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Racing Responds


Racing on the Air Racing to History Weekend Stakes Races
News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications, (212) 907-9280.


During the week leading up to last Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick thought his team could use some added inspiration. After a 1-3 start, the Patriots had won two in a row and four of its last five, but even with a 7-5 record, they were still locked in a tight struggle for an American Football Conference playoff spot.

Down came the lights in a Patriots meeting room and up on a television monitor came something that perhaps only a coach who had worked for a dozen years under enthusiastic Thoroughbred owner Bill Parcells would have thought of: a tape of this year's Breeders' Cup Classic.

Before hitting the "play" button, Belichick explained to his team that the Breeders' Cup Classic was an extremely important race in which the best horses from all over the world competed for a purse of $4 million. Around the turn for home, he said, there were several horses bunched closely together with the outcome riding on who was most ready for the competition. Nobody really knew who had the best chance; it was all there to be won or lost for several competitors.

Belichick then started the tape of the Oct. 27 race and his players watched in rapt attention as defending Classic champion Tiznow battled back in the stretch to emerge with his nose victory over Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sakhee.

The Patriots' situation is not unlike what these horses faced, Belichick told his team. As the season wears on, their fate will be determined by which team wants victory the most.

On Sunday in Cleveland, the Patriots came through for Belichick, scoring a come-from-behind 27-16 victory that moved New England one step closer to a playoff spot.


Laura Hillenbrand, the free-lance writer who authored the widely acclaimed best-seller "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" and, in the process, exposed millions of readers to the sport of Thoroughbred racing, has been named the 2001 winner of the Big Sport of Turfdom award, it was announced by Bob Curran Jr., the president of the Turf Publicists of America (TPA).

The award is presented annually to an individual whose cooperation with the media enhances coverage of and brings favorable attention to Thoroughbred racing. The 36th annual Big Sport of Turfdom luncheon, sponsored by United Tote, will be held on Monday, Feb. 18, the day of the 31st annual Eclipse Awards Ceremony, also to be held in south Florida.

Hillenbrand suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and rarely leaves her Washington, D.C. residence. She spent four years researching and writing the book from her home, but welcomed more than a dozen news organizations into her house and conducted more than 100 media interviews by phone.

"The book obviously transcended Thoroughbred racing and sports and the fact that it's still on bestseller lists almost a year after it was published confirms its universal appeal," Curran said. "Laura's personal story is every bit as interesting and inspirational as Seabiscuit's. She richly deserves the Big Sport of Turfdom award for her unwavering cooperation with media as they descended on her in person and by phone over the past nine months."

Hillenbrand, a Washington, D.C. native who attended Kenyon College, won an Eclipse Award for outstanding magazine writing in 1998 when her free-lance article on Seabiscuit appeared in American Heritage magazine. Before the Random House book was even written or published, movie studios were clamoring for the rights to the Seabiscuit story and indeed, a full-length movie based on the book is scheduled for production by Universal Pictures in 2002. (A PBS documentary is also slated for the fall of 2002 and the paperback version of the book will be published in April.)

The book reached the New York Times' bestseller list five days after it was published and was the number one bestseller for six weeks. It was on the Times' bestseller list for seven months was recently named the William Hill Sports Book of the Year (Hillenbrand is the first female author to win it). The TPA is an organization consisting of approximately 200 publicity and marketing personnel from racetracks and racing organizations around the country and the Big Sport of Turfdom Award has been presented every year since 1966.

Among the previous winners are: Bill Shoemaker, Burt Bacharach, Steve Cauthen, Jack Klugman, John Forsythe, Joe Hirsch, Jim McKay, Penny Chenery, Tim Conway, Chris McCarron and, in recent years, Bob Baffert, Mike Pegram, D. Wayne Lukas and Laffit Pincay Jr.


Pam Blatz-Murff, senior vice president of Breeders' Cup operations for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), received the prestigious Derby Award for Services to International Racing at a luncheon this week at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London. More


Walter Merrick began raising horses in 1936 with the goal of producing the best horse possible. And, indeed, Merrick and his 14 Ranch of Sayre, Okla., have made a staggering mark on the American Quarter Horse industry. His story is chronicled in the new book, "Wire To Wire: the Walter Merrick Story," the authorized biography of Walter Merrick.

From Midnight Jr to Easy Jet, Walter Merrick's influence on the American Quarter Horse extends into every corner of the industry - from racing to rodeo, from halter to cutting. Written by Frank Holmes, "Wire to Wire: the Walter Merrick Story" offers a detailed look at a man whose life reads like fiction and whose exploits have become part of the lore and legend that is the American West.

In honor of the book's debut, there will be a special reception this Saturday, December 15, at 6 p.m. in The Vessels Club at Los Alamitos Race Course in Cypress, Calif. Following the reception, Merrick and author Frank Holmes will be on hand in The Vessels Club signing autographed copies of the book. Books may also be purchased in the Racing Rewards Center located on the second floor of the grandstand at Los Alamitos.

The feature race at Los Alamitos that evening is the $1 Million Los Alamitos Million Futurity. Members of the media are invited to meet Mr. Merrick and receive a copy of the book for review.

"Walter Merrick is an icon in the American Quarter Horse industry," said AQHA Executive Vice President Bill Brewer. "'Wire To Wire' is a great tribute to a great horseman and will be an outstanding gift for anyone connected to horses."

The softbound book retails for $19.95 with a portion of the profits benefiting the American Quarter Horse Foundation. To order copies, call Quarter Horse Outfitters toll free at 888-209-8322 or visit them on the Web at

RACING ON THE AIR (all times Eastern)

December 15 Racehorse Digest, 5:30-6:00 a.m., ESPN

December 19 Racehorse Digest, 2:00-2:30 p.m., ESPN2

December 22 Racehorse Digest, 5:30-6:00 a.m., ESPN

December 26 Racehorse Digest, 1:30-2:00 p.m., ESPN2


Dec. 13, 1986: Jockey Kent Desormeaux had his first career stakes win, aboard Godbey, in the Maryland City Handicap at Laurel.

Dec. 14, 1997: Maybe Jack drew off and won a match race against Pro on Ice at Suffolk Downs, making him the winningest horse of 1997 with 13 victories.

Dec. 15, 1973: Sandy Hawley became the first jockey in history to win 500 races in a single year when he rode Charlie Jr. to victory in the third race at Laurel.

Dec. 15, 2000: Congress passed a package of appropriations bills that included a clarification to the Interstate Horseracing Act (IHA). The amendment to IHA confirms that interstate simulcasting, commingling of pools and account wagering are, indeed, permitted under the IHA in all states that authorize these activities.

Dec. 17, 1936: Crooner Bing Crosby announced plans to construct a new racetrack, to be called the Del Mar Turf Club.

Dec. 17, 1993: Fire destroyed the grandstand of Fair Grounds, the nation's third-oldest racetrack.

Dec. 18, 1983: Hollywood Park held the first $1 million race for two-year-old Thoroughbreds, the Hollywood Futurity, which was won by Fali Time, ridden by Sandy Hawley.

Dec. 20, 1987: D. Wayne Lukas-trained Tejano became the first juvenile millionaire when he won the Hollywood Futurity with Laffit Pincay Jr. aboard.

Dec. 21, 2000: Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze registered the eighth 400-win campaign of his career when he captured the fourth race at Golden Gate Fields aboard Run a Copy. Baze recorded seven consecutive 400-win years from 1992 through 1998 before having the streak snapped in 1999 when he missed five weeks of action due to injury.

Dec. 22, 1991: Jockey Kent Desormeaux, at age 21, won his 2,000th race aboard Saron Lake, trained by Gary Jones, at Hollywood Park. He was the youngest jockey to reach that mark and did so faster than any other rider.

Dec. 23, 1944: James F. Byrnes, Director of War Mobilization and Reconversion, urged that all racing in the United States cease by Jan. 3 as a means of furthering the war effort.

Dec. 25, 1934: Santa Anita Park opened in Arcadia, Calif. A five-year-old mare, Las Palmas, won the inaugural race, the California-Bred Handicap, before a crowd of 30,777.

WEEKEND STAKES RACES (unrestricted stakes worth $75,000 and up)

Hollywood Futurity, 2yo, $200,000, Grade I, 1 1/16 M, Hollywood Park
Bayakoa Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $150,000, Grade II, 1 1/16 M, Hollywood Park
Dahlia Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $150,000, Grade II, 1 1/16 M (T), Hollywood Park
Gravesend Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, Grade III, 6F, Aqueduct
Frances A. Genter Stakes, 3yo fillies, $100,000, 7 F (T), Calder
Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, 7F, Calder
Pago Hop Stakes, 3yo fillies, $100,000, 1M (T), Fair Grounds
Paradise Mile Handicap, 3&up, $75,000, 1M (T), Turf Paradise
Walter Haight Handicap, 3&up, $75,000, 1 1/8 M, Laurel Park

Hollywood Starlet, 2yo fillies, $200,000, Grade I, 1 1/16 M, Hollywood Park
F.W. Gaudin Memorial Handicap, 3&up, $75,000, 6F, Fair Grounds



Racing television schedule



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