Saturday, December 31, 2011

Genius works 7 furlongs at Santa Anita

Genius worked 7 furlongs in company on Saturday morning, 12/31/11 for trainer Bob Baffert. With jockey Martin Garcia aboard, Genius was clocked in 1:25.80.

The three-year-old son of Smart Strike out of the Dixieland Band mare Southern Swing is owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith.

Baffert said he is pointing Genius to the San Fernando for 4-year-olds around two turns, on Feb. 14 at Santa Anita.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Santa Anita Opening Day sights and sounds

For those of you unable to be at the Great Race Place for opening day on the day after Christmas, here's a little taste of the sights and sounds you missed. It was a positively intoxicating day at the track!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from Santa Anita!

It's the day before Christmas, and Santa is getting in shape for his round-the-world sleigh trip with a little bit of exercise working horses at the track! Merry Christmas everybody, and thanks for following my blog this year.

Game On Dude works a bullet on Christmas Eve

Santa Anita Handicap winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Game On Dude worked for trainer Bob Baffert on Christmas Eve morning on Santa Anita’s fast main track, going 5 furlongs in :58 flat, the fastest of 121 works at the distance. Jockey Martin Garcia was aboard for the work.

Game On Dude races for owners Bernie Schiappa, Diamond Pride LLC, Lanni Family Trust, and Mercedes Stable LLC.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Secret Circle works in company, may target Sham Stakes

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint winner Secret Circle worked in company with Candrea this morning at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert. With jockey Martin Garcia aboard, Secret Circle went 6 furlongs in 1:11.60 – the fastest of 12 works at the distance.

Secret Circle worked without blinkers this morning, a change from last week’s breeze, as Baffert works on getting the speedy colt to relax a bit.

“I think maybe with that work I am starting to think a little bit more in terms of running him long,” said Baffert. “Maybe running him a mile in the Sham coming up.” The Grade 3 Sham Stakes on Jan. 7 at Santa Anita is at one mile on the dirt.

Secret Circle, a 2-year-old son of Eddington out of the Dixieland Band mare Ragtime Hope, races for owner Mike Pegram.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

May Day Rose preps for La Brea with bullet work

Multiple graded stakes winner May Day Rose put in a nice work for trainer Bob Baffert this morning at Santa Anita in preparation for the $300,000 La Brea Stakes on Dec. 31. With Martin Garcia up, May Day Rose went six furlongs in 1:11.4 – the fastest of eight works at the distance.

Winner of the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita and Grade 3 Railbird Stakes at Hollywood Park this year, May Day Rose exits a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. The 3-year-old Rockport Harbor filly, owned by Kaleem Shah, is seeking her first Grade 1 victory in the La Brea.

“I’m very happy with the way she is coming into the race,” said Baffert. “When she works that well, she really runs a big race.”

Monday, December 19, 2011

Luck's John Ortiz fits right in at the racetrack

John Ortiz with trainer Julio Canani at Clockers’ Corner, Santa Anita

Actor John Ortiz is often spotted at Clockers’ Corner these days, diligently soaking up the sights, sounds and unique ambiance of a training morning at Santa Anita Racetrack. Ortiz is obviously deeply immersed in his role in the highly anticipated new HBO series, Luck. In the series, he plays trainer Turo Escalante – a character fashioned after real-life trainer and racetrack character Julio Canani.

HBO viewers were treated to a sneak preview on Dec. 11 of what promises to be another great show from writer/producer David Milch (of Deadwood fame) and director Michael Mann. The series premiers on Sunday, Jan. 29.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Secret Circle works at Santa Anita

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint winner Secret Circle worked in company at Santa Anita Thursday morning, Dec. 15 for trainer Bob Baffert. With jockey Martin Garcia up, Secret Circle was timed in :49.40 for 4 furlongs.

Secret Circle, a 2-year-old son of Eddington out of the Dixieland Bank mare Ragtime Hope, races for owner Mike Pegram.

In the video, Baffert narrates the work and provides commentary afterwards.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trainer Bob Baffert remembers Indian Charlie

Trainer Bob Baffert spoke this morning at Santa Anita about Indian Charlie, who was euthanized at the age of 16 following a battle with a rare form of cancer.

Indian Charlie’s brief but thrilling racing career for Baffert and owners Hal and Pattie Earnhardt and John R. Gaines Racing included a victory in the 1998 Santa Anita Derby and a third-place finish in that year’s Kentucky Derby.

Indian Charlie went on to sire 65 stakes winners, including Uncle Mo, Fleet Indian, and Indian Blessing, champion 2-year-old filly of 2007 and champion female sprinter of 2008 who was also bred and owned by Earnhardt and trained by Baffert.

“He was a beautiful horse. He was a super star from day one,” Baffert recalled.

“He gave us so much joy and happiness that he will always be remembered as one of my great horses.”

To read more, click here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hoorayforhollywood works at Santa Anita for Bob Baffert

Hoorayforhollywood put in a nice work Tuesday morning, Dec. 14 at Santa Anita with jockey Martin Garcia up. Hoorayforhollywood was clocked in :59.40 for the 5-furlong breeze – the 4th fastest work of 34 at that distance.

The 3-year-old son of Storm Cat out of the Wild Rush mare Hollywood Story is trained by Bob Baffert for George Krikorian.

Never worse than second in four career starts, Hoorayforhollywood was most recently runner-up to Decisive Moment in the $125,000 Delta Mile on Nov. 19 at Delta Downs. He is being pointed to the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on opening day at Santa Anita, Dec. 26.

“We’re trying to get him to relax and come off the pace,” Baffert said.

“Today, it seemed like he relaxed really well on the backside, and when we asked him to go he just took off.

“I like what I’m seeing, so I’m going to change his style to come off the pace; and that’s what we’ll try to do in the Malibu.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Liaison works for Bob Baffert, targets CashCall Futurity

Liaison, winner of the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 12, recorded a speedy work at Santa Anita Tuesday morning for trainer Bob Baffert. The clockers gave him a time of 1:00.6 for 5 furlongs, the 8th fastest of 24 works at the distance. Jockey Martin Garcia was aboard for the work. The video takes you from Baffert's barn to the track and back and includes commentary by Baffert on the workout.

Liaison, a 2-year-old colt by Indian Charlie out of the Victory Gallop mare Galloping Gal, won his last two starts for owner Arnold Zetcher. According to Baffert, he is on target for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 17.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Self Preservation preps for Hollywood Starlet

Self Preservation put in a nice work this morning at Santa Anita for trainer Ben Cecil in preparation for Saturday’s Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. With jockey Joel Rosario up, Self Preservation was clocked in :48.6 for 4 furlongs.

Self Preservation was fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in her last start, on Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.  The two-year-old daughter of Lion Heart out of the Dahar mare Saintly Speaking is owned by J. Paul Reddam.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My Yammy Heat makes workout debut at Santa Anita

Here's a pretty little daughter of Unusual Heat working this morning at Santa Anita for trainer Barry Abrams and owner Madeline Auerbach. My Yammy Heat, a 2-year-old bay filly out of the El Gran Senor mare Spanish Beam, was clocked in 1:03.4 for five furlongs.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Winds wreak havoc at Santa Anita

Slide show of wind damage at Santa Anita, 12/1/2011 

These photos were taken early Thursday morning, Dec. 1, following the horrific windstorm that ravaged the area the previous night. 

Power was restored to Santa Anita’s barn area about 2:00 p.m. Friday. Cleanup and assessment of the damage continues, while training and simulcasting have resumed at the Arcadia track. 

Although widespread damage was reported in the barn area, there were no human or equine injuries reported.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

So Brilliant gallops at Santa Anita for Bob Baffert

So Brilliant, winner of the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue on Thanksgiving Day at Hollywood Park, gets out for some morning exercise at Santa Anita.

One of trainer Bob Baffert’s more promising two-year-olds, So Brilliant was making only his second career start in the Hollywood Prevue after winning in his racing debut at Santa Anita on Oct. 22. The gray son of Medaglia d’Oro out of the Wekiva Springs mare Merry Me in Spring is owned by Arnold Zetcher, who has indicated that So Brilliant is likely headed for the Grade 1, $750,000 Cash Call Futurity at Hollywood Park on Dec. 17.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ultimate Eagle caps a really good weekend at the track for Wright and Pender

 Ultimate Eagle wins Hollywood Derby

A day after winning the $250,000 Citation Handicap with favored Jeranimo on Saturday at Hollywood Park, owner B.J. Wright and trainer Mike Pender struck again in the $250,000 Hollywood Derby Sunday, when Ultimate Eagle, a 14-1 outsider, completed the 2011 Turf Festival with a wire-to-wire victory under jockey Martin Pedroza.

The win was the fourth in a row, all since he was switched from the synthetic track to grass, for the 3-year-old Mizzen Mast colt out of the Captain Bodgit mare Letithappencaptain and came six weeks after he had wired the field at 34-1 in the Grade II Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita.

Pushing his earnings to $329,800 in six starts, Ultimate Eagle paid $31.40, $13 and $7.60. Finishing second was Imagining, making his first graded stakes start for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. Western Aristocrat ran third.

“It’s miraculous considering where this horse came from,” said Pender. “He had colic as a 2-year-old and was basically pronounced dead on the table. Somehow, by an act of God, he was brought back to life.

“Ultimately I would like to get him back on dirt. He trains so much better on dirt. He really hasn’t handled synthetic surfaces all that well. We’ll take it a day at a time from here.”

Owner B.J. Wright, who said Ultimate Eagle would have been their Triple Crown candidate this year if not for the colic, is also optimistic about Ultimate Eagle’s chances racing on dirt.

“He’ll run as good or better on the dirt,” said Wright. “We feel with his stride and the way he runs, he looks like he should be able to handle dirt equally with the turf, if not better.”

At this point, it looks like the sky’s the limit for the “miracle horse.”

To watch an interview with Wright following the race, click on the video below.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

First three Oak Tree Derby finishers meet again Sunday in Hollywood Derby

Ultimate Eagle wins Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita

Ultimate Eagle, Venomous and Cozy Kitten will face off again in Sunday’s Grade 1 Hollywood Derby at Hollywood Park. The race, which is the Grand Finale to Hollywood Park’s three-day Turf Festival, has drawn a field of 12 three-year-olds going a mile and one-quarter on the turf.

Ultimate Eagle finished a half-length ahead of a fast-closing Venomous in the Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby at Santa Anita on Oct. 15. Cozy Kitten finished another half-length back in third.

Ultimate Eagle, who is somewhat of a miracle horse, is trained by Mike Pender for owner B.J. Wright. A colt by Mizzen Mast out of the Captain Bodgit mare Letithappencaptain, Ultimate Eagle nearly died as a two-year-old due to colic.

“This is a good racehorse,” said owner B.J. Wright at Santa Anita. “He is back from the dead. He came within a hair of dying.”

Ultimate Eagle has made six career starts as a three-year-old, winning the last three after moving from the synthetic track to the turf, and amassing earnings of $179,800. The Oak Tree Derby was his graded stakes debut.

Venomous, an English-bred son of Red Ransom, was making his first start in the U.S. in the Oak Tree Derby. Trained by Leonard Powell for Magalen Bryant, he has won 3 of 13 and earned $218,711.

Cozy Kitten will be seeking his first graded stakes victory, for owner-breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Wesley Ward. The Kitten’s Joy gelding is 2 for 9 with earnings of $144,464.

From the inside out, the field for the 70th running of the Hollywood Derby: Cloud Man, Mike Smith rides, 122 pounds; Imagining, Javier Castellano, 122; Slumber Garrett Gomez, 122; Western Aristocrat, Corey Nakatani, 122; Casino Host, Joe Talamo, 122; Venomous, Joel Rosario, 122; Surrey Star, Chantal Sutherland, 122; El Pocho, Hector Berrios, 122; Irish Art, Rafael Bejarano, 122; Cozy Kitten, Alonso Quinonez, 122; Ultimate Eagle, Martin Pedroza, 122 and Willcox Inn, Robby Albarado, 122.

The Hollywood Derby will run as the ninth race Sunday, with a post time of 4:37 p.m. The ten-race program also includes the Grade 3 Generous Stakes for two-year-olds at one mile on the turf.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Saturday’s Hollywood Park feature honors the great Citation

Citation wins the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup.

Saturday’s Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park is named for Thoroughbred racing’s first millionaire horse and the eighth Triple Crown champion. Citation, whose name has become synonymous with greatness, was owned and bred by Calumet Farm in Kentucky and trained by Hall of Famers Ben Jones and son Jimmy Jones. Citation earned $1,085,760 in a 45-race career that spanned 1947 to 1951.

On July 14, 1951, Citation won the Hollywood Gold Cup – the race that pushed his career earnings past $1 million and signaled the end of his racing career. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 1959 and died in 1970 at the age of 25.

Saturday is the second day of Hollywood Park’s Turf Festival and marks the 34th running of the Citation, a Grade 2 event for three-year-olds and up at a mile and one-sixteenth on the turf.

A field of nine will go postward in the Citation, including Oak Tree Mile winner Jeranimo. Trained by Mike Pender for B.J. Wright, Jeranimo was seventh of 13 in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Mile Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.

Video: Jeranimo wins Oak Tree Mile.

Bob Black Jack, winner of the 2010 San Carlos Handicap, will make his turf debut for owners Jeff Harmon and Tim Kasparoff and trainer Jim Kasparoff. Bob Black Jack was second in his comeback in the California Cup Sprint Oct. 29 – his first start since February, 2010.

Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally will try for his third Citation victory with Buenos Dias, a 6-year-old Irish-bred son of Peintre Celebre. Buenos Dias has lost 10 in a row since winning an optional claimer over the Hollywood Park turf June 10, 2010. Owned by Charles Cella, the bay has won three of 29 and earned $306,253.

McAnally’s previous wins in this race were with Pewter Grey (second division-1983) and Brave Act (1999).

From the inside out, the field for the 34th running of the Citation Handicap: Calimonco, Mike Smith rides, 116 pounds; Jeranino, Garrett Gomez, 122; Buenos Dias, Brice Blanc, 113; Leroy’s Dynameaux, Rafael Bejarano, 114; War Element, Joel Rosario, 113; Make Music for Me, Chantal Sutherland, 114; Bob Black Jack, Joe Talamo, 118; Assessment, Daniel Vergara, 115 and John Johny Jak, Victor Espinoza, 118.

The Citation will run as the ninth race Saturday with a post time of 4:37 p.m. Also on Saturday’s 10-race program is the Grade 3 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes for three-year-olds and up at six furlongs.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hollywood Park kicks off Turf Festival on Friday

 Your Special Day, entered in Friday's Miesque Stakes, gallops at Santa Anita Tuesday morning.

Hollywood Park celebrates its annual Turf Festival this weekend, featuring six graded stakes races on the grass over the three days, with purses totaling more than $1-million.

On Friday, fillies and mares are the stars in the $250,000 Matriarch and the $100,000 Miesque Stakes.

A field of eight two-year-old fillies is assembled for the Grade 3 Miesque at one mile, including several out-of-state shippers. Shippers have been dominant in recent years in the Miesque, including wins by The Mallet (2009), Habaya (2008), Sea Chanter (2007), Valbenny (2006) and Louvain and Paddy’s Daisy (2004).

Assateague, a daughter of Stormy Atlantic and the Dixieland Band mare Amelia, arrived at Hollywood Park from Keeneland, where she was an easy maiden winner on Oct. 26. She is trained by Michael Matz for owner-breeders Helen Alexander, Dorothy Matz and Helen Groves.

More Than Love, coming off a one-length maiden victory Oct. 9 at Belmont Park, ships in for trainer John Terranova II. By More Than Ready out of the Zafonic mare I’m in Love, More Than Love is 1-for-2 for owner Newton Anner Stud.

An Irish-bred daughter of Trans Island and the Shareef Dancer mare Athlumney Dancer, Island Paradise makes her grass debut in the Miesque. She is trained by Charles Hills and has a record of 1-for-2 over synthetic surfaces in England.

Starship Flare, who arrives from Florida after finishing sixth of 10 in her first start on turf in a starter allowance Oct. 24, has two wins from four career starts. By Stevie Wonderboy out of the Crafty Prospector mare Go to the Ink, Starship Flare is trained by Kristin Mulhall.

Among the local runners in the Miesque is Your Special Day, who stretches out over a new surface after going 2-for-2 on the Santa Anita main track last month. The daughter of Kafwain and the General Meeting mare Young Ladies Day has earned $29,400 for trainer Jim Cassidy, who also owns her in partnership.

From the inside out, the field for the Miesque Stakes: Island Paradise, Joel Rosario rides, 116 pounds; Your Special Day, Mike Smith, 116; Starship Flare, Victor Espinoza, 116; Regal Betty, Joe Talamo, 118; Katie’s Ten, Alonso Quinonez, 114; Assateague, Julien Leparoux, 116; More Than Love, Ramon Dominguez, 118 and Raesunbridledfaith, Martin Garcia, 116.

The Miesque is the fifth race on Friday’s card, with a post time of 2:34 p.m.

The Grade 1 Matriarch for fillies and mares three years old and up at one mile, features a contentious field of nine.

Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, a two-time winner of the Matriarch with Auspiciante (1986) and Tout Charmant (2000), will send out the much improved All Star Heart.

A Canadian bred daughter of Arch and the Ascot Knight mare Gift of the Heart, the 4-year-old filly has won five of eight since coming to California late last year and joining the McAnally barn.

Owned by Gerald L. Gibbs, All Star Heart has won two in a row and earned her most significant victory when capturing the Grade II Las Palmas – at the Matriarch distance – Nov. 6 at Santa Anita.

Gypsy’s Warning will try to become only the second repeat winner of the Matriarch since Flawlessly won three in succession (1991-1993) for Harbor View Farm, trainer Charlie Whittingham and jockey Chris McCarron.

Gypsy’s Warning is trained by Graham Motion for Flaxman Holdings Ltd. and will be aiming for her first win since taking the Matriarch by 1 ¼ lengths in 2010. She is one of a trio Motion is scheduled to run in the Matriarch, including Unbridled Humor and Summer Soiree.

From inside out, the field for the Matriarch: Unbridled Humor, Ramon Dominguez rides, 123 pounds; Summer Soiree, Gabriel Saez, 123; Quiet Oasis, Luis Medina, 123; Madera Castana, Hector Berrios, 123; Gypsy’s Warning, Joel Rosario; 123; All Star Heart, Brice Blanc, 123; Star Billing, Victor Espinoza, Never Retreat, Julien Leparoux, 123 and Up In Time, Martin Garcia, 120.

The Matriarch goes as the ninth race at 4:37 p.m.

Other Festival events on the weekend include the $250,000 Citation Handicap and $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes (Saturday) and the $100,000 Generous Stakes and $250,000 Hollywood Derby (Sunday). For more information, visit Hollywood Park's website.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween from Clockers' Corner Santa Anita

Rosie Ybarra the zombie

Things are looking pretty spooky at Clockers’ Corner these chilly mornings. Thanks to server Rosie Ybarra – the well-known maven of Clockers’ Corner who serves up yummy concoctions to trainers, riders, owners and race fans every morning – there is no shortage of Halloween spirit at the iconic Santa Anita breakfast spot.

Ybarra traditionally decorates her food service window and much of the surrounding area to celebrate the holiday. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and jockeys and trainers often join in the fun with their own spooky costumes. Enjoy the photos!

Animated pirate statue and a skeleton reading the Racing Form

Bob Baffert having fun with the pirate

Is that a giant rat?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Prominent California horse owner Mace Siegel dies at 86

Mace Siegel, a prominent owner and breeder of Thoroughbreds for more than 47 years, died of heart failure at his home in Beverly Hills on Wednesday at the age of 86. A founding member of the Thoroughbred Owners of California (TOC), Siegel, a New Jersey native, campaigned horses in California with his wife, Jan, and daughter Samantha for three decades. He was predeceased by his wife in 2002.

The Siegels met on a blind date at Aqueduct racetrack in New York in 1962 and were married two months and five days later. Jan Siegel, who became interested in horse racing while a student at the University of Kentucky, was a singer with big bands in her youth and her favorite song was “I Love You Samantha.” Their daughter was named for the tune.

“Mace Siegel was a giant in our industry and along with his wife Jan and daughter, Samantha, ran a first class operation,” said Santa Anita President George Haines. “Their blue and lime-green silks were synonymous with success and their horses always came first. Mace’s compassion, leadership and enthusiasm for horse racing will be sorely missed. On behalf of all of us here at Santa Anita, I’d like to extend our deepest sympathy to Samantha and the entire Siegel family. He loved Santa Anita and we loved him.”

The Siegels bought their first horse in 1964 and won their first stakes race in 1976, with Wininreno, who took the Julian Cole Handicap at Calder Race Course in Florida. They brought their stable to California on a full-time basis in the mid 1980s.

The family had great success with modestly priced yearlings beginning in the late 1980s. The horses were selected at public auctions primarily by trainer Brian Mayberry and his wife, Jeanne.

Their Jay Em Ess Stable first gained national prominence in 1989, when three of their horses, all trained by Mayberry, won $100,000 stakes races on the Breeders’ Cup undercard at Gulfstream Park.

The highlight of their ownership career came in 2004, when their Declan’s Moon finished the year by winning the Grade I Hollywood Futurity and was then named Eclipse Award Champion 2-year-old male.

A list of their other Grade I winners includes Boys At Toscanova, Hedonist, I Ain’t Bluffing, I Believe In You, Miss Iron Smoke, Rail Trip, Stormy But Valid and Urbane.

Mayberry trained for the Siegels from 1977 through 1995 and their other trainers included John Tammaro, John Russell, Ron Ellis, Bruce Headley, Anthony Dutrow, Richard Dutrow Jr., Paul McGee and Peter Miller.

A major developer of retail shopping malls, Mace Siegel formed Macerich Company of Santa Monica, which develops, owns and manages regional shopping malls. He acquired his first mall in 1972 and Macerich eventually became the nation’s third largest owner of regional malls.

Funeral services for Mace Siegel are pending.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Legendary Dan Issel presents trophy at Santa Anita

The legendary Dan Issel, retired Hall of Fame professional basketball player and coach, was on hand at Santa Anita Sunday to present the stakes trophy to Mr. and Mrs. Warren Williamson after their colt Irish Art won the Uniformity Stakes.

In a combined ABA and NBA career, Issel accumulated over 27,000 points. At the time of his retirement the only professional basketball players to have scored more points than him were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving. Issel currently ranks eighth on the all time combined ABA/NBA scoring list.

Santa Anita’s Mike Willman interviewed Issel, who also posed next to winning jockey Joel Rosario – making quite a picture of contrasting heights!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Zap of the Week

Some rare Larry Zap footage of Weemissfrankie in her stall at Del Mar -- with her buddy Pickles, the goat! Narrated by Larry Zap. Enjoy!

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

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sunrise over the track

Good morning from Santa Anita!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Eurorears heading for Breeders' Cup Sprint

Eurorears and Martin Garcia at Santa Anita Oct. 10

Euroears breezed four furlongs in :48.4 under jockey Martin Garcia on Santa Anita's main track Monday in preparation for the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Bob Baffert said he was happy with the way Eurorears went. Judging by the way he came trotting home, shown in this short video clip, the horse looks pretty happy with himself.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Well Monied preps for Spinster

 Garrett Gomez works Well Monied at Santa Anita, 9/29/11

Well Monied is on her way to Kentucky for the Grade 1 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes on Sunday, Oct. 9 at Keeneland. She prepped for the Spinster with a six-furlong work over Santa Anita's main track on Thursday morning, Sept. 29, with jockey Garrett Gomez up.

The 5-year-old Maria's Mon mare, trained by Howard Zucker for C.T. Grether, Inc., returned from a four-month rest to finish 7th in the Grade 2 Palomar Handicap at a mile and one-sixteenth on the turf at Del Mar on Sept. 5 - a race in which she was closing strongly in the stretch.

The Spinster, at a mile and one-eighth on the Polytrack, is one of North America's most important weight-for-age races held exclusively for fillies and mares. It is also a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" race for the Lady's Classic division.

Good luck to Well Monied and her California connections!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weemissfrankie headlines Oak Leaf today at Santa Anita

Sunrise over Santa Anita Sunday morning

Weemissfrankie, who won the Grade I Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3, is the likely favorite in today's Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita. The daughter of Sunriver trained by Peter Eurton is unbeaten in two starts.

Weemissfrankie is owned by a partnership that includes skateboarding star Rob Dyrdek, who hosts "Ridiculousness," "Rob and Big," and "Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory" on MTV. Dyrdek, who was out at Santa Anita to see his other horse, Mega Heat, win the 8th race, is expected to be at Santa Anita again today.

Here's the field for the Oak Leaf, which goes as the eighth race: Silent Saga, Victor Espinoza, 9-2; Self Preservation, Patrick Valenzuela, 4-1; Killer Graces, Joe Talamo, 15-1; Candrea, Martin Garcia, 4-1; My Gi Gi, Chantal Sutherland, 15-1; Wild Truffles, Alonso Quinonez, 30-1; Regal Betty, Joel Rosario, 20-1; Weemissfrankie, Rafael Bejarano, 5-2; Dreamcaster, Martin Pedroza, 8-1; and Charm the Maker, Garrett Gomez, 8-1.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Santa Anita kicks off Autumn meet Friday, Sept. 30

After a four-day break following the close of the Fairplex meet in Pomona, the excitement of Thoroughbred racing returns to Southern California's 'grande dame' of racing, historic Santa Anita Park.

Santa Anita kicks off its 2011 Autumn Meet Friday, Sept. 30 with a nine-race card featuring the $100,000 Sen. Ken Maddy Stakes for fillies and mares going about six and one-half furlongs down the unique El Camino Real turf course.

For more information, please check out my latest update on Best of luck and happy racing!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Santa Anita morning

California Autumn sunrise over the track.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Aspiring jockeys meet Hall of Famer Mike Smith at Santa Anita

 Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith shared some thoughts with a group of aspiring riders, all students of Frank Garza Jockey School in Somis, California, during their visit to Santa Anita Racetrack, where they posed for a photo at Clockers' Corner. Joining instructor Frank Garza were Kirin Arnold, Cambrea Bartholomew, Jonathan Iuliucci, Ricky Gonzalez, and Vladimir Jensen.

Garza, owner and president of the school, has worked in the horse racing industry for more than 40 years. He won his first match race at the age of ten, and in 1967 began riding professionally on the California circuit for trainer Henry Moreno. Garza rode for 13 years throughout the United States.

Students at his school can choose from a variety of programs aimed at careers as jockeys, exercise riders, grooms and trainers. There are both resident and non-resident programs. For more information about the school, take a look at

Friday, September 16, 2011

Santa Anita hosts annual Greek food and entertainment festival

The annual Pasadena GreekFest kicks off this evening and runs through Sunday at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.  The popular event features all things Greek, including food, live music, folk dancing and a children’s fun zone.

For more information on the event, including hours and directions, click here.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Welcome to Mary Forney's Blog

Read the latest "buzz"in California Thoroughbred racing. I cover the people, the horses, the history, and current events in horse racing - sharing my passion for the sport I have loved for many years.

I have been involved in the business of Thoroughbred horse racing for more than 25 years, having worked for the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association for nine years, Santa Anita Racetrack for 13, and Thoroughbred Owners of California for seven.

I currently provide freelance writing, editorial and online media services, work as weekend editor for Paulick Report, and report on Southern California racing for I welcome comments, suggestions and story ideas. My motto: "Everyone has a story... especially in horse racing."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An exciting evening of racing on tap at L.A. County Fair Wednesday

Racing at Fairplex.

An exciting evening of racing is on tap for tomorrow at the Los Angeles County Fair, including a pick 6 carryover and the $50,000 C.B. Afflerbaugh Stakes.

Racing at Fairplex kicks off with a nine-race card beginning at 4:00 p.m. Wednesday. The pick 6, which will be on races 4 through 9, includes a carryover of $39,460 from Sunday’s race card.

The C.B. Afflerbaugh Stakes spotlights eight two-year-olds going seven furlongs. The contentious field includes Senor Rain, a son of El Nino trained by Peter Miller coming off an impressive 3-1/2 length win in a maiden claiming race at Del Mar on Aug. 12; and Call Me Kelly, a Pennsylvania-bred colt by Ecclesiastic who was a game second in the Cavonnier Juvenile Stakes at Santa Rosa on Aug. 14. Call Me Kelly is trained by Jeff Bonde.

The Fairplex power duo of trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Martin Pedroza team up in the stakes with Plenny of Henny, a Florida-bred son of Henny Hughes out of the El Prado mare Seventh Choice. Plenny of Henny, who is 1 for 1 with earnings of $20,400, posted a nice 5-furlong work in 1:00.2 on Sept. 4. O’Neill also entered Kentucky-bred Runstevierun, by Stevie Wonderboy, who will be piloted by Jose Valdivia, Jr.

Post time for the Afflerbaugh, which runs as the 8th race, is 6:55 p.m., allowing plenty of time to enjoy the magic of the fair at night, dinner from the cornucopia of food choices, and perhaps funnel cake for dessert!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Del Mar Wraps up 2011 season

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, the seaside oval that entertainment icon Bing Crosby and his Hollywood pals began in 1937, once again put on a sparkling show, wrapping up its 72nd season Wednesday with fanfare. Despite slight declines from last year in attendance and handle, the 37-day meet will go into the history books for record purse levels, increased field sizes and claiming activity, innovative new wagering options, and a successful new “Ship and Win” racing program.

“I’m not going to get into the obvious things about the economy and lack of racing stock and all those other ready-made excuses,” said Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s CEO, president and general manager, Joe Harper. “What I want to say is this: We adapted, we adjusted, we partnered, we promoted and we worked hard. In the end, we managed to do what most everyone in this business hopes to do – we conducted a ‘helluva’ good race meeting that was fun for everyone involved.”

The meet by the numbers.

The meet’s final attendance count was 660,245, nearly even with 2010’s total of 662,521, for a daily average of 17,844 in 2011 vs. last year’s 17,906 – a slight decline of 0.3%.

Del Mar’s handle figures also showed a slight decline of 4.2%, dipping from $12,133,302 to $11,628,660 on a daily average basis. Overall, the 2011 total handle was $430,260,422 as opposed to last year’s $448,932,160.

Although handle inched down, it still ended up way ahead of pre-meet projections, allowing the track to pay its horsemen a record $1.5-million purse underpayment – representing a bonus of more than 10% on top of the nation’s highest overnight purses, which averaged $630,000 per day, an approximate 13.7% increase over 2010’s daily average of $556,324.

Del Mar increased its field size during the stand from 8.2 last year to 8.4 in 2011, yet another flag of encouragement for those spotting trends in the business. Additionally, Del Mar maintained a five-day race week and in total ran only two fewer races than it offered in 2010.

The track’s claiming box, a signal as to how horsemen see the viability of the game, burst with activity throughout the summer, finishing up with 246 total claims for $5,965,500 as opposed to 2010’s numbers of 141 claims for a total of $3,635,500.

And let’s not forget opening day, which saw a single-day record crowd of 46,588, meaning first-day attendance has risen for the last seven years straight.

2011 jockey and trainer titles.

Joel Rosario became the first jockey in 57 years to win three consecutive Del Mar riding titles, with a 49-42 win margin over Joe Talamo for the 2011 crown. Rosario, a 26-year-old native of the Dominican Republic, won the 2010 title over Rafael Bejarano with a victory in the final race of the meeting after a dominating performance in 2009 when he recorded 56 wins to 32 for runner-up Tyler Baze.

Mike Mitchel took the training title when he finished the meet with 25 wins over John Sadler’s 24. It was Mitchell’s seventh Del Mar title and his first since 1996. Mitchell achieved another milestone on August 12 when he surpassed Ron McAnally to become the track’s all-time leading trainer by wins. Mitchell ended the season with 454 career wins to McAnally’s 437.

2011 meet leaders.

The unprecedented accomplishments of Acclamation, winner of both the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap on grass and the Grade 1 TVG $1 million Pacific Classic on the Polytrack, prompted voters in the annual media poll to make the five-year-old California-bred son of Unusual Heat a champion of the 72nd Del Mar summer season in three categories, topped by Horse of the Meeting. Acclamation was a unanimous selection as Horse of the Meeting and top older horse and a near-unanimous choice as top grass horse.

Veteran California owner-breeders Bud and Judy Johnston, along with their daughter and son-in-law – Mary and Peter Hilvers – rode their stable star Acclamation to honors among owners at the 2011 Del Mar meeting with earnings of $780,000, easily the top figure during the 37-day stand.

Top owner for races won at the meet with six firsts was Glen Hill Farm, which is the nom du course of longtime Thoroughbred owner and breeder Leonard Lavin.

Innovations at the meet.

Del Mar’s “Ship and Win” program, in which horsemen were given monetary incentives to bring in horses from out of state, lured more than 100 new runners to the race meet. All told, the program was worth $107,000 in $1,000 starter bonuses and $61,516 in 20% purse bonus rewards.

Several new bets were instituted for the 2011 season, including the “50¢ Players Pick 5” with a reduced takeout that proved popular with the wagering public. Besides, the track experimented with “seeding” its Sunday Pick Six Pools with a $50,000 carryover that pumped up the handle on that longtime California staple by 15% on Sundays and led to several husky next-day carryovers.

So, until next year, that's a wrap.

Next stop on the Southern California circuit is the 13-day race meet that begins Friday, Sept 9 at Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, followed by Santa Anita’s Autumn Race Meet, which opens Friday, Sept. 30 at the Arcadia oval.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wounded soldiers enjoy a day at the races

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the pictures from Monday’s Military Appreciation Day at Del Mar Racetrack certainly leave one speechless. Click here to see the slideshow.

The Labor Day event, hosted by a group of benevolent horse owners and the racetrack, and organized by Annie Nelson of American Soldier Network, gave more than 100 combat veterans and combat wounded returning from Iraq and Afghanistan a chance to forget for a little while the many hardships they have faced and those that still lie ahead.

The soldiers enjoyed an afternoon of racing, handicapping the horses with team competition, and visits to the saddling paddock, starting gate, and winner’s circle. When they gathered on the racetrack in mid-afternoon and faced the stands, they received a long and emotional round of applause from the on-track crowd.

A very special guest this year was Tibor (Ted) Rubin, Medal of Honor recipient and Korean War veteran. Rubin, who survived 14 months in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria as a child and was liberated by the U.S. Army, went on to serve in the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division and was a POW in North Korea for 30 months. He was twice wounded and received two purple heart awards.

Nelson, who worked with TVG’s broadcast department to help broaden the reach of those viewing the event, said: “There are so many veterans in attendance or watching the races on TVG that have never been thanked or appreciated. This touches them, too, because it’s like a brotherhood. It shows them Americans really care.”

Donations to this cause can be made at American Soldier Network.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Victor Espinoza donates $10,000 for racetrack grooms

Angela Valverde of CTHF, groom Steve Kenny, Kevin Bolling and Mary Forney of CTHF, and jockey Victor Espinoza.

In a winner’s circle ceremony following Wednesday’s second race at Del Mar, Jockey Victor Espinoza presented a check in the amount of $10,000 to the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation (CTHF), to be used exclusively to assist southern California racetrack grooms. The check represented Espinoza’s total earnings at Del Mar Racetrack for Aug. 10-14, a week during which he had 3 wins, 5 seconds, and 4 third-place finishes from 25 starts.

Espinoza, a 39-year-old native of Mexico City, is one of the nation’s leading riders with more than 2,800 career victories and over $143,600,000 in earnings. He holds 11 southern California meet titles including three at Del Mar, where he had a record-setting seven victories on Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2006. Through Sunday, Aug. 13, he was ranked 7th in the jockey standings with 10 wins from 88 starts for the meet.

Espinoza said he came up with the idea of riding for a week on behalf of the grooms because they are so often overlooked even though they are such a vital part of horse racing.

“The grooms are important for everybody in horse racing” said Espinoza. “They take care of the horses more than anybody, sometimes 24 hours a day.”

CTHF chairman, Ken Smole, said, "Victor’s generous gift will be of enormous benefit to the racetrack grooms in Southern California. It is a thoughtful and admirable act. His gift is also very timely,” Smole added, “as the economic challenges in the racing industry over the past few years have led to decreases in CTHF's sources of funding."

CTHF is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community of stable workers occupied with the care of Thoroughbred racehorses at California’s major racetracks, fair circuit tracks and state recognized off-track training centers. CTHF administers medical and dental services through its on-track clinics, making health care accessible and affordable for more than 5,000 backstretch workers and their families.

Thoroughbred racing spends millions… but not on TV

Zenyatta in the paddock before the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic.

Last month, Forbes released its list of the 15 “Richest Sporting Events in the World.” Amazingly, three thoroughbred races made that list, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The other two were the Japan Cup and the Dubai World Cup. Even more amazing was the following statement by Forbes writer Monte Burke:

“Five of the 15 spots on our inaugural list of the sporting events with the biggest prize money are occupied by soccer tournaments. Only horse racing, with three races, comes close.” (emphasis added)

That’s right. Horse racing beat out golf, poker, football, baseball, and auto racing for total prize money.

With that type of money at stake, one would assume that horse racing must also support a concomitant investment in television broadcast coverage of its big events, the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. However, as anyone closely involved with thoroughbred racing knows, that has simply not been the case. In fact, one of the most commonly voiced complaints in the business is about the general lack of network television coverage of the sport – the type of coverage that would lure new fans to horse racing. A look at average television ratings for horse racing’s major events over the past five years validates those complaints.

Television ratings, which represent the percentage of TV homes in the U.S. tuned into television, are woefully low for racing’s big events when compared to most other televised sporting events.

In his article entitled “TV Ratings and Horse Racing: The Big-Event Phenomenon,” Seattle sports writer and blogger Matt Gardner compared the television ratings for some of the top sporting events in the U.S. over the last five years. Not surprisingly, Breeders’ Cup Saturday had an average rating of 1.0, compared to 42.5 for the Super Bowl. The Triple Crown races fared a little better than Breeders’ Cup with ratings of 9.2 for the Kentucky Derby, 6.5 for the Preakness, and 4.6 for the Belmont.

“These ratings crystallize the notion that American TV viewers, for the most part, like to watch ‘the big event,’ regardless of whether they follow that same sport on non-event days,” Gardner said. Horse racing’s Triple Crown falls into that “big event” category, and is widely viewed as the sport’s biggest stage.

“The fractured nature of horse racing, with every track and every state forming essentially their own league, is another reason why the impact of television is lessened, at least in a direct revenue sort of way,” said Gardner. “There is no doubt that TV has the ability to attract new fans, but it's more of a long-term growth strategy than instant financial impact.”

The Jockey Club has taken a first step towards implementing that long-term growth strategy. Based on recommendations in its report, “Driving Sustainable Growth for Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding,” released at its recent Round Table conference in Saratoga Springs, NY, The Jockey Club has pledged to underwrite the production of a national television series in 2012.

Although plans for the television series, including format, have not been finalized, Jockey Club president, James Gagliano, indicated that the organization is in discussions with major national networks for a series that could range from recaps of major races to a reality-type racing show.

This is encouraging news for the horse racing industry, but there are other hurdles that must be overcome if racing is to be successful in bringing major television coverage to the masses. The biggest issue is the format of the broadcasts, which must be tailored to an audience with an increasing appetite for quick-paced action and a decreasing attention span. Racing will have to find ways to deal with the down time between races, particularly on multi-race big event days like the Breeders’ Cup, in order to hold viewers’ attention.

But, the biggest hurdle always being funding, the Jockey Club’s initiative is a long-awaited step towards a long-term solution to the problem.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Del Mar to hold ‘Battle of the Exes’ match race Aug. 7

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club will present the "Battle of the Exes," a match race involving formerly-engaged jockeys Chantal Sutherland and Hall of Famer Mike Smith on Sunday, August 7.

Besides the one-on-one battle that match races automatically engender, the event holds special interest because of the history between Smith and Sutherland, whose romance played out publicly and to great interest by racing fans in the two-year Animal Planet television series “Jockeys.”

The match will be only the fifth in 72 summers of racing at the seaside oval. The previous ones were the heralded 1938 duel won by Seabiscuit over Ligaroti, widely considered “The Race that Put Del Mar on the Map;” the 1994 “Showdown at the Seashore” in which Soviet Problem under Chris McCarron, bested Mamselle Bebette and Corey Nakatani; the 2002 “Mule Duel at Del Mar” in which Black Ruby, known as “the best ass in the West,” continued dominance over archrival Taz; and the 2003 “Battle of the Sexes” in which Patrick Valenzuela aboard Chester’s Choice won by a nose over Hall of Fame rider Julie Krone on Woke Up Dreamin.

Smith, 45, inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2003 and the regular rider for 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, is approaching 5,000 winners with mounts that have earned more than $217 million during his 29 years in the saddle.

Sutherland, who only has been riding for 11 years, is approaching 900 winners and purses of nearly $43 million. The 35-year-old scored the biggest victory of her career when she captured the Santa Anita Handicap aboard Game On Dude earlier this year.

Two maidens, plus an “also eligible” backup, have been selected by Racing Secretary Tom Robbins, based on comparable ability. The horses are 3-year-old geldings seeking their initial career wins. The two chosen starters are Joker Face, trained by Peter Eurton and Parable, trained by Carla Gaines. The “also eligible,” who will be ready to substitute if necessary, is Tapfortexas, trained by Mike Machowsky.

Joker Face has started four times with two runner-up finishes for earnings of $16,660. Parable’s statistics are 8 0-1-2 for $21,940 in earnings. Tapfortexas is 7 0-1-1 with earnings of $15,024.

The preliminaries for the event will commence on Wednesday, Aug. 3 at 12:30 in the track’s paddock/walking ring, where a blind draw will be held to assign mounts for the one-mile, main track race. The draw and subsequent press conference will be open to the public.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Miss Cougar contest adds spice to Cougar II Handicap card

There’s still time to cast your vote for Miss Cougar 2011. One of six finalists will be crowned this year’s Miss Cougar at Del Mar on Friday, July 29, where she will present the trophy for the Cougar II Handicap.

According to official contest rules, a “cougar” is a mature woman who pursues younger men, typically more than eight years her junior. Voters can view photos and statements of the finalists, as well as cast their vote, on the Del Mar Scene website.

The feature race, the Cougar II Handicap, is named after the famed horse who captured the hearts of scores of race fans in the early 1970’s. In addition to being the longest distance stakes race of the summer meet, the Cougar II Handicap generated the inaugural Miss Cougar Del Mar contest in 2009, which quickly became a popular addition to the “Four O’Clock Friday” card.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Santa Anita opens new track

Slideshow: New track surface 7/26/2011

Santa Anita's newly renovated track was open for business on Tuesday morning after a two-week closure for a renovation project.

Although the track was restricted to joggers and gallopers, it will be open for full training on Thursday. See a detailed report at this author's page.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Santa Anita on track with renovation

Slideshow: Santa Anita track renovation in progress.

Santa Anita is tentatively scheduled to reopen its track for training on July 26, following a two-week renovation to reduce the clay content. During the project, which began July 11, the top six inches of the surface - more than 17,000 tons of material – was removed, mixed with sand, and returned to the track.

Santa Anita, which converted from a synthetic main track to natural dirt in December 2010, experienced near record rainfall immediately following the installation and, as a result, the composition of the newly installed soils was altered resulting in an unacceptably high percentage of silt and clay. The current project is expected to remedy this imbalance.

The track has remained open for training during the current Del Mar meeting, with the inner training track available to horsemen during the course of the project. The Santa Anita autumn meeting is tentatively scheduled to open on Sept. 29.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Del Mar: Let the excitement begin

San Diego television crews were out early for workouts on opening day at Del Mar.

Today is opening day at Del Mar... where the turf meets the surf ! As usual, the buzz started at daybreak in the barn area, with news crews jockeying for position on the viewing stands at morning workouts.

Look for regular updates on the people, the horses, and the great racing during the seaside track's 37-day meet at this blog or the author's site on

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Ron McAnally!

Trainer Ron McAnally gets a birthday cake while Bob Baffert looks on.

Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally celebrated his 79th birthday at Santa Anita's Clockers' Corner this morning, where Rosie Ybarra presented him with a birthday cake while trainers and other morning regulars sang "Happy Birthday." Trainer Bob Baffert, always the joker, quipped, "You're missing about 80 candles!"

McAnally, a three-time Eclipse Award winner, was inducted into racing Hall of Fame in 1990, along with his signature star, John Henry. McAnally can be found every morning at Santa Anita, where he is one of our most beloved trainers. Happy birthday, Ron!

Photo courtesy of on-the-beat reporter Howard Zucker.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunrise over Santa Anita. Happy Fourth of July!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New York Transplant Jim Cassidy Focusing on West Coast Saturday

Trainer Jim Cassidy at Santa Anita Park

While the eyes of the horse racing world will be on New York Saturday for the 143rd running of the Belmont Stakes, New York transplant Jim Cassidy will be hoping to repeat in a stakes race on the West Coast, the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Cassidy won the Honeymoon last year with Evening Jewel. This year he has a double shot - with Whisper Louise and Singapore Lilly - in the mile and one-eighth turf event for three-year-old fillies.

Singapore Lilly poses at Cassidy's barn.

A native of the Bronx, New York, Cassidy is easily spotted training at Santa Anita sporting a NY Yankees baseball cap. He began his training career in New York, where he worked for trainers Joe Cantey and Frank Whitely, who conditioned the brilliant filly Ruffian at the time. Cassidy relocated to Califoria in 1981. In recent years, he has established a reputation for purchasing horses in Europe and running them successfully in the United States. Some of his best runners have included Stepoutoftheboat, Royal Torrent, Wrekin Pilot, Inca Tern, Phone Alex, Singhalese, Moscow Burning, Ticker Tape, and Katdowgawn. His current roster of runners includes The Usual Q.T., Fifth Ave, Evening Jewel, Wave Of Applause, and Surrey Star.

In an interview Friday morning at Clockers' Corner, Santa Anita, Cassidy discussed his two fillies, both purchased from the Tattersalls Horses in Training Sale last November.

Whisper Louise shows off her heart-shaped blaze.

"Whisper Louise ran very well first time," he said. After being bumped at the start and having to be steadied early, Whisper Louise finished strongly to place second by three-quarters of a length to Cambina in the Grade 2 Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in April.

"Singapore Lilly didn't run like we thought she would," Cassidy continued. "But I am looking for a big improvement. Her race might have been too close to shipping." His expectations for Singapore Lilly are understandable.

"Singapore Lilly is Group placed and had more credentials than the other filly," he said.

"Both fillies have been training forwardly," Cassidy added. "They do their jobs in the morning."

Cassidy trains Whisper Louise for Three Chimneys Racing LLC and Singapore Lilly for Jeffrey J. DeHaven.

The Honeymoon, a key prep for the $250,000 American Oaks on July 16, has drawn a field of nine, including Cambina and Star Billing. It is one of four stakes on Saturday's program at Hollywood Park.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

California Horsemen to Get New Workers' Compensation Program

The California Thoroughbred Business League (CTBL), composed of racing associations, horsemen's organizations, fairs, and industry stakeholders, has approved transitioning the statewide Workers' Compensation program administered by California Horsemen's Safety Alliance (CHSA) to Finish Line Self Insurance Group (FSLIG). The decision is effective July 1, 2011, the start of the new program year. CTBL is the organization with oversight of funds generated by mutuel handle, intended to be applied to Workers' Compensation costs to lower the expenses that would otherwise be required of trainers and owners.

FSLIG has been in operation for six years, serving Quarter Horse horsemen as well as a select number of Thoroughbred trainers. The program is now being expanded to provide the opportunity to join it for all California Thoroughbred trainers.

"We expect there will be considerable savings for the vast majority of trainers," said Brad McKinzie of FSLIG. "It is a group program, so everyone will have the same premium based on number of horses, with some slight difference for trainers with five horses or less - in an effort to keep the smaller trainers viable."

In addition to lower rates than could otherwise be achieved, the self insurance program offers additional benefits, including trainers being able to initiate coverage for only a $500 membership fee and a $1,000 refundable deposit, no application of "experience modification rates," no payroll audits, monthly billing based on current counts of stalls in use at tracks, and experienced program and claims management. California trainers may even realize a form of profit sharing in upcoming years.

"The difference between a self insurance group and a standard insurance program is that, with a standard insurance program all the premium goes to the insurance company. If they pay out less in losses than they make in premiums, they make a profit," McKinzie explained. "In our program, the premiums go into a loss pool; and if we pay out less than we have in the loss pool, in two or three years we can apply that money to subsidies. Trainers sort of control their own destiny.

"It's important to remember that this isn't a mandatory program," McKinzie added. "If it works well for a trainer, he is welcome to join. What our program strives to do is create a level playing field among all trainers so that they share the risk. We are not in the insurance business to be an insurance company; we are in the business to stabilize the industry. Insuring California horse trainers is our sole purpose for being in business."

According to Alan Balch, executive director of CTT, "In an industry where workers' comp prices are going up and subsidies are going down (due to handle declines), we have brought about an additional price reduction. It resulted from all parties working together."

Finish Line administrators are now contacting all trainers to assess interest from them in starting the application process and providing details about the program. Anyone having questions concerning the FSLIG Workers’ Compensation program may call (714) 820-2743.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

California Horse Retirement Gets a Boost from Frank Stronach

Stakes winners Geronimo and Storming Away at Tranquility Farm

Frank Stronach, a multiple Eclipse Award winning owner and breeder and industry leader in the retraining and rehabilitation of Thoroughbred racehorses, has announced the formation of the Santa Anita Park After-Care Program. The new program will match retired racehorses with loving owners who will make a lifelong commitment to their health, safety and well-being.

Stronach is Chairman and CEO of MI Developments Inc., the parent company of Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields, Gulfstream Park, and the Maryland Jockey Club. Santa Anita will support the After-Care Program by matching the money currently taken from purses for that purpose (one third of one percent) at Santa Anita. The monies will be distributed to retirement programs throughout California by the California Retirement Management Account (CARMA).

“This is very generous of Frank,” said California trainer and CARMA CFO Howard Zucker. “He has given us the opportunity to discuss other ways of helping to retire racehorses with dignity. We will try to see that each unwanted horse that leaves the racetrack in California does so with an endowment.”

Stronach was recently selected to receive the inaugural Earle I. Mack Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation Champion Award for his dedication to improving the welfare and safety of Thoroughbred horses during and after their racing careers. He set an industry precedent seven years ago by developing Adena Retirement, the racing industry’s first in-house retirement program, located in Florida. Under the direction of a full-time staff of professional trainers, riders, grooms and veterinarians, Adena Retirement carefully evaluates and retrains horses owned by the Stronach family and Adena Springs before matching them with owners who will provide suitable lifelong adoptive homes. Many of the horses retrained at Adena Retirement have flourished in new disciplines, including hunter, jumper, dressage and pleasure.

According to Zucker, CARMA board member Ron Charles was instrumental in getting Stronach and CARMA together.

“Once Frank realized there was already an organization in place in California to make use of the money,” Zucker explained, “He arranged for the people from his rehab facility to meet with the CARMA staff and chair, and they have worked out a mechanism where this will happen. It is pretty exciting.”

“This is not a solution to the problem, but we feel it is another step in the right direction,” said Stronach. “While we believe it is the responsibility of every owner to find safe, after-race programs for all Thoroughbreds, we also believe in taking the initiative to develop retirement, rehabilitation and retraining programs for these equine athletes who give so much to all of us.”

CARMA, a charitable 501 (c)(3) organization was created in 2008 to raise money for retired California racehorses. All facilities must undergo a rigorous application and inspection process before being approved for funding. Last year, CARMA distributed more than $300,000 to 15 non-profit equine retirement and rehabilitation facilities.

“CARMA encourages retraining and rehabilitation over simply retirement,” Zucker said. “It is so much better a model – if a horse is capable of being ridden or perhaps becoming a show horse.

“There seems to be a trend now wherein some large farms are stepping up to the plate and offering retirement options for the horses they have bred,” Zucker concluded. “If that trend continues – given some health in the industry and general economy – it will alleviate some of the problems of these non-profit retirement facilities. If more owners would have Mr. Stronach’s sense of responsibility it would be a kinder, gentler world for the horses.”

Retired racehorse Tontine Too, winner of more than $250,000 and now known as Tino, is a permanent resident and mascot at Leigh Gray's Thoroughbred Rehab Center at Winners Circle Ranch in Bradbury, Calif.