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Updated: 6 days 19 hours ago

Brook Smith Joins TDN Writer’s Room Podcast

Wed, 2024-02-21 12:25

The families and children who rely on the Backside Learning Center have a GI Kentucky Derby horse to root for. Sierra Leone (Gun Runner), the winner of the GII Risen Star S. at the Fair Grounds, is partially owned by Brook Smith, who is part of a partnership led by Coolmore. Smith has been a generous supporter of the Backside Learning Center and, through the Purses for a Purpose program, donates a portion of his earnings every time a horse of his picks up a check. Smith joined this week's TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland to talk about Sierra Leone, how he got involved with Coolmore and his philanthropy. He was the Green Group Guest of the Week.

“I have had some good fortune and had a lot of great, amazing people around me,” he said. “But, for me to really enjoy something it has to have some kind of social component to it. I mean, what's the point otherwise? I started learning more about the backside learning center and realized the backside is the backbone of the racing industry. Those are the workers that get up early and they have a tough job. It's a tough duty. They have the business and the industry in their blood. And the budget that the Backside Learning Center had was kind of anemic, especially when you consider all the money that flows through the industry. So, when I sat down with a few of the folks there, I said there's got to be a program where the owners can and should contribute a percentage of their purses to elevate the foundation. I was looking at what the backside learning center's programing is, and how they ran their, their nonprofit. I thought this deserves, a few more logs on the fire. So we came up with this Purses for a Purpose.”

His association with Coolmore started when he invested in a business partially owned by Charlie Pearson, who is John Magnier's son-in-law. From there, Smith connected with the Coolmore team and that led to him owning a piece of Sierra Leone and Hall of Fame (Gun Runner), who was seventh in the Risen Star.

“They're great folks, good friends and we started doing some business together and have had success,” Smith said. “One thing led to another, and I was introduced to the Coolmore ecosystem. Their breeding, farming operation in Ireland is second to none. And they are just amazing people that are wildly successful. Somewhere along the way, they asked if I would you be interested in maybe becoming one of their partners? I thought, 'Wow, that's a great opportunity? Coolmore, they play at the top.'”

Sierra Leone is the first legitimate Kentucky Derby contender Smith has owned. How has he kept his feet on the ground?

“I'm just trying to have fun with it and enjoy it,” he said. “And I can use the opportunity to be a voice for places like Purses for a Purpose and maybe a few other non-profits. It's not just coveting the moment, but reveling in it and reveling in it with everybody involved. These things can change in a step. I'm just hopeful that the horse stays sound and healthy. He seems the type.”

During the stallion spotlight segments of the podcast, the crew sang the praises of Coolmore stallion Jack Christopher , who stands for $40,000, and the WinStar stallion Audible, who stands for $15,000.

Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Coolmorethe Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, 1/ST Racing, West Point Thoroughbreds, and, the team of Randy Moss, Bill Finley and Zoe Cadman reviewed the major races run last week, which included Sierra Leone's win in the Risen Star and the victory by Tarifa (Bernardini) in the GII Rachel Alexandra Stakes. The team looked back at the career of Echo Zulu (Gun Runner), who had to be euthanized after getting cast in her stall. Moss and Cadman explained why they voted for her for champion female sprinter over Goodnight Olive (Ghostzapper).

To watch the Writers' Room podcast video, click here. To listen to an audio version, click here.

The post Brook Smith Joins TDN Writer’s Room Podcast appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Champion Filly Just F Y I Leads 104 Nominations to Kentucky Oaks

Wed, 2024-02-21 12:21

George Krikorian's champion homebred Just F Y I (Justify) leads a cast of 104 3-year-old fillies that were nominated to compete in the 150th running of the $1.5-million GI Longines Kentucky Oaks Friday, May 3 at Churchill Downs.

Just F Y I joins 23 other stakes winners based across North America that were nominated to the Kentucky Oaks, including recent GII Rachel Alexandra S. winner Tarifa (Bernardini); GI Alcibiades S. winner Candied (Candy Ride {Arg}); and GII Golden Rod S. winner Intricate (Gun Runner).

The 104 fillies became eligible to compete in the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Oaks with a $200 payment that was due Saturday, Feb. 17. Three-year-old fillies not made eligible during the early nomination phase can become eligible with a $1,500 late payment due Wednesday, Apr. 10.

Krikorian's undefeated Just F Y I sits atop the Road to the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard with 40 points that she earned by winning the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and GI Frizette S. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Just F Y I is based this winter at Payson Park Training Center in South Florida where she continues to train toward her 3-year-old debut.

The post Champion Filly Just F Y I Leads 104 Nominations to Kentucky Oaks appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Millionaire C Z Rocket Retired

Wed, 2024-02-21 12:02

C Z Rocket (City Zip-Successful Rocket, by Successful Appeal) has been retired from racing, according to trainer Peter Miller. The 10-year-old was last seen finishing sixth at Oaklawn Monday.

An $800,000 OBS juvenile purchase by Arkansas businessman Frank Fletcher, C Z Rocket had lost 11 consecutive starts when he moved to Miller's barn in April of 2020 after he was claimed on behalf of Tom Kagele for $40,000 at Oaklawn. For his new connections, which subsequently included Altamira Racing and Madaket Stables, the Florida bred won 13 races, finished second nine times and was third on seven occasions from 46 starts, before retiring with earnings of $2,144,691.

Highlighting his victories, he annexed the GII Santa Anita Sprint Championship S., GII Pat O'Brien and GIII Count Fleet S. in addition to finishing runner-up in two renewals of the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint, held at Keeneland in 2020 and 2022.

“One of the all-time great claims,” the California-based Miller said by phone Monday afternoon. “Made over $2 million, second in the Breeders' Cup twice and retires sound and happy. If that's not a success, I don't know what is.”

Third in his seasonal debut in a Santa Anita allowance Jan. 19, the bay was sixth facing starter allowance company in Hot Springs Feb. 19.

“The last thing I want to see is him get hurt,” Miller said. “He's very sound, but he's lost a step or two and now's the time.”

Miller said C Z Rocket's post-racing life could begin in a Kentucky equine retirement facility.

“If we can get him into Old Friends or Kentucky Horse Park, we'd do that,” Miller said. “And if not, we'll bring him home.”

The post Millionaire C Z Rocket Retired appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Mating Plans, Presented By Spendthrift: Pin Oak Stud

Wed, 2024-02-21 12:00

The TDN's popular annual series 'Mating Plans, presented by Spendthrift,' continues today in a conversation with Pin Oak Stud's Clifford Barry

“Planning matings is always fun, putting all the tools you have available to make the best decision for your mare in hope of breeding the next champion,” said Barry, a long-time advisor to the late Josephine Abercrombie and now serving the farm's current owners, Jim and Dana Bernhard. “As a team, we sit around the table and make the best decisions we can to help our mares achieve the best outcome. Here is a sample of our choices.”


SWEET SAMI D (8, First Samurai–Treaty of Kadesh, by Victory Gallop)

She is a young graded-stakes mare and earner of over $250,000. Her first foal is now a yearling by Gun Runner, and she is currently in foal to Flightline. She will return to Gun Runner in 2024, as the yearling is very nice and the cross has already produced two Grade I winners in Echo Zulu and Gunite.



Welcome to the world, little one! Sweet Sami D foaled this Flightline (@LanesEndFarms) colt last night. #FoalFriday #Foalsof2024

— Pin Oak Stud (@PinOakStud) February 9, 2024


QUERELLE (8, Violence–Orbital Affair, by El Corredor)

A very attractive young mare by Violence who earned $187,000, she has a very racy yearling filly by Constitution and is in foal to Tapit. We plan to send her to Street Sense this year. The team thinks the size and substance of Street Sense will help this mare–what a solid sire he has become, and he gets a top horse yearly. The cross has produced four stakes winners in 16% with a Grade III winner in First Mission.

OMA THE GREAT (5, Tapit–Rise Above, by Violence)

We bought this mare in foal to Candy Ride (Arg) at Keeneland November ($60,000). She is a winning daughter of Tapit from the family of Grade I winner Twilight Eclipse and Grade III scorer Grand Contender. She will visit the very underrated sire, American Pharoah. A very similar mating has produced the Grade I-winning filly Harvey's Lil Goil, and the American Pharoah over Tapit cross is yielding 30% stakes winners.

MIND OUT (7, Tapit–Kid Majic, by Lemon Drop Kid)

She is another Tapit mare that we bought in 2021 ($1.2m KEENOV). A 'TDN Rising Star', she is half-sister to graded stakes-placed Miss Mischief and is multiple stakes-placed herself. The mare seems to have a lot of her family coming through and needs some refinement and athleticism. That is the reason we have chosen Gun Runner for her in 2024 and look to illuminate the success of Gun Runner with Tapit mares (Grade I winner Society, Grade II winner Wicked Halo).

GLITTER AND GOLD (9, Bodemeister–Expo Gold, by Johannesburg)

A winning half-sister to champion and GI Preakness S. winner Swiss Skydiver (Daredevil), her first foal is now a 2-year-old by Curlin named Cajun Curls who is pre-training at the farm. She has an excellent Tapit yearling colt, so that is the main reason for Glitter and Gold to visit Tapit again this year.

DIAMOND SPARKLES (7, War Front–Diamondsandrubies {Ire}, by Fastnet Rock {Aus})

She is a winning graded stakes-placed mare from an amazing prolific family–that of Group 1 winners Diamondsandrubies, Quarter Moon (Ire) and Yesterday (Ire). We have had a nice update in the 3-year-old half-sister with Aidan O'Brien named Pearls and Rubies (No Nay Never), showing a lot of promise (second in the 2023 G1 Cheveley Park S.) and will be one to watch this year. The mare will visit the sire of the moment, Not This Time. She looks a lot like her sire, War Front, and we believe this mating will offer her some size and scope. There are four very amazing broodmares up close in this mating: Mariah's Storm, Miss Macy Sue, Starry Dancer and Quarter Moon.

CORE VALUES (6, Honor Code–Sweet Awakening, by Street Cry {Ire})

A very attractive daughter of Honor Code (a broodmare sire of the future), she is a multiple stakes and graded stakes-placed winner of over $220,000 and half-sister to Are You Kidding Me, a champion in Canada with earnings over $1 million. The mare is currently in foal to Curlin and will visit Candy Ride (Arg) this year. This cross has produced 20 stakes winners to date, including Grade I winners Game Winner, Ollie's Candy and Mastery.

COMPETITIVE SPEED (6, Competitive Edge–Shopped Out, by Mineshaft)

A nice, young stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed mare of $191,000, this mare was purchased in November 2022 and produced a Maxfield colt last year. She is in foal to Justify and will visit Constitution this year as the cross has produced two Grade I winners. The team at Pin Oak really likes the sire; we have a 3-year-old, 'TDN Rising Star' Parchment Party, that is 2-for-2, and we bought two yearlings in September that we like a lot and are pre-training at the farm.

BROADWAY LADY (7, Constitution–Livi Makenzie, by Macho Uno)

She is a young Grade III-placed mare we purchased in 2022 ($500,000 KEENOV) from the family of GIII Ohio Derby winner Tawny Port and Grade II winner Surf Cat. She will visit Candy Ride (Arg) this year. Constitution is a young broodmare sire, so we are hoping his sire's Tapit's affinity for Candy Ride comes into play.

Broadway Lady | Keeneland


SUMMERTIME MAGIC (5, Carpe Diem–Tap Softly, by Tapit)

We purchased this mare in November ($225,000 KEENOV). She is a stakes winner in Canada and from the family of Silver Prospector, winner of the GII Kentucky Jockey Club. She is currently in foal to the exciting young sire Jackie's Warrior and visits Twirling Candy in 2024. A similar cross has produced Grade I winners Pinehurst and Rombauer.

CHECKERED EMPIRE (6, Empire Maker–Checkered Past, by Smart Strike)

This young mare is a recent purchase and is a very elegant filly by Empire Maker with size and substance. She is the full sister to multiple Grade II winner and Grade I-placed Messier. She will visit Twirling Candy and this mating has inbreeding to the great mare Toussaud. We are hoping we can have some of that Juddmonte magic rub off on her.

The post Mating Plans, Presented By Spendthrift: Pin Oak Stud appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Purses Increased at Finger Lakes for 2024 Meet

Wed, 2024-02-21 11:18

An increase in purses, totaling $500,000, have been approved for the 2024 racing season at Fingers Lakes, according to the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack and the Finger Lakes Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association Wednesday. Pending New York State Gaming Commission approval, the 63rd season is slated to kick off Monday, Apr. 29

Beginning with the first condition book, $5,000 claimers that are non-winners of the year or non-winners of four lifetime races will compete for $14,000, a $1,400 or 11% increase over 2023 levels. A total of 127 races took place last year in those conditions. Additionally, maiden $11,000 claimers will now run for $17,000, a $1,000 increase, while $11,000 claimers that are non-winners of the year or non-winners of four races will run for $18,100. Allowance purses will range from $26,000 for non-winners of two to $26,800 for non-winners of four. State-bred allowance races range from $24,500 for the preliminary condition to $26,000 for the third state-bred condition.

Purse levels for the Maiden Special Weight races, contested 88 times in 2023, will remain at $32,100. The lowest purse will be $13,500 for the Maiden $5,000 claimers.

“We're thrilled to be able to raise purses for our hard working and dedicated horsemen and women,” said Finger Lakes Racing Secretary Jerry Richards. 'We thank the Finger Lakes HBPA on working with us to make this possible.'

Anyone in need of a stall application should contact Richards at 585-924-3232. The deadline to return them is Feb. 26.

The post Purses Increased at Finger Lakes for 2024 Meet appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Citizens Speak Out Against Proposed Bluegrass Station Airport

Wed, 2024-02-21 11:07

by Sara Gordon and Katie Petrunyak 

PARIS, KENTUCKY–Citizens of Bourbon County, Central Kentucky and beyond are banding together under a newly founded nonprofit organization to combat a proposed expansion of Bluegrass Station. Many are concerned that this project could involve the use of eminent domain, the government's power to purchase private property for public use, and local farmers and horsemen fear it would cause irrevocable damage to their environment and community.

A 63-page report on the proposed expansion, which calls for the acquisition of an initial 2,000 acres for the construction of an airfield and airpark with the potential to double in size in the future, was presented to the Kentucky General Assembly in November of 2022. However, members of the public were not made aware of the plans until just last week when a private citizen discovered it in the most recent proposed version of the state's budget, which includes $320 million allocated for the expansion.

Bluegrass Station, once an army depot, is currently a 780-acre site near the Fayette/Bourbon county line and is Kentucky's only state-owned industrial park, employing over 2,000 Kentuckians. Lockheed Martin, a private government contractor specializing in aerospace and defense manufacturing, is Bluegrass Station's largest employer.

According to the report from 2022, preliminary research shows that this proposed expansion would require an upfront investment of $55 million in the state's bond money for land acquisition and pre-development costs, as well as an estimated $88 million for roadway improvements. For the majority of the funding, the project would be launched as a Public-Private Partnership (P-3).

Map of proposed expansion | Bluegrass Station Airport Implementation Path report

The report states that the completed project would create 3,000 to 6,000 permanent jobs and generate $12 million to $20 million in annual, recurring state and local tax revenues. It would include more than $1.4 billion in private investment for airfield and airpark infrastructure and development.

On a technical basis, the report proposes an initial runway length of 7,800 feet–the longest in Central Kentucky–and a runway width of 150 feet, plus paved shoulders. At this length, the runway would be able to accommodate single engine aircrafts, corporate jets, smaller cargo aircrafts and military aircrafts, while also serving as backup to commercial traffic and larger cargo activity needs in the area. It is noted that the runway would be designed with potential for future extension.

As the news of this proposed plan has spread, so too has the dreaded feeling of deja vu for many Bourbon County residents. Back in 2017, a similar proposal to expand Bluegrass Station was pitched at the local level but ultimately killed by Bourbon County Fiscal Court. This time around, citizens are frustrated by the lack of transparency.

“The whole thing has been cloaked in secrecy,”  said Lynn Hancock, whose family's Stone Farm is located eight miles from Bluegrass Station. “There has been no information, as far as I know, no environmental studies, no community engagement, and they haven't spoken to any of the people whose properties they would be threatening to use eminent domain in order to seize. The whole thing just seems like it's been done with no regard for the people who are actually going to be affected by it.

“Not only does it threaten our business in terms of the Thoroughbred industry and a lot of other people as well, but it would definitely change the way of life.”

She pointed out a portion of the report that reads: It is possible that the Commonwealth's use of eminent domain to acquire significant property for the Project could inspire public resentment, especially if the Commonwealth is not transparent with its actions, the benefits for community or the need for the Project.

“I think it's funny, because how could it not [inspire public resentment]? It's a sizable project and again, no one thought they should discuss with the community. These elected officials don't care to discuss with their constituents whether it's something we want. Ultimately, it's the state taking our taxpayer dollars to heist private property from people unwilling to sell.”

Hancock questioned the promise of job opportunity, while also pointing out how detrimental the pollutants could be to the overall environment and the land considered by most to be the best in the world to raise horses on.

“How many people working there are actually coming from Bourbon County? I think it's going to be a lot of people moving here from out of state and they're going to live in Lexington. And even if it does create jobs, how many other jobs are going to be lost if it has such a negative impact on some of the industries that we do have here?” she said. “What's it going to do to the environment, to the well water? We raise all of our mares on well water. Are we going to have mares breathing in soot? I mean, is there going to be soot on Secretariat's grave? It will have a massive impact any time you have the size of plane they're talking about bringing in.

“This is not some developmental area where people are seeking to sell their land and make a profit. I think it sets an extremely scary precedent for private property rights. I don't know how as an elected official you can sleep at night knowing all of the backdoor dealing that has been going on. They know it's not what the people that elected them want.”

Bill Dickson, a seventh-generation farmer whose Glen Oak Farm neighbors Stone Farm, echoed Hancock's concern. Though both Stone Farm and Glen Oak Farm are not at immediate risk of being purchased under eminent domain, Hancock and Dickson said they have no doubt the effects will be felt far outside of the Bluegrass Station borders.

“My ancestors started in 1792 and were pioneers at a local station here. I operate a 500-acre farm and we've got Thoroughbreds, a cattle herd, and we raise commercial hay and row crops as well,” he said. “They'd be coming in and taking off over my land and I just don't think that's a healthy place to raise livestock and all the other things I do on my farm. Central Kentucky is an agriculture-based location. It's how we've made our money, it's how we've made our mark on the world. I understand it's going to grow as our population grows, but [this plan] infringes on what we're known for. You're taking some of that away from one of our signature industries.

“I'm supportive of progress, but we need to do it in a way that's advantageous to both of us and not just push eminent domain and have this government land grab. Let's be constructive about where we do these things.”

Ellie Stilson is a nurse at UK Hospital and the owner of Daisy Acres Farm, which is within the designated area for future development in the proposal. Her 50-acre property is home to several dozen Thoroughbreds, both broodmares and retirees.

Although Stilson would receive fair market value if she is forced to give up her property due to eminent domain, with current market rates she does not believe that she could afford another farm in Central Kentucky with a similar amount of acreage.

“I don't think I'm going to get anything like this again,” she explained. “It's 50 acres. What about the animals that live here? What am I going to do with them? But I'm only 50 acres out of 2,000. At the end of the day I won't be homeless, but there are people down the road living in trailers that will be. That's my concern. I don't know where these people are going to go.”

A 501(c)(4) formed by local citizens, 'Citizens for Bourbon County' hosted a town hall meeting on Sunday, Feb. 18 to discuss the implications of this proposal and how they plan to fight it. Around 300 citizens gathered to discuss the ramifications not only for those whose land might be taken from them, but for the entirety of the local community.

The meeting was hosted by Rebecca Rigney, whose family has lived on their sport horse farm just down the road from Bluegrass Station for 20 years. Her land is also at risk of being taken over if the plan goes through.

Rebecca Rigney welcomes crowd gathered for Feb. 18 town hall meeting | Katie Petrunyak

“I call for a burden of proof to be placed on our elected officials,” Rigney told attendees gathered in her indoor riding arena. “Proof that this will work instead of stating that it will. Proof of how this will impact the environment with studies. Proof that there is not another location that will provide jobs elsewhere while preserving our farms and the most precious soil in the world. Proof that your tenants won't be temporary. I want a guarantee that the sacrifices my neighbors and my family make are for more than just a multi-million dollar corporation.”

Mark Offutt, a local landowner and former county magistrate, voted against the expansion in 2017.

“Secrecy and lack of transparency has followed this project for the last seven years,” Offutt said. “The same corporate bullying and tactics that they are using now with the threat of Lockheed pulling 2,000 jobs out is exactly the same rhetoric that they used in 2017 and the jobs are still here…Their model of empty promises and secret meetings behind closed doors hasn't changed at all.”

Some of the attendees expressed their belief that elected officials purposefully kept the project from public eye because of the overwhelming opposition from the community during the 2017 proposal.

“What's extremely clear is that our government, knowing our opposition from 2017 and 2018, tried to hide the movement of this project from us,” said Ike Van Meter, a cattle farmer and Thoroughbred owner and breeder based near Bluegrass Station. “Our elected officials have happily kept us in the dark until the money had been signed off on by the legislature and government.”

Van Meter, whose family farm would be part of the acreage acquired through eminent domain, said he has tried to get in touch with several elected officials including Governor Andy Beshear, but was directed to Steve Collins, the executive director of Bluegrass Station.

“This project is a massive bait and switch with the false pretense of military support, but it's really an illegal use of eminent domain to try and benefit a few multi-billion dollar companies at the expense of prime Kentucky farmland,” he said.

The TDN reached out to Bourbon County Judge Mike Williams, Senator Stephen West who represents the 27th District that includes Bourbon County, and Representative Matthew Koch who represents Bourbon County as part of the 72nd District, but did not hear back.

TDN did get in touch with Collins, who suggested that citizens may feel as though they've been blindsided because the project has not yet advanced to the outreach point in the project's timeline.

“The next step will be sending a request for information to the possible P-3s [Public-Private Participants],” Collins said. “This $55 million [in bond money] is about 20% of the buildout, so it's all private. We will go out into the P-3 community with an RFI [Request for Information] probably in April or something like that. It will take them a while to respond to that. They'll tell us in their response if what we're doing fits that model, so it will change shape a bit at that point. People feel like they got steamrolled by some of these processes, but it's very deliberate. We're out of sequence because after the RFI is when the outreach is supposed to start.”

Collins also countered against what many people have stated regarding the purpose behind the expansion.

“This has never been about economic development,” he said. “That's an outcome or a result. This need is national defense and state strategic obligation, state financial obligation and regional aviation needs. There's a lot of people involved in the need, thousands of people that could become one. There was no due diligence the first time [in 2017]. We knew it was somewhat unpopular back then, but they were using local financing that just wasn't going to work. This is not a local project. It affects local people but this is a national, even global, project.”

Collins has estimated that there will be six military planes per month and 10 to 20 private planes per day utilizing the runway.

When asked about why a facility like this cannot be built elsewhere, Collins said it goes back to the “core customer” of Bluegrass Station.

“Bluegrass Station was invented to serve this customer, ” he said. “…we've created a response model for this customer that we can provide what they need to accomplish their mission faster and cheaper than anybody else. They're using this model to bring in more work. The kind of work they do can't be talked about, so to speak.”

Outlined in an overview of the report, the project timeline estimates four to six months for the RFI phase to be completed, which includes drafting a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) and conducting title exams. It isn't until the next phase, when the RFQ would be issued, that public engagement would begin. It is within that second task, estimated to span six to 10 months, that they would also shortlist teams, issue Request for Proposals (RFP) and enter the P-3 Agreement.

Also included in the overview is a project outline, which estimates that if the budget to fund this project is passed, land acquisition would be completed within a two-year timeframe followed by the development of the airfield and airpark over the next two years.

At the town hall meeting, Van Meter expressed the importance of citizens residing in Bourbon County and beyond to contact their elected officials and express their disagreement with the proposed expansion of the former army depot.

“This is not a done deal,” he said. “We will fight. We will fight to keep this out of the budget and if it goes through we will continue fighting. I encourage each of you here to tell your neighbors, have your neighbors tell their neighbors and we will continue to fight.”

As it stands, the House has already passed its version of the budget and it now goes to the Senate.

Arthur Hancock III, a fourth-generation horseman and owner of Stone Farm, shared his perspective during Sunday's meeting. Based on the reaction from the crowd, his words were an overarching sentiment shared and felt by all.

“I would hate to think that our representatives were aware of this all along and never even told their neighbors that something was coming to take their land and their heritage. If that is the case, it's downright un-American and most certainly un-Kentuckian,” he said. “I hope the rest of the people in our state will take notice of what's happening in Bourbon County and will always remember those who came secretly and slyly, like thieves in the night, to rob us of our way of life, from those who instigated this plan to those who are now trying to carry it out. And we should all remember that this may well be the tip of the iceberg of what could come next.

“To those behind this: if you want to try and stab me, at least be man enough not to stab me in the back.”

The post Citizens Speak Out Against Proposed Bluegrass Station Airport appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Trainer Philip Oliver Passes Away

Wed, 2024-02-21 11:00

Philip Oliver died Feb. 19 in Indiantown, Florida, according to a press release from BBN racing Wednesday. Born on June 6, 1970, he is survived by his wife, Victoria Oliver, brother Chris Oliver, sister Toni Blinkhorn, and his mother Alison Oliver. Oliver was preceded in death by his father, Alan.

Oliver, who was born and raised in Chipping Norton, England, began riding at the age of three years old. Prior to moving to the U.S. at the age of 18, he worked for champion jump jockeys and trainers, Stan Miller and Lester Piggott. He began his U.S. training career as an assistant with Ian Jory and was instrumental in the development of Video Ranger and Best Pal.

He subsequently served as an assistant trainer to Bruce Headley-who was responsible for champion Bertrando–and Elliott Walden, who conditioned Menifee, Victory Gallop, and Distorted Humor.

In 1999, Phil launched his career as a trainer, achieving his own success with a bevy of Grade I/graded stakes winners, including Autonomy, Closing Range, First Lieutenant, Last Full Measure, and Middie.  Along with his career with horses, he was an avid reader and had a passion for hunting and his dogs.

“Philip was a kind and compassionate soul, known for his warm smile and humor. He touched the lives of many with his charismatic personality. His departure leaves a void in the hearts of all who knew him,” reads a release from the family.

“In his lifetime, Philip Oliver made a lasting impact on those around him, leaving behind a legacy of love, compassion, and kindness. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and all who had the privilege of knowing him. May his soul rest in peace, and his memory continue to inspire and guide us in the years to come.”

A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held in Lexington, Kentucky in April on a date to be determined shortly.

Donations can be made to Dunklin Memorial Church ( ) or The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (


The post Trainer Philip Oliver Passes Away appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Fixed-Odds Horse Racing Wagering Debuts in Colorado

Wed, 2024-02-21 10:36

Fixed-odds horse racing wagering has been approved in Colorado. The deal was forged between SIS Content Services, part of the SIS (Sports Information Services) Group, and long-time operator partner bet365 to deliver its global horse racing content to bettors in Colorado.

The approval of horse racing fixed-odds wagering on Colorado sportsbooks is intended to attract a wider range of casual bettors, who will be offered the same type of betting as all other sports.

SIS offers a horse racing vast portfolio of international and domestic events, including the upcoming Saudi Cup Day Feb. 24 and Dubai World Cup meeting Mar. 30. Additionally, year-round racing is available from 14 countries, including Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and the United States.

“This is a great first step in expanding the horse racing audience and I commend the Colorado horse racing stakeholders, Colorado Division of Gaming and bet365 for their vision and support,” said Michele Fischer, Vice President, SIS Content Services. “Horse racing provides sportsbooks with exciting year-round 24/7 content throughout the world. It will take time in the US, but I expect that more sports wagering operators and states will include horse racing on their sports catalogs.”

The SIS platform also includes live-streamed video with betting triggers, race day data, and an extensive range of markets and odds prices.

Shannon Ruston, Executive Director of Operations & Racing at Bally's Arapahoe Park, said: “We are thrilled to be able to put horse racing on Colorado sportsbooks for fixed-odds wagering. Working with SIS, we crafted a commercial framework that benefits local racing, while giving sportsbooks access to thousands of races. Our belief is that this development will secure a better future not only for Arapahoe Park, but also for the racing ecosystem as a whole in Colorado.”

For more information, click here.

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Wanamaker’s February Sale Catalogue Online

Wed, 2024-02-21 10:03

The 2024 Wanamaker's February Sale catalogue is available for viewing at Horses of racing age, open broodmares, in-foal broodmares, mares and foals and stallion seasons are all catalogued.

Bidding opens at 8:00a.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 29, with the first listing set to close at 5:00p.m. Subsequent listings will close in three-minute increments.


Highlights of the catalogue include:

  • A 2024 NG season to Great Notion, the leading Maryland sire six years running.
  • Afleet Fairy (Afleet Express-Alozaina {Ire}), by Perugino), a 9-year-old broodmare with a Maryland-bred Friesian Fire filly by her side.
  • Judi Blue Eyes (Cal Nation-Sassy Love, by Valley Crossing), an 8-year-old multiple stakes-placed broodmare and an earner of over $270,000.
  • A Maryland bred yearling colt from the second crop of Tiz the Law. His direct female family includes five winners from six starters.

For more information on the buying, click here.


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Haydon Named Deputy Executive Director of The Jockey Club

Wed, 2024-02-21 09:45

Jamie Haydon, president of Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation, has been named deputy executive director of The Jockey Club, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Jockey Club James L. Gagliano announced Wednesday.

In this added role, Haydon, who will be responsible for industry engagement, will report to The Jockey Club Executive Vice President and Executive Director Matt Iuliano. Haydon will engage with the industry on initiatives of the company and foster collaboration among industry organizations on health, safety, and promotion of the Thoroughbred. Among his field duties, he will seek feedback from customers of The Jockey Club's commercial subsidiaries regarding products and services.

“Because of his work with our industry initiatives and as president of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Jamie has been engaged with people from every facet of the sport,” said Gagliano. “He will be an excellent advocate for The Jockey Club and for racing as a whole, and we look forward to furthering The Jockey Club's engagement with other stakeholders through his efforts.”

Haydon, who assumed his position as president of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation in 2019, joined the organization in April 2018. He joined The Jockey Club in 2008 as the manager of Industry Initiatives after stints with Breeders' Cup, Ascot Racecourse, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Four Star Sales, and Kentucky Horse Racing Authority.

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Pounce Tops Fasig-Tipton February Digital Sale

Tue, 2024-02-20 20:21

Pounce (Lookin At Lucky–Bouncy, by Twirling Candy) topped the Fasig-Tipton February Digital Sale, selling for $370,000 to John Stewart's Resolute Bloodstock. The sale closed Tuesday evening with 116 horses sold for $4,308,800. The catalogue featured horses of racing age, breeding stock, and yearlings. Also featured in the catalogue were breeding stock and yearlings from Phase 1 of the Dispersal of Ruis Racing LLC. The 752 registered bidders were a new record for a single sale on Fasig-Tipton Digital.

Pounce was from the consignment of Highgate Sales, agent. Offered as a racing/broodmare prospect, Pounce a winner at two and three, and on dirt and turf, earned $96,004 in three career starts to date. She hails from the immediate family of two-time champion and millionaire Essence Hit Man.

“I'm happy we got her sold,” said Pounce's trainer Mark Casse. “I love these digital sales because this is a prime example for guys like us who buy and sell. It just works. When a horse runs well, that's what we do–we sell them. I've been fortunate to train some really good turf fillies and I think Pounce has the potential to be one.”

The remainder of the top five sold included:

  • Broodmare Salt Lake Candy (Hip 36), in foal to Not This Time, sold for $330,000 to PMP from the consignment of Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent. A young unraced daughter of Candy Ride (Arg), Salt Lake Candy is a half-sister to the dams of dual Eclipse Champion Goodnight Olive and GSW Mohawk Trail. The foal she carries is bred on the same cross as Grade I winner Epicenter and Grade II winner Simplification.
  • Baroness Juliette (Hip 40), in foal to Cancun, sold for $270,000 to Hanzley Albina, agent for Newtown Anner, from the consignment of Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent. The mare's second foal is recent GIII Sam Davis S. No More Time, currently ninth on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
  • Antares (Hip 17), a 4-year-old son of American Pharoah, sold for $210,000 to Willowbrook Stables, agent for Flying P Stable, from the consignment of Killora Stud LLC. Offered as a horse of racing age, Antares won two of his last three starts and has been on the board in six of nine career starts to date.
  • Sister Otoole (Hip 12), a daughter of Amira's Prince (Ire), sold for $190,000 to Willow Park Stud Scone from the consignment of Bluewater Sales, agent. A multiple stakes winner, five-time graded stakes placed, Sister Otoole was offered as a broodmare prospect. Her half-sister Frosty O Toole (Frosted) provided a timely update with a good second in Laurel's Nellie Morse S. on Feb. 17. She is also a half-sister to the dam of MGSW Mr. Money from the immediate family of G1 Dubai World Cup winner Well Armed and recent Grade I winners Cyberknife and Played Hard.


“The clearance rate (90%) was amazing, with rock solid action from top to bottom,” said Leif Aaron, Fasig-Tipton's Director of Digital Sales. “We have to thank our buyers and sellers for making this such a successful sale.”

Overall, 116 horses sold for $4,308,800, good for an average of $37,144. With 129 hips offered, the RNA rate was just 10%. More than 750 potential buyers registered to bid, a single-sale record for the platform.


Full results are available online.

The next Fasig-Tipton Digital sale will be the March Digital Sale, which opens for bidding on Thursday, Mar. 7, and closes on Tuesday, Mar. 12. Entries close on Feb. 28.

For more information, contact Leif Aaron at (859) 255-1555 or email Nominations will also be accepted via the Client Portal.

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Dual Grade III Winner First Captain to Brazil

Tue, 2024-02-20 17:07

MGSW First Captain (Curlin-America, by A.P. Indy) has been retired and will stand the 2024 Southern Hemisphere season at Stud Eternamente Rio in Brazil, according to Turf Diario. The 6-year-old, who arrived in Brazil Feb. 9, was acquired by a partnership that includes Stud Enternamente Rio, Stud Red Rafa and Stud H e R.

Bred by Bobby Flay, who also campaigned GSW America, the colt brought $1.5 million at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Sale in 2019. Flay retained a piece of the colt, who was ultimately raced by a partnership including West Point Thoroughbreds, Siena Farm and Woodford Racing. Trained by Shug McGaughey, the chestnut won his first three career starts, including the GIII Dwyer S. and subsequently added an allowance win at Gulfstream and the GIII Pimlico Special S. later in the 2022 season. He also finished second in the GII Suburban S. and third in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup. He retired with five wins from 11 career starts and earnings of $662,100.


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Bettors-Vs.-Baffert Suit Transferred to Kentucky

Tue, 2024-02-20 14:53

A New Jersey federal judge's order on Tuesday transferred a class-action lawsuit brought by a group of bettors against trainer Bob Baffert to the Western District of Kentucky, meaning that the nearly three-year-old case will now go before its third different court since 2021.

The original federal lawsuit was filed in California. In it, a group of horseplayers alleged they were cheated out of their property by Baffert when his betamethasone-positive trainee, Medina Spirit, crossed the finish wire first in the GI Kentucky Derby and purportedly prevented the plaintiffs from cashing winning tickets on the runner-up.

Baffert has denied those allegations, asked for the case to be dismissed, and has stated in court documents that the plaintiffs have twisted their case so far from reality that their alleged misstatements amount to libel.

Back on Dec. 22, 2023, the judge handling the case in United States District Court (District of New Jersey) ordered both sides to file letters by Jan. 15, 2024, “if either party wishes to explain why this case should NOT be transferred back to the Central District of California.”

But after receiving written rationale from both parties, the judge on Feb. 20 instead mandated that Kentucky was now the proper jurisdiction for the case.

“[B]alancing all the factors, this case should be transferred to the Western District of Kentucky,” U.S. District Judge Michael Farbiarz wrote in his 30-page order.

“This case, simply put, has virtually nothing to do with New Jersey,” the order continued. “And the remoteness from New Jersey is to the point that personal jurisdiction is questionable here–with implications for both cost [and] the certainty of being able to enforce any eventual judgment.

“It is true that the Plaintiffs chose to bring suit in New Jersey [after originally filing in California],” the judge wrote. “But that is less meaningful than is typically the case. This is a putative nationwide class action that has little to do with the state.”

Kentucky, the judge wrote, “is where the claim arose” based on being the host state for the horse race in question.

“And the federal court in Kentucky has recently resolved a case that is factually similar to this one and involves the Defendants in this case,” the order continued.

The original version of the suit that just got transferred was led by Michael Beychok, the winner of the 2012 National Horseplayers Championship. It was filed in California four days after Baffert's May 9, 2021, disclosure that Medina Spirit had tested positive for betamethasone after winning the May 1 Derby.

It wasn't until Aug. 22, 2023, that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's disqualification of Medina Spirit from the 2021 Derby-which also affirmed the elevation of runner-up Mandaloun as the official winner-was sustained after a long appeals process.

The more than 30 class members of the Beychok suit chose the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) Act as a tool to try and collect damages from Baffert, plus his incorporated racing stable. The plaintiffs also sought an order from the judge stating that Baffert must divest himself from the sport.

RICO is a sweeping 1970 federal statute initially designed to combat the Mafia. But in a legal sense, it has long since lost its “organized crime” stigma. RICO today is rarely used to go after stereotypical “godfather” figures. Instead, RICO has evolved as a civil litigation component, and is most often asserted by purported victims of white-collar crimes, such as mail and wire fraud.

The Beychok class-action complaint was withdrawn from the California federal court on July 22, 2021. One day later, an amended version of it resurfaced in New Jersey.

The New Jersey complaint from July 23, 2021, alleged that “[Baffert's] multiple and repeated acts of doping and entering horses into Thoroughbred races, including the Kentucky Derby, constituted racketeering activity.”

The separate Kentucky case to which Farbiarz alluded was a different class-action lawsuit initiated against Baffert by another group of horseplayers who alleged negligence, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment because their losing pari-mutuel bets on the 2021 Derby also weren't honored as winners. It was dismissed by a federal judge in Kentucky on July 20, 2023, for failure to state a claim.

Farbiarz explained the significance of that dismissed Kentucky case in his order.

'[T]he Western District of Kentucky has already resolved, on the merits, a case that is closely similar to this one,” Farbiarz wrote.

“There are, in short, fundamental similarities between the Kentucky case and this lawsuit,” Farbiarz continued. “Given the work that has already been invested in the Kentucky case, it would save a good deal of judicial time if this case were sent to Kentucky.

“And returning to the same decision-maker is not just a matter of efficiency,” the New Jersey transfer order summed up. “Having the same court handle both cases would help ensure that like cases-and these are very much like cases-are treated alike. That is a fundamental goal of our justice system.”

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Delaware Approves 2024 Dates, Releases Stakes Schedule

Tue, 2024-02-20 14:24

The Delaware Thoroughbred Racing Commission (DTRC) approved the 2024 Delaware Park live racing dates, punctuated by a $2.75 million stakes schedule. The 87th live racing season–featuring 75 days beginning on Wednesday, May 15 and concluding Saturday, Oct. 12–will be highlighted by the $500,000 GII Delaware H. July 7.

For the first time since 2009, the Delaware H. will be run on a Sunday, highlighting a festival weekend of racing that includes the $250,000 GIII Robert G. Dick S. on the July 7 undercard. The $300,000 GII Delaware Oaks will kick off the weekend July 6.

“We want to carry the positive momentum established last year into this upcoming season,” said Chief Financial Officer Kevin DeLucia. “The horsemen, commission and management have continued working together to ensure competitive, fair and safe racing. We have also been aggressively expanding our wagering menu and finding the right niches to make our signal attractive on the national landscape. It will be challenging to keep moving the needle in a positive direction in the highly competitive Mid-Atlantic market, but our team is eager for the opportunity.”

Total live racing handle increased 7.0%, to $152.3 million for the 85-day meet in 2023 from $142.3 million for the 87-day meet in 2022. The daily average handle increased 9.6%, to $1.8 million in 2023 from $1.6 million in 2022.

Live racing will be conducted on a Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday weekly format for the majority of the 2024 meet. Nine Friday cards will be added to the schedule: June 7, June 14, Aug. 2, Aug. 9, Sept. 13, Sept. 20, Sept. 27, Oct. 4 and Oct. 11.

Live racing is not scheduled on Thursday, July 11. Daily first race post time is set for 12:30 p.m.

For the complete 2024 stakes schedule, click here.


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Kentucky Derby Museum Launches Exhibit Upgrade

Tue, 2024-02-20 12:12

The Kentucky Derby Museum has launched a $1-million upgrade to its 'Riders Up!' exhibit. Construction began this month and the new exhibit is expected to debut Apr. 12.

The museum originally built the 'Riders Up!' exhibit in 2000 as a way to immerse visitors in the Derby and race day experience from the viewpoint of a jockey and Thoroughbred racehorse. The game was last updated in 2010 during a previous museum expansion project. With significant changes in virtual and augmented reality since then, the new version will look to captivate visitors with state-of-the-art technology designed to bring the thrill of horse racing into the 21st century.

“This exhibit has been a fan favorite for guests of all ages ever since the original debuted in 2000,” said Chris Goodlett, Kentucky Derby Museum Senior Director of Curatorial and Educational Affairs. “With 'Riders Up!,' we're not just entertaining; we're bringing the Derby's rich history to life. This exhibit drives home our mission of engaging everyone with the excitement of Derby every single day.”

Involved in the exhibit upgrade are Catalyst, an Australian-based production studio dedicated to virtual and augmented reality, and The Laboratory Creative, a design company based in Southern Indiana.

“We're not just upgrading a game; we're revolutionizing the way you experience the magic of the Derby,” said Patrick Armstrong, Kentucky Derby Museum President and CEO. “Every day, we're committed to sharing the exhilaration and history of Derby with all our guests. Bigger and bolder with cutting-edge technology, the new 'Riders Up!' is the epitome of that commitment.”

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Breeders’ Cup Late Foal Nomination Deadline Feb. 28

Tue, 2024-02-20 11:45

The final deadline to nominate foals born in 2023 to the Breeders' Cup program for a one-time fee of $1,500 is Feb. 28 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

The $1,500 nomination fee entitles each foal to lifetime eligibility to the Breeders' Cup World Championships and the Breeders' Cup racing programs. All foals sired by a fully nominated North American Breeders' Cup stallion are eligible for nomination to the Breeders' Cup program in their year of birth and up to Feb. 28 of their yearling year.

Breeders' Cup foal nominators will earn $10,000 for every victory in the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In Challenge Series, and every horse that starts in a Breeders' Cup World Championship race will earn a nominator award. The individual nominating the foal receives these nominator awards even though the horse may change hands throughout its racing career.

For more information and to nominate online, visit

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Uncaptured Storm Named NHBPA Claiming Horse of the Year

Tue, 2024-02-20 11:25

Nine-time winner Uncaptured Storm (Uncaptured)–who changed hands five times last year, winning at least once for each owner–has been selected the 2023 National Claiming Horse of the Year by the National Horsemen's Benevolent & Protective Association. The NHBPA presents the award annually to shine the spotlight on horses that are exceptional at their level of competition, with claiming horses comprising the largest segment of racing across America. Uncaptured Storm and his connections will be honored at the NHBPA annual conference to be held at Iowa's Prairie Meadows in July.

Uncaptured Storm, now four, is currently owned by Rick Burnsworth and Bush Racing Stable and trained by the Mid-Atlantic-based Anthony Farrior.

“He just brings his race with him wherever he goes,” Farrior said. “This award is terrific. It's hard to get stakes horses. But if you can claim a horse and still get a little publicity over it, that's great.”

Burnsworth, the president of Douglas Explosives, said, “He loves to win. Heart of gold. Temperament is incredible. Beautiful animal. I've played a lot of sports in my life, and he's what we call a winner.”

Uncaptured Storm won nine of 18 starts last year, with four seconds and a third while racing predominantly against older horses at Laurel Park, Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and Timonium Race Track. All his wins and $208,726 of his $220,476 came in 2023. The nine victories tied for second-most in North America, as the gelding raced from $12,500 maiden-claiming up to $40,000 claiming to an entry-level allowance, back to $10,000 claiming and back up to $40,000.

Uncaptured Storm was claimed five times: for maiden-claiming $12,500 on Jan. 8, $10,000 on July 29, $20,000 on Sept. 8, $16,000 on Nov. 5 and $20,000 on Nov. 12. Each time he won at least once before being claimed again.

Farrior has had the gelding more than anyone, claiming Uncaptured Storm three times, including for himself at the beginning of the year. Farrior lost the horse via claim to trainer Mario Serey, Jr. and owner John Chamatsos twice, claiming him back both times for Burnsworth, who at the end of the year sold part-interest to Bush Racing Stable.

Burnsworth has dozens of horses in training, plus more on a farm he and Farrior bought near Charles Town in the lower Shenandoah Valley. He tied for seventh in victories in last year's North American owner standings with 80 wins out of 301 starts for purses exceeding $1.35 million, according to Equibase statistics. Burnsworth won another 18 races in 2023 in partnerships, including with fiancee Kristina Buyea.

Claiming accounts for about 70 % of his horse business, he said, but he does buy some young horses and he is also acquiring broodmares.

Burnsworth owned horses for several years when his toddler daughter, Kelsey, was diagnosed with leukemia. He got almost completely out of racing to concentrate on Kelsey's health, a battle the animal lover and aspiring photographer lost at age 18 in 2011 after twice seemingly beating the blood cancer.

Burnsworth said that he and Buyea, along with his former wife Jessica Burnsworth, began teaming with North Mar Church in Warren, Ohio, on an initiative called Kelsey's Angels, which assists families staying around the clock at hospitals to be with their critically ill children–an underserved need he saw first-hand.

A chance encounter with Farrior at Charles Town led to Burnsworth plunging back into racing in a big way in 2022.

“… Since Anthony and I hooked up two years ago, it's been a blast,” he said.

He added, “Kristina and I got blue silks with a white cross. These are God's creatures. He's just letting me borrow them, and I've got to treat it that way.”

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The Jockey Club Releases Industry Initiatives Impact Report

Tue, 2024-02-20 10:58

The Jockey Club has released its 2024 Industry Impact Report. The report, which has traditionally been released at The Jockey Club's annual Round Table Conference in August, details how at least $7 million will be used in the coming year to support initiatives ranging from equine safety and aftercare to industry promotion and national and international collaboration, according to a Tuesday press release from the organization.

“The initiatives supported by The Jockey Club, together with others or wholly backed by The Jockey Club, have increased substantially in the last decade and a half,” said James Gagliano, president and COO, The Jockey Club. “They reflect the commitment by the board of stewards to invest our profits into a wide array of projects and activities that may serve as catalysts for growth of the sport and for ensuring the safety and welfare of its participants.”

The Jockey Club, a non-profit organization, has created a group of for-profit subsidiaries and partnerships, including the The Jockey Club Information Systems (TJCIS), InCompass Solutions, Equibase Company, and The Jockey Club Technology Services (TJCTS). These companies provide the industry with technology services and products and the profits they create are dispersed to The Jockey Club for investment back into the sport.

The Jockey Club supports two charities: the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and the The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation.

Other Jockey Club initiatives include the multi-media fan development platform, American's Best Racing, while its aftercare efforts include support of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, as well as the Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program.

According to the impact report, The Jockey Club's 2024 investments in racing include over $3.5 million in industry growth initiatives and over $1.5 million in aftercare initiatives.

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Politically Powerful Law Firm Hired To Issue NorCal PRA Requests

Mon, 2024-02-19 16:27

At a make-or-break time for Northern California racing interests as they attempt to build a racing circuit in the void left by Golden Gate Fields's imminent closure, two key players in those efforts have been on the receiving end of public records requests from Benbrook Law Group, a law firm well-known for their involvement in high-profile political campaigns, including the failed effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom.

Some Northern California stakeholders said they suspected political intimidation was the motive for the request when the balance of the industry's economic power in California is up for grabs, and at a time of heightened tensions between industry interests in the North and South of the state.

“This constant back and forth that's happened is really unfortunate. It's not sustainable,” said owner-breeder Justin Oldfield, who chairs a working group to help facilitate ongoing racing in the North. “Racing in California is in jeopardy here. We need the North. We need the South. We need to figure out a way to make this all work.”

It's currently unclear who or what entity hired Benbrook Law group to file the 10-page Public Record Act (PRA) requests sent to the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF) and the Alameda County Fair.

Broadly speaking, the PRA requests ask for records and communications related to the closure of Golden Gate Fields, and to the continuation of Thoroughbred racing after the closure of Golden Gate Fields. This includes any records related to the creation of a new entity, “whether public or private,” that would “participate in hosting or conducting Thoroughbred racing,” and the allocation of wagering proceeds once Golden Gate closes.

Aside from its role in the campaign to recall Gov. Newsom, Benbrook Law Group has been involved in several high-profile politically-driven legal campaigns with a right-wing bent, including in recent years challenges to affirmative action programs, and a lawsuit against the state by the Firearms Policy Coalition challenging gun and ammunition disclosure laws.

After a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled to give supporters of the effort to recall Gov. Newsom more time to collect the necessary signatures for a special election, it transpired that the judge and Bradley Benbrook–who founded Benbrook Law Group–were once attorneys at the same Sacramento law firm, and had served as co-counsel on at least two cases.

Before last month's California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) meeting, the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), The Stronach Group (TSG) Los Alamitos and Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (DMTC) issued a joint submission to the CHRB, asking the regulator to allocate race dates for the last 14 weeks of 2024 and for 2025–beyond the Northern fair meet dates–with operations concentrated in the South.

Citing the tough economics of maintaining parallel North-South racing circuits, the letter also outlined a broader set of proposals, including a possible legislative change to permit Los Alamitos to card night Thoroughbred races beyond 4 1/2 furlongs for $5,000 claimers and below, and $8,000 maiden claimers.

Against a backdrop of strong vocal support from NorCal stakeholders, representatives from CARF unveiled during the CHRB January meeting possible plans for a racing circuit in the North to be based at Cal Expo in Sacramento or at Pleasanton, which hosts the Alameda County Fair.

Stakeholders in the North appear to have until the March 21 CHRB meeting to assemble a concrete proposal for extended racing operations beyond the summer fairs.

According to Jerome Hoban, CEO of the Alameda County Fair and CARF board chair, Pleasanton has become the primary focus for a racing HQ in the North.

“CARF Board voted last week to support Pleasanton as being a potential hub for Northern Racing,” wrote Hoban, in an email on Feb. 11. He added that “many details need to be worked out to make this a reality,” including contract negotiations related to the property and on financing.

One such negotiation would appear to concern Pleasanton Golf Center Driving Range, which currently operates within the fairgrounds.

“The Alameda County Fair Board will need to approve the plan and ultimately, the CHRB would need to allocate the dates and license the meeting,” wrote Hoban. “We know that Northern California racing is vital to the entire industry as well as the Fairs. The economic impact of Northern racing is staggering and has a broad reach across several states.”

Prior to the January CHRB meeting, three TOC board members resigned from the organization in protest at the joint submission to the state regulator.

“It is clear to us that the current leadership is not being transparent and not working to represent the entire state of California,” wrote Lindsay LaRoche, Johnny Taboada and Ed Moger, in their resignation letter.

TOC leadership subsequently pushed back against several claims made in the letter.

Another point of leverage in the ongoing negotiations concerns legislation passed last September that means if Golden Gate Fields is not licensed to operate beyond July 1, proceeds from simulcast wagering in the north are funnelled south when there is no live racing in the northern half of the state after that date.

It is currently unclear who or what entities have hired the Benbrook Law Group to issue the PRAs. The TOC, TSG, DMTC, Los Alamitos and PETA have all denied hiring the firm. Benbrook declined to answer the same question.

In response to claims that the company had been hired to intimidate Northern racing interests at such a sensitive stage of negotiations, Benbrook wrote that it is “hardly political bullying or intimidation” to ask a public entity to comply with its public record disclosure obligations.

“All the more so considering that these public entities appear to be using public resources to figure out how to make money from gambling proceeds,” Benbrook wrote. “Your questions suggest that some parties think all of this should be happening outside the public's view; we respectfully disagree with that.”

Long-time Northern California owner-breeder Tom Bachman said that “there's a lot of skulduggery going on” as the fight over the future of horse racing in California plays out.

“I think they're going to make whatever push they can to collapse the North,” Bachman added. “If they threaten Pleasanton, that's the heart of being able to keep the North up and going.”

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Rosario Picks Up Saudi Cup Mount

Mon, 2024-02-19 15:41

Joel Rosario has picked up the ride on RRR Racing's Isolate (Mark Valeski) for Saturday's $20-million G1 Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, his agent Ron Anderson confirmed in a text message Monday.

The 6-year-old Isolate made the first 12 starts of his career in the U.S. for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, winning two from his first five for trainer Kathy Ritvo before joining the barn of Tom Amoss. The Florida-bred posted four victories from seven outings for that barn, winning the Work All Week S. at Hawthorne and the Tale of the Cat S. at Saratoga ahead of a runner-up effort in the Louisville Thoroughbred Society S. in 2022.

Subsequently acquired by Sheikh Rashid bin Humaid Al Nuaimi's RRR Racing and turned over to trainer Doug Watson in Dubai, Isolate was runner-up in a pair of group sprint races at Meydan, then stretched out in distance to post an impressive win in the G2 Godolphin Mile with Tyler Gaffalione in the irons. He has made just one appearance since, a handy success in the G2 Al Maktoum Mile at Meydan Dec. 22.

Isolate did not originally draw into the Saudi Cup, but gained a run when Aidan O'Brien elected to re-route the gifted multiple Group 1-winning turf horse Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) to the G2 Neom Turf Cup.

Rosario will also take the ride aboard Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber's Bold Journey (Hard Spun) in the G3 Riyadh Dirt Sprint, Anderson also reported. Winner of the GIII Fall Highweight H. and Gravesend S. in his two most recent appearances, Bold Journey carried Rosario to a first-level New York-bred allowance victory at the Big A in 2022. Bold Journey is trained by Bill Mott.

Rosario rode no fewer than six stakes winners over the weekend, including Beatbox (Pioneerof the Nile) in the GIII Fair Grounds S. He was runner-up in the GII Risen Star S. atop Track Phantom (Quality Road).

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