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Monday, November 30, 2009

Canadian jockey rebounds from tragedy

Now she's impressing people with her positive attitude.

On Oct. 30, Brimo went down in a racing spill at Keeneland Racecourse in Kentucky when her mount, Golden Stride, clipped the heels of another horse and fell.

Brimo, 33, of Mississauga, suffered contusions to her spinal cord in the accident. Four days later, she underwent surgery to insert a plate and four screws to fuse her fourth and fifth vertebrae together.

Now Brimo is at Lyndhurst Rehabilitation Centre in Toronto, ready for repair, and “ready to get running out of there and get back on a horse,” said her sister Alicia Brimo. “She's coming along really well, which is fantastic. She's really positive.”

“I feel very honoured [at what the jockeys are doing.]” Brimo said from her hospital bed yesterday. “It's a very special thing that they're coming together and doing for me. It's actually quite unbelievable.”

Today, jockeys across North America – including Woodbine – have been asked to pledge one mount fee to go toward the Julia Brimo Fund, set up by friend Cindy Werner, wife of a U.S. trainer, Ronny Werner. The Fund is based at the Fifth Third Bank in Louisville, Ky.

Saturday, in honour of Brimo, jockeys wore two patches on their boots, one that says “Julia” and another highlighting the Permanently Disabled Jockeys' Fund (PDJF).

Jockeys at Woodbine are proving to be hugely supportive and some are pledging multiple mount fees. Robbie King, national manager of the Jockeys' Benefit Association of Canada, said the pledge sheet has been “loading up” quickly. Some are promising as many as four.

“She's a very popular young girl,” King said. “She has a very bubbly personality.

“And her attitude has been phenomenal. She's all gung-ho to get back. We're all wishing her as quick a recovery as possible.”

The riders intend to send her a get-well placard, with a photograph of the group, King said.

While Brimo has feeling and movement in her limbs, at Lyndhurst, she will have to learn how to use them all over again. She faces learning to walk again.
 

Beverley Smith

TORONTO Globe and Mail Update

 

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oldest Derby-Winning Jockey Dead at 91

Hanford was the oldest living Kentucky Derby-winning jockey and was the first apprentice to capture the Run for the Roses.

One of 10 children, Hanford grew up in Fairbury, Neb., and followed his two brothers to the East Coast to become a jockey. His oldest brother Buddy died after sustaining a head injury in a race at Pimlico in 1933. His brother Carl, now 93, is the Hall of Fame trainer best known for conditioning five-time Horse of the Year Kelso.

Hanford was at Churchill Downs for the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

“Babe and I enjoyed celebrating the 70th anniversary of his winning ride by attending the 2006 Kentucky Derby,” said Virginia “Ginny” Hanford, his wife of 67 years.

In addition to his wife and brother, Hanford is survived by his two sons Glenn and Gary and numerous nieces and nephews, including trainer Gail Hanford.

A private funeral is scheduled for Nov. 28. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that a donation be made to the Kentucky Derby Museum to help its recovery from August flood damage.  The Blood-Horse

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Giving safer whips a crack

At the three-sixteenths pole, Borel went to his whip. He smacked Rachel three times right-handed, switched over to his left hand, whipped her five times, and then went back to his right for a final surge as Macho Again drew nearly even.

Anatomy of the Whips
 
Click for a look at the differences between
new and old whips. (PDF)

In the final 150 yards or so, Borel gave Rachel Alexandra 15 pops of the crop, tapping her on the shoulder a couple of times and showing her the whip between smacks to the rump. At the wire, it was Rachel by a head.

Borel had whipped the filly more than 20 times on her hindquarters. In the days that followed, online blogs hummed with comments, and letters to the editor came into Daily Racing Form: Had Rachel Alexandra been abused by Borel's whip?

But there was another question, nowhere asked: Had Rachel even felt the sting of Borel's whip in the Woodward?

Borel was using the latest in riding-crop technology, a low-impact whip tipped with a long, padded popper. Lighter and producing less sting, the new whips may cost riders a measure of control and instill in some horses less urgency to give their all. But throughout the country, new whip rules are coming into effect because of pressure placed on racing following the high-profile deaths of Barbaro and Eight Belles, whose catastrophic breakdown after finishing second in the 2008 Kentucky Derby spurred an industry-wide assessment of the safety of racehorses.

Three states - Kentucky, Indiana, and South Dakota - have mandated use of the new, more horse-friendly whips. California has a proposed state rule, and jockeys there already are riding with new crops, a change mandated by Del Mar and Hollywood Park racetracks. Santa Anita, Delaware Park, Monmouth Park, and Philadelphia Park have "house rules" requiring the use of new crops. In New York, jockeys at the Saratoga meet took the lead, electing to use new whips beginning Aug. 16. New whips are already fully in use or being phased into tracks operated by Churchill Downs Inc. Canadian venues require new whips, and stewards there scrutinize the number of times jockeys strike their horses, handing out fines for overuse of the crop.

The new equipment feels and works differently than the old. The popper on the end of a traditional riding crop is about two inches long and made of solid leather. Used too vigorously, it can raise welts and draw blood. Not so the new whips, which are tipped by a popper about six inches long. Sewn inside a soft pad of woven fibers made to look like leather is a piece of foam. When it strikes horseflesh, the lighter, thickly padded whips make an impressive pop while delivering their cushioned message.

Horses used to being encouraged by the whip's sting may no longer feel compelled to respond. Riders accustomed to whaling away in the stretch may discover they're wasting energy.

"The whip is not a whip," Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux said during the Keeneland fall meet. "It's a noisemaker."

A few days earlier, at Hawthorne in Chicago, veteran rider E.T. Baird had said: "If I had to make a comparison, the old one, it's 'pop,' and the new one, it's like you're hitting with a marshmallow."

An impetus for change

Eight Belles was whipped 10 times by jockey Gabriel Saez in the 2008 Derby, a low number, given the magnitude of the event. Still, for many people these days, with the presence of domesticated animals in daily life greatly diminished and with more attention to animal rights, whipping feels unacceptable.

Outcry against whips was heard as far back as 1980 in England. In April 2007, padded whips became mandatory in flat races there, and steeplechase riders in the British Isles already were using softer crops. And while racing insiders would have scoffed at the idea that Eight Belles broke down because of whipping, racing's critics did not hesitate to make the jump. On the website of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a blog post from last summer still makes reference to Eight Belles's breakdown in the context of the whip:

"Most of you probably remember the tragedy at the 2008 Kentucky Derby in which a young filly, Eight Belles, was whipped mercilessly in the final stretch, only to break both her front ankles after she crossed the finish line," reads the posting.

It was not just PETA, the radical edge of anti-racing, responding to the Eight Belles breakdown. Coming out of the 2008 Derby, the public's perception of the sport might have been at an all-time low. A consumer research firm employed by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association compared racing's image to that of Tylenol in the 1980s and boxing in the 1990s.

The Grayson Jockey Club formed its Thoroughbred Safety Committee on May 8, 2008, just days after the Derby. Issues taken up there already had surfaced in two earlier Jockey Club Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse summits. Three concerns were attacked in this initial phase of the post-Eight Belles crisis: Toe grabs, steroids - and the riding crop.

There was talk of banning the whip, but jockeys had to explain why that wasn't possible. For example, if a horse running full speed decides it would like not to finish negotiating a turn and heads for the outside fence, a polite request from a 110-pound human may not be heeded.

"A whip is a useful guiding tool," said jockey Robby Albarado. "If a horse is getting out, pop, pop, pop - you can control them with it."

The first new whips were obtained for use in flat races during the 2008 meet at Ellis Park in western Kentucky. At the recommendation of the Jockey Club, riders there began trying the padded whips that had been adopted by steeplechase jockeys. But the riders encountered problems.

"Steeplechase riders, you know, they can be 6-foot-1," said Johnston, the Guild rep. "When our riders reach back to hit with that length whip, they don't get where they need to be. So the first whips were too short. In the second phase, the poppers didn't pop at all. The jocks said it was like hitting them with a feather. The horses weren't respecting it."

Even when manufacturers got the length right and put more pop in the popper, there were further setbacks.

"Those early new whips were breaking," said jockey John Velazquez. "I broke three the first week [at Keeneland] last spring."

Larry Fowler, who is based in Kentucky and has been making whips for 22 years, theorized the new whips might have broken more often because jockeys were striking harder than in the past, trying to compensate for the cushioned blow. Or perhaps the new poppers transferred energy differently.

"Maybe the recoil was into the shaft and not so much into the popper," Fowler said.

New whips are more expensive than old whips, costing from $60 to $100. Their length and weight varies. Although the Association of Racing Commissioners International has released model rules governing crops, it is up to jurisdictions to set basic whip guidelines. ARCI standards require a whip weigh no more than eight ounces, be less than 30 inches long, and have a shaft at least one-half inch in diameter. The flap, or popper, must be between .8 and 1.6 inches wide.

New whips are assembled much like the old. They start with a four- or five-foot tapered fiberglass rod, which is cut into a whip length. The fiberglass is then wound with duct tape to achieve a desired width. Around the tape goes fabric, and over the fabric, a rubber handle. At the last, the popper gets slid on and glued into place.

"At first, I was like, 'Nah, I can't believe they're making jockeys do this,'" said Garrett Broussard, who makes whips for Desormeaux, Albarado, and Edgar Prado and works as a jockey's valet at Fair Grounds. "But now I'm used to it."

No horse or rider is the same

How will the new whips affect the performance of a rider? As usual, it depends on the rider and how much they relied on the whip to begin with.

"Different riders have gotten the most of a horse different ways," said trainer Neil Howard, who has been on the racetrack since the 1970s.

Some famed riders of the past were known for making the most of their stick.

"There was [Angel] Cordero, of course, and Jorge Velasquez," Howard said. "Of course, the guy I consider the god of riders, Pat Day, he probably didn't wear out one whip in his entire career. [Braulio] Baeza, he was another one, a finesse rider. They all have the same goal but get there a different way."

Riders such as Garrett Gomez in Southern California spoke favorably about the new sticks even as they were in the process of being adopted. But many jockeys say the whips take getting used to.

"Initially, I didn't like it," Albarado said. "I thought it was useless, and I'm not one of those guys that's going to overpower a horse. But everything's changing now. The perception is we're using a safer whip."

Advocates for an all-out whip ban contend striking a horse will not actually make it run faster, but that is not the prevailing view among current riders, who say some horses do respond to the whip by exerting themselves more fully, some don't.

"It takes them out of being lazy," said Baird. "Most of the horses, they're pretty free-running. A lot of them, it wouldn't bother them if you hit them with a bazooka. They're going to protect themselves. But you can compare it to people: Some are more motivated, more aggressive, than others."

Said Velazquez, who is not noted as a heavy whipper: "I always thought you've got to get in a rhythm with a horse first before you worry about whipping. There are some times when I feel like a horse needs to be whacked a couple times to really get the most out of them."

James Graham often has gotten mounts because he is a strong jockey who readily goes to his stick.

"I'm an aggressive rider, and I get paid to ride the way I ride," said Graham. "I use the whip more than average. It's fair to say that they do respond more to the old whips. The new whips are light - very light. Some of the cheaper [horses] won't respond as much."

Desormeaux said he has at least grown accustomed to the different feel of the new sticks during the last several months.

"All I know is everyone is using the same thing," he said. "It's a level playing field."

New whips, new rules

It remains to be seen whether a new generation of whips is accompanied by a new era of whip regulation. Jockeys in Australia recently staged a strike when the national authority attempted to impose regulations on how often a horse could be whipped in a race, and the authority eventually ceded ground. The 2008 Cheltenham Festival in England, a major jump-racing meet, turned chaotic and contentious as stewards handed down a flurry of bans for abuse of the whip. Riders felt confused about what was acceptable. Less-informed members of the public got the sense abuse was rampant, though cushioned crops were being used.

Canadian tracks have been handing penalties for overuse of the whip since new standards took full effect Sept. 15. "It's been fairly smooth, with one or two wrinkles," said Woodbine steward Gunnar Lindberg.

Jockeys riding at Woodbine can't raise their arm above their shoulder when using their crop. And after whipping a horse three times in a row, a jockey must wait at least one stride, and preferably two or three, before delivering another blow. Fines for violations are progressive and can be costly in stakes races worth more than $100,000, where too much whipping can cost a jock 20 percent of his purse earnings.

Riders at Woodbine, faced with a loss of income, are making adjustments. But elsewhere, jockeys find rules governing use of the whip difficult to take. In the United States, use of the whip is monitored by track stewards, but there are no codified rules.

"I think that goes way beyond," said Velazquez, who is chairman of the Jockey's Guild. "You go to one place, they fine you for hitting too much. You go to another place, they want to fine you for not getting into a horse enough if you miss third by a nose or something."

Maybe in some future stakes at Saratoga, a jockey will indeed be brought to heel for the number of times he strikes his mount. But in this year's Woodward, Borel, wielding a new crop, could use it as he chose - not really knowing if his whip was having any great effect.

"At Pimlico, I hit her twice, and that's all it took," said Borel, who carried an old-fashioned crop when Rachel Alexandra won the Preakness. "Two times, and she was gone. [At Saratoga], I was hitting her, but it was just to keep her momentum going. It looks so bad, it was pitiful. To my view, these sticks make it worse, because you hit them so many times. You don't know if they're going to respond."

Borel, old racetrack hand and clearly no cheerleader for the new whips, said this from the jocks' room recently at Churchill Downs, readying himself for a day's worth of mounts. He would be riding all that afternoon carrying one of his Broussard-made, heavily padded crops. Like it or not.

INTERNATIONAL REGULATIONS

A sampling of whip regulations at racetracks around the world:

United States: Variable regulations with ARCI guidelines. Whip use is monitored by track stewards.

England: Whip's contact area must be covered by shock absorbing material. A rider cannot raise the whip above his shoulder or whip his horse more than once per stride. Rider can hit the horse any place except on the quarters with the whip in either the backhand or forehand position and down the shoulder with the whip in the backhand position.

Canada: Whips conform to the ARCI model rules. Jockeys may whip horses no more than three times in a row and must break for at least one stride, preferably two or three. Jockeys cannot raise arm above shoulder, and the whip is not to be used when a horse is not visibly responding or is not in contention.

Japan: There are no limitations on whip use during a race.

Hong Kong: Stewards may punish a jockey if in their opinion he has used his whip to excess or in an improper manner. After a race, if a horse is found to have been marked in any way by a jockey, the rider will be fined by stewards.

Australia: Leather pads on the whip are not permitted, and the foam in the padded segment of the whip must be at least 0.28 inches thick. Riders are limited to seven forehand strikes in the last 100 meters of a race; before the 100-meter mark, the rider cannot use the whip in a forehand manner in consecutive strides and may not use it in a forehand manner on more than five occasions.

France: A rider who whips his horse more than eight times in a race will be suspended or fined. The rider may also be sanctioned if he uses his whip with great force or when the horse is only 2 years old.  Marcus Hersh/Daily Racing Form

 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ramon Dominguez Jockey of the Week

Dominguez captured the New York Stallion Staten Island Stakes aboard Mother Russia and rode Uncle T Seven to victory in the New York Stallion Thunder Rumble Stakes.

Through Wednesday, the 32-year-old Dominguez ranks third among all North American-based riders for the year by purse earnings with $17,163,449 and second by wins with 360.

Born in Venezuela and now residing in Elkton, Maryland, Dominguez has enjoyed a standout 2009 season. He won the spring-summer meeting at Belmont Park this yearwith 98 wins, 27 more than second-place Rajiv Maragh. On October 2, he became just the fifth jockey to win 300 races at New York Racing Association tracks in one season.

Dominguez won four consecutive riding titles at Delaware Park (2004-’07) prior to making the leap to the New York circuit. He moved his tack to New York to ride full time in 2009.  Thoroughbred Times TODAY

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Missing Bobby

No longer. Bobby Frankel was gone.

The assistants were characteristically mum. Ask about a racehorse, they were glad to share information. Ask about their boss and the answer was indefinite -- "We don't know nothing." Through the swirl of racetrack rumors, it became clear that Frankel, 68, had been kept away from the track due to a reoccurring battle with leukemia. His prognosis wasn't good.

He normally spent the season in Saratoga, and early in the summer the writers held out hope that the Hall of Fame trainer would reappear. But this year Frankel didn't leave his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and his presence was sorely missed. From 21 starters at the Spa, his barn sent out only two winners.

He had been fourth in the standings the year before, had taken four of the track's great Grade Is -- the Forego with First Defence, the Go for Wand and Personal Ensign with Ginger Punch, and the Hopeful with Vineyard Haven. But as the 2009 season went on, although his horses continued to train under his supervision via phone, he gradually dispersed them to other trainers.

Even as recently as the Nov. 6-7 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Frankel's presence was missed and remarked upon as his defending champ Ventura, winner of the 2008 Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, missed the 2009 edition by 1¼ lengths to Informed Decision. The Frankel barn, always marking up a strong success rate with the ladies, sent out Visit to finish fourth in the Filly & Mare Turf and Proviso, also fourth, in the Ladies' Classic.

Frankel was not there that weekend; he watched the races from his hospital room. And somehow his absence, six months away from the industry, reinforced what the Turf writers knew all along. That sooner or later, the end would come, and everything everyone had been waiting to say would have to be said in remembrance.

* * *

Bobby Frankel, born July 9, 1941, in Brooklyn, N.Y., died early on the morning of Nov. 16, 2009. "Peacefully at his home," the brief report from Blood-Horse read, and at news outlets across the nation, journalists began to pull statistics and clips about his greatness.

  • Hall of Fame member, inducted in 1995.
  • Five-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation's outstanding trainer.
  • Thirty training titles to his credit among tracks on both coasts -- in Southern California and New York.
  • The man who channeled the talents of 10 national champions, including 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper.
  • Six Breeders' Cup victories to his credit.
  • A Classic score in the 2003 Belmont Stakes (Empire Maker).

    And even in his final year, conditioner of four Grade I winners in six Grade I victories -- Ventura, Champs Elysees, Midships and Stardom Bound. It was a sad day for racing.

    But the Turf writers who knew him dug deeper into the reservoirs of memory, paying tribute to a man with a "quick wit, a fiery temper, and a sense of humor … but well-known for his soft spot for his horses, particularly fillies, as well as his pet dogs." (Steve Andersen, The Daily Racing Form)

    * * *

    Dave Grening first covered New York racing for The Form during Belmont's fall meet of 1998. His first summer at Saratoga, and his first exposure to a daily beat with Frankel, came in 1999. He quickly learned that to deal with the edgy trainer was an art form in itself.

    "You had to know what you were coming to ask, you had to be prepared when you went to see Frankel," Grening said. "If you were just asking willy-nilly questions from the top of your head, he'd give you a one- or two-word answer -- 'yes,' 'no,' 'he's OK,' that type -- and you wouldn't have anything to write. You had to come up with a legitimate question, know the horse you wanted to ask about, know about the race the horse was running in, and have an idea of how you thought his horse fit in so then he could school you on whether you were right or wrong."

    Although Frankel was based in California, his New York string established itself as a force to be reckoned with, including a 2003 run of 25 Grade I wins that came mostly in the Empire State. Through the victories -- which, for Frankel, seemed to come along more often than defeats -- Grening was there.

    "His barn was one of the first stops you had to make, when he had all those good horses," he remembered. "He was all about what he did -- racing, planning, strategizing -- and all about the horses."

    "The thing about Bobby that made him such a great trainer was this incredible affection he had for animals," recalled The Blood-Horse's Steve Haskin. "He was so in tune to them, basically his dogs and his horses encompassed his entire life."

    Haskin remembers seeing Frankel watch his horses as they left his barn at Saratoga, his faithful Australian shepherd Happy, and later Ginger, at his side. He remembers the affection Frankel had for his runners and the way he looked at them when they went out to the track -- with a sense of pride and respect.

    "There was that warmth to him that most people never saw," Haskin said. "And when his horses won, it was like his own child had gone out and done something magnificent. These horses were his children. He was a great guy to be around, he really was."

    Equine photographer Barbara Livingston also remembered Frankel with fondness. Initially frightened by his brusque behavior, she eventually came to recognize his softer side.

    "After the 2001 Alabama Stakes, a friend of mine once forced me to ask Bobby if he'd pose with his winner, Flute," Livingston recalled. "He seemed eager. He held her close and rubbed her face and smiled toward her -- such love, adoration -- he was smitten by her and, I learned, by all of his horses."

    Frankel posed again for Livingston with Sightseek in 2004 and, at Saratoga last year, with Ginger Punch.

    "We asked him about her," she said. "He said that while Ginger Punch wasn't the most talented horse he'd ever trained, she tried as hard as any mare could. He spoke of how much he admired her and of her great race on a picture-perfect Saratoga afternoon. He then spoke of politics and of life, and we laughed, we clung on every word. That was a good day."

    * * *

    During the last few weeks of Belmont's spring/summer meet of 2009, Daily News reporter Jerry Bossert put a call in to Frankel regarding one of his runners. The horse came from off the pace and took it going away, an impressive victory. The talk was all business; they discussed the race and the horse's future. But Bossert couldn't help thinking how much the trainer sounded like he always does, how he didn't sound sick at all. He couldn't help imagining that Frankel could be back outside that Saratoga shedrow sometime soon.

    Now, faced with the news they felt coming, those who knew him here will mourn and feel slightly lost. They'll pass Barn 72 next summer and a new trainer, new horses will be there. It just won't feel the same.

    As everyone remembers, Frankel was a profoundly private man. As anyone who knew him will tell you, overwhelming sympathy from hundreds is the last thing he would have desired. And perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, the simplest words are the most eloquent, when spoken from the heart. That is how he would like to be remembered.

    "I'll always be grateful to him for his kindness toward us and for his love of the game and his horses" Livingston said. "It is impossible to look at Ventura's face, or Flute's, or Sightseek's, and not see Frankel reflected therein."

    Claire Novak is an award-winning journalist whose coverage of the thoroughbred industry appears in a variety of outlets, including The Blood-Horse Magazine, The Albany Times Union and NTRA.com. She lives in Lexington, Ky

  • Friday, November 13, 2009

    DOMINGUEZ PASSES CORDERO

     “I’m very happy that I have been able to do so well in New York,” Dominguez said. “Like I always say, it’s nothing but a reflection of the type of horses that I ride and the support that I get from horsemen and owners. It’s overwhelming, especially with such a colony of great riders here.”

     The only jockey with more wins in a season at The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) tracks than Dominguez is Steve Cauthen, who registered an incredible 433 victories in 1977. With 26 full racing days left in the 2009 Aqueduct calendar, the 32-year-old Venezuelan jockey will need to average nearly four wins per day to pass Cauthen. So far in 2009, Dominguez has recorded four victories in a day on seven different occasions and five victories twice. He has registered three victories an astounding 40 times in New York this year.

     Four riders have scored more than 300 wins in a single year at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga, two of them twice. Hall of Famer Cordero won 340 races in 1982 and 309 in 1983, while fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith brought home 330 winners in 1991 and 313 in 1993. In 2006, Eibar Coa won 303 races.

     Earlier this year, Dominguez set a modern-day record for victories at Belmont Park’s spring/summer meet with 98 winners. Cordero held the mark for most victories since records were first kept, bringing home 92 winners during the 1982 Belmont Park spring/summer meet.

     Dominguez, who moved his tack to New York from the Mid-Atlantic circuit earlier this year, is currently NYRA’s leading rider, having won the title at Saratoga Race Course for the first time, Aqueduct Racetrack’s inner track and spring meets, and Belmont Park’s fall meet.

     Dominguez has 341 winners from 1,417 mounts in New York this year, with more than $14 million in purses. He is winning with 24 percent of his mounts. Nationally, he ranks second in wins with 353, five behind Russell Baze, and is third in total purse earnings with more than $16.9 million.

     A native of Venezuela, Dominguez came to the United States in 1995 and rode his first winner in March of 1996. Beginning in 2007, he divided his time between New York and Delaware Park, where he won five riding titles in 11 years, before moving to New York for good this spring with his wife, Sharon, and two children, Alexander and Matthew.  NYRA Communications Department

     

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    Julien Leparoux Named Jockey of the Week

    Leparoux, 26, rode three winners at the Breeders’ Cup on November 6-7 during the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita Park and was honored as the recipient of the seventh annual Bill Shoemaker Award. The award, established in 2003, is given to the top jockey at the event.
     

    A native of Senlis, France, Leparoux rode two winners on Friday—

    She Be Wild to a three-quarter-length score in the Grey Goose

    Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) and Informed Decision to a 1¼-

    length triumph in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare

    Sprint (G1).
     

    He followed with a victory on Championship Saturday at 21.30- to-1 odds aboard Furthest Land, who won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) by three-quarters of a length. Through Wednesday, Leparoux led all North American riders

    by purse earnings with $17,716,694. Thoroughbred Times TODAY

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    FUND ESTABLISHED TO ASSIST INJURED RIDER BRIMO

                “They have taken the respirator out and she is breathing on her own,” Cindy Werner said of the 33-year-old Brimo, who remains hospitalized in serious condition at the University of Kentucky Medical Center. “She has some movement in her extremities.”

                Brimo’s mount, Golden Stride, clipped heels and feel in the first race on the Polytrack surface at the Lexington track.

                “She has been galloping horses for us and rode some for us at Turfway Park,” Cindy Werner said.

                Brimo had been a regular fixture at Churchill Downs the past few years as an exercise rider for trainer Mark Casse and among the horses she had galloped here was Sealy Hill, Canada’s Horse of the Year in 2007.

                Werner said donations to the fund would be accepted at any Fifth Third Bank or can be mailed to Werner at 1116 Flat Rock Road, Louisville, KY 40245.
    Churchill Downs Comunications Department
    Monday, November 09, 2009

    Julien Leparoux Wins Bill Shoemaker Award

    Leparoux had won two Breeders’ Cup races going into the weekend from just 12 previous mounts, and scored with She Be Wild in the Juvenile Fillies and Informed Decision in the Filly & Mare Sprint Friday and longshot Furthest Land in the Dirt Mile Saturday for a total of five overall. 

    Garrett Gomez, Mike Smith and Frankie Dettori also added significantly to their respective rankings on the all-time purse earnings leader list.

    Smith’s storybook victory aboard Zenyatta in the Classic was his 13th to move him into second alone on the all-time Breeders’ Cup win list, two behind Pat Day at 15. With $2,799,000 in purse earnings Smith moved up to fourth on the all-time money list at $16,344,760, trailing only Day, Jerry Bailey and Chris McCarron.

    Gomez remarkably brought back checks with 10 mounts in the 14 Breeders’ Cup races over the two days, highlighted by his one victory aboard Life Is Sweet in the Ladies’ Classic on Friday. Gomez also was aboard for four runner-up efforts and his mounts earned $2,829,000 to move him into seventh on that all-time list at $13,708,600.

    Frankie Dettori rode Pounced to victory in the Juvenile Turf on Saturday and his mounts over the two days brought back purses of $1,006,500 to bring his total over the years to $16,112,172, fifth on the all-time earnings list behind Smith in fourth.

    Gomez and Dettori each have now won nine Breeders’ Cup races to rank in a tie for fourth in that statistical category with McCarron behind Jerry Bailey on top with 15, followed by Smith at 13 and Day third with 12.
    Santa Anita Communications Department
    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    These Cup jocks are looking good

    We're wrapping up quotes from the Breeders' Cup draw. I go to update my Facebook. There's a friend request from a popular jockey. "He's cute," I say, "but he's not as cute as Channing Hill."

    Then Joe gets an idea. "You should write Claire Novak's top 10 list of cutest active jockeys," he suggests. "It would be a riot!" From there, the idea morphs to "sexiest jockeys," then to "sexiest Breeders' Cup jockeys," because that kind of ties in with the season and location.

    So here they are, the sexiest jockeys riding in the 2009 edition of the Breeders' Cup, as complied through consultation with my fellow members of the press corps.

    Claire's Top 10:

    Victor Espinoza
    Victor Espinoza will ride Zensational in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Saturday.
    10. Julien Leparoux (Classy Sexy): he can pull off the sexy vibe, but this young Frenchman is also a little geeky. He does have an extremely witty, dry sense of humor which some girls find attractive. When paired with his gentlemanly qualities, the effect can be magnetic. Julien, here are my suggestions: work on your dance moves and put a better picture on your Facebook profile. One that actually shows your face.

    9. Robby Albarado (Charming Sexy): he isn't "hot," but the veteran Cajun does know how to turn on the charm ... and there's something about those eyes. Maybe it's because he oozes classic bad-boy vibe. Nine out of 10 women consulted would have agreed, if I'd had the time to ask. Trust me. Robby, that Louisiana "honey" and "baby" stuff works with some women, but not all of them like it, which is why you're stuck at number nine.

    8. Alan Garcia (Cute Sexy): Yeah, yeah, he's cute and he knows it. That's the problem. To quote the 24-year-old Peruvian, "Look at this face. You see this face? How can you look at this face and tell me there is any other rider more cuter than me?" Ummmm ... I'll let you form your own opinions, or perhaps Mr. Garcia can convince you. Sexy, however, does not need an advocate. It's an automatic vibe. So tone down the convincing arguments, and maybe you'll move up on the list next year.

    7. Garrett Gomez (Rugged Sexy): Gomez exudes power and focus, and there's something sexy about an athlete at the top of his game. It's like he's channeling David Beckham or something. The one foot shorter version.

    6. Rosemary Homeister Jr. (Sexy Sexy): she's a successful female. She's a jockey. What could be sexier than that? Rosemary, pull the experience card and give those younger girl jocks like Chantal and Inez a run for their money.

    5. Ryan Moore (Junior Sexy): this guy could be your typical clean-shaven all-American boy except for the fact that he's European. You get the picture. Ryan, watch out for cougars in America. They'd probably like to eat you alive.

    Mike Smith
    Mike Smith will ride Zenyatta in the Classic on Saturday.
    4. Victor Espinoza (Vintage Sexy): the smile makes the man, and Victor Espinoza has it. Actually, both of the Espinoza brothers do. But Jose isn't here.

    3. Lanfranco "Frankie" Dettori (Exotic Sexy): His first name is Lanfranco. Need I say more?

    2. Joel Rosario (Latin Sexy) is the hottest thing since sliced bread on the Southern California circuit -- in more ways than one. His natural talents on the track will only improve as he gets older, and the same can be said for those chiseled features. Aye, Papi!

    And the sexiest jockey riding in the 2009 edition of the Breeders' Cup is:

    1. Mike Smith (Classic Sexy). Yeah, he's got it going on. The smile. The eyes. The body. He doesn't work at being sexy or charming, that's just the way he is. When you combine charisma and class with complete authenticity, that's one helluva sexy vibe -- and to make him even more attractive, Smith pairs with West Coast racing's leading lady, the unbeaten Zenyatta, in this weekend's Breeders' Cup Classic. Just call them horse racing's power couple.

    Disclaimer: Yes, I know most of these jockeys. No, I will not set you up on dates with them. Don't even ask. -- C.N.

    Claire Novak is an award-winning journalist whose coverage of the thoroughbred industry appears in a variety of outlets, including The Blood-Horse Magazine, The Albany Times Union and NTRA.com. She lives in Lexington, Ky.
    Thursday, November 05, 2009

    Albarado Named Jockey of the Week

    The most lucrative of Albarado’s 11 wins came aboard Sassy Image in the Pocahontas Stakes (G3) on November 1 at Churchill Downs. Albarado, 36, has won riding titles at Churchill, Arlington Park, Fair Grounds, Keeneland Race Course, and Oaklawn Park during his career. He also piloted two-time Horse of the Year Curlin to victories in the 2007 Preakness Stakes (G1), Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1), Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (G1), and ’08 Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1). On May 30, Albarado rode Keertana to victory at Churchill Downs

    for his 4,000th career victory. Thoroughbred Times TODAY

    Wednesday, November 04, 2009

    Mike Straight struggles to recover from injuries

    That was back in the day, before Matt and Mike grew up and pursued their lifelong dreams together, graduating from the North American Racing Academy and moving into adrenaline-pumped careers as professional jockeys.

    Before a tragic racing accident turned their young lives around.

    The house is empty now, vacated two months ago when the twins' parents, Sandy and Beth Straight, left suddenly for Illinois. Along with the mailman, Mike Britt (the Straights didn't even know his last name), neighbors and relatives have taken over responsibilities such as winterizing the property, raking leaves, paying the bills. It's been this way since Aug. 26 when 23-year-old Mike went down in a spill at Chicagoland's Arlington Park, his spine fractured in four places, his brain severely damaged from the fall.

    Pairs of jeans and a few T-shirts thrown into an overnight bag. A new car parked in the driveway. The three-hour flight aboard a private jet chartered by Arlington Park Chairman Richard Duchossois, a godsend.

    "We tried to get a flight out of Albany," Sandy Straight recalled. "They said, 'We'll get you on tomorrow.' I said, 'Tomorrow? I don't know if my son will be alive tomorrow!' "

    It was touch-and-go for several days with Mike, left unconscious after the accident and in a medically induced coma and on life support following surgery. Realistic doctors told the family to "hope for the best, expect the worst." Even now the young horseman does not remember the spill, when his mount tripped over the heels of another horse and fell.

    "When he first woke up he was saying the weirdest stuff," said Matt, who was thrust into the role of spokesperson for his twin shortly after the accident. "Everyone was telling us, 'He's gonna come back, he's gonna come back,' but it was scary. I don't think people realize he had a pretty serious brain injury from the fall. He hit his head really hard."

    Mike was moved Oct. 13 from Luther General Hospital (where he had undergone surgery to install a flexible rod in his spine) to the Rehab Institute of Chicago. There, without feeling in his lower extremities, he's undergoing the next phase of a lengthy recovery process. No one knows how long it will take, or what the outcome will be, but they are encouraged by the progress he's made thus far.

    He speaks coherently. He hasn't lost his sense of humor. Last week, he went shopping downtown with Matt and picked out a trendy striped shirt for his brother to wear to a fundraiser held in his honor. And during that fundraiser, he joined the party via speakerphone to thank the attendees for their support.

    Growing up around the Saratoga jockeys' colony with mentors like Hall of Famers Mike Smith and Jose Santos, the twins understood the risks of their chosen profession. They spent time in the hospital with Smith when he broke his back in 1998, saw Santos close the door on a phenomenal career when a riding accident left him with five fractured vertebrae in 2007.

    But horse racing was a part of them. It is a part of them still, a community that has rallied around with fundraisers and emotional support. And in spite of the emotional challenges, Matt continues his career at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.

    "I know Mike wants me to ride," he said. "Sure, it was a tough decision, and there are times I feel guilty for not being with him, but we talked it over. This is the sport we love."

    Meanwhile, agents with Remax have listed the home Sandy Straight purchased in 1993. He's going on 32 years with the Department of Labor, a payroll examiner whose retirement is just out of reach. Beth is in the same position, 34 years there as an agency service rep.

    They haven't yet decided if they'll return to the Capital Region -- to their home with the kind-hearted mailman and the supportive relatives and neighbors -- or head south to Florida, a warmer climate to help Mike heal. At this point, they're taking things one day at a time, as Matt described it, "with everything tipped upside-down." They don't know what the future holds.

    But one thing's for sure: They know the strength of family. And whatever challenges they may face along this road, together, they'll pull through.

    "We'd give up everything for Mike," Beth Straight said. "There's no way we're going to leave him."

    Claire Novak is a freelance writer.


    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    BREEDERS’ CUP OR BUST: ZIA LATER

    Jockey Rico Flores tried to coax the son of Awesome Sword to join the others in the post parade, but the gelding would have none of it. Instead, he reared up high in the air and then flipped over backwards, transforming Flores into a projectile heading toward that hard metal fence and a potentially crippling injury. Luckily, he hit it with only a glancing blow to his body, tumbling to the ground on the other side.

    Mischief Man’s foot got caught in the fence and he thrashed around for a few seconds before freeing himself and getting back to his feet. Flores got up, too, shaken, but not seriously injured. He was examined immediately by emergency medical personnel on the scene.

    The outrider scheduled to accompany Mischief Man to the gate rode into the paddock and asked if the horse was going to be scratched. “No!” Flores shouted, not wanting to give up the mount that had been acting so crazily just a few moments earlier.

    The track veterinarian overruled Flores, and he walked sadly back into the jockeys’ room after Mischief Man was taken out of the race.

    The incident demonstrated how quickly things can go wrong for jockeys or handlers of these high-strung Thoroughbreds—even before a race is run. Flores escaped injury this time, though his head came dangerously close to smacking the fence as he fell toward the ground. It also showed the courage (some might craziness) of these athletes who risk their lives every time they get on a horse’s back.

    I was at Zia Park with my Paulick Report partner, Brad Cummings, on the fourth stop of our 10-day BREEDERS’ CUP OR BUST fundraising drive, held in partnership with Breeders’ Cup Charities to benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and V Foundation for Cancer Research. We were at the Hobbs, N.M., track to enjoy a day of Quarter horse and Thoroughbred racing and participate in a handicapping contest with a  couple of local sharpshooters, KRUI radio talk-show host and handicapper Tim Keithley, and trainer Todd Fincher, a former leading at Ruidoso Downs and other tracks in the Southwest.

    It was our first trip to Zia Park and Black Gold Casino, a racetrack and casino in eastern New Mexico about 100 miles southwest of Lubbock, Texas. R.D. Hubbard built the track for $50 million in 2004 and sold it three years later for $200 million to Penn National Gaming—a pretty good pinhook. The slot machines support the purses for what is a pretty good racing product Those $12,500 claimers were racing for a $13,500 purse; New Mexico-bred 2-year-old maidens competed for a $27,700 purse earlier in the card.

    Hobbs is a working-class town of about 28,000 people, and their median household income is $28,100. Cowboy hats, Wranglers and big belt buckles are the order of the day for this horse-loving part of the country.

    Rick Baugh, the assistant general manager who hosted us for the day, gave Keithley and Fincher a $1,000 bankroll to build up for the two charities. Brad and I also had $1,000 to wager. Whatever was left at the end of the day would go to Breeders’ Cup Charities, and the team with the biggest bankroll after the final race would bragging rights.

    The Kentucky invaders didn’t embarrass themselves, hitting several winners on the card, including a maiden winner that had gone 0-for-32 prior to the day, and a couple of exotic bets. We managed to wind up with about $1,600 and looked like we would cruise to victory over the local hotshots, but Keithley and Fincher (a pretty sharp trainer, with 11 wins from 31 starts going into the day) hit the exacta and trifecta on the final race, nearly doubling their bankroll. We were more than happy to finish second, since it meant that more than $3,000 would go to the charities.

    The $3,000-plus from Zia Park brings our total to nearly $65,000. Many thanks to this segment’s sponsors, Robert and Blythe Clay’s Three Chimneys Farm; Cot Campbell’s Dogwood Stable; numerous affiliates of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association; and Zia Park/Penn National Gaming. 

    Sponsors for our previous segments were Global Gaming Solutions and Remington Park; Terry Finley and his West Point Thoroughbred partners; Tommy Simon’s Vinery; Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm; TVG; Bill Casner and WinStar Farm; Barry Irwin of Team Valor International; Kate Lantaff of Tahoma Stud; William S. Farish’s Lane’s End, Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley, Brereton C. Jones’ Airdrie Stud and the Young family’s Overbrook Farm. A special thanks to our media partner TVG and the TVG’s online community for playing such a big part in promoting the drive.

    It was all in good fun, and that seems to be what Zia Park is all about. It’s a friendly track, well designed, and about the right size for what racing needs to be in a town like Hobbs. One bit of advice from locals that’s worth passing on: if you stop in, be sure to have the green chile cheeseburger. You won’t find anything like it in Kentucky.

    It’s a 10-hour drive from Hobbs to Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Ariz., where we’re scheduled to be on Tuesday afternoon. Another track I’ve never had the chance to visit, and another opportunity to raise money and awareness for two worthy charities. Zia later, Hobbs. It’s been fun. By Ray Paulick

     
    Monday, November 02, 2009

    Remington Park Raises $24,172 for Charities

    The Paulick Report’s Ray Paulick and Brad Cummings made a stop in Oklahoma City Sunday as they work their way from Kentucky to California, raising money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund and the V Foundation for Cancer Research. The Paulick Report is an internet news site covering the sport of horse racing at www.paulickreport.com

    Remington Park horse owners, trainers, jockeys, team members, fans and the track’s future owners, Global Gaming Solutions along with The Chickasaw Nation, all donated to the causes.

     “This is a very proud occasion on our part to make a donation of $12,500 on behalf of Global Gaming Solutions and The Chickasaw Nation,” said Remington Park president and general manager Scott Wells. “Our hearts go out to all of the disabled riders across the country. We urge everyone to give back to your sport.”

    On hand to receive the check presentation Sunday was Jo Hayes of Guthrie, Okla. Hayes is a former jockey at Remington Park who was injured in an accident here in November 1997. That fall during a race left her paralyzed. She receives support benefits from the PDJF.

    The Remington Park jockey colony competed in a series of sponsored ‘Hippity Hop’ races at the end of the card as part of the proceedings Sunday. Luis Quinonez won the competition, receiving a ‘golden carrot’ for a trophy.

    The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be simulcast to Remington Park on Friday, Nov. 6 and Saturday, Nov. 7 from Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.
    Remington Park Communications Department

     
     

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