At 81, Conquest Mo Money owner Tom McKenna a newcomer in Preakness spotlight

Tom McKenna was 12 years old when his beloved grandfather, a Texas judge with a passion for horse racing, helped fuel his own love of the sport by having him ride one of the quarter horses in a race at Cowboy Park in El Paso.

“I was scared to death,” McKenna, now 81, recalled this week.… [Read more…]

Fantasy Horse Ownership a Big Hit at Laurel Park

Press Release

Access to the paddock and winner’s circle, as well as a total prize pool of $50,000, were among the features that awaited registered participants for the inaugural Fantasy Owners Day Saturday at Laurel Park.

Designed as an introduction to prospective Thoroughbred owners, Fantasy Owners Day was presented jointly by the Maryland Jockey Club, Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Horse Breeders, and attracted nearly 300 prospective owners.

“The attendance blew us away,” said Sal Sinatra, President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. “We were expected maybe 100 people, so 300 was incredible.”

The event began with an optional morning training session on the Laurel apron, followed by a 10 a.m. sign-in period where participants were randomly paired with a horse for the day. A prospective owner’s seminar held at 10:30 a.m. featured a Q&A session with top racing partnerships, racing officials and horsemen, followed by a luncheon in the Terrace Dining Room.

horses racing Before going to the luncheon, Maryland Jockey Club President and General Manager Sal Sinatra surprised the participants by telling them they would be competing for cash prizes totaling $50,000 at the end of the year.Sinatra announced all fantasy horse earnings in U.S. races would be tracked from Saturday through Dec. 31, 2017, with $30,000 awarded to the participants assigned to the first-place fantasy horse, $10,000 for second, $5,500 for third, $3,000 for fourth and $1,500 for fifth.

If multiple participants are assigned to the same fantasy horse, the share of the prize will divided equally among the number of participants. Published earnings by Equibase.com will be the source of determining earnings for each fantasy horse.

“This was our way of giving people the experience of being an owner without any expense,” Sinatra said. “It will now be our job to treat them like owners, inviting them to events and making them feel a part of our group. This day was a success, and it couldn’t have been done without the help of horsemen and breeders.”

Participants will be invited to the paddock for the saddling of all starts of their fantasy horse at Maryland tracks between Saturday and Dec. 31, 2017, as well as being part of the winner’s circle photo should their horse win. Final awards will be distributed during a luncheon at Laurel in January 2018.

A weekly blog with updated news, entry information, results, race video, photos, current standings and more will allow participants to track their horses at www.fantasyownership.com. Participants will also receive regular e-mails and be invited to a fantasy challenge group on Facebook.

Also on Saturday, all fans will take home a long-sleeve Maryland Jockey Club T-shirt free with purchase of a racing program, while supplies last.

Horse Racing Club Investment Pays Off for Newbie

horse racing blinkers“The education, through seminars, speaking engagements and financials, has been more than expected and I can honestly say this is the beginning of a new journey for me in horse racing ownership and management,” said Stephens, who is also considering enrolling in the University of Louisville’s Equine Industry Program.

LITTLE ROCK — A passenger in a New Orleans-bound vehicle, the commercial airline pilot battled sporadic cell coverage in South Arkansas to sign up for the Churchill Downs Racing Club.

Source: King: Horse racing club investment pays dividends

The Saratoga Horse Racing Getaway

By Rich Nilsen

Not only will the finest Thoroughbred racing of the summer take place at Saratoga, but the upstate New York location is one of the best vacation getaways in the country. There’s plenty to do both before and after the races in the Adirondack region, so let’s take a peek at what is available to the lucky fans who get to venture north to one of the beautiful areas of the country.

Saratoga is a town of just over 27,000 inhabitants that lies 30 minutes north of Albany airport on Route 87. For six weeks out of the year, the area comes alive as racing enthusiasts converge from all over into the little city.

Hotels rates more than triple during this peak season, but there are two affordable alternatives. The first is to stay in Albany or Glen Falls, both nearby locations. Or, for adventurous souls, camping is available at several closer sites. Reservations should be made as soon as possible, regardless of where you will stay.

Saratoga canopy walk through As for racing-related activities, the best is the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Located one block from Saratoga racetrack, the museum is devoted to U.S. racing history and the lineage of horses who competed here. There are tons of trophies and photographs among the many exhibits, and a free movie is offered to visitors. Inside the entrance of the museum is one of the finest gift shops ever devoted to racing.  It’s not big but it’s jam-packed with many great items.  The doors open at 9 a.m. during the racing season and admission is $7.

Another recommended activity is breakfast at Saratoga racetrack.  With binoculars in one hand and a fork in the other, you can gaze at the beautiful Thoroughbreds at work while enjoying a fabulous meal. Does it get any better? An announcer usually narrates during the morning activities. There is no dress code, so any attire will do. Also, backstretch tours are available each morning.  The walking tours are every day, expect Travers, cost $3 per person and begin at 9:30am.

For those of you who can’t get enough of the horses or gambling in general, Saratoga Harness, runs the entire month of August with a post time of 7:05 p.m.  The only dark days are Sunday and Monday.  This year marks the 75th annual race meet.

Evenings are the perfect time for non-racing related activities.  The Saratoga Performing Arts Center is celebrating its 50th Golden Anniversary this year.  With its large, covered amphitheater, the SPAC features various types of entertainers, from pop and rock groups to classical ensembles. The National Museum of Dance and the Yaddo Gardens are two other popular attractions in Saratoga, especially for the ladies who are accompanying you to the region.

A trip here is not complete without an evening stroll through downtown Saratoga, browsing through the many stores.  There are numerous good bars and restaurants, including the Old Bryan Inn, which I highly recommend.

Several fun events are scheduled during Travers Week, August 27. Taste of NY: Craft Beer is on the Friday before the Travers and, not surprisingly, a very popular event. “Street Fest,” which offers live entertainment and performances, runs from Wednesday through Saturday each night in downtown.  The downtown is ‘hoppin’ and it’s a must visit for every racegoer.

The town of Lake George is less than 40 minutes away and is highly recommended for anyone visiting the Adirondack region. Fort William Henry, which played a big role in the French & Indian War, lies in the heart of the town overlooking the beautiful, crystal-clear lake that stretches for about 30 miles.

Besides sun-tanning or swimming on the local beaches, Lake George offers various water activities, including parasailing, water skiing, jet skiing, boat tours and steamboat trips. The main strip in Lake George has too many stores to count, as well as many excellent restaurants with great views. There are also outlet stores in the area that are ideal for a spouse who doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for racing.  One of the best is the outlet center just off the N.Y. Thruway, entering into the Lake George area.

There is little doubt why visitors keep coming back year after year to the Adirondack region. Not only is the setting of upstate New York beautiful, but there are numerous activities to complement a fabulous race meet.  If you have never been there, make plans to experience Saratoga and everything the region has to offer.

 

— Rich Nilsen, a native New Yorker, has written a report “Beat Saratoga – 7 Tips to Turning a Profit.”  Download it today

 

Illinois Racetracks & The Collapse of Live Racing

Fans at Hawthorne racecourse

Fans at Hawthorne racecourse

Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (ITHA) President Mike Campbell discusses the dire situation taking place in their state and how it could easily lead to the end of live racing there.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill., Jan. 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Illinois tracks are plotting to upend industry regulations fundamental… [Read more…]

American Pharoah wins Preakness Stakes

All you need to know about N.J. owner Ahmed Zayat

American Pharoah, owned by Ahmed Zayat, won the Preakness Stakes by seven lengths in a driving rain Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, dominating the other seven horses in the race and keeping alive his Triple Crown bid. With victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, American Pharoah needs a win in the… [Read more…]

“Dark Horse” Movie Trailer

Documentary from Louise Osmond is the inspirational true story of a group of friends from a working men’s club who take on the elite ‘sport of kings’ and breed themselves a winning racehorse, Dream Alliance.  This was the Audience Award Winner at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

The Basics of Claiming

King's Swan claimer

Former claimer King’s Swan, copyright Agameofskill.com

By Art Parker, author of “Keeneland Winning Trainer Patterns”

The overwhelming majority of races in the United States are claiming races. The name fits the type of race well because the participants of a claiming race can be claimed, or purchased, by one with proper license in the state of the race, such a thoroughbred owner. The purchaser pays the claiming price as stated in the conditions of the race. For example, race conditions may say something like, “For 3 year olds, weight 126 pounds. Claiming $10,000.” The purchaser in this case pays $10,000 for the horse he or she “claims” before the race is run.

The procedure may vary slightly from state to state, but basically a horse gets claimed when the purchaser completes a claim slip, usually within a stated time frame (such as 15 minutes) prior to the running of the race. The purchaser must be properly licensed, have a horseman’s account at the track and have enough money in his/her account to pay the claiming price.

If the horse leaves the gate as an official starter then the horse will become the property of the new owner at the conclusion of the race. The new owner does not receive any purse money the horse may earn in the race. When the race is over the claimed horse is tagged by a racing official and led to its new barn.

Claiming races help to assure fairness at the entry box and as a result, reasonable competition. In other words, all owners/trainers want to have a race with lesser competition, but the claiming price will often serve as a deterrent to “bringing in the ringer” to beat up on a weak field.

Many years ago a trainer was discussing one of his horses with me. The horse had been running for a $25,000 claiming price and just missed victory in a couple of races. The trainer was trying to find a little softer spot. He told me he considered dropping his horse down to a $15,000 level, but said, “I will probably lose him at $15,000 because he is worth $25,000.” The key point to remember about a claiming race is that everyone that enters a horse in the race is putting their horse up for sale.

The purse money in claiming races increases with the claiming price. Simply put, a horse that runs for a $50,000 price tag will compete for more purse money than a horse that runs in a $10,000 claiming race. The owner/trainer of a horse must consider two financial sums when it comes to claiming races: (1) claiming price and (2) purse money.

Understanding the claiming game is essential when handicapping races. It is important that the handicapper view racing from the business angle and not just the gambling angle. A horse on paper that is dropping in class may look like a world beater on paper, but the question we must ask is: why is the owner and trainer ready to sell the horse for a smaller price? A drop in claiming price often means a drop in quality and that can correlate with a decline in the health of the horse.

To improve your handicapping take the time to study horses that have been claimed and what happened for 6-12 months after they were purchased at the claiming box. And, if you really want to cash some tickets, keep notes on trainers that claim horses. You will find that claiming is like any other business – there are some trainers that excel and some that fail, and it is good to know who is who.

Lasix: A Comparison of a Horseplayer’s Experience Betting on Horse Racing

Synopsis:   Kelzenberg takes a look at the North American use of race day Lasix as compared to the Australian model of banning all race day medications.

By Anthony Kelzenberg for Agameofskill.com

Every year or two there is a large debate over the administration of Lasix to North American race horses.  Since I am not a veterinarian or a trainer (and after publishing this document I am sure some trolls will point out ‘what do you know, you aren’t a veterinarian or a trainer’), I will just post my experience as a horse bettor, playing races in America vs. playing the Australian product.

North American Racing (quick summary):

(1)         Expensive bloodstock largely from coming from commercial breeders

(2)         Race distances vary from 4.5 furlongs to a mile and a half (12 furlongs)

(3)         Typical high-end allowance purse (NYRA/So. Cal) is approx. $80,000

(4)         Surfaces are dirt (primarily), grass, and all-weather/artificial

(5)          95% of horses are on Lasix.

Australian Racing (quick summary):

(1)            Expensive bloodstock largely from coming from commercial breeders

(2)            Race distances vary from 4.5 furlongs to two miles (16 furlongs)

(3)            Typical high-end allowance purse (Melbourne/Sydney) is approx. $75,000

(4)            Surfaces are grass and all-weather/artificial

(5)            100% of horses are NOT on Lasix

Note that the racing and economic conditions for USA racing and Australian racing, from a sourcing, distances raced, and surfaces are largely the same.  The two significant differences are North Americans race largely on dirt, while Australians do not (instead, they rotate their race meetings daily to minimize wear and tear on their grass courses), and the North Americans run on Lasix, and the Australians do not.   I am going to use this essay to investigate why the Australians choose not to use Lasix.

The North American perspective:  All horses are potential bleeders, and they all need Lasix to prevent bleeding.

 The Australian reality:  Very few Australian runners bleed.

Bleeding is so rare in Australia that, when it does happen, it is usually reported between live race coverage on Australia’s version of TVG, TVN.  In other words, it is considered “news” when an Australian horse bleeds through the nostrils.  The typical Aussie race meeting (racing day) has 95 to 100 entrants, and, most likely, the number of excessive bleeders per race meeting are only one to three horses, so the amount of bleeders are roughly 1 to 3 percent of runners.  Again, these horses are untreated by vets because race day medication is prohibited in Australia (as it is in most of the leading racing areas), and the incidence of bleeding is very low.  I am ‘not a vet,’ but it might be quite possible that the number of excessive bleeders that show further pulmonary bleeding in North America after getting treated with Lasix probably is higher than 3%.  So what is this Lasix protocol of giving everybody Lasix accomplishing?

The North American perspective:  We produce the fastest horses, and we all know fast horses try hard and can potentially bleed.  So they need Lasix. 

The Australian reality:  The fastest grass sprinters in the world were bred and raced in Australia and our runners can campaign for five to seven years without ever getting Lasix.

Melbourne_Australian racingWhile the Melbourne Cup gets the headlines that go along with a $5 million dollar purse, Australia’s main contribution to the world’s genetic pool is unadulterated speed.  In fact, Australia is internationally known as “The Home of The Sprinter.”  Genetic studies have shown Aussie bloodstock to have a “double copy” of the speed gene that traits back to the Shetlands from Ireland.  In practice champions Choisir, Takeover Target, Scenic Blast and the never defeated and incredibly brilliant Black Caviar were able to have careers that spanned years and were able to win Group 1 after Group 1, in Australia and internationally.  Fans may recall that before Frankel won at 4 years old, Black Caviar was the number one horse in the World Rankings.  All this was accomplished with speed and without Lasix.

What about pace?  Ranking races on their typical half mile split, I would rate the stress on a racehorse in this order (highest stress to lowest stress):

Dirt sprint//Turf sprint//Dirt route//Turf route//Turf marathon

This is where some more data could be helpful because, without a doubt, dirt sprints are more stressful of any race type on the planet.  But they represent roughly 50% of total North American races run.  The experience in Australia shows that racing stress for other types of races can probably be managed without Lasix.

The North American perspective:  Our game is so tough we have to give Lasix to every horse, because the game is so tough.  Races take a lot of a horse too.  Let’s give “Billy Max” 8 weeks off:  look at him, he’s beat! 

The Australian reality:  Because of wet winters and super-hot summers, we give most of our race horses two eight-week breaks during the year to freshen them up.  But when we come to race in the spring and the fall, we are going to plan on running 5 or 6 times over a 10 to 12 week period – every two weeks – with no race day medications.

The Aussie horses are just tougher horses than current North American horses.  It’s that simple.    They are so tough the Aussies have a phrase for when a horse runs on 7 days rest (usually as a stakes prep):  “Backing up.”

The greatest example of Aussie thoroughbred toughness I have seen was the hulk of equine granite named DESERT WAR.  At seven years old, Desert War was in Gai Waterhoue’s barn and really showed the racing world what toughness is:

Here was his racing schedule (note the 4th place finish was at too far a distance for his best, racing every 14 days like clockwork):

Feb 17, 2007 – Group 2 win (1st of 8)

March 3, 2007 – Group 1 (2nd of 10)

March 31, 2007 – Group1 (4th of 14)

April 14, 2007 – Group1 1(1st of 10)

Wouldn’t every trainer or owner want to be involved with a horse like this?  We in the States get excited if the Kentucky Derby winner makes a racecourse appearance once a summer.  At least circumstantially it appears that race day medications are not helping, and compared to Australia they appear to be are hurting our game.

It may be partially genetic, or maybe racing almost exclusively over grass courses has therapeutic benefits, or maybe the application of race day meds like Lasix has an effect on toughness.  Every time Lasix is applied it forces the patient racehorse to urinate.  A LOT.  Generally speaking, mammals do not respond well to dehydration.  And there is also something in the study of medicine called the “kindling effect.”  One time there is a cause applied to a patient, there will also be affect.  When that cause (say Lasix) is applied, over time the effects on the animal’s body can become more and more noticed.

The North American perspective:  Yeah we have small field sizes, but everyone knows the foal crops are decreasing as well. 

The Australian reality:  We have more horses per race than the North Americans do, which leads to better betting opportunities:

As I write this essay (9/26/2014) I looked at the entries per race for Rosehill, Doomben and Sandown-Hillside, the three best Australian tracks on the day.

Track                       Entries        Entries per race

Rosehill                    83                               10.4

Doomben                80                               10.0

Sandown                 112                              14.0

Now contrast the above data with my beloved SARATOGA, which offers the largest purses in North America (taken from the Daily Racing Form website):

For the 401 flat races, there were 3,290 starters, for an average field size of 8.2. Last year, in 411 flat races, there were 3,417 starters, for an average field size of 8.3.

Again, we have not addressed foal crop size, which is the largest factor for field size.  But notice that tonight the three Aussie tracks I will handicap for my Friday night recreation have larger potential field sizes than our most popular track, Saratoga!

Saratoga Racecourse has everything – tradition, history, and the largest purse structure for an extended race meeting anywhere on the planet.  What main component does Saratoga allow that the Australian tracks do not?  Race day medication.  As they say in the social sciences “correlation does not imply causality,” or, in other words, just because a factor is present or not it does not mean that factor is relevant.  But we can definitely make the argument that race day medication probably does not improve field size.

And now a trainer’s perspective (From theGuardian.com).  Full disclosure – Kiaran McLaughlin has been my favorite trainer for a very long time.

Rather than lean towards genetics to explain the marked drop in starts, New York based trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, one of the 25 signatories on the latest proposal to phase out Lasix, believes horses are simply taking longer to recover from the diuretic effects of Lasix.

“I don’t think like a lot of people do that [banning Lasix] will kill starts per horse – it might do the opposite actually,” said McLaughlin, who in 2011 had rallied in support of Lasix.

I think people would be surprised how few horses actually bleed out the nostrils – it’s really not that many. And even if some of them bleed a little bit, they’re still going to perform and perform well.

For the past two years, McLaughlin has cut considerably the number of two-year-olds he runs on Lasix. “Once we know they bleed,” he says, “we do obviously work them on Lasix, however, and we will sign them up for Lasix on race-day.”

Only a small percentage of those which ran without Lasix bled, he said.

“It’s very interesting. For those two years, we scoped every horse after they ran and most horses after they worked to see where they stood, and I have to say that less than 5% of the horses we ran without Lasix bled at all,” explained McLaughlin, who believes his simplified Lasix program over the past two years proves that trainers mistakenly use Lasix as a wholesale preventative rather than an imperative.

“I think it’s abused in America to the point where 90% of two-year-olds are on it right away, so you don’t know if they’re bleeders or not and you don’t know if they need it or not,” said McLaughlin.

A ban on Lasix would certainly necessitate an adjustment in the way horses are trained and raced, he said.

Maybe they shouldn’t be running so often or as far or in as tough races. And if they are bad bleeders, maybe they need to be stopped on or retired.

This leads to another frequently raised comparison: that climate, training facilities and racing programs make Lasix more necessary in the US than elsewhere.

Unlike the US, where the majority of horses are trained during a short window of time in the morning within the tighter confines of the racetrack, racehorses trained in Europe are, by and large, exercised for longer and in quieter surroundings more conducive to keeping horses that bleed settled and calm.

But McLaughlin counters that the facilities used by the majority of American trainers are no different to some jurisdictions that implement a race-day medication ban.

“I trained in Dubai for ten years and their facilities are very, very similar to America,” he said. “We trained on dirt in the heat and we went left-handed. I just don’t agree with that.”

He said that with a known bleeder, he would try to replicate the diuretic effect of Lasix by limiting the amount of water that horse was given before a race – a practice known as drawing.

“We will obviously pull their water early in the morning, try to draw them a little bit,” he said. “And at the end of the day, there are vitamins out there you can try that are legal.”

SUMMARY 

(1)            In Australia world class horses successfully compete on aggressive schedules over many years of competition in the spring and the fall without use of Lasix and other race day medications.

(2)            95% to 99% of all race horses do not bleed through the nostrils.

(3)            There is significant anecdotal evidence that Lasix is given to horses to nearly all North American race horses in a preemptive manner for the 1% to 5% that do bleed.

(4)            This overuse of “preemptive Lasix” may introduce destructive effects to the horse over time.

 Did You Miss this Article?

Art Parker’s perspective on Lasix

If Only Horses Could Talk

Steve Coburn post Belmont Stakes rantby Art Parker

If California Chrome, this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, could talk what would he say? I’m convinced the first thing he would say is “Shut Up” to both of his owners. Every time a Chrome owner opens his mouth it is a monumental gaffe and a public relations disaster. They are so bad they make Vice President Joe Biden look like a PR guru.

The latest episode of Verbalized Chrome’s Disease came when owner Perry Martin blasted Del Mar Race Course for wanting California Chrome to make an appearance on Pacific Classic Day, not to run since he is not back in training but to appear for a boost to racing. Apparently what made Martin lose it was the fact that Del Mar didn’t offer to pony up some big bucks for Chrome to travel from Los Alamitos to San Diego. Del Mar is obviously trying to generate interest in its biggest day and an appearance by Chrome would help.

As I understand it Del Mar requested the appearance and Martin didn’t want to do it, but said he would send them an email and tell Del Mar what he expected. He asked Del Mar for $50,000. There is no doubt the owners must consider expenses, like insurance and travel, etc., but $50,000?

Martin was quick to point out that they own a race horse not a parade horse and that they are in business. I fully understand the business angle and I would hate for anyone to downgrade Chrome to a parade horse, not that he is personally going to know or care. But what I must question is the total lack of willingness to help out the team, with the team being thoroughbred racing. I feel sure Del Mar could have made some financial allowances and they should have at least offered to offset any expenses. But for Chrome’s owners to take a cold, selfish approach centered on money is not in racing’s best interest. That attitude would be like Derek Jeter refusing to sign autographs for kids because they don’t pay him.

Without the sport and the fans, owners Perry Martin and Steve Coburn wouldn’t have anything to complain about because there would be no racing.

There are a couple of other things to remember now that the Del Mar episode has come to the public. Remember when Martin was so irritated at Churchill Downs because of its poor hospitality? Next thing we know Coburn shows up at the Preakness, without Martin, and runs his mouth about how the people in Baltimore know how to treat folks and made sure he bad mouthed Churchill. Of course we remember Belmont, when Chrome lost his bid for the Triple Crown and was defeated fairly. Coburn showed his worst side by proclaiming Chrome’s opponents as cheaters and cowards. Boy, was that a great day for thoroughbred racing!

So, why didn’t Coburn, the owner that was supposed to be the PR man, have something to say about the Del Mar deal? Could it be that the Chrome team decided they were better off with Coburn keeping his mouth shut and not talking with the media? If so, maybe they should make another change because Martin doesn’t excel when it comes to PR either.

But the two things that really bothered me about Martin’s approach to the Del Mar deal was what he said in a press release he sent out. First, he claims that he listened to the Del Mar idea and then said there would need to be financial considerations and he would need to talk with his partner (Coburn). Then Martin said, “Steve and I knew that what was best for the horse was staying home and concentrating on his return to racing.” But Martin sent an email with his demand for $50,000 anyway. My question for Martin is this, if doing what is best for the horse is the most important thing and if you already know what that is, which is to stay home, then why did you send a demand for $50,000? If your horse is better off not going to Del Mar then why didn’t you just say “thanks, but no thanks,” we will keep him here and not send a demand for the appearance fee?

The second thing is the way Martin referred to the media as “pocket media” suggesting that the media can be bought by someone simply picking up a bar tab. As the editor of a newspaper I would suggest that Martin is wrong, but at the same time he should learn from his own allegation…you can get a lot more with honey than vinegar, which is something he and Coburn know nothing about.

Poor California Chrome. If he could only talk. I wonder what he would say to his bellyaching, cry baby, loud mouth, unappreciative, selfish, wannabe big shot owners that embarrass him and the sport of kings?

I bet he would say, “Shut Up!”