Archive for January, 2011

Uncle Mo is high weight on Experimental Free Handicap

Newly-crowned 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo was deemed the 128 pound high weight on the Experimental Free Handicap, released today by the Jockey Club.

The Experimental Free Handicap, published annually by The Jockey Club since 1935, is a weight-based assessment of the previous year’s leading 2-year-olds, with the weights compiled for a hypothetical race at1 1/16-miles on dirt.

The committee weighted a total of 99 males and 92 fillies. Eligible for weighting were all 2-year-olds of 2010 that finished among the top four in graded or listed stakes races run in the continental United States. Listed stakes in 2010 were those with a value of $75,000 or more available to all starters, and no restrictions other than age or sex.

Uncle Mo won all three of his starts last year by a combined 23 1/4 lengths including his romp in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The son of Indian Charlie, owned by Repole Stable, is weighted five pounds higher than To Honor and Serve, winner of the Remsen and Nashua Stakes last year.

The 128 pounds assigned to Uncle Mo is two pounds above the standard impost for top Experimental colts, including last year’s co-high weights Lookin At Lucky and Vale of York. It is the highest assignment since Favorite Trick received 128 pounds in 1997.

Boys At Tosconova, winner of the Grade I Hopeful Stakes and runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is weighted at 122 pounds. At 121 pounds are Comma to the Top and Pluck.

In the filly division, the 123 pounds assigned to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Awesome Feather is the standard impost for top Experimental fillies and equivalent to the assignment on last year’s co-high weights, Blind Luck and She Be Wild.

At 120 pounds are More Than Real and Turbulent Descent.

Zenyatta to be bred to champion Bernardini

Owners Jerry and Ann Moss announced today that 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta would be bred to champion Bernardini this year.

A son of leading Lane’s End stallion A.P. Indy, Bernardini currently stands at Darley for an advertised fee of $75,000. Bernardini, who was the champion 3-year-old colt of 2006, was the leading freshman sire by number of graded stakes wins in 2010 and by number of stakes winners. He is out of the Grade I winning mare Cara Rafaela.

Owned and bred by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum’s Darley operation, Bernardini was unraced at two but became the standout in his division back in 2006. The bay colt captured the Preakness Stakes that season in an effort that was marred by the tragic breakdown of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

Bernardini also added victories in the Grade I Travers Stakes and Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup over older males before finishing second to eventual Horse of the Year Invasor in the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic, his final career start.

Jade Hunter, sire of champion Azeri, euthanized

Jade Hunter, sire of  Horse of the Year Azeri, was humanely euthanized Sunday afternoon at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute due to complications from colic.

The 27-year-old stallion had been pensioned at Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Georgetown, KY, since 2009.

“Jade Hunter was a very proud and confident stallion with an intelligence that matched his beauty,” said Old Friends president and founder Michael Blowen. “It’s very hard on all his caretakers to lose him and Polish Navy [who died Jan. 6] so close together.”

Bred in Kentucky, Jade Hunter was purchased for $700,000 by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stud at the 1985 Keeneland yearling sale and raced in both Europe and North America.

Later campaigned by trainer Richard J. Lundy for owners Bruce McNall and Allen Paulson, the son of Mr. Prospector won the Grade I Donn Handicap and the Grade I Gulfstream Park Handicap. In all, he captured six of his 14 starts.

He retired in 1988 at the age of 4 after he fractured his right front cannon bone during a workout. His lifetime earnings total $407,260.

In the breeding shed, Jade Hunter sired such top earners as three-time Grade I turf winner Yagli, World Hunter, and most notably, Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, who then ranked as North America’s leading female money-earner.

Jade Hunter most recently stood for several breeding seasons at Dutchess Views Farm in New York. He was donated to Old Friends by the Paulson Trust.

A memorial service for Jade Hunter and the recently deceased Polish Navy is planned for the spring at Old Friends.

Champion Miesque dead at age 27

Champion race mare and two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Miesque was euthanized due to infirmities of old age on Thursday, officials with Lane’s End Farm confirmed. The daughter of Nureyev was 27.

Owned and bred by the Niarchos family, Miesque achieved the remarkable feat of being a Hall of Fame performer on the track as well as one of the most important broodmares in recent times as the dam of four graded stakes winners. When she captured her second straight Breeders’ Cup Mile in 1988, defeating the likes of Steinlen, she became the first horse to win two Breeders’ Cup races.

That second Mile triumph marked the final start in what was a legendary career. She retired with 12 wins from 16 career starts including a then European record 10 Group/Grade I wins as well as two Eclipse Awards for champion turf female. That record stood until 2010 when champion Goldikova – who ironically is trained by Miesque’s former jockey Freddy Head – broke the mark by earning her 11th and  12th Group/Grade I wins.

“There is not much to say, she was such an exceptional mare,” Head said on Friday. “She was the best horse I had ridden. She was brilliant, just brilliant.”

When Miesque entered the breeding shed, her greatness only magnified. Her first foal, a bay colt by Mr. Prospector, is better known to the racing world as Kingmambo – who not only was a Group I winner on the track but has become one of the leading international sires. Kingmambo, who stood his entire career at Lane’s End beginning in 1994, was pensioned from stud duty this past September.

“She was one of the greatest racemares and broodmares combined of all time,” said Will Farish of Lane’s End, where Miesque resided for her entire broodmare career. “She was just one of those special horses that you could tell there was something about her. She had a wonderful look in her eye and just kind of carried herself like she was a champion, even as a broodmare. She was unique in that respect.”

Miesque also produced multiple Group I winner East of the Moon as well as Group III winners Miesque’s Son and Mingun.

Miesque was buried in the Lane’s End/Oak Tree Division cemetery.

Keeneland announces Spring stakes schedule

Sixteen stakes worth $3.425 million, anchored by the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass and Ashland Stakes, are scheduled for Keeneland’s 2011 spring race meet, the official start of the track’s 75th anniversary celebration.

Keeneland will once again offer average daily purses of more than $600,000 for the 15-day meet, to be held April 8-29. Fifteen of the 16 stakes are graded, while half will be contested on the turf. At least one stakes race will be held on 11 of the 15 spring race days, which features racing Wednesday through Sunday except Easter Sunday, April 24.

Headlining the meet will be four Grade I events – the Blue Grass and Ashland, premier preps for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, respectively; the Vinery Madison for older fillies and mares at seven furlongs on the main track, and the Maker’s Mark Mile for older horses on the turf.

“The racing world converges on Keeneland in the spring because they know this is where the best jockeys, trainers and horses will be, and they want to compete at the highest level,” said director of racing Rogers Beasley.

Three-year-old fillies and colts with classic aspirations will be showcased in the $400,000 Ashland at 1 1/16 miles on opening Saturday, April 9, and the $750,000 Blue Grass at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, April 16. Last year’s Ashland winner, Evening Jewel, narrowly missed the garland of lilies, losing the Oaks by only a nose to eventual champion Blind Luck.

Blue Grass Day will feature an undercard highlighted by the Grade II Jenny Wiley for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf; the Grade II Commonwealth for three-year-olds and up at seven furlongs; and the Grade III Shakertown  for three-year-olds and up at 5½ furlongs on the turf. The Commonwealth will carry a purse of $175,000, which reflects a loss of $75,000 in Breeders’ Cup funding.

An additional Kentucky Derby prep, the $200,000 Grade III Coolmore Lexington for three-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, will be run a week after the  Blue Grass. The Coolmore Lexington was previously a Grade II stakes worth $300,000.

In another change this spring, the purse for the closing day Grade II Elkhorn (G2) has been lowered from $200,000 to $150,000.

Zenyatta wins Horse of the Year

The one thing missing from Zenyatta’s resume became a moot point during the 40th annual Eclipse Awards when she beat out her Breeders’ Cup Classic conqueror Blame to earn 2010 Horse of the Year honors.
Although Blame bested Zenyatta by a head in the Classic at Churchill Downs to hand the daughter of Street Cry her first loss in 20 career starts, the respect for the beloved mare only seemed to grow in the wake of her gallant loss.
When the final numbers were revealed on Monday, it was Zenyatta’s five Grade I wins in 2010 and the sentiment she built up during her 19-race win streak were enough to make her the 11th female runner to be named Horse of the Year by a 128-102 margin.

Dominguez earns first Eclipse Award, Moreno top apprentice

One of the most competitive Eclipse Award categories in my opinion was the battle for leading jockey. While you couldn’t have gone with either Garrett Gomez, John Velazquez, or Ramon Dominguez, it was the latter who emerged victorious in most deserving fashion.

Dominguez led all jockeys in North America with earnings of $16,911,880 while riding the winners of 369 races from 1,474 mounts.

Dominguez didn’t have the benefit of riding first call for such top trainers like Todd Pletcher, but still managed to get himself on numerous top mounts, including two-time champion turf male Gio Ponti.

Omar Moreno was named leading apprentice jockey.

Blame unanimous pick for champion older male

Regardless if he wins Horse of the Year or not, Blame can at least brag he was the only unanimous divisional winner at the Eclipse Awards tonight. The Breeders’ Cup Classic winner secured all 238 first-place votes in taking champion older male in one of the many no-brainer categories.

Blame’s resume is well known by now. In winning four of five starts last year, the son of Arch earned three Grade I wins in the Stephen Foster, Whitney and Breeders’ Cup. Fate could not have picked a better time for Blame to have such a huge season as 2010 was the 100th anniversary of his co-owner and breeder Claiborne Farm being in operation.

Zenyatta takes home third straight Eclipse for champion older female

The only surprise in this category is that Zenyatta didn’t get every first place vote (Goldikova snagged one first-place nod for herself). Anyhow, the daughter of Street Cry was the stone-cold lock to win champion older female for a third straight time, joining Azeri as the only other female to accomplish the feat.

No one needs any help recalling Zenyatta’s resume, but here is it anyhow. Five Grade I wins in 2010, including a second win in the Apple Blossom, while equaling Peppers Pride’s streak of 19 consecutive victories. She also added to her mark as the richest North American female racehorse of all time, retiring with earnings of $7,304,580.

Eclipse No. 5 for Pletcher

Sometimes there is just no arguing, with the numbers, and no one posted better figures than Todd Pletcher in 2010. The future Hall of Famer picked up his fifth Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer – tying him with the late Bobby Frankel – thanks to a season that saw him condition his first Kentucky Derby winner, win three Breeders’ Cup races, and lead the nation in earnings with more than $23 million won.

Many thought Pletcher had his best Derby prospect ever in Wood Memorial winner Eskendereya, only to have the colt withdrawn from the Derby a week before due to injury. Despite that setback, Pletcher still ended his 0-for Derby skid when WinStar Farm’s homebred Super Saver splashed home under Calvin Borel.

Pletcher also conditioned multiple Grade I winner Quality Road, a dashing winner of the Donn Handicap, Met Mile, and Woodward Stakes in 2010, as well as newly-crowned 2-year-old champion male Uncle Mo.

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