A look into the mind of Jockey Drayden Van Dyke

There is no doubt that Drayden Van Dyke has, along with Flavien Prat, taken over as the top young jockeys at Santa Anita. At 24, he gets a lot of the best mounts and has emerged as the first call for trainer Bob Baffert, when Mike Smith isn’t riding a Baffert horse. In fact, Drayden was Justify’s original jockey…

So, here’s our Q and A with Drayden.

What’s your favorite TV show that you are currently watching?

Every new movie that comes out, I like to go see it. But, like a TV show, they …

Beloved Individuals that the horse racing industry lost in 2018

John Asher, who was an ambassador for the Kentucky Derby and the face and voice of Churchill Downs, died at the age of 62 on Aug. 27.

Asher died of a heart attack while vacationing in Orlando with his family. Asher was an award-winning journalist and publicist for over 30 years. He joined Churchill Downs in 1997 and served as vice president of racing communications since 1999. As a radio journalist, Asher earned five Eclipse Awards for “outstanding national radio coverage of thoroughbred racing.” Asher was also known for his community service outreach and volunteerism. He was well known, well respected and will …

Frank Mirahmadi and Santa Anita

Frank Mirahmadi is no stranger to Santa Anita, having grown up in Beverly Hills and going to the track as a teenager. He would sit in the grandstand, where he would try to perfect his future occupation, doing practice calls of races, often in the voices of people who came before him.

“Every announcer at Santa Anita is a race calling legend,” Mirahmadi said. “Joe Hernandez, Dave Johnson, Trevor Denman, Michael Wrona. I need to and will improve my work at Santa Anita in order to maintain the level of brilliance that has been displayed in that booth.”

Mirahmadi’s path to this moment has been long. He’s been the caller at his share of small and large tracks across the country. He’s called the California fair circuit, Golden Gate and Los Alamitos. He left a job at Aqueduct in New York to come back to Santa Anita. He will continue to call the summer meeting at Monmouth when Santa Anita is dark.

Mirahmadi’s love for Santa Anita was such that he gave up a full-time job at Oaklawn Park just to audition for the Santa Anita job in 2016. He didn’t get the job, losing, by his count, for the sixth time to Wrona. The consolation prize was Golden Gate Fields, a position he kept until he went to New York …

Industry Profile: Jockey Gary Stevens

He says he’s lucky not to be in a wheelchair. Towards the end of the month, he’ll go under the surgeon’s blade. “If I don’t have surgery, [the vertebrae’s] going to continue to degenerate, and eventually I would be where I don’t want to be from the neck down,” he added.

Sure, he was well into his final act in the saddle, and so, the incident in the post parade ring at Del Mar last month–the one that gave him whiplash, and a new injury to go with all the rest–can hardly be said to have cheated him his dues. Yet, there was, at least, one more scene to play out. The problem was the shepherd’s crook that appeared stage left.

“I was thinking through the first Saturday in May, if everything went right from December. Five months. And if the horse that I had my eye on worked out to what I think he can be, then that would’ve finished up the year,” Stevens said, playing coy with the horse’s name. “Everything was making me happy two weeks ago. I was enjoying what I was doing.” The mounts were on the wane, yes. “But the horses I had were good horses.”

By the time we spoke, on a rare wintery California morning …

Industry Profile: Jockey David Cohen

David Cohen — enjoying a banner season after resuming his promising riding career following an injury-induced hiatus spanning almost four years — is the recipient of JockeyTalk360.com’s fourth annual Comeback Jockey of the Year Award, presented by Red Brand Fence.

Cohen will receive the award during the Jockeys’ Guild Assembly luncheon Tuesday at Top Golf located adjacent to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Irad Ortiz will be honored as JockeyTalk360 Turf Jockey of the Year, with Drayden Van Dyke recognized as JockeyTalk360 Breakthrough Jockey of the Year. The JockeyTalk360 awards are in addition to the honors handed out at the luncheon by the Jockeys’ Guild at their annual assembly.

The 34-year-old Cohen has won 109 races and almost $6.5 million in 2018 purse earnings through Friday, according to Equibase statistics. That’s the jockey’s most wins since 2012 and most purse earnings since 2010. In taking the Grade 2 Hill Prince on Have At It and the Grade 3 Matron on Lonely Road, Cohen won his first graded stakes since Golden Ticket’s historic dead-heat for victory in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Travers Stakes six years earlier.

Cohen was among the sport’s rising stars when he was kicked in his lower right leg by his mount in the paddock at Aqueduct on Feb. 1, 2014. His badly fractured fibula and tibia required surgery involving a plate and six screws to repair.

“It was never a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘when’ I was going to return,” Cohen said. “If you’re not right mentally, it’s going to show. I wouldn’t do that to people trusting me with the horses and giving me an opportunity if I wasn’t 100 percent ready, not just physically but the mental state as well. It was just wanting to do it the right way.”

Cohen spent much of his childhood in Las Vegas and says the return for the Jockeys’ Guild Assembly provides a memorable homecoming. “The year has developed over time to becoming a very good year,” he said. “You’re always honored if you’re recognized for something. I’m just very fortunate for the support I have from the owners and trainers I rode for and am blessed to be back in the sport I love so much.”

The cancer-related death of his father, California horse owner Morry Cohen, several months after the paddock mishap had the jockey struggling to heal not only physically but emotionally. He rode six races in late 2014 but was determined to have a torn meniscus in his right knee. Cohen suffered another personal loss a year later with the death of his sister, Dana.

He did not ride again Nov. 30, 2017, at the Fair Grounds. That proved the first step toward a big winter meet at Oaklawn Park, where he finished third in the standings with 37 wins, before rejoining the New York circuit last spring.

“David had to deal not only with his initial injuries and subsequent complications, but then the devastating double toll of losing his dad, who was his best friend and got him into horse racing, and his sister,” said C.J. Johnsen, publisher of JockeyTalk360.com. “Being a race-rider requires far more than physical ability. The mind strength of jockeys is really under-appreciated. Riding races is extremely challenging, not just physically but mentally. David knew he had more to mend than just his leg. But his perseverance to come back, and to come back the right way, just shows his strength, passion and respect for the game.”

Career Started in 2004

Cohen has won 1,347 races and almost $50 million in purses in a career that started in 2004.

“My leg now, I can’t even tell,” the jockey said his injuries. “It came back better than I ever could have hoped for. My agent, Bill Castle, is very tactical and we really wanted to come back and do well and win right away, not just pop up and say, ‘Here I am’ at Saratoga. I was very fortunate with the support I had in my return at Oaklawn Park. That return was very well thought-out. I could have returned maybe six months earlier. But I just took a long time in the gym getting my body strong and getting my weight down over the time, the healthy and right way.

“My father was an owner and breeder, so I respect that people are giving me their business, their money on the line, their opportunity that they could give to someone else. I’m coming back with the best riders in the world and saying, ‘Give me an opportunity.’ It’s not a sport that people can just put up money and say, ‘Let’s hope it works.’ The trainers, the exercise riders, grooms, everyone working their tail off day in and day out, I wouldn’t do that to them. I wanted to make sure I was in the right place, and I believe it showed. I had a lot of good feedback from horsemen. If it was the opposite way, I don’t think I’d have had the year I’ve had.

“I’m riding for a lot of high-end trainers and getting opportunities I didn’t get prior. Probably for the first six, seven months of my return, I didn’t take one day off from going to the track working horses in the morning. I just went out there, rode hard, rode to the wire on every horse and just showed that I was here for my love of the horses and what I was doing. It was more of a blessing to get back to doing what I love than worrying about how well I was going to do.”

press release

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

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…

Check out other Horse Racing Industy Profiles

Winx Wins Again. Garners 2018 Secretariat Vox Populi Award

Winx winHorse racing’s fans have spoken, and Winx, Australia’s queen of racing, has been voted the winner of the 2018 Secretariat Vox Populi Award in the year-end online poll. Created by Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery, the award annually recognizes the horse whose popularity and racing excellence best resounded with the general public and gained recognition for Thoroughbred racing.

Winx was the top choice among U.S. voters as well as international fans representing a record 60 countries. The 7-year-old bay mare has garnered the devotion of turf enthusiasts Down Under as well as the attention of a worldwide legion of fans with her impressive 29 consecutive wins. In 2018, her historic fourth straight victory in Australia’s prestigious Cox Plate, along with a perfect 7-for-7 record, extended her ongoing streak and added to her current career earnings of more than $16 million USD.

The custom-made Vox Populi trophy will be presented to the Winx connections on Jan. 12, 2019, at Santa Anita Park. In conjunction with the presentation, a variety of festivities will be offered to the public, including a special Vox Populi poster giveaway, autograph signing and silent auction.

Winx Wins Again

Winx’s rise to stardom is reminiscent of that of Zenyatta, the 2010 Vox Populi winner whose own magical winning streak also inspired a large fan base. Additionally, the two regal race mares were sired by the revered stallion Street Cry and share the distinction of being the only females to be honored as award recipients.

“Racing certainly offered many historical and heartwarming stories in 2018,” said Kate Chenery Tweedy. “And once again, the ‘Voice of the People’ spoke very clearly. The fact that both the American public and voters abroad were not limited by international borders is a wonderful testament to the growth of the award and the winner’s global appeal. Winx represents everything Mom envisioned when she created this award and reaffirms her notion that a beloved horse will captivate fans and draw interest to the sport no matter where they race.”

Trained by Chris Waller and ridden by jockey Hugh Bowman, Winx is owned by Magic Bloodstock, Debbie Kepitis and Richard Treweeke.

Winx was one of a select group of nominees submitted by the Vox Populi Committee and presented to thousands of voters worldwide who spoke as the “Voice of the People.” Other nominees were 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate, European distaff sensation Enable, 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, and champion filly Monomoy Girl. Voters also had the option to write in their own favorite.

Throughout the process, Winx prevailed and now joins a list of cherished racing stars who have also received the Vox Populi Award: Ben’s Cat (2017), California Chrome (2016 and 2014), American Pharoah (2015), Mucho Macho Man (2013), Paynter (2012), Rapid Redux (2011), and Zenyatta (inaugural 2010).

Source: PR

Jockey Luis Saez Seeks Another Gulfstream Title

Somali Lemonade Wins The Diana Stakes with Saez up

From the time he first set foot in South Florida as a teenage apprentice nearly a decade ago, Luis Saez’s humble, easy-going nature has contrasted with a competitiveness and talent that has seen him develop into one of the best jockeys in the country.

Shy and soft-spoken off the track, the now 26-year-old Saez prefers to let his performance speak for him. Last winter at Gulfstream Park, Saez had plenty to say.

Already one of only four riders to reach 100 wins during the elite Championship Meet, Saez established a single-season record of 137 victories – including a pair of seven-win days – while coasting to his second consecutive title.

Starting with Saturday’s Opening Day program featuring the 20th edition of the $1.11 million Claiming Crown, being hosted by Gulfstream for the sixth straight year, the Panama native can join another exclusive club.

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who won a record five in a row before being unseated by Saez in 2016-17, Jorge Chavez (1999-2001) and Jeff Fell (1977-79) are the only jockeys to lead Gulfstream’s jockey standings three consecutive years.

“It’s not easy over there. It’s pretty tough,” Saez said. “I just want to work hard and see what happens and try to do my best, like always.”

Saez rode three winners his first day at the 2017-18 Championship Meet, setting a tone that would continue throughout the winter. He would register 39 days of two or more wins including seven on both Jan. 24 and March 29 to equal the standard set by Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey in 1996 and matched by Tyler Gaffalione in 2017. He also had a six-win day Dec. 20.

“That was amazing. It was unbelievable,” Saez said. “I just kept riding and winning. I can’t believe I did that great.”

Saez won nine stakes during the Championship Meet, three of them coming on Florida Derby (G1) Day – the Pan American (G2) with Hi Happy, the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) with Coach Rocks and the Sanibel Island with Figarella’s Queen.

Among Saez’s other winter stakes wins were the Swale (G2) aboard Strike Power, the Sugar Swirl (G3) with Rich Mommy, the Fred Hooper (G3) atop Tommy Macho and the Gulfstream Park Sprint (G3) on Classic Rock.

Saez’s 137 wins were five more than Castellano’s previous mark set in 2013-14, and 36 better than runner-up Irad Ortiz Jr. His $5,776,741 in purse earnings ranked second behind Florent Geroux, whose victory on Horse of the Year Gun Runner in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) was worth $7 million.

Huge 2018 Season

His success at Gulfstream served as a springboard to a 2018 season that has seen Saez surpass $16 million in purse earnings for the first time while winning at least 200 races for the fourth straight time and sixth in 10 full years riding in the U.S. He won his 2,000th career race Nov. 9 aboard Y’allcomenow at Aqueduct.

“It was amazing. I’m very proud of that. It was not easy but we did it. It was great,” Saez said. “It’s been a good year. Hopefully we can do the same and keep doing good.”

Jockey Luis Saez came to the U.S. in 2009 and was a finalist for that year’s Eclipse Award as leading apprentice. He has won 75 career graded-stakes and purses approaching $95 million, rising to national prominence as the regular rider of Will Take Charge, the champion 3-year-old male of 2013.

Once again, Gulfstream’s Championship Meet jockey colony will include the best collection of racing’s top riders including Castellano, fellow Hall of Famer John Velazquez, Ortiz and his younger brother Jose Ortiz, Gaffalione, Julien Leparoux, Paco Lopez and Edgard Zayas.

Saez is looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m just going to try and work hard again,” he said. “[Last year] was magnificent. I had a very good meet and won a lot of races. The first thing was I was safe. We’ll be back to see what happens.”

Source: GP