Waldrop: Online Betting On Horse Racing Still Legal Despite Justice Department Reversal On Wire Act

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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.

Read more at OnlinePokerReport.com

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Exercise Rider Severely Injured, Two Horses Killed In Head-On Collision At Fair Grounds

by | 01.11.2019

 

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.”

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Ask Your Veterinarian: What Are Hoof Growth Rings?

by | 01.10.2019 | 3:06pm

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

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From Maidens To Eclipse Award Winners, Photographer Hodges Loves Every Image

by | 01.03.2019 | 3:34pm

Amanda Hodges Weir and Lou Hodges

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.

Iconic Shots

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.”

Jazz Enthusiast

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.

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Bad Bedding? Straw Hard On Equine Lungs

by | 12.27.2018 | 11:21am

Straw bedding and dry hay can be risk factors for inflammatory airway disease (IAD) in performance horses, a new study shows.

Julie Dauvillier, Fe ter Woort and Emmanuelle van Erck‐Westergren, who represent the Equine Sports Medicine Practice in Waterloo, Belgium, studied the role of fungi in IAD. Horses affected with IAD generally have poor performance, a cough and excess mucus in the airways.

The researchers used 731 horses that were used for racing, sport and leisure riding in their study. The trio collected data, observed environmental conditional and collected samples from bronchoalveolar lavages and tracheal washes. Fungal cultures were positive in 55 percent of the horses; horses that had fungal elements in their tracheal wash samples were twice as likely to have IAD.

Horses bedded on straw were 90 percent more likely to have fungi in their tracheal wash than those bedded on other materials; horses bedded in wood shavings had only a 40 percent risk of fungi in their wash.

Hay and straw are naturally contaminated with fungal spores during harvest; storage can increase fungus proliferation. Steaming did help reduce the fungal particles hay, but soaking did not decrease the amount of fungal spores dramatically.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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Johnny Jones, Who Found Success With Thoroughbreds And Quarter Horses, Dies In Texas

 

John T.L. Jones Jr. (photo courtesy of Jones family)

John T.L. Jones Jr. passed away on Friday, November 16, 2018, surrounded by family at his home in Quanah, Texas.

Born in Quanah on July 7, 1934, the horseman most people knew as Johnny Jones was a prominent member of the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred industries in many capacities, as a trainer, breeder, owner, and the head of Walmac International in Lexington, Ky., from 1976 to 2005, where he oversaw the stallion careers of major sires Nureyev, Alleged, and Miswaki.

When John Gaines dreamed up the concept of the Breeders’ Cup and presented his idea to industry leaders in the early 1980s, he credited Jones as the person who got everybody to work together after they’d hit a standstill. It was especially gratifying to Jones when Cajun Beat, a horse he co-bred with H. Smoot Fahlgren, won the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Jones was also involved with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Favorite Trick, the 1997 Horse of the Year whose breeding rights had been purchased by Walmac in August of his 2-year-old season.

Jones is the only person to breed a 2000 Guineas winner, King of Kings, co-bred with Ron Con Ltd.; and an All American Futurity winner, Ochoa, Quarter Horse racing’s all-time money leader who also won the Rainbow Derby and All American Derby.

Prominent among the other Thoroughbred horses Jones bred was top sire Unusual Heat. In the Quarter Horse world, he bred or co-bred champions Ochoa, Noconi, and Brenda Beautiful, all of whom he raced in partnership in his name or that of his J Bar 7 Ranch.

Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame member Jones was a founding partner of Four Star Sales and was formerly on the boards of both the Breeders’ Cup and the Keeneland Association. He also served on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Jones was predeceased by his first wife, Janice, in 2003 and married Brenda Kinsolving in 2007. He is survived by sons John III (Mia), Hutton (Paula), Levi (Paula), and daughter Julie Mogge (Guy); eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren; stepchildren Jenna Decker (Jeff), Ashley Crow (Josh), and CJ Kinsolving (Kaitlin), and seven step-grandchildren.

Visitation will be Monday, Nov. 19, from 6-8 p.m. CT at Smith Funeral Home, 210 W Third Street, Quanah, TX 79252, with graveside service at Quanah Cemetery on Tuesday at noon.

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When Laminitis Strikes, What’s Your First Line Of Defense?

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Barbaro, Edgar Prado, and Dr. Dean Richardson at New Bolton during the Derby winner’s treatment for laminitis

The most important time to take action against laminitis is when a horse shows early signs or a high-risk event occurs that might trigger laminitis. Triggers for laminitis range from exposure to black walnuts to injury to physiological disruption from colic, high fever, retained placenta, or carbohydrate overload. In essence, anything that causes a horse significant trauma might set in motion a cascade that ends in laminitis.

Laminitis is regarded by many in the veterinary field as the most horrific disease to attack horses because in severe cases, it literally causes the hoof capsule to slough off when the laminae that make up the connective tissue between the interior structure of the hoof and the hoof wall die. Theories about what actually happens to the horse physiologically to cause laminitis are numerous, and researchers still seek answers to many questions about the disease.

Dr. Hannah Galantino-Homer is the director of the Laminitis Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center. The laboratory is part of the Laminitis Institute founded by the university after the tragic death of 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The colt was euthanized after an eight-month battle against laminitis at New Bolton Center after fracturing his right hind leg at the beginning of the Preakness Stakes.

If you think laminitis is a threat, call your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence.

Galantino-Homer said several things can be done while waiting for the veterinarian to arrive. First, move the horse to a confined area with soft footing. This can be a round pen with a deep sand base or a stall with at least six inches of bedding, either shavings or several bales of scattered straw.

“This allows them to distribute the weight more, and it encourages them to lie down if their feet are really sore,” she said.

Next, ice the horse’s feet. Studies show that cryotherapy reduces pain and inflammation. This can be done by standing a horse in ice and water, using ice boots, packing crushed ice in a bag and securing it to the horse’s foot with bandage, or pulling pantyhose over the horse’s lower limb and filling it with ice. If you are fortunate to have a Game Ready system, this is an ideal use for it.

More importantly, icing can slow down the cascade of events.

“Any kind of damaged tissue tends to compound the damage by releasing more things that cause more damage, more inflammation,” Galantino-Homer said. “You’re slowing all that down. You’re slowing the metabolism of the white blood cells that have been activated by tissue damage going on. So you’re trying to slow all that down.”

Administering a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug is the next measure but be sure to get your veterinarian’s approval first. The horse’s history, current medical condition, and potential cause of laminitis must all be factored into what the horse should receive.

“Veterinarians have preferences for what they use,” Galantino-Homer said. “For a horse owner in a first-aid situation, it would be whatever you have on hand—Bute, Banamine. It’s medical management for painkilling and inflammation, and it is going to depend on other clinical aspects. Such as a horse with colitis, you have to worry more about kidney damage. So they may manage pain differently.”

When your veterinarian arrives, he or she will examine the horse to determine the best course of treatment. This commonly includes tubing the horse with mineral oil and activated charcoal to protect the intestinal mucosa, particularly in the case of carbohydrate overload. When colitis is a threat, your veterinarian may recommend Bio-Sponge to combat bacterial overgrowth, Galantino-Homer said. Developed by the late Dr. Doug Herthel’s Platinum Performance laboratory, Bio-Sponge oral paste is an intestinal adsorbent that grabs onto damaging agents and carries them out of the horse’s body when it defecates.

Because laminitis is a complex disease and every horse is an individual, no set plan of treatment can be applied to every horse. Long term, expect the horse to require the care of a farrier knowledgeable about laminitis and therapeutic shoeing. Your veterinarian also may recommend management changes for the horse, including a nutritionist to modify the horse’s diet.

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Justify To Stand For $150,000 In First Season At Coolmore

by | 09.23.2018

Justify, winner of the 2018 Triple Crown, will debut at stud for an advertised fee of $150,000 during the 2019 breeding season, leading the projected 17-horse stallion roster at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky.

The 3-year-old son of Scat Daddy arrived at Ashford Stud on Sept. 17 after initially being retired in July and residing at WinStar Farm until the stud deal with Coolmore was formally announced. He is the second Triple Crown winner to be retired to Ashford Stud in the last three years, following 2015 Horse of the Year American Pharoah, who debuted for the 2016 breeding season for an advertised fee of $200,000.

Other new additions to the Coolmore roster include Grade 1 Hollywood Derby winner Mo Town (Uncle Mo), who will stand for $12,500, and Breeders’ Cup and UAE Derby winner Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy), the half brother to red-hot Into Mischief and Beholder, whose fee has yet to be determined. The latter, trained by Aidan O’Brien, is set on a track for this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

The official fees are as follows:

  • Air Force Blue: $20,000
  • American Pharoah: $110,000
  • Classic Empire: $35,000
  • Competitive Edge: $7,500
  • Cupid: $12,500
  • Declaration Of War: $25,000
  • Fusaichi Pegasus: $7,500
  • Justify: $150,000
  • Lookin At Lucky: $17,500
  • Mendelssohn: TBA
  • Mo Town: $12,500
  • Munnings: $20,000
  • Practical Joke: $30,000
  • Tale of the Cat: $25,000
  • Uncle Mo: $125,000
  • Vancouver: $15,000
  • Verrazano: $15,000
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Record Average Sale Price Highlights Strong Keeneland September Renewal

by | 09.23.2018

 

There was plenty to be excited about in advance of this year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale, but it was the surprises that helped propel the bellwether auction from a strong edition into the kind not seen since the economic crash of the mid-2000s.

A combination of factors – from a favorable economic climate, to the first crop from a Triple Crown winner, to a somewhat unexpected appearance from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of the Godolphin operation – came together to produce one of the strongest renewals of the Keeneland September sale in its history. At the end of 13 sessions, the auction finished with a record average sale price, the second-highest all-time median price, and the fourth-highest gross.

A total of 2,916 yearlings changed hands at this year’s sale for $377,130,400, up 23 percent from last year’s 12-day auction, when 2,555 horses brought $307,845,400. The gross surpassed last year’s final total during the seventh session, and it finished as the highest since 2007, the last full sale before the market crash, when 5,553 horses sold for $385,018,600.

The average sale price settled at a record $129,331, up seven percent from $120,487 in 2017, and surpassing the previous record of $112,427 set in 2006. The median was down 12 percent to $50,000 from a record $57,000, but it entered a four-way tie for the second-highest ever, joining a three-sale run from 2013 to 2015. The final buyback rate of 24 percent marked a small improvement from 25 percent last year.

At the top of the market, 27 horses sold for seven figures, more than the last two Keeneland September sales combined, and the most since 2007. It was the fifth-most horses sold for $1 million or more in the sale’s history.

“I think the gross is so high because the top end is as strong as it’s ever been,” said consignor Scott Mallory. “You start adding million-dollar horses on there, it gets the gross up pretty quick. I think there’s a shortage of good horses. I hear trainers tell us all the time there’s a shortage of good horses.”

While there are plenty of pieces that go into making a sale of this caliber, Keeneland’s director of sales operations Geoffrey Russell said none of the figures would have been possible if the quality of horseflesh in the ring did not match the demand.

“It has to be the horse, and this is what we come back to,” Russell said. “This is a very good crop of horses. Yes, all the other external factors of depreciation, new tax laws, stock market, all the other factors, have helped raise the bar, but If those horses aren’t top quality, they’re not going to give you extra money just because they have it in their pockets. The credit goes to the breeders and consignors that have had an exceptional crop this year.”

Suzi Shoemaker of Lantern Hill Farm put more stock in the economy’s effect on buyer activity – particularly the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which dramatically increased the tax benefits for yearling buyers. However, Shoemaker also noted that the sport’s efforts to shine up its image could be slowly reaching the people with money to spend.

“I think the tax cuts have had a huge effect on everyone’s emotional landscape,” she said. “People just feel like they can have some fun with their money. A lot of these people have corporations or big businesses and I feel like they can use their cash for more discretionary items like racehorses.

“We’ve made a lot of progress in our industry with bringing people in, and taking care of our racehorses when their careers are over,” Shoemaker continued. “Drugs are still a problem, but I think it’s being addressed. My feeling is we’re moving forward on these things. Yes, I know we still have a lot of problems, but I think we’re addressing them and we’ve got a solid core of people. We may or may not be growing it, but we’re keeping who we’ve got.”

Sheikh Mohammed Ups The Ante

The story of the 2018 Keeneland September sale, and especially its select Book 1, cannot be told without making reference to the presence of Sheikh Mohammed, who appeared at the sale in person for the first time in several years.

With the head of the operation in attendance, Godolphin more than doubled its spending at the September sale, going from 17 purchases totaling $8,065,000 last year to 27 yearlings for $19,960,000. It was the biggest performance by a single buying entity since 2006, when Godolphin landed 34 horses for $59,945,000 including the $11.7-million Meydan City, whose sale price is still the highest ever for a yearling at auction.

The operation of Sheikh Mohammed signed tickets under the name of both Godolphin and Godolphin Japan, shoehorning certain horses for his Asian interests.

Sheikh Mohammed’s arrival was a welcome surprise for the Keeneland staff. The ruler of Dubai also spent time looking over his horses at his U.S. base of operations at the former Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Ky., and he left the sale to attend the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C.

“You never know,” said Bob Elliston, Keeneland’s vice president of racing and sales. “ Every year, we hope, and every year I think there’s probably hope on their end that he’s coming as well, but things get in the way. As soon as we see that big plane with that flag on the tail, we know then.”

While Sheikh Mohammed was gone by the sale’s traditional “dark day” on the first Friday of selling, Airdrie Stud general manager Ben Henley speculated that his strong buying had a ripple effect on the sessions that followed.

“People are getting outbid on those horses early and getting pushed back a book,” Henley said. “It kind of keeps happing all way down and it’s a domino effect on the whole marketplace.”

With the figures reaching heights not seen since the mid-2000s, Sheikh Mohammed’s presence also brought with it the return of the classic bidding slugfests between Godolphin and the Coolmore partnership. Though the prices did not reach the delirious heights they did in the previous decade, the competition was fierce between the two entities.

Godolphin accounted for seven of the auction’s million-dollar horses, while Coolmore took home a trio of seven-figure yearlings, including the sale-topper.

Coolmore’s reverence to Claiborne Farm sire War Front continued to be on display at the September sale when it landed Hip 458, a $2.4-million colt out of the Grade 1-winning Smart Strike mare Streaming. The colt’s third dam is Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour, putting him in the family of champion Rags to Riches, Belmont Stakes winner Jazil, and Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner Man of Iron, among others.

Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency consigned the colt, as agent.

New Catalog Format Draws Mixed Reviews

For the third straight year, the Keeneland September sale introduced a new format for the first week of its sale. After last year’s renewal started with a single ultra-select Book 1 and finished the week with three sessions of Book 2, the 2018 edition expanded Book 1 into four sessions and pushed Book 2 into the weekend.

Elliston said the quality of this year’s total catalog had a strong influence in blowing out the first book. Horses were spread out to nearly every barn from one to 49 on the Keeneland backstretch for Book 1, which was designed to give each horse space to properly show themselves without being too crowded.

Any logistical issues that might have stemmed from the spread-out nature of the Book 1 horses were inadvertently quelled when washout rains on the Sunday before the opening session led Keeneland officials to delay the start times for all four Book 1 sessions by two hours, giving prospective buyers an extra eight hours to inspect the horses.

“Every year, the inspection team looks at the depth of the crop that’s there, and we tailor it to that,” Elliston said. “People make a lot of the format, but really, we’re the only ones that have to deal with format because we’re the only people that sell the numbers that we do. That’s a responsibility that we take very seriously, to create an environment conducive to buyers and sellers getting the most they can.”

While the high returns are hard to deny, expanding the Book 1 offerings did create a tough draw for some horses that might have been placed in Book 2 in prior catalog configurations. Instead of benefitting from a “big fish, small pond” effect, some sellers were concerned their horses at the level below the very elite might have gotten lost in the shuffle while more suitable buyers waited until the later sessions to arrive at the ale.

“It’s going to be hard for them to adjust the format when the sale’s been so high, but it’s been kind of tough on the consignments,” Mallory said. “I had some in Book 1 where I sold horses in Book 2 that weren’t nearly as good for a lot more money just because of the way the format was. They’ll work it out, though. It’s hard to please everybody, and when you’re trying to get 4,500 head through the sale, you’re not going to get everything where it needs to be.”

The first week of the sale might have had some placement casualties, but sellers were generally pleased with how their slots shook out in the middle sessions. Shopping activity, both in terms of inspecting horses and buying them, remained robust well into the later books.

“Most of these horses that we have here, the consignors are so on top of it, on top of knowing what we have and where they belong,” said Carrie Brogden of Select Sales. “Placement is incredible to me. Too far early can really hurt you, but too far back, they can still find you.”

Uncle Mo, War Front, American Pharoah Drive Sire Power

Uncle Mo, a resident of Ashford Stud, led all sires by gross for the first time, with 65 yearlings sold for $22,392,000. It was the highest gross produced by a sire at a Keeneland September sale since Storm Cat put 24 through the ring for $30,485,000 in 2006.

The top sire by average sale price was War Front, whose 18 horses sold brought an average of $782,500. It was War Front’s second time leading the sale, after achieving the same feat in 2015.

War Front finished tied with Darley‘s Medaglia d’Oro for the most seven-figure horses, each with five.

As expected, the auction was a coming out party for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, whose first yearlings had a big impact on the final figures. In total, the member of the Ashford Stud roster had 47 yearlings sell for a combined $19,585,000 (third-highest) and an average of $416,702 (fifth-highest among those with three or more sold).

American Pharoah finished with three horses past the seven-figure mark, led by the auction’s second-highest price, Hip 91, a $2.2-million colt out of the Grade 2-placed stakes-winning Indian Charlie mare Kindle, who sold to the Godolphin operation. Woods Edge Farm consigned the colt, as agent.

To view the sale’s full results, click here.

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Lanerie Sweeps Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes With Tobacco Road, Serengeti Empress

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Tobacco Road and Corey Lanerie win the Ellis Park Juvenile

Corey Lanerie swept Ellis Park’s pair of 2-year-old stakes but in completely different fashion Sunday: Serengeti Empress led all the way to an electrifying 13 1/2-length blowout over the late-running Include Edition in the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante. A race later, Tobacco Road wore down stablemate Whiskey Echo to take the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile by three-quarters of a length.

Lanerie won four races out of five mounts on the card to take the lead — 24-22 over Shaun Bridgmohan — in the jockey standings for the first time this meet, for which he missed the first six days following the death of his wife, Shantel.

“When I came back here, I didn’t know how well I would do after Shantel’s passing, just if people would give me back my mounts right away,” Lanerie said. “It’s been a blessing. I took off where I left, kind of kept on winning. My business didn’t seem to linger at all. Once I saw I had a little chance, I kind of made it a goal to try to do it and be leading rider for Shantel.”

Trainer Tom Amoss loved Serengeti Empress even before the 2-year-old filly won her first start by 5 1/2 lengths July 4 at Indiana Grand. He was extremely disappointed when the daughter of Alternation was fourth in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Schuylerville, a race in which Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano dropped the whip turning for home.

“We classified her as one of the best in the barn,” Amoss said by phone from New York after Serengeti Empress’ 13 1/2-length laugher over the late-running Include Edition in the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante. “A big disappointment at Saratoga when Castellano dropped the stick on her and just quit riding her. I’ve never figured out what went wrong in that race. But she came back to show what she was today.”

Serengeti Empress rolled through testing fractions of 22.21 seconds for the first quarter-mile, 45.29 for the half and 1:09.66 for three-quarters of a mile before finishing the seven furlongs in 1:22.29. She paid $4.80 as the 7-5 favorite in the field of 11 two-year-old fillies.

“My filly broke really well right from the gate,” Lanerie said. “She was in hand pretty much all the way around there. When I got to the quarter pole, I kind of pushed the button and she went on and finished all the way to the wire. I had plenty left on the gallop-out. She was so far in front by herself that I think she was getting a little lost. I was keeping her busy. But she didn’t need any encouragement today. She was going to win.

“The sky’s the limit, I think. Tom has done a fantastic job with her, him and his team. I’m sure he’ll get her as far as he can go and do his best. She’s a good one.”

Vickie Foley, trainer of Alexis Harthill’s Include Edition, said she was “loving it,” seeing the fast pace. “But that filly didn’t come back at all,” she said wistfully. “She’s a runner.”

Include Edition trailed the field for half the race, having to come six-wide on the turn. She took second by 1 1/2 lengths over 107-1 shot Lucky Girasol, who won a $16,000 maiden-claiming race at Ellis Park July 29.

Said James Graham, rider Include Edition, who came from well back to win her debut July 15 at Ellis Park: “She tries. She’s just not that quick early. Like in her first race, you say, ‘Oh yeah, maybe a little green and stuff.’ Sent her away a little bit, couldn’t keep up. I tucked in, saved a little ground, made a huge run around the turn. I passed everybody and I looked up and Corey’s 15 in front!

“I think she’ll be better at two turns, and she’s in the growing stage. I like her, I like what she might be able to become. She got a little bit of an education. They were so bunched up in turn and said, ‘OK, I can’t wait and try to go on and hope to kick home.’ Because she’s not quick, she’s just steady. She ran her race, tried her butt off.”

Amoss bought Serengeti Empress for $70,000 for Joel Politi of Columbus, Ohio, at Keeneland’s 2017 September yearling sale. He said the filly will return to his Churchill Downs base and could be pointed for that track’s Grade 2, $200,000 Pocahontas Stakes, whose winner gets an automatic berth and entry fees paid in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 2, also at the Louisville track.

Asked what he liked about Serengeti Empress before she ran, Amoss said, “
“Super intelligent. Went through all of her drills without blinking an eye. I mean, every time we challenged her she was up to it. So when we made her first start with her, it was more because that’s where the maiden race (at Indiana Grand) appeared at that time. We wanted to go to Saratoga, which we kind of pushed that issue together because they were close together. Just happened to have a maiden race at Indiana Grand as opposed to Ellis, so that’s where we ended up.”

Rounding out the field were Shanghai Rain, Somewhere, Profound Legacy, Kristizar, Bivian B, Spice It Up, Wakeeta and La Coyota.

Corey Lanerie completed his sweep of the stakes by guiding Tobacco Road from eighth to a three-quarters of a length triumph over Whiskey Echo in the $75,000 Ellis Park Juvenile, with Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen training both horses. Manny Wah finished another head back in third in the field of 10 two-year-old colts and geldings.

“He had a completely different trip from the filly,” Lanerie said, referring to Serengeti Empress’ front-running 13 1/2-length romp over Include Edition in the $75,000 Ellis Park Debutante a race earlier. “He doesn’t have as much speed as she did. He broke really good, and then the speed just kind of ran away from him. I had to kind of keep him busy the first quarter of a mile. Once he found his stride around the turn, from the three-eighths to the quarter pole, I could tell I had a lot of horse. It was just trying to time it right and get him to the front at the right time.

“Actually at the quarter pole, I thought I had the two in front of me with ease. I hadn’t really asked my horse. I didn’t think the two in front, that they had that much. When I got to his (Whiskey Echo’s) hip, he proved me wrong. I got a little worried at the eighth pole. And then by the sixteenth pole I was kind of taking control and getting away from them.”

After three races, Tobacco Road has followed the identical path as Lookin At Lee, the 2017 Kentucky Derby runner-up ridden by Lanerie. Both horses are trained by Asmussen and owned by Lee Levinson’s L and N Racing. Both horses finished fifth at Churchill Downs in their first start, won at Ellis in their second and took the Ellis Park Juvenile in their third. Tobacco Road just now needs to run out $1.1 million and be at least second in a Triple Crown race to keep up the comparisons.

“It was a good day,” Levinson said by phone from Tulsa. “The comparisons continue. The best part was how he finished, because he was pulling away at the end. Boy, can you imagine at a distance? You never know but, boy, he sure looks like he’s got distance, doesn’t he?

“… When he came around the turn, you could just see him coming. He was catching them with every stride. We were pretty excited. We thought we had a great chance. But you never know, watching those races. How many times have you watched and they’re coming up like gangbusters and just stop?”

Mitch Dennison, Asmussen’s assistant trainer at Ellis Park, has had Tobacco Road in his care all summer and said the winner was showing a lot in his timed workouts in company.

“He’s very competitive and he always just has his ears up, is very happy and has kept very good weight,” he said.

Though the early pace (22.47, 45.66) was similar to what Serengeti Empress set in the Debutante, the boys finished much slower, with Tobacco Road wrapping up the seven furlongs in 1:23.99. after the six furlongs slowed down to 1:11.02. But there also was more competition for the lead, with Manny Wah and Whiskey Echo right up on the pace battling long shot S S. Trooper.

Whiskey Echo, the program favorite who went off second choice behind Tobacco Road, won his first start at Belmont Park and then was third in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Sanford Stakes. Asmussen said by phone that both colts will go to Churchill Downs and be considered for that track’s Grade 3, $150,000 Iroquois, whose winner receives an automatic berth and entry fees paid to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2 at the same track.

“They’re both really nice colts, obviously,” Asmussen said. “We felt good about our chances going in. Whiskey Echo off the third in the Sanford, I thought this was the perfect spot for him. And then when Tobacco Road ran so well there a couple of weeks ago, it was obvious to run him back at Ellis. But both colts ran well and handled more ground, and that’s kind of what it’s all about right now.”

Said Shaun Bridgmohan, rider of runner-up Whiskey Echo: “The horse tried really hard. He gave me what he had. The winner came on the outside and got us all. But me and Channing (Hill, on Manny Wah) were running right along. The winner just outgamed us today.”

Overanalyzer finished fourth, followed by Mine Inspector, S S Trooper, Shanghaied Roo, Pradar, Lady’s Weekend and Veritas.

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