New York State Gaming Commission Suspends Trainer

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez Suspended and Fined by New York State Gaming Commission

The New York State Gaming Commission has suspended and fined troubled trainer Rudy Rodriguez after two of his horses tested positive for drugs. Rodriguez will serve a 25-day suspension from March 2-25 and pay a $2,500 fine.

The NYS Gaming Commission issued the ruling February 28 after two of Rodriguez’ horses tested positive for the Class 4 therapeutic drug flunixin, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug also known as Banamine that is used to treat colic and muscle pain. Majestic Marquet and Vee’s Accolade both had flunixin present in their system during race day.

Majestic Marquet won the eighth race at Aqueduct Racetrack on March 10, 2013, while Vee’s Accolade finished second in the sixth race at Belmont Park April 26. Both horses were disqualified from the order of finish and ordered unplaced, with purse money from the races to be redistributed.

Rudy RodriguezRodriguez will be denied access to the grounds and after completion of his suspension, he’ll serve a nine-month probationary period. An additional 20-day suspension would be levied if any horse in his barn tests positive to drug use.

This is not the first time Rodriguez has been in trouble with drugging horses. The former jockey and exercise rider for banned trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. also served a 20-day suspension in 2013 and paid a 7,500 fine after two horses tested positive for flunixin in 2012.

Rodriguez began his training career in 2010 and has saddled 582 winners with earnings of $24,819,559. In 2014 he had his best season ever, winning 132 races from 628 starts with earnings of $7,510,689, including saddling the winners of four grade I races – Belle Gallantey (Delaware Handicap, Beldame Stakes), Dads Caps (Carter Handicap), and Condo Commando (Spinaway Stakes).

Condo Commando is considered a top prospect for this year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr.I) to be held at Churchill Downs May 1.

Santa Anita Arabian Race Approved

The California Horse Racing Board yesterday approved a Santa Anita Park proposal to allow gambling on an April Arabian Race. Pending legislation regarding the issue will likely pass soon in Sacramento. According to Scott Daruty, a Santa Anita representative, an Abu Dhabi group will contribute $175,000 to the potential April 2nd race. $100,000 of the funds will go towards the purse, and the remaining $75,000 will be earmarked for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund.

The pending legislation, titled AB 558, would allow for six Arabian races per year, with wagering, to take place at Santa Anita Park, as long as the Northern California fair circuit isn’t disrupted. Industry stakeholders and the board did express some concerns during the Thoroughbred meeting.

“I don’t have a problem with this, per se. What I would have a problem with is this reducing any of the opportunities for the Thoroughbred horsemen,” California Horse Racing Board member Madeline Auerbach said. “We have a tendency here to cut back days, cut back races, and I don’t want to see this Arabian race used and be told we have to run less Thoroughbreds … If Santa Anita can do this in a fashion and guarantee we don’t lose any opportunities for our horsemen, then I would have no problem with it.”

“It’s very clear from the TOC perspective that this race is not going to replace a Thoroughbred race,” said Thoroughbred owners of California President Nick Coukos. “In fact we have a contractual agreement with Santa Anita that will not allow them to replace a Thoroughbred race, so if a race is going to be run April 2, we expect nine Thoroughbred races that day. If this is not a 10th race, we would have an objection to it.”

The preference from the Thoroughbred owners of California would be for the Arabian race to either be the first or last of a 10-race slate.

Heavy Favorite Mohaymen Ready for Fountain of Youth

Mohaymen Shoots to Remain Perfect in Fountain of Youth

With Cherry Wine out of the Fountain of Youth due to a fever, and Awesome Banner potentially to follow, the field has weakened against the expected dominant favorite Mohaymen. Still, there are four or five three year old challengers set to run against the money-favorite Moyamen in Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream. The Kentucky Derby points race will award the top-4 finishers with 50-20-10-5 points.

That includes Zulu, a son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini. The $900,000 colt is undefeated with a pair of wins over this track. Zulu stretches out over two turns for the first time and steps up from his 7-length allowance score for trainer Todd Pletcher. But he’s bread for the distance and is the likely challenger to Mohaymen.

“We think he’s a very talented colt,” Pletcher said. “We anticipate he’s going to improve stretching out. He’ll need to against this group but we’ve been pleased with what he’s done so far and pleased with how he’s trained since the allowance win. We’ll find out a lot more Saturday.”

Zulu will break from the No. 2 post with Fellowship on the rail. Fellowship closed well off a slow pace in the Holy Bull to finish third, and he’s a talented horse on the improve who breezed five furlongs in a bullet February 13 in 58 3/5 seconds.

Awesome Banner is also undefeated and has the speed to press the pace. He’s scheduled to start in the No. 5 post, but he could be a scratch and target the March 12 Tampa Bay Downs. Golden Ray in post 3 offers little off his last place finish last time out while Awesome Speed has won his last three races including the Mucho Macho Man mile over this track and posted fast fractions after being bumped at the start. He’ll break from post No. 4 and we’ll find out if he’s ready to handle the added distance in the 1 1/16 mile race. Mohaymen completes the field and will start from the outside No. 6 post.

The spotlight continues to shine on Mohaymen, who is 4-for-4 after selling for $2.2 million at the Keeneland sale. The Tapit colt continues to impress with three Grade 2 wins including his last in the Holy Bull when he accelerated in the final four furlongs and flew home to an easy win under jockey Junior Alvarado. Mohaymen stands out above this field in terms of proven talent and versatility, and especially with Cherry Wine and Awesome Banner out, but he’ll offer little return in the pari-mutuels as the heavy favorite.

Here is a list of the horses running in the Fountain of Youth with past performance charts.

Post time Saturday is 5:30 p.m. ET with coverage on TVG.


california chrome dubai world cup at meydan

California Chrome Dusts Field At Meydan

California Chrome was brilliant in a weighted handicap held at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. The win came at the Trans Gulf Electromechanical Trophy Handicap, which held a purse of $143,000 USD. The former Preakness Stakes winner dominated the 1 1/4 mile race to win by two-lengths in a time of 2:04.24.

All signs point forward as California Chrome readies for the Dubai World Cup on March 26th. He ran this event last year, but finished second. With two stakes victories under his belt so far this year, the Art Sherman trainee is well on his way to having a tremendous 2016 season. Chrome also won the San Pasqual stakes at Santa Anita in early January. The Dubai World Cup will be run on Meydan Racecourse as well.

California Chrome paid out $2.10 with the win. The seven-year old Storm Belt a massive $33.20 return for finishing second. Success Story paid out $26.20 for the show.

The early part of the race, as you can see in the video below, was a bit choppy for California Chrome. He was not only handicapped with an additional 132 pounds (+15 more than any of his competitors on Thursday), but he also found himself sliding behind traffic as he approached the stretch at Meydan. Jockey Victor Espinoza never panicked and California Chrome made short work of the field down the stretch. Nobody could touch him towards the wire.

This is the second victory by an American horse in Dubai. Frosted also won the Al Maktoun Challenge Round 2 earlier this month. A large contigent of American-bred racers will run at the March 26th event. Frosted, Keen Ice, Effinex, Mshawish and Candy Boy will all compete for the $10 million purse at the mega race. But nobody is holding as much momentum as California Chrome. His comfort and ease at the Meydan track shows promise that his showing at this year’s Dubai World Cup will be better than the last.


Gun Runner Turns the Tables To Win Risen Star

5-1 Shot Gunner Runner Shoots Down Foes Down the Stretch to Win Risen Star

Gun Runner has become a major player in the Road to the Derby after the chestnut colt turned the tables on a pair of rivals to win the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2) Saturday at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

The victory earned Gun Runner, owned by Ron Winchell, 50 qualifying points and improved his record to 3-0 in four lifetime starts with earnings of $306,920. Gun Runner’s lone finish outside the money came in last November’s Grade ll Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes when he lost the lead in the stretch and was passed by Airoforce, Mor Spirit and Mo Tom; all considered top 3-year olds on the Kentucky Derby Trail. But that race was run in the slop, and Gun Runner made good on a fast track turning the tables on Airoforce and Mo Tom to win the Risen Star in a final time of 1:43:94.

Gun Runner took the lead entering the stretch and held off late challenges from 40-1 longshot Forevamo and second-choice Mo Tom, the Lecomte Stakes winner in January. Mo Tom was last out of the gate and its late charge was slowed on the home stretch by a collision with Bistraya that cut one of his legs.

“It was really good until we got kind of wiped out,” Mo Tom jockey Corey Lanerie said. “I definitely thought he was the best horse today.”

Airoforce, the 7-5 favorite, settled near the back of the field and never mounted a challenge. He finished 10th.

“I don’t know,” Airoforce jockey Julien Leparoux said. “He was traveling good and then he put his head up and didn’t pick it up.”

Winning jockey Florent Geroux, who was aboard Gun Runner for the first time in a race, stated afterwards, “He’s a very nice horse. I’ve really liked him since the first time I was on his back a few weeks ago working in the morning. He’s super athletic. I was very confident. I wanted to make sure I saved some ground. Earlier I got beat (with Stageplay) and was stuck going wide the whole way. It looked like the track was playing a little bit more inside-favoring. I kept him down there until I asked him to go and he ran a great race.”

Off 5-1 odds, Gun Runner paid $12.20/$7.00/$4.80. Forty-to-one longshot Forevamo returned $33.80/$12.20 for the place, and 3-1 Mo Tom returned $3.00 for the show. The $2 exacta paid $335.20, the $1 trifecta returned $646.50 and the $0.10 superfecta was worth $945.87.

The Louisville Courier-Journal’s 15-member national panel has moved Gun Runner up from No. 13 to No. 5 in the Top-20 poll of Kentucky Derby favorites.

“Gun Runner was well regarded late last year and showed why with his Risen Star victory, one which he figures to improve off of,” said the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader‘s Alicia Wincze Hughes.

Winning owner Ron Winchell gave a clear view as to what the next several months should look like for Gun Runner. “That’s the dream, right – the Kentucky Derby. He’s been highly anticipated and a quality horse. Right now the ($1,000,000 Grade ll Louisiana Derby on March 26) is the plan.”

Only 20 participants can run in the Kentucky Derby and entry is determined by points earned in specific stakes races during a horse’s 2-year-old and 3-year-old season. Gun Runner is the current leader with 51 points.



Churchill Downs and Fanatics Strike Partnership

Yesterday a multi-year partnership between Churchill Downs and Fanatics was announced that will grant the sports merchandise company exclusive rights to the Kentucky Derby’s on-site and online retail sales divisions. The deal will commence this year.

“Churchill Downs is thrilled to partner with Fanatics, who delivers impressive and diverse product offerings along with a shopper-friendly experience,” said Churchill Downs Vice President of Partnerships Kristin Warfield via a press release. “We believe our fans will truly benefit from Fanatics’ seamless online purchasing technology and their fresh perspective to enhancing our on-site sales over Kentucky Derby week, which lured a record 365,000 attendees in 2015.”

Fanatics plans to increase on-site footprint at Churchill Downs through adding more retail locations around the track, and they will also expand the Kentucky Derby merchandise selection patrons can purchase. The merchandising company will create a “seamless, synchronized shopping experience across online, mobile, and on-site retail locations for all horseracing fans.”

The deal struck between Churchill Downs and Fanatics will also grant Fanatics permission to create Kentucky Derby themed apparel and collectibles.

“We are thrilled to partner with one of sports’ most prestigious events,” said Fanatics Senior Vice President of Strategy and Business Development Brian Swallow. “Our tech and manufacturing expertise makes us uniquely qualified to create an enhanced, omnichannel retail experience for Kentucky Derby fans whether at home, on the go, or at the track during the first weekend in May.”

Fanatics currently powers e-commerce business for media sites, all professional sports leagues, and numerous collegiate and professional sports teams.

Chrome losing Dubai World Cup at Medyan Racecourse

‘Chrome’ Testing Meydan Racecourse Thursday

California Chrome will take to Meydan Racecourse on Thursday in a weighted handicap stakes race offering a $150,000 purse. The 1 1/4 mile contest will serve as an opportunity to acclimate horses to the destination of the Dubai World Cup on March 26th. The winner of the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes will be strapped with an additional 15 pounds when he tests the track this week.

Horse players who know their history will recall that Curlin, who won the 2007 Preakness Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was also given a 15 pound handicap when he ran at Meydan Racecourse prior to his 2008 victory at the Dubai World Cup. This could very well be a positive sign of things to come for Art Sherman’s prized trainee. He will have Victor Espinzoa in the saddle for both Thursday’s test run and the Dubai World Cup.

The preparations for California Chrome’s run overseas began in January following his dominant win at the San Pasqual Stakes. Chrome beat Imperative and Hoppertunity in a time of 1:43.39 over a distance of 1 1/16 miles at one of the highlight races from Santa Anita’s winter schedule.

Obviously, this will not be the 2014 Horse of the Year’s first trip to Meydan Racecourse. California Chrome was here last year when he placed second behind Prince Bishop at the last Dubai World Cup. Expectations are high that the five-year old will win one of the biggest cash prizes awarded in any race. His lifetime record of 10-3-1 in 19 starts has earned him a $6,442,650 in winnings and his handlers have made it no secret that this will be his final year of competition before he rides off in to retirement.

By all accounts, Chrome is the best horse in Dubai right now but he’s not the only familiar face for American race fans. Keen Ice has also shown some promise on the dirt track at Meydan Racecourse during a recent training session and is pointed towards the Al Maktoum Challenge on March 5th. It’s important to realize that Keen Ice has not won a race since his rousing upset of American Pharoah at last summer’s Travers Stakes. Frosted, who won the second round of the Al Maktoun Challenge, will likely run again against Keen Ice in the third.

The results out of Meydan Racecourse will be interesting to see as we pace ourselves towards the Dubai World Cup, and all eyes remain firmly focused on how California Chrome is faring as the expected favourite for the 2-mile epic.



Owner of Spectacular Bid Dies

Owner of Triple Crown Winner Spectacular Bid Dies 

Harry Meyerhoff, co-owner of the great Spectacular Bid, passed away February 18 from stroke complications. He was 86.

Mr. Meyerhoff lived on Hawkworth Farm on the Miles River and grew up in Baltimore. He graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and received a degree in Engineering from Lehigh University where he was an All-American lacrosse player.

Spectacular Bid NewsMr. Meyeroff developed numerous garden apartments in the region in the family’s real estate development business, and had a love a thoroughbred racing. He began buying race horses in the 1960’s focusing on his racing interests in the mid-1970’s and owned 320 thoroughbreds during his lifetime.

The most famous of his horses was Spectacular Bid, the 1979 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, who would win 26 of his 30 lifetime races. Spectacular Bid was a 1-9 favorite in the Preakness Stakes with just four challengers. He drew away on the far turn and won going away nearly setting the track record.

“Being from Baltimore, we had a lot of fun winning the Preakness, maybe more fun than winning the Kentucky Derby,” said his son and co-owner Tom Meyerhoff.

The president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Josh Pons, recalled Spectacular Bid as “an all-Maryland story”, who was owned by Mr. Meyerhoff and trained by Buddy Delp from Harford County and ridden by Ronnie Franklin from Dundalk.    

Heavily favored to win the 1979 Belmont Stakes — and thus take the Triple Crown — Spectacular Bid injured himself on a safety pin the night before the race and wound up finishing third.

In 1980 he ran in the Woodward Stakes in New York in an odd contest: No other horse ran against him, and he completed a rare walkover. He did not compete again but went on to earn $22 million in stud syndication.

Spectacular Bid won racings highest honor as the 1980 Horse of the Year.

Mr. Meyerhoff continued his interest in racing and attended sales at Keeneland until 2014.


Relevant Metrics on the Rise for Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders’ Incentive Fund

Horses associated with the Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders’ Incentive Fund won a grand total of 260 graded stakes last year in the United States, and 31 more group races in an additional four other countries. In total, the program paid out over $10.5 million in 2015.

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders’ Incentive Fund saw growth in the area of nominated mares as well. Darley topped the list, having been awarded more than $260,000 over the span of 91 wins. Three of those wins came at Kentucky racetracks, based on data provided by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

The breakdown for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders’ Incentive Fund sees them receive 80 percent of the funds, with 13 percent going to Standardbreds and the remaining 7 percent earmarked for other breeds.

“Kentucky’s horse heritage and tradition is a critical source of jobs, investment, and tourism for the commonwealth,” said Gov. Matt Bevin. “Our Kentucky-bred horses race all over the world and this program acknowledges the depth and scope of their global success. I am honored to recognize Kentucky breeders for their accomplishments and contributions to the many, many people whose livelihoods rely on a vibrant horse industry.”

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission Director of Incentives and Development Jamie Eads said that the first seven months of this current fiscal year has seen $6.8 million accrued for 2016’s Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders’ Incentive Fund payments. That number is up from the previous $6.6 million mark.

The number of nominated mares, after years of decline, has increased the last three years. In 2015, the number was 9,517, which was the most since 9,968 in 2009. For a full list of Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders’ Incentive Fund award payment click here.

Ziconic’s Debut This Weekend

Zenyetta’s second son, Ziconic, is nearing his highly anticipated debut. Following a breezy four-furlong training session at Santa Anita Park on February 13th that was clocked in at a time of :49 3/5, Ziconic is on track to debut at a maiden special weight race this weekend, according to trainer John Shirreffs.

“It depended on how he worked out of the gate. That was a big determining factor,” said Shirreffs. “He’s been training very good. Mike Smith breezed him this morning and he liked him… Time to get him in there.”

Ziconic looks to perform better than his half-brother, Cozmic One, did during his debut. Last April, Cozmic One came in sixth-place at a maiden special weigh race at Santa Anita. In his only other start, he didn’t fare any better, finishing in seventh-place.

Shirreffs doesn’t see many similarities between the brothers though. “He’s a little different,” said a smiling Shirreffs. “He’s a little more focused than ‘Coz.'”

With Ziconic nearing his debut, Sherriffs did note there are plans for Cozmic One to hit the tracks again, with the current plan to run him in a Santa Anita 1 1/8-mile race sometime in the near future. “There’s a race, possibly at a mile and an eighth, that might be coming up in the next book for him,” said Sherriffs.