NTRA Thoroughbred Notebook

News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.

JESS JACKSON PASSES AWAY AFTER LONG ILLNESS

Prominent thoroughbred owner Jess Jackson, whose Stonestreet Stables campaigned Curlin and Rachel Alexandra to a combined three Horse of the Year Awards, passed away Thursday at his home in Geyserville, Calif., following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Jackson, who was 81 at the time of his death, founded the Kendall-Jackson Winery and was one of the most successful independent winery owners in the world. He was inducted into the Vintner Hall of Fame in 2009.

“Jess Jackson left an indelible mark on Thoroughbred racing in a relatively short period of time,” said Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. He was outspoken in his calls for a high degree of integrity in our sport and industry. But he will perhaps be best remembered for his exploits with so many outstanding horses, including two-time Horse of the Year winner, Curlin, and one of the great fillies of all time, Rachel Alexandra. He was one of the most sporting owners of his generation, insisting on racing Curlin in 2008 at age four when there was little more to prove athletically and a financial temptation to retire him to stud. What transpired was an inspiring 2008 campaign for Curlin -? and yet another reminder of what Jess routinely achieved with his wonderful combination of wisdom and passion.”

Curlin, who earned more than $10.5 million on the track, won seven Grade I races, including the 2007 Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the Dubai World Cup in 2008. He was named Horse of the Year following each of those campaigns.
Rachel Alexandra, who is currently in foal to Curlin, captured the 2009 Preakness, Haskell Invitational and Woodward Stakes ? all against males ? en route to her Horse of the Year Award.

Jackson is survived by his wife, Barbara Banke; five children, Jennifer Hartford, Laura Giron, Katie Jackson, Julia Jackson and Christopher Jackson; and two grandchildren, Hailey Hartford and MacLean Hartford.

JEROME ATTRACTS SOLID GROUP OF SOPHOMORES

A deep field of promising 3-year-olds will come to the crossroads on Saturday when they compete in the 141st edition of the Grade II, $150,000 Jerome Stakes, the featured race on closing day at Aqueduct Racetrack in Ozone Park, N.Y.

The Jerome, contested at Belmont Park from 1968-2009, returns to Aqueduct and to The New York Racing Association stakes schedule after being placed on hiatus in 2010. Previously, the race was held at Aqueduct in 1960 and from 1962-1967.
The 2011 edition of the Jerome will be contested at one mile and could serve as a stepping stone to even bigger things for the eight sophomores entered in the one-turn race.

The 2-1 morning-line favorite is Cal Nation, who has made two starts at Gulfstream Park, debuting as a 7 ¾-length winner on February 5 and finishing second by a nose to stablemate Dance City in a March 19 allowance, with the winner going on to report home a strong third in last Saturday’s Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

“His second last time was flattered when Dance City ran well in the Arkansas Derby, so he obviously has kept good company,” said Jonathan Thomas, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher. “He certainly belongs in this field.”
John Velazquez will ride Cal Nation from post position 2.

Astrology, previously under consideration for the Kentucky Derby after finishing second in the Sunland Derby on March 27, was shipped to Aqueduct from Churchill Downs earlier this week to run in the Jerome, which could serve as a prep for either the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes.

“The Jerome is good timing off his first prep, and it will allow us to not miss all the Classic races,” said Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen. “We’re not looking past this race, but we do have those races in mind. It’s more or less a prep.”

Astrology has competed over a one-turn mile once, taking the Iroquois at Churchill Downs in October before concluding his juvenile season with a close second in the 1 1/16-mile, Kentucky Jockey Club around two turns at Churchill in November. The A.P. Indy colt cuts back in distance for the Jerome, having competed at 1 1/8 miles in the Sunland Derby.
“He’s won at a mile before in a one-turn race at Churchill Downs,” said Blasi. “The Jerome should be run in a similar fashion.”

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has the call aboard Astrology, the 5-2 morning-line second choice, from post 1.
The Asmussen barn will also be represented by Justin Phillip, who was third in Aqueduct’s seven-furlong, Grade III Bay Shore Stakes after racing in tight quarters on the far turn.Justin Phillip will leave from post 7 under Ramon Dominguez as the 5-1 co-third choice.

The complete field for the Jerome ,in post position order, is: Astrology (jockey: Mike Smith, morning line odds: 5-2); Cal Nation (John Velazquez, 15-1); Gallant Dreams (Cornelio Velasquez, 15-1): Isn’t He Perfect (Channing Hill, 20-1); Rattlesnake Bridge (Jose Lezcano, 6-1); Starship Caesar (Jose Valdivia, Jr., 30-1); Justin Phillip (Ramon Dominguez, 5-1); and Adios Charlie (Rajiv Maragh, 5-1).

HOLLYWOOD PARK SPRING/SUMMER MEET OPENS TODAY
GOLD RUSH CENTER STAGE SATURDAY

Hollywood Park kicks off its spring/summer meet today with the Inglewood, Calif., track playing host to 49 stakes worth over $6 million between now and closing day, July 17. The meet will include six Grade I stakes events: the Gamely Stakes; the Charles Whittingham Handicap; the Vanity Handicap; the Shoemaker Mile; the Hollywood Gold Cup and the American Oaks.
This Saturday is the 12th California Gold Rush day, featuring eight stakes races restricted to California breds. The day’s richest event is the $150,000 Snow Chief Stakes.
Trainer Marty Jones will be looking for his second win in three years in the Snow Chief. Jones, who won the 2009 Snow Chief with Compari, will be represented by Drink At Buster’s in this year’s renewal for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles over Cushion Track.

Other six-figure Gold Rush stakes races are: the $125,000 Tiznow for older horses at 7 ½ furlongs; the $125,000 B. Thoughtful for older fillies and mares at 7 ½ furlongs; and the $125,000 Melair for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/16 miles.

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