EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF THE NYRA REPRIVATIZATION PLAN

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF THE NYRA REPRIVATIZATION PLAN

Introduction

Pursuant to The New York State Racing Franchise Accountability and Transparency Act of 2012, NYRA management has a statutory plan for its prospective not-for-profit governing structure, which is comprised of three parts: 1) summary of NYRA’s reorganization efforts to date; 2) proposals for NYRA’s legal and governance structures; and 3) NYRA’s 2014 and 2015 actual results, approved 2016 budget, and proposed 2017 financial plan.

 

1. NYRA’s Reorganization Efforts – A Board-led Transformation: Progress and Accomplishments

       

The Reorganization Board has worked for the past three (and in particular, the past two) years with the NYRA management team to effectuate the change, and achieve the results, sought by Governor Cuomo.  The Board has succeeded in a way that makes the New York Racing Association stronger, better run, more trustworthy, and much better  able to continue to generate the significant economic impact, jobs and tourism that Governor Cuomo and the Legislature envisioned when they made the change in NYRA’s Board structure.

 

NYRA is under New Management – The management of NYRA has been transformed by new leaders with successful and established careers outside of NYRA.  Led by CEO and President Chris Kay, NYRA also has a new General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer, who formerly served as global General Counsel for one of the “Big Four” accounting firms (Deloitte); a Senior Vice President for Racing Operations from California’s Hollywood Park (pursuant to NYS 2012 Task Force recommendations); a Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer (the first in the sports industry) who formerly served as an executive with a sporting goods company and with a major movie company; a new Vice President of Security, who formerly served as the Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s New York Field Office, as well other new hires at various leadership levels throughout the company.  

 

Financial Performance – NYRA has instituted several initiatives to reduce costs and generate additional revenues. As a result, in 2014 NYRA achieved an operating surplus of approximately $1.7 million, its first operating surplus in recent years, and NYRA’s surplus will be $3.5 million in 2015.  NYRA is also debt-free for the first time in years, having paid off a $25 million note to Genting.

 

Governance, Integrity and Accountability – NYRA has made extensive operating reforms in areas such as risk management, compliance, corporate governance and attention to legal issues. For example, NYRA has changed from a local auditor to KPMG, one of the “Big Four” auditing firms. Over the last several years, NYRA’s audits have been “clean”, i.e. in the view of KPMG our financial statements accurately present, in all material respects, the financial position of NYRA.

 

Economic Impact – NYRA is the cornerstone of New York State’s horse racing industry, which generates $2.1 billion in annual economic impact and over 17,000 statewide jobs.  With a commitment to generate more tourism and provide greater financial incentives to NY bred owners, NYRA’s operation of Saratoga Race Course alone is responsible for the creation of an annual economic impact of more than $237 million in the Capital Region, a significant boost to that local economy which continues to grow.

 

NYRA DRAFT – 04.12.16

 

 

 

Safer Horseracing – NYRA has instituted a number of changes to improve equine safety for the equine athletes and jockeys, such as empowering veterinarians to take action when necessary, requiring record keeping on certain drug administrations, establishing a system for jockeys to report violations, creating a Board committee on equine safety, hiring a safety steward, and many others.  The number of equine catastrophic injuries on NYRA racetracks is below the average nationwide.

 

Improving the Quality of Racing – NYRA has made racing much more enjoyable for stakeholders and guests by creating “must see” big events days such as (a) Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, with over $10 million in purses, and many guest-centric innovations; (b) Stars & Stripes Day with horses competing from around the world; (c) increased grades stakes and purses on Whitney Day; and (d) a robust Travers card of races (“Saratoga’s version of the Breeders’ Cup”). NYRA broke records for wagering on Belmont Stakes Day and for the Saratoga meet. NYRA has also created new events that shine a bright light on New York agriculture, such as our Taste NY weekly Saratoga events, and Saratoga Showcase Day, which features New York bred horses.   

 

Support for New York Breeders – NYRA is dedicated to New York bred horses, and has worked closely with the New York Thoroughbred Breeders to make New York one of the few states to see an increase in the number of foals in recent years.  NYRA devoted almost $40 million in purses to owners of New York bred horses in 2014, and a like amount in 2015.  

Support for the Backstretch Workers – Over the last two years, a number of dormitory renovations has taken place at all three racetracks.  New construction on the first of three large dormitories at Belmont commenced in 2015, as part of a multi-year, $28.8 million renovation/new construction program.

Enhancing the Guest Experience – NYRA has taken considerable steps to improve the experience for all fans at all tracks, including:

 

Belmont Park:

  • NYRA installed 378 high-definition televisions and 3 high-definition video boards, as well as provided several high-definition “point of view” cameras for fans to customize the way they watch horse workouts, horses in the paddock, and the races. At the finish line, NYRA has also installed a high-definition slow motion camera.
  • At the 2015 Belmont Stakes, fans were able to experience a great package of entertainment, including performances by the United States Military Academy at West Point’s veteran band, the Jersey Boys, and the Goo Goo Dolls, who also performed a concert after the last race.
  • NYRA limited the attendance to 90,000 and, working with LIRR, completely renovated the LIRR station, all of which made ingress and egress much more pleasant and manageable for fans.

 

Saratoga Race Course:

  • NYRA installed 1,063 new high-definition televisions, three new high-definition video boards, enhanced Wi-Fi capacity, and a new sound system.
  • NYRA expanded the Saratoga Pavilion, which is the home of several Taste NY events, one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature initiatives. Each Thursday, Friday and Sunday, NYRA features Taste NY wines, beers and food products.
  • NYRA created the Walk of Fame, an open-air pavilion honoring the recipients of the prestigious “Red Jacket” award, created in 2013 to honor the best owners, trainers and jockeys in our sport, thus giving fans of all ages a way to “connect” with our stars.
  • NYRA opened a state-of-the-art sports bar in what was formerly known as the lower Carousel, enabling fans to reserve tables and watch other sporting events in addition to our great races throughout the day.

 

Aqueduct Racetrack:

  • NYRA constructed a state-of-the-art simulcast center, Longshots, with 270 dedicated carrels, a sports bar, and dozens of new high-definition televisions.
  • NYRA installed new flooring, airport-style seating and lighting within the clubhouse, as well as 507 new high-definition televisions.
  • NYRA created an urban art program unveiled in 2013 featuring vibrant, horse-themed murals from internationally renowned “street artists” throughout the second floor and on our exterior walls.

 

OLD NYRA CURRENT – NEW YORK RACING ASSOCIATION
•       $25 Million in debt since 2011.

 

•       Inconsistent profitability. .

 

•       Improper calculation of exotic wagering take-out (20112012).

 

•       High rate of equine catastrophic injuries, 38 in total in 2012.

 

•       Inadequate investment in facilities, especially those used by customers.

 

•       Debt free as of April 2014.

 

•       $1.7 million operating surplus for 2014 and $3.5 million in 2015.  First back-to-back profitability since the bankruptcy.

 

•       Implemented wagering accountability processes in 2013.

 

•       Equine injuries below the national average in 2013, 2014, and 2015 with 22, 24 and 19 respectively.

 

•       Spent $20+ million at all three racetracks during 2013-2015 to enhance the guest experience.

 

 

2. Proposals for NYRA’s Legal and Governance Structure

 

Legal Structure – Section 207(1)(d) of the Racing, Pari-Mutuel Wagering and Breeding Law requires the Reorganization Board to “propose, no less than one hundred eighty days prior to its termination, recommendations to the governor and the state legislature representing a statutory plan for the prospective not-for-profit governing structure of The New York Racing Association”, and the statutory notes clarify that the “franchise shall be returned to private control, remaining in the form of a not-for-profit corporation.”  Therefore, going forward, NYRA will continue to be organized as a New York not-for-profit company and will be under private control.    

Governance – Upon consultations with various constituencies, NYRA offers the following options relative to the selection and terms of the new NYRA Board:

 

Option 1.  NYRA Board to have Majority of Private Members and Four Publicly

Appointed Members.  The NYRA Board will have 15 members, all with equal voting rights.  Two members will be selected by the Governor, one of which will be the first Chair. One member will be selected by the Temporary President of the Senate and one member will be selected by the Speaker of the Assembly. Ten members will be selected by the current Executive Committee of the Board upon the recommendation of the Nominations and Governance Committee.

 

Option 2.  NYRA Board to have All Private Members.  The NYRA Board will have 15 members, all with equal voting rights.  All members and the Chair will be selected by the current Executive Committee of the Board upon the recommendation of the Nominations and Governance Committee.

With respect to options 1 and 2, prior to its recommendations, the Nominations and Governance Committee will have held soundings with all members of the existing Board.  The NYRA CEO will also be a full member of the Board, and the following will be in effect:

  • Board Terms: Three years, and eligible for two additional terms.  Terms will rotate, starting end of 2017.
  • Ex Officio Non-Voting Members: To include representatives from the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) and New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. (NY Breeders), with Board empowered to add others.
  • Board Committees: Keep current statutory committees:  Compensation; Finance; Nominating, and Executive.  We would add two non-statutory committees: Equine Safety and Racing Committees, both of which are currently operating.
  • To ensure transparency, NYRA will post on its website the reports of the CEO and CFO (and, as applicable, the Chair) from each Board meeting.

 

Option 3.  NYRA Reorganization Board to Remain in Place.  The Governor and Legislature may choose to retain the status quo and extend the tenure of the Reorganization Board for one additional year.

 3.  Financial Plan

In 2014, NYRA recorded its first operating surplus ($1.7 million) in recent years, as a result of our implementation of several revenue enhancing and cost saving initiatives.  NYRA budgeted a surplus of $2.2 million in 2015 (which is now $3.5 million), has budgeted a surplus of $2.3 million in 2016, and projects a $2.8 million surplus in 2017.  These operating surpluses, year over year, reflects our commitment to strong business processes and disciplines, which results in prudent cost cutting, strategic investments, and revenue enhancing initiatives.

Dickinson Returns A Winner At Laurel (Press Release)

Photo via Laurel Park
Photo via Laurel Park

April 3, 2016
Contact: david.joseph@marylandracing.com or call 954.658.7156

LAUREL, MD – It didn’t take long for Michael Dickinson to find himself back in the winner’s circle

The Maryland-based trainer won with the first horse he saddled since retiring in 2007 when Augustin Stable’s Tide Is High, who had not run since September, went wire-to-wire in an entry-level allowance race late Saturday on the turf at Laurel Park.

It was the first time Dickinson saddled a horse as a licensed trainer since Dec. 8, 2007 at Turfway Park. It was also Dickinson’s first trip to Laurel since 2003 when he won two graded-stakes in one day. A Huevo won the 2003 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G1) and Tapit won the Laurel Futurity (G2).

“I’ve really enjoyed my training again. I came back to train because I want to train and I enjoy it,” said Dickinson, who decided to return to training last summer. “I love training on the farm.

“Today, I’m not too pleased.  She’s a good horse, I didn’t train her very well. She used to run off a little bit last year and I thought I had her relaxed and I didn’t.  So I’m not pleased, I’m not even a tiny little bit pleased.  I might be relieved, but at least we had a winner.  But we’ve got to do much better than that.”

Dickinson retired from training in 2007 after having won 587 races, including a pair of Breeders’ Cup races with Da Hoss in 1996 and 1998. Since 2007, Dickinson spent his time inventing and developing the Tapeta Surface, a synthetic racing surface now used by racetracks all over the world and named after Dickinson’s farm, Tapeta Farm, in North East, MD.

When asked if he has any new training methods this time around, the Yorkshire, England native, who is now 66, said he has many new methods to apply to his craft.

“Oh yes, a zillion different things…a very different Michael Dickinson trainer,” he said.  “I didn’t do very well before, I want to do better this time. That’s why I’ve come back because I didn’t think I did very well and I want to prove to myself that I’m not quite as bad as I thought I was.”

Laurel Park is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. . For more information contact David Joseph at david.joseph@marylandracing.com or call 954.658.7156

Essay from Horse Racing Ireland

By Michael O’Rourke, Horse Racing Ireland

Ireland is the land of the horse, known throughout the world as a centre of excellence for breeding, horse training and racing thoroughbred horses.

At the centre of Ireland’s racing tradition lies Kildare, the thoroughbred county and the heart of that living tradition is the Curragh, a 5000 acre plain, one of Europe’s oldest natural grasslands perfectly designed by time and the hand of man for one of nature’s most beautiful sights, the running horse.

Tales of horses running on the Curragh plains take us beyond recorded history to the myths and legends of old Ireland which tell of Fin McCool and his warriors, the Fianna, emerging from their fortress on the Hill of Allen to race their horses across these plains.

By the 17th century, Dublin came to the Curragh, not for war but for sport, as the gentry gathered on the plains for hunting with hounds, and above all challenging each other to match races. By the late 18th century, the Turf Club was established in Kildare to formalize the rules of racing and to publish a calendar with details of the races run in Ireland. Bloodstock breeding activities led to Bird Catcher, a handsome colt who was one of the most brilliant on the Curragh and whose descendants have made him one of the greatest sires in racing history.

Thus, the foundations were laid for the success story that is Irish Racing. Modern Irish racing took shape with the establishment of the Irish Derby in 1866, the first and greatest of the Curragh classic races. The Irish Oaks, the Irish St. Leger and the Irish Two-Thousand and One-Thousand Guineas followed after. Commercial sponsorship of the Derby, first by the Irish Sweeps and then by Budweiser, put the race firmly in the international limelight and the world’s best horses have ever since contested this jewel in the crown of Irish racing.

One name bestrides the racing history of Ireland like a colossus, Vincent O’Brien, winner of the Triple Crown with Nijinsky, a feat not matched since. In an exceptional career, O’Brien would claim six Epsom Derby’s, three Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes, three successive Aintree Grand Nationals, and four Cheltenham Gold Cups.

Vincent O’Brien’s successor at Ballydoyle bears the same name, but is no relation, other than unshared genius with the racehorses. Aidan O’Brien has rewritten the records so often that any attempt to capture his achievements on the printed page would ensure that piece became outdated overnight.

The story is still being written and new stars of the turf appear every year. The sport itself is changing rapidly but one constant remains – the passion for racing among the Irish people and our natural affinity for the horse as breeders, trainers, jockeys, grooms and in a myriad of other supporting roles. The Celtic warriors of the Fianna no longer race across the plains, but the Celtic tiger’s progeny still come to match the best against the best and while doing so have plenty of fun.

Irish racing festivals have become the major social and sporting occasions of Irish life in every season of the year and maintaining a sporting tradition that spans the centuries, Irish jockeys, trainers and horses continue to win the world over.

Shared Belief Is Lost to Colic

Colic is a merciless thief, taking when and where it wants. Thursday afternoon, news of Shared Belief succumbing to colic left a plaintive void in horse racing and among the legion of horse lovers that transcends sport and borders. Despite advancements in surgeries and medications, some cases of colic just aren’t fixable.

Whether the horse is a demi-god like Shared Belief or a backyard pony, with a tough case of colic the decision to euthanize is both easy and difficult. Easy because after options have been tried and evaluated, it is the only path that remains to abate pain, suffering and possible further injury; when we sign on as horse owners, keeping horses pain-free and comfortable is our creed. Difficult because, admit it or not, we love them, and consider them family; and we grieve and don’t want to let them go…

Shared Belief was a tremendous race horse. Fast, game, tactical, an Eclipse Award champion. His lithe, aerodynamic frame skipped over the track, besting war horses like California Chrome and Moreno. In the Charles Town Classic, jockey Mike Smith felt Shared Belief wasn’t travelling correctly and pulled him up. It turned out the favorite had a non-displaced fracture of the point of a hip. With stall rest, rehabbing at Pegasus Equine Rehabilitation and Training Center (the Mayo Clinic of horse facilities) and a leisurely return to life at the track, the four-year-old gelding was on course.

That is until something went awry in the loops, curves and switchbacks that characterize the geography of a horse’s intestines. According to Jim Rome on Jungle Racing’s Facebook page, Shared Belief was observed being uncomfortable and treatment started immediately, see link below. Unresponsive to initial protocols, Shared Belief was emergency shipped to University of California, Davis Equine Surgical Emergency and Critical Care Service where it was discerned surgery was the only recourse.

No veterinarian wants to say and no owner wants to hear that a horse is compromised to the point of needing surgery to resolve an acute colic. Shared Belief was unable to overcome colic’s assault on his system and did not survive.
.
Requiescat in pace.

Thoroughbred racing is a sport filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Some of the most thrilling and…

Posted by Jungle Racing on Thursday, December 3, 2015

Link embedded from Facebook

Racing Films & Panel Featured at EQUUS Film Festival

2015-11-16-1447702331-9545003-lilhercapple.jpg
Image & art courtesy of ©Beatrice Bulteau & Suzanne Kopp-Moskow
A broad-based panel comprised of racing industry professionals and film makers will present “The Right Side of the Track: The Positive Side of Horse Racing” at 3:15 p.m., Friday, November 20, at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. The panel  will include a 15 minute film, The Black Turf Project, which looks at the role black jockeys have in racing history incl as first winners of the KY Derby. The racing films will be screened throughout the festival.

L. A. Pomeroy of Equestrian Media Services will moderate the panel that includes: 

  • Nicholas Carter & Drew Perkins, directors, Racing the Times film
  • Daryle Ann Lindley Giardino, Executive Producer, Behind The Gate film
  • Gary Contessa, licensed Thoroughbred trainer and racing educator, Contessa Racing Stable
  • Ross Peddicord, Program Executive Director, MD Horse Industry Board
  • Ken Brown, The Black Turf Project film
  • Rachel Connolly Kwock, Producer/Director, Riding in Stride film

Yes that’s four films covering horse racing being screened at the festival! Check for times here.

 Celebration of horses
You’ll find feature films, documentaries, shorts, even commercials from every corner of the U.S. as well as from Europe, Tibet and India. Find all festival information on the website and Facebook page.

Starting with a VIP party (attend with a free pass) at Manhattan Saddlery on Thursday evening, over the next two days the EQUUS Film Festival features juried screenings on Friday and Saturday, and several lectures and directors’ panels that range from wild horses to horse racing, with discussions about horse psyches and welfare issues too.

A common thread throughout the films and panels is telling the stories of horses. For this festival, horses aren’t supporting cast, they are the main characters and catalysts. Festival founder Lisa Diersen, started with this premise three years ago, in St. Charles, Illinois. Since then, the festival has moved to Manhattan and settled in to the landmark Village East Cinema, that is a showcase venue for other festivals including the esteemed Tribeca Film Festival. Activities other than screenings will take place at the Ukrainian National Home at 140-142 2nd Avenue, 2nd floor.

The legend of Snowman

2015-11-16-1447706083-8901084-HarryandSnowman.jpg
 

Photo courtesy of Harry and Snowman/©Budd Photo

Not to be missed is Harry and Snowman, the tale of a discarded Amish plow horse, destined for slaughter, who was given a reprieve by a post-WWII émigré from Holland, Harry de Leyer. Without giving everything away, Snowman becomes a national celebrity and a cherished member of de Leyer’s family. Film maker Ron Davis put out a call to the horse show community and was able to interview de Leyer’s contemporaries and to access amateur and professional vintage photos and footage of Snowman and de Leyer in action. The de Leyer family, including Harry, is integral to the film.

Kids and horses … free activities!
Of interest to families, children are welcome to a morning full of horse-themed activities at the Li’l Herc’s Kids Fest Children’s Film Screening & Fest – at no cost, but reservations are required. This event is at Ukrainian National Home.

In addition to the films, the theater will house a Literary Corner where authors of equestrian-themed literature will be available to meet the public and sign books. A Pop-Up Artist, Filmmakers & Literary Gallery will be featured Friday and Saturday afternoons at the Ukrainian National Home.

EQUUS festival attendance and ticket costs start at free for Lil Herc’s Kids Fest and Thursday’s VIP reception (both require reservations) to $250 for a full-immersion Pony VIP all-access pass. Screening options are $35-$50.

Racehorse Retirement Final Frontier

2015-09-22-1442951468-957890-GrandStrandmaidenclaimingwin.jpg
Grand Strand wins Maiden Claiming at Belmont, 7/10/14
Photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese
As the presenters at a racehorse retirement conclave in Saratoga Springs, New York, outlined their strategies for protecting racehorses after they leave racing, Grand Strand, one of those would-be retirees, was settling into a Pennsylvania quarantine stall after he was swooped from a kill-buyer’s bid the day before at the horse-hell known as “New Holland.” Three days after the daylong meeting that applauded how New York’s racehorses are placed after retirement, NY-bred Morning Herald went through the Unadilla, New York livestock auction where a woman and her 15-year old daughter outbid a handful of kill-buyers.

On Sept. 1, the New York State Gaming Commission’s Retired Racehorse Summit proceeded live (and online) at the elegant Fasig-Tipton sales pavilion. One panel covered Standardbreds and harness racing, the rest of the program focused on Thoroughbreds.

Where million dollar thoroughbred yearlings sold a few weeks before, the summit’s presenters outlined their goals and talked about funding thoroughbred retirement in terms of millions of dollars. Speakers from organizations representing New York’s thoroughbred racing industry outlined their plans to stream hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA) that gives grants to over 40 racehorse retirement groups, including six facilities in New York.

While the attending thoroughbred retirement organizations do impressive work with horses surrendered straight off the track and providing prizes for retired Thoroughbreds participating in competitions, they and the industry need to address the truth that is tough to face. There are still former racehorses, with bright futures, dumped at livestock auctions that feed the appetite of the Canadian and Mexican horse slaughterhouses.

At the livestock auctions

Grand Strand

2015-09-22-1442956457-3986001-GrandStrandNH2.jpg
Above: Grand Strand tethered at New Holland. Below left: Grand Strand’s wary glance at the auction. Photos courtesy of Omega Horse Rescue

2015-09-22-1442965096-639614-GrandStrandNH.jpg
At the same time as the summit, the downward spiral, then rescue of Grand Strand played out on social media. It turns out he was spotted and identified the day before the summit, Monday, August 31, at the New Holland, Pennsylvania, horse auction. He was found by a representative from Omega Horse Rescue, who attends that auction to pluck former race horses from the maw of horse slaughter. The spotter alerted Mindy Lovell at Transitions Thoroughbreds. Lovell identified him by his tattoo and committed the funds to buy him outright at the auction. She knew the Canadian slaughterhouses needed a high number of horses to fulfill contracts that week and a horse like Grand Strand could easily disappear onto a truck heading north.

As the spotter engaged in bidding, the kill-buyers who buy horses for their meat and dislike do-good interlopers in their domain, drove the price far above what they would pay per pound for meat. Grand Strand sold for $950, about double the going meat-horse price at that sale. Horses that sell for meat ship to Canada or Mexico to slaughter. Traditionally, the meat is sold in Europe, Russia and Japan.

Morning Herald

2015-09-22-1442957098-5194673-MHauction.jpg
Above: A resigned Morning Herald tied at Unadilla. Below right: Morning Herald’s to-slaughter back-tag. Photos courtesy of Little Brook Farm.

Late afternoon, Sept. 4, Morning Herald was tied in the back of D.R. Chambers & Sons auction in Unadilla, New York. He whinnied to a teenage girl who was at the sale using her 15th birthday money to buy tack for a rescue, not a horse. After she went over to see him, plans changed. She enlisted her mother and they resolved to buy the friendly, big brown horse who was back-tagged for slaughter. There was no way they were going home without him.
2015-09-22-1442957266-9766269-morningheraldbacktag.jpg
They checked his lip for a tattoo, there was one, but they were unable to identify him before the sale; afterward he was identified with the help of a veterinarian and the Jockey Club. Once Morning Herald entered the ring, it was between mother-and-daughter and the kill-buyers, no one else was bidding. When the price reached $460, the auctioneer dropped his hammer on the mother’s bid, at almost twice the going rate for meat-horses that night. With the Coggins blood test and auction fees, the total came to $537.40; shipping to East Chatham cost $80; veterinary costs are still accruing.

After learning about Morning Herald’s plight, a good Samaritan has given money to cover initial veterinary costs.

From Racing Prospect to Racehorse

Grand Strand
Grand Strand was born in 2011 and raised in Kentucky, a son of the highly regarded stallion, Tiznow. In 2012, he traveled to Saratoga to the elite Fasig-Tipton Sale of yearlings. As Hip No. 39, the young Grand Strand stood in the same pavilion, on the same platform where the aftercare summit would be held three years later, and the bids came in. He sold for $300,000.

Grand Strand spent most of his career on the highly competitive New York Racing Association circuit of Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. He won a couple of lower level claiming races. Through claims, he changed owners from Centennial Farms to David Jacobson to Nicholaos Panapoulos. His last race in New York was May 3, 2015, he came in fifth in a Belmont Park claimer with a $14,000 claiming tag. Grand Strand then moved to Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, for his final four races. His last race was July 12, 2015, he came in fourth earning $1,080. The official race chart’s comments on his performance are: wide, stalked, gamely.

Overall, Grand Strand raced 21 times, was on the board 8 times and earned $92, 509.

Morning Herald
Morning Herald was bred by Stonegate Stables, near Saratoga Springs. He raced 49 times at Finger Lakes Race Track, Farmington, New York.

A 2008 son of the hard-knocking multimillionaire racehorse Say Florida Sandy, Morning Herald won $96,887, racing his whole career for Everett Estabrooks’ Whitestone Farm. He won three races in the last and best year of his blue-collar career. His final race was Dec.1, 2014; he earned $315 for fifth place.

From racehorse to livestock auction rescue

Grand Strand
The path taking Grand Strand to New Holland is unclear. On July 20, 2015, Grand Strand’s trainer Ramon Preciado signed him over for $1 to used car dealer Salvador Dip of Freehold and Elizabeth, New Jersey. Grand Strand’s trail is documented to the transfer to Dip, after that it disappears until New Holland.

In a call to Salvador Dip, named as buyer on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania State Horse Racing Commission Bill of Sale that was notarized by his son Dairon, Dip said the horse was sold to a woman as a riding horse and he had a bill of sale. Other than that, what happened to Grand Strand between July 20 after leaving Parx and selling August 31 in New Holland is unknown. However, prominent ribs, cuts, scrapes and scratches on his body and legs, and a markedly swollen hind leg reveal recent neglect.

At New Holland, how Grand Strand got there was not a concern to Lovell, the focus was on winning the bid, and arranging his transfer for a month to the quarantine facility. Horses coming from auctions like New Holland and Unadilla are quarantined because of the frequency of highly contagious diseases that crop up in auction-horse populations that are stressed and crowded into often-contaminated quarters. After 30 days in quarantine, the risk of bringing a communicable disease, like strangles, to a new home is low.

While in quarantine, Grand Strand will be evaluated and treatment started for any rehabilitation. He’ll be vaccinated, checked for parasites and treated accordingly. After quarantine he will travel to Lovell’s farm for training and a career as a riding horse.

Upon finding out the plight of the horse he had recently given to Dip, former trainer Ramon Preciado reimbursed Lovell for Grand Strand’s purchase and quarantine costs. Years ago, a former Preciado-trained gelding Little Cliff ended up at New Holland and was rescued. Uproar over the near-fate of the popular Little Cliff initiated the Turning for Home racehorse retirement and rehoming program based on the grounds of Parx.

Morning Herald
There is no trail of how Morning Herald went from being a barn favorite at Finger Lakes to the Unadilla auction. Through the kindness of a shipper, friends and the guidance of Lynn Cross from Little Brook Farm Horse Rescue, the teenager and her mother brought Morning Herald home to East Chatham, New York and are taking care of his quarantine. His veterinary evaluations show a recent substantial wound, a slight soreness in his hind end and overall neglect.

When Morning Herald’s former owner Everett Estabrooks was contacted, he couldn’t remember to whom he gave the horse. Estabrooks did know that between the time he gave away Morning Herald and he appeared at Unadilla, the horse changed hands “three times.”

Like Grand Strand, while Morning Herald is under quarantine he will receive the care needed to bring him back to health. According to his new owners, he was withdrawn and nervous when he first arrived, now he brightens up, seeking a treat when he hears the crackle of a peppermint wrapper. The long-term plan for Morning Herald is to find him a carefully screened, permanent home as a riding horse.

2015-09-23-1442966450-4798598-MHbody.jpg
 

Morning Herald picking at some grass in his quarantine pen.
Photo courtesy of Little Brook Farm
 

Like closing the barn door after the horse escapes

In New York and Pennsylvania, it is often the smaller rescues without hefty endowments or wealthy benefactors, most unaffiliated with the TAA, and a network of individuals, who go to the livestock auctions to keep former racehorses from entering the slaughter pipeline.

Both Parx and Finger Lakes racetracks have on-site retirement and adoption facilities; the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption Program is accredited by and a grantee of the TAA. There has been no reason given why Grand Strand and Morning Herald weren’t sent to their respective retirement programs.

Grand Strand’s and Morning Herald’s examples are merely two of an unknown number of racehorses and former racehorses, that while eligible for aftercare programs, still fall through the cracks by no fault of their own. They are young, sound, healthy (aside from neglect), and good-tempered, not what you would think of as cast-offs.

(Disclosure: Liz O’Connell was a member of the New York State Task Force on Retired Racehorses)

NYRA Stalls On Belmont Stakes Attendance Request

On August 12, 2015, I made a simple request under the Freedom of Information Law for the attendance numbers on Belmont Stakes Day, June 11, 2015. See below in blue type.

When NYRA was taken over by the State of New York, the mandate to the newly formed NYRA board was

“This temporary reorganization board shall be under public control to ensure The New York Racing Association, Inc. works in the best interest of all stakeholders in horse racing including fans, owners and breeders by managing the state racing franchise with transparency and accountability.”

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

Transparent? Like lead.

Rather than supply the information as requested, NYRA though its Records Access Officer Iris Roberts has chosen to stall its response for 20 business days.  See below in red type.

 

8/20/2015                                                                                                   Gmail ­ FOIL Request

Dear Ms. Roberts/Records Access Officer, 

This is a request under the New York State Freedom of Information/Open Meetings Law. On 12/12/12 the NYRA board moved that NYRA would conduct business subject to compliance with the NYS Open Meetings Law and NYS Freedom of Information Law. http://www.nyra.com/assets/1/7/Reorg_Board_Minutes_Dec._12,_2012.pdf

Please email the following records:

Attendance numbers, not the attendance cap, for the 2015 Belmont Stakes day, June 11, 2105.

If any the requested records cannot be emailed to me, please inform me by email of the portions that can be emailed and advise me of the cost for reproducing the remainder of the records requested ($0.25 per page or actual cost of reproduction).Please advise me of the appropriate time during normal business hours for inspecting the above records requested prior to obtaining copies.

If my request is too broad or does not reasonably describe the records, please contact me via email so that I may clarify my request, and when appropriate inform me of the manner in which records are filed, retrieved or generated.

If it is necessary to modify my request, and an email response is not preferred, please contact me at the following telephone number: XXXXXXXXXX.

If for any reason any portion of my request is denied, please inform me of the reasons for the denial in writing and provide the name, address and email address of the person or body to whom an appeal should be directed. Thank you,

Liz O’Connell.

1/1August 19, 2015

Dear Ms. O’Connell:

On behalf of The New York Racing Association, Inc., I hereby acknowledge receipt of your Freedom of Information Law request received August 12, 2015. Your request is being reviewed and you will be provided with a further response within 20 business days hereof.  

Best regards,

Iris Roberts

Iris Roberts, Esq.

Records Access Officer

 

 

winning haskell

American Pharoah returns a Winner

2015-08-03-1438612626-6516480-winninghaskell.jpg
 

Zayat Stables’ Triple Crown winner American Pharoah wins the 2015 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park Race Course. Photo courtesy of Penelope Miller/ABR
It’s a tough year to be a three year-old colt if your name isn’t American Pharoah. The Haskell Invitational and Triple Crown winner’s classmates have been chasing his famously scant tail across the finish line since his second start, and first win, last September when he trounced the field in the Del Mar Futurity.

American Pharoah’s victory in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, last Sunday, answered all questions about his comeback from the Triple Crown trail – he’s fit and game to run. For the better part of the race, the bay colt was unhurried, loping close behind Competitive Edge. On the far turn, American Pharoah opened his stride and floated to the lead, leaving the rest of the field to vie for his crumbs.

At one point before jockey Victor Espinoza eased the throttle on Pharoah coming down the stretch, he was four lengths and gaining ahead of the field. At the finish, Pharoah cantered past the wire two and a quarter lengths in the lead. Donegal Stables’ Keen Ice, gained ground in a strong drive, but had to settle for second. Upstart, running for Ralph M. Evans and WinStar Farm (lessee), finished third.

In a post-Haskell press conference, Espinoza described the race:

It was pretty easy. For me the key was just coming out of there running. I didn’t want to get in into any bumping out of the gate, I just wanted to let him run his race. I knew that other horse would want to take the lead so I sat back just a little bit. I never like to go head and head with another horse so I sat back maybe half a length behind. He did everything by himself. It was pretty easy, pretty impressive.

With his Haskell earnings of $1,100,000, American Pharoah’s total earnings are $5,630,300. Zayat Stables, his owner-breeders, have the $5 Million Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1) penciled in as his final race. Since the Haskell was a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, by winning it American Pharoah’s $100,000 entry fee to the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be paid for by the Breeders’ Cup.

2015-08-03-1438612850-4422813-APwalkingpostHaskell.jpg
 

American Pharoah walking back to his barn after his victory in the Haskell Invitational. Photo courtesy of Penelope Miller/ABR
Where will American Pharoah run next?
Between now and the Breeder’s Cup on October 31, racetracks throughout the country are courting Zayat Stable and trainer Bob Baffert to secure American Pharoah’s next appearance. Baffert has declined to disclose future plans.

Last week in a teleconference from California, Baffert was explicit, at that point his intent after the Haskell was to return Pharoah to Del Mar:

Tom Pedulla: … I know clearly you can’t say what’s after the Haskell. Could you say at least is there a plan to ship him back to California?
Bob Baffert: The plan is to ship him back to California.
Tom Pedulla: Okay, just because you want him under your eye every day I guess?
Bob Baffert: Yes, and it’s cooler here. It’s nice and cool, and it’s relaxing. It’s good to have him here in Del Mar.

It is likely that American Pharoah will return to the East Coast before running in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Racecourse, Lexington, Kentucky. Baffert is in no rush to run him against older horses – that would be the likely scenario in California. Back east there are the Travers Stakes, the Pennsylvania Derby and the track management at Monmouth Park has offered to write a race to meet Pharoah’s conditions.

In terms of prestige and future credibility in the breeding shed, the Travers Stakes held at Saratoga Race Course is a persuasive option. In fact, the New York Racing Association has offered to raise the Travers’ purse from $1.25 million to $1.6 million, if and only if, American Pharoah starts in the race.

Despite the enticements of the Travers, Baffert is not a fan of the race – his horse Bayern was entered as favorite last year, and finished last. Baffert shared some thoughts on running Pharoah in the Travers during last week’s teleconference:

So it would probably be a little tough on him. I think the Travers, you need a prep. Ideally the Travers is to run in the Jim Dandy (run on the same weekend as the Haskell) and then get a race over the track, because at Saratoga, it seems like that’s what they do. They run in the Jim Dandy and then run in the Travers; you know, give them a race. I think it’s probably a big plus for some horses.

Although some horses benefit from having a race on a track before a major stakes run, American Pharoah has shown up a few days before his big races and dominated. Most notably he demolished the Belmont Stakes’ field despite the notoriously challenging surface and scope of Belmont Park’s “Big Sandy” main track.

A stallion in the making
Ahmed Zayat, the principal of Zayat Stables, secured American Pharoah’s future as a stallion when he made a deal with Coolmore Stud, the Ireland-based Thoroughbred racing and breeding global sovereignty, prior to Pharoah winning the Triple Crown. The substance of the agreement was outlined in a Sports Illustrated article by Tim Layden,

Zayat announced during the Triple Crown run that he had sold the colt’s stallion rights for an undisclosed sum to Coolmore Stud. But several sources have told Sports Illustrated that the deal had been done long before–early in 2015 at the latest. “I categorically deny that the deal was done in 2014, which some people have said,” says Zayat. “I won’t comment further on the date. I will say that I am a businessman and there has not been money left on the table, because when I made the deal, I considered every possible future achievement and had kickers written into the deal. What if he wins the Derby? What if he wins the Preakness? What if he wins the Triple Crown?”
Zayat says that American Pharoah’s stallion deal includes several additional incentives attached to race victories. He says that a victory in the Haskell would probably do nothing to increase the colt’s value as a stallion, but a victory in the Travers (a Grade I race) would. As would a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Early Birds Can Watch American Pharoah Prep For the Haskell

2015-07-28-1438113331-6819053-HAILTHETAILFINAL1.jpg
 

Image courtesy of America’s Best Racing
En route to running in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, American Pharoah’s flight from California will touch down at Atlantic City International Airport Wednesday afternoon.

The Haskell Invitational, August 2, is American Pharoah’s first start since clinching the Triple Crown when he dominated the Belmont Stakes in early June. Ending a Triple Crown drought of 37 years, American Pharoah joined Secretariat, Affirmed and Seattle Slew as one of only 12 Triple Crown winners going back to 1919. The Haskell is part of the win-and-you’re-in Breeders’ Cup Challenge series for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and it will be broadcast live on NBC from 5-6 p.m.

See American Pharoah Up Close

The public is welcome to watch American Pharoah on his morning gallops before the Haskell. The Monmouth Park Racetrack Clubhouse will be open to fans Friday and Saturday mornings between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. where they will be able to see American Pharoah and fellow Haskell entrants exercise.

On Friday, July 31, Monmouth Park racegoers will be able to watch American Pharoah school in the paddock. According to a press release from the track, ” ‘Pharoah’ is set to school in the paddock on Friday 7/31 with the field for the first race (12:50 p.m. – weather permitting).”

Move Over Soccer, Here Comes Team Pharoah

2Tonko Letter to WH (1) (1)
Citing the tradition of the White House honoring America’s leading athletes, Representative Paul Tonko, the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Horse Caucus has requested the accomplishments of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and his team be honored in a White House ceremony.

In a July 14 letter to President Barack Obama, Tonko, who represents New York’s 20th Congressional District that includes Saratoga Race Course, outlined the accomplishments of American Pharoah’s Triple Crown campaign.


Video courtesy of America’s Best Racing