Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pending Article - Question, Has the Breeders Cup become too much of a focal point for Horse Racing?

Has the Breeders Cup become too much of a focal point for Horse Racing?

Friday, June 8, 2012

I'll Have Another is Scratched from the Belmont

In some of the most shocking news to ever have to report, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Winner, I'll have another has been officially taken out of consideration for the Belmont and a possible date with history in winning the Triple Crown. 

The horse who went out at 5:30 this morning to gallop, apparently came back off and its being stated that he has a tendon injury.  Press Conference will be held at 1:00 PM today that will include his owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O'neill.

In all of my years as a horse racing fan, I dont think i've ever felt this much disappointment over news in the industry.

The air has been let out of the Ballon.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

WillHooksfromtheBronx's Troubled Career

Breaking News - Daily Racing Form is reporting on their website that WillHooksfromtheBronx, finished a 2 mile workout in 15 minutes.  WillHooksfromtheBronx was guided to the outside rail for his workout as many other workers were finishing their 2 minute lick workouts (Two-minute lick: To gallop at a rate of a mile in two minutes) According to NYRA sources WillHooksfromtheBronx is a 31 year old horse out of a top quality pedigreed family.  Unfortunately WillHooksfromtheBronx has missed time on the track due to numerous issues, and even underwent Shock Wave Therapy, the same procedure that was undertaken by the Triple Crown possible contender I'llHaveAnother.

WillHooksfromtheBronx was last listed on the work tab at Belmont Park on May 19th going 6f in 5:30 4/5, again steered to the outside rail by his exercise jockey.  NYRA has had numerous vets take a look at WillHooksfromtheBronx to verify that he is race worthy, each time the colt has failed vet exams, and it's taken a great deal of paperwork and pleading with NYRA officials to put the horse on the work tab.

WillHooksfromtheBronx has no trainer of record, rumors are that he was in the barn of Doug O'Neill, Rick Dutrow Jr, and Lou Pena, all trainers with notorious records of drug/medication violations.  NYRA did confirm that the colt did finish up the last half mile of the workout on the back of a Mercedes Benz golf cart driven by P-Diddy and Jay-Z who were both at the track to watch workouts this morning with the Owner of 2010 Juvi Champion Uncle Mo.

From all indications WillHooksfromtheBronx did make it back to his stall and is undergoing Physical Therapy, well also Mental Therapy at this time also.

Stay Tuned to DRF for more news on this late breaking situation.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Path of least resistance no more, This is called a Vendetta.

Go back to July of 2011, Havre De Grace was giving two pounds to Blind Luck in the Delaware Handicap. She lost that race. Now in an attempt to complete a personal vendetta against the Racing Secretary of both tracks, Pat Pope, Rick Porter has "cowardly" decided to duck Plum Pretty due to giving 6 lbs to a filly that has not made a start in 2012.

This is what is ruining horse racing, Zenyatta's people did similar by only facing the best available in 3 of 20 races, Rachel Alexandra's owner did the same in 2010 when she was struggling to find form, and now the reigning Horse of the Year Havre De Grace will take a pass on a Grade 1 Apple Blossom to run in a less impressionable Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill and then will likely follow that up with a run in the O'beah at Del Park to get ready to run in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap.

True fans of horse racing know that greatness as defined in this game is winning Grade 1 races and winning at 10 furlongs and carrying weight, which is something that Havre De Grace has yet to do in 2012. For her career she is 0-3 at 10 furlongs and has only 3 Grade 1 wins to her credit, where as at the same time Blind Luck had 6 Grade 1 wins mid season her 4 year old season.

I glanced at the rockport site and I noticed one poster stated that "Thanx to Pat Pope Havre De Grace will not be running in the Apple Blossom.", I also saw where Rick Porter stated at Blood Horse that he wants a letter of explanation giving reason why she got the 6 lbs from HDG, to my memory this is not how horse racing works, people don't make statements like this and racing secretaries don't send letters explaining why they weighted horses a certain way.

From what I understand Bobby Frankel was one that certainly gave indication that weights would be reason to scratch a horse out of a race, and did so to always get the biggest advantage possible in that regard.  It would seem to me though that Frankel most likely did this in a very classy way, giving indication in a subtle way that if the weights were right he would not run.  I don't believe I recall Frankel feeling the need to send sound bytes to and DRF about the weights, and then the owner feeling the need to do the same.  This my friends is in my opinion "Classless" with a capital "C", its an embarrassment to great horses of the past who were asked like Curlin to tote 128 and Zenyatta 129 numerous times.

But make no mistake, Charles Cella was not about to be held hostage with the same Bush League tactics that Rick Porter used in asking Fair Grounds to increase the purse of their meaningless New Orleans Ladies race a month ago. Mr. Cella had no issue calling out Jess Jackson when he ducked Zenyatta back in 2010, whatever the reason, and he will likely tell everyone that the same holds true for the weights that Pat Pope released for the Apple Blossom.  Pat Pope has a job to do and that's the bring the horses down the stretch and get them as close together at the finish line as he can, in a Handicap Race.  He did that back in 2011 with BL and HDG at Delaware, and likely did Bob Baffert an injustice by only giving the filly who has yet to make a start in 2012 6 lbs.  I am sure that Mr. Pope who gained a great deal of respect by not bending and changing the way things are done to appease one man.

In my estimation the weights for the Apple Blossom should have looked like this:
HDG 126
Awesome Maria 124
Plum Pretty 118
Its Tricky 119

The fact that Porter stated he advised Baffert at a sale that he would not give PP 10 lbs was well, a hint that he didnt want to give her 10 lbs, never mention of 6 lbs, so what was Pat Pope to do, was he to call Charles Cella and ask his thoughts on making them co-high-weights. This a filly with all of 1 Grade 1 win, and coming off a 5 month layoff.  The naive nature of this situation is something that can and most likely will turn a number of people against the Fox Hill Farm connections.  Larry Jones and Rick Porter both have been uncharacteristically vocal about weights since the loss in the Del Cap.  At the time if the 2 lbs were unfair it would have been a good business decision to scratch out of the Grade 2, because a number of people agreed the weights were slightly unfair due to their records.  There is no need to attempt 9 months later to complete your vendetta against Pat Pope and another track, and lose your fan-base and your charge the chance of adding a black type Grade 1 victory to her resume.

Going forward, let me say Kudos to Oaklawn Park and Charles Cella and Pat Pope, they stayed consistent to the meaning of championship racing, and stayed loyal to the sanctity of the game, no one horse, and no one egotistical owner or trainer is bigger than the game and or bigger than the track and a very significant race like the Apple Blossom.  Oaklawn Park was not going to be taken hostage by the connections of Fox Hill Farm, and so they can now take their ball and their filly and go play else where.  What will need to be recalled though, is that Pat Pope is the Racing Secretary still at Delaware Park, its my hope that for this 10 furlong affair, that Havre De Grace is weighted 8-10 lbs more than her foes, and then allow Rick Porter to make decisions.  Run your filly or Run and Hide, there are plenty more New Orleans Ladies and O'beah stakes out there for you to run HDG in..

It is my hope that Royal Delta is fit and ready to run against HDG in the middle distance races the rest of the summer, and I look forward to Awesome Maria showing up at the same tracks that HDG does also, to give Porter an indication as to what it will be like to carry weight against the likes of other multiple Grade 1 winners, not the Absentminded's and Tiz Miss Sue's of the world, and see what its like to have to earn these Grade 1 wins, or there is the Zenyatta route, ship her out west and take down the weakest races he can find out there.

Either way, let me end by saying, either race your horse or allow the filly to retire.  HOY is all but out of the window for Havre De Grace this year, too much negative media and the wrong type of publicity.  It would seem that thoughts and perception of the connections of this filly have changed for the worst at this time, due to the way that she is being campaigned and the constant media blitz by her connections. And none of this has been or is positive.

This is a travesty and I hope that we will not have to hear about weights all year long. I personally feel embarrassed to have been a fan of FHF, with this amazing about face in the way in which they handle themselves.

GO Royal Delta

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ode To Grace

What is Havre De Grace to this writer, this fan? I believe at this point this filly is pretty much the center of my racing world, and with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic she will be a landslide winner of Horse of the Year and the most talked about horse in training and possibly reach status that only the Black Caviers, Golidkovas, Rachel Alexandras, and Zenyattas were able to achieve.  Let’s go back just a bit to get an understanding of the importance that Havre De Grace, we’ll call her Gracie, has had on the game of horse racing as a whole in 2011, on the lives of her connections and fans also.
2010 was a very good year for the filly, stepping into a rivalry with Blind Luck the talented little filly from California started a following of this rivalry that we’ve never seen before, why you might ask.  Mostly because we’ve not seen a rivalry of this nature actually takes place on the track here in the United States.  Tackling Blind Luck 4 times in 2010, Gracie lost to Blind Luck twice and beat her once, and both lost the Ladies Classic to Unrivaled Belle at Churchill Downs.  Being totally honest about things, although I followed her races in 2010, it wasn’t until the news that she was being turned over to Larry Jones and headed to my home track Oaklawn that I really took notice of the filly.  After being given ample time to rest and recharge her batteries after her sophomore season, Havre De Grace started her training at Oaklawn in the most bizarre of fashions. You could say very lazily.  Her 4 furlong work over the Oaklawn course was slow, quite slow, how slow you might ask, slow enough that Jones worked her again 4 days later.  This is the type of training that makes Larry Jones stand out as a true horseman; he doesn’t plug in numbers into a database or spreadsheet to get an indication as to when a horse should work.  He looked at how Gracie got nothing at all out of the slow breeze and decided they would not wait another 6  days.  This type of thinking is impressive and not seen nowadays, this trainer was going to make sure that his horse was fit going into her prep, even if that meant asking a bit more than what was normal.  The rest as they say is history.  6 starts later, 5 wins-3 in Grade 1 races and we are looking at the completion of one of the great campaigns by a filly or mare.
The statement that Gracie had a great deal to do with reviving a year of racing that to many was going to fail miserably when compared to the past few years is an understatement.   The outlook was bleak as the defending Horse of the Year and 2009 Horse of the years both fillies or mares were retired in 2010. That left a weak handicap division and still developing 3 year olds with much potential but with very little ability to bring attention to the sport other than the Triple Crown.  With the departure of Uncle Mo from the Triple Crown trail that left two horses that would battle it out for supremacy.  And in the end the best horse, the horse that was giving time to rest in the correct manner, and the horse that was campaigned as a champion in Gracie is still thriving.
For me personally, Gracie has meant everything and the fact that I have been privileged to enter the winner’s Circle for both of her victories at Oaklawn meant the world to me.  It was amazing to be close to her like that, to be in the presence of greatness.  Now don’t get me wrong it would take quite the filly, no quite the horse to tear me away from the love of the Greatest filly I’ve every seen in person in Rachel Alexandra. But Havre De Grace is certainly knocking on the door of that type of greatness.  
As I get ready to embark on my trip to the Breeders Cup in Louisville in a few hours, I think back to the many wonderful memories of 2011 and what a spectacular year this has been, and I look forward to 2012 with anticipation.  First things first though, there is some unfinished business that must be attended to by many of my favorites this weekend, but none more than the Super Star Filly, Havre De Grace.  I want to thank her owner Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm for allowing us to fall in love with this filly and even more so for campaigning her in a way that will allow her to show her greatness and class to the world.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Havre De Grace finishes Beldame Preparations

Leading Horse of the Year Candidate, Havre De Grace put the finishing touches on her preparations for Belmont Park's Grade 1 Beldame at Delaware Park this morning.  Completing a 5 furlong workout in 1:02.20.  The daughter of 2005 Horse of the Year, Saint Liam has won 4 out of 5 races in 2011, previously taking down handicap males in the 2011 edition of the Historic Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. 
Havre De Grace will carry 123 lbs when facing possible rivals: Royal Delta, Its Tricky, Superespresso, Payton D'oro and 2010 Beldame winner Life at Ten. 
Havre De Grace is owned by Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farm and Trained by Larry Jones.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Simply Put -Opportunity Missed

By: Wesley D. White

Will this continue to be the statement made regarding horse racing? Will the leaders that govern the game of horse racing continue to drop the ball? The spectacle that is The Triple Crown, The Breeders Cup, in America at least seem to be so far removed from the reality of the way that this great sport should be treated. Curlin Vs Big Brown, Rachel Alexandra Vs Zenyatta, and now Havre De Grace vs. Blind Luck. Rivalries that either never materialized on the track or while being contested on the track have gone virtually unheard and ignored by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.

The decree from the NTRA and its governing body and many others in the industry is that people are not there in the stands to support the sport. People don’t put their money into the product, but what product are we supplying them. What mainstream publicity & marketing is there to hold on to as fans, and non fans of the sport?

Thinking back to 2008 when Big Brown was making his splash on the national scene, the publicity was horrible for his group of owners, they were viewed as crooks. Then to be trained by a conditioner with a laundry list of violations as long as most convicts rap sheets didn’t help the situation. But a budding rivalry was there for the taking. Curlin the defending HOY and top rated horse in the world was going about his business, as consistent as ever, Big Brown going into the Derby and Preakness undefeated stubbed his toe a bit in the Belmont, but lost nothing in defeat, he was a champion race horse. And what did the NTRA and their governing bodies do to put these two competitors on the national stage & on the track. Absolutely nothing, we know there was plenty of banter as Rick Dutrow talked the talk, remember his statement after the Haskell win, "Curlin couldn't win the Derby, we could, Curlin couldn't win [the Haskell], we could. Curlin got beat [by] a filly. We haven't. Our horse is undefeated on the grass. Curlin isn't. I don't know why people think Curlin is such a good horse. We're way better than Curlin."

Jess Jackson principle owner of Curlin came back in a statement and showed his hand when saying: "I don't know that there is any horse his equal right now and I loved to match Big Brown," said Jess Jackson, owner of Curlin. "I never thought he (Big Brown) was as good but I've always wanted to find out? At the wire you find out. That's when you know what you have."

So the setting was there, the table was set everything was in place for the NTRA to communicate with both sets of connections, set up the race, there were plenty of options and ample time before the Breeders Cup for the two warriors to square off a couple of times before the Cup. The Woodward run at Saratoga and the JCGC run at Belmont were both the most logical spots, and that is where champion horses run. But there was no movement by the NTRA or anyone else for that matter; they both went their separate ways. We all know what happened, as BB suffered an injury and Curlin finished out his career at Santa Anita in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

What are we to make of these developments, or the lack there of? Well the industry is suffering, and it seems as if someone is waiting for some miracle to occur that fixes the problem. Instead of being proactive and jumping at the opportunity to put our stars on the front page of the media and engage the general public, those that govern horse racing figure that it should stand on it’s on. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, and what better way to invigorate the industry than to start with the body that governs horse racing. The game previously was for the older, upper class citizens who would spend their time and money at racetracks across the country. It seems as if this is the demographic of those on the committees making decisions for the ntra. I would see the need for some younger blood or move innovative thinking members to take the reins. Forward thinking, now that’s a concept that we’ve not seen in a very long time, anticipating what might work out much better in the future. Therefore putting a vice grip on the younger audience and those women that have always thought that horse racing was a man’s pastime.

Innovative thinking is what propels great companies to do even greater things in the future. Innovative thinking means making it more attractive to place your horse in a certain race to run against another that would be considered a rival. The NTRA could step in and state that if both Big Brown and Curlin entered the starting gate of the Woodward that: all nomination fees, all shipping fees, all vetting fees and a 50,000 incentive check would go to each set of connections, advertise the race and purchase an hour on a national television station. The buildup would have been amazing. The race would have been something for the ages. More than anything though horse racing would have been center stage on a Saturday night with the two top horses in the world or at least the Unites States running at Saratoga. Is this Missed Opportunity instead of Forward or Innovative thinking?

We won’t rehash the Rachel Alexandra vs. Zenyatta situation. I believe there was some form of ducking and rightfully so coming from each side. The consensus nationwide though especially after Rachel garnered the attention she did by winning the Oaks by 20 and then wheeling back two weeks and defeating males, was that these two super stars needed to meet a couple of times at the very least. Missed opportunity, absolutely, the only races that would have been appropriate for these two would have been the Personal Ensign and the Beldame. Both of these races could have easily been on the schedule of both superstars. There didn’t need to be much forward thinking with this one, it just needed to be common sense and the will power to make it happen. Instead of doing that the powers that be sat on their hands and allowed both fillies to go their way and missed most likely the greatest opportunity and spectacle in the history of the sport. Incredible Kudos to Charles Cella to try to make the super race happen at Oaklawn, unfortunately both stars were not at full steam by Mid April. Is this missed opportunity instead of forward or innovative thinking?

Moving forward to 2011, and coming out of 2010 two fillies, one on the East coast and another on the West coast had met a few times on the track. This rivalry actually took place on the track in 2010 with Blind Luck having a 3-1 edge over all and a 2-1 edge in races which one of the fillies triumphed. It really wouldn’t have taken a great deal in 2011 to get this rivalry budding and on the thoughts and minds of people. The First matchup at Oaklawn Park went by with very little if any fanfare, as Havre De Grace triumphed by almost 4 lengths in the Azeri Stakes. Opportunity Missed, to the fullest, but there was plenty of time left in the year of racing. Going forward the two fillies went their separate way for the next race, prep for the Delaware Handicap at Delaware Park. One would assume with such a colossal clash of the titans ranked #1 and #2 in the NTRA poll that the industry would show by means of publicity and marketing that they wanted to get behind these two great horses prior to this race. Unfortunately not, nowhere in the main stream media was this race made mention of, and what an opportunity lost here as these two dueled with each other double digit lengths in front of the nearest competitor to the finish line with Blind Luck winning by the length of a nose over her rival. Stuff of legends, easily, unfortunately only, and I repeat only die hard race fans were able to witness such a stirring renewal of the rivalry. What makes it worse is the fact that the race was not guaranteed to go off until the weights had been released by the racing secretary and one set of connections received the two pound allowance that was afforded their filly. The Trainer stating in an interview afterwards: “I thought she should get some weight from Havre de Grace,’’ Hollendorfer said. “I wasn’t going to run if they put me at equal weights or gave me a pound. They gave us two pounds. We’re coming into her backyard.’’ This did not deter either side as they both showed up and gave a performance that will go down in history as one of the great female 1 ¼ races in history. Where was the national media, where was ntra with the marketing and promotions and publicity. They were nowhere to be found.

This article is being written on August 9th of 2011, and as of approximately less than a month ago the NTRA released a website promoting the rivalry. I again give a great deal of credit to Bob Ehalt a writer at NTRA who has kept the rivalry on the front page of that website as much as possible, but in viewing the website created for the rivalry, I wonder if there wasn’t a more professional way to put this together, this showcase of the top two runners in America. Is this missed opportunity instead of forward or innovative thinking?

As a lover of the sport of Kings, myself like many others only want what’s best for the game and for the industry as a whole. The problem we are faced with right now is not an insurmountable one; it’s one that needs fixing by means of some shake up at the core or foundation of the entities that govern the sport. As of right now they are doing so in a very passive manner, the sport should have new blood willing to take chances, yes mistakes might be made, but that is going to be considered better than not doing anything at all. Promote big days of racing, and I am referring to more than just the “Summers’ at Saratoga” campaign, although a wonderful program, there are times when racing dates like this just don’t fit the regular mold of what one would consider a marketing bonanza. These two fillies Havre De Grace and Blind Luck, they are your marketing bonanza, there for the older and more experienced race fans, they are there for the young fans or newbies if you will and they are there for the ladies to latch onto, and be diehard fans of both. I would hope that we see change in the future so that the game can progress by means of innovative, forward planning and thinking, why, so that main stream America can know exactly who these superstars on the race track are and therefore giving the game the chance to not only be known as the “sport of kings” but the “Sport of the people”.