Runhappy Dusts Malibu Stakes Competition

Runhappy left no doubt at the 2015 Malibu Stakes as to who is the best sprinter in the country. In front of a huge crowd of 44,873  at Santa Anita Park, Runhappy claimed victory by 3 1/2 lengths in the 7 furlong sprint. The Malibu Stakes carried a purse of $300,000 as a GR1 stakes race this past Saturday.

“When we brought him to the receiving barn today, he looked like he had his game face on. I knew he’d run well,” commented Laura Wohlers who took over the reigns as Runhappy’s trainer prior to the race. Wohlers replaced Maria Borrell who has entered in to a lawsuit against Runhappy’s handlers over purse money distribution. It was Wohlers first victory as a trainer.

Gary Stevens remarked Runhappy’s immense performance at the Malibu Stakes. “That was only the second time I’ve sat on him and to get to feel that power coming into the stretch was awesome.” That’s high praise coming from a Hall of Fame jockey with more than his fair share of experience.

Runhappy stormed past the finish line with a strong time of 1:27.76. He paid out $3.00, $2.60 and $2.10.

Marking placed second after attempting to track down Runhappy out of the gates. He began to fall behind down the stretch and never matched what Runhappy brought to the track. Lord Nelson trailed in at third. El Kabeir, who was expected to be a more of an upstart, finished fourth while Watershed, Pain and Misery and Bad Read Sanchez rounded out the order.

The three-year old son of Super Saver claimed his sixth consecutive victory and performed exceptionally in his follow-up performance to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint where he bested Private Zone and Favorite Tale. Runhappy also won at the King’s Bishop and the Phoenix earlier in the season.

Fans of Runhappy can rejoice that he’ll be back next season.

Connections to the 2015 Malibu Stakes winner indicated that they’d like to challenge him at longer distances, suggesting that they’d give the one-mile Metropolitan Stakes a shot while gearing the 2016 season around a Breeders’ Cup Sprint title defence. “We’ll give the horse a couple of months off and bring him back in March and begin his training again,” Wohlers noted.

It’s a well deserved rest for one of the best performers of the 2015 season.

Leonard Lavin Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Leonard Lavin, the 96-year-old legendary Florida owner/breeder, will be bestowed with the Eclipse Award of Merit, according to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters (NTWAB), and the Daily Racing Form. lavin

The award is for a lifetime of outstanding achievement and will be presented to Lavin at the 45th Annual Eclipse Awards, which will be held at the Gulfstream Park on January 16.

“I am both surprised and deeply honored to receive the Eclipse Award of Merit,” said Lavin.

“It is truly my proudest moment in the horse business, a business that has been one of the great pleasures of my life. From the normal Thursday cards to racing in the Breeders’ Cup and everything in between I have found every moment to be a thrill and a reward. With that has come the wonderful relationships made with people throughout the industry, the camaraderie with our team at Glen Hill Farm, and of course the horses we’ve had the pleasure of breeding, owning and racing. And now this award provides a capstone that leaves me both humbled and grateful.”

Glen Hill Farm, which saw the reigns handed to Lavin’s grandson (Craig Bernick) in 2008, has produced over 80 stakes winners such as One Dreamer, who won the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I). Other notable stakes winners includes: Marketing Mix, Repriced, Top Rung, Relaunch, Rich in Spirit, and Concept.

When asked what his career highlight was Lavin mentioned a 1972 race win by Convenience over Typecast that brought in over 50,000 spectators to Hollywood Park.

Since the Award of Merit was introduced in 1976 it has been handed out 39 times. Lavin’s award will be the 40th.

Champion Big Brown A Big Winner in 2015

Big Brown continues to win big for his handlers. The winner of the 2008 Preakness Stakes has cleared $5.2 million in earnings this season as New York’s most sought after sire. He will continue to stand at Dutchess Views Farms in Pine Plains for a $10,000 fee.

To say that it’s been a busy year for the retired horse is an understatement. He covered 138 mares throughout the season during his first year in the state of New York. This is up from his first year in retirement where he had a book of about 100 mares. In short, Big Brown has been in high demand.

It’s easy to see why. The Florida Derby winner had massive aspirations heading to Churchill Downs in 2008. Big Brown became endeared as a Triple Crown hopeful after winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, before easing up in the Belmont Stakes where injuries and fatigue finally caught up with him. Rebounding well to end the year, Big Brown would go on to win the Haskell Invitational (GR1) and the Monmouth Stakes to finish his racing career.

Big Brown has continued to sire some championship contenders, such as Dortmund who won the Santa Anita Derby and San Felippe while also serving as one of the primary threats to American Pharaoh throughout this year. Despite being overshadowed for much of the season, Dortmund has raked in $1,712,480 in total winnings. There’s no doubt that the emergence of Dortmund, who remains a sight to behold, helped boost the return value of Big Brown’s stud fee.

Big Brown  also sired Apollo Sonic, a horse that competed well in the heavy money of the Japanese circuit in 2013. Apollo Sonic finished third Tokyo Yush, also known as the Japan Derby, and ended his career with $921,469 in earnings.

Coach Inge ($606,177) and Kiss To Remember ($548,071) continued to compete in lower stakes races through 2015 as well, raising the demand for Big Brown.

To put the $10,000 stud fee in to perspective, American Pharaoh has recently been retired with a stud fee at a whopping $200,000. Imagine the money Big Brown be collecting if he wasn’t hurt at the Belmont Stakes.

Rock Me Baby Retired and Adopted

Multiple stakes winning Rock Me Baby is on the retirement track and has been adopted by a West Point Thoroughbred partner after finishing in fifth-place at the Walter R. Cluer Memorial Stakes.

Rock Me Baby will retire with a record of 7-6-2 in 24 starts, with a total career earnings of $494,454.

“He’s such a neat horse who was was a pleasure to have in the barn these past three years,” said West Point Thoroughbreds President Terry Finley. “He didn’t debut until the end of his 3-year-old year, but proved to be worth the wait. ‘Rocky’ took his partners on a fun ride and we owe it to him to retire sound with the ability to move on to a second career. He’s been adopted by one of his partners.”

“Rock Me Baby is one of the hardest-knocking horses I’ve been around, having hit the board in 15 of 24 starts,” trainer Craig Dollase said. “His biggest win came in the 2014 California Dreamin’ Handicap at Del Mar and he came really close to becoming a graded stakes winner in the Del Mar Mile that same year. In 2013, he was beaten only three lengths in the (2013) Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.”

In 2010, Rock Me Baby was purchased by Wavertree Stables for a fee of $40,000 at the Barretts October yearling sale. West Point came to own him through a consignment sale the following year for $210,000.

Bob Baffert Discusses the Futurity

The Los Alamitos Futurity, scheduled to run on December 19, has gone through numerous name changes over the years. The initial moniker for the final West Coast grade I race for two-year-olds was the Hollywood Futurity back in 1981. Once it became sponsored by CashCall Company its name changed to the CashCall Futurity. That lasted until the fall of Hollywood Park.

While the name may have changed over the years, the level of competition has not, as the event has been won by a wide range of notable trainers such as D. Wayne Lukas, Jerry Hollendorfer, and Ron McNally, to name a few. There is one man who has staked claimed to the Futurity more than any other, and that man happens to be Bob Baffert, who has been a part of seven Futurity winning teams.

Baffert has become accustomed to name changes when it comes to the Futurity, and another possible change could be in the works, with the Los Alamitos Futurity in danger of yet another relocation and rebranding.

Baffert, on the hunt for his eighth Futurity crown via Toews On Ice and Mor Spirit, believes “the timing of the race is important,” and he “would hate to lose it on the calendar.” According to Baffert, “Very good horses run in it and come out of it to do big things. This race starts you thinking about the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).”

The Futurity has become known as the race that showcases which horses can navigate two turns and those better suited to veer off the Triple Crown trail. “With a lot of horses, you don’t know if they want to go long,” said Baffert. “They can all go long if they go slow enough, but under pressure you don’t know how far they’ll go until they run in a race like this.”

Baffert will use the Futurity as a measure to determine which of his two horses has a legitimate shot at going the Derby trail distance.

TS Raises Bar For Kentucky Derby Betting has announced a new Kentucky Derby Betting Championship that will debut next year on May 6-7, 2016 for the marquee race at Churchill Downs. The big prize is sure to lure many to the contest, with a $250,000 pot being put up for grabs. It’s certainly a bold, and exciting, move for the primary wagering outlet at Churchill Downs.

TwinSpires has crafted a bold Kentucky Derby betting contest
Do you want a shot at $250,000? TwinSpires just gave it to you.

Players will need to buy-in to the contest with a $20,000 entry fee. That fee is broken up in to two parts, with $5,000 going towards the enormous prize pool and the other $15,000 serving as the player’s wagering balance. Each player must wager at least a minimum of $1,200 on the Friday events and $1,800 during Saturday’s races. Win, place, show, exacta and trifecta bets is counted towards your action.

Not only will participants have a chance at winning the quarter-million dollar prize, they’ll also receive three entries in to the National Handicapping Championship and the Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge. On top of that, you get to keep all of your tournament winnings regardless of the result of the contest.

TwinSpires has also opened registration for players with a deposit of $1,000. This reserves your spot for the Kentucky Derby Betting Championship and also enters you in to a side draw for a $24,000 prize, which breaks down in to $20,000 for the contest itself plus a $4,000 travel allowance. You can reserve your spot at by visiting the right now. The winner for the early bird contest will be selected January 2nd. What a great way to ring in the New Year.

The Kentucky Derby already draws the largest handle of any American Thoroughbred race. Churchill Downs Racetrack President, Kevin Flanery, was obviously ecstatic that his track was able to secure another way for players to enjoy the action on the first leg of the Triple Crown. “This opportunity is a result of our great partnership with, and we’re thrilled at the chance to host and entertain this group of top horseplayers at the home of America’s greatest race.”


Runhappy Gets Stevens for Malibu Stakes

With Edgar Prado shelved for the time being, Runhappy breezed with Gary Stevens at Santa Anita Park in preparation for the Malibu Stakes. The three-year old colt has racked up a fantastic 5-0-0 record in 6 races, which has included wins at Breeders’ Cup Sprint and King’s Bishop. He’ll go for a sixth race, and his first at Santa Anita Park, on December 26th for a late Christmas present.

Trainer Laura Wohlers was pleased with the results Stevens provided during the fast paced breeze. “He looked good, the track was playing a little slow and there’s a lot of moisture in the track. We’re just trying to get him ready for the distance.” The Malibu Stakes is a 7-furlong sprint. Runhappy was clocked at 1:25.40 during the breeze today.

There is major anticipation for the opening day of racing at Santa Anita, with the Malibu Stakes standing as the marquee event and expectations couldn’t be higher for Runhappy who has won $1,301,300 and two Grade-1 stakes races this year. However, he won’t know who he’ll be racing against until nominations are submitted by December 17th with entries being pulled on December 21st.

However, Runhappy gets the benefit of being ridden by Gary Stevens after losing Prado. Both are hall of famers. Prado suffered  an injury at Gulfstream over the weekend, and Runhappy’s connections were quick to take advantage of Gary Stevens’ availability. Stevens has won just over 5,000 races in North America and is one of the toughest jockeys on the planet. Prior to a knee replacement in 2014, Stevens competed with a completely torn ACL. This will be a sudden switch for Runhappy, who has been ridden by Prado for his last three races but he could not be in better hands.

One of those races was the King’s Bishop, Runhappy’s first GR1 stakes victory, which is significant because it is also 7-furlongs. His last two victories at the BC Sprint and the Phoenix were both 6-furlongs.

Stay tuned for more coverage on the upcoming Malibu Stakes on December 26th.


Edgar Prado Suffers Rib Injuries; Out Two Months

The seventh race at the Gulfstream Park earlier this week was a dangerous one for Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Prado after he was unseated from his horse, Legs Like Betty. It was her fourth career start.

Legs Like Betty had broken from the outside post in the maiden turf spring, bolted to the outside fence and then dumped Prado, leading to the injuries. Following the accident, Legs Like Betty jumped over the temporary outer rail, and was eventually chased down by outriders.

Initially, the injury concerns for Prado were minor, but that was far from the case, as he has been diagnosed with having broken six of his ribs. The rib injuries sustained by Prado will keep him out of riding action for around two months (six-to-eight weeks).

Prado had complained of chest soreness when he was first taken to Memorial Regional Hospital following the spill, and the original x-rays came back clean, according to his agent Bob Klesaris. However, Klesaris said “another scan revealed six broken ribs, three on each side.” There was also a laceration found under Prado’s chin.

“Ribs are tricky things. It could be four weeks and it could be eight weeks. We’ll just have to see what happens. He’s still in the hospital this morning but he could be released later today,” said Klesaris.

We wish Prado a speedy recovery.

Hong Kong International Races Results

The Longines Hong Kong International Races concluded today with Japan coming out way ahead. Sha Tin Racecourse packed in 80,8011 race fans to enjoy the 10-race event.

Highland Reel won the Hong Kong Vase, edging out Flintshire, Dariyan and Ming Dynasty who rounded out the top four in that order. It was a brutal battle between Highland Reel and Flintshire down the stretch, but the Irish-bred horse from trainer Aiden O’Brien was able to outlast the competition. It was the first win at the Hong Kong International Races for O’Brien as Highland Reel stormed from behind in the final one-hundred metres to win by 1 1/12 lengths.

The Hong Kong Sprint belonged to Peniaphobia, another Irish product, who shot out of the 10th post and was able to fend off the favoured Gold-Fun by a half-length at the finish line. Last year’s winner, Aerovelocity, finished outside of the top four instead giving way to Not Listenin’tome and Dundonnell.

A pair of American horses competed in the sprint event at the Hong Kong International Races, and did not seem to handle the travel nor the lengthy season too well. Mongolian Saturday, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, placed 5th while Green Mask stumbled to 8th.

One of the biggest wins at the Hong Kong International Races belonged to Maurice, a stud from Japan who won the Hong Kong Mile. The race was billed as a head-to-head challenge between Maurice and Able Friend, who was the heavy favourite at 1.7. But Able Friend disappointed the crowd by ending third, as Giant Treasure rode the rail to slip in to second place. Maurice was a 4/1 second-favourite. This was the first time in a decade that the winner of the mile did not hail from Hong Kong.

A Shin Hikari won the Hong Kong Cup in a shockingly fast time of 2:00.60 in the 2,000 metre with the biggest upset of the Hong Kong International Races. Listed at 38/1, A Shin Hikari beat out Nuova Record and Blazing Speed and put forth one of the most surprising efforts of the day. Designs on Rome was the listed favourite, but finished fourth.

The day began with Jolly Jolly winning the Silent Witness Handicap. Happilababy followed up with a victory in the Fantastic Light Handicap. Wintson’s Lad also won the JJ The Jet Plane Handicap (my favourite race name from the day). Fabulous One ended the day of action at the Hong Kong International Races with a victory at the Lord Kanaloa Handicap.


Rest Time for Ben’s Cat

Ben’s Cat, the nine-year-old winner of multiple graded stakes races, is taking the winter off, according to trainer King Leatherbury.

His last race was on November 24th, where he finished in seventh-place at the Fabulous Strike Handicap. In his career to date, Ben’s Cat has started 53 races, winning 30 of them and earning almost $2.5 million.

“He came out OK, but not good enough to run back again this year,” Leatherbury said. “I don’t want to waste his rest time, because if I run him one more time he’ll come back later in the spring.”

The exact resting location for Ben’s Cat will be a farm in Virginia owned by Stephanie Nixon. There was no official date mentioned by Leatherbury of when Ben’s Cat will return to the race track, but March 19th could be the date. Why that date in particular? It’s the date of the inaugural Ben’s Cat Stakes, which is a race for Maryland-breds held at Laurel Park.

“Wow, I didn’t know about that. Maybe I’ll have to crank him back up a little earlier to get ready for that,” replied Leatherbury upon being informed of the Ben’s Cat Stakes.

We mentioned earlier how Ben’s Cat ended his 2015 racing season on a sour note with a seventh-place finish at the Fabulous Strike Handicap, but he started it off with a bang. In his first race of the 2015 season he won the Jim McKay Turf Sprint Stakes. He also won his sixth-straight Mister Diz. Hopefully this resting period will prepare him for a winning 2016.