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Essay from Horse Racing Ireland

By Michael O’Rourke, Horse Racing Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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).

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.

2014-11-17-orb.jpg
 

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.