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Irad Ortiz Jr. to compete in Hong Kong's International Jockeys' Championship

Irad Ortiz Jr. will face such aces as Ryan Moore and Joao Moreira (NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography)
The 2014 International Jockeys' Championship takes place at Happy Valley racecourse on December 10, when 12 of the world's elite riders will compete for a share of the HK$800,000 purse. 

A first-prize of HK$500,000 makes Hong Kong's IJC among the most lucrative competitions of its kind in the world and the four-race contest annually attracts superstars from around the globe. Second place is worth HK$200,000 and third place HK$100,000.

For this year's IJC, the Hong Kong Jockey Club has again assembled a stellar line-up of international riders. Three-time British champion jockey and Group 1 ace Ryan Moore leads the standings for the inaugural Longines World's Best Jockey award. He heads to Happy Valley having bagged 15 Group 1 wins in seven countries so far this year. 

Richard Hughes recently completed a hat-trick of champion jockey titles in Britain; Christophe Soumillon is on the cusp of his seventh title in France; Pat Smullen was crowned Ireland's champion for the seventh time this year; New Zealand's James McDonald took the Sydney premiership last season and has twice won the title in his homeland; and S'Manga Khumalo is South Africa's reigning champion jockey. 

From North America, Irad Ortiz Jr. is one of that continent's outstanding young talents. Not only was he crowned leading rider at Belmont's fall meeting this year, but the Puerto Rican also notched a first Breeders' Cup success earlier this month. Japan's two-time champion jockey Yuichi Fukunaga is a man with an international Group 1 pedigree, as is Australia's Kerrin McEvoy, the reigning IJC champion, who won the Melbourne Premiership in 2012/2013 and is one for the big occasions.

"Once again the Longines IJC has attracted an exceptional array of talent from around the world -- this is a line-up of champions. The consistently high quality of participants, year on year, is testament to the international importance of this event," said William A. Nader, the Hong Kong Jockey Club's executive director of racing.

"This competition has a long tradition of showcasing great riders and this year we have nine of the very best overseas jockeys, all in exceptional form, who will come here and take on three of Hong Kong's very own. That trio will likely include the outstanding pair of Zac Purton and Joao Moreira, two of world racing's finest talents. It will be exciting; it will be thrilling; the atmosphere at Happy Valley will be electric."    

Purton is set to take his place thanks to his status as the reigning Hong Kong champion jockey. The brilliant Australian became only the second rider ever to accumulate a century of winners in a Hong Kong season when winning the title for the first time in July. Also likely to line up is the Brazilian sensation Joao Moreira who seems likely to qualify as the current Hong Kong Premiership leader. Moreira is a four-time Singapore champion jockey and was runner-up to Purton in last season's title race.

The final spot is open to Hong Kong's leading homegrown jockey (a graduate of the Hong Kong Jockey Club's Apprentice Jockeys' School) according to the standings on November 26. That looks like being Vincent Ho whose 14 wins for the season so far are five more than his nearest local rivals.

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Edwards continues role as Eclipse Awards host

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced Friday that sports broadcaster Jeannine Edwards of ESPN and ABC will host the 44th Annual Eclipse Awards presented by Daily Racing Form, Breeders' Cup and The Stronach Group. The Eclipse Awards, which honors the 2014 champions of Thoroughbred racing, will be held January 17, at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. It will be the fourth consecutive year Edwards has emceed the ceremony.

"It is an absolute privilege to once again be hosting the Eclipse Awards," Edwards said. "It's a night unlike any other on the racing calendar -- glitzy, suspenseful, and the perfect setting to soak in the accomplishments of so many talented individuals, both two- and four-legged. I'm truly honored to be back, and along with the rest of the crowd can't wait to revisit a year's worth of memorable moments."

Edwards joined ESPN in 1995, initially working exclusively on Thoroughbred racing. Since then she's worked the sidelines for college football and college basketball, in addition to reporting on various news and stories for SportsCenter.

In 2009, Edwards was part of the broadcast team that won an Eclipse Award for the Belmont Stakes telecast on ABC, as well as an Emmy nomination for the Breeders' Cup on ESPN. That same team won a second Eclipse Award and a second Emmy nomination for the 2010 Breeders' Cup telecast. Edwards has also been consistently named as one of the top 10 female sportscasters by several media outlets.

A native of Tenafly, New Jersey, Edwards spent 10 years on the racetrack as an exercise rider, apprentice jockey and trainer of Thoroughbred racehorses in New York and New Jersey before initially getting into television in 1994 as an in-house TV host at racetracks in Maryland.

"Jeannine always brings both a sharp wit and a sincere respect for horse racing to her hosting duties," NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop said. "She is a professional who knows how to set the right tone for a prestigious occasion like the Eclipse Awards."

Eclipse Awards tickets are available for $400 each or $4,000 for a table of 10. A block of rooms have been reserved at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, located on the ocean and only a short distance from Gulfstream Park. For ticket purchases and room reservations, please contact Michele Ravencraft of the NTRA at, or call (859) 422-2657.

The "black-tie optional" Eclipse Awards highlight a full weekend of events, several of which will be tied to charitable causes. A Friday night, January 16, party in the Gulfstream Park paddock benefitting Gulfstream Thoroughbred Aftercare will have a "Havana Nights" theme. Saturday, January 17, is Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream with five major stakes races for Florida-breds cumulatively worth more than $1 million. Sunday, January 18, features a "First Chance/Last Chance" qualifier for the National Handicapping Championship.

Eclipse Awards voting is conducted by the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters (NTWAB), the NTRA and Daily Racing Form. The Eclipse Awards ceremony is produced by the NTRA.

The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.

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'Hercules' tops Keeneland's Sporting Art Auction

"Hercules" (photo courtesy of Keeneland)

Large crowds, brisk bidding and the sale of the massive triptych "Hercules" for $149,500, including buyer premium, highlighted the second annual Sporting Art Auction, held Wednesday at Keeneland.

The auction, a collaboration between Keeneland Association and Cross Gate Gallery of Lexington, Kentucky, realized gross sales of $2.25 million.

"The success of this auction confirms that there is a strong demand for quality sporting art," Keeneland Vice President of Sales Walt Robertson said. "The contemporary and 20th century artists, such as Richard Stone Reeves and Peter Howell, sold extremely well."

By American artist Ashley Collins, the sale-topping Hercules is a 96"x120" master oil which pays homage to the horse Sir Hercules, who overcame physical challenges to become a stakes winner. The piece depicts a figurative horse overlaid on layers of historical pages from the 1800s that were touched by those living concurrently with Sir Hercules.

"Un Taureau Et Un Ours (A Bull and a Bear)" (photo courtesy of Keeneland)

The Sporting Art Auction featured 175 high-quality lots representing fine sporting art, American paintings and sculpture by world-renowned artists. Seventy-five percent of the artwork sold, with 40 percent of those pieces bringing final bids above their listed high estimate value.

In addition to Hercules, three other pieces sold for six figures:

  • LeRoy Neiman's "Bill Hartack Wins With Majestic Prince," signed and dated 1969, the year Majestic Prince won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, sold for $143,750.
  • "Un Taureau Et Un Ours (A Bull and a Bear)," by noted French artist Isidore Jules Bonheur and first shown in the Paris Salon in 1857, brought $138,000. Bonheur is known to have produced only two of this subject in this size. One sat in the Luncheon Club of the New York Stock Exchange for decades and now resides in the Museum of American Finance in New York City. The second bronze is the one sold here.
  • Richard Stone Reeves' "Three Kings," an oil on canvas signed by the artist and depicting champions Nijinsky II, Spectacular Bid and Secretariat with grooms at Claiborne Farm, went for $126,500.
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    Churchill Downs scheduled to race Friday

    Conditions are expected to warm up over the weekend at Churchill (Churchill Downs photo)

    Following back-to-back cancellations due to a frozen racetrack, racing at Churchill Downs will resume Friday at 12:40 p.m. (EST) with its regularly-scheduled 10-race program.

    "Our superb track maintenance team has diligently worked around the clock to ensure that we have a suitable cushion, and after assessing the track condition this afternoon (Thursday), we concluded that it's safe to resume training and racing," said Kevin Flanery, president of Churchill Downs Racetrack. "Horses on the track Friday will be a welcomed sight for all involved."

    Additionally, the one-mile dirt oval is expected to be open for training Friday from 6-10 a.m.

    Two races are scheduled for the Matt Winn Turf Course on Friday but a decision on whether or not they remain on that surface won't be made until Friday morning.

    Monday was the last day that horses trained over the Churchill Downs main track thanks to an early winter blast of three inches of snow that morning. Compounded by frigid temperatures, the track had been frozen and 10-race cards scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday were canceled.

    Churchill Downs' track maintenance team -- a 26-person operation led by David Lehr, senior director of track surfaces, and Jamie Richardson, assistant track superintendent -- will continue to harrow and grade the racing surface Thursday and into Friday to ensure that it doesn't refreeze.

    The National Weather Service forecast for Louisville, Kentucky, on Thursday called for mostly sunny skies with a high near 34 and a west wind around 10 miles per hour. Temperatures would fall to a low around 20 overnight and rise to 38 with sunshine on Friday. A high of 51 is forecasted for Saturday with a 30-percent chance of showers after 8 a.m. Sunday calls for an 80-percent chance of rain with a high near 61. The average temperature in Louisville this time of the year is typically in the upper 50s.

    Cancellations of Churchill Downs racing programs due to weather conditions are rare. When Wednesday's and Thursday's programs were called off it was the first time since November 23-24, 1970, that a frozen racetrack forced back-to-back cancellations.

    In the track's 140-year history, there have been only 20 documented weather-related cancellations and just seven pertaining to winter weather.

    Churchill Downs intends to make up as many of the canceled races as possible by adding races to its remaining programs. Closing day of the fall meet is Sunday, November 30, which means only eight scheduled racing dates remain. An 11-race program is scheduled for Saturday, highlighted by the Grade 3, $100,000 Cardinal Handicap. Eleven races also were carded for Sunday, which means both weekend programs will end at 5:38 p.m., a half-hour later than originally scheduled.

    Closing week at Churchill Downs (November 26-30) is one of the most anticipated fall meet events. Thanksgiving Day at the track has been a Louisville tradition since 1969 where more than 7,000 turkey dinners are served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number served anywhere in the region.

    The "Black Friday" card features the Grade 1, $500,000 Clark Handicap and annually lures some of the top older horses in North America. Stars of Tomorrow II is showcased on Saturday, November 29, which features races exclusively for two-year-olds who have aspirations of trail-blazing their way to next year's Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

    The closing day card on Sunday, November 30, doubles as Fan Appreciation Day with free general admission, a free 2015 Churchill Downs Wall Calendar courtesy of Humana to the first 5,000 fans, and $1 special food and beverage offerings: 16 oz. domestic draft beer, 22 oz. Pepsi product fountain drinks, bottled water and hot dogs.

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    Lochte stars in Tropical Turf; Angelica Zapata, Daring Kathy highlight My Charmer

    Lochte earned his biggest win to date in the GP Turf Handicap (Adam Coglianese Photography)

    Lochte figures to be well backed in the betting for Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park West, if for no other reason than the four-year-old gelding is one of two Grade 1 winners in the field.

    The son of Medaglia d'Oro sprung a 39-1 surprise in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on February 9 for trainer Marcus Vitali. He validated that result with a close-up second in the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile at Santa Anita and a third-place finish in the Grade 1 Makers 46 Mile at Keeneland in his next two starts. Lochte didn't fare nearly as well in four subsequent races at Monmouth, Belmont and Saratoga during the summer before returning to South Florida.

    "From the beginning, I've always had my ups and downs with him. He's had his share of problems, like any athlete. Now, we've got him well managed and he's been on the upswing," Vitali explained. "We're going to take it one race and a time and hopefully point him in the right direction."

    Of course, the ultimate goal for Lochte is a title defense in the Grade 1, $300,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on February 7 on a turf course over which he has shown a distinct affinity.

    Although his fondness for the Gulfstream turf was reconfirmed with a late-charging victory in the The Vid Stakes upon his return to South Florida on September 13, Lochte still has to prove himself over the course at Gulfstream Park West, where he was beaten as the odds-on favorite in an open allowance race on October 18. The dark bay raced wide throughout that mile turf race before taking the lead in midstretch, only to be caught late by Dreams Cut Short, one of 13 (including four main-track-only horses) entered in Saturday's Tropical Turf.

    "I just think the trip got him beat. I think it was unavoidable. It was just the way the race unfolded. It cost him the race," Vitali said. "He likes to get covered up and make one big run."

    Orlando Bocachica, Vitali's go-to rider, has the return mount aboard Lochte, Saturday's 5-2 morning-line favorite who provided all of his connections with memorable moments last February.

    "It was a very exciting day," Vitali noted. "That was my first Grade 1 and it was the first Grade 1 for Orlando, and I think it was the first Grade 1 for (owner) Crossed Sabres. It was a win-win-win."

    Unbridled Command will attempt to recapture the Grade 1 form he flashed almost two years ago when he capped a five-race win streak with victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on November 15, 2012. The five-year-old son of Master Command was far from disgraced when he finished third behind Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom in the 2013 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap, but after more than a year layoff he's gone winless in four starts on the West Coast this season.

    The New York-bred veteran is scheduled to make his first start since finishing ninth in the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship at Santa Anita on September 28 as well as his first start for trainer Marty Wolfson.

    A look at the past performances of Rapscallion might lead one to think that trainer Graham Motion entered the Speightstown four-year-old for the Tropical Turf in the hopes that the 1 1/8-mile contest is moved to the main track. The bay gelding's last two victories have come in off-the-turf races at Keeneland, including a front-running second-level allowance victory by 4 1/2 lengths in his most recent start.

    "I wasn't really thinking of that. I was more thinking that it was a good spot and the timing was good. It was a chance to see if he improved in general, or if it was a freak thing with the move to dirt, but I've always thought he was a better turf horse," Motion said. "He's coming off a nice win on the dirt at Keeneland, but we always thought he was more of a grass horse.

    "We gelded him before his last start, and I'd like to think that helped him a little bit. He probably wasn't putting everything into it that we'd seen he was capable of in the morning, Motion said. "In the morning, he always breezed like a nice horse."

    Angelica Zapata is seeking her first graded score in the My Charmer (Leslie Martin/Adam Coglianese Photography)

    Two races following the Tropical Turf, Angelica Zapata will attempt to add a first graded victory to her 10 career stakes wins when facing 10 rivals, plus two main-track only entrants, in the Grade 3, $100,000 My Charmer Handicap.

    The six-year-old Sharp Humor mare just missed by a half-length while closing out 2013 in the My Charmer and opened her 2014 campaign with a third-placing in the Grade 3 Marshua's River on January 4 at Gulfstream Park, beaten a length by Naples Bay.

    "We came off the hedge and the horse that won it, Naples Bay, went right through the hole that we could have gone through," trainer Ron Pellegrini said. "Those were two Grade 3s where we thought after the races that we should have won both, but racing luck is a different story."

    Angelica Zapata was a distant fourth in the Grade 2 Sabin in February before getting a break, coming back to win the Nancy's Glitter and Soaring Softly overnight stakes in successive starts. Most recently, she was a troubled second by a half-length as the favorite in the September 27 Wasted Tears at Gulfstream Park.

    "She had a horrible trip that day, but what can you do," Pellegrini shrugged. "We planned on running her in this race, so we've just been getting ready for it. I think she's coming into it great. I couldn't ask her for any more. I think she's going to run a big race.

    Meet-leading rider Edgard Zayas will be aboard Angelica Zapata from post 4 at top weight of 119 pounds.

    Also seeking her first graded win in the My Charmer is Daring Kathy, a three-year-old daughter of Wildcat Heir trained by David Fawkes. The bay miss will be trying older horses and 1 1/8 miles for the first time in her first start since a front-running 3 1/4-length victory in the Cellars Shiraz Stakes on October 18 at Gulfstream Park West.

    Unraced as a juvenile, Daring Kathy is five-for-eight this year, with four wins and two thirds in six starts since being moved to the turf by Fawkes in March. She is unbeaten on the grass in her native Florida, including victories in the Honey Ryder and Starfish Bay this spring.

    "Naturally you always wonder about the distance, but she's handled everything so far that we've given her," Fawkes said. "We thought, 'Let's try to stretch her out and see what happens.'

    "If you look at her numbers, if she gets any break early at all she's very strong at the finish," he added. "She still finishes well even when she gets pressed. She still has that late kick. I'm sure this is a step forward, so you just have to hope that the race works out for her."

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    Flintshire could prep at Deauville for Hong Kong

    Flintshire (right) went down by only a half-length to Main Sequence in the BC Turf (Breeders' Cup Ltd. Photo)
    French star Flintshire could have a prep run at Deauville ahead of his tilt at the Hong Kong Vase over 12 furlongs at Sha Tin on December 14. The four-year-old, representing 24-time French champion trainer Andre Fabre, is already a winner at the highest level, having recorded an impressive victory in the 2013 Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp.

    Flintshire has been a model of consistency in five outings during 2014 and produced a career-best performance when beaten two lengths into second by Treve in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp October 5.

    On his most recent start, the Khalid Abdullah-owned colt proved he can cope with the demands of traveling overseas when running Main Sequence to a half-length in the November 1 Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita.

    "Flintshire is in good shape and it is the intention to go for the Hong Kong Vase," Abdullah's Racing Manager Lord Grimthorpe said.

    "He has come out of the Breeders' Cup really well and could run before Hong Kong in the Prix Lyphard at Deauville on December 2.

    "We would always like to win but he ran another solid race at Santa Anita. He had every chance and we have got no complaints.

    "He has met some of the best horses around this season. He was rusty when he was second to Cirrus des Aigles in the Coronation Cup -- it was his first start of the year -- and the ground was very soft next time at Saint-Cloud.

    "Then he was due to come for the King George at Ascot, but he had a slight temperature on the morning of shipping which ruled him out. He had most of the summer off and ran a good trial in the Prix Foy but, again, was probably a little bit rusty.

    "He ran a super race in the Arc and I don't think anybody can say he didn't put his best foot forward.

    "Hopefully, he can go to Hong Kong and win one this time. He likes fast ground, we know he goes well on a right-handed track and there is usually a good pace, so he should have a lot in his favor."

    Canadian International hero Hillstar is also bound for the Vase (WEG/Michael Burns Photography)
    Flintshire, by Dansili out of the Sadler's Wells mare Dance Routine, has won three of his 11 starts under Maxime Guyon.

    Newmarket trainer Sir Michael Stoute confirmed that Hillstar is going for the Hong Kong Vase on the back of a decisive victory in the Canadian International at Woodbine on October 19.

    Hillstar, a four-year-old Danehill Dancer colt, is owned by Sir Evelyn de Rothschild and has been successful four times from 15 starts.

    The Hong Kong Vase is one of four Group 1 contests at the Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin on December 14. The Sunday card also features the Hong Kong Cup at about 1 1/4 miles, the Hong Kong Mile and the Hong Kong Sprint.

    Selected runners for the 2014 Hong Kong International Races will be announced on November 26.

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    Frankel filly out of Finsceal Beo brings record €1.8 million at Goffs November

    Sensational trade continued on the final day of Goffs November Foal Sale and ensured that returns for the four-day sale were the best in its history.

    A new record for the highest-priced foal ever sold in Ireland was set when Lot 897, Al Eile Stud's daughter of Frankel and dual classic winner Finsceal Beo, sold for €1,800,000 to Dermot Farrington.

    Increases were recorded across the board on each day, with turnover for the entire sale up by 52 percent to €27,504,700 over 2013 while the number of six-figure sales more than doubled. Average price grew by a remarkable 41 percent to €37,068, median was up 29 percent to €22,000 and the clearance rate was 85 percent.

    "Sensational. Amazing. Historic. Those are just some of the sentiments that have been expressed over the last four days," Goffs Chief Executive Henry Beeby reflected on the four-day stand.

    "We have witnessed a Foal Sale of simply unprecedented strength from the very first lot on Monday morning and, of course, peaking with the breath-taking price of €1.8 million for the ultimate equine supermodel, the filly by Frankel out of Finsceal Beo.

    "Monday really set the tone with a truly frenzied trade from the start that delivered results that leapt by a third over a strong first day last year. Tuesday continued in exactly the same vein, although the statistics were even more impressive, and (Wednesday) more than kept pace with another 39 percent rise in average.

    "The three days set us up for a sensational finale (on Thursday) and we were not disappointed. The sister to leading Derby fancy Ol'Man River was always going to be the jewel in the crown with her looks and pedigree and she attracted all the attention she promised with an opening bid that has surely never been matched for a foal anywhere. Her €1.8 million is the record for an Irish foal by nearly a million and is the highest price in Europe since 2002 so proving, yet again, that Goffs will attract the biggest buyers to buy the best horses time after time.

    "Whilst she will get the headlines the remainder of the sale was no mere supporting act with an incredible trade of strength and depth rewarding the huge number of Irish breeders who have again brought their best to Goffs November. They know that this is increasingly the first choice and is a sale that gets better and better year after year.

    "Indeed, the vibrancy of the trade is clearly illustrated by the number of six-figure lots that rose from 19 last year to 42 and, remember, the last few years have advanced significantly, whilst a clearance rate of 85 percent is truly incredible for a catalogue of this size.

    "So we extend our thanks to every vendor and the truly international buyers that have converged on Kildare Paddocks this week," Beeby concluded. "It is a source of considerable pride to the team at Goffs that we are delivering on so many fronts and are able to report record breaking figures for our Foal Sale."

    The two-day Goffs November Breeding Stock Sale gets underway Friday.

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    Cardinal draws overflow field of 16

    I'm Already Sexy will break from the rail in Saturday's Cardinal (Four Footed Fotos)

    Veteran trainer Wayne Catalano, already enjoying his best year at Churchill Downs, will attempt to build on his 2014 accomplishments when he sends multiple Grade 3 winner I'm Already Sexy and two stablemates into an overflow field of 16 fillies and mares entered for Saturday's 41st running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Cardinal Handicap on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

    Only 14 will be allowed to compete in the nine-furlong Cardinal, the final stakes race scheduled on the Churchill turf course in 2014.

    I'm Already Sexy will be making her seventh start of the year on Saturday, having already collected victories in the Grade 3 Modesty Handicap at Arlington and Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf at the all-grass racing venue in Franklin, Kentucky. The four-year-old daughter of Ready's Image finished second in the Grade 3 Mint Julep Handicap under the Twin Spires earlier this season and enters the Cardinal after running fourth, but placed fifth via disqualification, in the Grade 2 Goldikova on the Breeders' Cup undercard at Santa Anita Park.

    Catalano's filly has displayed early speed throughout her career and will need another alert start after she drew the inside post for Saturday's race. Jockey Calvin Borel will ride I'm Already Sexy, who will carry the highweight of 119 pounds in the Cardinal.

    A victory by I'm Already Sexy in the Cardinal would provide Catalano with his third Churchill Downs stakes victory of 2014, following triumphs in the Grade 3 Regret (via disqualification) by Aurelia's Belle and West Coast Belle in the Rags to Riches overnight stakes. Catalano's breakthrough season also has included his first leading trainer title at Churchill Downs after he saddled seven winners during the 12-day September meet to share that honor with Steve Asmussen.

    The other members of Catalano's Cardinal trio are Angegreen, who is winless in 11 U.S. starts but finished a fast-closing third last time out in a division of the Kentucky Downs Ladies Marathon at 1 5/16 miles, and Imposing Grace, winner of the Grade 3 Arlington Matron last year on the Chicago track's synthetic Polytrack. Channing Hill will ride Angegreen under a 114-pound impost from post 4, while Imposing Grace will also carry 114 as she breaks from post 7 under Rafael Mojica Jr.

    An intriguing invader for the Cardinal is Grade 3 heroine Nellie Cashman, who returns to Churchill for the first time since a sixth-place run in last fall's Grade 2 Mrs. Revere. Trained by Francis "Trey" Abbott III, the four-year-old daughter of Mineshaft scored a comfortable victory in a Laurel Park turf allowance on September 26 to snap a six-racing losing streak that began last fall with a runner-up finish in Keeneland's Grade 3 Valley View.

    Nellie Cashman, a Pennsylvania-bred filly who trains at Maryland's Fair Hill Training Center, will break from post 8 under regular rider Forest Boyce. Nellie Cashman was assigned the second high weight of 117 pounds for the Cardinal.

    Another Cardinal contender could be Royal Fury, runner-up the Grade 2 Canadian on the Woodbine grass two back for trainer Brian Lynch. The Langfuhr mare has run strongly in the second half of 2014 with performances that includes runner-up finishes in the Grade 3 Ontario Matron and Trillium Stakes over Woodbine's Polytrack. Julien Leparoux will ride Royal Fury, who totes 116 pounds, from the outside gate in the field of 14.

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    Mr. Z tops $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot

    Mr. Z, who captured his career debut at Churchill Downs in late June, will be making his sixth stakes attempt (Adam Mooshian/Coglianese Photo)

    Delta Downs' racing office saw a flurry of activity on Tuesday morning as final entries and post positions were drawn for Saturday's $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot. The Grade 3 event drew an overflow of 12 runners, with 10 allowed to start in the 1 1/16-mile race, and the Delta Downs Jackpot is part of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, awarding points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the top four respective finishers.

    Mr. Z, who hails from the barn of Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite for the 12th running of the track's signature event. Fifth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile most recently, the Malibu Moon colt has finished second in three graded stakes this year, including the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland two starts back. Paco Lopez will pick up the mount.

    Other top contenders include Golden Actor, a 4 1/4-length winner of the October 25 Jean Lafitte at Delta Downs; three-time stakes victor Conquest Tsunami, who exits a 2 3/4-length score in the October 26 Street Sense at Churchill Downs; and unbeaten Prime Engine, who will make his first start for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer following a pair of romping wins at Emerald Downs.

    The Delta Downs Jackpot is the centerpiece of an 11-race program that will feature eight stakes races, two graded stakes and more than $2.3 million in total purse money.

    The field for the Delta Downs Jackpot, including morning line odds (ML), is:

    Post   Horse   Jockey   Trainer   ML
    1   Prime Engine   Russell Baze   Jerry Hollendorfer   8-1
    2   Dekabrist   Jesus Rios   Gennadi Dorochenko   30-1
    3   Mr. Z   Paco Lopez   D. Wayne Lukas   5-2
    4   Conquest Tsunami   Shaun Bridgmohan   Mark Casse   4-1
    5   Saratoga Heater   Joel Rosario   Lisa Lewis   15-1
    6   Golden Actor   Jose Gallego   Ignacio Roncancio   7-2
    7   Red Button   Tyler Baze   Mark Glatt   12-1
    8   Wake Up Nick   Mario Gutierrez   Leandro Mora   10-1
    9   Far Right   Corey Lanerie   Ron Moquett   10-1
    10   Ocho Ocho Ocho   Mike Smith   James Cassidy   6-1
    11 (AE)   Unblunted   Joe Talamo   Michael McCarthy   15-1
    12 (AE)   Two Six Wins   Martin Pedroza   Michael Pender   20-1

    Since 2002, a total of nine horses have participated in the Delta Downs Jackpot before going on to compete in the Kentucky Derby as three-year-olds. The 2012 Jackpot produced a record number of three Kentucky Derby starters including Goldencents, Mylute and Itsmyluckyday.

    Saturday's program will also feature the Grade 3, $400,000 Delta Downs Princess. The one-mile race for two-year-old fillies is headed by Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Take Charge Brandi, who also hails from Lukas's barn and has been assigned morning line odds of 2-1.

    Delta Downs will offer a special guaranteed $200,000 all stakes Pick 4 on Jackpot Day. The wager has been available during each of the 11 previous editions of the Jackpot Day program. The record payoff for a $2 winning ticket was $22,225.80 in 2006. The minimum wager amount for the Jackpot Day Pick 4 is .50 cents.

    There is a special early post time for the Jackpot Day program Saturday of 1:15 p.m. (CST). Listed below is the entire Jackpot Day Pick 4 sequence of races, along with their scheduled post times:

    Race #   Race   Post Time (CT)
    4TH   $150,000 Louisiana Jewel   2:44 p.m.
    5TH   $200,000 Treasure Chest   3:13 p.m.
    6TH   $400,000 Delta Downs Princess   3:43 p.m.
    7TH   $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot   4:15 p.m.

    Bet Horseracing Free Online at

    Fair Grounds kicks off 81-day meet with Starlight Racing

    Fair Grounds, generally accepted to be the third-oldest racetrack in the country, will kick off its 143rd season of Thoroughbred racing on Friday. The 81-day live meet includes 47 stakes worth $5.73 million, headlined by Louisiana Derby Day on March 28. Closing Day is March 29.

    Opening Day will feature Starlight Racing. Clubhouse admission and access to the Miller Time Beer Garden is $10, and guests must be 21 years old to enter. Grandstand general admission is $5, and children under age 12 are admitted free. First post is 5 p.m. (CST) and live racing continues through Sunday with post times of 1:25 p.m.

    Starlight Racing will also be held December 26, January 16, February 27, and March 20.

    Formerly set on the calendar as opening day, Thanksgiving Day (November 27) will again bring back the popular local tradition of live racing on the fall holiday highlighted by the 89th running of the $60,000 Thanksgiving Handicap, a six-furlong test for top sprinters. There will be a special early first post on Thanksgiving of 11 a.m.

    The majority of the Fair Grounds stakes schedule takes place on four banner days. Louisiana Champions Day on December 13 is comprised of 11 stakes worth $1.1 million for Louisiana-breds.

    Over the course of the meet, Fair Grounds presents 10 graded stakes races in multiple divisions beginning on January 17 with Road to the Derby Kickoff Day. Comprised of five stakes worth $560,000, Road to the Derby Kickoff Day is highlighted by the 71st running of the Grade 3, $200,000 Lecomte. The Lecomte is the first of three graded races at Fair Grounds for three-year olds that offer qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby. The Lecomte offers 10 qualifying points to the winner, along with four points for second, two points for third, and one point for the fourth-place finisher.

    The $125,000 Silverbulletday for three-year old fillies hoping to race their way to the Kentucky Oaks will offer qualifying points for the Oaks on an identical 10-4-2-1 scale as the Lecomte. The 29th running of the Grade 3, $100,000 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap for older turf horses will also be run on Kickoff day along with the $75,000 Louisiana Handicap for older horses on the main track and the $60,000 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap for older fillies and mares on the turf.

    Louisiana Derby Preview Day consists of six stakes worth $945,000 on February 21 and is highlighted by a pair of graded stakes offering qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.

    The Grade 2, $400,000 Risen Star, the second of three local preps for Kentucky Derby hopefuls, offers a reward of 50-20-10-5 points towards the Kentucky Derby to the top four finishers. The same 50-20-10-5 bonus will be available towards the Kentucky Oaks in the Grade 3, $175,000 Rachel Alexandra Stakes for three-year old fillies.

    The Grade 3, $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap for older horses on the main track, the Grade 3, $125,000 Fair Grounds Handicap for older horses on the turf, the $60,000 Bayou Handicap for older fillies and mares on the turf, and the $60,000 Duncan F. Kenner for older sprinters round out the stakes offerings on Louisiana Derby Preview Day.

    Louisiana Derby Day on closing weekend brings down the curtain on the season's stakes program with eight stakes worth $2.12 million, highlighted by Fair Grounds' marquee event, the 102nd running of the Grade 2, $750,000 Louisiana Derby. The final local chance to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, the Louisiana Derby offers 100 qualifying points to the winner, 40 points to second, 20 points to third, and 10 points to the fourth-place finisher. For the second year in a row, the 2014 Louisiana Derby produced the second-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, when Commanding Curve ran second to California Chrome.

    The Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks once again produced the Kentucky Oaks winner in 2014 when Untapable scored an easy victory in that race, continuing the long string of successes by fillies who have won the Fair Grounds Oaks in that Kentucky centerpiece. Six of the last ten Fair Grounds Oaks winners have captured the Kentucky Oaks in their next start. The Fair Grounds Oaks offers a 100-40-20-10 slate of Kentucky Oaks qualifying points.

    Other stakes offered on Louisiana Derby Day include the Grade 2, $400,000 Grade II New Orleans Handicap for older horses on the dirt, the Grade 2, $300,000 Mervin H. Muniz Jr. Memorial Handicap for older horses on the turf, the $75,000 Crescent City Derby for Louisiana-bred sophomores on the dirt, the $75,000 Crescent City Oaks for Louisiana-bred three-year old fillies on the main track, the $60,000 Star Guitar for older Louisiana-breds on the dirt, and the $60,000 Costa Rising for Louisiana-breds dashing on the turf.

    Four-time reigning Fair Grounds riding champion Rosie Napravnik announced her retirement after guiding Untapable to a win in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Napravnik had amassed 460 wins in New Orleans over the last four years. Her nearest challenger in recent years, James Graham, will return in an attempt to take down the riding title in Napravnik's absence.

    Other returning riders include Richard Eramia, a top-six jockey in New Orleans for the last several years; Robby Albarado, a seven-time Fair Grounds riding champion who recently tallied his 1,000th career Churchill Downs win; Florent Geroux, who will spend his second winter in New Orleans fresh off a win in the Breeders' Cup Sprint; as well as local favorites Brian Hernandez Jr., Kerwin Clark, and Miguel Mena.

    Steve Asmussen, a 13-time Fair Grounds training champion, will again return to the Crescent City off a season in which he notched 60 victories, easily clearing runner-up Tom Amoss, with whom he tied for the title in the 2012-13 racing season. Amoss returns with another large string and joins returning standouts such as Al Stall Jr., Bret Calhoun, Karl Broberg, Mike Stidham, Mike Maker, Wayne Catalano, Eddie Johnston and Larry Jones. Former Maker assistant Joe Sharp, who started his own training career this fall, will also have stalls assigned on the Fair Grounds backstretch.

    In conjunction with, Fair Grounds will be offering bonus points for key plays on Fair Grounds races made through

    Opening weekend will offer players the opportunity to be part of the $10,000 Double Bonus from Fair Grounds will offer 26 rolling Daily Double pools opening weekend, and for every five Daily Double wagers players cash, they will earn one share of the $10,000 bonus prize. Players may earn additional shares by cashing multiple Daily Doubles (Cash 10 Daily Doubles, earn 2 shares; Cash 15 Daily Doubles, earn 3 shares), and the $10,000 pool will be split among all eligible shares earned by players.

    More information can be found at:

    Thanksgiving Week Points-a-Plenty will allow players to double or triple their points for the entire day over Thanksgiving weekend by hitting either the early double to double points, or hitting both the early double and the early Pick-3 to triple their points. Additional wagering promotions will occur throughout the season.

    Bet Horseracing Free Online at

    In brief

    Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) worked a half-mile Monday morning over Los Alamitos' fast dirt in :47 4/5 under regular rider Victor Espinoza. "Victor told me it was about as good as he's ever worked," trainer Art Sherman said. "He said he had a helluva time holding him. He's a sharp horse." The three-year-old chestnut is nominated to two races on Del Mar's closing weekend: the $300,000 Hollywood Derby (G1) going nine furlongs on the turf and the $200,000 Native Diver H. (G3) at 1 1/8 miles on the Polytrack. Plans outlined by Sherman have California Chrome vanning from Los Alamitos to Del Mar on Saturday morning. He will work over the Jimmy Durante Turf Course at approximately 9:45 a.m. Sunday and, based on that work, a decision will be made between the Hollywood Derby and Native Diver. Both races are scheduled for Saturday, November 29.

    Fields were set and post positions drawn Wednesday for stakes races on Saturday and Sunday, the penultimate weekend of the inaugural Bing Crosby Season at Del Mar. Thirteen were entered, including two on the also-eligible list, for Saturday's $100,000 Red Carpet H. (G3). At 1 3/8 miles on turf, the former Beverly Hills H. is the second-longest race of the meeting. Favored Appealing Cat (Successful Appeal) is the first of several horses from the stable of trainer Graham Motion likely to run in stakes before the close of the meeting on November 30. The bay mare enters the Red Carpet off a half-length third in Keeneland's 1 1/2-mile Dowager S. on October 19. The race also includes British-bred Lady Pimpernel (Sir Percy), who will be getting first-time Lasix while making her U.S. debut. On Sunday, the $100,000 Cary Grant S. attracted eight California-breds. Among those entered for the seven-furlong former On Trust S. are Big Macher (Beau Genius), winner of the Bing Crosby (G1) over the track on July 27; unbeaten multiple stakes victor Red Outlaw (Tribal Rule); and defending race winner Rousing Sermon (Lucky Pulpit). Red Outlaw is nominated for other upcoming stakes and his presence in the Cary Grant remains to be determined. "At this point we're going to look at it and decide. We're considering the ($300,000) Hollywood Derby ([G1] on November 29) and the ($250,000) Seabiscuit ([G2] on November 28) as well," trainer Peter Miller said Thursday morning. "We probably won't make a decision (about the Cary Grant) until race day on Sunday." Red Outlaw worked three furlongs over Del Mar's Polytrack Thursday morning in :37 4/5...

    A field of eight heads to the post on Sunday in Woodbine's C$200,000 Kennedy Road S. (Can-G2) going six furlongs on the Polytrack. Sharp Sensation (Sharp Humor) totes the top weight of 121 pounds off a half-length victory in the Bet on Sunshine S. over Churchill Downs' main track November 1. The well-traveled four-year-old gelding recorded a neck score in the Turf Monster H. (G3) at Parx Racing and was a close third in the Woodford S. (G3) on Keeneland's grass in his prior two races. Calgary Cat (Cowtown Cat) will be looking to derail Sharp Sensation's from posting back-to-back stakes wins. The four-year-old chestnut captured the Bold Venture S. (Can-G3) on Woodbine's Polytrack before rallying to be third by a length in the Nearctic S. (Can-G2) last out on the Toronto venue's turf course. Also entered is Black Hornet (Pioneerof the Nile), runner-up from the Nearctic and third in the Bold Venture...

    Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) and the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) jointly announced Woodbine's 2015 Thoroughbred racing calendar. Opening day for Woodbine's 60th season, which will offer 133 dates pending Ontario Racing Commission (ORC) approval, is set for Saturday, April 11, with closing day scheduled for Sunday, December 6. The 156th running of the Queen's Plate -- the first jewel in Canada's Triple Crown -- is set for Sunday, July 5, with a special first race post time of noon (ET). Racing will be scheduled for 1 p.m. every Friday (beginning April 24), Saturday and Sunday. In addition, a 1 p.m. post will be offered for Holiday Mondays on May 18, August 3, September 7 and October 12, as well as for the Canada Day card slated for Wednesday July 1. Wednesday night racing, with a post time of 6:45 p.m., will begin on May 27 and be conducted throughout the season, except for July 1 (which will instead have a 1 p.m. post-time in honor of Canada Day), August 5 and September 9. Woodbine's dirt training track will open on February 19 allowing horsemen to begin preparation for the 2015 meet. The 2014 Woodbine Thoroughbred campaign concludes Sunday, December 7...

    Canterbury Park received approval from the Minnesota Racing Commission on Thursday to conduct a 70-day Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse race meet in 2015. The meet will begin Friday, May 15, and run through September 12. The 70-day race meet will be the longest since the Shakopee, Minnesota, racetrack reopened in 1995 as Canterbury Park, and reflects the impact of a 2012 cooperative marketing and purse enhancement agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, owners and operators of Mystic Lake Casino Hotel, that adds $75 million to horsemen purses over 10 years. A record $13.1 million in purses were paid in 2014 when 68 days of racing were held, more than doubling purses paid in 2011. Racetrack management estimates that purses will increase 5 percent in 2015. "The interest and enthusiasm in racing at Canterbury Park continues to grow," Vice President of Racing Operations Eric Halstrom said. "Additional days send a positive message to horsemen across the country that horse racing in Minnesota is thriving and that Canterbury Park is the place to be." Racing on Thursdays and Fridays will begin at 6:30 p.m. (CT) and weekend and holiday racing at 12:45 p.m. with the exception of Saturdays in August which will begin at 6:30 p.m. The MRC also approved Canterbury's plans for a $1 million renovation of the south portion of the grandstand's clubhouse level. Improvements will allow for additional year-round group sales opportunities for the company. "Remodeling the outdated clubhouse allows us to better meet the expectations of a competitive group events market," President Randy Sampson said. "This will be a great improvement, offering a first class entertainment experience for our guests while generating revenue for the company and creating jobs in the community." Canterbury Park recently opened its $2.5 million, 30,000 square foot Expo Center, making it the fourth largest exhibit space in the Twin Cities. The 2015 stakes schedule and purse structure will be announced in early December...

    Plenty of Irish stallions have excelled at the foal sales this week and breeders will have the chance to see many of them in one weekend following the launch of the ITM Irish Stallion Trail on Thursday. In an initiative similar to the popular La Route des Etalons' held in Normandy each January, more than 20 Irish stud farms will open their doors between January 22 and 24. Among the stallions on show will be champion sire Galileo, his half-brother Sea the Stars, the Irish National Stud's Invincible Spirit, as well as Shamardal and his exciting young son Lope de Vega. The open days are sandwiched between two days of top-class Irish jump racing...

    Jockey Julien Leparoux and his wife, Shea Leparoux, recently participated in a photo shoot with Shea modeling a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind Kentucky Derby hat honoring the life of Old Friends' retiree Clever Allemont. "Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby" is an online fashion auction fundraiser that benefits Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in Central Kentucky. This is the sixth consecutive year that Old Friends has joined with acclaimed milliner Sally Faith Steinmann of the Massachusetts-based Maggie Mae Designs to auction six handcrafted Derby hats between November and April, each inspired by one of the non-profit organization's 150 retired racehorses. To date, this unique fundraiser has raised more than $21,000 for Old Friends. The "Clever Allemont" chapeau is up for bid as a special holiday addition to the fundraiser and is auctioning November 17-27. Clever Allemont was rescued from a kill pen in 2008 and retired to Old Friends in 2009 through the efforts of an amazing team of people who wanted to ensure his safe retirement. He enjoyed more than five years as a beloved member of the Old Friends family before passing this year. "Clever Allemont was such a great asset to Old Friends," said Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends. "He was the kindest, friendliest stallion on the farm. He inspired deaf people because he was deaf, visually impaired people because he enjoyed life though he'd lost an eye, indeed anybody who knew what it's like to overcome hardship. People call Clever Allemont a 'rescue,' but it's really the horses who rescue us." Interested bidders can go to the Old Friends website at and follow the link to bid on the hat.



    NOVEMBER 21, 2014

    This One Handicapping Angle Beat the Meet Last Year at Fair Grounds

    by Ed DeRosa

    Betting the best last-out Speed Rating to win every race at Fair Grounds last year (i.e. the 2013-2014 meeting) resulted in a flat bet profit of 2 percent.

    Turf, dirt, sprints, matter the race the only piece of information you needed to "beat the meet" was the best last-out Speed Rating readily found in PPs or data files.

    This is a polarizing and sobering factoid for me. On one hand, the director of marketing in me loves that our figures are accurate and an important tool for finding value. But the handicapper in me feels like using the SVH (single-variable handicapping) method is like solving a crossword with the answer key.

    Of course, the main objective is making money, and that's hard to do long-term in this game, so actually cashing tickets helps allay concerns that you're taking the easy way out.

    The morning line odds of the horses on the nine-race opening night card with the best last-out Speed Rating are 6-1, 9-2, 8-1, 9-5, 9-2, 9-2, 5-1, 5-1, 3-1 and 10-1 (those last two are co-top-choices in the last race, and there are co-top-choices in the 3RD race but both are 8-1).

    It's important to note co-top choices because the positive ROI includes betting multiple horses if they share the top spot.

    Another "benefit" of this angle is that it's easy to adjust for scratches.

    Betting on the best last-out Speed Rating by race type at Fair Grounds

    Race type:




    Dirt sprints



    +18 percent

    Dirt Routes



    -5.5 percent

    Turf Sprints



    -6 percent

    Turf Routes



    -10.5 percent

    Off Sprints



    -28.5 percent

    Off Routes



    -8 percent




    +2 percent

    This is a pretty illuminating table because it actually alerts us to the fact that we're best served using this angle for dirt sprints only. To further our zest for this angle on the opening night card, I'll also note that in the 32 dirt sprints run in November last year, the best last-out Speed Rating had a ROI of +43 percent! With all the shippers, why not trust that speed is class and bet the fastest horse last out?

    So for the opening day card (before scratches) that leaves us with #8 Titanium Girl in race 2, #s 1 The Louisiana Kid & 9 Ty's Bandit in race 3, #5 One Better in race 4, #9 Ex Wives in race 5, #9 Battle On in race 6, and #5 My Shout in race 8.

    Spot Plays/Highlights/Weather


    For Friday

    Aqueduct   (5th) Brass Pear, 3-1
        (8th) Graceful Gal, 3-1
    Charles Town   (2nd) Windsor's Punch, 4-1
        (4th) Malibu Fever, 3-1
    Churchill Downs   (6th) Lonelily, 3-1
        (7th) Union Bowman, 8-1
    Del Mar   (4th) Bilger's Sapphire, 4-1
        (7th) Sam's Sister, 5-1
    Delta Downs   (1st) Flying Miracle, 10-1
        (3rd) Andale Girl, 7-2
    Fair Grounds   (1st) Dublin Da'bet, 6-1
        (6th) Battle On, 9-2
    Finger Lakes   (3rd) Crimson Lad, 6-1
        (6th) City in the Sky, 8-1
    Golden Gate Fields   (1st) Blazing Spice, 4-1
        (7th) Significat, 6-1
    Gulfstream Park West   (2nd) Fire Mission, 10-1
        (10th) Jupiter, 6-1
    Hawthorne   (5th) Grayrock, 7-2
        (7th) Superstar Leo, 3-1
    Laurel Park   (3rd) Singing Monarch, 4-1
        (9th) Rocky Romano, 7-2
    Penn National   (5th) Fara's Kid, 9-2
        (6th) Eddie'sinthewoods, 5-1
    Remington Park   (6th) Shine on Caroline, 5-1
        (9th) Shanina, 4-1
    Retama Park   (2nd) Dixieland Parade, 6-1
        (3rd) Prince Isaac, 6-1
    Woodbine   (7th) Bear's Taurus, 3-1
        (9th) Just Blake, 8-1

    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.


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