This is Horse Racing
The masses flooded into Churchill Downs on a beautiful day Saturday, smashing the attendance record for American racing’s biggest day. The reported attendance of 170,513 that turned out to see American Pharoah defeat Firing Line, Dortmund and 15 others easily broke the previous mark of 165,307 set in 2012 when I’ll Have Another was victorious.
The crowd packed into every corner and crevice of Churchill’s grandstand, clubhouse, infield and luxury areas. They came to see the Derby and a loaded undercard, which features six other stakes, and they would not disappointed.
When researching the connections of some of the greatest Thoroughbreds, it often goes undocumented how many times they change hands or how many great people, farms and consignors are involved with them beyond the breeder, owner, trainer and jockey.
Tom VanMeter, D.V.M., has enjoyed tremendous success as a breeder, as a former partner in industry giant Eaton Sales and more recently with his personal consignment company, VanMeter Sales.
VanMeter’s name isn't directly attached to Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria or Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah, but it probably should. VanMeter celebrated his truly unique association with both of the big winners this weekend at Churchill Downs in the winner's circle with his girlfriend Renee Dailey.
Gary Stevens reached for the buckle of his over girth underneath Firing Line’s heaving belly and turned to Simon Callaghan.
“He’s one brave son of a bitch,” Stevens said to the trainer, as 17 horses slowed to a standstill on the Churchill Downs dirt Saturday evening.
Callaghan nodded his head, a solemn up and down. Stevens nodded his, a solemn side to side.
A trainer who was in a coma last April gave an opportunity to a 56-year-old, roughneck jockey to ride a horse who was named after a disabled hotel worker in Florida and owned by a former Kentucky Governor. All that unfolded Friday at Churchill Downs as Gov. Brereton Jones’ Lovely Maria, trained by Larry Jones and ridden by Kerwin “Boo Boo” Clark, won the Longines Kentucky Oaks in front of the largest crowd in the race’s history, 123,763.
Molly Morgan seems to be getting better with age. The Dale Romans trainee captured her first career Grade 1 victory in Friday’s $300,000 La Troienne in front of a loud, lively and record Kentucky Oaks crowd on a near-perfect afternoon at Churchill Downs.
Three separate groups totaling ten people lined the bar for sandwiches and beverages at lunchtime at a watering hole on the west side of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Friday afternoon and to a man and woman, they were talking about one thing – Saturday’s 141st running of the Kentucky Derby.
Saratoga is a racing town, yes, but it will be joined by many others throughout the country Saturday when the eyes of the world turn to Churchill Downs to witness the spectacle that is the run for the roses.
Simply put, the Derby is the racing event of the year. Biggest crowd, biggest handle, biggest opinions.
Everyone’s got an opinion on the opening jewel of the Triple Crown and it’s a great chance to show what you know.
They’re racing in Kentucky this weekend, right? Plenty of eyes will be on the Derby, its 19 runners, $2 million purse and worldwide acclaim, but Thoroughbreds will be running and jumping in Virginia, North Carolina and Delaware as part of the steeplechase circuit this weekend.
A loaded field for Friday’s 141st Longines Kentucky Oaks highlights a huge afternoon of stakes action at Churchill Downs and the handicapping team from This Is Horse Racing is ready to solve the riddles of the day.
Several lesser-known stallions sired stakes winners last weekend while the progeny of two high-end Kentucky stallions won stakes in the farthest corner of North American racing.
South African trainer Mike de Kock admitted earlier this week that his early thoughts of running Mubtaahij in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby were a bit of a “pipe dream.”
Free Dubai was welcomed into the world in late March 2005, a spicy chestnut son of prominent Mid-Atlantic sire E Dubai and full of promise. A little more than four years and 18 starts later – races at Laurel Park and Colonial Downs – Free Dubai racked up just two victories and compiled earnings of $45,641.
His victories were a 12-length maiden romp on the dirt and a 3-length score in an allowance-optional as a 2-year-old. He raced in similar allowance company without success in 2008 before dropping into the claiming ranks in 2009, running for as little as a $5,000 tag before he was retired. Merida Arch Miller, a designer for Under Armour, adopted Free Dubai a few years later and describes the gelding as the sport horse of a lifetime.
The Maryland Hunt Cup gods give and take, take and give, give and take. Welter Weight finished second twice before he won in 1999, and twice more after. Florida Law suffered through five losses, one where he lost his jockey while leading at the last fence and another by a head, before he won in 1998.
Months and weeks of anticipation is now down to just a few days as Kentucky Derby 141 approaches. It’s officially Derby Week and with it the requisite crush on Louisville, complete with tips and touts from just about everyone with a media credential whether they watch five horses train or 500.
On a cloudy, windy Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, a crowd of about 150 fans and media representatives gathered outside Barn 33, anxiously awaiting presumed Kentucky Derby American Pharoah to emerge for his final pre-Derby workout.
Cell phones and cameras flashed as Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert came out first on foot, followed by his assistant Jimmy Barnes on his pony and finally the Arkansas Derby winner walked out of the barn with jockey Martin Garcia aboard at approximately 8:30 a.m. More fans, reporters and some familiar names and faces of the Churchill training colony lined the concrete path to see last year’s champion 2-year-old male make his way to the track.
It was a calm and cool Saturday morning at Keeneland Race Course when multiple Grade 1 winner Carpe Diem logged his final Kentucky Derby workout, covering a half-mile in :48.60 under Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez.
A crowd of around 50 quietly gathered to watch the Todd Pletcher trainee take to the dirt on his own at approximately 5:40 a.m. under a light drizzle Saturday morning. That crowd included Keeneland officials, camera crews from several local TV stations, newspaper reporters and plenty of WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stable representatives, including WinStar’s Elliot Walden and Stonestreet’s John Moynihan.
A lot of races in a lot of places, but Saturday, April 25, 2015 will always be known as the day the greatest of them all retired. AP McCoy rides for the final time at Sandown. The 20-time champion, winner of more than 4,000 jump races, yes, 4,000 jump races, rides two races on the final day of the jump season. We bid him farewell.
Materiality was one of four Todd Pletcher trainees to put in a final breeze in advance of the Kentucky Derby and his half-mile work Friday at Churchill Downs was the latest step on a pretty remarkable trip to next week’s spring classic.
The son of Afleet Alex has made tremendous strides to get to this point – in the last two months in particular, going from maiden winner to stakes winner to Grade 1 winner – yet is progress shouldn’t be a total shock. Or perhaps it’s more appropriate to state it isn’t that big of a surprise to Nick de Meric, who sold the colt at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May 2-year-olds in training sale.
The last Saturday in April might not have the Thoroughbred ring to it as the First Saturday in May, but it’s been a big deal in steeplechase racing for more than a century.
The Irish foxhunter jigged, jogged, walked sideways, snatched at the reins. The retired racehorse did the same. The racehorse, the favorite for the oldest steeplechase in North America, merely set a good example – walking along, sneaking a bite of grass, waiting for a cue from his rider. And that is what it’s like to ride out with a Maryland Hunt Cup winner.
Spring is in full swing. The Grand National and Middleburg Spring Races are in the books, the Maryland Hunt Cup right around the corner. The Kentucky Derby a little more than a week away. The pace is picking up all over the country and in New York they welcome a new chairman to the NYRA board and rolled out plans for the Belmont Stakes Festival.