Archive for July, 2010

Personal Ensign up next for Rachel Alexandra

Reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra will indeed make her next start in the Grade I Personal Ensign Stakes, August 29 in Saratoga.

In the aftermath of her victory in the $400,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes at Monmouth Park last Saturday, trainer Steve Asmussen had indicated the 1 1/4-mile Personal Ensign would be the likely next stop for the 4-year-old daughter of Medaglia d’Oro.

“Rachel feels very much at home among the great Saratoga fans,” majority owner Jess Jackson said in a statement. “It’s an historic race, named after a great champion. The timing is right for Rachel. She’s been coming back into her stride and this will help her prepare for the rest of her campaign and the Breeders’ Cup later this year.”

Though Rachel Alexandra captured five Grade I races a year ago, including wins over males in the Preakness Stakes, Haskell Invitational and Woodward Stakes, the Personal Ensign will mark the first Grade I outing for the striking bay filly this season and her first try at the 1 1/4-miles distance. After running second in both the ungraded New Orleans Ladies and the Grade II La Troienne at Churchill Downs, Rachel Alexandra got back on track with a 10 1/2 length win in the Grade II Fleur de Lis on June 12 prior to her win in the Lady’s Secret.

“The whole team is excited to have Rachel back at Saratoga preparing for this Grade 1 race. We all love the track and the fans at Saratoga, perhaps none more then Rachel herself,” Asmussen said.

Gainesway Farm owner Graham Beck dead

Wine mogul and noted breeder Graham Beck, owner of historic Gainesway Farm, passed away in London on Monday night at the age of 80.

According to various news outlets, Beck’s body was being flown to Israel today for burial.

Known internationally for his wines as well as his successful mining ventures, Beck was also a leading figure in the Thoroughbred industry having purchased Gainesway Farm in 1989 as well as owning the top South African breeding farm Highlands.

Our industry mourns the loss of Graham Beck today. He was a great businessman, competitor and horseman,” Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said in a statement. “He lived life to the fullest and was a joy to be around. He loved Gainesway Farm and was an incredible steward of the land. More importantly, though, he was wonderful human being who fostered great devotion and admiration among those who were associated with him. His generosity touched many and will be a significant part of his legacy. Our thoughts go out to his wife Rhona, his son Antony and their family during this difficult time.”

With his son Antony at the helm of Gainesway, the farm bred such standouts as champion sprinter and current Gainesway sire Orientate and managed such leading stallions as Mt. Livermore, Cozzene, and Mr. Greeley. In addition to their established sires, Gainesway also stands Tapit – sire of champion Stardom Bound – and Birdstone, who had the distinction of siring two classic winners in the same year when Mine That Bird and Summer Bird captured the 2009 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, respectively.

Summer Bird would go on to be named champion 3-year-old male of 2009.

The Thoroughbred industry lost an immensely accomplished and respected figure today in Graham Beck, and the world lost a renowned businessman and philanthropist whose reach extended around the globe,” NTRA president Alex Waldrop said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our deepest condolences go out to his son Antony, and the entire Beck family.”

Mine That Bird works toward Whitney

2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird tuned up for his expected start in the Grade I Whitney on August 7 when he drilled a mile Wednesday morning at Saratoga Race Course for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

With regular rider Calvin Borel up, the 4-year-old Birdstone gelding covered the mile in 1:40.14 over the Oklahoma Training Track.

“I loved his work,” Lukas said. “It was a nice move. For a horse to work a mile in 1:40 on the training track – on any track- is pretty good. And he came home with good energy.”

Lukas said he worked Mine That Bird a mile to try and make up for the gelding’s eighth-place finish in the Grade II Firecracker at Churchill Downs on July 4, his 2010 debut and first career start on the turf.

“I worked him a mile because I think he needed a little more,” Lukas said. “He’ll work one more time and then it’s time to dance the dance.”

Medaglia d’Oro filly sells to Easter for $350,000

The appeal of Medaglia d’Oro offspring continues to reign in the commercial market as Virginia bloodstock agent Debbie Easter went to $350,000 to purchase a striking bay filly by the classic producing sire during the second session of the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale Wednesday.

Easter purchased the filly on behalf of owners Carter and Wick McNeely of Morrowdale Farm in Virginia and was openly thrilled about the chance to snag the half sister to Grade I winner Divine Park.

“She’s a Medaglia d’Oro, she’s a half to a Grade I winner so that’s hard to beat,” Easter said. “I didn’t know if I could get her, that was about as far as I could go. We’re psyched. That’s what you want when you’re trying to make a broodmare band.”

A colt by Medaglia d’Oro set the high price of the sale thus far when he sold to Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud for $450,000 during the opening session on Tuesday.

Consigned by Airdrie Stud, the bay filly is out of the Ascot Knight mare High in the Park and was a standout as much for her physical features as she was for her pedigree.

“We’re obviously thrilled. I thought she was a filly that would demand that kind of money,” said Bret Jones of Airdrie Stud. “Debbie’s got her and we couldn’t have asked for a better set of eyes looking at her. For this market, we’re thrilled with $350,000.”

Lane’s End stallion Dixie Union euthanized

Multiple Grade I winner and sire Dixie Union was euthanized Wednesday at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital due to a deteriorating neurological problem, Lane’s End Farm announced in a release. The son of Dixieland Band, who was out of the Capote mare She’s Tops, was 13.

Bred by Herman Sarkowsky and campaigned in partnership with Gerald Ford’s Diamond A Racing Corp., Dixie Union captured the Grade I Haskell Invitational and Malibu Stakes during his sophomore season in 2000 after having captured the Grade III Best Pal Stakes and Grade II Norfolk as a juvenile. The dark bay horse retired with seven wins from 12 career starts and earnings of $1,233,190.

Among Dixie Union’s top runners are millionaire Gone Astray, winner of the 2009 Grade II Pennsylvania Derby, Grade I winners Dixie Chatter and Hot Dixie Chick, and graded stakes winner Justwhistledixie. From seven crops of racing age, Dixie Union has sired 34 stakes winners with progeny earnings of more than $23.6 million to date.

“We are extremely saddened by the loss of Dixie Union,” Lane’s End owner William S. Farish said. “He was a beautiful horse and a terrific young sire. We want to express our gratitude to the dedicated team of experts who helped care for him as well as his owners who entrusted us with him.”

Dixie Union will be buried in the Lane’s End cemetery. His sire Dixieland Band, who also stood at Lane’s End, died earlier this year at the age of 30.

Ferguson goes to $450,000 for Medaglia d’Oro colt

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Darley Stud operation continued its strong support of one of its own as agent John Ferguson threw down a final bid of $450,000 to secure a Medaglia d’Oro colt during the opening session of the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale on Tuesday.

The gray colt is the highest priced horse to sell thus far during the first day of the sale.

Darley, which stands Medaglia d’Oro at its Lexington-based farm, purchased the sale topper at the July exercise one year ago when it obtained a Medaglia d’Oro filly for $425,000. The global powerhouse had to fight just a bit harder this time around to gain the colt which was consigned by Meg Levy’s Bluewater Sales.

“We thought he was one of the best looking yearlings in the sale,” said Joe Osborne, a director of Darley’s European operations.  “Sheikh Mohammed will decide where he’s going to go. He’s correct, has a good attitude, we saw him a couple times and we loved him all along. He’s just a really good looking colt.”

Street Sense colt paces early action at Fasig-Tipton July

An athletic bay son from the first crop of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense has set the early barometer during the opening session of the Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale, selling for $250,000 to Florida-based Whisper Hill Farm.

The colt, consigned by Taylor Made Sales, is out of the Saint Ballado mare Hishikatsu Ballado who herself is out of multiple Grade I winner Twice the Vice.

“He has all the angles, good bone,” said Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm. “The plan initially is we’re going to aim for the 2-year-old sales and bring him along and if he can handle it, we’ll go for that. If not, we’ll keep him and race him.”

Whisper Hill doesn’t often pinhook, but Pope said they expect to maybe have five horses to offer during next year’s juvenile season.

“We’re going to try it,” Pope said. “I mainly buy fillies so it’s a little different looking at the colts. But we’re going to try it and if the market is a little soft, we can buy some nice quality horses and see what we get for them.”

WinStar’s roller coaster year continues with Drosselmeyer’s injury

On Sunday, news came down that Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer would likely miss the remainder of the 2010 season due ankle issues which have taken him out of training recently.

The fact the son of Distorted Humor is now tentatively slated to spend the rest of his 3-year-old season on the sidelines just a month after he solidified the lofty expectations his owners WinStar Farm had for him is just the latest example of what has been a classic season of peaks and valleys for Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt’s operation.

WinStar, of course, experienced racing’s ultimate high when their homebred Super Saver bounded through the mud to capture the Kentucky Derby this May, but that triumph came at the end of what had been a bit of a taxing week for the powerhouse farm.

On the days entries were due for the Derby, WinStar announced its Grade III winner Endorsement would have to miss the first leg of the Triple Crown with a non-displaced fracture in his right front. That came just days after another top WinStar runner, Rule, was declared out of the Derby after the colt appeared lackluster in his training leading up to the race.

Although Super Saver’s Triple Crown hopes were dashed when he finished eighth in the Preakness, WinStar became the first owners since Overbrook Farm in 1996 to win two classics with two different horses in the same year when Drosselmeyer rallied for his Belmont triumph. Thus, tough as this latest blow to their top lineup may be, the first half of this year has shown WinStar that everything does indeed happen for a reason.

“That’s the nature of the game, it really is,” Casner said on Monday. “Endorsement is doing well, I saw him this morning and his ankle looks great and it looks like he’ll come back 100 percent as well. Rule is getting back under tack as well.

“I think with Drosselmeyer, this horse is just going to need a little time and we’re very optimistic that we stopped on him before anything major occurred. I think the horse will be a very good 4-year-old next year. We’re just going to go over him and let the diagnostics tell us where we’re at with the horse.”

Drosselmeyer is scheduled to have a bone scan this week. The chestnut colt was troubled by some hoof bruising in the days leading up to the Belmont but his current ailment is believed to be unrelated.

“He’s really been a very sound horse,” Casner said. “Sometimes these big races can take their toll on them. They’re asked for a lot in those races and he ran big. But really, we don’t feel like there is anything we’re seeing that could be considered career-ending or anything. He just needs a little R&R.”

On a brighter note for WinStar, Super Saver continues to work toward an expected start in the Grade I Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on August 1, drilling five furlongs in 1:01.70 over Belmont’s training track on Sunday for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“He’s still on track and we think he’s coming up to it well,” Casner said.

Turfway requests cut in dates, stakes schedule for Fall Meet

Turfway Park has asked the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to approve a request to cut four Wednesday cards and all but one stakes race from its 2010 Fall Meet, track president Robert N. Elliston announced today.

The request will be considered at the commission’s next meeting, set for July 20.

If the changes are approved, Turfway’s live meet will run Thursdays through Sundays from September 9 through October 3, comprising 16 cards instead of 20. With the exception of the $100,000 Grade III Turfway Park Fall Championship, a contracted Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, the stakes schedule will be eliminated.

Newly lost are the three Kentucky Cup Day of Champions races that were not slashed last year, the Grade III Classic, the Grade IIII Distaff, and the Grade III Sprint. The three together represent $400,000 in purses at their 2009 levels. Cut last year from the five-race series were the Grade III Juvenile and the Juvenile Fillies (listed). The Marfa Stakes and Weekend Delight Stakes, both ungraded, also were dropped last year.

“We were forced to make deep cuts to at least stay even with last fall’s daily purse averages and support our local horsemen as best we can,” said Elliston. “We have to do whatever we can to maximize our field size, which means fewer race dates. And we are not alone. Churchill Downs ran four days instead of five except for Derby week during their spring meet, and their average field size fell below eight. Keeneland cut more than $1 million from its fall meet purse structure and dropped two graded stakes. Except for Labor Day weekend, Ellis Park is racing only three days a week. Meanwhile, Indiana Downs just increased their purses by 30 percent and last month, on an ordinary Wednesday card, set a track wagering record.

“We are especially disappointed to have to drop the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions,” Elliston continued. “Great horses came from all over for those races, and they’ve had a significant impact on the Breeders’ Cup. If the state legislature allows us to level the playing field with surrounding states that enhance their purses with gaming revenue, the Kentucky Cup would be high on the list of races we would restore.”

Established in 1994, the Kentucky Cup Day of Champions has produced seven Breeders’ Cup winners: Boston Harbor (1996 Juvenile); Reraise (1998 Sprint); Cat Thief (1999 Classic); Spain (2000 Distaff); Vindication (2002 Juvenile); Cajun Beat (2003 Sprint); ); and Furthest Land (2009 Dirt Mile). Boston Harbor, Reraise, and Vindication became Eclipse Award champions, as did the Kentucky Cup Classic’s second winner, Thunder Gulch. Two 2008 Kentucky Cup winners, Bear Now and Fatal Bullet, were among Canada’s Sovereign Award champions.

Additionally, Turfway has asked permission to move its Fall Meet post time on Thursday and Friday to 5:30 p.m. ET, consistent with its Holiday and Winter/Spring meets. Post time those days had been 7:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday post time will remain at 1:10 p.m.

Website puts spotlight on versatility

While scrolling around on Equidaily this morning ( ), I came across a story on EquiSpace that links to a really cool website which highlights horses who have been top performers on two or more different surfaces.

Omnisurface Stars ( ) has done a great job of compiling a list of horses that have won or hit the board on turf, dirt and synthetic and is also kind enough to link each horse to their page on Pedigree Query.

Go check out their site and click around the various lists. You might be intrigued who you discover is included on there as I, for one, had forgotten that before she was the champion turf female of 2008, Forever Together had won the Grade II Forward Gal Stakes over dirt.

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