Category Archives: Thoroughbred

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

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.
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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

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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

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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

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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

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Above: Grand Strand tethered at New Holland. Below left: Grand Strand’s wary glance at the auction. Photos courtesy of Omega Horse Rescue

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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

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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.
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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.

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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)

American Pharoah returns a Winner

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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.

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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.

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

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

 

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.