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News, Notes, and Fair Grounds Scoring For Size

It was only a matter of time before another track swooped in and hired Eric Halstrom away from Canterbury. That being said, the announcement made earlier this week by Churchill Downs Incorporated that Halstrom had been named vice president and general manager of racing at Fair Grounds in New Orleans was not a complete surprise. This is a huge opportunity and a well-deserved one. Fair Grounds has a great history and racing opportunities galore.

Eric, a graduate of the U of M and the Arizona Race Track Industry Program, has been a part of the Canterbury team for nine years. He began as the mutuels manager (a title much less descriptive than the actual responsibilities). He was promoted to vice president of racing and simulcasting a few years ago.

Eric is a horseracing guy. He is in this business for that reason. That should not be underestimated in an industry that needs more people just like him. I hope Churchill Downs Inc. realizes the quality of this hire. Those of us that worked for Eric will be at a loss for the time being. He was the type of boss that asked for and then actually listened to input. He gave us all a chance. And that transferred over to the day-to-day business, making this a comfortable place for you, the horseplayers. He possesses a strong business sense but he always put you first and tried to put himself in your shoes when making decisions. Eric will be missed here by all of us. His work ethic and dedication however will remain and for that Canterbury should be thankful.

His friends at Canterbury wish him the best and look forward to opening day at Fair Grounds on November 14. And now we really have a reason to make that trip to New Orleans this winter.
News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.


Steve Asmussen, who is on pace to demolish his record for wins by a trainer in a single year, and Nick Zito, a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, are among the trainers looking for star-making performances by some of their young stars in the two graded stakes races that headline Saturday’s first of two “Stars of Tomorrow” racing programs of the Churchill Downs Fall Meet.

All 11 races on the day showcase 2-year-old Thoroughbreds, headlined by the 28th running of the Grade III, $100,000 Iroquois and the 41st renewal of the Grade III, $100,000 Pocahontas for fillies – each run at a mile. A second “Stars of Tomorrow” program is scheduled on Nov. 29, the closing day of the 26-day Fall Meet.

Despite an abundance of high quality 2-year-olds that have fueled his stable in recent years, Asmussen has never won the Iroquois and has only one victory in the Pocahontas. He’ll attempt to end his winless string in the Iroquois with Star of David and will seek the Pocahontas with Selective. Zito will be represented only in the Iroquois, a race in which he has entered Brave Victory. Zito won the 2003 Iroquois with LaPenta’s The Cliff’s Edge.

Star of David was successful in his career debut for Asmussen at Churchill Downs, but then lost three consecutive stakes races on Polytrack and turf at Canada’s Woodbine. The son of Bernstein finished third to Grand Adventure in his most recent start in the Summer Stakes on the grass. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride.

Brave Victory is the only member of the Iroquois field with experience in Grade I competition. He suffered narrow losses in his first two starts for Zito at Saratoga before he rolled to a 7 ¼-length victory in a seven-furlong race at Belmont Park. He finished seventh to Vineyard Haven in his stakes debut in the Grade I Champagne at Belmont on Oct. 4. Three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux is scheduled to ride.

Selective, a daughter of Tapit ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, enters the Pocahontas off a pair of strong runs in New York that included a front-running victory in a six-furlong maiden race at Belmont Park. She could give Asmussen a second Pocahontas triumph to go along with a victory by Punch Appeal in 2003.


The Texas Racing Commission has approved the request to move 43 of Sam Houston Race Park’s Thoroughbred race dates to Retama Park in San Antonio as a result of damage suffered by the Houston race track from Hurricane Ike last month. The remaining 12 days scheduled for Sam Houston were cancelled and will not be rescheduled.

“We are extremely disappointed that we had to cancel the Thoroughbred meet at The Park this winter,” said Andrea Young, Chief Operating Officer, Sam Houston Race Park. “However, we are proud of efforts made by the Texas Racing Commission, the horsemen and our counterparts at Retama to preserve wintertime racing in Texas. We plan to support Retama in any way possible.”

The additional racing dates will extend Retama’s current meet, which opened August 29, through February 28, 2009, creating 78 days of live Thoroughbred racing.

Hurricane Ike slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast on Friday, September 12. The hurricane forced Sam Houston to end the 2008 American Quarter Horse meet one week early and suspend simulcast operations for more than a week.


Oct. 30, 1937: Sir Barton, the first American Triple Crown winner, died at age 21. After an undistinguished career as a sire, Sir Barton was sent to the U.S. Army’s Remount Division in Nebraska, and then to a ranch in Wyoming, where he remained until his death.

Oct. 30, 1988: After the blinkers on his mount, Roaring River, worked loose, jockey Francisco Torres grabbed them and placed them between his teeth to keep his hands free for riding. Roaring River won the race, at Hawthorne, by three lengths.

Oct. 31, 1944: The saddle cloth numbers of the first five race winners at Jamaica corresponded to the number of the race in which each horse started.

Oct. 31, 1964: Seven-year-old Kelso won his fifth consecutive Jockey Club Gold Cup, a record. In each of those races, Kelso was the odds-on favorite.

Oct. 31, 1987: Jockey Chris Antley became the first rider to win nine races in a single day. He rode four winners from six mounts at Aqueduct and five winners from eight tries during The Meadowlands’ evening program.

Oct. 31, 2002: Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone returned to race riding after a two-year absence. She finished fifth aboard both of her mounts on the day at Santa Anita Park.

Oct. 31, 2003: Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel broke D. Wayne Lukas’ North American single season earnings record of $17,842,358 set in 1988 after saddling Golden Rahy to victory in the seventh race at Santa Anita.
Oct. 31, 2007: Trainer Scott Lake registered the 4,000th win of his career when he saddled Hickory Trick to victory in the 8th race at Penn National.