News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
SANTA ANITA RACING DUE TO RESUME TODAY
Due to continued heavy rainfall, Santa Anita Park was forced to cancel live racing last Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Santa Anita received approximately seven and a half inches of rain during that period, but racing is expected to resume as planned today.
“This has obviously been a very difficult period for everyone involved but we’re looking forward to getting back to business,” said Santa Anita Director of Racing Michael J. Harlow. “A lot of people are very anxious to run on the turf, which is in terrific shape, and the main track should be ready.”
“We’ve got some huge stakes over the weekend, with the San Fernando and the San Rafael on Saturday and the El Encino and the Santa Ynez on Sunday. These are very important, long-standing stakes here at Santa Anita and we want the horsemen and the public to know that we fully intend to run.”
Santa Anita’s sand-based training track has remained open for training throughout the shutdown, and Santa Anita’s main racing surface, Cushion Track, was reopened for training yesterday.
LECOMTE HEADLINES ‘ROAD TO THE DERBY’ KICKOFF AT FG
The Grade III, $100,000 Lecomte Stakes headlines a six-stakes card on “Road to the Derby” Kickoff Day Saturday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
A field of nine has been entered for the Lecomte. The 7-2 morning-line choice is Blackberry Road, making his first start as a sophomore after finishing second by a half-length in Churchill’s Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last Nov. 24.
The Saturday Fair Grounds card includes five other $100,000 stakes: the Tiffany Lass for 3-year-old fillies, the Grade III Col. E. R. Bradley Handicap for older horses on turf, the Louisiana Handicap for older horses, the F.W. Gaudin Memorial for sprinters and the Dr. A. B. Leggio Memorial for distaff sprinters on turf.
Coming to New Orleans to ride Blackberry Road in the Lecomte is Louisiana native Calvin Borel, who will making his first appearance at Fair Grounds since piloting Street Sense to victory in last year’s Kentucky Derby. Borel, born in St. Martinville, has referred to Blackberry Road as “Little Street.”
The Lecomte has been a significant starting point for 3-year-olds in recent years. Last year’s Lecomte winner, Hard Spun, went on to finish second in the 2007 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. In 2002, War Emblem finished fifth in the Lecomte but went on to capture the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
From the rail out, the Lecomte field with jockeys and morning line consists of: Texas Fever (jockey: Jamie Theriot, morning line odds: 4-1); The Darp (Robby Albarado, 8-1); He’s Eze (Jose Rivera II, 12-1); Star Guitar (Curt Bourque, 8-1); Z Fortune (Shaun Bridgmohan, 6-1); Blackberry Road (Calvin Borel, 7-2); Mad Flatter (James Graham, 6-1); Macho Again (Julien Leparoux, 9-2); and Star Defender (Miguel Mena, 12-1).
CLASSIC WINNER CURLIN RETURNS TO WORKTAB
Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge winner Curlin, aiming for a potential 4-year-old campaign, worked a half-mile in :53 2-5 seconds Sunday at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. It was the first timed workout for Curlin since his Breeders’ Cup victory.
“We’re progressing nicely,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who watched Curlin’s workout from horseback. “He galloped out in 1:06 and change.”
Asmussen is targeting Saturday as the next workout day for both Curlin and Pyro, who was on the track about 20 minutes before Curlin Sunday but did not register an official workout.
Asmussen said Pyro, who was second behind War Pass in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last year, would have four more workouts before his scheduled 3-year-old debut Feb. 9 in the Grade III, $300,000 Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.
“NTRA RACING TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY” TO AIR BEGINNING MARCH 22
“NTRA Racing to the Kentucky Derby” will air on the ESPN networks beginning Saturday, March 22, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today. The series provides coverage of several key Triple Crown prep races, including the $1 million Florida Derby on March 29 from Gulfstream Park, $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes from Keeneland on April 12 and the $1 million Arkansas Derby from Oaklawn Park, also on April 12.
Beginning with live coverage of the March 22 Lane’s End Stakes from Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., “NTRA Racing to the Kentucky Derby” will offer six major races from four different race tracks. The series will conclude with a Triple Crown special airing from Louisville’s Churchill Downs on May 1, two days prior to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
Other races to be shown live are the April 12 Holy Bull Stakes from Gulfstream and the April 19 Coolmore Lexington Stakes from Keeneland.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense made his final start before the Run for the Roses in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. The 2007 Arkansas Derby winner, Curlin, went on to capture the Preakness Stakes, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge.
“We are proud to again partner with ESPN in bringing racing fans key contests leading up to the Kentucky Derby,” said Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the NTRA. “Later in the year, we will be announcing a comprehensive package of summer races, also to be televised on the ESPN family of networks.”
The initial NTRA telecast of 2008 will feature special, live coverage of the January 26 Sunshine Millions from 5:00-6:00 p.m. on ESPN2. The Sunshine Millions features the nation’s top Florida- and California breds squaring off in races taking place at both Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita.
KENTUCKY HORSE PARK TO RECEIVE SPECIAL ECLIPSE AWARD
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) has announced that the Kentucky Horse Park, the world renowned educational theme park and equine competition facility, and home for 23 years of the great racehorse John Henry, has been honored with the 2007 Special Eclipse Award. The Special Eclipse Award, which is presented by the National Turf Writers Association, Daily Racing Form and the NTRA, honors outstanding individual achievements in, or contributions to, the sport of Thoroughbred racing.
“We are exhilarated to be honored with the Special Eclipse Award,” said John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park, which is based in Lexington, Ky. “This is the culmination of enormous efforts by many people over the past three decades who played a central role in the celebration of that special bond between man and the horse.”
Nicholson will be presented the Special Award, on behalf of the Kentucky Horse Park, at the 37th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony on Monday, January 21, at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Founded in 1978 as the first national horse park, the Kentucky Horse Park has expanded over the years to feature as many as 53 different breeds of horses at work and at play. The park showcases the horse in daily equine presentations, horse drawn tours, horseback riding and pony rides, and cultural exhibits. The park hosts nearly 900,000 visitors and 15,000 competition horses in 75 special events and horse shows each year. It is also the home of the National Horse Center, a collection of 34 national, state and regional equine organizations.
The park is perhaps best known for its Hall of Champions, which is home for retired champions of the race track and show ring, most notably, two-time time horse of the year, John Henry, who lived there until his passing last October, and was its most popular attraction. “For 23 years, we were able to care for John Henry, while he was visited by millions of fans, and allowed us to tell our story,” said Nicholson. “John Henry epitomized our philosophy that horses are our heroes and our partners.”
“John Henry’s indomitable will and spirit symbolized the love and dedication that the Kentucky Horse Park has given to the Thoroughbred industry over the years,” said Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the NTRA. “On behalf of the presenting organizations of the Eclipse Awards, we are proud to bestow this most deserving honor to the men and women of the Kentucky Horse Park.”
The Eclipse Awards are presented by the NTRA, National Turf Writers Association (NTWA) and Daily Racing Form. Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective categories. Awards also are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing.
RACING TO HISTORY
Jan. 11, 1950: Five-year-old Citation returned to racing at Santa Anita Park, having been sidelined by injury since December 1948. Sent off at odds of 3-20, he won easily over a sloppy surface to log his sixteenth consecutive victory. His winning margins for those races totaled 59 ½ lengths.
Jan. 12, 2001: Affirmed, the 1978 Triple Crown winner, Affirmed was euthanized at age 26 due to chronic musculo-skeletal problems. Affirmed is the eleventh and most recent horse to capture the Triple Crown and will always be remembered for the many stretch duels he engaged in against his frequent rival Alydar.
Jan. 13, 1978: Seattle Slew, in training for his four-year-old seasonal debut at Hialeah, first displayed symptoms of the deadly virus Colitis X. The colt was sidelined until May 14, when he won an allowance race at Aqueduct Racetrack as the 1-10 favorite.
Jan. 13, 1989: Jockey Brian Peck was injured when his horse, Top Booking, collided with a deer in the fourth race at Turfway Park. The deer jumped onto the track from the infield, where it gone to drink from a man-made lake. Top Booking was unharmed, but Peck suffered a broken arm.
Jan. 13, 1997: The National Steeplechase Association became the first horse racing organization in the U.S. to require jockeys to wear “certified” safety helmets, beginning with the 1997 NSA season.
Jan. 13, 2001: Judy Wagner, a grandmother from New Orleans, captured the second annual $212,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Wagner received a check for $100,000 and was presented with the “DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year” award on Jan. 30 during the Eclipse Award ceremonies.
Jan. 13, 2003: Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye announced his retirement. Delahoussaye won 6,384 races and his horses earned $195,881,170.
Jan. 14, 1932: Jockey Eddie Arcaro rode his first career winner, at Agua Caliente.
Jan. 14, 1953: Pimlico’s Preakness Stakes, originally slated for May 16, was put back to May 23, allowing a three-week layover after the Kentucky Derby for the first time.
Jan. 14, 1989: Jockey Kent Desormeaux scored his 1,000th career win in the tenth race at Laurel Racecourse, aboard Eesee’s Taw, in the Francis Scott Key Handicap.
Jan. 14, 1998: Jockey Patricia Cooksey became the second female rider to win 2,000 races when she guided Noble Annie to a five-length victory in the second race at Turfway Park.
Jan. 14, 2001: Jockey Kent Desormeaux gained his 4000th career win aboard Temporary Appeal in the first race at Santa Anita Park.
Jan. 14, 2003: Citing the devastating effects of mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS), Keeneland announced that it would not conduct its July selected yearling sale this year. It is the first time the auction has been canceled since its inception in 1943.
Jan. 15, 1932: Australian champion Phar Lap arrived in San Francisco. He was shipped by steamship to the U.S., en route to Agua Caliente in Mexico, where he was to make his North American racing debut in the March 20 Agua Caliente Handicap, the continent’s then-richest race.
Jan. 15, 1969: Barbara Jo Rubin was named to ride in a race at Tropical Park. Thirteen male riders subsequently boycotted the race rather than compete against a female, and were fined $100 each.
Jan. 15, 2004: Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze won his ninth consecutive Isaac Murphy Award, given to the rider with the year’s highest winning percentage.