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CDI Thinking Long-Term in Sports Wagering Rollout

Dollars and Sense examines industry business trends

While other companies have made a bigger initial splash in sports wagering, Churchill Downs Inc. has taken a more patient approach  aimed at long-term success, making 2021 a key year.

Under a strategy it believes will save on marketing costs compared with other companies in the emerging sports wagering market, CDI plans to leverage the success of its advance-deposit wagering platform, TwinSpires.com, to attract sports bettors. There has never been a better time for that approach as TwinSpires enjoyed massive growth in 2020 as the pandemic forced horseplayers from on-track and simulcast outlets to the mobile and Internet platforms offered by their ADWs.

To close out 2020, TwinSpires.com saw three straight quarters of double-digit percentage growth in handle. In the fourth quarter, compared with the fourth quarter of 2019, handle increased 45% and the number of active players spiked by 50%. It’s a trend that Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen noted has continued into 2021.

 

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New Equine Virus Tied to Rise in Foal Diarrhea Cases

An existing equine Rotavirus A vaccine offers no protection.

 

A new Rotavirus not previously seen in horses is the culprit behind a rash of foal diarrhea cases seen during the first several months of the year at farms in Central Kentucky, according to researchers at the University of Kentucky’s Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center and the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

Because the virus is a different strain it could not be detected using existing diagnostic tests for equine Rotavirus A and also the currently available commercial vaccine does not provide any protection.

“This is not a mutation. This is a whole different virus for horses,” said Dr. David Horohov, chair of the Department of Veterinary Science and director of the Gluck Equine Research Center.

 

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Hernandez Brothers Both Win Stakes at Keeneland

Change of Control provided Colby Hernandez with his first Keeneland stakes victory.

 

When two siblings ride stakes winners at a track on the same card, more often than not it is the dynamic duo of Irad Ortiz Jr. and his brother, Jose—both Eclipse Award-winning jockeys.

But they aren’t the ones. On April 10 at Keeneland, brothers Brian Hernandez Jr. and younger brother, Colby, managed the unique accomplishment. Colby notched his first Keeneland stakes win on Change of Control  in the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway Stakes, a half-hour before Brian recorded his 12th Keeneland stakes triumph when he rode King Fury  to victory in the $200,000 Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (G3).

It wasn’t the first time the two won stakes on a specific card, suspects Brian, the elder of the two.

 

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McIngvale Offers Shelter During Winter Storm

The Houston businessman opened his furniture store to people without power and water.

Thoroughbred owner/breeder, Houston businessman, and philanthropist Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale again opened his main Gallery Furniture store to people in need, this time to city residents seeking refuge from cold, dark homes without safe water to drink.

In an interview Feb. 18 with Michael Strahan on ABC’s Good Morning America, McIngvale said he had almost 1,000 people show up at his Houston, Texas, store and about 300 of them stayed overnight each day Feb. 16-17. Multiple days of freezing temperatures left nearly three million Texans without power Wednesday, with more than a million of them in Houston, according to multiple reports. The state also warned residents that water pressure is so low it might be unsafe to drink. Boil water notices were issued throughout the city.

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Louisiana-bred The Great One Romps in Santa Anita Maiden Race

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Coming off a nose defeat when second in the Dec. 19 Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), The Great One exploded against maiden special weight rivals for a 14-length score in second race Jan. 23 at Santa Anita Park.

Ridden by Abel Cedillo, the son of 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Nyquist  sped a mile in 1:37.28, a time more than three seconds faster than the day’s fourth race, a starter optional claiming race for 3-year-old fillies. He pressed debuting favorite Fenway, dispatched him, and won handily over runner-up Affable.

 

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Pelican State Returns to OBS With Strong Contingent

Terry Gabriel’s Pelican State Thoroughbreds has returned to the two-day Ocala Breeders’ Sales Winter Mixed Sale with a strong group of short yearlings and the hope that the consignment will be able to generate the same kind of success they enjoyed in 2020.

Gabriel, who sold last year’s $165,000 sale topper, a son of Union Rags —La Milanesa, by Mr. Greeley, has barely had time to think ahead of the Jan. 26 start and hopes that foot traffic will be congruent to bidding action come Tuesday morning.

 

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Aurelius Maximus Retired to Stud in Louisiana

Grade 2-placed Aurelius Maximus  has been retired from racing and will enter stud in 2021 at Jay Adcock’s Red River Farm in Coushatta, La., it was announced today. The deal was brokered by Andrew Cary of Cary Bloodstock.

The 5-year-old son of Pioneerof the Nile will stand in a partnership that includes Stonestreet Stables, George Bolton, and Peter Leidel, who raced the colt, with Nathan Granger.

“Aurelius Maximus is the most exciting horse to retire to Louisiana for many years,” said Cary. “His combination of impeccable pedigree, gorgeous conformation, and top-class ability on the racetrack make him a very tantalizing prospect for breeders in the Southwest.”

 

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Oaklawn Trims Purses at Start of Meet

Approximate 15% reduction in overnight purses from first condition book.

Overnight purses have been reduced in advance of the start of the Oaklawn Park meet, a 57-day run which will begin Jan. 22. The Arkansas track is making the move due to limiting attendance because of social distancing requirements because of COVID-19. The news was first reported by Mary Rampellini of Daily Racing Form, who reported average daily purses will be about $600,000 instead of the originally projected $700,000, for about a 15% reduction. Stakes purses will not be altered.

An Oaklawn spokesperson confirmed the track’s first condition book is being reprinted with the new overnight purse structure.

JOCKEY KENNY BOURQUE DIES AT 67

Funeral services have been established for longtime jockey Kenny “Chopper” Bourque, who died Dec. 29 in Taylorsville, Ky., at age 67 from liver cancer.

According to his daughter, Tiffany Bourque, a funeral and mass will be held at St. Michael Catholic Church in Louisville Jan. 11 at 10 a.m. ET. A memorial will be in the spring.

The oldest of six siblings, Bourque was born in Abbeville, La., not far from Lafayette, where many Cajun-born riders learned to ride at unsanctioned racetracks called “bush tracks.” He and his youngest brother, Curt, became successful riders.

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Longtime Horseman Ken LeJeune Dies at 60

LeJeune had a 40-plus-year career as a jockey, trainer, and bloodstock agent.

Longtime horseman Ken LeJeune, 60, died at home Dec. 4 after a brief illness, according to his wife, Carey. Throughout LeJeune’s 40-plus-year career as a jockey, trainer, and bloodstock agent, his family said he never lost his enthusiasm as a fan of horse racing.

“He quietly went about his business—no advertisements, no parties, rarely a mention in the trade papers. That wasn’t his thing,” Carey LeJeune said. “His involvement in horse racing reached far and wide. There are not too many people I can think of in the business who have not asked him to train, examine, fix, buy, sell, evaluate, or shelter a horse. He loved every minute of it. It was his life’s blood.”

Ken and Carey LeJeune met at Delta Downs in the winter of 1980. He was scraping by riding Thoroughbreds until the Quarter Horse meet started in the spring. They lived in a tack room and were married four months later. LeJeune even rode a match race the day of their wedding. After Ken spent years moving from racetrack to racetrack as a rider, the couple eventually moved to Ocala, Fla., with $65 and a tank of gas, recalled Carey LeJeune. Ken LeJeune started breaking Thoroughbreds for various farms, getting his first job with the legendary Fred Hooper. LeJeune became the rider of eventual champion sprinter Precisionist.

 

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