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Updated: 5 hours 49 min ago

Clear Creek Stud to Award Scholarship

Fri, 2021-03-26 09:29

Clear Creek Stud will award a $5,000 scholarship to Rhett Sonnier on Fair Grounds closing day Mar. 28. This is an award that Clear Creek Stud sponsors in the name of their clients for a student with Louisiana-based connections to the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse breeding and racing industry. Applications were submitted to and accepted by the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

Sonier is in his third year at the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine. His family has been involved in the horse industry in Louisiana for generations, breeding, training and racing Quarter Horses, and includes notable jockey Randy Romero who passed away in 2019. His goal is to practice veterinary medicine in Louisiana.

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Larry Melancon: A Remembrance

Fri, 2021-03-26 09:09

LOUISVILLE, Ky.–Larry Melancon might not have been the top jockey at Churchill Downs during his long career, though he ranks among the winningest riders at the historic Louisville track even a decade after his retirement.

But no Churchill Downs jockey can match the resilience and longevity of Melancon, whose tenure of riding full-time under the Twin Spires for 36 consecutive years is unprecedented. Melancon, whose first official race was in 1971, arrived at Churchill Downs for the 1974 spring session. Up through his retirement on July 4, 2010 at Churchill Downs, the jockey had won at least one race per meet with the exception of the three he did not ride: fall of 1974, spring of 1979 and spring of 1993, when he fractured three ribs at Keeneland.

Melancon died at age 65 Thursday morning with his wife of seven years, Denise Hasher Melancon, at his side in their Louisville home. The former jockey succumbed to complications from the debilitating stroke he suffered four years ago.

“It's a personal loss. Larry was a very close friend and we worked together for a lot of years, going back probably as long as we can both remember,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. “He was a good man and well-liked throughout the racing community. He was respected by a lot of horsemen, and a lot of good horsemen, like Lynn Whiting. There were a lot of people who liked to have Larry on their team because he had such a good opinion of a horse. Riding, he'd always give you a good effort, and we had a lot of great outcomes.”

Melancon totaled 2,857 victories and more than $60 million in purse earnings through his 38 years riding. When he retired, his 914 wins at Churchill Downs ranked No. 3 all-time, with his 47 stakes victories ranking fourth. Even 11 years later, Melancon still ranks seventh in both categories.

Larry Melancon at Churchill downs on his first morning as a jockey agent for Calvin Borel | Courier Journal

“He was a fixture at Churchill Downs,” said jockey, friend and fellow Cajun product Robby Albarado, who in his first career race in 1990 back in their native Louisiana used one of Melancon's old saddles. “He showed up every day and did his job.”

Melancon was at Churchill Downs before the track's legendary all-time win leader Pat Day arrived. He rode an additional five years after his good friend and long-time rival retired in 2005.

Day ruled the roost at Churchill Downs in the 1980s and 1990s. Melancon rode for many of the same outfits and didn't get a lot of the top assignments in the afternoon unless Day was out of town. But he had a long and successful career making the best of his opportunities at the races. And Day is among the first to acknowledge that Melancon was the better choice to put on a horse in the morning.

“He was one of the best all-around horsemen that I've been around,” Day said. “Very proficient rider, but he understood the condition book. He understood horses. I was a good jockey. I wasn't what I'd call an all-around horsemen like he was.

“It used to aggravate him. We'd sit down and start talking, and he'd say, 'Do you know if Lynn is going to run that horse back in the 'non-winners of two?' I'd say, 'Larry, I don't have a clue.' That was my agent's business. Larry knew everything. He'd seen the horse run.”

Mott recalled Melancon working Taylor's Special before the eventual 1984 Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass Stakes winner ever ran. After the work, Melancon simply told the trainer, 'Well, when you run him, just go get your coat and tie on.'”

Retired trainer Don Winfree referred to Melancon as the “real good mechanic” everyone wants to have.

“He could get on a horse, and if you had a little problem, he could help you pinpoint it,” he said. “For years I had a lot of young horses who hadn't started, were coming along. Larry was kind of my test pilot to help me value them before we'd make a start. I used to like to bet on the first-time starters. He'd say, 'Don, this horse can win for $30,000' or 'This horse can win for $50,000.' I told him, 'Larry, I don't want to know what he can win for. I want to know what he can't lose for.' Larry was a dear friend. We used to hunt and fish together, and he was the ultimate professional. Another good one gone.”

Every trainer who rode Melancon seems to have a similar story.

“He was unbelievably good in the morning,” said Al Stall Jr., for whom Melancon worked after he retired from race-riding. “If a horse breezed well, he'd say, 'Get the condition book out.' I didn't need to hear any details such as 'he switched leads' or 'he finished up strong.' When he said 'get the condition book out,' that means everything was ready to go. He was generally right. He rode a nice, patient race and was thoughtful early in a race and had a very strong finish.”

Beyond Melancon's skill with horses, Stall noted how people naturally gravitated to him, recalling a special summer when the former jockey went up with him to Saratoga in 2012.

“We had a really good time,” Stall said, adding of the current president of Claiborne Farm, “Walker Hancock was just a hotwalker, feeling his way up the ranks. Walker would bring all these young guys, his friends, around the barn. They just loved Larry. At night we'd all go to someone's house and Larry would cook Cajun food. Those kids were just in heaven. They thought Larry was like king of the world. Because he was funny–and he could cook.”

Larry and Denise Melancon | courtesy Denise Melancon

Melancon was a quiet leader by example on and off the track, including helping young riders. He and Day united with then-trainer and current WinStar Farm president Elliott Walden and former trainer Bill Million to get Churchill Downs's first full-time chaplain. The quartet subsequently worked to raise the money to build the backstretch chapel.

“He was a brother in the Lord,” Day said. “Larry was instrumental in the chaplaincy as we know it. And a fierce competitor on the racetrack.”

Melancon's mother, the late Winona Champagne, was a trainer. He grew up near Lafayette, La., in Breaux Bridge, the self-proclaimed Crawfish Capital of the World. Long before he was old enough to legally ride at a sanctioned track like nearby Evangeline Downs, Melancon, from the time he was nine, rode match races at the bush tracks around the Acadiana region, the cradle of so many talented American-born jockeys.

Sheila Day, Pat Day's wife, grew up in the area and knew Melancon since she was 6. “The next step was to get into the 'big-time,' Evangeline Downs,” she said. “And he made Churchill Downs. Young people respected that Larry was able to climb those heights, to get to Churchill Downs. His family was very respected in the area. His legacy is going to live on for a long time.”

Melancon won 43 graded stakes, including Keeneland's Grade I Blue Grass on Bachelor Beau for trainer Phil Hauswald in 1986. He captured four Grade II stakes, including Churchill Downs' Stephen Foster, on the Niall O'Callaghan-trained Guided Tour. Melancon rode in the Kentucky Derby four times, his best finish being fourth on Amano in 1976.

He won Oaklawn Park's 1997 Rebel Stakes on the Whiting-trained Phantom On Tour, finishing second by a half-length in the Arkansas Derby. While Jerry Bailey was aboard for the horse's sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, Melancon the next year won the New Orleans Handicap on Phantom On Tour with his mother in attendance. Albarado said that win photo, prominently displayed in the Melancons' house, was his friend's favorite victory.

Melancon remained involved with the track after his retirement, galloping horses and helping out Stall and working as jockey Calvin Borel's agent. When he married Denise seven years ago, the couple began traveling and engaging in outdoors pursuits. With no warning symptoms, he suffered a stroke when the couple were in North Carolina to hike part of the Appalachian Trail.

“Larry was a very good rider and even better person who was courage personified in the face of great personal adversity,” said racing broadcaster Caton Bredar, a family friend.

Even last August the Melancons found a way to go fishing out on Lake Huron in Michigan, which proved to be Larry's last trip. Denise Melancon said her husband continued to greatly look forward to the regular Monday night potluck dinners they'd have over with Dallas Stewart, the trainer getting a ramp for his house to accommodate Larry's wheelchair.

Melancon's health had deteriorated in recent months, with her son, Keelan Allen, and Albarado's son Kaden providing immeasurable assistance in his care with kindness, gentleness and compassion, Denise Melancon said.

“He was at home, went peacefully, for which I'm very grateful,” she said. “Everybody loved him. He never had a cross word and was so giving to people. We still did a lot after the stroke. I said, 'You are not going to be a victim of circumstances.' And we lived life.”

Melancon was preceded in death by mother Winona Champagne and father Vermillian Melancon. In addition to his wife, Melancon is survived by son Lance Melancon, Louisville; daughter Heather Schapansky, Tyler, Texas; stepson Keelan Allen, Annapolis, Md.; sisters Judy Theriot and Vickie Guchereau; and grandchildren Caleb and Nathan Schapansky and Lawrence Melancon.

Denise Melancon said her husband's ashes will join his mother in Breaux Bridge. No public service is scheduled, per the jockey's request. The family suggests memorial gifts go to The Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation, 40 E. 52nd Street, New York, N.Y., 10022, or the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund, P.O. Box 803, Elmhurst, Ill, 60126.

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Laurel Cancels Weekend Racing Due to EHV-1

Thu, 2021-03-25 22:40

   Laurel Park canceled racing for Friday, Saturday and Sunday after the Maryland Jockey Club was informed Thursday evening by Maryland State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Odian that a horse at Pimlico has tested positive for the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1).  The horse had been isolated for 72 hours prior to the positive test.

As a result of the positive test, and as a proactive measure to protect the horse population in the state of Maryland, horses currently stabled at Pimlico will not be allowed to ship to Laurel until a full quarantine is lifted at both properties. Previously, the two properties had been quarantined as one facility. They will now be treated as two separate quarantine zones.

The news would have impacted fields for the races which were already set for this weekend, thus forcing the cancellation. The decision was made in conjunction with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen, the release said.

“We extend our thanks the Maryland Racing Commission, the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, the horsemen at the Maryland Jockey Club and our fans for their cooperation and understanding during this difficult situation,” said the MJC.

Laurel is currently racing a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday schedule. They were forced to cancel Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 13-14 due to winter weather, and Friday, Mar. 12 racing due to EHV-1 concerns.

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Jockey Larry Melancon Passes Away

Thu, 2021-03-25 18:55

Former Jockey Larry Melancon passed away Thursday at his home in Louisville at age 65. He won 2,857 races with 43 of those being graded stakes with earnings of $60,629,774.

He was seventh in all-time Churchill Downs win with 914 and stakes wins at the oval with 47. Melancon's top victory came aboard Bachelor Beau in the 1986 GI Blue Grass S.

“The Churchill Downs family is deeply saddened to learn the news of former jockey Larry Melancon's passing,” Churchill Downs President Mike Anderson said. “Larry was amongst the winningest jockeys in Churchill Downs history and was known for his skilled horsemanship. More importantly, Larry was a class-act who was always willing to lend a helping hand. He will be greatly missed. Our condolences go out to his numerous friends and family during this difficult time.”

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Online Gaming Launches in Oregon

Thu, 2021-03-25 16:11

A new online gaming experience powered by historical horse racing has launched in Oregon through Wagers can be as low as 20 cents a spin. The results are determined by a database of actual horse races previously run at hundreds of tracks around the country.

Luckii is licensed by the Oregon Racing Commission as an Advanced Deposit Wagering platform. A portion of proceeds from all Luckii games are provided to the Oregon horse racing industry, delivering much-needed revenues to support local jobs and communities in Oregon.

Luckii's slot-style games follow pari-mutuel rules and players can get handicapping insights before wagering or they can simply spin for the opportunity to win a huge jackpot. Winnings are instant and can be easily withdrawn. The platform features secure payment options, via credit, debit or bank transfer, with industry-leading safety and fraud prevention tools, as well as an Oregon-based customer service team.

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Churchill Downs to Offer COVID-19 Vaccines

Thu, 2021-03-25 15:16

Churchill Downs will host a Norton Healthcare Vaccine Clinic for community members who are eligible per state guidelines and as supply is available. The public may now register for appointments to receive their first dose of vaccine. Appointment times are available Mar. 29 and 30 and Apr. 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The second round of booster shots will be automatically scheduled for Apr. 19 and 20 and May 3. Vaccinations will take place at Churchill Downs Racetrack in the second floor clubhouse.

Individuals meeting eligibility requirements (essential workers, people 50 and older and people 18-49 with chronic conditions) may register here. Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins will be accepted while supplies last. Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Churchill Downs will be prioritized.

The post Churchill Downs to Offer COVID-19 Vaccines appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Ayers Saint Gross and Populous Selected for Laurel and Pimlico Redevelopment

Thu, 2021-03-25 14:49

The Ayers Saint Gross and Populous team has been selected to work with the Maryland Stadium Authority to redevelop Pimlico and Laurel Park. Ayers Saint Gross has been headquartered in Baltimore since its founding in 1912. Populous has designed some of the world's largest and most prestigious equestrian venues including the Royal Ascot, Hong Kong Jockey Club, and the Brisbane Racing Club.

The post Ayers Saint Gross and Populous Selected for Laurel and Pimlico Redevelopment appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

FOX Sports and NYRA Announce Landmark Wagering and Media Rights Agreement

Thu, 2021-03-25 13:41

FOX Sports and the New York Racing Association, Inc. have announced an expanded partnership agreement that establishes FOX Sports as the official wagering partner of NYRA Bets and the leading media provider for elite Thoroughbred racing through the next decade.

The prior FOX Sports/NYRA media rights agreement provided a FOX Sports subsidiary with an option to acquire a 25% stake in NYRA Bets, LLC, a leading Advance Deposit Wagering platform launched in 2016 and available to customers in 30 states across the country. The FOX Sports subsidiary will exercise this option by the summer of 2021, pending final regulatory approval.

The newly announced agreement provides a FOX Sports subsidiary with a future opportunity to increase its equity interest in NYRA Bets.

As an unprecedented year interrupted live sports around the world, horse racing operated safely and continuously. NYRA Bets achieved record growth in 2020, as new fans engaged with horse racing by watching an unparalleled amount of coverage across FOX Sports' family of networks. Driven by a dramatic expansion in this live television coverage, NYRA Bets generated $225 million in wagering handle in 2020, a more than 100% increase compared to 2019.

“The remarkably rapid expansion of NYRA Bets, and the digital ADW wagering marketplace, make this an ideal opportunity for FOX Sports to deepen and broaden its investment in both premier media rights and the high-growth sports wagering industry. With our investment options in NYRA Bets, FOX is now uniquely positioned as the only media company with strategic stakes in digital bet-taking businesses in horse racing, sports betting, poker and casino gaming,” said Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports' Executive Vice President, Head of Strategy and Analytics. “We're confident that our television partnership with NYRA will fuel continued growth for NYRA Bets in the years ahead ”

Dave O'Rourke, President and CEO, NYRA, underscored the importance of its partnership with FOX Sports to the sport in New York as well as across the country.

“FOX Sports has shown an unwavering commitment to the sport of horse racing over the past five years,” said O'Rourke. “The strength of our partnership with FOX Sports, and the continued expansion of our high-quality telecasts, has proven to be hugely beneficial for the New York racing community and the sport as a whole.”

The new agreement will extend FOX Sports' television rights with NYRA through 2030 and further expand exclusivity for daily racing at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course.

Under the new deal, FOX Sports expects to air at least 700 hours of coverage each year from Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course and, outside of prior commitments, gives the network exclusive national broadcast rights at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course through 2030. NYRA will serve as the production arm for all horse racing events during the term of the partnership.

NYRA and FOX Sports began their collaboration during the first season of Saratoga Live during the 2016 summer meet at historic Saratoga Race Course. The critically acclaimed show, broadcast daily from the grounds of Saratoga, aired 80 hours of live coverage on FS2 and coincided with the national launch of NYRA Bets. Since then, total coverage has grown to more than 700 hours in 2020. The NYRA Bets wagering handle has also grown–from $7.2 million in 2016 to over $225 million in 2020. Wagering through national ADW outlets increased 115% during that same period. Along with Saratoga Live, FOX Sports' NYRA television portfolio includes America's Day At The Races, airing in the spring, summer, fall and select dates throughout the winter racing season.

FOX Sports became the national television home for NYRA's Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course coverage in 2019. That same year, the brand furthered its commitment to horse racing by televising the GI Runhappy Travers to a national audience on the FOX broadcast network for the first time in network history. Following a successful presentation in 2019, the Travers returned to FOX in 2020.

The new FOX Sports/NYRA agreement ensures that the Travers will air LIVE on FOX through 2030.

“NYRA is delighted to extend our relationship with FOX Sports,” said Tony Allevato, President, NYRA Bets. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with the FOX Sports team over the next decade to grow NYRA Bets while continuing to present the very best in horse racing coverage to more sports fans than ever before.”

The agreement does not include the GI Belmont Stakes Racing Festival and the Belmont S.

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NYRA Continuing Efforts to Bring Back Spectators

Wed, 2021-03-24 19:00

The New York Racing Association issued a statement Wednesday regarding it ongoing efforts to welcome fans back for the upcoming Belmont Park and Saratoga Racecourse meets. Horse and auto racing were omitted from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's guidance last week relating to reopening sporting events to the public in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.

“Governor Cuomo's decision to expand capacity limits for sports fans beginning this April is incredibly positive news as we look toward the spring and summer,” said NYRA's Pat McKEnna. “NYRA will work closely with the New York State Department of Health and the New York State Gaming Commission to secure the requisite approvals to welcome fans back to Belmont Park this spring and to Saratoga Race Course this summer. As COVID-19 cases continue to decline and vaccines become more widely available, we are optimistic that capacity limits will increase in the coming months.

“NYRA has conducted live racing for the past eight months without the energy and excitement that the fans bring, and we have missed them dearly during this time. We look forward to turning the page, and opening the doors to these historic venues in the very near future.

“Considering the size and scope of the COVID-19 vaccination site on the first floor of Aqueduct Racetrack, where New York State will soon be distributing more than 4,000 doses per day, NYRA hopes to re-open Aqueduct to spectators in the fall of 2021.”

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Canterbury VP Andrew Offerman Joins Writers’ Room

Wed, 2021-03-24 17:37

With smaller tracks gradually disappearing over time, it takes a concerted effort to build a fan customer base that can sustain your business in a non-marquee racing state. Minnesota's Canterbury Park is one of those outliers, a track whose management has put in the work to run a profitable enterprise while managing to attract novice fans and satisfy horseplayers alike, all without the buttressing revenue of slots.

Wednesday morning, Canterbury's VP of Racing Operations Andrew Offerman joined the TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland to talk about the track's blueprint for standing out on a lesser circuit. Calling in as the Green Group Guest of the Week, Offerman discussed the track's decision to drop its Pick 5 takeout to an industry-low 10%, what it's trying to do to attract new owners and trainers and how to still bring fans to the track in 2021.

“We've had a couple different forays into takeout reduction,” Offerman said regarding the successful Pick 5 experiment. “We did some more across-the-board cuts a few years ago, and that didn't work as well as the Pick 5 takeout reduction did. Last year, when we were kind of forced to change our business strategy from being really on-track centric to trying to focus more on off-track betting markets, we knew we had to do something to become more attractive, beyond just running through the middle of the week. So looking at our Pick 5 and trying to do something unique with that wager as it continues to grow in popularity seemed like a good opportunity. The results were great. It enhanced our visibility, did a lot for our other pools around those races and really showed us a new ability to generate interest in a pool that ended up averaging around $80,000, which for us is pretty substantial.”

Faced with the difficulty of drawing owners, trainers and horses to a relatively remote part of the country, Offerman laid out some new incentive programs Canterbury is trying out for the 2021 meet, which starts May 18.

“We've always tried to come up with unique things,” he said. “We realized that when you look at the normal areas that race across the country, Minnesota's not necessarily on their map. So we came up with an early-meet incentive program that gives everyone who starts in an open overnight race an extra $1,000 throughout the month of May to try to help offset the costs of shipping, because we acknowledge that most people have a long van ride to get here from wherever they might be during the winter. We also guarantee stipends per starter over the course of the meet. It's tiered by purse level, but starts at $200 and works its way up from there. We've also been able to offer an interest-free loan program for qualified applicants where people can basically sign a zero-interest shipping loan that they can pay back over the course of the summer.”

Elsewhere in the podcast, the writers responded to the reaction from Bill Finley's critical op/ed about horsemen's groups' suit over HISA, and, in the West Point Thoroughbreds news segment, analyzed the delinquent Ramseys story and positive returns from OBS March. Click here to watch the podcast; click here for the audio-only version.

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OHBPA Fires Back at Belterra’s Attempt to Dismiss ‘Deprived’ VLT Money Suit

Wed, 2021-03-24 17:33

The Ohio Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (OHBPA) told a federal judge Mar. 23 that the present and former owners of Belterra Park are attempting to get out from under a $2.7-million lawsuit over gaming revenues that the track allegedly wrongfully withheld between 2014 and 2018 on the grounds that Ohio's statutory construct for racino revenue sharing offers horsemen no legal remedy when they are denied their fair share.

But in fact, the OHBPA states in a memorandum opposing Belterra's motion to dismiss the case, both common law and the state statute are on the side of the horsemen in allowing for exactly the sort of relief the OHBPA is seeking.

That's also what the OHBPA stated in its original Dec. 18 complaint that contended Belterra never made good on a four-year difference between a placeholder rate that was first established for video lottery terminal (VLT) gaming and an eventually revised rate.

The court filing states that the defendants “are holding [$2,769,652] in funds owed to [the OHBPA]. Belterra asserts that no claim can be made, or even exists under the law, so it gets to keep the money. An injury, perhaps, but no available relief, says Belterra. In essence, Belterra acknowledges it is the beneficiary of the windfall, then attempts to find cover from the General Assembly, the Ohio State Racing Commission, and an escrow agreement to which the OHBPA was not a party.”

The OHBPA states that Belterra's theory for dismissing the suit “rises and falls on the faulty notion that the statute at issue–Ohio Revised Code Section 3769.087(C)–essentially 'preempts the field,' and thus leaves a horsemen's association no recourse in cases of mishandled funds or revenue-sharing disputes between race tracks and horsemen. But Belterra has utterly failed to show that the statute forecloses private rights of action or common-law claims, citing no statutory language and no case law requiring such a result.

“Second, the OHBPA's Complaint states valid common-law causes of action upon which relief may be granted,” the filing continues.

“Lastly, the OHBPA states valid claims under a private-right-of-action theory. For these reasons, and those further set forth below, the Court should deny Belterra's Motion to Dismiss.”

Belterra Park itself is named as a defendant, as is the racino's current owner/operator, Boyd Gaming Corporation. Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc., (which, according to the suit, owned Belterra between 2011 and 2018) and Penn National Gaming, Inc. (which, according to the suit, briefly had an ownership interest in Belterra in 2018), are also listed as defendants.

According to the defendants' motion to dismiss filed Feb. 16 in United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Eastern Division), the Belterra collective alleged that the “OHBPA has failed to state any viable claims against Defendants. OHBPA's cleverly labeled claims are nothing more than an attempt to plead around the fact that there is no private right of action under the relevant Ohio statute or regulation. Quite simply, OHBPA has no right to receive the “catch up” payments and only the Racing Commission is authorized to enforce [the relevant state codes] and the Resolution.”

According to the OHBPA's complaint, when VLT gaming was first legalized by Ohio in 2009, the state authorized racinos to retain 66.5% of revenues, with “between 9% and 11%” of those net-win proceeds to then be paid to Thoroughbred and Standardbred entities.

Those percentages were set five years before any actual VLT gaming happened at Belterra, and in 2012 the state authorized the Ohio State Racing Commission to set the actual rate that would go to purses, based upon that 9-11% range. But until a new, firm, rate got set, 9% was to be used as the placeholder to determine purse proceeds.

“At all relevant times, the OHBPA and Belterra Park each understood that, pursuant to the statute, the actual percentage rate was to be set at some future time, and that Belterra Park would need to make a 'true-up' payment to the OHBPA for any difference between the 9% placeholder rate and a statutorily-set rate that was greater than 9%,” the suit contended.

Belterra didn't open for VLT gaming until May 1, 2014, largely because the former track known as River Downs was undergoing a substantial renovation to rebrand the property as Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center. The capital expenditures for that project were to be a factor in determining the new calculation rate for purse money, but the suit alleged Belterra stalled and tried to overstate the costs it incurred fixing up the property.

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Guild’s Request to Hold off on Strict Monmouth Whip Rules Denied by NJ Commission

Wed, 2021-03-24 16:44

An attempt by The Jockeys' Guild to get the New Jersey Racing Commission (NJRC) to hold off on implementing the most restrictive anti-whipping rules in the nation until an appeal gets decided in court failed Wednesday when the NJRC voted that the Guild couldn't show that not imposing a stay would create irreparable harm or hardship to riders, horses and the public.

So when the Monmouth Park meet opens May 28, whipping a Thoroughbred will not be allowed by any New Jersey jockey or exercise rider except for the express purpose of ensuring the immediate safety of the horse or rider.

Back on Sep. 16, the NJRC voted 4-0 to implement three new rules that made the state the first in the nation to ban whipping beyond protection in an emergency situation. It was decided at the time to hold off implementing them until the start of the 2021 season.

If a jockey or exercise rider uses the riding crop in a manner contrary to the new rules, he or she will be subject to a fine, suspension, or forfeiture of the jockey's share of the purse “if, in the opinion of the stewards, the unauthorized use of the whip caused the horse to achieve a better placing.”

On Nov. 5, the Guild filed a notice of appeal in Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, based on the position that the Guild's comments and concerns were not considered during the rulemaking process. The Guild also claimed that the NJRC rushed through adopting rules that are unsafe for the horses and jockeys while creating a “dangerous precedent” that is inconsistent with any other jurisdiction in America.

“This is, indisputably, the harshest restriction in the nation. It's more restrictive than the racing crop rules in neighboring states,” said Nancy Del Pizzo, a New Jersey-based attorney representing the Guild, during the Mar. 24 NJRC teleconference meeting. “This rule is like no other rule in the nation regarding abuse of the crop.”

Del Pizzo said that implementation of the new rules could trigger a “domino effect” of economic harm based on jockeys and horse owners not wanting to race at Monmouth. She claimed that Monmouth might not even be able to fill 12-horse races because so few jockeys will be based in New Jersey this year, and that the adverse financial effects that stem from not being able to whip horses will trickle down to farms and agricultural businesses. She expressed a belief that racing might even have to shut down over the new whip rules.

Del Pizzo said that in terms being able to differentiate between a jockey's use of the whip for safety (which is allowed) or for encouraging a horse to run faster (which is not), “there's just no way the stewards will be able to comprehend these instances.”

Del Pizzo contended the NJRC voted in the new rules contrary to a state law on quorums because only four members are seated on the commission instead of the required nine. She also said that since the rules are not yet in effect, maintaining the status quo makes sense while the court appeal is pending.

Del Pizzo additionally expressed dismay that the NJRC did not allow jockeys to address the commission on this issue during Wednesday's meeting.

Steven Gleeson, a deputy attorney general who advises the NJRC, said that “The request for a stay simply hasn't shown any irreparable harm that would come about [by] having the new rules go forward this spring when racing reopens. Basically, what they've been arguing is that this rule is different from other jurisdictions. Well that's not irreparable harm.”

As for the jockeys' concerns about safety, Gleeson said, “The rules themselves directly address safety. They permit the use of riding crops when necessary for the safety of the rider or the horse.”

Gleeson also said that the Guild and riders did indeed participate in the public commentary process, and that some of their concerns did, in fact, make it into the final versions of the rules.

Gleeson said the Guild's court appeal has no likelihood of success on legal merits, and that the quorum issue is moot because common-law rule states that a majority of however many members are seated on the board is what constitutes a quorum.

Just prior to the vote, NJRC chairperson Pamela Clyne argued that the commission couldn't just roll back the rules to those that were in place previously.

“When the commission adopted the new rules we repealed the prior rules, which prohibited using the riding crop in an abusive or reckless manner,” Clyne said. “If the commission grants the stay, there will not be any rule in place to protect the horses from the use of the riding crop.”

Commissioner Glen Vetrano said he was disturbed to learn via the Guild's attorney that jockeys who had wanted to testify during the meeting were told they couldn't.

Judith Nason, the NJRC's executive director, replied that the jockeys had been excluded on the advice of the NJRC's counsel based on the determination that the Guild's attorney would be representing them at the meeting.

“We're not tying the hands of jockeys,” Vetrano said, emphasizing that safety usage is still permitted. “And I hope that [stewards] allow them to use that riding crop [for safety] when need be.”

Clyne made a motion for the NJRC to reject the request of the stay. She voted yes, to keep the rules in place, as did Vetrano and commissioner Francis Keegan, Jr.

When Nason asked commissioner Michael Arnone for his vote, he replied, “I don't understand the vote here. To deny it is a no vote?”

No one corrected Arnone or made any clarification that a yes vote was required to deny the stay. It was unclear how his vote was counted; Nason only said, “The motion carries.”

TDN asked Del Pizzo via email after the meeting to comment on the decision. She replied that the Jockeys' Guild “is unable to respond while involved in litigation.”

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MG Warrior Retired, to Stand in Arkansas

Wed, 2021-03-24 16:38

M G Warrior (Majestic Warrior-Marvel Gaye, by Bowman's Band) has been retired from racing to stand his first season at stud at Charter Oak Farm LLC in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He will stand as property of Chrysalis Stables LLC for an introductory fee of $750 for the 2021 breeding season.

Trained by Brad Cox, M G Warrior won five of 17 starts before retiring with earnings of $298,226. The bay broke his maiden going 1 1/16 miles at Fair Grounds and then recorded four wins against allowance and allowance/optional claiming company at Churchill Downs and Oaklawn at distances from six furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.

“M G Warrior was a very nice horse to train and be around,” said Cox. “He was a solid runner and would be a nice fit in the Arkansas breeding program.”

For more information, contact Shea Stuart at (405) 226-0589 or Jill Neece at (561) 289-9323.

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FS1 Provides Coverage of Dubai World Cup

Wed, 2021-03-24 16:27

FS1 will offer live coverage of the G1 Dubai World Cup, with post time scheduled for 12:50 p.m. EST, Saturday, Mar. 27. Additionally, the deep undercard features six stakes, which will air live from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. EST on FS1. Coverage of the Dubai World Cup card on FS1 is presented by Star Guitar.

Rishi Persad, Tom Stanley and Angus McNae will be hosting the action from London, while Nick Lightfoot and Bernard Condren will bring viewers all the latest from Meydan Racecourse. The race call will be provided by Craig Evans. Laffit Pincay III will offer stateside updates live from Aqueduct Racetrack. Wagering is available in the United States via NYRA Bets.

In addition to the Dubai World Cup, the telecast will include live coverage of the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic [12:10 p.m.].

The Dubai World Cup undercard includes the G2 Godolphin Mile; G2 Dubai Gold Cup; G1 Al Quoz Sprint; G2 UAE Derby; G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen and G1 Dubai Turf.

Free Equibase-provided past performances are available for races that are part of the broadcast and can be accessed at

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The Deputy Rescued from TX Kill Pen

Wed, 2021-03-24 16:23

The Deputy (Ire) (Petardia {GB}), winner of the 2000 GI Santa Anita Derby and second choice in that year's GI Kentucky Derby, was rescued from a kill pen in Texas earlier this month by his old connections, Barry Irwin's Team Valor, Gary Barber and trainer Jenine Sahadi. The 24-year-old, who had stood stud in several states, was reportedly bought cheaply in Iowa and sent to a feedlot north of Dallas, at which point word quickly spread on the internet and made its way to The Deputy's past connections. By utilizing the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance network, Irwin, Barber and Sahadi enlisted Donna Keen to pick up and transfer The Deputy to her TAA-approved Remember Me Rescue in Burleson, TX, where he will live out his days.

“We decided to have Donna quarantine The Deputy for a while, do some diagnostic work including bloods and a fecal and not reveal anything about the rescue until we were certain that he was healthy, as Donna warned us that horses from feedlots can contract diseases quite readily,” Irwin said. “When the tests all came back negative [Wednesday] and the vet-check proved unremarkable, we decided it was time to tell the story, not to portray ourselves as heroes, but to put an end to the salacious, untrue and unfounded tales that had been circulating online. We want to thank those horse lovers who helped us in our endeavors.”

“We are thrilled to have been able to help the original connections and to be able to take care of the horse and share him with visitors to our rescue,” Keen said, “He is, as could be expected, a bit underweight at this time, but when he fills back up and once again looks the part we look forward to showing him off here in Texas. We are very honored and proud to have been selected as his forever home.”

Barber said, “I have always had a soft spot in my heart for The Deputy. He was my first Grade I winner.”

Sahadi added, “He was the easiest horse to be around. All class. He meant a lot to me and my barn.”

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Midnight Bisou Pronounced in Foal to Curlin

Wed, 2021-03-24 15:41

   Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute), 2019's champion older mare and a five-time GISW with earnings of nearly $7.5 million, has been pronounced in foal to Hill 'n' Dale stalwart, two-time Horse of the Year and fellow Steve Asmussen trainee Curlin. “Midnight Bisou was a mare with extraordinary ability. One can only imagine the possibilities from the mating of two such Greats of the breed,” said John G. Sikura, President of Hill 'n' Dale. Midnight Bisou sold for $5 million at last year's Fasig-Tipton November sale to Chuck Allen, who was partners with Bloom Racing Stable and Madaket Stables during Midnight Bisou's racing career.

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First Mares in Foal to Ocala Stud Stallions

Wed, 2021-03-24 13:50

New Ocala Stud residents Seeking the Soul (Perfect Soul {Ire}), Win Win Win (Hat Trick {Jpn}) and Dak Attack (Ghostzapper) have each had first mares scanned in foal.

Charles Fipke's Mine's Perfect (Mineshaft), from the family of Fipke's Grade I winners Forever Unbridled (Unbridled's Song) and Unbridled Forever (Unbridled's Song) and his GI Kentucky Oaks heroine Lemons Forever (Lemon Drop Kid), is in foal to Seeking the Soul. Also a Fipke homebred, Seeking the Soul racked up nearly $3.5 million with his signature win coming in the 2017 GI Clark H.

Bespoken (Bernardini) has been confirmed in foal to Win Win Win, a jaw-dropping victor of last year's GI Forego S. for Live Oak Plantation. Bespoken is out of the Grade I winner Well Chosen (Deputy Minister), who is also responsible for MGISW Telling (A.P. Indy).

Scat Daddy mare My Sweet Dani Girl is in foal to stakes-winning juvenile and $625,000 yearling Dak Attack.

For more information on Seeking the Soul, Win Win Win, or Dak Attack, contact David or Joe O'Farrell at (352) 237-2171 or visit

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Enhancements Made to Del Mar’s ‘Ship & Win’ in ’21

Wed, 2021-03-24 12:36

Del Mar's 'Ship & Win Program' will increase for the seaside track's 82nd season, beginning Friday, July 16. Ship & Win will provide horsemen and horsewomen who bring in out-of-state runners to race at Del Mar this summer a $4,000 starter bonus for their initial outing with a further 50% purse supplement for all dirt starters and a 40% purse supplement for all races run on turf. Those are the highest incentives provided since the program began in 2011. The purse bonuses extend to additional starts at the summer meet and are designed to enhance all purses won by first through fifth finishers.

“The Ship & Win program has been essential to Del Mar's racing program and for racing in California,” said Del Mar's racing secretary David Jerkens. “Our local owners and trainers are our biggest backers of the program, providing over 70% of the runners. Doubling the bonus levels this year has got people really excited. My phone is ringing off the hook.”

Del Mar, working in conjunction with Santa Anita to attract runners to Southern California, will extend purse benefits to a horse which makes its initial Ship & Win start in either May or June at Santa Anita. The same horse may make up to two starts during that period and still have its purse benefits extended through the Del Mar summer meet.

Ship & Win Rules:

  • Horses must have made their last start outside of California
  • Horses cannot have raced in California in the past 12 months
  • First-time starters are not eligible
  • $4,000 first-race starter fee to all qualifying horses 50% purse bonus for dirt finishers first through fifth; 40% purse bonus for turf finishers; bonuses stay the same for subsequent starts at the meet
  • If a Ship & Win horse is acquired (or claimed) after its initial S & W start, the original owner earns purse bonuses for subsequent outings through the summer meet
  • Stakes runners (including overnight stakes) are not eligible for the 50% or 40% purse supplement, but will receive the $4,000 starter bonus


Del Mar's 31-day summer meet concludes Labor Day Monday, Sept. 6. For more information, click here.

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Griffin Named New Parx Announcer

Wed, 2021-03-24 11:16

Chris Griffin has been named as the new voice of Parx Racing. Following the retirement of announcer Keith Jones in December, Parx launched an extensive search for their next track announcer.

“Keith was here for 34 years,” said Joe Wilson, Chief Operating Officer for Parx Racing. “This was a new process for all of us. Chris is a rising star in our industry with a tremendous work ethic. We are thrilled to welcome him to the Parx family.”

Griffin added, “This is my opportunity to enter a booth that saw a legend like Keith Jones call for so many years. I am grateful to the management at Parx for this incredible opportunity. Being able to call two million-dollar races as well as several other graded races is very exciting.”

A native of Santa Monica, California, Griffin got his start as an announcer for the National Hot Rod Association. After four years of traveling the country, Chris expanded his travels internationally as the full time announcer for the Harlem Globetrotters. While at a tour stop in Little Rock, Arkansas, Griffin's talent captured the attention of veteran race caller Frank Mirahmadi, who was calling the races at Oaklawn Park. Mirahmadi mentored Griffin and helped secure him his first full time racing job at the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale in 2015. He ended up calling races at the various California fair meets, Portland Meadows, Los Alamitos and Gulfstream Park West. In the fall of 2018 Griffin was named the track announcer at Sam Houston while pulling double duty as Marketing Manager.

Parx Racing runs Monday through Wednesday first with first post at 12:55pm.

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‘Champions Talk’ to Feature Five Champion Jockeys

Wed, 2021-03-24 11:01

The New York Race Track Chaplaincy announced the 2021 renewal of its Champions Talk fundraiser will feature five retired champion jockeys–Ángel Cordero Jr., Chris McCarron, Richard Migliore, Laffit Pincay Jr. and Jorge Velasquez. The quintet won over 34,000 races. The fundraiser will premiere on the organization's YouTube Channel and Facebook page Aug. 11, 2021.

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., a three-time Eclipse award winner, will also be honored in recognition of his dedication and support of the backstretch community in New York. Durkin, the former New York Racing Association announcer, will once again serve as the moderator for the panel and the discussion will be held in the Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion in Saratoga Springs.

“Champions Talk was so popular that we decided to make it a permanent part of our calendar,” said Ramón Dominguez, the President of the Board of the New York Race Track Chaplaincy.

“We are thrilled to have this star-studded lineup of riders and we know that fans will thoroughly enjoy hearing their tales and recollections from some of the most memorable races in the history of the sport.”

Tickets and sponsorships are available for the taping of the event which will be followed by a cocktail reception July 19 at Fasig-Tipton. In accordance with health protocols, a limited number of seats for the taping will be sold to the public and made available to sponsors.

As was the case last year, this event will be the sole Saratoga fundraiser for the organization.

“The needs of the backstretch workers over the past year have been even greater due to the pandemic and we hope racing fans will once again demonstrate their generosity by supporting

this event,” Rev. Humberto Chavez said.

For more information on tickets, or make a contribution to the NY Chaplaincy, visit

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