Archive for September, 2010

Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra retired

Reigning Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, who defeated males three times en route to an 8-0 campaign last season, has been retired, majority owner Jess Jackson announced in a statement today.

“As you know, despite top training and a patient campaign, Rachel Alexandra did not return to her 2009 form.  I believe it’s time to retire our Champion and reward her with a less stressful life.  We are delighted that she will retire healthy and happy to our beautiful farm in Kentucky.

“Rachel Alexandra owes us nothing,” Jackson continued. “As a 3-year-old, she set standards and records that no filly before her ever achieved.  And I suspect it will be quite a while before a three year old filly ever equals or surpasses her achievements.  Although her fans were thrilled by a series of spectacular victories, I believe they, as we, were simply awed time and again by her sheer beauty, courage and athleticism.

Rachel Alexandra’s 2009 campaign was widely regarded as one for the ages.  She captured the Kentucky Oaks by a record 20 1/4 lengths prior to beating the colts in the Preakness, the Haskell, and the Woodward. In her first race back following her Preakness triumph, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro captured the Mother Goose Stakes by 19 1/4 lengths.

“I have been blessed to have been part of history.  We are all very fortunate that Rachel carried the banner following Curlin’s amazing success story.  The fans adored her, we all did, ” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “She had the most fluid and beautiful stride of any horse I have every seen.  It’s been quite a ride,” he added.

“On behalf of my partner Hal McCormick, I want to thank Steve Asmussen, Scott Blasi and the entire Asmussen Racing team for their immense contributions to Rachel’s success story,” Jackson added. “And last but far from least let me thank the great Calvin Borel.

“Now we are looking to the future.  We are eager to introduce Rachel to Curlin.  Imagine what possibilities those two super horses might produce.”

Lane’s End sire Kingmambo officially pensioned

Lane’s End stallion Kingmambo, who has long been one of the leading international sires, has officially been pensioned from stud duty at age 20, the farm announced Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Lane’s End owner Will Farish told that Kingmambo’s career “was probably over” due to an ongoing neck problem.

By Mr. Prospector, Kingmambo was the first foal produced by the champion racemare Miesque and has more than lived up to his regal pedigree. A multiple Group I winner on the track, Kingmambo retired to stud at Lane’s End where he stood his entire career and proceeded to stamp himself as a force on either side of the ocean.

Kingmambo has sired 86 stakes winners from 14 crops of racing age including champion and 1999 Belmont Stakes winner Lemon Drop Kid, who also stands at Lane’s End. It is internationally, however, where Kingmambo’s influence is most felt as he has sired such standouts as Group I winners Divine Proportions, Russian Rhythm, Henrythenavigator, King Kamehameha, El Condor Pasa, and Rule of Law.

“He’s one of the great stallions of all time,” Will Farish said in a statement. “He has sired classic horses, sprinters and milers.”

Kingmambo, who at one time commanded a fee as high as $300,000, has sired six champions and 50 graded stakes winners to date with progeny earnings of $94,956,465.

Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet dead at age 15

1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet when he stood stud at The Vinery  horse farm in Lexington, April 20, 2000. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet when he stood stud at The Vinery horse farm in Lexington, April 20, 2000. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff

Champion Real Quiet, winner of the 1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, passed away in his paddock at Penn Ridge Farms in Pennsylvania on Monday at the age of 15 after fracturing his cervical vertebrae in his neck.

Michael Jester, owner of Penn Ridge – which had stood Real Quiet since 2006 – said the son of Quiet American had been turned out briefly in his paddock while he stall was being cleaned when farm employees noticed he was laying down and not moving.

Jester said a necropsy determined Real Quiet had fractured his C5 through C9 vertebrae.

“He was always so calm, we’ve never had a problem with him, he was such a class act,” Jester said. “One of the farm employees said he was laying down in his paddock, which he never does, and we ran up to him and he never moved from the time we found him.

“He must have reared up and fallen on his left shoulder and driven it with enough force to fracture those five vertebrae,” Jester continued.  “There was not a mark, not a slide, nothing. Just a completely freak accident. We’re devastated.”

Bred by Little Hill Farm and campaigned by Mike Pegram, Real Quiet was a quintessential rags to riches story having been purchased for just $17,000 as a yearling.

Though Real Quiet lost his first six career starts, he blossomed toward the end of his juvenile season, capturing the Grade I Hollywood Futurity.

“He always worked well in the mornings and I always thought highly of him, but in the afternoons he didn’t run well,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who conditioned Real Quiet. “Once we stretched him out, he was a completely different horse. When he broke his maiden at Santa Anita (in October 1997) that’s when the light came on and from then on he became a really good horse.”

Jockey Kent Desormeaux blew a kiss after crossing the finish line riding Real Quiet to win the 124th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 1998, at Churchill Downs. Photo by Frank Anderson | Herald-Leader file photo

Jockey Kent Desormeaux blew a kiss after crossing the finish line riding Real Quiet to win the 124th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 1998, at Churchill Downs. Photo by Frank Anderson | Herald-Leader file photo

The hard-trying Real Quiet lost his first three starts of his sophomore campaign but delivered when it counted as he won the Kentucky Derby by half a length over Victory Gallop. Real Quiet bested his rival once again by a solid 2  1/4 lengths in the Preakness Stakes only to suffer a heartbreaking loss in the Belmont when Victory Gallop edged him by a nose to deny racing its first Triple Crown winner since 1978.

“That horse, he has given us so much,” Baffert said. “He left his mark. He took Mike Pegram and us right to the top. He let people know you can get lucky and buy a good horse and don’t have to give a lot of money for him and almost win the Triple Crown, just like Seattle Slew.”

Real Quiet retired with six wins in 20 starts on the track, including a win in his final career start, the 1999 Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, and $3,271,802 in earnings.

Just as he carried a workman-like attitude on the track, Real Quiet developed an equally solid reputation in the breeding shed. The bay horse entered stud at Vinery in 2000 and later moved to Taylor Made Farm before being relocated to Pennsylvania.

Among Real Quiet’s top runners are champion sprinter Midnight Lute, winner of the 2007 and 2008 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and Grade I winners Pussycat Doll and Wonder Lady Anne L. From eight crops of racing age, Real Quiet has had 15 stakes winners with progeny earnings of  more than $18.1 million to date.

“He really kind of launched the breeding program both at our farm and in the state,” Jester said. “He put us on the map as a farm and he put Pennsylvania on the map absolutely. His offspring are doing great and he’ll probably be the leading sire again in Pennsylvania next year.”

Jester said plans call for Real Quiet to be buried on the farm.

“He had personality. He knew he was special but he wasn’t cocky about it,” Jester said. “He was just a pleasure to be around. He is a huge loss.”

Smart Strike ridgling sells to Bolton for $1 million

The hope that there would be plenty of money left over as a result of a much tighter selection session came to fruition Tuesday afternoon as a bay ridgling  by Smart Strike elicited a final bid of $1 million during the third day of the Keeneland September yearling sale.

George Bolton signed the ticket for the yearling on behalf of himself and an undisclosed partner.

“He’s a beautifully bred horse and he’s a stallion prospect even though he’s in Book 2,” Bolton said. “He looks like he can go far and we’ve had a lot of luck with the sire.”

Smart Strike is also the sire of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, whom Bolton formerly owned a minority interest in.

Consigned by Greenefield Farm, the ridgling is out of the Grade III winning Seattle Slew mare Ask Me No Secrets. He is the third horse thus far to reach the seven-figure mark at the Keeneland September sale along with an A.P. Indy colt that sold for $4.2 million on Sunday and a Distorted Humor colt which brought $2.05 million during Monday’s session.

Son of Distorted Humor sells for $2.05 million

An athletic chestnut colt by Distorted Humor was the first to crack the seven-figure mark during the second session of the Keeneland September yearling sale, selling for $2.05 million to agent Mike Ryan on Monday.

Ryan purchased the colt, who is out of the Storm Cat mare Angel’s Nest, on behalf of an undisclosed client based overseas.

“It’s a new client who wants top quality stock, aim for the big races,” Ryan said. “It’s undecided (whether the colt will remain in the U.S. or race overseas).

“He was the complete package,”  Ryan said of the colt. “He’s got unbelievable stallion potential. I mean the sky is the limit for the horse.”

Consigned by Lane’s End, the colt boasted a pedigree to match his physical prowess. Angel’s Nest is out of the champion racemare and top producer Miesque and is a half sister to Group I winner and leading sire Kingmambo as well as Group I winner East of the Moon.

“When you get that family, you just never know what is going to happen,” said Bill Farish of Lane’s End. “It’s a phenomenal family and it all came together well at this sale. He still has a lot of maturing to do, which is good.”

A.P. Indy colt sells to Besilu Stables for $4.2 million

A striking bay colt out of multiple Grade I winner Balance provided fireworks reminiscent of a few years ago inside the Keeneland sales pavilion, selling for $4.2 million to Ben Leon’s Besilu Stables during the opening session of the September yearling auction Sunday night.

The A.P. Indy colt, consigned by Mill Ridge Sales, is the highest priced yearling to sell at public auction since 2006.

Leon, who has become an increasing presence at the top end in recent months, jumped into the bidding around the $3.5 million mark and outlasted such competition as Kaleem Shah.

“We are trying to be part of the Thoroughbred family, and we are trying to do it right – not in quantity but quality,” said Leon, who bid alongside J.J. Pletcher, father of trainer Todd Pletcher. “They (his advisors) thought he was the best horse in the sale and we did not want to let him go. We wanted to bring him to the Pletcher and Leon family and that’s how I rolled with it.”

Balance, who was campaigned by Mr. and Mrs. John Amerman, was a three-time Grade I winner on the track and is a half sister to undefeated champion mare Zenyatta.

Derby winner Super Saver sidelined with bone bruising

WinStar Farm’s Super Saver, winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby, has been sidelined for an undetermined amount of time due to condylar bruising in all four cannon bones.

The son of Maria’s Mon was sent to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital for evaluation following a tenth-place finish in the Grade I Travers Stakes on August 28, the worst finish of his 10-race career thus far.

“A bone scan was performed on Super Saver which revealed marked activity in all four cannon bones,” said Dr. Larry Bramlage, DVM MS.  “The left front fetlock has the most radiographic change with a major bruise on the cannon bone.  Once these are resolved, the horse should return to his previous form.”

Super Saver has finished off the board in three starts since his Derby triumph, running eighth in the Preakness Stakes and fourth in the Grade I Haskell Invitational. Both of those races were won by champion Lookin At Lucky.

“This explains a lot to me – I couldn’t understand those last few efforts where Super Saver didn’t extend and lay it out there like he had in every other race he ran through the Kentucky Derby victory,” trainer Todd Pletcher said in the release. “He has always been very gutsy and determined in his races, even when he set fast fractions, so this answers a lot of head scratching.  When he’s right, he’s the ultimate racehorse.”

Elliott Walden, racing manager for WinStar, added that Super Saver has been sent back to the training barn at the farm and that the operation “will evaluate his progress going forward.”

Tom Braly, owner of Evening Jewel, loses battle with cancer

Tom Braly, owner of multiple Grade I winner Evening Jewel, died this morning at his home in Palm Desert, California, after a long battle with cancer. He was 72.

Braly, a native of Long Beach, California, and owner of Mills Insurance, was at Del Mar to see Evening Jewel win the Grade I Del Mar Oaks on August 21. Prior to entering the business world, Braly attended the University of Southern California, majoring in journalism, and worked for the old Los Angeles Mirror.

Braly was diagnosed with leukemia seven years ago and the disease progressed into head and neck cancer.

“He’ll be missed,” said Jim Cassidy, trainer of Evening Jewel. “Not only as an owner but as a good friend and good adviser.”

Braly and his wife Marilyn were involved in Thoroughbred racing for nearly 30 years and enjoyed their first Grade I win when Evening Jewel captured the Grade I Ashland Stakes at Keeneland this April prior to falling a nose short of Blind Luck in the Kentucky Oaks.

“It’s been a rough battle but, as I tell most people, this horse was the best therapy therapy that ever happened to me,” Braly said of Evening Jewel days before her Oaks effort. “Throughout the chemo, the radiation all that stuff, this horse is worth a million bucks in that respect”

Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Churchill Downs axes Halloween night racing card

Churchill Downs announced Wednesday it will switch its racing program on Sunday, Oct. 31 – the opening day of the track’s 21-day Fall Meet – from a “Downs After Dark” night racing event to an afternoon session, pending approval of the change by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

If the change obtains the expected KHRC approval, post time for the opening day racing program would be 12:40 p.m.. With the change, the “Downs After Dark” program on Friday, Nov. 19 will be the only night racing program of the Fall Meet, which is scheduled to conclude on Sunday, Nov. 28.

That opening day card features the “Stars of Tomorrow” racing program devoted exclusively to races for 2-year-olds.

The decision by track officials to shift the Oct. 31 racing program to daylight hours was prompted by concerns about attempting the concept of racing under the lights on a Sunday evening and the possible impact of the event from community and family Halloween celebrations.

“We were very enthusiastic when we first looked at the idea of a celebration of Halloween under the lights between the Twin Spires, and it remains an idea that we will study closely down the road,” said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs. “We’re just not sure that this year’s Sunday spot on the calendar provides the best opportunity for an enjoyable ‘Downs After Dark’ experience. So we have decided, pending the needed KHRC approval, to run in the afternoon this year and look at a Halloween night racing program later on.
While night racing on Halloween and all that would include is very exciting at first glance, concerns have arisen as our Churchill Downs team has planned for that event,” Flanery continued. “The Sunday night schedule could cause issues for the many fans who need to return to their jobs early on Monday. We’ve also become increasingly concerned that the Sunday program would force fans to choose between more traditional Halloween celebrations and our night-time event. We believe ‘Downs After Dark’ racing on Halloween is an exciting idea, but given the day’s position on the 2010 calendar, we’re not sure, given the circumstances, that a ‘Downs After Dark’ Halloween program on the opening day of our 2010 Fall Meet would be in the best interests of our fans, horsemen and neighbors.”