Discreetness Rally’s for Upset Win in Smarty Jones Stakes

Smarty Jones Stakes Payoff for Discreetness

DISCREETNESS rewarded his betting backers as a 9-1 shot to win the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park January 16. The colt by Discreet Cat rallied off the pace to win by a neck and pay $20.20.

Trained by Jinks Fires and ridden by son-in-law Jon Court, Discreetness picked up 10 Road the Kentucky Derby points to move into a tie for eighth in the early standings.

Fires and Court said they expected a brisker pace, with so many horses stretching from sprints to the two-turn route distance for the first time.

“I expected to have half the field in front of me,” Court said. “However that wasn’t the case. I knew I had to keep him in a good spot, because with that short stretch in a flat mile there’s not much ground to lose. I was very fortunate to be in the position I was, and it paid off.”

Discreetness tuned up for the Smarty Jones with a 5-furlong bullet workout Jan. 7 (:59.80). His continued improvement paid off for the trainer and racing team of Xpress Thoroughbreds, who paid $105,000 for Discreetness at last year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March 2-year-olds in training sale. The colt now has earned well in excess of $282,122.

Gordy Florida, a 22-1 shot, was a game second as he dueled with Discreetness down the stretch. Synchrony, the 5-2 second betting choice, went by five horses in the final half mile to finish third. Betting favorite and three times stakes winner Toews on Ice faded to finish sixth behind Luna de Loco in fourth and Gray Sky.

It was 31 degrees at post time for the Smarty Jones, but trainer Von Hemel said cold weather bothers people more than horses.

“They’re not uncomfortable at all,” he said. “They weigh a 1,000 pounds or 1,100 pounds, what’s a little cold weather to them? They don’t get cold like we do. It’s hard to cool down that much mass.”

Oaklawn’s 3-year-old stakes program has produced eight horses which have accounted for 12 Triple Crown race victories. In addition to Smarty Jones and American Pharoah, this list also includes dual Classic winner Afleet Alex, two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and champion 3-year-olds Summer Bird.

Discreetness can earn additional points in qualifying for the Kentucky Derby by running well at the $500,000 Grade III Southwest Stakes on February 15 at Oaklawn Park. He’ll also run in the $1M Arkansas Derby (G1) April 14 at Oaklawn Park.

La Canada Stakes Highlights Santa Anita Saturday

Handicap and Preview of the La Canada Stakes

The $200,000 La Canada Stakes (G2) highlights the 9-race card at Santa Anita Park January 16. Seven older fillies and mares will go a mile and 1/16 and YAHILWA has been pointing to this race and appears poised to make her 2016 debut a winner. Mike Smith takes the reigns and Yahilwa has the tactical speed to court the leaders, and her speed to finish third by a neck on October 4 in the Spinster Stakes (G1) at Keeneland may be good enough to overtake TARIS and hold off BIRDATTHEWIRE, who Smith road and rallied from worst to first to win by a half-length at the La Brea Stakes (G1) on December 26.

Birdatthewire will be closing hard as she did that day as a 10-1 shot, and she’s 2-for-2 at seven furlongs. The Kentucky bred daughter of Summer Bird likes to run out, and if improvement continues then first-time rider Drayden Van Dyke will be riding her to victory.

TARIS is a solid threat and will be on the lead up front with Gary Stevens aboard. The winner of the Go For Wand (G3) at Aqueduct November 27 returns to her home base with six in the money finishes in 10 lifetime starts. TARIS was the 4-5 favorite that day and drifted five wide into upper stretch before rallying to take command at the eighth pole. The 5-year old mare went 6 ½ furlongs to finish 3rd in a Grade 3 for fillies at Santa Anita Park on October 4.

Taris will duel with TARA’S TANGO, who has been off since September but had three straight runner-up finishes at Santa Anita last year including the Summertime Oaks (G2) at this distance.

Keeneland Mixed Sale Day 4: Average and Median Prices Decline

There’s only one session left in the annual Keeneland January mixed sale, as the event should be all wrapped up by the end of today. It’s been fairly good news in terms of returns up to this point, but the second-last day of the sale saw a dip in both average and median sales prices.

Thursday’s session at Keeneland saw a gross of $3,204,000 coming from 248 horses. That is a 6.7 percent decline from last year’s same session. However, the second-last session last year sold 254 horses.

The 6.7 percent decline in gross sales coincides with a decline in both average and median sales, with this year’s penultimate mixed sale session averaging $12,919, which is down 4.4 percent from last year’s average. The median sales price this year was $7,250, which is a decline of 3.3 percent from last year.

The buyback rate this year dipped from 20.1 percent to 15.4 percent, which shows that sellers didn’t exaggerate the market this year and moved stock whenever they saw fit.

Since the beginning of the mixed sale event, the auction has seen a total of 843 horses sold for $33,672,900. That’s a decrease of 4.6 percent from last year’s total of 948. The cumulative average over the four-day period this year is $39,944, which is an increase of 7.3 percent from last year.

The January 14th Keeneland mixed sale ended with Tom Bachman making a winning bid of $102,000 for six-year-old mare Prom Time.

Gulfstream Park hosts the Sunshine Millions Turf

Sunshine Millions Turf Continues At Gulfstream

The Sunshine Millions Turf will run at Gulfstream Park this season, meaning that only Florida-bred horses will be eligible. This ungraded stakes race is a 1 1/16 mile haul for 4+ year old males, and offers a rewarding purse of $150,000. It’s a great opportunity for handicappers to get a grip on some of the lesser known runners out there.

Leading the charge from the posts will be Chad C. Brown’s Fundamental, who is still searching for his first win. A second place finish at the Commonwealth Derby (GR2) showed promise for the now four-year old colt in the fall portion of the 2015 season, but he tapered off throughout the later parts of the year. Fundamental placed 5th at the Bryan Station Stakes and 4th at the Hollywood Derby (GR1).

Brown has already picked up two wins as a trainer this season at a pair of grade-three stakes races. Flexibility clobbered the field at the Jerome Stakes and Life Imitates Art won the Dania Beach Stakes. He’s hoping that Fundamental will start to show the promise he once did back in September.

Rizwan looks to be one of the main challengers to star in the winner’s circle this weekend, and his experience at this track will certainly play a factor. The Florida mainstay ran 11 races in Florida last season, and 10 of those were at Gulfstream Park. Rizwan picked up victories at a February allowance and The English Channel and his overall experience will draw some action his way, despite drawing the inside post.

Old Time Hockey will also run at the Sunshine Millions Turf. Now a seven-year old, the son of Smarty Jones has been a star within the lower tiers. He bested One Step Salsa and Rizwan at a turf allowance last November, and is a favourite amongst Florida bettors. He picked up a win at the Turf Classic Stakes in Tampa after placing second in the Tampa Bay Stakes and the Challenger Stakes.

Reporting Star, who is known to travel north of the border to compete at Woodbine, will snowbird down in Florida as well. He finished fourth in the aforementioned turf allowance that Old Time Hockey won, and will look to secure his first victory since last August when the Play The King (GR2). Reporting Star is more of a sprinter than a long distance challenger, so it might be best to stray away from him at the Sunshine Millions Turf.

There’s good reason to at least keep track of the Sunshine Millions Turf results when the race runs this Saturday, January 16th. It’s an easy way to get a lead on a class of older horses that run in a popular circuit of stakes races down in the Sunshine State.


Virginia Kraft Payson Biggest Buyer at Keeneland Opener

The biggest mover and shaker of Keeneland’s January mixed sale opener earlier this week was Payson Stud owner and breeder Virginia Kraft Payson, who left the event winning three-of-four top priced lots. One of the biggest purchases for Payson was Summer Solo for the tidy sum of $700,000.

After plunking down the $700,000 it took to secure Summer Solo, Payson wasn’t finished, winning Solo’s two-year-old half sister, Summer Sweet, for $550,000. The plan for Payson wasn’t to spend as much as she did, but she said she has “a terrible habit of that.”

By the end of the session, Payson was the top buyer in total money spent ($1.7 million) and average price ($566,666).

Overall, the session saw a total of 182 horses sold for a grand total of $13,631, 200. That number is up 8.1 percent from last year’s sales total of $12,607,200. The biggest difference there though is that last year the event saw 204 horses sold, which is 22 more than this year.

“The figures were very solid today,” said Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell. “We had five horses bring more than the top price last year ($400,000), obviously bolstered by those three horses of the dispersals. But overall, it gets to be an old adage, but quality sells. If you bring the right product to market, you are fully rewarded. And I think we saw that very much in 2015, and I guess so far in 2016, that’s continued on. People are willing to spend good money on horses and pay top dollar for them if it’s perceived to have some quality.”

2014 Preakness Winner California Chrome Wins 2016 Debut

California Chrome Impressive at Santa Anita In Return

California Chrome made an impressive 2016 debut to win the Grade ll $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita Park January 9.

“It’s super,” trainer Art Sherman said. “He hadn’t run in nine months, and showed what he showed. He could have opened up turning for home, but Victor put the full-Nelson on him,” said Sherman.

“For such a long time off, I didn’t want to burn him too much,” said Espinoza, also the rider of American Pharoah, which explains his permanent smile nowadays. “I wanted to go easy on him today. I expected him to be more tired than he was.” Espinoza continued, “but he feels like a champ. The most important thing about him today was that he accelerated in the stretch. Before, he was just steady, but this time he came back like the old Chrome.”

Sporting new silver and burgundy silks, with “CHROME” etched across jockey Victor Espinoza’s chest, the adoring fan favorite and heavy bet 3-5 choice didn’t disappoint despite paying just $3.20 to win the 1 1/16 mile race by 1 ¼ lengths.

The 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner hadn’t raced before Saturday since the Dubai World Cup run last March. “The way Chrome ran today is how he ran before. He’s one of the best horses I’ve ever been on,” said Espinoza.

California Chrome’s victory also pushed his career earnings to $6,442,650 and Chrome is now the highest-earning California bred horse.

“It means a lot to me that he’s now the all-time winningest Cal-bred,” the conditioner said. “It’s a great honor, and being a California boy like myself, starting out here—it brings back a lot of memories. I’m elated.”

Embarking on a globe-trotting tour designed to enhance his legacy and his owners’ retirement accounts, California Chrome will ship to Dubai on January 21 and run once more prior to the Dubai World Cup March 26. California Chrome’s connections have targeted the Breeders’ Cup Classic as his final run as California Chrome tries to finish his career in style after just missing in the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2014.

State Of American Thoroughbred Industry Addresses Solidarity

Keeneland was once again the host of an important event in the sport, this time gathering leaders from across the country to discuss the State of the American Thoroughbred Industry. Regulated medications and unity across the sport were two of the main priorities of the discussion from this past Sunday. It was both a significant and vital step in the right direction for this wonderful sport of ours.

Association of Racing Commissioners International chair Mark Lamberth was amongst the main panel guests, which also involved Kevin Flannery (President of Churchill Downs) and Craig Bernick (Glenn Hill Farms).  Lamberth is a pivot in creating regulation, and will use his connections from U.S. highway development to further the needs of the American Thoroughbred industry. “When I go to Capitol Hill, they want to know what the other side wants to do. If we’re all fractured and looking for a different view, they aren’t going to pass it,” Lamberth remarked.

Federal legislation of medication and other facets of horse care remain ongoing topics of discussion within the sport. “We’re not opposed to federal legislation, but it has to be the right legislation,” noted Flanery. “We have made great strides on a lot of medication issues. We have really taken on these medication issues at the state level,” he continued while also highlighting how difficult federal legislation is to pass from a logistical standpoint.

The disconnect that concerns the leaders of our sport actually stems from within. Racetracks, horsemen, owners, trainers and all the other connections that impact the the American Thoroughbred Industry can’t seem to agree on any one thing. It is the inevitable problem when too many moving parts come together, but the panel agreed that a mechanism has to be in place to allow a consensus to be reached.

Lamberth seems to be taking point on getting there. He noted that the RCI will be creating a series of meetings with those invested in the American Thoroughbred Industry so that they can all, “bounce ideas off each other to find where the common ground is. You are not going to get everything you want, so you have to find the areas you agree on and then decide how you’re going to get there.”

The panel also noted that the customer is a focal point of the sport’s long term plans. Handicappers and gamblers need to be satisfied, especially when they’re spending a total of 15-20 minutes watching races during a six-hour day. “That customer base has to be entertained,” Flanery said sternly.

While no firm plans have been set in motion, recognizing that there American Thoroughbred Industry needs to come together in a meaningful way is a crucial first step that will help identify flaws and areas of improvement. With the sudden boom in handle at the track in 2015, along with the mainstream attention brought to the sport thanks to American Pharaoh, it’s imperative that the leaders within the industry spearhead movements to enhance the sport with momentum in hand.


Hope’s Love Returns to Action

California Chrome’s anticipated return won’t be the only comeback race in the family. By now, the San Pasqual Stakes on January 9 is all the talk, as that’s when California Chrome will be making his comeback and debut as a five-year-old. Also returning to the track will be his full sister, Hope’s Love, who has been on a seven-month layoff. hopelove

Minutes after California Chrome sets foot on the track at Santa Anita Park, Hope’s Love will start in the eighth race at Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, where she is the second favorite at 7-2 odds.

The special weight event is for three-year-old fillies, and Hope’s Love will be one in a field of 13 competitors. The post time is tentatively set at 4:18 PST.

“(Hope’s Love) ran really good her first time and we hope she can duplicate that race from the spring,” said Steve Sherman, who is the son of California Chrome trainer Art Sherman, and who conditions Hope’s Love. “Hopefully she’ll come running like she did in the first race.”

A hairline fracture has sidelined Hope’s Love, and it wasn’t until November that she returned to work, where she has worked out eight times. Her most recent training session was on New Year’s Day, where she ran five furlongs in a time of 1:02 4/5.

“She never left the track. We just kept working on (her shoulder) and jogged her out of it,” Steve said Sherman. “Everything looks good now.”

Mohaymen will run at the Holly Bull Stakes at Gulfstream

Mohaymen Breezing For Holly Bull Stakes

Mohaymen stands as one of the early favourites for the 2016 Triple Crown circuit, and will look to begin his march towards the spring gauntlet at the Holly Bull Stakes.

The Holly Bull Stakes is a GR2 grind run over 1 1/16 mile on Gulfstream Park’s dirt track, offering a purse of $400,000. This year’s event will run on January 30th as part of The Road to the Kentucky Derby with a 10-4-2-1 points split awarded to the top-four finishers.

Mohaymen has been unbeatable in his three starts as a juvenile, winning a maiden at Belmont Park in September before smashing the competition at the Nashua and Remsen at Aqueduct. In both of those GR2 races, Moyahmen bested Flexibility who recently won the Jerome to start his journey to the Triple Crown circuit.

Kiaran McLaughlin seems thrilled with Mohyamen's prep for the Holly Bull Stakes
Kiaran McLaughlin seems thrilled with Mohyamen’s prep for the Holly Bull Stakes

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is a big fan of the Holly Bull Stakes, a race he won in 2014 with Cairo Prince. “He was great and happy,” McLaughlin noted during Moyahmen’s breezing runs at Palm Meadows Training Center. “He might skip a work but he’s going to probably work weekly and point for the race at the end of the month.”

The results of this race will have a big impact on how handicappers continue to play the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager as well. Mohaymen ended the first pool of betting as the second favourite at 11/1. He stands behind Nyquist, who earned 9/1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby, and will begin his 2016 season at the San Vicente on February 15th. The next window for wagering on KDFW will be February 12th thru 14th.

The field for the 2016 Holly Bull Stakes is still in the process of being declared, but Mohaymen will enter as the odds on favourite.

The most famous winner of the Holly Bull Stakes is Barbaro, who would also go on to win the 2006 Kentucky Derby. Barbaro is remembered in Preakness Stakes history for breaking his leg in 20 places at the end of the race. If not for the quick thinking of jockey Edgar Prado, Barbaro’s life would’ve ended there. The 2006 Holly Bull Stakes winner is honoured on Preakness Day with the Barbaro Stakes.


Tribute To Horses Lost In Fire

Devastating Loss and Tribute to Horses Lost in Fire

A stable fire 38 miles Southwest of Toronto has killed 43 horses at Classy Lane Stables in Ontario’s horse racing community. The harness racing training center blaze broke out January 4 near 11:00 p.m. ET Monday and the community and racing industry is shaken by the tragic event and the horses lost in fire.

People in the harness racing community across North America are rallying to help those who lost everything in the Ontario fire. The people that love and care for these horses the most, had to witness them trapped by the fire and smoke, unable to save them. As any horse person knows, this is your worst nightmare.

“There are five companies that are out of business right now because they’ve got no horses, the help have no job, the trainers have no horses to train,” said Jamie Millier, owner of Classy Lane Stables.

Ben Wallace owned, or partially owned, 12 of the 17 horses he trained, all of which died in the fire. “I’ve lost everything. I mean, I’ve lost everything as far as my occupation, which I’ve been doing for 45 years, is gone. I don’t have so much as a stopwatch anymore.”

Horses at Classy Lane race at some of southern Ontario’s best-known tracks, including Woodbine, Mohawk and Flamboro Downs. The January 7 card at Woodbine will be dedicated to the equine lives lost to honor the horses lost in the fire at the January 7.

Racing fans can watch a video tribute which will be broadcast through the Woodbine facility, on HPItv, online at WoodbineEntertainment.com, and across North America on Woodbine’s simulcast feed.

As of Thursday morning, more than $100,000 had been donated to a GoFundMe campaign.