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Updated: 16 hours 11 min ago

Tony Calo Named New Track Announcer at Ellis

Mon, 2024-03-25 10:24

Tony Calo has been named the new track announcer at Ellis Park Racing & Gaming, Churchill Downs Incorporated announced Monday. The North California native, who replaces the departing Scott Shapiro, will continue to serve as the announcer at Turfway Park Racing & Gaming in addition to a handicapping analyst at Churchill Downs. Aside from his duties as an announcer, Calo will join Joe Kristufek, Kaitlin Free and, newly-promoted handicapping analyst, Kevin Kilroy on the Churchill Downs simulcast feed for the Spring, September and Fall Meets.

“I'm honored to become the new announcer at Ellis Park,” Calo said. “Thank you to everyone at Churchill Downs Incorporated for this opportunity. Kentucky has become one of the strongest year-round circuits in North America and I'm thrilled to be a part of the great teams at Churchill Downs, Ellis Park and Turfway Park.”

Calo previously served as the announcer at Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields and, most recently, Finger Lakes.

Kilroy, who served as a member of the media relations department for the past two seasons at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, joins the handicapping team at Churchill Downs where he will be an analyst covering the racing at Churchill Downs, Colonial Downs, Ellis Park, Fair Grounds and Turfway Park.

Calo and Kilroy will begin their new roles at the start of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet Apr. 27.


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Jamie Rodriguez Notches Four-Win Sunday, Clinches Meet Title

Sun, 2024-03-24 18:37

As the Heritage winter meet winds down with two racing days left on the calendar, Jamie Rodriguez enjoyed a four-win afternoon Sunday at Laurel Park and cemented his claim to the leading rider title.

In addition to his four wins on the day, Rodriguez claims 46 through the meet, 18 more than runner-up Jeiron Barbosa, and helped conditioner Jamie Ness move ahead of Brittany Russell in the race for leading trainer. All four of Sunday's wins were on Ness runners and the combo hit at a lofty 29 per cent for the meeting. Rodriguez also leads in purse earnings at more than $1.6-million.

Since starting his 2024 season, he's recorded 12 multi-win days, six of which he visited the winner's enclosure on three or more occasions. Rodriguez is the three-time defending champion at Delaware Park as well.

“I have to thank all the owners and trainers that help me,” Rodriguez said. “All the hard rides I give to Jamie Ness I'm going to give all my horses, whoever puts me on. We're going to keep working.”

The post Jamie Rodriguez Notches Four-Win Sunday, Clinches Meet Title appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

‘Rising Stars’ Muth, Timberlake Lead Arkansas Derby Field

Sun, 2024-03-24 17:18

In a field of 10, 'TDN Rising Stars' GISW Muth (Good Magic) and GISW Timberlake (Into Mischief) have drawn the seven and two gate spots, respectively, and lead the charge in Oaklawn's feature GI Kentucky Derby prep race, the GI Arkansas Derby.

Muth, 8-5 on the morning line, will attempt to give Bob Baffert his fifth win in the contest, but hasn't started since finding the winner's enclosure in the GII San Vicente S. Jan. 6 at Santa Anita. The colt is ineligible for the Derby points and to run in the GI Kentucky Derby owing to Baffert's much talked-about suspension by Churchill Downs.

Brad Cox, trainer of Timberlake (9-5 on the morning line), seeks his third consecutive victory in Oaklawn's fourth and final Kentucky Derby points race. Having already claimed the GII Rebel S. at this venue in February, the third offered qualifying race, the son of Into Mischief looks to pad an already sizeable tally here.

Also drawn was the field for the GII Fantasy S., a 200-point race for the GI Kentucky Oaks, and Mike Maker's MSW My Mane Squeeze (Audible) has been tapped as the 3-1 program favorite. The New York-bred leads a field which includes the top three finishers of the GIII Honeybee S. in GSW Lemon Muffin (Collected), SW & GSP Tapit Jenallie (Tapit), and SW & GSP West Omaha (West Coast).

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Gun Runner’s Cartucho Graduates In Impressive ‘Rising Star’ Debut At Tampa

Sun, 2024-03-24 13:28

The partnership of Three Chimneys Farm, William Lawrence and Walmac Farm went to $1,200,000 to secure Cartucho (Gun Runner) as a yearling at the 2022 Keeneland September Sale and were quickly rewarded when their buy graduated on debut in 'TDN Rising Star'-style at Tampa Sunday. Favored at 6-5 as one of only three first-time starters in the field, Cartucho was slow from the gate and got squeezed back from the early frontrunners to be last in the opening jumps. Quickly into stride, Javier Castellano stayed along the rail inside of Faith's Spirit (Violence) as that pair began to gradually reel in the trio of leaders who were content to race three abreast through an opening quarter in :22.69. Tipped outside of Faith's Spirit heading into the far turn, Cartucho stayed covered up behind the widest of the three leaders but had a head of steam passing the quarter pole and was let loose by Castellano with a furlong to run. Up to take command with a sixteenth to run, the favorite ran up the score to win ridden out by 6 1/4 lengths.

The 11th 'TDN Rising Star' for Gun Runner, Cartucho is out of GI Ruffian Invitational H. winner Malibu Prayer who sold to Besilu Stables for $2,000,000 at KEENOV in 2011. The second winner from his dam in as many to race, he is also a half to the dams of Japanese stakes winner Cros Parantoux (Jpn) (Kizuna {Jpn}) and stakes placed Awesome Ruta (Mendelssohn). Malibu Prayer is herself a half to MGSW/GISP Valid (Medaglia d'Oro), MGSP Grand Love (Gun Runner) and to the dam of Saturday's Tom Benson Memorial S. winner Delahaye (Medaglia d'Oro). Malibu Prayer has produced back to back colts by Volatile in 2022 and 2023 and is due to GI Preakness S. winner Early Voting this year.

3rd-Tampa Bay Downs, $36,200, Msw, 3-24, 3yo, 7f, 1:23.95, ft, 6 1/4 lengths.
CARTUCHO, c, 3, Gun Runner
1st Dam: Malibu Prayer {GISW, $618,026},
                                by Malibu Moon
                2nd Dam: Grand Prayer, by Grand Slam
                3rd Dam: Lyrical Prayer, by The Minstrel
Sales History: $1,200,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $19,200. Click for the chart or VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV and for the free catalogue-style pedigree.
O-Three Chimneys Farm, William H. Lawrence and Walmac Farm; B-Three Chimneys Farm, LLC (KY); T-Chad C. Brown.

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‘TDN Rising Star’ Nash Wins Easily In Hot Springs S.

Sat, 2024-03-23 17:33

Nash, named a 'TDN Rising Star' after a 10 1/4-length romp in a 1 1/16-mile Churchill Downs maiden special weight Nov. 12, resumed winning ways after three straight placings at Fair Grounds this season. Nash was second behind Track Phantom (Quality Road) in the GIII Lecomte Jan. 20, then second again in a live optional claimer over a sloppy surface at Fair Grounds Feb. 17. Jockey Florent Geroux settled the even-money favorite four-wide behind Frost Free's pace set in fractions of :23.15, :47.64 and 1:12.56. Remaining four wide throughout, he swept past three of his six rivals entering the stretch and drew off to a comfortable win. Nash is out of MGSW Sara Louise, who defeated future champion Rachel Alexandra in the GII Pocahontas S. as a 2-year-old. Sara Louise is also the dam of Mrs. Hudson (Street Cry {Ire}), dam of SW Airosa (Uncle Mo) and Coronation Street (Street Cry {Ire}), dam of GSW Kalik (Collected). She has an unnamed 2-year-old Street Sense colt and was bred to Nyquist for this season.

HOT SPRINGS S., (NB) $200,000, Oaklawn, 3-23, 3yo, 1m, 1:38.49, ft.
1–NASH, 117, c, 3, by Medaglia d'Oro
                1st Dam: Sara Louise (MGSW, $400,435), by Malibu Moon
                2nd Dam: Kings Lynn, by Mt. Livermore
                3rd Dam: Til Forbid, by Temperence Hill
O/B-Godolphin (KY); T-Brad H. Cox; J-Florent Geroux.
$114,000. Lifetime Record: GSP, 6-2-3-1, $264,500. *1/2 to
Sara Street (Street Sense), GSP, $216,100.
2–Carbone, 119, c, 3, Mitole–Treasure in Heaven, by Street
Sense. O-L. William & Corinne Heiligbrodt & Flurry Racing
Stables LLC; B-William & Corinne Heiligbrodt (KY); T-Steven M.
Asmussen. $38,000.
3–Frost Free, 119, c, 3, Frosted–D J's Favorite, by Union Rags.
($27,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP; $100,000 2yo '23 TTAAPR). O-Keene
Thoroughbreds LLC; B-Jackpot Farm (KY); T-Brett Creighton.
Margins: 5HF, 2 1/4, HF. Odds: 1.00, 2.20, 12.10.
Also Ran: Mr Fillip, Otto the Conqueror, Mena, Magic Grant. Scratched: Count Dracula, Footprint.

Click for the chart or VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.

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Mystik Dan Readies for Arkansas Derby

Sat, 2024-03-23 16:38

Lance Gasaway, 4G Racing and Daniel Hamby III's Mystik Dan (Goldencents) worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 (20/34) over a fast track at the Fair Grounds Saturday morning. Trained by Ken McPeek, the winner of the Feb. 3 GIII Southwest S. is expected to ship to Oaklawn Wednesday in advance of a tilt at the $1.5-million GI Arkansas Derby Mar. 30. McPeek opted to train Mystik Dan up to the Arkansas Derby, which could award as many as 200 qualifying points to its top five eligible finishers (100-50-25-15-10, respectively) for Kentucky Derby.

“About three weeks ago, I was down there, and he looked great,” said Gasaway of the homebred. “He's been working lights out. Last week, he worked five furlongs in 1:00 and galloped out [six furlongs] in 1:12 and change. That was the plan–take him back there after the Southwest. Scared of the weather and missing work time. We had to work around some rain and one day we did have to work in the mud.”

Also expected for the nine-furlong race, Siena Farm and WinStar's Timberlake (Into Mischief), winner of the Feb. 24 GII Rebel S., also worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 (5/34) at Fair Grounds Saturday. His trainer brad Cox will attempt to win his third consecutive renewal of the race following victories in 2022 with Cyberknife and Angel of Empire last year.

The post Mystik Dan Readies for Arkansas Derby appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Fierceness Draws Post 10 for Florida Derby

Sat, 2024-03-23 16:13

During Saturday's post-position draw at Gulfstream, Repole Stable's Fierceness (City of Light) was installed the 8-5 favorite on the morning line for next weekend's GI Curlin Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park. Drawing post 10 in the field off 11, the colt will try to give his trainer Todd Pletcher a record eighth win in the Classic prep. Pletcher won the nine-furlong test with defending 2-year-old champion Forte (Violence) last year.

“Normally I'd be afraid of the outside post, but Forte won from the 11 last year, so you can overcome that,” Pletcher said. “Everybody knows Gulfstream two-turn races are very tricky and I think that's why the start is so important, getting away cleanly. I think what happens in a lot of these two-turn races is the jockeys are so conscious of having to get to the first turn in good position that it can get a little rough leaving the gate sometimes.”

Victorious in last fall's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile en route to a juvenile championship, the colt kicked off his sophomore campaign with a third in the GIII Holy Bull S. Feb. 3.

Pletcher will also be represented by Repole's recent maiden winner Bail Us Out (Lookin At Lucky), who drew post three. The former will be ridden by Johnny Velazquez while the latter will be accompanied by Irad Ortiz Jr.

D.J. Stable LLC and Robert Cotran's undefeated Hades (Awesome Slew), a front-running winner in the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull, drew post 2 and will be accompanied by regular pilot Paco Lopez. He was installed the 7-2 third choice on the morning line.

Courtlandt Farm's Conquest Warrior (City of Light), who is coming off back-to-back wins at Gulfstream including a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance Mar. 1, drew the nine hole for Saturday's race. Given a 3-1 chance on the morning line, the colt is trained by Shug McGaughey, who also saddled Orb for victories in the 2013 GI Florida Derby and GI Kentucky Derby. Jose Ortiz gets the mount.

Also slated to run: Frankie's Empire (Classic Empire) (12-1, Post 1); Grand Mo the First (Uncle Mo) (15-1, Post 4); Real Macho (Mucho Macho Man) (20-1, Post 5); Le Dom Bro (Mucho Macho Man) (15-1, Post 6); Catalytic (Catalina Cruiser) (20-1, Post 7); Seminole Chief (Girvin) (30-1, Post 8); Iris's Dream (Jess's Dream) (30-1, Post 11).

The post Fierceness Draws Post 10 for Florida Derby appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Dornoch Heads to Blue Grass

Sat, 2024-03-23 14:49

West Paces Racing, R.A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing and Pine Racing Stables' Dornoch (Good Magic), winner of the Mar. 2 GII Fountain of Youth S. at Gulfstream, is expected to make his next start in Keeneland's GI Blue Grass S. Apr. 6, trainer Danny Gargan told DRF.

“It's been my plan since December. All our owners want to run in the Blue Grass, if he wins it makes him more valuable as a stallion. He won over the track, it's one ship, and three days after the race I'll be at Churchill,” Gargan told DRF.

Runner up in his first two career starts, including last summer's Sapling S., the full-brother to Kentucky Derby winner Mage won his next three starts, including a muddy renewal of the GII Remsen S. at the Big A in December. Second that day was Sierra Leone (Gun Runner), who is also expected to run in Keeneland's Classic prep. Sierra Leone won the GII Risen Star S. at Fair Grounds Feb. 17.

According to Gargan, the colt will breeze once more in Florida before shipping to Lexington.

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Hades, Fierceness Tune Up For Curlin Florida Derby

Fri, 2024-03-22 19:54

D J Stable and Robert Cotran's GIII Holy Bull S. winner Hades (Awesome Slew) worked a half-mile in an easy :50.21 over the Gulfstream Park main track Friday morning, his final serious gallop ahead of next Saturday's $1-million GI Curlin Florida Derby.

A perfect three-for-three in his career, Hades was scheduled to breeze Saturday, but forecast heavy rains led trainer Joe Orseno to call an audible and work the gelding 24 hours earlier.

“He has exceeded my expectations,” Orseno said, “even with today's last breeze going into the Florida Derby. He did everything perfect. He just handles himself very professional. He gets things easily where other horses struggle.”

Eclipse Award-winning 'TDN Rising Star' Fierceness (City of Light) will try to atone for his third-place effort in the Holy Bull when he lines up next weekend, and the Todd Pletcher trainee went four furlongs in :47.43 at Palm Beach Downs Friday morning. He galloped out an extra eighth of a mile in 1:00.63. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez was in the irons for the move.

“It went very well, he looked great,” Pletcher commented.

Trainer Gustavo Delgado took to X Friday afternoon to report that Victory Avenue (Arrogate), a big-figure runner-up on his lone racetrack appearance Jan. 27, would be passing the Florida Derby.

“For clarity, we have decided not to pursue a Florida Derby entry with Victory Avenue,” Delgado posted. “Being a very talented son of Arrogate, at this moment we feel that time and patience to let him grow up physically + mentally is the best plan. Plenty of goals for him to achieve down the line.”

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Plan For New Chicago Track Forging Ahead Despite Big Differences In Gaming Law Interpretations

Fri, 2024-03-22 17:50

An Illinois businessman with a background in both real estate development and racehorses is actively putting together an investment team to build a new $180-million Thoroughbred racino about 35 miles south of Chicago. But even a year before the first shovels might break ground, controversy is swirling because of different interpretations of the enabling gaming law that is a linchpin for the project to proceed.

Ronald Aswumb, 68, who has owned and bred Thoroughbreds and also worked as a bloodstock consultant alongside his family's chief business of building malls and condominiums, told TDN in a Mar. 22 phone interview that he is 18 months into the planning process for bringing to life a track that he envisions as Lincoln Land Downs in a village called Richton Park.

“With the closing of Arlington we felt there was quite a void in the Chicago market for horse racing, and actually in the whole state,” Aswumb said. “We've looked at different potential properties all throughout the state. It is an ambitious project, and it's important that we keep it to scale.”

The project does not yet have the public support of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (ITHA) because of the varying interpretations of the law.

“Let's not forget that this is Illinois. And anything relative to horse racing in Illinois is complicated and cumbersome,” David McCaffrey, the executive director of the ITHA, told TDN.

“A new racino in Richton Park is living up to those past performances,” McCaffrey added.

A spokesperson for Hawthorne Race Course, the Chicago area's only remaining Thoroughbred track, responded to a request for comment with an email that stated, “This idea is so speculative that anyone actually involved in the ongoing operations of Illinois horseracing, or who is truly interested in its future, should not take it seriously.”

McCaffrey explained the ITHA's understanding of the law this way: “The statute, as it stands now, only allows for a Standardbred track. So on the part of building a new racetrack and racino, he's within the law to do so. But two things need to happen: one, they need to have permission from Hawthorne, because it's within 35 miles of Hawthorne. And two, it has to be a Standardbred track. There's been some very cursory talk about another Thoroughbred outlet somewhere, but relative to that being at Lincoln Land any time soon I think is putting the cart way before the horse.”

Aswumb chalked up the views of the ITHA and Hawthorne as being based on “misinformation.” He added that his legal team has confirmed for him that Hawthorne's 35-mile veto power applies only to a Standardbred–and not a Thoroughbred–racino, and that he believes his racino application will be lawful based on Section 56 of the Illinois Horse Racing Act and Section 7.7 of the Illinois Gambling Act passed in 2019.

“The law is actually very clear. It states that anyone that has operating control of a racetrack anywhere in the state of Illinois may apply for a casino license,” Aswumb said.

“We've spent the last six months confirming that with the Illinois Gaming Board [IGB], and they're the only ones whose opinion really matters,” Aswumb said. “We met with the executive director and the general counsel two weeks ago, and they said if we had operating control of a racetrack and had received a racing license for dates, that we would meet the standard to apply for a casino license. I've been telling the horsemen that for six months, but you can't convince anybody, I guess.”

The location Aswumb has settled on would fit a 7- to 7.5-furlong main dirt track with a turf course inside of it. A temporary casino would go up first, to be eventually replaced by a larger, more permanent version, with the eventual possibility of building out a 100-room hotel and entertainment space.

“Our location is right off Interstate 57, which is a very highly trafficked area, and even though it's suburban, it's kind of a rural setting,” Aswumb said. “It's real pastoral. We have 140 acres that we're planning on building on. It's beautiful. It overlooks about a thousand acres of farmland. We have an option [to buy] it, and actually have the ability to get more land. There's a lot there.”

Aswumb said he is not yet ready to divulge full details about his investment partners because the deal is still a work in progress.

“We're in the financing process. It's still a little proprietary,” Aswumb said. “I can't tell you exactly the names behind it, but there are several large gaming companies that really want to diversify in the Chicago market. And we've also been working with a company in Kentucky that is involved in racing. I'm hoping in the next 60 days we'll fully list who our partners are.

“The timeline is we're putting the financing process together and finalizing the group,” Aswumb said. “We have to apply by July 31 with the Illinois Racing Board (IRB) to receive any dates in 2025. There's no plan to have any extensive racing in 2025. It would more likely be to get the track ready to have a couple of days of racing toward the end of the year just to establish the racing license, because we have to establish the racing license to go before the gaming board to get the casino license. Hopefully, we'd start construction on the track early next year when the weather breaks.”

Originally, Aswumb said, his intent was to build a harness racino, and he was aware that Hawthorne had veto power over that plan.

“They declined to give us written consent, which is their legal right to do. So we started looking at other ways to get this going, and there's nothing stopping us from doing a Thoroughbred track. The statute only applies to a Standardbred track, and obviously, we've confirmed that with [the IRB and IGB],” Aswumb said.

“There's kind of been disinformation the last few years that only the existing racetracks could get a casino license,” Aswumb continued. “The project is, of course, dependent on that. You need that alternative source of revenue to make the business model work. There's no guarantee you're going to get the license–you still have to go through all the [state vetting process]. But we have been told that we would be able to apply for that, and that was the big hurdle that we needed to clear to make the project go.”

Obtaining the temporary casino license is crucial, Aswumb said.

“We would like to do a temporary casino, which you are allowed to have for three years. The plan would be maybe to have 400-500 gaming positions in a temporary facility to get revenue coming in. It's very attractive to investors if you can get revenue coming in early like that. And then the process would be to have the permanent casino in approximately 2028 to 2029,” Aswumb said.

Aswumb said he wants to buck the industry trend of existing racinos that focus on gaming first and horses second. He wants it the other way around.

“We don't have quite enough room to do a mile dirt track, but we do have a lot of room for a really nice backstretch. We're going to have state-of-the-art barns, and an equine aquatics center and backstretch housing. I personally feel that horses are in their stalls too much, and we want trainers to be able to get them out an exercised at all times of the day.”

Aswumb said he's even talked to the Chicago Bears football team, which owns the defunct Arlington International Racecourse, about relocating the sod from the old grass course to Lincoln Land Downs.

“They still have been maintaining the turf course there beautifully, and they've been very open to that idea, but we're still in the testing phase to see if it would transfer properly,” Aswumb said.

Aswumb admitted that he has had zero talks with Hawthorne about forming a Thoroughbred circuit. Nor is he even close to negotiating a contract with the ITHA.

“I wouldn't say [Hawthorne would be] very supportive of us, really,” Aswumb said. “I have talked to the horsemen. They've been supportive but weary, like 'We've heard this before' kind of thing.”

Asked what type of racing season and purse structure he envisioned, Aswumb put it this way:

“Obviously we would like some summer dates if we have a turf course. We'd like to be able to get to like $250,000 at least in daily purses. So you could do maybe 75 to 80 dates a year, maybe race three days a week six months out of the year.

“The projections are we can do $100 million a year in adjusted gross revenue when we have the full casino, and approximately 13% of that goes toward purses,” Aswumb said. “When you combine that with off-track-betting parlors [and their] projected handle, we think we could get to $15 to $20 million in purses a year. And if we could do that, I think the horsemen would be happy.”

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FTHA Announces Board Election Results

Fri, 2024-03-22 16:20

Officials at the Florida Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association have announced the results of the Board of Directors election, which were finalized Mar. 14. Elections are held annually, and the term of all Directors is three years. The Board is elected by the Association members via secret ballot.

A Board of no fewer than 11 and no more than 15 Directors supervises the FTHA and each year, five positions are filled on a rotating basis. For 2024, Incumbent Owner/Directors Chester Bishop, Jonathan Green, and Teresa Palmer were re-elected.  Incumbent Trainer/Director Ron Spatz was re-elected, and new to the Board is Owner/Director Robert Cotran.

“I was honored to be elected to the Board. I am aware of some of the obstacles that racing is facing in the future,” said new member Robert Cotran. “My goal is to work with our horsemen's group in dealing with these obstacles–all for the betterment of racing–which is everyone's goal.”

Joe Orseno was elected unanimously for his third term as FTHA President. Jon Green was appointed as First Vice President and David Rousso as Second Vice President. The new board will take office effective immediately.

Owner/Directors include: Gerardo Amado, Chester Bishop, Thomas Cannell, Robert Cotran, Jonathan Green, Adam Lazarus, Teresa Palmer, David Rousso and Jeffrey Siskin. Trainer/Directors are: Patrick Biancone, Kathy Davey, David Fawkes, Joe Orseno, Terri Pompay and Ron Spatz.

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Road to the Kentucky Derby Heats Up with Saturday’s Louisiana Derby and Jeff Ruby Steaks

Fri, 2024-03-22 15:50

The road to the GI Kentucky Derby kicks into high gear with Saturday's GII Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds and GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park.

Over the next three weekends, there will be eight “Championship Series” races that will award Derby points to the top five finishers on a 100-50-25-15-10 scale.

Drawn widest of all in post 12, GIII Lecomte S. Jan. 20 winner and GII Risen Star S. Feb. 17 runner-up Track Phantom (Quality Road) looks like the one to catch in the Louisiana Derby. Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen will also saddle $1.4-million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga graduate and 'TDN Rising Star' Hall of Fame (Gun Runner), who disappointed in seventh over the sloppy going in the Risen Star.

“I generally believe for 3-year-olds, your last race is not good enough for your next one to be,” Asmussen said. “That's the way it ought to be. (Track Phantom) is a wonderful horse. I'm very fortunate to have him here at Fair Grounds for the 3-year-old series. He has run extremely well in the three prior races here at Fair Grounds. Hopefully, we can get him in the winner's circle again Saturday.”

'TDN Rising Star' Agate Road (Quality Road), winner of last term's grassy GII Pilgrim S. and a rallying second in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. at Tampa Bay Feb. 10, opts for this spot over the Jeff Ruby Steaks. Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher will also be represented by Antiquarian (Preservationist), a local maiden winner at second asking over promising next-out winner Cornishman (Curlin) Feb. 17.

The field for the Louisiana Derby also includes: the Brad Cox-trained Smarty Jones S. Jan. 1 winner and Risen Star third Catching Freedom (Constitution); longshot GII Rebel S. Feb. 24 runner-up Common Defense (Karakontie {Jpn}); and 'TDN Rising Star' Tuscan Gold (Medaglia d'Oro), a runaway maiden winner for Chad Brown at second asking at Gulfstream Jan. 31.

Endlessly (Oscar Performance), the 5-2 morning-line favorite and horse to beat in the Jeff Ruby Steaks, was a good-looking winner of the El Camino Real Derby over the Golden Gate all-weather Feb. 10. A two-time graded winner on grass in Southern California last year, Endlessly was eighth in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita Nov. 3.

“We tried to give him a short break after the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, but he's a feel-good type of horse,” trainer Michael McCarthy said. “He likes to train and we were able to get him back slowly after that race to the El Camino Real Derby.”

The loaded 12-race Louisiana Derby card also includes: the GII Fair Grounds Oaks, headed by GII Rachel Alexandra S. Feb. 17 one-two 'TDN Rising Star' Tarifa (Bernardini) and Intricate (Gun Runner) and the two-for-two Our Pretty Woman (Medaglia d'Oro); and the GII New Orleans Classic S. and GII Muniz Memorial Classic S.

Saturday's graded action is rounded out by the GIII Essex H. at Oaklawn Park, the GIII TwinSpires Kentucky Cup Classic S. at Turfway and the GIII San Luis Rey S. at Santa Anita.

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2024 Saratoga Meet Offers 71 Stakes Worth $20.75 Million

Fri, 2024-03-22 13:38

Highlighted by the 155th GI Travers S. Aug. 24 and the GI Whitney S. Aug. 3, the 40-day Saratoga meet features 19 Grade I races as part of 71 stakes worth $20.75 million in total purses, the New York Racing Association said concerning the release of the schedule on Friday.

Following the four-day opening week, which starts on Thursday July 11, racing will be conducted five days a week, Wednesdays through Sundays, apart from closing week, when the 2024 summer meet will conclude on Monday, Sept. 2.

Saratoga Live, the television show produced by NYRA in partnership with FOX Sports, will return for its ninth season to provide daily coverage of the summer meet to a nationwide audience on the networks of FOX Sports.

Click here for the complete 2024 Saratoga stakes schedule.

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Delaware Park And Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Sign Three-Year Contract

Fri, 2024-03-22 10:19

On Mar. 19, Delaware Park and the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (DTHA) signed a three-year contract, which includes an agreement for year-round stabling and training, the track said in a release Friday morning.

The year-round stall application, and related fee schedule, will be released later this summer. Opening day for the upcoming 87th live racing season is May 15 with racing on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. The 75-day meet is scheduled to conclude Oct. 12.

“I am pleased to announce this multi-year contract,” said Delaware Park Chief Financial Officer Kevin DeLucia.  “We have worked hard to provide safe and exciting racing in the highly competitive Mid-Atlantic region and this contract ensures we will continue to attract quality horses and stables to Delaware.”

“Delaware Park's commitment to provide year-round stabling and training again has been very well received by our horsemen,” said DTHA President Tim Ritchey.

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CHRB Unanimously Approves Plan to Make Pleasanton New Center of NorCal Circuit

Thu, 2024-03-21 20:08

The California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) voted 6-0 on Thursday to approve a dates package for the back half of 2024 that will establish the current fairs-meet-only track at Pleasanton as the new crux of a Northern California circuit.

The entire state has been trying to come to grips with the looming June 9 closure of Golden Gate Fields, the lone commercial track in the region, and the Mar. 21 vote by the CHRB was viewed as a NorCal racing lifeline by the estimated 250 supporters in attendance.

Those very vocal and at times emotional NorCal racing advocates greatly outnumbered proponents of a plan that would have instead consolidated all commercial-track racing in the state in Southern California.

The NorCal supporters consisted of horsemen who have called the circuit home for decades, plus a contingent of statewide breeding interests.

Those individuals had the group backing of the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF), which will operate the expanded Oct. 16-Dec. 25 Pleasanton meet under the auspices of a new management entity called Golden State Racing.

The California Thoroughbred Trainers (CTT), whose board of directors had unanimously voted to back the initiative that also calls for three other fairs venues to pick up other dates that will be abandoned by Golden Gate's closure, was also behind the Pleasanton idea.

1/ST Racing and Gaming–which owns both the closing Golden Gate and the financially struggling Santa Anita Park–had teamed with Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) to try an convince the CHRB that its alternate plan would be in the best long-term interests of the state as a whole.

That SoCal concept instead focused on redirecting simulcast revenue from the northern circuit to the southern tracks. It was further based on a premise that would have attempted to accommodate displaced Golden Gate outfits by creating more opportunities for lower-level horses to race at Los Alamitos Race Course, dropping the “claiming floors” at both Santa Anita and Del Mar, and establishing “relocation allowances” for stables that had to pack up and move while only short summer fairs meets were conducted in NorCal.

In the middle were the CHRB commissioners, who repeatedly expressed frustrations during the Mar. 21 meeting that because the NorCal and SoCal factions couldn't cooperate to come up with a joint plan, they had been placed in the unenviable position of having to choose one option over the other while knowing that they'd be making some constituents unhappy no matter how they voted on the measure.

Yet while the CHRB did ask pointed questions about CARF's plans for Pleasanton and how the new operation would be funded, commissioners saved their most barbed criticisms for 1/ST Racing's executive vice-chairman Craig Fravel, who only 48 hours before the meeting had penned an open letter that warned of potential consequences that might occur if the CHRB voted against the SoCal plan.

In his Mar. 19 letter–which backers of the Pleasanton plan clearly took as an ultimatum–Fravel had written that “should the Board allocate dates in the north per the CARF proposal Santa Anita will immediately meet with the TOC to implement purse cuts for the balance of 2024.”

Fravel also wrote that “Further planned investments in capital projects at Santa Anita will be reevaluated [and] further operation of Santa Anita and San Luis Rey [Downs] as training and stabling facilities may be in jeopardy.”

In response, CHRB commissioner Damascus Castellanos openly called out 1/ST Racing during Thursday's meeting for being too coercively demanding and for making an already complicated situation more difficult. Castellanos said over the past two days since Fravel's letter was made public, the CHRB has been inundated with calls from concerned constituents.

“I'm not upset because of the calls,” Castellanos told Fravel. “I'm upset because I don't do well with bullies. That's the problem. I'm upset that you [put this burden on] the CHRB. And that's not right. But, if that's the way you felt [you needed to] play the game, then that's what you're going to do…. You want to be the bully? You want to take your ball and run? Then that's up to you. I'm not advocating that. But what I'm saying is don't put that burden on us…. Everybody in this room has a responsibility to take care of themselves and each other. And I believe that that hasn't been done.”

CHRB commissioner Wendy Mitchell told Fravel that she was bothered by 1/ST Racing announcing Golden Gate's closure, not working constructively with NorCal interests to present a workable alternative, then responding with threats of closure when 1/ST Racing didn't like the concept that CARF came up with.

“That's not fair and that's not right,” Mitchell said. “And that's not a good business strategy…. You can't just throw out all these threats to us and say the industry is going to collapse in California [if you don't get your way].”

Mitchell continued: “We're expected, as regulators, to pick sides. To pick north against south. To pick fairs, versus, you know, the Southern California tracks. I don't like the way this was handled. I don't appreciate it. I think we need to have a different attitude and strategy for how to save horse racing in the state of California versus what we have seen so far.”

Fravel then attempted to explain what he meant in the letter using a more moderate tone while underscoring that 1/ST Racing's chairwoman and chief executive officer, Belinda Stronach, remains fully committed to making sure Santa Anita doesn't suffer the same going-out-of-business fate as Golden Gate.

Racing at Santa Anita | Benoit

“The letter didn't say we're shutting down,” Fravel said. “The letter said we have to sit down and figure out what we're going to be able to invest with the prospect of continuing to lose money. I can say one thing: I was on the phone with Belinda yesterday. She does not want to close Santa Anita. We've had offers over and over again from people wanting to [buy it], but [upper management's response has consistently been] 'not for sale.' So the commitment is to continue racing. To make racing thrive at Santa Anita, and to try and reinvest our efforts in this product.”

According to plans for the Pleasanton proposal submitted by CARF that were included in the CHRB meeting packet, “In order to provide for the additional horses expected to run at this meet, more than 300 portable stalls will be moved to [Pleasanton's] Alameda County Fairgrounds. No other improvements to the facilities are needed at this time. However, future investments could include additional permanent stalls, improvements to the grandstand and the installation of a turf course.”

Larry Swartzlander, the executive director for CARF, later put an approximate $7-million projected price tag on the turf course, noting that it wouldn't be undertaken until at least year two of the Pleasanton phase-in.

CARF's plan further called for other dates formerly run at Golden Gate to be reallocated this year between Sonoma County Fair (July 31-Aug. 20), Humboldt County Fair (Aug. 21-Sept. 17) and the Big Fresno Fair (Sept. 18-Oct. 15).

CARF and Alameda County Fair have drafted a licensing agreement that will cover five years, the written materials stated.

Back in January, the TOC had previously articulated in front of the CHRB that even though it was in support of any “feasible and viable” plan to keep year-round racing afloat in NorCal, a danger existed in the form of that move increasing economic pressures in the south that the TOC believes would erode the overall California product.

On Thursday, Bill Nader, the TOC's president and chief executive officer, said that while agreement among its board members wasn't unanimous about not backing the Pleasanton plan, “in terms viability, there just wasn't enough assurance that this was a viable plan.”

Nader said the TOC had difficulty with the extended Pleasanton meet using the higher California takeout structure that applies to fairs (instead of the lower commercial takeout scheme that Golden Gate would have been required to use), because, he explained, that form of bet pricing would be burdensome to horseplayers.

Nader also said that he wasn't sure CARF's proposed daily purses (which are still a work in progress) reflected an accurate projection, because Pleasanton would basically have to match what the better-established, lower-takeout Golden Gate meet generated in betting handle to achieve it. The TOC, he said, has come up with slightly different and lower figures.

Nader made it clear that he wasn't arguing which projection was right and which was wrong. But he did state concerns that within a few months, the CHRB will have to make decisions on 2025 dates allocations, and that even then, the Pleasanton meet won't yet be completed, so no one will have “the real truth” on whether the numbers make sense or not.

“The TOC does represent the north. It does represent the south,” Nader said, which elicited catcalls and boos from many in attendance who have accused the TOC of not being representative of the NorCal interests. “What we want is just reliable, accurate information to understand what puts California in the best position going forward.”

Nader continued: “No matter what we do, no matter what decisions are made, there's going to be some pain, and there's going to be some who are going to walk away disappointed. And unfortunately, that's inevitable. I don't care what decision is made–no matter what we do, it's going to have impact to the detriment of some. Frankly, I just think it's unavoidable.”

Alan Balch, the executive director of the CTT, explained prior to the CHRB's vote why his organization backed the NorCal plan.

“Our board, nine people south and north, are unanimous in supporting the effort to keep Northern California racing going,” Balch said. “We believe that racing is California is not going to survive in any meaningful, important way without California breeding, [and] we just need to have a chance to keep breeders interested and motivated to breed, and to provide hope for the future.

“We can all disagree about the viability of any particular northern plan,” Balch said. “But with no plan and no racing in the north, there is very little incentive for California breeders to continue.”

Balch said that his constituents have heard too much rhetoric from the TOC and 1/ST Racing along the lines of, “If this northern money doesn't come to the south, we'll have to cut purses in the south.”

But, Balch postulated, “Do these people realize that if there is no Northern California racing, the Northern California purses will be cut to zero? Does that make sense? Not if we're all in the same state. We have to work together.”

Prior to the CHRB's unanimous vote in favor of the NorCal plan, CHRB chairman Gregory Ferraro, DVM, pointed out that, “This is a serious fiduciary responsibility that the board is taking on here, [and] it's increasingly clear to me that if racing is going to survive in California at all, we can't make two circuits. We have to make one circuit [in which tracks] are not conflicting with each other, where you're benefitting each other.”

CHRB vice-chair Oscar Gonzales added that even if the NorCal interests get what they want out of the vote, they, too, must realize that SoCal does need some form of cooperation and financial help.

“I believe that this [vote] should be an opportunity to reset, [and] the start of mending fences,” Gonzales said. “And [then] let's get on with making California racing the best in the nation.”

Castellanos concurred.

“We need to work together. We need to figure out how to keep racing in California. Not just northern, not just southern–in California. Because if we keep on going at this rate, we're going to implode. There's no reason for us to cannibalize each other,” Castellanos said.

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Tina Bond is New THA President

Thu, 2024-03-21 16:42

Tina Marie Bond, recently elected president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (NYTHA), added the office of president of the Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association (THA) to her duties after the THA's annual meeting and election Mar. 19-20 in Florida.

“It's an honor to be elected president of such an esteemed collective,” said Bond, who is the first woman ever to helm the organization. “THA is at the forefront of collaborative decision-making and policy implementation on issues such as racehorse aftercare, equine safety and welfare, and protecting the integrity of our sport. I look forward to leading the organization as it addresses the challenges that horsemen and women face on local, regional, and national levels.”

In other THA officer elections, Chris Block and David Richardson were named vice presidents; Michael Musto was named treasurer; and Bessie Gruwell will serve as secretary.

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Aqueduct Moves Saturday Card to Sunday

Thu, 2024-03-21 16:22

With a strong coastal storm predicted to impact the New York metropolitan area Friday evening and into the majority of Saturday, Aqueduct has moved the Saturday card to Sunday, officials at the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) announced Thursday.

Highlighted by the $100,000 Biogio's Rose S., Saturday's eight-race card will move in its entirety to Sunday, while the original Sunday races will be carded as extras beginning Thursday, Mar 28. First post Sunday will be 1:20 p.m. EDT.

Aqueduct Racetrack will remain open for simulcasting on Saturday.

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Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance to be Present for Florida Derby Day

Thu, 2024-03-21 15:42

Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance will be present at Gulfstream Park for Florida Derby Day on Saturday, Mar. 30. Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance has partnered with 1/ST RACING to have a variety of on-site activations during the day.

Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance will be honored with a named race on the Florida Derby Day undercard. Following the running of the race, a presentation will be made to the winning connections, including a Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance branded blanket and gift bag branded merchandise. 1/ST RACING will promote accredited aftercare throughout the day.

A representative from Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance will be on-site to host the winners of the “Off to the Races” VIP Experience online benefit auction. 1/ST RACING has donated the Florida Derby Day VIP Experience where the winners will enjoy premium dining, access to the paddock, and more.

Additionally, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance is also the co-beneficiary for the Florida Derby Charity Golf Tournament alongside the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The charity golf tournament, hosted by 1/ST RACING, will be held on Monday, Mar. 25, at the Plantation Preserve Golf Course & Club.

“1/ST RACING and Gulfstream Park are thrilled to have Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance return for Florida Derby Day,” said Steve Screnci, President of Racing and Business Development, 1/ST RACING. “We take great pride in supporting accredited aftercare and aim to further raise awareness and aid in the care of retired Thoroughbred racehorses.”

“Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance is honored to count supporters like 1/ST RACING and Gulfstream among our allies in advancing our mission,” said Emily Dresen, Director of Funding & Events at Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. “We eagerly anticipate a day filled with exciting races and the opportunity to enlighten racing fans about the importance of accredited aftercare.”

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Old Friends Welcomes 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Winner I’ll Have Another

Thu, 2024-03-21 15:19

Dual Classic winner and champion 3-year-old colt I'll Have Another (Flower Alley) has been donated to Old Friends by owner Paul Reddam. The 14-year-old former stallion arrived to the Thoroughbred retirement farm Wednesday.

“Welcoming I'll Have Another is an auspicious and historic moment for Old Friends,” said John Nicholson, president and CEO of Old Friends. “We are deeply grateful to Paul Reddam and Doug O'Neill for choosing Old Friends to care for this great champion and to celebrate his magnificent legacy with thousands of our annual visitors. Being able to welcome our fourth Kentucky Derby winner to retire at Old Friends is further tribute to the vision and values of our founder and my friend, Michael Blowen.”

Reddam added, “It is fantastic that he will have a permanent home at Old Friends where everyone can visit him. There was a lot of concern when he went to Japan for stud duty and that is permanently put to rest with his return to Kentucky.”

I'll Have Another is the fourth GI Kentucky Derby and GI Preakness S. winner to be retired to the farm. The other three are Silver Charm, War Emblem, and Charismatic.

“I'll Have Another is an amazing horse–very blue collar, workmanlike,” O'Neill said. “He was so naturally competitive. He meant and still means so much to us around the barn. He took us on the ride of a lifetime winning the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. We're so grateful for his brilliance and being able to work alongside him during his amazing career.”

Upon his retirement, I'll Have Another was sold for $10 million to the Hokkaido-based Big Red Farm in Japan and began his stud career there in 2013. He remained there through 2018, then returned to the United States and stood at Ballena Vista Farm in Ramona, Calif. from 2019 to 2020, before moving to Reddam's Ocean Breeze Ranch in Bonsall, Calif. from 2021 to 2024.

He was pensioned in 2024.

“We are so grateful to Mr. Reddam and to Doug for trusting us to give their Derby and Preakness winner a safe, healthy, and fun retirement,” said Michael Blowen, founder and past president of Old Friends. “We're planning to put I'll Have Another in the paddock adjacent to Lava Man's. How cool is that?”

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Road to the Kentucky Derby Continues with Live Coverage Saturday on CNBC and Peacock

Thu, 2024-03-21 13:46

NBC Sports will present live coverage of the $1-million GII Louisiana Derby, a key prep race ahead of the 150th GI Kentucky Derby, this Saturday, Mar. 23, live at 6 p.m. ET on CNBC and Peacock from Fair Grounds Race Course. The hour-long program will also feature the $700,000 GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park and the GII Fair Grounds Oaks.

Six weeks ahead of the running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 4, the Louisiana Derby and Jeff Ruby Steaks will both award Kentucky Derby qualification points, with 100 going to the winners of each race. The Fair Grounds Oaks will award GI Kentucky Oaks qualification points, with the winner of the race earning 100 points. Also, the Bourbonette Oaks from Turfway Park will be highlighted on Saturday's show.

Britney Eurton will host Saturday's coverage alongside analysts Jerry Bailey and Randy Moss.

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