In the hubbub of the Kentucky Derby disqualification drama, replays and still images have been analyzed and watched thousands of times as viewers try to get a handle on Maximum Security’s path of travel and the resulting domino effect. One thing people probably weren’t looking at closely, however, was the whips the jockeys were carrying. All riders in this year’s Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby went to the post with the new 360 Gentle Touch (360 GT) riding crop, engineered by retired Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez. Riders at Laurel Park adopted the crop’s use in April.
Until the DQ of Maximum Security took center stage, the use of the whip (often referred to as a “riding crop” in an attempt at rebranding) was one of the central debates in racing, prompted by The Stronach Group’s suggestions earlier this year it would do away with the whip for any purpose other than safety or correction of a drifting horse. That declaration, which became a rule unanimously approved by the California Horse Racing Board, was met with displeasure by the Jockeys’ Guild, which claims its members need the whip. Horseplayers weighed in to suggest they preferred riders to use them for encouragement. On the opposite side of the aisle, animal rights groups have long demonized use of the whip, adding it in a long list of perceived abuses in the sport.
Any time a horse expresses resistance or undesirable behavior, it’s worthwhile to investigate why—it’s not always a training issue he’s simply refusing to do; the horse may be in pain. Horses have no ulterior motive; they simply seek relief from discomfort. Identifying the root cause of the discomfort the horse is trying to get away from can be challenging, yet is necessary to resolve the issue.
A horse that swishes his tail, pins his ears or acts angry when girthed is trying to tell the rider something; if not addressed while small expressions, the outbursts may ramp up to bucking, rearing, bolting or otherwise attempting to avoid pain.
Statistically, Mark Guidry is one of only 34 jockeys to ride more than 5,000 races. In addition to those glittery stats, he is so well regarded by his peers that he received the 2006 George Woolf Award that honors jockeys whose character and career reflect positively on themselves and Thoroughbred racing.
When he received the Woolf award, Guidry credited his Louisiana upbringing that emphasized respect. He said that treating others the way one wanted to be treated was “pounded” into youngsters while growing up. In those formative years in a racing-rich culture, Guidry had easy access to horses and, like so many premiere jockeys, he started riding in informal races during his youth.
Hip 302, a filly by The Big Beast, after selling for $850,000 at the OBS March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale.
The 2019 edition of the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale saw unprecedented bounty at the very top of the market, but mid-level trade took a step back in the juvenile auction season’s first event.
The two-day auction saw 309 horses sold for revenues of $44,422,500, up 5 percent from last year’s final gross, when 257 horses brought $42,275,000.
In the wake of an alarming number of fatal injuries sustained by horses racing and training at Santa Anita Park since the Dec. 26, 2018, opening day, racing has been cancelled indefinitely, according to a published report in Daily Racing Form.
The announcement was conveyed to the newspaper by Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of the Racing and Gaming division of The Stronach Group, owner of Santa Anita. Ritvo did not offer a date racing would resume, but said this weekend’s live programs featuring Saturday’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and Grade 2 San Felipe – the latter a major prep for the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and a points race for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby – would not be held.
Equine insurance experts answer your questions about insuring Thoroughbreds for the breeding and auction realms. Email us at email@example.com if you have a question for an insurer.
QUESTION: How do the process, options, and rates differ for insuring a broodmare prospect compared with a veteran broodmare?
BRYCE BURTON: The process of having a broodmare prospect insured is the same as insuring a veteran broodmare. In order to bind coverage, obtaining a quote from your agent is the first step. Once the quote is accepted by the insured, the agent will instruct the company to issue the policy on the owner’s behalf. Unless the mare is purchased at auction, a veterinary certificate or statement of health form will also need to be completed on the mare in order to bind coverage.
The coverage options for both a broodmare prospect and veteran broodmare are Full Mortality, Prospective Foal, and Barrenness coverage. Full Mortality coverage, also known as all-risk coverage, will cover the mare for death due to any cause. Once the mare is confirmed 42 days in foal, the owner will also have the option to place Prospective Foal Insurance, covering the mare’s unborn foal until a specified amount of time after birth. Lastly, the owner has the option of placing Barrenness coverage on the mare, which insures that the mare will get in foal given that she is covered by the stallion a minimum of two times during two separate oestral periods. Barrenness coverage is more likely to be placed on a broodmare prospect or young broodmare in conjunction with a No Guarantee season purchase.
The rates can differ when insuring a broodmare prospect as opposed to a veteran broodmare. The Full Mortality rate for a broodmare prospect will be the same until the mare is roughly 13-15 years old, depending on the carrier. At that time, the mare is considered overage and the Full Mortality rate quoted by the carrier will be higher. When placing Prospective Foal and Barrenness Prospective Foal insurance coverages, there are a handful of variables that will directly affect the rate provided by the company. Generally, insuring a prospect or young broodmare for Prospective Foal and/or Barrenness will result in a more favorable rate than a veteran, which is more likely to have a blemish on her produce record.
Bryce Burton is a property and liability specialist for Muirfield Insurance. He is from Frankfort, Ky., where he grew up an avid race fan. His Thoroughbred racing fandom combined with a collegiate internship in the insurance industry, culminated in a start in the equine insurance field. Bryce has been with Muirfield Insurance since 2014, following his graduation from Transylvania University in Lexington
Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association
Legal online wagering on horse racing will not be directly affected by a new U.S. government Department of Justice opinion on the Wire Act but could have an indirect impact on the willingness of banks and credit card companies to allow horseplayers to fund their advance deposit wagering accounts.
The opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, first reported by OnlinePokerReport.com, reversed a 2011 position taken during the Obama administration stating the Wire Act – a 1961 law prohibiting transmission of betting or betting information across state lines – only applied to sports betting. The reversal by the Trump administration may create an atmosphere of uncertainty among businesses operating online casinos, interstate lotteries and daily fantasy sports contests, along with banks and credit card companies.
The Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978, amended in 2000 to include telephone and other electronic forms of wagering in states where that type of betting is legal, provides an explicit exemption for horse racing to conduct interstate wagering.
Despite that exemption, many banks and credit card companies were slow to permit the use of credit cards to fund advance deposit wagering accounts. Breakthroughs were made in recent years, however, and Alex Waldrop, president and CEO of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, wants to make sure this new Justice Department opinion does not reverse the trend.
“Still reviewing this long and complicated opinion but it appears to return us to 2011 when casinos and lotteries were fearful of operating online but the horse industry online presence through ADWs was already well established,” Waldrop told the Paulick Report via email. “So online wagering on horse racing that is conducted in compliance with the IHA is still legal. We will be working with allies on the (Capitol) Hill to assure banks and credit card processors that it is still legal to allow their credit cards to be used to fund ADW wagering accounts. We also expect the next version of the Schumer/Hatch sports betting bill to have extensive language sorting out the application of the Wire Act to all sorts of online betting transactions.”
The order by the Justice Department is dated Nov. 2, days before the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The move was applauded by the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, a group widely believed to be funded by Sands casino operator and GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, an opponent of online gaming.
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.”
QUESTION: What are hoof growth rings and what does it mean when you see them on a horse at sale?
DR. SCOTT FLEMING: Growth rings are externally visible ridges in the hoof that indicate differences in the rate of growth or quality of a horse’s hoof wall. The appearance and number of rings can vary from several consecutive rings to a single or widely intermittent pattern. Growth rings can be indicative of a problem within the hoof capsule or may just be an external map of changes in activity, nutrition, or a systemic disturbance that altered hoof growth at one time.
The average hoof on a healthy adult horse will grow from the coronary band to the ground in approximately one year. Alterations in hoof growth or quality such as laminitis can greatly affect growth rates. For example, the hoof wall at the toe may grow slower than the heels in both laminitis and clubfooted hooves while exhibiting a similar dished appearance. Both conditions may take much longer for the toe to grow to the ground.
Visually, the growth rings will appear small and tightly spaced at the toe and become wider and more pronounced toward the heels where the growth rate is more rapid. We describe these growth rings as being divergent. They are wider in one part of the hoof than another region. They can be divergent in several planes, such as those described previously, or wider at the toe than heels or even wider on the outside of the hoof than the inside or vice versa. These patterns tell us something about the hoof and what forces, either internal or external, are causing growth differences in the hoof. Wider (faster growth) at the toe than heels can mean the heels are compressed or compromised in some manner. We often see this pattern with negative palmar/plantar angled coffin bones.
The hoof may also exhibit a rounded “bullnosed” appearance and the angle of the coronary band is higher than a normal hoof. Rings that are divergent from one side of the hoof compared to the other may result from differential loading due to conformation or can result from more significant insults such as medial sinking or failure of the internal suspension of the hoof. Divergent rings can often result from overloading or imbalance of one portion or structure in the hoof and can be improved through trimming and shoeing that reduces stress in the affected region.
Reading growth rings offers valuable information but is only part of the picture to overall hoof health. The rings that are visible, are a history of where that hoof has been recently, but internally, a hoof can be catastrophically failing without external signs having shown in the wall itself. Physical evaluation, a detailed history, and radiography remain the cornerstones for diagnosing hoof problems.
Scott Fleming, originally from Northeast Texas, grew up riding Western performance Quarter Horses and working with cattle. Upon graduating from high school, Fleming attended farrier school and maintained a quarter horse centric farrier business in Northeast and central Texas until moving to Lexington. He also served in the Marine Corps Infantry for four years.
Fleming graduated from veterinary school at Texas A&M University in 2013. He then completed an internship at Rood & Riddle in 2013-2014, continued at the hospital as a fellow, and is currently an associate veterinarian at Rood & Riddle.
Outside of Rood & Riddle, Fleming enjoys spending time on the farm with his wife, Tina and their two children, Callie and Case . A special interest for Dr. Fleming is participating in Equitarian Initiative trips to Central America to help working equids in the region.
Do you have a question for a veterinarian that you’d like to see in Ask Your Vet? Email natalie at paulickreport.com
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.