Archive for March, 2012

El Padrino has final move in advance of Florida Derby showdown

Risen Star Stakes winner El Padrino signaled his readiness for a clash with Union Rags in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park during a half-mile workout at Palm Meadows Training Center Sunday morning. The son of Pulpit, who was ridden by jockey Javier Castellano, was timed in :49.


“He went well. He went in :49, which is what we set out to do. He seemed happy and is coming up to the race in good order,” trainer Todd Pletcher said.

El Padrino worked in company with Brethren, who is scheduled to make his first start since finishing off the board in the Arkansas Derby  last April in the Sir Shackleton Stakes on the Florida Derby undercard.

“(El Padrino) finished slightly ahead of Brethren at the wire and galloped out nicely,” Pletcher said.

El Padrino, who finished a close third in the Grade II Remsen in his 2011 finale, took a big step forward in a stakes-quality allowance at Gulfstream on Jan. 9 with a two-length victory over Florida Derby candidate Take Charge Indy after lacking room early. He came back to catch Mark Valeski by a nose in the Grade II Risen Star at Fair Grounds in his most recent start.

“Physically, he’s a big strong colt but has good acceleration and can be pretty tactical in his races. He’s becoming more and more professional,” Pletcher said. “His allowance race here was an impressive race for a young horse, sitting behind horses on the inside and having to wait for something to open and finishing up strongly against a horse that was kind of loose on the lead.


“Then, he went to Louisiana and showed he had some courage in a dogfight with a nice horse and was able to put his nose down at the wire,” Pletcher continued. “It’s nice to know that he’s capable of sitting behind horses and taking some dirt when he’s down inside and that when he gets in a situation that he needs to find more, he can come up with it.”

Sunday was a busy morning at Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Boynton Beach for Pletcher, who also sent Awesome Maria to the track for a half-mile workout. The daughter of Maria’s Mon, who captured the Grade III Sabin by eight lengths over champion Royal Delta in her first start since June, was timed in :51.83 in her final workout in preparation for the Grade III Rampart Saturday.

“She went an easy half and she’s coming up to the race in good shape,” Pletcher said.

Our Entourage, who captured a turf allowance at Gulfstream Park in his season debut on Feb. 25, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.56.

“We’re going to the Grade III Illinois Derby with him,” said Pletcher of the $500,000 Derby prep at Hawthorne on April 7. “He was only beaten a couple lengths in the Remsen and he’s been training well all winter on the dirt in good company, so we’re optimistic he’ll handle the dirt just fine.”

Pletcher-trained runners finished second and third behind Went the Day Well in Saturday’s $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park. Holiday Promise, sent to post at 25-1, finished 3 ½ lengths behind victorious Went the Day Well and a length ahead of stablemate Heavy Breathing.

“Both came out of the race in good order. We’re going to take Holiday Promise to the (Coolmore) Lexington Stakes (at Keeneland) and Heavy Breathing will come back here to Palm Meadows and we will survey how he’s doing and take a look at the numbers, but we haven’t decided what the target is for his next start yet,” Pletcher said.

Holiday Promise won’t be prepping for a start in Kentucky Derby in the Lexington on April 21.

“We don’t have him nominated for the Triple Crown, and we decided (Saturday) that we weren’t going to supplement him and we’ll find other spots for him,” Pletcher said.

Union Rags hits all the right marks in latest move

Courtesy of the Gulfstream Park publicity department


Fountain of Youth victor Union Rags breezed a half-mile in company Saturday at Palm Meadows Training Center in preparation for a start in next Saturday’s $1 million, Grade I  Florida Derby.
The 3-year-old son of Dixie Union, who is expected to be a solid favorite in Gulfstream Park’s signature race, breezed the four furlongs in 49.10 seconds.

“He did it the right way. He went out with a set that worked, and Peter just sat behind them. I just wanted to have something for him to point at,” trainer Michael Matz reported from Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Boynton Beach. “The other two horses worked nicely and he worked nice and galloped out really well.”

Chadds Ford Stable’s star made his 2012 debut on Feb. 26 in the Fountain of Youth, in which he finished four lengths clear of the field while in hand under jockey Julien Leparoux.

“I think he should take a step forward from that. It didn’t look like he had to give everything he had,” Matz said. “I would hope that having a race under his belt would help him for the Florida Derby.”

Union Rags captured his first three races, including the Grade II Saratoga Special  and Grade I Champagne, before finishing second, a head behind Hansen, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He was forced to race extremely wide from his outside post position and was unable to overtake pacesetter Hansen.

“He had some unfortunate problems in the Breeders’ Cup, which unfortunately could arise again, but right now he’s more mature physically and mentally than he was as 2-year-old, and I think it showed in his last race,” Matz said.

Hansen works at Trackside, Maker not ruling out Wood Memorial

Reigning 2-year-old champion Hansen continued his preparations on Saturday with an easy five-furlong work  at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center.
        Exercise rider Joel Barrientos was in the saddle for trainer Mike Maker as the gray son of Tapit covered the distance in 1:01.20 over a track that was rated “fast” despite heavy rains dumped on the surface by overnight storms that rolled through Louisville.  Hansen worked with Maker’s second set after the break for track maintenance, and stepped on the six-furlong training surface just before 9 a.m. (Eastern)
 While Hansen’s breeder and co-owner, Dr. Kendall Hansen, said Thursday his champion colt was being pointed to the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 14,   Maker said Saturday the son of Tapit was still under consideration for the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7.  He said a final decision on which race would be Hansen’s final Kentucky Derby prep early next week.
Hansen worked in fractional times of :12.20, :24.20, :36.60 and :48.80 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.80.  The move was the slowest of six works at the distance during the morning at Trackside.

“He’s just fit and happy,” Maker said.  “We’re just trying to more or less keep him relaxed.”

Hansen is coming off an impressive three-length victory in the $400,000,Grade III  Gotham Stake at Aqueduct.

Zenyatta halter up for auction

An authentic halter worn by 2010 Horse of the Year  Zenyatta will be up for bid starting tomorrow, March 24, through April 3  through the charitable commerce site


All proceeds will benefit the Living Arts & Science Center (LASC), a not-for-profit educational arts and science organization in Lexington, KY.  This halter was donated to the LASC by Zenyatta’s owners Jerry and Ann Moss, and Lane’s End Farm, where Zenyatta resides and recently foaled a colt sired by fellow champion Bernardini.

Here is the direct link to the auction,

Champion Zenyatta to be bred to Tapit

Owners Jerry and Ann Moss announced today that 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta will be bred to Gainesway stallion Tapit this year.


Boarded at Mr. and Mrs. William Farish’s Lane’s End Farm, Zenyatta recently gave birth to her first foal, a colt by Darley sire Bernardini on March 8.


“Zenyatta’s pedigree is a great match to the A.P. Indy sire line, and in choosing Tapit, we think this will be a dynamic mating,” the Mosses said in a statement. “Her first mating was to Bernardini, a son of A.P. Indy, and we are thrilled with her colt.”


A grandson of Lane’s End’s two-time leading sire A.P. Indy, Tapit is by Pulpit and out of the stakes winner Tap Your Heels. A Grade I winner on the track , Tapit was third on the general Sire list last year and is currently ranked second on that list. He is the sire of three Breeders’ Cup winners in his first four crops, including last year’s champion juvenile colt Hansen.

Equine Injury Database shows widening gap between synthetic, dirt surfaces

The fatality rate between races conducted on dirt compared to synthetic surfaces continues to widen, according to statistics released by the Jockey Club on Thursday.

Based on an analysis of 1,160,045 starts collected by the Equine Injury Database during the three-year period January 1, 2009, through December 31, 2011, the  overall prevalence of race-related fatal injury was 1.91 per 1,000 starts. For individual years, the prevalence of fatal injury per 1,000 starts was 1.98 for 2009, 1.88 for 2010 and 1.88 for 2011.

The rate of fatalities for races on dirt in 2011 came in at  2.07 per 1,000 starts compared to 1.09 per 1,000 starts for races on synthetic surfaces during that same time. A total of 283,745 races were run on dirt in 2011, significantly more than the 45,700 races conducted on synthetic tracks.

Races conducted on turf had a fatality rate of 1.53 per 1,000 starts in 2011 from 50,362 races run.

When initial statistics collected during a one-year period from November 1, 2008, through October 31, 2009 were released, the  fatality rate for dirt was 2.14  compared to 1.49 for synthetics.


Matt Iuliano, executive vice president of The Jockey Club, noted that since it’s inception, the Equine Injury Database has grown to where 93 percent of racedays are now represented and that the reporting was changed to a calendar-year basis to match other statistical reporting by The Jockey Club.

“Originally, Equine Injury Database reports were generated from November 1 through October 31 of the following year to coincide with the first full year of data from a significant number of participating tracks,” Iuliano said.

In an effort to provide more uniformity in the national benchmarks, only race-related injuries that result in fatality within 72 hours or less from the date of race are included in the national figures.  Previous statistical summaries included race-related injuries that resulted in fatality regardless of when the fatality occurred after the date of the race.

Under reporting parameters used in previous years, which included injuries that resulted in fatality more than 72 hours from the date of race, the prevalence of fatality per 1,000 starts would have been 2.05 in 2011.

“Continued growth of the database has shown variations among jurisdictions in follow-up reporting during the days and weeks after an injury was sustained, creating variation in the results,” Iuliano said.  “We realize there are situations in which the outcome is not determined until much later than 72 hours after an incident, but our confidence level in reporting an accurate benchmark statistic is greatest when we utilize information available within 72 hours.”

The statistical analysis was once again performed by Dr. Tim Parkin, a veterinarian and epidemiologist from the University of Glasgow, who serves as a consultant on the Equine Injury Database.

“The addition of more than 379,000 starts to the database in year three enabled us to statistically validate certain trends seen in the data,” said Parkin. “The prevalence of fatality is not the result of a single variable in isolation but rather the simultaneous interaction of myriad variables contributing in concert to injury,” Parkin added.

“The Equine Injury Database continues to be a work in progress,” explained James  Gagliano, president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club. “To fully recognize the enormous potential of the EID, we urge full participation of all racetracks in reporting injuries during racing and training hours.  Currently, 93% of race days are represented in the race-related fatality statistics. Approximately half of the participating racetracks are also reporting injuries sustained during training hours.”

The Equine Injury Database contains a suite of reports for racetracks to analyze data collected at their respective facilities.  In early March, The Jockey Club unveiled a new website that enables racetracks to make public their data in a standard, summary fashion.  The website ( will be maintained by The Jockey Club.

Summaries of fatality statistics for a participating track include the year, number of race days, number of starts, age and sex of the horse, distance of the race and the surface on which the incident occurred.

A list of racetracks that have signed up to participate in the Equine Injury Database, including those who are now reporting their statistics publicly, can be found at


Stephen Foster, Personal Ensign added to Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series

The Grade I Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs,  Grade I Personal Ensign Stakes  at Saratoga and Grade III Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland are among the 13 new races added to the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Challenge series which will consist of 73 automatic qualifying races into the  Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

This year’s series has been expanded to 10 countries and will feature 52 Grade or Group I events. Breeders’ Cup will pay entry fees and provide travel allowances for the connections of the Challenge winners into the Championships.  (Complete 2012 schedule is available at

Horses around the globe will be qualifying for the 29th Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which will be held at Santa Anita Park on November 2-3, and will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network. The Breeders’ Cup Classic will be shown live in primetime on NBC from 8-9 p.m. ET on Nov. 3.

The expanded Challenge series, now in its sixth year, will be held at many of the world’s premier racetracks in the US, Canada, Argentina, Australia, England, France, Germany, Ireland,  Japan and South Africa. This year’s series began in January in South Africa, when the 4-year-old Gimmethegreenlight (AUS) won the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate  at Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town and qualified for an automatic starting position in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. The first North American race of the series will be the Grade I Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park on May 28, for an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.


Among the highlights of this year’s series are:

  • As part of the enhanced benefits program for Breeders’ Cup Challenge winners introduced last year, the Breeders’ Cup again will pay the entry fees of all Challenge winners starting in the Championships and provide a travel allowance of $20,000 to the winning connections of each Challenge winner from outside of North America and a $10,000 travel allowance for winners of Challenge races held in North America. The Challenge winner must be nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program by the Championships’ pre-entry deadline of October 22 to receive the rewards. Last year, 35 winners of Breeders’ Cup Challenge races participated in the World Championships.


  • The 2012 series will feature 13 new races: L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (G1) at Kenilworth Racecourse in South Africa (run Jan. 7);Gran Premio 25 de Mayo (G1) at San Isidro in Argentina on May 25; Stephen Foster Handicap  on June 16; Personal Ensign Stakes  on Aug. 26; Longines Grosser Preis von Baden from  Baden-Baden in Germany (G1) on Sept. 2; the Grade II Gallant Bloom Handicap on Sept. 22 at Belmont Park; Pilgrim Stakes and Miss Grillo Stakes, both Grade III, at Belmont Park on Oct. 7; Bourbon Stakes  on Oct.7; Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (G2) on Sept. 29 and Middle Park Stakes (G1) on Oct. 13, both at Newmarket in England; Juddmonte Beresford Stakes (G2) from The Curragh in Ireland on Sept. 30  and the Prix de la Foret (G1) at Longchamp on Oct. 7.


  • There will be six automatic berths for the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic. The Classic qualifiers, all Grade I races, begin on June 16 with the Stephen Foster.  The Stephen Foster will be followed by the Hollywood Gold Cup from Hollywood Park on July 7; the Whitney Handicap from Saratoga on August 4; the TVG Pacific Classic from Del Mar on August 26; the Jockey Club Gold Cup from Belmont Park and the Goodwood Handicap from Santa Anita Park, both on September 29.


  • For the second consecutive year, the Breeders’ Cup will pay foal nominators of Challenge winners a $10,000 award.


“Expanding the global reach and upgrading the quality of races in the Breeders’ Cup Challenge series are critical factors in increased participation and in generating awareness for the Breeders’ Cup in the months leading to our Championships,” said Craig Fravel, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup Limited. “We also look forward to horsemen taking advantage of our incentive program of free entries and travel allowances for Challenge winners into the World Championships, which was very well received last year.”


Dominguez could return in time for Wood Memorial

From today’s NYRA notes:

Two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Ramon Dominguez might only miss two weeks of action after suffering a separated collarbone during a spill at Aqueduct this past Sunday.


“Ramon had an MRI on Tuesday, spoke to his doctor today, and they are confident that he can be back within two weeks,” his agent Steve Rushing said.


That timeframe would get Dominguez back to the races in time to ride  juvenile champions Hansen in the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7.


Dominguez was injured when his  mount, Mob Wife, stumbled  during Sunday’s eighth race, unseating her rider.

KHRC names Borden state racing steward

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Tuesday named Barbara L. Borden of Louisville as state racing steward, effective April 1. Borden also will serve as the acting chief state steward during the upcoming Keeneland Spring Meet, which gets under way April 6.

Former trainer John Veitch was fired as chief state steward in November by Public Protection Cabinet Secretary Bob Vance. No cause was given, but Veitch’s handling of the Life At Ten incident at the 2010 Breeders’ Cup had been under investigation. Veitch has appealed his firing with the state.

As state racing steward, Borden will assist the chief state steward in exercising immediate supervision, control, and regulation of racing at each licensed race meeting on behalf of and responsible only to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Her other duties as state racing steward include determining all questions, disputes, protests, complaints, or objections concerning racing that arise during a race meeting and enforcing the determinations. Under Kentucky regulations, two of the three racing stewards present at each thoroughbred race in Kentucky are employed by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. The third steward is employed by the racing association where the race meet is being held.

Borden currently serves as an association steward at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky., as well as senior horse identifier at Keeneland, Churchill Downs and Turfway Park. She has previously worked in many capacities in the horse racing industry, starting in 1976 as a groom and exercise rider and rising through the ranks to positions that include associate state steward. She is an accredited steward, having completed the University of Louisville Steward Accreditation Program in 1993 with continuing education classes as required since that time.

Alpha now probable for $1 million Louisiana Derby

Courtesy of the Fair Grounds publicity staff


Godolphin Racing’s Alpha, winner of the Grade III Withers Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 4, is now considered probable for the Grade II,  $1 million Louisiana Derby on April 1, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin confirmed today.

“The chances are very good that we’re coming that way,” McLaughlin said. “Simon Crisford (racing manager for Godolphin) is the one who makes these decisions and we had talked yesterday, back and forth on e-mail, and we agreed that the Fair Grounds is a good spot. We will stay here in Florida and work this last time, make sure all is well for everybody going into the Florida Derby, and then we’ll enter at the Fair Grounds, most likely.”

The connections had previously been leaning toward either the Grade I  Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 7 or the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 31 but both of those races will likely be stacked with several of the moment’s leading Kentucky Derby contenders.

Reigning juvenile champion Hansen is slated to be among the entrants for the Wood Memorial along with WinStar Farm’s undefeated graded stakes winner Gemologist while Grade I winner Union Rags and Risen Star Stakes victor El Padrino are both pointing for the Florida Derby.

Alpha will work at his Palm Meadows Training Center base on Saturday or Sunday and fly to New Orleans on March 28, the Wednesday prior to the race.

“A two-hour flight from West Palm to New Orleans is almost as easy as vanning from Palm Meadows to Gulfstream,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a million dollars, a Grade II, and we like the timing of it, being five weeks to the (Kentucky) Derby, or one day short of five weeks.”

McLaughlin added that he would have had a tougher time lining up one of his preferred riders for either of the Grade I races but for the Louisiana Derby he was able to secure the services of Julien Leparoux. Alpha had been piloted by Ramon Dominguez but the two-time Eclipse Award winning rider will be sidelined for an unspecified amount of time after suffering and dislocated clavicle in a spill at Aqueduct  this past Sunday.

Dominguez is also the regular rider for Hansen while Leparoux has the mount on Union Rags.

MARK VALESKI WORKS :59 2/5 FOR LOUISIANA DERBY – Mark Valeski, runner-up in last month’s Grade II Risen Star Stakes, made a case for favoritism in the $1 million Louisiana Derby on April 1, breezing five furlongs in :59 2/5 under regular rider Rosie Napravnik, the fastest of 11 works at the distance by a full second.

The 3-year-old Proud Citizen colt, owned by former Kentucky governor Brereton Jones, worked after the break at 8:30 a.m. and accomplished the five-eighths through splits of :12 1/5, :24, :36 and : 47 4/5 before finishing the final eighth under no urging from Napravnik in :11 3/5. They galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 3/5.

“It was a little quicker than what we had designed to go,” trainer Larry Jones said. “I told her I wanted to work somewhere about a minute or a minute and one. She came back and said she thought he went a little bit quick but she said he was really rolling. It was really good.

“When I looked at him going into the last race I thought he was fat. I started second-guessing myself as we were leading him over. I was thinking, boy, he’s fat. But he really looks the way we want him right now. He’s really done great and that race put him right where we want to be. We’re expecting a big performance.”

The move was Mark Valeski’s first official work since coming out on the losing end of a head-to-head stretch duel withEl Padrino through the final furlong of the Feb. 25 Risen Star.

“Someone called me the other day while I was driving to Oaklawn and said, ‘It’s been a long time since Mark Valeski worked, what’s the matter with him?’ Jones said. “Apparently nothing’s the matter with him. I don’t know; I don’t work my horses as often as a lot of people do. I’ve been galloping him and I don’t let any grass grow under his feet when I gallop him.

“I don’t know how people got to thinking that horses need to work every week once you’ve got them fit and ready to go. I’ve been around him long enough to know what he needs. If there’s something wrong with Mark Valeski, then there must be something wrong with Believe You Can and Mr. Bowling, too, because they all worked today for the first time since they all raced on the same day. That’s the way we do it. We’ve got them fit and we just have to hold them there. We’re trying to make them last because we want them to be around for a while.”

Mr. Bowling, the Grade III Lecomte Stakes winner in January, worked earlier in the morning, breezing five furlongs in 1:03 4/5 under exercise rider Jen Brasser. The Istan colt, also owned by Brereton Jones, worked through splits of :12 2/5, :24 1/5, :37 4/5 and :50 4/5.

“Mr. Bowling has always been a slow worker,” Larry Jones said. “He just doesn’t think it’s a lot of fun out there by himself. If the race doesn’t overfill to where he would be excluded for being the same owner (as Mark Valeski), right now we have intentions of running them both.”

Mr. Bowling, who finished last of 11 in the Risen Star, will work in company early next week.

“We’ll probably work him Monday with Believe You Can,” Jones said. “I’ll probably work Mark on Tuesday since the race is on Sunday. Normally I would work Mr. Bowling on Tuesday but I want him to work in company and I don’t want to make Mark go any faster. But the filly sets pretty good and she’ll take the workmate well.”

Believe You Can, the Jan. 21 Silverbulletday Stakes winner preparing for the March 31 Fair Grounds Oaks, worked five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 this morning with Napravnik up. The Proud Citizen filly worked through splits of :12 1/5, :24 1/5, :37 4/5 and :48 4/5. She galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 4/5.

“Rosie had Believe You Can right on the money,” Jones said. “We’re in good shape and we’re really happy with all three of them.”

Next Page »