Archive for March, 2011

Grade I winner Comma to the Top removed from Future Wager

Comma to the Top, winner of the Grade I CashCall Futurity last year, been removed from the roster of wagering interests for this week’s third and final pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager after trainer Peter Miller confirmed to a track official that the horse will not be entered in the Kentucky Derby on May 7.
Wagering on Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool 3 opens at noon on Friday April 1 at racetracks and off-track betting centers, and through and other advance deposit wagering platforms.  Betting on the pool is scheduled to close at 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 3.
Comma to the Top most recently finished fourth in the Grade II San Felipe.  Miller said concerns about the gelding’s ability to handle the Kentucky Derby’s 1 ¼-mile distance has prompted his connections to focus on goals for Comma to the Top other than the big race at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
“Peter Miller has confirmed that he and the ownership group have no plans to run Comma to the Top in the Kentucky Derby, although the horse is doing well and is still being pointed toward a run in next week’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby,” said John Asher, vice president, Racing Communications at Churchill Downs.  “Although Mr. Miller could not absolutely rule out a change of heart should Comma to the Top run a spectacular race at Santa Anita, a bid for the Kentucky Derby is clearly not in his current plans for the horse.  Since we did receive this word before the wagering on Kentucky Derby Future Pool 3 opens on Friday, no win or exacta wagering will be accepted on Comma to the Top in Pool 3.  But, in this unusual situation, Comma to the Top will go back into the Mutuel Field, or ‘All Others’, on the remote chance that he could still compete in the Kentucky Derby. The Derby Future bet carries a higher risk than most pari-mutuel wagers, so this decision to freeze wagering on Comma to the Top is an effort to look out for the best interests of all patrons who support this special wager.”
The suspension of wagering on Comma to the Top in the April 1-3 Kentucky Derby Future Wager leaves Pool 3 it with 22 individual horses and the Mutuel Field, which includes all 3-year-olds other than the individual wagering interests in the pool.
The Kentucky Derby Future Wager provides fans with opportunities to wager on potential contenders for the famed “Run for the Roses” at odds that could be much more attractive than those available on the day of America’s greatest race.  It offers win and exacta wagering, and all bets are $2 minimum wagers, and there are no refunds on any KDFW wager.
There are no scratches in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager. If it is determined during any KDFW pool that an individual horse has suffered an illness, injury or other circumstance that would prevent the horse from competing in Kentucky Derby, wagering on that interest will be suspended immediately.

Team Valor purchases Bourbonette winner Summer Soiree

Barry Irwin’s Team Valor has purchased Summer Soiree, winner of the Grade III Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park last weekend, the racing partnership announced on Thursday.

Team Valor purchased the daughter of War Front from Brereton Jones, son Bret Jones and Wahoo Partners for an undisclosed sum and will point the filly toward a start in the Kentucky Oaks. Summer Soiree captured the Bourbonette by 10 3/4 lengths in gate-to-wire fashion but also has proven dirt form, having broken her maiden at Delaware Park.

“We saw her race in person on Saturday and we were ultra impressed with her,” Irwin said in a release. ”She appeared to be just galloping.”

Summer Soiree had been trained by Larry Jones but will now head to the barn of Graham Motion, who conditions all of Team Valor’s stock.

Thirteen horses among late Triple Crown nominees

Watch Me Go, upset winner of the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby earlier this month, was among the 13 horses whose connections paid $6,000 to make them Triple Crown eligible during the recently concluded late nomination period.

The addition of 13 horses to the roster brings the total number of Triple Crown nominees to 377 for this season. Early nominations closed on January 22 with 364 3-year-olds made eligible for a $600 fee.

Other notable horses who were among the late nominees were Norman Asbjornson, runner-up to Stay Thirsty in the Grade III Gotham Stakes, Turf Paradise Derby winner Beer Meister, Rushaway  winner Swift Warrior, Mountain Valley winner Smoke It Right, and Joe’s Blazing Aaron, winner of the Grade III Palm Beach Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream Park.

Owners and trainers have one more chance to make their horses eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby. Supplemental nominations can be made during the time of entry on May 4 at a cost of $200,000, or 10 percent of the $2 million guaranteed purse. Preference will be given to horses made eligible during the early and late nomination phases over supplemental nominees.

Horses made eligible for the Triple Crown in the late nomination period include:
Horse Owner Trainer Record


Beer Meister James Egger & William Burns Manuel Ortiz Sr. 5-2-2-0 $71,620
Bowman’s Causeway Martin Schwartz Patrick Biancone 5-1-1-2 $61,091
Joe’s Blazing Aaron Joseph Witek Mike Maker 9-3-0-0 $123,864
Lagoon of Diamonds Charles Fipke Kelly Ackerman 6-2-1-0 $29,280
Nacho Saint Lori & George Hall Kelly Breen 7-1-3-0 $126,300
Norman Asbjornson Thomas McClay & Harry Nye Christopher Grove 6-2-1-0 $117,200
Ruler On Ice Lori & George Hall Kelly Breen 5-2-1-1 $156,500
Saratoga Red Robert Baker & William Mack D. Wayne Lukas 2-1-0-0 $37,800
Smoke It Right Rand Metoyer & Benard Chatters Benard Chatters 4-4-0-0 $96,300
Swift Warrior James Covello & James Dolan John Terranova II 12-3-2-5 $136,810
Truman’s Commander Robert LaPenta & Harry Rosenblum Nick Zito 4-1-0-1 $29,101
War Pact Joseph Allen Jean-Claude Rouget 3-2-0-1 $41,267
Watch Me Go Gilbert Campbell Kathleen O’Connell 9-4-0-1 $311,345

Borel, Gomez, Velazquez among Hall of Fame finalists

Jockeys Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez and John Velazquez and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer are first-time finalists for election to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. Joining them on the 2011 Hall of Fame ballot are previous finalists jockey Alex Solis, trainers Gary Jones and Robert Wheeler and Thoroughbreds Open Mind, Safely Kept and Sky Beauty.

Hall of Fame voters may select as many candidates as they believe are worthy of induction to the Hall of Fame. The four candidates with the highest vote totals will be elected.

The finalists were selected by the Hall of Fame’s 16-member Nominating Committee from a total of 80 candidates suggested throughout the year by turf journalists, Thoroughbred industry participants and racing fans. To be eligible, trainers must have been active for 25 years and jockeys must have been active for 20 years. Thoroughbreds must have been retired for five years. All candidates must have been active within the past 25 years. A separate Historic Review Committee is assigned to consider candidates whose careers were completed more than 25 years ago.

The results of the voting on contemporary candidates will be announced on May 13. The induction ceremony will be held at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Saratoga Springs on Friday, Aug. 12 at 10:30 a.m. The ceremony is free and open to the public.

Borel has won the Kentucky Derby in three of the past four years with Street Sense (2007), Mine That Bird (2009) and Super Saver (2010). His three victories in the Run for the Roses are surpassed only by Hall of Famers Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack with five each and Hall of Famer Bill Shoemaker, who has four Derby wins. Borel, one of only two riders with more than 1,000 wins at Churchill Downs (Hall of Famer Pat Day is the other), won the Preakness, Woodward, Haskell, Mother Goose, Kentucky Oaks and other stakes with 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Among Borel’s other major victories are the Travers, Alabama, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Sword Dancer and Stephen Foster. Through 2010, Borel had 4,815 career wins and purse earnings of $113,444,328. He also won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2010.

Gomez won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2007 and 2008 and led all North American riders in earnings from 2006 through 2009. He won a record 76 stakes races in 2007 and has 12 Breeders’ Cup wins to his credit, including the 2010 Classic with champion Blame. Gomez posted eight Grade 1 wins in 2010 and 11 in 2009. Among Gomez’s major victories are the Pacific Classic, Travers, Santa Anita Derby, Whitney, Stephen Foster, Kentucky Oaks and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Through 2010, Gomez had 3,435 career wins and purse earnings of $193,907,844.

Velazquez won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2004 and 2005 and led all North American riders in earnings during those years. He led all New York jockeys in wins from 2001 through 2004 and set a record with 65 wins at Saratoga in 2004. Velazquez has won 21 riding titles at New York Racing Association tracks and has eight Breeders’ Cup wins. He won 12 Grade 1 races in 2010 and posted 43 Grade 1 wins from 2006 through 2010. Velazquez won the Belmont Stakes in 2007 with Rags to Riches and his other major victories include the Travers, Alabama, Champagne, Sanford, Personal Ensign, Whitney, King’s Bishop, Hollywood Derby and Kentucky Oaks. Through 2010, Velazquez had won 4,483 races and ranked fourth all time in purse earnings with $241,248,072.

Hollendorfer has been the dominant trainer in Northern California since the mid-1980s. He won the training championship at every major Bay Area meeting from 1986 through 2008, recording 37 straight titles at Bay Meadows and 32 consecutive crowns at Golden Gate Fields. In 2010, Hollendorfer won five Grade 1 races: the Kentucky Oaks, Alabama and Las Virgenes with champion Blind Luck; the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile with Dakota Phone; and the Gamely with Tuscan Evening. Hollendorfer ranked fourth in earnings in 2010 with $9,307,328 and third in wins with 286. He was fifth in earnings in 2009 ($7,309,169) and seventh in 2008 ($8,637,578). He was also third in wins in both 2009 (273) and 2008 (282). Hollendorfer won a career-high 308 races in 2004 to finish third in the trainer standings. He has been in the top 10 in wins for 24 consecutive years (1987 through 2010) and has been in the top 10 in earnings 12 times. Through 2010, Hollendorfer ranked fourth in all-time victories (5,863) and eighth all-time in earnings ($119,141,280) among North American trainers.

Solis, the 1997 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award winner, has won three Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2003 Classic with Pleasantly Perfect. He has also won the Preakness and multiple editions of the Santa Anita Derby and Florida Derby. Other major victories for Solis include the Hollywood Derby, Malibu Stakes, Del Mar Futurity, Pacific Classic, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Handicap and Dubai World Cup. Through 2010, Solis had won 4,828 races and had purse earnings of $221,907,872.

Jones, who trained from 1974 through 1996, saddled the winners of 1,465 races from 7,900 starts (18.5 percent). He won 102 graded stakes and 233 overall stakes with purse earnings of $52,672,611. Jones won 15 meeting titles on the Southern California circuit. He twice won the Santa Anita Handicap and was the conditioner of 1986 Champion Older Male Turkoman. In 1991, Jones won the Pacific Classic and the Swaps with future Hall of Famer Best Pal, as well as the Yellow Ribbon and two other stakes with Kostroma. Best Pal’s four stakes wins in 1992 included the Strub, Santa Anita Handicap and Oaklawn Handicap, while Kostrama added the Beverly D, Santa Barbara, Wilshire and Dahlia. In 1993, Jones won the Hollywood Gold Cup with Best Pal among the trainer’s 23 stakes wins for the year.

Wheeler, whose career spanned from 1938 through 1992, won 1,336 races and trained for prominent owners such as C.V. Whitney, J. Rukin Jelks, Greentree Stable and Nelson Bunker Hunt. He conditioned 56 stakes-winning horses, including 1982 Champion Older Female Track Robbery. The majority of his career predates the grading of races, but from 1976 on he won 18 of the 69 (26 percent) graded stakes his horses ran in and 44 of his 175 (25 percent) overall stakes attempts. In 1959 and 1960, Wheeler’s West Coast-based division included Tompion, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass Stakes and Malibu, and the distaff pair of Bug Brush and Silver Spoon. Bug Brush won six stakes at four and set a world record for 1 1/8 miles the day she beat males Hillsdale and Terrang in the San Antonio Stakes. Silver Spoon won 10 stakes in two years, including the trainer’s first of consecutive runnings of the Santa Anita Derby, in which she defeated Preakness winner Royal Orbit. He also sent out five winners of the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, which prior to the Breeders’ Cup era was one of the nation’s top races for 2-year-olds. From 1959 through 1969, Wheeler was on the leaders list of the top 30 North American trainers seven times in terms of earnings.

Open Mind was the Champion 2-Year-Old Filly of 1988 when she won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She won 12 of her 19 career starts, including the New York Filly Triple Crown (the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks) as well as the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes at age 3. Open Mind posted a 10-race win streak, which included seven Grade 1 events. She repeated as her division champion as a 3-year-old and finished her career with nine graded wins among her 11 stakes victories.

Safely Kept raced four years, winning 24 of her 31 starts and accumulated earnings of $2,194,206. She won four of her five starts as a 2-year-old in 1988 and then took eight of her nine races at age 3 to earn the Eclipse Award as Champion Sprinter. At 4, Safely Kept won eight of 10 races with seven of those victories in stakes events. She concluded her career with five wins in seven starts as a 5-year-old, including her third victory in the Genuine Risk Handicap, Maryland Million Distaff and Garden State Stakes Handicap.

Sky Beauty won 15 of her 21 starts and had purse earnings of $1,336,000 in her four-year career. She posted a five-race win streak at age 3, which included the New York Filly Triple Crown and the Alabama. At age 4, Sky Beauty posted another five-race win streak, including a 10-length romp in the Go for Wand. She had a brief campaign at 5, adding her second victory in the Vagrancy. Nine of Sky Beauty’s 15 wins were in Grade 1 races.

LaPenta sees similarities between Dialed In, Cal’s Cats

Should graded stakes winner Dialed In make it to the Kentucky Derby on May 7, his owner Robert LaPenta has already ensured the colt has the support of many in the Bluegrass state behind him.

During a national  teleconference this afternoon, LaPenta compared this year’s 3-year-old division to the current NCAA tournament, saying that it seems like “everyone seems to be able to beat everybody”.

When asked in a follow-up which team he thinks Dialed In most emulates, LaPenta chuckled for a moment before drawing the comparison between the son of Mineshaft and John Calipari’s Final Four-bound squad.

“I’m going to say he is Kentucky and I say that not only because it’s Kentucky we’re all pointing to in May,” LaPenta laughed. “I’m saying that because (UK) has proven with an inexperienced team they can get it done. They are inexperience, they do have some freshmen, but when it all comes together they get it done. Hopefully, they both win it all.”

LaPenta isn’t too far off in drawing his parallels between the Cats and Dialed In, who is slated to have his final prep in the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park this Sunday. As has been the case for Calipari’s bunch, Dialed In has had to do much of his learning on the fly this season. The Nick Zito-trainee didn’t make his career debut until last November when he overcame a world of trouble to break his maiden first time out going 6 1/2 furlongs at Churchill Downs.

In just his second career start, Dialed In came flying late to win the Grade III Holy Bull Stakes defeating a field that included eventual Risen Star Stakes winner Mucho Macho Man. Although Dialed In suffered his first loss when he was ran second to his older stablemate Equestrio in an allowance race at Gulfstream in his first effort going 1 1/8 miles, LaPenta feels that the education his colt got that day was the equivalent of taking an AP course.

“I think from my perspective in the races he’s been through – coming from off the pace, breaking slow, going on the inside, racing on the outside, taking a tremendous amount of dirt – I’d say in his three races he’s gotten about six or seven races of experience,” LaPenta said. “Some of the other candidates, and I’m not disparaging any of them because they are a lot of quality horses in this 3-year-old campaign, but they’re front runners, they’ve had their way and been on the lead.

“It’s a totally different story when you have to come from behind horses.”

Zenyatta no longer in foal, will be bred back to Bernardini

Champion mare Zenyatta is no longer in foal after coming up empty on her 35-day check. Lane’s End Farm, where Zenyatta is boarded, confirmed the seven-year-old daughter of Street Cry was in good order physically and will be bred back to Darley stallion Bernardini in about a week.

Zenyatta was initially bred to Bernardini – a son of A.P. Indy – on February 23 and was scanned in foal at the 15-day check. The fact she lost the foal is not an uncommon occurrence for maiden mares and does not neccesarily indicate any physical problems or long term complications.

“It is unfortunate and it’s newsworthy because it’s Zenyatta but we breed a lot of mares here and it happens quite frequently, especially with maiden mares,” said Lane’s End farm manager Mike Cline. “It usually doesn’t cause any long lasting issues. My guess is that if everything goes right, we’ll have her bred back in about a week or so. She’s should get right back in foal, fingers crossed.”

Zenyatta is not the first noteworthy mare to not have her first attempt at pregnancy take. Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, did not get in foal her first season in 2006 but has produced four live foals since.

“It’s unfortunate but it happens,” Cline said. “We’ve had some mares over the years where the first pregnancy they have didn’t take. But Zenyatta is healthy, she’s settled in and she’s doing great.”

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta retired at the end of last season with 19 wins from 20 career starts with her lone defeat coming at the hands of fellow champion Blame in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

King Congie scratched out of Spiral

King Congie has been scratched from today’s Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.  Terry Finley, president of owner West Point Thoroughbreds, said the colt strained a hind muscle during a gallop at Turfway yesterday morning.  “He didn’t cool out well,” said Finley.  “He’s about 90 percent, but not 100 percent.  We plan to come back in the Blue Grass or Lexington,” noting upcoming stakes at Keeneland.
“He still seems a little off in that left hind but he is much improved this morning,” said trainer Tom Albertrani, “so he must have just tweaked something. But we decided to scratch to be cautious.”
Birdie Beats Par, slated to run in the Hansel Stakes on the Spiral undercard, also was scratched this morning.  The sprinter had drawn the 12 post and trainer Tom Amoss decided to scratch and aim for a race at Keeneland.

Champion Mineshaft recovering from colic

Lane’s End stallion Mineshaft, the 2003 Horse of the Year, is recovering after undergoing colic surgery at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital Thursday evening.

The son of A.P. Indy had surgery for a bowel obstruction, but suffered no blood loss to his intestine and is expected to make a full recovery.

“We are very pleased with how Mineshaft is progressing and would hope he will return to service during the month of April,” said Will Farish of Lane’s End in a statement. “Any breeder needing to discuss their breeding plans can call Lane’s End at any time.”

Mineshaft is booked full for the 2011 season. He has a leading contender on the Kentucky Derby trail this season in his son, Holy Bull Stakes winner Dialed In.

Champion The Wicked North euthanized

The Wicked North, the champion older male of 1994, was euthanized today at Hagyard Equine Medical Center due to complications from an intestinal lipoma strangulation. The son of Far North was 22.

The Wicked North had resided at Michael Blowen’s Old Friends retirement facility in Georgetown since 2008.

“He was a great champion,” said Blowen. “He was fine last night but Kent Ralstin, our assistant farm manager, discovered his discomfort early this morning. The Wicked Norh had a ton of class. And it was all on display at the end.”

Trained by David Bernstein and campaigned by Phil Hersh, The Wicked North won eight of 17 lifetime starts and earned nearly $1.2 million on the track. In addition to his wins in the Grade III Bing Crosby Stakes and Grade II San Antonio, The Wicked North also captured the Grade I Oaklawn Handicap and Grade I California Stakes, the latter of which he set a track record for 1 1/8-miles over the Hollywood Park course.

The Wicked North had his most impressive triumph and most painful defeat in the same race.  In the 1994 Grade I Santa Anita Handicap he won by more than a length and a half only to later be disqualified for interference in a widely disputed decision.

Later that year, The Wicked North suffered a suspensory injury during the Hollywood Gold Cup which ended his racing career.  He stood in California, New York and lastly at True North Farm in Kentucky  but was pensioned after suffering a near-fatal bout of EPM (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis) in 2006.

TRF defends itself against NY Times article

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, one of the largest Thoroughbred rescue programs in the country, was forced to defend its operation and practices on Friday in the wake of an article published in Friday’s New York Times detailing allegations the TRF was neglecting the very horses they were charged with caring for.

TRF chairman Tom Ludt – who is also president of Vinery Farm – along with TRF president George Grayson took part in a teleconference on Friday where they disputed certain claims made by the Times article written by Joe Drape.

The article claims the TRF was behind in paying many of the satellite farms it contracts to oversee the retired horses and, as a result, many horses were found to be in poor physical condition. Much of the information cited was gathered from an independent evaluation of the TRF’s herd population conducted by the estate of Paul Mellon, who had established a $5 million endowment for the TRF in 2001

Both Ludt and Grayson acknowledged the TRF’s financial struggles, but said it was fully aware of and endorsed the third-party evaluation, which was conducted by the estate’s veterinarian, Dr. Stacey Huntington.

One of the mores specific examples of neglect cited by the Times article said an inspection of horses at 4-H Farm in Oklahoma could only find only 47 of the 63 retired horses assigned to it and that “many of those were starving.” It also stated the farm’s owners, Alan and Janice Hudgins, would not let Dr. Huntington onto their property to inspect TRF horses until the foundation gave them $20,000 toward what was owed them for taking care of 63 horses since 2005. It also saidwhen the horses were released, nearly all of them needed urgent care, including three who were considered starving.

Ludt countered during the teleconference that some of the condition of the horses could be considered subjective and that one of the horses said to be starving was a 24-year-old gelding with no teeth.

“There is political pressure on the TRF because certain people believe some horses should be euthanized and certain other people who believe they should live until they die of natural causes,” Ludt said. “It is a very subjective opinion but we have got different vets who have given us different opinions so it would be difficult to say they were considered starving  when some said they weren’t.”

Drape countered during the teleconference that he had an email from Dr. T. J. Loafman, who was on site to oversee  horses’ removal from 4-H Farm, that deemed the horses to be starving. Grayson came back and said that Loafman’s words said many horses were “thin” but that they appeared to be “bright-eyed” with no obvious sign of sickness.

“Clearly that is not something anybody is proud of,” Grayson said of the horses’ condition. “But we felt (Loafman’s report) had a different tone to it than what we had read (in the Times article).

Ludt said the number of horses the TRF has taken on has grown from about 300 eight years ago to over 1,200 currently. That increase of its herd number combined with the declining economic climate has been an ongoing issue for the TRF.

“The last 18 months we’ve been trying to address what we did see coming which is the financial pressure of having such a large herd,” Ludt said. “When the executors (of the Mellon estate) asked about doing a herd evaluation…we embraced the idea and were thankful because in economic times like this, that is an expense. But the Mellon Fund is paying for this and helping us address it.”

Ludt said the TRF is currently holding off on taking any more horses in “until we get our house in order” but is still working to facilitate people looking to find homes for former racehorses.

Grayson added that while the endowment is worth about $7 million, the TRF is only allowed entitled to annually an amount “not to exceed five percent of the market value” which amounts to about $350,000 a year.

“There is a misconception out there that the TRF is very wealthy…so why don’t we use the endowment to pay for certain costs,” Grayson said. “But the reality is we are limited to the five percent per year, which is customary in the tax exempt world.”

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