The bitter chill blowing across much of the country this week has forced a number of tracks to cancel racing cards, headlined by The New York Racing Association’s announcement that Aqueduct will not run its scheduled Thursday card. In addition, training at both Belmont and Aqueduct and the Belmont Café simulcasting center will be closed Thursday. Charles Town, which had already canceled Wednesday’s races, is also postponing Thursday’s card, as is Laurel Park. Penn National previously announced the cancellation of its live racing from Wednesday through Saturday.
By T. D. Thornton
The latest bill in a decades-long string of legislative efforts to legalize pari-mutuel horse wagering in Georgia was filed on Wednesday.
In a change of tactics from similar bills that failed in recent years, this year’s version does not tie the sport to any racino/casino gaming and focuses strictly on creating a mixed-use Thoroughbred venue that would host boutique seasonal meets and other non-racing events.
According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, which first broke the story, the Rural Georgia Jobs and Growth Act filed by Republican Senator Brandon Beach pitches horse racing as “an economic development boon for struggling rural communities, which could see the creation of a new industry surrounding the raising of racehorses.”
“Each racehorse can have a ripple effect of creating more than 20 jobs,” Beach told the ABC. “This legislation provides my colleagues with a clear vision of the benefits of horse racing facilities, including new revenue streams to keep up with increasing demand for education funding.”
Beach told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this week that, “We need to be in the equine industry. There’s more to it than racing. There’s horse farms and hay farms and breeding and auctions.”
The stumbling block to getting parimutuel laws enacted in Georgia–as it has been for the past 30 years–has nothing to do with a lack of enthusiasm for horses. The difficulty has always been rounding up enough elected officials who are willing to support expanded gambling in a state where moral objections to it run high and religious conservatism carries considerable clout.
Dean Reeves, president of the Georgia Horse Racing Coalition, told the ABC that his group is committed to building “world-class facilities that would benefit the state and serve as an asset to local communities. Our industry wants to be a part of a solution that gives rural Georgia an economic boost while also providing new revenues for the entire state,” he said.
The ABC reported that legalizing parimutuel betting in Georgia requires a constitutional amendment that would be subject to a statewide referendum.
Addition designed to complement 2-year-olds, offer variety to buyers.
Keeneland has expanded the April Sale, which traditionally features only 2-year-olds in training, to include horses of racing age this year, the Lexington operation announced Jan. 30.
The April Sale is scheduled for April 9, immediately following the spring meet opening weekend that kicks off April 4. Headlining the nine stakes that weekend are the $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and $500,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1), both classic prep races.
“Keeneland’s spring meet is a convergence of horsemen heading home from their winter bases,” said Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales. “The addition of a horses of racing age component to the April Sale complements our racing program and offers variety to buyers in town for opening weekend.”
Entry deadline for the online horses of racing age catalog is March 15, and entries for the 2-year-olds in training catalog close Feb. 1. Supplemental entries will be accepted after both deadlines.
Keeneland conducted the April 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale from 1993-2014. At the 2014 April Sale, the auction house sold 38 head for a total of $8,769,000 and an average of $230,763, including future champions Lady Eli and Roy H. The sale topper, a Malibu Moon colt out of Tap Your Heels, the dam of Tapit , brought $1 million. The sale has been on hiatus since then.
Similar legislation was filed in 2017 but stalled in committee.
Bipartisan legislation filed in the United States House of Representatives Jan. 30 aims to halt the shipping of horses to Canada or Mexico for slaughter.
Representatives Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, and Vern Buchanan, a Florida Republican, reintroduced Wednesday the Safeguard American Food Exports Act, which would prohibit horse-slaughter plants from operating in the U.S. and end the export of horses across the border for this purpose.
Marty Irby, executive director of Animal Wellness Action, said the act is a permanent solution as opposed to the current de facto ban in place since 2006, which is accomplished by not funding regulatory appropriations to allow such plants to operate. Irby noted the bill includes 219 co-sponsors in the 115th Congress, more than half the House.
Similar legislation, the Safeguard American Food Exports Act of 2017, stalled in committee despite having more than 200 co-sponsors.
“Horses have a special place in our nation’s history, and these majestic creatures were not raised as food for humans,” Schakowsky said. “The SAFE Act would prohibit any horse slaughter plant from opening and also end the sale or transport of horses and horse parts in the U.S. and abroad for the purpose of human consumption. I am proud to reintroduce this bill and work with Congressman Buchanan to put an end to this practice.”
“The slaughter of horses for human consumption is a barbaric practice that has no place in America,” Buchanan said. “I will continue to lead the effort with Congresswoman Schakowsky to ban domestic horse slaughter and end the export of horses abroad for slaughter.”
National Thoroughbred Racing Association president and CEO Alex Waldrop said Wednesday he has not read through the entire bill yet, but one potential concern would be that the legislation could hinder transport of horses to Mexico or Canada for legitimate reasons, like racing or breeding.
U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, intend to introduce a similar bill in the Senate soon.
- Must be a college student enrolled full-time for Spring 2019.
- Must be in good standing with the college or university.
- Must be present to win at the Winner’s Circle when the announcement is made.
- Must have college ID and government-issued ID.
- Registration: 4:25 p.m. – 5:25 p.m. at the designated booth
- Races begin: 5:25 p.m.
- Drawing Time: The scholarships will be awarded after the fifth race. The scholarship will be deposited directly into the student’s account at the college or university. The student is asked to know the name and address of the college that they are attending.
Trainers’ Exam Prep class at Sam Houston Race Park ~ February 23-26
Trainers’ Exam Prep class in Ocala, Florida ~ March 9-12
Philosophy & Methods of Training Racehorses ~ March 21-24
Registration is now open for three new classes presented by The Elite Program, Inc., home of Groom Elite education programs. This is the first winter in 12 years, C. Reid McLellan, PhD is available to offer his Trainers’ Exam Prep Class at two new venues plus a first time offering in Lexington, Kentucky of Philosophy & Methods of Training Racehorses. Those interested are encouraged to sign up early at www.purplepowerracing.com or www.groomelite.com. Early sign up ensures participants of a seat in the limited enrollment classes and a tuition savings of $50.
McLellan, “Dr. Mac” to participants, is a well-known and liked national instructor of Groom Elite classes around the country. Dr. Mac has experience as a University professor of Animal and Equine Science classes, licensed racehorse trainer, handicapper and tip sheet writer and curriculum writer for education programs from the Groom Elite certificate programs, Community College associate of applied science degrees and Bachelor of Science degrees. Dr. Mac founded an award-winning equine program at Louisiana Tech University in which senior students that successfully completed 3 years of a comprehensive 4-year curriculum took the Trainers’ Exam of the Louisiana Racing Commission and spent their senior year as licensed Louisiana racehorse trainers in addition to their senior year of study.
Trainers’ Exam Prep class is a concentrated discussion of the rules of racing including information trainer applicants must know to pass a trainer’s licensing exam. Day one is devoted to horse care and management plus other information included in the barn test portion of the National Trainers’ Exam. Days two and three focus on administrative rules that govern horse racing including Trainer Responsibility, Duties of Racing Officials, Responsibilities of Licensees, Jockeys & Jockey Agents, Medication, Claiming, Racetrack Protocol, Entering with Correct Weight and more.
You don’t have to be planning on taking the Trainers’ Licensing Exam to take this class. In addition to prospective trainers, owners, jockeys and handicappers have participated to learn more about the rules of racing. Class size is limited to 12 to facilitate opportunity for questions and maximum participation. Tuition is $349 with a $299 early bird tuition if paid by February 8 for Sam Houston Race Park and February 11 for Ocala.
Over 300 have successfully completed a Trainers’ Exam Prep class since McLellan taught the first one at Sam Houston Race Park in 1998. That class was the catalyst that launched what was to become Groom Elite 101, flagship class of the Groom Elite certification programs. The tight 3-day format for the Trainers’ Exam Prep limited opportunities for discussion regarding training techniques. Philosophy & Methods of Training Racehorses is now scheduled in response to requests from Trainers’ Exam Prep class participants. Enrollment will be limited to 20 participants. Tuition is $449 with an Early Bird tuition of $399 if paid by February 23rd. Trainers’ Exam prep class graduates receive an additional $50 off tuition.
For more information and to register, go to www.purplepowerracing.com. Anyone without internet access may call Dr. “Mac” at 859-321-4377 and sign up over the phone.
The Elite Program, Inc. is a 501(C)3 non-profit that provides equine education classes through its Groom Elite™ curriculum. With its initial primary mission (in 2001) to provide education to grooms and hotwalkers or Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse Racehorses, Groom Elite continually adapts and updates it’s programming that now includes courses for grooms and owners of OTTB show horses and welcomes owners and grooms of any breed. A notable program is Second Chances Groom Elite, taught in five adult correctional facilities in partnership with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and its local affiliates/ Participants learn life lessons while developing an employable skill working with retired racehorses
By Jen Roytz
As we embark on a new year full of hope and promise, ’tis the season for early mornings, sleepless nights and seemingly endless anticipation for those in the breeding industry. Those tasked with helping the next generation of equine athletes enter this world go to great lengths to be on-hand when each foal is born and do everything they can to ensure a successful delivery, or to call a veterinarian if any problems arise.
The foaling process is broken down into three stages. Stage 1 being early signs of labor; stage 2 is when the water breaks and the actual delivery of the foal; and stage 3 is the expulsion of the placenta.
Once a mare progresses to stage 2, it is imperative the foal be delivered within 30 minutes or less to avoid hypoxia (oxygen deprivation), which can lead to brain damage or death of the foal. While regularly checking mares throughout the day and night is recommended as they near their due date, it is often a game of minutes versus hours.
Horses have evolved from foaling in the wild and needing to deliver a foal and stand in quick succession to protect themselves and their newborn. By nature, stage 2 of equine labor (water breaks and foal is delivered) happens rapidly and can be explosive. That explosive nature also means that when things go wrong, they go wrong quickly.
“I’d say 80 to 85% of deliveries go routinely, but those 10 to 15% that don’t are why it’s so important for someone knowledgeable to be present.” said Dr. Bob Schwartz, a veterinarian with Midland Acres in Bloomingburg, Ohio. Schwartz and his team foal out more than 200 mares a year. “An experienced attendant will know issues they can deal with themselves, when they need to call a vet and when it’s bad enough that a mare needs to go immediately to the clinic.”
While there are numerous brands and makers of foal alarms on the market today, they can generally be organized into two main categories: externally worn sensors and perineal monitoring systems.
Systems with Externally Worn Sensors
There are several devices on the market that utilize sensors affixed to the head or body of a mare to react to classic presentations in a mare that typically signal birth.
EquiFone/EquiPage, Birth Alarm and Breeders Alert systems, for example, utilize a device affixed to a mare’s halter or to a monitor connected to a girth strap that senses when the mare is in the prone position (i.e. lying flat out on her side–the typical position for labor). The device transmits a signal to either a phone or a pager to alert the person(s) on call that the mare is in foaling position.
Michele Graves of Hickory Hill Farm Thoroughbreds in Fort Edward, New York near Saratoga Springs uses the EquiPage system for her farm, which foals out 25 to 35 mares each year.
“With the EquiPage [system], we know the mare is going into labor before the water breaks [due to being alerted to her movements]. We also use it on the mares in the weeks after they give birth because so much can go wrong then as well,” said Graves. “We use it for other scenarios too, such as horses that have just shipped long distances or those that showed signs of colic during the day because they offer the same presentations when they are colicking that a mare would–the looking at their belly, getting up and down, yawning. You do get some false alarms, but those are worth it to know when a horse is in distress.”
Nightwatch takes this one step further, monitoring a horse’s vital signs and behaviors via sensors embedded in the padded leather crown piece of the halter. Real-time data can be accessed via a Smartphone, tablet or computer and an alert is sent when the system signals a horse in distress due to foaling, colic or being cast.
Perineal Monitoring Systems
Another group of foaling alert systems involve affixing the sensor to the mare’s perineal area or within the vagina.
One popular model is Foalert, in which a transmitter containing a magnet is sutured into the vulva lips one to two weeks prior to a mare’s due date. When the vulva lips are opened due to the foal’s front hooves protruding as delivery begins, the magnet dislodges from the transmitter, activating a signal to alert foaling attendants, either via telephone/pager or by sounding an alarm within close proximity to the transmitter.
“I’ve used the Foalert for years, both on my own mares and on client mares, and I find them very reliable. You don’t get the false alarms you can get with some other system that attach to the halter or girth area when a mare lays down or turns to itch,” said Dr. Joan Tennant, DVM, an equine practitioner based in Ocala, Florida. “I find the alarm goes off when the amniotic fluid bubble is expelled, so you get the alert even in the case of a dystocia that prevents the foal from protruding.”
The Birth Alert system uses a tampon-like sponge that is inserted into the mare’s vagina in the weeks leading up to her due date. When the mare’s water breaks, the device is expelled and the change in temperature activates the device to send a signal to the foaling attendant that the mare is in labor.
The only disadvantage, according to Schwartz, is the possibility of the sponge and sensor being dispelled unintentionally and offering a false-positive.
“I think these systems have a lot of merit for those who don’t have full time attendants through the night,” said Schwartz. “There is less chance of false alarms with these types of systems, but if the foal is breech or otherwise malpositioned, you may not get an alarm.”
For these and similarly invasive systems, a sterile application is key. It is recommended that a veterinarian apply/insert the device to prevent infection or irritation.
Closed-circuit video feeds can also play an important role in monitoring mares as they near their due date, especially when used on conjunction with foaling alert systems.
“We’ve used NightWatch for the last six years or so and we also have cameras on all of the mares. The key for us is the audio that goes along with it,” said Braxton Lynch of Royal Oak Farm in Paris, Kentucky. “In my opinion, you can’t beat eyes and ears on a mare prior to foaling.”
There are also smartphone apps available, such as Foal App, which allow users to monitor your mare via video and movement and will alert those whose phones are connected to the app if the mare lays down for a prolonged period.
While technology has afforded the luxury of many types of birth alarms, no device is 100% effective. All birth alarms should be used in conjunction with good horsemanship and monitoring practices, including regularly checking each mare every 30 to 60 minutes when foaling is imminent.
“What works for a large farm probably wouldn’t work well for a small one and vice versa. If a farm with a large number of mares had monitors on each, they’d be getting false positives constantly, but they can afford to have staff on-hand around the clock,” said Graves. “For a smaller operation that can’t afford night staff, foaling alarms are a good solution.”
Added Schwartz, “You can’t watch them 24 hours a day–you have to sleep too–so for smaller operations, foaling alerts can be an important tool to help keep mares and newborn foals out of trouble.”
Sunday afternoon at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots proved to be a banner day for jockey James Graham, who scored a total of five victories on the program, the last three for the owner/trainer combo of Tom Amoss and Maggi Moss.
Graham scored his quintet of victories with Great Sky (Race 1, $9.20), Wristlet (Race 4, $43.00), Twin Farms (Race 5, $5.20), Fair Shot (Race 7, $5.60) and Antarctic (Race 8, $6.60).
“It was fantastic,” Graham said at the end of his successful day. “Tom has been a big part of my career since I started here. I just appreciate everything that everyone has done for me. I’m having fun, enjoying what I’m doing. I had a bit of a sickness over the weekend and had to take off Friday, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.
“Things are going great. I’m riding for good people. The horses are running well and they keep knocking on the door. If they aren’t winning, they’re right there. A big thanks to Tom. A large number of the wins on the meet have been from his barn. I was building momentum from the start of the meet, but a big thanks to Tom and all the owners who keep putting me on winners.”
With Adam Beschizza riding the Houston Racing Festival card at Sam Houston, Graham was able to extend his lead in jockey standings (44-38). Graham won the 2014-15 riding title at Fair Grounds.
The training hat trick puts Amoss (15 wins) in a four-way tie for fourth in the standings behind two-time defending champion Brad Cox (26).
Moss doubled her season win total (6) and is now tied for third in the owner’s race behind Brad Grady (10).
The California-bred filly by Golden Balls didn’t seem to have much of a chance to catch loose leader Madaket Sunset in the one-mile turf allowance, but like he’s done so many times before, Desormeaux got his mount to find her best stride late in the stretch.
With 3 1/2 lengths to make up and a furlong to run, X S Gold, a homebred for trainer Jim Cassidy and DP Racing, rallied on the outside to get up by a head at the wire.
“I can humbly say that I’m truly honored and proud of the number—6,000,” Desormeaux told on-track host Peter Lurie after the race. “I can definitely attest that it wasn’t easy to get here, especially the last two months. … I also know that I am truly appreciative of everyone that gave me the confidence to take the reins.”
The 48-year-old jockey—who has won seven Triple Crown races, six Breeders’ Cup races, and three Eclipse Awards (top apprentice in 1987 and top jockey in 1989 and 1992)—said he still has more goals in his sights.
“I can’t wait to wake up every day and pass Eddie (Delahoussaye, who has 6,383 wins, 15th all-time),” Desormeaux said. “I’m a very goal-oriented jockey, so I have about 380 more wins to go. I’m not going anywhere before then.”
The Louisiana-born jockey began riding in 1986, and his highest victory total came in 1989, when he rode 597 winners from 2,312 starts. His best earnings season came in 2008, when he brought in more than $15.6 million in purses. He won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) with Big Brown that year. It was the second time he won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, after he did it with Real Quiet in 1998.