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NTRA Thoroughbred Notebook

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

Michael Blowen, founder and president of Old Friends — a Central Kentucky retirement home for Thoroughbreds no longer capable of racing or breeding — announced this week that his organization would open its first satellite facility for retired Thoroughbreds. Cabin Creek, a 40-acre farm just outside Saratoga in Greenfield Center, N.Y., will begin receiving horses immediately and will be named in honor of trainer Bobby Frankel, who passed away earlier this week after a battle with leukemia. An official opening and celebration is planned for July 22, 2010. A native New Yorker, Frankel was a long supporter of the Old Friends mission and earned many of his greatest victories at New York racetracks. The farm will formally be known as “Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division.” Owned by Joann and Mark Pepper, Cabin Creek features 12 stalls, two round pens, five finished paddocks, and has raw space available for development and growth. Its first resident is Moonshadow Gold, a 10-year-old New York-bred gelding acquired through the efforts of several equine-welfare advocates. “When we built the farm my goal was to do Thoroughbred retirement,” said Joann, who began her life with horses as a groom for Nick Zito. “Initially we did boarding and foaling as a way to establish ourselves, but I always came back to the idea of retirement. I had read about Old Friends, and this summer an article in ‘The Saratogian’ prompted me to call Michael,” she continued. “I explained that my farm was empty, and I wanted to emulate what he was doing. It just clicked that we would do it together. And it’s really an honor to dedicate our farm to a man like Bobby Frankel who had such a great love of horses.” In 2003 former Boston Globe journalist Michael Blowen began building Old Friends. Today the farm has grown to more than 92-acres and is home to more than 70 ex-race. It is open to the public and attracts thousands of tourists annually. It has long been an objective of the group to launch additional facilities wherever horse racing and breeding are prominent. “This was just an amazing opportunity,” said Blowen, who finalized arrangements with the Peppers last week. “I have always felt there was a need for Old Friends all over the country. While I was on my way back from Saratoga, I heard about Bobby’s passing, and I immediately thought that a place in New York that was home to both top champions and bottom claimers would be a perfect memorial to his career. Any horse trained by Frankel will be given priority at Old Friends at Cabin Creek.”

With his win aboard Citigambler in last Sunday’s third race at Charles Town, in Charles Town, W.V., rider Travis Dunkelberger equaled the North American record for consecutive wins by a jockey with nine. The record was established by Albert Adams in 1930 and equaled in 1993 by Anthony Black.
Dunkelberger’s attempt to break the record fell short in Sunday’s seventh race at Charles Town when his mount, Warm Springs Girl, held the lead in the stretch but finished second by a length and a quarter as the odds-on favorite.
Prior to Sunday’s seventh race, Dunkelberger had reeled off nine consecutive wins at both Charles Town and Laurel with his last defeat coming in Laurel’s fifth race on November 11th.

Following the popularity of a three-date market test earlier this year, Churchill Downs in Louisville will stage six special “Downs After Dark” nighttime racing programs in 2010.
Churchill Downs will host its Downs After Dark programs on the final four Fridays of the 42-date Spring Meet and on two nights during the 20-date Fall Meet, including opening night which doubles as Halloween. The dates, pending final approval from the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, are: Friday, June 11, 2010 (post time: 6:00 p.m.); Friday, June 18 (6:00 p.m.); Friday, June 25 (6:00 p.m.); Friday, July 2 (6:00 p.m.); Sunday, October 31 (4:30 p.m.); and Friday, November 19 (4:30 p.m.).
When Churchill Downs hosted night racing events on June 19, June 26 and July 2 of this year, the average attendance was 29,705. A crowd of 33,481 attended the finale on July 2 – the largest attendance for a Churchill Downs racing program other than a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks or Breeders’ Cup. It topped the old mark of 28,396 for a pre-simulcast-wagering-era million-dollar Pick 6 carryover on November 14, 1987.
The event’s popularity helped signal the go-ahead on a multi-million dollar project to install permanent track lighting at the home of the Kentucky Derby.
“We want to keep Downs After Dark a special and unique experience for our fans,” Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said. “For three nights this past spring, Churchill Downs was transformed into Louisville’s ultimate nighttime hot spot… Our goal for the coming year is to deliver that same level of excitement to core customers, casual patrons and entertainment-seekers within these six special Downs After Dark events in 2010.”