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.

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.

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.

Al Khali Joins Brother Japan in Retirement to Stud

Al Khali, the winner of multiple graded stakes races, will be spending his 2016 at the Keene Stud in New York after being put to stud for an advertised fee of $2,500. AlKhali

During his career, Al Khali, the son of Medaglia d’Oro, went from Peru to the U.S., via WinStar/Todd Pletcher to Brous Stable/Wachtel Stable and finally to Bill Mott.

Co-owner Adam Wachtel declared Al Khali to be quite the horse, adding. “he was very unlucky to not be a multiple grade I winner. He should have won the Sword Dancer. He should have won the Pattison. He was just unlucky.”

Wachtel went on to reminisce about Al Khali’s racing days:

“When he won the Bowling Green to beat Winchester, it was one of the most impressive finishes any horse I’ve ever owned had done. In fact, his next race after that was the Pattison at Woodbine. He got beat three-quarters of a length and like in the Bowling Green, he was completely stopped with no place to go. He then rallied to almost get up.

“I flew back from Toronto with Alan Garcia who rode him, and with Edgar Prado. Edgar was talking about the prior race when Al Khali ran past him with that incredible burst. He told me he never had a horse run past him like that. I thought that was pretty cool, coming from Edgar.”

Al Khali’s record upon retirement is 8-5-5 (in 41 career starts), and he earned $1,019,510 during the course of his career. His last race saw him come in seventh-place at the Bowling Green. Al Khali will join his brother Japan, who will also retire to stud status in 2016.

Stronach Group Sues DerbyWars

In a U.S. first, a horse racing contest site is being sued by a racetrack. Specifically, The Stronach Group-owned racetracks have filed a federal lawsuit claiming Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) racing website DerbyWars is operating in an unlawful manner by using their track races in contests on their website without compensation. Horse Racing LLC owns DerbyWars, which was launched in 2011. derby-wars-logo

The suit was filed on December 2nd, in the U.S. District Court, Central District of California. Stronach tracks are arguing that DerbyWars is damaging their tracks and business, and would like monetary damages in return. The amount of damages they are seeking will be determined at trial.

While horse racing DFS sites such as DerbyWars can cite the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) as a source of protection against such claims, as there is an exception in the law, it’s mostly interpreted as an exception for licensed pari-mutuel wagering.

That is what The Stronach Group is arguing, and they also believe the exception can only be applied when outlets offering horse racing contests have reached an agreement with host racing associations, regulators, and local horsemen’s groups. In this particular case, The Stronach Group says no agreements with DerbyWars have been made.

DerbyWars released a statement, via co-founder Mark Midland. Below is a snippet:

“We are in receipt of the Stronach Group’s lawsuit but find the claims without merit and our attorneys are handling this matter. With DerbyWars, we have seen first-hand the ability of contests to create new fans and re-engage old ones. Horse Racing Labs, the parent company of DerbyWars, was founded to create new ways to grow horse racing.”

2015 Best Jockey Award Goes to Frankie Dettori

Frankie Dettori has been awarded the title of World’s Best Jockey for 2015, beating out Ryan Moore and Triple-Crown winning Victor Espinoza for the crown.

Dettori’s impressive 2015 resume includes five wins in top-100 grade I or group I races. Four of those wins came through riding Golden Horn (Investec Derby, QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes, Coral-Eclipse, and Qatar Prix de l’Arc). Golden Horn was named Europe’s Horse of the Year. Frankie Dettori

The other race Dettori won this year was the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, which he accomplished riding Undrafted.

There will be a gala dinner ceremony recognizing Dettori on December 11, which will be part of the Longines Hong Kong International Races, scheduled to be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

In addition to Dettori’s five grade I/group I wins, he also came away the victor in three more group I races: Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes, Darley Prix Morny, and Prix de Diane Longines (French Oaks).

Consistency was key in naming Dettori the top jockey of 2015, as he also finished second in four other races, and third in three more.

The tabulation system awards points for top-three finishes in what are deemed the 100 highest-rated grade I and group I races according to the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings Committee. First place is worth 12 points, six for second, and four for third. Dettori earned 100 total points.

Espinoza and Moore actually tied for second-place, with 90 points each. Coming in a close fourth-place with 88 points was Maxime Guyon. The award went to Moore last year.

Ahh… Chocolate (Falls) City

Longshot Gamblers Rose was pacing the start of the Falls City Handicap (gr. II) race at Churchill Downs yesterday (November 26), but it was Ahh Chocolate who wound up powering through to the end of the race, wining the nine-furlong by 1 1/2 lengths. The first two were tracked by Theogony, who came in second. Third place went to Call Pat. ahh choco

The three-year-old filly and Stonewall Farm home-bred Ahh Chocolate had 6-1 odds as the third-favorite in the race and paid out $14.20, $7, and $4.20. Her trainer is Neil Howard, and was ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr.

“She’s a big filly; she’s growing all the time,” said Howard post-race. “We knew by fall she had started coming to hand. She ran well in the Chilukki [Stakes, gr. II, Nov. 7] and we knew she was consistent on this track.”

The favorite heading into the $200,000 Falls City race was Frivolous, at 3-1 odds. Unfortunately a tendon injury forced Frivolous out of the race, as well as today’s Clark Handicap (gr. I), and is going to be retired. 5-1 favorite So Sweet and Needmore Flattery (50-1 odds) also were scratched.

Second-place Theogony paid $12 and $7, while third-place finisher Call Pat paid $4. If you were lucky enough to hit on the $2 exact 6-11 it would have brought you back a return of $124.40 on your initial investment.

The second-choice, Chide, with 5-2 odds, pitched jockey Miguel Mena after taking a bad step, and she fractured her left front long; she was sadly euthanized.

Winning Falls City was worth $119,040 to the victor.

John Velazquez Fined; Jose Lezcano Not

The New York State Gaming Commission (NYSGC) has levied a fine of $500 to jockey John Velazquez in relation to a July 4th incident in which the jockey misused his riding crop on his horse Tonalist during the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap at Belmont. Belmont1The jockey was accused by a racing steward of inappropriately whipping his horse. The allegation was supported by a state hearing officer deeming “substantial evidence” to find Velazquez guilty. The NYSGC voted 5-0 in favor of handing down the fine.

The lawyer representing Velazquez, Andrew Mollica, argued its common practice for riding crops to come into contact accidentally with the head or ear of a horse during the course of a race. “Our contention is it happens in every race. Why do you pick this one out?” Mollica wondered.

Mollica was awaiting access to the final report from the hearing officer, insisting Velazquez didn’t mean to “make contact with Tonalist’s head or ears.”

In a separate case regarding another one of Mollica’s clients, jockey Jose Lezcano was cleared of any wrongdoing stemming from a steward’s claim accusing him of violating two rules of striking his horse, Flag On the Play, with goggles during a race at Belmont on June 11.

In the case of Lezcano, Mollica declared victory, saying the ruling in favor of his client was “a great win because jockeys need to know what the rules are and aren’t. In this case there was no rule.”

According to Mollica, Lezcano’s riding crop was dropped during the midst of the race so he used goggles in order to urge his horse, a practice which other jockeys have used and weren’t fined for.