Racing Heads to Kentucky Derby & Beyond

How can it be? The Kentucky Derby 2015 is upon us. The preps are done and the scores have been racked up to identify the 20 horses that will explode out of the starting gate next Saturday. But wait, there have been some interlopers this year, taking the focus away from the feeding frenzy of Derby fever.

Older Horses Get All The Attention

Last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, California Chrome flew over to Dubai in in mid-March to get ready for the globe’s richest race, the Dubai World Cup. He was a closing second as he ran out of track. Chrome is a colossally game colt and deserves the fervor of his fans, the Chromies.

Racing under the mantle of Dumbass Partners, Chrome’s owners elected for him to stay abroad after Dubai, sending him to Newmarket in the U.K. to get ready to run on the turf in the Group 1 Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot on June 17. With Chrome’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins last year, the two DAP partners got carried away and started believing their own press. It was ugly. Nevertheless, hats off to them for sending Chrome on the road to face the best in the world. What are the odds we will be seeing a Stetson or two among the requisite top hats mandated by the race meet’s dress code? The prospect of the DAP boys at Royal Ascot is a scenario Mark Twain would relish.

This year, Chrome’s rival from California, Shared Belief won the San Antonio Invitational Stakes–Grade 2 (where he bested California Chrome), and the Santa Anita Handicap–Grade 1. Passing up Dubai or a run at Royal Ascot, Shared Belief was flown to West Virginia to run in the $1,500,000 Charles Town Classic Stakes–Grade 2 on April 18. Out of the gate, jockey Mike Smith felt something awry with the way Shared Belief was travelling and pulled him up. A nuclear scintigraphy scan revealed a non-displaced fracture of his right hip. Shared Belief was flown back to California and will recuperate at Pegasus Training and Equine Rehabilitation Center in Redmond Washington, one of the finest rehabilitation facilities in the U.S.

Back to the Derby

With an expected field of 20, it’s hard to tout a horse until the post positions are drawn. A horse that gets a spot close to the rail has a tough trip ahead, that is unless Calvin Borel is in the irons on El Kabeir, then all bets are off. As for the trainers of the Derby horses, they’ve done their jobs and conditioned their horses to a fine pitch. From hereon in, the trick is to keep their horses sound and well through to the finish of the race. Watch any one of those 20 horses, and you’ll see a thousand pounds of muscle and brawn ready to rumble.

In an interesting twist, South African trainer Mike De Kock has sent a Dubai-based colt to run for the roses. Mubtaahij will likely be the only horse to run without the benefit of the controversial diuretic Lasix, that is believed to prevent pulmonary hemorrhaging. Talk to five horse racing professionals about Lasix and you’ll get five differing opinions, running the gamut from whining to righteous indignation.

Whining, indignation, race day medication? Welcome to America, Mr. De Kock.

Text of the Udall Legislation to Deregulate Parimutuel Wagering

114TH CONGRESS

1ST SESSION               S.

ll

To deregulate interstate commerce with respect to parimutuel wagering on horseracing, and for other purposes.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

llllllllll

Mr. UDALL introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred

to the Committee on llllllllll

A BILL

To deregulate interstate commerce with respect to parimutuel wagering on horseracing, and for other purposes.

1 Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representa2 tives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

  • SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
  • This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Teller All Gone Horse-
  • racing Deregulation Act of 2015’’.
  • 2. FINDINGS; BACKGROUND.
  • (a) IN GENERAL.—Congress makes the following 8 findings:

9 (1) Congress enacted the Interstate Horse10 racing Act of 1978 (Public Law 95–515; 15 U.S.C. 1      3001 et seq.) to regulate interstate commerce with

  • respect to parimutuel wagering on horseracing in
  • order to further the horseracing industry of the 4 United States.
  • (2) In 2000, Congress amended such Act to
  • allow parimutuel wagering by telephone and over the 7 Internet, a gambling privilege no other sport enjoys. 8 (3) The use of performance-enhancing drugs in 9 horseracing is widespread in the United States,
  • where no uniform regulations exist with respect to
  • the use of, and testing for, performance-enhancing 12 drugs in interstate horseracing.
  • (4) A 2012 New York Times investigation
  • found that, on average, every week 24 horses die
  • racing, a high equine fatality rate likely caused by
  • the misuse of permitted medication and abuse of ille-
  • gal drugs.
  • (5) A 2013 horseracing industry study found
  • that a large majority of parimutuel wagering partici20 pants avoid wagering at certain tracks and when

21 certain trainers compete because they assume illegal 22 drug use affects race results.

23 (6) Total parimutuel wagering on Thorough24 bred horseracing in the United Stated declined 30

25          percent from 2002 to 2014.

  • (7) The Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 has
  • not met its original policy goal of furthering the 3 United States horseracing industry.

4                       (b) BACKGROUND FOR INCLUDING THE NAME OF A

5 RACEHORSE IN SHORT TITLE.—The purpose in providing 6 the short title used in this Act is to honor horses who

7 died while competing in races with interstate, off-track wa8 gering authorized under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 9 1978. Teller All Gone was an American Quarter Horse 10 who last competed as a two-year old on September 3, 11 2011. A race observer noted that Teller All Gone bid,

12 dueled, and lugged in before going wrong and falling after 13 the finish line.

  • 3. REPEAL OF INTERSTATE HORSERACING ACT OF
  • (a) IN GENERAL.—The Interstate Horseracing Act 17 of 1978 (Public Law 95–515; 15 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.) is 18 hereby repealed.
  • (b) CONFORMING AMENDMENTS.—Section 5362(10)
  • of chapter 53 of title 31, United States Code, is amend-
  • ed—
  • (1) in subparagraph (B)(iii)— 23 (A) by striking subclause (I); and 1   (B) by redesignating subclauses (II), (III),
  • and (IV) as subclauses (I), (II), and (III), re-
  • spectively;
  • (2) in subparagraph (C)(iv)— 5 (A) by striking subclause (I); and
  • (B) by redesignating subclauses (II), (III),
  • and (IV) as subclauses (I), (II), and (III), re-
  • spectively;
  • (3) by striking subparagraph (D); and 10 (4) by redesignating subparagraph (E) as sub-

11          paragraph (D).

A Tip of the Hat, Kentucky Derby Style

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 Photo courtesy of goldplaited, hats by Angela Moreno

Hats. Fascinators. Chapeaus. Whatever you call them, women attending the Kentucky Derby plan what hat they will wear almost as much as which horse they will back.
Derby hats come in all shapes and sizes. Every year there are genius examples of do-it-yourself theme chapeaus that make a statement far beyond fashion. Others look like one of Cecil Beaton’s creations for the horse race in the film My Fair Lady

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 Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Snyder

If you are going to the Derby or even a Derby party, how often do you get to wear a fabulous hat? Fascinators skyrocketed onto the map after Kate Middleton married Prince William. It seemed that every other woman was wearing a one. Not quite a serious broad rimmed hat and not quite a headband, fascinators broke new ground!

The question is “What’s the secret to styling a fascinator look?” Goldplaited, a finishing salon headquartered in Chicago, has been working with clients preparing their Derby looks. The salon’s owners, sisters Mary Alice and Corinna Strong, grew up in the horse-mad Genesee Valley in New York, and have been dressing for race meets since they could walk. The Goldplaited sisters are recommending two fascinator looks, hair up and hair down, for Derby day.

On model, Lauren (below), we chose an elegant, side-swept,chignon to show off her stunning color. By pulling the hair to one side, both the style and her charming green hat are on display. Chignon’s are timeless, classy and can truly be effortless. Create your own chignon by gathering your hair into a low side pony. For added texture and detail, consider curling your hair in medium sized sections while it’s in the pony tail.Twist the hair around itself as if you are forming a bun, secure with a bobby pin that closely matches your hair color. Chignons can be shaped and pinned to your desired style.

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 Photo courtesy of goldplaited, hats by Angela Moreno

On model, Erin (below), we went for casual waves to perfectly compliment her bold, fun hat. Undone, beachy hair with texture will be the “it-style” for Spring and Summer and lucky for Derby fans, it looks great under a fascinator! To achieve this look, prep your wet hair with mousse for fullness and rough dry it. Add styling creme or texture spray to give your hair a little grit. Use a wand or large barrel curling iron to create the waves, we recommend curling medium to large sections of hair. To prevent flat hair, we recommend curling on the tighter side and letting the curls fall to a looser place over time.

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 Photo courtesy of goldplaited, hats by Angela Moreno

 

Jockey Club Shakes Off Cobwebs

Three years ago, a McKinsey & Co. report, “Driving Sustainable Growth for Thoroughbred Racing and Breeding”, gave thoroughbred racing a wake-up call: If the Jockey Club and its kin didn’t address the main issues facing racing, the sport would decline, becoming marginalized and moribund.

The McKinsey report said “to stabilize the fan base and position the industry to resume growth,” racing must:

  • refocus on the best racing through television, integrity reforms, and elevating the best product,
  • retain the core bettor by innovating wagering and providing an integrated on-track and off-track wagering platform through track-integrated ADW (advanced deposit wagering). Enhance the ownership experience through additional tools and transparency,
  • reinvest in new fans through simplified betting, social games, and promoting innovations in on-track experiences and new-look OTBs.

The kid gloves are off.

The foundation of racing integrity reforms, a national, uniform policy covering the used of race day and pre-race medications and treatments, is still not in place. At the 2013 Jockey Club Round Table, Chairman Ogden Mills Phipps raised the spector of the Jockey Club supporting federal intervention and regulation if “the current medication reform effort stalls.” With the 2014 Round Table taking place this weekend on August 10, it’s hard to deny the coincidence that a consortium of 24 leading thoroughbred trainers releasing a statement outlining a timetable to eliminate race-day medications on August 1. Time will tell if this is last minute pandering or a genuine commitment to reform.

It’s yet to be seen whether or not this will satisfy the Jockey Club. Despite the trainers’ statement, there is much divisiveness over drugging racehorses. It would be nice if the issue could be resolved within the comfortable confines of the Round Table. Given the polarity of opinions on uniform medication, it’s more likely that acceptance will be gained through a state-by-state, racetrack-by-racetrack, or even barn-by-barn dog-fight. That is, unless the feds step in with a medication policy, mandate regulation and oversee its implementation.

Effort bears fruit.

Casting aside its institutional cobwebs, the Jockey Club launched America’s Best Racing (ABR), “a multi-media new-fan development and racing awareness-building platform.” ABR’s goal is to increase the profile and visibility of North America’s best Thoroughbred racing events, focusing on the sport’s lifestyle and competition aspects.

A squad of ABR social media mavens and outreach ambassadors has infiltrated the millennial ecosystem across the nation. Bloggers, videographers and photographers report major races and events. Racing news drives ABR’s website, accompanied by track etiquette, racing and wagering tutorials, and what-to-wear — from haute to affordable. Indeed, racing’s fashion cadre includes leading young turf writers, bloodstock agents, jockeys and racetrack professionals as well as casual race-goers.

Last year, ABR initiated a roving band of young racing aficionados to promote racing peer-to-peer. This program has morphed into embedding one or two racing ambassadors in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. Victoria Garofalo is one of the original ABR ambassadors who is working the New York/Northeast sector this year. She explains her role:

Instead of only visiting tracks for a week leading up to their biggest race we’re able to be in a market year-round and continue to cultivate and maintain — which is extremely important . My NE colleague Dan and I are able to host guests at the track when timing suits their schedule best and help create the ultimate first-time experience at the races.

When I’m not hosting guests at the races I spend the majority of my time researching the top influencers, young professional groups and the movers and shakers in the market – once I’ve identified those people I reach out about who I am and what ABR is and then once they respond we begin coordinating their trip to the track. If it’s food bloggers I might suggest they come out to a day of food trucks at the races, a fashion blogger on a day when there’s a hat contest, etc., showing people how horse racing can fit into their lives.

A good number of our guests have been bloggers – lifestyle, travel & fashion bloggers are eager to try new things and tend to share those positive experiences with their followers, which in turn, gets more people interested and aware of horseracing. Everybody knows somebody, so if every person we brought out to the races influences or brings just one friend (who brought another friend etc.) it naturally grows our wonderful sport.

Mike Johnson, who joined ABR this year, is responsible for the Chicago region. Prior to ABR, Mike was a marketing assistant at Arlington International, Chicago’s iconic racecourse. Mike describes his modus operandi:

There is a bar in town that has been great to us — it’s literally called “Derby.” Derby is outfitted with authentic retro horse racing decor, which makes for a great venue to work with. Add to the fact that it is located in a fairly young, hip part of town and it became fairly apparent this is an off-track location that not only identifies with the sport, but also could legitimately develop fans. I’ve held race watch parties, as well as three bus trips to Arlington that have over 50 people in attendance. Nearly all the attendees are eager to learn about the nuances of racing.

What I have found is that there is no shortage of “interest,” but there are undoubtedly deficiencies in education and awareness of the sport.

My role and goal has always been to create a baseline, yet lasting awareness of the top Thoroughbred racing North America has to offer. In a given day of hosting a group at the races, I want to make sure they leave with the “training wheels off.” I like for them to be able to read the program comfortably, have a solid understanding of the facts and fiction of the sport, and know how to have a blast wagering only $20 throughout the course of the day. Last but not least, I hope by the end of the races, they are already planning their next visit.

If I can ensure they have these basics covered, then the next time they visit, they’ll be able to share their knowledge with friends or family they return with. My goal would be to enact a “snowball effect.”

Televised programming finding its way.

Another component of McKinsey’s recommendations is television coverage. Network television is paying more attention to horse racing. NBC, NBCSports and Fox Sports 1 are covering major races from coast to coast. The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series has teamed up with NBC and NBCSports to broadcast hotly-contested races that qualify the winners to a guaranteed Breeders’ Cup berth, waived entry fees and travel money. The series showcases the best in racing between spring’s Triple Crown madness and the Breeders’ Cup Championships in late fall.

Jockey Club Racing Tour on Fox Sports 1 offers an eclectic mix of top races from the U.S., Canada and Dubai. NBCSports and Fox Sports 1 are cable-only viewing; availability depends on the cable provider and package subscribed to.

The challenge with relying on traditional television is the changing habits in viewing media. Tablets, smartphones, and laptops are ubiquitous. They offer the possibility of watching races while untethered from a television. Livestreaming to these devices is available for some racing, not all – which is frustrating. Considering that the millennial generation, being wooed by racing (and every other sport…) is as comfortable using a smartphone as a television remote, it makes sense to have livestreamed racing as part of a racing media package with the networks.

A mixed bag.

To educate prospective owners and provide current owners with at-their-fingertip information needed to make informed decisions about their horses, OwnerView is a first class resource.

Finding success in social media horseracing games has been elusive for the Jockey Club. Future in-house game development has been abandoned.

What’s next …

The 2014 Jockey Club Round Table will be livestreamed starting at 10 a.m. on Sunday, August 10.

(Note: Victoria Garafolo and Mike Johnson quotes from interviews)

Legendary Native Dancer Honored in Maryland

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Eric Guerin up on two time Horse of the Year Native Dancer.
Photo courtesy of NYRA/Coglianese
Last Thursday night, Native Dancer became the first horse inducted into the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame. Raised and trained at his owner-breeder Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Jr.’s Sagamore Farm in Glyndon, Maryland, Native Dancer raced for three years, mesmerizing millions of fans both at the track and on newsreels and nascent television broadcasts.

The Galloping Ghost

Dubbed the Gray Ghost, the physically stunning colt won 21 of 22 races. His only loss was in the Kentucky Derby; he came in second. Going in as favorite, given his undefeated record over a course of nine rigorous races, the Triple Crown was Native Dancer’s to lose. What came between him and the turf’s Holy Grail, was a calamitous trip — from a fraught start to running out of track in his brilliant rally to not quite take down the winner, Dark Star.

The New York Times‘ turf writer Red Smith wrote:

At the end Native Dancer was going fastest, but the end came a stride too soon. It was Dark Star’s head that caught the camera.

Disappointing as the loss was, Native Dancer’s speed and physical beauty ensnared the nation’s psyche to the extent he was on the cover of Time magazine, and, television and theater newsreels broadcast his life both on the racetrack and at Sagamore where he retired to stud.

Native Dancer’s sons exert far-reaching influence.

It is as a stallion that Native Dancer’s influence on the modern thoroughbred race horse reaches into the furthest corners of pedigrees in champions and claiming horses alike. The Dancer’s immediate offspring acquitted themselves well, among them Kentucky Derby winners Kauai King and Dancer’s Image*, and stakes horses Raise a Native and Native Charger.

Freakishly fast but physically fragile, Raise a Native sired the likes of Majestic Prince (Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner), and Alydar (second in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, graded stakes winner). Although they could be ranked at best as respectable race horses, it was Raise a Native’s sons Exclusive Native and Mr. Prospector who truly shone as sires.

Exclusive Native sired 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed and the Kentucky Derby winning filly Genuine Risk. Mr. Prospector was a sire of sires, including Fappiano, Gulch, Forty Niner and Seeking the Gold. According to international pedigree authority Sid Fernando:

Mr. Prospector, a sprinter at the track, stood at Claiborne after beginning his career in Florida, and what he brought to the table as a sire — aside from phenomenal, game altering class – was speed that stayed and combined well with the stamina of other lines.

Native Dancer’s daughters beget dynasties.

Native Dancer’s daughter Natalma was the dam of Northern Dancer, whose influence on racing is global. Independent of her Northern Dancer connection, Natalma’s daughters’ families are responsible for the likes of the great sire Machiavellian, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe victor Bago and the overpowering filly La Prevoyante.

Another of the Dancer’s daughters, Shenanigans, produced sires Icecapade and Buckfinder, the broodmare Laughter and the brilliant, ill-fated Ruffian. 2013 Kentucky Derby winner Orb is a direct descendant of Shenanigans.

Sixty years after the Gray Ghost of Sagamore Farm electrified the nation with his grit and ability, his bloodlines run strong. It’s only fitting that Maryland, a center for thoroughbred sport, has honored one of its own.

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Kentucky Derby winner Orb at Saratoga. His fifth dam, his great-great-great-grandmother, is Native Dancer’s daughter Shenanigans.
Photo courtesy of Liz O’Connell
*Dancer’s Image was subsequently disqualified and sent down to last place because of a positive test for a trace of the NSAID phenylbutazone.