Top Thoroughbred Owner Sarah Ramsey Passes

Sarah Ramsey, top thoroughbred breeder and owner, dies at 83“It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Sarah Kathern Ramsey,” Churchill Downs president Mike Anderson said Monday night. “Our hearts are with Ken and his entire family during this very difficult time. She lived a wonderful life, and we’ll miss her smiling face in the Churchill Downs winner’s circle.”

Ramsey had a major stroke in 2007, which affected her speech and paralyzed her right side. She used a wheelchair to attend the races.

The couple built their fortune through investments in radio and cellphones. They owned cellphone tower businesses in five states, including Kentucky, one of which they sold for $39 million in 1994 and used the money to buy their 1,200-acre farm.

Their best-known horse was Kitten’s Joy, who had nine wins in 14 career starts and earnings of $2 million. The couple used “Kitten” for many of their homebred horses, which was Sarah’s nickname given to her by Ken when they were dating in 1954…more on Thoroughbred Owner Sarah Ramsey and her passing at MSN

Industry Profile: Track Owner Belinda Stronach

Santa Anita eyes April 2 for horse racing fans’ returnBelinda Stronach leaves her mid-town Toronto home by 7 a.m. most days for an hour-long walk. She dresses in black athletic gear for her neighbourhood rambles, occasionally a ball cap, and eschews earbuds and podcasts, preferring to soak in the sounds of a city waking up.

Her route varies, day to day, and is plotted to avoid streets scheduled for garbage pick-up. Should she have time before heading in to work at The Stronach Group (TSG) offices in a spacious Victorian-era house near the Royal Ontario Museum, the family company’s chief executive will grab a cappuccino at a favourite Italian haunt. And if she comes across a historical plaque anywhere along the way, she will stop to read it, local history being an area of personal interest.

Stronach’s home is also in a heritage conservation district, while the house itself was built in 1878. For anyone counting, that’s five years after the inaugural running of the Preakness Stakes, a historic Maryland horse race in a historic sport, one that the 56-year-old Canadian owner of American racetracks is aiming to revitalize before horse racing becomes fodder for the plaques.

Stronach, mind you, is no nostalgist chasing the resurrection of the grand old days. Rather, TSG, branded as 1/ST in thoroughbred racing circles, is chasing new fans, not to mention a fresh generation of bettors, and the core pillars of her approach will be on display, for both racing fans and industry players, in north Baltimore for this weekend’s 147th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course…

More on Stronach, the future of horse racing and the connection to sports betting

 

Industry Profile. Trainer Tim Yakteen brings 2 star horses to Kentucky Derby 148

“It’s like having a lottery ticket sort of fall in your lap,” he said. “Now we’re trying to cash it.”

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Tim Yakteen has been to the Kentucky Derby with good horses before. Now the trainer is at Churchill Downs in charge for the first time with two top contenders that used to be trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.

Tim Yakteen brings 2 top horses to 1st Ky Derby in chargeYakteen worked two different stints earlier in his career as an apprentice under Baffert, who won’t be at the Derby on Saturday because he’s serving a 90-day suspension imposed by Kentucky racing officials. The six-time Derby winner also has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc.

It may seem uncomfortable to most everyone except Yakteen.

“I wouldn’t say that I think that there’s any awkwardness there,” he said. “I just feel really lucky and fortunate.”

A surprised Yakteen took calls from the owners of Messier and Taiba asking him to train their budding stars.

“I was honored they had the confidence that I could continue to carry the torch,” he said, perched on a trunk near Messier’s stall in his Santa Anita barn.

Baffert relinquished the colts to serve the punishment handed down after last year’s Derby winner, Medina Spirit, tested positive for an anti-inflammatory medication that isn’t allowed on race day.

Baffert’s suspension bars him from Santa Anita and Yakteen said they’ve had no conversations since he took charge of Messier, the early 8-1 third choice in the Derby, and Taiba, a 12-1 shot… more on Trainer Tim Yakteen at www.thestar.com

Pre-order Rich Nilsen’s Kentucky Derby Package which will now include bonus coverage of the KY Oaks!

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 www.samaritans.org 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…

Industry Profile: Eugene Melnyk passes. Most of success came on the turf, not on the ice

Eugene Melnyk will long be remembered as the owner of the Ottawa Senators. But what many sports fans don’t know is the Toronto-born-and-raised entrepreneur had more success with horses than hockey players.

Melnyk, who died on Monday at 62, was a King in the Sport of Kings, leaving a huge legacy in Canada and the U.S., both as a thoroughbred owner and breeder.

“He loved his horses. He was passionate about them. And he was a big supporter of Woodbine,” Woodbine Entertainment CEO Jim Lawson told the Toronto Sun. “He went to St. Mike’s and grew up largely as a wagerer.

“There’s one story about Eugene that’s a little bit of folklore,” Lawson said. “Ferdinand in the 1986 Kentucky Derby was a long-shot and Eugene was at Woodbine that day. He was there with people I know and he unloaded (his money) on Ferdinand for the main reason Ferdinand was his dad’s name. And Ferdinand paid $37.40 and Eugene took it all in cash. I think he walked out of there with over $30,000 in cash. Maybe more.”

Horse Racing History

Prior to leaving the horse-racing game in 2014, Melnyk had won 62 graded stakes winners and captured some of the biggest races on both sides of the border, including the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Speightstown, a horse that won $1.3 million. Speightstown, named after a city in Barbados, also won an Eclipse Award — the highest honor in U.S. racing. Melnyk’s racing colours were blue and gold with three V’s (the national colours of Barbados, where he lived). He won all three Canadian Triple Crown races, including the 1998 Queen’s Plate with Archers Bay.

Another of his great thoroughbreds was…

The Belmont Child Care Association issued the following statement:

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the
Belmont Child Care Association, Inc.,
and the Staff and the Families of Anna House,
we wish to express our deepest condolences to the
Melnyk family, his companion Sharilynne, and to his
daughters Olivia and Anna, for whom Anna House was named.
We were saddened to learn of Mr. Melnyk’s passing and
we will always be most grateful to him for his
kindness and incredible generosity.

Documentary on Ironman Jockey Perry Ouzts

As any horseplayer around the midwest knows, Ohio jockey Perry Ouzts is the ironman in the world of jockeys.  A winner of over 7,200 races, Perry Wayne Ouzts is still going strong at the amazing age of 67.  He has ridden over 50,000 mounts in his long career on the racetrack!  According to Equibase.com jockey Ouzts is winning at a 17-percent clip in 2021.

“If he wanted to he, he could have ridden at any racetrack in the country. He’s as good as anyone out there,” said trainer W.J. Danner.

Related story: The Hall of Fame case for jockey Perry Ouzts

Ironman Jockey – Perry Ouzts from Dave T on Vimeo.

 

Remembering New York’s Harvey Pack

by Jim Reisler for NYRA.com

Harvey Pack, who became an unlikely broadcasting pioneer by delivering a blend of insightful, irreverent and heartfelt commentary on horse racing as host of the country’s first nightly racing replay show, died Tuesday in New York City. He was 94.

For more than three decades starting in the mid-1970s, Pack was one of the best-known personalities in New York racing, celebrated as the voice of the common fan, the $2 bettor. At NYRA, Pack created and hosted racing replay shows like “Thoroughbred Action” and “Inside Racing,” sprinkling the replays of races with his analysis, predictions and lively tales about the Runyonesque characters who frequented Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga Race Course.

As NYRA’s Director of Promotions and Special Events, Pack created and hosted “The Paddock Club” at Belmont and Saratoga in which fans gathered to discuss racing and handicapping, often joined by special guests.

In the early 1970s, Pack was a 40-something Manhattan-based syndicated writer whose job allowed him to spend afternoons at the track. Off-track betting had just launched in New York, and many radio stations were reporting race results – none with much vigor, Pack noted.

That inspired an idea: Why not call a race with the excitement of a track announcer and squeeze in some stories, Pack reasoned, all of it condensed into a 30-second spot, the average length of a highlight reel. He even had the perfect name for his reports: “Pack at the Track.”

The idea, common today, was revolutionary for its time. He sold the idea to WNBC, and “Pack at the Track” proved so popular that NYRA hired him in 1974, where he spent the next quarter-century.

“Harvey Pack was an authentic voice and an innovator who turned a lifelong passion into a career and became one of our sport’s greatest advocates and ambassadors, all in his unique, ‘only in New York’ way,” said Dave O’Rourke, NYRA President & CEO. “He was a visionary who meant a great deal to thoroughbred racing and we look forward to honoring his legacy in the near future.”

At a time when broadcasting was transitioning to cable, Pack hosted the nationally syndicated race-recap show on SportsChannel, which became the way that many owners and breeders around the country in those days were able to see their horses run. Starting in 1984 and for the next 10 years, Pack was also part of the NBC broadcast team for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, including those held in 1985 at Aqueduct; and in 1990, 1995 and 2001 at Belmont.

At the root of Pack’s popularity – his NYRA business card described him as “Doctor of Equine Prophecy” – was an ability to convey his love of horse racing and handicapping to fans and doing so with humor and humility.

“Harvey knew horse racing and made it a lot of fun to watch,” said NYRA Senior Racing Analyst Andy Serling, Pack’s broadcast partner for a time and a friend for more than 40 years. “Whether he was on the air or just talking with fans, he connected with everyone and never took himself too seriously. A lot of what we do on the air today goes right back to Harvey. He was the forerunner and a trailblazer in how we cover horse racing today.”

Even after leaving NYRA, Pack remained a familiar presence at all three NYRA tracks. At Saratoga, Pack and Serling hosted Daily Racing Form seminars across the street from the track at Siro’s restaurant, where he presided over a panel of rotating handicappers, offering his wit and wisdom to fans who showed up in droves.

Pack’s 2007 book, May The Horse Be With You: Pack at the Track, written with Peter Thomas Fornatale, is a window into how the racing game hooked him as a kid and never let go.  https://amzn.to/2V9qaGJ

Pack, born and bred on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, grew up during racing’s golden era when huge crowds packed the New York tracks on weekends and horses like Omaha, War Admiral and Stymie were front-page celebrities. As a boy, Pack would be given $10 by his father to take the first train from Penn Station to Belmont and hold a couple of seats. Arriving before post time, Pack perused the Daily Racing Form and became a handicapper.

 

Later, while serving in the U.S. Army and based at Fort Dix, New Jersey, a Colonel discovered his interest in horses and made Pack his personal handicapper on frequent trips to nearby Atlantic City Race Course.

Pack once said that he told “the same three jokes for 20 years.” But his stories about the colorful characters he came to know at New York tracks were seemingly endless. At the top of his list was a disheveled handicapper named Mr. Dirt, a Columbia graduate, who, as Pack put it in his book, “had an Ivy League mind, but not the wardrobe.”

Asked why his television work on NBC with the late Peter Axthelm was so popular, Pack had a one-sentence answer: “We were successful because nobody ever televised racing (before) with a sense of humor,” he said. Told that he may have been the most famous person in the history of New York racing, Pack corrected his admirer. “I’m ‘horseplayer’ famous,” he said.

Pack is survived by his wife Joy, two children, five grandchildren and one great grandchild.

 

Andy Serling sat down with Pack in April of 2017 for the debut episode of NYRA’s Across the Board podcast. That wide ranging interview can be found at https://soundcloud.com/acrosstheboardwithandyserling/episode-1-featuring-harvey-pack.

Industry Profile: Jockey Frankie Pennington

He still has the traces of a Texas accent, but this soft-spoken young jockey has established himself as one of the leading riders in Pennsylvania.

With 2652* wins in his stellar career to date, jockey Frankie Pennington is currently 2nd in the jockey standings at Parx, and he’s happy to have made his way here after learning to ride when he was a teen in his hometown of Big Spring, Texas. “When my mom met my stepfather, Rodney Faulkner, who trains horses, he started teaching me to ride by galloping babies and horses around the cotton field,” he remembered. His career path then became very clear to him. “Once my Mom introduced me to the man who would eventually become my stepfather, when he brought me around horses, I knew right away that’s what I wanted.”

 

Faulkner relocated to train in Ohio, and Frankie followed him. In 2003, he started riding at Thistledown, and a year later, at age 16, moved in with his agent Robert Martel in the Philadelphia area, and started riding at Penn National and at Philadelphia Park (now Parx)…

Read on about jockey Frankie Pennington

Industry Profile: Hall of Fame jockey Bobby Ussery

Horse racing fans have been in their element recently with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes grabbing national attention. Nothing can compare to the adrenalin rush fans get when their favorite horses come charging down the stretch in the sport’s most iconic races.

Controversy is nothing new in the horse racing game and Hall of Fame jockey Bobby Ussery can attest to that with some firsthand knowledge. The affable 85-year-old lives in Presidential Place in Hollywood and still counts himself as a big horse racing fan. Robert Nelson “Bobby” Ussery was born in Oklahoma and retired in 1974 with 3,611 race wins. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1980.

Medina Spirit, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, is embroiled in controversy after testing positive for the steroid betamethasone in post-Derby testing. If the second round of testing comes back positive, Medina Spirit will be disqualified…