News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
REGISTRATION FOR 2011 NHC TOUR MEMBERSHIPS NOW UNDERWAY
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced yesterday that signups for the 2011 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour are now being accepted at www.ntra.com/nhctour. The Daily Racing Form NHC Tour is a yearlong bonus series offering additional prize money and qualifying berths to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship to be held in January 2012 in Las Vegas with a total estimated prize pool of $2 million, including $1 million to the Grand Prize winner.
Membership in the 2011 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour is open to adults 21 years of age or older and requires a one-time membership fee of $45. Membership in the 2011 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour is mandatory in order for top finishers of sanctioned NHC qualifying events to be eligible to compete in the January 2012 NHC Finals in Las Vegas. The NHC Tour membership must be in place prior to the start of any given qualifying tournament in order for one to qualify for the NHC Finals at that qualifying tournament.
Among the many benefits of 2011 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour membership are free, online qualifying tournaments that are restricted to NHC Tour members. The first of these free, online qualifying tournaments will take place on January 2, 2011 at NTRA.com, where qualifying berths to the January 2012 NHC Finals will be offered to the five top finishers. Additional free, online qualifying events–offering a total of 10 additional berths to the NHC Finals–will be held later in 2011.
In just its 12th year, the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship is the most important tournament of the year for horseplayers and is the culmination of a year-long series of NTRA-sanctioned local tournaments conducted by racetracks, casino race books, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping Web sites, each of which sends its top qualifiers to the national finals.
FANS AGAIN VOTING ON RACING’S “MOMENT OF THE YEAR”
Voting is underway at the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Web site, www.ntra.com, for the 12th annual “NTRA Moment of the Year.” Voters can choose from among 12 images, drawn from the year’s events. The winning Moment will be recognized on January 17, 2011 at the Eclipse Awards ceremony in Miami Beach, and those selecting the winning image automatically will be entered in a random drawing for a $100 gift certificate to the NTRA.com Online Memorabilia Store.
The Moments were selected to illustrate a wide range of human emotions and achievements as well as outstanding displays of equine athleticism. Listed chronologically, the images and events that fans can choose from are: Rachel Alexandra is upset in her 2010 debut at Fair Grounds by Zardana; Eskendereya rolls home in Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial by nearly 10 lengths; Blind Luck catches Evening Jewel at the wire in the Kentucky Oaks; Borel works his Derby magic again as Super Saver captures the Run for the Roses; Lookin at Lucky avenges Derby loss in taking the Preakness stakes; Zenyatta registers win #17, nailing St. Trinians in the final yards of the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood; Lookin at Lucky demolishes the field in the Izod Haskell Invitational at Monmouth; Blame runs down Quality Road in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga; Calvin Borel and Javier Castellano fight in the winner’s circle following the Breeders’ Cup Marathon; Uncle Mo stays undefeated with convincing triumph in Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile; Goldikova unleashes powerful turn of foot to win her third straight TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile; Blame wins Breeders’ Cup Classic, denying Zenyatta’s attempt for a 20th consecutive victory.
The first-ever “NTRA Moment of the Year” was the touching scene involving Charismatic and jockey Chris Antley following the 1999 Belmont Stakes. The following year’s winner was the stretch run of the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which saw Tiznow hold on for a dramatic victory against Giant’s Causeway. Tiznow won again the following year as fans selected his stirring repeat victory in the Classic over Sakhee. In 2002, fans cited the passing of the last living Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew. In 2003, the popular Kentucky Derby win by Funny Cide was selected. Birdstone’s upset win in the Belmont Stakes over Smarty Jones took down top honors for 2004. In 2005, fans selected Afleet Alex’s spectacular victory in the 2005 Preakness Stakes. Voters in 2006 chose Barbaro’s gallant struggle to recover from his Preakness injury while at the New Bolton Center. The 2007 Moment of the Year was Rags to Riches’ historic victory over Curlin in the Belmont Stakes. In 2008, it was Zenyatta’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic. Last year, Zenyatta “repeated” as fans selected her triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“The NTRA Moment of the Year gives fans a voice and sense of ownership at the Eclipse Awards,” said Keith Chamblin, NTRA senior vice president of communications and industry relations. “It allows them to salute the people, horses and memories that make our sport so appealing. We look forward to seeing which one of the many outstanding moments from 2010 they select as this year’s winner.”
Fans 18 years and older can register to vote online at www.ntra.com. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Monday, January 3, 2010. Void where prohibited. All federal, state and local laws and regulations apply. A complete set of rules is available at www.ntra.com.
TURBULENT DESCENT TRIES MORE YARDAGE IN HOLLYWOOD STARLET
Extremely impressive in the first two races of her career, Turbulent Descent will try something new in the Grade I $300,000-guaranteed Hollywood Starlet Saturday at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif.
At 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track, the Starlet attracted seven other 2-year-old fillies.
Owned by a partnership that includes Blinkers On Racing Stable and Bill Strauss and trained by Mike Puype, Turbulent Descent defeated maidens in her Oct. 3 debut during the Oak Tree/Hollywood Park meet.
Returned seven weeks later, the Congrats filly out of the Forestry mare Roger’s Sue won the Moccasin Stakes Nov. 21. She prevailed by 1 ¼ lengths under a hand ride when the 7-10 favorite.
With earnings of $82,800, Turbulent Descent will be making her initial appearance beyond seven furlongs. If successful, the Florida bred will become the first Moccasin winner to capture the Starlet, which will be run for the 30th time Saturday.
David Flores has a return call on Turbulent Descent. The jockey won this race in 2006 aboard Romance Is Diane.
May Day Rose and Big Tiz are the only members of the field with a win at the Starlet distance.
Trained by Bob Baffert for Kaleem Shah, May Day Rose led throughout to take the Sharp Cat Stakes by 4 ¼ lengths Nov. 7. The stretch to 1 1/16 miles came in her first start since a Sept. 4 maiden victory at Del Mar.
A daughter of Rockport Harbor and the Pine Bluff mare May Day Bluff, May Day Rose has won two of three, banking $100,000. A win would be the third in the race for Baffert. The Hall of Fame trainer has won previously with Excellent Meeting (1998) and Habibti (2001).
Third as the favorite in the Sharp Cat, Big Tiz earned her win at 8 ½ furlongs Oct. 10. The Tiznow filly out of the Carson City mare Squall City won by a head versus maidens for owners Allen and Susan Branch and Cory Wagner.
Big Tiz, who is trained by Mark Glatt, has one win in five starts with earnings of $47,860.
Tell a Kelly, who was dominant in the Darley Debutan on Sept. 4 at Del Mar, will try to rebound after a subpar try in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash and trained by John Sadler, Tell a Kelly finished seventh Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs, 13 lengths behind winner Awesome Feather.
The loss was the second in as many tries at 1 1/16 miles for Tell a Kelly, who is by Tapit and out of the Tabasco Cat mare Evrobi. She had finished second as the 1-2 favorite in the Oak Leaf Stakes Oct. 3.
From inside out, the field for the Hollywood Starlet with horses, jockeys and weights is as follows: True Way of Grace (Paul Atkinson rides, 120 pounds); Nina Fever (Garrett Gomez, 120); May Day Rose (Rafael Bejarano, 120); Luna Grande (Victor Espinoza, 120); Turbulent Descent (David Flores, 120); Big Tiz (Patrick Valenzuela, 120); Zazu (Mike Smith, 120); and Tell a Kelly (Joel Rosario, 120).
ARSON SQUAD LOOKS TO REMAIN HOT IN QUEENS COUNTY
Arson Squad will attempt to close his 7-year-old season with his eighth career stakes victory when he competes in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Queens County Handicap at 1 3/16 miles on the Aqueduct Racetrack inner track, located in Ozone Park, N.Y.
Victorious in the Skip Away at Gulfstream Park and Alysheba at Churchill Downs in April, Arson Squad was sixth in the Stephen Foster, won by Blame, at Churchill in June and fifth as the favorite in the Majestic Light at Monmouth Park in August.
“I think the Foster a little too tough for him, and speed just doesn’t come back at Monmouth,” said owner Samantha Siegel, managing partner for Jay Em Ess Stable.
Back in New York for his most recent start, Arson Squad returned to form by closing into a blistering pace to post a 1 ½-length triumph in the Mighty Forum at Belmont Park on October 24.
“He’s been a very sound horse who goes easy on himself and enjoys racing,” said Siegel of the gelding, who has won nine races from 30 starts and has earned over $1.1 million. “With the exception of his races on synthetic tracks, he’s been very consistent. We’re going to see how he handles the inner track, and after that we’ll see where we’ll go with him. We haven’t done much planning beyond this race.”
Trained by Rick Dutrow, Jr., Arson Squad will leave from the rail under Ramon Dominguez and 123 pounds as the 8-5 morning-line favorite.
Stormy’s Majesty, trained by Dominic Galluscio, seeks his second graded stakes victory this season at Aqueduct, having taken the Discovery Handicap for 3-year-olds on the Aqueduct main track on November 20. Earlier this year, the Majesty Stud homebred won the Albany against New York-breds at Saratoga Race Course in August before finishing second in the Star of Cozzene and eighth versus older statebreds in the Empire Classic at Belmont in October.
Hall of Famer Edgar Prado will ride Stormy’s Majesty, assigned 122 pounds and made the 2-1 morning-line second choice, from post position 2.
Modern Cowboy, owned by Green Hills Farm, returns to New York for the first time since finishing a distant fourth in the Pleasant Colony at Saratoga on August 27. In the interim, the sophomore won two straight optional claimers in Kentucky, making wide rallies to prevail at Turfway Park on October 1 and at Churchill Downs on November 4.
Modern Cowboy, 5-2 on the morning line and set to carry 116 pounds, will leave from post 6 under John Velazquez.
Jill Pecoraro’s Seniors Pride, a veteran of the optional claiming and starter allowance ranks, will try to earn another stakes score after out-battling Understatement to take the Mad Hatter by a head on the Big A’s main track on Discovery Handicap day.
“He excels going around two turns, and last year he did very well here, which is his home,” said Seniors Pride’s trainer, Michael Tannuzzo.
“In his two races before the stakes, he chased some good horses,” said Tannuzzo. “In his last race we changed his tactics. We told the jockey to not chase Understatement but to go right after him. The one thing you know about this horse is that he’ll always give 100 percent.”
Seniors Pride, 8-1 on the morning line, will leave from post 4 under 119 pounds, including jockey David Cohen.
Jeff Runco, who trained Researcher to a Queens County triumph in 2008 and a runner-up effort in 2009, will be represented by Pedrolino in the 2010 renewal. Since being transferred to Runco’s barn, the Distorted Humor gelding has won three of four starts and enters Saturday’s event off easy allowance victories at Charles Town on September 30 and Parx Racing on November 6.
“We’ve added blinkers and that seems to have helped a lot,” said Runco, who trains the 4-year-old for Mrs. Rebecca Hillen. “We stepped him up in class for a tough allowance race last time, and he handled it well. We’ll see if he can step up again. It looks like the Queen’s County will be a competitive race, but if we’re going to try a stakes, we think this is the time. I think he’ll definitely handle the added distance, which is one of the main reasons why we’ve wanted to run him in this race.”
Michael Luzzi has the call aboard Pedrolino, assigned 117 pounds and tabbed at 15-1 on the morning line.
More Than a Reason, fourth in the Mad Hatter, completes the field breaking from post position 4 at 15-1 morning line with Eddie Castro in the irons.
SUNLAND PARK RECEIVES FULL ACCREDITATION BY NTRA SAFETY AND INTEGRITY ALLIANCE
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that Sunland Park in Sunland Park, N.M., has received full accreditation by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance following a complete review of all racing operations at the facility.
Last May, Sunland Park was granted provisional accreditation by the Alliance after the New Mexico racetrack was found to be in compliance with the majority of standards set forth in the Alliance code, but in need of upgrades in the specific areas of pre-race veterinary inspections; uniform medication regulations; safety equipment and cushioned riding crops; testing for alkalinizing substances; and independent security assessment and training. Since then, all areas previously deemed deficient have been improved to either meet or exceed parameters set forth in the Alliance Code of Standards.
“Sunland Park should be commended for the sustained effort it made to satisfy the standards necessary for Alliance accreditation,” said Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. “Many of the areas in question were addressed very quickly, while others took longer due to necessary regulatory changes.”
“The Sunland Park model is a good illustration of the Alliance operating to its fullest effect,” said Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the NTRA. “The Alliance’s Code of Standards was an essential agent for change during the time that Sunland Park was working diligently with the State of New Mexico to bring its racing regulations into greater uniformity with those in other states.”
Sunland Park is now the 19th racing facility to receive full accreditation, joining Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Belmont Park, Delaware Park, Hollywood Park, Monmouth Park, Arlington Park, Saratoga Race Course, Calder Race Course, Turfway Park, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, Oak Tree at Santa Anita/Santa Anita Park, Fair Grounds, Aqueduct Racetrack, Golden Gate Fields, Woodbine, Pimlico and, most recently, Canterbury Park.
The Alliance, formed in October 2008 with the goal of establishing national uniform standards in the areas of safety and integrity, includes 55 racetracks in North America and every major national horsemen’s organization. Alliance certification standards cover six broad areas: injury reporting and prevention; creating a safer racing environment; aftercare and transition of retired racehorses; uniform medication, testing and penalties; safety research; and wagering security.
Along with the announcement of Sunland Park’s full accreditation approval, the NTRA has announced it has created a co-op pricing program whereby racetracks accredited by the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance would receive a credit against its following-year NTRA membership dues for any Alliance accreditation fee (less inspection expenses) paid during the current calendar year. In addition, future Alliance accreditation fees will also be tiered for both NTRA-member and non-member tracks based on a formula derived from annual purse monies offered.
“The goal here is to create an additional incentive for tracks to avail themselves of the accreditation process,” said Mike Ziegler, Executive Director of the NTRA Safety and Integrity Alliance. “Complying with the Alliance’s Code of Standards can be labor-intensive and costly for some facilities. But we feel it is an investment well worth making on behalf of the sport’s human and equine athletes, and we want to make it as economical as possible for tracks large and small to get accredited.”
SANTA ANITA REOPENS FOR TRAINING TO ALL-NATURAL DIRT SURFACE
Santa Anita Park, located in Arcadia, Calif., which had been closed to training since this past July, unveiled its all-new, natural dirt surface Monday morning as several hundred Thoroughbreds went through their early morning paces in advance of Santa Anita’s winter/spring opener on Dec. 26.
Santa Anita’s main track had been comprised of synthetic material from September of 2007 through Oct. 11, when construction began on the new surface.
“We’re very happy with how the project went and with how the horses seemed to handle the surface the past two mornings,” said Project Manager Ted Malloy. “I’m really happy with the mixture of the soil we have in place and I think the horsemen are as well.
“I think every facet of the project went according to plan and the result is we’ve got a good, kind, consistent surface that horses are going to be able to get a hold of and run well on. We’ll keep a close eye on everything and if the past two mornings are any indication, we’re in very good shape.”