Stone named as Churchill Downs' new track announcer
"It's apparent that Travis works tirelessly to hone his craft with entertaining, colorful and accurate race calls. We believe he's one of the nation's premier announcers and will be a fabulous ambassador for Churchill Downs Racetrack in a community and region that loves horse racing like no other for years to come."
Stone will join an elite fraternity of Churchill Downs track announcers that include Gene Schmidt (1940-60), Chic Anderson (1961-77), Mike Battaglia (1978-96), Kurt Becker (1997-98), Luke Kruytbosch (1999-2008), Mark Johnson (2009-13) and Collmus (2014).
Stone has called races at Churchill Downs on two other occasions. He was a participant in the 2006 All-Star Announcer's Day on the day prior to the 2006 Breeders' Cup World Championships, and was part of a select group of five talented guest announcers who each spent one week behind the binoculars and microphone at Churchill Downs during the 2008 fall meet. He also has made guest appearances at Suffolk Downs, Calder Race Course and Golden Gate Fields.
Here's a link to Stone's call of this year's Haskell Invitational: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9dN2_OobTI. A compilation of select race calls can be heard at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-htUEbNuRI.
Old Friends to receive Special Eclipse Award
Other American Grade 1 winners currently residing at the main farm include champions Amazombie, Gulch and Hidden Lake, as well as Affirmed Success, Afternoon Deelites, Bonapaw, Commentator, Dinard, Early Pioneer, Fabulous Strike, Geri, Kiri's Clown, Kudos, Ogygian, Sarava, Sean Avery, Seek Gold, Special Ring, Tinners Way, Wallenda and You and I.
"This is just unbelievable," Blowen said. "We started with one horse just over 10 years ago and now we have 166 retirees. We have several Eclipse Award winners already at the farm; I can't wait to show them mine!"
Additional fan favorites include Rapid Redux, winner of 19 consecutive races in 2011, and Little Silver Charm, the operation's miniature mascot and the farm's only non-Thoroughbred. Old Friends also operates Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division near Saratoga Springs in upstate New York, where past Travers winners Thunder Rumble and Will's Way greet the public, along with infamous 100-time loser Zippy Chippy.
Even while working full-time for the Globe as a staff writer, Blowen would spend mornings at Suffolk Downs working for veteran trainer Carlos Figueroa. Mucking stalls and walking hots aren't typical side jobs for journalists, but for Blowen they were excuses to satisfy his growing fascination with horses. Shortly after Blowen retired from the Globe he accepted a position in Kentucky as operations director for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
"Old Friends is a special place," recently retired jockey and Old Friends board member Rosie Napravnik stated. "It is such a well-run organization and Michael Blowen is one of the most genuine people I've ever met in racing. When I pull up there I'm practically sprinting up the driveway I'm so excited. I don't really get starstruck by people but I do get starstruck when I visit Old Friends."
Old Friends offers daily tours and attracts up to 1,000 visitors per week during their busiest times of the year.
"Our industry has made significant progress in allowing former racehorses to live out dignified retirements thanks to Old Friends and likeminded organizations," NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop remarked. "We are grateful to Michael and his dedicated team of staff and volunteers for the positive impact they've had on our sport's commitment to aftercare and on the lives of hundreds of Thoroughbreds."
For more information, including how to donate or volunteer, please visit www.OldFriendsEquine.org.
The Special Award will be given for the 24th time since it was inaugurated in 1971 to honor Robert J. Kleberg, manager of the famed King Ranch. Subsequent recipients have included racing luminaries such as Bill Shoemaker, C.V. Whitney, Edward J. DeBartolo, Richard Duchossois, Russell Baze, Laffit Pincay Jr., Dale Baird, Team Zenyatta and last year's recipient, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA).
Old Friends will be the third aftercare-related recipient, following Monique Koehler, founder of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, in 2009, and the TAA.
A complete list of past Eclipse Award winners, including the Special Award recipients, may be accessed online at http://ntra.com/en/eclipse-awards/history.
Tickets to the Eclipse Awards ceremony are on sale for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. For reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 859-422-2657.
Durkin to be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit
"Tom Durkin has been one of the most remarkable and dynamic voices in our industry for more than a generation," said Alex Waldrop, NTRA president and CEO. "His uncanny ability to tell a story, build it with drama, tension and excitement through his more than 80,000 race calls was a tremendous gift to all of us who treasure horse racing. On behalf of all of the Thoroughbred industry, we congratulate Tom on his outstanding career and for making our sport a much richer and brighter experience for all."
At early age Durkin set his career goal to become a track announcer.
"I never really wanted to be anything else," Durkin recalled. "I was just a kid on the west side of Chicago. And it wasn't the least thing practical. It turned out far more than practical. How many people go to a job they really like?"
Born in the Austin District of Chicago's west side, Durkin idolized Arlington Park's renowned track announcer, Phil Georgeff, and the energy and excitement he brought to his craft. Years later, Durkin wrote the forward to Georgeff's autobiography.
A theatre major at St. Norbert College, Durkin's career behind the microphone began at country fair meetings in Wisconsin in 1971 before his first job at Florida Downs, now known as Tampa Bay Downs. He worked stints at Balmoral, Quad Cities and Cahokia Downs in the Midwest before moving east to call the harness races at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.
More big breaks soon came, starting with John Brunetti hiring him to call the races at Hialeah in 1981. Within three years, Durkin was tabbed by NBC Sports to call the Breeders' Cup, an unprecedented program of $10 million in purses spread over seven races, all televised live by NBC in a four-hour broadcast.
"That first Breeders' Cup was surreal," Durkin reminisced of the 1984 inaugural running at Hollywood Park. "Every race had a minimum of a $1 million purse. But the important thing was that for the first time championships were being decided on the racetrack. It crystalized when Chief's Crown crossed the finish line in the Juvenile and I said 'A champion is crowned, it's Chief's Crown.'"
A string of successes would continue into the next decade when, on August 29, 1990, Durkin became the track announcer for the NYRA venues of Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga. In a decade marked by expanded simulcast signals across North America, Durkin's calls could be heard on a more regular basis. His work also included calling races on ESPN and NBC broadcasts throughout the year, including trips to the Group 1 Irish Derby and Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
When NBC grabbed the rights to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, Durkin became the television voice of the Triple Crown beginning in 2001 and held that position for 10 years.
"Tom is more than deserving of the Award of Merit," six-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher remarked. "He's been such a mainstay in our industry for so many years and will clearly go down as one of the best race callers in history, if not the best. He's called most of my biggest career wins, including the 1998 Acorn Stakes with Jersey Girl, which was my first Grade 1 win, and all three of our Triple Crown victories. I would have to say the most memorable for me was his call of the 2007 Belmont Stakes when Rags to Riches triumphed to become the first filly in 102 years to win the race."
Durkin also has contributed time to some of the hardest working and unsung people in racing. For 17 years, he has served on the board of the Backstretch Employee Service Team (B.E.S.T.), which provides medical care, counseling and other services to backstretch workers at the NYRA tracks. Fans could hear Durkin call a race live from his booth in exchange for a donation to B.E.S.T. Approximately $200,000 was raised over a 10-year period. Durkin also spent many Thursday evenings at Saratoga calling Bingo games in both Spanish and English for the backstretch workers.
In an emotional farewell retirement ceremony following his call of the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga on August 30, Durkin stood before a rain-soaked audience in the winner's circle and credited the racing fan for his phenomenal career.
"There is one person that is completely responsible for this wonderful life that I've had the privilege to live in horse racing," he said. "That person is here in Saratoga today. Right now he's in the backyard sitting at a picnic table under a pine tree looking at this image on the television. She's at top of the stretch leaning over the rail, and she's in a box seat or at a simulcast center in Syracuse or at a track in Ohio or in front of a computer in California. The person I owe an inexpressible gratitude is you, the racing fan, the horseplayer. Thank you."
The Award of Merit will be given for the 39th time since it was inaugurated in 1976 to honor Jack Dreyfus, owner of Hobeau Farm and former NYRA chairman. Subsequent recipients have included racing luminaries such as Ogden Phipps, John Gaines, Alfred Vanderbilt, Bill Shoemaker, D.G. Van Clief Jr., Paul Mellon, Joe Hirsch, James E. Bassett III, John Nerud, Penny Chenery, William S. Farish, Richard Duchossois, Marylou Whitney and last year's recipient, D. Wayne Lukas.
A complete list of past Eclipse Award winners, including the Award of Merit recipients, can be accessed online at http://ntra.com/en/eclipse-awards/history.
Tickets to The Eclipse Awards ceremony are on sale for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. For reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at email@example.com, or call 859-422-2657.
Tiffany Lass fits Cassatt's plans; Villandry targeting Fair Grounds' turf stakes
Gainesway Stable's graded turf stakes winner Villandry has taken aim on the triad of graded turf stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course, according to trainer Charles LoPresti. The five-year-old homebred gelding exits a career-best performance when powering clear of the field by nearly three lengths in the Grade 3 River City H. at Churchill Downs over nine grassy furlongs on November 8. On Monday, the son of Mr. Greeley put in his first local work, a leisurely five furlongs in 1:02 4/5.
The 1 1/16-miles Bradley is followed by the Grade 3 Fair Grounds H. at 1 1/8-miles on February 21 and ultimately the centerpiece of the meet for turf horses, the Grade 2 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial H. on Louisiana Derby Day, March 28, at the same distance.
Shared Belief, Taris expected for Santa Anita's opening day Grade 1s
The Malibu has been won in the past by such equine elites such as Round Table (1957), Native Diver (1962), Buckpasser (1966), Damascus (1968), Ancient Title (1974), Spectacular Bid (1980), Precisionist (1984), Ferdinand (1986) and Rock Hard Ten (2004).
While many with an official voice likely have already made up their minds, Eclipse Award voting doesn't close until January 4, allowing ballots to be counted for races through 2014. Eclipse Award finalists will be announced January 7, with the winners revealed on the evening of Saturday, January 17, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida.
Asked about Shared Belief's chances for a 2014 Eclipse Award, Hollendorfer said that since he didn't have a say in the matter, he would "leave that up to the voters."
In addition to Shared Belief, those considered probable for the Malibu are Grade 3 victors Chitu and Midnight Hawk; dual stakes-placed Conquest Two Step; stakes runner-up and course-record setter Eddie's First; and stakes hero Indianapolis.
The Malibu is one of two Grade 1 races on December 26 as Santa Anita begins its 78th season. The Grade 1, $300,000 La Brea Stakes for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs will also be featured on the nine-race program that also includes the Grade 2, $200,000 Mathis Brothers Mile, formerly run as the Sir Beaufort Stakes, for sophomores on the turf.
"She came back with a slight issue after that race," Callaghan said of the Honeybee. "I can't quite remember what it was, but there was some issue. Aside from that, she's got a very good record."
Rafael Bejarano rides Taris for new owners Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and John Magnier in the La Brea. The filly is scheduled to work four furlongs on Saturday.
Magic Millions, Racing Queensland unveil Australia's first $10-million program
Officials at Magic Millions in conjunction with Racing Queensland have announced the creation of the Jeep Magic Millions Raceday, the country's first-ever A$10-million program, to be held Saturday, January 9, 2016. The meeting, which will rank among the world's 10 richest, is part of a seven-year partnership which is intended to take the summer racing program in Australia with the Magic Millions Racing Queensland Summer Carnival.
"The phenomenal support and foresight of Racing Queensland, in concert with Magic Millions, has created the Magic Millions $10-Million Raceday," Vin Cox, managing director of the auction house, stated. "The combined vision is a game-changer for Queensland racing, for the Gold Coast and for the Australian Thoroughbred industry as a whole.
"The partnership with Racing Queensland is long-term, which invigorates Thoroughbred racing for the current generation of industry stakeholders, as well as creating momentum and motivation for the next generation of Queenslanders and Australians committing to a Thoroughbred industry career."
The 2015 series features total purse money of A$4.2 million, highlighted by the A$2-million Magic Millions 2YO Classic over 1200 meters. That race will see its prize money boosted to A$2.5 million. While the Magic Millions 3YO Guineas is the only other seven-figure race during next month's races, the newly bolstered series will see no fewer than seven races of A$1 million or more. The 2016 running of the 3YO Guineas will be contested for A$2 million, twice that of the current purse.
Racing Queensland Chairman Kevin Dixon believes the increased purses will attract the best horses and the attention of the racing world.
"Over the past six months, we have built a strong platform with base-level and feature prize money increases and this partnership is the next phase in our vision to take Queensland racing to the world," Dixon remarked. "(This) announcement is just one part of an overall program to continually improve all three codes of racing in Queensland."
To be eligible for the series, the nomination fee for yearlings offered at Magic Millions sales is A$4,950 (including GST) and that will pay up any purchase through its lifetime for participation in any of the Magic Millions-sponsored races across Australia, including the $10-million extravaganza on the Gold Coast.
In a special offer to buyers at the Gold Coast March Sale, the nomination fee will be A$3,300 (including GST), a number which is capped for seven years under the new partnership.
Additionally, Magic Millions is offering a one-off opportunity for owners of eligible horses offered at a Magic Millions yearling sale in 2014 or earlier not previously nominated to do so via a late registration. This windo of opportunity will remain through July 31, 2015 and will not be offered again, according to the company. Horses subject to late registration will qualify to nominate to a race on Magic Millions Raceday, excluding the 2YO Classic and the 3YO Guineas. The late registration fee will be A$4,950 (including GST).
Dixon explained that there will be a slight twist come entry day.
"Another clincher will be the addition of four wild card entries into four $1-million races on Jeep Magic Millions Raceday, which will be granted to eligible winners of four selected races during the summer carnival and potentially give four non-Magic Millions horses a chance to race on the day."
Queensland Minister of Racing Steve Dickson said that Magic Millions is already a contributor to the Gold Coast economy, but that this new partnership would further boost the state's racing and tourism industries.
"We want to grow tourism, as one of the four pillars of the economy, and events like the Magic Millions really help put our state on the map," Dickson said. "Where else can you watch top-quality horses compete for $10 million in stakes just a stone's throw from some of the world's most beautiful beaches?"
Dixon is already looking forward to the event.
"This is a monumental day for the Queensland racing industry and the partnership with Magic Millions leaves no doubt as to where we want to take our racing product," he commented.
JEEP MAGIC MILLIONS RACEDAY
*Distance to be determined
Unbeaten Dortmund makes stakes bow in Los Alamitos Futurity
Mr. Z is the most experienced runner in the field, having already started seven times this year. The Kentucky-bred began his long season with a maiden debut score at Churchill in late June and has faced off against nothing but graded rivals since. He just missed by a neck next out in the Grade 3 Sanford at Saratoga before filling the second spot yet again at the Spa in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.
A second in Keeneland's Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity was sandwiched between fifth-place efforts in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill and Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita Park. Mr. Z will enter the Los Alamitos Futurity off a nose second last out in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot on November 22. Mike Smith has the call.
No Problem is the only other entrant with prior stakes experience in the field. The Munnings chestnut took two tries to break his maiden, getting the job done at Santa Anita on October 26, before adding Del Mar's Grade 3 Bob Hope to his resume on November 15. Trained by Mike McCarthy, No Problem has gone off at double-digit odds in two of his three starts, and keeps Victor Espinoza in the saddle on Saturday.
Bench Warrant and Firing Line are both maiden winners with a single loss on their records. The former, a John Sadler-trained son of Street Boss, took his career opener before finishing third against optional claiming challengers, both at Del Mar. Firing Line was second in his Santa Anita bow but then broke his maiden by 4 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on November 30 for trainer Simon Callaghan. The Line of David bay will have Rafael Bejarano in the irons while Tyler Baze will get a leg up on Bench Warrant.
Tropical Park Derby and Oaks attract overflow fields
Also showing up in the Derby are Wallyanna, upset winner of the Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes, and Commonwealth Turf runner-up Other Cheek.
The contentious Oaks field also includes Sandiva's stablemate Patsy's Holiday, who is unraced since taking the Desert Vixen Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 19 as well as Sumba Sunset and She's Not Here, the respective runner-up and third-placer in the Grade 3 Boiling Springs at Monmouth in September.
Palace Malice's New Orleans Handicap named 2014's best performance
Palace Malice was one of only nine horses to crack the 110 Speed Rating threshold and one of only four to top a 125 Class Rating. Dogwood plans to run Palace Malice in 2015 before he retires to stud at Three Chimneys in Midway, Kentucky. Palace Malice has won seven of 17 starts lifetime, has earned $2,676,135, and his resume also includes a victory in the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
The top Speed Rating of the year went to Taris, who earned a 115 when winning the Lexus Raven Run Stakes on October 18 at Keeneland. The top Class Rating of 2014 belongs to Close Hatches, who earned a 125.8 when winning the Personal Ensign Stakes on August 22 at Saratoga.
As the only horse to earn two Speed Ratings of at least 109 and three of at least 108, Bayern was consistently the year's fastest horse, topping off at 110 for his Breeders' Cup Classic victory that earned a 124 Class Rating.
Speed and Class Ratings are available in the Ultimate Past Performances on Brisnet.com and are free to TwinSpires.com players when they wager.
Blushing K.D., Diliberto Memorial featured at Fair Grounds
Eden Prairie is another who thrives on the local sod. The Mizzen Mast filly has won three of five on the Stall-Wilson turf, including back-to-back triumphs last meet in the Pago Hop and Marie Krantz Memorial. Third in the Treasure Chest last time, the bay's last turf meeting with Class Included resulted in a second-place finish behind that mare in the Bayou Handicap in February.
Dual allowance scorers Flashy Gal, Kitten's Queen, and Distorted Music are also among the field of eight.
The Diliberto Memorial field on Friday features Grand Contender, who landed consecutive Grade 3s in the Texas Mile and Lone Star Park Handicap last spring. Third in his title defense of the Delta Mile on November 22 following a four-month layoff, the Tom Amoss trainee has never run on grass.
Of those with turf experience, multiple stakes winner Bim Bam, Grade 3 veteran Infinite Magic, and Adios Nardo appear best. The latter finished second in both this race and the Col. E.R. Bradley Handicap last year, both times to Daddy Nose Best.
Another prominent entry is Golden Soul. The 2013 Kentucky Derby runner-up was in a deep rut for more than a year and a half following that effort in the Churchill Downs classic, but has found new life on turf of late, taking two allowances at the recently concluded Churchill fall meet.
Gentleman's Kitten, an allowance winner over this course in January, is a potential factor from on or near the pace.
Bob Baffert says American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) is undergoing massage treatment at his Santa Anita barn and is expected to resume training next month. Favored to win the November 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the two-time Grade 1-winning juvenile was scratched four days before the race due to a deep bruise in his left front leg...
Dual classic conqueror and recent Hollywood Derby (G1) victor California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit), pointing to the $500,000 San Antonio S. (G2) on February 7, is scheduled to work at his Los Alamitos headquarters Friday morning at 8 a.m. (PST) under regular rider Victor Espinoza. The Art Sherman trainee captured his turf bow in the Hollywood Derby but returns to dirt for the nine-furlong San Antonio...
Two-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder (Henny Hughes) arrived at Santa Anita on Thursday after being turned out at Peacefield Farm near Temecula, California, recovering from a fever which forced her to miss a title defense run in the October 31 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Santa Anita. "We'll look her over for a couple days and X-ray her lungs to make sure everything is good," Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella said Thursday morning. "If it is, then I'll send her to Julie Adair's facility in Chino for a couple of weeks where she can start trotting and get into a little shape, and then I'll bring her back to Santa Anita. We expect everything to be fine, but if not, we'll regroup." Beholder was last seen taking the Zenyatta (G1) for the second straight year on September 27 in her final prep for the Breeders' Cup...
Goldencents (Into Mischief) went out in style, capturing the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile for the second straight year before being retired as a stallion at Spendthrift Farm near Lexington, Kentucky. "He left after the Breeders' Cup (on October 31)," said Dennis O'Neill, brother of trainer Doug O'Neill. "He couldn't be any better. We actually have quite a few breedings, 10 mares in fact, so we're going to support him as a stallion. We're really excited. The breeding season starts February 15 and it looks like they've got 160, 170 mares already, so he's got a full book. Initially he was to stand for $12,500, but after he won the Breeders' Cup again, they bumped it up to $15,000." Meanwhile, Doug O'Neill returns from serving a 75-day suspension on Friday and horses will begin running in his name as trainer again on Santa Anita's opening day, Friday, December 26...
Multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Clubhouse Ride (Candy Ride), who worked five furlongs Monday in 1:01 over Santa Anita's fast dirt, is a candidate for the $100,000 Daytona S. (G3) going about 6 1/2 furlongs on turf, pending another scheduled breeze on Monday. "If he comes out of that good, he might run in the Daytona," trainer Craig Lewis said. "He hurt his back (two starts back) in the (August 24) Pacific Classic (G1) and had some soft tissue damage near his pelvis, but he's such a tough horse we didn't know anything was wrong until we did a nuclear scan."...
Fair Grounds will also host a pair of stakes on Sunday. The $50,000 Tiffany Lass S. drew a field of five distaffers going a mile and 70 yards while the $50,000 Tenacious S. sends older runners the same distance. Ten were entered in the latter event, including Grand Contender (Strong Contender). The six-year-old gelding recorded back-to-back Grade 3 wins at Lone Star Park during the spring, taking the Texas Mile and Lone Star Park H. for trainer Tom Amoss, and is exiting a third-place run in the Delta Mile on November 22. Grand Contender finished fourth in the 2013 Tenacious. Fellow Amoss pupil Rise Up (Rockport Harbor), hero of the 2013 Delta Downs Jackpot (G3), is seeking his second win of the year in the Tenacious. The bay sophomore romped by 10 3/4 lengths in the Robert Hilton Memorial at Charles Town in April and was third against optional claiming rivals in his most recent start on November 27. Agent Di Nozzo (Ghostzapper), third in last year's Tenacious returns for another shot at the race, as does Flashy Sunrise (Flashy Bull), who has gone 2-1-0 from seven starts since his seventh-place run in the 2013 edition...
Gold Hawk (Empire Maker) continues preparations at Fair Grounds toward a 2015 comeback. The well-bred colt -- by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker and out of champion Caressing -- is unraced since an unplaced finish in a June 28 allowance at Churchill Downs. Earlier in his career, the Steve Asmussen-trained colt showed considerable promise, recording a convincing allowance win at the New Orleans oval 12 months ago before a third as the favorite in the Lecomte (G3). "Nothing specific is planned for him yet," said David Fiske, racing manager for owner Winchell Thoroughbreds. "We just want to get him back going. He had a little downtime at the farm and we took a chip out of an ankle and removed an undescended testicle that might've been bothering him. We'll take our time with him." On Monday, Gold Hawk breezed five furlongs in 1:01 2/5, his fourth work since rejoining the Asmussen Fair Grounds string...
Record annual turnover for the second consecutive year and the highest price for a Thoroughbred at public auction anywhere in the world in 2014 were amongst the highlights of another outstanding year at Tattersalls. Annual turnover at Europe's leading bloodstock auctioneers rose from the previous record level of 248,675,700 guineas to an unprecedented 263,411,173 guineas, with other individual highlights including the highest-priced auction yearling in the world for the third year in a row, the world's highest priced Breeze Up two-year-old and a record average of 53,376 guineas for the 4,935 lots sold during the year. "To have added almost 15 million guineas to last year's unprecedented level of turnover is a remarkable achievement and a testimony to the consistently outstanding stock that our predominantly British and Irish consignors have entrusted to Tattersalls," Tattersalls Chairman Edmond Mahony said. "Individual highlights such as the 4.5 million guineas sale of Just the Judge, the year's highest priced auction yearling at Book 1 of the October Yearling Sale and the first ever seven-figure Breeze Up horse in Europe at the Craven Breeze Up Sale, grab the headlines, but the outstanding annual clearance rate of 83.5 percent is not only unmatched this century, but is also a real measure of the strength and depth to the sales at Tattersalls throughout the year. That Tattersalls, uniquely amongst British and Irish Thoroughbred auctioneers, has surpassed the pre-recession levels of turnover by such a wide margin, is a cause for industry optimism as we look forward to 2015. With market leading sales in all categories, Park Paddocks remains the focal point for so many involved in our truly global business and, at this time of year, it is appropriate to thank each and every individual who has helped make 2014 another record breaking year at Tattersalls."
DECEMBER 19, 2014
by Dick Powell
Late in life, I have become a soccer geek. It began about six years ago and many weekday afternoons I am watching Champions League soccer from Europe. At its highest level, it is an incredible sporting event and the intrigue surrounding the players and managers becomes addictive.
So last season, when Bob Baffert unveiled Bayern (Offlee Wild) in January, it caught my attention since Bayern Munich is the perennial champion of the German Soccer League (Bundesliga). When he beat Tap It Rich (Tapit) by 15 lengths in his second career start, he really caught my attention.
So Bayern went on to have a great year that culminated with his controversial win in the Breeders' Cup Classic, his second Grade 1 stakes win of the year. The day after the Classic, I was flying back to Saratoga and missed the unveiling of Dortmund (Big Brown) at Santa Anita.
Named after another Bundesliga team, Borussia Dortmund, Dortmund is owned by Bayern's owner, and soccer fan, Kaleem Shah, and he won his debut going 6 1/2 furlongs by 4 3/4 lengths when he stalked a fast pace and took over with ease.
Baffert next shipped him to Churchill Downs where he beat first-level allowance foes by almost eight lengths from post 12 in fast time. He covered the mile in 1:35.39 despite covering more ground than anyone in the field as Martin Garcia kept him wide and in the clear.
Dortmund earned a BRIS Speed rating of 98 and now he shows up for the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) going two turns at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday. Despite the lack of stakes credentials, he is the early favorite in many pools for the 2015 Kentucky Derby. He has unbelievable cruising speed and a potent late kick. When horses get better when asked to go longer, the sky is the limit and Dortmund's stakes debut is eagerly anticipated.
In Dortmund's way -- ironically on a track that both Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas cut their teeth in Quarter Horse racing -- is Lukas' Mr. Z (Malibu Moon). He loses more than he wins but he has run well going two turns with blinkers added. Lukas shipped him to Delta Downs where he just missed in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3).
Mr. Z only has one career win but he has four seconds against graded stakes company and could be tough here if Mike Smith sends him from the gate and tries to take advantage of a small field that seems to lack pace.
What a great classic season it could be next year if we have Lukas and Baffert on the road to the Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
New York is on a well-earned break with no racing for 10 days. Racing will resume on the day after Christmas and hopefully we will see better field sizes.
Since the Inner Dirt Track opened on December 3, the average field size was 7.56. It is even worse when you break out the two-turn races from the sprints. In 45 races going two turns, the average field size was 7.27. In 55 sprint races, the average field size was 7.8. Not great either but better than the two-turn races.
There were a few off-the-turf races at the start of the meet so that hurt the two-turn numbers but not that much.
David Jacobson is the leading trainer with five wins. Todd Pletcher and Linda Rice have won four and Tom Albertrani, Charlton Baker, Eddie Kenneally, Gary Contessa, Gary Gullo, Kiaran McLaughlin and Michael Wilson have won three each.
McLaughlin's three wins all came last weekend. All were first-time starters. All were heavy favorites. Two were juveniles and one was a three-year-old. McLaughlin wins 14 percent with his debut runners and that percentage will go up. They all ran with Lasix since Darley owned the sophomore and they do not let their juveniles run with it.
Best of the bunch was Perchance (Distorted Humor). This juvenile filly was owned and bred by Stonestreet Stables and she faced 11 others in Sunday's 4TH race. She stalked a modest pace from the inside, swung out to challenge for the lead, then cruised home while being throttled down. Her final time of 1:14.18 was not much but she clearly had a lot left in the tank.
By Distorted Humor out of multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Dream Rush (Wild Rush), she is a half-sister to Dreaming of Julia (A.P. Indy), who won the Frizette Stakes (G1) and Gulfstream Oaks (G2), and the exciting Atreides (Medaglia d'Oro), who is four-for-five and coming to a big race near you.
When Dreaming of Julia won the Gulfstream Oaks, she earned a BRIS Speed rating of 107 and, on many horse rating systems, it was the fastest race ever run. She won by 21 3/4 lengths and it was a monstrous performance that she was never able to repeat. But it showed an incredible amount of talent and if Perchance can show a fraction of her half-sister's ability, Stonestreet could have another good one on their hands.
HANDICAPPER'S EDGE is compiled by Bloodstock Research Information Services. This newsletter may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without the prior written permission of the copyright owner. Copyright 2011, Bloodstock Research Information Services. Information as to the races, race results and earnings was obtained from Equibase Company LLC and is utilized herein with the permission of the copyright owner, Equibase Company LLC.
A horse racing website is currently hiring for part-time positions as a Customer Service Representative in Lexington, Kentucky. Must be available nights and weekends. Some weekdays may also be available. Computer literacy required, horse racing knowledge and customer service experience a plus. To schedule an interview, email or send your résumé to the following: Nancy.Kanaval@brisnet.com, P.O. Box 4097, Lexington, KY 40544.