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.