Industry Profile: Chuck Fipke Mining for Success in 2019 Pegasus World Cup

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Seeking the Soul figures to be a price at the betting windows when the Grade 1-winning 6-year-old horse competes in Gulfstream Park’s $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1). But owner-breeder Charles “Chuck” Fipke has made a career out of long shots. Actually two careers.

Fipke, who grew up dirt poor in British Columbia in Western Canada, became a multi-millionaire by literally finding diamonds in the rough throughout the world as a geologist and prospector. For the past quarter-century, he has done the same in racing and breeding thoroughbreds.

Seeking the Soul — winner of Churchill Downs’ Clark Handicap (G1) in 2017, most recently second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) and fifth in last year’s Pegasus — is a good example. He is a son of Perfect Soul, the Fipke homebred who gave the breeder his first American Grade 1 triumph in the 2003 Shadwell Keeneland Turf Mile in a still-standing course record 1:33.54. Perfect Soul sired Fipke’s first Breeders’ Cup winner in Perfect Shirl, the 2011 Filly & Mare Turf heroine at 27-1 odds, and Golden Soul, second in the 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1) at 34-1.

For Fipke, the thrill …

Industry Profile: A sibling rivalry. How Ortiz brothers took horse racing by storm

Angel Cordero Jr. was playing dominoes inside the jockey’s room at Gulfstream Park one afternoon recently, killing time during the races, when he was asked for his opinion on racing’s two new riding hotshots, brothers Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz. Cordero once ruled the sport, a fierce rider …

And it’s why Cordero is often asked to compare the two.

“People always ask me the same question: Who is better?” Cordero said, turning a domino over and over in his fingers. “The only answer I can give is this: Flip a coin. I can’t separate them.”

Cordero isn’t alone.

While neither Ortiz has yet to win a Kentucky Derby, most figure it’s only a matter of time. They’ve won just about everything else at an age when most riders haven’t yet reached they prime.

Breeders’ Cup victories? Check and check for Irad and Jose.

The Belmont Stakes, final leg of the Triple Crown? Check and check again.

Pegasus Cup 2019: Big Brown’s Owner is Back in the Game

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – After watching a Santa Anita turf stakes on New Year’s Day, 2018, Michael Iavarone got the itch again.

And he’s soothed it in a big way with the purchase of Next Shares, who will start in the inaugural running of the $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1) Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

One of the principles of the IEAH Stables syndicate that campaigned 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown and a slew of other Grade 1 winners, Iavarone was out of the horse ownership for five years following IEAH’s financial implosion. He was dabbling into re-entry when he saw a horse close from well back to finish second in a $100,000 stakes over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course.

Iavarone immediately called his friend Nick Sallusto, the bloodstock agent who helped IEAH buy many of its stars, including Big Brown. With Next Shares a 6-year-old gelding with no breeding future, Iavarone was simply looking for a good horse who could run in good races. His owners had the same idea, having just purchased Next Shares for $190,000 at Keeneland’s 2017 November sale after the horse had won an Aqueduct allowance race.

“He hadn’t run in a while, and I saw he’d changed ownership and trainers,” Iavarone said. “This horse is kind of a big heavy horse. He closed just unbelievably fast, ran some really fast fractions. I said ‘Wow, this horse is really eager. I think if they can get this horse to go a little more ground that they’ve got something.’”

Iavarone and his wife, Jules, bought 50-percent interest in Next Shares last March not long after the horse finished a close second in Santa Anita’s Frank Kilroe Mile (G1)…

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 …

Industry Profile: Announcer 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