Archive for December, 2009

My dos and don’ts wish list for racing in 2010

If you have ever read Glamour magazine, you know in each month’s issue it has a page devoted to the “dos” and “don’ts” of fashion trends.

Since that publication is one of my guilty pleasures whenever I am in need of mind candy, I am taking a cue from the longtime glossy and putting together a list of racing dos and don’ts I would love to see those in the industry heed in the New Year and beyond.

(drumroll, drumroll, drumroll…)

No. 1 – If you have a healthy, sound, brilliant 3-year-old who has only given mere hints to his/her real potential, and you have more money than you could ever spend, please DO keep said horse in training so they can showcase their true greatness and give racing fans another hero to cheer for. Heroes can do wonders for this sport. Exhibit A: Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta.

No. 2 – If you employ a trainer with a rap sheet longer than the Bay Bridge, DON’T act indignant when you get on a big stage (i.e. Triple Crown/Breeders’ Cup) and people keep bringing up said rap sheet. You knew what you were getting into when you hired them.

No. 3 – DO remember where you came from and be nice to the fans. Since the sport’s main stars (the horses) are by and large pretty inaccessible to the average patron, it is up to the human participants to fill that void. So if you find yourself with a spare second and a respectful fan approaches you for a picture, autograph, or just a little wisdom: Stop. Smile. Genuinely thank them for their time and their interest. Because without them, there is no racing. Period. Track operators, this goes for you too.

No. 4 – If you are a trainer with multiple drug violations, DON’T keep using the fact you weren’t physically at the track where the infraction occurred as an excuse. If you’re going to get the credit for every victory a horse in your care earns whether you saddled them or not, you’re going to have to take the heat for the violations too.

No. 5. – DO your due diligence before getting involved in this business because, like any industry, there are some bad apples out there. And if you chose to do business with said bad apples anyway, DON’T be surprised when it ends ugly and/or you don’t get your money. Can’t say we didn’t warn you.

No. 6 – DO savor the moment. Whether you own a horse outright or have two percent of a partnership and regardless if you’ve just won a $10,000 claiming race or the Kentucky Derby, simply getting a horse to the winner’s circle is an amazing, thrilling experience. Enjoy it for everything it is worth.

No. 7 – DON’T complain about overproduction and then book a stallion to 150-plus mares or breed to a stallion with an extremely large book. The most mares Storm Cat ever covered in a season was 123. Just saying.

No. 8 – DO work together to enact positive changes for the sport. Uniform drug rules would be a great start.

No. 9 – DON’T underestimate the “little guy” or the underdog. Did anyone have Mine That Bird on their list of Derby contenders this time last year? Did anyone outside of his connections even know Summer Bird existed last December? How many people outside of racetrack insiders knew who Hal Wiggins was? Exactly.

No. 10 – DO love this sport with all your heart and don’t ever think it can’t survive its rough spots. Think of how many people wrote racing off in the aftermath of the Eight Belles tragedy – or at the very least, wrote off females displaying their brilliance against males. Then think of the outpouring of passion that was generated this year on the days of the Oaks, Preakness, Haskell, Woodward, Lady’s Secret, and Breeders’ Cup Classic. In the words of Indian Charlie, we ain’t dead yet.

Online sale of Oaks-Derby tickets delayed

A potential data error with its new online box office has prompted Churchill Downs to delay a scheduled online sale of two-day Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks ticket packages. The online sale had been scheduled to commence Wednesday (Dec. 16) at noon EST.
“Churchill Downs regrets having to make this late announcement of a delay, but the customer experience comes first,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “While exhaustively testing our online ticketing system, we detected a potential data error that could have resulted in customer service issues for some patrons. We regret any inconvenience, but the best way to serve all patrons is to delay the online offering, address the potential data error and offer these limited tickets at a later date.  We will announce the new date as soon as possible.”
A total of 3,000 seats were allocated for the online exclusive.

Champion jockey Mick Kinane retires

Leading European jockey Mick Kinane, who piloted the brilliant Sea The Stars throughout his career, has announced his retirement at age 50 according to various European publications.

Kinane, the son of a former jockey, has long been known as one of the most successful riders on either side of the ocean. In guiding European Horse of the Year Sea The Stars through an undefeated campaign this season, including his memorable victory in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in October, Kinane caps off a career that saw him win four 2,000 Guineas, three Derbys, two Oaks, a St Leger, five King Georges and six St James’s Palace Stakes – more than any other rider.

“At 50 I still feel fit and sharp enough to do any horse justice but, after the season I have just had in partnership with Sea The Stars, I have the privilege of being able to end my career as a jockey on an incredible high and that’s what I want to do,” Kinane said in a statement released to the Press Association. “I leave with a huge sense of gratitude to all the great horses I have ridden, all the great trainers whose genius developed those champions and everybody else in racing, from the stable lads to the owners, who have made me deeply thankful for my involvement in the game.”

In addition to his success in Europe, Kinane also notched three Breeders’ Cup victories, guiding Johannesburg to the win in the 2001 Juvenile and High Chaparral to back-to-back scores in the 2002-03 Breeders’ Cup Turf. He also captured the 1990 Belmont Stakes aboard Go and Go as well as the Melbourne Cup with Vintage Crop in 1993.

For more on Kinane’s retirement, here is the link to the Racing Post story and the publication’s additional coverage:

Cowboy Cal to stand at Pin Oak

Bob and Janice McNair’s multiple graded stakes winner Cowboy Cal has been retired and will enter stud at Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud in 2010 for a fee of $7,500.

The 4-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway captured five graded stakes and earned $1,037,810 for trainer Todd Pletcher. Cowboy Cal began 2009 with back-to-back wins in the Grade II San Pasqual Handicap and Grade II Strub Stakes and went on to capture the Grade II Oak Tree Mile, earning a 104 Beyer Speed Figure.

Cowboy Cal is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Texas Tammy, a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Behrens.

“He’s a grand-looking horse,” Abercrombie said, “We’re very excited to have  a top son of Giant’s Causeway join our roster.”

Churchill’s Clark Handicap elevated to Grade I status

Churchill Downs’ Clark Handicap, the signature event of the track’s Fall Meeting, will be among the three races elevated to Grade I status for 2010, the American Graded Stakes Committee announced today.

The Committee reviewed 723 unrestricted U.S. stakes races with a purse of at least $75,000 and assigned graded status to 487 of them, two less than were graded in 2009. A total of 15 graded races were upgraded, including three new Grade I races, six new Grade II races, and six new Grade III races. Two races which were Grade III in 2009 are no longer eligible for grading.

The Clark Handicap was run as a Grade I in 2006 when it was captured by Premium Tap, but was downgraded the following season back to its Grade II status. Despite taking place less than a month after the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, the 1 1/8-mile test has consistently drawn top fields including this year’s contest which was won by Blame and featured three Grade I participants in Einstein, Bullsbay and Macho Again.

“We’re thrilled and we greatly appreciate the work the committee did in reaching that decision,” said John Asher, vice president of racing communications for Churchill Downs. “Quite frankly we think it never should have lost the Grade I status a couple years ago because we think it’s been one of the best races for years now. We’re glad to see it get the recognition and the status we think it deserves. Now it’s up to us to keep it strong.”

Oaklawn Park’s Arkansas Derby, one of the major prep races on the Kentucky Derby trail, was also elevated to Grade I status as was the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.

Here is a breakdown of all the changes for 2010:


Two-Year-Old Fillies

Breeders’ Juvenile Fillies Turf (T) Ungraded to Grade II

Pocahontas S. (Churchill Downs) Grade III to Grade II

Three-Year-Old Fillies


Older Fillies and Mares





Arkansas Derby (Oaklawn Park) Grade II to Grade I

American Turf S. (T) (Churchill Downs) Grade III to Grade II

Risen Star S. (Fair Grounds) Grade III to Grade II

Sir Beaufort S. (T) (Santa Anita Park) Grade III to Grade II

Iowa Derby (Prairie Meadows) Ungraded to Grade III

Sunland Derby (Sunland Park) Ungraded to Grade III

Older Horses

Alfred G. Vanderbilt H. (Saratoga) Grade II to Grade I

Clark H. (Churchill Downs) Grade II to Grade I

Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (T) Ungraded to Grade II

Breeders’ Cup Marathon Ungraded to Grade III

Cougar II H. (Del Mar) Ungraded to Grade III

Ft. Lauderdale S. (T) (Gulfstream Park) Ungraded to Grade III

Monmouth S. (T) (Monmouth Park) Ungraded to Grade III


Two-Year-Old Fillies


Three-Year-Old Fillies

Comely S. (Aqueduct) Grade II to Grade III

Adena Stallion’s Miss Preakness S. (Pimlico) Grade III to Ungraded

Safely Kept S. (Laurel Park) Not eligible

Frances A. Genter S. (T) (Calder Race Course) Not eligible

Older Fillies and Mares

Go For Wand H. (Saratoga) Grade I to Grade II

John C. Mabee S. (T) (Del Mar) Grade I to Grade II

Santa Maria H. (Santa Anita Park) Grade I to Grade II

Bed O’ Roses H. (Aqueduct) Grade II to Grade III

Beverly Hills H. (T) (Hollywood Park) Grade II to Grade III

La Prevoyante H. (T) (Calder Race Course) Grade II to Grade III

Rampart S. (Gulfstream Park) Grade II to Grade III

Next Move H. (Aqueduct) Grade III to Ungraded




Illinois Derby (Hawthorne Race Course) Grade II to Grade III

Jefferson Cup S. (T) (Churchill Downs) Grade II to Grade III

Ohio Derby (Thistledown) Grade II to Grade III

Baldwin S. (T) (Santa Anita Park) Grade III to Ungraded

Barbaro S. (Delaware Park) Grade III to Ungraded

Calder Derby (T) (Calder Race Course) Grade III to Ungraded

Cinema H. (T) (Hollywood Park) Grade III to Ungraded

Older Horses

Citation H. (T) (Hollywood Park) Grade I to Grade II

Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash S. (Laurel Park) Grade I to Grade II

Sunset H. (T) (Hollywood Park) Grade II to Grade III

Tom Fool H. (Belmont Park) Grade II to Grade III

Dallas Turf Cup S. (T) (Lone Star Park) Grade III to Ungraded

Stuyvesant H. (Aqueduct) Grade III to Ungraded

Livingston to hold book signing

Two-time Eclipse Award winning photographer Barbara Livingston will be on hand to sign copies of her new book, Horses: In Living Color, as well as the popular More Old Friends during a special event to benefit Old Friends Equine at the “Old Friends Bar” inside the Circa 1840 Restaurant in Georgetown.

For Horses: In Living Color, Livingston traveled all over North America looking for the most uniquely colored equines and the result is a collection of over 175 photos. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the books will be given to Old Friends.

The event, which is open to the public, will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Trainer McLaughlin facing penalties for drug positive

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who conditioned 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor, will serve three concurrent 30-day suspensions after acknowledging that three horses in his care tested positive for sub-nanogram levels of the bronchodilator Atrovent during the Keeneland Fall meeting in October.

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, McLaughlin said he used Atrovent, a medication containing ipratropium, which is used to relax lung tissue, on the recommendation of his veterinarian for horses in his stable that had developed a cough due to hay dust. The Lexington native added he was advised to withdraw the use of the medication at least 48 hours prior to the race and followed those guidelines.

The suspension will run from Dec. 1-Dec.30. Among the horses who came up positive were Bluegrass Princess, winner of a division of the Grade III Pin Oak Valley View at Keeneland on October 23. The other positives were found in the juvenile Liston, winner of the fifth race at Keeneland on October 9, and Hatheer, third in the JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes on October 15.

All of the horses in question were disqualified to last and their purse money will be redistributed.

In subsequent post-race tests by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, the urine levels found in the horses were .16ng, .26ng, and .39ng, according to McLaughlin. While McLaughlin said the levels found were not believed to be enough to affect the horses’ performances, but the presence of the drug is a violation of Kentucky’s medication rules.

“I am deemed to be in violation of the rules. I agreed to participate in accordance with those rules and, therefore, I accept full responsibility for these violations and will accept the penalty ordered by the Stewards, regardless of the issues that are raised,” McLaughlin said in his statement. “I have apologized to my owners and thank them for their total support and understanding. I have a hard-earned reputation for honesty, integrity, and horsemanship. I would never compromise my integrity or the integrity of the sport I love.”

Ipratropium is listed as a Class B drug by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission as a medication “that may have a legitimate therapeutic indication in the equine athlete but also have a high potential to influence performance based on their presence in Classes 2 or 3 in the Racing Commissioners International Uniform Classification of Foreign Substances.”

McLaughlin stated he would not fight the penalties but has asked the Commission to test the blood samples from the horses in questions “to verify the medication was administered as I have represented and not on race day.”

“I do not believe a protracted legal proceeding is in my best interest or the best interests of racing at the time,” McLaughlin added. “Rather I ask that the industry organizations and experts presently re-examining racing’s medication and testing policies look at this situation as it relates to zero tolerance and, once again, the lack of uniformity.”

Calder postpones weekend stakes due to EHV-1 outbreak

Calder Race Course is postponing the runnings of its two graded turf stakes scheduled for this Saturday due to a current quarantine of the stable area.  It was announced on Monday that three barns have been placed under quarantine after a horse tested positive for Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) on Monday at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.  The horse was previously stabled at Calder.

Since the quarantine restricts horses from coming into the Calder stable area and many horses entered in the two stakes this Saturday are not yet on the grounds, the $100,000, Grade III Tropical Turf Handicap and $100,000, Grade III My Charmer Handicap will both be rescheduled to a date to be determined.  Otherwise, racing continues as scheduled, starting with this Thursday’s card.  On Saturday, Calder will present a 10-race program.

While there is no evidence of other horses diagnosed with the disease at Calder, the quarantine is part of the track’s operational procedures to reduce risk for further contamination.  The horses in the three barns are being kept separate from the remaining horse population at Calder, have separate training hours, and are not eligible to race for three weeks.

There is no shipping in or out of the three barns for this time period. At the same time, no horses may ship into Calder for two weeks.

Iuliano succeeds Fick at The Jockey Club

Matt Iuliano, who has served as vice president of registration service for The Jockey Club over the past eight years, has been named executive vice president and executive director of the organization, chairman Ogden Mills Phipps announced today.

In his new position, Iuliano will continue to oversee all matters concerning The American Stud Book and will represent The Jockey Club as it interacts with the industry organizations. He succeeds Dan Fick, who has been appointed as an associate state steward for the Indiana Horse Racing Commission. Iuliano will assume his new role on January 1, 2010.

“Matt’s knowledge of the Thoroughbred industry as well as his familiarity with various initiatives that The Jockey Club has spearheaded or supported in recent years will serve him well as he takes on this new assignment,” Phipps said. “Dan has represented The Jockey Club well and his leadership skills have enabled us to make significant progress with a number of important industry initiatives over the past six and a half years.”

Iuliano will report to James Gagliano, who will succeed Alan Marzelli as president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club on January 1. Marzelli is retiring from that position.

Iuliano joined The Jockey Club in June 2001. Prior to that, he served in several executive capacities at Churchill Downs Inc. over the course of a 12-year stint. Prior to joining Churchill Downs Inc., Iuliano spent seven years as director and operations manager of Lasma East, the largest and most recognized Arabian horse farm at the time, in LaGrange, KY.

Iuliano received his bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a master’s degree in physiology and biophysics from Colorado State University before earning an MBA and law degree from the University of Louisville.