News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
BIG BROWN PREPARES FOR HISTORIC TRIPLE CROWN BELMONT RUN
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown, looking to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner in the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 7, continues his preparation for a possible date with destiny.
“He went out and did his usual thing,” his regular exercise rider, Michelle Nevin, said yesterday of the colt’s return to the track for the first time since Saturday’s impressive 5 ¼-length victory at Pimlico. “He was very interested in the chickens today.”
Owned by IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr., the undefeated Big Brown will be making only his sixth career start in the 140th edition of the Belmont, the oldest, and at a mile and a half, the longest leg of the Triple Crown. Seattle Slew, who was 9-0 when he swept the series in 1977, is the only horse to win all three races while undefeated.
Among those expected to challenge Big Brown in the Belmont are Casino Drive, who is undefeated in two starts; Tale of Ekati, the winner of Aqueduct’s Grade I Wood Memorial; Denis of Cork, third in the Kentucky Derby; Anak Nakal, Behindatthebar, Ready’s Echo, Macho Again, Ichabad Crane, and Tomcito.
Meanwhile, Big Brown’s trainer Rick Dutrow continues to exude confidence in his colt.
“It’s not a sure thing but he’s very live,” quipped Dutrow, adding that barring the unforeseen, he fully expected to be in the winner’s circle.
“I wish [the Belmont] were now because our horse is fit,” he said. “Time is on our side because our horse is good.”
The other undefeated horse in the Belmont will be Casino Drive, who ran off to an impressive 5 ¾-length victory in the Peter Pan on May 10 in his second start. The Japanese colt also galloped early Wednesday morning as his connections mulled over selecting a jockey for the race. According to Nobutaka Tada, the racing manager for owner Hidetoshi Yamamoto, Japanese, European and American riders are under consideration. Favored are Yutaka Take, Edgar Prado and Garrett Gomez.
“It’s up in the air,” said Tada, saying a decision would be made within a few days.
Casino Drive has the same dam (mother) as the last two Belmont Stakes winners – Jazil (2006) and Rags to Riches (2007.
Two of the people behind Tale of Ekati, trainer Barclay Tagg and his assistant Robin Smullen, have an interesting perspective on Big Brown’s run at the Triple Crown. In 2003, Funny Cide, now Tagg’s stable pony, headed into the Belmont as the favorite following his impressive wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, only to finish third.
“Big Brown is a pretty formidable character,” said Smullen. “I’m hoping for us that we run well, and win. Both Smarty (Jones in 2004) and `Funny’ looked unbeatable coming into it – when they win the first two legs the way they did, they look unbeatable. Maybe Big Brown is – but there’s a ton of people willing to try if he’s not.”
NATIONAL HANDICAPPING CHAMPIONSHIP RETURNING TO RED ROCK
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) and Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa in Las Vegas announced today that the $1 million Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) would return to the popular Las Vegas property in 2009 for the event’s tenth annual renewal. NHC X will take place on Friday and Saturday, January 23-24, 2009, at Red Rock, which is the Official Hotel of the NTRA.
“We are delighted to return the National Handicapping Championship to the beautiful Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa,” said Keith Chamblin, senior vice president of communications and industry relations for the NTRA. “Last year’s event was the best NHC ever, and the enthusiasm and professionalism of the Red Rock staff was apparent throughout the competition.”
“We were proud to host the first-ever million-dollar NHC this past January,” said Art Manteris, vice president of race and sports operations for Station Casinos, Inc. “I think the NTRA, DRF and the 278 competitors came away with a favorable impression of our property and our highly trained staff at Red Rock, and we look forward to providing another outstanding experience next January.”
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 racebooks, off-track betting facilities and horse racing and handicapping Web sites, each of which sends its top three qualifiers to the national finals. This year, more than 100,000 people are expected to attempt to qualify for the 2009 NHC at Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa in Las Vegas.
SUPERSTUD STORM CAT RELIEVED OF HIS STALLION DUTIES
Claiming Crown, Thoroughbred racing’s $600,000 day for “blue collar runners”, returns to Canterbury Park in Minnesota this year and horsemen from all sections of the country and Canada appear eager to be part of it.
More than 200 horses, which have started at least once since January 1, 2007, for claiming prices ranging from $7,500 to $35,000, have been nominated for the seven-race program that will be held Saturday, August 2, at the Shakopee, Minn., racetrack.
“This will be the eighth time we have hosted this event,” said Canterbury Park President Randy Sampson, “and this is the largest number of early nominations we have ever received.” Claiming Crown was held at Philadelphia Park in 2002 and at Ellis Park last year.
Owners and trainers living in 29 different states and Canada have submitted nominations, including Richard Englander, whose colors have been worn by four Claiming Crown winners; trainer Scott Lake, who has saddled eight winners; and trainer Mike Maker, who won three races at Ellis Park.
Nominations (at $500) close Friday, June 13 and that is also the deadline for names to be submitted for open nominations made in April. For additional information contact Claiming Crown coordinator Nat Wess at 800-340-6361 ext. 6411 or visit www.claimingcrown.com.
PANELL, RIGATTIERI WIN FIVE TOGETHER ON SATURDAY AT SUFFOLK DOWNS
Jockey Dyn Panell and trainer John Rigattieri teamed up to win five races, including four in a row, on last Saturday’s nine-race card at Suffolk Downs before a Preakness Stakes day crowd of 7,220.
Panell and Rigattieri earned their first trip to the winner’s circle when the favored Good Will ($5.20) won race three. The tandem then proceeded to sweep races five through eight. They took the fifth in a six-length romp aboard Dixie Red ($3.40) and followed that up with a determined score by Prince of Iron ($5.20) in the sixth. The streak was extended in the seventh race with a 1 ¾-length victory by 4-5 favorite Blondie’s Halo ($3.60) and culminated with an upset by Handsome Bruno ($15.80) in the eighth.
The five-win day was the third of Panell’s career. He is the first jockey to accomplish this riding feat at Suffolk Downs since Winston Thompson on November 11, 2006. Panell rode five winners for Rigattieri on June 19, 2006. Rigattieri also saddled five winners on July 15, 2006, four of which were ridden by Panell.
Panell has the highest winning percentage among Suffolk jockeys each of the last three seasons, winning at a 27% clip. He finished fourth in the 2007 Suffolk standings with 67 victories from only 244 mounts. Rigattieri has been leading trainer at Suffolk Downs the last four years, saddling 64 winners a year ago.
RACING TO HISTORY
May 22, 1974: Locust Hill Farm’s Ruffian won her first start, a maiden race for two-year-old fillies, by 15 lengths at Belmont Park. Sent off at odds of 4-1, Ruffian completed the 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.
May 23, 1936: Rushaway, ridden by John Longden, won his second derby in as many days, taking the 1 1/4-mile Latonia Derby at Latonia in Covington, Ky. Rushaway had won the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby, run at Aurora, outside Chicago, the previous day.
May 23, 1992: Jockey Jacinto Vasquez had his 5,000th career winner, aboard Susan Pixum, at Calder Racecourse.
May 24, 1905: Harry Payne Whitney’s Tanya became the second (and last) filly to win the Belmont Stakes. Ruthless was the first filly to win the Belmont, in 1867. Whitney also won the Kentucky Derby with a filly, Regret, in 1915.
May 24, 1977: At odds of 13-1, Louis and Patrice Wolfson’s two-year-old colt Affirmed won his maiden race by 4 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park, ridden by jockey Bernie Gonzalez.
May 25, 1991: Jockey Steve Cauthen won his fourth European derby, the Derby Italiano, with Hailsham, trained by Clive Brittain. Cauthen has also won the Epsom Derby twice, the Irish Derby and the French Derby, in addition to his Kentucky Derby win with Affirmed.
May 27, 1823: A $20,000 match race between American Eclipse (representing The North) and Henry (representing The South) was held at Union Course, Long Island. Eclipse won in two-of-three heats, after his original jockey, William Crafts, was replaced by Samuel Purdy before the second heat. The race, witnessed by 60,000 spectators, was the first to have been timed by split-second chronometers, which were imported for the event.
May 27, 1873: A bay colt, Survivor, won the first Preakness Stakes by 10 lengths, the largest margin in the race’s history.
May 27, 1878: The entire field of Preakness Stakes horses-three-was owned by a single family, the brothers George and Pierre Lorillard. George’s horses finished first and third.
May 27, 1882: Trainer Robert Walden won his fifth consecutive Preakness Stakes, with Vanguard. Walden won a total of seven Preaknesses, a record for a trainer.
May 27, 1981: Bill Shoemaker became the first jockey in racing history to win 8,000 races when he rode War Allied to victory in the first race at Hollywood Park.