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Updated: 7 hours 15 min ago

Midnight Bisou Penciled In for Fleur de Lis

Mon, 2020-05-18 17:10

Bloom Racing Stable LLC, Madaket Stables and Allen Racing LLC’s Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute), last seen finishing a bang-up second in the inaugural $20-million Saudi Cup in Riyadh Feb. 29, is tentatively scheduled to resume the American portion of her career in the GII Fleur de Lis S. at Churchill Downs June 27. The 5-year-old mare worked five furlongs in a leisurely 1:02.80 at Keeneland Friday, May 15, before vanning to Churchill Downs over the weekend.

“All of her breezes up until the other day were designed to get some additional foundation under her,” managing partner Jeff Bloom said Monday. “Now that she’s had her first five-eighths since coming back from Saudi, [trainer] Steve [Asmussen] plans to start cranking up the tempo and start gearing her up for getting ready to run again, which right now tentatively on the calendar would be the Fleur de Lis next month at Churchill.”

A $200,000 event going a mile and an eighth, the Fleur de Lis serves as a ‘Win and You’re In’ qualifier for the GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland in early November.

Bloom said that Midnight Bisou did her return quarantine in Chicago before vanning to Keeneland. He said that Midnight Bisou has done remarkably well within the context of all the moving around she’s done over the past 2 1/2 months.

“I was talking to Steve last night and we were just marvelling about how unique she is by not getting fazed by things, like travel or new environments, and also just how strong she is, physically,” he said. “I just got a video of her, she had just arrived at Churchill, and she’s carrying incredible weight, she’s got great muscle, her coat couldn’t look any better, she’s happy. It’s as though she never traveled anywhere.”

Not unlike other industry shareholders, Bloom is excited to see racing getting back on its feet.

“The powers that be in those racing jurisdictions have been working tirelessly–the horsemen, the racetrack operators–it’s been a challenge,” he offered. “It’s an understatement to say that I am thrilled and excited about the fact that we’ve now seen some of these areas lift the hold and are opening up racing–on so many levels, is critically important for all of us in the industry. The racing ties into all the things we do: as breeders, as people that buy and sell horses at auction, all of this relies and revolves around that we have racing opportunities. I am over-the-top excited. In general, the ability to have the underlying light at the end of the tunnel makes it so much easier to move forward. It’s an enormous relief.”

Bloom also reflected on the weekend return to the races of fellow Eclipse Award winner Monomoy Girl (Tapizar), who easily defeated Churchill allowance rivals Saturday, May 16.

“She’s a remarkable racemare,” he said. “Her record speaks for itself. Huge shout-out to her connections and in particular, her trainer, for having her come off such a long layoff and be effective, having had so many hiccups along the way. Those good horses, like she is, step up to the challenge. She showed her grit and her desire and her talent and so, sure, as a fan, I love seeing that kind of stuff.”

In four head-to-head battles between the fillies in 2018, Monomoy Girl crossed the line ahead of Midnight Bisou on each occasion (Midnight Bisou was awarded the GI Cotillion S. via disqualification of Monomoy Girl). As both a fan and an owner, Bloom is looking forward what the rest of the season may hold.

“At the end of the previous year, we were really excited about having another year of matchups between Midnight Bisou and Monomoy Girl,” he explained. “It’s good for racing. We felt at the time that our mare was up to the challenge and we were going to get to see some really good races between two very talented racehorses. It’s exciting to know that the distaff division is that much stronger. I’m super happy for her connections, but at the end of the day, it’s a huge positive for the industry to have the potential for a pretty significant matchup.”

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Training Opens at Grants Pass Downs, Two Oregon Fairs Scrapped for 2020

Mon, 2020-05-18 15:35

Grants Pass Downs opened for training Monday ahead of a nine-date, spectator-free race meet that will span June 16-July 8. Purses are projected at $60,000 daily, according to a press release issued by the track.

However, two stops on the Oregon summer circuit have called off their race meets because of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a notice posted on the Oregon Racing Commission web site, the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show meet at Union, which traditionally kicks off the summer fair circuit in the state, will not run its June 12-14 dates.

Crooked River Roundup in Prineville also pulled the plug on the July 15-18 races. According to a press release issued by the association that runs the meet, the under-the-lights Crooked River races traditionally attract the largest handles and average attendances of any racetrack in Oregon.

The other two stops on the state’s summer fairs circuit–Harney County Fair in Burns and Tillamook County Fair in Tillamook–are still listed as being on schedule for July and August race dates, according to the commission’s site and the fairs’ own websites.

Grants Pass Downs will be implementing COVID-19 health protocols that include mask-wearing, with the Oregon Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association providing masks to participating horsemen and support staff. Racing operations will be conducted in compliance with social distancing standards, and two checkpoints with COVID-19 screening equipment will check temperatures and look for symptoms.

Grants Pass Downs, which took over as the main stop on the Oregon circuit last season after the closure of Portland Meadows, will also race a Sep. 20-Nov. 9 meet this year.

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Queen’s Plate Scheduled for Sept. 12

Mon, 2020-05-18 15:00

The Queen’s Plate, originally scheduled for June, has been rescheduled for Sept. 12, Woodbine Entertainment announced Monday.

“The history of The Queen’s Plate is so rich and the fact that it’s been held every year since the inaugural race in 1860 is remarkable,” said Jim Lawson, CEO, Woodbine Entertainment. “We are honored to be able to continue this rich history in face of adversity by hosting the race for the 161st consecutive year.”

The $1-million stakes race was postponed this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was originally scheduled to run June 27.

Woodbine’s 2020 Thoroughbred meet is currently scheduled to open without spectators June 6. The Woodbine Oaks and The Plate Trial are expected to be held Aug. 15. The track’s full Thoroughbred stakes schedule will be announced Wednesday.

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T-Shirt Sales to Support NYRA Backstretch Workers

Mon, 2020-05-18 13:23

The sale of new t-shirts with the slogans “Belmont Tough” and “Saratoga Tough” will be used to raise funds for the New York Racing Association backstretch community during the COVID-19 pandemic. NYRA will donate all net proceeds from t-shirt sales in equal allotments to three non-profit organizations which serve the Belmont Park backstretch community: the Belmont Child Care Association (BCCA); the Backstretch Employee Service Team of New York (B.E.S.T.); and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America (NYRTCA).

“The backstretch workers are the unsung heroes of our sport,” said NYRA Chief Operating Officer Gordon Lavalette. “As we move toward the resumption of live racing, we encourage fans to support the men and women whose hard work and dedication have made that possible.”

The limited-edition t-shirts are now available for sale by visiting https://shop.nyra.com/.

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Runhappy $100K Bonus Extended to Belmont

Mon, 2020-05-18 13:18

The Runhappy bonus program, which will reward owners of 2-year-olds by Claiborne Farm freshman sire Runhappy (Super Saver) $100,000 for winning an unrestricted maiden race at Saratoga first time out, has been extended to the corresponding races at the Belmont meeting, set to kick off the week of June 1.

The bonus will be paid by owner Jim McIngvale, who campaigned Runhappy to victories in the GI King’s Bishop S. and GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint en route to being named champion sprinter of 2015.

“We’re really excited about the New York Racing Association getting back up,” McIngvale said during Sunday’s ‘America’s Day at the Races’ program on FOX Sports. “Whenever the first races are for 2-year-olds at the Belmont spring/summer meet, we decided to extend the Runhappy $100,000 bonus. We were reserving for Saratoga, Del Mar and Kentucky Downs, but since Belmont got delayed, we wanted to add some excitement.”

The sire of 94 2-year-olds of 2020 according to The Jockey Club, Runhappy was the second-leading first-crop yearling sire by average ($227,000) for 59 sold from 68 offered off an advertised 2017 stud fee of $25,000, according to TDN Sales Statistics.

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Forty Niner Passes Away in Japan at 35

Mon, 2020-05-18 08:28

Forty Niner (Mr. Prospector–File, by Tom Rolfe), a four-time Grade I winner and champion of his generation in 1987 before becoming a sire of considerable importance, passed away Monday, May 18, in Japan due to the infirmities of old age. He had just celebrated his 35th birthday May 11.

Owned and bred by Claiborne Farm and trained by Woody Stephens, Forty Niner won the 1987 GI Futurity S. and GI Champagne S. to clinch a divisional championship. A leading sophomore of 1988, Forty Niner missed by a neck to Winning Colors in the GI Kentucky Derby and bounced back from a disappointing effort behind eventual champion Risen Star in the GI Preakness S. to add the GI Haskell Invitational S. and GI Travers S., defeating Seeking the Gold narrowly on each occasion. Second, beaten a neck, by Alysheba in the GI Woodward S., Forty Niner prevailed by a neck in the GI NYRA Mile H. and closed his career with a fourth to Alysheba in that year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Classic. He retired with a record of 11-5-0 from 19 starts and earnings of $2,726,000.

Forty Niner stood at Claiborne from the time of his retirement in 1989 through 1995, siring 41 stakes winners (12% SW to foals), 22 at graded level, including four-time graded winner Distorted Humor. The latter carries on the legacy of Forty Niner at WinStar Farm. Forty Niner was the sire of six Grade I winners, including 1996 GI Belmont S. hero Editor’s Note, fellow Travers winner Coronado’s Quest, Ecton Park, Nine Keys, Marley Vale and Gold Fever. He was the leading freshman sire of 1992, and his son End Sweep followed suit in 1998 after accounting for a then record 33 first crop winners.

Forty Niner was sold to continue his career at Shizunai Stallion Station and was pensioned from stud duties in 2007. From his Japanese crops, he was responsible for 14 stakes winners, including two group winners. Coronado’s Quest was also sold to Japan, while End Sweep shuttled from Arrowfield Stud in Australia before his untimely passing in 2002, siring future Horse of the Year Admire Moon (Jpn) from his final crop. End Sweep’s son Swept Overboard stood in Japan (died 2017) and is responsible for G1SWs Omega Perfume (Jpn) and Red Falx (Jpn). Ecton Park is a perennial leading sire in South Korea.

Forty Niner’s producing daughters have been represented by 95 black-type winners to date, 38 at the group/graded level and eight G1/GI winners High Yield (Storm Cat), Island Sand (Tabasco Cat), Jack Milton (War Front), Mass Media (Touch Gold), Albertus Maximus (Albert the Great) and Daredevil (More Than Ready) in the U.S.; Epoca d’Oro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}) in Japan; and Pryka (Arg) (Southern Halo) in Argentina. Forty Niner’s lesser-known stallion son Roar is the broodmare sire of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d’Oro), while a daughter of West Acre produced two-time Eclipse Award winner Songbird (Medaglia d’Oro). Distorted Humor is the sire of the dams of 97 black-type winners, 45 GSWs and 14 G1/GISWs.

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Twirling Candy Colt Impresses in Santa Anita Seasonal Return

Sun, 2020-05-17 19:51

6th-Santa Anita, $59,088, Alw (NW2$X)/Opt. Clm ($62,500), 5-17, 3yo/up, 6f, 1:10.03, ft
COLLUSION ILLUSION (c, 3, Twirling Candy–Natalie Grace, by First Dude) bested a hard-knocking field of older rivals to assert himself as a sophomore to watch in the right season to get off to a belated start. A debut winner at Del Mar last July, the :10 flat OBSAPR breezer added a 7-1 score in the GII Best Pal S. there three weeks later, but came up empty early when stretching out for the GI American Pharoah S. Sept. 27 and was pulled up. Sporting a quick worktab for this return, Collusion Illusion was given a 5-2 chance despite needing to get significantly faster in order to contend. Away well from his outside draw, the bay was hung out wide in midpack behind splits of :22.08 and :45.23. He circled up heading for the home, and leveled off powerfully in midstretch to pick off foes and kick away impressively under hot-handed Flavien Prat. Favorite Tiger Dad (Smiling Tiger) was best of the rest. The winner is the lone foal out of a late half-sister to the good GSW sprinters Bahamian Squall (Gone West) and Apriority (Grand Slam). Sales history: $50,000 Ylg ’18 KEESEP; $300,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-3-0-0, $188,751. Click for the Equibase.com chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.
O-Dan J. Agnew, Rodney E. Orr, Jerry Schneider & John V. Xitco; B-Donald R. Dizney, LLC (FL); T-Mark Glatt.

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Report: Two Horses at Woodbine Test Positive for Equine Herpesvirus

Sun, 2020-05-17 14:56

Two horses at Woodbine have tested positive for equine herpesvirus EHV-1, according to a report on CanadianThoroughbred.com. The two reportedly came from Barn 12 on the track’s backstretch and are currently being cared for at the University of Guelph in Ontario. The news comes shortly after Woodbine was given the green light to reopen for racing June 6.

“This will be an evolving situation, and we will keep [horsepeople] updated with information as it is known,” Jessica Buckley, Woodbine Entertainment’s senior vice president of racing, told CanadianThoroughbred.com‘s Jennifer Morrison. “This news is an added challenge during an already difficult time, however, protocols already in place may ultimately help us contain this faster.”

According to the report, Woodbine put new protocols in place Sunday morning to prevent the spread of the infections EHV-1 disease, including all horses on the backstretch having twice-daily temperature checks and a temporary ban on horses shipping out of Woodbine. Ship-in horses will still be allowed. Additionally, horses from Barn 12 will be allowed to train at a designated time after clearance is provided by testing.

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Multiple Grade I Winner Spiced Perfection Now With Casse Under New Ownership

Sun, 2020-05-17 13:31

Multiple Grade I-winning sprinter Spiced Perfection (Smiling Tiger) has been privately purchased and transferred from trainer Peter Miller to Mark Casse and will target the GIII Winning Colors S. at Churchill Downs May 31, Casse told the Churchill notes team.

“She was privately purchased by Haruya Yoshida over the winter and she’s been a great addition to our barn,” Casse said. “I think we’re going to be on target for the Winning Colors and get her 5-year-old campaign going at Churchill.”

Spiced Perfection recorded a bullet half-mile move in :47 flat (1/134) Sunday morning at Churchill in preparation for the six-furlong race. The California-bred filly worked in an opening quarter-mile split of :22.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.

Previously owned by Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable and Peter Deutsch, Spiced Perfection captured the GI Vinery Madison S. last spring at Keeneland to follow up her GI La Brea S. triumph at the end of 2018. She was last seen running fourth in the GII Inside Information S. Jan. 25 at Gulfstream.

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Swiss Skydiver Rerouting to Santa Anita Oaks

Sun, 2020-05-17 12:45

Recent GIII Fantasy S. winner Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil), previously considered for a run in the G1 1000 Guineas at Newmarket in England June 6, will instead stay Stateside and point to the GI Santa Anita Oaks the same day, trainer Ken McPeek said on Twitter Sunday. McPeek cited logistical concerns and a purse reduction among the reasons he’s choosing to keep his pupil in America for her next start. The Peter Callahan colorbearer worked a half-mile over the Keeneland turf in :51 flat (8/9) Saturday.

“She handled her turf workout fine but logistics for Newmarket won’t work,” McPeek said. “Purse change, cost, can’t send staff–all factors. Such a great race, perhaps another season.”

Prior to her 16-1 upset of the Fantasy, Swiss Skydiver earned her first stakes win with a wire-to-wire score in the GII Gulfstream Park Oaks. She was ranked at the top of Bill Finley’s most recent TDN Kentucky Oaks Top 12 list.

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Churchill Opener: Smooth Protocols, Robust Handle, Eerie Aura Without Fans

Sat, 2020-05-16 19:48

A live bugler played a first-race call to post that echoed and reverberated in front of a cavernously empty grandstand, and track announcer Travis Stone preceded his season-opening call with the declaration that “Better late than never, they’re in the gate at Churchill Downs.”

But once the horses were off and running for Saturday’s 11-race card, a sense of business-as-usual settled in–at least as defined by the new normalcy terms of spectator-free, pandemic-era racing in America.

“It was surreal. I watched the first race of the season from the infield pagoda, and it was eerie,” Darren Rogers, Churchill’s senior director of communications and media told TDN. “The sounds of the horses’ hooves, the gate springing open, every little sound was amplified because of the silence all around me. But at the same time, we’re thrilled an audience across the country is able to take in the action. They appear to be as enthused as the horsemen are about the return of racing. It’s been well received.”

Bettors were limited to advance-deposit wagering options only, but they opened their wallets and let the money fly: Despite a wet racetrack to start the card and no turf racing, Churchill handled $14,278,726, a whopping 183.7% increase from the same Saturday last year.

Participation in the front-side aspects of racing at the Louisville track is limited to “essential” personnel only for the 26-date spring meet, and numerous social distancing and protective personal equipment protocols are in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Over the past 10 days, licensees have also been required to take a one-time COVID-19 test that must come back negative to gain initial entry to the grounds. Then they must also pass daily temperature checks and health questionings to secure a colored wristband that gets them onto the backstretch each morning.

“One of the advantages that we have is that a number of our horsemen have been racing in other jurisdictions that have similar protocols are in place,” Rogers said, noting that Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park, and Fair Grounds shippers supplied a good portion of the entries.

Yet shippers from jurisdictions where there is currently no live racing also populated Saturday’s program, like Belmont Park, Laurel Race Course, Sam Houston Race Park, and Parx. And horses vanning in from far-flung private training centers also dotted the entries, sending even the most knowledgeable of handicappers scurrying for a list of abbreviations to decipher where those horses have been legging up.

The stabling at Churchill Downs and its satellite facility, Trackside Louisville, is quickly nearing capacity with more than 1,100 horses arriving on the grounds.

Trainer Eddie Kenneally, who won with one of three entrants he saddled on opening day, found it difficult to come up with any aspect of the protocols that needed tweaking.

“No issues at all. Everything was well-prepared. There was lots of thought put into it beforehand, and that allowed for everything to go on really, really smoothly,” Kenneally said. “The track was perfect–got a lot of rain the last couple of days, started out muddy, and ended up being fast. It’s great to be back racing at Churchill Downs. This is our home track, and we’re absolutely delighted with the day.”

But Kenneally added that his home venue did seem a little spookier than usual.

“It is a little eerie and it takes some getting used to,” Kenneally said. “We [raced without spectators] earlier this year at Gulfstream, and it’s very, very different. No betting windows. One TV in the infield. But the most important thing is trainers and owners and jockeys are getting an opportunity to hopefully start making some money by getting an opportunity to complete again.”

But did he feel safe?

“I think we’re pretty safe,” Kenneally said. “The social distancing is very easy keep intact in our profession.”

Trainer Dale Romans, who ran fourth with his lone starter, told TDN he wasn’t quite prepared for the emotions he felt regarding the lack of fans.

“I’m sure glad we could run, but it wasn’t a comfortable feeling,” Romans said. “I realized how much I like the fans being there, and all the good energy they bring. It was eerie. It was like being there in the morning for workouts, more than anything.”

As for the protocols, Romans added, “I was very impressed. I thought everything went very smooth for being the first time around. I was apprehensive going into it because I didn’t know what to expect. But everyone was doing what they were asked to do and supposed to do to stay safe. I think that we learned that we can handle it.”

Rogers said the track’s management team tried to be vigilant about any changes that might be needed to ensure the protocols worked as well in real life as Churchill thought they would on paper.

“The one thing we noticed today with the stable personnel coming over with the horses is after they leave the paddock, they’re wanting to watch the race,” Rogers said. “And we’re just trying to [remind] them to continue to social distance, not gather in large groups, and be sure to space themselves out. But everybody is understanding, and it’s gone well.

“We operate in real time,” Rogers continued. “So any [changes] that we can implement right away, we do.”

Some relatively minor aspects of the plan are a work in progress, Rogers said.

“One thing that we chose not to do is when the horses walk over, we’re not utilizing the standard [numbered] bibs for the grooms,” Rogers explained. “We thought it was something that [could contribute to] possible contamination, trading [the bibs] throughout the day, so we’ve opted not to do that. We think it’s important to have some sort of identification when the horses are in the paddock prior to getting the saddle towel put on, but we’re still trying to work through that.”

Although the opening-day card lacked a stakes feature, the fourth race, an $85,000 allowance/optional claimer, filled the bill. The one-turn mile featured the triumphant return of 2018 champion 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl (Tapizar), who had been sidelined since September with a hamstring pull.

Sent postward as the 1-2 favorite, Monomoy Girl stalked in fourth then easily took command at the top of the lane to draw off to a comfortable 2 1/2-length score.

“I felt very confident when she came off the turn in front,” trainer Brad Cox said. “It was a great race off the layoff. It was very positive seeing her be able to rate behind horses like that.”

Jockey Florent Geroux added that “she was able to rate a lot easier today than when she was three years old. She gave us all the signs in the morning that she was ready. I think it is on to bigger things.”

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It’s Official: Preakness to be Held at Pimlico Oct. 3

Sat, 2020-05-16 17:58

The GI Preakness S. will be run at Pimlico on Oct. 3, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced on NBC Saturday on what would have been Preakness Day under normal circumstances.

The announcement confirmed a report from earlier in the week from WBAL, the NBC affiliate in Baltimore.
With Churchill Downs having announced that the GI Kentucky Derby will be run Sept. 5, among the Triple Crown races, only the GI Belmont S. has yet to be scheduled. While NYRA officials have not made an official announcement regarding the timing of the Belmont, it appears they are serious about running the race in June.

An announcement concerning the date for the 2020 Belmont could come as early as Tuesday.
To run the Belmont in its traditional spot in the Triple Crown order, the race would have to be squeezed between the Preakness and the Nov. 6-7 Breeders’ Cup. It’s difficult to imagine NYRA choosing that spot on the calendar. Another option would be to run the Belmont after the Breeders’ Cup, meaning it would have to be run at Aqueduct and during a time of year when weather could be an issue. That also seems like an unlikely option.
If running the Belmont in June, NYRA must also decide whether or not to shorten the race, either to a mile-and-an-eighth or a mile-and-a-quarter.

“I am happy that it is now official and we have more certainty,” said Jack Knowlton, the co-owner of GI Florida Derby winner Tiz the Law (Constitution). “We’re just looking for the last piece of the puzzle, which is what are they going to do with the Belmont? From everything I can gather and logically speaking, it’s going to be run near the end of June. There’s going to be decent spacing between all these races, unlike the five-week gauntlet that is the normal Triple Crown.”

Hogan was introduced by Stronach Group Chairman & President Belinda Stronach just after NBC concluded a repeat of the broadcast of the 2015 Preakness won by American Pharoah.

“Under normal circumstances I would be standing today at Pimlico with (Belinda Stronach) presenting the Woodlawn trophy to winner of the 145th Preakness S.,” Hogan said. “As we all know these are not ordinary circumstances. However, I am proud to make this announcement on behalf of the state, the Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland’s historic racing industry that Preakness 145 will be held at Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, Maryland on Oct. 3. We look forward to celebrating with you soon.”

Stronach issued a statement, which read: “We all wish we could have been together today to celebrate the Preakness but we stayed home and stayed safe and now we can look forward to Preakness 145 on Oct. 3,” Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of TSG, said. “I would like to thank Governor Hogan and all of the state and local leaders along with our industry stakeholders, racetrack communities and partners, including our broadcast partner NBC Sports, for the ongoing support and commitment to racing in Maryland.”

The Preakness has been run on the third Saturday in May every year since 1946. It has not always been the second leg in the Triple Crown. In 1930, Gallant Fox swept a Triple Crown series that started with the Preakness.

“This will be weird, but I will take it. I don’t really know what else to think other than I hope I am there for those races,” said Bob Baffert, whose stable includes at least three top contenders for the Triple Crown races. “I think the Preakness will have a good field, with a lot of horses. You’re not going to be worried about having to run a mile-and-a-half in a few weeks, so I think a lot more horses from the Derby will come right back.”

Like all trainers with top 3-year-old colts, Baffert will have to figure out how to keep horses that are blossoming in May at the top of their game through, at the very least, October.

“We will just have to deal with it,” he said. “It’s still going to be difficult to win all three and the Derby will still be the hardest one to win. I’m just happy racing is getting back to more normalcy. But until the owners can come out and watch their horses run it will still be weird. I want the fun to come back. The later the dates of these races, the better chance we will have of the fun being back.”

The other question that remains to be answered is if fans will be allowed to attend the Preakness or any of the Triple Crown races. Last month, Pimlico announced that the lineup of infield festivities has been canceled.

Hogan has yet to announce when racing, without spectators, can resume in the state.

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Cairo Prince Colt Goes Two-for-Two at Gulfstream

Sat, 2020-05-16 16:39

CASINO GRANDE (c, 3, Cairo Prince–Selective, by Tapit) took his record to two-for-two, winning a salty Gulfstream allowance. A front-running debut winner at Tampa Mar. 14, he fired a pair of bullet works at Payson leading up to this, including a five-furlong move in 1:02 3/5 (1/7) May 8. Dispatched at 5-1 here, the dark bay stalked the leaders from a two-wide third through a first half in :46.03. Sticking his nose in front on the backstretch run, Casino Grande swept clear in the lane to win by three lengths over Extraordinary (Speightstown). ‘TDN Rising Star’ Edge of Fire (Curlin) was third. Lifetime Record: 2-2-0-0.

O/B-Calumet Farm (KY); T-Christophe Clement.

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Monomoy Girl Returns a Winner Beneath the Twin Spires

Sat, 2020-05-16 14:54

Champion Monomoy Girl (Tapizar) returned a winner after 18 months on the sidelines. Hammered down to 1-2 favoritism at the oval where she registered her two greatest triumphs, the chestnut was away in good order from the two-hole and was perched in a close-up fourth off the fence as Fashion Faux Pas (Flatter and Talk Veuve to Me (Violence) dueled through early splits of :22.87 and :46.33. Talk to Veuve to Me took control entering the far turn, but Monomoy Girl came roaring up behind her and was in front in a matter of strides. The Eclipse winner cruised clear in the lane under a hand ride from Florent Geroux and hit the line 4 1/2 lengths clear of a late-rallying Red Dane (Ity) (Red Rocks {Ire}).

“I felt very confident when she came off the turn in front,” trainer Brad Cox said. “It was a great race off the layoff. It was very positive seeing her be able to rate behind horses like that.”

Geroux echoed similar sentiments, saying, “She was able to rate a lot easier today than when she was 3-years-old. She gave us all the signs in the morning that she was ready. I think it is on to bigger things.”

Monomoy Girl took home the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly in 2018 after a season that included victories in the GI Kentucky Oaks, GI Acorn S., GI CCA Oaks and GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff. She returned to Brad Cox in 2019, but was sidelined by colic after a quintet of published works. Returning to Cox again, Monomoy Girl was sidelines once more after a few works due to a hamstring injury and was shelved for the rest of 2019. She had been working steadily at Keeneland in preparation for this return.

The winner is a half-sister to Mr. Monomoy (Palace Malice), GSW, $327,162, winner of one of the divisions of this year’s GII Risen Star S. Their dam Drummette summoned $1.85-million from Bridlewood Farm at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton November Sale carrying a foal by Mastery. The resulting foal is a now-yearling filly and was bred back to Tapit.

 

4th-Churchill Downs, $77,061, Alw (C)/Opt. Clm ($80,000), 5-16, 3yo/up, f/m, 1m, 1:36.51, sy.

MONOMOY GIRL (m, 5, Tapizar–Drummette, by Henny Hughes) Lifetime Record: 12-10-2-0, $3,003,618. Click for the Equibase.com chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

O-Dubb, M., Monomoy Stables, LLC, The Elkstone Group, LLC (Stuart Grant) and Bethlehem Stables LLC; B-FPF LLC & Highfield Ranch (KY); T-Brad H. Cox. *$100,000 Ylg ’16 KEESEP.

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Maxfield, Major Fed Breeze for Matt Winn

Sat, 2020-05-16 14:43

Major Fed (Ghostzapper), second in the GII Risen Star S. and fourth after a slow start in the GII Louisiana Derby, completed his last major workout on Saturday morning at Churchill Downs with a half-mile move in :51.40 (16/16) prior to taking aim at next Saturday’s GIII Matt Winn S. Meanwhile, 72 miles east of Churchill Downs, unbeaten GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity winner Maxfield (Street Sense) worked a swift half-mile in :47.20 (3/22) at Keeneland.

The Matt Winn is worth 50-20-10-5 points to the top four finishers on the Road to the GI Kentucky Derby.

Under exercise rider Lindsey Hebert, Major Fed worked over the sloppy surface at 5:30 a.m. He began his work with opening fractions of :13, :38.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:04.80 on Churchill Downs clocker John Nichols’ watch.

“It gives us a lot of excitement to have a horse like him in our barn,” trainer Greg Foley said. “He’s fit so this morning’s work was just a little maintenance. He’s getting better every day and that’s what makes us so excited about him and his future.”

Maxfield is slated to make his first start in more than seven months following a dramatic come-from-behind win in the Breeders’ Futurity.

“We were able to beat the rain this morning [at Keeneland],” said trainer Brendan Walsh. “We’ll ship to Churchill in a few days and get ready for Saturday.”

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Keeneland Auctioneer Cris Caldwell Passes Away

Sat, 2020-05-16 13:58

Cris Caldwell, who continued the legacy of his late father Tom Caldwell as an integral part of the Keeneland auctioneering team, has passed away. He was 63 years old and was a member of the Keeneland family from 1975-2020. Tom Caldwell passed away in 2001.

“Cris was known for his work ethic, keen wit and, like his father, his ability to command the sales ring, and he presided over some of the most memorable events in Keeneland sales history,” Bill Thomason, President and CEO of Keeneland, said. “Within approximately three hours at the 2006 September Yearling Sale, he was the auctioneer for both Meydan City, who brought an auction-record $11.7 million, and Plavius, who sold for $9.2 million. At the November Breeding Stock Sale, Cris sold Playful Act (Ire) for a record $10.5 million, and he sold [GI] Kentucky Derby winner and future Hall of Famer Winning Colors for $4.1 million. Keeneland extends its sincerest condolences to Cris’ brother, Scott, also a longtime member of Keeneland’s auction team; his daughters Alden and Laurel; and his entire family. He will be greatly missed.”

John Henderson worked alongside Caldwell for the past 30 years.

“Cris was born to be an auctioneer, and he worked very hard to get the last dollar from the auction stand. He had the innate ability to quickly appraise a horse before selling it,” Henderson said. “He was one of the hardest-working auctioneers I’ve ever been around. Cris had a lot of confidence. That came through in his voice and in his chant from the auction stand. This is a loss to the whole auctioneering fraternity.”

A release from Caldwell’s family was pending as of Saturday afternoon.

This story will be updated.

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New York Racing Given Go Ahead to Resume June 1

Sat, 2020-05-16 12:09

During his daily press briefing, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that all racetracks in the state can resume racing June 1.

Since June 1 is a Monday, normally a dark day, it is likely that Belmont will not open until a few days afterward. NYRA has been shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic since Aqueduct last ran Mar. 15.

Cuomo’s announcement also paves the way for Finger Lakes and the state’s harness tracks to reopen.

“NYRA and the New York racing community are thankful for Governor Cuomo’s steady leadership throughout this public health crisis and we applaud his decision to authorize the resumption of horse racing, without fans, beginning on June 1,” NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke said in a statement. “This is a reasoned and responsible decision by Governor Cuomo that will enable horse racing to resume in a way that prioritizes health and safety while recognizing that NYRA is the cornerstone of an industry responsible for 19,000 jobs and $3 billion in annual economic impact.

“We look forward to the resumption of live racing at Belmont Park with all appropriate health and safety protocols in place to support the hundreds of small businesses, family-owned farms and thousands of hourly workers who form the backbone of Thoroughbred racing in New York.”

It still remains to be seen what the racing will look like once NYRA restarts operations. Several stakes races were scheduled during the period while NYRA was shut down and the June 6 card was to include the GI Belmont S. plus several other major stakes like the GI Metropolitan H. and the GI Manhattan S.

“We are hoping to have a condition book and stakes schedule out on Tuesday,” said NYRA Senior Vice President of Racing Martin Panza. “It’s just that there are a lot of moving parts at the moment. We’ve gotten preliminary things laid out but have to check in with Fox and NBC. Now that we have a starting date, we have to plug some of the pieces in. We have to get some gaming commission approvals and racing committee approvals. We hope to get all that wrapped up by Tuesday.”

Because the casino at Aqueduct has also been closed since March, the revenue available for purses is down and the condition book expected to be released Tuesday could show a cut in purses.

Panza said no decision has been reached yet so far as when to run the Belmont. In an interview with the Daily Racing Form on Friday, O’Rourke hinted that the Belmont could be run in June and at a distance shorter than a mile-and-a-half.

The news that Belmont was just weeks away from reopening was well received by horsemen.

“This was great to see and it was great that people in Albany took the time to listen to our message and understand the sport and how we have been operating for the last eight weeks,” said New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Joe Appelbaum. “They were comfortable with what we told him. There has been a group effort between our team and the NYRA team to get this done. What we have done over the last eight weeks on the safety protocols and the communication necessary and working with people in Albany, it was unprecedented in the modern relationship between tracks and horsemen.”

Cuomo said the time had come for activities that can take place without large crowds to be allowed to open.

“We have a smart-phased reopening plan that has been reviewed by great experts in the field, and we feel very good about that,” Cuomo said. “We’re getting a little more nuanced in our analysis, looking for economic activities that you can start without crowds and without gatherings. Remember the problem here are crowds and gatherings.

“What economic activity is willing to reopen without a crowd?” he continued. “They’re talking about this in terms of sports. You can have baseball without a crowd, but it can still be televised. Great. You can have economic activity without a crowd. That’s great. We can do that in this state with horse racing tracks and we’re going to do that. There will be guidelines for the actual participants but no crowds, no fans, but for the industry itself, for the televised viewers, that can still work.”

Since the mid-March shutdown, NYRA executives and horsemen worked diligently in order to formulate a plan for reopening. That included submitting a 19-page document to the state that covered the many safety protocols NYRA was prepared to put into place in order to resume racing.

“We’re not going to take our eye off the ball on safety issues,” Appelbaum said. “That’s really important. We are still operating downstate and the conditions are massively better than they were a month ago, but it’s still something we need to be on top of every day.”

The Belmont meet will be a short one as Saratoga is scheduled to open July 16. In an earlier press briefing, Cuomo shot down the possibility of fans being allowed to attend the races at Saratoga, but NYRA’s intention is to shift upstate and run its scheduled dates at Saratoga.

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Veteran New Jersey Trainer John Mazza Passes Away at 82

Sat, 2020-05-16 12:05

Trainer John Mazza, a regular at Monmouth Park since the track opened in 1956 and one of the most beloved members of the New Jersey racing fraternity, passed away Friday. He was 82.

According to his companion, Rosemary Shockley, Mazza died from complications related to congestive heart failure. He passed away at Aventura Hospital in Aventura, Florida.

Mazza was a throwback, a product of a time when racing was more a sport than a business and trainers like Mazza considered everyone on the backstretch family. He didn’t have a bad word to say about anybody and no one had a bad word to say about him.

“It’s so sad to learn that he passed. He was a great man,” said New Jersey Thoroughbred Breeders Association Executive Director Mike Campbell.

The Mazza stable had one of its best years in 2019 thanks to the filly Horologist (Gemologist). Owned at the time by Cameron Beatty, the New Jersey-bred won the GIII Monmouth Oaks and finished third in the GI Cotillion S. Horologist was bred by Vincent Amarella’s Holly Crest Farm, a New Jersey-based breeding and racing operation that employed Mazza for more than 60 years.

“He was like a father to me,” Beatty said. “He was the greatest man I have ever met in my life. I haven’t gotten any sleep and there have been a lot of tears. But John wouldn’t want that, he wouldn’t want us shedding tears. He would want us celebrating his life.”

Starting when he was seven, Mazza worked on his father’s boarding farm in Wayside, New Jersey, before gravitating to the racetrack. He worked as an assistant trainer to Joe Kulina and later took over as the head trainer of the string Kulina would send to the New England tracks each summer. Mazza went out on his own in the seventies.

“It was ingrained in his blood since he was a boy,” Shockley said. “His father had a farm when he was a boy and that’s where it all started. He just loved horses. That was his whole life. He ate, drank and slept horses. His whole life revolved around that.”

“John Mazza was a great horseman and a great guy,” said longtime friend and bloodstock agent Steve Young. “He treated his horses like kings. Rest in peace, my friend.”

Mazza enjoyed success at the highest level in 1992 when he won the GI Hopeful S. with Great Navigator. Twenty-six years later, Horologist came around, breaking her maiden by 20 3/4 lengths before going on to stakes success. The filly had given new life to an octogenarian trainer who still got up every morning at 4 a.m. to begin his work day, which included overseeing his horses at Monmouth and those at nearby Holly Crest Farm.

“I took my time with her,” Mazza told the TDN last year. “She never had any problems, but I wanted her to grow more and she did. Sometimes there has been a long time between her races, but she runs better fresh. The Beyer numbers go way up when she runs fresh. I took my time and the owner let me do that. That’s the way you’re supposed to do it. That’s what I learned from Joe Kulina.”

After Beatty sold shares in Horologist she was transferred to trainer Richard Baltas.

The statistics for Mazza on equineline.com go back to 1976 and show him winning 526 races from 4,051 starters. He was 10 for 41 in 2019, winning at a 24% rate.

In 2012, Mazza won the Virgil “Buddy” Raines Distinguished Award, which is given out annually at Monmouth to an owner or trainer who has distinguished themselves with their exemplary conduct and integrity.

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A Strong Reopening for Santa Anita

Fri, 2020-05-15 21:06

Santa Anita was up and running Friday, the first time racing had been held at the Southern California racetrack since Mar. 22. All that was missing were fans in the stands. The card was strong, the handle was robust and it appeared that the many strict protocols put in place by Santa Anita didn’t affect the racing.

“We’re, overall, really happy with how things went,” said Aidan Butler, who heads the California racing operation for The Stronach Group. “It is so good to be back racing. From a logistics standpoint, everything went really well. Everyone was in really good spirits. The mood was as cheerful as I’ve ever seen it for a day of racing. Everyone was super happy. It’s so nice to get the place back up and running.”

The handle was $11,207,076 for nine races–a huge increase over the same days in 2019, when Santa Anita handled $6,974,738 for eight races.

“The handle was great,” Butler said. “This was a big day for us. For a regular Friday, that’s a helluva lot of handle.”

The first race of the day and the first held at Santa Anita since March  was won by the Peter Miller trained She’s So Special (Hard Spun). Ridden by Flavien Prat, she won the 5 1/2-furlong turf race by 1 1/2 lengths.

“It’s been a while.,” Miller said. “It felt great and it’s really good to be back racing. Certainly, it’s always good to win a race especially after we haven’t raced here for six, seven weeks. I definitely had more jitters than usual.”

“It’s great to finally be back,” said Prat. “It’s been a rough time, but I’m glad we are back in business.”

Santa Anita presented a strong card for its return. Including three also-eligibles, 97 horses were entered for the nine races. Six of the nine races had at least 10 starters.

Intent on keeping everyone involved with the racing safe, Santa Anita had several new protocols in place for the return of racing. Everyone involved in the racing was wearing masks, including the jockeys. Between races, jockeys were sequestered in a “restricted zone,” which, for the riders was a recreational vehicle parked behind the jockey’s room. Restricted zones were also used for valets and other essential track personnel and no one was admitted to the area without first testing negative for the coronavirus.

The jockeys must remain on the premises during the three-day period, Friday through Sunday, in which there is live racing. Friday morning Aaron Gryder moved into his trailer, where he will be spending a lot of time with Mike Smith.

“I’ve got Mike Smith as a roommate,” Gryder said. “Not the first time he’s been my roommate–we’ve lived together many times. I just didn’t know it would be on the track at Santa Anita. I just feel like a little kid back here. It’s just fun. I’m sure the nights will be fun, too. Nothing wild, but when we have dinner, a big group of guys together, there’s always some good stories and laughs. You know there’s a lot of stories on the racetrack.”

Santa Anita also changed up the procedures for how horses were saddled prior to the races. Rather than being prepared in the paddock, they were saddled in the receiving barn before being led to the walking ring. After the races the horses were returned to the walking ring to be unsaddled. 

Flying Business (Gervinho) won the second race for trainer Matt Chew, who said he was pleasantly surprised by how well the day went considering all the adjustments that had to be made.
“Our management team of Aidan Butler, Amy Zimmerman, Nate Newby and the racing office, they did an amazing job,” he said. “Number one was to get us open and then to set protocols that were acceptable to the state. Then they set up a routine that was very efficient. There were a lot of moving parts, so there were a lot of us that were skeptical as to whether or not they could pull this off. It seemed too complicated. But they were very well organized. There were some things with the first race that weren’t perfect, but people worked together, made decisions on the fly and sorted things out. I thought it would take two or three days to get everything right, but they were dialed in on day one.”

One of the highlights of the card was the third race, which featured the comeback of the Bob Baffert-trained Tale of the Union (Union Rags), who was making his first start since Aug. 23, 2018, in which he posted an eight-length win. Sent off at 3-5, Tale of the Union finished seventh as 20-1 shot Oil Can Knight (Can the Man) nosed out 24-1 shot Kneedeepinsnow (Flat Out).
Racing will continue at Santa Anita Saturday with a 10-race card topped by two stakes for California-breds, the $150,000 Evening Jewel S. and the $150,000 Echo Eddie S.

“Things went smoothly and I think they will be even better tomorrow and better still on Sunday,” Butler said.

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Despite Permission To Open, Prairie Meadows To Remain Closed

Fri, 2020-05-15 16:34

Despite a proclamation issued Thursday by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds allowing the state’s horse and dog tracks to re-open to spectator-free racing, officials at Prairie Meadows in Altoona have elected to remain closed, declaring that it is still unsafe to conduct live racing.

“At Prairie Meadows, we care deeply about the health and well-being of our family of employees, our guests, the horsemen, and our community,” said Prairie Meadows President & CEO Gary Palmer. “This is a position in which we have been steadfast since deciding to close our full operation before any other casino in the state.”

Prairie Meadows shut down operations Mar. 16 and just last week laid off 1,130 of its employees as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Factors in the decision to stay closed include the fact that Polk County, in which the racetrack and casino reside, is among the top 10 in the country for the spread of the disease and that ‘convenient and reliable’ testing for the virus remains unavailable. Track officials also expressed a concern that given the number of people on the backstretch (500-1000), complying with social distancing recommendations becomes an issue.

Track officials said they will continue to comply with advice and guidance from public health agencies and the governor.

“As we continue our vigilant work on preparing our property for its eventual reopening, I’m reminded just how committed our team is in overcoming this horrible pandemic,” said Palmer. “While there is no playbook for this great challenge, I am confident that our men and women at Prairie Meadows will rise above it, and again soon, welcome back our employees, guests, horsemen, and community–safely.”

The adjacent casino will remain closed through at least May 27, according to Reynolds’s proclamation.

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