Archive for July, 2009

Jackson standing behind trainer Asmussen

Anyone familiar with owner Jess Jackson knows he has has long championed himself as an advocate for greater integrity in the sport of  Thoroughbred racing. However, with his trainer Steve Asmussen now facing another possible suspension for a medication violation in Texas, Jackson has once again had to answer why he continues to stand by a trainer that has had a history of drug infractions.

Asmussen, trainer of Jackson’s star filly Rachel Alexandra, was recently handed a six-month suspension by stewards at Lone Star Park for a lidocaine positive in 2008 although the Eclipse Award winner was granted a stay of the suspension shortly after his attorney filed an appeal.

During a national teleconference Tuesday, Jackson – who formerly practiced law himself – took issue with the fact the stewards would not quantify how much lidocaine was found in the horse’s system and said his trainer was getting “a bum rap” for what could have been a case of contamination.

“I know Steve at the time was almost livid they would charge him with that and the suspension is far greater than someone else would suffer for the same thing,” Jackson said. “There is a strict liability for trainers for incidents that might have been caused by others if some one is handling food or equipment or even hay that might have the residue of a drug. To me, you have to hold someone responsible but why not penalize the owners of a horse…why pick on the trainers alone? The most important thing is the vets. Why do they continue to be licensed if they are indeed providing the drugs.

“I don’t think Steve is the problem. I think vets are the problem and the industry attitude is the problem.”

Texas has a zero-tolerance policy for drugs that are banned on race day.

Dominguez sets Belmont record with 93rd win

With Saratoga about to get underway next week, there is already buzz about who will be in line to claim this year’s coveted meet titles. Considering the clinic he has put on at Belmont, one might want to count Ramon Dominguez among the favorites to take this year’s Spa crown.

Dominguez set a modern-day record for victories at Belmont Park’s spring/summer meet when he guided Michael Dubb and Robert Joscelyn’s I’ve Got Speed  to win the fifth race Friday, notching his 93rd winner for the meet.

Hall of Famer Angel Cordero, Jr., held the mark for most victories since records were first kept, bringing home 92 winners during the 1982 Belmont Park spring/summer meet.  Fellow Hall of Famers Jose Santos and Mike Smith each had 86 winners for the 1986 and 1991 spring/summer meets, respectively.

“It’s very, very exciting,”  Dominguez said in a NYRA release. “It didn’t even cross my mind coming into the meet, and it’s just a reflection of the type of opportunities that have been given to me. This is just a result of that support.”

Dominguez had moved into a tie with Cordero on Thursday by winning the first race aboard Saul J. Kupferberg’s Inter Galactic and then taking the fourth race with Zayat Stables’ Mine Or Who’s, his 92nd winner.

Dominguez, who moved his tack to New York from the Mid-Atlantic circuit earlier this year, had 21 winners through the first 19 days of racing beginning April 29, then moved into the lead for good on May 25, when he had two winners to break out of a deadlock with Rajiv Maragh. For 32 of the next 33 days, he rode at least one winner, including four winners on July 11.

Included among his victories were the Grade II Shuvee Handicap and the Grade I Ogden Phipps aboard Seattle Smooth, the Grade II True North Handicap with Fabulous Strike, the Grade II First Flight Handicap with Porte Bonheur, the Grade I Prioress with Cat Moves, and the Grade I Man o’ War aboard Gio Ponti.

Churchill to offer $1.775 million Fall stakes schedule

Churchill Downs announced Friday it will boast a schedule of 12 stakes races with total purses of $1.775 million – highlighted by the Grade II, $400,000-added Clark Handicap – for its Nov. 1-28 Fall Meet.

The total purses available in the stakes program have the same value as in the 2008 Fall Meet. One race was moved to a new position on the schedule as the $100,000-added, Grade III Ack Ack Handicap, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds and up will be run this year on Friday, Nov. 6 – the first day of competition at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships held in Santa Anita.

“Despite intensifying competition from tracks in nearby states with purses fueled by casino revenues and the nation’s difficult economic landscape, our purses for stakes races in the 2009 Fall Meet remain level with those offered during last year’s meet,” said Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery. “We are pleased that our 2009 Fall Meet stakes purses remain stable despite those challenges, and we thank our owners and trainers for their continued support for racing and stakes events at Churchill Downs.”

Last year’s Clark Handicap was won by dual Eclipse Award finalist Einstein. This year’s edition of the 1 1/8-miles race is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 27.

In addition to the Clark, the Fall meet will also feature the Grade II Falls City Handicap for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up on Thanksgiving Day as well as the Grade II Golden Rod Stakes for 2-year-old fillies during the meet’s closing day on Nov. 28. Last year’s Golden Rod was captured by star filly Rachel Alexandra, launching the Preakness Stakes winner on her current seven-race win streak.

Haskell purse boosted to $1.25 million

Monmouth Park announced today the purse for this year’s Grade I Haskell Invitational has received a quarter-million dollar boost up to $1,250,000.

This year’s renewal of the 1 1/8-miles race expected to draw superstar filly and Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra, Belmont Stakes victor Summer Bird as well as Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem, multiple graded stakes winner Munnings and Monmouth Park stakes victor Bunker Hill.

Trainer Gary Stute said on Thursday he was “95 percent sure” Papa Clem would start in the race, but he may have to find a new jockey for the colt as his regular rider, Rafael Bejarano, suffered facial fractures during a spill at Del Mar Wednesday.

“His agent (Joe Ferrer) told me that Rafael probably could ride in a couple of weeks wearing one of those cages that covers the face,” Stute said. “He didn’t have any other fractures, which is great. He’s such a good guy, I hope he recovers quickly.”

Another possible for the Haskell is Sunland Derby winner Kelly Leak, although trainer Mike Machowsky said his preference would be to keep the son of Runaway Groom at Del Mar for the San Diego Handicap against older horses on Aug. 2.

“I really would rather not travel,” Machowsky said.

Here is the new purse distribution for the race reflecting its new, richer purse:

1st $700,000

2nd $250,000

3rd $125,000

4th $85,000

5th $50,000

6th – last $20,000

Final thoughts on Fasig-Tipton July

While the final numbers for the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale actually came in slightly better than many had braced for, there are still a host of questions and concerns lingering over the market for this year and beyond.

The top end of the market may not be what is was back in 2006 but, as always, the money will show up for a quality offering. However, there still remains precious little interest in those lower middle market horses – where buyers are most affected by the economic downturn.

The battle to find buyers for lower-end horses is a struggle that will likely be highlighted at Fasig-Tipton’s fall yearling sale in October, a sale the company initially announced it was canceling but brought back due to what they said was overwhelming demand from buyers and consignors. The October sale may be among the least glamorous of the yearling auctions but it has been a solid place for blue-collar gems as evident by the fact it has produced the last two  Kentucky Derby winners. Mine That Bird sold for $9,500 at the sale back in 2007 and Big Brown was initially purchased there for $60,000 in 2006.

“Sure we do ( have concerns about the October sale). We did, and we do,” Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning said at the conclusion of Tuesday’s session. “But the reality is a vast, vast number of our consignors and buyers expressed a desire for us to continue that sale. You always have concerns about where are we going to find the markets and who are we going to sell the less expensive horses to and we’ll worry about that and try and find a strategy to find additional outlets for those horses between now and the October sale. But there are no quick fixes, there is no easy solution to that either.”

Although buyers are rightfully being more selective in their spending at this time, it would be wrong to think they’re getting a slew of horses on the cheap. The market had become so overblown in recent years (i.e. The Green Monkey and his $16 million pricetag) that many believe today’s horses are not necessarily selling for less than what they’re worth, but rather for closer to what their true value is.

“I think it’s a combination of obviously the economy but I think if you go back a few years, the numbers were so wildly high that this is somewhat of a correction also,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said this week. “Some of the guys were like ‘I was paying $400,000, $500,000 for a $20,000 stud fee because it was nice individual’. Now a good indivual by a sire that might stand for $20,000 might bring $200,000 which is still a good return for the seller. I think it’s a combination of both.”

Medaglia d’Oro filly a special gift for Welker

There is never a shortage of stories that come out of the Thoroughbred auctions. However, between all the sale toppers and nuts and bolts of the numbers, some of the more heartwarming tales can get lost in the shuffle.

Today featured one such story when a dark bay filly by Medaglia d’Oro brought the session’s second highest price selling to Randy Gullatt of Twin Creeks Racing for $370,000. The filly was bred by former Stonewall Stallions general manager Bert Welker and is out of the unraced Gilded Time mare Peridot.

Sadly enough, Welker lost Periot last November due to a bout of colic while her future sales star was still by her side.

“She colicked and had surgery and came through that fine when this foal was by her side as a matter of fact,” Welker explained. “I was closing to weaning and she colicked again and never came out of recovery.

“It was tragic, but she gave me this,” Welker said gesturing to the Medaglia d’Oro filly. “This is even more of a blessing. It’s truly a gift.”

Welker said he was given a free breeding season to a Stonewall stallion by co-owner Richard Haisfield when he started working for the farm and picked Medaglia d’Oro, sire of Kentucky Oak and Preakness Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra, due to the stallion’s great mind as well as his striking appearance.

“I actually bred the mare to him the year before that and she slipped,” Welker said. “Medaglia, he’s a special horse. Do you know he’s special when you breed to him? No, you’re all taking a gamble. But his presence just captivates you and this filly has the same thing.”

Ferguson buys Medaglia d’Oro filly for $425,000

Well that didn’t take long.

Just two hips into today’s second session of the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale, a bay filly by red-hot sire Medaglia d’Oro sold for $425,000 to agent John Ferguson on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed, the highest so far for the sale.

Consigned by Kitty Taylor’s Warrendale Sales on behalf of Whitechurch Farm, the Medaglia d’Oro filly is out of the Group II winning Argentine mare Ting a Folie and is a half sister to stakes placed winner Bastakiya.

Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation recently purchased a majority interest in Medaglia d’Oro from Stonewall Stallions and relocated him to their Jonabell Farm.

“She’s a young sister to Bastakiya who was a very talented 2-year-old who unfortunately injured herself so we know the mare can get a good one,” said Ferguson, who also purchased a Birdstone colt for $400,000 during the opening session Monday. “It’s well known we have a strong opinion of Medaglia d’Oro like everyone else and she was a quality filly. We’ll decide in September whether she races in Europe or the United States.”

Birdstone colt sells to Ferguson for $400,000

Even in a down market, there is nothing like the lure of a Classic-producing stallion.

John Ferguson, agent for Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, went to $400,000 during the opening session of the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale to purchase a dark bay colt by rising sire Birdstone.

Birdstone, who stands for a relatively modest $10,000 at Gainesway, has gained in stature the last several months having sired both Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont Stakes winner Summer Bird.

Consigned by Dapple Stud, the dark bay session topper is out of the Seattle Slew mare Slew Smarts.

“Birdstone has blasted onto the sire scene with two classic winners. He’s obviously a sire that can do it,” Ferguson said. “He’s a sire you have to take seriously and this was a balanced, correct horse. He was a nice horse.”

Rock Hard Ten filly, Bernardini colt bring $350,000

It has been decidedly slow going during most of the opening session for the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale but the last hour has produced the closest thing to fireworks we’ve seen so far.

A dark bay filly by Rock Hard Ten and a bay colt by Bernardini each brought final bids of $350,000 to lead the action so far.

The final prices for both yearlings were each aided by owners wanting to support their own. The Rock Hard Ten filly was purchased by Dennis Yokum on behalf of Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stables, which campaigned Rock Hard Ten and still owns a majority interest in the Lane’s End stallion.

“We stand the stallion and this filly, I just thought she was the best individual in the sale,” Yokum said. “She’s the best Rock Hard Ten I’ve seen and I’ve seen a number of good ones. She’s a big, powerful looking thing, has nice length to her and a real athletic walk.”

The Bernardini colt was purchased by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley operation. Darley, which campaigned Bernardini, currently stands the champion son of A.P. Indy for an advertised fee of $75,000.

“We like the horse and we like the sire so it’s a great combination,” said Dick O’Gorman, who signed the ticket on behalf of Darley.

Quarter Horse racing begins tonight at Red Mile

If you are looking to partake in one of the more fun annual events in Lexington – and get your live horse racing fix along the way – might I suggest you venture out to the Red Mile tonight and tomorrow for its two-day Quarter Horse meet.

Eight races are scheduled each evening at the Red Mile with the first race at 7:30 p.m. Fridays card includes the Fort Harrod Stakes, for 2-year-olds at 300 yards, and the John Deere Lexington Challenge Sprint Stakes, for 3-year-olds and up at 250 yards, part of the American Quarter Horse Associations John Deere Bonus Challenge program.

Saturdays races will feature the FDD Dynasty Stakes, for 3-year-olds and up at 330 yards, and the Blue Grass Derby, for 3-year-olds at 300 yards.

Other special events in conjunction with the meet include:

  • At the Red Mile Clubhouse during the races, Bayou Bluegrass Catering is presenting its popular Red,White and Blue Barbecue. Reservations for the feast, which features barbecue and Cajun specialties, can be made by calling (859) 233-0814.

  • The Dash for Cash Blastoff handicapping contest with a $500 grand prize awarded each night. In a total of five races each night, players must select a horse that finishes in the top five in the first leg of the contest; a horse that finishes fourth or better in the second leg; a horse that finishes third or better in the third leg; a horse that finishes first or second in the fourth leg; and the horse that wins fifth leg. The player who wins all five legs will receive $500. If two or more players are successful, a drawing will be held at the end of the evening to determine the winner. If after any leg, there is only one contestant remaining, he or she will be declared the winner. The contest is sponsored by the American Quarter Horse Association and Chestnut Farm.

  • A raffle to win the Kentucky-bred racehorse The Country Side. A two-year-old colt by champion The Down Side, The Country Side is out of Country True, a daughter of the Thoroughbred Is It True, who won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The drawing to determine The Country Side will take place on Friday immediately before the second race. The raffle winner also will receive any earnings of The Country Side. Last year’s raffled horse, Streakin Traffic, won the race for Dave Holzwarth of Georgetown, Kentucky. (Streakin Traffic is entered in the third race on Friday at the Red Mile.) Raffle tickets are $10 each and are available from the KyQHRA at the races.

  • For every race, Pierrot’s Appliances and Televisions and Sallee Horse Vans of Lexington are sponsoring the Best Turned Out Horse & Groom Award. The groom of the best-looking horse as determined by a judge in the paddock will receive $75.

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