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Updated: 4 hours 9 min ago

Marylou Whitney Passes at 93

Fri, 2019-07-19 16:44

The Grand Dame of Saratoga has died.

Marylou Whitney, the 93-year-old socialite, philanthropist and racehorse owner whose vivacious personality, boundless generosity, and lavish sense of style helped to define the classy Saratoga experience that has evolved over several generations, passed away on Friday at her Cady Hill estate in Saratoga Springs, New York, after an extended illness.

The exact cause of death was not immediately announced. But Whitney’s passing was confirmed by both the New York Racing Association and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

At Saratoga Race Course, where Whitney joyfully cheered on her horses for some 60 years from her front-row clubhouse box with the distinctive blue seats that matched her racing silks, the action paused after the fourth race as her passing was announced to racegoers with a brief tribute and a moment of silence.

Whitney’s death comes just two weeks shy of her scheduled Aug. 2 induction in the sport’s Hall of Fame in the “Pillars of the Turf” class.

As a Thoroughbred owner and breeder, Whitney enthusiastically carried on the traditions established by her late second husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney. Marylou Whitney Stables bred and raced Birdstone, the 2004 GI Belmont S. and GI Travers S. winner and she became the first woman to own and breed a GI Kentucky Oaks winner when Bird Town (Cape Town) won in 2003.

But Whitney’s personal stamp on the sport and her unbridled love for her adopted hometown of Saratoga extended far beyond the winner’s circle.

As a busy society host and tireless patron of the arts, Whitney helped with the founding of two Saratoga institutions, the National Museum of Dance and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

For decades she hosted the elaborately themed Whitney Gala at Canfield Casino in Saratoga’s Congress Park. Although it was a coveted invite-only affair, the party always attracted hordes of onlookers eager to snap photos of celebrities or to catch party-favor souvenirs tossed to the crowd by guests.

But in 2012, Whitney ceased the Galas, instead opting for a small dinner party at her mansion to instead focus attention on the backstretch workers’ appreciation program she helped to create to provide over 1,000 Saratoga stable workers with dinners and activities every night during the upstate race meet.

And the horses themselves always had a special place in Whitney’s heart: She was a major contributor to the Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park and was active in various racehorse aftercare endeavors. Prior to the era of digital foal certificates, Whitney was known for attaching a personal note to the foal papers of her horses, just to let future owners know how to contact her if one of her horses ever needed a home.

“Racing is not just about the betting. The beauty, pageantry and flair is what separates our sport from any other,” Whitney said in a 2011 acceptance speech for the Eclipse Award of Merit. “Horses–and the people involved in racing–have always given me more than I could ever give them. Horse racing is where I feel the most alive, and at home. You are my family.”

A Bright Social Star on the Rise…

Marie Louise Schroeder was born Dec. 24, 1925, in Kansas City, Missouri. Her father was a go-getter accountant who attended law school at night with future U.S. President Harry Truman. After graduating from Southwest High School, Marylou attended the University of Iowa, but had to return home at age 19 to help the family when her dad died. She got a job as a perky wartime radio disc jockey, creating a hit show for servicemen called “Private Smiles.”

After a year, the ambitious Marylou gambled on a trip to New York to launch a career as an actress, where she came off as “unquestionably glamorous” according to friends who would reminisce about her bold foray to the big city decades later. The acting career never panned out, but the fun-loving Midwesterner quickly established herself on the A-list social scene.

In 1948 Marylou married Frank Hosford, the heir to the John Deere fortune, and they had four children. They would eventually divorce, but it was during their separation that Marylou met C.V. Whitney in 1958 at a supper club in Phoenix. She became the fourth wife of the scion of two of the wealthiest families in America, and they had one daughter.

The Whitneys had many residences, but the one Marylou took a shine to was Cady Hill, an 1851 manor with 21 rooms on 135 acres in Saratoga Springs. Over time, she adorned it with tennis courts, Victorian gardens that were heated in winter, and even a private chapel.

Saratoga in the early 1960s was not the fashionable racing destination it is today. But Marylou was responsible for shaping it that way, largely at the urging of her sporting husband who is said to have encouraged her to “liven up the town” when the race meets were in session.

Marylou did just that, and then some. By the 1970s, her style and effusive personality were synonymous with the toney Saratoga experience.

By the 1980s though, C.V. Whitney started dispersing his racing stock, reportedly because he did not want to burden his wife with the business. When he died in 1992, the heir to rail and oil fortunes reportedly left Marylou with an estate valued at $100 million.

But it turned out that Marylou did indeed want to continue on with racing and breeding. After her second husband’s death, she put a lot of effort and money into trying to buy back the “Whitney mares” that had been the backbone of the family’s breeding stock.

One of them was Dear Birdie, who was named Broodmare of the Year in 2004 after producing Eclipse Award 3YO filly champ Bird Town and then the Belmont/Travers victor Birdstone. Between 2000 and 2019, Marylou Whitney Stables earned nine graded stakes victories and campaigned more than 190 winners.

When Birdstone won the Belmont S., his deep-stretch run snatched away a Triple Crown victory from Smarty Jones, the popular fan favorite. Whitney was apologetic after the race, and accepted the winning trophy with humility and grace knowing that many racing fans would rather have seen a history-making sweep of the Triple Crown.

She acted in a similar sporting fashion in the lead-up to the 2009 GI Preakness S. When it was suggested that a group of owners might collude to enter a lesser-qualified horse just to block the star filly Rachel Alexandra from running in the race, Whitney let it be known that, if needed, she would withdraw her own long-shot entrant just to clear the way for the filly to make history. Whitney’s generous offer kept the other owners from going through with their plan, so the scratch wasn’t necessary. Rachel Alexandra, of course, ended up winning the Preakness.

Away from horse racing, Whitney enjoyed diverse pursuits that are too numerous to list in full. Among them were travel (she had at least 11 residences), horseback riding, and polo. She was reportedly the largest private donor to the 1980 Olympic Winter Games held in Lake Placid. At one time Whitney owned 150 sled dogs and sponsored an Iditarod team that won the grueling Alaskan race four times.

Skimming news articles about Whitney yields an even broader sampling of her eclectic late-life adventures: Going on safari in Africa, dancing in the mud at a Grateful Dead concert, and riding roller coasters were all activities she enjoyed with her typical zeal and gusto.

In 1997, at age 72, Whitney married for a third time, wedding John Hendrickson, then a 32-year-old tennis champ and former aide to the governor of Alaska. Hendrickson had proposed to his bride at Buckingham Palace.

Whitney admirably strove to remain active even while battling a series of health setbacks in the autumn years of her life. Among them were a heart attack, septic shock, and gall bladder removal. A 2006 stroke drastically curtailed her activities, but she always made it a point to attend the races in Saratoga when she could during the 2010s decade. In 2018, Whitney was in attendance as the Racing Hall of Fame when three generations of Whitneys were inducted as Pillars of the Turf.

Whitney is survived by her husband, John Hendrickson, and her five children, Louise (“M’Lou”), Frank (“Hobbs”), Henry (“Hank”), Heather, and Cornelia. Funeral arrangements and plans for public remembrances are pending.

The Industry Remembers Marylou Whitney…

“Marylou Whitney embodied all of the best qualities of the sport to which she devoted her time, heart, and resources. From her exceptional philanthropy to her innovative mind and indelible spirit, she was a champion of excellence in every endeavor she graced. The Thoroughbred racing community – and the world – have suffered a great loss but we are forever grateful for her lasting contributions to our sport.”

NTRA President & CEO Alex Waldrop

“The Jockey Club mourns the loss of Marylou Whitney, a true pioneer in horse racing. From her countless acts of generosity in support of racing’s backstretch workers to her success as an owner and breeder, she made important and lasting contributions to our sport, especially in Saratoga, and she will be missed. We extend our condolences to Marylou Whitney’s husband, John Hendrickson, and to her family and her many friends and fans.”The Jockey Club

“The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame extends its deepest condolences to the family of Marylou Whitney and her husband, John Hendrickson, on the passing of Mrs. Whitney. A kindhearted friend to the Museum, the sport of thoroughbred racing, and the Saratoga Springs community, Mrs. Whitney was a beloved and irreplaceable icon whose extraordinary legacy will have a lasting effect on future generations.” –National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

“Like all of us in the racing world, we are deeply saddened by the passing of Marylou Whitney today. Whether it was her extraordinary philanthropic endeavors, her festive galas, or her racing stable of stakes winners, Marylou devoted all of her energies to our sport and its traditions, most prominently, her beloved Saratoga. Marylou has left an indelible mark of distinction, class and style upon Thoroughbred racing. Our sincere condolences to her husband, John, and Marylou’s extended family.”Statement from Breeders’ Cup Ltd.

“On behalf of The Adelphi Hotel, we are deeply saddened by the loss of our Queen of Saratoga, Mrs. Marylou Whitney. Our deepest sympathies go out to her husband John, her children, family and friends. Mrs. Whitney was a true visionary and we will forever be grateful for her endless philanthropic and humanitarian contributions to our own Saratoga Springs community along with her incredible impact on the sport and culture of Thoroughbred racing. For this and all that she was, she will forever be kept in our hearts and held in the highest esteem.”Larry Roth, Adelphi Hotel, Saratoga

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First-Yearlings Sire Exaggerator a “Throwback Horse”

Fri, 2019-07-19 16:28

With just a handful of first-crop yearlings in the recent Fasig-Tipton July Sale, Exaggerator’s leading sales colt was a chestnut out of Radiant Ruby (Tale of the Cat), knocked down for $170,000 to North London Bloodstock. He has five yearlings entered in the upcoming Saratoga sale.

As a Classic winner who won or placed in nine graded stakes, five of them Grade I, there was never a doubt Exaggerator (Curlin) would look mighty good in a stallion barn. It was announced WinStar Farm acquired the horse’s breeding rights soon after he’d won the 2016 GI Santa Anita Derby by open daylight. It was an inspired move as it turns out the big bay was just getting started. He would reward WinStar’s faith in his ability with a runner-up finish in the GI Kentucky Derby prior to a 3 1/2-length score in the GI Preakness S. Exaggerator would later go on to take the GI Haskell Invitational S.

“We’re very excited about that horse,” said WinStar’s Director of Bloodstock Services, Sean Tugel. “He was just one of those great, sturdy, sound horses that showed up at every dance.”

Exaggerator gave a strong hint of that iron constitution as a juvenile when he shipped from coast-to-coast, winning at three of the five tracks he set foot on, breaking his maiden at Del Mar prior to notching victories in the GII Saratoga Special S. and GIII Delta Downs Jackpot S.

“He is a horse that, not only did he have the talent and the speed as a 2-year-old,” said Tugel, “but he continued to mature and became an elite 3-year-old, as well.”

By the time he retired, Exaggerator had competed at 10 different racetracks around the country and, after breaking his maiden, ran in 13 consecutive graded events before retiring sound. He is Curlin’s highest earner and was one of only two horses in 2016 to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

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“He’s got [this] unbelievable profile where he’s kind of [a] throwback horse, and a rough, sturdy horse,” said Tugel.

Elite sire Curlin has had a number of young sons new to the stallion ranks in the past couple of years, but Tugel said Exaggerator has a refinement not often seen. That’s showing up in his foals as well.

“They’re nice-framed horses that stand over a lot of ground,” added Tugel. “They have great limbs on them.”

 

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Catch The Star In Kildare

Fri, 2019-07-19 13:21

The Frankie Dettori show, which diverted to Killarney midweek, moves on to The Curragh on Saturday with TDN Rising Star‘ Star Catcher (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) the key actress in the G1 Kerrygold Irish Oaks. Untried in Classic company unlike some of her contemporaries, Anthony Oppenheimer’s homebred proved her quality with a defeat of the G1 Epsom Oaks third Fleeting (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}) in a strong renewal of the G2 Ribblesdale S. at Royal Ascot June 20. Staying on powerfully at the end of her first try at a mile and a half, the half-sister to the GI Canadian International hero Cannock Chase (Lemon Drop Kid) is poised to take on the Irish fillies on their home soil. “Star Catcher seems in good form, but she’s got to take on the very best now,” Dettori said. “Her home work has always been good and Ascot wasn’t a surprise to us, because she has taken a good step forward every time she ran. She’ll have to do that again to feature in the finish on Saturday, but at the moment all the home work has been very good and I can’t wait to get back to the Curragh again.” The re-opposing Fleeting is joined by fellow Ballydoyle representative Pink Dogwood (Ire) (Camelot {GB}), who was a neck behind Star Catcher’s stablemate Anapurna (GB) (Frankel {GB}) when second in the May 31 G1 Epsom Oaks and was the hot 11-10 favourite coming here for the G1 Pretty Polly S. last time. In the event, she was no match for the impressive winner Iridessa (Ire) (Ruler of the World {Ire}) when third in that June 28 10-furlong test and looked in need of this trip. “I thought Pink Dogwood ran very well the last day in the Pretty Polly, but she is going back up in trip again,” commented Aidan O’Brien, who is looking for a sixth renewal. “Fleeting seems to be fine since Ascot and everyone is happy with her.”

Fourth at Epsom was Waverley Racing’s Manuela de Vega (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}), who arrives here a fresh filly with Ralph Beckett’s stable jockey Harry Bentley on board. The same connections’ Antonia de Vega (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}) beat the subsequent Listed Prix Thiberville winner Star Terms (GB) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) by four lengths in the Listed Abingdon S. over 10 furlongs at Newbury June 13. Sea of Class (Ire) (Sea the Stars {Ire}) took that race en route to victory here 12 months ago and it would be no surprise if she emulates her as she is a still-unexposed filly who could be top-class.

“Both fillies are in good form and the drop of rain they’re getting will help,” Beckett said. “Their recent work has been up to scratch and they are going into the race in good shape. Manuela De Vega would look the one at this stage, but it might be a different story come Saturday night. On the evidence we’ve seen so far, I think Harry has chosen right but my record at predicting these things is not the best. I’m much happier with Antonia De Vega now than I was going to Newbury, so we’ll see.”

The Curragh’s card also sees TDN Rising Star‘ Pistoletto (War Front) come back after a short break in the G3 Jebel Ali Racecourse and Stables Anglesey S. Two-for-two over five furlongs at Tipperary Apr. 25 and Naas May 19, the brother to the high-class Avenge injured himself in the stalls before the latter hard-fought success so remains an exciting prospect. Fellow Ballydoyle runner Mount Fuji (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) never threatened in the G2 Norfolk S. over five at Royal Ascot June 20 and is bound to appreciate this extra furlong and 63 yards as he bolsters the stable challenge for a 12th renewal.

Mick Halford saddles Sammy Hon Kit Ma’s June 28 course maiden winner Roman Turbo (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}) and he said, “He was running at the Curragh on Derby weekend, so we didn’t necessarily think he’d win first time up but he had been pleasing us. He’s a nice horse and he’s gone the right way since.”

Following the Anglesey is the G2 Paddy Power Minstrel S. over seven furlongs and Frankie has sound claims of the ideal Irish Oaks warm-up on Sultan Ali’s Hey Gaman (GB) (New Approach {Ire}). Flawless so far in 2019, the imposing 4-year-old enters off wins in the Apr. 27 Listed King Richard III S. at Leicester and the G3 Prix du Palais-Royal at ParisLongchamp May 30 and trainer James Tate is hopeful he can continue the trajectory. “He’s in great form this season and the Curragh is pretty straight with a right-handed dog leg which I think will really suit,” he said. “I don’t think ground bothers him now he’s four. He’s won on soft and good-to-firm and it looks like it will be roughly good from what I can read into the situation.”

Joining Hey Gaman from Britain is Ross Harmon’s June 8 G3 John of Gaunt S. winner Safe Voyage (Ire) (Fast Company {Ire}), who is also unbeaten this term with all starts having come at Haydock. “I’m very happy with him–it’s another step up, but he’s in very good form and we’re hoping for a big run,” trainer John Quinn commented. “The forecast has come in his favour, he will need the rain, but there is quite a bit forecast through Friday so as long as it’s good ground or easier he’ll run.”

Newbury’s fixture kicks off with an intriguing edition of the Listed bet365 Steventon S. in which the 3-year-old colts Fox Chairman (Ire) (Kingman {GB}) and Pondus (GB) (Sea the Moon {Ger}) go head-to-head. The former was runner-up to Sangarius (GB) (Kingman {GB}) in the G3 Hampton Court S. at Royal Ascot June 20, while Pondus was only sixth in the G2 King Edward VII S. at that meeting a day later. Trainer James Fanshawe is hoping Hubert Strecker’s Pondus can get back in the swing, having looked c colt with a bright future when winning novice contests over this 10-furlong trip at Nottingham May 10 and Sandown May 30. “He was a little bit keen at Ascot and didn’t get home, but before then he was very progressive over a mile and a quarter,” he said. “We’re dropping him back to that distance and he seems in good form.” Fox Chairman’s trainer Andrew Balding said, “We’re really happy with him. He ran well at Ascot and has been in good form. I think James Fanshawe’s horse has got lots of untapped potential as well, so it will be an interesting race.”

Fanshawe is also looking to stable stalwart The Tin Man (GB) (Equiano {Fr}) to fly the flag in the G3 bet365 Hackwood S. which the 7-year-old captured three years ago. Sixth in the G1 Diamond Jubilee S. at Royal Ascot last time June 22, last year’s G1 Haydock Sprint Cup winner needs a confidence boost. “We’re coming back in class a little bit and will see how we get on,” his trainer said. “He ran very well at Ascot. It’s the first time he gets in a group three without a penalty this year, so we decided to go this route.”

First and second in the Listed Carnarvon S. over this course and distance on the Lockinge card May 18, Khaadem (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}) and Oxted (GB) (Mayson {GB}) re-oppose in the Hackwood with the former on a salvage mission having finished seventh in the G1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot June 21. Trainer Charlie Hills is expecting better from Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s 3-year-old and said, “I think he was a little bit under the weather last time at Ascot, but we’ve been pleased with him the last couple of weeks. I don’t think he’ll mind the the rain.” In the Weatherbys Super Sprint, the June 20 G2 Norfolk S. runner-up Ventura Rebel (GB) (Pastoral Pursuits {GB}) will be a warm order in the valuable prize while Newmarket’s key race is the Listed Aphrodite Fillies’ S. in which Kin Hung Kei, Qatar Racing and Laurent Dassault’s TDN Rising Star‘ Sparkle Roll (Fr) (Kingman {GB}) sets the standard after her third placing in the Ribblesdale.

 

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Future of Santa Anita Turf Sprints: 5, 5 1/2 or 6 1/2 Furlongs?

Thu, 2019-07-18 18:22

Santa Anita Park management is considering multiple options for how future turf sprints will be configured, even as the Breeders’ Cup championships there loom 15 weeks away with two graded grass races already announced at the five-furlong distance.

Reopening the downhill turf course for 6 1/2-furlong sprints is one option. Building a new 5 1/2-furlong backstretch turf chute that starts on the main dirt track near the seven-eighths pole is another. Keeping races at five furlongs with a turf rail placement modified from the current setup is also a possibility.

And further in the future, Santa Anita might consider “flipping” its track configuration so that the entirety of the grass course is outside of the main track and not within it.

All of those in-flux turf course plans emerged as part of an otherwise routine discussion about the track’s licensure at Thursday’s monthly California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) meeting in Del Mar.

The impromptu debate about the merits of different turf sprint configurations was sparked when representatives of The Stronach Group (TSG), which owns Santa Anita, submitted an autumn stakes schedule that includes 6 1/2-furlong turf races. CHRB vice chair Madeline Auerbach noted the change, and asked if TSG had reversed a safety decision it made in early April to stop carding sprint races over its downhill course.

In the midst of Santa Anita’s 30-horse fatality crisis this past spring, track management had flagged the downhill turf course as a safety concern and closed it after the March 31 death of a sprinter who suffered a catastrophic injury on the portion of that configuration that crosses the main dirt track and rejoins the inside of the grass straightway at the head of the stretch.

Turf sprints for the remainder of the spring meet were instead carded for five furlongs, starting on the back straightaway like at most other North American tracks.

Until last autumn, Santa Anita had never before carded turf sprints that started on the back straight. But in an experiment that began last October–months before there were any safety concerns about the downhill course and its crossover–the track began running some turf sprints for the first time at five furlongs to give greater flexibility in race distances.

Tim Ritvo, TSG’s chief operating officer, answered Auerbach’s question about the change by saying that Santa Anita is considering going back to sprints on the downhill course for “selective races.”

But Ritvo added the track is also mulling other short- and long-range options to provide the safest grass sprint options.

The 6 1/2-furlong races over the downhill course had long been considered an offbeat European-style course quirk unique to Santa Anita. But Ritvo acknowledged on Thursday that a 10-year statistical study recently identified “spikes” of injuries that occur primarily on that layout’s turf/dirt crossover section. Yet the five-furlong turf sprints that began last year were found to have their own separate potential for peril, because a temporary inside rail placement just after the three-eighths pole that is necessary to preserve the downhill course crossover (even when it’s not in use) makes for a dangerous jutting-out situation.

“Talking to a lot of the jockeys, they have said that going [fast opening split times] into that turn, the elbow comes out, and it’s throwing a lot of horses out [causing] a lot of bouncing around,” said commissioner Alex Solis, a Hall-of-Fame jockey who is not currently an active rider. “And [when horses] switch leads at the three-eighths pole, they’re coming in, so it’s causing a chain reaction.”

Auerbach added that the lack of banking on the far turn for the five-furlong configuration is also a safety issue.

“In the five [furlong races] there’s no banking on the turf, so when the horses come around the turn to come into the stretch, they tend to go really wide, and they seem to get away from the riders,” Auerbach said.

But Darrell Haire, a retired jockey who is the western regional manager of the Jockeys’ Guild, sided with Solis by citing the jutting rail, and not the lack of banking, as the primary concern with the five-furlong turf setup.

“The banking at Santa Anita is actually more than Del Mar,” said Haire. “It’s going into the turn, [where that corner configuration] is sharp. It causes horses to go to the right when they make it. They can’t negotiate it properly. And the riders have been telling us right along toward the end of the meet that we’ve got to do something about this before something happens.”

Ritvo said that if Santa Anita opts to go with building the new 5 1/2-furlong cut-out that starts on the main track, it will “ease the speed going into that turn.”

Ritvo added that “we’re willing to work with the jocks on whether five-eighths grass races should be run with a temporary rail at all. [And] if we decide not to use the 6 1/2-furlong [downhill course] then we will alleviate [the five-eighths banking problem] by banking that turn. The reason it’s not banked now is because [coming off the 6 1/2-furlong course] you need [it for] the flat crossover.”

Ritvo said that a longer-term solution could include “the flipping of the grass course [so it’s] on the outside [of the dirt track], putting the dirt course on the inside.” He told commissioners that’s not happening any time soon, though.

In the past, the Breeders’ Cup has utilized the downhill 6 1/2-furlong downhill start for turf sprints at Santa Anita. But Craig Fravel, the chief executive of the Breeders’ Cup, explained at Thursday’s meeting that his organization recently committed to five-furlong distances for both he GI Turf Sprint and the GII Juvenile Turf Sprint for November’s championships there.

“To be honest with you, we were unaware of any safety concerns related to five furlongs until now,” Fravel said.

Other items of note at Thursday’s meeting included:

•The advancement, by unanimous vote, of a proposed CHRB rule that would mandate the maximum allowable level of Lasix at 250 mg (half of what’s currently on the books) and would prohibit the use of Lasix in horses from the 2018 foal crop and onward beginning in 2020. This change would codify similar “house rules” language that the CHRB has been approving on a meet-by-meet basis for most of 2019, but it must first pass a 45-day public commentary period before it can be fully adopted.

•Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s lawsuit requesting a restraining order that would allow him to return to training horses at Del Mar, where he has been denied entry privileges for reasons that have not been publicly disclosed, got pushed back by a San Diego County Superior Court judge on Thursday, with a hearing now set for July 26. That court date may or may not resolve Hollendorfer’s specific issue, but the overarching topic is sure to linger in future CHRB meetings. Commissioners and stakeholders debated the murky landscape of exclusion policies at tracks and what, if any, types of hearings owners and trainers are entitled to and what role the CHRB can/should play in those situations.

•For the first time in several months, the CHRB meeting was conducted with zero anti-racing advocates signing up to speak during the board’s public commentary period.

 

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Saratoga Among Tracks to Cancel Weekend Racing Due to Extreme Heat

Thu, 2019-07-18 15:10

   Saratoga has joined Finger Lakes, Laurel, Parx, Delaware Park and Ellis Park in cancelling some of their weekend cards due to a forecast of extreme heat. Saturday’s card, with no re-draw, will be run as races 2-12 with a steeplechase as race 1, which was canceled Wednesday due to heavy rains, and the GIII Shuvee H. as race 13 Sunday. The decision on Saratoga’s Saturday cancellation was made between NYRA, NYTHA and NYSGC.

“Working in consultation with NYTHA and following the recommendation of Dr. Palmer, we are cancelling Saturday’s card in the best interests of the safety of our equine athletes and horsemen,” said NYRA CEO & President Dave O’Rourke. “Assessing the safety of racing conditions, including weather, racing surfaces and raceday scrutiny, is of the utmost importance to NYRA and our industry partners.”

Training will be permitted on both the main track and Oklahoma training track during the normally cooler early morning hours. The last time an entire Saratoga card was canceled due to extreme heat was Aug. 2, 2006 when temperatures rose to the upper 90s with a heat index of 110 degrees.

Saratoga and Belmont will be closed for simulcasting Saturday, but Aqueduct will remain open.

Finger Lakes canceled their Saturday card, which was highlighted by the New York Derby and New York Oaks, after the forecast said that the heat index could reach 110 degrees. The stakes races will be rescheduled, but the new date has yet to be announced. Finger Lakes will resume racing Monday.

Ellis Park has canceled their Friday card, but will remain open for simulcasting and gaming. They have not made a decision yet about Saturday’s card.

Laurel has canceled both Saturday and Sunday’s cards. All races drawn Saturday will be brought back as extras. Sunday’s card was scheduled to be drawn Thursday.

Parx has also canceled their Saturday races. Monmouth Park has their biggest day of the year Saturday with a bevy of stakes headlined by the GI Haskell Invitational S. and, as of the time of publication Thursday, the track plans to hold the card as scheduled.

 

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Competitive Edge Exacta in Saratoga’s Stillwater S.

Thu, 2019-07-18 14:30

My Italian Rabbi (Competitive Edge), a sharp debut winner versus state-breds at Belmont Park May 30, became the first stakes winner while leading home a one-two finish for her freshman sire (by Super Saver) in Saratoga’s Stillwater S. for New York-breds Thursday.

The fourth choice in the five-horse field pressed favored ‘TDN Rising Star’ Fierce Lady (Competitive Edge), a $725,000 RNA at last week’s FTKJUL Sale, from the outside through an opening quarter in :22.64. My Italian Rabbi poked her head in front approaching the quarter pole and outdueled the 1-5 chalk to the wire after a long drive to score by a hard-fought nose. First-time starter Jewel of Arabia (Daredevil) completed the trifecta.

“I didn’t know whether to root or not to root,” winning trainer Jeremiah Englehart said. “Every time I rooted for her, it seemed like she would drop back a little bit. Then, she started coming on, and just at that last jump, it looked like she was able to get the head bob.

“We probably didn’t get the best Fierce Lady today; she’ll probably be back and will be able to turn the tide. Kudos to Fierce Lady in defeat, I thought she ran really well. We’ll look at [the $200,000 Seeking the Ante Aug. 23] later on in the meet.”

The winner’s dam had a filly by War Dancer in 2018; she was bred to Practical Joke for the 2020 season.

STILLWATER S., $97,000, Saratoga, 7-18, (S), 2yo, f, 6f, 1:10.31, ft.
1–MY ITALIAN RABBI, 121, f, 2, by Competitive Edge
1st Dam: Golden Miss, by Golden Missile
2nd Dam: Notable Sword, by Crusader Sword
3rd Dam: Notably, by In Reality
($47,000 RNA Wlg ’17 FTNMIX; $60,000 Ylg ’18 OBSWIN;
$160,000 Ylg ’18 SARAUG). 1ST BLACK TYPE WIN. O-Gold
Square LLC; B-Hidden Lake Farm LLC & Anthony Grey LLC (NY);
T-Jeremiah C. Englehart; J-Luis Saez. $55,000. Lifetime Record:
2-2-0-0, $89,100.
2–Fierce Lady, 121, f, 2, Competitive Edge–Anjorie, by A. P Jet.
($52,000 Ylg ’18 KEEJAN; $75,000 Ylg ’18 KEESEP; $170,000
RNA 2yo ’19 OBSMAR; $725,000 RNA 2yo ’19 FTKHRA). O-Nice
Guys Stables & Steve Hornstock; B-Sugar Maple Farm (NY);
T-Dermot Magner. $20,000.
3–Jewel of Arabia, 118, f, 2, Daredevil–Purrfectly Mine, by
Mineshaft. ($140,000 Wlg ’17 KEENOV). O-Sumaya U.S. Stable;
B-SF Bloodstock LLC (NY); T-Christophe Clement. $12,000.
Margins: NO, 1HF, 3 3/4. Odds: 8.90, 0.35, 5.70.
Also Ran: Classy Sadie, Time Limit. Scratched: Jen’s Battle.
Click for the Equibase.com chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

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Two Horses Fatally Injured During Training Collision at Del Mar

Thu, 2019-07-18 13:50

The unraced juvenile Charge a Bunch (Will Take Charge), trained by Carla Gaines, and the also unraced 3-year-old Carson Valley (Distorted Humor), who hails from the Bob Baffert barn, were fatally injured after colliding during training hours at Del Mar Thursday.

The track released the news in a series of tweets:

“We are sad to confirm two horses, Charge a Bunch and Carson Valley, suffered fatal injuries after a collision during morning training. We are deeply sorry for the horses and their owners, trainers, riders and grooms.

The accident occurred when Charge a Bunch, trained by Carla Gaines, threw his rider Geovanni Franco, turned sharply and collided with Carson Valley, trained by Bob Baffert, and jockey Assael Espinoza. Assael was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. Franco was not injured.”

Del Mar also tweeted the following quote from Baffert, “This was a very unfortunate accident and is a shock to everyone in the barn. We work everyday to take the best care of our horses, but sometimes freak accidents occur that are beyond anyone’s control. This is one of those times and we’re deeply saddened for all involved.”

 

 

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Dogtag Back at the Spa for Lake George

Thu, 2019-07-18 10:00

LNJ Foxwoods’s Dogtag (War Front) returns to Saratoga in Friday’s GIII Lake George S. for the first time since breaking her maiden in last August’s P.G. Johnson S. Fourth behind then-unbeatable stablemate Newspaperofrecord (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}) in the GIII Miss Grillo S. at Belmont in September, she resurfaced to annex Pimlico’s Hilltop S. May 17. The homebred is one of three signed on for the omnipresent Chad Brown stable, which made up the trifecta in last Saturday’s GI Diana S. and could very well complete another triple here.

Peter Brant’s Blowout (GB) (Dansili {GB}) was second to GI Belmont Oaks Invitational romper Concrete Rose (Twirling Candy) in the Mar. 9 GIII Florida Oaks and beaten a head in Aqueduct’s Memories of Silver S. Apr. 19. She earned her first stakes score in the June 22 Wild Applause S. downstate, defeating two more stablemates including Nova Sol (Ger) (Soldier Hollow {GB}), who had finished behind Dogtag in the Hilltop.

Paul Pompa, Jr.’s TDN Rising StarRegal Glory (Animal Kingdom) completes the Brown trio. Never off the board in five lifetime outings, she was second in Gulfstream’s GIII Sweetest Chant S. Feb. 3 and in the GII Appalachian S. at Keeneland Apr. 7 behind The Mackem Bullet (Ire) (Society Rock {Ire}). Regal Glory was last seen cruising home at 1-9 in the June 1 Penn Oaks ahead of a pair of next-out allowance winners.

Fellow Rising Star‘ Winter Sunset (Tapit) looks to follow in the hoofsteps of her first two dams Winter Memories (El Prado {Ire}) and Memories of Silver (Silver Hawk), who took this race in 2011 and 1996, respectively. She doubled up in the Shantel Lanerie Memorial S. at Fair Grounds Feb. 9 before settling for third in the Florida Oaks. She was third again behind Concrete Rose in Churchill’s GIII Edgewood S. May 3, and second in the nine-panel GIII Regret S. back under the Twin Spires. Finishing one spot behind her that day was Varenka (Ghostzapper), who took a hot optional claimer here last week.

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Breeders’ Cup, FanDuel Announce Sponsorship Agreement

Wed, 2019-07-17 17:29

The Breeders’ Cup and FanDuel Group, parent company of TVG, have entered into a comprehensive multi-year sponsorship agreement making TVG and FanDuel the official Wagering Partners of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The agreement also gives TVG and FanDuel official partner status for four of its business units: Advanced-Deposit Wagering (TVG) as well as sports betting, daily fantasy sports and on-line casino, all of which operate under the FanDuel brand.

TVG will become the name-in-title sponsor of the $2-million GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the $2-million GI Breeders’ Cup Mile and will produce the Breeders’ Cup Players’ Show, which is a live wagering-focused telecast of the World Championships that is sent to simulcast outlets around the world.

“We are excited to be back working with TVG and the FanDuel Group. TVG has been a long-time supporter of the Breeders’ Cup and a good friend to the horse racing industry,” said Craig Fravel, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup. “We are equally excited about putting the very best in international Thoroughbred racing in front of a new wave of sports bettors and our partnership with TVG and FanDuel is a big part of that plan.”

Kip Levin, CEO of TVG and COO of FanDuel, said, “We are looking forward to not only enhancing our ability to cover the Breeders’ Cup races themselves, but to devote more coverage and promotion to the lead-up through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In Series. This is a great opportunity to bring horse racing and the Breeders’ Cup front and center to our sports betting and daily fantasy customers as well and to introduce horse racing’s championship event to the next generation of racing fans.”

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Best Runners Eye Spa Engagements

Wed, 2019-07-17 17:20

OXO Equine’s Rowayton (Into Mischief), most recently a troubled third in the July 6 GIII Dwyer S., will make his next start in the July 26 Curlin S. at Saratoga.

“He was supposed to breeze this morning, but the rain set that back,” said trainer Don Chatlos. “He’ll breeze on Friday. The race for him is the Curlin and I only wanted one breeze in between for him.”

Rowayton, twice Grade I placed as a juvenile, made his sophomore debut with an impressive allowance victory June 6 at Belmont Park. He was boxed in traffic before finishing a good third behind Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}) in the Dwyer.

“That trip is what won us the allowance race, but probably cost us second in the Dwyer,” said Chatlos. “I can’t take anything away from Code of Honor. He ran huge that day.”

How Rowayton handles the nine-furlong Curlin will determine which route he takes later in the summer.

“We can judge from there if it’s the [Aug. 24 GI Runhappy] Travers S. [at 10 furlongs] or the [Aug. 24 GI] Allen Jerkens next [at seven furlongs],” continued Chatlos. “We can always cut back to the seven furlongs if we think the mile and an eighth was too much for him.”

Graded stakes winner and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Instagrand (Into Mischief), also owned by Larry Best’s OXO Equine, is back in training with Chatlos after having a chip removed from his left hind ankle following an eighth-place finish in the May 4 GIII Pat Day Mile.

“Instagrand got in here on Saturday. He’s just jogging right now. He wants to do more, but we’ll take our time and let him tell us when he’s ready,” said Chatlos. “We’ll let him get ready on his own and if that means Belmont fall meet, that’s fine.”

Instagrand won last year’s GII Best Pal S. and was third in the Mar. 9 GIII Gotham S. and Apr. 6 GI Santa Anita Derby before the Pat Day Mile.

Chatlos also has a bevy of Best’s high-priced juveniles readying for racetrack debuts.

Forever Poe (Colonel John), an $850,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May purchase, turned in a three-furlong breeze in :35.02 at Belmont July 6.

“He will probably work here this week,” said Chatlos. “He had a shin that was bugging him and we didn’t want to press on him.”

Madison Parc (Curlin) worked four furlongs in :48.87 (14/80) at Saratoga Sunday. The $420,000 Fasig-Tipton November weanling purchase is a half-sister to Best’s GISP ‘TDN Rising Star’ Brill (Medaglia d’Oro). Chatlos expects the New York-bred filly to be ready to make her debut in about three weeks.

Mundaye Call (Into Mischief), purchased for $950,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale, worked four furlongs in :49.98 (45/80) at Saratoga Sunday.

“Jose Ortiz worked her the same day as Madison Parc and she went a little slower, :49 and change,” Chatlos said. “He let her gallop out faster than she worked. He was just getting a feel for her. He’ll work her out of the gate on Sunday.”

Also on the Saratoga grounds is Snap Chap (Into Mischief), a $1.2-million Keeneland September yearling purchase.

“We have Instagrand, which is a play on Instagram, and this one is named Snap Chap,” said Chatlos. “He looks the part for sure. He’s a ways away from a work, but he’s a nice-looking horse.”

Snap Chap is out of the unraced Gaudete (Distorted Humor), a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Munnings (Speightstown).

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Distorted Humor Colt Scores in Sloppy Spa Debut

Wed, 2019-07-17 16:51

7th-Saratoga, $87,300, Msw, 7-17, 3yo/up, 7f (off turf), 1:24.50, sy.

OFF THE RECORD (c, 3, Distorted Humor–Savvy Star, by Medaglia d’Oro) drew in as an MTO for this debut after heavy rains soaked the track through the first half of the day Wednesday and earned his diploma in the slop with a decisive score. Displaying several bullet works at Keeneland this spring, he was given a 2-1 chance to kick off his career on the right hoof in this affair, which was scratched down to five. The bay kept close tabs from a joint second as the Azrael (Cross Traffic) registered opening splits of :22.57 and :45.65. Drawing even with the pacesetter at the top of the stretch, Off the Record splashed away to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Brandon and Ali Rice’s RiceHorse Stables purchased the winner for $150,000 at the Fasig-Tipton October Yearling Sale and he RNA’d for $295,000 as a 2-year-old at Fasig-Tipton’s Gulfstream Sale after breezing in :10 2/5, following which he was bought back by his breeder WinStar Farm. Kenny Troutt’s operation also bred his dam Savvy Star, who is a half-sister to GISW and sire Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat); MGSW Lord of the Game (Saint Ballado); GSW Dramedy (Distorted Humor); and Grade III-winning blue hen Get Lucky (Mr. Prospector), who produced Grade I-winning sire Girolamo (A.P. Indy), MGSW & MGISP Daydreaming (A.P. Indy), who is the dam of GISW Imagining (Giant’s Causeway), GSW & MGISPAccelerator (A.P. Indy) and the dams of GI Kentucky Derby hero Super Saver (Maria’s Mon) and GI Spinster S. heroine Got Lucky (A.P. Indy). This is also the family of champion Rhythm (Mr. Prospector), GISW Callback (Street Sense) and GSW Nonna Mela (Arch). Off the Record is the first foal out of Savvy Star, who also has a yearling colt by Uncle Mo and a Speightstown filly born May 16 of this year. Sales history: $295,000 RNA 2yo ’18 FTFMAR; $150,000 yrl ’17 FTKOCT. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $49,500. Click for the Equibase.com chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

O/B-WinStar Farm (KY); T-Rodolphe Brisset.

 

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NTRA, Byk Team to Offer NHC 2020 Spot

Wed, 2019-07-17 15:36

Steve Byk, host of “At the Races” on Sirius XM, is partnering with the National Thoroughbred Racing Association to send one NHC Tour member to Las Vegas to compete in the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) next February.

The “Beat Byk NHC Challenge” will run from July 20-Sept. 2. Byk will pick a horse in one stakes race each Saturday and Sunday and listeners can log in to www.ntra.com/beatbyk/ where they will be able to either use Byk’s selection to win the featured race or try to beat Byk by selecting another horse.

All who correctly select the winning horse in each round advance to a September NHC online qualifier limited to winning participants from the weekly promotions. Participants can win up to three entries into the September online qualifier based on how many times they qualify during the promotional period. The winner of the “Beat Byk” Online Qualifier in September will then represent “At the Races” at the 2020 NHC, which will take place in the Bally’s Events Center from February 7-9.

In addition, any participant who “Beats Byk” in any of the weekly contests will be able to join the NHC Tour for a special offer of $1 for the remainder of the 2019 NHC Tour. Those who “Bet with Byk” and win a spot in the NHC online qualifier by picking the winner will be required to join the Tour ($50 annual membership good through Jan. 31, 2020) to be eligible to win the NHC spot.

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NYTHA Pledge to Mercy House Honors Violette

Wed, 2019-07-17 15:32

The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has pledged $25,000 to Mercy House of Saratoga, a new non-profit created to provide temporary residences for a wide range of people in need. The funds will be put toward the construction of a 6,000 square-foot suite of rooms to serve backstretch workers from Saratoga Race Course, within a four-story, 30,000 square-foot building to be built on Washington Street by Bethesda Episcopal Church. The suite will be dedicated to the late Rick Violette, longtime president of NYTHA and a tireless advocate for the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST).

“NYTHA is pleased to support Mercy House’s development of accommodations for backstretch workers who are being helped by BEST for counseling, recovery and recuperation,” said Joe Appelbaum, president of the NYTHA Board. “We believe that Mercy House will help further BEST’s mission, which is to meet the health and social welfare needs of the backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course through alcohol or substance use counseling and other assistance.”

Construction of the $9-million building, at 26-28 Washington Street, is expected to begin in the coming year.

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Tapiture Gets First Stakes Winner in Rick Violette S.

Wed, 2019-07-17 13:39

Sky of Hook became the first stakes winner for his freshman sire (by Tapit) with a victory in the Rick Violette S. on a rain drenched Wednesday at the Spa. Formerly known as the Rockville Center S. when run at Belmont Park, the race was renamed this year in honor of longtime New York trainer and NYTHA President Rick Violette, who passed away last year after a prolonged battle with cancer.

Opening his account with a narrow score against fellow Empire-breds at Belmont May 10, Sky of Hook was sent off at 9-1 in this step up to stakes company. Perched in a two-wide third early, the chestnut kept a watchful eye on the leaders through a :22.75 opening quarter and a :46.60 half-mile. Listentoyourheart tried to run away with it in the lane, but Sky of the Hook had him in his sights and closed steadily over the soupy surface in the driving rain to get up for a narrow score.

“It’s great to win a race like this that’s named after Rick for all the good things he’s done for the sport,” said winning trainer Rudy Rodriguez. “We really miss him.”

He continued, “We tried to get him ready and get him along without hurrying him. It worked out good. I thought he was in trouble because he was lagging a little bit. But to run like this in the slop, everything worked out perfect.”

“The track conditions weren’t ideal, but he broke sharply and handled it well,” said rider Luis Saez. “When we came towards the stretch, I really knew he was game. He was trying his best. I knew I had enough to get there and thankfully we did before the wire.”

Sky of Hook is the first foal to make the races out of Ambitious Dancer, who produced the winner’s full-brother this spring. Click for the Equibase.com chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

RICK VIOLETTE S., $97,000, Saratoga, 7-17, (S), 2yo, 6f, 1:13.17, sy.
1–SKY OF HOOK, 122, c, 2, by Tapiture
1st Dam: Ambitious Dancer, by Latent Heat
2nd Dam: Isbell Ambiel, by Strodes Creek
3rd Dam: Carter’s Creek, by Coastal
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN. O-E.V. Racing Stable; B-EV and NC Corp
(NY); T-Rudy R. Rodriguez; J-Luis Saez. $55,000. Lifetime
Record: 2-2-0-0, $89,100. *First stakes winner for freshman
sire (by Tapit).
2–Listentoyourheart, 122, c, 2, Afleet Alex–Je T’aime, by Gold
Token. O-Merrylegs Farm; B-Merrylegs Farm North LLC (NY);
T-Christophe Clement. $20,000.
3–Theitalianamerican, 118, r, 2, Girolamo–Quiet Kiss, by Quiet
American. ($4,000 RNA Wlg ’17 FTNMIX; $5,000 Ylg ’18
OBSWIN; $30,000 2yo ’19 OBSMAR). O-Monty Foss & John
Moirano; B-McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, LLC &
Spruce Lane Farm (NY); T-Gary C. Contessa. $12,000.
Margins: NO, 5 1/4, HF. Odds: 9.30, 2.25, 2.85.
Also Ran: Mission Wrapitup, Torres Del Paine.

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Breakfast at Saratoga Returns

Tue, 2019-07-16 16:01

Breakfast at Saratoga, driven by the Capital District Transportation Authority, welcomes racing fans to enjoy a morning meal on The Porch of the Clubhouse at Saratoga Race Course while the Thoroughbreds train on the main track. Breakfast is held daily from 7 to 9:30 a.m. and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

“Enjoying a trackside breakfast while watching some of the world’s best Thoroughbreds train on Saratoga’s historic track has long been a tradition at the Spa,” said NYRA Director of Guest Services Will Alempijevic. “We encourage those who have long made this a part of their Saratoga experience and fans who have not yet spent a morning at the Spa to join us this year.”

The morning breakfast buffet is $18.50 for adults and $9.25 for kids ages 12 and under. Admission is free during breakfast hours. Mornings at Saratoga also welcome fans to go behind the scenes with a free, guided backstretch tram tour, courtesy of CDTA.

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Hollendorfer’s Lawyer Files Complaint Against Del Mar

Tue, 2019-07-16 15:08

Drew Couto, the lawyer representing trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, filed a complaint against the Del Mar Turf Club Monday in the Superior Court of San Diego.

Couto said the complaint included four causes of action.

“One was for an emergency, temporary restraining order, one was for a preliminary injunction, one was for declatory relief and one for breach of contract,” he said.

Couto said he was willing to reveal the legal steps he had taken because they were a matter of of public record. However, he declined to comment further or elaborate on what was involved with each complaint.

Del Mar has denied to allocate stalls to Hollendorfer or accept any entries from him. Many of the horses he had previously trained have been moved to the barn of Dan Ward, his long-time assistant trainer. Santa Anita banned the Hall of fame trainer last month. Hollendorfer’s former small string in New York, all owned by Larry Best, are now trained by former assistant Don Chatlos Jr. Though Hollendorfer is not under any official suspension, Santa Anita ordered that he vacate the grounds after a fourth horse of his suffered a fatal injury during a meet in which 30 horses died.

Before any further steps can be taken by Hollendorfer’s legal team, the court must set a date to hear the complaints filed by Couto. That process can take several months, meaning a hearing might not be held until after the meet is over. However, there are legal means whereby attorneys can ask the court for an expedited hearing.

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July 17 Insights: Full to Hit It a Bomb Entered On Spa Turf

Tue, 2019-07-16 14:53

Sponsored by Alex Nichols Agency

7th-SAR, $90K, Msw, 3yo/up, 1mT, 4:32 p.m. ET

Rain is in the forecast for Wednesday’s week two opener at Saratoga, but if the day’s seventh event stays on the turf, Chad Brown starts an intriguing pair of debuting sophomores with hefty European bloodlines. Bass Racing’s BORDER TOWN (War Front), a $325,000 RNA at Keeneland September in 2017, is a full-brother to Hit It a Bomb, victor of the 2015 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, and Brave Anna, who captured the G1 Cheveley Park S. at Newmarket in 2016. The dark bay shows a steady series of breezes going all the way back to April at Palm Meadows, and capped preparations with a half-mile spin in :48 3/5 (3/21) over the Oklahoma dirt July 11. His workmate that day, and for several other breezes, was Klaravich Stables’ Good Governance (GB) (Kingman {GB}), a 120,000gns purchase at Tattersalls October in 2017 who also opens his account here. The bay is out of Group 2 winner Please Sing (GB) (Royal Applause {GB}) and shares a second dam with MGSW turf sprinter Belvoir Bay (GB) (Equiano {Fr}).

If the race comes off the grass, WinStar Farm main-track-only firster Off the Record (Distorted Humor) looks to have a big chance. Bought for $150,000 at Fasig-Tipton October, the Rodolphe Brisset trainee is out of a half-sister to GISW Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat) and MGSW Lord of the Game (Saint Ballado) and shows an array of speedy breezes at his Keeneland base, highlighted by a half-mile gate work in :46 3/5 (1/66) June 26. Eric Fein’s Corcoran (Curlin), another MTO who would be making his career bow, has been working sharply as well, including a five-furlong breeze in 1:00 flat (4/27) June 23 at Belmont. The $500,000 KEESEP buy’s first two dams were unraced, but second dam Jessi Take Charge (War Chant) is a half to MGISW Take Charge Lady (Dehere), the dam of champion Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song) and GISW Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy). TJCIS PPs

9th-DMR, $64K, Alw/Opt. Clm, 3yo/up, 7f, 9:14 p.m. ET

Michael Stinson’s KING JACK (Jimmy Creed) kicked away impressively to score by 3 1/4 lengths debuting June 1 at Santa Anita, an effort good enough for ‘TDN Rising Star’ honors, and he tries to go two-for-two in this opening day spot at Del Mar. A $100,000 KEESEP pickup, the chestnut’s first-out score, which earned an 88 Beyer, was further flattered when runner-up Morning Snow (Morning Line) came back to romp by eight lengths with an 86 Beyer June 23 in Arcadia. That one’s trainer, Bob Baffert, will be represented here by the returning Metropol (Shackleford). Hammered to 7-10 favoritism in his October unveiling at Santa Anita, the $200,000 OBS April buy wore down a loose leader to prevail by three-quarters of a length, and sports a sharp worktab for this comeback, punctuated by a six-furlong move in 1:11 4/5 (1/4) July 11 at Los Alamitos. TJCIS PPs

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Can Every Horse Be Saved from Slaughter? It’s a Worthy But Difficult Goal

Tue, 2019-07-16 14:08

(Part two of a two-part TDN series)

There is one thing that virtually everyone within the racing industry can agree on and be proud of: the sport has come a long way when it comes to keeping retired Thoroughbreds out of the slaughterhouse. But, to many, that’s not good enough.

Is zero slaughter a reasonable goal?

The story of a former $5,000 claimer from Charles Town named Singlemaltscotch is a fitting example of the difficulties the sport still faces when it comes to saving every horse. He didn’t wind up in a slaughterhouse, but he did come close.

The rising awareness of the problem of slaughter and the willingness of so many people to do what they can to save a horse has caused a shift in how many “killer buyers” now operate their businesses. Many have discovered that they can make more money by reselling the horses they buy at auction to people who can’t bear to see a horse go to slaughter. Numerous people have used social media outlets to sell horses they plucked out of auction. They mark up the price they paid for the horse and say that unless the new price is met they will let the horse go to slaughter. The dealers are not afraid to use terms such as “ransom” and “bail.”

Singlemaltscotch showed up shortly after making his final career start Apr. 13 at Charles Town, a track owned by Penn National. The horse appeared on a since closed-down Facebook page of a company called Sexton Horse & Mule, which is based in Sneedville, Tenn. Jason Sexton, a part-owner of the business, told the TDN he brought Singlemaltscotch at the Knoxville Livestock Auction. Sexton said that before his Facebook page was shut down “99 percent” of the horses who were posted online were bought by people and given homes.

“I think we’re helping the horses,” Sexton said. “Last year we would ship two, three, four semi-loads of horses a week to Mexico. We’d put about 33 to 40 horses in a load. When we first started this deal we were down to shipping one semi-load every other week because we were selling so many through Facebook.”

Singlemaltscotch was bought by Heather Freeman’s Helping Equines Regain Dignity (HERD) rescue. Freeman said she paid $900 for the horse and said her understanding is that middlemen like Sexton typically mark up the price of a horse they buy by $100 to $200 when reselling it.

“That horse has been at the mercy of a human being since the day it was born,” Freeman said. “We teach them to trust us. We break them, we ride them, we put them in little stalls and make them stand up and they do our bidding and then one day we dispose of them. That is wrong on every level. And I have horses of my own and I have horses that are permanently lame and I take very good care of them. Some will be with me until the day they die at an expense of probably $5,000 a year to me.”

Freeman’s plan with Singlemaltscotch was to send him to a farm in North Carolina to recuperate, get whatever vet work he needed and then to retrain him for a second career.

But how did Singlemaltscotch show up at the Knoxville auction less than a month after his racing career had ended? What happened to the rules that are in place at Charles Town and on the books of the West Virginia Racing Commission that prohibit a trainer from knowingly selling a horse to slaughter?

The TDN‘s attempts to find answers from Charles Town, Penn National and the West Virginia Racing Commission officials led nowhere. Erich Zimny, the vice president of racing operations at Charles Town, replied to an e-mail, but said he would have no comment. Penn National’s racing vice president, Chris McErlean, never responded to a similar e-mail. Roy Cave, who is listed on the West Virginia Racing Commission website as “Charles Town investigator,” did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The horse’s last listed owner, John Shuler, spoke to the TDN and gave his side of the story.

“I gave the horse to a guy so the horse could pull chuckwagons,” he said, referring to a sport popular in Western Canada. “Once the guy got the horse, he must have taken it and sold it to someone else. Whoever he sold it to must have taken it to the sale. I don’t know how it happened. I had no idea the guy was going to take it to a kill sale. I had dealt with this person before. He had taken two horses of mine and they used them in the chuckwagon races. I think those two are still racing in the chuckwagon races. I was upset when I found out what happened to this horse. I have 28 horses and nothing like this has ever happened to me before.”

Though Charles Town officials wouldn’t comment on this case, it’s easy to see why making decisions concerning penalizing trainers when a horse shows up at a slaughter auction are not as easy as they may seem. Though one can argue that trainers should be extremely careful when it comes to who they sell or give a horse away to, it’s not hard to get duped by someone who promises they will take the horse and give it a good home, but then turns around and sells it to slaughterhouse buyers. In that case, is it fair to ban a trainer, which could effectively destroy their career?

The other problem is what to do about Thoroughbreds that are many years removed from their racing careers, and how to track how they got to the auction.

In the first part of this series the TDN featured a horse named Averil’s Girl, who was put up for sale at New Holland. Now 12, she last raced in 2010 for trainer Steve Jerkens and has never delivered a registered foal. From the time she left the racetrack, her life story remains a mystery, and to place any blame on Jerkens over a horse he trained nine years earlier would be unfair. Like Singlemaltscotch, Averil’s Girl was also posted on a website with the seller asking someone to pay “bail money.” The money was paid and Averil’s Girl wound up at Hidden Pond Farm Equine Rescue in New Hampshire.

While a racetrack has the power to ban a trainer who sells a horse to slaughter, there is little if anything that can be done to a breeder or an owner of a pleasure horse who no longer wants to pay the bills for a Thoroughbred who hasn’t raced in years.

And even though Averil’s Girl and Singlemaltscotch never made it to a slaughterhouse, there are plenty among the horse rescue community who believe people paying the bail money for these horses may be well-meaning but are doing the wrong thing.

“I don’t like it because I’ve seen how they prey on people that have very little money,” said Victoria Keith, who runs the National Thoroughbred Welfare Organization (NTWO), a group started by prominent owner Rick Porter. “I’ve seen way too many times people respond saying, ‘I have to wait for my social security check to get here. I have to wait for a paycheck. I only have $10 that I can spare this time but I’ll give you that $10.’ It preys on those people. It’s driven up the prices at the auctions whereas before I’ve talked to people that are private trainers, and they would go to auctions and buy the nicer horses, and then put some training into them and sell them, and they said they stopped going, because now they get outbid by the kill buyers. People would be a lot better off donating money to legitimate rescues than helping these other people.”

Still another shift in the business of selling horses for meat occurred when, in 2015, the European Union announced it would no longer accept horses from Mexican slaughterhouses. The EU was reacting to the fact the most horses in Mexican slaughterhouses came from the U.S., and the vast majority had been treated with drugs at some point in their lives.

“I think a huge problem we have is these horses should never be used for food,” said Donna Keen, who operates Remember Me Rescue. “They’re toxic. And it blows me away in a time where everybody wants to eat organic and antibiotic- and steroid-free chicken that they would even think about slaughtering a racehorse since 99.9%-plus of all racehorses have had Bute. Bute never leaves a horse’s system. And with all the other things, the antibiotics and the things that horses get, they should never be eaten.”

The Wikipedia page for Phenylbutazone explains that when humans digest metabolites of Bute, they can develop aplastic anemia, a disease in which the body stops producing new blood cells and which was the cause of death of Eleanor Roosevelt and Marie Curie.

Oddly, the EU did not enact a similar ban on Canadian slaughterhouses, and Chris Heyde, a well-known animal rights lobbyist, said its efforts in Mexico have done little good since slaughterhouses there were easily able to find customers outside EU countries.

Anti-horse slaughter advocates are now resting their hopes on bills introduced in Congress that would prohibit the slaughter of horses in the U.S. and prohibit the export of American horses to other countries for the purpose of slaughter.

“I think there is a chance that this will pass, but it’s going to be tough,” Heyde said. “It’s bipartisan and there are so few of those in these divided times. We just need to raise the profile of this issue, which hasn’t been done in a long time.”

Backers of the bill got a boost in June when the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) came out in support of its passage.

“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is something the NTRA has opposed for many years,” NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop said in a statement. “In the last decade alone, thousands of retired U.S. racehorses have been adopted and transitioned to second careers. The development and growth of quality racehorse aftercare programs continue to be a high priority for the industry.”

In an interview with the Louisville Courier Journal, Waldrop admitted the NTRA had been non-committal in the past about similar bills because it did not see a clear path to finding suitable homes for the thousands of horses who are retired every year. But Waldrop said in the current climate, it was time to fully get behind anti-slaughter legislation.

“Clearly the public is very aware; they’re focused on our industry right now, and that’s a factor,” he told the paper. “The time was right to change our position…times have changed for us.”

The passage of any bill that would prohibit the slaughter of horses in the U.S. and the export of horses from the U.S. to other countries for the purpose of slaughter would be by far the most important step ever taken to see that American Thoroughbreds, as well as all breeds, don’t end up on someone’s dinner table. To make that work, there would likely be a need for even more horse rescue groups and a large increase in donations to the TAA and groups it has accredited. But that already seems to be in the works. In late June, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) issued a joint press release announcing they had come up with a funding mechanism that would donate an estimated $450,000 to the rescue cause. Such announcements guaranteeing financial contributions to horse rescue efforts, whether they come from tracks, horsemen’s groups or philanthropists, are no longer uncommon. The horsemen at Parx have put together a program where an owner has to pay $30 per start with the money going to horse rescue. The program, called Turning for Home, is considered among the best in the country, and all signs point toward Parx having all but guaranteed that no horse will ever leave its gates and head to slaughter.

Nonetheless, somewhere in North America, whether in Mexico or Canada or in an unlicensed slaughterhouse in the U.S., horses likely died today. The same will be true tomorrow and the day after that.

There are a lot of problems that are unsolvable, both in life, and in racing. Some percentage of racehorses will always break down; some will bleed. Slaughter isn’t one of those problems. It’s something the industry simply has to find the collective will to fix. Much has been done. There’s more to do still.

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Fasig-Tipton to Sponsor Virginia Oaks

Tue, 2019-07-16 11:54

Fasig-Tipton will sponsor this year’s Virginia Oaks as racing returns to Colonial Downs for the first time in six years this summer. The $150,000 Fasig-Tipton Virginia Oaks will be run Aug. 31. Also on the card will be the $250,000 GIII Virginia Derby.

The Oaks and Derby are part of a 17-race stakes schedule worth $1.8 million. The 15-day meeting will run from Aug. 8 through Sept. 7.

“As one of the world’s most respected Thoroughbred auction companies, we are very proud and excited to partner with Fasig-Tipton for our 2019 Colonial Downs race meeting,” said Jill Byrne, Colonial Downs Vice President of Racing Operations. “The timing of Fasig’s Saratoga sale with the opening of our meeting later that week, and its sponsorship of the Fasig-Tipton Virginia Oaks begins a solid foundation to this new agreement.”

The Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale will be held Aug. 5 and 6 in upstate New York.

“Fasig-Tipton is pleased to be partnering with Colonial Downs to sponsor the Virginia Oaks as part of this exciting return of racing to the Richmond area,” said Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning. “Our company is highly invested in the Midlantic region, and we also have deep roots in the Virginia Thoroughbred industry. This is a very natural partnership for us.”

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The Week in Review: Game Winner Finally Seems Ready to Deliver On His 3-Year-Old Potential

Mon, 2019-07-15 16:23

The Week in Review, by Bill Finley

Had you told Bob Baffert and owners Gary and Mary West back in early November that their Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg)} would go through the first half of his 3-year-old season injury free yet not win a race until July 13, they no doubt would have been shocked. So would have everyone else.

Everything that Game Winner did in 2018 suggested that he was a superstar in the making. He went four for four, won the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, was named 2-year-old champion and was in the hands of a trainer who has no equal when it comes to winning Triple Crown races. Yet, it took four starts into the year until he won for the first time, the victory coming in Saturday’s GIII Los Alamitos Derby. He won by five lengths in his first start after finishing a wide sixth in the GI Kentucky Derby.

The win only told us so much about Game Winner. He faced just three opponents and went off at odds of 1-20. A loss was almost unimaginable. Yet, he did show enough to suggest that the first half of his year was the aberration and that Game Winner is ready to reclaim his status as the best male dirt horse in his crop.

But that still has to be proven on the racetrack, starting with the GI Runhappy Travers S.

Baffert believes that Game Winner’s three losses to start the year had a lot more to do with circumstances than the colt’s ability.

“When I shipped him to Oaklawn [for the GII Rebel S.], that race was really hard on him,” he said. “He ran wide and he wasn’t ready for what was a gut-wrenching race for him. He and Omaha Beach (War Front) ran so hard, so he went backwards on me a little bit after that. He got a little light on me. We ran him back in the [GI] Santa Anita Derby and the track was really deep. With all the stuff that was going on at the time at Santa Anita, they kept adding more and more sand. They were trying to make it as safe as possible, but they also made it really deep and demanding and that was hard on him. In the Derby, he got wiped out leaving there and was very wide. He ran his race, but didn’t run like he can.”

Rather than point for either the GI Preakness S. or the GI Belmont S., Baffert decided to simply regroup. He gave Game Winner over three months off and went back to blinkers. Game Winner wore them in his first start and won, but Baffert took them off afterwards because he thought they could make the horse too rank.

With the understanding that he had not picked the most difficult of spots, Baffert still liked what he saw from Game Winner in the Los Al race.

“I told (jockey) Joel (Rosario) to just get away from there, sit there with them, and just let him run the last part,” the trainer said. “I didn’t want a gut-wrenching racing out of him. That’s exactly how it worked out. The last eighth went in under 12 [seconds, :11.45, to be precise]. You could tell he just kicked in gear when he asked him to go. He came back and it looked like he never took a deep breath.”

The test, though, will be the Travers. Is Game Winner ready to climb back to the top of the division or will it turn out that he is just one of many good 3 year-olds?

“The Travers will be the race that is going to separate them all,” Baffert said. “It’s been a murky 3-year-old season. The Travers will separate the men from the boys.”

Baffert added that his first pick would have been to run Game Winner in Saturday’s GI TVG.com Haskell Invitational, but decided not to do so because it made little sense for the Wests to run their two 3-year-old stars against one another at this point in the season. The Wests’ Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) will be the likely favorite in Monmouth Park’s signature race.

Don’t Forget About Mr. Money

Last weekend’s racing included another win by a talented 3-year-old who could yet prove to be among the best of this bunch. Mr. Money (Goldencents) has largely flown under the radar since his connections have decided to focus on the next level down when it comes to 3 year-old races. But when Mr. Money won Saturday’s GIII Indiana Derby, that marked his third straight stakes win. He’s ready for prime time.

“That’s been discussed a lot,” trainer Bret Calhoun said when asked if the connections planned on trying Grade I company. “We almost decided to run him in the Haskell. But our goal all along has been to keep him as fresh and as healthy as he possibly can be through his 3-year-old campaign. We felt we’d take a shot at the top when everything lined up right. Going against Maximum Security and King for a Day (Uncle Mo) in the Haskell in their own backyard didn’t seem like the right thing to do.”

Calhoun said Mr. Money is being considered for the Travers. The other option is for him to go first in the GIII West Virginia Derby, and if he is successful there, try the heavyweights in the GI Pennsylvania Derby.

The Comeback of Peter Brant

As is so often the case after a graded stakes race is run on the grass in New York, most of the attention was focused on winning trainer Chad Brown. Such was the scenario after the GI Diana S. Saturday at Saratoga. Brown ran four of the six horses in the race and finished one, two, three. It was his fourth straight win in the race and fifth overall. He is now tied with Hall of Famer Elliott Burch for most Diana wins and it’s not hard to see Brown winning this race seven or eight more times before his career is over. Remember, he is only 40.

But let’s not forget the impact his owner, Peter Brant, had on this race. He owned three of the four Brown-trained horses and his champion Sistercharlie (Ire) (Myboycharlie {Ire}) won the race for the second straight year.

Brant’s story might be unprecedented in racing. He was one of the top owners in the sport for years, left abruptly, stayed away for 17 years and has returned with a vengeance. Since 2017, the first year he had run a horse since 2000, he has won 36 of 115 starts and has had eight graded stakes winners, including two Grade I winners. The other is Raging Bull (Fr) (Dark Angel {Ire}), the winner of the 2018 GI Hollywood Derby.

In his second go as a major owner, most of his success has come with grass horses. The first time around, Brant was always a major player when it came to dirt stars like Mogambo and Gulch. He was also a co-owner, along with Claiborne Farm, of Kentucky Derby and Belmont winner Swale. It will be interesting to see if his next move is to tell Brown to direct some of his assets toward acquiring the type of horse that can give him a Classic win.

The Slugger Who is Hitting .430

Throughout his MLB career, Mike Napoli was always one of those swing-for-the-fences guys. The end result was often a home run or a strikeout, one of the reasons why he had a .246 career batting average before retiring following the 2017 season.

In his new pursuit, horse racing, Napoli looks like Rogers Hornsby. Now a racehorse owner, he never started a horse before the beginning of this year, but has already won 28 races and was the leading owner at the recently-concluded Gulfstream meet. He is 28-for-65 on the year–that’s a batting average of .430. Even Ted Williams never hit higher than .406.

Speaking of Former Red Sox Players

Anyone who bet on the winner of Saturday’s first race at Arlington hit a “Slam Johnson,” and with the horse paying $21.20, walked away with a lot of “iron.” The horses’s name was Eckersley (Congrats). If you’re a Red Sox fan, you get it. If not, well, nevermind.

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