Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween from Santa Anita

Rosie YbarraRosie Ybarra, Clockers' Corner, Halloween '09

It may have been sunny and 80 degrees, but there was no shortage of Halloween spirit at Santa Anita today. Early this morning trainers, riders, owners and fans were greeted by Rosie Ybarra, the maven of Clockers' Corner, who not only appeared at her food service window in a ghoulish costume, but also had arrived early to decorate the entire area with Halloween spooks.

David Flores HalloweenDavid Flores, Clockers' Corner, Halloween '09

Jockey David Flores was quite a spectre, riding by with his face painted to resemble a hideous skeleton. This afternoon, he even appeared in the winner's circle in character.

Jay Cohen Halloween maskJay Cohen, Santa Anita Park, Halloween '09

And Santa Anita hornblower, Jay "Herman Munster" Cohen entertained racing fans by calling horses to the post in a monster mask.

Clockers Corner HalloweenClockers' Corner, Halloween '09

Happy Halloween to all from Southern California!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Joey Steiner Works You Can Dream for Bob Baffert

I caught a quick video of Joey Steiner on a nice 3-year-old filly, You Can Dream, for trainer Bob Baffert at Santa Anita on Thursday morning, 10/29/09. She went 4 furlongs in :48.40 on the all-weather track. You Can Dream is entered in the 4th race at Oak Tree/Santa Anita on Sunday -- a maiden claiming event at 5-1/2 furlongs.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Zap! of the Week: Mine That Bird Prepares for Breeders' Cup

Zap of the Week

Larry Zap catches some great footage of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird as he preps for his upcoming Breeders' Cup race at Santa Anita. Also included is some nice post parade footage. Nicely narrated by Zap. Enjoy... and watch for more upcoming Zap videos of this year's Breeders' Cup contenders!

For more information about Larry Zap, see Contributors on the About tab.

Great Oldtimers of Racing at the California Fairs

Moving Forward Into Yesterday
A guest post by Walt Frazier

Unbelievable is the only adjective that can describe the California Fairs. Moving onto the backside at Stockton, Pleasanton, Vallejo, Santa Rosa, Ferndale, Sacramento, Pomona or Fresno is like stepping back in time to the way racing was from the early 1920’s to the 1950’s. The atmosphere is at once cordial, friendly, and bustling -- exactly why racing was the most widely viewed spectator sport in America.

Clarence CourtwrightClarence Courtwright, The Big Fresno Fair, 2009

The spring of 2009 was the first time I chose to run a string of horses at the fairs. I was welcomed by the racing officials; and the racing secretary at Stockton personally called me to ask if there was anything he could do to help me. I was shocked! Often at the major tracks, trainers and owners are treated as if the tracks are doing them a favor just allowing them to participate. At the fairs they realize that each and every owner and trainer has invested time, money and the love of racing just to be there.

Each race meet has been the same. People congregate in the RV section of the track to barbeque and tell tales of races and horses of long ago. Their minds are filled with memories of times past, when racing was king and dreams could, and sometimes did, come true. Racing horses is after all, the pursuit of dreams.

As a boy, I read Walter Farley’s Black Stallion and thrilled to the movies featuring Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor and countless others in National Velvet, Seabiscut and other stories of the American racing scene. I devoured the Quarter Horse Journal just to read “Quarter Chatter” and awaited the next issue of the Quarter Racing Journal to read about Jet Deck, Go Man Go, Tonto Bars Hank, Vandy’s Flash and other greats of Quarter Horse racing and at the same time read about the great Kelso, Gun Bow, Primonetta, Bold Ruler and the greats of the Thoroughbred track. I lived for racing and could not wait to be old enough to participate. But racing changed and not for the better.

But coming to the fairs has rekindled the love of old, and in a sense I have moved forward and back to the past. The fairs are part of Americana that may soon disappear. I am fortunate to have become acquainted with two grand old men of racing who exemplify what racing means -- Elmer January, an 84-year-old trainer who has forgotten more about racing than most newcomers will ever know, and Clarence Gordon Courtwright, a 77-year-old trainer who still, believe it or not, gallops his own horses.

Everyone calls him Clarence, but I knew him when I was a young boy of 16 as Gordon Courtwright. I rode races against this septuagenarian when he was a middle aged man in his thirties. He once gave a young jockey some sage advice after a horse I rode against him almost knocked him down leaving the starting gates: “Pick his head up jock, or next time you’ll go to school.” I knew what that meant, so I did.

Elmer JanuaryElmer January, The Big Fresno Fair, 2009

Clarence and Elmer are up well before dawn feeding and caring for their horses without help. Elmer January is amazing. He has 11 horses and daily feeds them, cleans their stalls, saddles them, bathes them and then after all is done, repeats the cycle the next day. Clarence has only five but, remember, he also gallops and works his own horses. These are two truly amazing men, and it is an honor to be around them, listen to their stories, and heed their advice on any number of topics. They know how racing should be and remember when trainers and owners actually talked to each other, helped each other and worked together.

Another fixture on the fair circuit is Dick Whalen. Also a septuagenarian, Dick has had as varied a life as one can imagine. Along with his wife, Betty, Dick has raced as a Nascar and Indy driver, ran a successful speed shop for hot rod enthusiasts, and trained and raced both Thoroughbred and Quarter horses all over California. His love, though, is the fairs. Both he and Betty are licensed trainers, and each morning finds them taking care of the three or four horses in their stable.

Dick and Betty WhalenDick and Betty Whalen, The Big Fresno Fair, 2009

Dick is a wealth of information, and the stories he tells of his friends sound like a who’s who of sports history. He is friends with Kenny Stabler, the great quarterback of the Oakland Raiders; A.J. Foyt, who is to auto racing what Muhammed Ali was to boxing, and a litany of other sports greats that he knows and competed against. To listen to him as he regales one with stories of both the auto and horse tracks is a trip down memory lane and could easily become a book worthy of the New York Times best seller list.

Whether talking to Elmer, Clarence or Dick, it is evident that they love what they are doing and each, in his own way, is an example of how people care about and love racing horses. To talk to any one of them is a history lesson, and one that should be told so that others can discover why horse racing was once the most popular sport in America. Time does not always change things for the better.

Elmer January has been a fixture on the Southern California racing circuit since the late 1940’s. He has been stabled at Los Alamitos longer than any trainer in the history of the track, and it is safe to say that there is no one who doesn’t like and admire him. Tall and rail thin, he starts each day with oatmeal and a banana, and begins his work routine long before the sun makes its appearance in the eastern sky. In an era when most trainers are content to sit on their pony horses or ride around on their golf carts surveying their horses as they train, having their grooms saddle, bathe and cool them out, Elmer walks to the track after saddling and getting them ready, and when they are finished, bathes and cools them out.

A total hands-on horseman, from the beginning of each training day Elmer is immersed in the care, feeding and exercise of his stable. Asking Elmer which was the best horse he raced brings a smile. He says, “I can remember the horse, but I can’t remember the name.” That is unless he is talking about Tom Lydon, a horse who won many races for Elmer, including the first Evangeline Downs Quarter Horse Derby in 1966, and became a Superior Race Horse. Elmer also helped Tomey Wieberg when the great Tonto Bars Hank was World Champion Running Horse in the early 1960’s.

He speaks fondly of Callie Can, Primo Hi, and Classic Tol, and laughs when he recalls Callie Can outrunning Fishers Favorite -- who went on to be one of the great producing broodmares of Quarter Horse history. His list of accomplishments on the track dates back to the 1950’s. His first win came at Bay Meadows. Elmer has just begun his sixth decade at Los Alamitos and is always thinking about the next good horse he will have.

Elmer, Clarence and Dick are three great examples of why one should spend some time on the fairs. Racing Thoroughbreds at the fairs keeps these three men young and continually planning for the next racing season.

Walt Frazier taught high school world history for 22 years at Carlsbad High School in Carlsbad, Calif., and was named in Who's Who of American Teachers ten years. He has worked as a jockey from 1961 to 1983 and as a trainer from 1975 to the present. From 1984 to 1986, he worked for trainer D. Wayne Lukas in Southern California. Frazier is a Vietnam veteran (1966-1970).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Racehorse Partnerships: Some Common Questions Answered

In the final segment of a 5-part video series, panelists at the TOC Partnerships Seminar answer questions about training methods and rates, purchasing horses at auction, and some of the fees involved in partnership structures.

The panelists are horse owner Pablo Suarez, equine attorney Gary Fenton, and trainer Matt Chew.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Questions and Answers About Racehorse Partnerships

John Lies, Del Mar Intertrack Television Host, emcees a question and answer session at a seminar hosted by Thoroughbred Owners of California at Del Mar Racetrack on horse racing partnerships.

Gary Fenton, equine attorney and managing partner of Little Red Feather Racing, discusses some of the specifics of limited liability partnerships (LLC's). Trainer Matt Chew addresses a question about some of the common mistakes people make when they get involved in horse racing partnerships. And racehorse owner Pablo Suarez follows up with some sound advice for anyone wishing to get into ownership: treat it like a business, and be realistic about your expectations for your horses.

This is part 4 of a 5-part video series being featured on this blog.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

TOC Seminar Explores Racehorse Partnerships

At a seminar on racehorse partnerships hosted by the Thoroughbred Owners of California at Del Mar Racetrack Gary Fenton, an equine attorney and managing partner of Little Red Feather Racing, spoke about various legal and financial aspects involved in horse racing partnerships. Some of the specifics he covered were different partnership agreements, setting a budget, determining what kind of fees you can expect, and understanding tax implications.

This excellent presentation is the third in a 5-part series that will be posted on this blog over the next few days.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wayman Schools for Saturday Start at Oak Tree

I caught some video of Wayman, a nice looking two-year-old colt by Songandaprayer, as he schooled in the paddock at Santa Anita this morning for trainer Howard Zucker. Wayman is entered in the 4th race at Oak Tree/Santa Anita on Saturday, a maiden special weight event, with jockey Joel Rosario named to ride.

Wayman at Santa Anita
Wayman is owned by Dream Walkin Farms, a partnership that includes country music star Toby Keith and Brad Penny, starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

Wayman schooling for Howard Zucker

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Trainer Snapshot: Matt Chew

Trainer Snapshot sponsored by CERF

Raised in a racing family, Matt Chew has been successfully training Thoroughbred race horses since 1982. A third-generation horseman, he operates the Matthew Chew Racing Stables in both northern and southern California. He regularly runs horses at Santa Anita, Del Mar, Hollywood Park, and Golden Gate Fields.

The barn where Chew Racing is located at Santa Anita was once home to the Noble Threewit Stable, and a commemorative stall plaque is displayed there. Noble Threewit was present as a trainer on the very first Opening Day at Santa Anita in 1934. Threewit continued to train there until well into his 90’s, retiring just a few years ago.

Chew trains for many types of partnerships, including general partnerships and syndicates like Bongo Racing. He is a regular participant on TOC (Thoroughbred Owners of California) educational seminar panels and at conformation clinics.

Matt Chew, Throughbred Trainer
He uses the latest technology to communicate with owners, including email blasts, web posts and live barn cams so owners can watch their horses. He has partnered with Del Mar Racetrack the last two race meets to provide a barn webcam on the Del Mar website, giving race fans a unique look into the world of a Thoroughbred training barn.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Zap! of the Week: Celebrities and Horses at Santa Anita

Zap of the Week

Larry Zap brings you some fun footage featuring celebs and their horses at Santa Anita.

Royal Punisher wins a nice allowance race for syndicated sports talk host Jim Rome's Jungle Racing. And pro skateboarder and actor Rob Dyrdek shows up in support of his good buddy Joe Ciaglia as his filly Jet Blue Girl breaks her maiden impressively. Dyrdek has recently bought into a couple of thoroughbreds with Ciaglia, trained by Peter Eurton.

Narrated by Larry Zap... Enjoy!

For more information about Larry Zap, see Contributors on the About tab.

Wayman Works at Santa Anita

Wayman, a very promising looking two-year-old colt by Songandaprayer, worked 4 furlongs in :48.4 on the all-weather track at Santa Anita on Monday morning. Wayman is trained by Howard Zucker for Dream Walkin Farms, a partnership that includes country music star Toby Keith and Brad Penny, starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Interview with Track Announcer Frank Mirahmadi

On a recent trip to the Big Fresno Fair, I had a chance to visit one of California's well-known track announcers, Frank Mirahmadi, in his rooftop announcer's booth, where he graciously allowed me to videotape an interview.

Racecaller Frank MirahmadiRace caller, Frank Mirahmadi, in the announcer's booth at The Big Fresno Fair.

Mirahmadi, who often entertains race fans with celebrity impression race calls,
has called races at tracks across the country, including Hialeah Park, Louisiana Downs, and Ruidoso Downs (where he called the All American Futurity in 1999). Currently he calls races for the California Authority of Racing Fairs (CARF).

A Weekend at the Big Fresno Fair

There's simply nothing like a county fair -- especially one that has horse racing. At the county fair, you get a feel for the way things were in back the days when ordinary people had a real connection to animals.

The Big Fresno Fair is one of my favorites in California because the racetrack is so well integrated into the fair. The grandstand and saddling paddock are located right on one of the main fair walkways, and the pre-race activity in the paddock is a natural draw for the fair-going crowd.

Saddling paddock, Big Fresno FairSaddling paddock, Big Fresno Fair

On a quick weekend trip to Fresno, I attended a great seminar hosted by TOC -- "What Does a Fast Horse Look Like?" -- that was emceed by track announcer Frank Mirahmadi and included tips on horse conformation by trainer John Martin and equine veterinarian Dr. Jeanne Bowers.

I had time to take in some fair exhibits, an afternoon of racing, and an early morning visit to the track and barn area. I also enjoyed a freshly baked cinnamon roll, a corn dog, and an awesome plate of "super nachos!" You've gotta love the fair!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Trainer Matt Chew Discusses Horse Racing Partnerships

At a seminar hosted by the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC) at Del Mar Racetrack, trainer Matt Chew discussed the basics of owning horses in partnership. The various aspects of racing partnerships covered by Chew included the importance of selecting partners you can trust, the camaraderie partnerships provide, and the ways one can get involved in this type of ownership.

This excellent presentation is the second in a 5-part series that will be posted on this blog over the next few days.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunrise at Oak Tree, Santa Anita

Morning fog at Clockers CornerGround fog creeps across the infield as the sun comes up on early morning workers.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

An Interview With Equidaily's Seth Merrow

While in Saratoga Springs for the International Simulcast Conference this week, I was fortunate to catch Equidaily Racing Journal publisher, Seth Merrow, for a quick interview. Merrow was a panelist for a conference session on social media in horse racing.

Although reticent to jump on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagons, Merrow called the Internet and horse racing a "good partnership." Blogs are now filling a void created by the downsizing of racing-related print media in recent years, according to Merrow. They are also able to offer a more personal, behind-the-scenes look at the world of racing.

Seth Merrow, EquidailySeth Merrow, Publisher of

When asked by a conference participant about standards of journalistic integrity for bloggers, he responded, "Blogging is no different than playing the piano. Some are virtuosos, some are horrible. And there's a middle ground."

Merrow's website gathers horse racing related articles, posts, videos, photographs, and breaking news worldwide and places them at your fingertips as easily accessed links. The site has become so popular, with everyone from racing executives to horse racing fans, that, when it comes to the latest scoop it's not unusual to hear, "I saw it on Equidaily."

Friday, October 16, 2009

The National Museum of Racing in Saratoga Springs, NY

Jane Murray, Director of Services for TRA, rides like a jockey on the mechanical horse at the
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

A highlight of my recent trip to Saratoga was a visit to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Along with other participants at the International Simulcast Conference held in Saratoga Springs, I attended a special reception and tour of the museum. I felt like a kid in a candy shop for the two hours I was there and could have spent an entire day wandering through the many exhibits and galleries. Of special interest were the life-size replications of a jockeys room, jockey scale, and racing office.

Jocks Room museum exhibitLife-size jocks room exhibit, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Jockey scales, National Racing MuseumLife-size jockey scale exhibit, National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

According to the official museum guide, the National Museum of Racing was established in 1950 by a group of prominent racing people led by Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney. The museum first opened in 1951 in a temporary location at the Canfield Casino in Congress Park. Four years later, the museum moved to a newly constructed facility at 191 Union Avenue, directly across the street from the racecourse. The location for the new museum was a section of a lot first developed in 1894 by Joseph J. Gleason, a famous bookmaker of the time known as "one, two, three Gleason."

National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame welcome deskJennifer L. Rickman, Operations Manager, welcomes guests
to the National Museum of Racing.

The National Museum of Racing opened to the public on June 2, 1956. In 1979, the Hall of Fame wing was added. Today, the museum runs a formal outreach program with traveling Hall of Fame kiosks, an interractive traveling exhibit for children, curriculum and educational materials for schools, and a website. The unique horse racing simulator was developed and opened to the public in 2006.

The National Museum of Racing is definitely an attraction not to be missed when visiting Saratoga!

TOC Ownership Seminar at Del Mar Racetrack

Part one of a 5-part series, this video provides excellent coverage of an educational seminar held August 8, 2009 at Del Mar Racetrack and entitled "You Can Own a Racehorse for $5,000!"

Panelists included Thoroughbred owners Pablo Suarez and Gary Fenton and trainer Matt Chew discussing the various ways people can get into racehorse ownership. Moderated by Del Mar on-air personality John Lies and hosted by the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), this seminar focused on Partnerships and how new owners can use them to break into the game without much risk.

This very worthwhile seminar provides some great information for anyone who has ever considered racehorse ownership. Watch for parts 2 through 5, to be featured on this blog in the next few days.

A Visit to Christophe Clement's Barn at Saratoga

The last day of my Saratoga trip dawned clear and cold -- so cold, in fact, that we had to scrape ice off the car windshield before heading out to the Oklahoma Track. On our arrival at the training track, Nicholas Bachalard graciously showed my colleague, Wayne Atwell, and me around the barns and training track. Bachalard is assistant to trainer Christophe Clement and has a string of horses training at the Oklahoma Training Track until it closes at the end of this month. After that, I am hoping to see him with a string at Santa Anita.

Christophe Clement Racing Stable
The barn was bustling with activity as horses and riders prepared to head out for their morning jogs, gallops or breezes, then returned for quick cool downs. Everyone seemed to move with a distinct focus, getting their work done in spite of the freezing cold -- or perhaps moving more quickly and purposely as a way of keeping warm.

Christophe Clement barns
We watched several of the stable's workers as well as a few from the barns of Todd Pletcher and James Bond. My eye was caught by Laureate Conductor, a lovely 3-year-old bay colt by Bernstein, who was out for a morning gallop for the Clement barn.

Saratoga Race Course entrance gate
I reluctantly left the track to begin my day of travel back to California -- with frozen fingers, a new appreciation for the sturdy people who work with our equine athletes, and memories of Saratoga that will make me smile for years to come.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Zap! of the Week: Alex Solis Hangs on to Halfaponderosa

Zap of the Week

Larry Zap brings you some great footage of Halfaponderosa winning her second straight race at Oak Tree/Santa Anita. Jockey Alex Solis somehow stays aboard after losing his stirrups in the lane, proving yet again what great athletes these jockeys are!

This undefeated More than Ready filly (Larry Zap Bloodstock) is now 2 for 2. She is trained by Peter Eurton. The video is narrated by Zap.

For more information about Larry Zap, see Contributors in the About tab.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Saratoga's Oklahoma Training Track in the Fall

The 2009 Thoroughbed race meet is only a memory now in beautiful Saratoga Springs, New York, as the chill of fall descends on the spa town. Flocks of geese squawk overhead as they make their way south for the winter and simultaneously signal the end of summer. But the last hardy horsemen remain on the backstretch, training their horses on the historic Oklahoma Training Track.

Oklahoma Training Track Saratoga Racetrack
The Oklahoma Track, which is about 1/3 mile from the main course across Union Avenue, was actually the original track used for racing from 1863 until 1909, when the current grandstand and main track were opened. Oklahoma may seem like an odd name for a track in upper New York State, but legend has it that one day long ago someone complained that the training track was so far away from the main track that it might as well be in Oklahoma, and the name stuck.

If you had been at this same spot just a two months ago, you could have seen the great Rachel Alexandra breeze 5 furlongs in a bullet 1:00.37 with exercise rider Dominic Terry aboard on a foggy Monday morning as she prepared for the Travers Stakes. If you stood along the rail, you likely would have rubbed elbows with trainer Steve Asmussen and jockey Calvin Borel as they looked on.

But now only about 400 horses remain at Saratoga, many of whom will be heading for Aqueduct, Florida, or even California when Saratoga closes down for the winter in a few weeks. In the meantime, horses and humans alike are enjoying the brisk fall mornings, understandably reluctant to let go of another season.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Fall Visit to Saratoga

I always imagined my first trip to Saratoga would be during a race meet; but I find myself in this amazing town in October, in the midst of blazing fall color. Here for the annual International Simulcast Conference, which is being held at the Saratoga Hilton this year, I am making the best of my spare time to see the racing sights.

On a very early morning visit to Saratoga Racetrack, I watched horses training on the Oklahoma Training Track, which will remain open until next month. There are approximately 400 horses stabled on the grounds at this time. It's an invigorating and wonderful experience to watch the Thoroughbreds snorting and blowing steam in the cold morning air of a clear fall day as they jog, gallop or breeze around the track. The infield grass was covered with a glaze of frost but the dirt track looked dry and fluffy.

I found a cozy spot to defrost in the trackside clockers' booth, where two friendly clockers gave me the scoop on the horse population at Saratoga and chatted proudly about the New York horses who would soon be heading to California for Breeders' Cup. Of course, I snapped lots of photos, and am posting a few of my favorite sights. Enjoy... wish you were here!

Saratoga Springs sign
Coming into Saratoga!

Saratoga grandstands
A view of the Saratoga grandstand.

Saratoga Clockers Stand
Clockers stand and fall colors!

Oklahoma Trianing Track, Saratoga
Early fall morning on the Oklahoma Training Track, Saratoga.

Saratoga stables
On the way to the training track.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Road to the Breeders Cup on ESPN Featuring Jerry Bailey

Jockey Jerry Bailey
Jerry Bailey at Santa Anita.

The excitement surrounding this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship is building daily at Oak Tree/Santa Anita, and nowhere is it more evident than at Clockers' Corner in the mornings. Out this morning was retired Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, who is part of the team covering this weekend's Breeders' Cup prep races at both Santa Anita and Keeneland.

The following races will receive coverage on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Classic:

The Lady's Secret Saturday at Oak Tree, a prep for the BC Ladies' Classic featuring the one and only Zenyatta and Cocoa Beach, last year's winner and runner up in the Ladies' Classic.

The Goodwood Saturday at Oak Tree, one of the leading prep races for the Breeders Cup Classic, featuring Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.

The Oak Tree Mile Saturday at Oak Tree, a prep for the BC Mile featuring Whatsthescript and Monterey Jazz.

Stakes races at Keeneland to receive ESPN coverage include The Breeders Futurity on Saturday, and the Spinster and Bourbon stakes on Sunday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Remembering Playing the "Mudders"

A recent morning at Clockers' Corner, Santa Anita, I chatted with an old friend, Jackie Barnes, about our respective recent handicapping successes... or lack thereof on my part. Jackie recounted her latest adventure in wagering on the Belmont Park simulcast during heavy rain in New York. I suggested she put the story in writing so I could share it with my blog readers. Always game, Jackie lost no time in dashing off an email to me, as follows:

This horseplayer was thrilled to see the torrential rain during the races at Belmont Park on Saturday. It brought back many happy memories of being at Santa Anita during those cold wet days, when water stood on the track and I watched the horses splashing their way to the wire. I am sure many old horseplayers will remember when you got your Racing Form early so you could start checking the fields for mud marks.

For those who don’t remember mud marks, an asterisk (*) was for a good, an (X) was for excellent, and an X in a circle denoted a superior mudder. Those rainy days made for a lot of fun, close finishes and good payoffs. Ah... those were the good old days. But I did hit a nice pick three at Belmont. -- J.B.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Trainer Snapshot: Howard Zucker

Trainer Snapshot sponsored by CERF

A native of New York, Howard Zucker has been training Thoroughbreds for more than 35 years, beginning at racetracks on the east coast before relocating to California in 1983. He has developed and trained stakes horses such as Crafty C.T. (Grade 2 winner and 5 times Grade 1 placed), Madame Pietra (Grade 3 winner and winner of the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint), Awesome Daze, Moscow Changes (California Juvenile Champion), Our Shining Hour (Sunny Slope S.), Synnin and Grinnin, Queen of the Catsle (multiple stakes winner and Grade 3 winner), and Well Monied (Grade 2 winner and Grade 1 placed twice).

Howard Zucker thoroughbred trainer
While he truly loves developing young stock, Zucker considers every horse as an opportunity and maintains an average of 20 Thoroughbreds at the track. A very accessible trainer, he is always happy to spend time educating new owners and has provided his expertise at industry educational seminars and conformation clinics numerous times. He works with a wireless security camera system in the barn, which provides 24-hour oversight of his stable as well as a convenient way for owners to check in on their horses.

Zucker is former Vice President of the California Thoroughbred Trainers and spent many years as head of its Track Safety Committee. He holds a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Biology from City College of New York and resides in Pasadena, California with his wife, Lorraine.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Breeders' Cup Returns to California... Where it All Began

The Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championship races return to Oak Tree at Santa Anita for a second consecutive year on Friday and Saturday, November 6 and 7.

Since its inaugural running at Hollywood Park in 1984, Breeders’ Cup has become recognized as the ultimate test of Thoroughbred talent and ability, drawing participation from horsemen around the globe and showcasing the best racehorses in the world in a day of international competition.

Breeders Cup saddlecloth
California has hosted the Breeders’ Cup eight times since its inception. In addition to the inaugural event in 1984, Hollywood Park hosted the Breeders’ Cup in 1987 and 1997. Oak Tree at Santa Anita is preparing to host its fifth Breeders’ Cup – having been the official site in 1986, 1993, 2003 and 2008.

The two-day event will feature 14 total races worth $25.5 million. The purses are supported through annual nomination payments for stallions and one-time nomination payments for those stallions' offspring.

With individual races worth between $500,000 and $5 million, the Breeders' Cup draws the most outstanding equine talent in the world. International greats who have come to America and prevailed include Lashkari, trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre for the Aga Khan, winner of the first Breeders’ Cup Turf; the great mare Miesque, the first multiple Breeders’ Cup race winner; Arcangues, who won the 1993 Classic for French trainer Andre Fabre and returned $269.20 – the highest payoff in Breeders’ Cup history; and last year’s Classic winner, Raven’s Pass, trained by Aidan O’Brien.

Among the many American champions who demonstrated their greatness at Breeders’ Cup are Azeri, A.P. Indy, Alysheba, Cigar, Personal Ensign, Ferdinand, and Sunday Silence.

Last year, California connections alone won nearly half of the Breeders’ Cup races, with solid victories in six of the 14 events: Zenyatta in the Ladies’ Classic, Stardom Bound in the Juvenile Fillies, Midshipman in the Juvenile, Midnight Lute as the first repeat winner of the Sprint, Desert Code in the Turf Sprint, and Albertus Maximus in the Dirt Mile.

Excitement is building every day at Santa Anita for the 2009 edition of America's ultimate day of Thoroughbred racing!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hollywood Comes to Santa Anita: 90210 on Location

Lights! Camera! Action! The cast and crew of "90210" were on location today at Santa Anita filming an upcoming episode of the popular teen drama airing on The CW.

90210 at Santa Anita
Santa Anita has long been a favorite location for Hollywood film companies. Much of the movie Seabiscuit was filmed at the historic Arcadia track, as well as numerous television shows and commercials. Even non-horse-related films have been filmed at the iconic venue, including scenes from the movie "Bobby" that used the track's main kitchen to represent the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles where Sen. Robert Kennedy was assassinated.

90210 shooting at Santa Anita

Saturday, October 3, 2009

John Scott Schools at Santa Anita for Norfolk Stakes

John Scott looked very classy schooling in the Santa Anita paddock Friday morning for trainer Carla Gaines. The lovely dark bay colt by Bertrando will start in Sunday's Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes for two-year-olds at 1-1/16 miles on the main track. John Scott was all eyes and ears, checking out the surroundings in the saddling barn and looking very relaxed. He's certainly a big, nicely muscled colt.

John Scott, who won the I'm Smokin Stakes at Del Mar on Sept. 8, will be looking for his third consecutive win. He is named for owners John Harris and Scott Gross.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Zap! of the Week: Greys at Oak Tree

Zap of the Week

Larry Zap gives you an up-close look at some of our favorite grey thoroughbreds in training, including Alfarabi, who is preparing for Sunday's Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes. There is also some quick footage of Lookin At Lucky, another Norfolk Stakes contender. Narrated by Zap. Enjoy!

For more information about Larry Zap, see Contributors on the About tab.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Jockey Mike Smith Works Well Monied at Santa Anita

Graded stakes winner Well Monied worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.6 early Thursday morning at Santa Anita with jockey Mike Smith up. The video follows Well Monied from the barn of trainer Howard Zucker to the track and back, ending with groom Steve Kenny giving "Money" her post-work bath.
Well MoniedWell Monied is pointing for the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at 1-1/8 miles on the turf on Saturday, Oct. 17 at Keeneland.