The Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association is closing their main office at New Orleans Fair Grounds today, Thursday, April 18, 2019 at 2:30 p.m. due to the approaching storm front. We apologize for any inconvenience.
The office will be closed tomorrow as well for the Good Friday holiday. LTBA will return to regular office hours, Monday, April 22, 8:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.
A coalition of leading Thoroughbred racing associations and organizations announced April 18 a new initiative committed to phasing out the use of the medication furosemide (Salix, commonly called Lasix) beginning in 2020 and eliminating the use of Lasix in stakes races at their tracks beginning in 2021.
Coalition racetracks that have signed on to this initiative include all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Inc., the New York Racing Association and The Stronach Group as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star Park, Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (Thoroughbred meets), Oaklawn Park, and Tampa Bay Downs. Taken together these tracks represent 86% of the stakes races assigned graded or listed status in the United States in 2018. The coalition tracks will work diligently with their respective horsemen’s associations and racing commissions toward implementing this effort.
According to his agent, Anthony Martin, Bridgmohan, 39, suffered a broken right collarbone after being unseated from his mount, Oxford Comma, in midstretch of the Mardi Gras Stakes March 5. Oxford Comma was vanned off and humanely euthanized. “He’ll [Bridgmohan] see the orthopedic doctor tomorrow, and he’ll go for surgery on Friday,” Martin said. “I think four to six weeks is the recovery time.”
On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, Dr. Martin “Doc” Anthony Spindel passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 88. He was born September 13, 1930 to Edward Robert Spindel and Mildred Blanchard Spindel, and was a lifelong resident of New Orleans, Louisiana. He was preceded in death by his loving wife of 55 years, Patricia McWilliams Spindel, and sibling Joyce Mary Ann Spindel. Survived by children Brian M. Spindel (Cathy), Allison S. Travers (Tom), Kimberly S. Perniciaro and Marcia S. Weilenman (Chris); Grandchildren Denise Matthews (Craig), Paul Romig (Lindsey), Michelle Stacey (Xavier), Robin Goodin (Roland), Quentin Sierra (Dara), Jordan Perniciaro (Olivia), Ryan Schneider (Chris), and Zack Weilenman; Great Grandchildren Fable, Jack, CJ, Carmen, Kalina, Jet, Jax, Oakley and Keaton. Doc Spindel received his BS in Microbiology from Louisiana State University, and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Oklahoma State University. He practiced Equine – large animal medicine in New Orleans until his retirement, including many years as track vet at the Fair Grounds and Jefferson Downs. After retiring Doc enjoyed volunteer open hearth cooking at area historic sites and plantation homes. The Spindel family would like to express their sincere appreciation to the community of River Ridge for their support and friendship, especially to the Harahan Senior Center and Mr. Po Boy! There will be a private graveside service with his children and grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, Doc wished for donations to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine (https://www.lsu.edu/vetmed/giving/how_to_give/index.php)or Oklahoma State University Center for Veterinary Health Sciences (https://cvhs.okstate.edu/giving/all-giving-opportunities.html).
Published in The Times-Picayune from Feb. 22 to Feb. 24, 2019
Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots will host a Cochon de Lait Fundraiser Mar. 12 to benefit both pediatric brain cancer charities and Angels Grove Ranch (http://www.angelsgrove.org/).
The event will be held between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on the first floor on the west side of the grandstand. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $30 ($35 at the door if still available) at the program booth or by contacting Emilee Margiotta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (504) 948-1150. The event will be limited to 350 tickets and will feature silent and live auctions.
The annual Louisiana Derby Golf Tournament, benefitting the backstretch community, will be held Mar. 19 at Lakewood New Orleans. The event will begin at 1 p.m. with registration starting at 11:30 a.m.
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).
When it comes to shopping for young Thoroughbred prospects, trainer Keith Desormeaux and his team have a saying – “don’t buy pedigree, make pedigree”. Like so many of his recent stars, Night Ops’ bloodlines might not jump off the page, but the connections believe he has what it takes to be competitive in Saturday’s Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds.
Owned by Desormeaux, Big Chief Racing, Rocker O Ranch and Madaket Stables, the son of Warrior’s Reward was a bargain acquisition from the Fasig-Tipton October Sale in 2017 and was bought for only $5,000. Over the past few years, Desormeaux has developed a reputation for annexing reasonably priced stock and developing them into competitive runners that can win at a high level. Horses like Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red (a $17,000 purchase) and two-time graded stakes winner My Boy Jack (a $20,000 purchase) come to mind.
“I don’t want to be influenced by a horse’s page,” Desormeaux said. “It’s the horse first, and if it looks like pedigree that we can afford, then I’m all in. I’ve applied myself over the years in trying to figure out the ingredients and the necessary qualifications for a horse to reach a high level while at the same time, not have to spend so much money. I’m not the first one to do all this. Families on the bottom side that might be stagnant but we focus on the athlete, not on the page. We don’t buy pedigree, we make pedigree. I don’t mean to sound overconfident or cocky, but it’s just what we try to do.”
As far as Night Ops is concerned, he is still in search of his first career victory, but running maidens in big races like this is not foreign territory for Desormeaux. In 2017, he sent then maiden Sonneteer to the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park where he finished second at odds of 112-1.
“Sonneteer got us to the Derby and now he’s at a half-million in earnings so it wasn’t like we did something crazy,” Desormeaux said. “We’re all engrossed with Derby fever, it’s what my owners and I play this game for. This is a time of the year to find out what you have. He’s shown some talent. Sometimes you got push them a little bit and that’s what we’re doing here. We’re going to see what he’s got.”
In five career starts, Night Ops has been up against some nice horses including fellow Lecomte competitors Plus Que Parfait and Admire. He was a recent second to the latter over a sloppy main track at Churchill Downs in November.
“Obviously you can see that he has talent on form, but if you handicap his opponents he’s been up against some nice ones,” Desormeaux said. “We ran a very strong closing second to Admire so that makes us legit. On the physical aspect, he should get stronger and better as the distances increase. He seems confident in his abilities and very sound so we’re taking a chance with him.”
Desormeaux gave a brief update on graded stakes winner My Boy Jack, who ran third in last year’s Grade II Louisiana Derby Presented by Twinspires.com and last raced in the Grade I Belmont Derby Invitational in July.
“He had some small bone chips removed from his ankle,” Desormeaux said. “He had plenty of time to recoup. We’re pretty excited about him this year.”
Night Ops will be guided by jockey Edgar Morales, who piloted the colt in his most recent effort. He is the second foal out of the Kitalpha broodmare Bear All. Night Ops was bred in Kentucky by Aschinger Bloodstock Holdings and was consigned by War Horse Place when being purchased.
Roderick “Roddy” MacKenzie was severely injured in an accident during morning training hours at the Fair Grounds
An accident during Monday’s morning training hours at the Fair Grounds resulted in the death of a pair of Thoroughbred racehorses and severe injuries to one exercise rider, Roderick “Roddy” MacKenzie.
According to various individuals with knowledge of the situation, an unnamed young horse from the barn of Joe Sharp unseated his rider and took off the wrong way around the racetrack. MacKenzie was breezing another horse for trainer Neil Howard and was unable to avoid the loose horse. The ensuing head-on collision resulted in the death of both horses – it was unclear whether the horses were killed instantly or had to be euthanized.
(Howard declined to identify his horse in order to protect the privacy of its owners.)
MacKenzie suffered a broken arm and broken leg, and has undergone a pair of surgeries this week. Howard said the exercise rider came through the surgeries well and is in good spirits.
“This incident was a blink of the eye incident; there wasn’t any safety feature that any track has in place that would have had any impact on this accident,” said Howard. “It was unfortunate that a rider came off a horse, and you hate to say this but it’s just one of those things that happens that we all have in the back of our minds.”
The safety alert system at the Fair Grounds involves flashing lights around the track and an announcer letting riders know where the horse is and which way it is moving.“I’ll say this, when you’re on a horse out there, not only do you know there’s a loose horse but you also know where that horse is, how fast he’s moving and what direction he’s moving in,” Howard explained. “So the feature that they have here, actually exercise riders are put at ease. When I leave here, I miss it.”
Fair Grounds in New Orleans has withstood the test of time as one of the most revered racetracks in North America. For the past forty years, track photographer Lou Hodges, Jr. has captured the racing history of the venerable establishment in his own inimitable style.
Hodges is a second-generation photographer. His dad, Lou Hodges, Sr. was a veteran of the Army Air Corps during World War II and began working under Fair Grounds track photographer Jack Blythe in 1948. When Blythe retired, Hodges took over and enjoyed a successful career, honored as a member of the Fair Grounds Press Box Hall of Fame. He passed the baton to his son in 1976.
Lou Hodges, Jr. served as track photographer at several racetracks, including Rockingham Park, Washington Park and Arlington Park prior to taking the position at Fair Grounds.
He explains the goal of the images created by Hodges Photography.
“Our technique for getting perfect race shots is to use telephoto lenses to have tight shots,” said Hodges. “We are always looking for different angles and different compositions that will make someone who views the image look twice.”
Hodges has photographed some of the most celebrated Thoroughbreds in the six-month winter Thoroughbred meet, which culminates with the running of the Louisiana Derby, a major prep for the Kentucky Derby. He cites Rachel Alexandra, Risen Star, A Letter To Harry and Gun Runner as some of the most memorable champions he has photographed at Fair Grounds.
He became part of the first father-son Fair Grounds Press Box Hall of Fame, when he was inducted in 2014.
Several years, ago, Hodges added his daughter, Amanda Hodges Weir, to his operation. She began shooting in New Orleans periodically in 2011, but came to the business full time in 2015.
“It’s great to work with my dad,” said Amanda. “I couldn’t ask for a better mentor. He’s patient and very encouraging.”
Hodges Photography also has the contract at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs in Shreveport. Ann Switalski handles the day-to-day duties for both the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred meets, with Lou coming in for the bigger race days, including Super Derby in September.
Hodges continues to add to his repertoire and create iconic images at Fair Grounds. In addition to post parade, stretch, wire and comeback shots, Lou and Amanda, with their Cannon equipment and various telephoto lenses, are always in search of shots with a “wow” factor.
Lou wanted to recreate a photo of horses rounding the far turn in front of the grandstand and accomplished that goal on Thanksgiving Day.
“It was a picture I have wanted to take for several years,” he explained. “But, several things had to be in order. I needed good weather, a long race and the ability to be on a lift high enough to get the desired angle.”
With the support of Gabe Martin, a member of the Fair Grounds facility maintenance staff, who was using a hydraulic Snorkel Lift for a light bulb replacement, Hodges stood 60 feet above the track to get his shot.
“I’m not crazy about heights, but needed to be up that high to get what I wanted,” he said.
There are many photographs he is proud of, including a beautiful sunset image of Gun Runner in the 2016 Risen Star and Calvin Borel giving Rachel Alexandra a congratulatory pat as she won the Fair Ground Oaks in 2009.
But believe it or not, as much as he enjoys the graded stakes runners and Eclipse Award-winning champions, he appreciates the maiden and allowance winners just as much.
Digital photography has added both ease and dimension to racing photography. Lou and Amanda take pride in creating composite photo arrangements for winning connections.
“We take a lot of photos for connections who may never win a graded stakes race,” he said. “To see the look on their faces when they pick up their photos is really neat and means a lot to us.”
Hodges loves jazz music, with the late Dave Brubeck cited as one of his favorite artists. Fair Grounds is home to the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which takes place after the conclusion of the Thoroughbred racing season. Set-up for the event is a massive undertaking and the Jazz Fest organizers move in and take control at full throttle. One year, Lou entered the Fair Grounds press box to take an aerial photo of the infield. However, he was refused entrance by the Jazz Fest staff.
“I pointed to my picture on the wall,” said Hodges. “But my Hall of Fame status didn’t make an impact on them!”
Nonetheless, he has high regard for the annual event, preferring to enjoy the festivities from the infield versus the grandstand and elite press box.
No Signs of Slowing Down
Hodges has been a part of a remarkable and often unpredictable history at Fair Grounds. In addition to the racing glory, he has seen the racetrack go through catastrophic events, including the grandstand fire of 1993 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
You might think that after over four decades, the grind of racetrack photography would dull his enthusiasm, but that is far from the case with Lou Hodges.
“Actually, it’s more exciting than ever,” he stated. “It used to be a maddening process in the dark room and composite photos were pretty much impossible. Now with digital photography, there is so much more we can do.”
Ryan Martin, Fair Grounds’ Racing Media Relations Coordinator works closely with Hodges Photography and appreciates Lou for both his personality and professionalism.
“Lou Hodges is a very valuable asset to the Fair Grounds team,” said Martin. “Both he and Amanda do a fabulous job in what they do and are a pleasure to work with. Whenever I need to photo to include with press releases or to post to social media, I can always count on Hodges to come through with a solid, top quality image. He has decades of experience in doing what he does and his work is a massive reflection of that. Aside from his work, Lou is a very great person who is always happy to help out. Racing is anything but short of talented photographers and Lou Hodges is no exception.”
Now 70, Hodges began shooting photos with his dad at Fair Grounds when he was just 12-years-old. He gets a kick out of some the faithful “old timers” who tease him about still “hanging around”, and enjoys working with staffers, many of whom are forty years his junior.
“I’m surrounded by young people, but can outlast them all,” enthusiastically proclaimed Hodges.
Martha Claussen has been prominent in the racing industry since 1997 as a publicist, writer and handicapper.