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.

Handicapping the Buena Vista Stakes Mile Turf

Full Field on the Grass for the Buena Vista Stakes at Santa Anita

Saturday’s feature race at Santa Anita is on the lawn when a full field of 12 fillies and mares will run one mile in the $200,000 Grade ll Buena Vista Stakes.

No. 1 KERI BELLE is 2-for-2 over the Santa Anita turf course and should be able to get first jump on the late runners. She won the Megahertz Stakes (G3) last time out at 12-1. GLORY pushed the pace on the front end in that race and returns while  HER EMMYNENCY is speed and runs off a 4 ½ month layoff after winning the Grade l Queen Elizabeth ll Challenge Cup at Keeneland. She’s not 100% fit and a prep race is preferred.

STORMY LUCY is the likely favorite and might be ranked too low. She’ll carry high weight of 124 pounds but she’s been a consistent performer and has run very well in her last three starts. Stormy Lucy won the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes at Del Mar and missed by a photo in two other graded stakes with the last by a nose at a mile over this course as runner up to Keri Belle. She’ll be flying late starting from the No. 10 post.

PRIZE EXHIBIT is a multiple graded stakes winner and returns to her preferred grass footing. She’ll be one of the favorites but can be difficult to control. She’s an x-factor in this race with the condition of the turf uncertain. She won the Grade ll San Clemente at a mile last summer and her best would be good enough.

NASHOBA’S GOLD makes her second start off a layoff and has a late-developing pedigree that makes her an upset candidate at a bigger price despite no wins as a 4 year-old last year.

The Buena Vista Stakes is Race 8 at Santa Anita on Saturday, February 20 with post time near 4:00 PT.


pimlico grandstands

Preakness Stakes Staying Put At Pimlico

Pimlico Race Course will continue to host the Preakness Stakes despite rumblings that the Maryland Jockey Club has considered alternate locations. Sal Sinatra, the general manager at Pimlico, stated emphatically that his track will be the home for the second leg of the Triple Crown “for the foreseeable future”. Laurel Park stands as the most logical destination if the race truly desires a new home.

The threat of relocation is a savvy way of forcing Pimlico officials to upgrade the facility. Feasibility tests are currently being conducted to see which areas the track can improve from both an operational and superficial standpoint. Even Sinatra suggested last season that Pimlico needed an entire facelift as opposed to a simple touch up.

It goes without saying that Pimlico serves as a major revenue stream for the city of Baltimore so the fact that Sinatra and his colleagues seem convinced that the Preakness Stakes is staying put for the time being is a huge relief.

Laurel Park and the Maryland Jockey Club approved a $200 million renovation which suggested that the Preakness could be on the move. It’s the same type of aggressive stadium renovation which cities use to lure professional sports teams from one place to another. Speculation continues to soar that Laurel Park is building a bid to host the Breeders’ Cup in 2018 instead. The world championships will be held at Santa Anita this year, while moving to Del Mar in 2017.

The financial woes of Pimlico’s various ownership groups has fuelled a steady conversation about the track’s long term viability. Opening in 1870 and hosting the Preakness Stakes since it was conceived in 1873, ownership of the track has changed hands several times. Magna Corporation was one of those owners, but filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

Baltimore’s hosting of the Preakness Stakes is a long standing tradition in the sport of horse racing. But races can not survive on mere sentiment alone. With plans for improvements at Pimlico underway, the track will receive a much needed overall and continue to host the prestigious race for the immediate future.

Rainbow 6 Carryover Reaches $1.15 Million at Gulfstream

Wednesday’s Jackpot Rainbow 6 Carryover Reaches $1.15 Million

Gulfstream’s popular multi-race wager has gone unsolved for 25 consecutive programs, and the 20-cent Rainbow 6 carryover has reached $1.15 million when live racing continues at Gulfstream Wednesday, February 17. First race post time is 12:30 p.m. ET.

The atmosphere at Gulfstream and other tracks can become electric when fans have a chance to shoot for a high six or seven-digit payoff. A week ago, the jackpot had reached $665,851.50, and on Monday’s President’s Day card the carryover had soared to over $1 million. The last time a unique winner won was on January 13 when one lucky bettor hit the jackpot for $76,799.38. The largest payout of the current Championship Meet was $262,634.84 on Jan. 7.

Modeled after a bet that originated at little Beulah Park in Ohio, the Rainbow 6 differs from the pick six in two crucial ways. In a pick six, if many bettors select all six winners, they share the pot. If nobody picks six, part of the wagering pool is paid out as a consolation and the rest goes into the carryover jackpot for the next day’s card.

But in the Rainbow 6, the whole pool is paid out only if a single ticket has all six winners. Otherwise, a consolation is paid out to the perfect tickets while 30 percent of the day’s pool goes into the jackpot (The single-ticket rule doesn’t apply on the final day of the racing season, when there is a mandatory payout of everything in the pool).

The other crucial difference between the Rainbow 6 and the pick six is their cost. The betting unit of the Rainbow 6 is 20-cents, compared with $2 for the pick six.

There were multiple tickets sold with all six winners on Monday, each worth $6,084.70.

In addition to the Rainbow 6, there will be a $1 Super Hi-5 carryover of $59,902.97 in the Wednesday’s first race.

Mineshaft Handicap Preview

International Star swept last year’s three-year-old prep races and he is now ready to re-enter the world of graded ranks in the form of the February 20th $125,000 Mineshaft Handicap (gr. III) that will be run at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

A back injury took him out of commission until the Zia Park Derby on November 25th, where he came in fourth-place. He followed that up by winning the January 16th Louisiana Stakes over Eagle, who will also be competing in the Mineshaft Handicap. Another Louisiana Stakes contender, Majestic Harbor, who finished fifth, is also entered in the Mineshaft Handicap.

The 1 1/16-mile long race sees International Star running from post 3, under jockey Miguel Mena. He is the weight leader at 121 pounds and comes with 8/5 money line odds. Renown trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is backing Point Piper. Jessica’s Star is making a return to the racetrack after being vanned off the track in June of last year at the Cornhusker Handicap.

Below is the full list of participants for the Mineshaft Handicap:

1. Majestic Harbor (Jockey Corey J. Lanerie) – 6/1 money line odds
2. Point Piper – (Jockey Julien R. Leparoux) – 3/1 money line odds
3. International Star – (Jockey Miguel Mena) – 8/5 money line odds
4. Eagle – (Jockey Brian Joseph Herandez Jr.) – 2/1 money line odds
5. Jessica’s Star – (Jockey Florent Geroux) – 10/1 money line odds

airoforce leads the pack heading in to 2016 risen star stakes

Airoforce To Debut At Risen Star Stakes

Airoforce has been curiously absent from industry news in the months following his Kentucky Jockey Club victory last November. That will change as he takes part in the Risen Star Stakes and a shot at the $400,000 purse.  The 1 1/16th mile race is named after Risen Star, the winner of the 1988 Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

The three-year old Airoforce has watched his stock amongst other Triple Crown hopefuls stagnate as others have started to make some vibrant, earth rattling moves. Mor Spirit and Mohayman are now seen as the main threats to the unbelievable Nyquist who still leads the three-year old class. The final standings of the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager saw some radical shifts in power, but Airoforce went from just 18/1 to 16/1 over the weekend. It’s not that much of an improvement, though it’s obvious that there is still some intrigue for Airoforce amongst horse players.

To justify that faith, the Mark Casse trainee is going to have his hands full in the 1 1/16th mile Risen Star Stakes. He will be challenged mainly by Mo Tom out of GMB Racing. Trained by Thomas Amoss, Mo Tom has 2-0-2 in four races during his juvenile season. He won the Street Sense and the Lecomte to earn stakes grade victories in 2015, but finished third in his opening allowance and again at the aforementioned Kentucky Jockey Club that Airoforce won.

Tom’s Ready, who finished as runner-up to Mo Tom at the Lecomte, is still in search of his first graded stakes win. He is one of the hopefuls to finish on the podium and there will be some interesting money coming in on him to at least show.

The dark horse in the Risen Star Stakes will undoubtedly be In Equality, who finished third at the recent Jerome Stakes behind Flexibility and Vorticity. This will be just his second graded stakes contest, but there’s definitely some intrigue here as well.

Still, most of the focus in this race is how much Airoforce dominates 13 horse field. You’ll have to tune in on February 20th to find out if Airoforce is really ready to challenge for the Triple Crown as he makes his 2016 debut at the Risen Star Stakes.

Nyquist and Exaggerator Make 3-Year Old Debut at San Vicente Monday

Nyquist and Exaggerator Head Short Field in San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita

Champion two-year old male of 2015 Nyquist is ready to run on President’s Day in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2). The seven furlong race on Monday, February 15 is not among the 35 designated Kentucky Derby prep races carrying points that determine the Derby field, but Nyquiest currently leads all Derby hopefuls with 30 points.

Nyquist Winning Breeders' Cup Juvenile
Nyquist Winning Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Nyquist makes his much-anticipated 3-year old debut having won all five of his races with his last being the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Oct. 31. Trainer Doug O’Neill had his colt work five furlongs February 7 on Santa Anita’s pristine track and deemed him very fit and ready.

“That’s exactly what we wanted to see,” O’Neill said after Nyquist was clocked in 1:00:20. “He’s had a bunch of stamina workouts so we just wanted a sharp drill. He worked unbelievably.”

“He normally goes by himself. We put him in company today just to try and put competition back on his mind . . . So far, so good.” O’Neill continued, “He’s got so much class, so much raw ability. It’s hard to believe that he’s any more mature than last year but he’s doing everything right and thriving on training; he’s doing super.”

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won the San Vicente a record nine times, and he’ll saddle Electrifying along with Drefong in the San Vicente. Also running in the San Vicente is Derby hopeful Exaggerator, who is also making his 3-year old debut. Exaggerator will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux and is trained by his brother Keith. He ran fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a troubled trip between horses down the stretch before winning the Delta Downs three weeks later.

Exaggerator Winning Delta Downs Jackpot
Exaggerator Winning Delta Downs Jackpot

Exaggerator offers more value and opportunity to win. He has three wins and a second in six races with lifetime earnings of $983,120. His sire, Curlin, was a late developer and didn’t race until February of his three-year old season before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby and then won the Preakness Stakes.

Team Nyquist is quite familiar with the Triple Crown trail. O’Neill, jockey Mario Gutierrez and owner J. Paul Reddam won the 2012 Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another, but the horse was scratched with an injury, then retired, a day before the Belmont Stakes.

Despite all the hype for Nyquist, there is legitimate concerns for colt of Uncle Mo. Nyquist had the weakest set of Beyer Speed Figures for a 2-year-old champion in memory – posting 84, 89, 82, 79, and 89 in his five wins with three of those by less than a length. He did overcome a difficult trip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to win as the 9-2 betting choice. With history as a guide in failing to reach 90 on the BSF, it’s certainly possibly that Nyquist may have been his best as a 2-year old. As a betting favorite in the San Vicente and upcoming races, he’s not likely a worthy wager.

The Kentucky Derby Future Wager opened this weekend with Pool 2, and Nyquist is currently the second-Derby favorite at 12-1 behind Mohaymen (8-1). Exaggerator is listed at 20-1.


Apprentice Rosie Higgins Wins First Race

It took only her fourth mount for apprentice Rosie Higgins to break her maiden, and it happened in the second race at Santa Anita Park yesterday while riding Blue Law. She trailed Gavination at the far turn, but was able to take the lead turning for home on her way to an eventual three lengths win. The five-furlong race was completed in a winning time of 1:04.46 by Blue Law.

“It was awesome,” said Higgins. “I was a little worried there for a moment, I just didn’t want (Gavination) to close the door, but we were able to get through. I just said ‘Come on sweetie,’ and we got through just fine. Hopefully, it helps my career a little bit. I understand that I’m new. I know I’m still green and I know how trainers feel, because I’ve been in their position. Hopefully, it helps and I keep moving up.”

Blue Law, trained by Bob Hess Jr., was the pre-race favorite at money line odds of 6-5 in the eight horse race, which brought with it a $20,000 claiming tag.

“This was her third time riding for me,” said Hess. “She’s very patient and is very mindful of doing things right—of doing what is right by the horse. She’s got great balance and she’s totally into what she’s doing. This is great.”

Higgins must stick with apprentice tag for at least one year from the day of her fifth winner or when she wins race number 40; whichever one comes first.