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.