News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
BREEDERS’ CUP WIN BY ZENYATTA VOTED 2008 NTRA MOMENT OF THE YEAR
The victory by Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic — a win that culminated a perfect seven-for-seven 2008 campaign — has been voted the 2008 National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Moment of the Year. The connections of Zenyatta will be honored at the Eclipse Award ceremony Monday, January 26, in Miami with the “NTRA Moment of the Year” award. Balloting was conducted at the NTRA Web site, ntra.com. The images and events that fans chose from were:
* Pyro charges past all 10 of his foes in the stretch to take the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds
* Reigning Horse of the Year Curlin dominates the Dubai World Cup
* Big Brown powers home from post 20 to take the Kentucky Derby
* Exhilaration turns to heartbreak as Eight Belles suffers a fatal injury following the Kentucky Derby
* Big Brown spurts away from his opponents in the Preakness Stakes
* Triple Crown hopeful Big Brown is eased as Da’ Tara wins the Belmont Stakes
* Red Rocks spoils Curlin’s grass debut in Belmont’s Man o’ War Stakes
* Curlin wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup to become North America’s first $10 million earner
* Peppers Pride stays perfect and sets a modern North American record with her 17th straight victory
* Zenyatta caps her undefeated season with a resounding, last-to-first win in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic
* Goldikova unleashes a powerful stretch burst to defeat defending champ Kip Deville in the Breeders’ Cup Mile
* Raven’s Pass culminates a big day for the Europeans, defeating Henrythenavigator and Curlin in the Breeders’ Cup Classic
The winning entry received 24% of the votes cast. The runner-up was Big Brown’s Kentucky Derby victory, which received 18%. Finishing third in the vote with 15% was the tragic injury suffered by Eight Belles following the Kentucky Derby. In fourth place, with 11%, was the Jockey Club Gold Cup win that made Curlin North America’s first $10 million earner.
The first-ever “NTRA Moment of the Year” was the scene involving Charismatic and jockey Chris Antley following the 1999 Belmont Stakes. The following year’s winner was 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 Preakness Stakes. In 2006, fans paid tribute to the emotional scene at the New Bolton Center as Barbaro recovered from the serious injury he suffered during the Preakness Stakes. Last year, voters chose the Belmont Stakes victory by Rags to Riches over Curlin.
“The NTRA Moment of the Year award is a great way for the fans to play an active role in the Eclipse Awards ceremony,” said Keith Chamblin, NTRA senior vice president. “Fans clearly love Zenyatta, and we are delighted to salute her convincing Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic victory as the latest NTRA Moment of the Year.”
MAHAN, PART OWNER OF FUNNY CIDE, DEAD AT 61
Dave Mahan, a member of the Sackatoga Stable partnership that campaigned 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, passed away Wednesday morning in a Waterbury, Conn., hospital due to a brain tumor. He was 61.
A caterer, Mahan met Sackatoga principal Jack Knowlton while playing the races at Saratoga. Through their friendship, Mahan began investing in Sackatoga purchases, including Funny Cide, who was acquired for the bargain price of $75,000 and went on to earn over $3.5 million.
ENGLISHMAN LANDS JOB AS TRACK ANNOUNCER AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Mark Johnson, one of the most popular and acclaimed horse racing commentators in Britain, will bring his talents to America in 2009 as the new track announcer for Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
“In our eyes, Mark Johnson is the complete package when it comes to a track announcer,” said Churchill Downs President Steve Sexton. “He is a unique, polished and passionate talent with an absolutely infectious personality. His race calls and pre- and post-race commentary are supremely accurate, descriptive and colorful, and his knowledge of the sport of horse racing and its historical perspective is vast. It all makes for a wonderful and unique entertainment mix and we’re thrilled to showcase his talents to an American and worldwide audience in 2009.”
Johnson becomes only the sixth track announcer in Churchill Downs history and “Voice of the Kentucky Derby”. The 42-year-old native of Skegness, Lincolnshire, England replaces the late Luke Kruytbosch, who unexpectedly passed away July 14 from an apparent heart attack at age 47.
When he provides on-track call and commentary for this year’s 135th running of the Kentucky Derby, Johnson will become the first announcer to have called the action in both the Kentucky Derby and the Epsom Derby.
“Never in a million years did I ever think I would be in this position,” said Johnson. “It is a dream come true.”
Johnson was part of a select group of five talented guest announcers who each spent one week behind the binoculars and microphone at Churchill Downs during the 2008 Fall Meet. The others were Larry Collmus, Bobby Neuman, Travis Stone and Michael Wrona.
During and after the Fall Meet, opinions from customers were gathered through online surveying, emails and in-person discussions, which played an important role with the selection committee.
“The most common thing that we heard and saw in the responses from customers was the sense that he was painting a picture of the races before, during and after like nobody else was,” said Tom Aronson, Churchill Downs Inc. Vice President. “His passion for horse racing really comes through the microphone and he brings a unique play-by-play approach to the announcer’s booth that covers much more than just the race itself. All of us noticed his pre-race commentary on movements in the odds of horses and other developments of interest to casual fans and players alike, observations that clearly added entertainment and insight to their handicapping efforts and got everyone more engaged. We came to feel, as many others did, that Mark Johnson is a special, standout talent with great upside for Churchill Downs and the sport of horse racing.”
SQUARE EDDIE TAKES AIM ON TRIPLE CROWN IN SAN RAFAEL SATURDAY
Preparations for this year’s Triple Crown begin in earnest on Saturday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., with the Grade III, $100,000 San Rafael Stakes part of a graded stakes tripleheader that includes a pair of Grade II events, the $150,000 San Fernando for 4-year-olds and the $150,000 Santa Ynez for 3-year-old fillies.
Square Eddie, runner-up to Midshipman as the 7-2 favorite in October’s
$2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, likely will be an odds-on choice among eight 3-year-olds in the one-mile San Rafael, a race that has produced six Santa Anita Derby winners during the past 19 years.
El Gato Malo, winner of last year’s Lone Star Derby and the beaten favorite in the Santa Anita Derby, continues on the comeback trail in the 57th running of the San Fernando at 1 1/16 miles.
His primary competition among 12 entrants includes Oak Tree Derby winner Muny, Del Mar Derby winner Madeo, Swaps Stakes winner Tres Borrachos and Booted, a son of A.P. Indy who will be making his stakes debut following a pair of impressive comeback victories.
Trainer John Sadler sends out a pair among ten aspirants in the 55th Santa Ynez at seven furlongs, including multiple stakes winner Evita Argentina, the 123-pound high weight, and Alpha Kitten, fourth in Hollywood Park’s Grade I Starlet in her last start.
Trained by Doug O’Neill for J. Paul Reddam, Canadian-bred Square Eddie scored a stunning 4 ¾-length victory in Keeneland’s Grade I Breeders’ Futurity, his U.S. debut early last October after four earlier starts as a 2-year-old in England.
Impressive enough to earn favoritism in the Breeders’ Cup, Square Eddie responded with a game second to Midshipman. Despite the 1 ¼-length defeat in his first start for O’Neill, Leandro Mora, deputizing for a Chicken Pox-stricken O’Neill, was pleased. “That was phenomenal,” Mora said after the event. “In the stretch, I thought he had a chance to go by, but he hesitated because the winner was too close to the rail. But I was pleased. He ran a huge race.”
Rafael Bejarano, aboard in the Breeders’ Cup hosted by Oak Tree at Santa Anita, will be back atop the chestnut son of Smart Strike who has earned $767,366 from a 2-2-1 record in six career starts.
Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, whose partnership sold top 2-year-old Vineyard Haven to Godolphin Racing last November, is hopeful that he may have an adequate replacement in Brother Keith, who makes his stakes debut in the San Rafael following a single start.
“You gotta try him someplace,” Frankel said of the colt who pulled away to take his debut by 2 ¼ lengths at Churchill Downs on Nov. 8 for Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey. “We’ll learn more about him this weekend,” said Frankel. Garrett Gomez, the nation’s leading rider in purse earnings the last three years, will be in the saddle.
The complete field for the San Rafael Stakes, in post position order, is: The Pamplemousse (jockey: Alex Solis); Fiddlers Afleet (Michael Baze); Brother Keith (Garrett Gomez); Ryehill Dreamer (Mike Smith); Papa Clem (Tyler Baze); Square Eddie (Rafael Bejarano); Charlie’s Moment (Joel Rosario); and Feisty Suances (David Flores).
ALICE CHANDLER TO RECEIVE ECLIPSE AWARD OF MERIT
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and The National Turf Writers Association have announced that Alice Headley Chandler, owner of Mill Ridge Farm and preeminent industry leader, will be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit for a lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing.
Mrs. Chandler will receive the Eclipse Award of Merit on Monday, evening January 26 at the 38th Annual Eclipse Awards ceremony at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach in Miami Beach, Fla.
“I am just thrilled to be honored with the Eclipse Award,” said Chandler, of Lexington, Ky. “I have had a wonderful life with Thoroughbreds.
Chandler’s father, Hal Price Headley, was a successful horseman and a co-founder of Keeneland Association. Following her father’s death in 1962, with four broodmares, Mrs. Chandler started Mill Ridge. She made a bold move by mating one of her broodmares, Attica, to multiple stakes winner Sir Gaylord. “I was short on money because I had just built a new barn,” said Chandler. “I thought it would be a good match, but didn’t expect how good.”
Sir Ivor was sold to for $42,000 Arthur “Bull” Hancock at Keeneland’s July 1966 sale on behalf of Raymond Guest.” Sir Ivor won the 1968 Epsom Derby for Guest and was later named England’s Horse of the Year.
“Sir Ivor’s influence provided a major turning point in opening up the American market to the European market,” said Keeneland Association President and CEO Nick Nicholson. “It convinced foreign buyers that North American pedigrees could be adapted to European training methods and win Classic races.”
In addition to Sir Ivor, Mill Ridge has than bred, raced or sold a stellar collection of stakes winners, including 2001 Horse of the Year Point Given, Japanese Horse of the Year Symboli Kris S,1999 Kentucky Oaks winner Keeper Hill, 2005 Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, and five Breeders’ Cup winners: Artie Schiller, Sweet Catomine, Round Pond, Spain and Johar.
Chandler is equally proud of her leadership role in many equine organizations. She has served as Chairman of the University of Kentucky Equine Research Foundation, president of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, and a director of the Breeders’ Cup, Keeneland Association, Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association; and a member of the Equine Drug Council and the Gluck Research Center. “I believed it was important for me to take an active leadership role for these important programs and organizations,” she continued. “All of this has made for a terrific life.”
“Alice Chandler richly deserves to be honored for her lifelong contributions to the Thoroughbred industry,” said NTRA President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “Her remarkable achievements as an owner and breeder, and her service to a wide range of racing organizations over many decades, make her an exemplary choice for the Award of Merit.”