Archive for February, 2009

Turfway cancels, Elliston makes not so subtle point

In an effort to make up for the six full or partial cancellations the track has endured the last two months, Turfway Park had scheduled live racing for this coming Monday – a day when the facility is normally dark.

The track announced today, however, that it had canceled the upcoming Monday card due to a lack of entires. In explaining why he believed the entry box failed to fill, track president Bob Elliston made it clear he felt it was yet another example of how a lack of alternative gaming in the state is hurting the local racing industry.

“Hindsight is 20/20 and we missed the mark in terms of the horse population that would be available to fill additional race days,” Elliston said in a statement. “Horses that otherwise would prefer to run in Kentucky, and traditionally did so, are instead racing in jurisdictions where purses are enhanced with revenue from alternative gaming. Kentucky has not been permitted to level the playing field and we are beginning to feel the effects of the competitive advantage other states have over us, tradition or not.”

The cancellation comes just days after Keeneland president Nick Nicholson stated during the monthly meeting of the Bluegrass Hospitality Association that Kentucky tracks were struggling to keep up with tracks in neighboring states that did have alternative gaming and, thus, could offer larger purses.

In addition to losing the card, Turfway was also slated to hold a commemorative poster giveaway and autograph signing by Kentucky Derby winners Chris McCarron and Mike Manganello on Monday. The event will be rescheduled.

Champion Midshipman among Blue Grass Stakes nominees

Godolphin Racing’s 2008 champion juvenile colt Midshipman highlights an list of 183 three-year-olds nominated to Keeneland’s $750,000 Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, to be held Saturday, April 11.

Counted among this year’s 183 nominations – the most in more than two decades – are many of the nation’s top Triple Crown contenders including Zayat Stables’ Pioneerof the Nile, Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can and Elizabeth Valando’s Hello Broadway; Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farms’ Friesan Fire; Sid and Jenny Craig Trust’s Chocolate Candy; Thomas McCarthy’s General Quarters; Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor’s undefeated Dunkirk; and IEAH Stable’s Patena.

“This is a highly accomplished roster of nominees; we thank our horsemen for their great support,” said Keeneland Director of Racing Rogers Beasley. “Keeneland in the spring is a very special place to go racing, for owners and trainers as well as fans. We feel it is an outstanding showcase for Triple Crown contenders.”

Fit Friesan Fire on track for Louisiana Derby

Since his two-length victory in the Grade III Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 7, Friesan Fire has been most notable by his absence as he has yet to show back up on the workout tab. Rest assured, all is well with the beautifully-built son of A.P. Indy as he is slated to work this coming Monday for trainer Larry Jones and remains on pace for the Grade II, $600,000 Louisiana Derby on March 14.

“Oh he’s fine. Because he’s had so many races (six lifetime starts) he’s very fit he doesn’t need much,” said Tom Ludt, manager of Vinery, which bred and co-owns Friesan Fire along with Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm. “He’ll probably work twice before the Louisiana Derby, this Monday and the following Monday. But everyday he’s doing so good.”

Although he has opened his sophomore campaign with two handy wins in the Grade III Lecomte and the Risen Star, Friesan Fire has slipped under the radar a bit as horses like his undefeated stablemate Old Fashioned and impressive allowance winner Dunkirk has garnered a good deal of the hype in recent weeks.

While Ludt admits Friesan Fire “hasn’t scared anyone off” for the upcoming Louisiana Derby, he doesn’t mind having someone else carry the burden of being the favorite.

“I think he’s been a little underrated but to be honest I’d rather take that because it’s so much easier to come up this way than to have everyone thinking you’re the best,” Ludt said. “I like our spot, I certainly wouldn’t trade with anyone. I like that he keeps getting better and better, I like that he comes from off the pace, and we saw in his last race that he can handle traffic.”

Friesan Fire has been running in Fox Hill Farm’s red and white silks the last two races as part of an agreement by Porter and Vinery not to switch off until the colt loses – a situation which suits Ludt just fine for now.

“I keep saying that if he’s still running in red and white come Kentucky Derby day it’s a good thing because that means he’s won two more big races,” Ludt said.

Sky Mesa home at last

Fans of the Three Chimneys stallion Sky Mesa will be pleased to hear the son of Pulpit has progressed so well since undergoing a second surgery last week that he was sent home from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital a day early and is currently resting in his stall at the farm.

Sky Mesa initially underwent colic surgery on Feb. 15 and then had a second surgery done four days later due to an impaction.

“Since the second surgery, Sky Mesa has continued to progress in a positive direction and is showing all the signs of a healthy recovery (eating well, passing manure, etc) and is pretty much back to acting like the Sky Mesa we all know,” said Jen Roytz, marketing and communication director for Three Chimneys.

Jen added that since Three Chimneys limits the size of it stallion books to around 110 mares, the farm does not foresee any issues with rescheduling mares once he returns to service in late March.

Thankfully, it sounds like this scary incident is turning into a bump in the road for a promising stallion.

The unsung heros of the breeding industry

If you read the Daily Racing Form, you are familiar with the work of the wonderful Glenye Cain Oakford. Sure enough, Glenye has come up with another gem of a story about equine reproductive veterinarians and the risks they endure in the name of doing their job.

In her story published on Feb. 21, Glenye details how the expertise of these vets is much of the reason why the fertility rate in Kentucky is the highest in the world and also has some great tales of what happens when a hormonal mare decides to take out her frustration on the poor vet that happens to be in her midst. You can check out the full story at:

You may have to register with DRF to read the story but it is free to do so.

Longtime stallion manager Marion Gross dead

Marion Gross, who served as stallion manager for historic Gainesway Farm for 41 years, died Monday following a brief illness according to a statement released by the farm.

Gross first joined Gainesway when the farm was in its original location adjacent to Keeneland. At a party commemorating his 40th year at the farm in 2003, Gainesway founder John Gaines recalled how he met Gross: “Showed up at our front door on Versailles Road looking for a job.” Gaines took a chance on “the kid from the mountains,” and he recalled it as one of the best business decisions he ever made. Gross became the stallion manager in 1968.

“It is safe to say that very few working in the horse industry today have not been affected in some way by the career and work of Marion Gross,” farm president Antony Beck said in the statement.

Gainesway stood only four stallions when Gross arrived in 1963, and he oversaw the expansion of the stallion ranks to a roster of 50 in the early 1980s.

I’ve had the good fortune to visit Gainesway on numerous occasions and have witnessed first hand Marion Gross’s care and dedication as he showed off each stallion like a proud father. His depth of knowledge was virtually without peer and he graciously discussed the changes he has seen in the breeding industry with me years ago for a story I was working on about the increasing size of stallion books.

“For years and years we never bred more than 45-50 mares,” Gross said back in 2006. “Then other people started doing it, and I guess you have to follow the Joneses.”

Funeral arrangements will be handled by Kerr Brothers in Lexington, with services tentatively planned for Friday, Feb. 27. Further details will become available when arrangements have been finalized by Gross’ family.

More surgery for Sky Mesa

Three Chimneys stallion Sky Mesa, who underwent colic surgery on Feb. 15, is back recovering at Rood & Riddle after undergoing an additional surgery Thursday for an impaction.

“Sky Mesa had an impaction post operatively yesterday afternoon and the surgeons at Rood & Riddle thought it best to correct it surgically,” said Case Clay, president of Three Chimneys. “The impaction was corrected and he has recovered well from the procedure. Again, we expect a full recovery and our target date has been slightly adjusted from March 15th to March 20th. He was bright and alert this morning in his stall and we will advise you with any notable updates.”

Sky Mesa was one of the leading juvenile sires of 2008 and recently had another success last weekend when his son, General Quarters, pulled off the upset in the Grade III Sam F. Davis Stakes.

Valentine’s Day baby for Ouija Board

Although she only raced in the U.S. three times, the great champion racemare Ouija Board was one of the more popular runners in recent decades and few who witnessed her second Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf victory in 2006 will forget the emotional reception she received from the crowd when she returned to the winner’s circle.

Appropriately enough, the mare that tugged on so many heartstrings just had her second foal on Valentine’s Day (awww!). According to a story on Racing Post, she foaled a colt by German sire Monsun and is slated to be bred to Galileo this year. Her first foal was a colt by Kingmambo.

Here is the link to the Racing Post story for all you Ouija Board fans wanting your fix:

And while we’re on the topic of great racemares, Racing Post is also reporting that South African starlet Ipi Tombe has foaled a colt by Giant’s Causeway. The colt is the third for Ipi Tombe, who resides at Craig and Holly Bandoroff’s Denali Stud. She is slated to be bred to Kingmambo this season.

Update on Sky Mesa

As many know, Three Chimneys stallion Sky Mesa gave his connections a bit of a scare when he underwent colic surgery this past weekend. I talked with marketing and communications director Jen Roytz this morning and she said the son of Pulpit continues to recover well at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and that he could return to the farm by Wednesday or Thursday.

“They did not have to remove any intestine, he just had some displacement of the large intestine,” Roytz said. “We’ve been checking on him and he appears to be doing fine. They said everything went as well as it possibly could have gone (with the surgery).”

Barring any setbacks, Three Chimneys expects Sky Mesa should be able to return to covering mares by around March 15. Here’s to his speedy recovery.

How good is Rachel Alexandra?

Old Fashioned’s victorious 3-year-old debut in Monday’s Grade III Southwest Stakes may have been the most talked about race of the week. However, 24 hours earlier, another horse delivered what might be the most impressive seasonal bow yet this season.

Rachel Alexandra, the graded-stakes winning filly from the barn of Louisville-based trainer Hal Wiggins, simply demolished her foes in the $50,000 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn on Sunday – her first start in more than two months – when she captured the one-mile test by eight lengths in a stakes record time of 1:36.40. Not only was her final time a full 2 2/5 seconds faster than the stakes record but it was a full second faster than Old Fashioned’s winning time in the Southwest (1:37.41).

Wiggins, who also trained Rachel Alexandra’s dam, Lotta Kim, has said Rachel Alexandra might be the best horse he’s ever conditioned. Still, even he was shocked to see the bay filly look that remarkably sharp off a layoff.

“It was a real nice race and she came out of it great,” Wiggins said on Tuesday. “There were some questions in my mind if I had her fit enough and if she was ready but she certainly answered all those questions. She ran a good bit faster than the boys and (jockey) Calvin (Borel) wasn’t even really driving on her or anything.”

Local racing fans are quite familiar with  “Rachel’s” talent. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro captured the Grade II Golden Rod Stakes by 4 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs on November 29 and also scored an allowance win at Keeneland last October 17th.

Wiggins said her connections are leaning heavily toward pointing Rachel Alexandra to the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks on March 14 for her next outing with the Grade I Kentucky Oaks being her ultimate goal.

If you’re interested on reading more about Rachel Alexandra, we will have a full feature on her running in this Friday’s edition of the Herald-Leader.

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