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NTRA Thoroughbred Notebook

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


Bourbon Bay and Champ Pegasus, the West Coast’s foremost turf marathoners, renew their long-distance relationship in Santa Anita’s Grade II, $150,000 San Luis Obispo Stakes at 1 ½ miles on Saturday, when they meet for the third time in what promises to be the “rubber game” of their racing rivalry. Bourbon Bay got the better of favored Champ Pegasus most recently in the Jan. 17 San Marcos Stakes at 1 ¼ miles. Before that, Champ Pegasus made good on his 8-5 favoritism when besting third-place Bourbon Bay by one length in Oak Tree’s Clement L. Hirsch over 1 ¼ miles at Hollywood Park on Oct. 3.

It is expected that the more recent San Marcos result, which separated the pair by one length, will elevate Bourbon Bay to slight favoritism when attempting to defend his title among 13 entrants in the 55th running of the San Luis Obispo. Although inclement weather is a distinct possibility on Saturday, it is hoped the San Luis Obisbo will remain on Santa Anita’s Camino Real Turf Course. First run on turf in 1954, a surface switch has occurred just three times in San Luis Obispo history, most recently in 2005.

The complete field for the San Luis Obispo Stakes, in post position order, is: Bourbon Bay (jockey: Rafael Bejarano, weight: 123); Haimish Hy (Garrett Gomez, 123); Riviera Cocktail (Alonso Quinonez, 118); Juniper Pass (Brice Blanc, 118); Champ Pegasus (Joel Rosario, 123); Pode Ir (Omar Berrio,118); Interpatation (Santiago Reyes, 118; Falcon Rock (Patrick Valenzuela, 118; Unbridle’s Dream (Joseph Talamo, 118); Marlang (David Flores, 118); Tiz Argent (Victor Espinoza, 118); Imponente Purse (Martin Garcia, 118); and Buenos Dias (Martin Pedroza, 118).

Meanwhile Smiling Tigerwill seek redemption with a rider switch to Joel Rosario when he goes up against six sprinters in Saturday’s co-feature, the 73rd running of the Grade II, $150,000 San Carlos Handicap at seven furlongs.

Rosario will replace Northern California-based Russell Baze atop Smiling Tiger in the San Carlos with Alan Klein and Philip Lebherz’s 4-year-old colt having been assigned high weight of 121 pounds. After having won Oak Tree’s Ancient Title Stakes, running a competitive third to Big Drama in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and losing by a nose to the brilliant Twirling Candy in Santa Anita’s opening-day Malibu Stakes with Baze in the saddle, Smiling Tiger took it on the chin in the Palos Verdes.

He suffered the worst defeat of his 12-race career in the six furlong event while finishing third, 4 ½ lengths behind 9-1 winner Euroears at odds of 2-5. Smiling Tiger had drawn the rail and acted up in the gate.

The complete field for the San Carlos, in post position order, is: Mythical Power (Rafael Bejarano, 117); Ventana (Martin Garcia, 119); Stacy’s Hope (Victor Espinoza, 113); Captain Cherokee (Joe Talamo, 117); Smiling Tiger (Joel Rosario, 121); and Supreme Summit (Garrett Gomez, 118).


Catesby Clay’s Rogue Romance, third in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last fall, and Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team 1 Racing’s Mucho Macho Man, who was fourth in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park three weeks ago, are expected to vie for the public’s affection in New Orleans this Saturday when they head a field of 10 sophomores named to Fair Grounds’ Grade II, $300,000 Risen Star Stakes in the final local prep for the Louisiana Derby five weeks later. Saturday’s card will also feature three Grade III races: the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, the Mineshaft Handicap and the Fair Grounds Handicap.

In the Risen Star, Rogue Romance has been given a slight edge at 3-1 in the morning line while Mucho Macho Man has been installed as the 4-1 second choice.

Rogue Romance is trained by Ken McPeek, who won the 2002 Risen Star and Louisiana Derby with Select Stable’s Repent, and this colt will be making his first start of 2011 since last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

“We’re just as confident in this horse as we were with Repent,” said McPeek Monday, shortly after the post position draw.

Prior to his lone 2011 start in the Holy Bull Stakes, Mucho Macho Man had run second in last fall’s Remsen and Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct as a 2-year-old.
“We’ve got to figure out exactly where we fit in the picture with all the rest of this year’s 3-year-olds,” said Mucho Macho Man’s trainer Kathy Ritvo on Sunday. “This race Saturday should answer that question.”

Jockey Julien Leparoux will return in the irons on Rogue Romance in the Risen Star, while Eibar Coa will be aboard Mucho Macho Man once again Saturday.

Just for Fun Stable’s Decisive Moment, 3 1/2-lengths the best in the $250,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs in his only start as a sophomore on Jan. 14, is a close third choice pegged at 9-2 in the Risen Star morning line, and is slated to have Kerwin Clark in the irons once again.
“It’s amazing how much this horse has improved between his 2-year-old and 3-year-old seasons,” Clark said.

The complete Risen Star field, in post position order, is: Rogue Romance (jockey: Julien Leparoux, morning line odds: 3-1); Liondrive (Chantel Sutherland, 50-1); Decisive Moment (Kerwin Clark, 9-2); Pants On Fire (Joe Bravo, 6-1); Mucho Macho Man (Eibar Coa, 4-1); Machen (Jamie Theriot, 6-1); Santiva (Mike Smith, 6-1); Action Ready (Rosie Napravnik, 12-1); Justin Phillip (Shaun Bridgmohan, 8-1); and Sorgho (Eddie Martin Jr., 30-1).


“Night School”–the racing industry’s first national, interactive online fan education forum–will make its debut on Monday, February 21, and be made available free of charge to all National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) member organizations, the NTRA announced this week. Pioneered and developed by Horse Player NOW, Night School will be syndicated and implemented into racetrack and organization websites throughout the industry, providing a professional, consistent and unified outlet for fan education. Presenting title sponsors of the program are the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and Keeneland.

Co-hosted by owners Jeremy Plonk and Joe Kristufek, the weekly Night School lessons are offered free to any racing fan who wants to learn more about the game and will include both novice and advance-level fan education. The 40-week season runs through December 19 with 90-minute sessions taking place from 8:30-10:00 p.m. (ET) each week. Other regular panelists will include Horse Player NOW’s Caton Bredar and Churchill Downs analyst Jill Byrne. Topical experts will be brought in weekly to share their expertise.

Each class will include a 60-minute topical discussion, complete with an introduction video and downloadable lesson overview, and a 30-minute open forum where racing fans can ask the panel of experts anything about horse racing. Each of the lessons over the 40 weeks will be archived, creating an educational library via the popular Cover It Live live-blogging technology used by many of the world’s leading news agencies.

Racetrack and other member websites affiliated with the title sponsors – the NTRA, AQHA and Keeneland – will be permitted to offer the Night School sessions on their sites at no charge. Other racing organizations already signed on to participate in the program include Churchill Downs, Arlington Park, Fair Grounds, Calder Race Course, Hawthorne Race Course, Oaklawn Park, Pimlico, Laurel and the University of Arizona Racetrack Industry Program.

“This is an excellent initiative and resource for existing and prospective fans, and we hope all member organizations will join the NTRA in carrying Night School on their Web sites,” said Keith Chamblin, Senior Vice President of the NTRA. “Night School is a national approach to addressing fan education through the utilization of the Internet and social media tools that did not exist a few years ago.”

Topics for all 40 Night School sessions have been established and will be released as the season unfolds. The first five topics will be: 21st century handicapping; handicapping for class; pace handicapping; trip handicapping; and track bias. While many of the subjects are aimed directly at horseplayers, other scheduled topics will include ownership, racehorse retirement, behind-the-scenes looks at various racetrack jobs and more.

“Jeremy and I are both extremely passionate about education, and we relish the opportunity to interact with, and teach, horse racing fans at all levels,” said Joe Kristufek, Night School host and co-owner of “With knowledge comes interest. Horse racing is a fascinating game, and the more you know about it from every angle, the more captivating it becomes. A successful future for horse racing is predicated upon growing the fan base, and that’s what Night School is all about.”


Signups are now being accepted at for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship “March to the NHC Online Kickoff Challenge”–a free, online handicapping tournament on Sunday, March 6. The four highest finishers among registered Daily Racing Form NHC Tour members will receive guaranteed berths in the $2 million (estimated) Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship (NHC) in January 2012 in Las Vegas. The four qualifiers will also receive roundtrip air travel and hotel accommodations for their trip to the 2012 NHC.

The March to the NHC Online Challenge requires contestants to place hypothetical $2 win and place wagers on 10 designated contest races on Sunday, March 6. The 10 contest races will be chosen by tournament officials on Friday, March 4, and are scheduled to be selected from the March 6 cards at Aqueduct, Gulfstream Park, Fair Grounds and Santa Anita Park (contest tracks subject to change). Free DRF past performances for the tournament races will be available at the contest site. All selections must be made no later than one minute prior to the scheduled post time of each mandatory race. The four players amassing the highest number of points based on the players’ earnings (i.e. the highest final bankroll) from all $2 win and place wagers at the end of the competition will receive berths in the January 2012 NHC in Las Vegas, provided that they have registered for the 2011 NHC Tour prior to the start of the tournament.
To sign up for the 2011 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour, visit The Daily Racing Form NHC Tour is a yearlong bonus series offering an additional $125,000 in prize money–including $75,000 to the overall points leader at year’s end–plus qualifying berths to the DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship to be held in January 2012 in Las Vegas. Membership in the 2011 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour is open to adults 21 years of age or older and requires a one-time membership fee of $45. Membership in the 2011 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour is mandatory in order for top finishers of sanctioned NHC qualifying events to be eligible to compete in the January 2012 NHC Finals in Las Vegas. The NHC Tour membership must be in place prior to the start of any given qualifying tournament in order for one to qualify for the NHC Finals at that qualifying tournament.

Among the many benefits of 2011 Daily Racing Form NHC Tour membership are free, online qualifying tournaments that are restricted to NHC Tour members. Additional free, online qualifying events–offering a total of six additional berths to the NHC Finals–will be held later in 2011.

To register for the March 6 online tournament, or for additional information about it, including prize terms and conditions, visit