The Brock Talk

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A New Journey

Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association/Florida Equine Publications press release.

Former Texas Thoroughbred Editor, Brock Sheridan of Arlington, Texas will be joining the staff of Florida Equine Publications, Inc. (FEP) in March as the new Editor-In–Chief. Sheridan replaces former longtime editor Michael Compton who left at the end of 2011 in order to pursue a new business opportunity.

In addition to a stint at QuarterWeek magazine as Associate Editor, Sheridan’s career has included managerial experience in track publicity, marketing and racing departments. A graduate from the University of Arizona in Business/Race Track Management, he also has worked in the financial services industry. Sheridan currently authors the leading industry blog The Brock Talk and consults in the various aspects of social media and communications.

“Brock was a very comfortable, while unanimous selection of the entire Executive Committee”, remarked FEP and Florida Thoroughbred Breeders & Owners Assn. (FTBOA) president Phil Matthews who chaired a panel consisting of all officer-directors which then interviewed a number of quality finalists for the position. “In addition to his having previously served as an equine publication editor as well as having some good industry experience, we really liked Brock from a value-added standpoint with his knowledge in the areas of digital communications-particularly the social media.”

“I have long known Brock to be a passionate advocate of the horse breeding and racing industry,” observed FEP and FTBOA CEO Lonny Powell. “We look forward to him getting his arms around our FEP operations while also getting out and introducing himself to our membership and industry. We will be leaning even more heavily upon our editor and the FEP arm of the FTBOA to contribute to the public relations and marketing of our Association, members and horses through aggressive and innovative communications and awareness programs.”

“I am looking forward to joining the FTBOA team and serving the Florida breeders and owners that comprise the Association membership,” Sheridan said. “It is an honor to be chosen by Dr. Matthews and the Executive Committee to continue the excellence that is Florida Equine Publications. I am privileged and excited to further develop the FTBOA and FEP communications and be a part of the Florida thoroughbred breeding and racing industry with its rich tradition and history.”

FEP is a subsidiary of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association. The Florida Horse magazine is the flagship publication for the association going to all its members and industry participants with ties to Florida. The Florida Horse helps market the thoroughbred industry in the Sunshine State. Other publications published by FEP include Wire To Wire, Florida’s Daily Racing Digest, Wire To and Horse Capital Digest.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Kentucky Derby Bubble At $120,000

This week Churchill Downs released the current rankings of 3-year-olds by graded earnings, which determines which horses may enter the $2 million Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1) to be run May 5.

No surprise that last year’s Champion 2-Year-Old Male Hansen sits atop the list with $1,160,000, of which $1,080,000 was earned when he captured the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. 1) at Churchill Downs last November. In his first start of 2012 Hansen was second to Algorithms in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. 3) at Gulfstream Park Jan. 29.

Second to Hansen in both the Juvenile and on the graded earnings list is Union Rags with $830,000 of which $360,000 was earned in the Juvenile and all earned last year as a 2-year-old. Sabercat is third on the list with the $600,000 he earned in the grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot run at Delta Downs in Louisiana, also run last November.

However, the most important slots on the graded earnings list are much further down where Battle Hardened, Brother Francis and the filly Disposablepleasure sit tied for 18th with $120,000 each in graded earnings. For it is those three horses and their respective earnings that currently define the amount needed to make the top 20. Twenty is the maximum number of starters allowed in the Run for the Roses.

The owners, trainers, jockeys and fans of all the 3-year-olds currently below the $120,000 mark should not fret too much however, as that number will change many times in the next 77 days before the Derby. Some of the horses currently in the top 20 will be forced out of contention due to injury while others may just not have the Kentucky Derby in their plans. Both instances would lower the $120,000 mark.

Two fillies, On Fire Baby and Disposablepleasure, are on the list and they have the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) as an option. There are also two foriegn-based horses on the list in Wrote and Genten. Wrote, who won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, is based in Ireland with trainer Aidan O'Brien. O'Brien crossed the Atlantic many times last year with Cape Blanco and won the Eclipse Award for Champion Turf Horse in North America. O'Brien has started two horses in the Kentucky Derby. Johannesburg and Castle Gondolfo finished eighth and 12th respectively in the 2002 Derby. O'Brien has won six Breeders' Cup races over the years from more than 70 starters.

Trainer Yoshito Yahagi has Genten at his base in Japan and has never started a horse in either the Derby nor the Breeders' Cup.

There are some 31 graded races for 3-year-olds remaining before the Derby. That equates to some 150 opportunities to earn graded money, which of course, could drive up the $120,000 number.

Twenty horses have entered the Kentucky Derby every year since 2004 and in 11 of the past 13 years. Interestingly, last year Derby Kitten was the last to qualify for the Derby with $120,000 but it took a record $218,750 for Make Music For Me to get into the Run for Roses two years ago. Over the last five years, the final horse to make the Derby field has averaged $132,750 in graded earnings.

Graded stakes are considered graded or group status as assigned to the race by the International Cataloguing Standards Committee in Part I of the International Cataloguing Standards as published by The Jockey Club Information Systems, Inc. each year.

In the case of a tie for the final entry position or the determination of all remaining starters, preference is given to horses that accumulated the highest earnings in non-restricted stakes races. If a tie still remains, the final spots in the starting gate will be determined by lot or a “shake.”

For the first time since 1984, there will be an “also eligible” list with as many as four horses eligible to draw into the field until scratch time on Friday, May 4 at 9 a.m. ET.

Top 32 Graded Stakes Earners
Rank, Horse, Graded Earnings, Trainer
Thru Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012

1. Hansen, $1,160,000, Mike Maker
2. Union Rags, $830,000, Michael Matz
3. Sabercat $600,000, Steve Asmussen
4. Wrote-IRE $556,630, Aidan O’Brien
5. Creative Cause $488,000, Mike Harrington
6. Liaison $375,000, Bob Baffert
7. Dullahan $375,000, Dale Romans
8. Excaper $240,736, Ian Black
9. Algorithms $240,000, Todd Pletcher
10. On Fire Baby (f) $211,729, Gary Hartlage
11. Drill $210,000, Bob Baffert
12. Alpha $180,000, Kiaran McLaughlin
13. Rousing Sermon $164,000, Jerry Hollendorfer
14. Prospective $155,452, Mark Casse
15. I’ll Have Another $151,000, Doug O’Neill
16. Currency Swap $150,000, Teresa Pompay
17. Genten $123,826, Yoshito Yahagi
t-18. Battle Hardened $120,000, Eddie Kenneally
t-18. Brother Francis $120,000, Jim Cassidy
t-18. Disposablepleasure (f) $120,000, Todd Pletcher
21. Mr. Bowling $115,848, Larry Jones
22. Jack’s in the Deck $105,000, Robin Graham
23. Gemologist $103,855, Todd Pletcher
24. Longview Drive $102,000, Jerry Hollendorfer
25. Fly Lexis Fly $99,481, Neil Drysdale
26. Take Charge Indy $98,400, Pat Byrne
27. Daddy Long Legs $94,030, Aidan O’Brien
28. Red Duke $90,823 Maxilead Ltd. John Quinn
t-29. Overdriven $90,000, Todd Pletcher
t-29. Reneesgotzip (f) $90,000, Peter Miller
t-29. State of Play $90,000, Graham Motion
t-29. Thunder Moccasin $90,000, Todd Pletcher

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Formed by Industry Leaders

Reprinted Press Release

A broad-based group of Thoroughbred industry stakeholders announced Thursday the establishment of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) — an organization designed to serve as both the accrediting body for aftercare facilities that care for Thoroughbreds following the conclusion of their racing careers and a fundraising body to support these approved facilities.

Funded initially by seed money from Breeders’ Cup, Ltd., The Jockey Club, and Keeneland Association, the TAA is comprised of owners, trainers, breeders, racetracks, jockeys, aftercare professionals and other industry groups.

“It is our responsibility as owners, tracks, breeders, trainers, jockeys, bloodstock agents, and anyone who has a stake in the game to take responsibility for the aftercare of these great animals who are the keystone of our sport,” said TAA board President and Thoroughbred owner Jack Wolf. “Securing support and funding from Breeders' Cup, The Jockey Club, Keeneland and so many other great organizations speaks to the credibility and importance of our effort and is so greatly appreciated.”

Additional support of the TAA has been provided by Adena Springs North, CARMA, Fasig-Tipton, The Jockeys’ Guild, New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, The New York Racing Association, Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company and Thoroughbred Charities of America. The organization also received staff support from Thoroughbred Charities of America, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA). The NTRA will continue to provide that support on an ongoing basis.

The TAA will accredit aftercare facilities based on a Code of Standards covering operations, education, horse management, facility services and adoption policies. Simultaneously, the TAA will raise funds on behalf of accredited facilities via institutional contributions that are to be directed 100% to program services rather than to fundraising or general administrative costs.

“The Breeders’ Cup is proud to be one of the initial funders for the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and fully support the TAA goals of an industry-wide, annually funded program committed to the placement or second-career retraining of retired Thoroughbreds on a national scale,” said Craig Fravel, President and CEO of Breeders’ Cup, Ltd. “Through the contributions of our sport’s stakeholders, we can help ensure that our horses are treated in a dignified manner throughout their lives.”

“The Jockey Club’s involvement and support of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance is a natural extension of our other ongoing efforts in the area of Thoroughbred aftercare,” said James L. Gagliano, The Jockey Club’s President and Chief Operating Officer. “The accreditation and proper funding for aftercare facilities will greatly enhance the well-being of our equine athletes, and we encourage other groups and individuals from all segments of our sport to support this Alliance .”

Friday, February 3, 2012

Three Saturday Stakes Have Kentucky Derby Implications

Tampa Bay Downs, Santa Anita Park and Aqueduct Racetrack may be where the next winner of the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1) may be found Saturday as the three tracks each feature prep races for the American classic. Although the May 5 Derby is still more than three months away, several 3-year-old thoroughbreds will be running in three races and their connections are likely thinking roses.

All three stakes are graded, which means the top finishers in each race will be credited with their corresponding earnings in the quest to qualify for the Derby.

The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters and gives preference to those entrants with the most earnings in graded races. Last year Derby Kitten was the last to qualify for the Kentucky Derby with $120,000 in graded earnings while the year before, eventual fourth-place finisher Make Music For Me needed a record $218,750 to earn a place in the Derby starting gate. In 2009, it took a record low $55,500 for Nowhere to Hide to complete the Kentucky Derby field.

Aqueduct will host the $200,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III), Santa Anita features the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) and Tampa Bay Downs presents the $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes. All three races will be run over 1-1/16 miles.

It has been nearly 70 years since Count Fleet won both the Withers and Kentucky Derby, but the Withers used to be run in late April. The late Count Fleet was usually just one week before the Kentucky Derby and much too close to the Derby for most Withers winners. The race was not run last year, but the Withers has returned and is now part of Aqueduct’s lead-up to the Triple Crown. After the Withers, Aqueduct will offer the $400,000 Gotham in March and the $1 million Wood Memorial in April.

Named for the late California owner who won the Kentucky Derby with Silver Charm in 1997 and Charismatic in 1999, the Robert B. Lewis will be run for the 74th time at Santa Anita. Formerly the Santa Catalina Stakes, the last winner of this race to go on to take the Run for the Roses was Ferdinand in 1986. Although 2009 Robert Lewis winner Pioneerof the Nile was second to long shot Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby that year.

After the Lewis, the natural progression to the Triple Crown races for California-based horses is the Mar. 10 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) and the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 7. There is also the seven furlong San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 19 for Derby and/or Triple Crown hopefuls.

First run in 1991, the much younger Sam F. Davis Stakes has never had its winner also take the Kentucky Derby. General Quarters is the most recent Davis winner to start in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 10th in 2009. The Sam F. Davis is the main local prep race for the Mar. 10 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) which produced 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver.

Two contenders this weekend are on most “Derby Watch” lists including Alpha, the even money morning line favorite in the Withers; and Liason, the 9-to-5 morning line top choice in the Robert Lewis.

In his most recent start, Alpha won the $150,000 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct Jan. 7 but trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is cautious when talking about the Kentucky Derby. “The Withers is an important race because it’s graded and you don’t get to run in the Derby unless you have those graded stakes earnings,” McLaughlin said. “When you look at the schedule, you start with the first Saturday in May (the traditional day of the Kentucky Derby), and work back from there. We are taking the Withers as an important step, and maybe, maybe, afterward we’ll talk about what we’re going to do.” Currently Alpha has $60,000 in graded earnings from finishing second to Union Rags in last year’s Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park.

Three-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert (photo left) will saddle the Liason and Sky Kingdom in an attempt to win his record fourth Robert B. Lewis Stakes which would tie him with Ron McAnally (1976, 1980, 1982, 1997) and Charlie Whittingham (1964, 1970, 1986, 1988) for the most victories in this race. Liason has won three consecutive races since finishing third in his first start last fall at Del Mar near San Diego. Since then, the son of Indian Charlie has won a maiden race at Santa Anita, the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes and CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park. Should he make it to the Kentucky Derby, Liason should be eligible with is $450,000 in graded earnings from winning the CashCall Futurity.

Sky Kingdom was fourth in the CashCall but was an impressive allowance winner at Santa Anita on Jan. 12, winning a mile and one-sixteenth test by 4 ½ lengths, “easily.”

“I just want them to have a good race,” Baffert said. “They’ve had a few starts now where they’ve got enough foundation and they’ve done well. You just want them to stay healthy.”

Gulfstream Park Derby winner Reveron is the 3-to-1 morning line favorite in the Sam Davis and is making his first start in a graded race. Trained by Agustin Bezra, Reveron too has won three straight including victories over maidens and against allowance company at Calder Race Course near Miami in November before winning the Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Horse of the Year Defense Starts Early for Havre de Grace

It will be very easy to cheer for 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace (photo right) this year. After all, owner Rick Porter and trainer Larry Jones are the popular sort with fans who are beginning to especially appreciate those keeping their equine stars around the track a bit longer. For that reason alone, there will be just a few more cheering on those red and white silks of Fox Hill Farms worn by jockey Gabriel Saez aboard Havre de Grace in 2012.

Havre de Grace may also pick up some fans from her rival, the recently retired Blind Luck. Why would a fan begrudge Blind Luck for retiring earlier than Havre de Grace? No matter the reason for her retirement, Blind Luck was an equine version of Winston Wolfe. She was the sort who would take the call, write down the address and then travel anywhere, anytime and take care of business.

One may also assume any further accolades accomplished by Havre de Grace on the track, really just add to the racing legacy of Blind Luck. Point being, Havre de Grace should have plenty of fans this year. But from the looks of things early this year, while training well at Oaklawn Park, Havre de will not have a monopoly on popularity among racing fans.

The Florida Sunshine Millions gave affirmation to fans of Mucho Macho Man as he won the $400,000 Sunshine Millions Classic and Awesome Feather, winner of the $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff.

Mucho Macho Man continues his wave of acclaim that started during his 3-year-old old season. The Kathy Ritvo-trainee joined only Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Animal Kingdom and Preakness (gr. 1) winner Shackleford as the only three horses to start in every Triple Crown race last year. The Florida-bred son of Macho Uno was third in the Derby but disappointed with off-the-board finishes in the Preakness and Belmont.

Mucho Macho Man was given a break after the Belmont but returned with vigor easily winning an allowance race at Aqueduct in November before making his 2012 debut in the Sunshine Millions Classic.

Awesome Feather also returned to the races in New York last Fall after tendon injuries sidelined her for most of her sophomore year. After an undefeated and championship season as a 2-year-old, Awesome Feather came back from her lay-off last year and won the Le Slew Stakes at Belmont in October and the Gazelle Stakes (gr. 1) at Aqueduct in November. Although many of her wins have come against fellow Florida-breds, Awesome Feather has had little trouble when stepping up to open, grade I races. And as long as she keeps that race record unblemished, her fame will continue to grow along with the streak.

Few horses in North America carry the esteem of a Kentucky Derby winner, and it seems all systems are go for Animal Kingdom’s return in 2012. After his sixth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. 1) won by Ruler on Ice last year, a hairline fracture in the left hock of Animal Kingdom was discovered and ended his year. But the now 4-year-old son of Leroidesanimaux has been doing well for trainer Graham Motion who saw Animal Kingdom put in a bullet work Jan. 25 at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, going five furlongs on grass in :59 4/5.

According to reports, owner Team Valor International manager Barry Irwin says Animal Kingdom is scheduled to race again in the grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes Feb. 25. Irwin said the 1-1/16 mile race on the Tampa Bay Downs turf will act as preparation for the $10 million, group 1 Dubai World Cup Mar. 31 at Meydan Race Course in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Shackleford (photo left) is also working toward his return to the races at Palm Meadows for trainer Dale Romans who says the Donn Handicap (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 11. Last seen finishing second to Caleb’s Posse in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs, Shackleford also had runner-up finishes last year in the Florida Derby (gr. I), Haskell Invitational (gr. I) and Indiana Derby (gr. 2). His “catch me if you can” running style also keeps Shackleford popular among his fans.

Don’t under estimate Game On Dude and his fans either. The runner-up to Drosselmeyer in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and winner of the two Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I) and Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) also has jockey Chantal Sutherland and trainer Bob Baffert on her team. Both world-class in their trades, they are equally charismatic and media savey.

And then of course there is the possibility of an ultra popular 3-year-old. It has been since Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown in 2008 when we last saw a horse go to the Belmont Stakes for a chance at the Triple Crown and since Affirmed in 1978 when had our last Triple Crown winner. Big Brown was pulled up and finished last in the Belmont Stakes, but as chronicled many times on this blog, not since Big Brown won the 2008 Monmouth Stakes have seen a Kentucky Derby champ even win a subsequent race.

Horse racing is not only due for a popular and post Kentucky Derby successful 3-year-old, but 33 years is long enough to wait for a Triple Crown winner too.

Yes Havre de Grace, unless she repeats as Horse of the Year in 2012, will probably go down in Thoroughbred history as the difficult part of the answer to a trivia question. No doubt her 2011 can not compare to Rachel Alexandra or Zenyatta before her.

Looking at some of the horses that are expected to compete in for the 2012 golden Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year, things are not going to be any easier for Havre de Grace this year. After all, we now know that Jones and Porter are not afraid to take their champion mare and run against older horses at the highest of levels.

Any way one looks at it however, the race for 2012 Horse of the Year is already interesting. And we have barely started.