Archive for January, 2012

Graded stakes winner Motor City back on the work tab

Lantern Hill Farm’s homebred Motor City, winner of the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs last October, posted his first published workout of 2012 Tuesday, drilling four furlongs in :49.70 at Palm Meadows Training Center for trainer Ian Wilkes.

Motor City was given some time off following his three-quarter length triumph in the Iroquois, which marked his fifth career start. The fact the  gelded son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense already had a good amount of race foundation under his belt allowed Wilkes the luxury of not having to rush the bay youngster as he makes the crucial transition into his 3-year-old season.

“Some horses need more training and some horses…they’ve already got the maturity,” Wilkes said. “Motor City has already run five times  so it wasn’t critical that we had to get him going early. This horse from what I’ve seen is a more mature horse right now. He’s a stronger horse and today the work he did, I got exactly what I wanted but he did it very, very easy. That was the main thing. ”

Though he has yet to make his seasonal bow, Motor City’s chances of becoming a legitimate Kentucky Derby contender have received a boost in recent weeks. The Larry Jones-trained Mr. Bowling, who finished third behind Motor City in the one-mile Iroquois, returned to score a bang-up victory in the Grade III LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds on January 21.

Wilkes doesn’t have a target race picked out just yet for Motor City’s seasonal debut, but says a late February/early March spot is likely. As a former assistant to Carl Nafzger, Wilkes has successfully been through the Derby grind with his mentor’s 1990 winner Unbridled and  Street Sense. Perhaps the biggest lesson he learned along the way was not to force a promising horse into doing something they’re not ready for.

“What comes first is the horse,” Wilkes said. “We gave (Motor City) some time off because we just weren’t happy with how he was doing and maybe it puts us behind. But you know, I would love to win the Derby and I think this horse has the attributes to be a Derby horse. But  I’m not going to sacrifice a horse for one race. He’s a gelding and if he takes us there, we’ll go.”

Union Rags on schedule for Fountain of Youth

Grade I winner Union Rags continued to move toward his expected seasonal bow in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on February 26, breezing five furlongs in 1.02:74 at Palm Meadows Training Center Tuesday.

Though he lost the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and, subsequently, the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old male to Hansen, Union Rags has remained the consensus choice in many early polls as the current leader of the 3-year-old class. The son of Dixie Union has done little to change those opinions with his impressive moves in the morning and Hansen’s loss in Sunday’s Holy Bull furthered strengthened Union Rags’ early hold on the division.

“He worked very nicely today,” said Michael Matz, who trains Union Rags for owner Phyllis Wyeth. “The track wasn’t particularly fast but he did it the right way and galloped out really good. He came back good after the work, we’ll work him next week and hopefully get prepared for that race on Feb. 26.”

Matz famously conditioned ill-fated 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro and knows comparisons are going to be made between that one and his latest stable star. Union Rags is actually much further along in his development than Barbaro was at this point in his career as the former tipped his hand early with victories in the Grade I Champagne and Grade II Saratoga Special last year.

“His temperament is just extremely good and he likes to train, he likes to do his job and he’s a very willing horse,” Matz said of Union Rags. ” Those are the kind of things that add up, he makes things easy on himself. We gave him a couple monoths off after the Breeders’ Cup and he sort of really filled out and put weight on. He’s quite a nice looking horse right now.”



WinStar’s Gemologist slated to work this weekend

Trying to keep up with trainer Todd Pletcher’s slew of promising 3-year-olds right now can about make one’s head spin – especially in the wake of Algorithms’s handy defeat of champion Hansen in Sunday’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes and El Padrino’s strong allowance triumph on the undercard at Gulfstream Park.

This weekend, one of the early standouts in Pletcher’s brigade takes the first step towards adding to his conditioner’s wealth of depth as WinStar Farm’s undefeated Gemologist is scheduled to have his first work of 2012 this Sunday, according to  the farm’s president Elliott Walden.

Though some of the Pletcher sophomores are just now signaling their presence to racing pundits, Gemologist garnered a good deal of positive chatter last season when he rattled off three wins in as many career starts, two of which came over the Churchill Downs strip. As was the case with WinStar’s 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, Gemologist closed out his juvenile campaign with an impressive win in the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill, defeating Ever So Lucky by 1 3/4 lengths.

Already 17 hands tall and more than 1,300 pounds, the son of Tiznow is tentatively set to have a two-prep schedule leading up to the Kentucky Derby with starts in the Tampa Bay Derby, Rebel Stakes and Gotham all possible candidates for his seasonal  bow.

“He’s done well. We had him at the farm for a while, kind of following what we did with Super Saver, and he’s been with Todd for about a month now,” Walden said on Monday. “We’re probably going to run in the middle of March, I’m not sure where yet. Hopefully he stays on a normal work schedule and  doesn’t have any kind of setbacks and we can pick which race we want to run in.”

Having two wins over the Churchill Downs surface is always a nice advantage for a potential Derby runner to have in their back pocket. What has impressed Walden most with Gemologist, however, is the fact the bay colt’s massive build hasn’t prevented him from displaying good tactical speed in each of his outings.

Gemologist won his first two starts on the front end, the result more of circumstance than a one-dimensional style. In the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club, he relaxed just off the pace without issue before making a sweeping four-wide rally.

“He’s a big boy that was on the lead just because it was those kind of races,” Walden said of Gemologist’s first two starts. “When the quality of competition stepped up, we knew he would not be a horse that needed to be on the lead, that was something we were never really concerned about. The thing I like about it is he is 17 hands and 1,360 pounds and he has a little speed to be tactical. I think that’s going to be an adnvantage for him come May.”




Jockeys’ Guild presents honors for industry achievement

The Jockeys’ Guild today honored three men for outstanding achievements and contributions to the horse racing industry. The awards were presented during a luncheon at their honor at the 2012 Jockeys’ Guild Assembly in Fort Lauderdale.


The honorees include the following:


  • Jacky Martin received the top award for quarter horse jockeys, an award that has been named in his honor. Martin has won nearly 3,000 races, and his mounts have earned more than $45 million. He is a seven-time winner of the All-American Futurity and voted AQHA Champion Jockey twice. He rode for nearly 40 years and is a member of the Ruidoso Downs Racehorse and Oklahoma Halls of Fame. Martin is currently recuperating from a racing accident at Ruidoso Downs and is continuing his rehabilitation.
  • DeShawn Parker was presented with the Laffit Pincay Jr. Award. The honor goes to a thoroughbred jockey for outstanding achievement during the year.  Parker has been the nation’s leading rider by wins the past two years. In 2010 he became the first African American to win the most North American races since James “Soup” Perkins achieved the feat in 1895. He is the all-time leading jockey at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort and is approaching 4,000 career wins.
  • Dave Hicks was honored with the Eddie Arcaro Award, presented for exceptional commitment to jockeys and the Jockeys’ Guild. Hicks worked his way from groom to trainer to steward, a position he’s held for some 50 years. He has served as steward in Massachusetts, New York and Florida. He’s known for creating his Apprentice Program, an ongoing effort to work with young riders on safety, financial and security issues, while maintaining the integrity of the sport.

“These men have brought great honor to the sport of horse racing,” said Terry Meyocks, National Manager of the Jockeys’ Guild. “Each has shown a lifelong commitment to excellence, and they are extremely deserving of their accolades.”


The 2012 Jockeys’ Guild Assembly is a gathering of quarter horse and thoroughbred jockeys to discuss issues and opportunities that affect them. Those issues include health and safety, insurance, personal and professional growth and development and the future of horse racing. The Assembly will conclude Tuesday.

Rachel Alexandra, foal at Rood and Riddle for precautionary measures

Champion mare Rachel Alexandra and her six-day old colt by 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin, were taken to the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington as a precautionary measure on Friday after her delivery for pain management related to the birth, Stonestreet Farm said in a release. Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year, has been under the care of Dr. Bonnie Barr, who is ensuring both mother and foal are doing well.

“Rachel has proven to be an extraordinary mother and taking to her feisty colt right away,”  said owner Barbara Banke. “I’m a Rachel-chondriac. We are taking every precaution to ensure that Rachel and her colt are healthy and happy.”

Assuming no unforeseen issues, mother and foal are expected to return to Stonestreet Farm in a couple of days.

Rachel Alexandra delivered the Curlin colt, her first foal, Sunday afternoon at Stonestreet. The bay youngster was 125 pounds at the time of his birth.

Champion Hansen ready for his first test in Holy Bull

Here is the preview for Sunday’s Grade III Holy Bull Stakes from the Gulfstream Park publicity staff:

Undefeated champion Hansen will get his first litmus test of the year on Sunday as he launches his 3-year-old campaign in Sunday’s Grade III, $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes going a mile at Gulfstream Park.


Jockey Ramon Dominguez will be in the irons aboard Hansen for trainer Mike Maker after they teamed up for a stunning wire-to-wire victory by a head over heavy favorite Union Rags in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile  at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. Owned by Dr. Kendall Hansen and Sky Chai Racing, the handsome son of Tapit will head into the Holy Bull as the 6-to-5 morning line choice against five others.
“We’ve had no bumps in the road,” said Maker of Hansen’s training ahead of his return to competition. “Hopefully, that trend continues.”


Hansen has never been headed in each of his three starts and won his first two career starts at Turfway Park by a combined 25 1/2 lengths.


“It’s no different than a closer. You’re dependant on the pace,” Maker said of the colt’s running style. “You just hope no one makes him go quicker earlier than he has to.”


Starlight Stable’s Algorithms leads the cast of challengers who will try and upset the newly-crowned champ.  A son of Bernardini, Algorithms has won both of his career stars, his debut at Belmont Park in June by 5 ¼ lengths and a hard-fought one-length allowance score at 6 ½ furlongs here on Dec. 16. Leading Gulfstream jockey Javier Castellano gets the return call aboard Algorithms, the  5-to-2 choice in the morning line.

“He’s trained very well,” said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Algorithms.  “His first two races have been excellent, he’s bred to stretch out and we’re optimistic he’s a top-level colt.”

Godolphin Racing’s Consortium finished a game second as the 4-to-5 favorite to Algorithms in the on Dec. 16, beaten a length, and comes back in the Holy Bull with jockey John Velazquez aboard for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. The Kentucky homebred is also a son of highly-successful Darley stallion Bernardini and won his only previous start at Aqueduct on Nov. 12 by 4 ¾ lengths.

Jacks or Better Farm’s homebred Fort Loudon also makes his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill in which he finished seventh with a wide trip from the far outside post 13, beaten nine lengths for it all by Hansen. Jockey Rajiv Maragh rides Fort Loudon for trainer Stanley Gold. The son of Awesome of Course swept the three ‘open’ divisions of the Florida Stallion Stakes at Calder before the Juvenile.

Completing the field for the Holy Bull are Lori and George Hall’s My Adonis, Elvis Trujillo; and Mark Bacon’s Silver Max, Julien Leparoux.

First foal by champion Summer Bird born

Three-time Grade I winner and champion Summer Bird sired his first reported foal on Jan. 26 when a colt was born at Fred Hertrich’s Watercress Farm in Paris, KY.


The dark bay or brown colt is out of the Bluegrass Cat mare She Cat, a half-sister to multiple stakes winners including Grade III winner Palmeiro. Watercress Farm is the breeder.


On his run to being named the 2009 champion 3-year-old male, Summer Bird joined Easy Goer as the only sophomores ever to win the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup  in the same season, He retired to stud as a multimillionaire after amassing career earnings of $2,323,040.


Summer Bird bred 148 mares in his first season at stud in 2011. By Birdstone, Summer Bird is out of the Summer Squall mare Hong Kong Squall, which is the direct family of Tapit. He stands at WinStar Farm for a fee of $15,000 stands and nurses.

Black Caviar runs unbeaten streak to 17

Courtesy of


Champion mare Black Caviar took her unbeaten run to 17 as she sauntered home, pulling clear of her rivals with ease and powering home to win under a motionless Luke Nolen.

The atmosphere at Moonee Valley was electric with racegoers in the packed stands cheering loudly as the Peter Moody-trained mare, ranked second in the world behind Frankel earlier this month in the World Thoroughbred Rankings, walked out onto the track.

Those jockeys not riding in the race were gathered on the steps of the stewards’ tower to gain a vantage point to watch the world’s best mare strut her stuff and she did not disappoint.

While the standard of opposition was not the most taxing she has faced, the 1-20 favourite could not have made lighter work of her opposition, travelling strongly off the home bend as her rivals toiled before stretching clear under minimal pressure from the saddle.

Moody said: “It’s probably the fittest I’ve had her first time up and it’s great to see her back. She’s been pleasing us at home and it was great to see her do that.

“You could use the word unextended but she’s done it in a good time and we’ll go to Caulfield [on February 11 – the CF Orr Stakes] next. We’ll take it one race at a time but we’ll have a meeting next Friday and discuss what everyone is feeling after digesting that.”

With a trip to Royal Ascot on the cards and the possibility of running on Dubai World Cup night, Moody added on At The Races:  “Hopefully it’s the start of a wonderful six months.

“It’s wonderful to see her back in great shape. She’s just terrific for our sport, and it’s great for our industry. This filly puts us [racing] on the front page for the right reasons.”

Nolen said: “This wasn’t the strongest opposition she’s met, but she relaxed nicely off an even speed. I’m not going to say she was better than she was, but she wouldn’t have to improve.”

Champion Blind Luck arrives at Hill ‘n’ Dale

Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms announced today that champion and 6-time Grade I winner Blind Luck, owned by Dr. Mark Dedomenico, arrived to Hill ‘n’ Dale on Tuesday, January 24th.


A winner of 10 graded stakes races, including the 2010 Kentucky Oaks,  Blind Luck was on the board in 21 of 22 starts and amassed career earnings of $3,279,520 under the guidance of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The daughter of Pollard’s Vision was the model of durability during her career, making numerous cross-country trips and earning victories on both coasts.


Blind Luck is scheduled to be bred to champion and Darley stallion Bernardini this season.

Animal Kingdom getting serious in return to races

One week after earning the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old male, 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom put in his most serious move yet in his anticipated return to the track when he drilled five furlongs over the turf at Palm Meadows Training Center in :59.80 on Wednesday.

According to trainer Graham Motion, Animal Kingdom broke off about 10 lengths behind his workmates but ended up on virtually even terms just past the wire.

“It was a really serious work where we really asked him to do something and I thought he handled it very well,” Motion said. “He was a good ten lengths behind and just kind of got to them right just past the wire. He really galloped out nicely and he did it the right way, that’s what was important.”

Owned and bred by Team Valor, Animal Kingdom has not raced since his troubled sixth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes last June. Shortly after that effort, the chestnut son of Leroidesanimaux was found to have a slab fracture in his left hind leg which sidelined him for the remainder of his 2011 season, but  returned to the worktab in late December.

“Up to now, I haven’t wanted to overdo it with him,” Motion said. “He would have been happy to do more but there is a fine line between getting something out of it without overdoing it at this stage. But now, he’s within a month of a race and so he needs to get something out of these works.

“The difference between this time last year and now is pretty huge,” Motion continued. “He’s just a much bigger, stronger animal. He was a big, strapping horse last year but now he really has filled into his body.”

With a possible start in the Dubai World Cup being the main goal, Motion had penciled in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on February 11 for Animal Kingdom’s seasonal bow. However, Motion expressed concern that race could come up a little quick for the champion colt.

“Ideally I’d love to get at least three more breezes into him and that’s going to be tight for that race,” Motion said. “I kind of have a window of three weeks with that race being the first option. (Dubai) is very much a goal, though. We are still on schedule as far as that goes.”

Animal Kingdom’s Eclipse Award coronation last week kicked off a string of highs and lows for Motion and Team Valor. This past Saturday, Motion saddled the promising colt Howe Great to victory in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes on the turf at Gulfstream, the third win for the son of Hat Trick in four career starts. On Tuesday, though, Motion lost one of his more highly-regarded 3-year-olds when Stephanoatsee – a half brother to Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford – was found to have an injured pastern bone.

Motion said Stephanoatsee successfully underwent surgery Wednesday and that the prognosis is good for the colt to return to racing in the summer. While he plans to keep Howe Great on the turf for the time being with the Palm Beach Stakes on March 11 possibly up next, Motion hasn’t ruled out the chance the horse named for one of the NHL’s all-time greats could earn himself at shot at one of racing’s biggest prizes.

“He hasn’t done much wrong that horse, I thought it was kind of effortless for him the other day to be honest,” Motion said of Howe Great. “I think there is a good chance we would point him to the Palm Beach and if he ran well in that probably point him to the Blue Grass Stakes (at Keeneland). If he ran well in those two, it would be awfully hard not to think about the Derby.”

Should Howe Great get to that point, one thing Motion has in the back of his mind is the fact the dark bay colt did break his maiden on the dirt at Parx on October 31.

“He’s already won on the dirt which is something Animal Kingdom hadn’t done to this point,” Motion said. “I think he’s also a horse who will like the distance, I think he wants to go that far.”

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