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.”

$1 Million Bonus from NYRA up for Grabs to Japanese Belmont Winner

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) is offering a one million dollar bonus to any Japan-based Thoroughbred who wins the 149th Belmont Stakes (gr. I) on June 10. The $1 million bonus would be given to the connections of the winning horse in addition to the $800,000 that comes with winning the Belmont Stakes.

Last year was a good one for Japan-based horses, as Lani become the first to enter all three Triple Crown events (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes). He finished ninth in the Derby, fifth at the Preakness, and third in the Belmont.

A 2015 law that allowed Japan to simulcast a small number of international horse races has provided a boon to the Japanese wagering industry. The first race that allowed simulcast wagering was the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) and it brought in $7.68 million in bets.

“With Japan opening their simulcast markets to the world on a limited basis, we believe this has the potential for incredible growth for racing here in the U.S.,” said NYRA Senior Vice-President of Racing Operations Martin Panza. “In NYRA’s talks with Japanese officials, they have conveyed to us that races with Japanese horses would be preferred for simulcasting.

“Japan has some of the most enthusiastic racing fans in the world and we’ve been working on this with Churchill Downs officials, who have implemented the ‘Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby’ this year, as a way to help attract these horses to the United States, enhancing the entire Triple Crown program.”

Japan-based horses wanting to claim the Belmont bonus must have raced at least three times in Japan prior to the Belmont Stakes, as well as be nominated for the Triple Crown series.

NYRA to Run Eight $100,000 Maiden Races

Thanks in part to an ongoing program for two-year-olds offered by the New York Racing Association (NYRA), a total of eight races each worth $100,000 will take place next spring in the run up to the Astoria and Tremont run, which are the first two juvenile stakes races of the year.

The races will be broken down into three trials. Below is the trial schedule for Astoria:

Trial A – 4 1/2 furlongs – April 19
Trial B – 5 furlongs – May 3
Trial C – 5 furlongs – May 17

Trial A will be held at Aqueduct Racetrack and Trial B and Trial C will take place at Belmont Park. All races will be in preparation for the Astoria on June 8.

Trial schedule for Tremont is as follows:

Trial A – 4 1/2 furlongs – April 20
Trial B – 5 furlongs – May 4
Trial C – 5 furlongs – May 18

The Tremont trials will take place at Belmont park, leading up to the Tremont Stakes on June 9.

There are also turf races implemented into the trials thanks to positive response from fans and horseman last year. For fillies, the Astoria Trial D will be five furlongs on turf and will take place on May 25. The Tremont Trial D, also five furlongs and on turf, runs the next day on May 26.

Each trial field is limited to a field of ten, with each winner netting $50,000. All horses will be paid. If each trial fields a full ten the payout will be the aforementioned $50,000 for first, $20,000 for second, $10,000 for third, $7,500 for fourth, $5,000 for fifth, $4,000 for sixth, and the seventh through tenth-place finishers will split the remaining $3,500. There will also be a bonus program for New York-bred trainers and owners.

“A strong 2-year-old program is important to the Aqueduct and Belmont spring meets and the high demand for the bonus program in 2016 shows us that we’re moving our racing program in the right direction,” said NYRA Senior Vice-President of Racing Operations Martin Panza. “It’s one thing to offer races, but it’s another thing to make sure they go. We want our horsemen to feel confident when they send their 2-year-olds to New York in April, May, or June, that we will make every effort to be sure these races are used.”

Synthetic Track Might be in Aqueduct’s Future

The past few years it has been nothing but talk by the New York Racing Association (NYRA) and its plans to install a synthetic racing surface at Aqueduct Racetrack. That talk might finally turn into action, as the NYRA announced they are earmarking a 2017 capital budget expense attached to the project.

A state panel overseeing the NYRA’s finances was told by its President, Chris Kay, that costs are still in the negotiation stage, but that the expected cost should come in somewhere between nine to twelve million dollars. Kay also noted how they would like to bring in trainers from Woodbine, who recently replaced the Tapeta surface there with a Polytrack one.

“We believe having a synthetic track at Aqueduct would be very helpful in bringing horses from other locales,” said Kay. In addition to a synthetic turf replacement at Aqueduct, Kay and the NYRA are also looking into the possibility of installing a synthetic track at Belmont Park.

Two selling points for synthetic surfaces, according to Kay, are that they “have scored well” when it comes to reducing catastrophic injuries and they provide “a more stable surface” for racehorses.

Most talks with Horseman have been positive, but they did have some concerns regarding the switch from dirt to synthetic tracks when moving horses. Aqueduct has two dirt tracks. Kay said, “We will certainly explore that with the trainers as we move forward.”