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Joan Robertson

Turf Catering’s Larry Wolken Dies

Larry Wolken, who headed Turf Catering for decades and was a Thoroughbred owner, died Mar. 30 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. He was 87.

Wolken took over operations of Turf Catering from his father in the mid-1960s. The Wolken family had operated concessions at Keeneland from the track’s opening in 1936 until 2015. Turf Catering also ran the concessions at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs from 1934 until 2000.

In lieu of flowers, the family would like donations to be made to Old Friends Retirement Farm and/or the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. Wolken is survived by his wife, Sue, sons Brad, Mike and Chris Rains, daughter Karyn Shuler, eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

Trio Share Barretts Bullet

The training preview for the Barretts Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training was held beneath overcast skies and temperatures in the low 60s at Del Mar Monday and a trio of juveniles shared the bullet furlong time of :10 flat. The preview was held in four sets and the Del Mar oval remained fairly consistent throughout the day.

“They are training here now, so they have the track just a little bit slow,” said Barretts General Manager Kim Lloyd. “It is very, very safe. The horses are getting a hold of it well and they are showing themselves off well. Which is very important. People can see their action well over this track. And the main thing is that they come back good. So far, so good. Horses that prepped last week for the preview today came back good and we didn’t hear any talk of any problems. That’s the main thing. We need to get through these previews with horses that are usable and sound.”

The Del Mar grandstand was packed with prospective buyers Monday.

“We are very pleased with the turnout today,” Lloyd said. “A lot of people showed up. There will be plenty of people to buy the ones they want.”

Among the trainers in the stands Monday were Phil D’Amato, Paddy Gallagher, Nick Hines, Bob Hess, Art Sherman, Brian Koriner, Ron Ellis, Dan Hendricks and Simon Callaghan. The bloodstock contingent included Dennis O’Neill, Ben McElroy, David Ingordo, Alex Solis, Jason Litt and Shawn Dugan. West Point’s Terry Finley was on hand, as were Aron Wellman of Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Billy Koch of Little Red Feather Racing, and Stonestreet’s John Moynihan.

The first bullet furlong work was recorded during the day’s third session, when hip 167 covered the distance in :10 flat for Ciaran Dunne’s Wavertree Stables. Out of Cape Discovery (Cape Town), the bay colt was purchased by Ronald Fein’s Superfine Farms for $110,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale and was supplemented to the Spring sale.

“He was supposed to go to OBS [March], but he had a little bit of a setback,” said Dunne. “We took the high road and gave him the time and we came here. It looks like he rewarded us for it. We always thought he was a nice horse from day one.”

Bruno DeBerdt’s Excel Bloodstock sent out hip 58 to work the co-bullet during Wednesday’s fourth set. By Mineshaft, the filly is out of Noble Grey (Forestry) and was purchased by DeBerdt for $85,000 at last year’s September sale.

“She had the athleticism that we look for in a horse,” DeBerdt said of the filly’s appeal as a yearling. “When we broke her, she was a really nice filly all the way through. When we started working her a little bit at the farm, she didn’t show a lot of talent, but she was always right in with the pack. It’s just been recently that she has really separated herself. She acclimated to this track really well. We knew she had a lot of ability and I thought if I had any horse that would go in :10 flat, it would be her.”

DeBerdt agreed the Del Mar surface played fair throughout the day.

“I think it’s a good track,” he said. “If you have a good horse, they are going to work in :10 1/5, or :10 flat and :10 2/5 is a very good move on this track. I’d much rather see a track like this than a bunch of :9 3/5s and :9 4/5s. I’m really happy with it. And it was consistent all day long.”

Rounding out the trio of :10 flat workers was hip 63, a colt by Smiling Tiger. He is consigned by Havens Bloodstock Agency on behalf of breeder Phil Lebherz’s Premier Thoroughbreds. Out of Perfect Feat (Pleasantly Perfect), he is a full-brother to stakes winner Spiced Perfection.

Of the handful of juveniles to work a quarter-mile, hip 121, a colt by Graydar, turned in the fastest time of :21 flat. The gray colt is out of Witch Princess (Exchange Rate) and is consigned by Top Line Sales.

In the lone hiccup of the under-tack show, hip 7, a son of Champ Pegasus, lost the rider and galloped down the stretch before being corralled by the outrider on the backstretch. The incident caused some confusion for the next horse to work, hip 40, a son of He’s Had Enough out of graded stakes winner Le Me Geaux (First Samurai). The youngster, consigned by Wavertree Stables, eventually worked in :10 2/5.

“He got halfway around the turn and the horse got loose,” Dunne explained. “He had to come back and he was back and forth in the chute because they couldn’t figure out whether they were going to stop or go. By the time he actually got around to breezing, he didn’t know whether he was coming or going. Coming out here, we thought he was every bit as fast as the Into Mischief. So he was our big disappointment for the day. We know he is a really good horse from everything he has done at home, so it is a little disappointing when one of yours works and it comes down to a moment that wish you could have back.”

The Barretts Spring Sale will be held Wednesday with bidding scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

‘Temptress’ Eyeing French 1000 Guineas

Team Valor’s GI Natalma S. heroine Capla Temptress (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}) has returned to the care of original trainer Marco Botti from American Hall of Famer Bill Mott and her connections are eyeing the G1 French 1000 Guineas as a potential target. The April-foaled bay holds entries in both the May 6 G1 QIPCO 1000 Guineas at Newmarket and the French equivalent at Longchamp a week later.

“She is back with us and I’m very pleased with her,” said Botti of his charge, who ran seventh in her lone start for Mott in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 3 when last seen. “She ran at the Breeders’ Cup, then the owners had a meeting afterwards and decided to send her back to Europe. She had 40 days in quarantine after the Breeders’ Cup and arrived back in Newmarket in December. She did well for us last year and I thought she was going to America for good, but thanks to Team Valor she is back.”

Added the Italian, “She will not go for a trial in the [G3] Fred Darling [S. on Apr. 21] or [G3] Nell Gwyn [on Apr. 18]. We are entered in the English Guineas and the French Guineas. We will see how she is mid-April and it would be silly not to consider the English Guineas, but at this stage I would say she is more likely to take her chance in the French Guineas. She has not grown much, but she has done well physically and I think she looks stronger than last year. There is no doubt she has the ability and a great mind and that is a big plus.”

Capla Temptress made her first two starts for Capla Developments and Les Boyer, resulting in a pari of wins over the Chelmsford all-weather on June 21 and in the Lettergold Fillies’ Novice Auction S. that July, before being purchased privately by Team Valor. She lost her unbeaten tag in the G3 Sweet Solera S. at headquarters in August, prior to her Woodbine triumph.

The Week in Review: At Gulfstream, a Big Day of Racing, a Bigger Day at the Windows

It was the day of the GI Xpressbet.com Florida Derby, plus six other stakes races. But to many at Gulfstream or to those at simulcast outlets or sitting in their living rooms riveted to their computer screens, Saturday’s 14th race was not the Florida Derby, but the last leg of the Rainbow 6.

That’s not a bad thing.

Great racing and big purses are important, but neither would be possible if people didn’t bet on the races, whether it’s a Grade I event or a $16,000 maiden claimer. It’s the bettors that drive this game. They are more important than the owners, the trainers, the jockeys, even the Grade I horses. That’s because without them, there is no game.

And no one is more in tune with that than Gulfstream’s operators, The Stronach Group. They drive people crazy when the horses go into the gate eight minutes after there are zero minutes on the post time clock. The bevy of cheap claiming races on the grass, the ones that always get full fields, are not for the purists. But it’s working.

The Florida Derby was a terrific event and the winner, Audible (Into Mischief), has a solid chance to become the 15th winner of the race to go on and win the Kentucky Derby. But I highly doubt the number 15 was even mentioned in the Gulfstream executive offices following the conclusion of Saturday’s races. The number that mattered the most was $49,909,070, Saturday’s total handle on the card. It was the largest handle in Gulfstream’s history for a non-Breeders’ Cup card.

The $49 million was the result of a perfect storm: a Florida Derby Day card plus a mandatory payout in the Rainbow 6. Nothing generates excitement among bettors quite like when the pool of a jackpot style bet grows and then must be paid out. There was $4.75 million in the carryover and another $16.5 million bet into the pool by bettors dreaming of a life-changing win at the windows. That didn’t happen, as the payoffs got chalky after the opening leg was won by a horse that paid $31.60. The payoff was $9,018, a big win for the small to medium players and a tough hit for the big syndicates that might have pumped tens of thousands into the pool hoping for a parade of long shot winners.

(Shameless plug: I gave out the winning Rainbow 6 on the Down the Stretch show on Sirius XM that I co-host with Dave Johnson. Did I play it myself? Of course not).

The $49 million handle figure represents a 63% increase over the 2017 Florida Derby Day card, which, obviously, has a lot to do with the Rainbow 6. It was also the second $40 million-plus handle day of the meet. This year’s card featuring the GI Pegasus World Cup handled $41,983,882, when there were 12 races as opposed to 14 Saturday.

Florida Derby Day 2018 is also poised to be the biggest wagering day in the country this year other than the three Triple Crown Days and the two Breeders’ Cup Days. The 2018 number narrowly bested the total handle for both the 2017 GI Travers S. and GI Kentucky Oaks cards.

They are still crunching the numbers for the 2018 championship meet, but so far we know that handle at Gulfstream was up 18.7% in January and 4.8% in February. If that were an industry-wide trend, The Stronach Group wouldn’t have that much to crow about. But it’s not. According to figures provided by The Stronach Group, through the end of February, nationwide handle at tracks not owned by Stronach was down 6.5%. Meanwhile, The Stronach Group tracks were up a combined 16.5%. With the haul Gulfstream took in on Florida Derby Day, the numbers should look even better after March is factored in.

It’s not just Gulfstream. Both of Stronach’s tracks in California are off to banner starts in 2018. Through February, handle at Santa Anita was up 28.7% and betting had increased 26.3% at Golden Gate.

That’s good news for the industry, as overall handle is up 3.4% through February. But the numbers also represent a shift. The Stronach tracks continue to increase their share of the total amount bet on horse racing and the money is not all new money. Much of it is coming from other tracks. This could grow into a bigger problem for those competing with The Stronach Group or it could serve as a motivational tool. If they can do it, you can, too. Just remember, the customer is king.

Never Too Early for Horse of the Year Talk

When Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}) retired following his win in the GI Pegasus World Cup, it was generally assumed that the torch had been passed to West Coast (Flatter). Champion 3-year-old of 2017, the only thing standing between West Coast and superstar status had been Gun Runner, who defeated his rival in both the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Pegasus World Cup. Following the Pegasus, West Coast rose to the top of the polls and seemed on track for a Horse of the Year title. He still could be, but his defeat in Saturday’s G1 Dubai World Cup threw everything wide open. Is West Coast still the best U.S.-based horse in training? He very well could be, but that’s not necessarily a title you want to give to a horse who has lost three straight races. There are seven months to go until the Breeders’ Cup and a lot can happen. Who is number one? Right now, there isn’t one.

No Tease. He Might be a Good Stallion.

Even the most knowledgeable breeding afficionados probably haven’t heard of the stallion of Mr Stark (Lava Boy), who finished third in a maiden special weight race on the grass Friday at Gulfstream. That’s because Lava Boy isn’t exactly a stallion, at least in the traditional sense.

Lava Boy (Pulpit) is the teaser stallion at Arindel Farm in Florida. An unraced half-brother to Lava Man (Slew City Slew), he settled into his new duties at Arindel, where they figured they’d experiment and actually let him breed a mare.

“He is a good-looking horse and very well bred,” said farm manager Brian Cohen, who is the son of Arindel’s owner Alan Cohen. “We just thought we’d let him do this. We liked [Mr Stark] right from the beginning. I told [trainer] Stan [Gold] to run him in a maiden claimer first out because we couldn’t imagine anyone would claim him, but he thought so highly of the horse that he decided we better go in the maiden special.”

With Mr Stark running as well as he did, Cohen said Lava Boy will be bred again. Mr Stark is his only living foal.

Mr Stark still has some catching up to do if he is to become the best horse ever by a teaser stallion. That title belongs to Tiberian (Fr) (Tiberius Caesar {Fr}). Tiberius Caesar is a teaser at Haras du Logis and gets to cover one mare each year. Tiberian has won three group stakes and finished seventh in last year’s G1 Melbourne Cup.

Conquest The Conqueror

Ernie Semerksy might just have pulled the plug on his Conquest Stable a tad too early.

Semersky, who came and went like a comet, spent millions building a huge stable and, less than four years after he started, sold everything he had at the 2016 Keeneland November Sale. Semersky cited personal reasons for his getting out of the game.

Every horse he owned was named Conquest something or other, and more than a few have achieved considerable success since the sale. The latest is Conquest Big E (Tapit), who defeated a Kentucky Derby winner in Always Dreaming (Bodemeister) to capture the GII Gulfstream Park Hardacre Mile Saturday at Gulfstream. It was his first graded stakes win.

Conquest Big E was originally purchased by Semerksy for $700,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September sale, but went for just $110,000 when sold two years later. He was bought at Keeneland November for $110,000 by Tommy Roberts, who later sold the horse privately to Dan Hurtak and Dennis Punches last fall.

The win in the Gulfstream Mile was a bittersweet story as Punches didn’t live to see it happen.

“When [Punches] bought the horse he was 84 and had cancer,” trainer Donna Green said. “It was always his dream to own good stakes horses and it was still his dream. That’s why he was willing to buy this horse despite his age and his illness. He was not there in person Saturday, but we all know he was there in spirit.”

Green said Punches died just before last Christmas.

Conquest Big E was 12-1, but Green said she wasn’t the least bit surprised by the win.

“He’s very consistent and from the time we got him we knew he had ability,” she said. “He’s an extremely happy horse right now. When you put ability and mental happiness together, that’s the key to having a winning race horse.”


Op/Ed: What’s It Gonna Be: Big Tent or Elite Circuit?

Legislation to install USADA to oversee drug policy and enforcement in American racing very well may come to a head by year’s end.

If a bill can be enacted into law, the entire sport has a wonderful opportunity to succeed. If not, the game as we have come to know it will likely split into two distinct factions.

Consequently, all of us involved in every aspect of our mini-world of racing and breeding must answer the key question: Do we want a big tent or an elite circuit going forward?

If the bill passes, then it is very possible to include all racing venues under one tent. Everybody under that umbrella will be covered by the same rules and theoretically all compete on a level playing field.

If the bill never sees the light of day, it is highly likely that the next initiative will involve a special set of rules for either elite racing venues or graded races.

Passing a law that includes everybody involves asking all elements of our industry to agree to give up something in favor of the greater good. It means compromise in hopes of a better future for all of us. Americans have become increasingly polarized in politics and it has spilled over into our secular lives as well. So nowadays compromise seems more idealistic than realistic.

Having worked to enlighten my peers about the pervasive nature of illegal performance enhancing drugs through my writings over the last few decades and put forth a good effort on behalf of WHOA to move the legislation forward, I do not think that I am speaking out of school when I say that it has become a difficult challenge.

If the legislation fails to win approval, which I fear may very well be the case, the next logical step for those who want to improve the game is to push to have graded racing subjected to the same policies and rules that now are proposed for all races in America as called for under the proposed racing bill.

This is neither a novel idea nor a hollow threat. Just last week Timeform in a rare editorial asked the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities to stop giving graded status to American racing until drugs were eliminated.

Getting racing venues and jurisdictions on board for this reduced agenda seems quite doable. Peer pressure, appealing to participants’ sporting nature, the love of the Thoroughbred–all intangibles–would play very well among those elites that aspire to win graded races.

Those racing men and women who want to cling to the mores and rules of the past and present will find themselves facing formidable opposition to the status quo from a new breed of owner-breeder that wants to elevate the game.

I have no fear that a move to bring all graded racing under the umbrella of an enterprise that would put the horse first would be enacted.

Would it be a fight? Would tempers flare? You betcha. However, the progressive forces would prevail in the end.

But getting back to the original question of big tent vs. elite circuit, would two racing circuits with different rules be the best thing for the overall health and prosperity of the sport of Thoroughbred racing?

I don’t think so. I say bigger in this case is better. One of the best things about racing is that any Joe Schmo with a fast horse can beat a hedge fund manager with a purple-pedigreed animal. There is something more egalitarian about this aspect of the game that sets it apart from other sporting ventures.

Aside from my love of the animal itself, this David knocking off Goliath factor is what drove me toward the game, both writing about it and participating in it.

Watching a bunch of horses owned and bred by a bunch of rich people for their own amusement holds very little appeal to me personally. I am certain that I would enjoy the contests, but not the backdrop or the stories behind the horses. I guess that’s why yacht racing never appealed to me.

The problem with involving everybody is the same one America faces in its politics at present. Trying to get the so-called “haves” and “have-nots” on the same page is practically impossible. Most racing in America involves average to marginal athletes.

Owners and trainers of the “have-nots” face a difficult time keeping horses sound and think that their horses require medication just in order to get into the starting gate. They also race for much lower purses. Their interest in reining in garden variety drug use is less than the elites, who are more interested in ridding the sport of PEDs.

I am not an elite, but I aspire to race elite horses. I for one am not focused on overages of legal so-called therapeutic medication or the use of Lasix. What concerns me is the use of illegal known and unknown drugs including designer drugs that boost breathing efficiency and buffer lactic acid.

As a businessman and racing man, I want a cleaner sport for the good of the game and all of its participants except those miscreants that are always trying to take an edge. My best hope for this to happen is either through passage of the legislation or an elite private club that strictly controls what goes into the body of a horse. I am for the legislation as a businessman, but I also can live with the private club as a racing man.

Opponents of the legislation, as politicians are wont to do, try to demonize and belittle proponents of bill by employing the same tactics Right Wing politicians use to deride Liberals for their backing of initiatives to protect the environment.

Dividing members of the nationwide Thoroughbred racing industry serves no purpose other than to make the entire enterprise vulnerable to outside forces such as PETA that would like to see racing outlawed altogether.

We are living in a time when regulations are seen by those clinging to the status quo as stifling and counterproductive to business.

I humbly submit to those folks, who would abandon the quickly vanishing opportunity of seeking coverage under the big tent, that they will all be better off under it than out in the wilderness, because once graded racing is held to a higher standard, the remainder of racing will be recognized for exactly what it is.

Want to know what that is? Take a look at racing in the state of Pennsylvania.

So the choice is ours to make.

Will racing change, improve and move forward under one big tent or will the elites break off into private clubs, take the cream off the top and by doing so leave their ex-peers with their derrieres hanging out in the wind and cold?


McKinzie Out of Santa Anita Derby

‘TDN Rising Star’ McKinzie (Street Sense) has suffered a setback earlier in the week and would be forced to miss next Saturday’s GI Santa Anita Derby, according to multiple reports that emerged Saturday during the Dubai World Cup meeting.

First past the post, but subsequently controversially demoted from the victory in the GII San Felipe S. at Santa Anita Mar. 10, McKinzie had turned in two works since, including a best-of-18 five furlongs in :59.40 at Santa Anita Mar. 26. But as first reported by the Blood-Horse, the $170,000 Keeneland September yearling emerged with an issue in his hind leg that caused him to miss an amount of training that was limited, but enough to rule out a run in the Santa Anita Derby.

McKinzie’s absence could open the door for Baffert to call an audible and reroute ‘TDN Rising Star’ Justify (Scat Daddy) to Santa Anita and away from an appearance in the GI Arkansas Derby Apr. 14.


Grayson-Jockey Club, Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton Fund Vet Study

The Thoroughbred sales radiology study led by Colorado State University’s Orthopaedic Research Center veterinarians, Drs. Wayne McIlwraith, Frances Peat and Chris Kawcak, and Dr. Jeff Berk from Lexington, KY., has gained funding from the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton.

This study investigates two of the most often discussed issues at sales: radiographic findings in the proximal sesamoid bones of the fetlock, with associated suspensory branch changes, and radiographic findings in the medial femoral condyle of the stifle. The study commenced at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, involving 2,795 yearlings, and continued through the 2-year-old sales in 2017.

The Keeneland Association has committed $100,000 towards the successful completion of this work. Fasig-Tipton has made a $50,000 commitment towards the research. The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has approved a grant application submitted by the researchers for an additional $143,624.

The first phase of the study was conducted at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Consignors presenting yearlings at this sale were asked permission to include the yearlings in the radiographic and/or ultrasonographic portions of this study. The second phase of this project followed horses that had radiographs included in the study as Keeneland September yearlings, to five of the major 2-year-old sales in 2017.

The third phase of the project will follow the racing performance of these horses, culminating at the end of their 3-year-old year. Paired radiographs and ultrasound images will enable the progression, regression, or static nature of certain radiographic and ultrasonographic findings to be studied, under the conditions in which these sale horses are managed.

Click here for a previous TDN story on this project.

V is For Victory And Vazirabad

The field of 16 runners for the G2 Dubai Gold Cup boats strength in depth, with the Aga Khan’s classy treble Group 1 winner Vazirabad (Fr) (Manduro {Ger}) a strong fancy to complete this hat-trick in this contest.

He was given a sound beating in his last start in Meydan by Rare Rhythm (Ire)—one of six in the race by Dubawi (Ire)—over two furlongs shorter but staying is very much his game and we can expect him to arrive with another withering late run under the cool-headed Christophe Soumillon.

Bill and Tim Gredley’s Big Orange (GB) (Duke Of Marmalade {Ire}) has been beset with a muscle enzyme problem since arriving in Dubai, but his strong canter on Thursday morning under the watchful gaze of the father-and-son team along with trainer Michael Bell met with approval and he will again be given the chance to make all on ground which is likely to be ideal for him.

“He likes to hear his hooves rattle,” said Bell on Monday.

The long-striding Dal Harraild (GB) (Champs Elysees {GB}) looks every bit a stayer on the upgrade and is an interesting runner for William Haggas in the colours of his breeder Andrew Stone of St Albans Bloodstock, whose breeding operation has already enjoyed success at the meeting via the 2016 Dubai Sheema Classic winner Postponed (Ire) (Dubawi {Ire}).

Another to have taken the eye on the Meydan track this week while partnered by his race-rider Colm O’Donoghue is Torcedor (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}), representing the New Zealand-based Te Akau syndicate and classy dual-purpose trainer Jessica Harrington. His last two starts have seen him finish second to Order Of St George (Ire) in Group 1 company and he is surely due a top-level win of his own this year.

Romans Starts Petition to Reinstate Dutrow

Trainer Dale Romans has started an online petition asking the New York Gaming Commission to reinstate trainer Richard (Rick) Dutrow, Jr., who has served five years of a 10-year suspension first handed down in 2011. As of 2 p.m. (EDT) Thursday, 1,258 people had signed the petition, nearing its stated goal of 1,500 signatures.

“He got screwed over so bad,” Romans said. “He did not deserve 10 years. If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us. Somebody needs to stand up and help put a stop to this.”

Dutrow’s problems began when a horse he trained had a positive test for Butorphanol, a painkiller. Had that been the extent of the alleged infraction, Dutrow’s penalty would have likely been a lot less harsh. However, around the same time as the positive was reported, investigators claimed they also found three syringes loaded with a prohibited substance in the desk drawer of Dutrow’s office. Romans told TDN he believes the syringes were planted.

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist in any way, but I believe the syringes were planted in his barn,” Romans said.

Dutrow’s career had been marked by both success and controversy. He guided Big Brown (Boundary) to wins in the GI Kentucky Derby and GI Preakness S. in 2018 and admitted during the run-up to the GI Belmont S. that he treated the horse with steroids.

Even though steroid use was largely legal at the time, Dutrow’s admission brought harsh criticism from many concerned about the overuse of legal and illegal drugs in the sport and led to an eventual ban of steroids throughout the industry. Dutrow has also received numerous suspensions and fines, though most were for minor infractions. According to the website horseraceinsider.com, his only penalties for the use of illegal substances were for the Butorphanol use and a 2003 positive for Mepivacaine.

Dutrow was also known for his brash and somewhat unusual personality. He referred to virtually everyone as “babe” and seemed to not have a filter. He said what was on his mind.

“Rick is a guy who cannot tell a lie,” Romans said. “That might sound stupid. But if they ask him a question, he tells the truth and he has said he never used anything illegal. He admitted using steroids, but everyone in the game was using them at the time and they were legal.”

Then known as the New York Racing and Wagering Board, the commission announced that Dutrow’s lengthy penalty was due to “conduct at racetracks in New York State and elsewhere has been improper, obnoxious, unbecoming, and detrimental to the best interests of racing.”

Dutrow continued to train while appealing his case in both state and federal courts, but eventually exhausted all his appeals. He last started a horse on Jan. 16, 2013.

When contacted by TDN yesterday, Dutrow declined a full interview, but did answer some questions via text, saying, “I appreciate Dale’s efforts and I hope it helps me return to the job I love.”

When asked where he is currently residing, he texted back, “I’m not living, just hanging.”

In April of 2017 it was reported that Dutrow had filed for bankruptcy. Dutrow claimed to have $1.76 million in liabilities while his assets amounted to $50 cash and $12.50 he had in a joint checking account with his ex-wife. Cont. p6

Not only would Romans like to see Dutrow reinstated as soon as possible, he said he finds it hard to believe he was ever guilty in the first place.

“I know he didn’t cheat,” Romans said. “I know people think he did, but most of those people don’t understand the racing game. The thing is, he’s just so good at what he does. He never had catastrophic injury in 11 years. Anyone that hasn’t had a catastrophic injury over that long a period of time can’t be cheating. If you give horses medicines to make them go faster than they’re capable of, they’re going to blow apart. They’re going to drop over dead. They can’t handle that.

“People love to criticize, but they don’t know the facts. I would like to run into someone who thinks he cheated and have them be able to give me some evidence of that.”

Romans said he has been working for about two years to help Dutrow get his license back, talking to the Gaming Commission, attorneys and some media members. But he grew discouraged by his lack of progress.

“We kept running into dead ends, so we thought we’d take this public,” he said. “We worked with his attorney to take this public to show the powers that be in New York that this isn’t right, that they ought to at least take another look at this. He’s done enough time with the time served. Let the man go back to work.”

Romans alleges Dutrow’s personality played a role in the Racing and Wagering Board’s decision.

“He got 10 years because people didn’t like him,” he said.

According to the website that is home to the petition, MLB Executive, former New York Yankee manager and horse owner Joe Torre wrote the commission in support of Dutrow’s return. Dutrow trained several horses for Torre.

Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado was among those to sign the petition and he added the following in the comment section: “A great horseman, very dedicated to his horses. I think they need to review and reconsider. It’s been a long time.”

New York Gaming Commission spokesman Brad Maione declined to comment on Romans’s allegations.

History Awaits Golden Boy Vazirabad

DUBAI, UAE—A 6-year-old gelding with 11 Group wins to his name and 13 in total has very little left to prove, but when Vazirabad (Fr) (Manduro {Ger}) lines up for Saturday’s G2 Dubai Gold Cup he has history to make. No horse in the 22-year span of the Dubai World Cup meeting has ever won in three consecutive years but the Aga Khan’s homebred is currently a very short-priced favourite to do just that.

This year, however, it could be harder than ever, with a high-class field assembled to take him on at Meydan, including the Ascot Gold Cup winner Big Orange (GB) (Duke Of Marmalade {Ire}). The Godolphin flagbearer Rare Rhythm (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), who got the better of Vazirabad on his first run for 130 days back on March 1 in the G3 Nad Al Sheba Trophy, is another of the six of the first seven home in that race, run over two furlongs shorter than the two-mile Gold Cup, who will meet again on Saturday.

“What happens in the race, the tactics of the race, will be very important for him,” says trainer Alain de Royer Dupre as the sun rises over the main track at Meydan and Vazirabad completes an easy canter behind his lead horse Canndera (Fr) with just over two days to go until his date with destiny.

“I think we have three big opponents: Big Orange, Torcedor—he looks very good—and Charlie Appleby’s horse [Rare Rhythm]. He beat him very easily but the distance is longer this time and there wasn’t enough pace for Vazirabad that day. But it’s always difficult to win the same race three times.”

In Vazirabad’s early days, it was perhaps difficult for the trainer to imagine that he would win even one race, let alone a prestigious contest on the other side of the world. Unraced at two, Vazirabad was reluctant to participate initially. A gelding operation helped slowly to change his mind, though when he eventually consented to race he finished an unpromising sixth of nine on debut in the May of his 3-year-old season.

“The second time he raced he was second but after that he won seven races—bang, bang, bang,” de Royer-Dupre recalls.

That septet of wins included his Dubai Gold Cup debut when making his first start after winning the G1 Prix Royal-Oak the previous October. The following season, he preceded his Gold Cup appearance with a second-place finish to a Godolphin runner, Beautiful Romance (GB). Omen-seekers will take comfort in the fact that he subsequently overhauled the filly in the Gold Cup, with Sheikhzayedroad (GB) and Big Orange back in the minor places.

On the track in the mornings, Vazirabad, though gelded and now a grown-up, still doesn’t look the most straightforward of rides, often carrying his head askew and cocking his jaw. His trainer heaps praise on the horse’s regular rider Eric Alloix, who helps keep at bay his wayward tendencies of old.

De Royer-Dupre says, “He’s not difficult to train. In fact, he’s very amusing. When he’s with his normal rider he does the minimum and is relaxed. If you put another rider on him he’s completely different. It’s incredible. He knows the job and he’s very intelligent. If you change his routine he is not happy. He likes to have a say in what’s happening.”

There’s a twinkle in the trainer’s eye as he speaks and, despite a list of major race victories around the world, de Royer-Dupre clearly has a fondness for the equine rascal.

He adds, “It’s so different to train a horse for a long time because we know everything about him. It’s very easy to understand what he likes and what he is capable of doing. We are like a couple.”

Indeed, having a horse in training through to the age of six for his principal owner the Aga Khan is unusual. Dolniya (Fr) (Azamour {Ire}) stayed in training at four to give de Royer-Dupre the first of three consecutive wins at Dubai’s biggest meeting when winning the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic in 2015. Since then, the trainer, the Aga Khan Studs’ French manager Georges Rimaud and racing manager Nemone Routh have been regular visitors to the UAE in March.

“In quiet times it keeps the flag up there and it gives us the opportunity to travel a bit,” says Rimaud. “From the breeding perspective this is not necessarily what we look for but for racing it’s really nice to have a horse like Vazirabad who carries on. Generally in racing we are so quick to take them out of training at three.”

For Visorama (Ire), the Jean-Luc Lagardere-bred dam of Vazirabad who has inherited his grey coat from his paternal sire Linamix (Fr), there have been lean times since producing her most talented son. However, on the way through she has a 2-year-old colt by the pensioned Sinndar (Ire) and a yearling colt by Charm Spirit (Ire). Her loyalty to the home team at Haras de Bonneval continues with her covering sire for 2017, the G1 Prix Ganay winner Dariyan (Fr), another graduate of de Royer-Dupre’s training establishment.

While his young half-brothers wait in the wings, Vazirabad should continue to provide some high-class outings for his entourage.

“I think it could be good timing to go to Ascot for the Gold Cup this year but only if the weather is not too hot,” says his trainer. “It’s such a demanding track and I don’t want to injure the horse because he’s very generous and I don’t want to ask too much. And now that the Goodwood Cup is a Group 1 that could be a good one for him as you have to be malleable to race at Goodwood and you have a long straight for the finish.”

De Royer-Dupre will not be asking his old friend, consistent though he is, to take a shot at winning the inaugural Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million, which was launched on Monday.

He says, “It’s impossible because we have to go for the preparation race in England and then come back. If you like your horse it’s too much to ask. I would prefer to have a preparation race in France and then to go for the big one [Ascot Gold Cup] in England after that. It’s not easy to move all the time, especially travelling when it’s hot. It takes up a lot of a horse’s energy.”

With the mercury predicted to nudge the 35-degree mark in Dubai on Saturday, Vazirabad will need every ounce of Gallic sangfroid he can muster. In Christophe Soumillon, his partner for every stakes victory, including three Group 1 wins in France, he has found the perfect ally with whom to keep calm and carry on into the history books.