Divisidero carrying Bradley, Gunpowder Farms to new levels of success

The backstory of Buff Bradley’s success is a quintessential feel-good tale within the Thoroughbred industry. The days of the trainer’s feats qualifying as some unexpected fairy tale, however, have sailed.

 
When Bradley and his father, Fred, first caught lightning in a bottle by breeding and campaigning Grade I winner and multi-millionaire Brass Hat, it was a game-changing achievement for their modest Frankfort-based operation.

 
When their homebred filly, Groupie Doll, took up the torch after Brass Hat’s retirement in 2011 and became a two-time Breeders’ Cup heroine and champion, it put the Bradley name on a level that many learned horsemen work their entire lives never to reach.

 
It is no longer a secret that Buff Bradley can train the heck out of a racehorse – be it on dirt, turf, synthetic, running short or long.

 
And after years of being a self-made success, Bradley is now showing he is just as effective doing onto others.

 
When the principles of  Tom Keithley’s Gunpowder Farms were discussing which trainers to enlist for the burgeoning operation, Bradley’s name was openly praised and mildly questioned as there was the perception he primarily conditioned his own homebreds.

 
What won out was overwhelming belief that Bradley’s patient style would merge perfectly with Gunpowder’s philosophy – a point the bright bay colt by the name of Divisidero has validated heading into Saturday’s Grade I, $1.25 million Belmont Derby going 1 1/4-miles on the Belmont Park turf.

 
On the undercard of the Kentucky Derby this May 2, Gunpowder Farms celebrated its first graded stakes winner when the Bradley-trained Divisidero captured the Grade II American Turf in just his third career start.

 
Coming off a neck victory in the Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont on May 30, the son of Kitten’s Joy stands as the 4-to-1 second choice on the morning in the nine-horse field for the Belmont Derby as he attempts to give Gunpowder its first Grade I winner and Bradley a top-level victor for an outside client.

 
“It’s pretty exciting to have a  horse of that caliber in you stable. And the thing that might help me out is people understand that I’m not just breeding and raising horses myself, I’m doing it for other people as well,” Bradley said. “I think I sometimes haven’t gotten horses because of that reason. They think I’m just doing my own thing but that’s far from the truth.

 
“It gives me the opportunity to get a variety of horses and hopefully a little better quality of animal in my stable.”

 
Divisidero was among the first group of yearlings  purchased on behalf of Gunpowder Farms in September 2013, eliciting a final bid of $250,000 at the Keeneland September auction. As a May foal, the bay colt had a lovely frame to him and – more important – the room for potential Keithley most desired.

 
“What Tom always wanted…was a horse that isn’t that flashy, big, ready to run kind of yearling,” said University of Louisville graduate Josh Stevens, racing manager for Gunpowder Farms. “The minute I saw (Divisidero) I thought this is the kind of horse Tom had preached he was looking for the whole time, which was a horse who could develop and we could continue to grow and raise him under our program and he could thrive.”

 
Among the many things Stevens said he appreciates about Bradley is how in tune he is with his charges and how committed he is to patience in a what-have-you-done-lately industry.

 
Some minor shin and maturity issues kept Divisidero from making his career debut until appearing in a maiden, 1 1/16-miles turf race this February 7 at Gulfstream Park. He was 25-to-1 in the eyes of the betting public. When he hit the wire first under jockey Rafael Hernandez, rallying from near the back of the 13 horse field, it told Bradley his eyes had not deceived him.

 
“I thought he was ready,” Bradley said of the colt’s debut. “I had worked him a mile on the dirt and he was really impressive to me. I said, if he moves up on the grass as well as he’s working on the dirt we’ll have a monster.”

 
Divisidero will be in deep waters against the likes of Bolo in the Belmont Derby, but he has shown intangibles that could put him on a course to the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland this October 31.

 
Bradley has maintained longer distances would only be in his colt’s favor. And in the 1 1/8-miles Pennine Ridge Stakes, Divisidero showed he was more than just a closer when he overcame a stumble at the break, rushed up into contention in the paceless race and ran down fellow Belmont Derby entrant Takeover Target to win by a neck.

 
“He showed a very gutsy performance there,” Bradley said. “Rafael knew the pace was slow and to get him right up there and then idle him back down…it’s  amazing for that horse to be able to do that. Sometimes with these young horses you push the button in, you can’t pull it back out, you’re on go.”

 
Stevens said that Gunpowder Farms – which boards horses at Silver Springs Stud in Paris – currently has about 15 horses at the track and 15 2-year-olds going through their paces. Bradley himself has six horses for the operation, with more set to come his way.

 
“What is crazy is to me in that in one year you could have a horse not only win your first graded stakes at Churchill Downs but then potentially come back and win a Breeders’ Cup race at Keeneland,” Stevens said. “To even have an idea you could do that in same year is amazing.

 
“I think if you give the horse everything they need, the patience…you’ll get the best out of them. I kind of grew up with an appreciation  of what time could do for a horse and Buff falls right in line with that.”

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

It’s official: Haskell confirmed as next target for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah

The next scheduled start for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was made official on Thursday as owner Ahmed Zayat confirmed his champion colt will point for the Grade I, $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on August 2.

 
The 1 1/8 miles Haskell will mark the first start for American Pharoah since the son of Pioneerof the Nile captured the Belmont Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths on June 6 to become the first horse in 37 years to sweep the American classics.

 
Both Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert had previously indicated the Haskell was the leading candidate to serve as American Pharoah’s post-Triple Crown race debut. ESPN was first to report the decision had been made official and in a follow-up interview with the Herald-Leader, Zayat said the Haskell “worked perfectly” in terms of both its timing for his colt and creating an atmosphere worthy of a Triple Crown hero.

 
“I wanted to give him a race that will be kind on the horse and…my direction to Monmouth Park was make it a day that is memorable for the fans and the sport,” said Zayat, who is a resident of New Jersey. “I said ‘Don’t worry about the purses and the bonuses’. That’s important, but this is not about that. This is about the horse and the fans. And Monmouth promised me they are going to do a day that will not be forgotten.
“We’re working on ideas of having giveaways, concerts. Trying to get people like Bruce Springsteen who is from New Jersey. I just want this for the sport.”

 
Zayat said American Pharoah has regained most of the weight he lost after the Belmont – which was his fourth start in eight weeks and seventh win from eight career starts. They got the green-light on his form when the colt returned to the worktab this Monday, breezing three furlongs in 36.40 at Santa Anita Park.

 
“He came out so far really good,” Zayat said. “He lost some weight, he gained some back. But we’ve literally been parading him from one track to another and everybody and their mother wanted to see him.”

 
Zayat said going forward if American Pharoah ran to expectations in the Haskell and came out of that well, he would consider running him back in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga Race Course on August 29. He added he would prefer to keep the reigning juvenile champion on the East Coast this summer to reduce the amount of cross-country shipping heading into his expected swan song in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on October 31.

 
“If he comes out (of the Haskell) good, then I am actually very much looking forward to wheeling him back at Saratoga,” Zayat said. “(If he didn’t run in the Travers) the next target would probably be the Pennsylvania Derby (at Parx on September 19). But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. It depends on the horse. Nothing is ruled out. I just want to give him a first test and atmosphere that will be respectful for the legacy of American Pharoah.”

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

Champion Main Sequence back where it all began in United Nations Stakes

This was the point a year ago when things got real in a hurry for those in Main Sequence’s orbit.

 
It was the moment trainer Graham Motion had his eyes thrown wide open in recognition of the talent in his care. It was the first salvo fired in what would be a dual championship winning campaign and the first step in a rivalry that has held its drama even as it remains one-sided.

 
Monmouth Park’s Grade I, $500,000 United Nations Stakes was the race that first unleashed the now reigning king of North American turf last season. With two Eclipse Awards to his credit and the added weight of his reputation, champion Main Sequence is set to return to the 1 3/8-miles turf test this Sunday to reaffirm his dominance in the spot where it all began.

 
Before Main Sequence became the defending champion turf male and champion older male, he was a European-based underachiever trying to find some form in the wake of a 10-race losing skid he racked up in England and severe illness he contracted after coming to the states in the winter of 2013.
In his first North American start and first outing for Motion, the Flaxman Holdings homebred knocked the American turf division on its ear when he captured the 2014 United Nations by a neck over West Point Thoroughbreds’ Twilight Eclipse to begin what would become a five-race winning streak that included four Grade I triumphs en route to year-end honors.

 
Though his string of victories was halted when he ran seventh in the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic on March 28, Main Sequence will van to the Jersey Shore this holiday weekend as a poster boy for celebrating life in the United States. The six-year-old gelded son of Aldebaran has yet to lose in North America including his season-capping victory in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita Park last November.

 
“It’s kind of odd because you’re coming back to (the United Nation) in completely different terms than he went to it last time,” said Motion, who took over Main Sequence’s conditioning after the gelding was trained in England by David Lanigan. “Last time it was the experiment to find out how good he was and where we stood. Now we’re going back as the defending champion so it’s a little different feeling than it was back then.

 
“I certainly didn’t feel any pressure last time and I certainly do this time.”

 
A gentleman of a horse temperament wise, Main Sequence has his quirks in training – most notably getting out of the starting gate in clean order – but possesses a brilliant turn of foot able to make up for a many in-race issues.

 
His late kick looked as wicked as ever when he won his seasonal debut in the Grade II Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream Park February 21. The Dubai Sheema Classic, however, saw everything go awry as Main Sequence missed the break, rushed up too close to the pace under jockey Rajiv Maragh and faded in the 1 1/2-miles test.

 
“The Dubai thing was frustrating because I thought it was his chance to sort of wipe out all his naysayers,” Motion said. “He really didn’t get an opportunity to do so and it really wasn’t through any fault of his own.

 
“We laid too close to the pace and I think probably Rajiv and I spent too much time analyzing it, kind of over thought it instead of letting him run his own race. But the trip to Dubai really didn’t take much out of him.  I could have run him several weeks ago but I thought I would be patient and wait for this spot.”

 
One who benefited from Main Sequence’s Dubai venture is the venerable Twilight Eclipse, who is also slated for another United Nations crack.

 
The bay gelding has lost five straight meetings at the hands of Main Sequence, finishing second three times, but broke through for his first top-level triumph when he captured the Grade I Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park May 9.

 
The softer turf at Belmont on June 6 contributed to Twilight Eclipse running seventh in the Grade I Manhattan Stakes. Assuming rain doesn’t impact his chances this weekend, the West Point crew would love if Motion – who also trains for them – would have his top charge show Twilight Eclipse some mercy.

 

 
“I’ve even begged and said ‘How about a dead heat? Would you be that upset with a dead heat?’. But Graham Motion is a cruel individual,” joked Jeff Lifson, executive vice president of West Point Thoroughbreds. “We’re going to need to have our ‘A’ game and Main Sequence maybe have his A-minus game.

 
“(Twilight Eclipse) needs to start chugging at the three-eighths pole and…get some distance between him, make sure Main Sequence has a lot to do with that burst in order to reach him.”

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

Churchill Downs renames Homecoming Classic in honor of D. Wayne Lukas

Edited release:

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner of both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, will be honored by Churchill Downs with the naming of a stakes race to be run during its upcoming September Meet that will feature eight stakes events with total purses of $1.025 million.

The $175,000 Lukas Classic, a listed race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, was known as the Homecoming Classic during the first two years of September racing at Churchill Downs. The Lukas Classic, introduced in 2013 and designed to be an autumn prep for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, shares the September Meet stakes spotlight with events for juveniles that that respectively launch the 2016 Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks: the Grade III, $150,000 Iroquois for 2-year-olds and the Grade II, $200,000 Pocahontas for 2-year-old fillies. Both races will be run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track and each is included on the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Series schedule. Their respective winners will be guaranteed automatic starting spots in Breeders’ Cup events on Oct. 31 at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky.

In renaming the Homecoming Classic to honor the four-time Eclipse Award-winnining trainer, Churchill is saluting Lukas’ accomplishments, contributions and influence on the industry, the track said in a release. Lukas, who bases his stable at Churchill Downs Barn 44 through much of the year, has won a record 14 victories in Triple Crown races, and trained a record 20 winners of Breeders’ Cup Championship races. At Churchill Downs, Lukas ranks second in career stakes victories (73) and fourth in total wins (510).

“Along with the enormity of the numbers of his total victories, the stakes races he has won and earnings by his stable’s horses throughout his Hall of Fame career, D. Wayne Lukas forever changed both the Kentucky Derby and North America’s horse industry,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. “It is Churchill Downs’ honor to salute Wayne Lukas by placing his name on this race. We are enthusiastic about the potential of the Lukas Classic and believe it will very soon be an important annual stop for older horses who are working to prepare for and earn starting spots in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

“We think the presence of Wayne Lukas’ name on this race will enhance its attractiveness and its status. And we would love to see Mr. Lukas do one of the few things he has yet to do during his legendary career. Our team at Churchill Downs is confident that Wayne is a long way from entertaining any thoughts of retirement, and we hope that he will soon saddle a winner of this race, which would allow him – for the first time – to present a winner’s trophy to himself.”

Lukas will celebrate his 80th birthday on September 2. Included in the 26 champions he has trained over his storied career is reigning juvenile filly champion, Take Charge Brandi.

In addition to renaming the race, the purse for the Lukas Classic was also boosted by $50,000. The purse for the Iroquois was also increased by $50,000.
Churchill Downs’ 11-date September Meet operates on a four-day, Thursday-through-Sunday weekly racing schedule with the exception of its first week. Opening day is Friday, Sept. 11 and the meet will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 27. Regular post time for the meet will be 12:45 p.m. (all times Eastern), with exceptions being 5 p.m. “Twilight Thursday” racing on September 17 and 24 and the meet’s lone “Downs After Dark”night racing celebration on Saturday, Sept. 19 with a post time of 6 p.m.

The first races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and Road to the Kentucky Oaks headline four stakes events on Saturday, Sept. 12, the first of three Saturdays of racing during the September Meet. Along with the Pocahontas and Iroquois, that program will feature the $100,000 Locust Grove, a Listed race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on the main track and the $100,000 Open Mind, which matches fillies and mares ages 3 and up at six furlongs on the dirt.

The racing program on Saturday, Sept. 19 features the Grade III, $100,000 Dogwood, and event for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs.

The final Saturday of September Meet racing on Sept. 26 will offer three stakes events in the Lukas Classic, the Grade III, $100,000 Ack Ack Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at one mile, and the Grade III $100,000 Jefferson Cup for 3-year-olds at one mile on the Matt Winn Turf Course – the only stakes race on grass during the meet.

After the September racing session, Churchill Downs will have one remaining race meet in 2015. The track’s traditional Fall Meet is scheduled for Nov. 1-29 Fall Meet, which will offer 21 racing dates on a weekly Thursday-through-Sunday schedule.

Keeneland to card seven additional stakes for 2015 Fall Meet

Edited release:

A total of 23 stakes worth $5,975,000 in purse money will be offered during the 2015 Keeneland Fall Meet to be held Oct. 2-24, including an additional seven stakes worth $900,000 that will be carded during the three-day celebration surrounding the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

Sixteen stakes, including six Grade I events highlighted by the $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile, worth $5,075,000 are slated for the 17-day Fall Meet, which opens with the Fall Stars Weekend, Oct. 2-4. Eight Fall Meet stakes are “Win and You’re In” events, part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series of automatic qualifying races for the Breeders’ Cup.

As the host site for the 2015 Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland  carded an additional seven stakes; one to be held Oct. 29 and three scheduled for each of the Breeders’ Cup undercards on Oct. 30-31. The stakes are a mix of new and familiar names: $100,000 Lafayette for 3-year-olds and up at 7 furlongs on Thursday; $200,000 Grade II Hagyard Fayette  for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles, which moves in 2015 from its traditional Fall Meet closing day spot to Friday and is joined by the $200,000 Grade II Marathon Stakes  for 3-year-olds and up at 1 ¾ miles and the $100,000 Bryan Station  for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on the turf. The undercard of Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup lineup will feature the $100,000 Fort Springs for 3-year-old fillies, $100,000 Juvenile Dirt Sprint for 2-year-olds, and $100,000 Perryville for 3-year-olds, each at six furlongs.

“This fall will be one of the most memorable racing seasons in Keeneland history,” said Keeneland Vice President of Racing  Rogers Beasley. “The competition will be superb; the top trainers and jockeys will be on hand as the anticipation builds all month toward the first-ever Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. It will be an exciting time for fans, horsemen and the entire Central Kentucky community.”

Keeneland’s signature Fall Stars Weekend kicks off with nine graded stakes worth $3.7 million will be held Oct. 2-4. Five of those races are Grade I events with the  Grade I, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades  for 2-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles anchoring the opening day card. The Saturday, Oct. 3 card includes the Shadwell Turf Mile, for 3-year-olds and up;  Grade I, $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles; and Grade I, $400,000 First Lady for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up at a mile on turf.

Sunday Oct. 4 is led by the Grade I, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up at 1 1/8 miles.

A sixth Grade I stakes, the $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup  for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on the turf, will be held Saturday, Oct. 10.

The Fall Meet also reflects two changes to the stakes program. Purses for the Grade III Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix on Oct. 2 and Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America  on Oct. 3 have increased from $200,000 to $250,000 each. Additionally, the Grade III, $150,000 Pin Oak Valley View, a 1 1/16-mile race on turf for 3-year-old fillies, has been moved to closing day, Oct. 24 for Fall Meet 2015.

Seven Breeders’ Cup Challenge stakes will be run Fall Stars Weekend: Darley Alcibiades (a Challenge race for the Juvenile Fillies) and Phoenix (Sprint) on Oct. 2; Shadwell Turf Mile (Mile), Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (Juvenile) and Thoroughbred Club of America (Filly and Mare Sprint) on Oct. 3; and Juddmonte Spinster (Distaff) and Grade III, Dixiana Bourbon (Juvenile Turf) on Oct. 4.

NBC will broadcast live from Keeneland with two “Breeders’ Cup Challenge Win and You’re In Series” programs on Saturday, October 3 (5-6 p.m. ET) featuring the Breeders’ Futurity and Shadwell Turf Mile and on Sunday, October 4 (5-6 p.m. ET) with the Spinster and the Bourbon Stakes.

The eighth Breeders’ Cup Challenge race is the Grade III, JPMorgan Chase Jessamine on October 7, which awards the winner a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

The winners of 40 Breeders’ Cup races have made their final start before the World Championships during Keeneland’s Fall Meet, most notably in the Thoroughbred Cub of America, Spinster, Shadwell Turf Mile, Alcibiades and Breeders’ Futurity. Last year, horses that prepped at Keeneland in October won three Breeders’ Cup races: Filly and Mare Turf winner and champion Dayatthespa, winner of the First Lady; Juvenile Fillies winner and champion Take Charge Brandi, who ran in the Alcibiades; and Sprint winner and champion Work All Week, winner of the  Phoenix.

 

Keeneland 2015 Fall Stakes Schedule: Oct. 2-24

Date

Stakes

Division

Distance

Oct. 2

$400,000 Darley Alcibiades (G1)*

2YO Fillies

1 1/16 Miles

Oct. 2

$250,000 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G3)*

3YOs & Up

6 Furlongs

Oct. 3

$1 Million Shadwell Turf Mile (G1)*

3YOs & Up

1 Mile (T)

Oct. 3

$500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1)* 

2YOs

1 1/16 Miles

Oct. 3

$400,000 First Lady (G1)

3YOs & Up, F&M

1 Mile (T)

Oct. 3

$250,000 Thoroughbred Club
of America (G2)*

3YOs & Up, F&M

6 Furlongs

Oct. 3

$150,000 Woodford (G3) Presented by Keeneland Select

3YOs & Up

5½ Furlongs (T)

Oct. 4

$500,000 Juddmonte Spinster (G1)*

3YOs & Up, F&M

1 1/8 Miles

Oct. 4

$250,000 Dixiana Bourbon (G3)*

2YOs

1 1/16 Miles (T)

Oct. 7

$150,000 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine (G3)*

2YO Fillies

1 1/16 Miles (T)

Oct. 9

$100,000 Buffalo Trace Franklin County (L)

3YOs & Up, F&M

5½ Furlongs (T)

Oct. 10

$500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) Presented by Lane’s End

3YO Fillies

1 1/8 Miles (T)

Oct. 15

$100,000 Sycamore (G3)

3YOs & Up

1½ Miles (T)

Oct. 17

$250,000 Lexus Raven Run (G2)

3YO Fillies

7 Furlongs

Oct. 18

$125,000 Rood & Riddle Dowager (G3)

3YOs & Up, F&M

1½ Miles (T)

Oct. 24

$150,000 Pin Oak Valley View (G3)

3YO Fillies

1 1/16 Miles (T)

*Denotes Breeders’ Cup Challenge stakes

 

Keeneland Stakes Schedule: Breeders’ Cup Weekend, Oct. 29-31 

Date

Stakes

Division

Distance

Oct. 29

$100,000 Lafayette (L) Presented by Keeneland Select

3YOs & Up

7 Furlongs

Oct. 30

$200,000 Hagyard Fayette (G2)

3YOs & Up

1 1/8 Miles

Oct. 30

$100,000 Bryan Station (L)

3YOs

1 1/8 Miles (T)

Oct. 30

$200,000 Marathon (G2) 

3YOs & Up

1 3/4 Miles

Oct. 31

$100,000 Fort Springs (L)

3YO Fillies

6 Furlongs

Oct. 31

$100,000 Juvenile Dirt Sprint (L)

2YOs

6 Furlongs

Oct. 31

$100,000 Perryville (L)

3YOs

6 Furlongs

Weisbord steps down from Breeders’ Cup Board of Directors

Edited release:

The Breeders’ Cup announced Tuesday that Barry Weisbord has resigned from its Board of Directors, citing increased outside business and family duties for his decision.

 

In a letter Tuesday morning to Breeders’ Cup President and CEO Craig Fravel, Weisbord cited his need to spend more time with his family and working with Trakus – the video graphics system which determines the exact location of horses throughout the entire race – as a catalyst behind his decision to step down from Breeders’ Cup. Weisbord is the chairman for Trakus.

“The increasing need for me to travel extensively for Trakus around the world, and my desire to try to take in as much of my young daughter’s activities at home have put me in a situation where I feel I cannot devote the same level and attention to Breeders’ Cup board activities as I should,” Weisbord said. “I have all the faith in the world in the current board, and wish them all the best in carrying out their duties. I love the Breeders’ Cup and want nothing more than to see it succeed and prosper.”

 

Weisbord, who is president and co-Publisher of Thoroughbred Daily News, has served as a Director since 2012, and was elected as a Breeders’ Cup Member in 2008.

 

“Barry has served with great distinction and dedication to the Breeders’ Cup and to our Board,” said Bill Farish, Breeders’ Cup Chairman. “He has worked tirelessly to elevate and enhance the hospitality experience at the Breeders’ Cup on an international scale for our owners and fans, helping to make our event the best that it can be. We will miss Barry’s creative energy and enthusiasm for our Championships, and wish him well in his current and future endeavors.”

 

Danzig Moon, fifth in Kentucky Derby, suffers fatal injury in Plate Trial

John Oxley’s Danzig Moon, the fifth place finisher in this year’s Kentucky Derby, was euthanized after suffering a fatal injury to his right hind leg in the Plate Trial Stakes at Woodbine on Sunday.

 
Sent off as the favorite in the Plate Trial, Danzig Moon was rating second behind pacesetter Midnight Trace when he went broke down in late backstretch under jockey Julien Leparoux, backed up quickly and collided with R U  Watchingbud.

 
R U Watchingbud got up and walked off, according to the chart, but Danzig Moon was euthanized after being vanned off in the 1 1/8-miles race.

 
Leparoux was unhurt in the spill.

 
Trained by Mark Casse, Danzig Moon was making his first start since finishing sixth in the Preakness Stakes on May 16. The flashy, bay son of Malibu Moon was affectionately known as “racing’s bad boy” by his connections in a nod to his feisty attitude around the barn that often left his human caretakers with bruises.

 
After breaking his maiden in his third try at Gulfstream Park this February, Danzig Moon stepped onto the Kentucky Derby trail with a fourth place finish in the Grade II Tampa Bay Derby and a runner-up finish to Carpe Diem in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 4.

 
“We knew he was always talented, it’s just take him a while to figure out he’s a racehorse,” Norman Casse, son of Mark Casse and assistant to his father, said going into the Preakness Stakes.

 
Bred by William D Graham, Danzig Moon won one of eight career starts and had earnings of $311,445. The colt and the Casse barn were the subject of the Herald-Leader video “Derby Diary” leading up to the first leg of the Triple Crown.

American Pharoah ‘the picture of health’ in return to the track

While the lives of those around him have been wonderfully altered by virtue of his Crown achievement, champion American Pharoah was his same old, visually inspiring self Friday morning as he went back to the track for the first time since completing his sweep of the American classics in last Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.

With regular exercise rider Jorge Alvarez grinning in the irons and his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert looking on, American Pharoah jogged a mile clockwise over the Churchill Downs track. Less than a week removed from his 5 1/2 length victory in the Belmont Stakes and becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years,  the Zayat Stables homebred was as bright, alert and kind as ever as he skipped over the track and then indulged the fortunate onlookers seeking a hands-on moment with racing’s newest legend.

Among those who came by to visit Friday was Dr. William McGee, an integral part of the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute, who has seen numerous Triple Crown runners and even treated some when he was a practicing veterinarian.

“Just watching him come out of the barn and looking at his weight, he still looks like the picture of health,” Baffert smiled. “It’s amazing that what he’s been through, it looks like he starting to get better now. It shows you what he’s made of.

“I can tell that the last 60 days he’s grown, he’s starting to fill out. I’m happy to see that he’s still happy, he enjoyed going to the track today. He came off the track and looked like an incredible animal. I guess you have to be incredible to do what he accomplished.”

Baffert aptly called his champion charge “a baby and a beast”, with the former being a nod to the colt’s amazingly sweet demeanor the latter an understatement of a term to describe his domination on the track.

Since losing his career debut, American Pharoah has reeled off seven consecutive wins including six Grade I triumphs. His one-length victory in the Kentucky Derby has been the closest thing to an ‘off’ day he has had. His seven-length Preakness Stakes victory and gate-to-wire coronation in the Belmont Stakes were displays of beauty and ease the likes of which Baffert himself says he has never quite seen.

“I was thinking I’d never be able to accomplish (the Triple Crown). That it’s just too difficult,” said Baffert, who had won the first two legs with three prior horses – Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) only to have them all come up short in the Belmont.  “I’ve brought too many nice horses here and we couldn’t close the deal. But it took something really special like American Pharoah.

“I always thought there was no excuses with him, if they’re great they can do it. He earned it and the way he did it, he did it the right way. He did it with authority.”

American Pharoah is set to be paraded at Churchill Downs on the main track after the fifth race Saturday at around 8 p.m. The son of Pioneerof the Nile is scheduled to return to his Southern California base on Thursday, June 18.

Baffert reiterated Friday that the Grade II Jim Dandy at Saratoga August 1 and Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park on August 2 are on the table as possible next starts for the sport’s 12th Triple Crown winner.

“I have to see how this horse responds. Usually it takes about two weeks and you start seeing what kind of effect it’s had on them,” Baffert said. “But if you see him show up, that means he’s going to perform in a big way. I feel more pressure training him now. Now I feel like wrapping him in bubble wrap. But what I want to do is show him with everybody.”

 

 

 

 

American Pharoah, connections still soaking in Triple Crown glory

ELMONT, N.Y. – Everyone wanted to know what the conquering hero would do next. Bob Baffert first wanted them to do what he is trying to and just bask in champion’s presence.

 
So from Barn 1 on the Belmont Park backstretch Sunday morning, Baffert led Thoroughbred racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner out to the media for his latest dose of admiration. And since the horse with the most devastating talent in decades is blessed with the temperament of a petting zoo pony, his Hall of Fame trainer invited all those there who wanted to come and lay hands upon American Pharoah themselves.

 
“He loves to be around people, people petting him and loving on him,” Baffert said. “I want to share him with everybody and show everybody how kind and sweet he is.”

 
American Pharoah is nothing if not the people’s horse right now, even though it he who is in possession of the racing community’s heart. The day after the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile captured the 147th Belmont Stakes by 5 1/2-lengths to become the first horse in 37 years to sweep the Triple Crown, the process of dissecting his greatness and speculating on his future began with force even if the realness of the moment was still easing below the surface.

 
The glean on his coat and brightness of his demeanor answered the primary question of how American Pharoah bounced out of his seventh win from eight career starts.  The reigning juvenile champion, six-time Grade I winner and newly-christened legend has made freakish ease his hallmark, yet it was still a marvel to see him barely stressed after notching the sixth fastest winning time in Belmont Stakes when he hit the wire in 2:26.65 for the 1 1/2-miles test.

 
“Today he looked like I could run him back in three weeks. He’s that kind of horse; he’s special,” Baffert said.

 
Special still doesn’t quite cover it with American Pharoah.

 
In further evidence of his remarkable high cruising speed and acceleration, the Zayat Stables homebred covered the final half mile of the 12-furlong Belmont Stakes test faster than he did the first four furlongs. It also marked the sixth different track the colt has won over with him handling everything from Del Mar’s old synthetic surface, to sloppy conditions to Saturday’s drying out Belmont track with equal aplomb.

 
“No matter if it’s raining, sloppy, heavy track, you get it done. That’s what he did. He just brought it at every track,” Baffert said. “I went back and looked at all the videos of Seattle Slew, Secretariat and Affirmed and…they all have in common that there was never an excuse. They just took the ball and ran with it. When they’re special like that, you keep them healthy, keep them happy, stay out of their way and don’t over think it.”

 
Now that Thoroughbred racing has the Triple Crown golden child it has been clamoring for, the query is now how much of a mainstream lift American Pharoah’s feat can provide the sport – assuming the future Ashford Stud stallion runs again.

 
Both Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat reiterated Sunday that as long as American Pharoah stays healthy, the plan is to have him race throughout the rest of his 3-year-old season with the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in October as the target.

 
“With this horse we owe it to the sport to continue properly, and as often as we possibly can,” Zayat said. “This is a pledge to my family, the industry, and racing and we take it really seriously. When the horse is ready, we’re not going to be scared about running him, to lose or not lose.”

 
American Pharoah’s added role as ambassador will take effect while he gets some post Triple Crown R&R. Shortly after making an appearance alongside Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza on the TODAY Show Sunday morning, American Pharoah was shipped back to Churchill Downs where he will reside for at least a couple of weeks, Baffert said.

 
He also will be back under the Twin Spires on June 13 as Churchill Downs has plans to parade the champion colt for fans as part of their “Downs After Dark” card featuring the Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap.

 

 
“He’s our Stanley Cup. I have to go take him around there and show him off to the people,” Baffert cracked.

 
Earlier in the week, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin expressed concern that even if his Grade I-winning charge, Frosted, ran his best race in the Belmont, the colt might be running into a monster the likes of which hasn’t been seen in generations.

 
McLaughlin’s fears were justified as Frosted uncorked a top effort only good enough for second. Whether any horse, 3-year-old or otherwise, can push American Pharoah the remainder of the season may now be a harder challenge than the three-race feat the bay colt just conquered.

 
“I think with every race I can see he’s getting better,” Baffert said.

 

 
Added McLaughlin, “American Pharoah is a special horse, he does things effortlessly. We were happy with our horse….we just picked the wrong year to have a good 3-year-old.”

 

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

Twelfth wonder: American Pharoah becomes first Triple Crown winner since 1978

ELMONT, N.Y. – The reality hit in waves at Belmont Park Saturday evening, crashing over all who hoped, all who prepared, all who couldn’t let themselves believe until it was plain before their eyes in all its indisputable glory.

 
It struck jockey Victor Espinoza going around the first sweeping turn of the 147th Belmont Stakes. It ran up his hands and into his heart as he absorbed every positive signal his mount was giving off.

 
It teased trainer Bob Baffert in the paddock and then smacked him full force at the head of the stretch of the 1 1/2-miles odyssey. The Hall of Fame conditioner had forgotten to take his heart medication earlier in the day, but the pounding in his chest was providing a complementary sound track to the wall of noise building from 90,000 of his closest friends.

 
In the final eighth of mile  of the final leg of the Triple Crown, American Pharoah finally had generations of Thoroughbred racing fans convinced. The doors to transcendent greatness could be pried open after 36 years of being sealed. The dream outcome some bitterly said would never materialize again was galloping in fluid beauty down the track, ears pricked to sky, 5 1/2 lengths in front of the nearest challenger to his now concrete legacy.

 
The racing world has its 12th wonder. American Pharoah, the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile who has barely put a foot wrong since birth, became the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 and just the 12th all time to sweep the American classics known at the Triple Crown when he led every step of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes to end the sport’s longest drought between such heroes.

 
And what a drought it had been. Racing fans who thought they were spoiled with Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed all winning the Triple Crown within a handful of years have found themselves, their children and their children’s offspring questioning if any current day Thoroughbred had the ability needed to prevail over the five-week test that is Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

 
Thirteen since 1978 had tried prior to American Pharoah, winning the first two legs and then falling short when the rubber hit the road.  And if Hall of Famers like Spectacular Bid, Alysheba and Sunday Silence couldn’t do it, what chance did another freakishly fast wunderkind have against 36 years of dashed hopes?

 
American Pharoah was different. That’s what his owner/breeder, Zayat Stables, had been told since the first time he had a saddle put on him.  What other good horses had to work to do, the son of Pioneerof the Nile did with ease that was condescending. His stride was bigger, more fluid. His constitution heartier, his temperament unfazed.

 
And so, in what was supposed to be the hardest test of his life, the bay colt turned it all into a mockery. He never let his seven rivals, including runner-up Frosted, seriously challenge him for more than a couple steps.

 
He didn’t let those who believed this time could be different down.

 
“Thirty seven years…that little horse deserved it,” said Baffert, who three times prior had conditioned horses to this point in Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002) only to get his now surgery-repaired heart broken. “He had what it takes. Not only do you have to be a good horse but you have to be able to take the constant, the turnaround. And…I’ve never in my life had a horse that you could ship this many times and still, he’s amazing.

 
“I wasn’t really as nervous because I felt I had the horse. I told Victor in the paddock ‘Dude, he is ready. It’s probably going to take a few days to sink in. This is going to be a moment we’ll never forget.”

 
In hindsight, American Pharoah was merely doing what he has done his entire eight-race career: eliminate any debate over who the best of his generation is.

 
He is the reigning juvenile champion, having won the Grade I Del Mar Futurity and Grade I FrontRunner Stakes last September after somehow finishing fifth in his career debut. While injury knocked him out of the Breeders’ Cup  Juvenile last October and sidelined him until March, he never lost a drop of form, reeling off a 6 1/4 length triumph during his seasonal bow in the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park March 14.

 
He has now won his last seven starts, including six Grade I wins, over six different tracks while prevailing by a combined 35 3/4 lengths. He did so without yielding to any perceived challenge, winning over rain soaked tracks at Oaklawn and Pimlico, winning from the rail as well as the outside, running foes off their feet or rating and then delivering a wide rally as he did in the Derby.

 
“I have been saying he’s a very good horse, he could be special, but in order to win the Triple Crown, you have to define greatness,” owner Ahmed Zayat said. “He does everything so easy. We wanted this for the sport. He looked unbelievable.

 
“I told my wife in the post parade, get ready to be the owner of the 12th Triple Crown winner.”

 
His 3-to-5 favoritism said the betting public had faith, but no one is really ever prepared for the improbable to play out.

 
Breaking out of post No. 5, American Pharoah got away in good order and was angled toward the inside in front of his challengers as the field raced to the first turn with Grade I winner Frosted to his outside and Mubtaahij just behind him on the rail.

 
Fellow Grade I winner Materiality ranged up to sit second as they settled down the massive backstretch, but American Pharoah was in complete command on the front end. He coasted through fractions of 24.06 and 48.83 on an easy rein from Espinoza and had the crowd ready to come off the rails as he held a two length edge coming off the final turn.

 
“I’m telling you on the first turn, that was the best feeling ever,” said Espinoza, who had suffered two failed Triple Crown attempts prior as the jockey for War Emblem and California Chrome (2014). “Warming up, he was all class. I grabbed the reins and he just took off.

 
“It’s just an amazing feeling that you have when it’s like 20 yards out of the wire and you’re three or four lengths in front. I was just…having fun.”

 
As the daylight between American Pharoah and Frosted grew in the stretch, the cavernous track shook with the screams only realized hopes can produce.

 
The final time of 2:26.65, sixth-fastest winning Belmont time in history, flashed on the board. Frosted and Keen Ice went into the books and the second and third place finishers behind a new legend.

 
“It’s an amazing thing to be a part of. Bob Baffert is the greatest trainer of all time,” said Dale Romans, trainer of Keen Ice.

 
And now, the reality of what can possibly be next for  the horse who has done everything asked. He is slated to stand at Ashford Stud upon his retirement. Regardless when that day comes, American Pharoah has lifted the sport in a way some thought it could never reach again.

 
“I think what the Triple Crown is about is we get to share greatness with everybody,” Baffert said. “Everybody got to see it.”

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

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