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Updated: 10 hours 58 min ago

Canadian Owner/Breeder Bill Graham Passes Away

Wed, 2019-01-16 17:54

The Canadian Thoroughbred horse racing community is mourning the passing of Bill Graham, a larger than life figure in the industry as a prominent owner, breeder and builder in various capacities. He passed away Wednesday at 81-years-old following a battle with lung cancer.

Graham, a burly individual who played three seasons as an offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League, had been involved in the business for almost 50 years. He was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2014 and was scheduled to receive the E.P. Taylor Award of Merit at this year’s Sovereign Awards along with fellow breeder/owner Gus Schickedanz for their lifelong dedication and commitment to Thoroughbred racing and breeding in Canada.

Graham was a successful businessman in Graham Brothers Construction, which built highways, roads, bridges and industrial developments, including three race courses at Woodbine Racetrack and the surrounding area.

In addition to breeding and racing, Graham contributed his time as a Vice-President of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario, Director of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, Commissioner of the Ontario Racing Commission, a Steward of the Jockey Club of Canada and a member of Woodbine’s Board of Directors.

“I think we’ve lost one of the major, current founders of the breed (in Canada),” said Dermot Carty, Director of Sales at Adena Springs and Director of Sales of International Bloodstock Agency. “It’s a huge loss.”

Trainer Mike Doyle, who had a long association with Graham and conditioned several horses for him for some 40 years, added, “He really, really enjoyed every aspect of the horse business because it was different than his other business. He worked hard on a regular basis. He did his own matings. He listened to his farm manager, he might have even talked to [others] about it at the races, maybe get a little input. He was a big, tough guy. He did what he was he going to do anyway.”

Among Graham’s many accomplishments was breeding 2012 Canadian Horse of the Year Uncaptured (Lion Heart), who won six of seven races as a 2-year-old and more than $500,000. A multiple graded stakes winner for owner John C. Oxley, who bought him as a yearling for $290,000, Uncaptured won more than $1 million in lifetime earnings. His many victories included the 2013 Princes of Wales S., one of Canada’s Triple Crown races.

Graham, who could be tough on the outside, but was considered a gentle soul by those who knew him, operated under the name Windhaven Farms in prominent pink and blue silks and had properties in Ontario and Kentucky.

Carty said that whatever Graham did, he put his mind into it, including horse racing.

“He surrounded himself with some pretty sharp individuals,” Carty said, noting Bob Hancock, who managed his farm in Ontario for about 35 years, and Tim Beeson, who managed his Kentucky operation for almost 25 years.

“Between those two and himself he managed to develop not only an eye for great broodmares, but also to breed horses that could run,” Carty said. “He was a great guy, and once you got through the gruff [exterior], he was a lot of fun and he was decent. He turned out to be a great breeder and was always looking out to improve on whatever he had. He had another 150 acres added to his farm in Kentucky to make it better. He always did things top class.”

He continued, “He put his heart and soul into it and got results. He didn’t do things halfway. He was always looking for value in his mares. He bought a mare off of us in foal to Ghostzapper (Awesome Again) for $85,000 and sold the baby as a weanling for about $500,000.”

Peter Berringer, President of the Ontario Division of the CTHS, said, “Bill Graham’s participation and enthusiasm for the horse racing industry was inspiration for everyone. He will be remembered as one of the most influential builders, breeders and owners and will be sorely missed. Our condolences to his family and friends.”

Graham bred and raced a top 2-year-old filly, Tiz Breathtaking (Tiznow), a winner last year of three of five races, including the GIII Mazarine S., before suffering a leg injury.

Ken Richardson, Graham Brothers’ Secretary and Vice-President of Administration, said Graham was successful in the construction business because of his commitment to do well, his commitment to his fellow employees and his attention to the details of a project. He said Graham was equally diligent in his involvement in horse racing.

“It certainly wasn’t a hobby when you have 50 horses,” Richardson said. “It started out that way, I know that. He enjoyed the competitiveness of the horse racing industry because Bill was a very competitive person himself. He loved to be around the horse racing industry. I can recall Bill being up extra early every morning going to watch his horses work out before he’d come to work in the construction industry. He was into all aspects of it. He just took a great interest in it.”

Graham had a particularly strong impact raising and racing fillies, winning many of the premier distaff stakes races in Canada, beginning with Sugar Raiser (Flag Raiser), who won the Boniface S. in 1973. One of his more popular winners was Blondeinamotel (Bates Motel), a winner of the 1989 Canadian Oaks.

In 2012, he won his first Sovereign Award as Breeder of the Year with just 32 starters that won 20 races, including six stakes. In 2013, he bred 20 winners from 29 starters that earned $2.2 million. Captivating (Kris S.), dam of Uncaptured, was named the 2013 Sovereign Award for Broodmare of the Year.

“When I got into the breeding business I was the new pup on” the block,” Graham said several years ago. “The big guys were Windfields, Stafford, Kinghaven, Sam-Son and [Frank] Stronach.”

He won his first Sovereign Award as an owner with Wavering Girl (Wavering Monarch), voted Canada’s top 3-year-old filly in 1989. He also won the Sovereign Award for 1998 champion 2-year-old filly Fantasy Lake. In 1997, he won the Sovereign Award for champion 3-year-old filly Cotton Carnival (Dixieland Band).

Majestic Kahala (Majestic Prince), trained by Mort Hardy, was Graham’s first major filly winner. She was victorious in several stakes, including the E.P. Taylor in 1977, and was later sold for $2.5 million. Graham sold one of her offspring, Malaak (Dream Ahead), for $650,000 at Keeneland and she became a major stakes winner in England.

Graham is survived by his two daughters, Valerie and Jackie. Funeral arrangements are pending.


MATCH Series Gets Big Makeover for 2019

Wed, 2019-01-16 17:11

Although the $450,000 overall bonus scheme for breeders, owners, and trainers is unchanged from its 2018 level, the scheduling, number of races, and cumulative purses for the stakes that comprise the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH) series will get a significant makeover for 2019.

The chief changes for the points-based challenge series at Laurel Park (Apr. 20), Penn National (June 1), Delaware Park (July 13), Parx (Sept. 2) and Monmouth Park (Sept. 28) include:

1) Each participating track getting its own exclusive showcase day of MATCH stakes

2) The exclusion of both high-end graded stakes and below-par stakes in terms of purse value, which will be replaced by 20 stakes with $100,000 purses carded equally at each track

3) A streamlining of the number of horse divisions, from five to four

4) The doubling of marketing money put up by each track to promote the series.

The MATCH series, which debuted in 1997 and ran for five years, was brought back in 2018 after a long hiatus. It is the brainchild of Alan Foreman, the chairman/chief executive officer of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, and the goal of the series is to highlight regional racing while rewarding the connections of mid-Atlantic horses and providing a season-long focal point for fans and bettors.

“Last year we got our feet wet with it. It was a success,” Foreman told TDN via phone Wednesday. “I saw somebody online this morning who said, ‘Well they’ve made an awful lot of changes to it. How can you call that a success?’ But we looked at what we accomplished in 2018, and now the thinking is, ‘How can we make it better?’ So that’s what we’re trying to do for 2019.”

The basic MATCH concept remains the same. Horses competing in the series earn points based on participation and order of finish. The owners and trainers of the leading 1-2-3 point-earners in each division earn bonus money ($375,000 available). The overall points-earning owner ($50,000) and trainer ($25,000) for the entire series also earn bonuses. Like last year, this money is paid by various the horsemen’s groups and state breeding organizations in the mid-Atlantic.

There are also separate Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware breeder bonuses ($40,000 available), with each state’s breeding organization fronting $5,000 payouts for the top point-earning horse of each sex that is certified in their respective programs.

The altered format of the races will be the most noticeable shakeup to MATCH (see schedule here).

Last year, the MATCH series began on GI Preakness S. weekend at Pimlico Race Course, then hopped around from track to track. An unequal number of races got carded at each venue. And some tracks opted to include graded stakes worth up to $250,000, while others carded $75,000 stakes.

In hindsight, Foreman said, “We thought it was probably a mistake to open on Preakness weekend. And graded stakes races are great, but they’re not great for the series. You get a different caliber of horse, and those [graded stakes horses] are generally going to go elsewhere; they’re not necessarily going to continue on in the series. This year, we wanted a competition where the horses in the region are going to stay in the series and contest the series, and give us something that you don’t see elsewhere in the industry.”

In fact, so few horses earned points in several of last year’s divisions that only $380,000 of the $450,000 in available bonus money got paid out because the rules state that a horse must participate in at least three races within its division to be eligible for a bonus.

“They didn’t earn enough points to qualify, and that’s something that we were scratching our heads about,” Foreman said. “Some of it had to do with the divisions we ran last year, and it was also because of the competition from graded stakes horses. We think we’ve fixed it this year in a way that we shouldn’t have that problem. Remember, we had five divisions last year. We’ll only have four this year. It’s not that we’ve reduced the bonus pool. It’s just that we have one less division.”

But the switch to standardization–four stakes of $100,000 apiece at each of the five participating tracks–means a reduction in both the number of races and overall purse money for the series. Last year, MATCH had 25 total races with $2.9 million in purses.

“We tried to make it level for everyone. We said let’s do 20 races, $100,000 each for $2 million in total purses,” Foreman said. “They’re all $100,000 races, they’re all stakes, and we’ve left it to the tracks to name those races, and doing it in a way that they’re not interfering or competing with their own stakes schedules or stakes at other tracks within the region.” (Like in 2018, the 2019 stakes money comes from each track’s own purse account.)

The four horse divisions have been streamlined as follows: 3YO & Up Sprint Dirt; 3YO & Up Sprint Turf; 3YO & Up Fillies and Mares Sprint Dirt; 3YO & Up Fillies and Mares Long Turf.

Presque Isle Downs, which participated last year, won’t be included in the 2019 MATCH series. The Maryland Jockey Club will be represented by Laurel only, and not Pimlico.

Foreman said one betting-related benefit of having four MATCH races at each track on a stand-alone showcase day will mean the likely addition of reduced-takeout Pick Fours on those respective cards. This is pending regulatory approval in each state, he added, but he believes such wagers are doable.

“We’re going to do little things, and we’re going to make them work. We’ll keep trying to innovate,” Foreman said. “I can’t overstate enough the level of cooperation that is required and put forth by the tracks and the horsemen to really make this thing work. We had some very close to irreconcilable issues that we thought might prevent the series from going forward this year. This is not simple. When you move days and change days that some tracks covet, it affects everybody in the region. It is a really significant collaborative effort.”

Foreman said one of the sticking points during 2019 negotiations was that having a “championship day” was “a condition of being in the series” for Monmouth.

“And then, in doing the schedule for this year, we thought, ‘Well, why can’t everybody have a big event day, and why don’t we sequence the races so we move from track to track, sort of what NASCAR does?’

“We thought it would be a scheduling nightmare. And it was incredibly difficult–but it worked. Everybody liked the idea of each track having a special day just for MATCH, which does conclude at Monmouth with a championship day. We think it will enhance the series, and it will be good for the horsemen, because they’ll be able to move from track to track.”

Foreman said another change is that last year, MATCH tracks paid for the series’s administration and advertising costs on a sliding scale that was not publicly disclosed.

“This year, they’re all paying the same,” Foreman said. “They’ve increased their contributions this year–they’ve doubled their marketing contributions–which I just think shows the confidence that they have in the series.”

In the spirit of recognizing that MATCH is an ongoing work in progress, Foreman said that its member organizations are already looking ahead to tweaks that might be implemented for 2020.

“We have a new [regional] player this year in Colonial Downs,” Foreman said, referencing the Virginia track that will be back in action for the first time since 2013. “We actually talked with them–they’re not far enough along yet with [planning] their summer meet, and we were too far along to include them in MATCH. But I think that you’ll see them in the series in 2020, so we’ll probably expand. We also talked to New York. That brings along a whole host of other [issues], but at least we’re having a conversation with them.”

FTKFEB Supplements Now Online

Wed, 2019-01-16 15:13

Fasig-Tipton has catalogued an initial 47 entries for its 2019 Kentucky Winter Mixed Sale supplemental catalogue, which can be viewed here. The sales company will continue to accept supplemental entries throughout the week.

The new entries, catalogued as hips 430-476, include:

Vicki T (Street Sense) (hip 444): This half-sister to GISW Zipessa (City Zip) is being offered by Ballysax Bloodstock as a broodmare prospect.

Babybluesbdancing (Sky Mesa) (hip 466): The 5-year-old broodmare prospect is a multiple stakes winner and graded stakes-placed. She is consigned by James B. Keogh (Grovendale).

Oops Times Two (Badge of Silver) (hip 470): The broodmare prospect consigned by Scott Mallory is a half-sister to MGISW young Coolmore sire Practical Joke (Into Mischief).

Taking Aim (Trappe Shot) (hip 476): Consigned by Gainesway as a racing/broodmare prospect, the 4-year-old filly is a three-quarter sister to Grade I-winning sire Tapizar (Tapit).

The Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Winter Mixed Sale will be held Feb. 4-5 with supplemental entries to be sold Feb. 5 following the end of the main catalogue.


Barkley Hoping Oaklawn Meet His Next Step in Road to Prominence

Wed, 2019-01-16 15:03

Hot Springs might be a fun place to spend the racing season, but trainer Jason Barkley probably couldn’t wait to get out of town when the meet ended last year. Just 28 and trying to make a name for himself, he went 0-for-16 at Oaklawn with one close second. Four months later, things had gone from bad to worse. Entering the beginning of August, his record on the year was 0-for-43.

Barkley was finding out firsthand how difficult it is for a young trainer, particularly one who didn’t apprentice under a Todd Pletcher, Wayne Lukas or Chad Brown and didn’t have the backing of a major owner, to break into the business.

While he didn’t have any winners, he did have a plan. He knew he was never going to be an overnight sensation, but he had to keep moving forward and build his stable, even if it was one very small step at a time. He had enough confidence in his abilities that he believed he would inevitably have a break through and that each break through would lead to another.

It was just a “beaten” $16,000 claimer at Ellis Park, but when Katie’s Reward (Warrior’s Reward) won on Aug. 5 for the Barkley stable it was as if the cloud that had been hovering over his head instantly vanished. She began a streak that saw him go 11-for-38 through the rest of the year.

Now, Barkley is returning to the same track, Oaklawn, that ate him up and spit him out, with a far better barn, momentum and confidence that this will be a meet where he will make some noise.

“For me, this is a big meet,” he said. “Last year’s meet was a struggle for me. I came in with five [horses] and we were hitting the board, but weren’t winning any races. I’m coming in with more horses this year and much better stock. I don’t look at it as a ‘now-or-never’ meet. The idea is to just keep progressing. I had five here last year. Now I have 12. If I can leave here with 15, 18 that would be exactly the type of thing that would keep moving us forward.”

Barkley is a third-generation trainer. His grandfather was trainer Paul Byers and his father is Jeff Barkley, who is still active. The younger Barkley knew early on what he wanted to with his life, and began preparing for his career at a very young age.

“I walked my first horse when I was still in elementary school,” he said. “My grandfather and father were in same barn at Ellis Park when I was a kid. I’ve been in the barn since I was big enough to walk a horse.”

He attended the University of Louisville, working summers for trainers Kelly Von Hemel, Steve Margolis and Paul McGee. After he graduated from Louisville’s equine program, he became a vagabond of sorts. He was not interested in going to work for one of the big barns and having to wait several years to move up what is essentially a corporate ladder. Instead, he purposely bounced around, hoping to learn different aspects of the sport from trainers who have different specialties. His first major job was as an assistant to Nick Zito. He also worked as an assistant to Joe Sharp before going to the Wesley Ward stable, his last stop before going out on his own in 2017.

“I thought if I bounced around I could see different ways that people do things,” he said. “I got to be around higher-class horses with Zito. Joe had a little bit of everything, cheaper horses and better horses and he had moved on to becoming a trainer after a relatively short time with Mike Maker. I learned how he became so successful so fast. With Wesley, I wanted to learn about the 2-year-old game. The way I see it, everyone pays attention to 2 year-olds and stakes horses, and everything else is just filler.”

He’s no threat to take home the Oaklawn training title, but it would be a surprise if Barkley didn’t win at least a handful of races at the meet.

“The quality I have this year versus last year? It’s not even close,” he said.

He’s hopeful that he can win his first career stakes race when he sends out Arch Avenue (Archarcharch), a recent allowance winner at Turfway and $5500 yearling bargain buy, in the Feb. 2 Martha Washington S. He is also excited about Highland Lass (Quality Road), who was picked up at the 2018 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale after starting her career in Southern California.

“We also have some higher-end claimers and a maiden that I like a lot,” Barkley said.

He’s progressed from the trainer who left Oaklawn last year after a humbling experience. But he knows he has a long way to go. Win four or five races at Oaklawn, keep getting his name out there on social media, pick up another client or two, claim a couple of solid horses at this meet, work hard.

“I like to set goals,” he said. “What do we need to make happen to keep moving forward? We have checked some boxes lately.”

At Oaklawn, he hopes to check a few more.


Under the Radar: Midshipman

Wed, 2019-01-16 14:24

In this new series we ask agents and others who book a lot of mares for their clients which sires might be flying slightly under the radar in this breeding season. Who might be getting overlooked in the rush for the new, hot thing? Read on.

Barry Butzer

MIDSHIPMAN, Darley America, $8,500

Midshipman has been a favorite at Sun Valley from day one, consistently supplying ourselves and our clients with progeny that make a significant impact on our bottom line. He is clearly our go-to stallion at this price point, and a horse that has given us four talented stakes horses earning right at $1 million.

From Woodbine to Santa Anita, our Midshipmans are all game. It is easy to forget that this top-class juvenile champion handed defeat to top sires Pioneerof the Nile and Munnings in that year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Midshipman’s body of work is built from smallish crops, and he has crossed a new threshold now with two Grade I-placed fillies. Breeders have gotten the message and his crops have doubled in the past four seasons. The commercial market has also taken note, our three Midshipmans offered last year averaged $87,000.

Last weekend a chestnut filly had nowhere to go in the eighth at Gulfstream. However, Klaravich Stables and Chad Brown’s Connectivity exhibited a turn of foot not often seen, and burst through in the lane and drew off on debut. Yet another winner for Darley’s Midshipman.

If you look elsewhere for a champion son of Unbridled’s Song for your mare this season, be prepared to ante up a cool $30,000 or $75,000. Midshipman should be utilized by breeders shopping with or without a budget


Machowsky Named F-T California Representative

Tue, 2019-01-15 18:49

For nearly 30 years, trainer Mike Machowsky has been largely known for a Southern California string out of which the odd diamond has been plucked. As of the middle of next month, he’ll be helping other trainers in their attempts to achieve the same conjuring trick, when he hands in his trainer’s license and picks up the mantle of Fasig-Tipton’s full-time California representative.

“It’s been one heck of a ride,” said Machowsky, about his training career. “I’ve loved it. It’s a hard thing to want to give up if you love it and you’ve done it for so long. But this was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I love the sales and I love California racing, and now, I’m excited to be partnering with such a premier sales company… They’re going full steam ahead to make a quality sales company out here.”

This year will mark Fasig-Tipton’s latest foray into California, with their first auction, a 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, slated for June 5, followed by a Fall Yearling Sale penciled in for Sept. 25. Both of them will be conducted in the walking ring at Santa Anita.

As per the official announcement, Machowsky will be tasked with “recruiting buyers and sellers,” along with promoting “overall awareness of the Fasig-Tipton brand” and serving as a “point of contact” for interested parties. To sum it up, his role will be to use the broad network of contacts he’s built up in California over the decades–trainers, owners, breeders and farm managers–to help produce a product that will appeal to vendors and buyers from all four corners of the country and beyond, he said.

“It’s all about helping them recruit clients for the sales and to get people to come to the sales,” Machowsky said. The trick, he added, will be to find the right balance between numbers and quality. “If you have the horses, people will come. And so, my main goal is to find the right horses, all different types of horses, at all levels, so everybody has a chance to purchase something.”

And while yes, California’s rather island-like status can make it difficult to lure vendors and buyers out west, Machowsky admitted, he also believes the Fasig-Tipton name, along with the company’s own network of “national and global” contacts, will prove a useful tool in overcoming that obstacle.

“With the quality of company that Fasig-Tipton is, the reputation they have, it’s going to attract people out here,” he said, adding that he’d like to see “some of the consignors back east who used to come out here” return on a regular basis. “We need to get to that point where we have a bunch of horses where everybody’s able to walk away from the sale happy with what they’ve got.”

Fasig-Tipton President Boyd Browning agrees. “We have strong relationships with buyers and sellers throughout the United States,” he said. “We’ve had discussions with some of them about the prospects in California, and I think we’ll have meaningful support.”

As for their reasons for hiring Machowsky, “he’s got a very good reputation as a human being, he’s honest and hard-working,” Browning said. “And he helps provide an instant bridge for those of us who aren’t living in California and haven’t been active in California, but who certainly are aware of the market. He’s our man on the street there.”

Machowsky’s marching into his new position with eyes wide-open, aware first-hand of the tough economic forces pressing in on the industry from all sides. But a thriving market keeps the “whole system here in California strong,” he said, singling out the California-bred incentive awards program as a possible big beneficiary of Fasig-Tipton’s westward expansion.

“I think if we can develop a strong sales program out here with a strong group of Cal-breds going through it, we can also bring more established sires out to California,” he said.

And they, in turn, will entice better mares out West, he added.

“We’ve always had great horses through the years come out of the Cal-bred program, and this can add strength to that.”

Despite his official start-date not slated for another month, Machowsky has already reached out to some of the breeding farms in California, alerting them to his new position. “I have a relationship with all those people, which makes it easier,” he said.

“The breeders are very excited because they’re breeding a lot of horses, and they’d obviously like to sell a lot of horses out here, too,” he added. “If Legacy Ranch does well, and Tommy Town does well, and Barton Thoroughbreds does well, and all those quality farms we have, if they do well, it’s a win-win for everybody out here.”

And he’s put out feelers with some of the trainers, too. “I’m just telling them, ‘anything you need, reach out to me.’ I’ll try to help them out. I just want more of our trainers in Southern California and Northern California to buy horses to bring back out here, help support California and the sales.”

During his near three-decades with a license, Machowsky, 53, has won nearly 600 races and bagged over $25 million in prize money. His best horse was Southern Image–winner of the 2003 GI Malibu S., along with the 2004 GI Santa Anita H. and GI Pimlico Special H.

Rather than a long-simmering plan to quit training, Machowsky’s late-career change has happened rather abruptly, facilitated by a series of conversations with Boyd Browning at the turn of the year. “The stars kind of aligned,” Machowsky said.

It wasn’t the financial constraints of training that prompted Machowsky to take the offer, he said. Rather, “I get to spend a little more time with my kids and family and my wife and get a little more quality of life that way,” he said. “I’m still very much involved with horseracing and the horses, which I truly love, along with the people and the clients and the trainers out here in Southern California–people I’ve built friendships and relationships with these last 30 years.”

Under the Radar: Blame

Tue, 2019-01-15 15:59

In this new series we ask agents and others who book a lot of mares for their clients which sires might be flying slightly under the radar in this breeding season. Who might be getting overlooked in the rush for the new, hot thing? Read on.

Liz Crow
BLAME, Claiborne, $30,000

Munnings and Lookin At Lucky are two of my main ‘go to’ sires when getting mares started, or helping clients that are operating breed-to-race programs. I also really like Blame as a sire that has proven he can get a top Grade I winner, as well as an athletic individual buyers will pay for at sales.

In 2018, Blame’s yearlings averaged over $135,000 on a stud fee of $25,000 in 2016. This is over 5x the stud fee which is a great return for breeders. He was headlined by the talented GISW Marley’s Freedom, who ran a -2.5 Thoro-Graph when winning the GI Ballerina S., and GISW Fault who won three graded stakes in a row on dirt and turf. He was also responsible for the two 3-year-old graded stakes winning turf stars Beyond Blame and Maraud.

I love the versatility he has shown and feel he offers good value even at the increased fee of $30,000 at Claiborne, a farm that does a great job supporting their stallions. In 2018, he bred 112 mares, his second biggest book, with by far the highest CI (comparable index) of mares bred in his stud fee range.

The best is yet to come.

Click for Blame’s catalogue-style pedigree or race record.

KY Bill Seeks to Divide Educational Funds Among New Entities

Tue, 2019-01-15 14:23

A Kentucky state senator whose professional background includes media and event management positions within the Thoroughbred industry has filed a bill that would redistribute how a portion of the state’s excise tax on horse racing wagers gets used to fund equine education programs at Kentucky’s colleges.

Damon Thayer, the Republican Majority Floor Leader, told TDN via phone Monday that the prime objective of SB81 is to revise a state statute so that two horse industry-related programs that didn’t previously exist when the law was originally written can benefit from the funding, which currently amounts to two-tenths of one percent (0.2%) of the state’s pari-mutuel handle.

Specifically, the two programs Thayer is aiming to include are the University of Kentucky’s Ag Equine Programs (which encompass all equine activities within UK’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment), and Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s North American Racing Academy, which was originally a jockey training school founded by Chris McCarron, but has evolved into a wider program that educates potential exercise riders, assistant trainers, breeding farm managers and other workers skilled in the care and training of the racehorse.

Thayer said that right now, the way the existing statute is written, only the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program receives funding from the excise tax on horse bets.

“I believe that to be consistent, if the pari-mutuel excise tax is going to help fund the U of L program, it should also fund these other two programs at public universities,” Thayer explained. “None of these programs compete with each other. They produce different kinds of graduates. The U of L program is more of a business and management program. The UK program is more of an agriculture and equine approach–a lot of those graduates will go on to veterinary school and farm management types of positions. And the BCTC program, those graduates often go on to careers on the racetrack.”

Thayer said another factor in changing the statute has to do with additional excise tax money that is now being generated by historical horse race (HHR) wagering, which creates a larger fiscal pie for the three educational entities to share.

“A wager on HHR is treated and taxed the same way as a wager on live racing, so there’s more money going into the fund,” Thayer said.

Thayer said he wants all stakeholders to understand that even though he has introduced his legislation during the 2019 session, he is not intending to actually try to get it passed until 2020. The current draft version of the bill contains 2019 language only as a placeholder, he explained, because he wants the topic to be discussed and possibly improved before pushing for its passage in 2020.

“I introduced the bill not to move it in this year’s session, because it’s a 30-day session and we don’t do the budget until 2020,” Thayer said. “But I wanted to get the bill out there so stakeholders could take a look at it, provide me with suggestions, and get some discussion going on this concept of the pari-mutuel excise tax supporting all equine programs at Kentucky’s public universities, not just one of them. I’d like to have it discussed in a committee meeting this summer in the equine issues subcommittee that we have under the agriculture committee, and perhaps the appropriations and revenue committee, which is effectively our budget committee.”

Thayer said the excise tax on Kentucky’s horse bets gets divided to fund a number of other entities besides education. Some of the money goes into he state’s general fund, a portion goes to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund, and some of it funds the Equine Drug Research Council that makes recommendations that help the state racing commission establish medication policies.

When asked if any new taxes or fees would be part of his proposal, Thayer said, “Absolutely not. I’m a conservative Republican, so I’m not for new taxes and new fees. This is taking the existing money and splitting it up more equitably between educational programs that deserve the funding.”

Dating back over three decades, Thayer’s racing-related jobs have included stints with the Breeders’ Cup, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and as the director of communications at Turfway Park.


Baker Retires from Training, Transitions to Consultant Role

Tue, 2019-01-15 13:09

Hall of Fame Canadian conditioner Reade Baker, whose career was highlighted by a Sovereign Award as Canada’s outstanding trainer in 2005, will retire from training and transition to a new career as a racing, breeding and sales consultant, according to a statement posted on his Facebook page Tuesday morning. In total, Baker trained 13 Sovereign Award winners and two Canadian Horses of the Year in Fatal Bullet (Red Bullet; 2008) and Biofuel (Stormin Fever; 2010) in a career that saw him notch 1,119 total wins with earnings in excess of $54.7 million.

“Reade wishes to thank the owners who confidently entrusted to him their young and talented prospects many of whom became stakes winners and also his dedicated team of employees–several of whom were with him for an extended time,” the statement read.

“It’s time for a new challenge,” Baker said.

A native of Port Dalhousie, Ontario, Baker stepped out on his own as a trainer in 1989 after enjoying prior success in the breeding and bloodstock sectors, as well as in the management of Canadian champion Afleet (Mr. Prospector). Over the years, he built a steady base of clients, which included Stronach Stables, Jim and Susan Hill, John Franks, Brereton Jones and Danny Dion’s Bear Stables.

Baker will continue to be based in Toronto in his new role.


Body and Soul: Up Here and Down Under

Tue, 2019-01-15 12:35

You know how you sometimes start out with a possible conclusion based on the research you are going to do–but have not yet started–but at the end of the process you’re smacked upside the head because your original suspicion was wrong?

Welcome to the world of biomechanical and pedigree analysis for the leading sires in North American and Australia/New Zealand.

Our firm has spent a half dozen years traveling Down Under to attend yearling and 2-year-old sales where we offer our biomechanical, cardio and BreezeFigs services. Occasionally we’d find time to visit stallion facilities to gather measurements on leading or promising sires. What we discovered along the way is that there are some biomechanical patterns in the yearlings and 2-year-olds that are a bit different than those in North America.

Going into this project, we thought (somewhat anecdotally) that we’d analyzed a good many yearlings and 2-year-olds whose front legs were a bit shorter than the rear legs and/or whose body sets were lower at the elbow than at the flank. Given enough power through the quarters and quickening gears (rear triangle of ilium, femur, tibia), either of those attributes generally indicate the horse would be quick to start and likely to do best at sprint distances if pushed early.

However, if the horse also possessed very good stride extension it would probably do better by settling early and using power in the drive, generally at a mile or a bit further. Most of these horses possess excellent power and quickening gears behind.

To us, this was all very logical given the racing programs in both countries, though more emphasized in Australia where speed is king (and queen) and (it appears to us) the majority of what we would consider quality maiden and allowance races and stakes races are at a mile or less–G1 Melbourne Cup, Classic and Group events notwithstanding. This pattern is on display in North America these days thanks to the simulcasting of races from Down Under on a variety of platforms from television to computer and phone streaming. You watch these races and if horses were automobiles you’d hear vroom! vroom! vroom!…most especially in the last 300 yards.

One might say this is like most races in North America are run. But except for turf races featuring good (usually imported) horses, the explosiveness isn’t there, it’s more of a steady, grinding action. That is a subtle biomechanical difference that one can illustrate by noting the speed horses Down Under are more like Corvettes or Maseratis while those Up Here are more like BMWs or Audis.

On the other hand, we have also come across a substantial number of individuals with more complicated biomechanics. This pattern usually involves long front legs and either a high body set or a low body set at the elbow compared to body set at the flank.

If the horse has a low body set, it is more efficient when the horse settles in stride to accommodate what could be some high knee action which can be exacerbated if the horse is pushed early–a combination that wastes energy. If the body set is high at the elbow, there is a likely chance that the horse will have an uphill trajectory, and if pushed too early this could result in pinwheeling (extreme high knee) which is inefficient and wastes energy.

Like the speed demons, a goodly portion of these individuals also possess excellent power and quickening gears behind. Efficiently built horses with these attributes Down Under have an affinity for settling behind most of the field in long distance races which, like all races, are on the turf. Like Chevrolet Explorers and Dodge Ram pick-ups, these horses need to get into gear, but when they get rolling, watch out!

Horses like this are also found in the North American population and the majority are also more suitable to turf racing, most likely at distances above a mile. The turf gives them a better grip behind to settle, and since most turf races are longer than a mile they have some time to settle and take advantage of power and quickening gears that are more conducive to wearing their rivals down in the end.

These biomechanical differences occur in North American runners, of course, but in doing some further research it appeared there may be a larger pool of these two distinct “power types” Down Under. This spurred a thought as to whether the stallion population in these two countries was more geared to produce power rather than a more rounded combination of power and stride factors.

To do this, we decided to utilize our Phenotype Target to plot the Top 20 sires of 2018 in North America and the Top 20 sires in Australia/New Zealand for whom we have data for the Southern Hemisphere 2017-2018 periods to see if there are any clues we could uncover. We eliminated any dual-hemisphere stallions to narrow the study to reflect indigenous characteristics, if any. The only one we haven’t measured is second-leading sire I Am Invincible, but we are confident he is quite similar phenotypically to the others. Why? Just look at their target–only four are not Power types.

Now look at the North American target. There are an equal number of stallions other than pure Power types, which may surprise some people but there is a fascinating addendum to these findings:

When we examined the biomechanical profiles of all of the stallions on each target we discovered that more than half the Southern Hemisphere stallions had long front legs along with a combination of other factors that reduced extension. However, and it’s an extremely important however: most of them also had great power and many have short tibias, which is a feature of horses that have great finishing kicks–especially on the turf.

The North American sires simply do not have that kind of profile. For the most part, they have square body sets, very good power through the quarters, and tibias that combine with other finishing kick attributes that are more likely to generate solid but not brilliant closing kicks.

Not finished yet.

Without doing anything other than looking at sire lines, we found a perhaps more startling difference in the crowd: Although there are nine representatives of the Mr. Prospector line among the North American sires, they are spread among his sons Fappiano, Gone West, Smart Strike and Forty Niner. Four sons of A.P. Indy are there along with six representatives of the Northern Dancer line through various branches, and one through In Excess (Ire). That’s pretty good distribution.

However, when we get Down Under it’s a whole different story: Seven of the ones we plotted are sons of the exceptional speed influence Danehill and one is by his sire Danzig. That’s more than an arched eyebrow discovery. And when you throw in I Am Invincible (a great grandson of Danzig who is not on the target) the eyebrows go up to your hairline. There are six representatives of Northern Dancer’s line through several branches and three members of the great New Zealand sire Sir Tristam, an Irish-bred among the crowd.

When you put all of these factors together, one can see that a fascinating dichotomy exists that may be a reflection of cultural approaches on either side of the equator–one crowd would ask you how you’d like your steak done along with what wine; the other would get right to the point and throw another shrimp on the barbie while handing you another lager.


Bob Fierro is a partner with Jay Kilgore and Frank Mitchell in DataTrack International, biomechanical consultants and developers of BreezeFigs. He can be reached at

CTBA Steps Up to Host January Mixed Sale Wednesday

Mon, 2019-01-14 16:00

The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association, stepping up to fill a void left in the state’s winter sales calendar, will hold a one-session January Mixed Sale Wednesday at the Hinds Pavilion at Fairplex in Pomona. A total of 154 horses have been catalogued for the auction, which will begin at noon.

The CTBA sale is taking the place of the previous January auction held by Barretts and is designed to bridge the gap between that now-defunct sales company and Fasig-Tipton, which hosts its first sale at Santa Anita in June.

“We’re pretty resilient out here, we’ve seen some ups and downs,” said Adrian Gonzalez, whose Checkmate Thoroughbreds consigned the sale topper at last year’s final Barretts January sale. “You have to show up with the right horses and you’ll do okay. We’ve scaled back the size of our consignment to just a couple quality mares and a couple of quality babies and that’s about it.”

Gonzalez said he was appreciative of the CTBA’s efforts to hold a January sale this year.

“They really kind of filled a void because there is certainly a need to move some of these mares and some people want to replace their mares,” Gonzalez said. “If you don’t provide that service to these breeders here, a lot of stuff could come to a halt. So I am personally appreciative of them stepping up and doing this. I am sure that, from a small catalogue standpoint, there probably isn’t a big potential financial gain in this for them. It’s probably just a service provided and it’s amazing that they did this for us.”

While heavy rain in the area might keep foot traffic down at the sales barns, Gonzalez said he is still seeing plenty of interest in his January offerings.

“For the last couple of weeks, we’ve had quite a few people from out of state calling and asking about our mares and asking for photos and videos of our babies walking. So, I feel like we have quite a bit of interest on the horses that we have. It seems like some of the horses in our consignment stand out in the catalogue. I think we’re going to have plenty of action, although it might just be in people bidding over the phone, because I don’t know how many people will show up with the weather the way it is.”

In addition to short yearlings and broodmares, the catalogue features a large number of newly turned 2-year-olds. Selling an early 2-year-old worked for Gonzalez a year ago when he sold a sale-topping son of Quality Road for $120,000.

“We tried it last year because the [Barretts] 2-year-olds in training sale schedule was consolidated into one sale,” Gonzalez explained. “We felt like it would be a little tough pointing all our eggs to one date because sometimes they don’t all make it at the right time. So to cover ourselves, we put some in the January sale. And, it was funny, we sold our January horses for more than our 2-year-olds in training sale horses. I don’t know what the reason for that was, but I think you can kind of see from the entries at this sale this year that a lot more people are trying to pull off what we did last year.”

At its final January sale last year, Barretts sold 112 horses for a total of $1,226,400. The average was $10,950 and the median was $5,750.

Fasig-Tipton will host its first Santa Anita 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale June 5 and Gonzalez said he is optimistic about the transition.

“I’ve done a lot of business with Fasig-Tipton in the past, selling through them out in Kentucky and buying at their sales,” Gonzalez said. “I love working with them. Whatever it is they do, it has always been pretty smooth and seamless. I know there are going to be some growing pains, trying to pull off a new venue and new sales dates, but if anybody can do it, it’s Fasig.”

To view the complete CTBA January catalogue, visit

Under the Radar: Lookin at Lucky

Mon, 2019-01-14 13:35

In this new series we ask agents and others who book a lot of mares for their clients which sires might be flying slightly under the radar in this breeding season. Who might be getting overlooked in the rush for the new, hot thing? Read on.

John Greathouse, III

LOOKIN AT LUCKY, Ashford Stud, $20,000

I love Lookin At Lucky. Although I’m not really sure he should be under the radar any more after having the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic winner in Accelerate. Not too many stallions in Kentucky have sired, or will ever sire, a horse like that.

I think first and foremost, he’s able to produce a nice horse. Every time you look up, one of his progeny is running in a top race, and in the end that’s what we are all trying to produce. They typically age well and stay sound. If you bring a pretty one to the market, you’ll get rewarded.

People are starting to look at his results on the track and realizing he’s great value. If you’re trying to get a young mare off to a good start and produce a racehorse, I think he’s a great option. Stallions like Lookin At Lucky, Munnings, and Mineshaft, are all great for mares like this.

We have supported him over the years and will be sending two more this year. He’s extremely good value at $20,000.

Darby Dan Stallion Seasons Added to Jockeys and Jeans Fundraiser

Mon, 2019-01-14 13:17

Darby Dan Farm has donated seasons to Shackleford, Tale of Ekati, Bee Jersey and Sky Kingdom to the Jockeys and Jeans Stallion Season Sale, adding to an already packed list of stallion seasons on offer. Hosted by, the sale will be held Jan. 16-18 and 100% of all funds raised will go to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The PDJF is a 501 c 3 non-profit which makes monthly payments to over 60 former jockeys who suffered catastrophic, career ending injuries.

California Mares No Match for the Assiniboia Assassin

Sun, 2019-01-13 16:54

For much of her career, Escape Clause (Going Commando) has spent her time at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Manitoba, beating up on the outclassed rivals that dared to face her in small stakes on the Western Canadian circuit. Then, after her eighth straight win, one of which was in a two-horse field, trainer Don Schnell had a thought: why not see what she can do against stakes-quality mares in the U.S.?

Schnell sensed his mare had progressed so much last year that she was ready for a new challenge. He ought to know. He is her owner, trainer, groom, hotwalker, farrier and van driver.

“You’re right, you won’t see Bob Baffert driving the van when he ships a horse, but Bob Baffert has a lot more money than me,” Schnell said.

The first time Schnell tried her in a stakes race in Southern California, the betting public didn’t take her too seriously. They sent her off at 18-1 in the restricted Kathryn Crosby S. at Del Mar and she won via disqualification after crossing the wire second, a half-length behind Excellent Sunset (Ire) (Exceed And Excel {Aus}).

Schnell had his answer: Escape Clause belonged.

His mare next ran third, beaten a length, in the GIII Red Carpet H. and then fourth in the Dec. 29 GIII Robert J Frankel S. All three starts were on turf. After running in a stakes race, most trainers on the Southern California circuit would probably look to give their horses five or six weeks off. But that’s not how they do things at the places Schnell competes at–Assiniboia, Northlands Park and Century Downs. Cheaper horses need to run to have any chance of making a profit for their owners, and Schnell is not used to babying his stock. Escape Clause ran 13 times in 2018 and once ran three times in a span of 20 days.

As such, he had no reservations about running his mare back Saturday at Santa Anita on the dirt in the GIII La Canada S. on two weeks of rest, and his intuition was right. Not only was she ready–she ran the best race of her life, winning by 5 ½ lengths under Tyler Baze. The win raised her career record to 19-for-28.

“I never dreamed I’d ever run in a graded stakes race, let alone win one,” said the 66-year-old trainer, who splits his time between Assiniboia and Turf Paradise in the winter. “Every time she runs, she never lets us down. She just keeps getting better. I am really proud of her–she’s quite a star.”

At Assiniboia, she is such a star that, Schnell said, after her victory Sunday they lowered drinks to happy hour prices and offered chicken wings at half price for those who were there to watch the La Canada simulcast.

When you’ve been toiling at cheap tracks in Western Canada since the early seventies, you have no expectations that a horse like this will ever come your way. Before Escape Clause came around, Schnell’s claim to fame was that he was a two-time winner of the $100,000 Alberta Derby.

Schnell discovered Escape Clause at the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society’s 2015 Manitoba Yearling Sale and paid $3,500 (Canadian) for the Manitoba-bred.

“At the sale, she kind of looked out of place,” Schnell said. “She wasn’t a super good-looking, mature horse. She was–I wouldn’t say an ugly duckling–but she wasn’t filled out because she was young. When you look at those kind of horses as a trainer, you like to look ahead and imagine what they’re going to look like in a year or so. She looked like she was going to put on weight, muscle and mature. Of course, I had no idea she was going to be this good. She’s just special. She has extreme heart; she tries every time.”

Schnell won 50 races in 2018 and has plenty of help. He doesn’t need to be the jack-of-all-trades that he is with Escape Clause, but she’s so important to him that he won’t trust her care to anyone else.

“I do what I do with her because she is special,” he said. “She is a little bit different to handle. She won’t let anybody else put a bridle on her. I have to do that. She knows me and trusts me. Like a lot of good horses, she has quirks and I know her inside out, and she respects me. I would not feel comfortable having someone else do all those things.”

Schnell was speaking from the van while driving back to Turf Paradise. Turf Paradise to Santa Anita isn’t that bad a trip, but there’s also been the drive from Assiniboia to Del Mar. Schnell estimates that was about 2,000 miles. He better keep the van in tip-top condition. Schnell says there’s no longer any point running in the races in Canada and will stick to U.S. graded stakes. He wants to stay on the dirt for now, and Escape Clause has run some of her best races around one turn, so the Feb. 16 GII Santa Monica S. at seven furlongs could be an option.

At this point, Schnell isn’t afraid to run against anybody.

“Tyler said yesterday after the race that this filly will win a Grade I, that it was remarkable how much horse he had left,” Schnell said. “When he got the lead halfway down the lane, she stopped running, was just galloping and looking around. He said if he had to do it again, he would have waited and made his move later because once she blows by them she almost thinks the race is over and just gallops along.”

Maybe Escape Clause has reached the limits of what she can accomplish, maybe she hasn’t. Just take her lightly at your own risk.


The Week in Review: Retooled Version of Integrity Act in Works for 2019

Sun, 2019-01-13 16:09

When the 115th United States Congress ended Jan. 3, the federal bill that would have established an authority to create and implement a national uniform medication program for the sport expired along with the legislative session.

The Horseracing Integrity Act of 2017 never advanced past the Congressional subcommittee level. But at least that was a step further than the similar Thoroughbred Horseracing Integrity Act of 2015 ever made it.

In the end–like 21,806 other pieces of legislation that were introduced but never came up for a vote in the last two Congressional sessions–both racing bills met the same fate: legislative death.

With Capitol Hill even more gridlocked and partisan than usual considering the ongoing partial governmental shutdown, you’d think that Thoroughbred reform legislation would be a low priority right now.

However, staffers from the offices of the co-sponsors of the previous versions of the two racing bills–Congressman Andy Barr (R-KY) and Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY)–confirmed to TDN last week that a retooled 2019 bill is in the works and likely to be introduced early this year.

When queried as to what might be different in the 2019 version of the integrity act or what the legislators learned from previous go-rounds to improve the bill’s chances of passage, both Congressional camps were light on details other than to say they are currently working through the text, deciding who will be the primary sponsor of the bill, and figuring out the best time to launch it.

“As the representative of the horse capital of the world, this legislation has been and will continue to be a priority for me,” Barr said in an emailed statement. “I continue to believe the future prosperity of Kentucky’s signature horse racing industry depends on national uniform medication standards and testing procedures. My colleague, Congressman Paul Tonko, and I plan to re-introduce this legislation early in the 116th Congress with the objective of holding another hearing and mark-up in the committee of jurisdiction. Last Congress, we secured over 100 cosponsors and I look forward to continue to build upon this bipartisan work to ensure the safety and integrity of this great American sport.”

Action louder than words in Arizona?

“Integrity” has been a big buzz word in the sport for the last decade or so. But how often do you see a regulator taking a strong stand in the name of safety the way the vice chairman of the Arizona Racing Commission did last Thursday when he abruptly stormed out of a meeting just as the vote came up for the three-year license renewal for Turf Paradise?

According to a story first reported by, commissioner Rory Goree toured the backstretch of the Phoenix track earlier this month after a fire burned through two tack rooms. At the Jan. 10 meeting, he said he was appalled at finding “glaring safety problems” that included missing, outdated, and non-functional fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. He added that Turf Paradise has a history of safety issues, and that there’s a lack of accountability in resolving them.

“If we’re not as a collective group giving a s**t about security, how are we giving a s**t about racing?” Goree asked his fellow commissioners, punctuating his impassioned points with profanity. “We have people’s lives–and horses’ lives–at risk.”

Despite Goree’s concerns, state racing division director Rudy Casillas later urged commissioners to grant the three-year license renewal for the track. Commissioner Tom Lawless moved for approval. According to AZCentral, Goree then stunned his colleagues by standing to announce, “At this time, I am leaving, and there will be no quorum” before marching out of the room.

Jerry Simms, the majority owner of Turf Paradise, denied the commissioner’s assertion that the track has chronic problems with safety. “Safety is the most important thing to us,” he told AZCentral.

According to the article, the Arizona commission is supposed to consist of five members, but has been operating with just three because of unfilled vacancies that were caused by resignations, one of which dates back over a year.

AZCentral also reported that alleged fraternization among the track’s owner, commissioner Lawless, and commission chairman Jay McClintock has contributed to perceptions of insider dealings. The story said, “Critics contend Jerry Simms has undue influence with the Racing Commission through personal friendships with Lawless and McClintock, who regularly socialize with the Turf Paradise boss.”

Reached outside after leaving the meeting, Goree told AZCentral that, “I just couldn’t let a vote go forward without [safety] assurances….There have been times I’ve been ready to quit. I just feel there are things going on behind the scenes–directions coming from somewhere.”

Heating Up in Hot Springs

With light rain, fog, and chilly temperatures that barely cracked 40F degrees in Hot Springs over the weekend, Oaklawn Park already looks like it made a winning move by pushing back its traditional opening date two weeks to Jan. 25.

On the back end, the boutique meet at Oaklawn will extend through May 4 for the first time this season, running a full three weeks beyond the track’s traditional mid-April closing date. Over the past decade, Oaklawn has lost 14 January race dates to weather cancellations, and it was a no-brainer last spring when the track announced that its 2019 schedule switch would essentially trade January dates for far better weather forecasts in April and May, when Hot Springs is blooming in a riot of spring color.

It will be interesting to see how the schedule switch affects the national balance of power, especially with respect to what the new overlap will mean for horse populations at Keeneland and Churchill Downs.

The impact will probably be minimal in 2019. But keep in mind that Oaklawn announced this schedule switch more than six months before Arkansas voters in November approved both full casino gaming and sports betting at the Hot Springs track. As those additional forms of gaming come online (and presumably bolster purses even further), speculation will naturally turn to whether or not Oaklawn wants to continue slicing early winter race dates in favor of expanding its footprint deeper into the better weather of the spring.

For years Oaklawn management has held firm in not adding a turf course, the cost of which couldn’t be justified under a January-to-April racing schedule. But Hot Springs “greens up” significantly by mid March, and what if the racing season started even later and got extended deeper into the spring? As it stands right now, Oaklawn is the highest-profile track in the country without a turf course. Might that change in the future?

And what about 2-year-old racing? Would top outfits be incentivized to stick around a little later at Oaklawn for a longer spring meet if a few juvenile races popped up in the April/May condition book? (MSW races for older horses in 2019 will be carded for $77,000, escalating up to $87,000 on the track’s three premier race days).

In the meantime, as the track readies for its 2019 opening, it seems as if every week the Oaklawn press office is announcing new faces that will be “following the money” to Hot Springs for the upcoming meet. Trainer Nick Zito will have a division at Oaklawn for the first time this winter/spring. And just last week, jockeys Joe Bravo and Stewart Elliott declared they’ll be based at Oaklawn.

“You put up the money and everybody shows up, right?” Bravo said in advance of riding his first full meet in Arkansas. “Looks like you guys [Oaklawn] are putting it up pretty juicy this year.”

Elliott rocketed to stardom at Oaklawn in 2004 by sweeping Oaklawn’s Triple Crown prep race series about eventual dual-Classic winner Smarty Jones. He last rode regularly at Oaklawn in 2007.

“It’s always been a fun meet, a good meet,” Elliott said. “The people are so into it and everything. Like the first night I pulled in here, I went into the restaurant and the lady, I guess with my size, she figured I was a jockey. People are just so into the racing. It’s kind of like a different place, really.”


Under the Radar: Munnings

Sun, 2019-01-13 15:21

In this new series we ask agents and others who book a lot of mares for their clients which sires might be flying slightly under the radar in this breeding season. Who might be getting overlooked in the rush for the new, hot thing? Read on.

Phil Hager
MUNNINGS, Ashford Stud, $20,000

My business is pretty diversified between racing clients and commercial clients, and I love stallions that can accomplish a lot of goals without breaking the bank. In my opinion, Munnings is a horse that you can use in a lot of different situations, whether you are breeding to him or buying one at the sales.

He gets a large amount of black-type winners to starters, and they generally have some precocity and speed. From a breeding perspective, I love trying to start mares off with a horse that can get them a runner early, and I believe that Munnings is that type of stallion. A good Munnings will also sell well at auction, as evidenced by his yearling auction results this past year.

When purchasing horses to race, you are always trying to increase your odds of getting a good horse. Munnings has proven that not only does he get good horses at a high rate, but that he’s shown some versatility in getting dirt/turf, sprinters/routers, and fillies/colts.

Not to be too biased, but I would like to give an honorable mention to Get Stormy ($6,500) who is a horse I have worked really closely with at Crestwood. He was the co-second third crop sire in 2018 by both cumulative graded stakes winners (4) and year-to-date graded stakes winners (3). He has done it all the hard way and trainers, owners, breeders and agents are beginning to notice.


Proven Strategies: No Horsing Around with Independent Contractors

Sun, 2019-01-13 14:42

“Proven Strategies” is a new regular series in the TDN, presented by Keeneland. It is written by Len Green of The Green Group and DJ Stables, who won the 2018 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with Jaywalk (Cross Traffic).

by Len Green, John Wollenberg & Agnieszka Kagan

It is not uncommon for pinhookers or trainers to employ seasonal workers at sales or around the racetrack. Some of these employees may be considered as independent contractors.

The perception that employers are attempting to circumvent paying payroll taxes by classifying workers as independent contractors has caused the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to step up its efforts in analyzing this controversial topic more closely.

This article provides an overview of the factors examined by the IRS and offers insight into how to better secure independent contractor status.

The Advantages of Employing an Independent Contractor

Traditionally, many employers have classified workers as self-employed or as independent contractors. There are various benefits to this classification:

1) By positioning themselves as “self-employed” or independent contractors, no payroll or income taxes need to be withheld from paychecks.

2) Independent contractors do not have to be covered under pension plans and employers save on insurance and workmen’s compensation costs.

The IRS Perspective

To help determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, the IRS has developed a 20-factor control test based on common law principles. The 20-factor test is an analytical tool only, there is no “magic number” of relevant points. The factors are merely points for consideration in evaluating the extent to which the employer can “direct and control” the worker.

Below are some of the more relevant factors to consider when evaluating whether an individual is an employee or self-employed/independent contractor.

Employee Factors

Instructions: A worker who is required to comply with another’s set of instructions is ordinarily considered an employee.

Training: Formal or informal training at an employer’s expense is indicative of an employer relationship.

Integration: Integrating the worker’s services into the business operations generally shows that the worker is subject to control.

Services rendered personally: If the services have to be personally rendered, the employer probably controls the means as well as the results.

Hiring, supervising and paying assistants: Unless workers hire, supervise and pay their own assistants, if any, they are likely an employee.

Continuing relationship: The longer the liaison, the more likely an employee.

Full-time required: A full-time position is indicative of an employer-employee relationship, whereas independent workers choose their own hours.

Oral or written reports: Regular accountability of progress is usually a sign of control.

Payment of expenses: Reimbursement tends to support an employer-employee relationship.

Self-Employed or Independent Contractor Factors

Hours of work: Independent contractors control their own time.

Order of sequence set: Only a nonemployee is free to determine his/her own approach, pattern, priority and schedule.

Multiple assignments: Workers who perform more than one job at a time for multiple different businesses are likely an independent contractor. Exercise riders at tracks tend to fall into this category especially if they rotate among barns or farms. Payment by hour, week or month: Independent contractors are typically paid by the job, not in regular pattern.

Tools and materials: Independent contractors provide their own tools and materials.

Economic loss: A worker who is subject to the risk of economic loss due to a liability for expenses is an independent contractor.

Right to discharge: An independent contractor generally cannot be fired if the contractual specifications are met.

Right to terminate: Employees have the right to terminate their job without incurring liability.

Safeguards to Withstand IRS Scrutiny

Since an IRS audit can result in an assessment of penalties and interest, in addition to the employer/employee payroll taxes that will be due, it becomes incumbent to take measures to preserve the intended working relationship.

Suggestions from The Green Group

1) Apply for an advanced ruling, Form SS-8, entitled “Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding.” The advantage to this filing is to get clarity as to whether a worker is an employee. The form focuses on behavioral control, financial control and relationship of the worker.

2) Enter into a written consulting agreement with language coordinated to the 20-factor control test. The contract should specify the nature of the work to be performed, discuss the terms and conditions and state the responsibilities of the independent contractor.

3) Utilize practices that are consistent with recognized practices in the horse industry, specifically with farm owners, pinhookers and trainers.

State Interpretations

Please check as to your state’s specific regulations. Since some states apply their own standards, often stricter than the IRS rules in terms of reclassifying independent contractors into employees. Some use a three-prong “ABC” test with the employer having the burden to prove that the relationship is that of an independent contractor, rather than as an employee. In other states, an independent contractor is someone you hire to work on a task unrelated to the field of business you are associated in and whose work you have no control over. While still other states use a “level of control” test.

Department of Labor Audits (DOL)

As if a trainer’s life isn’t difficult enough, the DOL has started extensive audits at racetracks to make sure workers are being properly paid for their hours. Since many trainers do not traditionally use “time clocks” to keep track of hours worked, this becomes an expensive issue.

Our team has had success in this area.


You must analyze whether a potential employer-employee relationship exists with people who work for you.

Penalties can be imposed for failure to withhold income and employment taxes, and qualified retirement plans could be jeopardized if employees who should be covered are not due to misclassification as independent contractors.

Bottom Line

You should have an accountant who is familiar with the Thoroughbred Industry review your practices. You might need to change your procedures to satisfy the complicated IRS rules. If the IRS challenges you and wins, you may be subject to interest and penalties.

If you have any specific questions, please call us for a free one-hour consultation.

The Green Group

Phone: (732) 634-5100


Under the Radar: Super Saver

Sat, 2019-01-12 16:57

In this new series we ask agents and others who book a lot of mares for their clients which sires might be flying slightly under the radar in this breeding season. Who might be getting overlooked in the rush for the new, hot thing? Read on.

Craig Bandoroff

SUPER SAVER, WinStar, $30,000

Super Saver is still a horse I feel can make a big comeback and impact. He had three legitimate Grade I stakes winners in his first crop. His $30,000 fee is half of what he was in 2017. Super Saver had 24 2-year-old winners in 2018 and a $117,000 yearling average. These 2-year-olds hitting the racetrack were from his $50,000 crop and the yearlings going to sales in 2019 were his best-bred crop at $65,000. He has gone through his lull with his third and fourth crops on the racetrack that many stallions now have to overcome and he is primed for a major up-tick with these 3-year-olds and a strong group of 2-year-olds hitting the track this summer. Plus, he has the numbers to keep going with 154, 154 and 127 mares bred the past three seasons. I think where a stallion stands is important and WinStar has delivered time and time again.

Letter to the Editor: Fierro on Clarke

Sat, 2019-01-12 16:09

My cohorts Jay Kilgore, Frank Mitchell and I had the distinct pleasure and honor of being introduced to Harvey Clarke by his major domo Steve Shahinian several years ago and we were among the lucky to have been in his orbit. He had an unerring dedication to quality and a calming attitude which belied his prominence in the “real world,” which is New York City real estate–a field which can turn a person into something other than a prince. Harvey, however, was a prince.

Early on when we ran across each other at a sale he noted my Yankees cap and raised an eyebrow and made a charmingly crass remark about my loyalties, explaining that he was, of course, a Mets fan. I informed him on the spot that I attended the opening day of the Mets when they moved into Shea Stadium in the 1960s and got the last seat in the stadium in the top row in right field, (his eyebrows disappeared below his cap) and that I’d attended many a Mets game, which was convenient since I was a fan and a resident of Queens—and rubbed it in when he told me he lived in New Jersey. I told him the Mets were second in my heart–he was not amused, but he had an inscrutable smirk on his face. This was a man we will all miss for his charm, insight, humor, and ability to make so many good choices. Rest, my friend.

–Bob Fierro


Laurel Jocks Escape Serious Injury in Spill

Sat, 2019-01-12 15:55

Jockeys Horacio Karamanos, Trevor McCarthy and Jomar Torres escaped serious injury following a three-horse spill in the sixth race, a $35,000 maiden claiming event for 3-year-old fillies, at Laurel Park Friday. The riders, who were taken to the hospital for evaluation, were released later that night. Karamanos, who was back at Laurel Saturday morning, finished second aboard Devine Mischief (Into Mischief) in the What a Summer S. later in the afternoon.
“He’s doing OK,” agent Frank Douglas said. “He came out this morning and worked a couple horses and he’s riding this afternoon. He just went to the hospital to get checked out and make sure that he’s OK. He got released last night about 8 o’clock.”
Coming off Laurel’s fall meet championship, McCarthy is taking off all mounts this weekend and hopes to return to action next week, according to agent Scott Silver said. Maryland’s leading rider in 2014 and 2016, McCarthy had been named to ride in a trio of stakes on Saturday’s card.
“He’s sore and banged up a little bit; luckily nothing major that we know about at the moment,” said Silver. “He’s off for the weekend and we’ll see how we are for next week. We’re going to try to be back next week but we’ll see how he’s feeling.”
He added, “He got lucky in the sense that he didn’t get trampled and he didn’t get run over by his own horse. It was a miracle that he didn’t get badly hurt. I only watched it the one time, but from what everyone’s telling me, it’s amazing he escaped the way he did. We certainly didn’t want to miss today by any means, but if we’ve got to miss a week or two, I’ll take it.”
Torres was replaced on his two mounts Sunday. He is named in one races Sunday at Laurel and one race Wednesday, Jan. 16 at Charles Town.
“He’s sore …but he’s OK,” said agent Tom Stift. “Everything cleared at the hospital last night. I was at Delaware and as soon as I saw it I packed a bag and started heading towards Baltimore. It’s amazing. He’s going to take off and hopefully, start back riding next week.”
The spill occurred on the far turn when stalker Tuffy’s Way (Jump Start) stumbled and fell, sending McCarthy to the ground near the rail. Lucky Dilly (Honorable Dillon), who was right behind, tripped over the fallen horse, unseating Karamanos, while Torres was trailing the field on Kimberly B. (Tritap), who collided with Tuffy’s Way. Both Tuffy’s Way and Kimberly B. were euthanized.