Better Scheduling Gain Net an Additional $400 Million in Handle

While horseracing integrity was a major topic of discussion at the Jockey Club Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, the topic of scheduling also held court. Presenter Ben Vonwiller of McKinsey & Company said big data could be of assistance towards building a better race schedule.

According to McKinsey, if tracks were able to coordinate with each other on post times they could increase handle by $400 million. That number represents an increased handle of 3.7 percent. U.S racing has not seen such a bump since 2000. Even if only the top five tracks in the country worked together it would result in a $150 million purse increase.

A 2011 McKinsey report titled “Driving Sustainable Growth for Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding” called for race overlaps problems to be taken care of, but The Jockey Club Chairman Stuart Janney III admitted no action was taken to rectify the situation.

“This is money that’s available to us if we work together,” said Janney. “We should be ashamed of ourselves if we don’t figure out a way to take advantage of this.”

An initial study discovered that scheduling does matter when it comes to handle and there are many times through the day that has room for improvement. McKinsey recently used big data when putting together an NFL schedule, and they used that approach towards doing the same for horseracing.

“To give you an idea of the power of this technique, our team, in seven hours, was able to find a schedule that was better than the last one published,” said Vonwiller. “We took that team to look at what we could do in racing.”

One suggestion McKinsey emphasized was having tracks work together to eliminate overlap. Something we most recently saw when both the Whitney Stakes (G1) and the West Virginia Derby (G3) ran at the same time.

Woodward Stakes a Possibility for Gun Runner

On the heels of a 5 1/4-length victory in this past weekend’s $1.2 million Whitney Stakes (G1), Gun Runner’s connections are looking ahead to what is next, and that very well could be a start in the $750,000 Woodward Stakes (G1) at the Saratoga Race Course on September 2nd.

“He’s fabulous, happy with himself, came back great,” reported trainer Steve Asmussen on his Gun Runner’s condition following the Whitney Stakes.

“(I only noticed it) once he slowed down,” recalled Asmussen of his charge’s Whitney Stakes performance. “We watched the tape repeatedly, repeatedly, and if you’ve never seen anything before, just wait around. Can you believe that? I mean if we tried to throw one and stick in one’s tail as he was standing, still we’d go 0-for-1,000—let alone at a run, let alone Gun Runner, let alone in the Whitney—and it stayed. (With) how fast he was going, it was held out from him, when he slowed down to walk, then it came into him. We were obviously unaware of it until he came back to the winner’s circle, but not a nick on him. I mean, there’s still nails in it.”

The Whitney win was Gun Runner’s second straight grade one victory, and his fourth win in a row on North American Soil. Asmussen believes the Woodward Stakes will be the next race out for Gun Runner. “It seems very probable with him running over the racetrack here (and) not having to travel again,” said Asmussen. “It would be ideal.”

Gun Runner Puts in Final Whitney Stakes Work

Grade one winner Gun Runner put in his final work in preparation for the August 5th Whitney Stakes (G1) by breezing a half-mile at Saratoga Race Course on the morning of July 30. He was timed completing the workout in :49.33.

The training session took place on the course’s Okalahoma training track. The four-year-old colt was timed at fractions of :12 4/5 and :25 1/5. He galloped to five furlongs in 1:03 1/5.

“I thought he worked good. He always works well,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He’s a nice horse and (it was) more of the same. He’s a very generous workhorse. The weather’s been ideal. I think we’ve been lucky with it so far. Obviously there’s a pretty good chance of rain for the Whitney, but that’s out of our hands. We’ll see how he handles everything.”

Gun Runner is coming off an impressive seven-length victory performance in the June 17 Stephen Foster Handicap (G1) at Churchill Downs. It was his first since losing to Arrogate in the Dubai World Cup (G1) in March. His other 2017 race was a win in the Razorback Handicap (G3) in February.

Also working at Saratoga this past weekend was a fellow grade one winner, Time and Motion. The Tapit filly was clocked breezing four furlongs in a time of :49.45. It was the first time she hit the track since finishing third in the July 8 Modesty Handicap (G3T) at Arlington International Race Course.

Jail-Time Rule Change on the Agenda at CHRB Meeting

With field size a concern in California, the California Horse Racing Bard (CHRB) discussed a possible rule change at its July meeting that could potentially restrict in-state claimed horses from running outside of California.

The current rule in place restricts claimed horses from competing out of a state for a specific amount of time at most in-state tracks. CHRB and some industry stakeholders want to to expand upon the current measures in a more formal regulatory fashion.

The proposal for the rule change was sent to the CHRB’s Legislative, Legal, and Regulations Committee for review, and it seeks to ban a claimed horse from racing “in any state other than California until 60 days after the close of the meeting from where it was claimed, except (for) a stakes race.”

“There’s been considerable discussion over the last many months about short fields and about the fact that one of the contributing factors is the claiming and removal of horses from California (to) many locations east, where purses are enhanced with subsidies from gaming,” said CHRB Executive Director Rick Baedeker. “There are house rules in place at Del Mar and Santa Anita—where any horse claimed at the meet stays at the meet—(but) a horse could be claimed in the last couple of weeks and show up a day after a meet closes at one of those locations in the East.”

Baedeker also mentioned how legal restrictions that used to prevent “jail-time” efforts in the state weren’t impediments any longer, which was supported by CHRB Chief Counsel John McDonough.

“In 2003 we had an attorney general that thought instituting this rule would be in violation of the Interstate Commerce (Act),” said McDonough. “Since that period of time, some 27 of 38 states that allow wagering on (horse racing) have instituted rules similar to this and there’s been a dramatic change—in regards to Supreme Court decisions in the last few years—narrowing the scope of Interstate Commerce.

“Based on analysis done by the entire legal (team), we should ask for another opinion from the Attorney General, because we believe the board, if it chooses to, could institute this particular regulation and it could be defended.”

The proposed rule change will undergo further discussion before a final vote is tabulated.

Mike Hushion Retires From Training

Respected trainer Mike Hushion has reached the end of his career following two races this past weekend in the New York Racing Association (NYRA) circuit. The 69-year-old Hushion announced his plans to step away from training last September.

“I think like anybody my age, I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” said Hushion. “My owners have all been wonderful and this is the right time for it, that’s all. (The runners) keep us busy. It gives us a little something to do, but the winding down has gone pretty smoothly.”

“I’ve been with him for 25 years, so that pretty much says it all,” said long-time client Barry K. Schwartz said. “We’ve had a great relationship. He’s a terrific guy and a wonderful trainer. It’s sad to come to an end but I’m very happy for him. It’d be nice for him to win with one of them but, regardless, he’s done such a great job with so many horses over the years. We’ve had some amazing times together, a lot of highs.”

Hushion battled and beat leukemia in 2015 and plans to spend the early part of his retirement with this three adult children — sons Ryan and Quinn, and daughter Casey — as well his eight grandchildren. There’s a ninth grandchild on the way, so Hushion should be plenty busy with family time.

The 69-year-old trainer began his career in the mid-70s, with his first winner coming in 1975 — Tugboat Ryan. Since that initial victory, Hushion has gone on to train 1,426 winners and earned over $52 million in purses.

“With my past experience, the one thing I was sure that I didn’t want to do is go from here to basically the hospital,” said Hushion. “I wanted to take some time and enjoy everything that’s supposed to be in between.

“As soon as I made the phone calls to my owners, there’s never been a doubt in my mind, and that’s a good sign. My horses will be getting good care where they go, and I’ll move on and see what happens. Spend a little time out in the big world. We’ll see what comes along, but I have some ideas. No paying jobs, though.”

Ben’s Cat Recovers from Colic Surgery

Ben’s Cat, the four-time Maryland Horse of the Year recipient, underwent colic surgery in order to fix an epiploic foramen entrapment. Dr. True Baker performed the surgery at the Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Kentucky. Ben’s Cat is now recovering under the watchful eye of Dr. Rana Bozorgmanesh at the McGee Medicine Center.

“In the short time Ben’s Cat has been in Kentucky, he has endeared himself to all that have been around him and cared for him,” said Spring Ridge Farm’s Christina Welker. Spring Ridge Farm is located close to Versailles, Kentucky. “His intelligence and demeanor are a true testament of his class as a racehorse.”

“I can assure all his loyal fans that every effort will be made to see him through to a full recovery and we are fortunate to have such skilled and high levels of equine medical care in our area.”

Spring Ridge welcomed Ben’s Cat to their facility on June 29 following the announcement of his retirement by Hall of Fame trainer King Leatherbury two days prior. The nine-year-old son of Parker’s Storm Cat raced 63 times during his career, compiling a respectable record of 32-9-7 and he earned $2,643,782. Of the 32 wins, Ben’s Cat won 26 stakes races.

From the Thirty Eight Paces mare Twofox, Ben’s Cat is the only horse to have won the Maryland Horse of the Year award four times. He earned the award every year from 2011 to 2014.

2016 Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association Awards Announced

The Pennsylvania Horse of the Year was named last week, and the award went to Finest City. She also won the Champion Older Female and Champion Female Sprinter awards. The awards were unveiled as part of the 38th annual Iroquois Awards Banquet that was hosted by the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association.

Finest City is the daughter of City Zip and was last year’s top state-bred runner, earning over $832,000 from eight starts. She won or placed in five graded stakes races. In addition to be named the Eclipse Champion Female Sprinter, Finest City won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) last year and also set the Los Alamitos track record when she won the Great Lady M Stakes (G2) in a time of 1:14.48.

Below is a list of the rest of the 2016 Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association award winners:

  • 2-Year-Old Filly: Rose Tree
2-Year-Old Male: Downhill Racer
  • 3-Year-Old Filly: Lucy N Ethel
  • 3-Year-Old Male & Male Sprinter: Tom’s Ready
  • Older Male: Page McKenney
  • Female Turf Horse: Al’s Gal
  • Male Turf Horse: Granny’s Kitten
Broodmare of the Year: Be Envied
  • Stallion of the Year: Jump Start
  • Steeplechaser: Senior Senator
  • PA Preferred: PA-Sired, PA-Bred Female: Disco Chick
  • PA-Sired, PA-Bred Male & Leading Breeding Fund Recipient (Horse):
Roxbury N Overton
  • Leading Total Breeding Fund Recipient: Northview Stallion Station
  • Leading Breeder Award Earner: Thomas G. McClay
  • Leading Overall Breeder of Pennsylvania-Breds: Blackstone Farm

Mind Your Biscuits Preps for Belmont Sprint Championship

Grade one champion Mind Your Biscuits came away from a recent bullet breeze unscathed and looks in good shape to make his stateside return in the upcoming $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship (G2) at Belmont Park on July 8, according to his trainer Chad Summers.

Mind Your Biscuits was a winner his last time out, crossing the finish line of the Dubai Golden Shaeen (G1) in first. During his most recent workout, he was timed running five furlongs in :58.19, which was the fastest time of the day at the distance out of ten horses. He was ridden by jockey Joel Rosario. His quarter-mile and half-mile fractions were timed at :22 and :45 2/5, respectively.

“(It was) a little bit faster than we were looking for, but he did it the right way,” said Summers. “It was about as easy a :58 as there’ll ever be. He galloped out (to six furlongs) in 1:11. It was a good, fine dress rehearsal for what’s going to come July 8. He’s in the best form of his life. He came out of Dubai great. The time off was good for him. He’s raring to go.

“When they work that fast you always have to be a little bit cautious. I came back to the barn about 9:45 last night just to make sure that the feed tub was empty and it was, and he walked good this morning. We’re very excited about where we’re at.”

In 15 career starts, Mind Your Biscuits sports a record of 5-6-2, and has earned a shade over $2 million.

Horacio Karamanos Earns Win Number 2000

Jockey Horacio Karamanos, a familiar face in the Maryland riding scene, celebrated Father’s Day by winning his 2,000th career race at Laurel Park. He accomplished the feat on top of Liquid Aloha in a $28,000 starter optional claiming race for three-year-olds.

“I was not nervous but I am excited to make it,” said Karamanos, “I feel inspired because everyone was saying, ‘C’mon, 1,999,’ so I had to do it. I made it and I’m happy because 2,000 races—it’s hard to get that.

“Someday my daughter is going to be a mother and she can say, ‘Look at what your granddaddy did,'” added the jubilant jockey. “You show them the picture because the picture is going to be forever. I wanted my family to stay with me in this moment. I feel happy for them, very emotional. Laurel is my home.”

It was an early birthday present for the Argentina jockey, who will turn 44 on June 28. Prior to his move to South Florida in 2000, Karamanos was a top rider in his home country, winning over 1,500 races in Argentina. His first stateside win was at the track formally known as the Calder Race Course. His first riding title came in 2002, and he has won five individual riding tiles in Maryland. His career earnings has crossed the $50 million threshold.

One of Karamanos’ career highlight occurred on October 26, 2002, when he won seven races on one single card at Laurel Park, which tied a track record.

 

Jockey Kent Desormeaux Warned Following Workout Whip Usage

An official warning was issued by stewards at Santa Anita Park to jockey Kent Desormeaux on June 10 for his actions during a May 28 workout on their track.

Steward Kim Sawyer said she and fellow stewards would have gone even further in their actions, but were unable to find a rule in the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) guidelines they could have employed for Desormeaux’s actions that took place on May 28 on top of Demonslayer.

During the workout, Desormeaux whipped Demonslayer towards the end of their workout, and once they galloped out, Desormeaux hit the horse three times on the shoulder. There was video of the incident posted to xbtv.com, but it was taken down due to negative social media attention.

“We could have very easily penalized him, but we couldn’t find a rule to use,” said Sawyer. “What was upsetting to me was that he hit the horse after the workout.” Sawyer also mentioned how there’s now a CHRB proposal being put together to address workout whip usage.

Desormeaux defended his gallop whip usage by saying he thought Demonslayer was going to “prop”, or dig his front legs and abruptly stop.

“He was trying to pull up and prop,” said Desormeaux. “The only difference between me and other guys was I was standing up and not (riding with) my hands. If (Demonslayer) had his way, he would have turned around or stopped entirely.”

Sawyer and her fellow stewards didn’t believe Desormeaux’s explanation. “I think it’s fair to say we didn’t buy the propping explanation,” said Sawyer.

Demonslayer trainer Bob Hess Jr. was concerned at first, but satisfied with Desormeaux’s explanation.

“The horse is cantankerous,” said Hess. “We trust Kent, but we were concerned. (Demonslayer) has a has a habit of knowing where the wire is and hitting the air brakes. Kent has been riding for me for 20 years. It was for Kent’s safety. Personally we both hate to hit a horse. I have a policy not to hit horses in my barn, because they can’t hit back. If you want to hit a horse, come and hit me, because I can hit back.”