About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 15-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 15-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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Trainer Gerald Bennett Still Going Strong

Tampa paddock inspectionLess than two weeks into the 2018-2019 Tampa Bay Downs meeting, trainer Gerald Bennett has thrown down the challenge. If any of his rivals have designs on unseating him from the top spot in the standings, they had better get busy.

The 74-year-old Bennett, who often hauls his own horses from track to track, has a reputation for vigor and high energy rarely found at any age. Beneath his kindly exterior lies an unquenchable desire to pile up victories and add another title to his collection.

“Once you get on top, you want to stay there,” Bennett said after saddling seven winners from 18 starters to earn the Rumba Island Bar & Grill Trainer of the Month Award. “When I trained at Detroit, I had a quote from (legendary football coach) Vince Lombardi on my office wall – ‘There is only one place in my game and that is first place.’

“Mary (his wife) keeps harping at me to cut down, cut down. But I’d like to have 90 horses. I’d like to have one in every race,” he said, grinning. “This sport is about competition, and you have to have that desire to win.”

Bennett has captured the last three Tampa Bay Downs titles and four overall, and his 40-horse stable, combined with his intuitive sense of where his horses can win, makes him a heavy favorite to add to that ledger. But it’s his seemingly tireless work ethic that fuels the Bennett barn.

On most mornings, Bennett is out the door by 4:30 a.m., eager to greet his charges on the backside. He arrives by 5, walking through his barn and checking each horse to determine its condition and temperament.

By the time the track opens at 6 a.m. for training, Bennett has a good handle on how all of his horses are feeling. “Sometimes one hasn’t eaten up or they’ve developed a temperature, and you have to change their training schedule around,” he said. “You try to get them all lined up to peak on race day.”

Bennett knows when his horses need time off from the racetrack. He took many of them to Classic Mile Park in Ocala after the Delaware Park meeting ended in October, and he believes that freshening helped his stable get off to a quick start here.

“Classic Mile has a real good track surface, and it’s a quiet environment that helps horses relax,” he said.

Bennett, who has been training Thoroughbreds since 1974, has cultivated a reputation for rehabilitating injured horses and those that have gone off form. He achieved his greatest success with Beau Genius, a minor stakes winner he picked up after his 3-year-old season.

Beau Genius won 13 stakes under Bennett’s guidance, including the Grade I Philip H. Iselin and the Grade II Michigan Mile and One-Eighth Handicap in 1990.

Some of his other top horses include Secret Romeo, Black Belt, R Angel Katelyn, Bucky’s Prayer and Fast Flying Rumor, who established a Tampa Bay Downs Beyer Speed Figure record of 108 in winning the Turf Dash Stakes in 2016.

Bennett, the father of trainer Dale Bennett, has climbed to 15th all-time (and 11th among active conditioners) with 3,757 victories. The Springhill, Nova Scotia native trails the late Frank H. Merrill, Jr., by 217 victories for the top spot all-time among Canadian trainers. “We used to claim off each other quite a bit. There was a lot of camaraderie among trainers then,” Bennett said.

“I thank the Lord every morning that I have my health, and I ask Him to protect everyone on the track and protect the horses,” said Bennett, who spreads his stable wealth among a number of Tampa Bay Downs jockeys. “I feel blessed to be able to do what I’m doing.”

Source: Press Release

Gunnevera Has a Seat in the 2019 Pegasus World Cup

Gunnevara Fountain of YouthSalomon Del Valle’s Margoth purchased a spot in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1), confirming multiple graded-stakes winner Gunnevera for North America’s richest race Jan. 26 at Gulfstream Park.

Gunnevera, who finished third in last year’s Pegasus World Cup, most recently ran second in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 3.

The Pegasus World Cup will be accompanied by the inaugural running of $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) on the Jan. 26 program in the newly created $16 million Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series. Owners can secure a spot in the starting gate for the Pegasus World Cup for a $500,000 fee and will be given preference in purchasing a spot in the Pegasus World Cup Turf for $500,000. A $1 million bonus is being offered if an owner should win both races.

“I’m paying all the money myself,” said Del Valle, a Venezuelan businessman who entered Gunnevera in a partnership in last year’s Pegasus. “I’m happy to be in the race.”

Gunnevera, who has $4.1 million in career earnings, captured the 2017 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream. The Antonio Sano-trained 4-year-old son of Dialed In has also won the 2016 Saratoga Special (G2) and the $1 million Delta Jackpot (G3) and has been Grade 1 stakes-placed in the 2017 Travers (G1) and the 2018 Woodward (G1) at Saratoga.

“I have a good chance. He just got beat by a length in the Breeders’ Cup,” Sano said. “Maybe, there will be more speed in the Pegasus. One more chance. It’s in my house.”

In addition to Gunnevera, Hronis Racing’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, Charles Fipke’s Seeking the Soul, and Calumet Farm’s Bravazo and True Timber are confirmed for the Pegasus World Cup. Tabor, Magnier and Smith’s Coolmore has also purchased a spot for a horse to be determined.

Audible, the 2018 Florida Derby (G1) winner, is also being pointed to the Pegasus World Cup and is scheduled to be entered in next Saturday’s $100,000 Harlan’s Holiday Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream to prep for the 1 1/8-mile Pegasus. Owned by China Horse Club International, WinStar Farm, Starlight Racing, and Head of Plains Partners, Todd Pletcher-trained Audible finished third in this year’s Kentucky Derby (G1).

Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Patternrecognition, who defeated True Timber by three-quarters of a length in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct last time out, is also under consideration for the Pegasus.

The Stronach Group, currently negotiating with other groups, has only a few open spots remaining.

Tampa Bay Owners Club contest a success

Tampa Paddock

Up close and personal at Tampa Bay Downs paddock. Copyright AGOS

Judging by the response to Saturday’s inaugural “Tampa Bay Owners Club” contest, area horse racing fans are eager to discover as much information as possible about the joys and challenges of Thoroughbred ownership.

About 1,000 entries were submitted before today’s seventh race, with 90 fans correctly selecting the winner, 16-1 shot War Bridle, a 2-year-old Kentucky-bred colt.

That group now comprises the fantasy-based “Tampa Bay Owners Club” syndicate, with perks including free admission, a program, a mutuel voucher and concession-stand discounts each time War Bridle returns to action this season at Tampa Bay Downs.

The winners will also receive an attractive pin identifying them as club members. They are invited to visit the paddock each time War Bridle competes at Tampa Bay Downs and to join future winner’s-circle celebrations.

“We are delighted by the response from our fans, many of whom have expressed interest previously in learning about Thoroughbred ownership,” said Margo Flynn, the track’s Vice President of Marketing & Publicity. “We hope this will inspire them to look further into owning a racehorse for real as they learn more about the potential rewards of becoming involved.”

The winners landed on an exciting prospect in War Bridle, who won by seven-and-a-quarter lengths in good time of 1:11.28 for the 6-furlong distance. In his previous race in June, War Bridle set a track record (since lowered) for four-and-a-half furlongs at Belterra Park in Cincinnati in a maiden victory.

War Bridle is trained by Joan Scott and was ridden by Jesus Castanon. He is owned by the Backstretch Farms, Inc., enterprise of Ocala attorney David Davila and his family members, who purchased War Bridle for $27,000 at the July Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale in Lexington, Ky.

Davila and his family entered Thoroughbred ownership about nine months ago and currently own 15 horses, mostly yearlings and weanlings, so the members of the “Tampa Bay Owners Club” appear to have good examples to learn from as they start on their journey.

Source: Press Release

The Impact of the 2018 Hong Kong International Races

Although it has one of the smallest horse populations in the world, Hong Kong has positioned itself as global leader in thoroughbred racing. The Hong Kong International Races, or H.K.I.R., the marquee event of the island’s season, take place on Sunday at Sha Tin Racecourse.

Begun in 1988, the event originally featured one race, the Hong Kong Invitation Cup, which was the first international race held there. Now simply named the Hong Kong Cup, the race has been joined by the Hong Kong Sprint, Mile and Vase, and they are worth 93 million Hong Kong dollars ($11.9 million) in total. More than 1,300 runners from 17 countries and regions have taken part since the races were created.

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s chief executive, discussed the success of the races as well as Hong Kong’s racing model. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

How important are the Hong Kong International Races to the program?

One of the cornerstones in developing Hong Kong racing …

Belinda Stronach Hires for New Entertainment Division

Belinda Stronach, Chairman & President of The Stronach Group, has tapped entertainment and hospitality vet Jimmy Vargas to lead the company’s newly created entertainment division. As part of The Stronach Group’s mission to modernize the sport of Thoroughbred horse racing by exciting and energizing the next generation of fans, Vargas will curate unique and engaging experiences across all of The Stronach Group facilities. From concerts and festivals to digital innovations, the focus on entertainment and guest experience is a key driver to The Stronach Group’s business.

Since joining The Stronach Group in the spring of 2018, Vargas has produced the InfieldFest featuring Post Malone, Odesza, 21 Savage and Frank Walker at the legendary Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as the inaugural Clubhouse Festival featuring Steve Aoki & Tyga at the 33rd Jim McKay Maryland Million at Laurel Park Racetrack. Vargas’ current focus is on delivering an incredible entertainment experience at the 3rd annual Pegasus World Cup Invitational taking place on January 26th at Gulfstream Park, The Stronach Group’s facility located just north of Miami.

Pegasus statue at Gulfstream Park“I’m excited to join The Stronach Group and help lead the evolution of its entertainment program, across all of its properties, and deliver world-class entertainment experiences with marquee talent,” said Jimmy Vargas, Executive Vice President, Entertainment. “We want to leverage the passion and energy of our horse racing fan base with the next generation of fans, having them all experience a new level of entertainment from the moment they enter our venues.”

Jimmy Vargas is one of the entertainment industry’s top talents, with 20 years of experience in the experiential, communications, broadcast, digital and marketing arenas. Prior to joining The Stronach Group, Vargas was Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Miami, FL-based powerhouse MMG Entertainment & Hospitality, where he was the driving force behind some of the most successful and world-renowned brands; LIV at the Fontainebleau, LIV at Hard Rock Stadium, Story, Komodo, Komodo Lounge and OTL. In this role, Vargas oversaw all entertainment marketing initiatives for the venues, including: event and talent booking, promotions, content creation, sales, production and brand partnerships. Working beside the company’s CEO since its inception, Vargas was responsible for growing the company from one venue in year one at $18M in gross revenue, to a complete and diversified hospitality portfolio of six venues with gross revenues exceeding $85M annually.

Among the hundreds of special events Vargas oversaw from conception to completion were the annual Fontainebleau Miami New Year’s Eve events featuring A-list talents including; Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Drake and The Weeknd. Vargas also collaborated on national broadcast partnerships for events such as the BET Hip Hop Awards, Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for CBS Broadcast and LIV pop-up series at major EDM Festivals including TomorrowWorld, Electric Zoo and Sunset Music Festival. Upon execution of the AXE Lounge Partnership for Super Bowl XLIV with Jennifer Lopez, Vargas was invited to recreate the event the following year for the Super Bowl in Dallas.

Prior to MMG, Vargas was a Partner in Gorillas Lifestyle Marketing (overseeing strategic experiential marketing efforts for MOCA, Lexus, Pepsi and Microsoft); Creative Marketing Director for the Opium Group Nightlife & Hospitality (one of South Florida’s most successful hospitality groups); and helped to launch Gen Art Miami (the nation’s leading arts and entertainment organization in support of emerging talent in fashion, film, music and the visual arts).

Vargas holds a dual degree in Telecommunications and Marketing from the University of Florida. He lives in Miami, Florida with his wife and two sons.

Source: Press Release

Horse Racing Roulette? It’s Now a Reality

HORSE RACING ROULETTE COMES TO SANTA ANITA ON OPENING DAY, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 26 AS THE GREAT RACE PLACE CONTINUES TO COURT NEW PLAYERS

RouletteARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 11, 2018)—Long popular in Las Vegas and casinos around the world, Roulette will take on a new form beginning with Santa Anita’s Winter Meet opening day, Wednesday, Dec. 26, as Horse Racing Roulette will debut as a win-only wager available in all 10 opening day races which have fields of six or more horses.

As Santa Anita continues in its efforts to attract new fans, Horse Racing Roulette, which will include horses marked in the track’s racing program as red, black or green, will consist of a stand-alone Win pool and payoffs will be made according to the “color” of the winner and standard pari-mutuel calculations.

Following are the basic components and rules comprising Horse Racing Roulette at Santa Anita:

–Two dollar minimum win wager with customary industry-low 15.43 percent takeout

–Horses (minimum six-horse field) will be placed into one of three groups, Red, Black or Green.

–In most cases, the morning line favorite will be part of the Red Group.

–The Green Group will be comprised mainly of longshots.

–The three Groups, in most cases, will not have an equal number of horses.

–Whichever Group contains the race winner, wins that “game” of Horse Racing Roulette.

–In the event that ALL betting interest members of any group are scratched or declared non-starters, betting on the Group Bet pool will be stopped immediately and all Roulette wagers made on this particular race will be refunded.

–In the event of a dead heat for first between two or more divergent Group members, the Group Bet pool will be distributed as a profit split (place pool) or, if there is a triple dead heat with as many Group interests, the pool will also be distributed as a profit split (show pool).

TWO DOLLAR MINIMUM WAGER TO HAVE SAME INDUSTRY-LOW 15.43 PERCENT TAKEOUT AS STANDARD TWO DOLLAR WIN BET

Horse Racing Roulette will be offered on all races with a minimum of six runners throughout Santa Anita’s upcoming Winter Meet. Fans are encouraged to carefully consult their racing program prior to wagering.

2018 Fall Churchill Downs Meet a Success

The recently-concluded Fall Meet at Churchill Downs distributed record prize money for horsemen and delivered a great deal of substance for horseplayers as numerous memorable moments were produced during the historic Louisville racetrack’s action-packed, four-week stand.

The popular 21-day Fall Meet, which ran from Oct. 28 through Nov. 25, was spearheaded by a record-equaling ninth visit by the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 2-3 that brought together the best horses, jockeys, trainers, owners and breeders from around the world.

When excluding the two-day Breeders’ Cup, a record daily average of $604,432 in purses was paid to horsemen over the 19 days, which was a lofty 20.9% increase from the $499,959 paid daily a year ago. Also, the average purse per race was $57,135, which was up 20.3% from 2017’s $47,507.

The significant growth in purses was attributed to early returns from state-of-the-art historical racing machines at Derby City Gaming, Churchill Downs Incorporated’s new $65 million facility that opened in mid-September at nearby 4520 Poplar Level Road. For example, maiden special weight races were worth a record $76,000 and allowance races ranged from $78,500 to $90,000.

For some perspective, the average purse per Fall Meet race has grown 76.5% in a five-year period. At the 2013 Fall Meet, the average purse was $32,373 and average daily purses were $328,911.

“This was an incredibly strong Fall Meet,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “The hailed return of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships to Louisville on opening week after a seven-year hiatus helped set the tone for an outstanding season. Day in and day out, our horsemen, their owners and a robust jockey colony delivered an attractive and competitive racing product that appealed to bettors around the world. We express sincere gratitude to them for their continued support of our thriving racing program, and thank the horseplayers, guests and the greater Louisville community for backing our entertainment experience.”

Is Horse Racing Dead? No

During the 19 days, Churchill Downs staged 201 races, which lured 1,789 starters for a strong average of 8.9 horses per race – the same as the 2017 Fall Meet. The season’s racing product featured fields of seven or more in 89.6% of the races. There were only 21 races with six or less starters.

It was an extremely chilly Fall Meet as Louisville’s average temperature during the month of November hovered just above 43 degrees. As a result, only 23 of the 50 planned turf races went on as scheduled, and the going was less than “firm” for each race of the grass races (seven races listed as “good,” 11 listed as “yielding” and five listed as “soft”). A total of 47 scheduled turf races have been lost over 23 of the last 42 Fall Meet racing days just two years after none were transferred to the main track during the 2016 Fall Meet. This year’s surface transfers caused 99 “off the turf” scratches. Meanwhile, the main track had races listed as “muddy” or “sloppy” on five of the 21 days this year, including Breeders’ Cup Friday and “Stars of Tomorrow II.”

The 129th Fall Meet was anchored by the 35th Breeders’ Cup World Championships, which showcased 14 races and 13 Grade Is with purses and awards totaling a record $30 million. Much like its previous eight visits to Louisville, the prestigious two-day event delivered numerous dramatic and memorable moments.

Southern California-based 5-year-old Accelerate (22-10-5-5—$5,792,480), owned by Hronis Racing LLC, made a case for Horse of the Year honors with a one-length win over Gunnevera in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade I) for his fifth Grade I win of the year. The victory gave trainer John Sadler his first Breeders’ Cup triumph after going winless with his previous 43 starters. Joel Rosario rode the winner, and his mounts amassed an event-high $5,768,840 over the two Breeders’ Cup days after winning with four of his 13 mounts, including a trio of Breeders’ Cup conquests.

The megastar of Breeders’ Cup Saturday was Juddmonte Farms Inc.’s homebred 4-year-old filly Enable (GB) (11-10-0-0—$10,705,631), who became the first horse to win both the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (GI) and $4 million Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (GI) with a thrilling three-quarters of a length win over Coolmore’s 3-year-old filly Magical (IRE). The victory down the middle of the Matt Winn Turf Course, her ninth win in a row, gave world-famous jockey Frankie Dettori his 14th Breeders’ Cup win and greatly-admired trainer John Gosden his fifth.

Two-year-olds Game Winner and Jaywalk emerged as the early favorites for next year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) after comfortable victories in the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and $2 million Tito’s Handmade Vodika Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), respectively, on the Breeders’ Cup’s inaugural “Future Stars Friday.”

Other Breeders’ Cup highlights included Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Monomoy Girl’s victory over elders in the $2 millionLongines Distaff (GI) to cement champion 3-year-old filly honors for locally-based jockey Florent Geroux and trainer Brad Cox; back-to-back Breeders’ Cup wins by Roy H (Sprint) and Stormy Liberal (Turf Sprint) both for trainer Peter Miller and the ownership of Rockingham Ranch and David Bernsen; a fourth Grade I win of the year for Peter Brandt’s Sistercharlie (IRE) in the $2 million Filly & Mare Turf (GI); a dominant 2 ¾-length conquest by City of Light in the $1 million Dirt Mile (GI); and a stunning performance by utterly superiorNewspaperofrecord (IRE) in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf (GI).

Bulletin (Juvenile Turf Sprint); Expert Eye (GB) (Mile); Line of Duty (IRE) (Juvenile Turf); and Shamrock Rose (Filly & Mare Sprint) also won Breeders’ Cup races.

The two-day Breeders’ Cup attendance was 112,672 – the third highest in event history – and total betting reached more than $157.4 million, which was the fifth highest total since Breeders’ Cup adopted a two-day format in 2007.

In addition to the Breeders’ Cup, highpoints during the Fall Meet included Steve Landers’ 5-year-old Leofric, who turned back a determined challenge by 3-year-old Bravazo in deep stretch to win a thrilling renewal of the $500,000 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) – the traditional “Black Friday” headliner on Nov. 23 and the most lucrative non-Breeders’ Cup race on the 30-race, $30.9 million stakes schedule.

Leofric capped a Fall Meet stakes treble for Cox, the 38-year-old Louisville native who also landed his 1,000-career win on Nov. 18 (although it occurred at Fair Grounds). In addition to stakes wins by Monomoy Girl and Leofric, the Cox-trained Mr. Misunderstood remained perfect in four stakes appearances over the Churchill Downs turf course when the 4-year-old gelding owned by Staton Flurry surged to the lead in late stretch to land the $100,000 River City Handicap (GIII) on Nov. 17.

Churchill Downs’ strong racing program for 2-year-olds was emphasized by impressive stakes performances on its two 14th annual “Stars of Tomorrow” programs, which are entirely devoted to 2-year-olds. Signalman, who finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) 22 days earlier, earned 10 points on the 35-race “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve” series when he turned back a late charge from Plus Que Parfait to win the $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) by a neck on Nov. 24. Earlier that day, Liora – the longest shot in the field of eight 2-year-old fillies at odds of 27-1 – led every step of the way and narrowly repelled a late bid by odds-on 3-5 favorite and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) runner-up Restless Rider to win the $200,000 Golden Rod (GII) for fillies by a scant nose. Also that day, the Larry Jones-trained Super Steed, a son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, arose as a tantalizing prospect with an impressive first-level allowance win on the “Stars of Tomorrow” undercard.

Golden Rod winner Liora ended the season as the only horse to win multiple times at the Fall Meet.

Another 2-year-old that impressed onlookers during the meet was Improbable, who dominated rivals by 7 ¼ lengths in the $100,000 Street Sense on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard. Like Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Game Winner, Improbable is trained by Hall of Famer and five-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert.

Game Winner was the clear 5-1 second choice in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager behind the pari-mutuel field of “All of 3-Year-Old Colts and Geldings” that closed as the 6-5 favorite. Improbable ended as the 17-1 fifth betting choice and Signalman closed at 30-1 in the field of 24 betting interests. Offered for the 21st consecutive year on Nov. 22-25, betting over the four days totaled $258,389 and was up 3.2% from last year. Also offered concurrently was the Kentucky Derby Sire Future Wager in which “All Other Sires” (9-2) and Tapit (6-1) attracted the most attention in the betting pool that reached $32,924.

Other stakes winners during the Fall Meet were Divine Miss Grey in the $200,000 Chilukki (GII); Prado’s Sweet Ride in the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (GII); Princess Warrior in the $200,000 Mrs. Revere (GII); Rocketry in the $200,000 Marathon (GII); English Affair in the $100,000 Cardinal Handicap (GIII); Hot Springs in the $100,000 Commonwealth Turf (GIII); Dunph in the $300,000 Spendthrift Juvenile Stallion Stakes; Audible in the $200,000 Cherokee Run; Mother Mother in the $100,000 Rags to Riches Overnight Stakes; Uno Mas Modeloin the $100,000 Bet On Sunshine Overnight Stakes; and Vertical Oak in the $100,000 Dream Supreme Overnight Stakes.

The season champions were decided on closing day. Circuit-newcomer Tyler Gaffalione (118-21-15-8—$1,201,027), 24, won 10 races on closing week, including four on “Black Friday,” to narrowly edge 16-time local champion Corey Lanerie (126-20-21-20—$1,201,505) and Spring Meet leading rider Brian Hernandez Jr. (134-20-19-17—$2,002,802), 21 wins to 20, en route to his first title as Churchill Downs champion jockey. Edgar Morales (136-18-18-15—$831,412), who rode as an apprentice through Nov. 16, and Ricardo Santana Jr. (106-18-17-19—$1,432,475) tied for fourth with 18 wins each, one more than Florent Geroux (101-17-16-15—$2,705,991), who led all riders with five stakes wins.

Hall of Fame conditioner Steve Asmussen (72-11-14-10—$971,442) won with his final starter of the meet Sunday (Share the Upside in Race 11) to tie Dallas Stewart (40-11-7-3—$803,850) at 11 wins for his record-extending 20th Churchill Downs training title. For Stewart, it was his first local title and he did it with a considerably smaller operation than powerhouse Asmussen. Kenny McPeek (57-9-9-9—$1,164,663) was third with nine victories and was followed by Cox (52-8-12-7—$2,169,970), Tom Amoss (23-6-0-4—$328,664), Mike Maker (47-6-6-3—$436,451) and Ian Wilkes (54-6-4-5—$381,836).

Ron Paolucci’s Loooch Racing Stables (16-5-1-0—$182,123) emerged as the Fall Meet leading owner with five wins and one second from 16 starters and edged Gayle Benson’s G M B Racing (7-4-1-0—$251,180), G. Watts Humphrey Jr. (25-4-6-4—$317,276) and Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms Inc. (9-4-1-0—$3,444,251), who each had four trips to the Woodford Reserve Winner’s Circle.

A total of 147 horses were purchased through claiming races during the Fall Meet for a total of $2,638,500. For the year, a total of 428 horses were claimed during Churchill Downs’ three racing meets for a total of $8,483,000, which resulted in a $508,980 sales tax revenue for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

The popular 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot delivered a significant payday for a TwinSpires.com customer on the penultimate day of the meet. The six-race sequence challenged bettors to select the winners of six consecutive races daily but the Jackpot pool, which grew to $317,738 throughout the meet, was only paid if there was a single winning ticket. That occurred Nov. 24 when the sequence went down for a whopping $500,256.88. The lucrative payoff occurred one day after a bettor was deprived of the jackpot when a rare double-disqualification transpired in the Nov. 23 finale, and one day before a worthwhile mandatory payout would have been paid to the most winners of six races.

In addition to the stellar racing, two additional events proved to be extremely popular with on-track guests: a special Halloween Family Adventure Day Presented by Kroger on opening day that featured fun activities for children and a giveaway of more than a ton of candy, and Thanksgiving Day, a Louisville tradition at Churchill Downs since 1969 where more than 8,000 turkey dinners were served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number anywhere in the region.

Churchill Downs will conduct three racing meets in 2019 over 75 race dates. The 38-day Spring Meet will be staged from April 27-June 29 with the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) staged on Saturday, May 4. The 11-day September Meet is scheduled for Sept. 13-29, and the Fall Meet will run over 26 days from Oct. 27-Dec. 1.

When guests return for the 2019 Spring Meet, three capital improvement projects will be complete. Churchill Downs has invested $4.4 million to improve the infield guest entry experience for the 2019 Kentucky Derby and beyond through the construction of a new Infield Gate at the corner of 4th Street and Central Avenue. In addition, Churchill Downs will complete the colonnade wall from the Paddock Gate to the Clubhouse Gate in a $3.9 million project. Those projects are occurring concurrently with a $5 million capital investment that will expand the Starting Gate Suites through the construction of a new 20,000-square-foot rooftop garden which will deliver a unique hospitality experience with exclusive sightlines and access for more than 500 ticketed guests.

Source: Press Release

Trainer Michael Reavis Hits 2,000 Wins Milestone

Fans at Hawthorne racecourse. Fans at Hawthorne racecourseMichael Reavis scored his 2000th training victory with favored Mckinli’sbabyblues on Saturday afternoon at Hawthorne Racecourse, though the victory was in doubt until the final stride.

Rider Carlos Marquez Jr. had Mckinli’sbabyblues in perfect stalking position, saving ground along the rail, swung out midstretch but ArticVortex got the jump on her while Reminisce, who led most of the way, still appeared to have something left.

With a sixteenth left, the outcome was still up in the air but with a final late surge Mckinli’sbabyblues got up to win by a half length. Artic Vortex edged Reminisce by a nose for second.

Mr. Reavis had scored victory 1998 in Friday’s ninth race with R Fast Life. He won Saturday’s first race with Saint Alexius. Carlos Marquez was also aboard for those two winners.

Source: Press Release

How I Got into Horse Racing

by Pete Monaco

I’m often asked how I became involved in horse racing and thought answering that question would make for a decent column.

My grandfather was born in 1906 in Queens, N.Y. and 12-years later found himself laying in the hay, listening to several drunk jockeys playing cards in a back barn at Jamaica Racetrack. There was no T.V. back then and kids had to do something to stay out of trouble and earn a few pennies. He found his new source of income and entertainment entirely by accident when a friend told him that the jockeys often left small treasures around the barns after these late night games. My grandfather and his friends would scour the hay in the late mornings and some of the bounties consisted of one cent deposit bottles, packs of cigarettes and small change. But once in a while, a dollar bill, gold chain or a watch could be found. But my grandfather was always more intrigued by what joyous event had transpired in the previous evening that would cause you to leave your watch or money behind…

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Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Reports Gains

Del mar chantal billboardFollowing on the heels of a stellar summer season, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif., completed its fifth fall meet Sunday, highlighted by gains in total handle and four weeks of safe racing. All sources wagering for the 16-day session totaled $165,289,183, compared to the 2017 total handle of $154,069,710, an increase of 7.3 percent.

“The fall meet has found its niche and that’s important for the overall health of the California racing calendar,” said DMTC CEO Joe Harper. “All in all, we are pleased with the results and when you combine them with the summer and our continued efforts to provide the safest possible environment for our horses and riders, it was a terrific year.”

Del Mar’s 2018 fall racing festival had several standout performances, including a smart victory in the Grade I Hollywood Derby by Peter Brant’s Raging Bull on closing Saturday, then an equally impressive triumph by Uni – owned by Michael Dubb, Robert LaPenta, Head of Plains partners and Bethlehem Stable – the next day in the Grade I Matriarch. Both of those Eastern-based horses are trained by the country’s top conditioner, Chad Brown, and both were ridden by former three-time Del Mar riding champion Joel Rosario.

Trainer Peter Miller continued his hot run at Del Mar by winning his fourth fall conditioning crown with 15 victories, while jockey Drayden Van Dyke captured his first fall title with 17 wins. The pair had swept the 2018 summer honors previously with 31 scores for Miller and 42 for Van Dyke during the 36-day stand.

Del Mar will resume racing on Wednesday, July 17 for its showcase summer season, the 80th in its long and popular seaside run.

Source: Del Mar