Archive for January, 2015

Total of 429 sophomores make up early nominees to 2015 Triple Crown races

The lure of the American classics continues to trump the contraction of the Thoroughbred population as a total of 429 3-year-olds make up the early nominees to compete in the 2015 Triple Crown races.

While the Thoroughbred foal crop has seen marked declines since 2008, this year’s number of early nominees represents a 3.6 percent increase over last year’s early total and the highest since 460 horses total were nominated in 2008. It marks the second straight year the number of early nominees has risen with last year’s total representing a 11.9 percent increase over 2013.

This year’s 429 early nominees to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes also represent a record 1.8 percent of the 2012 North American foal crop, which was estimated at 23,500 Thoroughbreds.

“Considering the decline of the foal crop, it’s a pretty amazing feat to be up for a second straight year,” said Darren Rogers, senior director of communications for Churchill Downs, home of the  Kentucky Derby. “It’s obviously very encouraging. Also what I find to be interesting is…we’ve got 233 nominees that are still maiden, including 103 that are unraced. It tells us that folks are taking their time with developing these 3-year-olds and keeping their hopes alive.”

As was the case a year ago, seven-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Todd Pletcher leads all conditioners with  34 early nominees including the Grade I-winning trio of Carpe Diem, Competitive Edge and Daredevil.

Juvenile champion American Pharoah is one of 15 nominees trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has nine Triple Crown wins on his career résumé. Also among Baffert’s nominees is Kaleem Shah’s unbeaten Dortmund, winner of the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity.

Willis Horton’s Take Charge Brandi, the reigning champion 2-year-old filly, is among the 11 fillies nominated to the 2015 Triple Crown along with fellow Grade I winner Condo Commando.

The roster of 2015 Triple Crown-eligible horses includes 379 colts, 30 geldings, 11 fillies and nine ridglings. Of the 429 early nominees, 409 of those were bred in the United States and 323 of that number, or 75 percent, were foaled in Kentucky.

Historic Calumet Farm, the all-time leader in Triple Crown victories with 18, is the nomination leader among owners after making 15 horses eligible for America’s classics. Leading breeders are Darley and WinStar Farm, with 11 nominees each.

The early nomination period opened Dec. 20, 2014 and closed on Jan. 17. A late nomination period is underway and requires payment of a $6,000 for each nominated 3-year-old. The late nomination period runs through March 23 at 11:59 p.m.

Three-year-olds not nominated during either the early or late nomination phases have a final opportunity to become eligible for the races through the payment of a supplemental nomination fee. Due at the time of entry for either the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes, the supplemental fee process makes a horse eligible for the remainder of the Triple Crown series. A supplemental nomination at the time of entry to the Kentucky Derby requires payment of $200,000. The fee is $150,000 if paid prior to the Preakness or $75,000 at time of entry to the Belmont Stakes.

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Top Billing, Honor Code nearing seasonal debuts

Edited release:
Knocked from last year’s Triple Crown trail by injury just two weeks apart, both Honor Code and Top Billing are nearing their 4-year-old debuts this winter at Gulfstream Park.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey said 2013 Grade II Remsen Stakes winner Honor Code is expected to make his return in the one-mile, $300,000 Grade II Gulfstream Park Handicap on March 7.
Off since finishing third in the Grade II Fountain of Youth last February, Top Billing is likely to come back in a second-level allowance race. Both horses are scheduled to work Saturday morning at Payson Park.
Lane’s End Racing and Dell Ridge Farm’s Honor Code suffered a slight tear in his right hind upper suspensory and did not race between a runner-up finish behind Social Inclusion in a Gulfstream allowance on March 12 and a one-length victory on November 22 at Aqueduct in his comeback.
“I was tickled to death with his last race. He had trained that way,” McGaughey said. “The only thing I was surprised with was that he had trained so aggressive I thought that he might lay up in the race a little closer. I think now that we’re getting him stretched out a little bit hopefully he’ll place himself a little bit better.”
William Farish and E.J. Hudson, Jr.’s Top Billing cracked a right front cannon bone during a workout last winter following the Fountain of Youth, which was his third start of the year at Gulfstream and stakes debut. In his prior race, the chestnut son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin rolled to a 2 ¾-length optional claiming allowance victory.
“He had a pretty significant injury and the biggest thing I wanted to do was just try to get him back,” McGaughey said. “He’s ready to run.”
Leave the Light On Off Triple Crown Trail
Attrition on this year’s Kentucky Derby trail is already taking its toll. As first reported by Jay Privman of Daily Racing Form on Thursday, Grade II winner Leave the Light On is off this season’s Triple Crown trail due to an ankle injury suffered in his most recent workout.
Trained by Chad Brown for Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stable and William H. Lawrence, Leave the Light On will have surgery next week at the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Kentucky.
The sophomore son of Horse Greeley had been training at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, including a five-furlong breeze in 1:00.90 on Sunday. He was being pointed to the Grade II Fountain of Youth on February 21 at Gulfstream for his 3-year-old debut.
“Leave the Light On emerged from his latest workout with an injury to his right hind ankle. It requires surgery and that’s probably going to put him on the shelf for a couple months,” Brown told Gulfstream Park’s publicity team. “It’s terrible news for all of us associated with the horse. To already have 10 points in the bank, it really stings.
“We always put the horse first and, thankfully, this is not only not life-threatening, it’s not even career-threatening. It’s a situation where the timing is very unfortunate and you never want these horses to be injured, but this seems fixable. Hopefully, Leave the Light On will recover and be back in big races in the fall.”
Leave the Light On didn’t make his career debut until last fall, breaking his maiden in his second start and posting a front-running half-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Grade II Remsen on November 29 at Aqueduct.
“There’s a lot of nice races out there and with our program, we always look at the big picture if possible,” Brown said. “We try to look at the whole career of the horse. Of course, our first choice was to go to the Derby. That’s the race we want to win and everyone wants to win, but not at the expense of the horse. If the horse needs to be stopped on and cleaned up, then that’s what we’re going to do. Hopefully he has a long, successful career in our barn.”
Brown said that he plans to run both Cay Dancer and Rosalind in the Grade III, $150,000 Suwannee River  on the undercard of the Grade I $500,000 Donn Handicap February 7 at Gulfstream.

Champion Sky Classic pensioned from stud duty

Edited release:

Twenty-eight-year-old Sky Classic, a member of the Canadian Hall of Fame and a perennial leading sire, has been retired from stud duty and will be pensioned at Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud, according to manager Clifford Barry.

From 19 crops of racing age, Sky Classic has sired six champions, 59 stakes winners, ten Grade I winners and a total of 106 stakes horses.  Additionally, he is the sire of the dams of 43 stakes winners, including three champions, as well as English Classic winner Speciosa and 2014 Grade I winner La Tia.

A son of Nijinsky II out of Hall of Fame mare No Class, Sky Classic was bred and raced by Ernie Samuel’s Sam-Son Farm.  He retired to Pin Oak in 1993 following a career that saw him voted Eclipse champion turf male in 1992, and earned Sovereign Awards as champion 2-year-old, turf male, and older male in Canada.

On the track, Sky Classic amassed a record of 15 wins,  nine of them graded events victories, from 29 starts while earning over $3.3 million.  He set  course records in both the Grade I Rothmans International Stakes and the Grade I Turf Classic Invitational and was runner-up by a nose to Fraise in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Turf.
“There are not many stallions who start and end their careers at the same farm,”  Barry commented, “Sky Classic has been a special horse and we thank the Samuel family for entrusting us with his care for the majority of his lifetime.”

Court to ride champion Take Charge Brandi

Champion filly Take Charge Brandi will have her fifth different jockey in what will be her ninth career start as trainer D. Wayne Lukas told Oaklawn Park’s publicity staff  Thursday that veteran Jon Court will be in the irons when the daughter of Giant’s Causeway makes her expected seasonal bow in the Martha Washington Stakes at the Hot Springs track on January 31.


Take Charge Brandi was crowned the 2014 champion 2-year-old filly at the 44th annual Eclipse Awards on January 17. The multiple Grade I winner was piloted by Victor Espinoza during her most recent win in the Grade I Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos on December 13. Espinoza, who also guided Take Charge Brandi to her win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, would not be available to ride Take Charge Brandi in the $100,000 Martha Washington due to commitments in California, Lukas said.


Lukas added that Court would also be aboard Willis Horton’s filly for a slated run in the Grade III Honeybee Stakes on March 7 at Oaklawn since Espinoza also has prior commitments that day.


“We don’t want to go changing jockeys,” Lukas told Oaklawn Park’s publicity staff.


In addition to Espinoza, Take Charge Brandi has been ridden by Corey Lanerie – who had the reins for her first four starts – Luis Saez and Paco Lopez, who rode her to victory in the Grade III Delta Princess.


Lukas added Thursday that he would also prefer that Court keep the mount on his Kentucky Derby hopeful Mr. Z when that one makes his next start in the $300,000, Grade III Southwest Stakes on February 16. Court rode Mr. Z to an eventful third-place finish in Monday’s $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes as the colt had a clear lead at the top of the stretch but then bolted to the middle of the track when Court hit him left-handed with the whip.


After straightening up, Mr. Z ran on to finish behind Far Right and Bayerd, beaten 2 ¼ lengths as the even-money favorite.


“He’s fine,” Lukas said. “If Jon would have not hit him, I think, and just hand rode him, he might have won by five or six (lengths). He knifed him left-handed. He won’t take that.”


Lukas said owner Ahmed Zayat will have input on whether Court remains on Mr. Z.


“I would guess that would be my vote,” Lukas said of Court. “He knows you can’t do certain things. He was absolutely going to waltz home.”





Spring At Last sold, will relocate to Saudi Arabia

Edited release:

Grade I winner Spring At Last has been purchased by Prince Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Al Kabeer, who will relocate the 12-year-old son of Silver Deputy to Saudi Arabia where he’ll stand stud in 2015.


Spring At Last had been standing stud at WinStar Farm since 2009. He was slated to command a fee of $10,000 for 2015.


Spring At Last enjoyed success with his first crop of 2-year-olds in 2012, which included Grade I winner and Canadian champion Spring in the Air along with Grade II winners Spring Venture and Seaneen Girl. He ranked No. 2 on the Freshman Sires list in North America that year.


On the track, Spring At Last scored his biggest career wins in the Grade I Donn Handicap at Gulfstream and the Grade II Godolphin Mile in Dubai. An earner of $1,139,150, he raced for Paul Reddam and WinStar Farm before retiring to stud at WinStar.


Spring At Last is out of the top producer Winter’s Gone, by Dynaformer, and is a half-brother to Grade I winner Sharp Lisa and multiple graded stakes winner Sharp Susan.

Old Friends retiree Escapedfromnewyork dies of heart attack

Edited release:

Escapedfromnewyork, a resident of the Old Friends Retirement Facility in Georgetown, died on January 18 from a heart attack brought on by colic at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. The gelded son of Aristotle was 10-years-old.

Out of the Fortunate Prospect mare Prospect Street, Escapedfromnewyork arrived at Old Friends as an unnamed and unregistered 4-year-old colt, one of 177 Thoroughbreds found in various states of neglect in 2009 at Ernie Paragallo’s Center Brook Farm in upstate New York.  He was dubbed Escapedfromnewyork by Old Friends supporter Fred Jones in an online contest, a name borrowed from the 1981 Kurt Russell Film.

Old Friends officially registered the horse through the cooperation of the Jockey Club. Paragallo, a prominent owner and breeder who raced champion Sprinter winner Artax, was eventually charged with 33 counts of animal cruelty and sentenced to two years in jail and a $33,000 fine.

“Our thanks go out to New York’s Columbia-Greene Humane Society for the wonderful work they did to rescue all of the horses found at Center Brook and for allowing us to adopt this little horse,” said Micheal Blowen, founder and president of Old Friends. “It has been very rewarding to have given him six happy years.”

Around the farm the horse was endearingly known as Snake, which was Russell’s character in the movie. 

“Snake was a very brave little horse,” Blowen said.  “Despite his rough start in life he was affectionate and kind and a pleasure to be around.”

Ramseys sweep Outstanding Owner, Breeder for second straight year

The standard that Nicholasville-based Ken and Sarah Ramsey set for themselves coming out of 2013 was at such a level that bettering it would have gone down in the all-time Herculean handbook.

Though their 2014 season couldn’t match the record-setting levels of the 12 months prior, Ramsey Farm still conducted business at an altitude none of the peers could reach.

The Ramseys became the first operation to sweep the honors of Outstanding Owner and Outstanding Breeder in back-to-back years when they were presented with both   pieces of hardware again during the 44th annual Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park Saturday night.

In picking up two more year-end trophies, the Ramseys have now won the Eclipse Award for Owner a total of four times (2004, 2011, 2013, 2014) and Breeder twice (2013, 2014).

Spearheaded once again by stable largely featuring offspring by their homebred stallion Kitten’s Joy, the Ramseys led all owners in 2014 in earnings ($10,544,148), stakes wins (29) and graded stakes wins (10). The family celebrated their third career Breeders’ Cup winner when homebred Bobby’s Kitten came from the clouds to prevail in the Turf Sprint in what was arguably the most dramatic finish of any race on the World Championships card.

The Ramseys also topped the individual breeders list in North America in 2014 with $10,412,411 in earnings, breeding the winners of 264 races from 1,771 starts.
Kitten’s Joy, who led the general sire list for all of 2013, ranked third among all North American stallions this past season with progeny earnings of $11,713,264.

“This game is all about horses and we’re up here tonight because of one special horse,” Ken Ramsey said. “My wife named him Kitten’s Joy and the name has been prophetic. Long live the kittens!”

Trainer Todd Pletcher added another historic chapter to his surefire Hall of Fame career, winning a record seventh Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer. Pletcher, who received 100 of the possible 265 first-place votes, led all conditioners last year in earnings ($22,476,736), stakes wins (62), and graded stakes victories (40).

Javier Castellano took home his second straight Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey following a season that landed him atop the standings with $25,056,464 in earnings and 30 graded stakes triumphs.

Louisville-born Drayden Van Dyke was a clear winner for the honor of Outstanding Apprentice Jockey, earning 225 first-place votes.
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Take Charge Brandi, American Pharoah reign as juvenile champions

D. Wayne Lukas doesn’t give up on them.

Few trainers in Thoroughbred racing would have had the faith to press on at the top level with Willis Horton’s filly Take Charge Brandi after the daughter of Giant’s Causeway went wildly off form during a four-race losing skid.

But the man who has won more Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup races than anyone didn’t condition  25 prior champions by letting doubt cloud his Hall of Fame knowledge. And he knew what was possible once he got that filly right.

Lukas now has champion No. 26 residing in his barn after Take Charge Brandi was named 2014’s top 2-year-old filly during the 44th annual Eclipse Awards at Gulfstream Park Saturday night.

Take Charge Brandi garnered 236 of a possible 265 first-place votes, cementing a brilliant three-month turnaround.

The chestnut filly had lost four previous outings by a combined 38 lengths heading into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 1 but stunned the field that day when she won at odds of 61-to-1.

Knowing voters would dismiss that effort as a fluke, Lukas and Horton gamely wheeled Take Charge Brandi back in the Grade III Delta Princess on November 22, a race she won by 1 1/2 lengths, then took her to the Grade I Starlet at Los Alamitos on December 13 when she toppled that field by half a length.

Take Charge Brandi continues to add to one of the best family trees in the sport as she is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Charming, who is a half sister to 2013 champion 3-year-old male Will Take Charge.

Will Take Charge was also trained by Lukas and owned by Horton.


“This has been the best two years of my life,”  Horton said. “We have rode the gravy train and we love it. ”

As Lukas and Horton celebrated Eclipse glory yet again, owner Ahmed Zayat and his family got to relish the elation of having their first champion.

Zayat Stables’ multiple Grade I winning colt American Pharoah took the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old male in what was the closest voting of any division. The bay son of Pioneerof the Nile edged out Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red by 15 votes, getting 126 first-place nods to Texas Red’s 111.

American Pharoah finished fifth in his career debut at Del Mar in August but was most impressive in taking the Grade I Del Mar Futurity next time out by 4 3/4 lengths.

His 3 1/4-length win in the Grade I FrontRunner Stakes  made him the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park but he was scratched from the race four days before when a despondent Bob Baffert announced his trainee had a deep foot bruise.

Ironically, Texas Red’s subsequent 6 1/2-length win in the Breeders’ Cup further flattered American Pharoah as the Juvenile winner ran third behind his rival in the FrontRunner Stakes.

American Pharoah is back in galloping and could make his seasonal bow in March.

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

California Chrome named 2014 Horse of the Year

There isn’t an emotion trainer Art Sherman and his team didn’t endure in 2014, be it the elation that comes with having a horse who reshapes one’s world or the angst that comes with criticism and controversy.

The constant throughout everything was the flashy chestnut named California Chrome, the colt who at one point had the world at his hooves in early summer. The morning after the son of Lucky Pulpit recorded victory in the Hollywood Derby at Del Mar on November 29 – his sixth win from nine starts on the year, fourth Grade I triumph and first on turf – Sherman paid tribute to the runner who held everyone together during the good and the ugly.

“I know this horse,” the 77-year-old Sherman said. “He wasn’t going to let me down.”

No horse captured the public’s imagination last year like California Chrome, and few danced every dance at the level the dual classic winner did from January on. The reward for having enduring form and two-thirds of the most sought-after series in the Thoroughbred racing came Saturday night when California Chrome was honored as the 2014 Horse of the Year during the 44th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony at Gulfstream Park.

California Chrome, who was also named champion 3-year-old male, prevailed  over fellow finalists Bayern and Main Sequence with 143 of the 265 first-place Horse of the Year votes cast from the NTRA, Daily Racing Form and National Turf Writers and Broadcasters. The homebred colt becomes the first Kentucky Derby winner to be named Horse of the Year since Charismatic in 1999 and the first sophomore runner of either sex to take top honors since Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern, who also a finalist for champion 3-year-old male, received 36 first place votes with four-time Grade I winner Main Sequence getting 53 votes.

“It’s been a wild year for me,” said Sherman, who is prepping California Chrome for a 2015 campaign. “I want to thank all my crew, especially my son Alan who lived with the horse…everyone who worked many hours on this horse keeping him sound and doing what we do.

“It’s been a lifetime achievement for me just being here. I’ve been on the track for 55 years. So it’s been a great honor and I truly appreciate it.”

California Chrome’s coronation Saturday was the completion of a full-circle journey that saw him become Thoroughbred racing’s golden boy during his Triple Crown attempt, pulling his affable, old-school trainer and owners/breeders Steve Coburn and Perry Martin into a spotlight they had never experienced.

Unbeaten and untested in his first three starts of 2014, including a 5 1/4-length win in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, California Chrome sauntered into Churchill Downs and left with an overflowing bandwagon when he captured the Kentucky Derby by 1 3/4 lengths.

His subsequent 1 1/2 length victory in the Preakness Stakes had his army of “Chromies” proclaiming him an overwhelming choice to take the Belmont Stakes three weeks later and become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

In place of history, fate ordered up heartbreak. California Chrome got his right front hoof stepped on at the start of the Belmont en route finishing fourth behind race-winner Tonalist, prompting Coburn to denounce horses who skip the first two legs of the Triple Crown as “cheaters” in an emotional post-race interview.

While Coburn eventually had his mea culpa for his outburst, tensions were still high after California Chrome finished a dull sixth behind Bayern in the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby on September 20. Though he was third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to Bayern again, he was beaten just a neck that day and came back to take the Hollywood Derby in his first ever try on turf.

“This is a dream come true for us, it’s just amazing,” Coburn said Saturday.

While he lost the Horse of the Year vote to California Chrome, Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Main Sequence was recognized for his 4-for-4 campaign all in Grade I races in 2014 by earning champion turf male and champion older male honors.

Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Untapable was a unanimous pick for champion 3-year-old filly with Juddmonte Farms homebred Close Hatches taking champion older female honors.

Multiple Grade I winner Dayatthespa was the overwhelming choice for champion turf female with Wesley Ward-trainee Judy the Beauty being named top female sprinter. Midwest Thoroughbreds’ Work All Week earned the crown of champion sprinter.

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Churchill Downs Inc. names Ziegler Executive Director of Racing

Edited release:

Churchill Downs Incorporated  announced Friday that Mike Ziegler has been named to its new post of Executive Director of Racing. Ziegler will assume his position on Jan. 26 and will report directly to Bill Mudd, CDI’s President and Chief Financial Officer.

As CDI’s Executive Director of Racing, Ziegler will focus on and support the company’s commitment to the U.S. Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry.

“Mike has long been a credible and knowledgeable voice within the racing industry and we look forward to him bringing his wisdom and insight as he takes on this new role at CDI. The industry is continuously changing and bringing new challenges, and Mike’s role will be important to the continued success of our company’s racing operations and its legacy,” Mudd said.

Ziegler will be responsible for championing CDI initiatives to enhance the racing and breeding industry and will serve as a representative and the liaison between CDI and the industry.

Ziegler comes to CDI with nearly 20 years of industry experience. He has served since 2009 as the Executive Director of the Safety & Integrity Alliance for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) where he has overseen self-regulatory efforts to enact substantive improvements in safety and integrity in the racing industry.

“We thank Mike for the instrumental role he played in the successful launch and growth of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance and wish him the best of luck in the future,” said Alex Waldrop, President and Chief Executive Officer of the NTRA.

Prior to his work at the NTRA, Mike served as Senior Vice President for (2008-09), Vice President for Hollywood Park Racing Association (2005-08), Vice President and General Manager for Bay Meadows Racing Association (2004-08), Vice President for Bay Meadows Operating Company Properties (1995-2008), and Vice President and General Manger for Santa Anita Park (2001-04). He was also the Executive Director for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance from 2012-13.

Ziegler has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, Calif., and an MBA from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, Calif.

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