News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications.
GULFSTREAM PARK JUMPS QUICKLY INTO HIGH GEAR Today is opening day at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. The 89-day, stakes-ladened meeting is annually one of Thoroughbred racing’s most anticipated periods.
The first Saturday program of the Gulfstream racing season gets off to a fast start with renewals of the Grade II, $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs and the Grade III, $100,000 Mr. Prospector Handicap for older sprinters at six furlongs.
Trainer Nick Zito appears to have another arsenal of 3-year-old talent early this season, led by Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hero and likely Eclipse champion War Pass. He also has the pair of Cool Coal Man and Coal Play entered in the field of 10 for the 55th edition of the Hutcheson.
Coal Play is turning back in distance from a very good runner-up effort behind Check It Twice in the What a Pleasure Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Calder on Dec. 1.
Cool Coal Man made five starts as a juvenile, winning two before disappointing when seventh as the favorite in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs last time out on Nov. 24.
Keyed Entry will be among the choices in a field of eight entered in the Mr. Prospector as he bids to remain perfect in four career starts over the Gulfstream track with Edgar Prado aboard for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Two other contenders with solid credentials in the Mr. Prospector are Mach Ride and Grand Champion.
Mach Ride has shown flashes of brilliance for trainer Steve Standridge, although the horse has been unlucky on several occasions, most recently when having to skip the TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Monmouth Park because of a foot abscess. The son of Pentelicus scored his biggest victory in the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder last summer.
Grand Champion has finished in the top three in all 10 of his lifetime starts, most recently capturing the Maryland Million Sprint at Laurel Park in October and the Fall Highweight Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 22.
Among the many marquee events on the Gulfstream racing schedule is a key Kentucky Derby stepping stone, the Grade I, $1 million Florida Derby, which is slated for March 29. In addition, the prestigious Donn Handicap, for top older horses, is contested on Feb. 2, and the $350,000 Fountain of Youth, for 3-year-olds, on Feb. 24. Gulfstream Park will also host four races of the popular Sunshine Millions event on Jan. 26.
MOLENGAO TO USE SAN PASQUAL AS STEP TOWARD BIG CAP
Molengao, who came within a length of overtaking Lava Man when second in last year’s Santa Anita Handicap, will take aim at the 71st Big Cap on Saturday when returning to action in the Grade II, $150,000 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita.
The San Pasqual at 1 1/16 miles, is the first of two stakes races, including the Grade II San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 3, leading up to the track’s $1 million signature event on March 1.
Molengao, who geared up for his fast-closing effort in last year’s Big Cap with a victory in the San Antonio, returns to action in the San Pasqual after being sidelined since June 30 when finishing fourth to Lava Man in the Hollywood Gold Cup.
Trainer Paulo Lobo has prepared Molengao for his return with a steady series of five and six-furlong drills, and he has run well following layoffs in the past. Victor Espinoza will be back aboard the chestnut who has earned $618,477 over his 16-race career.
The complete field for the San Pasqual in post position order, is: Zappa (jockey: Joel Rosario); Well Armed (Aaron Gryder); Hello Sunday (David Flores); Heatseeker (Michael Baze); Racketeer (Rafael Bejarano); Molengao (Victor Espinoza); and Thousand Words (Julien Leparoux).
EQUIBASE ANNOUNCES FINAL RACING LEADERS FOR 2007
Todd Pletcher, Garrett Gomez and Stronach Stables head the individual lists of the leading trainers, jockeys and owners, respectively, by North American earnings in 2007, according to final statistics released this week by Equibase Company LLC, the Thoroughbred industry’s official database for racing information.
Curlin led all Thoroughbreds in 2007 with North American earnings of $5,102,800. Following Curlin was Street Sense with $3,205,000 and English Channel with $2,640,000.
The year-end compilations are distributed annually by Equibase and include results from Thoroughbred racing in North America only. The top 100 North American leaders in each category are accessible at http://www.equibase.com.
Pletcher topped the leading trainers’ list for the fourth consecutive year in 2007. Pletcher-trained horses won 289 races from 1,228 starts for earnings of $28,111,697, surpassing the North American earnings mark of $26,820,243 he set the year before. Steve Asmussen finished second with earnings of $23,898,844 from 488 wins and 2,273 starts.
Completing the list of top 10 trainers by North American earnings in 2007 were: Robert Frankel, $12,168,647 (123 wins/566 starts); Doug O’Neill, $10,156,219 (152/1,046); William Mott, $9,949,267 (156/774); Scott Lake, $9,724,556 (485/2,345); Richard Dutrow Jr., $9,604,524 (166/659); Kiaran McLaughlin, $9,305,403 (118/524); Gary Contessa, $7,597,499 (176/1,230); and Jerry Hollendorfer, $7,309,698 (244/1,012).
Garrett Gomez, with earnings of $22,800,074, topped the North American leading jockeys’ list for a second consecutive year in 2007. He rode the winners of 265 races from 1,258 mounts. Robby Albarado finished second, with 253 wins from 1,260 mounts and earnings of $19,399,249.
Rounding out the list of top 10 jockeys by North American earnings in 2007 were: John Velazquez, $18,059,713 (199 wins/1,128 mounts); Cornelio Velasquez, $15,997,913 (262/1,619); Rafael Bejarano, $15,892,188 (241/1,469); Ramon Dominguez, $15,328,920 (319/1,332); Eibar Coa, $14,237,059 (285/1,628); Edgar Prado, $13,662,743 (207/1,117); Javier Castellano, $12,551,303 (168/1,107); and Julien Leparoux, $12,188,975 (261/1,404).
Stronach Stables, North America’s leading owner in 2002, won 128 races from 537 starts and earned $7,076,138 in North America during 2007 to lead all owners. Runner-up was Zayat Stables, LLC, which won 98 races from 521 starts for earnings of $6,171,916.
Completing the top 10 owners by North American earnings in 2007 were: Stonestreet Stables, Padua Stables, George Bolton and Midnight Cry Stables, $5,080,000 (5 wins/8 starts); Maggi Moss, $4,225,437 (196/725); Ken and Sarah Ramsey, $3,996,973 (106/380); Melnyk Racing Stables, Inc., $3,967,399 (69/360); Live Oak Plantation, $3,805,416 (54/293); Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, $3,792,466 (95/515); Fox Hill Farms Inc., $3,705,486 (38/162); and Jim Tafel LLC, $3,655,913 (17/103).
CONTESSA SETS SINGLE-SEASON MARK IN NEW YORK
Trainer Gary Contessa won his record-setting 157th race of the year at New York Racing Association tracks last Saturday when Silver Prospector wired the field to score by two lengths, breaking Frank Martin’s mark of 156 victories set in 1974.
“Other than the birth of my children and marrying my wife, this is the best day of my life,” Contessa, 50, said from his home in Saratoga Springs where he watched the race with his family. “This is certainly the greatest thing that has ever happened to me in this business.”
Ironically, Contessa worked for Martin for five years before going out on his own and he credits the Hall of Famer with teaching him much of what he knows about training.
“Frank made me my future,” Contessa said. “I would have been happy just tying his record. I saw Frank yesterday and we talked about the record and he was very happy for me.”
Of Contessa’s 157 winners, 108 of them have been owned by Steve Sigler’s Winning Move Stable, which is having a remarkable season of its own.
“I couldn’t have done this without Winning Move,” Contessa added. “They took me to this plateau. I especially have to thank them.”
Contessa began his training career in 1985 after a five-year association with Martin. He came close to the record in 2006 with 151 victories from 885 starters.
HBO WINS MEDIA ECLIPSE AWARD FOR BARBARO DOCUMENTARY
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) announced today that HBO Sports has won the 2007 Media Eclipse Award in the National Television Feature programming category for its documentary “Barbaro,” which aired on June 6 of last year.
The one-hour program documented the life story of the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who captured the public’s imagination through his significant accomplishments on the racetrack and his tremendous courage and desire to live following his injury in the Preakness Stakes that ultimately led to his death last January.
“HBO Sports is honored to accept this very prestigious award,” said Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports. “We want to thank Gretchen and Roy Jackson [Barbaro’s owners] for their generous support on the project, and of course Barbaro for reminding the world of its love of animals.”
“The film came together after we met the Jacksons,” said Margaret Grossi, who produced the documentary. “We recognized that they were making a genuine effort to save the horse. They never veered in their conviction and never relinquished hope. They handled all of the ups and downs with a lot of class.”
Barbaro documentaries also accounted for the two honorable mentions in the National Television Features programming category. One went to HorseRacing TV (HRTV) for “Barbaro: A Race to Save His Life,” which aired on June 3, 2007. Amy Zimmerman was executive producer. Honorable mention also went to NBC Sports for “Barbaro: A Nation’s Horse,” which aired on May 5, 2007. Rob Hyland was the producer.
Eclipse Awards are given to recognize members of the media for outstanding coverage of Thoroughbred racing. 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.
The 2007 Eclipse Awards ceremony will be held on Monday, January 21, 2008 at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
KEENELAND JANUARY SALE BEGINS MONDAY
Keeneland kicks off the New Year on Monday with its 2008 January Horses of All Ages Sale.
The seven-day auction, held January 7-13, has cataloged 2,547 horses, comprising 1,201 broodmares, 862 yearlings, 482 horses of racing age, and two stallions. Sessions begin at 10:00 a.m. (ET) daily.
The January Sale catalog is available on Keeneland’s website. The website also will stream live coverage of the entire sale.
“The January Sale attracts strong participation from regional horsemen as well as emerging market buyers,” said Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell. “It has developed a very international clientele who view it as a continuation of the November Breeding Stock Sale.”
Keeneland will offer broodmares in-foal to such leading stallions as A.P Indy, Afleet Alex, Distorted Humor, Elusive Quality, Empire Maker, Forestry, Fusaichi Pegasus, Giant’s Causeway, Malibu Moon, Mineshaft, Mr. Greeley, Posse, Smart Strike Speightstown, Storm Cat, Street Cry (Ire), Successful Appeal, Tale of the Cat, Unbridled’s Song and Vindication, among others.
In 2007, the January Sale realized a record gross of $72,868,200. Stakes-winning alumni of the January Sale include 2007 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes winner Dominican, 2007 Super Derby winner Going Ballistic, 2007 Modesty Handicap winner Bridge Game, 2007 Taylor Made Matchmaker Stakes winner Roshani and 2007 Noble Damsel Handicap winner Dance Away Capote.
RACING TO HISTORY
Jan. 4, 2005: Churchill Downs announced that the Kentucky Derby purse would be doubled to $2 million.
Jan. 4, 1946: Canadian-born jockey George Woolf, known as “The Iceman” for his coolness in the saddle, died after falling head first from his mount, Please Me, during a race at Santa Anita Park the previous day. He was 35. During his career (1928-1946) Woolf had 3,784 mounts, 721 wins, 589 seconds and 468 thirds, with earnings of $2,856,125. Since 1950, Santa Anita Park has annually presented the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award to a rider who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack.
Jan. 5, 1944: A bill permitting off-track betting was introduced in the New York State Assembly. Over the next several decades, a series of bills would be introduced in favor of OTB, which finally gained legal sanction in New York in 1970.
Jan. 5, 1980: Spectacular Bid began his undefeated four-year-old season, winning the Malibu Stakes by five lengths at Santa Anita. The gray colt finished his 1980 campaign a perfect nine-for-nine.
Jan. 6, 1998: Bill Mott was named to take over 1997 undefeated two-year-old Favorite Trick, replacing trainer Patrick Byrne, who accepted a job as a private trainer for owner Frank Stronach.
Jan. 8, 2000: Steven Walker of Lincoln, Neb., captured the inaugural $200,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship, held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Walker would be presented with the first-ever “DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year” award on Jan. 17 during the Eclipse Award ceremonies in California.
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.