Archive for February, 2012

American Graded Stakes Committee backs off Lasix ban for 2012

With every major racing jurisdiction taking to little to no action on the matter, the American Graded Stakes Committee  announced Friday that it will not implement a ban of race-day medication for 2-year old graded stakes races in 2012.

The American Graded Stakes Committee announced last August that it would not award graded status to any stakes races for two-year-olds  that allows race-day medication, specifically the anti-bleeder medication Lasix.  That move came shortly after Breeders’ Cup Ltd. announced it planned to ban Lasix it all of its juvenile races in 2012 and in all of the World Championships contests the following year.

However,  none of the jurisdictions that hold graded stakes races for juveniles have moved forward with the proposed Lasix ban – including Kentucky.

“Due to the nature of the various entities involved in implementation of rules governing racing, the policy has taken longer to implement than the Committee hoped when the announcement regarding the ban was made in August, 2011,” Dr. J. David Richardson, chairman of the Committee, said in a statement.

“Over the past six months, through the leadership of the American Graded Stakes Committee and others in the industry, a great deal of valuable discussion has occurred regarding the important issue of medication administered to racehorses. Consistent with TOBA’s mission to improve the economics and integrity of the sport, the Committee will continue to engage in productive discussions within the industry, to educate the public and to explore all avenues to effect positive changes with regard to the responsible use of medication for the benefit of Graded Stakes races, and the preservation of the integrity of those races.”

The Graded Stakes Committee added it would continue to work with racing officials, state regulators and others within the industry to “advance the goal of conducting… races at the highest level of integrity.”

Hansen to ship to New York on Wednesday for Gotham start

From today’s NYRA notes:



Champion two-year-old male Hansen’s travel plans for next Saturday’s Grade III, $400,000 Gotham are set, co-owner Dr. Kendall Hansen said Friday.


Dr. Hansen said the colt will fly to New York on February 29, the Wednesday before the Gotham, after turning in his final breeze at Gulfstream Park, possibly on Monday.


The doctor spoke of Hansen’s most recent workout, officially a 59.00 five-furlong breeze at Gulfstream on February 19, in glowing terms.


“His last breeze on Sunday was strong,” said Dr. Hansen, who owns the colt in partnership with Dr. Harvey Diamond’s Sky Chai Racing. “He actually ran another furlong, and we were pleased with that. It was actually a six-furlong work. He was running 12-second furlongs, and that’s his cruising speed. Since he put up a bullet last week, his next breeze will probably be slower.”


Hansen, who capped his unbeaten 2-year-old campaign with a nose victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finished second, beaten five lengths by Algorithms, in the Grade III Holy Bull after stumbling at the break. The Gotham will be his second start of 2012.


“We had some bad luck last time, and people probably think we’re beatable,” said Dr.Hansen. “We were about 75 percent last time and were hoping for an easy spot, but we ran into a top horse in Algorithms. [Hansen] is doing well right now. We’re at about 85 or 90 percent. Obviously, we want to peak in May.”


Dr. Hansen added that trainer Michael Maker has been working on getting the son of Tapit to settle in his workouts and that the 1 1/16-mile Gotham, which is expected to draw a large field, will test the colt’s ability to race in traffic.


“It’d be nice to see a few horses come to his side early, and then have him lead by about three or four lengths at the quarter pole,” said Dr. Hansen.


Dr. Hansen revealed Hansen’s demeanor has changed since the Holy Bull, giving the owner confidence the colt will regain winning form.


“It’s going to be fun, and I think we have the horse to beat,” said Dr. Hansen. “You don’t want to go against the champion in his first start after a loss. He was really ticked off [after the Holy Bull].”

Havre de Grace to run at Fair Grounds after all

Days after announcing that 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace would make her seasonal bow in the Grade III Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park March 17, owner Rick Porter had a change of heart and said Friday the 5-year-old mare would instead go in the New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds the same day.

Porter changed his mind after management from Fair Grounds informed him there was an mistake in initially determining how much weight the daughter of Saint Liam would have to carry in the 1 1/16-miles New Orleans Ladies. Due to an error in the original conditions of the race, it was believed Havre de Grace would have to carry 122 pounds in the race but she will now only have tote 117.

In addition, Fair Grounds has also boosted the purse of the New Orleans Ladies from $100,000 to $150,000  – equal to the purse of the Azeri.

“What they did was they posted on Equibase the 2010 conditions, the one they wrote for Rachel Alexandra, by mistake,” Porter explained Friday. “And when they found out (trainer) Larry (Jones) was probably not going to run because we could run for seven pounds less in the Azeri for $50,000 more in a graded stakes, they said ‘Something is wrong’ and they looked it up.

“They called me and explained it to me and I said ‘That’s only part of the problem. Your race is only $100,000 and it’s not graded’,” Porter continued. “I told them they would have to come up with some more money…so I told them if they put another $50,000 up, we’d stay there because Larry really wanted to stay there. She likes the track (Fair Grounds), he doesn’t have to ship her for her first race. It just works out better. But I feel like a fool because I feel like I screwed the fans up and the racetracks are mad at me.”

With Havre de Grace now staying put at Fair Grounds for her seasonal bow, her stablemate Joyful Victory – who was originally slated to run in the New Orleans Ladies – will be the one to ship to Oaklawn for the Azeri. Joyful Victory has won twice over the Oaklawn Park track, taking the Grade III Honeybee and Grade II Fantasy Stakes last year.

“She ran great there last year,” Porter said of Joyful Victory. “I think she’ll like the track and she’ll like that short stretch better because she likes to make that move right around the quarter pole.”



The Factor prompts Spawr to have second thoughts

From today’s Santa Anita Park notes:


Champion sprinter Amazombie makes his long-awaited 2012 debut Saturday in the Grade II San Carlos Stakes, but Bill Spawr has all but conceded victory to mega-hot Bob Baffert and his speed freak, The Factor, in the seven furlong race with a $200,000 purse.

“I would say we’re all running for second,” said Spawr on a glorious Southern California morning Thursday after he had sent Amazombie through preparations leading to the San Carlos. “It’s all about The Factor, anyway, and how easy a lead he gets. There’s no speed to run with him. Nothing can run with him.”

Spawr was unconcerned about drawing post position two for Amazombie. “It won’t compromise him, not going seven-eighths,” he said.

Asked if the delay from Jan. 21, when Amazombie had been scheduled to make his first start since winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last Nov. 5, had impaired his conditioning, Spawr said, “I wish I had a race in him. But we scratched because of the off track that day and I’m glad we did. Our goal is the Breeders’ Cup (Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 3).

“We let him open-gallop a half-mile this morning at a two-minute clip with Alex Bisono on him,” Spawr said of Amazombie, a 6-year-old gelding by Northern Afleet owned by Spawr and Tom Sanford. Santa Anita’s official work tab gave Amazombie a four furlong time of 51 seconds, breezing.

Asked about strategy for The Factor, Baffert put on his best tongue-in-cheek game face and said, “He’s not speed. I’m going to take him back.” The Factor blew out three furlongs Tuesday at Hollywood Park in 47.40, breezing.

Baffert, who has won with nine of his last 15 starters at Santa Anita since Feb. 5, not including Castaway and Secret Circle in both divisions of the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park under jockey Rafael Bejarano last Monday, gave full credit to his crew. “It’s been quite a week,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet. Poor Jim (assistant Jim Barnes, who saddled the Southwest Stakes winners) got nervous at Oaklawn when he learned about the hot streak.

“I’ve got a great staff and good horses. Bejarano got aggressive from the outside post on Castaway. He let him rip from there.”

Baffert, a nine-time Santa Anita training king, is on pace to eclipse his Santa Anita mark of 47 wins set in 1997-98. Through 36 racing days, he had 25 wins from 91 starters, 27 percent.

The field for the San Carlos, race seven of nine: Canonize, Victor Espinoza, 12-1; Amazombie, Mike Smith, 8-5; The Factor, Martin Garcia, 7-5; Mensa Heat, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Rothko, Joel Rosario, 4-1; and Sway Away, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1. Amazombie and The Factor share highweight of 123 pounds each. The others carry 118.

Motor City works, Wilkes still deciding on seasonal debut

Lantern Hill Farm’s Motor City, winner of the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs last October, worked five furlongs in 1.01:88 at Palm Meadows Training Center on Thursday as he continues to prep towards his seasonal bow.

Thursday’s breeze was the fifth timed move for the Street Sense gelding since returning to the work tab in late January but trainer Ian Wilkes is still debating where his potential Kentucky Derby contender might make his 3-year-old debut.

“Probably early March, maybe the Swale Stakes (at Gulfstream Park going seven furlongs on March 10), but I’m not sure yet,” Wilkes said Thursday. “He’s coming along well though. I’m happy with the way he’s doing. He seems more mature right now but he needs to keep going with what he’s doing.”

If Motor City is to make it to the Derby, he will do so with a two-prep schedule – something his sire worked to perfection when he captured the 2007 Run for the Roses. Considering Motor City already has five starts on his resume, Wilkes isn’t too worried about his charge getting enough bottom into him.

“As long as he keeps improving and keeps doing well,” Wilkes said. “But he’s got to take me that direction (toward the Derby). That’s what I want to see from him.”

Oaklawn announces record purse increases

A history-making Presidents Day weekend and continued strong business propelled by good weather have allowed Oaklawn to make the single largest purse increase in track history starting with Thursday’s nine-race card. Overnight purses will be raised by $100,000 per week through the end of the meet and the $800,000 addition to the overnight purse account will bring the total purse distribution to nearly $18 million for the 56-day meet, a track record.


Oaklawn, which lost a record eight days in 2011 due to bad weather, has been enjoying the exact opposite this season. That has brought the people out, including a season high crowd of 29,313 to watch split divisions of the $250,000, Grade III Southwest Stakes  Presidents Day Monday. In addition to the boom on the racing side, Oaklawn has been setting records in its gaming center and is sharing that good fortune with the horsemen.


“That’s awesome,” said trainer Ron Moquett when he learned about the purse increase. “It’s good to be at a place that has the fan support and the ownership support for racing. Mr. Cella is a true sportsman. Oaklawn has been my favorite place for a long time and I think it’s going to start being a lot of people’s favorite place.”


“The owners and trainers are thrilled with this purse increase,” said Bill Walmsley, executive director of the Arkansas H.B.P.A. “It makes all of us feel very good. It’s another indication that Oaklawn continues to buck the national trend. This is the way that Thoroughbred racing should be conducted. It shows just how successful it can be when racing is treated as a major sporting event and not just a gambling event. The fans respond.”


The $100,000 purse increase will be divided as follows: $1,500 for all claiming races under $20,000, $3,000 for all claiming races over $20,000 and $5,000 for all maiden special weights and allowance races. When the meet began Jan. 13, maiden races were a track-high $40,000. Now, they will have a $46,000 purse.


“As we learned last year, weather can be the difference between a good meet and a great meet,” said David Longinotti, Assistant General Manager of Racing. “We’ve been very fortunate that everything has fallen into place this season. It’s very exciting to work for a company that puts as much effort into racing as gaming. Thanks to the positive trends on both sides this meet, we’re able to keep making our racing the best nationwide.”

Royal Delta to return in Saturday’s Sabin Stakes; Perfect Shirl in The Very One

Royal Delta, the  3-year-old filly champion of 2011, will break from post No. 2 when she makes her seasonal debut Saturday in the Grade III, $100,000 Sabin Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Trained by Bill Mott, Royal Delta will face four others in the 1 1/16-mile event including Grade I winner Awesome Maria and graded-stakes winner Groupie Doll.
“This is what it’s all about,” said Mott, who’s using the Sabin as a prep for the $10 million Dubai World Cup March 31. “I’d like to see a good, solid effort in this race so we can look forward to Dubai.”
Royal Delta will be making her first start since winning the  Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs on November 4. The Sabin will also mark her first race for owner Ben Leon’s Besilu Stables, which purchased the filly for $8.5 million at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
“She’s doing really well,” Mott said. “She’s had a bit of a rest but her recent works have been good. She’s showed she is willing to go long, willing to work, and she looks good doing it.”
Defending Sabin champ Awesome Maria, who also won Gulfstream’s Grade III Rampart last year, will be making her first start winning the Grade I Ogden Phipps Handicap in June. The 5-year-old daughter of Maria’s Mon was sidelined the remainder of the year after suffering a condylar fracture to her left foreleg during a workout last summer.
“She’s training exceptionally well,” said trainer Todd Pletcher. “We’ve been a little frustrated because she’s been ready to run for a little while. We tried to get her in an allowance race about a month ago which we didn’t get to go. We’ve kind of landed in a difficult situation running off a long layoff in a tough race, but she’s trained very well, she likes this track, so we’re optimistic.”
Although most of the attention in the Sabin will focus on the two favorites, Fred and Buff Bradley’s 5-year-old Kentucky homebred Groupie Doll comes into the race after two strong performances over the track at the meet and jockey Calvin Borel flying in for the mount.
A daughter of Bowman’s Band, Groupie Doll was a proven stakes performer last year winning the Grade III Gardenia Stakes at Ellis Park and finishing second in the Grade II Delaware Oaks, Charles Town Oaks and  Grade II Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland. She came back on Dec. 22 for a wire-to-wire allowance score against fillies and mares and finished a game second to Boys At Tosconova on Jan. 27 going a mile.
“She’s worked as good here Saturday morning (1:01 2/5) as she has since she got here,” said Buff Bradley, who co-owns and bred the mare with his father. “We’ve been pointing for the race for quite some time, although not knowing it would come up this tough. She’s very fast and we look forward to the race.”
Completing the field for the Sabin are Jerry Jamgotchian’s Ghostly Darkness, Rajiv Maragh; and Farnsworth Stable’s Canadian Mistress, Elvis Trujillo.
Also returning to the races on Saturday is another mare who had her shining moment during last year’s Breeders’ Cup. Perfect Shirl, upset winner of the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf last November, is one of 14 horses who crossed the entry box for the Grade III The Very One Stakes at Gulfstream.
The 1 3/8 miles turf race is the first start for Perfect Shirl since her Breeders’ Cup triumph. The daughter of Perfect Soul made her career debut at Gulfstream in March 2010, finishing second in a one-mile turf test.

Video of Super Saver foal standing for first time

One of the great visions to witness this time of year is the sight of all the foals romping alongside their mothers in various paddocks across the Bluegrass State. Since few can resists the overwhelming cuteness that is a newborn filly or colt, WinStar Farm kindly sent out a release this morning with a link to video of a filly by Kentucky Derby winner and WinStar stallion Super Saver standing for the first time and taking her first steps.

“It’s easy to point out negatives in our industry, but moments such as the one recently captured on video at WinStar Farm remind us of why we love this game,” the farm said in the release.


Watch it here:

Coolmore sire Royal Academy dies

One of the last links to the great Nijinsky II – and to his  trainer Dr. Vincent O’Brien – came to an end on Wednesday with the death of his son Royal Academy, Coolmore Stud announced in a release. The 25-year-old stallion succumbed to the infirmities of old age at Coolmore Australia.

“It’s very sad,” Coolmore’s Tom Magnier said in the release. “Royal Academy has been a tremendous servant to Coolmore, wherever he’s been based. He spent the last five years of his life here, the last two years in retirement. Particular credit must go to our head stallion man Gerry Ryan, who looked after him with great care and attention. He has been wonderfully prolific, siring more than 160 stakes winners and his progeny earnings are the equivalent of more than US$120,000,000.”

“He sired major winners over a wide range of distances, at all ages. I suspect, though, that his greatest legacy is the speed he passed on to the best of his Australian descendants – the brilliant Black Caviar is by one of his sons while champion sire-elect Fastnet Rock is out of one of his daughters.”

Royal Academy first hit the headlines when Vincent O’Brien bid a sales-topping $3,500,000 for him at the 1988 Keeneland July Selected Yearling Sales. In addition to being ahandsome individual, he had the attraction of being out of Storm Cat’s grandam Crimson Saint.

Royal Academy proved a very sound investment for Classic Thoroughbreds Plc. Although Nijinsky’s progeny were usually noted for their stamina, O’Brien took the bold decision to run him in the six furlong July Cup. O’Brien’s judgment proved spot on and he gained his first Group I success. Royal Academy then finished a good second to the exceptional sprinter Dayjur in the Ladbroke Sprint Cup before ending his career in a blaze of glory when carrying a back-from-retirement Lester Piggott to a stirring victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Belmont Park.

Royal Academy began his stallion career at Coolmore at a fee of IR30,000gns in 1991. His four first-crop Group winners were headed by Oscar Schindler (Irish St Leger) and there was at least one Group I winner in each of his first five Irish crops, thanks to the efforts of Ali-Royal (Sussex Stakes), Carmine Lake (Prix de l’Abbaye), Sleepytime (1,000 Guineas), Zalaiyka (French 1,000 Guineas), Val Royal (Breeders’ Cup Mile) and Lavery (Phoenix Stakes).

Royal Academy also stood at Coolmore’s American branch, Ashford Stud, resulting in among others, Bullish Luck, a star in Hong Kong who also won the Group I Yasuda Kinen in Japan. His Group I winners in Australia included Black Caviar’s sire Bel Esprit, Serious Speed and Kenwood Melody.


Champion Havre de Grace to make seasonal bow in Azeri

Havre de Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year, will make her seasonal bow in the Grade III Azeri Stakes going 1 1/16-miles at Oaklawn Park on March 17, owner Rick Porter announced Wednesday.

Trained by Larry Jones, Havre de Grace has not raced since finishing fourth against males in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on November 5. Despite that loss, the 5-year-old daughter was a runaway pick for Horse of the Year honors having won five of seven starts including besting males earlier in the year in the Grade I Woodward and defeating her own sex in the Grade I Apple Blossom and Beldame.

Havre de Grace has been training steadily for her return to the races with her most recent move being a bullet five-furlong breeze in :59.80 at Fair Grounds on Monday.

“She’s doing very well really, coming back good,” Jones said of Havre de Grace on Tuesday. “Just in the last couple of weeks you could see her eagerness to get back to work. I think she’s looking forward to it because she’s picking up the works on her own.”

Porter also announced Wednesday that Havre de Grace’s stablemate, the multiple graded stakes winner Joyful Victory, would also run on March 17 in the New Orleans Ladies at Fair Grounds. Joyful Victory won the Tiffany Lass Stakes at Fair Grounds on February 11 in her second start since returning from a leg injury suffered last season.

“We felt these are the two best opportunities for our two fillies,” Porter said in a statement posted on his website. “Ramon Dominguez will come in to ride Havre de Grace and Robby Albarado will be aboard Joyful Victory. This will be a big day for Fox Hill.”


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