Archive for February, 2010

Southwest Stakes redraws, gets same field of ten

Despite being postponed by a handful of days due to frozen track conditions on Monday, the same lineup of ten horses returned when Oaklawn Park’s $250,000 Southwest Stakes was redrawn Thursday.

The one-mile test will be held Saturday and will feature the like of Grade I winner Dublin, San Rafael Stakes winner Conveyance, and stakes winner Dryfly.

Dublin, who won Saratoga’s Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes last September, drew post three Thursday after originally drawing the outside post in the 10-horse field.

“That’s good for me,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas smiled.  “The percentage of horses winning from the nine and ten holes going a mile is not good.”

The field now, from the post out is: Kitty’s Turn; Pleasant Storm; Dublin; Dryfly; Cardiff Giant; Cool Bullet; Crider; Domonation; Conveyance; and Mission Impazible.

Rachel Alexandra works at Fair Grounds, Zenyatta tunes up at Hollywood

Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra continued to work forwardly Thursday morning in advance of her seasonal bow in the March 13 New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds, breezing five furlongs on a fast main track in 1:00 1/5 with regular exercise rider Dominic Terry up. The 4-year-old filly broke off from the five-eighths pole and worked through fractions of :12, :23 4/5, :35 3/5 and :47 3/5. The final time made it the second-fastest five-furlong move of 19 on the morning.

“The racetrack was wet last week, and a little slow, and we were being careful,” trainer Steve Asmussen told the Fair Grounds notes team after the work. “I thought she was overly aggressive today, a little quick, so hopefully we’ll level off.”

In her previous work, on Feb. 12, Rachel Alexandra breezed five furlongs in 1:03 4/5 over a sloppy track on a wet morning when only one other horse recorded a timed workout.

“I think with not letting her do too much last week it made her very keen,” Asmussen said. “I think she wants to be in a rhythm. Hopefully the weather will be as good as it was this morning and fairly consistent, and then I think we’ll be exactly where we want to be. She was just very aggressive all week and worked good today. She was off strong. From a timing standpoint there’s still time to get exactly where want to be.”

Rachel Alexandra has breezed every six days since her first workout of the calendar year on Jan. 31. If that pattern continues, she will have three more official works before the New Orleans Ladies, a $200,000 race for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the main track. Twenty-seven days after that, on April 9, Rachel Alexandra is slated to face undefeated champion Zenyatta for what would be a $5 million purse in the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park.

Zenyatta herself also was on the workout tab Thursday, drilling six furlongs in 1:14 flat at Hollywood Park. The six-year-old daughter of Street Cry is slated to make her seasonal debut in the Grade I Santa Margarita at Santa Anita Park on March 13.

Champion Gio Ponti set for return in Tampa Bay Breeders’ Cup

It’s hard to think a dual Eclipse Award winner could fly very far under the radar but, between all the Rachel-Zenyatta Apple Blossom chatter and the packed slate of Triple Crown prep races this weekend, the return of champion Gio Ponti in  Saturday’s $150,000 Tampa Bay Breeders’ Cup has been slightly overshadowed.

While the all-female Horse of the Year battle was THE story of this year’s Eclipse Awards ceremony, Gio Ponti accomplished a bit of history in his own right when he became the first horse since the legendary John Henry in 1981 to be named both champion older male and champion turf male in the same season. The son of Tale of the Cat had a stellar 2009 campaign, winning four straight Grade I races, including the Arlington Million, and finishing second to undefeated champion Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 7.

Now back for his five-year-old season, Gio Ponti – who is owned and bred by Castleton Lyons – will use the 1 1/16-miles Tampa Bay Breeders’ Cup on the turf as a prep for his ultimate goal – the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 27.

“(Castleton Lyons owner) Shane Ryan is thrilled with him right now and we’ve all been dying for the horse to run again since the Breeders’ Cup,” said Stuart Fitzgibbon, commercial manager for Castleton Lyons. “The timing of this race, more than anything else, really fit. (Trainer) Christophe Clement felt this would give us perfect timing between now and Dubai.

“It’s been exciting seeing him back on the worktab because it seems like the Breeders’ Cup was so long ago even though it really wasn’t,” Fitzgibbon continued. “He’s been such a standout horse for us and the great thing about it is he will be a stallion here eventually and…with his talent and versatility I think he’s going to be very well received.”

While the World Cup is the immediate goal for Gio Ponti, there has been talk of possibly taking the turf star to Europe to compete this summer.

“There is nothing that is ruled in or out at this stage,” Fitzgibbon said. “Dubai is the main target and I’m sure he’ll get a bit of a rest after that and then we’ll start formulating a campaign for the rest of the year. But I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

Gio Ponti will face an expected field of nine in the Tampa Bay Breeders’ Cup and will break from post position No. 2.

Churchill Downs to stage second “Pink Out” on Oaks day

For a second straight yet, Churchill Downs and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, will partner to stage a “Pink Out” on Kentucky Oaks day in an effort to raise funds to aid in breast cancer awareness.
All Oaks attendees are encouraged to wear pink or incorporate pink into their attire for the day and Churchill Downs’ facility will be adorned in pink including pink-colored bunting, flower beds, jockeys’ and pony riders’ apparel.
Churchill Downs Incorporated has pledged to donate $1 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure for every person in attendance on Kentucky Oaks Day. Last year’s Oaks attracted a crowd of 104,867. The hope is to set an attendance record to raise maximum funds for the cause. The attendance record for the Kentucky Oaks is 111,243 attendees.
Additionally, Churchill Downs will donate $1 to Horse for Hope, the breast cancer outreach and awareness initiative in Kentucky’s horse racing industry, from the sale of Oaks Lilies, the official drink of the Kentucky Oaks.
“There are two things I won’t soon forget about last year’s Kentucky Oaks: the unbelievable, record-setting 20 ¼-length victory by the spectacular filly Rachel Alexandra, and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure survivors’ parade where, in honor of the 135th Kentucky Oaks, 135 cancer survivors accompanied the fillies on their walk from the barn area to the saddling paddock,” said Bob Evans,  president and chief executive officer of Churchill Downs Incorporated, the racetrack’s parent company. “We’re delighted to continue this important partnership to fight breast cancer with Susan G. Komen for the Cure and share in this special celebration through a broad audience on NBC Universal’s Bravo Network.”

Drosselmeyer confirmed for Risen Star

WinStar Farm’s highly-touted Drosselmeyer will start in Saturday’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, racing manager Elliott Walden confirmed Wednesday morning.

Drosselmeyer has been based in Florida with trainer Bill Mott and there were discussions earlier in the week that the son of Distorted Humor could remain there to take on the likes of Buddy’s Saint in the Grade II Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, also on Saturday.

After getting a favorable draw (post position four) for the Risen Star, however, his connections decided the 1 1/16-miles test would be his optimal chance to get the graded earnings he needs.

“He’s on a plane (to Fair Grounds) this morning,” Walden said. “The Fountain of Youth is always a hotly-contested contest with a very strong pace and it seems to be a little harder on horses earlier in the year. Plus, he drew a good post and if he had drawn a bad post,  we might have leaned the other way.”

Drosselmeyer will likely vie for favoritism in the race with Lecomte winner Ron the Greek, who will break from post 11 in the expected field of 12.

Walden added that Rule, winner of the Sam F. Davis Stakes last weekend, will likely run back in the Grade I Florida Derby on March 20 while no decision has been made on where American Lion, third in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, will start next.

Del Mar matriarch Betty Mabee dies

Betty Mabee, who with her late husband, John, helped build one of the west’s great Thoroughbred breeding empires and played a key role in the blossoming of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and Del Mar racetrack, died Monday at around 7 p.m. at her home in nearby Rancho Santa Fe, according to a release from Del Mar. She was 88.

Mabee passed “peacefully and quietly,” according to her son, Larry, who noted that his mother had finally succumbed to an extended illness.

A  native of Unionville, Missouri, Mabee grew up in Iowa and married John, her high school sweetheart, to start a partnership that was to last for 60 years and see them reach great heights in the world of business, as well the Thoroughbred industry.

The Mabees moved to San Diego during World War II and opened a mom-and-pop grocery store that evolved into the 30-store Big Bear Supermarket chain. Subsequently, the Mabees started and ran Golden Eagle Insurance Company, California’s third-largest workers’ compensation carrier with more than 1,300 employees. But the couple discovered their true love in 1957 when they bought two horses for $6,000 at the Del Mar Yearling Sale.

That small investment led to the founding of Golden Eagle Farm in Ramona, California, which grew from 197 to 568 acres at its height in the early 2000s. The farm began with a handful of horses that expanded to more than 400 racing and breeding stock — supplemented by an additional 150 head that were quartered in Kentucky — during a highly successful run that saw the Mabees become not only the leading breeders in California, but national champions and Eclipse Award winners in 1991, 1997 and 1998.

Among the Mabees many equine successes, the best of all — and Mrs. Mabee’s personal favorite — was Best Pal, a California champion they bred and foaled at their farm who went on to win more than $5.6 million, including the 1991 inaugural running of the $1-million Pacific Classic.

Other leading horses bred and/or owned by the Mabees have included Western Hemisphere, Souvenir Copy, General Challenge, Yearly Report, Event of the Year, Johnica, Worldly Ways, Fantastic Look and Beau’s Eagle, the first Grade I winner they owned and bred .

Following the death of her husband in 2002, Mrs. Mabee agreed to join the board of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club as a director, a role she served in until 2008, when she took on the title of Director Emeritus.

A warm, personable woman with an easy smile, Mrs. Mabee was involved in numerous charitable organizations and programs during more than half a century in the San Diego. She was a founding member of Voices for Children and the Angels of Aseltine Auxiliary.

Besides her son, Mrs. Mabee is survived by three grandchildren.

Service arrangements have not been made final.

Rachel-Zenyatta Apple Blossom showdown back on

Following conversations with Jess Jackson and Jerry Moss, the Grade I $5,000,000 Apple Blossom Invitational is back on, Oaklawn President Charles J. Cella announced Thursday. The race, which was increased to a total purse of $5,000,000 provided both Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta start, will now be held Friday, April 9, the day before the Grade I $1,000,000 Arkansas Derby, Oaklawn’s traditional closing day.

“The most important day in Arkansas sports history has now become the most important two days in Arkansas sports history,” Cella said. “This is truly a race for the ages.”

Cella reported that he began discussions Wednesday night with both Jackson and Zenyatta owner Jerry Moss, immediately upon hearing that the original date of April 3 was not feasible, and that those discussions continued Thursday morning.

“I understand the concerns of all competitors in needing a prep race and properly preparing for a race of this magnitude, especially in light of the weather we’ve been experiencing recently around the country,” Cella said. “Both parties want this to happen when their champions are at their absolute peak. This date makes that possible.”

In a statement released Thursday evening, Jess Jackson – majority owner of Rachel Alexandra – said “We are delighted that the race is on for April 9 and want to especially thank Charles Cella and Oaklawn for moving the date.”

Team Zenyatta: Three-race series proposal news to them

When Jess Jackson – majority owner of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra – sent out a statement yesterday evening announcing he would not take Oaklawn Park president Charles Cella up on his $5 million offer to have his filly  face undefeated Zenyatta in the Grade I Apple Blossom on April 3, the wine mogul said he was in discussions with the NTRA to create a three-race series in which the two distaffers would meet.

On Thursday morning, however, Santa Anita Park’s notes team reported the Zenyatta camp apparently had no knowledge such a series was even in the works.

“I don’t mean to be vague, but no one ever spoke to us about such a proposal,” Dottie Ingordo-Shirreffs, racing manager for Jerry and Ann Moss and wife of trainer John Shirreffs, said. “We’re waiting to hear about what’s going on. We’re just finding out, like everybody else.”

Zenyatta, who worked six furlongs Thursday at Hollywood Park in 1:13.80, breezing, likely will make her seasonal bow in the Grade I, $250,000 Santa Margarita Handicap at Santa Anita on March 13.

Rachel Alexandra won’t run in Apple Blossom

The anticipated showdown between 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra and undefeated champion Zenyatta will have to wait a little longer as Rachel Alexandra’s majority owner Jess Jackson announced today his star filly would not run in the Grade I Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park on April 3.

Oaklawn Park president Charles Cella had offered to up the purse of the Apple Blossom to $5 million should both distaffers compete in the 1 1/8 mile test. In a statement released Wednesday, trainer Steve Asmussen said that “it was not in the best interest” to ask the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro to be ready in time for the Apple Blossom off a six-month layoff.

“Getting to this level of fitness after a six-month layoff takes time,” Asmussen said. “If all goes according to schedule, and we do not have any further weather delays, the earliest we could have a prep race would be the middle of March. It is then not fair to Rachel to ask her to race again three weeks later.”

Rachel Alexandra has not run since her historic victory over older males in the Grade I Woodward Stakes at Saratoga on September 5.

Though the Apple Blossom showdown won’t come off, Jackson said he is in discussions with NTRA president Alex Waldrop to create a series of races between now and November between the two great racemares.

“The fans have spoken. The media has spoken. Everyone wants to see Rachel race against Zenyatta – including me,” Jackson said.  “In fact, I want it to happen several times this year. We have been in discussions with Alex Waldrop with the hope of coordinate training schedules, racing schedules, purses and all ancillary factors, so that we can all agree upon three dates and three venues for what will be a racing series to rival the Triple Crown.

“Hopefully, these discussions will take place at earliest possible time so that we can announce something that will give the fans a season to remember,” Jackson added.

“All Others” favored in opening Future Wager pool

Champion 2-year-old Lookin At Lucky is the favored individual horse, but Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has installed the  mutuel field, or ‘all others’ as the 5-2 morning line favorite in the opening pool of the 2010 Kentucky Derby Future Wager (“KDFW”) that beings its three-day run on Friday, Feb. 12.

Lookin at Lucky, the champion 2-year-old of 2009, is the favored individual horse at odds of 8-1. The three-day pool opens at noon (all times EST) on Friday, Feb. 12 and wagering will continue at racetracks, satellite wagering outlets and online through 6 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 14.

The wager provides an opportunity for fans to wager weeks in advance on contenders for the Kentucky Derby – which will be run at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 1 – and often at odds that are more attractive than those they would receive on the day of the event. The Derby Future bet is a $2 minimum “win” wager. The minimum wager for a straight exacta is $2, while the minimum for exacta boxes and wheels is $1.

The ‘all others’ interest has been the strong favorite in all opening pools during the Future Bet’s previous 11 previous years – and that interest has been a winning wager in Pool 1 five times. It happened again in 2009 when Mine That Bird, who was not an individual betting interest in any of last year’s three KDFW pools, rolled home at odds of 50-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Other horses that were members of the mutuel field but went on to win  include Charismatic (1999), War Emblem (2002), Smarty Jones (2004), and Big Brown (2008).

Real time odds and other information on the Kentucky Derby Future Wager will be available online at, the official Web site for the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby. Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager is set for March 5-7, while the final pool is scheduled for March 26-28.

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