The Aldaniti Grand National story

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This year’s Grand National marks the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest sporting stories, Aldaniti and Bob Champion winning the famous race.

When they lined up at Aintree in 1981 for the world‐famous race, Aldaniti and his jockey Bob Champion had overcome incredible odds just to be there.

Bob had beaten cancer and his big‐race mount had recovered from a leg injury so severe the vets thought his racing days were finished.

Together they conquered the fearsome fences for the most emotional victory any racecourse is ever likely to see. It was so remarkable a film was made of their triumph over adversity.

When Bob was diagnosed with cancer, the one thing that got him through the debilitating treatment was the thought of riding Aldaniti in the Grand National.

The pair had finished third in the 1979 Cheltenham Gold Cup and trainer Josh Gifford had assured Bob the ride on Aldaniti, as well as the job as stable jockey, remained his…

Does the European handicapping system work?

An earnings-based system rather than one based simply on wins alone is a suggestion put forward by more than one industry expert, but the current system of handicapping has been in place for 170 years, introduced by Admiral Rous in 1851. Rous was appointed the first official handicapper in Britain in 1855 and devised the Weight-For-Age scale, which in theory should afford horses of different ages an equal chance of winning.

Tellingly, it says a lot about our sport that he is still remembered anecdotally for the remark, “I have just gone through the next race and have discovered that I have handicapped each horse so well that not one of them can possibly win.”

We could argue that if it isn’t broken, why fix it? Certainly, many trainers have no issue with the system, other than its interpretation by the various official handicappers in relation to their own horse.

“There has to be a process in place, and if we didn’t have handicaps, a lot of horses couldn’t compete and would fall out of training,” says Michael Grassick, CEO Irish Racehorse Trainers Association (IRTA). “I personally believe that handicaps serve a purpose. Many do feel that in Ireland the handicapper is too severe. After a period of time horses will run to a certain rating and when they go above that rating, they will no longer be as competitive until returning to that rating. The Irish handicapper is felt to be very slow in moving a horse who has gone up through the handicap back down the ratings; we feel that in the UK horses are lowered a bit quicker. While in the lower grades of 45-60, the horses seem to drop quite quickly and drop through the floor and out of the system…

Popular Jockeys Join Team Event in Racing League

“It’s great that the racing industry has decided to try something a bit different,” said jockey Hayley Turner.

Top [UK] jockeys including Frankie Dettori, Hollie Doyle and Oisin Murphy have been signed up for the new Racing League competition which launches this summer.

David Egan, winner of big races in Dubai and Saudi Arabia recently on Mishriff, will be in a team for Irish trainers Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien.

The new televised series will guarantee £2m in prize money.

How will it work?

Racing in team colors, the sides will each consist of two to four trainers working together, three jockeys, stable staff and a squad of 30 horses.

They will compete across 36 12-runner handicap races, worth at least £50,000 each, with horses rated 0-90 and run over distances between five and 12 furlongs.

All six meetings will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.

Each jockey will be able to ride in a maximum of 18 of the 36 races.

Jockeys will compete for a £50,000 prize pot awarded to the three riders who score the most points.

Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in England

Cheltenham Festival attracts record viewership on first dayCheltenham Festival attracts record viewership on first day

The Cheltenham Festival 2021 attracted record viewership on only its first day, with both the average and peak audience up significantly on the previous year.

ITV Racing drew in an average of 1.1 million viewers, with a total of 1.5 million tuning in to watch the Champions Hurdle, won by Rachel Blackmore, riding the hugely anticipated Irish racehorse Honeysuckle.

The viewership spike has been largely attributed to the number of people working from home or on furlough due to the ongoing pandemic, in addition to the absence of spectators at the actual racecourse.

Nielsen Sports went as far as to predict that the festival would see its biggest television figures for over a decade, pointing to a general 250,000 increase in television viewership due to people working from home and furlough schemes…

Hong Kong Horse Racing at Sha Tin – March 21

Karis Teetan excited by Russian Emperor’s BMW Hong Kong Derby prospects

By Leo Schlink for HKJC

Seeking his first BMW Hong Kong Derby (2000m) triumph, [jockey] Karis Teetan believes impeccably-bred Russian Emperor is capable of delivering breakthrough success at Sha Tin on Sunday (21 March).

Editor’s Note: Sha Tin races late Saturday night into Sunday morning U.S. time.

By Irish super sire Galileo out of champion Australian mare Atlantic Jewel, Russian Emperor charged to the line when second over 1800m in the Hong Kong Classic Cup behind Healthy Happy on 21 February, fuelling Teetan’s belief the Ascot G3 winner is ready to fire.

The Impact of the Hong Kong International Races“I’m looking forward to the Derby this season, I would say this could be my best Derby ride since I got to Hong Kong,” the Mauritian said of Douglas Whyte’s charge. “I’m excited and looking forward to it.

“Of course, it’s going to be interesting for Douglas, too. For a new trainer to have a horse like that in the Derby is pretty interesting.

“Hopefully, we do well and his trial was good last week and so we’re looking forward to it.”

Teetan’s best Hong Kong Derby finish so far is eighth – a position attained by Thunder Fantasy (2015) and also Amazing Beats (2020).

Winner of the G3 Hampton Court Stakes (1993m) at Ascot on 17 June, 2020, Russian Emperor improved significantly in the Hong Kong Classic Cup to emerge as one of the leading Derby contenders.

The gelding clocked a race-best 22.31s for the final 400m, sweeping from 10th to fail by a neck.

Like Teetan, Irishman Neil Callan harbours ambitions of success in Hong Kong’s coveted Classic aboard Packing Waltham.

“He trialled really nice, it was my sit on him,” Callan said. “He’s a typical European, French horse.

“He’s not a horse you want to be bustling along early, so we’ll just let him find his feet. Once he balances himself up – he’s not a very big horse – and gets into his stride, he hits the line quite strong.

“So, I think the step up in trip is going to be a big plus for him. Obviously, it’s a very open race. There are horses rated higher than him, but I think he can maybe surprise a few. I do like the way he trialled.”

Matthew Chadwick, veteran of six previous Derby rides, partners Silver Express – one of three John Size entrants – and hopes the son of Canford Cliffs can stay the 2000m journey.

“He’s a nice, kind horse and if he can relax – and it’s against his own age group – it’s an unknown, but we’re hoping for the best,” Chadwick said.

“I’ve ridden in the Derby before but this time it’s a bit more special. There’s an important question mark against this horse’s name (in terms of stamina), but it looks like this is my best chance – that’s the way I’m seeing it.”

Champ is 2nd favorite for Cheltenham Gold Cup after impressive Newbury outing

Horse Racing tips: Here’s 8 we rate at Market Rasen on SundayChamp has halved in price for the Cheltenham Gold Cup next month, thanks to a prep run here which was about as impressive as a beaten effort could be. Considering he had not raced for 11 months and was facing specialist two-milers when he wants to go half as far again, it was a serious effort to finish just two lengths behind Sceau Royal and he is now 6-1 second-favorite for the Festival highlight, having been 12-1 hours before.

Some were inclined to fear Nicky Henderson had forgotten how to train when the Lambourn man announced Champ would line up in the Game Spirit rather than the longer Denman. The horse had, after all, looked every inch a stayer when making a late charge to land the RSA last March and there was every reason to worry that his jumping would suffer at two-mile pace, Champ having put himself on the deck two races ago…

Is Horse Racing Dead? Not in Japan

Japanese horse racing posts solid growth despite challengesJapanese horse racing posts solid growth despite challenges

Japanese horse racing recorded strong sales growth in 2020, in spite of economic uncertainties and the coronavirus pandemic. Both central and local horse racing are defying covid-19 challenges out of the race.

Horse racing as usual albeit without fans

The Japan Racing Association (JRA) reported its ninth consecutive year of sales growth with the annual turnover exceeding $28.6 billion, an increase by 103.5% from the previous year. Despite the challenging situation in times of COVID-19, Japanese central horse racing neither rescheduled or canceled a single event but maintained its full 2020 calendar.

The races were held without a spectator for over 7 months between February and October, however, the central horse racing has seen no major impact on overall sales. The cancellation of major racing events outside Japan also contributed to some of the star horses running in domestic races, which made certain races more appealing to fans.

Local horse racing also reported a jump in sales by 31% on a monthly basis, compared to that of the previous year. The stock price of the local Tokyo horse racing plummeted in March last year due to concerns over the negative impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, the shares bounced back by October and traded above $56 for the first time since 1994.

Drone wars over UK racetracks after courses say live streams are illegal

Best UK horse racing events for the rest of 2019A long-running dispute between racecourses and drone operators streaming live action from tracks appeared to escalate on Friday as David Armstrong, the chief executive of the Racecourse Association, warned that a new streaming service advertised on Twitter on Thursday is “breaking the law”, and that the RCA “will not allow that to carry on”.

FoxFly, a company based in the east Midlands, is believed to be responsible for many of the drones which have become a familiar sight around British racecourses in recent years. The drones send streams with little or no delay – known as latency – to punters betting in-running on the Betfair betting exchange, giving them an important edge over backers watching coverage on Racing TV or Sky Sports Racing.

tweet from FoxFly’s account on Thursday afternoon announced a “live aerial streaming service from all racecourses from Monday 15th February”, with “the quickest and best pictures guaranteed”. A subsequent tweet said that the service “will only be available to 10 people who are willing to travel to our offices”.

The Guardian understands that anyone responding to the tweet was quoted a price of between £100 and £200 per day to use the service, depending on…

Gronkowski Seeks Super Bowl and Dubai Cup In Same Year

Can Gronkowski win the Super Bowl and the Dubai World Cup in the same year? Check that. Could Gronkowski win the Super Bowl and the Dubai World Cup in the successive months?

The namesake of Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski is among the top contenders in the $12-million G1 Dubai World Cup, slated for March 27th. Leading online sports betting site MyBookie is listing Gronkowski at odds of +1200.

Rob Gronkowski football

“Rob Gronkowski” by Getty is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Gronkowski finished second by a nose to winner Thunder Snow in the 2019 Dubai World Cup. The 2020 edition of the race was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the 25th anniversary celebrations of the race are therefore moved to be part of this year’s festivities.

The idea for the horse’s name came from an early trainer when the yearling was still learning how to race. The fellow was a New England Patriots fan – Gronkowski’s NFL team at the time – and envisioned the horse-racing version of Gronk in the big, strapping colt. Gronkowski the horse stands approximately 16 hands tall and weighs in at around 1,300 pounds.

“Hopefully if they named it after me, it’s just a beast of a horse, it’s fast and it’s ready to roll,” Gronkowski the tight end told Sports Illustrated upon first learning of his four-legged namesake.

The human version of Gronkowski caught two of the three touchdown passes thrown by Tom Brady in Tampa Bay’s 31–9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. It was the fourth Super Bowl title he’s won during his NFL career.

Gronkowski’s History Of Success

Though he might not often find his way to the winner’s circle, Gronkowski rarely finishes a big race without grabbing a piece of the purse. The six-year-old bay horse won the 2018 Burradon Stakes at Newcastle Racecourse in Great Britain, earning a winner’s share of the purse of £100,000 in the one-mile race over a dirt course. That same year, Gronkowski also won the Road To The Kentucky Derby Stakes at Kempton Race Course.

The top European-based qualifier for the Kentucky Derby, unfortunately, illness prevented Gronkowski from competing in the first leg of the Triple Crown. However, he regained his health in time to race in the third jewel of the crown, finishing second to Triple Crown winner Justify in the Belmont Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths at odds of 12-1.

Gronkowski shows a 4-3-3 slate from 16 career starts and earnings of $3,142,360.

Rob Gronkowski

“Rob Gronkowski” by NESN is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Gronk Meets Gronkowski

In 2018, NFLer Gronkowski purchased a minority ownership share in his equine namesake. Naturally, it was fated that the two would meet.

Gronkowski remembers learning about his horse-racing doppelganger via social media. He was being tagged with tweets each time Gronkowski succeeded on the track.

“I kept seeing this horse popping up on Twitter winning races and winning

Naming a horse after a celebrity is always a scary proposition. It can prove embarrassing for the famous person if the four-legged version of them doesn’t live up to their popular handle.

“The good news is this horse ended up being good,” says Tom Ludt, VP of equine operations for Phoenix Thoroughbreds, owners of Gronkowski. “Sometimes the horse doesn’t end up being good, and once you use a name, it’s a very long period before you have a name back again.”

There’s an eerie similarity to the career beginnings of both Gronkowskis. The horse began his career in Britain and didn’t race in the USA until the Belmont, which was where the two would first meet.

Gronkowski played his first NFL game with the Patriots in London, England in 2012.

“It was kind of like the same thing – known about, but never been seen before,” Gronkowski said. “I went to London and I dominated that game, we dominated that game as a team.”

Saudi Cup Prep

Several of the contenders for the Dubai World Cup will be seen on track this Saturday in horse racing’s richest race, the $20 million Saudi Cup.

Knicks Go, the +300 favorite for the Dubai World Cup, is in the race, as are Charlatan (+400), Mishriff (+600), Military Law (+600), Maxfield (+1000), Tacitus (+1000) and Chuwa Wizard (+1600).

Gronkowski finished 10th in last year’s Saudi Cup.

“All of a sudden I see the horse is going to the Kentucky Derby, and I’m like, wow, no way.”

Hong Kong Star Golden Sixty top 10 of LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings

Hong Kong Golden SixtyGolden Sixty climbs into top 10 as Hong Kong figures prominently in LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings and Top 100 G1 races rankings

Golden Sixty is within touching distance of status as the world’s premier miler based on the 2020 LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings (WBRR), released by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) on Tuesday, 26 January, as nine of Hong Kong’s elite races featured in the World’s Top 100 G1 Races last year.

With his recent victory in the G1 Stewards’ Cup becoming his 15th win from 16 starts, including 12 victories in a row, Golden Sixty has soared to an international rating of 124 in the year end list  – just one point shy of gun British miler Palace Pier and French galloper Persian King – to be the world’s joint-third top miler and equal 10th overall behind Godolphin’s Ghaiyyath (130).

Emphasizing the quality of Golden Sixty’s performances, Palace Pier’s credits include G1 victories in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville, France, while Persian King also saluted twice in 2020 G1 contests – the Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly, France, and the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp, France. Persian King has since retired.

Underlining his advance under Francis Lui and Vincent Ho, Golden Sixty currently shares second top place with Japanese superstar Almond Eye and British miler Mohaather, who have also both bowed out of racing – leaving only Palace Pier ahead of Golden Sixty among champion milers still in training.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club CEO Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges said: “With the retirement of one Hong Kong champion in Beauty Generation, it is fitting that we should have a new champion in Golden Sixty to emerge to occupy such a high place in the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings.

“Golden Sixty has been expertly managed by Francis Lui and his team along with Vincent Ho in compiling a winning streak bettered in Hong Kong only by Silent Witness.

“That Hong Kong has produced another champion in Golden Sixty worthy of global acclaim from a horse pool of just 1400 horses in a jurisdiction which has no breeding is a wonderful result.

“We hope Golden Sixty can rise even higher as his career unfolds, while acknowledging the difficulty of improving on his already stunning record.

“Looking further ahead, I’m confident with our significant incentives, coupled with the emergence of our four-year-old crop, there is great cause for optimism about the continued excellence of Hong Kong racing.”

Golden Sixty is one of 17 Hong Kong-trained horses in the 2020 World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, a figure which includes Classique Legend (125) and Shadow Hero (115), who achieved their rankings based on Australian performances before export to Hong Kong.

Five of the 17-strong Hong Kong contingent – including Beauty Generation – have been retired, signalling a changing of the guard in the world’s most competitive racing jurisdiction.

Winner of A$15million The Everest, Classique Legend is the joint highest-rated sprinter in the world along with Australian speedster Bivouac and the highest-rated horse based in Hong Kong with an international mark of 125 – one point higher than Golden Sixty, who notched a 12th straight win at Sha Tin on Sunday in the G1 Stewards’ Cup.

Retired champion miler Beauty Generation departs in joint 21st place with a rating of 122.

Hot King Prawn, winner of the Centenary Sprint Cup on Sunday, shares equal 40th with Exultant on 120, while Beat The Clock (119) comes in at No 57.

Mr Stunning, Southern Legend, Thanks Forever and Waikuku round out Hong Kong’s top-100 contingent at No 80 on 118 points.

Furore (117), Ka Ying Star (117), Time Warp (116), Big Time Baby (115), Columbus County (115) and Voyage Warrior (115) also featured in the rankings.

Godolphin’s Ghaiyyath is the world’s highest-rated racehorse with a figure of 130 from American galloper Authentic (126).

Nine of Hong Kong’s elite races featured in the world’s top 100 and the number was on par with France.

Hong Kong’s highest-rated race in 2020 was the LONGINES Hong Kong Cup (2000m), won by Japan’s Normcore, earning a rating of 121.25 to be equal 16th in the World’s Top 100 G1 Races behind the Juddmonte International Stakes (2080m) at York.

Each G1 is ranked according to an average rating of the first four finishers in that race with the World’s Best Racehorse Rankings Committee deciding the ratings.

The Juddmonte International returned a figure of 125.25.

The LONGINES Hong Kong Mile, won by Golden Sixty, was rated equal 29th with a mark of 119.5. The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup was rated equal 32nd with a mark of 119.25.

Two of Sha Tin’s prestige sprints – the Centenary Sprint Cup (won by Beat The Clock) and Chairman’s Sprint Prize (Mr Stunning) – were rated equal 47th with figures of 117.75.

The FWD Champions Mile (Southern Legend) returned a mark of 117.50 to sit at equal 51st in the rankings, while the Stewards’ Cup (Waikuku) was assessed at joint 55th at 117.25.

Aidan O’Brien-trained Mogul’s effort to land the LONGINES Hong Kong Vase (2400m) drew a race rating of 117 and a ranking of equal 58th, while Time Warp’s victory in the Citi Hong Kong Gold Cup (2000m) delivered a race rating of 115.5 and equal 98th place.

Mr Engelbrecht-Bresges said: “It is most satisfying that we have maintained a position in the top five in the world for the number of top G1 races staged in Hong Kong.

“COVID-19 has presented challenges for all racing jurisdictions and Hong Kong is no exception.

“It is gratifying to that the Club has again risen to the challenge with a ‘can-do’ spirit. We have again attracted world-class horses to Hong Kong for our elite races, especially the LONGINES Hong Kong International Races, with entries from Japan, Ireland, Great Britain and France.

“We take immense satisfaction from the Club’s ability to overcome these significant obstacles to maintain Hong Kong’s strong presence among the world’s top G1 races.”

LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings 2020

Hong Kong Trained Horses in World Rankings since 1998

World’s Top 100 Group 1 Races