at the CHRB’s safety committee level before the full board considered voting on any whip ban.

That line of reasoning drew a pointed riposte from CHRB vice chair Madeline Auerbach.

“What I have a problem with, and I’ll be direct with you, is your approach,” Auerbach said, addressing the Guild’s contingent. “Your approach is to come in here and tell us how to conduct our business, and I find that a little offensive. If you think that we haven’t had many, many discussions and done all of our due diligence, you are quite mistaken.

“We are appointed to take care of racing in California. And if we ignore the view or the people of this state we will all pay a very big price,” Auerbach continued. “We won’t be arguing about whips…. There will be no need for them, because we will have destroyed the industry by being viewed as not taking care of our horses. This is not going away. We need to fix our industry. And remember: What happens here will eventually happen elsewhere. So we are at the forefront of trying to save racing.”

CHRB commissioner Alex Solis, a Hall-of-Fame jockey, chose his words deliberately when commenting on the pending vote.

“I feel for my peers. But we’re at a very critical time for horse racing here in California, and it breaks my heart,” Solis said. “We’re talking about the future of California racing, so I feel like we have to compromise one way or another.”

Solis then asked Guillermo if PETA would support the racing industry if the CHRB voted in the whipping ban.

“I don’t think PETA would ever support any industry that uses animals to make money,” Guillermo said. But she added that there is a likelihood that “your enemies will be fewer if you adopt these rules.”

Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of TSG, testified on behalf of the anti-whipping measure.

“Change can be scary. I get it,” Stronach said. “But I also believe when you take a principled stand, and you make change for the better and the right reasons, and demonstrate that we’re committed to doing the right thing and regaining public confidence, that we will end up in a better position.”

Stronach added that TSG would eventually be seeking to extend its in-house whipping ban to other tracks it owns outside of California, like Gulfstream Park, Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course, and Portland Meadows.

When Winner called for the CHRB vote, it was unanimous in favor of advancing the no-whipping rule to the 45-day public commentary period.

“What I’m going to do is ask staff to move this item to the top of the list of what they’re working on so it can go to the Office of Administrative Law more rapidly to expedite the process,” Winner said.

Several minutes after passage of the anti-whipping initiative—and even though the board still had other key equine drug-related voting initiatives on the agenda—Winner noted that mainstream media had largely vacated the meeting room.

“By the way, for you folks that were wondering what issues the public cares about, you might notice that most of the cameras have packed up and left,” Winner said. “That’s because the discussion of the crop rule is over. That’s what the public cares about.”

Mott Hopes to Have Three Chances to Take Home the Roses

Thu, 2019-03-28 15:27

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL–It is typical to see trainers like Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher and Steve Asmussen saddle two or three horses in the Run for the Roses, but it is not something usually seen from Bill Mott. The Hall of Famer has only saddled eight starters in the GI Kentucky Derby since opening his stable in 1978, but this year he could have three starters on the First Saturday in May with Hidden Scroll (Hard Spun), Tacitus (Tapit) and Country House (Lookin at Lucky).

Hidden Scroll looks to secure his spot in the Derby starting gate Saturday when he goes postward in the GI Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. The Juddmonte homebred dazzled the crowd on Pegasus World Cup day at Gulfstream with a 14-length debut graduation over a sloppy mile Jan. 26. Straight to the front as the favorite in the GII Fountain of Youth S. Mar. 2, the ‘TDN Rising Star’ went a bit too fast early and was run down in the stretch, finishing fourth.

“I think we probably have to alter his running style a little bit, but he is working well and doing very well,” Mott said. “We are increasing the distance of the race by a sixteenth of a mile, so we have to see if he will complete that new distance in good order. He went a little fast early in his race last time and it probably compromised him at the end. Hopefully, he will have a more even trip this go around and bring himself up.”

Hidden Scroll drew the rail for Saturday’s event, but his conditioner said that will not effect their game plan.

“I don’t think the post position is going to influence us too much,” Mott said. “He has natural speed, but there is speed in the race. I don’t think it will force our hand one way or another.”

There is also a chance of rain in Hallandale Saturday, which is just fine by Mott.

“If that were to happen, it certainly wouldn’t bother me with the way he broke his maiden on an off track,” the conditioner said.

Mott hopes to have a second Derby starter for Juddmonte in GII Tampa Bay Derby hero Tacitus. Graduating at second asking at Aqueduct Nov. 10, the gray made his sophomore bow a winning one with a late rally to take the Tampa Bay Derby Mar. 9. Mott indicated that the colt would make his next start in the Apr. 6 GII Wood Memorial S. back in Ozone Park.

“He is a nice horse,” Mott said. “He is doing well and he is coming off of a spectacular race at Tampa. He was coming off a bit of a layoff and he ran very well. He has made huge strides since his maiden win, which was in early November. To come back and do that off of that layoff, I thought was a big step forward and big improvement for him, the right kind of step that you want to see and the kind of step that you need to see. That was very gratifying to see him run like that.”

Tacitus is the first foal out of champion Close Hatches (First Defence), who Mott trained to nine victories, five of which were Grade Is, and earnings over $2.7 million.

“It is a lot of fun to train the offspring from the families you have trained in the past,” Mott said. “It makes it a little more special. They are all special, but it is nice to relate to the families and it is good that they are carrying it on for us.”

Juddmonte Farm and Mott have won many major races together, but the Kentucky Derby has eluded them, which gives even more meaning to the fact that they could have two chances this year.

“They have been a great client and they breed and race good horses,” Mott said. “They want to participate in the big races. That is what they are all about and I am certainly delighted to be part of it.”

Mott’s third potential Derby starter is ‘TDN Rising Star’ Country House, who was last seen finishing fourth in the GII Louisiana Derby Mar. 23 and could make his next start at Oaklawn.

“We are very interested in running him another time,” Mott said. “He has 30 points, but he may be in a situation where he needs more points than that. He is a big, tough horse and he is one we talked about, even before he ran last time, getting another race in. The timing is such with him that you can go back to the [GI] Arkansas Derby [Apr. 13]. It is three weeks and if he ran well, it is still another three weeks to the Derby. It is a doable thing with him because he is a big, tough, robust kind of horse. It is something we would certainly consider with him.”

Ultra-impressive when earning his diploma at third asking at Gulfstream Jan. 17, Country House was a bit green, but still made a strong showing when second to War of Will (War Front) in the GII Risen Star S. Feb. 16 and made up ground late to be fourth last time in the Louisiana Derby.

“He made great strides from his first maiden start to when he broke his maiden and it was a big move forward when he was second in the Risen Star,” Mott said. “This last race was sort of equivalent to the Risen Star. He did not move forward as much as I would have liked to have seen, so hopefully he will in the next race.”

When asked how he felt at the thought of having three starters in the Run for the Roses this year, especially given the fact he has only had eight starters in the past 40 years, Mott said, “It is a nice situation to be in because you don’t have to worry about one all of the time. You can spread it out and worry about three of them.”