Honey Creek Farms

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Super Derby Grade Reinstated After Move Back to Dirt

The Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, which lost its Grade III status for 2017 when it was switched to the turf, has been reinstated as a Grade III for 2018 by the American Graded Stakes Committee after it was announced that it would return to its previous dirt surface. “The committee has reviewed this change from 2017, and has determined that because the race will be reverting to its historical conditions after only one year as a turf race and has run under those historical conditions in two of the last three years, the race’s Grade III status will be reinstated for 2018,” a release explained.

Waikato Stud 2018 Roster Released

The six-strong roster and fees for the 2018 season of New Zealand-based Waikato Stud were announced early Friday morning. New Zealand champion sire Savabeel (Aus) (Zabeel {NZ}), who has a quintet of new Group 1 winners during the 2017-2018 season is standing for a private fee. The sire of 17 Group 1 winners stood for NZ$100,000 last year. Veteran champion sire Pins (Aus) (Snippets) is New Zealand’s leading living broodmare sire, with his daughters responsible for 28 black-type winners already, and his fee has been set at NZ$25,000. Ocean Park (NZ) (Thorn Park {Aus}), who sired G1 New Zealand Derby runner-up Mongolianconqueror (NZ) with his oldest foals just 3-year-olds, will command NZ$30,000, while Sacred Falls (NZ) (O’Reilly {NZ}), whose oldest foals are yearlings, is also set at NZ$30,000. Tivaci (NZ) (High Chaparral {Ire}) is slated for NZ$20,000 and is expecting his first foals and the roster is rounded off by Rock ‘n’ Pop (Aus) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) at NZ$9,000.

“We are extremely proud and overwhelmed by the success and popularity of Savabeel and we are conscious of the numbers and book we will commit him to this season,” said stud principal Mark Chittick. “The Savabeel syndicate will therefore be managing the numbers and book he will serve from this season on and his book will be private going forward.”

Uncle Mo Colt Tops Revamped Barretts Sale

DEL MAR, Ca – The Barretts Spring 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, which combined the company’s traditional two juvenile auctions for the first time, was topped Wednesday by a $600,000 son of Uncle Mo. West Point Thoroughbreds’ Terry Finley made the winning bid on hip 14, who was consigned by Eddie Woods.

In all, 74 horses sold Wednesday at Del Mar for a total of $6,421,000. The average was $86,770 and the median was $50,000. Of the 170 catalogued head, 54 were withdrawn and 42 failed to sell for a buy-back rate of 36.2%.

“Like it is across the country, the highly desirable horses are easy to sell,” said Barretts General Manager Kim Lloyd. “There are people after them, there is a lot of competition for them. But for the horses that the market isn’t fond of, it’s tough sledding. We saw that again today.”

Nine horses sold for $200,000 or over during Wednesday’s auction. At last year’s final Barretts March Select Sale, 12 juveniles reached that mark with a top price of $675,000. The top price at last year’s final May sale, and only horse over $200,000, was $245,000. The 2017 March median was $100,000 and the May median was $27,500.

Barretts combined the two auctions in an attempt to present buyers with a larger catalogue of potential purchases and sellers with a broader buying base to market their product.

“I didn’t have any negative comments about combining the sale,” Lloyd said. “Actually everybody was positive about it, the consignors and the buyers. We had a bigger catalogue–and everybody likes that. We had a huge turnout at the preview, we had a great turnout in the barn area and even here at the sale today there was a big turnout. The market determines the prices on the horses. But everything was in place today.”

Of the combined marketplace, Lloyd added, “I think it opens the door for opportunities to sell a horse. I really do. I saw it today.”

West Point Strikes Early for Uncle Mo Colt

West Point Thoroughbreds provided the early fireworks at Barretts Wednesday, seeing off a pair of challengers to secure a colt by Uncle Mo for $600,000. Consigned by Eddie Woods, hip 14 is a California-bred 2-year-old out of Fresia (El Prado {Ire}), a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner His Race to Win (Stormy Atlantic).

“I thought he was a beautiful horse,” West Point’s Terry Finley said after signing the ticket on the colt alongside bloodstock agent David Ingordo. “I thought he was a horse that would have fit in either of the first two sales [OBS March or Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale] we came to. The fact that he is a California-bred, that was just icing on the cake. He was a very special horse.”

West Point has a group of promising prospects by Coolmore’s Uncle Mo and Finley said he is quickly becoming a fan of the stallion.

“We like Uncle Mo–this class of 35 horses that we are going to come to the races with, we have four Uncle Mos. So I am starting to warm up to Uncle Mo a little bit more than I was.”

Finley added West Point may eventually have additional partners on the bay colt, who will be trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

“There should be a couple of others, but I don’t know who is going to come in yet,” Finley said. “We’ll try to figure that out.”

The juvenile, who was bred by Bar C Racing Stables, was making his second trip through the Barretts sales ring. He was purchased by Woods’s Quarter Pole Enterprises for $60,000 at last year’s Barretts Select Yearling Sale.

“He was a spectacular horse who worked well,” said Woods. “He is a beautiful-looking horse who has been uncomplicated all year.”

Woods continued, “He had a little blemish, that he still has, on a sesamoid. When we vetted him, we sent the X-rays to a lot of different vets around the country for multiple opinions and everyone was very comfortable with it. So we were good to go.”

Of the colt’s quarter-mile work in :21 1/5, Woods admitted, “I thought he might actually go a bit quicker. But we weren’t on the same track that we usually work on. This was a little bit of a slower track, a very forgiving track, but a couple of ticks slower than what we’ve seen in the past. And he wasn’t quite ready to work on that kind of track that far, but because he has natural talent, he did.”

Neal and Pam Christopherson’s Oregon-based Bar C Racing Stables purchased Fresia, with this Uncle Mo foal in utero, for $35,000 at the 2015 Keeneland November sale. Fresia had no reported foal in 2017 and was bred back to Harbor the Gold.

Into Mischief Colt to Zedan

Bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill, bidding on behalf of Amr Zedan, went to $450,000 to secure a colt by Into Mischief from the supplemental catalogue of the Barretts Spring Sale Wednesday at Del Mar. The youngster, who was withdrawn from last month’s OBS March sale due to a minor setback, was rerouted to the Barretts sale and showed up in Southern California with a co-bullet furlong work in :10 flat Monday.

“We thought he was the best colt in the sale and you can’t beat Into Mischief right now,” O’Neill said. “We were prepared to go a little higher–I was kind of surprised it stopped where it stopped. He was an absolutely gorgeous horse. His breeze was great and we got him galloping out really good. We’re extremely excited to have him to say the least.”

Consigned by Ciaran Dunne’s Wavertree Stables, hip 167 is out of Cape Discovery (Cape Town). He was purchased by Ron Fein’s Superfine Farms for $110,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale. Superfine already had a pinhooking score on the juvenile sales season this year. The operation purchased a colt by Fed Biz for $160,000 at the Keeneland September sale and the youngster sold for $725,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale.

O’Neill purchased subsequent ‘TDN Rising Star’ Saudi Chroma (Lucky Pulpit) for $360,000 on behalf of Zedan at last year’s Barretts March sale. The fledgling Zedan Racing Stable will be represented by Tyfosha (Flatter) in Saturday’s GI Ashland S. and by Shane Zain (Medaglia d’Oro) in the GII Lexington S.

“He’s just trying to compete at the top and we thought this was the best colt in here. That’s what he wants to buy,” O’Neill said of Zedan’s business plan.

Hip 167, who has been stabled with the Wavertree horses in Barn D on Del Mar’s backside, will only have a short trip to trainer Doug O’Neill’s barn at the oceanside oval.

“He will go four barns over, he’ll stay here at Del Mar,” Dennis O’Neill confirmed.

Rockingham Ranch Takes Charge

Bloodstock agent Raymie Lightner, bidding on behalf of Gary Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch, signed the ticket at $335,000 to secure a filly (hip 109) from the first crop of Grade I winner Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song). The chestnut filly is out of multiple stakes winner and multiple graded stakes placed Trip for A. J. (Trippi). She was consigned by Becky Thomas’s Sequel Bloodstock.

“From the start, she stood out,” said Lightner. “She looked good on the track–she galloped out strong and looked good doing it. And she had great conformation. There was nothing not to like about her. She was the one we zeroed in on from the start. We are tickled to death to have. She did it all for us.”

Peter Miller will train the filly for Rockingham Ranch. Hartunian’s operation, which won a pair of Breeders’ Cup races last fall, had the second and third-place finishers in last weekend’s G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen and the runner-up in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint.

Also this spring, Rockingham has added a colt by Kantharos (hip 368), purchased for $410,000 at OBS March, and a Medaglia d’Oro colt (hip 95) purchased for $50,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale, to its roster.

The Will Take Charge filly, bred by Lynn Schiff, was purchased by Thomas and Al Pike for $100,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton July Yearling Sale.

Solis is All Smiles for Cal-bred Colt

Bloodstock agent Alex Solis, bidding on behalf of a partnership that will include the Roth family’s LNJ Foxwoods, went to $200,000 to secure a colt by Smiling Tiger during Wednesday’s Barretts sale. Out of Perfect Feat (Pleasantly Perfect), hip 63 is a full-brother to stakes winner Spiced Perfection and he worked a co-bullet in :10 flat Monday at Del Mar.

“He breezed really well, he is a big-striding, efficient horse,” Solis said of the colt’s appeal. “He galloped out really well. He’s very well-balanced. And he’s a full to a nice horse.”

Solis continued, “I think, for a Cal-bred, he’ll be a lot of fun to have. The Cal-bred program is so great now. We are breeding Straight Fire (Dominus) in California right now for that exact reason. This is a good way for them to get a taste for the Cal-bred market.”

Multiple Grade I placed Straight Fire was campaigned by a partnership which included Jungle Racing, LNJ Foxwoods and KMN Racing. He now stands at Legacy Ranch.

Hip 63 was consigned by Havens Bloodstock Agency on behalf of breeder Premier Thoroughbreds, which purchased Perfect Feat for $7,500 at the 2014 Barretts January sale. Owned by Phil Lebherz, the burgeoning Premier Thoroughbreds matched that result later in the sale when hip 75, a filly by Violence brought $200,000 from Blinkers On Racing Stable.

Solis said he was happy with Barretts’ new combined 2-year-old in training sale.

“It’s much better having more horses,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing. I think they need to build on it still, but it’s a good start. They are selling horses for a lot of money still.”



Woodside Park Announces 2018 Roster & Fees

Victoria-based Woodside Park Stud has announced their 2018 roster and fees, reported ANZ Bloodstock News early Thursday. Led by Written Tycoon (Aus) (Iglesia {Aus}) at A$110,000–he commanded A$88,000 in 2017–the roster is augmented by Written Tycoon’s son Rich Enuff (Aus) at A$12,100 and shuttler Cable Bay (Ire) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), who will stand for A$13,200. The four-strong roster is rounded out by MG1SW Tosen Stardom (Jpn) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), who is still in training. His fee will be announced later.

“Woodside’s 2018 stallion roster will have worldwide appeal to broodmare owners with bloodlines from international superstars and colonial speed, with proven champions and promising, exciting young stallions,” Woodside Park Stud Commercial General Manager James Price told ANZ. “Woodside Park Stud is proud to support and grow the Victorian breeding industry, and being passionately Victorian-owned, they believe Written Tycoon will continue to play a pivotal role in the success of the Victorian industry for the rest of his breeding career.

The chestnut’s son Written By (Aus) saluted in the 2018 G1 Blue Diamond S., and was a strong fourth in the G1 Golden Slipper S. Written Tycoon has already sired champion juvenile colt and Golden Slipper hero Capitalist (Aus).

“It’s highly likely that Written By will be awarded champion Australian 2-year-old colt,” he continued. “This will place Written Tycoon in elite company, joining Redoute’s Choice (Aus) as one of only two stallions to have sired two champion 2-year-old colts in Australia in the last 20 years.

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.