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TVG acquires HRTV; will merge operations

Edited release:

Betfair’s TVG subsidiary and The Stronach Group Wednesday announced that TVG will assume the operations of HRTV, which will be operated from the TVG Studio complex in Los Angeles. The unified television operations will feature races from Santa Anita, Gulfstream Park, Pimlico, Laurel Park, and Golden Gate Fields over a seven-year period, as well as additional premium domestic and international racetracks.


The agreement paves the way for more than 5,000 additional races from US tracks to be broadcast over the two networks. Via cable, satellite and telco distribution, TVG is currently available in 36.5 million US homes and HRTV is available in 19.5 million US homes.


“This is a very exciting step for TVG and HRTV as it enhances our ability to deliver premier horseracing content to our viewers, to show more races and to promote racing in the US,” said TVG CEO Kip Levin. “With our recent investment in our new, state of the art, HD studios now complete, we’re pleased to expand our coverage of the Stronach Group tracks as part of a unified TV platform. This agreement is part of TVG’s commitment to deliver the very best in US racing, to generate incremental wagering on our advanced-deposit wagering platform and, to drive additional advertising and distribution opportunities.”


“Combining the significant investments we have made in our facilities and racing content with TVG’s significant investments in television technology and distribution is the best way forward for ensuring a world class experience for all of our important customers and our fellow stakeholders in racing,” said Alon Ossip, CEO of the Stronach Group.


The two networks will be able to show more live horse racing, officials indicated. Today TVG telecasts approximately 27,000 races per year, and HRTV shows approximately 16,000, with significant overlap and many races on tape delay due to scheduling conflicts. TVG officials estimate that the two networks will be able to broadcast live approximately 40,000 races per year — over 5,000 additional new races than are shown today. The networks will merge operations over the next several weeks.


Betfair will make an initial payment of $25 million and estimates that it will pay further consideration totaling $47.8 million over the seven-year period, although the total consideration is dependent upon TVG’s future handle. Based on projected future cash flows, the present fair market value of these payments is estimated to be $56.3 million. In the last twelve months, under previous agreements, TVG paid $4.3 million in television fees to HRTV related to television content, including The Stronach Group racetracks, for which HRTV has held exclusive rights. This transaction eliminates the need for TVG to pay those television fees.


Following the transaction, Betfair will own 100% of the equity in the unified television operation. The transaction does not include XpressBet, the advanced-deposit wagering company owned by the Stronach Group.

Shared Belief bound for Big ‘Cap; Chrome confirmed for Dubai World Cup

Edited release:

It was business as usual for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and his crew after recording one of their most memorable victories, Shared Belief’s 1 ½-length triumph in Saturday’s Grade II San Antonio Invitational over Horse of the Year California Chrome in a race that will be indelibly ensconced in the minds of the 21,522 fans in attendance at Santa Anita Park in addition to legions who watched on TV and on-line.

“Jerry got to the barn at 2:40 this morning and I was already there,” said Hollendorfer’s trusted assistant, Dan Ward. “He said, ‘I thought I’d beat you here this morning.’

“Shared Belief was excellent this morning,” Ward said. “He ate all his feed. What happened in the past is not important. The only thing is the future, and that would include the Santa Anita Handicap (on March 7).

“He’ll go back to Golden Gate tomorrow, train up there, probably come back the Wednesday before the race, keeping the same schedule as in the past.”

Both Hollendorfer and Ward were magnanimous after Shared Belief’s ninth victory from 10 career starts, Ward saying California Chrome’s trainer and his team are “100 percent class at all times.”

Hollendorfer, swarmed by media Saturday in a post-race press conference in the winner’s circle, said, “California Chrome has a big following, deservedly so. He deserved to be Horse of the Year. If things had gone a little bit different (in the Breeders’ Cup Classic), I might have got a chance, but you can’t always get things to go your way . . . I’m proud of Art and his horse, and I’m very proud of my horse and my partnership.”

The much anticipated rematch between Shared Belief, the 2013 champion 2-year-old male, and California Chrome lived up to every billing Saturday with the former delivering a brilliant stretch run to collar the dual classic winner in emphatic style.

A future meeting between the two champions, however, will have to wait as trainer Art Sherman confirmed that California Chrome will now prepare for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28.

“He’s going to Dubai,” Sherman said by phone from his Los Alamitos base Sunday morning. “We’re preparing for that. The horse came out the race well and ate up good.”

“It was a good race for the fans,” said Mike Smith, who once again authored a Hall of Fame ride aboard Shared Belief. “It’s going to be a great rivalry. It’s great for racing and hopefully they’ll get a chance to meet a few more times. Shared Belief is already a great horse. He’s young and has time to get better and do more great things.”

While Sherman expressed dissatisfaction with Chrome’s final pre-race breeze as being “too slow,” he did not use that as an excuse for getting beat. “He tried hard,” Sherman said. “We’ll hook up again.”

Only time will tell.

The undercard of the San Antonio saw Grade I winner Dortmund rally after being passed in midstretch by Firing Lane, fighting back on the rail to take the Grade III Robert B. Lewis.

Both Bob Baffert, trainer of Dortmund, and Simon Callaghan, trainer of Firing Line, said their charges came out of the race in good order.

“Dortmund looked really good at the barn afterwards,” Baffert said Sunday morning. “I was surprised, because after the Los Alamitos race, he was tired. After this race he was a pretty happy dude.

“It was a good race for him. We’ll look at the Santa Anita Derby (April 4) or we could go out of town.”

Callaghan had similar considerations for Firing Line.

On the opposite coast, Byron Hughes, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, reported Sunday morning that Far From Over emerged from his improbable victory in the Grade III, $250,000 Withers at Aqueduct in fine fettle. The bay son of Blame took a bad stumble coming out of the starting gate that left him at the back of the pack, but powered home to a 1 ¾-length victory over El Kabeir on Saturday.

“He came out in good shape, ate everything up today,” said Hughes. “I talked to Todd this morning; there are no immediate plans for him, but it looks like he’ll be staying in New York.”

Runner-up El Kabeir came out of the Withers in good shape according to the colt’s trainer, John Terranova. The son of Scat Daddy still sits atop the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” leaderboard with 25 points, having picked up four points for his second-place finish in the Withers.

“So far, so good,” said Terranova, who trains El Kabeir for Zayat Stables. “He cooled out really well after the race and is a nice, sound horse.”


After dueling with pacesetter Classy Class for much of the journey, El Kabeir, the odds-on favorite in the Withers, edged away from that rival in deep stretch, but could not hold off Far From Over.

“I thought it was a good effort,” said Terranova. “We were second best, but (El Kabeir) put in a good, solid effort. If you look at the numbers, he’s earned Beyer Speed Figures of 94, 95, and 93 for his last three races. He’s an ultra-consistent horse, hopefully we can take that next jump forward in his next race.”
According to Terranova, El Kabeir’s next race is likely to come in the Grade III, $400,000 Gotham on March 7 at the Aqueduct.

Racing treated to rematch of champions in San Antonio Stakes

Jerry Hollendorfer and Art Sherman share both a friendship and a mind set.

The California-based trainers each have champions in their barns they staunchly did right by in the face of clamor. Though their charges have only met once on the track months of debate has raged over whether Hollendorfer’s once-blemished gelding is really the superior runner or if Sherman’s transcendent Horse of the Year is the honest-to-God, best to come out of his generation.

Luckily, the respective topics of discussion are healthy and breathing fire during training hours. So neither Hollendorfer nor Sherman hesitated to showcase their shared sporting nature and let their horses give the Thoroughbred racing community another special matchup to witness.

California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year and 3-year-old champion male, and Shared Belief, the 2013 juvenile champion, are spoiling the sport early this season by the virtue of their slated meeting Saturday against seven others in the Grade II, $500,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Ailments and/or the ongoing desire by many trainers to space their horses’ starts out too often prevents enduring, on-track rivalries from growing legs in the current racing climate.

All the more reason why fans about fell over themselves when the camps of both horses declared early intentions to try and bring some clarity to what was left decidedly unsettled in the aftermath of last November’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park.

Though Bayern narrowly prevailed in the Classic over California Chrome in third and Shared Belief coming home fourth, the fact Bayern came over sharply at the break and appeared to body slam Shared Belief only sparked questions as to what an outcome between the three would look like if all had a fair run.

Bayern had to skip the San Antonio when his training was interrupted last month due to a foot ailment. But for the first time since 1987 (Tasso vs. Snow Chief), the champion 2-year-old male and his 3-year-old successor are going to meet as older horses in what many are hoping is the first of several such clashes.

“It reminds me of when we were kids and you had the hot rods and were going for pink slips. You know what I mean, who’s the best horse?,” Sherman said during a national teleconference this week. “It’s going to be fun. Whatever happens, whoever outruns each other, I just want them to have a fair shake at it.

“Me and Jerry Hollendorfer go back a long time and you know, I felt bad for him in the Breeders’ Cup, because he did have to steady and didn’t really have a good shot at it.  But I’ve been wanting to meet his horse head’s up for a long time.”

Sherman and Hollendorfer have each seen their horses shake off their Breeders’ Cup outings to score Grade I victories at the end of 2014.

Shared Belief, who was unbeaten in seven starts prior to the Classic, stamped his 2014 campaign by taking the Malibu Stakes on December 26, his fourth career Grade I triumph.

His wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes made him a national darling, but it was California Chrome’s victory on the turf in the Grade I Hollywood Derby November 29 that likely provided the extra ammo in securing his Eclipse Awards after a campaign that saw him win six of nine starts.

“Shared Belief has been remarkably consistent,” said Hollendorfer, who also co-owns Shared Belief in a group that includes radio host Jim Rome. “I would say that he’s carrying a little more weight than he used to.  So are we improved?  A little bit. As far as California Chrome goes, the Derby Trail is a difficult…and the fact that he’s still around and running makes him to be a tough competitor.”

Though Bayern didn’t make the San Antonio, his trainer Bob Baffert still has a chance to throw a shiny wrench into the promoted showdown of champions.

Breaking from the rail in the 1 1/8-miles San Antonio will be Baffert trainee Hoppertunity, who missed the Triple Crown races last year due to injury but came back to beat older horses in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 28. The son of Any Given Saturday opened 2015 with a win in the Grade II San Pasqual and while he needs to improve to match California Chrome’s high cruising speed and Shared Belief’s turn of foot, it wouldn’t be a total shock if he grinded his way into the winner’s circle.

“The horse is doing well. It’s going to be an exciting race,” said Baffert. “It’s going to be a great racing day.”

In addition to the San Antonio, Saturday’s coast-to-coast slate of racing features a couple key Kentucky Derby prep races with Grade I winner Dortmund headlining the field for the Grade III Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita and multiple graded stakes winner El Kabeir facing six others in the Grade III Withers at Aqueduct.

Gulfstream Park has its own exceptional lineup Saturday, highlighted by the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap and the Grade I Donn Handicap. Lea, winner of the 1 1/8-miles Donn last year, stands as the 9-to-5 morning line choice in the field of 10 but will have to contend with Grade I winner Constitution – who is unbeaten in three starts at Gulfstream – and his stablemate Commissioner, the runner-up in the 2014 Belmont Stakes.

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

Churchill moves Derby Trial, is renamed Pat Day Mile

The Derby Trial, once considered a last major prep heading into the Kentucky Derby, has been moved from its traditional spot on the opening day of the Spring Meet and will now take place on the Derby undercard.

The Grade III, one-mile race for 3-year-olds – which has been a springboard for 13 Kentucky Derby winners – has been renamed the Pat Day Mile and will have its pursed boosted by $50,000 from $150,000 to $200,000. It is one of four Spring Meet stakes races to receive a purse hike.

The former Derby Trial was first run in 1924 and that inaugural running was won by Black Gold, who returned to win the Derby. Others who swept both races include Triple Crown winner Citation (1948), Hill Gail (1952), Dark Star (1953) and Tim Tam (1958).

Given that trainers have increasingly leaned towards giving their horses more time in between starts in recent years, the Derby Trial has taken on less significance with regards to its actual impact on the first leg of the Triple Crown. The last Derby Trial winner to start in the Kentucky Derby field was Don’t Get Mad, who finished fourth to Giacomo in the 2005 Derby.


“We’ve been kicking around the idea of moving the Derby Trial to Kentucky Derby Day for a couple of years now because the race is clearly not a significant step to the Derby anymore with the way horsemen train their horses today,” said Ben Huffman, Churchill Downs Racetrack’s Director of Racing and Racing Secretary. “We revere the storied history of the race but ultimately feel that a one-turn mile race with familiar 3-year-olds that aren’t up to the mile-and-a-quarter distance could prove to be very popular with both horsemen and fans alike on Kentucky Derby Day. We think this really bolsters an already substantial Derby Day card.”

Taking the place of the former Derby Trial on opening night will be the $100,000 William Walker, which is named to honor the riding great from yesteryear who is best known for guiding Dan Swigert’s Baden-Baden to a two-length victory in the 1877 Kentucky Derby at the age of 17 for eventual Hall of Fame trainer Edward Dudley Brown.
In renaming the Derby Trial, Churchill Downs is paying homage to Hall of Famer Pat Day who won a record 2,482 races at Churchill Downs, including 156 stakes, from 1980-2005. His local win total is more than double of his closest rival, fellow Hall of Famer Calvin Borel, who has won 1,176 races beneath the Twin Spires.
Day’s earned his lone Kentucky Derby win when he guided Lil E. Tee to victory in the 1992 edition of the race.
“There’s no better way for Churchill Downs to show its appreciation and honor Pat Day – a legendary jockey, great ambassador of horse racing, pillar in the Louisville community and a man known for his devout faith – than to pay tribute with a race named in his honor on Kentucky Derby Day, America’s greatest day of racing,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “We’re thrilled to salute one of our most beloved individuals and role models.”
The addition of the Pat Day Mile to Kentucky Derby Day on Saturday, May 2 means that seven graded stakes races cumulatively worth $4.05 million – the richest in the track’s history – will help comprise the 13-race Derby Day card. The 141st running of the $2 million Kentucky Derby will be preceded by the 29th running of the Grade I, $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, a 1 1/8-mile test on the Matt Winn Turf Course for 4-year-olds and up; the 29th running of the Grade I, $300,000 Humana Distaff, a seven-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares; the 81st running of the Grade II, $500,000 Churchill Downs, a seven-furlong sprint for 4-year-olds and up; the 30th running of the Grade II, $300,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile, a one mile grass race for older fillies and mares; the 24thrunning of the Grade II, $250,000 American Turf, a 1 1/16-mile turf contest for 3-year-olds; as well as the newly-christened Pat Day Mile.
The Kentucky Derby and its sister race, the Kentucky Oaks held one day earlier, anchor a 25-race Spring Meet stakes lineup cumulatively worth $8.05 million – a $375,000 increase or  5 percent jump from 2014.
The Oaks Day card features six stakes cumulatively worth a record $2.2 million, including the 30th running of the Grade I, $300,000 La Troienne, a 1 1/16-mile test for older fillies and mares; the Grade II, $400,000 Alysheba, a 1 1/16-mile test for 4-year-olds and up; the Grade III, $200,000 Eight Belles, a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies; the Grade III, $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint, a five-furlong dash on grass for 4-year-olds and up; and the Grade III, $150,000 Edgewood, a 1 1/16-mile race on turf for 3-year-old fillies.
The Grade I, $500,000  Stephen Foster Handicap going 1 1/8-miles will headline a night racing program on June 13 that will offer total stakes purses of $900,000.
Closing night on Saturday, June 27 will showcase a stakes tripleheader for the spring “Downs After Dark” finale. The headliner under the lights is the Grade II, $200,000 Firecracker, a one-mile grass test for 3-year-olds and up, the Grade III Bashford Manor  for 2-year-olds at six furlongs; and the $100,000 Debutante for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs, which is being carded one week later than recent renewals.



Champion Take Charge Brandi in good order after Martha Washington

Edited release:

Moments after Take Charge Brandi’s victory in the $100,000 Martha Washington Stakes Saturday afternoon at Oaklawn, owner Willis Horton left the door open for his champion to challenge males in upcoming months.


As expected, the 3-year-old filly’s Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, quickly closed that door early Sunday morning.


Lukas, who said Take Charge Brandi emerged from her Martha Washington victory in good order, reiterated she’s being pointed for the Kentucky Oaks – not the Kentucky Derby – and her next two scheduled starts remain the Grade III, $150,000 Honeybee Stakes March 7 and $400,000 Fantasy Stakes April 4 at Oaklawn.


“He’s having fun with it, I think,” Lukas said of Horton’s post-race reference to running Take Charge Brandi in the Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby. “The plan is still the Honeybee, Fantasy and Oaks.”


Take Charge Brandi edged Sarah Sis by a head to win the Martha Washington, the fourth consecutive victory for the reigning champion juvenile filly.


Ridden for the first time by Jon Court, Take Charge Brandi cruised on a clear, uncontested lead through a modest :48.10 half-mile before Sarah Sis, on the inside, drew abreast in deep stretch. But, Take Charge Brandi fought back in the short run to the wire – mile races at Oaklawn begin and end at the sixteenth pole – to record her fourth career stakes victory.


Lukas said the outcome again illustrated Take Charge Brandi’s will to win. None of her five career victories have been by more than 2 ½ lengths. Three of those career victories, including the Grade I, $350,000 Starlet Dec. 13 at Los Alamitos, have been by a half-length or less.


“She’s very workmanlike,” Lukas said. “She knows how to win races. She’s cruising along, very relaxed, and then that horse comes to her and she surges back and wins. At Los Alamitos, two or three of them did that to her, and she surged every time they came. Jon, I think, got a little bit complacent and relaxed there, too.”


Victor Espinoza rode Take Charge Brandi to her victories in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and Starlet, but was unavailable for the Martha Washington because of commitments in Southern California, Lukas said.


Lukas said he “assumes” Court will ride the filly back in the Honeybee because the  Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Handicap is also run March 7, and Espinoza is the regular rider of reigning Horse of the Year California Chrome, an expected starter.


There are also three other stakes on the March 7 program at Santa Anita.


Lukas said Court followed instructions Saturday, notably not to use the whip (the trainer said she normally doesn’t need the stick because she’s so “genuine”).


“We told him to just cruise around there, get the money and let’s go for the next one,” Lukas said.


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.

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