Archives for January 2020

New Year is Breaking Records Already with The Richest Horse Race Ever

Is Horse Racing Dead?

We are only at the beginning of 2020 and it looks set to be a very exciting year if you are a fan of horse racing. There are already some amazing horse races around the globe but Saudi Arabia is set to become the biggest and best hotspot for the sport, as the richest horse race in the world is set to be held on February 29th in Riyadh.

Confirmed to have a prize pot of $20 million, the Saudi Cup is going to trump any other horse race that has been held in terms of prize money by several million. With prize money like this, you can be sure that this horse race is going to attract some of the biggest and best horses, trainers, and jockeys from all around the world.

With that in mind, continue reading to find out more about the race itself, as well as the horses that are rumored to be entering the mix at the moment.

What is the Saudi Cup?

The Saudi Cup is a nine-furlong race that is going to be run on the dirt track at King Abdulaziz Racetrack. There are going to be a maximum field of 14 starters for the race. There are a number of different opportunities for horses to qualify for the race. For example, the winner of the Pegasus Cup in Florida will be invited to run in the race, even if they have not entered it previously. Furthermore, there is going to be a race held on the 7th of February in Saudi Arabia for Arabian horses to earn the chance to qualify. The winner will secure a position in the world’s richest horse race.

More about the Saudi Cup:

The State of Horse Racing in Ireland

Horse Racing Ireland sees on-course betting increase in 2019

Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), the sports’ national governing body, has reported a 4.5% year-on-year rise in on-course betting turnover for 2019, despite seeing a decline in Tote wagering.

Total on-course betting turnover for the 12 months through to 31 December 2019, including the Tote, amounted to €78.9m (£66.8m/$88.8m), up from €75.5m in the previous year.

Growth was driven by an increase in turnover from betting rings, which climbed 6.6% year-on-year to €58.4m.

However, the HRI noted a decline in turnover from on-course Tote betting, with this falling by 0.9% to €10.6m, while turnover from on-course starting price (SP) shops also fell by 1.0% to €9.9m.

Total Tote betting turnover was also down by 13.0% from €69.2m in 2018 to €60.2m in the past year.

On-course betting was boosted by an increase in attendance, with this figure up 3.2% year-on-year from 1.27m to 1.32m, due in part to a busy Christmas period.

Elsewhere, prize money climbed 4% to €66.1m for the year, while the HRI said commercial sponsorship was also up by 17.3% to €6.1m. However, there was a slight decline in European Breeders Fund sponsorship, which declined 0.5% to €2.19m.

More about State of Horse Racing in Ireland

US Horse Racing News

The Sun Sets on Omaha Beach

The Pegasus World Cup was held last week at Gulfstream without Omaha Beach contending after it was reported the heavy favorite showed swelling in his right hind fetlock (ankle) and was scratched by trainer Richard Mandella, who stated, “While we are disappointed to have to miss the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, Omaha Beach’s safety and well-being comes first and we wanted to do what was best for him. He has been a great pleasure to have around the barn and we are grateful for the opportunity to train such a magnificent horse.”

The dark bay colt began to catch fire in 2019 by winning the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn in March followed by a Grade I victory at the Arkansas Derby in April despite an inside post position on a sloppy track. Hopes were then sky-high that Omaha Beach would become only the second Arkansas Derby champion to win the Triple Crown, a feat that had only been accomplished by American Pharoah back in 2015.

However, those dreams were shattered when it was discovered that he had an entrapped epiglottis which affected his air passages and ability to breathe. Omaha Beach was scratched from the Kentucky Derby and the remaining Triple Crown races but returned to the oval in October when he was entered into a shorter distance, six-furlong, race where he claimed the Santa Anita Sprint by a head over the heavily favored Shancelot.

He followed that up by taking second to Spun to Run at the Breeders Cup Dirt Mile but the unexpected end of his illustrious career came when he breezed to an effortless victory over seven furlongs in the Malibu Stakes in December which could be wagered on at some of the best online sportsbooks. The Fox Hill Farms’ superstar won five of his last six starts with career earnings north of $1.6 million. He will be put out to stud in Kentucky, closing the curtain on an illustrious career which could have been legendary had he been successful in the Triple Crown.

 

Mucho Gusto Earns Mucho Dinero

Bob Baffert’s Mucho Gusto was much the better in a field of 10 at the Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park last week and within a minute 48 seconds, the chestnut colt more than doubled his career earnings by taking home a $1.8 million share of the $3 million purse. The field was whittled from a dozen to a dime after Omaha Beach and Spun to Run, the early favorites, were scratched.

In a twist of fate, or more accurately, a wise choice, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr switched mounts and decided to ride Mucho Gusto over Spun to Run a week before the race. Subsequently, Spun to Run was scratched and the rest, as they say, is history. It was an impressive victory for Mucho Gusto as he took control at the top of the stretch and outlasted Mr. Freeze by nearly five lengths. The payoffs at many of the top-notch sports betting sites were as follows: Mucho Gusto returned $8.80, $5 and $3,80 while Mr. Freeze paid $7.60 and $5.20 for place and show with War Story earning $6.80 to show for his backers.

pegasus world cup logoThe Pegasus this year was different in that it introduced no-race-day-medication rules which essentially means whatever approved medication is being given to the horses is not allowed on race day. It signals a sea change in the industry and one that has been embraced by The Stronach Group, the organization that runs Gulfstream. The chairman and president, Belinda Stronach, commented on the rule change, “Let’s really create an opportunity for those horsemen and trainers that would like to run medication-free and under the international standards, and really create an invitational that invites some of the best horses and trainers to be able to do so.”

On the same racing card, Zulu Alpha caught Magic Wand in the $1 million Pegasus Turf and rewarded all those who backed the 11-1 shot with payouts of $25.60, $11.40 and $7.60 and second-place Magic Wand returned $5.40 and $3.80 while Instilled Regard paid $6.60 to show. Tyler Gaffalione was aboard the relative longshot and remarked after the race, I’m thrilled. I’m on Cloud Nine right now.” The 1:51.60 winning trip bumped Zulu Alpha’s career earnings to nearly $2 million.

Veteran Player David Synder Wins 2019 NHC Tour

Source: NTRA

LEXINGTON, Ky. (January 27, 2020) – David Snyder has a philosophy when it comes to the realm of handicapping, one he has held tight to while navigating the changing landscape of tournament play the last two decades.

“I think what you will hear every veteran say is never change your style. Even when things aren’t going your way, don’t let it change your strategy because if you do, you’re playing Whack-a-Mole,” Snyder said. “Everything works for everyone some of the time. But you have to play in order to win and you have to stick to your strategy in order to – over time – benefit from your strategy when it starts to heat up.”

Snyder’s commitment to his particular style made an honest man out of him over the past year as his sustained consistency allowed the Mission Viejo, CA resident to earn 20,772 points and claim the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) Tour title in a three-way race to the finish.

The top trio of finishers on the Tour were separated by just 600 points with runner-up Bob Engelhard notching 20,384 points while third-place finisher Christy Moore finished with 20,172. Bolstered by two tournament wins on HorsePlayers.com and regular high-level results, Snyder was able to earn the $110,000 first-place prize, a 2021 NHC seat, and the chance to play for an additional $5 million in bonuses at next month’s NTRA National Horseplayers Championship Presented by Racetrack Television Network, Caesars Las Vegas, and host site Bally’s Las Vegas on Feb. 7-9.

“You’ve heard the expression that even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while,” Snyder said of his Tour triumph. “Every strategy works once in a while. I’ve been at it for 20 years so I think first and foremost, you have to play or you can’t win. So I played pretty much every tournament I could. Just basically played every weekend.

“What was really working for me were those $75 tournaments where you can just throw it in and go to work. And if you were to look at HorsePlayers and look at my results, almost all my points came from those tournaments….and it finally added up at the end of the day. But just to reiterate, I’ve been playing for 20 years. There have been plenty of years where I did pretty well but there was nothing to show for it. So I think to some extent I’m kind of fortunate it turned out the way it did.”

Overall NHC Tour standings are determined by totaling a player’s top seven scores from eligible qualifying contests, which must include at least one live, on-site event.

Click here for full NHC Tour Leaderboard

This year marks the tenth time Snyder has qualified for the NHC and the fourth time he will go in as a dual qualifier, having previously earned two seats in 2014, 2016, and 2019. His best NHC finish came in 2014 when he cashed for $4,800 after finishing 42nd – and he views his overall tournament history through a good-natured perspective.

“If you look at my (NHC) results, I suck – me and a lot of other people,” Snyder cracked. “I remember the first one we played at Bally’s, my buddy and I, I think we came in last and second to last out of everybody. I think that the differences when you play every weekend and you stick to your strategy, you’ll have weekends where your strategy doesn’t work and you just go, oh well, no big deal …and you don’t think twice about it. But when you only go to the NHC once a year, logically, for your strategy to be spot on that exact weekend is like winning the lottery.”

A self-described ‘math guy’ who utilizes the sheets rather than pouring over the Daily Racing Form, Snyder said one of the biggest challenges in his quest to earn the $800,000 first-place NHC prize is adapting his style to the tournament’s format. NHC entrants are required to place mythical $2 Win and Place wagers, a much more simplistic approach than Snyder is comfortable with.

“I’m an exotics guy, so the hardest thing for me is I never bet win or place, ever,” Snyder said. “I go for the immediate gratification of an exacta or a trifecta or a super. And the interesting about the contest when you’re playing mythical is, you’re thinking points, you’re not really thinking dollars.”

The top five overall Tour leaders were rounded out by fourth-place Tour finisher Nick Fazzolari (19,780 points) and Ken Jordan with 19,463 points. Total prize money for the Tour was $325,000 with $52,000 going to the runner-up, $27,500 to third, $20,000 to fourth, and $15,000 to fifth.

Before the days on online contests, Snyder recalls himself and his fellow horseplayers having to participate in tournaments the old fashioned way by physically traveling across the country to different sites. That level of dedication is what helped shape the Tour, and Snyder’s own perseverance is what ultimately put him in his current enviable position.

“I think that’s what the Tour is, it’s a group of people who are committed and they’ll do whatever it takes. It takes that kind of commitment,” Snyder said. “I didn’t know it was going to take me 20 years. I’m just going to play my strategy and if it’s my turn, it’ll be my turn. If not, I’m still going to have a nice time.”

Draft Kings is the exclusive sponsor of the NHC Final Table. Official Partners of the 2020 NHC include Daily Racing Form, TVG, and NYRA Bets.

AGOS Horses to Watch and Trip Notes – Jan. 27

AGOS Horses to Watch and Trip Notes for agameofskill.com visitors

AQUEDUCT

ABOUNDING JOY (Race 8 at AQU, Jan 20, 2020) – Bill Mott trainee was coming off a long layoff.  Took the lead turning for home but was unable to hold off the strong late run of the favorite.  Filly ran a great race and should be tighter next time around.

Got Rebates?  Get what you deserve – click here

the Big A race horseWEGOTOLDYOUGOTSOLD (Race 6 at AQU, Jan 20, 2020) – Rudy R. runner was another coming off a layoff but ran into a major class dropper from Servis.  Ran well to be 2nd and will be very tough next time out.

THE IMPORTANT ONE (Race 5 at AQU, Jan 20, 2020) – Not many maiden claiming debut wins are this impressive.  Wesley Ward runner stumbled at the start and then was wide over the Big A oval.  Overcame that trouble to run down the two lukewarm favorites in the lane.  Should be able to step up in class.

SAM HOUSTON

SATURDAY’S HANGOVER (Race 3 at HOU, Jan 22, 2020) – This guy owns a potent late kick and he displayed it in full fashion, storming from off the pace in the slop to get up for the win.   Been a very honest runner of late.

TAMPA BAY DOWNS

AWESOME ROMEO (Race 2 at TAM, Jan 8, 2020) – Ran the classic Z pattern under Kevin Mendez.  Was 9th by 4L at the half mile pole, then 6th by 7 1/2 before finishing 3rd, beaten 4 lengths as the lukewarm 5/2 favorite.

 

 

Pegasus World Cup – More News and Notes

Source: Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – For the first time in 2020, Saturday’s Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series presented by Runhappy will be run free of race-day medications, heralding a new era in the sport of Thoroughbred racing in North America.

The medication-free policy is consistent with the International Federation of Horse Racing Authorities (IFHA) standards. Two percent of the purses will go back to Thoroughbred aftercare.

Horsemen competing in both the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) and $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) weighed in on the change.

Bob Baffert, Hall of Fame trainer of Pegasus contender Mucho Gusto: “Lasix is probably more important in dirt racing because of the kickback. We have a lot of kickback. In turf racing, they don’t need Lasix on turf because there’s no kickback. It’s going to be interesting. Everybody seems to be leaning that way. It never entered my thought about worrying about that part of it.”

Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of Pegasus contender True Timber: “You have to compliment Gulfstream Park and The Stronach Group to take a step in that direction; it’s probably overdue that we go with no Lasix and other medications. [True Timber] went to Dubai and ran without medication. He’s an older horse. He should be fine. Like I said, we have to make some changes and they’re making the change.”

Tom Albertrani, trainer of Pegasus Turf contender Sadler’s Joy: “I don’t have a problem with that. I start a lot of my horses without Lasix. It’s something we really use as a preventative, it’s something everyone uses. So, we just want to be on the same level playing field as everyone else, but I don’t think it’s an issue that we have to run on it.”

Romans Could Give Pegasus Rivals Cold Shoulder with Mr Freeze

Going back to Little Mike’s 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) triumph at odds of 17-1 and including Keen Ice’s 16-1 shocker over Triple Crown champion American Pharaoh in the 2015 Travers (G1), trainer Dale Romans has engineered some of racing’s biggest upsets in recent years.

Romans will be looking to play spoiler again Saturday in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) presented by Runhappy with Jim Bakke and Gerry Isbister’s multiple graded-stakes winner Mr Freeze.

The 5-year-old son of To Honor and Serve drew Post 8 and saw his morning line odds drop from 30-1 to 20-1 following Thursday’s scratch of Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Spun to Run. Omaha Beach is the even-money program favorite.

“He’s training great. He’s had some really good works and we’re very happy with him. He’s a really live longshot,” Romans said of Mr Freeze. “We’ve upset the apple cart a few times. He’s doing better right now than he’s ever had in his life.”

Mr Freeze went unraced at 2 before winning three of his first four starts as a 3-year-old, capped by an eight-length romp in the West Virginia Derby (G3), contested at the Pegasus’ 1 1/8-mile distance. He got the rest of 2018 off after running eighth in the Pennsylvania Derby (G1), returning on the grass in Gulfstream’s Tropical Turf (G3) last January.

After being both fractious in the gate and bothered during the race, Mr Freeze finished seventh and went to the sidelines. He returned seven months later to be second in an Ellis Park optional claimer, then won the one-mile Ack Ack (G3) and capped 2019 by running second in the Fayette (G2) and third in the Clark (G1), both at 1 1/8 miles.

“He had a really good 3-year-old year. He won the West Virginia Derby and ran really fast. When he turned 4, he had a little issue and we had to give him some time. He came back and ran big at Ellis Park and won the stake at Churchill. He was third in the Grade 1 last time, so he’s going in the right direction,” Romans said. “The key to the whole thing is just doing well at the time. You have to be talented horse to even get here, and now you’ve just got to be on your game and doing the best you can.”

Two-time Championship Meet leading jockey Luis Saez will ride Mr Freeze for Romans, competing in the Pegasus for the third time in its four-year history. Prayer for Relief ran 10th in 2017 and Singing Bullet was 11th in 2018.

“We missed last year, but we’ve been part of the rest of them. Just to be here and be a part of it is a big deal,” Romans said. “You want to compete at the highest level in this game, and this allows me to do it. It’s one thing to compete, but we want to get the money.”

Stewart Hoping Third Time the Charm for Seeking the Soul

For the third straight winter, well-traveled Seeking the Soul will open his season in the same race – Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) presented by Runhappy. Having improved his finish each year, continuing the trend in 2019 would land the now 7-year-old in the winner’s circle.

Trained by Dallas Stewart for breeder-owner Charles Fipke, Seeking the Soul ran fifth behind Horse of the Year Gun Runner in his 2018 debut. He was a distant but decisive runner-up last year, beaten 5 ¾ lengths by Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner City of Light but 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Preakness (G1) runner-up Bravazo.

“He ran second last year to a great horse,” Stewart said. “He came back and had a big win in the Stephen Foster [G2], he’s healthy and he’s ready to go.”

Stewart has been impressed with how Seeking the Soul is coming into the race this year, off three sharp works at the winter base at Fair Grounds. Most recently, the son of Perfect Soul went five furlongs in 1:00 Jan. 17, the fastest of 27 horses at the distance.

“This horse is always doing good, but he’s had a couple really good works as of late,” Stewart said. “He worked three-quarters in [1:12 Jan. 10] and followed it up going in a minute. He’s feeling good, he’s galloping good, so we’ll see.”

Over the course of his career, Seeking the Soul has compiled seven wins, six seconds, seven thirds and more than $3.4 million in purse earnings from 31 starts. In addition to last summer’s Foster, he owns graded wins in the 2018 Ack Ack (G3) and 2017 Clark Handicap (G1) and has placed in six others including the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1).

“He’s made close to $3.5 million,” Stewart said, “so maybe he’ll add some more millions to that.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez rides Seeking the Soul from Post 4. They are listed at 30-1 on the morning line.

“He’s just a warrior. He’s 7 and I could picture him running a couple more years,” Stewart said. “If that happens, I don’t know, but I can see it happening.”

Enable Unlikely to Race before Royal Ascot

“Every sport needs champions and she’s been amazing, Dettori said. “She’s captured not just racing’s imagination, but she’s attracted other people to watch the sport.”

The Guardian:  Enable is unlikely to begin her fifth racing season until Royal Ascot at the earliest, with her campaign being planned entirely around a return to Longchamp in October in search of an elusive third win in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, John Gosden, the mare’s trainer, said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the annual Longines World’s Best Racehorse ceremony in London, Gosden said that “June time, Royal Ascot” is the obvious place for the six-year-old to start what seems almost certain to be her final year on the track.

“If you aim for the autumn, you don’t want to be starting in the spring,” Gosden said. “We aimed at Ascot last year and ended up running in the Eclipse [in July]. We’ll see how she is make the decision together, but the final thing is that the decision will be taken by the filly herself.”

Enable’s defeat when favourite for last year’s Arc was the only significant reverse in what was otherwise the best season of Frankie Dettori’s three decades in the saddle, and he is eager to be back aboard a horse whose performances at times rendered him almost speechless with emotion in 2019.

 

A look back at Paul Nicholls’ four Gold Cup wins – can he make it five?

In the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, one trainer stands above the rest with their record number of wins. Tom Dreaper famously won a trio of races in the 1960s with Arkle, but his first win came in 1946 when Prince Regent was the favourite. He went on to have further success with Fort Leney in 1968, bringing his total number of Gold Cup wins to five.

Of all the currently active trainers, Paul Nicholls holds four Gold Cup titles and is one win away from sharing Dreaper’s record. But can Nicholls make it five? Let’s take a look back at his Gold Cup success and his chances in this year’s race.

2020: Clan des Obeaux or Frodon?

This year, Nicholls rests his hopes on two eight year olds: Clan des Obeaux and Frodon, and betting odds ahead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup price the former at the better price of 9/1, while Frodon can be found as an outside chance at 25/1. The early favourite at the time of writing is last year’s winner, Al Boum Photo, trained by Willie Mullins.

Clan des Obeaux came fifth in last year’s race, but is in reasonable form, having recently won the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day by 21 lengths. Frodon will be making his Gold Cup debut, but won last year’s Festival Trophy. Earlier this month, the gelding ridden by Bryony Frost won the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton, making a swift return to form.

2009: Kauto Star

Nicholls’ last success came in 2009, when the legendary Kauto Star made history in becoming the first horse to regain the Gold Cup. Rode by Ruby Walsh, Kauto Star beat stablemate Denman to the finish line by some 13 lengths – and no other horse could come close. It was a return to form for the pre-race favourite, who had been beaten in the previous year’s race. And it could have been a trio of placed-finishes for Nicholls, but for Exotic Dancer securing third, ahead of Neptune Collonges.

2008: Denman

The 2008 Gold Cup saw Nicholls famously orchestrate a winning one-two-three, as Denman got one over on Kauto Star, ensuring the horse didn’t secure back-to-back races for the first time since Best Mate in 2003-04. Neptune Collonges completed the placing. Denman took the lead as early as the eleventh fence and never looked like relinquishing his advantage – going on to win by seven lengths. Many were expecting a close race between Denman and Kauto Star, but it never materialised and the previous year’s winner only made up ground with three fences to jump.

2007: Kauto Star

Kauto Star secured his first win in the Gold Cup on his debut, but it could have been oh-so different for Nicholls’ horse. Exotic Dancer was the pre-race favourite, but was eventually beaten by two-and-a-half lengths. Kauto Star had come from behind and came into his own on the second lap. With four fences remaining, he chased the leading pack before taking the lead with two fences left to jump. But after hitting the final fence, the win was in doubt. However, he stayed on strongly to reach the finish line first.

1999: See More Business

1999 was a breakthrough year for Nicholls at the Cheltenham Festival, where he won a trio of races. After success in the Arkle Challenge Trophy and Queen Mother Champion Chase, he went on to win the Gold Cup with See More Business. The Irish-bred gelding had previously won the King George VI Chase that season, but despite that, was by no means the favourite going into the Cheltenham centrepiece. The 16/1 hopeful hadn’t started well and it wasn’t until the final fence that he soon led, with one length separating See More Business from second-placed Go Ballistic.

 

 

 

American Pharoah shares secretly sold as Zayat Defaults again

Prominent Thoroughbred owner and breeder Ahmed Zayat is back in legal trouble, this time involving breeding rights to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

At an emergency hearing on Wednesday, Fayette County Judge Kim Bunnell granted a motion ordering a receiver to seize control of Zayat Stables, including its horses.

The move came after a New York investment group filed a lawsuit in Lexington this week seeking at least $23 million dollars from Zayat, accusing him of selling breeding shares to 2015 Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup winner American Pharoah that were being used for collateral on outstanding debts.

Zayat and Zayat Stables are named as defendants in the lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Fayette County Circuit Court by MGG Investment Group, a New York-based investment firm, according to court records.

MGG had made multiple loans to Zayat Stables, which were being secured by all of Zayat’s assets, horses and breeding rights, according to the lawsuit…

Pegasus World Cup and Turf Notes

Source: Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Rather than have Zulu Alpha try for a repeat win in the W.L. McKnight (G3) on Jan. 25, owner Michael Hui is opting for a far bigger prize later that afternoon at Gulfstream Park, the $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) presented by Runhappy.

Hui said that when trainer Mike Maker laid out the possibilities for the 7-year-old’s first start of 2020 it was an easy decision. Though the McKnight launched a great 2019 season for Zulu Alpha, who won three graded stakes and $1.1 million in purses, Hui was eager to change course.

“The way Mike put it to me is you can go in the McKnight again for $200,000 and you will be even money or you can take a shot,” Hui said. “He knew when he said that…I’m all about taking a shot. Why not?”

That is pretty much the philosophy the Little Rock, Ark. resident has used since he made the transition from fan to owner in 2010. After a few seasons with lower-level claimers, Hui reached out to Maker, who has a sterling reputation for claiming horses that he develops into graded stakes-winning runners. Hui has degrees in math and physics and describes himself as a “black and white analytical guy.” He checked out Maker’s stats on the Internet and made his move in 2015.

“I called him up one day and said, ‘I’d like to claim one with you. Are you open to it? How does it work?’ He walked me through it.”

Through Maker, Hui, 56, bought a horse that won a stakes at Woodbine and claimed an allowance runner. Their relationship and success grew through the years.

“Over time, he would point them out to me and he does what he does,” Hui said. “We’ve been very blessed. We got Greengrassofwyoming. Three weeks later he wins the Stars and Stripes (G3). We claimed a horse named Taghleeb at Saratoga. He ran well at Kentucky Downs. It took a little while to figure him out and he ended up winning the McKnight.”

Taghleeb’s victory in the McKnight in 2017 was the first of Maker’s three straight wins in the Gulfstream Park fixture.

Maker and Hui also did well with their claim of Shadow Rock, which led them to Hogy, who won a pair of Grade 3s for them. While at Fair Grounds in March 2018 to run Galton in the Muniz Memorial (G2), Hui said he was asking Maker what he looks for when scouting horses to claim.

“He’s pointing all this out and Zulu walks by,” Hui said. “He said ‘That’s exactly what you are looking for.’ ”

Zulu Alpha was third to Synchrony and Arklow in the Muniz at 91-1 and Hui put him in his stable mail. Nearly six months later, Hui saw that the son of Street Cry was entered in a claiming race at Churchill Downs. He had trainer John Ortiz claim him for $80,000. The Calumet Farm homebred won for fun by 9 ½ lengths the day he was claimed promptly rewarding Hui and Ortiz with a win in the Sycamore (G3).

Pegasus statue at Gulfstream ParkHui subsequently moved Zulu Alpha to Maker to run in the grass stakes at last year’s Championship Meet at Gulfstream. After a well-beaten seventh in the Fort Lauderdale (G2), he won the McKnight and Mac Diarmida (G2) in what turned into a very good 2019 campaign.

Two races before Zulu Alpha was claimed blinkers were removed, an equipment change that looks to have had a positive impact. And right after Hui made the claim, the long-striding gelding was stretched out to longer distances. His past performances show he has thrived.

Hui and Maker thought enough of Zulu Alpha last year to run him in the Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1), where he was fourth, 1¾ lengths behind the winner, Bricks and Mortar, who surely will be named the champion male turf horse and is likely to be the Horse of the Year. Hui is quick to credit Maker and his keen eye for talent.

“I’m biased, but I can’t see anyone any better spotting horses for two-turn or three-turn turf races, and getting the most bang for the buck,” Hui said. “I made the comment when we were in the Breeders’ Cup that you don’t usually see guys like me in this race. It’s typically dominated by Europeans or these larger farms.”

Hui was a co-founder of Transportation Insight, a company based in Hickory, N.C. that he and his partners sold five years ago, about the time he started working with Maker. He has a boutique-type racing and breeding operation that currently consists of six runners, three broodmares and three babies. He bred and sold the Grade 1-winning filly Nickname.

Zulu Alpha is Hui’s top earner, took him to the Breeders’ Cup and has delivered half of his eight graded stakes victories. The Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational, where he is taking a shot, is the starting point for what he hopes is another solid season.

“Zulu has exceeded expectations,” Hui said. “I feel so fortunate to have a horse like this and one thing that I have picked up about this game is that it is race to race. He’s got to be competitive in this race. He’s got to come out of the race, come back and train again. Everything is on the table.”

Hall of Famer to Saddle Omaha Beach for Pegasus World Cup (G1)

Trainer Richard Mandella built his Hall of Fame career on consummate horsemanship, a no-frills, all-class approach to training Thoroughbreds that has produced enduring success spanning more than four decades.

“It’s always amazed me,” and Mandella, who saddled his first horse in 1974 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. “Since I first started out and had my first couple of good horses – Bad ‘n Big being the first real good one – as soon as one started to wear out, another good one would pop up. It’s kind of still going on.”

More than 40 years after getting his first taste of graded-stakes success with Bad ‘n Big, Mandella will saddle Omaha Beach for Saturday’s $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) presented by Runhappy at Gulfstream Park – still very much a prominent player on Thoroughbred racing’s center stage.

Omaha Beach, the latest in a long, long list of stars to pop up in Mandella’s stable, will be the likely post-time favorite for the 1 1/8-mile medication-free Pegasus World Cup.

Remarkably, Mandella, who has saddled the winners of more than 2,150 races and $142 million in purses, has been blessed with a seemingly endless stream of Grade 1 stars without training huge numbers of horses.

“We don’t have a real big outfit. I used to be bigger – I used to keep Hollywood Park and Santa Anita with about 60 to 75 horses. That was my top,” Mandella said. “I tried to get a little bigger than that, but I couldn’t handle it. When I turned 60, which was nine years ago, I took myself down to just one barn with 40 horses and we’re still there.”

‘I Used to Think I was Stupid’

The bigger his stable grew, the more uncomfortable Mandella felt, a development he attributes to a less-than-stellar academic background.

“I barely made it through high school, seriously. I had a job before school and after school. I was riding horses before I went to school, exercising, breaking yearlings. I worked my tail off,” Mandella said. “I used to think I was stupid. Being a little more realistic looking back, I was working at 4:30 in the morning. I started school at 10:30 because I had a job at a farm breaking yearlings. At night, my father and I would meet and we’d train. We had a little track at home and we’d train until 9 o’clock at night. I rested in school and that’s about all I got out of it.”

Mandella stressed the importance of getting an education to fall back on.

“What a young person needs to realize is that if he ever has success, he’d better have a little education to work with the success, and I lacked that,” he said. “I could feel it as I got too big.

“I haven’t figured it out yet how Todd Pletcher and those guys do it and how good they do. I can appreciate what they can do and be consistently successful. I could never feel comfortable once I got over that 65 number,” he added. “Two barns, dealing with people and horses, it was more than I could take in at one time.”

Mandella’s stable surely would have grown into triple digits had he been more comfortable with a larger operation.

“I’ve never applied for a job in my life and I’ve never asked for a horse to train. Somebody has always put things in front of me,” he said. “Either we bought good ones or, as in the case of Gentlemen, Siphon, Virginie, who won the Beverly Hills (G1), and Romarin, who won the Early Times at Churchill (G2), I was asked to train those horses by people who had seen something they liked about me and called me and said, ‘I’ve got a horse named Sandpit from Brazil.’ I got calls from people asking would I take a horse. I’ve been very fortunate that they were the right people with the right horses.”

South America Calling

Gentlemen, Siphon, Virginie, Romarin and Sandpit, among several other graded-stakes winners, were imported from South America and flourished under Mandella’s care.

“This first reason is, it was the horses that were sent to me. Below that, I would say it was because I grew up on a ranch and broke hundreds of yearlings over a six-year period. Dealing with the minds of horses – when you break horses you have to read horses’ minds to get along – that’s the thing,” Mandella said. “It’s your job to teach them how to gallop, change leads, and all that stuff. It’s an important part of training South Americans – you have to retrain them. If you make a mistake in that process, you have an outlaw, a bad actor, or they get hurt or they’re unhappy. That’s part of the transition from South America, more than Europe – to back up and rebuild and put an education with it.”

Mandella, who also trained the French-bred 1993 Horse of the Year and turf champion Kotashaan, has experienced considerable success with veteran campaigners such as Gentlemen, Sandpit and The Tin Man through the years.

“We’ve always been known to have these 7, 8, 9-year-olds,” he said. “Sandpit was 10, I think, when I went to Dubai with him. The Tin Man won the Arlington Million when he was 8. We’ve kind of had a few of those.”

Mandella attributes his success with older campaigners with the lessons he learned working with his father, Gene, at their Cherry Valley, Calif. ranch while paying much less attention to his lessons in school earlier in the day.

“The first reason is the horses I’ve had. The underlying reason would be growing up on my father’s ranch where we had horses hurt badly. We had a small little ranch. Dad was a blacksmith. We trained and took care of horses almost as a hobby more than a job. We’d get horses that were hurt. We’d try to rest them and get them back training and getting them back to the races,” Mandella said. “We could see that people didn’t know when to stop at the first warning. That was the lesson I learned from that. You learn not to push your injuries too far and ask too much of them. Stop and fix it, and maybe you get a better horse after it’s over. I think my career stands for that.”

Keeping It ‘Old School’

While keeping current, Mandella has remained ‘old school’ in his training.

“I listen about every machine, every new vitamin and leg paint. You try it, but pretty soon you throw that out and go back to what you were doing. The basics are the most important things. I learned them from my father. The finer points I learned from Lefty Nickerson, V. J. Nickerson,” he said. “I only worked for him for one year, but he and I had a relationship where he could see me a little puzzled and he’d say three words and it would all come together for me. Everybody in life should have somebody like that. Lefty was very good for me.”

His tried-and true training methods have always served Mandella and his array of stakes winners well. Pleasantly Perfect would hardly have been able to win the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) and 2004 Dubai World Cup (G1) without the special attention paid to him by his trainer.

“As a 2-year-old he had a virus that affected his heart. You’ve heard of people 35, 40-years old working out in the gym who drop dead of a heart attack and they don’t know why. They find out it’s Pericarditis, an inflammation of the heart sac and fluid around the heart. He had that as a 2-year-old,” Mandella said. “I turned him out for a year and he was better but not good enough. I turned him out again and at the end of his 3-year-old year he started running. He moved – Boom! Boom! Boom! – into some big stuff. He was that good of a horse.”

Pleasantly Perfect capped a record-setting four-win day for his trainer in the 2003 Breeders’ Cup.

“I’m sitting in the box with the owner and I’m thinking, ‘This poor guy doesn’t have a chance in hell. I’ve already won three of these. What chance has he got? He’s carrying 500 pounds going into the gate,’” Mandella said with a chuckle. “And he ran the race of his life.”

Mandella also visited the Santa Anita winner’s circle after Halfbridled’s win in the Juvenile Fillies (G1), Action This Day’s triumph in the Juvenile (G1) and Johar’s dead-heat victory with High Chaparral in the Turf (G1).

Pleasantly Perfect’s triumph in the Dubai World Cup ranks among Mandella’s favorite memories.

“Winning the Dubai Cup [was special] because I had been there five times and we’d ran good. It kind of made you want to win it,” he said. “For Pleasantly Perfect, particularly, to win it was special.”

Where It All Began

Pleasantly Perfect, Gentlemen, Sandpit, Kotashaan, Siphon, Dare and Go, The Tin Man, and, of course, Beholder, among so many others, have provided much success and joy, but Mandella didn’t hesitate when asked if any horse stood out as he looks back on his career.

“The one I owe probably the most is a horse called Bad ‘n Big – a horse I trained in the ‘70s. He won the Cinema Handicap and beat Iron Constitution. He won the Big Crosby Sprint in 1:07-and-4 at Del Mar. He ran against top competition and retired at 7 or 8 from being a 2-year-old,” he said. “Each one of his big races was as good as anything since, because it was new to me and I knew that if I didn’t get going then, it was going to be a long struggle. That’s the way this business goes. You don’t hang around for 20 years and all of a sudden just get going. You either make it or you don’t. I owe him so much.”

Nearly four decades later, Beholder demonstrated the same longevity at the top, earning Eclipse championships at 2, 3, 5 and 6 before retiring with $6.1 million in earnings and 12 Grade 1 victories, including wins in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, 2013 Breeders’ Cup Distaff, 2016 Breeders’ Cup Distaff and 2012 Pacific Classic.

“She had extreme freakish ability. She was a little hard-headed. When she was young, she was a challenge. As we got going, she wanted to leave the gate and run as far as she could as fast as she could, which was good enough most of the time,” Mandella said. “When she won the [2013] Breeders’ Cup [Distaff] and beat Royal Delta that was the day I told [jockey] Gary [Stevens] to take her back – we’d been training her that way for a year – she responded. She was a better horse and could do what you wanted her to do.”

It is clearly not by accident that Beholder and Bad n’ Big’s long and fruitful careers mirrored that of their Hall of Fame trainer.