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Champion American Pharoah records bullet work in preparation for Kentucky Derby

At this point for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Ahmed Zayat, their major source of stress is same the entity that routinely brings them calm.

Champion and expected Kentucky Derby favorite American Pharoah  flaunted his customary ease to onlookers at Churchill Downs Sunday as he worked five furlongs in a bullet :58.40 under jockey Martin Garcia, his lone major move in advance of the first leg of the Triple Crown on May 2.

The work was the first for American Pharoah since his eight-length victory in the Grade I Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 11. The effortless motion that has been his signature was completely in effect for the work with Garcia asking for little as they recorded splits of  11.40, 23, 34.60, and 46.40 with a gallop out in 1:11.40 and 1:27.

“He was just clipping along, he was doing it in hand but that’s the way he works,” Baffert said of the move. “Mr. Zayat was wondering if he was going too fast but that’s the way he does things. He does things really effortlessly. He galloped out strong, came back and wasn’t blowing. He hasn’t regressed and looks great.

“You watch him today and it looks like he is not moving. And you look at your watch and go wow.”

Even with undefeated multiple Grade I winner Dortmund as his stablemate, American Pharoah has owned a large chunk of the pre-Derby hype. The reigning juvenile champion has won four of five career starts with his lone defeat coming in his career debut at Del Mar last  August 9.

Since missing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with what the Zayats termed a foot injury and possible tweaked suspensory, the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile hasn’t been asked to take to  a deep breath, winning the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park gate-to-wire by 6 1/4 lengths and then drawing off in the Arkansas Derby.

Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has already declared his plans to make American Pharoah the morning-line favorite when post positions are drawn on Wednesday, and Sunday’s move did nothing to dispel the notion that the colt who has won his last four starts by a combined 22 1/4 lengths may be an extra cut above what has been a depth-laden 3-year-old class.

“The higher up you are, if you get beat, the fall is pretty steep,” Baffert said. “But…we feel really strong coming in here. The main thing right now, we just focus on preparing, having them ready. Today’s work was typical American Pharoah.

“(The draw) will probably be the last stressful moment we have,”  he continued. “It’s like when they send a man into space and they’re shooting off those stages, like ‘Stage 1, okay all looks good’. But at the same time, we want to enjoy it.”

On Saturday, Daily Racing Form reported on a protective plate covering the sole of American Pharoah’s left front foot that the colt has been racing and training with. When asked about the plate following his work, Zayat dismissed it as a non-issue, saying it has been in place since around February.

“It’s old news. He’s had that since he came back into training,” said Zayat, who watched the work alongside his 23-year-old son Justin Zayat, who is the racing and stallion manager for  Zayat Stables. “It’s not a bar shoe bar. It’s to protect the frog (of the foot). He’s raced in it.  It’s a non issue for us. It’s nothing for us.”

 

 

 

Carpe Diem settled in final pre-Derby move

Multiple Grade I winner Carpe Diem put in his last serious piece of work in advance of his slated start the 141st Kentucky Derby, covering four furlongs in 48 3/5 under the cover of dark Saturday morning at Keeneland.

With his regular rider, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, in the irons, the Blue Grass Stakes winner emerged from Barn 6 around 5:45 a.m. and broke off on his own as Pletcher led a contingent that included WinStar president Elliott Walden and Stonesteet Farm agent John Moynihan into the stands. Carpe Diem posted splits of 13, :25, and  :48 3/5 with a gallop out in 1:01 1/5; 1:14 4/5; 1:29 2/5 in a move Velazquez said was marked by the colt’s trademark consistency.

“Very good, we took it little by little in the first part of the work and then finished up really good,” said Velazquez, who will be aboard Carpe Diem in the Derby. “He’s always been like that. I think he fits really well (in the Derby) obviously.”

Pletcher also gave the move his seal of approval and added Carpe Diem would likely ship to Churchill Downs on Monday.

“There is very little I would change about the work,” Pletcher said. “He was very settled. It was a very good, progressive breeze and he picked it up each eighth.  He galloped out good, we got it in over a perfect surface. Very  happy with everything.

Carpe Diem has been residing at Keeneland since his victory there in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 4. Given that the son of Giant’s Causeway can get worked up at times, Pletcher has said he prefers keeping the chestnut runner in the quieter environment.

“We know he likes the surface,  and it’s a little more quite environment we know he is thriving in,”‘ Pletcher said. “He’s just doing so well there. He’s happy, he’s in a good routine.”

Owned in partnership by WinStar and Stonestreet Stables, Carpe Diem has won four of five lifetime starts with earnings of $1,519,800.

 

 

Madefromlucky out, Keen Ice in for Kentucky Deby

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent four of his Kentucky Derby hopefuls out for their final serious works at Churchill Downs Friday morning. Three of them confirmed to the seven-time Eclipse Award winner they deserved to start in the first leg of the Triple Crown.

With rain in the forecast for Saturday, Pletcher made the decision to move his contingent’s works up a day. While unbeaten Florida Derby winner Materiality and Grade II winner Itsaknockout made positive impressions when they breezed four furlongs in 48 flat on a cool, clear morning, Madefromlucky’s status as a Derby contender was downgraded after he struggled to keep pace with stablemate Stanford when those two also worked a half mile.

Madefromlucky was credited with four furlongs in 48.40 while his stablemate was clocked in 48.60. Jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard Madefromlucky, said the chestnut colt struggled to get a hold of the track causing the Hall of Fame rider to noticeably get after him in the lane as Stanford finished about a length in front.

Pletcher concurred with that assessment and said he will not run the son of Lookin At Lucky in the Kentucky Derby and would  instead consider pointing the fourth place finisher in the Arkansas Derby to a race like the Grade II Peter Pan at Belmont Park on May 9.

“He didn’t handle the turns particularly well, and we kind of noticed that at Arkansas,” Pletcher said of Madefromlucky. “The big turns at Belmont might suit him well. We’d be looking more at the Peter Pan-Belmont Stakes route with him.

Added Velazquez, “He worked okay. It was not a bad work but the other horse (Stanford) worked much better.”

Prior to Friday, Pletcher had said the only  contenders of his he considered definite for the Derby were multiple Grade I winner Carpe Diem – who is slated to work at Keeneland Saturday morning – and Materiality.

By holding his own against the latter, Itsaknockout earned his own Derby green light from Pletcher,  notching splits of 12, 23.60, and  35.60 with a gallop out  in 1:01 and 1:14.60. And though Pletcher seemed most on the fence about Stanford heading into Friday’s move, the Louisiana Derby runner up showed real affinity for the Churchill surface as he ran off splits of 12.40 and 24.20 with a gallop out in 1:01.60 and 1:15.

“I thought Itsaknockout breezed really well and I thought assuming he comes out of it as good as he breezed today, that he earned his way in,” Pletcher said. “Stanford arguably  breezed as good as anybody this morning. I thought his gallop out was particularly good. A lot of the success you’re going have here is based on how the horses handle the surface. It can be a quirky surface and it’s certainly not for all horses. He handled it really well.”

With Madefromlucky being taken out of Kentucky Derby consideration, it allows Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice – most recently fourth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby – to get into the field that is limited to 20 runners.

Trained by Dale Romans, Keen Ice broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last September 6 but is winless in five tries against graded stakes company.

“He’s going to be an extremely live longshot,” Romans said Friday morning when informed of the news. “I’m absolutely confident he will go the distance, which is a big factor in the Derby. I know there will be pace in this race, there always is, and he has not had enough pace in front of him.

“We don’t control our own destiny in this race. We do have to have some pace, we do have to have a clean trip. But with those two things, this is a prototype Derby horse. We’ll be running at the end.”

Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux will have the mount on Keen Ice for the Derby.

Danzig Moon, Far Right breeze
Impending rain also prompted the connections of  Derby hopefuls Danzig Moon and Far Right to work their horses on Friday instead of waiting for the weekend.
After recording what assistant trainer Norman Casse deemed too quick of an outing last Saturday when he covered five furlongs in a bullet 58 flat, Danzig Moon was much more settled Friday morning as he worked four furlongs in 48.80 in company.
“Very pleased with the work. We wanted to be a little more controlled, last week got a little out of hand,” said Casse. “Things couldn’t have been any better today. Now all the heavy stuff is done.”
Far Right worked solo for trainer Ron Moquett, covering four furlongs in 49 flat.
“He’s a very efficient horse that basically..can go forever,” Moquett said.

 

 

Trainer Gorder suspended 14 months by KHRC

Kentucky-based trainer Kellyn Gorder has been suspended a total of 14 months  and fined $5,000 by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards after a horse in his care was found to test positive for methamphetamine at Churchill Downs last November 22 and another search of his barn found improper injectables and syringes.

According to the ruling, Bourbon Warfare, a Colonel John filly owned by Bourbon Lane Stables, tested positive for methamphetamine after finishing first in the 11th race at Churchill Downs on November 22, 2014. Methamphetamine is classified as a Class A drug by the KHRC as a drug that has “no legitimate therapeutic value in the equine athlete”. The sample was detected by testing done by LGC Science, Inc, the official testing laboratory of the commission and confirmed at the University of California, Davis.

Gorder has been handed a one year suspension effective May 1, 2015  through April 29, 2016 for the above infraction. He was also handed an additional 60 day suspension from April 30,2106 to June 28, 2016 after a search of his barn on December 27, 2014 at Keeneland turned up injectable medications, hypodermic syringes, and a needle “by a person other than a veterinarian licensed to practice veterinary medicine” and oral medication “not properly labeled or validly prescribed by a veterinarian”

Gorder said he planned to appeal and, in a statement issued Wednesday, said he believed the positive concerned Bourbon Warfare was due to contamination.

“I am devastated, not just for me but for my clients and my employees,’ Gorder said in the statement. “I love horses. Period. They are my passion, my profession, my life. I would never, ever do something or give something to one of my horses that would in any way put them or the people around them in jeopardy, or gain them an unfair advantage over their competition. To put it bluntly, I did not, nor would I ever, give a horse methamphetamine, nor have I ever done or been in contact with methamphetamine.

“The levels of methamphetamine found in Bourbon Warfare’s bloodstream suggests this is a contamination situation rather than doping. I have drug tested all 31 of my employees since learning of this positive, and all came back clean for methamphetamine and all other Class A drugs. I don’t know whether it was a person walking through the barn one day with something on their hand and fed a horse a mint, or someone touched paper money with residue on it and then tied a tongue tie before her race. I am completely puzzled. I want to get to the bottom of it and find out where the contamination came from. I am looking into an appeal so I can better present my case before the authorities.”

Gorder’s statement further went on to add with regard to his second violation:

“In early 2014 there was a horse in my care for training who had an infected artenoid chondroma and needed fourteen days of Naxcel nebulizer treatments, which had been prescribed by a veterinarian. The protocol for administering Naxcel, which is an antibiotic, via the nebulizer includes the use of a syringe and a needle to combine the Naxcel and sterile water and put it in the nebulizer so the horse can inhale the antibiotic treatment. I keep syringes in my barn to give oral medications and eye medications as well. I never injected the horse with the Naxcel. I only used the needle for the nebulizer treatments. The horse shipped out in June of 2014 and unfortunately I did not dispose of the medication and needle upon his departure properly as I should have, thus they were found in my possession when my stable was searched.”

 

Champion Smuggler dies at age 13

Edited release:

Smuggler, the 2005 champion 3-year-old filly,  died at Claiborne Farm on April 16 due to complications from foaling, the farm announced Wednesday.

 

Bred and raced by Ogden Mills Phipps, the 13-year-old broodmare was a daughter of Classic winner and leading sire Unbridled out of the Phipps’ family homebred Inside Information, who was Eclipse Award champion older female of 1995.

 

Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey,  Smuggler raced three seasons, winning five races and placing three times in nine starts.  A stakes-placed winner at two, Smuggler came into her own as a 3-year-old notching a late charging victory in the  Grade I Mother Goose Stakes and then she pulled away to win the Grade I Coaching Club American Oaks  by 3 1/2 lengths.  Off the strength of those back-to-back Grade I wins, Smuggler earned the Eclipse Award as Champion 3-Year-Old Filly.

 

Retired from racing in 2006, Smuggler has produced five foals to race to date.  They include two winners and two to place.  She has a 2-year-old filly and a yearling colt both by Malibu Moon.

 

 

Smuggler was buried at the Marchmont Cemetary at  Claiborne.

WinStar Farm acquires minority interest in Kentucky Derby contender Upstart

 Edited release:

WinStar Farm has acquired a minority interest in graded stakes winner and Kentucky Derby contender Upstart, the operation announced on Monday.

 

Trainer Rick Violette, Jr. will remain as the conditioner of Upstart, who breezed a bullet half mile in 47.40 seconds last Friday at Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida. The ridgling son of Flatter is slated to have one final breeze this coming weekend at Palm Meadows before shipping to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby.

 

“Upstart has been on our radar since the Breeders’ Cup,” said Elliott Walden, WinStar President. “Jerry Brown of Thoro-Graph approached me because he really believes this colt has a big future. We are honored to be partners with such a nice man as Ralph Evans on such an exciting young horse as Upstart.”

 

 

“When Elliott called, I became excited about what we could do together with WinStar in a partnership on Upstart,” said Ralph Evans, owner of Upstart. “We look forward to sharing in Upstart’s promising future.”

 

As a 2-year-old, Upstart began his career with an impressive 5 ¼-length debut win last August at Saratoga, and returned just nine days later to also capture Saratoga’s $200,000 Funny Cide Stakes. Following a runner-up performance in the Grade I Champagne at Belmont in his next start, Upstart went on to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind race winner Texas Red and Carpe Diem, who is owned by WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables.

 

Upstart began his  3-year-old campaign in January by capturing the Grade II Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, drawing off in the stretch to a 5 ½-length victory over Frosted and earning a 105 Beyer in the 1 1/16-mile event. After winning the Holy Bull,  Upstart crossed the line first in the Grade II Fountain of Youth Stakes in February, but was disqualified and placed second behind Itsaknockout. He returned as the favorite in the Grade I, $1 million Florida Derby last month and finished second to  unbeaten Materiality in his final prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Lava Man, Xtra Heat among Hall of Fame inductees

Edited release:

Jockey Chris Antley, trainer King Leatherbury and the racehorses Lava Man and Xtra Heat have been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in the contemporary category, it was announced Monday. The electees will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Aug. 7 at 10:30 a.m. at the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion.

Antley, who was born in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and grew up in Elloree, S.C., won 3,480 races and had purse earnings of $92,261,894 in a career that spanned from 1983 until his death in 2000 at the age of 34. Antley rode his first winner, Vaya Con Dinero, at Pimlico in November 1983. He won 127 graded stakes races and 293 overall stakes.

The leading North American rider by wins in 1985 with 469, Antley was a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, taking the Run for the Roses with Strike the Gold in 1991 and Charismatic in 1999. He also won the Preakness Stakes with Charismatic. Antley ranked in the top 10 nationally in wins each year from 1984 through 1987 and was the leading rider at Monmouth Park in 1984, 1985 and 1986. He led the New York circuit with 234 wins in 1989 and was the leading rider at Saratoga in 1990.

Other major victories for Antley included the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Woodward, Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Derby, Alabama, Wood Memorial, Manhattan Handicap, Carter Handicap, Louisiana Derby, Blue Grass, Coaching Club American Oaks and Jerome Handicap. On Oct. 31, 1987, Antley won nine races when he had four victories at Aqueduct and five at the Meadowlands. He also had a streak of 64 consecutive days with at least one win in 1989.

Leatherbury, 82, who was born in Baltimore, won his first race at Florida’s Sunshine Park (now Tampa Bay Downs) in 1959 and currently ranks fourth all time with 6,454 wins. He has won 52 training titles in Maryland (26 each at Pimlico and Laurel) and four at Delaware Park with career purse earnings of $62,910,371. Leatherbury led all North American trainers in wins in 1977 and 1978 and won 300 or more races each year from 1975 through 1978. He ranked in the top three in North American wins each year from 1975 through 1980 and has finished in the top 10 nationally in wins 18 times and in earnings four times. Leatherbury has won 23 graded stakes races and 153 overall stakes.

In 1987, Leatherbury won the Grade I Hempstead Handicap with Catatonic and in 1994 he won the Grade I Philip H. Iselin Handicap with Taking Risks. Leatherbury also bred, owns and trains Ben’s Cat, a winner of $2.3 million. Ben’s Cat has won 22 stakes to date, including four graded events. Other top winners trained by Leatherbury include Ah Day (winner of 10 stakes) and Thirty Eight Paces (winner of six stakes).

Lava Man was bred in California by Lonnie Arterburn, Eve Kuhlmann and Kim Kuhlmann. Arterburn trained Lava Man until he was claimed during his 3-year-old season for $50,000 by trainer Doug O’Neill for STD Racing Stable and partner Jason Wood.

A winner of seven Grade I races — more than any other California-bred in history — Lava Man posted a career record of 17-8-5 from 47 starts with earnings of $5,268,706. Among California-bred horses, only Hall of Famers Tiznow and Best Pal and 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome have higher career earnings. Lava Man won three consecutive editions of the Hollywood Gold Cup (2005 through 2007), matching a feat Hall of Famer Native Diver accomplished from 1965 through 1967. The son of Slew City Slew also won back-to-back runnings of the Santa Anita Handicap in 2006 and 2007.

Lava Man’s other significant wins included the Pacific Classic, Californian, Sunshine Millions Classic, Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap, Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap and Sunshine Millions Turf. In his first Hollywood Gold Cup victory, Lava Man won by a record eight lengths and earned a 120 Beyer Speed Figure. With his victory in the Whittingham in 2006, Lava Man became the first horse since Vanlandingham 21 years earlier to win a Grade 1 on both dirt and turf in the same year. Lava Man was also the first horse to win the Hollywood Gold Cup, Santa Anita Handicap and Pacific Classic in the same year (a feat since equaled by Game On Dude).

Xtra Heat was bred in Kentucky by Pope McLean’s Crestwood Farm and sold as a 2-year-old for $5,000 at Maryland’s Timonium sale to trainer John Salzman, Sr. and partners Ken Taylor and Harry Deitchman.

The Eclipse Award winner for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly in 2001, Xtra Heat compiled a career record of 26-5-2 from 35 starts and earnings of $2,389,635. The daughter of Dixieland Heat won a total of 25 stakes races, 11 of which were graded events. She registered two six-race win streaks and had two victories in the Barbara Fritchie Handicap and Endine Stakes. Xtra Heat’s wins included the Grade I Prioress (setting a stakes record of 1:08.26), as well as the Vagrancy and Genuine Risk handicaps and the Astarita and Beaumont stakes.

The contemporary electees were chosen from a nationwide voting panel comprised of 180 racing writers, broadcasters, industry officials and historians from a group of 10 finalists selected by the Hall of Fame’s Nominating Committee. The top four vote-getters among the finalists are elected.

Results of the Hall of Fame’s Historic Review and Pillars of the Turf committees will be announced in May.

Carpe Diem works at Keeneland in preparation for Kentucky Derby

Special horses can inspire extra special treatment. On Saturday morning, some exceptional logistics came together in order for multiple Grade I winner Carpe Diem to post his first major work since winning the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes on April 4, covering four furlongs in 48 flat at Keeneland in preparation for the Kentucky Derby.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he originally wanted to work the son of Giant’s Causeway Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m. With heavy rain in the forecast beginning early Sunday morning, alternate plans were put into place to not only move the breeze up a day but get Pletcher, who had gone back to Florida, on site to watch over his leading Derby contender.

Keeneland itself had a major hand in making it all happen as track officials agreed to close its main track for training shortly before 10 a.m. and then harrow the inside path of the track for Carpe Diem to work at 10:15 a.m. That allowed Pletcher to work his three other Derby hopefuls – Materiality, Itsaknockout and Stanford – at Palm Beach Downs at first light before hopping on a charter plane to Lexington.

With a crowd of Keeneland faithful greeting his solo appearance on the track with cheers, Carpe Diem posted splits of :12,: 24 , :48, 1:00 2/5, with a gallop out in  1:13 4/5 under jockey John Velazquez.

“I thought he worked super,” Pletcher said of the move. “His energy level is good, galloped out really well. He was kind of hard to pull up in the end which is always a good sign. We originally planned to go tomorrow…but it looked like the rain could hit a little earlier and we just didn’t want to take any chances.

“Keeneland helped us out a lot by allowing us to do this. I wanted to be here for the breeze but I didn’t want to jeopardize  breezing  him on a track at 10 a.m. unless we got the benefit of having it renovated. They were kind of enough to harrow that inside path for him and they went out of their way, and I appreciate that a lot. Then it was just a matter of needing the sun to come up enough at Palm Beach Downs so we could see the breezes there and then head to Palm Beach Airport.”

After breaking off for the move, Velazquez said Carpe Diem actually went “a little bit faster than I wanted” in the first part of the but that he was able to get the chestnut colt to back off slightly before finishing up.

Whether the work was convincing enough for Velazquez remains to be seen. In addition to being the regular rider for Carpe Diem, Velazquez also rides Materiality, who remained unbeaten in three career starts with his win in the Grade I Florida Derby on March 28.

Velazquez said after Saturday’s move he “didn’t know yet” if Carpe Diem was his Derby horse. Pletcher said the decision would be up to the Hall of Fame jockey.

“Ultimately it has to be Johnny’s decision,” Pletcher said. “He’s in a tough spot, he’s got two very high quality horses. He’s 3 for 3 on one and  4 for 5 on the other. It’s a tough position to be in. Everyone has been kind enough to allow as much time as possible but at the same time we have to firm up a rider on each horse. So I’ll probably talk to Johnny on Monday or so to make all the connections happy.”

Owned by Stonestreet Stables and WinStar Farm, Carpe Diem has won four of five career starts with his lone loss coming when he finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park last November 1. Pletcher said “most likely” the colt would have his final pre-Derby workout at Keeneland next weekend instead of at Churchill Downs but that he has not decided that for sure.

“I think in his particular case with a month between races, we’re just looking for maintenance works,” Pletcher said. “You can tell by the way he galloped out today, I  mean he was all the way back at  the half mile pole before Johnny could get him pulled up. He’s a fit horse.”

 

 

 

 

Kentucky Derby Museum announces naming of D. Wayne Lukas Gallery

Edited release:

The Kentucky Derby Museum announced on Friday the naming of the D. Wayne Lukas Gallery, in honor of the Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Kentucky Derby winner.

The D. Wayne Lukas Gallery is the primary area dedicated to educational programming presented by the Museum. The Education Department strives to promote the Kentucky Derby to all ages, and uses the race as a connector to teach content in math, social studies, language arts, science and music to over 60,000 students annually. A former educator, Lukas represents qualities the Education Department strives to achieve through his love of Thoroughbreds and success in the racing industry.

“I can think of no other individual more fitting of this honor than D. Wayne Lukas,” Museum President Lynn Ashton said. “His contributions to the horse racing industry are well-known, and he has been a dedicated supporter of the Kentucky Derby Museum through the years.”
A native of Wisconsin, Lukas has four Kentucky Derby victories among his many accomplishments: Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Grindstone (1996) and Charismatic (1999). In 2013, Lukas was awarded the Eclipse Award for Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing and has also been named the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer winner on four separate occasions (1985, 1986, 1987, 1994).

Lukas originally was a teacher and basketball coach prior to starting his Thoroughbred career by training quarter horses, and is still affectionately known as “The Coach” among his peers and fans. He is also known for taking a child to the Winner’s Circle to share in the biggest moments of his career.

 

Plattner wins Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award

Edited release:

Offerings From a Rust Belt Jockey, by Andrew Plattner and published by Dzanc Books of Ann Arbor, Mich., was named winner of the $10,000 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award at an April 15 reception at Shane Ryan’s Castleton Lyons farm near Lexington. A fictional story about the travails of a frustrated third-tier jockey became the second novel to take the award, following Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrulein 2010. The Award was conceived in 2006 by the late Dr. Tony Ryan and has since been presented annually by the Ryan family.

Plattner, who won the prestigious 1997 Flannery O’ Connor Award for his collection of stories called Winter Money, was a Dr. Tony Ryan finalist in 2009 for a lush coffee-table book called Kentucky Derby Vault, and in 2012 earned finalist status in the Townsend Prize for Fiction for the short story collection, “A Marriage of Convenience.”

The author, a Lexington native who grew up around the racetrack, bases many of his fictional characters on people he has encountered. Plattner is currently a visiting professor of English at the University of Tampa.

The other two finalists were Northern Dancer—The Legendary Horse That Inspired a Nation, by Kevin Chong; and RaceLens—Vintage Thoroughbred Racing Images, by Philip Von Borries.

In addition to the $10,000 check, presented by Dr. Ryan’s son and Castleton Lyons president Shane Ryan, the winner received a Tipperary Irish crystal trophy in the shape of the Lexington farm’s distinctive medieval-style tower. Runners-up each received $1,000 and similar trophies. Upwards of 100 people attended the reception held in a loft above the historic stallion barn, home today to triple Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti and Grade I winner Justin Phillip.

The judging panel for 2014 was comprised of Washington Post-Bloomberg News Service Managing Editor Kay Coyte; award-winning broadcast journalist and TVG/HRTV producer Caton Bredar; and freelance sportswriter David Owen, who won the 2013 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award with Foinavon: The Story of the Grand National’s Biggest Upset.

Said head judge Kay Coyte of the winning entry, “Plattner has taken a short-story kernel and nurtured it into a novel that’s an unflinching look at real lives that revolve around racing’s low-rent district. It is a backstretch noir that captures the hope and desperation of a struggling, middle-age jockey who tasted major-league success. In Rust Belt, he is dead-on in his descriptions of a rider’s far-from-glamorous day-to-day, season-to-season hustle. It’s not easy to write racing fiction free from cliché, but Plattner does that here. He’s a master of dialogue.”

David Owen said: “You could hardly imagine more diverse books about horse racing than the three finalists. What really set Rust Belt Jockey apart from other fictional entries for me was the author’s ear for dialogue. It’s as much about what you leave out as what you put in, and it’s so hard to get right. Plattner was pitch perfect.”

Said judge Caton Bredar of the winner: “Expanding on an intriguing and elegant short story written several years ago, Andy Plattner takes us into the heart and soul—or, at times, lack thereof—of a small-time jockey and the horses and people that make up his world.  Alternating between hope and melancholy, Plattner expertly uses language to paint the often wistful world of horse racing on the small town stage.”

Originally called the Castleton Lyons-Thoroughbred Times Book Award, the competition was renamed in 2008 to honor the memory of Dr. Ryan, founder of Ryanair and Castleton Lyons who died in 2007. Dr. Ryan drew upon his passions for horse racing and fine writing when he launched the award in 2006.

 

 

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