Demand for Keeneland Breeders’ Cup tickets endures despite glitches

The demand to be part of the first ever Breeders’ Cup World Championships held at Keeneland was tested on Wednesday as public sales for this year’s two-day event went on sale at noon E.T.

Since sales opened at midday, approximately 25,000 tickets were sold through 5,500 unique transactions, according to a statement from Breeders’ Cup spokesman Jim Gluckson. The statement added that while most of the reserved seating available for both October 30 and 31 sold out within hours, there remains some inventory including General Admission for both days, and limited availability in the trackside Bourbon Lounge located at the top of the stretch featuring expansive views of the racetrack.

Total ticketing for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup is projected at 77,000 for the two days. Tickets for The Hill and The Meadow are per car, and allow access of all occupants of the car, so the estimated attendance is 42,000-45,000 each day.  After Wednesday’s public sales, Breeders’ Cup said it has sold 60,000 of those tickets, and have approximately 17,000 available.

 Seats in both the Entertainment Center and Keene Barn, which do not offer access to the track, are also still available.

“We are extremely pleased with the incredibly high demand for tickets to the 2015 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Keeneland,” Gluckson said in the statement.

The ticketing process was not without glitches. As many across the country logged on at noon to begin the purchasing process, the Breeders’ Cup website became overloaded causing many to get an error message.

Though some fans reported on social media they were able to get through and purchase tickets with no issue, several more lamented being kicked out of the ticketing queue multiple times causing them to have to start the process all over. Others encountered lengthy estimated wait times while in the ticketing queue with the wait time often increasing, not decreasing, the longer they remained in the queue.

” We greatly appreciate fans being patient with our ticketing system while we processed the unprecedented volume of inquiries during the first hour of ticket sales and sincerely apologize for any inconvenience,” Gluckson said.

Fans can visit or call 1-877-TIX-4CUP (call center hours are M-F, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. ET) to purchase tickets.


Horton on Take Charge Brandi’s Rebel hopes: ‘I want to find out how good she is’

Edited release:

Take Charge Brandi wasn’t entered Wednesday morning for Saturday’s Grade III, $150,000 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn, paving the way for the champion 2-year-old filly to meet males in the Grade II, $750,000 Rebel Stakes  March 14.


Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas had said last week that Take Charge Brandi would be entered in the Honeybee, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies. But, it became apparent Monday morning that Take Charge Brandi wouldn’t be entered in the Honeybee and instead point for the 1 1/16-mile Rebel where she is slated to face reigning juvenile male champion, American Pharoah.


About four hours after Take Charge Brandi worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 Monday morning, Horton said it had been “pretty much” decided that the filly would run in the Rebel and Lukas was shopping for a rider. Horton’s preference throughout the process was to run in the Rebel. Jon Court rode the filly in the Martha Washington.


“I really want to find out how good she is,” Horton said. “If she can beat the boys, I think her better chance of doing that is early than later in the year, because the boys will start really gaining. I’m just wanting to take a chance on beating the boys. I’m just trying to build her resume up.”


Lukas called Monday’s work, the third for Take Charge Brandi since winning the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31, a “maintenance” move.


Lukas has maintained since December that Take Charge Brandi is being pointed for the Kentucky Oaks, not the Kentucky Derby. Take Charge Brandi, who has never faced males, has won 5 of 9 career starts and earned $1,680,126. She has won four consecutive races.


The presence of Take Charge Brandi and American Pharoah further enhances a blockbuster March 14 program.


The Grade II, $300,000 Azeri Stakes for older fillies and mares is expected to attract 2014 champion 3-year-old filly Untapable. Multiple stakes winner Tapiture is also expected to make his 4-year-old debut in the Grade III, $250,000 Razorback Handicap for older horses. Tapiture hasn’t started since finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Oct. 31 at Santa Anita.

Stud farms pledge to support Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance

Edited release:

Twenty commercial breeding farms from across the country have signed on to support the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) by donating a portion of their stud fees to support Thoroughbred aftercare in 2015.


They are: Adena Springs, Airdrie Stud, Castleton Lyons, Claiborne, Darby Dan, Darley America, Gainesway Farm, Hill ‘n’ Dale, Lane’s End, Millennium Farms, Ocala Stud, Pin Oak Stud, Ramsey Farm, Sequel Stallions, Shadwell Farm, Taylor Made Stallions, Three Chimneys Farm, Unusual Heat Syndicate, Walmac Farm and WinStar.


Participating farms agreed to donate 25 percent or more of the advertised stud fee for each stallion on their roster.


“Caring for our horses following the end of their racing careers should be a priority to all participants in the Thoroughbred industry,” said Antony Beck of Gainesway Farm. “The TAA helps to join everyone together in this endeavor to support a common cause.”


As the TAA continues to gain prominence and support, more farms and individual stallion syndicates are expected to participate.


“As the president of the TAA, I want to thank my colleagues for showing their support for and commitment to aftercare through these stallion pledges,” said Jimmy Bell, president of both Darley America and the TAA. “While still in our early days, these stud farms have been instrumental in establishing a financial vehicle to further the TAA’s mission.”


“The TAA wouldn’t be where we are without them,” added Jack Wolf, president of Starlight Stables and founder of the TAA.


If you would like to support the TAA with your farm and/or a stallion please contact Ashton Moynihan at (859) 224- 2772 or to obtain additional information.

Ocean Knight to bypass Gotham, run in Tampa Bay Derby

Sam F. Davis Stakes winner Ocean Knight is going to skip Saturday’s Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct and remain in Florida to run in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby on the same day, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Tuesday morning.

Owned by Stonestreet Stables, Ocean Knight was originally being pointed to the 1 1/16-miles Tampa Bay Derby after his victory in the Grade III Sam F. Davis on January 31. That plan was initially altered due to the fact that Grade I winner Carpe Diem, who is partially owned by Stonestreet, is also slated to run in the Tampa Bay Derby. However, McLaughlin said Tuesday that after talking with Stonestreet owner Barbara Banke, they have decided to go back to plan ‘A’ with Ocean Knight.

“She called this morning and we talked between her team and she said after talking about, it she preferred to stay in Florida and run in Tampa,” McLaughlin said. “We’re happy. We were happy to go to New York, we were happy to run in either place. But Tampa is a little different track and he did win there. And it’s a little easier going on a 3 1/2 hour van ride than to New York. So Barbara made the decision.”

McLaughlin added that he was under the impression that Carpe Diem, who is trained by Todd Pletcher, was still slated for the Tampa Bay Derby as well. Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm which co-owns Carpe Diem in partnership with Stonestreet, confirmed via text message on Tuesday that Carpe Diem was indeed still on course for that start.

The Tampa Bay Derby will mark the third career start for Ocean Knight. The bay son of Curlin broke his maiden at first asking going six furlong at Aqueduct on December 13 and overcame a wide trip to win the 1 1/16-miles Sam F. Davis Stakes by a neck on January 31.

“He did like the track (at Tampa) and he won there so we are happy to go back there,” McLaughlin said. “The competition is going to be a little stiffer with Carpe Diem and one or two others. So there are a few nice horses in there, it’s going to be a tougher race. But it is nice to go back to a track we know we handle well.”

Take Charge Brandi to work Monday; decision on Rebel still pending

Edited release:

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he hopes to breeze champion Take Charge Brandi Monday morning at Oaklawn in preparation for her next start, possibly against males in the Grade II, $750,000 Rebel Stakes March 14.


“At this point,” Lukas said late Sunday morning, he still plans to enter Take Charge Brandi in Saturday’s Grade III, $150,000 Honeybee Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, a move that will allow he and owner Willis Horton more time to analyze the prospective Rebel field. Post positions for the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee will be drawn Wednesday morning. Horton has said his preference is to test his Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly against males in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel.


Take Charge Brandi galloped Thursday morning, but the track was closed for training Friday and Saturday. Lukas had mentioned working Take Charge Brandi this weekend, but decided not take any of his horses to the track Sunday morning when Oaklawn reopened for training. The surface was rated muddy Sunday by clockers.


“We’ll work tomorrow if the track’s good,” Lukas said. “If it isn’t, then we won’t work at all.”


Despite not going to the track the last three days, Lukas said the interruption won’t impact Take Charge Brandi’s next start, whether it’s the Honeybee or Rebel.


“You’re always concerned about setbacks this time of the year, but a day or two doesn’t make any difference,” Lukas said. “But you’d like to run on the day you train for.”


Take Charge Brandi won the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 in her 3-year-old debut.


Horton mulling start in Rebel for champion filly Take Charge Brandi

Owner Willis Horton confirmed Wednesday afternoon he is mulling starting his champion filly Take Charge Brandi against males in the Grade II, $750,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park March 14.


Horton told Oaklawn Park’s publicity staff that Take Charge Brandi, the reigning champion 2-year-old filly, is “50-50″ to stay against her own sex and run in the Grade III Honeybee Stakes on March 7 but that he personally was leaning toward an outing in the Rebel.


The 1 1/16-miles Rebel Stakes is expected to mark the seasonal debut for Zayat Stables’  American Pharoah, the champion 2-year-old male of 2014. The Rebel would be Take Charge Brandi’s first race against males.


“I guess we’re going to have to look at it and see,” Horton told Oaklawn Park. “I haven’t completely made up my mind yet, but I would like to run in the Rebel. That’s exactly where I’d like to.”


Horton said he will confer with the filly’s Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, before a decision is made, which the owner believes will come by the middle of next week. Post positions for the 1 1/16-mile Honeybee will be drawn March 4.


Lukas also trains Mr. Z who,  like American Pharoah, is owned by Zayat Stables. Mr. Z finished third in the Grade III Southwest Stakes this past Sunday. While Lukas  indicated he wanted to run the colt back in the Rebel, owner Ahmed Zayat and his son Justin Zayat announced on Twitter this week that Mr. Z would instead be pointed to a start in the Grade II Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 28 in order to keep him and American Pharoah apart.


Take Charge Brandi, in her 3-year-old debut, won the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Jan. 31 by a head. The daughter of Giant’s Causeway earned divisional honors after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the Grade III Delta Princess, and the Grade I Starlet Stakes to close out her nine-race campaign in 2014.


Take Charge Brandi is out of the mare Charming, who is a half sister to champion Will Take Charge. Will Take Charge was conditioned by Lukas and campaigned by Horton throughout his career before retiring to stud at Three Chimneys Farm for the 2015 season.


China Horse Club buys into Grade I winner Daredevil

Edited release:

China Horse Club has acquired a minority interest in Grade I winner Daredevil, who is set to make his 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park.


A son of More Than Ready, Daredevil captured the Grade I Champagne Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths at Belmont last October before finishing last in a field of 11 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The chestnut colt is trained by Todd Pletcher and owned by Let’s Go Racing and WinStar Farm.


“Let’s Go Racing and WinStar are thrilled to have such an exciting new partner as China Horse Club, who recently approached us with an interest in buying into Daredevil,” said Let’s Go Racing’s Bryan Sullivan. “China Horse Club’s racing accomplishments at the highest level around the globe are nothing short of impressive.”


China Horse Club is an emerging international Thoroughbred racing club that has bought into such recent world-class horses as three-time Group I winner Australia, last year’s winner of the Epsom and Irish Derbies, and Parranda, last Sunday’s winner of the $3.05 million Singapore Cup.


China Horse Club has also bought into Australian star Dissident, who captured his fourth Group I win earlier this month in the CF Orr Stakes Feb. 14 at Caulfield. Dissident, who’s retiring to stud this spring at Newgate Farm, is by More Than Ready’s son Sebring, a rising young sire in Australia.


“China Horse Club has already enjoyed tremendous success with a top colt from the More Than Ready sire line with Australian superstar Dissident,” said WinStar Farm president Elliott Walden. “So it’s a great fit to have such a top international outfit associated with an exciting young Grade 1 winner in Daredevil, who possesses such a great international pedigree.”


Daredevil earned $345,000 last year as a 2-year-old. Prior to his Champagne effort, he scored an impressive 6 ¼-length debut win at Belmont. The colt hails from the multiple Grade I-producing Forty Niner mare Chasethewildwind, who is also the dam of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Grade I Donn Handicap winner Albertus Maximus.

Champion Main Sequence gets his season started in Mac Diarmida

Winning four straight Grade I races in the same calendar year is a feat even some brilliant champions don’t have on their resume. Not Curlin, not Wise Dan.  Even reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome had his collection of top-level triumphs in 2014 interrupted by a few defeats in between.

When put in such context, what Main Sequence achieved last season deserves all the reverence his two Eclipse Awards can quantify. Four times the chestnut gelding raced in 2014, all in Grade I company. And every time he came away victorious and in better form than he began.

In the aftermath of Main Sequence’s Breeders’ Cup Turf triumph last November, trainer Graham Motion declared that the world was his oyster at the moment. What Motion hopes will be the jump off point for another exceptional bout of momentum kicks off this Saturday as champion Main Sequence makes his seasonal bow against seven others in the Grade II, $200,000 Mac Diarmida Stakes going 1 3/8ths miles over the Gulfstream Park turf.

This January, Main Sequence joined John Henry (1981), Gio Ponti (2009), and Wise Dan (2012-13) as the only horses to sweep the Eclipse Awards for both champion older male and champion turf male. Ironically, it was announced Thursday that due to “a growing consensus among…the three voting organizations to more clearly define the older horse categories” that the voting for the newly-christened Older Dirt Male and Older Dirt Female categories would now be limited to performances on dirt and main track surfaces in North American races.

No matter the surface one was examining in 2014, no older male was as dominant as Main Sequence. After  winning the Grade I United Nations Stakes last July in his first start after coming over from England, the Flaxman Holdings’ homebred ripped off subsequent victories in the Grade I Sword Dancer Invitational and Grade I Joe Hirsch Classic before capping off his championship year with a half-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

“It was very rewarding and very gratifying. I could never imagine that when the horse came to me at this time last year that we would have had that kind of a year ahead of us,” Motion said. “The horse has done everything we’ve asked. Every time I’ve worked him, every time I’ve run him he always seems to improve to me. He just continues to impress me.

“You just like to see the horse get the recognition for what he accomplished. I’m  not sure people appreciate it is how hard it is to win four Grade Is in a row without a blemish on your record.”

Previously trained in England by David Lanigan, Main Sequence was sent to Motion’s barn late in 2013 in an attempt to break the son of Aldebaran out of a 10-race losing skid, but he ended up getting pneumonia while in quarantine and spent a month in a New York clinic.

Once recovered, Main Sequence remarkably was able to unearth the best form of his life under Motion’s keen handling.

His Breeders’ Cup outing was the only race he truly got away from the gate in good order. And anyone wanting to tag him a distance-loving plodder need only watch the closing kick Main Sequence delivered in the Joe Hirsch after rating fifth behind an opening half mile in 50.89.

“I like to think there is a lot of upside to him,” Motion said. “He just kind of was figuring out the gate issue at the end of the year and I think that’s what made such a big difference in the Breeders’ Cup.”

In addition to having the class edge in the Mac Diarmida, Main Sequence will be reunited with his regular jockey Rajiv Maragh. Maragh had to miss the Breeders’ Cup due to a broken arm, watching as Hall of Famer John Velazquez guided his quirky mount to his defining win.

“Rajiv did such a great job with this horse and he is a big part of what made this horse so good,” Motion said. “I’ve always told him it was his mount. And certainly Johnny understands that.”

Beyond the Mac Diarmida, Motion plans to send Main Sequence to Dubai for the start in the $5 million Sheema Classic on March 28. From there, it will be all about trying to better the remarkable tear he went on a season ago.

“The Mac Diarmida is five weeks before the Sheema Classic so the timing is perfect really,” Motion said. “I think then he could still come back and have the same campaign as he had last year in a race like the United Nations.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Eclipse Awards categories renamed Older Dirt Male, Older Dirt Female

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters and Daily Racing Form announced Thursday rules modifications and name changes in two Eclipse Awards categories. The Older Male category has been renamed Older Dirt Male and the Older Female category has been renamed Older Dirt Female.


Beginning with voting on the 2015 Eclipse Awards at the end of this year, criteria for the Older Dirt Male category, for horses 4-years old and older, will be limited to performances on dirt and main track surfaces in North American races, and the criteria for the Older Dirt Female category, for fillies and mares 4-years old and older, will also be limited to performances on dirt and main track surfaces.


Races conducted on synthetic surfaces during the year will be considered as main track races in both Older Dirt Male  and Older Dirt Female categories.


In previous years, older male turf horses were eligible to win both the Champion Turf Horse honor and Champion Older Horse, and older female turf horses were eligible to win Champion Female Turf Horse and the Older Female Eclipse Awards.


The groundswell to make a change to that has peaked in recent years as Gio Ponti (2009), Wise Dan (2012 and 2013) and Main Sequence (2014) all swept the champion turf male and older males categories. Main Sequence and Wise Dan – who combined for seven Grade I wins between them in 2014 – were two of the three finalists for champion older male this year with Palace Malice rounding out the trio.


Since the Eclipse Awards were established in 1971, no female has swept both champion older female and champion turf female.



“There has been a growing consensus among members of the three voting organizations to more clearly define the older horse categories in determining male and female champions on dirt and turf,” said Keith Chamblin, Senior Vice President of the NTRA and a member of the Eclipse Awards steering committee. “Older male and female turf horses will continue to compete for the turf championships in their gender divisions, while the older male and female dirt horses will compete strictly against horses on the dirt or main track surfaces in their respective divisions. All are eligible for the Horse of the Year category. ”


Hall of Famer John Henry was the first horse to sweep both champion older male and champion turf male when he achieved the feat in 1981.


The Eclipse Awards honor excellence in Thoroughbred racing in 17 human and equine categories. The NTRA, the NTWAB and DRF comprise the three voting organizations of the Eclipse Awards.


The 17 equine and human categories for 2015 are as follows:  2-year-old Male, 2-year-old Filly, 3-year-old Male, 3-year-old Filly, Older Dirt Male, Older Dirt Female, Male Sprinter, Female Sprinter, Male Turf Horse, Female Turf Horse, Steeplechase Horse, Horse of the Year; Owner, Breeder, Trainer, Apprentice Jockey and Jockey.

Jones hoping Bluff becomes his latest barn standout

The Mardi Gras celebration was taking place all around trainer Larry Jones’s Fair Grounds base this week. But while the annual festival still sets the bar in terms of debauchery, it is the Jones shedrow that reigns of late as one of the pinnacle spots of merriment within The Big Easy.

Each time the Hopkinsville native checks on the 37 horses currently is his care, Jones is reminded how good he has it – specifically of the 63 percent win percentage he boasts in stakes races thus far in 2015 and the 34 percent overall win percentage that is tops among any trainer in the top 20 nationally.

“It’s pretty fun to go to work in the morning,” Jones said this Tuesday.  “When I look at my list in the morning, I think I have one maiden and everybody else is a stakes horse when I go to ride in the morning.”

An additional boost to any trainer’s mood this time of year is having a Kentucky Derby contender in the barn. Already bursting  with depth and quality, Jones is looking to add that to his stockpile when he saddles Fox Hill Farms’ Bluff in Saturday’s Grade II, $400,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.

The winner of the 1 1/16-miles Risen Star will be awarded 50 points towards Kentucky Derby eligibility as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

A son of leading sire Tapit, Bluff earned his shot to try stakes company for the first time off his impressive 5 3/4-length victory in a maiden race going one mile and 70 yards at Fair Grounds January 22. That outing was the third career start for the leggy chestnut colt, but the first time he got  both a good trip and his mind fully into the game, according to Jones.

Sent off as the favorite in his career debut on December 11, Bluff had to race up closer than Jones wanted after traveling wide on the first turn and ended up a well-beaten fifth behind fellow Risen Star entrant Tiznow R J.

His next start on January 1 was another hair-puller as Bluff got carried seven wide around the first turn – “about  to the parking lot,” Jones cracked – and never got his momentum going as he came home eighth.

“He’s always shown us a lot of talent, he was just a very immature horse so we’re pretty much been having to drag our feet with him and let him grow up and fill up that brain that he’s got,” Jones said. “His first couple races, we weren’t having the racing luck we would have liked him to have. But then the third trip we got a good trip, he was able to get in, save ground, and get out when it was time to go.

“If he can do that (Saturday) I think he’s this caliber. He seems to be a very good horse and I think he’ll get better with age.”

Bluff’s big body and mental development have demanded patience. But his maiden win in which he crossed the wire while geared down was a glimpse at what he could be if the cards fall his way in Saturday’s 10-horse field, which also features LeComte Stakes winner International Star.

“He doesn’t have a lot of early speed to shake loose. He’s got to get tucked in and be able to get out when its time to go,” Jones said. “He was little bit awkward as a young horse because he’s so tall, trying to get his legs to go the right way…it just didn’t happen all the time. It just took him a while to learn his trade but he’s getting good.”

If he soaks in the atmosphere around him, Bluff could about be unbeatable this weekend.

On Tuesday as Bourbon Street housed the masses, Jones went home with his fifth stakes win from eight starts this year as Divine Beauty captured the Mardi Gras Stakes.

In addition to Bluff in the Risen Star, Jones is saddling three starters in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes for 3-year-old fillies including morning-line second choice I’m a Chatterbox. And he still has horses like graded stakes winner Coup de Grace and 2013 Kentucky Derby starter Normandy Invasion gearing up for spring campaigns.

“We’re just very blessed and right now we’re just going to ride with it,” Jones said of his barn. “And there are horses you haven’t heard of yet. We have (Oaks winner) Proud Spell’s Bernardini colt, we have a half to (Oaks winner) Believe You Can sitting in here that runs on Saturday. We have a deep bunch. It makes my job a whole lot easier and a whole lot more fun.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

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