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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.

 

 



Into Mischief Colt Brings $1.2m from Larry Best

Larry Best’s OXO Equine came out on top for a $1.2-million 2-year-old colt by Into Mischief at Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Wednesday.

He is the second foal out of the winning Lawyer Ron mare Assets of War. His second dam is GSW Added Asset (Lord At War {Arg}). Irish Smoke (Smoke Glacken), winner of the 2007 GI Spinaway S., appears under the third dam.

The :10 flat bullet breezer brought $190,000 as a yearling from Eddie Woods’s Quarter Pole Enterprises at last year’s FTKJUL sale. Hip 77, bred in Kentucky by Stoneway Farm, was consigned by Eddie Woods, Agent XVIII.



No International Campaign For Winx

Australia’s 17-time Group 1 winner and the world’s co-highest rated horse, Winx (Aus) (Street Cry {Ire}), will not embark on an international campaign this year, trainer Chris Waller announced on Wednesday. The mare will race next in the G1 Queen Elizabeth S. at The Championships on Apr. 14.

“Following lengthy discussions between the owners, [jockey] Hugh Bowman and I, it has been decided that Winx will remain in Australia following the Queen Elizabeth S. and not embark on an international campaign,” Waller said. “It is our plan to continue to race her into the spring and hopefully Australia can play host to international visitors during our carnival. We are humbled by the level of support, respect and compassion that has been offered by the international representatives looking to attract Winx and congratulate each of them on the professionalism displayed  towards us during this process.”

“As a group we have all held ambitions to travel horses internationally and it has been our dream to have  a horse race in front of Her Majesty The Queen at Royal Ascot, however this decision is not about us and must be based on the best interests of Winx.”



ERA Horses in Training Sale Held

The Emirates Racing Authority held its single-session Horses-In-Training Sale on Monday, which grossed AED3,041,500 (US$828,182/£585,084/€667,730). Topping proceedings was Galvanize (lot 18a), who sold for AED525,000 (US$142,954/£100,998/€115,260) to Hamid Radan.

By Medaglia d’Oro, the four-time winner is out of MGSW Enthused (Seeking the Gold) and originally brought 48,000gns from Abdul Mohsen Al Abdul Kareem back in the 2016 Tattersalls October Autumn Horses in Training Sale. The Kentucky-bred has recently saluted twice at Meydan, winning a pair of 1600-metre dirt handicaps on Nov. 9 and Dec. 7, respectively for Kareem and trainer Doug Watson. He is a half-brother to GSW Norman Invader (War Chant) and to the dam of G3 Tercentenary S. scorer Energizer (Ger) (Monsun {Ger}). G1 Coronation S. heroine Magic of Life (Seattle Slew) is the 5-year-old entire’s second dam, while triple GI Pattison Canadian International S. hero Joshua Tree (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}) and South African MG1SW Inara (SAf) (Trippi) also trace to her.

Lot 60, MGSW Le Bernardin (Bernardini) was the second dearest lot on the day and will be joining the Russian stallion ranks. The 9-year-old was purchased by Zalim Kashirgou for AED220,000 (US$59,904/£42,317/€48,296). Successful in Monmouth’s GIII Pegasus S. in 2012, the half-brother to GSW Taittinger Rose (Menifee) captured the 2016 and 2017 runnings of the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 1 in 23 starts, but has not been seen in action this season. The $325,000 2010 FTSAR yearling’s second dam is GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies victress Twilight Ridge (Cox’s Ridge).



The Player Undergoes Surgery, Bradley Hopeful

Carl Hurst and “Buff” Bradley’s The Player (Street Hero) underwent extensive surgery Monday at the Louisiana State University Farm and Large Animal Veterinary Services clinic and emerged from the procedure in fine condition, owner/trainer Bradley reported on Facebook Monday night. The 5-year-old chestnut, who has become a fan-favorite in recent years due to his unique temperament, fractured two sesamoids in his right front during the running of Saturday’s GII New Orleans H. at the Fair Grounds and was quickly pulled up by jockey Calvin Borel.

“Great news so far,” Bradley wrote after a day spent at the Baton Rouge facility. “Surgery went well and they have put a plate and 16 screws in his leg. This took well over seven hours and getting up took another few hours (I did tell the vet he will stay down as long as he could). Dr. McCauley and his staff at LSU have done a wonderful job in a complicated surgery.”

The Player won over fans with his tendency to sit upright in his stall as a 3-year-old in 2016–a year which saw him run second in the GII Indiana Derby in his stakes debut. A strong 2017 campaign saw him breakthrough with a win in the GII Hagyard Fayette S. at Keeneland last autumn, and the homebred added a second graded success to his resume with a score in the GIII Mineshaft H. Feb. 17. The Player led the New Orleans through a half-mile in :48.18 before backing away and sustaining the injury.

“I am a bit emotional after seeing him stand on his own and bearing weight on all four legs and then walking to his stall,” Bradley continued Monday. “Now we have to hope for no infections and that no laminitis sets in. Keep praying (it’s working), as he still has a long way to go.”

Bradley noted that The Player displayed his usual fondness for peppermints and said he will pay his stable star a subsequent visit Tuesday.




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