Archives for April 2022

This Hall of Fame Jockey Wanted to End It All. His Story

…It is what follows next from the man who spent three seasons riding some of the best racehorses in the world for trainer Aidan O’Brien that stops you in your tracks.

Eighteen months after he was on the top of the racing world when winning the Derby on John Oxx-trained Sinndar and 13 months after winning the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the same horse, the future five-time champion jockey in Ireland was at such a low ebb because of his losing battle with drink that he stood on a top-floor balcony of a Dubai apartment block ready to throw himself off.

Johnny Murtagh: Creating Belief

Johnny Murtagh has opened up on his a battle with alcoholism that almost cost him his life

A desperate phone call to US trainer John Sadler, who Murtagh was in town to ride for, rescued him from the precipice until his family could arrive to look after him. Murtagh, 51, says: ‘I looked over… that’s how close I was. It scares me to think back now. It is still gut-wrenching when you think about how close it was.

‘The signs were probably there. Drinking a bottle of wine at night on your own with all those bad thoughts in your head.

Johnny Murtagh: Creating Belief is sponsored by Coral and broadcast on Thursday May 5 at 9pm on ITV4 and Tuesday May 10 at 11pm on ITV.

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See for details.

Industry Profile: Woodbine Trainer Roger Attfield still going strong, on the track and off

First, he kicked COVID’s butt this past winter. And then his five-year-old horse Shirl’s Speight kicked butt in the Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland last Saturday — a record third time Attfield has won the Grade 1 showcase in Kentucky.

Shirl’s Speight, who out-bobbed Masen at the wire after going off at 9-1, came out of the Maker’s Mark, Attfield said, in “very, very good” shape and will likely race Kentucky Derby week. After that, Attfield will return to Woodbine to begin his 52nd year training thoroughbreds at the Etobicoke track.

The man is an absolute legend, and is still going strong, still putting in the long days and winning big races — and still earning the praise of racing fans, jockeys, track workers and fellow trainers around Woodbine — including Canada’s top conditioner Mark Casse.

Age 82

“He’s an icon. He’s somebody that I’ve always looked up to,” Casse told the Toronto Sun this week from his home in Ocala, Fla. “He’s a guy that you want to like and you respect him. There’s a lot of good horse trainers that aren’t necessarily somebody you look up to or want to be around, but Roger is not just a top-class horse trainer, he’s a top-class man. I admire him very much.”

Many track people are amazed that Attfield, who turns 83 in November, is still at it, still going strong…

Belmont Park Opens Today

Belmont Park horse racingThe New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) today announced the stakes schedule for the 44-day Belmont Park spring/summer meet, which will feature 59 stakes races worth $16.95 million in total purses. The spring/summer meet will open on Thursday, April 28 and continue through Sunday, July 10.

The Belmont spring/summer meet will offer 12 Grade 1 contests and seven races with purses of $700,000 or higher, with four of those contests coming during the three-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival from Thursday, June 9 through Saturday, June 11. The festival will encompass 17 total stakes, including eight Grade 1s on Belmont Stakes Day, capped by the $1.5 million “Test of the Champion” for 3-year-olds in the 1 1/2-mile final leg of the Triple Crown.

Tickets for the 2022 Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will go on sale Thursday, February 10 at 10 a.m. Eastern via

Got Rebates? Learn how you can earn great cash back rates on tracks like Belmont Park, Hawthorne and more.

In addition to the 154th running of the Belmont Stakes on June 11, that day’s card will include three Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifiers: the one-mile Grade 1, $1 million Hill ‘n’ Dale Metropolitan Handicap for 3-year-olds and up [Dirt Mile]; the Grade 1, $500,000 Ogden Phipps for older fillies and mares 4-years-old and up going 1 1/16 miles on the main track [Distaff]; and the Grade 1, $400,000 Jaipur for 3-year-olds and up going six furlongs on turf [Turf Sprint].

The blockbuster Belmont Stakes Day card will also feature the Grade 1, $750,000 Manhattan for 4-year-olds and up going 1 1/4 miles on turf; the Grade 1, $500,000 Acorn for 3-year-old fillies going one mile; the Grade 1, $500,000 Longines Just a Game for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up at one mile on the turf; the Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens in a seven-furlong sprint over Big Sandy for 3-year-olds; and the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn, a 1 1/2-mile test for 4-year-olds and up.

The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival opens with three stakes races on Thursday, June 9, including the Grade 2, $200,000 Wonder Again, a nine-furlong turf test for 3-year-old fillies offering an automatic invite to the Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational to the top-three finishers. Rounding out the June 9 card are a pair of $150,000 sprints for 2-year-olds at 5 1/2-furlongs on the main track led by the Astoria for fillies and the Tremont.

Other Belmont Park Stakes

On June 10, the Grade 1, $750,000 New York, a 10-furlong turf test for older fillies and mares will headline a day featuring five graded stakes. Also featured on the June 10 card are the Grade 2, $400,000 Belmont Gold Cup, the Grade 2, $300,000 True North; the Grade 2, $300,000 Bed o’ Roses; and the Grade 3, $200,000 Intercontinental, which has been shortened to six furlongs on turf.

The Stars and Stripes Racing Festival returns on Saturday, July 9 and features four graded stakes headlined by the opening legs of the Caesars Turf Triple Series. Launched by NYRA in 2019, the Turf Triple returns with a pair of 1 1/4-mile turf races offering Grade 1 status, featuring the Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational for sophomores and the Grade 1, $700,000 Belmont Oaks Invitational for 3-year-old fillies.

Implemented by NYRA as the turf equivalent of the Triple Crown series, with all the legs contested at Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, the Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational will again launch the male division of the Turf Triple series that encompasses the Grade 1 Caesars Saratoga Derby this summer and the Grade 3 Caesars Jockey Club Derby during the Belmont fall meet.

The Belmont Oaks Invitational commences the female division of the Turf Triple series, which will be followed by the Grade 3 Saratoga Oaks this summer and conclude with the Grade 3 Jockey Club Oaks during the fall.

Also featuring on the Stars and Stripes card is the Grade 2, $400,000 Suburban, a 10-furlong test for older horses; and the Grade 3, $150,000 Victory Ride, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies.

Man o’ War Day on May 14 boasts five graded stakes led by the Grade 1, $700,000 Man o’ War at 1 3/8-miles on the turf for 4-year-olds and upward and bolstered by the nine-furlong Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan, the local prep for the Belmont Stakes; the Grade 3, $150,000 Beaugay, the Grade 3, $150,000 Vagrancy, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Runhappy.

Independence Day weekend from Saturday July 2 through Monday, July 4 offers five stakes races. The holiday weekend kicks off July 2 with the Grade 2, $250,000 John A. Nerud, which will see 4-year-olds and up contest at seven furlongs. Also featured on the card is the Grade 3 $250,000 Dwyer. The holiday weekend stakes action continues Sunday, July 3 with the $100,000 Perfect Sting and on Monday, July 4 with the $100,000 Manila and the $150,000 Grand Couturier.

The spotlight will shine on New York-breds on Monday, May 30, as part of Big Apple Showcase Day. The lucrative Memorial Day card features six stakes for horses bred in the Empire State led by the $200,000 Commentator at one mile for 3-year-olds and up and the $200,000 Critical Eye at the same distance for fillies and mares, 3-years-old and upward. A quartet of $125,000 stakes will round out the day, including the Kingston, Mount Vernon, Mike Lee and Bouwerie.

Friday, April 29 will kick off the meet’s stakes action with the $100,000 Affirmed Success, a six-furlong sprint for New York-breds 4-years-old and up. The graded stakes action begins on Saturday, May 7 with the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay, the Grade 3, $200,000 Westchester and the Grade 2, $200,000 Fort Marcy.

Closing Day on Sunday, July 10 will drop the curtain down on the meet with the $150,000 River Memories and the $100,000 Saginaw before the racing action moves to Saratoga for its 40-day meet beginning Thursday, July 14.

Follow this link for the full 2022 Belmont Park spring/summer stakes schedule.

Source: NYRA

Jockey: One of the great horse racing movies

Jockey is now available to rent from Neon, iTunes, GooglePlay and AroVision.

Young buck Gabriel Boulliet (Moises Arias) is now dominating the big races and, to Jackson’s surprise and annoyance, eager to assail his elder with a barrage of questions. Then, when the kicker comes, Gabriel claiming to be Jackson’s son, the veteran laughs it off as a joke. “I’m not sure what your mother told you, but that’s in no way possible,” he rages.

As the anger turns to self-loathing and reflection, there’s also suddenly hope. His old friend, trainer Ruth Wilkes (Molly Parker) has decided to take the plunge into horse ownership. Staking her reputation on a yearling nobody wanted – Dido’s Lament – Ruth believes Jackson is just the rider to help unlock its potential. But can he get both himself and Dido’s Lament into competitive shape for a shot at the big time?

Fans of inspiring equine tales like Seabiscuit and Secretariat will lap up director and co-writer Clint Bentley’s debut feature. There’s an authenticity and intimate, almost claustrophobic feel about the cinematography (tight framing and point-of-view shots abound) of the riding, racing and track scenes that really make you feel transported to the centre of the action.

Likewise, Bentley and fellow writer Greg Kwedar’s decision to use people they “found” around the racetracks of Phoenix as their supporting cast (a la Jason Reitman’s use of recently redundant salespeople in 2009’s Up in the Air) is a masterstroke, grounding the dialogue and discussions in reality and making Jackson and Ruth’s travails even more poignant…

UofL Equine Awards John W. Galbreath Award to Tom Aronson

The University of Louisville Equine Industry Program has named Tom Aronson the 32nd recipient of the John W. Galbreath Award for Outstanding Entrepreneurship in the Equine Industry.

Aronson is an original business architect of two of the most successful companies the history of horse racing, the Television Games Network (TVG) and Exacta Systems, both of which have become billion-dollar wagering companies since their creation.

Upon graduating from Harvard in 1977, Aronson chose a career with horses as his personal and professional path, serving first as an executive assistant at Harness Tracks of America and then as director of legislative affairs for the American Horse Council in Washington, DC. In 1989, Aronson started his own marketing, development and analytics company, Racing Resource Group, Inc., from which he stepped periodically to build other companies. The first of these was AXCIS Information Network, subsequently AXCIS TrackMaster, now a wholly owned subsidiary of the Jockey Club.

Aronson also served as corporate vice president of programming and product development at Churchill Downs, Inc., and as a faculty member at UofL in the College of Business Equine Industry Program, where he instructed students in entrepreneurship, networking, business capitalization and enterprise building.

More on Tom Aronson from UofL Equine

UofL Equine Industry Program honors innovator, architect of modern wagering businesses

AGOS Horses to Watch: Kentucky Derby Favorite Epicenter

Will Trainer Steve Asmussen Win the KY Derby?

Hall of Fame horseman Steve Asmussen capped off a 5-win day with Epicenter’s impressive victory in the 1 3/16 miles Louisiana Derby.  The talented colt rode the rail while sitting in third.  Second choice Zozos, trained by Brad Cox, dictated the pace with mild pressure from the longshot Pioneer Of Medina behind him. Epicenter took over at the top of the lane and drew off with Rosario at one point looking under his arms for any competition.  The pacesetters hung on gamely for second and third respectively.  [Note that so far, two also rans from this race have returned in stakes company to run off the board.]

Prior to this start, Epicenter led gate to wire in the Risen Star Stakes.  He set a modest but consistent pace throughout and again won as much the best under jockey Joel Rosario.  The third place finisher Zandon returned to win the G1 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland impressively, and the runner-up in the Risen Star placed in this same stakes.  Fifth place finisher Tawny Port won the Lexington Stakes two races later.  The Risen Star has turned out to be a key race on the 2022 Kentucky Derby trail.

The Queen Calls These Two the Most and It’s About Horse Racing

Queen Elizabeth's Horse Wins Race — and Her Racing Manager Says She'll Be Watching on TVHer royal phone is packed with “anti-hacker encryption” which shows the importance of maintaining a secret channel for the monarch.

Two people – including one of her children – the monarch reportedly contacts the most with her phone may come as a surprise.

Royal expert Jonathan Sacerdoti said the Queen calls her daughter Princess Anne and her racing manager John Warren the most.

AGOS Horses to Watch: UAE Derby Won by Crown Pride | Arkansas Derby

Will Japan Be a Threat in the Kentucky Derby?

After a wildy successful 2021 Breeders’ Cup, Japan could be back to make a big splash in the Kentucky Derby.  Crown Pride (Jpn) debuted at 9 furlongs (1 1/8 miles) winning by 6 lengths last fall in Japan.  He won again at that distance before receiving a short winter break.  He returned in a one mile race where he got demolished at the start and then raced wide on the backstretch into the far turn. This was a sneaky great performance.  Off that troubled trip, he scored in the UAE Derby on the World Cup undercard, a card dominated by runners from Japan.

This sophomore colt was much the best in the UAE Derby and won with his ears pricked up in the final 50 yards.  Crown Pride will love the stretch out to 10 furlongs and he has won on both right-handed and left-handed courses.  The runner-up had a perfect trip and no excuse for not holding on.  I don’t like his chance if he comes to the U.S.A.

2022 Arkansas Derby

Cyberknife, trained by Brad Cox, unseated his rider in the post parade but that wasn’t an issue when it came time for the gates to open.  The son of Gun Runner sat a great trip behind the early leaders, made a move into the far turn and then held sway in the lane.  The filly Secret Oath ran a big race.  She got bounced around at the start.  She was in traffic on the backstretch and at about the 4 furlong pole, she dropped back to last.  Jockey Luis Contreras then asked her to run and she swept by the field with ease to move into third, then into second while charging at the leader down the lane.  The jock got lacksidiscal late and she got run down for the place spot.  Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was hardly pleased and he has named a new rider for the filly.

Barber Road was green in the lane, made a nice, inside run late and galloped out well.  He hasn’t had a break since early last fall.  Favorite Doppelganger didn’t have the best of trips but ran a disappointing race as a distant 4th.


AGOS Horses to Watch: Wood Memorial Won by Mo Donegal

Will the Wood Memorial Make an Impact?

Klaravich Stable runner Early Voting set an honest pace while receiving mild pressure from longshot A.P. Secret.  He opened up in mid-stretch but was run down late by Mo Donegal, the 2021 Remsen winner at Aqueduct.  This result reminded me alot of the Wood Memorial finish between the speed horse Funny Cide and the closer Empire Maker.  The latter would take a lot more money in the Kentucky Derby, in fact he went off the favorite, but Funny Cide was the upset winner.  Both Early Voting and Mo Donegal came home with swift fractions in this 9 furlong Derby prep.  Mo Donegal’s final 3/8th of a mile was an eye-opening 35.59.  Third place finisher Skippylongstocking, for FL Derby winning trainer Saffie Joseph, tried hard in third while no real threat to the top two.  This colt is definitely on the improve heading into the first Saturday in May.

What is Happening in Texas Horse Racing

The Texas Racing Commission formalized its opposition Wednesday to the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act, federal anti-doping legislation passed in 2020 which members say will hobble the already beleaguered parimutuel betting industry in Texas.

Texas Racing Commission votes to defy federal anti-doping legislation

    • Texas racing officials have agreed to oppose a new federal anti-doping law, which they say will gut the state’s pari-mutuel betting industry
    • The feds want Texas to pay $371,377 to cover the cost of testing racehorses in the state
    • Racing officials say state law does not allow Texas to pay the feds to do their job
  •  Texas also is participating in a federal challenge to the law in a Lubbock court

HISA, which goes into effect on July 1, would usurp a role the Texas Racing Commission traditionally has played: making sure horses on a racetrack are not doped. According to posted regulations, HISA could delegate animal testing to state racing authorities, but that would not eliminate a $371,377 fee HISA has assessed for Texas.

“This pivotal meeting will consider the response of Texas and the Texas Racing Commission to the federal HISA, which, by terms, seeks to disenfranchise Texas from its essential role in the health and safety of horses and jockeys,” Chair Robert Pate said. “An unintended consequence of HISA—at least in Texas—may be the elimination of all parimutuel wagering and simulcast wager for HISA-covered horses and covered horse racing under the Texas Racing Act.”