All posts by Liz

Senate Bill Seeks to Protect Finger Lakes Horsemen

A legislative bill to protect Finger Lakes Race Track horsemen and New York’s thoroughbred breeding industry has been introduced by state Senator John Bonacic, chairman of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee. The imminent opening of the del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, 27 miles east of Finger Lakes Race Track (FLRT) in Farmington, is expected to cannibalize patrons and revenue from gaming and wagering operations at FLRT and neighboring regions of the state.

The more casinos the merrier? Not so much.

Last year Delaware North, FLRT’s owner, lobbied for and received tax incentives for their on-site racino on par with tax incentives granted del Lago. The horsemen, who constitute the backbone of horse racing at Finger Lakes Gaming & Racing, were unsuccessful in having the law revised to protect purses from a projected precipitous decrease caused by the expected migration of players to the new casino.

Racing purses are in part funded by revenue from video lottery terminals (VLT) at the Finger Lakes racino. VLT players siphoned off to the del Lago casino will result in a decreased revenue stream for FLRT purses.

Lower purses mean reduced income for the owners and trainers who populate Finger Lakes’ backstretch. With diminished purses, there would be fewer horses and races; and less need for the jockeys, exercise riders, grooms, hot walkers, farriers and veterinarians who are the fabric of track life.

The races at FLRT are chock-full of horses bred, raised and trained in New York. The robust thoroughbred industry in central and western New York is supported by incentives from the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund that is funded in part by a micro percentage of VLT revenues.

Lower VLT revenues will diminish the funding streams that sustain the incentives that attract breeders and owners to the NY-bred program. Without the protections afforded in S01003, industry downsizing is inevitable. When breeding and training facilities reduce operations or shut down, jobs evaporate. Every horse farm has a web of suppliers – including feed stores, landscapers, small machinery repair shops, lumber mills and farm machinery dealers. When a farm closes, negative outcomes ripple throughout its community.

All is not lost.

Never a collective to act before necessity, last year the legislature left bills similar to S01003 languishing. With the clock ticking – del Lago is scheduled to open February 1, now is time for legislators to tweak the original legislation and counteract the predation of FLRT operations. *

Under current law, race tracks within the same designated geographic region as a new casino are protected. The challenge that FLRT faces is despite proximity FLRT and del Lago are in different regions. The revised law will extend protection to racetracks within 50 miles of del Lago, regardless of region.

Senator Bonacic explains the importance of S01003:

This legislation is necessary to protect horsemen, breeders, and the entire racing industry from the projected loss of revenue at Finger Lakes when Del Lago begins operations. This is a critical issue and that is why the Senate Budget Resolution last year proposed to address it. Unfortunately, it was not resolved in the final budget, but I will continue to fight to protect the horsemen, breeders, and all the jobs created by the racing industry in New York. **

Bonacic’s legislation states:

If an applicant that does not possess either a pari-mutuel wagering license or franchise awarded pursuant to article two or three of this chapter is issued a gaming facility license pursuant to this article, the licensee shall pay:

(a) an amount to horsemen for purses at the licensed racetracks in the region and in the case of region five any licensed racetracks within fifty miles of the licensee’s facility, that will assure the purse support from video lottery gaming facilities in the region and in the case of region five any such licensed racetracks within fifty miles of the licensee’s facility, to the licensed racetracks in the region and in the case of region five any such facilities within fifty miles of the licensee’s facility, to be maintained at the same dollar levels realized in two thousand thirteen to be adjusted by the consumer price index for all urban consumers, as published annually by the United States department of labor bureau of labor statistics; and

(b) amounts to the agricultural and New York state horse breeding development fund and the New York state thoroughbred breeding and development fund to maintain payments from video lottery gaming facilities in the region and in the case of region five any such facilities within fifty miles of the licensee’s facility, to such funds to be maintained at the same dollar levels realized in two thousand thirteen to be adjusted by the consumer price index for all urban consumers, as published annually by the United States department of labor bureau of labor statistics.

* It will be up to Governor Cuomo to sign the legislation into law in a timely manner.
** Senator Bonacic responded to an email query. A spokesman for del Lago Resort & Casino did not respond to an email query.

American Pharoah Is King of the World


Stallion manager Richard Barry and trainer Bob Baffert with American Pharoah the day he arrived at Ashford Stud, Versailles, Kentucky. Photo courtesy of Coolmore.

In the year since winning the Triple Crown and 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic, American Pharoah has received international accolades, moved to Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky, there are over 100 little Pharoahs on the way, and his biography was a best seller. Not bad for the genial bay colt.

American Pharoah is still America’s horse

Part of American Pharoah’s popularity is due to his accessibility. When he worked out, fans were at the track at dawn to watch the colt. When Pharoah had a bath, snaps of him covered in bubbles streamed though social media. These days, special tours bring his fans to meet-and-greets at Coolmore.

While racing, Pharoah’s followers were welcomed into his realm. The colt patiently posed for selfies, with carrots his currency. Pharoah’s gentle amiability allowed fans to get close enough to feed him those carrots, without the mayhem or mischief commonly exhibited by 3-year-old colts.

American Pharoah’s breeder-owner Ahmad Zayat negotiated American Pharoah’s career as a stallion during the Triple Crown campaign. The deal struck was after his racing career, Pharoah would transfer to Coolmore at Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky.

Retired, American Pharoah’s fans remain legion. Scott Calder from Coolmore explains:

“The level of interest in American Pharoah is unlike anything we have seen in the past. We are very fortunate to have had a lot of great horses retire to Ashford over the years but interest mainly comes from within the industry.

With American Pharoah it is different, he has celebrity status that goes beyond the bloodstock industry. We have had a lot of visitors, interest from the media, cards from well-wishers etc. Thankfully American Pharoah has an exceptional temperament so he takes all the attention in his stride. He seems very content in his new life and the first part of his stud career has been a great success.”

Pharoah’s life on the farm

Calder shares American Pharoah’s routine:

It’s the offseason at the moment, so American Pharoah’s days are pretty quiet. The stallions are given a grain feed early in the morning by the night person – before our stallion staff arrives at 6.30 a.m.

The stallions all have their own paddocks and they are turned out as soon as our staff arrive. We don’t ride any of our stallions, but if they need some extra exercise they are lunged for around 10 minutes in one of our lunge rings.

The stallions spend all morning outside and are brought in before lunch. They all get groomed and then are available for our clients to come and view.

At 2.30 the Ashford Stud tour takes place and American Pharoah is obviously one of the highlights. The tours are booked through Horse Country Inc. and run Monday to Friday for 25 people.

The stallions get their evening feed around 3 p.m. and are bedded down for the evening. All the stallions have cameras in their stalls so they are monitored around the clock, when our day staff leave and night watch begins.

American Pharoah’s your daddy


Untouched Talent is the first broodmare ultrasound scanned in-foal to American Pharoah. She will

(Above, Untouched Talent in foal to American Pharoah.
Photo courtesy of Coolmore.)

likely deliver one of Pharoah’s earliest foals in 2017. The Merck Veterinary Manual says the average gestation for a mare ranges from 335 to 342 days. Anyone who has waited for a foal to be born knows that mares ignore published guides and foal when they are ready – sometimes weeks early, many times weeks late.

Coolmore purchased Untouched Talent in 2012 for $5 million at Fasig-Tipton’s Fall Sale. Her price, a sizeable sum, reflects the success of her first foal, the Grade 1 stakes winner Bodemeister. As a sire, Bodemeister is proving popular in the sales ring and has runners competitive at the graded stakes level.

 Video courtesy of Fasig-Tipton

Calder shares the rationale for pairing American Pharoah and Untouched Talent:

Untouched Talent is the dam of Bodemeister who won the G1 Arkansas Derby and was 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. Bodemeister is by American Pharoah’s grandsire Empire Maker so the resulting foal will be closely related to Bodemeister. While we don’t know for sure if she will be the first to foal we expect her to be one of the early ones.

Starting in January, expect to see streams of Pharoah foals on racing social media.

The horse and his bard

Joe Drapes’ American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise embeds the reader in the ascent of American Pharoah – from his days as a foal to his transformation into racing icon. Drape is an Eclipse Award-winning reporter for the New York Times who covers the horse racing beat.


Drape’s narrative lets us peek behind stall doors, listen to trackside banter and delve into the collaborations that enabled American Pharoah to accomplish what had been so elusive for 37

(Photo on right © ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy; courtesy of Joe Drape)

years – winning the Triple Crown, and, to do what had never been done before – winning the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Catching up with Drape a year after American Pharaoh’s Breeders’ Cup Classic, he answered some questions about the genesis of his book:

When did you go live covering AP for the book?

I covered the Triple Crown for the paper (New York Times) and had no intention of writing a book – frankly because I did not think he would the sweep the series. When he did, I went back and re-reported it with the goal being why was his horse different than the eight previous one’s I saw fail, and who had a hand in his development.

Were you embedded with the AP camp? What kind of access?

No, embed. Regular access. In fact, my coverage was at odds with Baffert and Zayat for most of the last seven years. But we have all dealt with each other pretty much professionally, meaning they continue to answer my questions.

What’s your takeaway from covering such a momentous campaign?

You need an extraordinary athlete, which AP was and was identified as such as a weanling. You need a ton of luck, which he got beginning with banging his ankle on the way to the Saratoga Yearling Sale where he failed to be sold.

Knowing what I know about how much talent, luck and magic is required now, I can see why we waited 37 years for a Triple Crown.

Beholder and Songbird Are Brilliant in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff


Beholder winning the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff, Gary Stevens in the irons. Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup Photo©

By a cat’s whisker. That sums up the barely discernible distance between Beholder and Songbird at the finish line of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff. Beholder was in front when the pair’s skirmish down Santa Anita’s homestretch ended at the wire.

Beholder, race mare regnant

At 6 years old, the Distaff was Beholder’s last race. Hall of Fame Richard Mandella conditioned Beholder for her entire career and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens was her pilot. The Distaff was Stevens’ 11th Breeders’ Cup career win, and Mandella’s ninth.

2016-11-05-1478362354-4251543-a161104_eclipsesportswire_aeb_176551.JPG Left: Gary Stevens on Beholder Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup Photo©

Winning her third Breeders’ Cup race, Beholder joined the rarefied level of Goldikova. Beholder previously won the Juvenile Fillies in 2012 and the Distaff in 2013. Altogether, over four seasons Beholder raced 26 times, with 18 wins and six seconds. She was the Eclipse 2012 Champion 2-Year Old Filly, Eclipse 2013 Champion 3-Year Old Filly and Eclipse 2015 Champion Older Mare. It’s not a stretch to believe that Beholder will be in contention for further Eclipse Awards for the 2016 season, as well as an eventual place in the Hall of Fame.


Right: MareMatch pedigree of Beholder and Uncle Mo. Courtesy of © 2016 Wek Thoroughbred Consultants.

Retiring with a $6+ million dowry, Beholder will join the broodmare band at Spendthrift Farm, Lexington, Kentucky. Formalized plans have been announced, rest assured her connections had their choice of racing’s leading Lotharios. A quick look at Werk eNicks MareMatch pedigree analysis that lists top stallions in the United States and Europe as compatible including Tapit in Kentucky and Fastnet Rock in Ireland.

That being said, Coolmore America has announced that Beholder is booked to visit their brilliant young sire Uncle Mo in 2017, for a 2018 foal. The pairing ranks high with MareMatch as well as with the physical traits and abilities of Beholder and Uncle Mo.

Songbird eager in the wings

Songbird‘s second place in the Distaff is the first time she failed to win. At 3 years old, half the age of Beholder, Songbird has run 12 times, winning 11 races and earning $3.7 million. Rick Porter, her owner, has indicated she will run in 2017. Depending on how she comes out of the Longines Distaff, Songbird could run in the new $12 million Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park, Florida, on Jan. 28, 2017.

Porter is no stranger to bringing along a maturing filly. His Havre de Grace was a major 3-year-old filly. In 2011, as a 4-year-old Havre de Grace took on the “boys” winning the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga and earning the Eclipse Horse of the Year title.

Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup

Bookkeeping and statistics
Beholder’s win in the Longines Distaff earned Rick Porter $1,100,000. Her connections received the Distaff trophy and timepieces from Longines. Typically, the winning trainer and jockey each receive 10% of the purse. The team back at the barn may also earn a percentage.

The 2016 Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff, held over 1 1/8 miles, clocked in at a reasonable 1:49.20. Beholder paid $8.60 to win. The Beholder-Songbird exacta paid $12.60. The trifecta of Beholder-Songbird-Forever Unbridled paid $40.40.

Note: all earning and handicapping data supplied by Equibase

Beholder’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff News Conference Transcript

Transcript via Breeders’ Cup World Championships

Friday, November 4, 2016

Richard Mandella

  1. Wayne Hughes

Gary Stevens

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff is of course the Breeders’ Cup legend and one of the all-time greats, Beholder. We’re fortunate to be joined here by trainer Richard Mandella and jockey Gary Stevens. Congratulations to you both. Incredible performance. Gary, to start, I would just love for you to take us through the race, if you wouldn’t mind.

GARY STEVENS: She warmed up just unbelievable today. She was very, very focused. Very relaxed, and her start was probably the sharpest start of her career, believe it or not. She wasn’t standing perfectly in there. She was kind of up in the front of the gate, and I like her back a little bit. But when you load last, you take what they give you, and, man, she left there. She charged for about 50 yards, and breaking from the outside looking in. I said, well, I guess we’re going again. I peeked over, and Mikey had gotten Songbird in full flight. Before the race I was hoping that I’m a Chatterbox would break decently and put some pressure, and I had broke her about a length.

As we were crossing under the finish line the first time around, I’m a Chatterbox poked her head up in front of us, and I knew we were going a legitimate pace. My mare came off the bridle and just got into the rhythm that she gets into when I work her out in the morning. It was basically that kind of mode for her and myself until about the 5/16 pole. I just let her do what she wanted. Stayed comfortable. I picked her up a little bit a little earlier than I normally would just to apply pressure to Songbird, and got on even terms with her coming into the stretch. I squeezed Beholder. She gave it to me. Poked my head in front, and Songbird came back again. She actually put Songbird away three different times through the stretch, and she kept coming back like she wouldn’t go away. Even in Beholder’s previous three defeats, it was almost like she knew she was beaten midway through stretch and looked after herself. Today she didn’t look after anything. She laid her heart out there on the racetrack and gave me absolutely everything that was running through her veins, and it was fun to be a part of.

I had some good feelings in racing, but this is tops right here.

THE MODERATOR: We’re also joined now by winning owner B. Wayne Hughes. Richard, could we get your impressions of that epic stretch battle?

RICHARD MANDELLA: Well, pretty exciting from the top of the stretch. I thought she had the other mares’ number, and like Gary says, she kept coming back, coming back. What a great filly to do that. But I like the way it turned out.

THE MODERATOR: Mr. Hughes, your emotions after this race and her final start?

B. WAYNE HUGHES: Well, I was very anxious for Gary to do exactly what I told him, and he followed my directions perfectly (laughter).

Q. Gary, just the fractions as they popped up, what was it, 23 and change, and 47, what were your thoughts about those fractions and coming in? Would you have wanted those fractions?
GARY STEVENS: Going the distance of the mile and a eighth, had I been on the lead and it was a five-horse field, which it wasn’t, I would have been very comfortable with those fractions setting them. For these kind of horses, they were solid but they weren’t too fast and they weren’t too slow. They were very comfortable for the caliber of horses that were in this race, the best of the best.

Q. Richard, you said you were worried about having maybe used up all your luck in these races. Apparently not. You talk about your great success here in the Breeders’ Cup through your career?
RICHARD MANDELLA: I don’t know. I don’t know what to say. It’s been something I wouldn’t have even been able to have imagined. I won four races on Breeders’ Cup Day in ’93, two Breeders’ Cup Races and two Stakes along with it, and I thought, boy, this will never happen again. Then in 2003 we won four Breeders’ Cup Races, and this mare just keeps running.

I don’t know what I did to deserve it.

ARCADIA, CA - NOV 04: Beholder #8, ridden by Gary Stevens, is led to the winner's circle after winning the Breeders' Cup Longines Distaff at Santa Anita Park on November 4, 2016 in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)
ARCADIA, CA – NOV 04: Beholder #8, ridden by Gary Stevens, is led to the winner’s circle after winning the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff at Santa Anita Park on November 4, 2016 in Arcadia, California. (Photo by Bob Mayberger/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

Q. Gary, the stretch battle there, have you ever been a part of something that was that exhilarating? And what does that say about Beholder at 6 to fight like the way she did?
GARY STEVENS: I’ve been in battles before, but never the length of the stretch. I mean, it was a full almost 5/16ths, definitely a quarter of a mile of just a street fight. For six years old, I would just say the way that she’s been managed throughout her career allowed her to do what she did on her final day of racing, and she laid it all on the line. The best of the best was training her, and he’d had this mapped out for a long time. The guy doesn’t just get lucky. Things happen for a reason in that barn.

My hat’s off to Songbird. She’s a three-year-old that laid it all on the line today too. It will say a lot about her in the future because I’ve been in battles on really good horses and come out on the wrong end before, and it takes its toll on them. She galloped out strong after the race, Songbird did. So hopefully we’ll see some more of her, but she was gallant in defeat. But Beholder’s a champ, and I’m just honored to have been on her back. It was fun to be a part of a battle. The show that those two just put on by day just now is worth the price of admission for everybody that showed up today. This was horseracing at its best.

THE MODERATOR: Mr. Hughes, could you expand on what the mare has meant to you over the past five years?

B. WAYNE HUGHES: Well, I mean, I guess I don’t bet on horses, but today I did make a bet. That was because of Richard and Gary, who were more confident than I was. So today she made a couple bucks. I don’t think I’ll ever have another horse like this, and so I’m very grateful to have been a part of it. I mean, I really compliment Richard. I don’t know of any trainer that could have taken a horse for six years and done what he’s done. But Gary has been a big part of it. Maybe that’s why he was able to be so successful.

Q. Richard, you were confident coming into the race. What have you seen the last couple of weeks? Had you sensed that even though this had been a great horse for a long time, that some people might have gotten off the bandwagon after the last couple?
RICHARD MANDELLA: Yeah, well, you see, I thought the game needed some suspense, so I got her beat a couple times, figuring it would make it look like I did something really special at the end. You know, it’s all in the planning.

Q. (Indiscernible)?
RICHARD MANDELLA: Anybody that saw her train would have had the same confidence. People would come out of the stands and tell me what they saw on the TV. So it wasn’t hard to see. She was really at her best.

Q. First of all, thank you so much for the joy that you’ve brought to so many race fans by keeping the horse around for so long. Thank you for the wonderful job you did riding this horse today. My question is for you, Mr. Mandella. This training job has to be one of the most incredible training jobs in modern racing history. Anybody who sees that Kentucky Oaks, can you talk about that? Because I want to congratulate you on the wonderful job you did, and could you say anything about the training of this horse?
RICHARD MANDELLA: Well, I’ve always said that really good horses appreciate my training better than others.

GARY STEVENS: And that’s it (laughter).

RICHARD MANDELLA: She’s always been a little bit difficult, but we get that. Usually you get that and you don’t get performance with it. She would give her heart no matter what.

B. WAYNE HUGHES: Show them your hand.

RICHARD MANDELLA: She kicked me on the way up. But she’s 90% of the time the sweetest thing that you could find. But the other 10% is dynamite. You better watch out.

Q. Gary, you said earlier this week you had countless scenarios of how the race was going to run, but they all ended with a happy ending. Was this one of the scenarios you had; that it was going to be that close down the stretch?
GARY STEVENS: It was plan one. I mean, very early in these big races you have different scenarios, plan A, B, and C. And that was plan A. With the trip that we got, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and I could hear somebody coming up on the outside, and I still haven’t watched the replay. I just assumed that it was Stellar Wind. I said, Here we go again. And all of a sudden that noise on the outside left me, and it was just the two. It was just myself and Songbird. It ended the way that all of the scenarios had gone. It wasn’t supposed to be that close, but I’ll take it, for sure.

Q. Mr. Hughes, do you have any thoughts, any second thoughts about retiring her now?

Q. Yeah.
B. WAYNE HUGHES: Well, I mean, I think it’s time for her to go the normal route of going back to Kentucky and not having to have Richard and Gary to deal with.

Q. Gary, did you know you had won photo?
RICHARD MANDELLA: Yeah, I mean, I let out with a pretty loud holler three or four strides past the finish line, and both Mike and I both rode past the finish line a bit, because there’s purple Breeders’ Cup colors underneath the rail. So we were coming down, I had my head down, just riding for all I was worth. I’m thinking, man, that finish line’s got to be coming. And all of a sudden I could see purple out my peripheral vision, and I said: We’re getting there. I’m in front.

When we stood up, I let out with a yell, and Mike looked over at me and congratulated me. When I saw the photo after the trophy presentation, it was closer than I thought it was. But they always are.

Q. Richard, with how emotional this victory is and what this mare has meant to all of you, does this surpass the other Breeders’ Cups accomplishments you’ve had?
RICHARD MANDELLA: How do you separate them? You know, I’ve had some very special moments in the Breeders’ Cup and special horses. So I couldn’t — I don’t even want to compare it. It couldn’t get any better than this, I’ll tell you that.

THE MODERATOR: Maybe to follow up on that, if you would, Richard, or all three of you, you’re all three men that appreciate racing history. Could you just attempt to help us put this into context in terms of Beholder’s accomplishments and where she now stands in the history of racing?

RICHARD MANDELLA: I don’t think you can find one any better. I mean, she got beat a few times, but you can just lay that on me. But she’s always been a great horse. Most of her wins had some kind of a story behind them, an ulcer in the throat, a cut to the bone in New York, falling down behind the gate in the Kentucky Oaks.

So we don’t need to make any excuses. She couldn’t be — how great could you be?


B. WAYNE HUGHES: Well, I don’t have as much experience as Richard, but I can say that she’s by far the best horse I’ve ever had or ever expect to have.

THE MODERATOR: And, Gary, you’ve ridden a lot of fillies and seen a lot of great fillies and mares, so just your thoughts on Beholder’s place in racing history now?

GARY STEVENS: I think she had cemented her place in history prior to 2016, and she just added another star to it today. I’ve just never seen a racehorse stay at this peak form, especially a filly, and one that can be temperamental a little bit. But she thrives on racing. She thrives in her environment. For her to hold her form since her two-year-old season, and nowadays that’s throwback, I mean, they don’t usually get a chance to do it, and thank you to Mr. Hughes for keeping her around and being a sportsman. But she was able to do it and sustain it and thrive on it.

RICHARD MANDELLA: I’d like to say, I think racing owes Mr. Hughes a hand of gratitude. Most people would have sold her or gone on and bred her and took the easy route.

B. WAYNE HUGHES: You know, I don’t deserve that because I was afraid if I take her out, Richard would be dangerous (laughter).

Q. Mr. Hughes, speaking of breeding her, have you picked out a partner for her yet?
B. WAYNE HUGHES: Well, actually we don’t know for sure. We’re debating between a couple of different stallions. So I’m in a little bit of a spot here.

RICHARD MANDELLA: Say I don’t know.

B. WAYNE HUGHES: Richard’s advice is say “I don’t know.” But that would be a lie, but I guess I’ll do it anyway. Thank you (laughter).

Q. Going back to the duel there at the end, is that the ultimate rush for a guy in your profession to have something like that?
GARY STEVENS: Yeah, people ask me why I came out of retirement. People ask me on a daily basis, Why are you still riding, you old fart? And I can’t replace that; what I just experienced. I mean, my adrenaline, I took off, I’m on the last race, and I apologize to the connections, but I’m not only drained physically, but emotionally. That was a very special moment for all of us, and it was bittersweet for me. I know that I’ll never sit on another one like that and to go through the battle that I just went through. Like I said before, I’ve been in great battles and, believe it or not, at the 1/16th pole I thought back to 1988 and Winning Colors and Personal Ensign, and Personal Ensign came down the outside middle of the racetrack and nailed us, and I just kept thinking don’t let this one get away. Don’t let this one get away. And it is the ultimate. It’s the ultimate.

RICHARD MANDELLA: Could I tell a story?

THE MODERATOR: Please, always.

RICHARD MANDELLA: I’d like to run this by one more time. I used it at a function to honor him once, and Mike Smith and somebody asked me how did I choose between him and Mike Smith after he retired and the filly was laid up and Mike had ridden her once, and I said, well, I gave it a lot of thought and Mike’s great and Gary’s great and I’ve had luck with both of them, but Gary Stevens went to the Wizard of Oz and got a new knee. How could I refuse him?

B. WAYNE HUGHES: I thought you asked me who to ride?

RICHARD MANDELLA: Oh, I forgot that.

GARY STEVENS: That’s not as good a story (laughter).

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

She is Simply… Zenyatta


Credit: Matthew Stockman, O, The Oprah Magazine Getty Image

She Dances … Zenyatta

Credit: Coady photo


She Guzzles Guinness … Zenyatta

Credit: jonshfs05

She Is a Premier Athlete, Winning Over $5 Million

Credit: Breeders’ Cup




She Is Profiled in O, The Oprah Magazine as one of O’s 2010 Power List Personalities

“She’s absolutely perfect at her profession, and that is very rare–not just in sports but in all things. It’s difficult to win even one race, let alone 18.

“She always makes me think of those great war beasts of Greek sculpture, or the beautiful horses carved on the Parthenon. She is absolutely enormous–not only very tall [more than six feet from the top of her head] but also very broad, very muscular. She is simply drawn on a different scale from other racehorses.

“In just about every race, she starts out last and then comes flying at the end, breaking her opponents’ hearts. The crowds love it. She clearly knows exactly where the wire is. And she has such a huge stride, it looks like she’s moving slowly when she’s actually covering a lot of ground very fast. We haven’t seen how fast she can really go, because she only goes fast enough to catch the other horses at the wire!

“I’ve seen 40 or 50 thousand racehorses in my life, and I’ve never seen any other horse do that (the dance). I think she’s playing around. She’s definitely enjoying herself–psyching herself up before a race.”

— Laura Hillenbrand, author of 2001’s best-seller Seabiscuit, “The 2010 O Power List”, O, The Oprah Magazine , October 2010.

She is Zenyatta

The iconic six year old Thoroughbred race mare who has stormed down every homestretch to victory, eighteen times. And twice in the World Championship Breeders’ Cup series. She’s preparing to take an unprecedented third Breeders’ Cup World Championship title in November.

Clearly besotted with his charge, trainer John Shirreffs strapped a camera to the helmet of Zenyatta’s exercise rider so her fans can experience the view from the back of a champion. Enjoy the ride!

Credit: jonshfs05

Top photo courtesy of Photos by Z


Uptick in Equine Deaths at Belmont Park in June

Between June 1 and June 20, 2016,  there were eight equine deaths while in training or racing at the New York Racing Association’s Belmont Park. Over the same time frame in 2015, there were two equine deaths while racing at Belmont Park; in 2014 there was one racing and one training death at Belmont over the same time frame.

According to the NYS Gaming Commission’s Equine Breakdown, Death, Injury and Incident Database, two of the breakdowns were on Belmont’s training track, the remaining occurred on the Main track.

The horses that suffered fatal, catastrophic breakdowns are:

  • Todo Onota
  • Escape to Vegas
  • Bonita Luna
  • Majestic Joe
  • Rose Bern
  • Riding the Rails
  • Mordi’s Miracle
  • Noble’s Whim


Lady Aurelia Vanquishes Royal Ascot: Twitter Reacts


Saratoga Alliance Puts Cuomo Racing Plan Out to Pasture

According to a coalition of Saratoga Springs racing, political and business interests, the New York Racing Association’s reprivatization options presented in a plan to Governor Andrew Cuomo have been set aside. In their place is an outline that cedes control of NYRA to the state via an executive board stacked with public appointees, and financial and operational controls spread around the state’s bureaucracy.

What was. What is.

In 2012, irregularities in takeouts of exotic wagers were the tipping point that brought NYRA into a forced partnership with the state; the governor and legislators enacted the New York State Racing Franchise Accountability and Transparency Act of 2012. Originally scheduled to return to private ownership in 2015, NYRA produced a plan the governor elected not to pursue, and instead, extended state control for one year.

Earlier this year, NYRA submitted a reorganization plan with three options for going forward:

  • An option where the board of directors was made up of private sector members
  • An option where there were four publicly appointed members of the board of directors
  • An option to extend the current status of NYRA for another year


In Albany, nary a peep has been said on the record about the proposed reprivatization plans. Queries to legislators in both houses confirmed they had not been apprised of the Cuomo version.

However, the Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing has been monitoring the matter. It maintains that Cuomo is seeking to hold public control of NYRA and raid NYRA’s legally designated coffers to boost the general fund.

In a statement from the Concerned Citizens, released over the signature of Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus, the leadership group made its position clear:

We are vehemently opposed to the transfer of funds legally designated via prior agreements to support our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry into the state’s general fund. This change ignores the fact that New York State was given $1 billion in real estate at NYRA’s three tracks in return for the granting of a 25-year franchise agreement and a legislatively-approved revenue sharing formula from the VLT at Aqueduct. The VLT revenues are like mortgage payments for the land.

The Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing has been able to parse out these points of the Executive Chamber’s reorganization plan:

The Governor’s proposal will:

  • Allow the Governor to appoint one-third of the members to the new NYRA board of directors or 5 of the 15 members;
  • With one member also appointed by the Senate and Assembly, there would be at least 7 of the 15 members appointed directly by our state government;
  • The Governor would also appoint the new Chair of the board of directors;
  • Transfer VLT funds away from NYRA that were previously designed for Capital improvements at Belmont, Aqueduct and the Saratoga Race Course as well as funds for NYRA operations;
  • Provide sweeping new powers to various public agencies expanding their role from oversight to protect the public good, to empowering these agencies to be able to manipulate NYRA’s budget and operations.

Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing Rejects Governor’s NYRA Re-privatization Plan

(Press Release)

The Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing rejects a re-privatization plan now being circulated by Governor Cuomo that seeks to retain public control of NYRA and to unilaterally transfer funds legally designated for our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry into the state’s general fund.

The Governor’s proposal will:

  • Allow the Governor to appoint one-third of the members to the new NYRA board of directors or 5 of the 15 members;
  • With one member also appointed by the Senate and Assembly, there would be at least 7 of the 15 members appointed directly by our state government;
  • The Governor would also appoint the new Chair of the Board of Directors;
  • Transfer VLT funds away from NYRA that were previously designed for Capital improvements at Belmont, Aqueduct and the Saratoga Race Course as well as funds for NYRA operations;
  • Provide sweeping new powers to various public agencies expanding their role from oversight to protect the public good, to empowering these agencies to be able to manipulate NYRA’s budget and operations.

Four years ago, this Governor promised to return NYRA to a not-for-profit corporation in three years. He did not keep that promise last year. This year, his plan is another means by which he is seeking to exert his control over NYRA and the future of our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry.

We are vehemently opposed to the transfer of funds legally designated via prior agreements to support our state’s Thoroughbred racing industry into the state’s general fund. This change ignores the fact that New York State was given $1 billion in real estate at NYRA’s three tracks in return for the granting of a 25-year franchise agreement and a legislatively-approved revenue sharing formula from the VLT at Aqueduct. The VLT revenues are like mortgage payments for the land. If they can change the agreement this year, they will change it next year too.

We’re seeing a renaissance of racing in Saratoga and New York State. Here in Saratoga our race meeting is one of the most successful and most popular in all of the world. The Saratoga Race Course is the oldest sporting venue in the United States and the transfer of funds away from NYRA as proposed by the Governor could harm our plans to improve this facility so that it succeeds for another 150 years.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of Saratoga’s local legislators working collaboratively with the Capital Region’s delegation and the Chairs of the Assembly and Senate Racing Committees to re-privatize NYRA as a not-for-profit corporation. They clearly want to keep this promise before the legislative session ends this June. We hope that they will provide a clean stand-alone bill for the Governor to sign.
Members of the Executive Board of the Concerned Citizens for Saratoga Racing include: Maureen Lewi, Chair; Todd Shimkus; Charles Wait; John Hendrickson; Matt Jones; Cindy Hollowood; and Rod Sutton.

Todd L. Shimkus, CCE
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce
28 Clinton Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866