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Updated: 10 hours 55 min ago

Curlin Colt Debuts Victoriously at the Big A

Thu, 2020-01-30 15:17

5th-Aqueduct, $65,960, Msw, 1-30, 3yo, 6f, 1:13.27, ft.
SIXTO (c, 3, Curlin–Drift to the Lead, by Yonaguska), dismissed at odds of 13-1 in a field reduced to five by the post-time scratching of Ghost Fighter (Tapit), was roused to the lead approaching the sixteenth pole and held on for a 1 3/4-length victory in his career debut. Only fairly away, the dark bay gained a bit of ground as favored Its a Wrap (Twirling Candy) cut out the running. Three deep on the turn, the May 17 foal looked a bit one-paced as the field hit the stretch, but he woke up with a furlong to travel and finished with good energy for the victory. Cousin Andrew (Into Mischief) dropped well out of it and was already feeling the whip a half-mile from home, but he put his mind on running and railed through to be a good second before galloping out past the winner by the time they reached the clubhouse turn. A $330,000 Keeneland September yearling and $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Santa Anita juvenile (:10 3/5), Sixto is a half-brother to SW & GISP Catch My Drift (Pioneerof the Nile) and his dam is a half-sister to MSW/GSP Mindy Sue (Pleasantly Perfect) and to MSP Our Dark Knight (Medaglia d’Oro). Drift to the Lead produced a Pioneerof the Nile colt in 2019 and was most recently bred to West Coast. Sales history: $330,000 Ylg ’18 KEESEP; $250,000 2yo ’19 FTSANA. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $37,400. Click for the chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.
O-Southern Equine Stable LLC; B-Fred W Hertrich III & John D Fielding (KY); T-Eric J Guillot.

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First Foal For Long River

Thu, 2020-01-30 14:30

The first foal for Long River (A.P. Indy) arrived at Anchor & Hope Farm in Maryland Jan. 23. Bred by Lady Olivia, the chestnut colt is out of Joe Bee (American Lion). MSW & GISP Long River stands for $3,000.

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Belmont Stakes Racing Festival Tickets on Sale Feb. 6

Thu, 2020-01-30 13:33

Tickets for the 2020 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will go on sale to the public Thursday, Feb. 6, starting at 10 a.m. via, the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced Thursday.

Highlighted by the 152nd running of the Grade I, $1.5 million Belmont S.–the oldest and most challenging leg of horse racing’s vaunted Triple Crown–the Belmont S. Racing Festival will begin Thursday, June 4, and conclude Saturday, June 6.

The three-day event, launched in its current format in 2015, features a unique blend of world-class racing and entertainment complemented by a variety of hospitality options.

NYRA will be offering advance pre-sale opportunities to NYRA Bets members and returning ticket buyers via email. In addition, all prospective ticket buyers can visit to sign up for the pre-sale and secure a spot at the 2020 Belmont S. Racing Festival.

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Maryland Thoroughbred Industry Renaissance Awards Set for Feb. 11

Thu, 2020-01-30 12:38

The third annual Maryland Thoroughbred Industry Renaissance Awards will be presented to the top Maryland owner, trainer, jockey, breeder, broodmare and stallion, as well as the champion Maryland-breds of 2019, on Feb. 11 at the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Halethorpe.

The Renaissance Awards were created to recognize the best of Maryland racing and breeding from the previous year and are a cooperative effort between the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Jockey Club.

Award finalists (listed alphabetically)

Maryland-bred champion 2-year-old male: Laddie Liam (Golden Lad); Monday Morning Qb (Imagining); Ournationonparade (Cal Nation)

Maryland-bred champion 2-year-old filly: Hello Beautiful (Golden Lad); Selflessly (More Than Ready); Sharing (Speightstown)

Maryland-bred champion 3-year-old male: Alwaysmining (Stay Thirsty); Stranger Danger (Buffum); Top Line Growth (Tapizar)

Maryland-bred champion 3-year-old filly: Introduced (El Padrino); Las Setas (Seville {Ger}); Zonda (Scat Daddy)

Maryland-bred champion older male: Clubman (Not For Love); Cordmaker (Curlin); Just Howard (English Channel)

Maryland-bred champion older female: Another Broad (Include); Blamed (Blame); Majestic Reason (Majestic Warrior)

Maryland-bred champion sprinter: Laki (Cuba); Lewisfield (Great Notion); Taco Supream (El Padrino)

Maryland-bred champion turf runner: Beach View (Giant’s Causeway); Just Howard; Sharing

Owner of the Year: Hillwood Stable LLC, No Guts No Glory Farm, Smart Angle

Trainer of the Year: Dale Capuano,  Claudio Gonzalez,  Mike Trombetta

Jockey of the Year: Trevor McCarthy, Sheldon Russell, Jorge A. Vargas Jr.

Breeder of the Year: Robert T. Manfuso and Katharine M. Voss, Sagamore Farm

Broodmare of the Year: Casual Kiss, Taft Lil Queen, Tanca

Stallion of the Year: Friesan Fire, Great Notion

Pimlico Backstretch Employee of the Year: Urizar “Uri” Velazquez

Laurel Backstretch Employee of the Year: Troy Singh

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TIF Publishes ‘American Racing’s Sustainable Future’

Thu, 2020-01-30 11:31

Considering three systemic issues and offering three recommendations, the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation released its newest white paper, “American Racing’s Sustainable Future.”

“No matter where an American racing stakeholder stands on the issues that seemingly have consumed the majority of the dialogue in the sport in recent months – the ‘federal bill’ or use of the crop amongst them – it is beyond time to start tackling the larger, fundamental concerns which threaten our industry and work towards a more sustainable future,” said TIF Executive Director Patrick Cummings. “This paper is broader than our previous work and is the culmination of months of research and discussion with dozens of concerned industry stakeholders who rightly believe that modernization and evolution are necessary to arrest our decline.”

“Stakeholders have rightly complained about a worrisome future for American racing over decades,” added Craig Bernick, President and CEO of Glen Hill Farm and TIF founder. “It is a tremendous time to be an owner or breeder given slot-fueled subsidies that have left purses at record levels, but many owners and breeders remain unaware of the industry’s struggle as it relates to lax oversight from some state racing commissions, the lack of incentives from racetracks to grow the sport or the failure of the industry’s own organizations to address these systemic issues. Meanwhile, racing’s wagering business is not competitive in the current market. This is an unthinkable position.

“Substantial change is needed and we are just starting the greater campaign to raise awareness. Horse owners have the greatest incentive to save racing.”

Recommending a rethink of the role of the industry’s self-created organizations, “American Racing’s Sustainable Future” embraces a more centralized structure where it such centralization can be achieved.

“Our industry’s greatest critics take delight in racing’s inability to get its act together,” said Cummings. “Why has our sport allowed this to continue year after year after year? Again – it doesn’t matter where you stand on some of the issues that seemingly draw the most attention and divide us far more than they unite us. We must make our own sport as sustainable as possible.”

This most recent paper will be supplemented over the coming weeks with a series of follow-ups that outline specific examples of racing’s systemic issues.

CLICK HERE to read “American Racing’s Sustainable Future.”

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Drew Mollica on the TDN Podcast

Wed, 2020-01-29 20:35

Drew Mollica started his career in racing as a jockey agent, but had an epiphany at the age of 47: he was miserable. While keeping his day job, Mollica enrolled in law school, and today, is the most popular and affable lawyer on the New York Racing circuit. Mollica joins Joe Bianca, Bill Finley, Brian DiDonato and Jon Green to talk about Ahmed Zayat and other legal issues in this edition of the Writers’ Room. Listen to this week’s TDN Writers’ Room Podcast here. 

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Summer Front Colt Tops OBS Open Session

Wed, 2020-01-29 19:02

A $92,000 Summer Front short yearling colt topped the open and final session of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Winter Mixed Sale Wednesday. Consigned as hip 633 by Select Sales, Agent II, the Apr. 12 foal was purchased by Dailey Bloodstock’s Renee Dailey. The bay was bred in Florida by Machmer Hall and Marco Medina. His now 2-year-old half-brother by Into Mischief was a $350,000 Fasig-Tipton November weanling in 2018. Unplaced dam Diva Star (Cherokee Run) is a half to MSW and GSP Captain Serious (Successful Appeal) and hails from the family of two-time GI Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint heroine Mizdirection (Mizzen Mast).

“We had a Summer Front filly last year that was one of my favorite fillies on the farm and I’m hearing good things about her as a 2-year-old,” Dailey said. “This colt is a solid, well-made individual with a great walk. He never got tired and showed himself every time. I think he’ll just continue to get better throughout the year.”

Summer Front, whose first foals are 3-year-olds, has been represented thus far by the likes of GIII With Anticipation S. winner Fighting Seabee and Chelsey Flower S. heroine Speaktomeofsummer.

For Wednesday’s session, 200 head changed hands for gross receipts of $1,649,900. The open session average was $8,250 compared to $6,501 in 2019, while the median rose from $4,000 to $5,000. The RNA rate at the end of trade Wednesday was 24.5%, but that number will likely decrease as OBS adds in additional post-sale transactions. Last year’s open session RNA rate eventually settled at 14.9%.

The entire two-day auction, which also featured a select session and horses of racing age offerings Tuesday, generated $4,957,800 in sales on 359 transactions at an average of $13,810 and median of $7,000. A total of 399 horses sold at the 2019 auction for $4,459,900 ($11,178 average, $6,000 median).

Summerfield was leading consignor with 66 sold for $757,800, while Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt led all buyers by gross with four acquisitions for $258,000.

For complete results, visit

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Golden Gate Fields Cancels Thursday Card

Wed, 2020-01-29 16:22

Golden Gate Fields has cancelled its Thursday race card after an issue with a main gas line led to a loss of hot water at the facility.

“There had been an issue with the gas lines that do not belong to us, and when it was fixed, it caused some issues in other areas, when they re-pressurized the lines,” explained Aidan Butler, chief strategy officer at The Stronach Group. “It doesn’t appear to be serious, but as a precaution, we decided to cancel Thursday’s racing.”

Live racing is scheduled to resume at the Northern California oval Friday, but Butler said official word on that card would have to wait.

“I’m hopeful we’ll have racing back ASAP,” he said. “Ordinarily, they might have given me a time frame that we’d be offline. They haven’t told me that, all they have told me is that they are working on it. But, the moment I know it is resolved, I will radio it out as quickly as I can so the officials, staff and horsemen are well aware. So for the moment, it’s just for the one day, but I should know more by the end of the day.”

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From Unknown to Champion, Storm the Court Readies for 3YO Encore

Wed, 2020-01-29 13:46

In the fall of 2016, trainer Peter Eurton saddled a big longshot in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita who rode a game upset to an improbable divisional championship. Three years later, he did the same thing, this time with an unheralded colt in the Juvenile, whose shocking and resolute victory propelled him to an unforeseeable Eclipse Award of his own. Eurton hopes the comparisons end there, however, as his Storm the Court (Court Vision) prepares to get his sophomore season underway while adding the weight of expectation next Sunday in the GII San Vicente S.

It was Champagne Room–campaigned in part by Ryan Exline and Justin Border’s Exline-Border Racing just like Storm the Court–who toppled the Juvenile Fillies at 33-1 in 2016 to earn her statuette. But the bay filly finished a well-beaten third in her 3-year-old debut and was shelved for over seven months before winning just one of her final three starts that fall.

“They have to stay healthy, and unfortunately ‘Champagne’ came up with a foot fracture, mild, very minor, and that kind of stopped us in our tracks,” Eurton said. “We were pretty excited about her going forward.”

That level of excitement has been rekindled for Storm the Court, a double-digit price in all four of his career outings who set a fast pace and kept finding through the stretch to score the biggest shocker of Breeders’ Cup weekend at over 45-1. Given seven weeks off after that, the $60,000 OBS April bargain returned to the worktab Dec. 22 and hasn’t missed a beat since, drilling six times at his Santa Anita base, most recently covering five furlongs in 1:00 3/5 (10/48) Jan. 26.

“I just thought it would be good for him to not do much after the Breeders’ Cup and freshen up, maybe grow a little bit,” Eurton said. “He is a May foal, and I believe he’s maybe grown an inch or so. He never was short or anything, he’s always been kind of leggy, not a real thick individual, but I think he has filled out a bit. He’s close to 1100 pounds now, whereas some of these 3-year-olds you see are well in the high 11s, 1200s, so he’s not what you’d call big in thickness, but he’s tall and leggy.”

As for Storm the Court’s seemingly out-of-nowhere victory in the Breeders’ Cup, Eurton noted that even he was slightly taken aback based on what he’d seen from the colt in the mornings.

“We always thought that the company he was working with was better than him, but he was such a cool cat that he never showed you all of his cards until he actually ran,” he said. “He was always fast, but there were always questions on how far he would go. Any time you get a horse with that kind of talent, it’s always gratifying, absolutely, to surprise you the way that he did.”

Returning in the seven-furlong San Vicente, his first one-turn outing since losing his jockey when favored Eight Rings (Empire Maker) veered into him at the start of the GI Runhappy Del Mar Futurity, Storm the Court has gone from the hunter to the hunted.

“It’s fun, obviously you like to be the dark horse nobody even pays attention to, but it’s also fun to be ‘the’ horse too, because he’s done something to deserve it,” Eurton said. “It’s got good and bad on both [sides]. We’re just going to enjoy it and see what happens. It’s seven eighths, he doesn’t have to win it, but it’s a good race to get him started in. It used to be done a lot more often than it is now, starting off [at seven furlongs], but it worked out timing-wise for me.”

Eurton said Storm the Court will have one more workout this Sunday for the San Vicente, and he hasn’t mapped out anything beyond that, but is open to putting his pupil on a plane for one of his following preps if he decides it’s part of the most optimal path to Louisville.

“Just one race at a time, don’t have a clue yet [what’s next], I know there’s a lot of options and I have no issue with shipping him once if we have to, or staying here,” he said. “I just want him to be the best he can be in the first week of May if that works out for us.”

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Imbriale Replacing Collmus at NYRA

Wed, 2020-01-29 12:36

John Imbriale, who has been with the New York Racing Association for better than 40 years, has been appointed the full-time racecaller and track announcer, taking over the position held by Larry Collmus since 2014. Imbriale joins a long list of legendary racecallers in New York, including Tom Durkin, Marshall Cassidy, Chic Anderson, Dave Johnson and Fred Capossela.

“John Imbriale is a central part of the fabric of thoroughbred racing in New York,” said NYRA CEO & President Dave O’Rourke. “Johnny I’s high level of professionalism and flawless delivery are well known to horseplayers and racing fans, and we congratulate him on becoming the voice of NYRA. We would like to thank Larry Collmus for his many contributions to NYRA and wish him the very best as he takes the next step in his career.”

Imbriale joined NYRA in 1979 after winning a New York Daily News contest which gave him the chance to call a race and work with the NYRA press office. He became the back-up to Durkin in 1990 and has since been part of the commentary team at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. Imbriale has worked with the likes of Harvey Pack on the “Inside Racing” program and also in behind-the-scenes roles with NYRA TV, most recently as NYRA’s Director of Television Production.

“In a sense, this is a job for which I’ve been preparing for years,” said Imbriale, who celebrated his 40th anniversary with NYRA on Nov. 5. “I’ve been so lucky to be surrounded by incredible race callers during my career. I learned from all of them and these lessons live with me to this day. I’m humbled by the trust placed in me by NYRA and look forward to calling races for the best fans in the sport.”

Collmus took over from Durkin and had the good fortune of calling two Triple Crown winners–American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018)–during his tenure.

“I’d like to thank the New York Racing Association for five great years calling memorable races at these wonderful venues,” said Collmus. “I will certainly miss the people and places that make NYRA so special, especially the passionate racing fans at Saratoga, but it’s the right time for me to move on to the next challenge while continuing my work with NBC Sports.”

Imbriale, who has been the primary racecaller at Aqueduct, will slide into his new role immediately.

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TVG to Sponsor Keeneland’s Woodford, Limestone Turf Sprint

Wed, 2020-01-29 11:47

TVG and Keeneland have expanded their relationship for the 2020 season. The network is slated to sponsor a pair of races during the spring and fall meets– the Apr. 10 TVG Limestone Turf Sprint and the Oct. 3 GII Woodford S., Presented by TVG. The $100,000 TVG Limestone Turf Sprint–a 5 1/2-furlong turf race for 3-year-old fillies–will be featured on the GI Maker’s Mark Mile undercard. The $200,000 Woodford, Presented by TVG, is a 5 1/2-furlong test for 3-year-olds and up on turf, and will run during Fall Stars Weekend.
“We’re very excited to expand our association with Keeneland with the sponsorship of these two major stakes,” said Enrico Rusi, general manager of TVG. “The sponsorship of these races is one component of a broader, longstanding partnership that includes special coverage of Keeneland’s race meets and sales and enhanced promotion on our network.”

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Turfway Closed for Simulcasting Wednesday

Wed, 2020-01-29 10:20

Due to unexpected repairs to its grandstand heating system, Turfway Park will be closed for simulcasting Wednesday, Jan. 29. The general office remains open and deliveries are being accepted.

The track expects to reopen for simulcasting Thursday, Jan. 30. The live racing schedule, currently Thursday through Saturday, is not affected.

The post Turfway Closed for Simulcasting Wednesday appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Union Rags Colt Tops OBS Opener

Tue, 2020-01-28 18:21

A short yearling by Union Rags topped Tuesday’s consignor preferred session of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Winter Mixed Sale when selling for $165,000 to the Blue Sky Stables pinhooking partnership led by Brian Graves. The dark bay colt (hip 4) was consigned by Pelican State Thoroughbreds as agent for breeder David Fennelly’s Mountmellick Farm.

The yearling, out of La Milanesa (Mr. Greeley), is a half-brother to stakes winner Ginger N Rye (More Than Ready). His second dam, multiple Grade I placed Hometown Queen (Pleasant Colony), produced graded stakes winner Bowman’s Band (Dixieland Band).

“He stood out physically more than anything,” consignor Terry Gabriel said of the colt. “He’s a grand-looking horse with a big eye and a pretty walk. He was all that.”

Of the April foal’s placement in the OBS sale, Gabriel added, “He was one that was really far behind early on and we decided just to wait on him. He came around and was ready. [OBS Sales Coordinator] Chad Johnson saw him up in Kentucky 90 days ago and said, ‘You know, you should bring him here because they’re going to like him a lot.’ So he convinced me that that was the right avenue.”

Mountmellick Farm purchased La Milanesa, in foal to Liam’s Map for $170,000 at the 2018 Keeneland January sale. Her Liam’s Map colt sold for $95,000 at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

During Tuesday’s consignor preferred section, 137 of the 186 catalogued head went through the ring, with 85 selling for $1,913,500. The average rose 34% to $22,512 and the median was up 8.3% to $13,000. The buy-back rate was 38%. The session topper was one of three short yearlings to sell for six figures on the day. The top price for a yearling at the auction in 2019 was $75,000.

Ralph M. Evans purchased the highest-priced offering in the Horses of Racing Age section, going to $125,000 to acquire Summer at the Spa (Summer Front) (hip 219) from the Niall Brennan Stables consignment. The 3-year-old filly is a winner in one start for Mike Ryan and trainer Jimmy Toner after closing stoutly to take her debut over the Aqueduct turf last November. A $60,000 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred Yearling purchase in 2018, she sold for $55,000 at last year’s OBS April Sale.

A total of 67 horses of racing age sold Tuesday for a gross of $1,314,400. The average was $19,618 and the median was $11,000.

Pelican State Thoroughbreds sold five yearlings Tuesday at OBS and Gabriel said demand in the sales ring continued to be polarized.

“We were really busy all of the way through with every horse,” Gabriel said. “They were pretty particular about what they were looking for. Like any other sale anymore, they were kind of settling on the top. So you get a pile of people on the Union Rags and you don’t get anybody on anybody else. It’s kind of the trend.”

The OBS Winter Sale continues with an open session beginning at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

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Omaha Beach Arrives At Spendthrift; Injury Being Evaluated

Tue, 2020-01-28 15:13

by Kelsey Riley & Bill Finley

LEXINGTON, KY-Less than 24 hours after arriving at Spendthrift Farm, three-time Grade I winner Omaha Beach (War Front) was paraded on Tuesday afternoon for a crowd of breeders, media and fans, with farm owner B. Wayne Hughes making an appearance to welcome the latest addition to his stallion roster, who starts out this year at $45,000.

The imposing bay posed for upwards of 20 minutes, his behavior more reminiscent of a seasoned stallion than a colt fresh off the racetrack.

“He’s a remarkably intelligent and easy-going horse and that’s certainly everything we’d heard about him from [trainer] Richard [Mandella], but even having heard that it’s really impressive to see,” remarked Spendthrift General Manager Ned Toffey.

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Omaha Beach was never worse than third in 10 starts and won the GII Rebel S. and Grade I Arkansas Derby, Santa Anita Sprint Championship S. and Malibu S. in addition to finishing second in the GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but his career was also marked by a series of misfortunes. He was forced to scratch as the favorite days out from the GI Kentucky Derby after developing an entrapped epiglottis, and his return to the races over the summer was further delayed by a virus. He was set to start as the favorite in the GI Pegasus World Cup last weekend, but was pulled from the race last Thursday after developing light swelling in his right hind fetlock post-training.

“Richard said he’d gone to the track and had gone to the gate on Thursday morning,” Toffey recalled. “He came back to the barn and I know the track vet was scheduled to come by and Richard had told them he’d leave the bandages off so they could get a good look at him. When they came to do that evaluation, that’s when they first saw just a little bit of filling there, and I know it was a little bit tender to flexion. At that point they took the x-rays and saw something of a little bit of concern. They sent those off to Dr. Bramlage and he confirmed that there was essentially just a faint shadow there. And there was a very slight lameness associated with it as well.”

Tuesday, the farm ordered more X-rays and consulted with a number of vets.

“There is absolutely no indication of any lameness,” Toffey said. “The ankle is staying tight with little or no inflammation. We took X-rays first thing this morning for comparison sake to the original X-rays and there is no change whatsoever from a few days ago.”

Toffey said that the farm was seeking as many opinions as possible and, as of Tuesday afternoon, was still waiting to hear from a few veterinarians.

“I’m still waiting for full written reports from all the vets,” he said. “We solicited opinions from several vets and we are still waiting for all of them to report. Right now, things look pretty good for him to be able to start breeding on or very close to on schedule. We will continue to monitor it. But so far so good.. It’s always day by day in this business, even under normal circumstances. But we are very happy with what we have seen so far. We will watch him and watch his ankle very closely to make sure there are no setbacks. Right now, things have gone as well as we possibility could have hoped.”

The breeding season begins Feb. 10 at Spendthrift. Until then, Omaha Beach will go through the same routine any horse would go through when coming right off the track.

“A normal letdown schedule for a horse coming off the track will probably suffice for this horse,” Toffey said. “That means roughly a week in a pen and letting down and getting acclimated. Throughout that time we will expand the size of the pen and let him get used to his surroundings. After that, we will remove the pen and turn him out and will move forward from there.”

As a three-time Grade I winner by War Front and a half-brother to champion Take Charge Brandi and grandson of Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady (Dehere), the odds are short that Omaha Beach’s stud career will be worth the wait.

“This is just a really exciting stallion prospect I think by anyone’s standards,” Toffey said. “We couldn’t be more excited to have him. He’s such a classy looking and classy acting horse, and it goes with the pedigree and everything we’ve seen and heard about him. We’re just really excited about this horse.”

The post Omaha Beach Arrives At Spendthrift; Injury Being Evaluated appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Zayat Asks Court to Dissolve Order Appointing Receiver

Tue, 2020-01-28 14:57

Ahmed Zayat has filed a motion asking the same court that appointed a receiver to oversee the assets of his Zayat Stables to dissolve that order and instead allow the stable to resolve its dispute with MGG Investment Group in some other matter.

The filing came five days after a Fayette County (Ky) Circuit Court judge ordered Zayat’s assets into receivership, a response to a $23-million civil lawsuit lodged by the investment firm, MGG Investment Group, LP. MGG had alleged that Zayat had defaulted on his loans and had improperly sold shares in American Pharoah that were being used as collateral against his loans. Lexington-based Elizabeth Woodward, the director of forensic accounting and litigation support for Dean Dorton, was appointed as the receiver and was authorized to “take charge of, operate, preserve, maintain and care for all of the assets of the defendant, Zayat Stables, including, but not limited to, all horses, breeding rights, files, papers, records, documents, insurance policies, monies, securities, bank accounts, books of account, and all other property, real or personal.”

Zayat’s motion does not deny that he owes money to MGG or that he missed a scheduled payment Sept. 30, 2019, but contends that MGG and its lawyers “ran into court without so much as providing notice to Zayat Stables in an effort to unlawfully seize control of the Stables…” The motion asks that Zayat Stables, instead of having its assets under the control of a receiver, be allowed to liquidate its assets as it sees fit.

Zayat’s lawyers contend that a fairer solution would be for the assets to be sold through a dispersal sale that would be part of Fasig-Tipton’s sales in July or April. That, Zayat’s lawyers argue, would allow their client to pay back MGG in full.

“At the conclusion of the dispersal, it is very possible, if not likely, that more than $23 million in proceeds will have been generated, meaning that MGG can be satisfied in full,” the motion reads.

The motion also contends that MGG’s lawsuit was improper because the parties, at the time, were working toward an amicable agreement whereby Zayat would pay off his debt. Instead, it claims the MGG ceased negotiation and “rushed to court to file a Complaint carefully drafted to gain media attention.”

“This lawsuit should never have been filed, as lenders and borrowers regularly work out issues related to collateral without the need for a receiver or any judicial oversight at all,” the motion reads “That is exactly what could and should have happened here, as the parties were in negotiations that would bring maximum value out of MGG’s collateral and likely make it whole.” Another passage reads: “…MGG filed a one-sided Complaint and obtained an overreaching and unwarranted order appointing a receiver on faulty grounds and faulty process.”

The motion attempts to shift the focus to MGG and ways that company “didn’t tell the whole story.” It claims that MGG failed to disclose the following: Zayat had been making regular payments in a timely manner and had already paid MGG $16 million; MGG breached its loan agreement by overcharging Zayat $900,000 in 2017; that Zayat made over $3.5 million in interest and other payments after selling American Pharoah breeding rights.

The sale of the American Pharoah breeding rights was a central theme of MGG’s complaint against Zayat with the investment firm alleging Zayat “pocketed” the money. Zayat admits selling nine shares for $3.3 million, but argues in the motion that the money was used to “generate cash for its operations and loan obligations.”

The motion also maintains that Zayat Stables was denied the opportunity to defend itself at the original hearing because the surprise filing by MGG did not give it time to find counsel in Kentucky. Zayat’s attorneys are not a “Kentucky admitted counsel.” Because of that, his lawyers argue, Zayat Stables was not able to defend itself.

The motion also states that MGG turned a “common breach of contract action into a soap opera.”

“…MGG could have filed a simple breach of contract claim alleging a legal obligation, breach, and the amount due under the note. That would have been sufficient under notice pleading requirements.”

The motion even references a story in the Thoroughbred Daily News entitled “Zayat Stables in Receivership: What Exactly Does That Mean?” as an example of how publicity from MGG’s tactics added “to confusion about the Equine Collateral” which could “greatly reduce its value in any liquidation sale…”

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Integrity Act Hearing: Opponent Says ‘Consensus Bill’ Achievable in Six Months

Tue, 2020-01-28 13:56

Witnesses from the Thoroughbred industry who testified Tuesday in Washington, D.C., at a legislative hearing on the Horseracing Integrity Act agreed that the sport is facing an unprecedented equine health crisis. But they were sharply split as to whether the current version of a federal bill mandating an independent anti-doping and medication control program was the best way to keep the industry from slipping into deeper peril.

The most cogent argument repeatedly put forth by pro-legislation speakers was that racehorses, unlike human athletes, don’t have a say in being administered either performance-enhancing or therapeutic drugs, and that decades of permissive pharmaceutical abuse has eroded both the actual health of American Thoroughbreds and the public’s perception of whether the game is fair and ethical.

Race-day medication has got to go, supporters argued, claiming the crisis is so far out of control that a federal remedy needs to be voted in to replace the current 38-state regulatory framework.

Opponents of HB 1754 told legislators that the sport’s equine health crisis stems instead from a need for better monitoring of pre-existing health conditions in racehorses. The introduction of foaling-to-retirement monitoring and the shoring up of overall safety standards were both cited as potential remedies. And if regulators had a more comprehensive and open way of sharing veterinary records, it would enable the industry to red-flag and treat horses likely to suffer catastrophic injuries before they happened.

It was also revealed in testimony that at least one stakeholder who is against the current version of federal legislation is open to the idea of achieving uniformity through a compromise bill that could be hammered out by this summer.

“We’re all in theory talking about the same goals,” Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), the sponsor of the Integrity Act, said near the end of the two-hour hearing before the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. “And yet each of you [who testified against it] opposes the very piece of legislation that would make [uniformity] a reality instead of a tired talking point.

“So my question to any of you—and it’s mostly a rhetorical one—is when can we actually expect results from [the current status-quo] scheme?” Tonko continued. “We’ve received countless promises from the industry for decades. And yet here we are in 2020, with more than 40 deaths on the tracks at Santa Anita that are tarnishing the sport in the eyes of the American public. When is enough enough?”

Dennis Drazin, an attorney who is a former New Jersey racing commissioner and the current chief executive of Darby Development, which operates Monmouth Park, replied that the two sides might not be far off in agreeing on a reform plan.

“I’m frustrated by the delay. I agree with Congressman Tonko that it’s taken too long,” Drazin said. “But we’re at a crisis now. Because of [the equine fatalities] in Santa Anita, the whole focus of the industry is on saving horse racing, because we recognize we’re heading in the wrong direction. And I think that if you give us—I’m going to go out on a limb and say another six months—we’ll be able to come together with a consensus bill that would be better for the industry.”

In his written testimony, Drazin explained that “putting aside the fact that I have always been opposed to federal legislation and feel that the industry should self-regulate, I have been participating in an industry effort to unify and support a bill that all interested parties feel would be a compromise….While I still believe that federal legislation is unnecessary, if it is inevitable, I want to be part of the solution, and HR 1754 is not a solution, but only a small part of all the needed reforms for our industry.”

Four witnesses testified in support of the bill, which has existed in the legislature since 2015 in three separate forms but has never advanced past the subcommittee hearing stage: William Lear, Jr. (vice chairman of The Jockey Club), Joe DeFrancis (advisor to the Humane Society of the United States and former chief executive of the Maryland Jockey Club), Chris McCarron (retired Hall of Fame jockey) and Marty Irby (executive director of Animal Wellness Action, a protection advocacy organization).

Three witnesses testified against the bill: Drazin, Ed Martin (president of the Association of Racing Commissioners International) and Dr. Kathleen Anderson (a Fair Hill, Maryland, racehorse vet and past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners).

Most of the witnesses used their allotted five minutes of presentation time to read into the record the written testimony they had submitted beforehand (see those statements here).

But Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) was able to elicit more drilled-down responses by asking witnesses to state whether they thought the current bill would restore integrity to the sport, or, if not, what one specific counter-suggestion would they propose instead.

“I think this will do a world to improve the integrity of the sport and the interest of people. The two things that most drive people away from our sport are concerns about whether it’s really fair and breakdowns. Nothing runs fans away from horse racing like the death of a horse,” said Lear.

“It would undoubtedly improve the integrity of the sport,” said DeFrancis. “Most importantly in the perception of our customers and the perception of the general public, whose support we need to have a viable business.”

McCarron, who rode for 28 years, drew upon experiences he had in 18 months of working as the general manager at Santa Anita in 2003-04 to underscore his support for the bill.

“I had [patrons] coming into my office on a daily basis saying that the integrity of the sport is just abysmal,” McCarron said. “That they are sick and tired of betting on races not knowing who the cheaters are. Not knowing which horses are going to be coming out of barns that are not playing by the rules. Something drastic has to be done, and I have a lot of faith in this bill that it would accomplish just that.”

Even the witnesses who opposed the bill testified in response to Soto’s question that there are some areas of common ground between the pro and con positions.

“I don’t think this bill as presently written is going to improve the integrity of the sport,” said Martin. “But I think it would improve the integrity of the sport if it were to take [the proposed] non-governmental organization [and instead] turn it into a multi-jurisdictional investigative [organization] to do out-of-competition testing as well as out-of-competition suitability exams to do the reviews of horses that are red-flagged because of their vet records and procedures.”

Anderson said “I believe that it would improve the integrity from an anti-doping perspective.” But, she added, “I do not think it would change very much on the therapeutic medication. And I think if I was to add to [the bill] it would be significant reforms in the area of safety [because] I think it’s totally lacking in safety oversight.”

Drazin summed up his thoughts by noting perceived flaws in the bill but still calling for “uniformity across the country in order to protect these horses.”

“This bill will not save racehorses. There will still be injuries. There will still be deaths,” Drazin said. “What it will do—I agree—is it will accomplish something in changing the public’s perception of being able to promote that all horses are medication-free on race day. I think that may restore some public confidence. But I think in order to save horses, what I’d like to see changed is [to] incorporate amendments that deal with racetrack safety accreditation [and better detection of] pre-existing injuries.”

Just like in June 2018, when a previous version of the Integrity Act was debated by industry stakeholders in a hearing before the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection subcommittee, a good portion of the back-and-forth testimony on Tuesday revolved around race-day Lasix usage, which HB 1754 would prohibit.

Unfortunately—just like in 2018—the densely complicated topics of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage and Lasix therapy are so cumbersome and polarizing that it seemed difficult for either side to make salient points under time constraints.

At one point, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA)—the only pharmacist currently serving in Congress—began grilling Anderson about the performance-enhancing capabilities of Lasix based on the diuretic’s prodigious ability to pull water weight out of racehorses.

“If you take 20 or 30 pounds of fluid off of a horse, can they run faster?” Carter asked.

“I don’t know the answer to that, and I’m not sure that anybody does,” Anderson replied. “In humans, that is correct. But for example, where I practice, we ship to seven different states on any given day, and those horses are going to be losing weight just [from] shipping.

Carter interjected that he’s no veterinarian, but “common sense” would tell him that taking 20 or 30 pounds off an animal would help it move faster.

“That’s common sense, but that’s not science,” Anderson shot back. “And that’s all I’m trying to speak from.”

Drazin later testified from a track executive’s perspective what HB 1754’s no race-day medication mandate would mean.

“If you ban Lasix, number one, my track, Monmouth Park, we probably won’t survive,” Drazin said. “I don’t think we’ll be able to get enough horses to participate because probably 80 to 90% of our horses run on Lasix now.”

Tonko, the bill’s sponsor, asked opponents to look beyond the controversial race-day medication ban to see the beneficial “ripple effects” in overall horse health that he predicted would follow if the measure passed into law.

DeFrancis urged the bill’s opponents not to scuttle the entire piece of legislation based on disagreement with its key point.

“I agree with many of the things that Mr. Martin and Mr. Drazin have said in terms of things that we can do to improve horse health and safety,” DeFrancis said. “But let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. We need to take action right away. Every day that we delay, we’re losing more and more public support, more and more fans, more and more customers. And it’s getting that much more difficult to get them back.”

Thoroughbred Safety Coalition Issues a Statement Following the Congressional Hearing…

Following the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection’s hearing on the Horseracing Integrity Act, the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition issued the following statement:

“The Thoroughbred Safety Coalition’s top priority is the wellbeing of our athletes, both equine and human. To this end, we welcome and applaud all ongoing efforts to increase the safety and integrity of our sport. While lawmakers work through the lengthy legislative process, the Thoroughbred racing community must work together to advocate for and implement meaningful reforms in racing jurisdictions across the country. It is our responsibility to ensure the horses that make our sport so special are racing under the safest and most transparent conditions possible. We can and must act quickly.

That’s why leading racetracks and key stakeholders, including Breeders’ Cup Limited, Churchill Downs Incorporated, Keeneland Association Inc., the New York Racing Association Inc., Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and The Stronach Group, along with the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Dixiana Farm, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Mt. Brilliant Farm, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Stonestreet Farm, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the University of Kentucky, have united in an industry-led effort to advance safety measures. Together, we can enact meaningful change with immediate effect.

Through increased medication restrictions, expanded veterinary examinations, stricter transparency and accountability measures, centralized and increased reporting requirements, data analysis, more consistent racing surfaces and additional operational reforms, the coalition will promote a culture of safety in Thoroughbred racing. The most powerful traditions are those that adapt. Change cannot wait.”

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Churchill Launches Contest to Find Official Taste Tester

Tue, 2020-01-28 10:30

Churchill Downs is seeking its first ‘Official Menu Taste Tester of the 146th Kentucky Derby.’ Now through Feb. 12, the first 100 people to share their favorite original Derby party recipe will have the chance to join Churchill Downs’ Executive Chef David Danielson in the racetrack’s kitchen to finalize this year’s official menu that will be served to thousands. To enter to win, click here.

The winner of this will be awarded a trip to Louisville with a guest in March 2020 for the tasting and selection. The experience also includes dining vouchers to Louisville’s best restaurants and tickets to the Kentucky Derby May 2.

Entries are open to U.S. residents 21 or older and the winner will be selected by Danielson based on creativity, preparation and consistence with the Derby party theme.

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Thoroughbred Safety Coalition Steering Committee Meets in Florida

Mon, 2020-01-27 17:51

The steering committee of the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition met in Florida and reports progress in developing a framework for the implementation of reforms while approving four new members and adding a familiar face within the industry in a leadership role.

With the objective of furthering and continuing to add to the reform initiatives announced late last year, the coalition Steering Committee has begun outlining a formal process to evaluate and institute future reforms in the areas of medication, transparency, track surfaces and racing operations. Members are currently meeting with stakeholders and plan to announce additional reforms, including a country-wide standard for riding crop usage and increased medication restrictions, among others.

Four new members have been added to the Coalition: the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP); William Shiveley’s Dixiana Farm; Greg Goodman’s Mt. Brilliant Farm; and Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Farm.

“We are proud to partner with the coalition to look for new and improved ways to strengthen safety measures, while advocating for increased implementation at tracks throughout the country,” said Dr. Kathleen Anderson, Past President of AAEP and longtime member of its racing committee. Dr. Anderson, along with Dr. Stuart Brown, will serve as the coalition’s AAEP liaisons.

Added Banke: “The Thoroughbred community is united in our devotion to the safety and welfare of our athletes. We are committed to advancing measures that are in the best interest of the horses and those involved in their care.”

The Steering Committee also announced that Donna Brothers has formally joined the TSC’s leadership team as its strategic advisor.

“I grew up in thoroughbred horse racing and in a family that was indelibly drawn to the horses,” said Brothers. “Their love of and admiration for them was passed down to me. As a former jockey, I appreciate the sport’s increased focus on safety for both horse and rider. I’m honored to play a role in the coalition’s efforts as we work together to make racing safer for all involved.”

The next Steering Committee meeting will be held in late February.

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Mixed Sales Season Shifts to Ocala

Mon, 2020-01-27 17:03

A total of 646 horses of all ages have been cataloged for the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Winter Mixed Sale, which kicks off a two-day run in Central Florida Tuesday morning. The sale begins at 11 a.m. ET with a consignor preferred session (hip 1-186) to be immediately followed by the horses of racing age section (hip 201-351). The balance of the horses (hip 401-710) will be offered during the sale’s open session Wednesday morning at 11 a.m.

“We’ve had a chance to go around and look at the horses and there are some awfully nice horses in the sale,” said OBS Director of Sales Tod Wojciechowski. “There have been no significant changes in world landscape really in terms of economics. Our breeze show went off great Monday, the weather has been excellent and we are looking for a good sale.

He continued, “I think one thing about the timing is that having the Eclipse Awards on Thursday prior to the sale means that we might get some people we otherwise might not have seen. Maybe they make the drive up to see their horses and it’s really a fortuitous time to conduct a sale.”

The under-tack preview was held Monday morning over the nearby SafeTrack surface and a trio of 3-year-olds shared the bullet, stopping the clock in :32 3/5 for three furlongs:

  • Hip 209, Sensationalist, g, 3, by Wicked Rich, consigned by Wes Carter, agent (video)
  • Hip 326, Allied Armada, c, 3, Normandy Invasion, consigned by Julie Davies LLC, agent (video)
  • Hip 327, unnamed, c, 3, by Constitution, consigned by Eddie Woods, agent LV (video)

“While our horses-of-racing-age section isn’t new, the breeze show is something unique to us,” said Wojciechowski. “It’s an added piece of the puzzle to help our buyers make their decisions.”

There is certainly a Kentucky feel to the Winter Mixed catalog, with young horses set to go under the hammer by leading freshmen sires American Pharoah and the aforementioned Constitution as well as the late Empire Maker, Goldencents, Hard Spun, Into Mischief, former Florida stalwart Kantharos, Liam’s Map, Mucho Macho Man-sire of GI Pegasus World Cup winner Mucho Gusto-Palace Malice, Speightstown, Tapiture, Uncle Mo and Union Rags.

But Florida-based stallions are always an integral component of any OBS sale and this event is no exception.

“Florida has always been something of a proving ground for stallions and the buying public is well aware of that fact,” Wojciechowski said.

Khozan (Distorted Humor) made an enormous impression with his first crop of runners in 2019 and is the sire of 11 youngsters in the catalog, five of which are newly turned yearlings. The Journeyman inmate is also represented by eight in-foal mares, while horses like Kantharos’s well-received son Bucchero (seven mares) and GISW Girvin (Tale of the Cat, nine mares) represent the Sunshine State’s young guns with their first mares in foal.

A then 3-year-old colt by Goldencents topped last year’s Winter Mixed Sale on a bid of $200,000. Now named Golden Notion, the bay hit the board in each of his three starts last season and is back in steady training with Brad Cox at Oaklawn. Golden Notion worked a half-mile in a bullet :47.80 (1/101) in the Hot Springs mud Jan. 26.

For the catalog and additional information, visit

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The TDN Derby Top 12 for Jan. 28

Mon, 2020-01-27 16:09

Three prominent GI Kentucky Derby prep stakes are on the docket for Saturday in New York, Florida and California as we await the first major blockbuster performance of the season that upends the pecking order.

1) THOUSAND WORDS (c, Pioneerof the NilePomeroys Pistol, by Pomeroy)
O-Albaugh Family Stables & Spendthrift Farm. B-Hardacre Farm (Fl). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $1,000,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 2-2-0-0, $151,000.
Last Start: 1st GII Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 7
Next Start: GIII Bob Lewis S., SA, Feb. 1
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Thousand Words celebrated his third birthday on Monday with a final breeze before an expected start in Saturday’s GIII Bob Lewis S. at Santa Anita (entries drawn Wednesday). This long-striding, $1-million KEESEP bay is undefeated at 2-for-2, and he earned style points in the GII Los Alamitos Futurity by surviving an internal pace battle and then winning the overall war when confronted in deep stretch by a more seasoned foe. Trainer Bob Baffert has saddled seven winners of the Lewis, including the 2009 edition with this colt’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile. Yet the Lewis hasn’t been a springboard to Louisville success for Baffert, as none of his five Kentucky Derby champs prepped in the Lewis. Thousand Words was equipped with blinkers for the first time in his Los Al stakes score, and after the race Baffert commented he had intentionally used “a lot of blinker” on the colt because Thousand Words is not naturally quick early and can get a little lazy if not cued to quicken in the early stages. With Southern California’s sophomore stakes often drawing short fields, being disengaged early can be more of a disadvantage than in larger fields where pacemakers are likely to face multiple waves of challengers. Thus, Thousand Words is once again going to have to be prominent both early and late in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile test.

2) STRUCTOR (c, Palace MaliceMiss Always Ready, by More Than Ready)
O-Jeff Drown & Don Rachel. B-Three Chimneys Farm (Ky). T-Chad Brown. Sales History: $160,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $850,000 2yo ’19 OBSMAR. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-3-0-0, $709,500.
Last Start: 1st GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, SA, Nov. 1
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Pilgrim S., BEL, Sept. 28
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 0.

Structor just had his first breeze of 2020 and his comeback race has yet to be disclosed, but trainer Chad Brown indicated after this Palace Malice bay’s GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf win last autumn that a dirt-centric Derby path could be a very real possibility. Structor’s 3-for-3 grass season (capped by two very smart poise-under-pressure stakes wins) was enough to stamp him as the real deal regardless of racing surface. This $160,000 KEESEP pinhook (resold for $850,000 at OBSMAR) is one of the few top-tier Derby candidates who has run exclusively in mile or longer races through his brief career, so the 10-furlong foundation is already there. For a deeper dive into Structor’s makeup and pedigree, check out a TDN profile on him from November (here), in which bloodstock agent Mike Ryan recalled Brown telling him at Saratoga “I think I saw my Derby horse. I had a horse come down in the lane this morning like a Derby horse.”

3) DENNIS’ MOMENT (c, TiznowTransplendid, by Elusive Quality)
‘TDN Rising Star’ O-Albaugh Family Stables LLC. B-Tolo Thoroughbreds (Ky). T-Dale Romans. Sales History: $400,000 yrl ’18 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: GSW, 4-2-0-0, $167,800.
Last Start: 8th GI TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 1
Accomplishments Include: 1st GIII Iroquois S.
Next Start: GII Fountain of Youth S., GP, Feb. 29
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

‘TDN Rising Star’ Dennis’ Moment has the makings of a “Saturday horse” who can fill a starring role on the most prominent race day of the week, and he’s now three published workouts into his 2020 training, with (fittingly) all three half-mile morning moves coming on Saturdays at Gulfstream Park. The season-starting target for this $400,000 FTSAUG Tiznow bay is the GII Fountain of Youth S. Feb. 29, and trainer Dale Romans has indicated that, if all goes well, the GI Florida Derby Mar. 28 would be the final pre-Derby prep. Dennis’ Moment’s schizophrenic running lines are familiar by now: Lost jockey in debut, won an Ellis Park maiden by 19 lengths, roughed up the field in the GIII Iroquois S., then stumbled badly and finished last in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. A strong performance by this Juvenile beaten favorite would help to clarify whether or not that longshot-dominated stakes was a fluke or even a “negative” key race. To date, only four horses have run back out of the Juvenile, and they are a collective 1-for-5.

4) MAXFIELD (c, Street SenseVelvety, by Bernardini)
O/B-Godolphin LLC (KY). T-Brendan Walsh. Lifetime Record: GISW, 2-2-0-0, $354,412.
Last Start: 1st GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Maxfield is the horse within the Top 12 who appears farthest out from a race (recovering from ankle chip surgery). But he also owns the most eye-catching two-turn juvenile stakes win from last season, and his 5 1/2-length smackdown of the GI Breeders’ Futurity S. field last October took on an even more impressive glow after third-place finisher Enforceable (Tapit) won his 2020 debut in the GIII Lecomte S. at Fair Grounds. This Street Sense homebred for Godolphin is out of a Bernardini mare who is a half-sister to $633,076-earning MGSW Sky Mesa. Maxfield’s second dam, Caress, was a durable 13-for-29 MGSW. She had an explosive turn of foot and was a turf specialist who excelled at eight and nine furlongs; Caress even beat the boys in the 1995 GIII Poker S. at Belmont Park.

5) ENFORCEABLE (c, TapitJustwhistledixie, by Dixie Union)
O-John Oxley. B-Clearksky Farm (Ky). T-Mark Casse. Sales History: $775,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW & GISP, 7-2-1-2, $267,150.
Last Start: 1st GIII Lecomte S., FG, Jan. 18
Accomplishments Include: 3rd GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, KEE, Oct. 5
Next Start: Aiming for GII Risen Star S., FG, Feb. 15
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 13.

Enforceable made a leapfrog move to launch into the Top 12, and this Tapit gray’s advanced placement can be chalked up to the combination of his game win in the Lecomte S., a robust pedigree, and the fact that trainer Mark Casse is quietly confident there is still room for improvement. “He’s been a big kid that needed to grow up, and he’s growing up,” Casse said last week on ‘At the Races with Steve Byk.’ This $775,000 KEESEP RNA now racing for John Oxley is likely to follow the same Fair Grounds prep path as the Casse-trained War of Will last year (which resulted in a GI Preakness S. win). Casse said the timing of the Fair Grounds series works out well, and he’s keen on the newly elongated distances of those preps (the GII Louisiana Derby is now 1 3/16 miles). After experimenting with being closer to the lead early in his career, Enforceable now looks most comfortable as an off-pace threat, but just remember the annual caveat: Deep closers can be dangerous to fall in love with as Derby prospects, because their success in a 20-horse field is often pace- and trip-dependent.

6) INDEPENDENCE HALL (c, ConstitutionKalahari Cat, by Cape Town)
O-Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC, Kathleen & Robert Verratti. B-Woodford Thoroughbreds (Ky). T-Michael Trombetta. Sales History: $100,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP; $200,000 RNA 2yo ’19 FTFMAR. Lifetime Record: GSW, 3-3-0-0, $210,000.
Last Start: 1st Jerome S., AQU, Jan. 1
Next Start: Possible for GIII Sam F. Davis S., TAM, Feb. 8
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Undefeated Independence Hall is wintering at Tampa Bay Downs, but it’s not etched in stone that his next start will be the GIII Davis S. there Feb. 8. The Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds one week later has emerged as another option for this athletically framed $100,000 KEESEP colt (subsequently RNA’d for $200,000 at FTFMAR). “There are a lot of factors to weigh,” trainer Mike Trombetta said in a Tampa-issued press release. “The goal for all of us is to have a horse that’s ready, but still fresh enough to run well when the stakes get higher. When you’re running that last race before the [Kentucky] Derby and [then] the Derby [itself], they’re the ones you have to show up for.” Interestingly, both Independence Hall’s dam-sire, Cape Town, and his sire, Constitution, both won the Florida Derby. Cape Town ended up fifth in the 1998 Kentucky Derby as the third favorite. Constitution figured to be among the favorites for the 2014 Derby, but a hairline fracture in his front right cannon bone kept him from starting in Louisville.

7) AJAAWEED (c, Curlin–Asiya, by Daaher)
O-Shadwell Stable. B-Shadwell Farm (KY). T-Kiaran McLaughlin. Lifetime Record: GSP, 4-1-1-0, $119,850.
Last Start: 2nd GII Remsen S., Aqu, Dec. 7
Accomplishments Include: 4th GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, Kee, Oct. 5
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 5.

Ajaaweed could be the most underrated Derby prospect within the Top 12. He ran fifth when sprinting in a Saratoga MSW in which the second- and third-place finishers both won next time out. Ajaaweed did too, then was asked to take on Grade I company stretching out to two turns at Keeneland 24 days later. In retrospect, that now seems like too tough an assignment. This Curlin homebred for Shadwell was fourth in that Breeders’ Futurity S. behind the ultra-impressive Maxfield and well-regarded third-place finisher Enforceable. But Ajaaweed’s second-place try in the Dec. 7 GII Remsen S.–beaten only half a length while wide on both turns and closing against the grain of a speed-conducive track–is more representative of this colt’s true ability. No one’s going to quibble with the stamina influences on the top side of Ajaaweed’s pedigree, and his dam, Asiya, was another Shadwell homebred who lends a speed-centric influence. She was stakes placed and won two races from seven starts on the New York circuit, running up the score over 6 1/2 and seven furlongs by a combined total of 19 1/4 lengths.

8) ANNEAU D’OR (c, Medaglia d’Oro–Walk Close, by Tapit)
O-Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd. B-Highland Yard (Ky). T-Blaine Wright. Sales History: $170,000 RNA yrl ’18 KEESEP; $480,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GISP, 3-1-2-0, $399,000.
Last Start: 2nd GII Los Alamitos Futurity, LRC, Dec. 7
Accomplishments Include: 2nd GI TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Next Start: Uncommitted.
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 12

Anneau d’Or is not one of those electrifying types of colts who catches your attention with a “Wow!” way of going. But he’s a pretty capable contender with a Classics-styled pedigree (Medaglia d’Oro out of a Tapit mare) who looks to have plenty of upside as he figures things out. This $480,000 OBSAPR bay (RNA’d for $170,000 at KEESEP) broke his maiden by eight lengths going a mile on the grass at Golden Gate Fields, then ended up on the dirt in the Breeders’ Cup as Plan B when the Juvenile Turf was oversubscribed. He was beaten only a neck by the eventual 2-year-old male Eclipse champ while wide on both turns, and Anneau d’Or proved that Juvenile effort was no fluke when he closed determinedly to lose by the same margin to No. 1-ranked Thousand Words in the Los Al Futurity. This colt has been training in blinkers for his yet-to-be-determined 2020 debut and he bulleted six furlongs on Saturday, suggesting that he might be nearing a race.

9) TIZ THE LAW (c, ConstitutionTizfiz, by Tiznow)
O-Sackatoga Stable. B-Twin Creeks Farm (NY). T-Barclay Tagg. Sales History: $110,000 yrl ’18 FTNAUG. Lifetime Record: GISW, 3-2-0-1, $347,000.
Last Start: 3rd GII Kentucky Jockey Club S., CD, Nov. 30
Accomplishments Include: 1st GI Champagne S., BEL, Oct. 5
Next Start: GIII Holy Bull S., GP, Feb. 2
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 12.

Tiz the Law looms as the heavy favorite for Saturday’s GIII Holy Bull S. at Gulfstream. His bullet half-mile breeze Sunday stamped a figurative exclamation point on his respectable 2-for-3 block of past performances, in which his only loss was a locked-and-blocked horror trip as the 3-5 fave in the GII Kentucky Jockey Club S. But this $110,000 SARAUG Constitution bay largely created his own woes in that Churchill stakes, with jockey Manny Franco repeatedly having to ride the brakes to keep from getting pocketed on the backstretch and again in the home straight. “Tiz” also overcame similar self-induced trip difficulties in a very “busy” GI Champagne S., and his habit of racing with his head cocked to the grandstand (in both stakes tries) does raise questions about this New York-bred’s ability to stay focused and on target. The probables on paper for the Holy Bull (to be drawn Wednesday) don’t contain any top-tier sophomore threats. But bear in mind that favorites in the Holy Bull have disappointed with an alarmingly low strike rate since 2009. They’ve lost the last three editions, and have managed only two wins from the last 11 runnings.

10) AUTHENTIC (c, Into MischiefFlawless, by Mr. Greeley)
O-SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Fred Hertrich III, John D. Fielding & Golconda Stables. B-Peter E. Blum Thoroughbreds LLC (KY). T-Bob Baffert. Sales History: $350,000 yrl ’18 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: GSW, 2-2-0-0, $91,200.
Last Start: 1st GIII Sham S., SA, Jan. 4
Next Start: Uncommitted
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 10.

Authentic scores highly in the “raw potential” category based on his 7 3/4-length cuffing of a weak GIII Sham S. crew, and this $350,000 KEESEP Into Mischief bay provided some unintended excitement by veering in and out and fighting his rider through that solo stretch run. Authentic can get away with those antics in a six-horse field in January–it was the first race outside the maiden ranks and around two turns, plus he’s a May 5 foal–and trainer Bob Baffert has acknowledged it’s a problem that needs solving (with ear plugs or blinkers). Still, having Mr. Greeley as his dam-sire does give Authentic’s pedigree a sprint-centric slant. His dam, Flawless, won her seven-furlong debut by 13 1/4 lengths, then retired after losing a one-turn mile allowance by half a length (with the rest of the field 11 3/4 lengths behind). So the potential is there for breakaway brilliance–the chief question will likely come down to Authentic’s distance preference. Baffert has won five previous editions of the Sham, yet none of his five Derby champs won that prep race. In fact, his only Sham winner to even run in the Derby was Bob and John (17th in 2006).

11) ANSWER IN (g, Dialed In–D’ya Knowwhatimean, by Broken Vow)
O-Robert LaPenta & Madaket Stables. B-Glen Oak Farm & Two Stamp Stables (KY). T-Brad Cox. Sales History: $175,000 wnlg ’17 KEENOV. Lifetime Record: SP, 3-1-2-0, $153,412.
Last Start: 2nd Springboard Mile, RP, Dec. 15
Next Start: Aiming for GIII Southwest S., OP, Feb. 17
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 4.

As a Jan. 15 foal, Answer In boasts a birth-rank advantage over the majority of his peers, and I’m bullish on how he overcame a difficult trip with a lot of lateral movement to burst through at the rail to snag second in the Springboard Mile S. as the beaten 3-5 favorite. Trainer Brad Cox passed on the Smarty Jones S. on opening day at Oaklawn with this $175,000 KEENOV Dialed In weanling, and will instead target the GIII Southwest S. there Feb. 17. “Too much, too quick for a young horse, in my opinion,” Cox told the Oaklawn notes team. “[The Springboard] was a step forward. He ran a winning race. He was right there and I’m very proud of the effort. He bounced out of it in good shape.” Shoplifted (Into Mischief), the horse who beat Answer In at Remington, did run in the Smarty Jones, but he finished a non-threatening third.

12) STORM THE COURT (c, Court Vision–My Tejana Storm, by Tejano Run)
O-Exline-Border Racing LLC, David Bernsen, Susanna Wilson & Dan Hudock. B-Stepping Stone Farm (Ky). T-Peter Eurton. Sales History: $5,000 yrl ’18 FTKFEB; $60,000 2yo ’19 OBSAPR. Lifetime Record: GISW, 4-2-0-1, $1,172,951.
Last Start: 1st GI TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, SA, Nov. 1
Next Start: Aiming for GIII San Vicente S., SA, Feb. 9
Equineline PPs. KY Derby Points: 22.

Storm the Court can add now “champion” to his resume after earning top honors in the Eclipse voting for the male juvenile division last Thursday. The 45-1 upset winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is targeting the seven-furlong Feb. 9 San Vicente S., and trainer Peter Eurton has been building a nice foundation of four- and five-furlong works on each of the last six Sundays for this colt’s 2020 debut. “He’s a late foal [May 5], so he’s still growing,” Eurton said. “He’s filled out some since the Breeders’ Cup, and he’s training well.” Although this $60,000 OBSAPR bay (bought for $5,000 at FTKFEB) doesn’t have a “traditional” Derby-threat pedigree, glimmers of promise are there. Sire Court Vision, although known as a MGISW turfer who capped his career with a win in the GI Breeders’ Cup Mile, began his career on dirt with nice stakes wins in the Iroquois and Remsen at age two, and he started in both the Kentucky Derby and GI Travers S. at three. And dam-sire Tejano Run was a rugged (8-4-6 from 21 starts) MGSW who ran second in the 1995 Derby.

On the Bubble (in alphabetical order)
Ancient Warrior (Constitution): Unbeaten ‘TDN Rising Star’ targeting a first-level allowance sprint at Oaklawn on Sunday for 2020 debut.
Chance It (Currency Swap): Mucho Macho Man S. victor aiming for a Gulfstream prep as a home-court horse (4-for-6 with four 90+ Beyers there).
Gold Street (Street Boss): Wired Smarty Jones S. over sealed muddy track on Opening Day at Oaklawn, when early speed dominated (five wire winners and two pace-pressers on nine-race card).
High Velocity (Quality Road): $350,000 KEESEP colt for Wests/Baffert now six works into preparedness for first start since third-place Los Al Futurity.
Nadal (Blame): ‘TDN Rising Star’ won highly hyped Santa Anita debut despite slow start from rail.
Shotski (Blame): wire-to-wire Remsen winner looking for back-to-back nine-furlong wins in Saturday’s Withers S.
Silver State (Hard Spun): Closed with purpose behind Enforceable in Lecomte S., gained second after swinging six wide turning for home and then having to switch off heels in stretch. Better-than-looks effort.
Three Technique (Mr Speaker): ‘TDN Rising Star’ stalked in fourth, then only one with late run behind wire winner of Smarty Jones S. on speed-carrying track. Strong gallop-out; headed in right direction.
Untitled (Khozan): Will headline field over seven furlongs in Saturday’s GIII Swale S. after 98 Beyer in Gulfstream debut.

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