Archive for November, 2009

Noted veterinarian Phil McCarthy dead

Dr. Phil McCarthy, owner of Watercress Farm in Paris, passed away on November 29 at his home in Lexington, KY due to cancer. He was 58.

In 1977, McCarthy graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph Ontario and, the following year did his residency at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Centre where he specialized in large animal reproductive studies.  In 1979, Phil went to work for Walnut Hall Farms where he was resident veterinarian and ultimately the farm manager.

“Phil McCarthy was a pioneer in many different areas of the horse business; from fetal sexing of mares to diagnosing and treating stallion infertility.  Phil was always on the cutting edge.” said Dr. James T. Robertson, equine surgeon.

Over the last 16 years, McCarthy focused on reproductive consultation for leading stallion farms around the world while developing Watercress Farm, with longtime friend and partner Fred Hertrich, into one of the leading commercial breeding farms in North America.

“Phil possessed a rare set of talents in the horse industry.  He was a true horseman first and foremost, he knew conformation and pedigree better than most and he happened to be a world class veterinarian on top of all those other things.” said Hertrich.

In partnership, McCarthy and Hertrich bred European champion Shamardal and graded stakes winners:  Street Boss, Even the Score, Sir Greeley, Half Ours, La Chunga, Snow Dance and Got the Last Laugh.

Harness Racing Hall of Fame member Louis Guida, described Phil in this way, “He was a model husband, a model father, a model friend and a model partner.  He will be greatly missed by many in the racing world.”

McCarthy is survived by his wife Penny and their daughter Katie as well as a brother, John, a sister, Jane and family in Canada.

Visitation will be Sunday, December 6, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., at Cathedral of Christ the King, Lexington, Kentucky.  Funeral Mass will be Monday, December 7th at 10:00 a.m. at Cathedral of Christ the King with a reception following.
Memorial contributions may be sent to:  Markey Cancer Foundation for Melanoma Research, Cathedral of Christ the King, Sayre School, and Hospice of the Bluegrass.

Drama in Churchill’s fourth race

What should be a routine six-furlong maiden race for 2-year-olds is turning into quite the production here at Churchill Downs today. The fourth race on the card has already seen a late scratch in Stormy Tess, who dumped her rider and got loose running down the backstretch before being caught by the outrider. Stormy Tess was unharmed.

Shortly after that little incident, there was another delay as Jose Riquelme, jockey for Sizzleate, suffered a minor injury when the filly repeatedly tossed her head en route to the starting gate and appeared to clip Riquelme in the face. After Riquelme dismounted and was examined, it was announced Terry Thompson would now ride Sizzleate.

They are finally all in the gate now. Hopefully the race itself is much less eventful than the moments leading up to it.

UPDATE: The race went off without incident with Cinco Emayo rallying under Leandro Goncalves to win.

Wiggins’ memorable year gets storybook ending

You couldn’t have scripted a more perfect ending for one of racing’s grandest horsemen.

Trainer Hal Wiggins, who formerly conditioned leading Horse of the Year candidate Rachel Alexandra, truly ended his career on top Friday. The native of Texas announced earlier this season he was retiring at the conclusion of the Churchill Downs Fall meeting and, appropriately enough, earned a victory in his final effort as he saddled longshot High Spirit to the upset in the tenth race.

It is every sportsman’s dream to go out a winner and, in the case of Wiggins, it simply could not happen to a nicer person. The racing industry is not only losing of its most respected horsemen but one of the classiest people on any backstretch.

In putting together the feature on Wiggins which ran Friday, I found myself with a wonderful problem on my hands: How on earth would I fit in all the great material he had provided?

Unfortunately, not every anecdote was able to make it into the print version, but some of Hal’s stories were too touching and too amusing not to be shared. Thus, here is a sampling of some of my favorite tales and opinions from one of the great gentlemen of the sport.

On longtime owner Dolphus Morrison: “He has been a loyal client and a good friend. The first good one we had was Morris Code, we bought her for $23,000 as a yearling and she ended up winning about $740,000 and then he sold her for about $550,000. I remember he told (Wiggins’ wife) Renee, ‘If this mare wins $1,000,000 then I’m going to buy you a Cadillac.’ And so of course not long after that she gets hurt at the Fair Grounds, so he retires her and breeds her.

“So he bred her to Dixieland Band and got her in foal. We’re at the sale and it gets up to about $300,000-$350,000 and then it gets to where it’s just (Morrison) and one other guy and they’re bidding $25,000 a lick. It gets up to about $500,000 and… he bids $525,000 and the other guy comes back at $550,000 and he leans up and says ‘I don’t think I want her for $575,000’ so he stops and the other guy gets her for $550,000. He then leaned up and told Renee ‘That last bid, that was your Cadillac’ and he sent her the money and she bought her Cadillac.”

Rachel or Zenyatta for Horse of the Year?: “In the first place I am 100 percent prejudice and biased. But to me there is no question, there is just no question. You have to give credit to the people who own the older mare, they gambled and to me that was the race of the year what she did. It was tremendous but it was one race on her home track. All of her races this year – and there weren’t that many – were over her home track. Rachel won graded races at seven different tracks, beat the Kentucky Derby winner, beat the Belmont winner and I just would like someone to tell me the last time a 3-year-old filly outran Grade 1 older horses. It just does not happen in our business.”

Any chance at a comeback?: “Right now I’ll say no but you never say never and I don’t know how I’m going to feel a year from now. It’s going to be all new and I’m going to enjoy it but who is to say I’m not going to get bored. Of course I’ll probably have to get a divorce lawyer if I do (comeback)! And I’m kidding because Renee has supported me doing this for 30 years and she would support that too. But I’ve had a couple opportunities like that since I’ve announced my retirement but right now I’m just going to stop training and be a grandpa and see how that goes.”

Old Friends to open satellite farm in New York

Michael Blowen, founder and president of Old Friends in Georgetown, has announced the opening of his organization’s first satellite facility for retired Thoroughbreds. Cabin Creek, a 40-acre farm just outside Saratoga in Greenfield Center, NY, will begin receiving horses immediately. An official opening and celebration is planned for July 22, 2010.

This premiere auxiliary space will be named in honor of trainer Bobby Frankel, who passed away earlier this week after a battle with cancer. A native New Yorker, Frankel was a long supporter of the Old Friends mission and earned many of his greatest victories at New York racetracks. The farm will formally be known as “Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division.”

Owned by Joann and Mark Pepper, Cabin Creek features 12 stalls, two round pens, five finished paddocks, and has raw space available for development and growth. The first resident, Moonshadow Gold–a 10-year-old New York-bred gelding acquired through the efforts of several equine-welfare advocates–will arrive later this week.

The property will be leased by Old Friends, which will continue to control all acquisitions and financials.

The Peppers, who built Cabin Creek from scratch 15 years ago, will handle day-to-day operations.

“When we built the farm my goal was to do Thoroughbred retirement,” said Joann, who began her life with horses as a groom for Nick Zito. “Initially we did boarding and foaling as a way to establish ourselves, but I always came back to the idea of retirement. I had read about Old Friends, and this summer an article in the “Saratogian” prompted me to call Michael. I explained that my farm was empty and I wanted to emulate what he was doing. It just clicked that we would do it together.”

Since its inception, Old Friends has grown to more than 92-acres and is home to 70-plus ex-race horses. It is open to the public daily and attracts thousand of tourists and fans to central Kentucky annually.

“This was just an amazing opportunity,” said Blowen, who finalized arrangements with the Peppers just last week. “I have always felt there was a need for Old Friends all over the country.”

Stallion fees continue to drop, Giant’s Causeway reduced to $100,000

The ongoing trend of stallion fee reductions continued Tuesday as Ashford Stud announced it was cutting the fees for all but one of their stallions.

Giant’s Causeway, currently tops on the latest general sire list, will stand in 2010 for $100,000 down from $125,000 this past season. His reduction comes one day after WinStar Farm announced its top stallion Distorted Humor, No. 2 on the general sire list, will stand for $100,000 this upcoming season, down from $150,000 in 2009.

Henrythenavigator, who stood his first season at Ashford for $65,000, will command and advertised fee of $40,000 in 2010 while Fusaichi Pegasus will stand for $15,000, down from $30,000 in 2009.

Here is the complete list of Ashford fees for 2010:

Dehere: $10,000

Fusaichi Pegasus $15,000

Giant’s Causeway $100,000

Grand Slam $17,500

Henrythenavigator $40,000

Lion Heart $12,500

Majestic Warrior $15,000

Scat Daddy $15,000

Thewayyouare $10,000

Tale of the Cat $30,000

Thunder Gulch $10,000

Van Nistelrooy $7,500

Churchill to hold six night racing programs in 2010

Following the overwhelming popularity of a three-date market test this spring, Churchill Downs will stage six special “Downs After Dark” nighttime racing programs under the lights in 2010.
The announcement was made Nov. 17 during a news conference at the historic Louisville, Ky., racetrack that also revealed Musco Lighting as the winning contract bidder to install permanent track lighting at Churchill Downs and a new online platform for patrons to purchase tickets to the track.
Churchill Downs will host its unique Downs After Dark programs on the final four Fridays of the 42-date Spring Meet and two evening cards during the 20-date Fall Meet, including opening night which doubles as Halloween.
A complete list of the 2010 Downs After Dark dates (with scheduled first post time), pending final approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission:

  • Friday, June 11, 2010 (6 p.m. ET)
  • Friday, June 18, 2010 (6 p.m. ET)
  • Friday, June 25, 2010 (6 p.m. ET)
  • Friday, July 2, 2010 (6 p.m. ET)
  • Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010 (4:30 p.m. ET)
  • Friday, Nov. 19, 2010 (4:30 p.m. ET)
Churchill Downs hosted night racing events on June 19, June 26 and July 2. The average attendance was 29,705 and the three-night total was 89,115. A modern day track record of 33,481 attended the finale on July 2 – the largest crowd for a Churchill Downs racing program other than a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks or Breeders’ Cup. It topped the old mark of 28,396 for a pre-simulcast wagering era million-dollar Pick 6 carryover on Nov. 14, 1987.
The event’s popularity helped signal the go-ahead on a multi-million dollar project to install permanent track lighting at the home of the Kentucky Derby.
“We want to keep Downs After Dark a special and unique experience for our fans,” Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said. “For three nights this past spring, Churchill Downs was transformed into Louisville’s ultimate nighttime hot spot. The track was the place to be and offered the biggest party in town. Our distinctive events under the lights helped redefine the on-track racing experience and generated a tremendous buzz in the community and within the horse racing industry. It could not have been accomplished without the teamwork and support of our horsemen’s groups, neighborhood associations and employees and the fantastic support and participation we received from the Greater Louisville community. Our goal for the coming year is to deliver that same level of excitement to core customers, casual patrons and entertainment-seekers within these six special Downs After Dark events in 2010.”

Memories of Bobby Frankel

Over the course of the day as news of Bobby Frankel’s passing spread, a plethora of anecdotes began coming in from horsemen wanting to share their memories of the Hall of Fame trainer. Unfortunately in the age of the shrinking news hole, there was not room for all of them in the print version of the story, but here are a few I thought were especially poignant.

Owner and breeder Ken Ramsey: “I remember Bobby invited my grandson Nolan and myself to the barn where (trainer) Rick Dutrow had Big Brown stabled last year. While there, Nolan took a really good picture of Happy, Frankel’s little Australian Shepherd dog he’d had about 15 years. The following Spring when Bobby came to Keeneland, Nolan and I autographed the picture and had it blown up 12 X 14, framed it and presented it to Bobby. I think he enjoyed that as much as any Grade I win he’d had. The emotion he showed over that dog showed what a true, kind and generous man he was.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher: “He was a tremendous horseman, his horses always looked well and he was a great caretaker. In some ways, he developed the trend of giving horses more time between races. He was very passionate about horses and passionate about racing.”

Jack Brothers, Adena Springs: “I don’t think there is another horseman on the planet who would have been able to get as much out of (2004 Horse of the Year) Ghostzapper as Bobby did with his training style and patience. With Ghostzapper, he didn’t have to prep for a big race, he was able to bring him in off a long layoff. He was just gifted. On the surface, he looked like he was the kind of guy with a hard center but once you got to know him you saw that he loved his animals and I was always impressed with how much he appreciated having horses in his care and looking after them the way he did.”

Trainer Shug McGaughey: “He was an excellent horseman with an impeccable record. He was great to his horses and great to his help. He went from the bottom rung of racing all the way to the top, which is a mark not only of him as a horseman, but as a person. He will be sadly missed.”

Honest Pursuit sells for $3.1 million to Wertheimer Brothers

The Overbrook name continues to be synonymous with excellence. Honest Pursuit, part of the complete dispersal from Overbrook Farm, brought a sale-topping bid of $3.1 million from the Wertheimer Brothers to lead the second session of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale.

Four horses reached the seven figure mark Wednesday, all of them from the Overbrook dispersal.

Even in a depressed market, the four-year-old Honest Pursuit was an unbashed standout. The daughter of Storm Cat is out of the Grade I winning Seattle Slew mare Honest Lady and is a half sister to Grade I winner First Defence. Honest Lady herself comes from one of racing’s most regal families as she is out of the great blue hen mare Toussaud and is a half sister to Grade I winners Empire Maker, Chester House, and Chiselling.

“Everything,” said Alain Wertheimer when asked what he liked about Honest Pursuit. “Obviously if you could get that kind of family everyday, you wouldn’t have to pay that kind of money. She will stay here.”

Alain Wertheimer along with his brother Gerard currently campaign the two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winning filly Goldikova.

Cotton Blossom sells to Brushwood for $2.3 million

Grade I winner Cotton Blossom established a new top price for the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale when she sold for $2.3 million to Betty Moran’s Brushwood Stable on Wednesday.

Consigned by Eaton Sales as part of the complete dispersal for Overbrook Farm, Cotton Blossom sold for $1.9 million two years ago when she went through the ring of the Fasig-Tipton November mixed sale. In a reversal of market trends, the five-year-old daughter of Broken Vow did even better this time around, opening at a bid of $100,000 before pinhooker Dean DeRenzo threw down the winning bid on behalf of Moran.

“I think Betty will be pretty happy with this mare,” DeRenzo said. “There is everything to like about her. She’s the most beautiful mare I think in this sale, she was a fantastic racehorse, a fantastic looking mare. She should have great babies and that’s what it’s all about. And Betty Moran will race those babies.”

Out of the top producing mare For Dixie, Cotton Blossom is a half sister to graded stakes winner Vicarage and scored her lone Grade I triumph when she captured the 2007 Acorn Stakes for Dogwood Stables, who campaigned her.

The bay mare was sold in foal to leading sire Street Cry.

Moments after Cotton Blossom lit up the board, another product of the Overbrook dispersal posted another seven-figure result. Dark Sky, an unraced daughter of Storm Cat, sold to Edward Evans for $1.3 million.

The four-year-old filly is out of the Group III winning mare Media Nox and is a full sister to multiple Group I winner Nebraska Tornado. Dark Sky is also a half sister to graded stakes winner Mirabilis.

“We liked her physically and we loved her family. There is a lot to like,” said Chris Baker, farm manager for Edward Evans’ Spring Hill Farm. “Not many opportunities to get into a family like that.”

Bell snags Summer Raven for $1.7 million

The seven-year-old Summer Squall mare Summer Raven became the first horse to break the seven-figure barrier Wednesday, selling for $1.7 million to bloodstock agent Reynolds Bell during the second session of the Keeneland November Breeding Stock sale.

Bell purchased Summer Raven, a Grade III winner on the track, for the same undisclosed domestic client he bought Mary Delaney for $850,000 earlier in the session.

“He’s a fairly new person in the business and he’s looking to put together a nice broodmare band to breed, race and sell,” Bell said of the client. “He is bargain shopper that’s for sure. He understands there is some value in the market right now. This mare might have cost $2.5 million last year.

“I don’t know what business he’s in to be honest with you, I’m not real sure,” Bell added about his client. “I just know he’s a nice individual for our business.”

Summer Raven was consigned by Eaton Sales as part of the complete dispersal of Overbrook Farm. Out of the winning Rahy mare Rahy Rose, Summer Raven was sold in foal to Unbridled’s Song.

Shortly after Summer Raven went through the ring, Sweet and Careless – dam of Grade I winner Careless Jewel – sold for $900,000 to Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud, who purchased the mare on behalf of another undisclosed domestic client.

“In this market she’s good value and we’re real happy,” Bandoroff said. “She’s a pretty mare, (Careless Jewel) is staying in training next year, and we like the idea that we could maybe go back to A.P. Indy with his stud fee being dropped. What do I know, but I don’t see a downside to that.”

Sweet and Careless is currently in foal to Tapit, carrying a full sibling to Careless Jewel.

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