NTRA THOROUGHBRED NOTEBOOK
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|News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled
by NTRA Communications, (212) 907-9280.
STRAIGHT FROM THE BELMONT WINNER'S MOUTH
It wasn't the most convenient time for an ABC 20/20 Downtown film crew to show up on the Belmont Park backstretch to shoot a feature intended to air not until later in the year. The Belmont Stakes was just 36 hours away and media from near and far had descended on the Elmont, N.Y. racetrack to chronicle the attempt of War Emblem to become racing's 12th winner of the Visa Triple Crown. Still, the crew came and with them was Dawn Hayman, a reputed "horse communicator" from upstate New York who was capable of "talking" to horses.
ABC's plan was to have Hayman talk to one of the Belmont Stakes competitors and see if there was any validity to her pursuit. Directly and through Belmont Park and NTRA intermediaries, ABC canvassed several of the Belmont Stakes trainers to see if they were game for a visit from Hayman. The response was not enthusiastic. "Sounds like snake oil," came one reply. "Think I'll take a pass," said another trainer, trying his best to sound diplomatic.
Ultimately, only one of the Belmont Stakes trainers agreed to the meeting: Ken McPeek, conditioner of Sarava, the horse who would post a shocking 70-1 upset in the Belmont Stakes the following day.
McPeek told the crew to come by his barn at about 7:15 on the morning before the Belmont. But as the crew stood outside the barn, McPeek decided to play it safe by explaining the situation to Sarava's co-owner Gary Drake and seeing whether he had any objections.
"Let me get this straight," Drake said to McPeek. "There's a woman outside who will let us ask questions of Sarava, and through her, Sarava will answer us?'
McPeek nodded somewhat sheepishly.
"Well, heck, Kenny," said Drake, "get her in here!"
In came Hayman trailed by a cameraman and sound man. As McPeek got wired up, others in McPeek's group, including his wife Sue, gathered around Hayman and Sarava for a closer view of the proceedings.
For the next several minutes, Hayman, a short, calm woman in her thirties who had clearly spent a great deal of time around animals, stood in front of Sarava's stall. McPeek or Drake would ask a question, Hayman would stare silently at Sarava's face, then, after a few seconds of silence, Hayman would deliver his response.
Among other things, Sarava "revealed" that he knew something big was going on and he thought he would soon be famous. He said he felt well cared for and he particularly liked the new track he was now training on because it was bigger and more spacious than the ones [Pimlico and Churchill Downs] he had visited previously. He also indicated that he felt increased confidence under his new jockey [Edgar Prado] because he gave him stronger cues as to what to do or where to go during a race.
It was all good fun. Then, during a pause toward the end of the session, the ABC producer prompted Drake and McPeek one last time. "Is there anything else you'd like to ask that only you could know the answers to?" the producer said.
"Ask him how his feet feel," McPeek said to Hayman.
Hayman looked up at Sarava for a brief moment. Then she replied, "His feet feel good. I'm getting from him that there's been a problem...I think in the right front...but he says it's much better now."
Jaws suddenly dropped as Drake, McPeek and his staff looked at each other in seeming amazement. After a long silence, McPeek told Hayman that, indeed, the horse had once had one of the worst quarter cracks he had ever seen -- in his right, front hoof. He also told the ABC crew that as far as he knew, this fact had been seldom reported if at all.
A short time later the crew had left Sarava and the McPeek barn. Hayman was on a tight schedule to make the return trip via train to her home in Clinton, N.Y., which is near Utica. But before leaving the grounds, Hayman and the crew stopped by the barn of trainer Lisa Lewis. Lewis did not have a horse running in the Belmont Stakes, but her pleasant demeanor and loving way with horses seemed to make her a good candidate to do well on camera with Hayman. As hoped, Lewis was extremely cooperative. On the spur of the moment, Lewis took Hayman for visits with three of the horses under her care. One was a colt named River Rush who was entered to run the next day in the race that immediately followed the Belmont Stakes. Hayman did not get good vibes from River Rush.
"He's telling me that he wants to do well, but that he finds racing very intimidating," Hayman told Lewis. "I think he's had a bad experience or a fall at some point in the past. Does that make any sense?"
Lewis told Hayman that, unfortunately, it made perfect sense. River Rush, said Lewis, had once fallen inside the starting gate and had been hard to keep mentally focused ever since. He had the talent to be an excellent horse, but it remained to be seen whether his mind could catch up with that talent.
The next day, not 40 minutes after Sarava's upset victory, River Rush entered the starting gate as the favorite for Belmont's 11th race, an allowance event going seven furlongs on the grass. As the last few horses were still loading, River Rush, locked away in post one, burst through the starting gate and ran off by himself down the backstretch, necessitating that he be scratched.
And so while some Belmont spectators watched fascinated as the outriders corralled River Rush and others merely continued to buzz about Sarava's unlikely victory, somewhere in upstate New York there was a woman likely unmoved by any of it. After all, she had heard it all before.
BELMONT STAKES TV RATINGS HIGHEST SINCE 1989
NBC released final ratings today for last Saturday's telecast of the Belmont Stakes, a race that featured War Emblem's unsuccessful quest become racing's 12th winner of the Visa Triple Crown.
The 90-minute program, which aired from 5:00-6:45 p.m. (ET) garnered a rating of 7.6 with a 21 share. The marks are the highest since 1989 when Easy Goer thwarted Sunday Silence's bid to become a Triple Crown winner. That show, televised by ABC, received an 8.5 with a 25 share.
In 1999, the last time the Belmont Stakes carried the prospect of a Triple Crown winner after Charismatic's victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, ratings on ABC were 6.0 with a 17 share. As recently as 2000, the telecast of the Belmont Stakes had earned a 2.8 rating with a 9 share.
"These numbers underscore the continuing re-emergence of Thoroughbred horse racing and the Visa Triple Crown in particular," said Ken Schanzer, president of NBC Sports. "Obviously having a Triple Crown contender was critically important in the rating for the Belmont, but that shouldn't obscure the fact that the Triple Crown has demonstrated significant increases over the last two years. We're excited about the Thoroughbred racing prospects in the future."
NBC is also the official network of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, which this year will be held on October 26 at Arlington Park in suburban Chicago.
NATIONAL PICK THREE OFFERED SATURDAY ON CBS RACES
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) has announced the creation of a new, national pick three wager--the NTRA Summer Pick Three--that will be offered to coincide with each of the three telecasts comprising this year's "NTRA Summer Racing Tour on CBS" series.
Minimum wager for the NTRA Summer Pick Three wager will be $2.00, with $1.00 part wheels available. Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie will serve as the wagering hub for the June 15 NTRA Summer Pick Three, with Monmouth Park serving as the wagering hub for the final two offerings on June 29 and July 6. Airtime for all three CBS shows is 5:00-6:00 p.m. (ET)
"This represents an initial effort by the NTRA to link our television inventory with our wagering product," said Ken Kirchner, senior vice president of product development for the NTRA. "We think this new bet will help to drive viewership to the CBS Sports telecasts and also offer an attractive wagering opportunity that can generate incremental handle on an array of outstanding stakes races. With the increased availability of account wagering, the link between television and wagering needs to be strengthened."
The "NTRA Summer Racing Tour on CBS," presented by Long John Silver's, will showcase important races on the Road to the World Thoroughbred Championships, familiarizing fans with both the American and international stars likely to run in the World Thoroughbred Championships. In addition to presenting live races from Belmont Park, Churchill Downs, Hollywood Park, Arlington Park, Monmouth Park and Lone Star Park, the Tour will offer coverage of nine top races on the International Road to the World Thoroughbred Championships, including events from England's Ascot Racecourse and The Curragh in Ireland, as well as races from Hong Kong and Singapore.
The races comprising the NTRA Summer Pick Three wager for each of the "NTRA Summer Racing Tour on CBS" airdates are as follows (all times Eastern):
June 15: Dallas Turf Cup (Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie-scheduled post time: 5:10 p.m.), Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks (Hollywood Park-5:24 p.m.), Stephen Foster Handicap (Churchill Downs-5:42 p.m.)
June 29: Molly Pitcher Handicap (Monmouth Park), Mother Goose Stakes (Belmont Park), Arlington Classic (Arlington Park)
July 6: United Nations Handicap (Monmouth Park). Suburban Handicap (Belmont Park), Stars & Stripes Breeders' Cup Handicap (Arlington Park)
June 15 Wire to Wire, 6:00-6:30 a.m., ESPN
June 15 NTRA Summer Racing Tour; Dallas Turf Cup (Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie), Hollywood Breeders' Cup Oaks (Hollywood Park), Stephen Foster Handicap (Churchill Downs) and Brooklyn Handicap (Belmont Park); 5:00-6:00 p.m.; CBS
June 19 Wire to Wire, 2:00-2:30 p.m., ESPN2
June 22 Wire to Wire, 4:30-5:00 a.m., ESPN
June 26 Wire to Wire, 2:00-2:30 p.m., ESPN2
June 13, 1874: English-bred Saxon became the first foreign bred horse to win the Belmont Stakes.
June 13, 1913: James Rowe, who had won back-to-back Belmonts in 1872-3 as a jockey, set the record for most number of Belmont Stakes wins by a trainer, eight, when he sent Prince Eugene to victory.
June 13, 1961: Ben A. Jones, who trained a record six Kentucky Derby winners, died.
June 13, 1992: Angel Cordero Jr. won his first race in two tries as a trainer, with Puchinito, in the fourth race at Belmont Park.
June 13, 1999: Silver Charm, winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and the 1998 Dubai World Cup, retired after finishing fourth in the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs. Silver Charm retired with earnings of $6,944,369 (third-highest of all time) and won 12 of 24 starts.
June 14, 1880: The first post parade of horses in any American race took place prior to the running of the Belmont Stakes. Horses had previously gone directly from paddock to post.
June 14, 1967: Jockey Craig Perret, age 16, won his first career race at Arlington Park. Despite starting well into the season, Perret finished the year third among the nation's apprentice riders in races won (with 114) and led all apprentices in the earnings category, with $610,003.
June 15, 1963: Five weeks prior to his 90th birthday, Hall of Fame trainer 'Sunny Jim' Fitzsimmons retired. "Mr. Fitz," as he was also known, trained such outstanding runners as Nashua, Bold Ruler, Johnstown and Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox and his son Omaha.
June 15, 1972: In preparation for his July 4 debut, Secretariat worked five furlongs from the starting gate in 1:00 1/5.
June 15, 1977: Future rivals Affirmed and Alydar met for the first time, in the Youthful Stakes at Belmont Park. Affirmed triumphed over Alydar, who finished fifth, and went on to win four of their six races together in 1977.
June 16, 1943: With a shortage of male workers due to the war, Garden State Park announced it would employ female mutuels clerks.
June 17, 1912: A record parimutuel payoff on a straight $2 wager was set when Wishing Ring, sent off at odds of 941-1, paid $1,885.50 to win at Latonia. The mark was only surpassed in 1989, when Power to Geaux paid $2,922 for a $2 wager made at AKsarben on a race that was simulcast from Fair Grounds.
June 17, 1967: Buckpasser's 15-race winning streak ended when he finished third to stablemate Poker in the Bowling Green Handicap at Aqueduct, his only attempt at turf racing. Buckpasser carried 135 pounds while Poker was assigned 112.
June 18, 1936: Omaha, the 1935 Triple Crown winner owned by New York banker William Woodward, lost the 2½-mile Ascot Gold Cup by a head to filly Quashed at Ascot, England. A crowd of 200,000 was said to be present for the race, for which Omaha was the 11-8 favorite. Omaha had shipped to England aboard the Aquitania on Jan. 8, 1936 and won the May 30 Queens Plate at Kempton Park, England.
June 18, 2001: Jockey Russell Baze closed out the 2001 Bay Meadows meet by winning the track's riding title for an amazing 25th time.
June 19, 1867: The inaugural Belmont Stakes was run at Jerome Park in the Bronx and was won by a filly, Ruthless, who defeated colts to earn $1,850 for her victory. Ruthless was one of a group of fillies known as the "Barbarous Battalion," daughters of the mare Barbarity, owned by Francis Morris of New York. The other "battalion" members -- all full sisters -- were Remorseless, Relentless, Regardless and Merciless.
June 19, 1880: Sheepshead Bay racecourse opened for a six-day meet. The track was the original site of the Suburban, Futurity and Realization Stakes, which eventually were transferred to Belmont Park.
June 19, 1942: Count Fleet won his first race, at Aqueduct Racetrack.
June 19, 1973: Officials of Arlington Park invited Secretariat to compete in a specially created race, the $125,000 Arlington Invitational Stakes.
June 19, 1992: Charlie Whittingham became the second trainer in history, behind D. Wayne Lukas, to top $100 million in purse earnings when he sent Little by Little to a second-place finish in the sixth race at Hollywood Park.
June 20, 1908: With his final victory in the Tidal Stakes at Sheepshead Bay, Colin retired undefeated after 15 starts. No major American racehorse approached this record until 1988, when Personal Ensign retired with a perfect 13-for-13 career.
June 21, 1924: Exterminator, winner of the 1918 Kentucky Derby, concluded his seven-year racing career. Exterminator raced until he was nine, winning 50 of his 100 starts. He seldom carried less than 130 pounds in handicap races. Like other geldings Kelso, Forego, and John Henry, Exterminator improved with age, enjoying his greatest success when he was seven.
June 21, 1947: Assault won the Brooklyn Handicap and dethroned Whirlaway as the then money-winning champion of the world. The victory boosted his earnings to $576,670.
June 21, 1975: S. Kaye Bell became the first woman to train the winner of a $100,000 stakes race when she sent Mr. Lucky Phoenix to win the Michigan Mile and One-Eighth Handicap at Detroit Racecourse.
June 22, 1935: Seabiscuit won his first race, at Narragansett Park.
June 23, 1985: With a victory aboard Greinton in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Laffit Pincay Jr. became the second jockey in history to surpass $100 million in purse earnings.
June 24, 1893: The field for the American Derby at Washington Park was held at the post for an hour and 40 minutes, the longest pre-race delay in history. Boundless, with "Snapper" Garrison aboard, won the $49,500 race, which was witnessed by a crowd of 48,000. Garrison and three other riders were each fined $250 for bad conduct at the start.
June 24, 1952: Jockey Eddie Arcaro rode his 3,000th career winner at Arlington Park. He was the first American-born rider to reach that mark.
June 24, 1972: In the fastest workout of the day for six furlongs, Secretariat went the distance in 1:12 4/5 at Belmont over a sloppy track. He would make his debut 10 days later, in a July 4 race for maiden runners at Aqueduct.
June 24, 1973: Charlie Whittingham swept the top three spots in the Hollywood Gold Cup Invitational Handicap when his trainees Kennedy Road, Quack and Cougar II finished first, second and third, respectively.
June 24, 1977: Alydar, at odds of 2.10-1, broke his maiden by 6 3/4 lengths at Belmont Park.
June 24, 1979: Affirmed, ridden by Laffit Pincay Jr., became the first horse to top $2 million in earnings after he won the Hollywood Gold Cup.
June 24, 1990: Criminal Type became the first horse to win consecutive $1 million races after capturing the Hollywood Gold Cup. He had previously won the $1 million Pimlico Special on May 12.
June 25, 1999: Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. was the winner of the NTRA All-Star Jockey Challenge at Lone Star Park.
June 25, 2000: Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus was syndicated by Coolmore Stud for a reported $70 million.
June 26, 1938: Nearco ended his career a perfect 14-for-14 by winning the Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp.
June 26, 1986: Jockey Sandy Hawley won his 5,000th career race, aboard Mighty Massa, at Canterbury Downs.
June 26, 1992: Jockey Dave Gall became the eighth rider in history to ride 6,000 winners when he rode Nana's Nice Boy to victory at Fairmount Park.
June 26, 1994: Jockey Chris McCarron rode his 6,000th career winner, Andestine, in the Milady Handicap at Hollywood Park. He was the 11th rider to reach 6,000 and the third-youngest, behind Bill Shoemaker and Laffit Pincay Jr.
June 26, 2000: Hall of Fame trainer Lucien Laurin, conditioner of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, died at the age of 88.
June 26, 2001: The NTRA and Breeders' Cup announced that the Breeders' Cup would now be known as the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. It was also announced that Bessemer Trust Company had signed on as title sponsor of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
FRIDAY, JUNE 14
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