Chicago Barn to Wire


News and notes from around the Thoroughbred racing world, compiled by NTRA Communications, (212) 907-9280.


When 204 of the most successful - and luckiest - horseplayers in North America gather in Las Vegas on January 12-13 to play in the $212,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship at the MGM Grand, the stakes will be high with a grand prize of $100,000 and the title of DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year on the line.

When 16 members of the media and four Daily Racing Form experts similarly gather to play in the first annual DRF/NTRA National Media Handicapping Championship, on the line will be the respective reputations, dignities and egos of the participants - not to mention $10,000 for charity to the winning team.

DRF/NTRA National Media Handicapping Championship, which will be held concurrently with - and under the same rules as - the main National Handicapping Championship, will pit four teams of four media members, each captained by a DRF handicapper. The winning team members will split the $10,000, with half donated to NTRA Charities in their name and the other half to each player's designated charity.

DRF Editor and Publisher Steven Crist will lead the Team National foursome of Mike Brunker (, Mike Kane, (, Ed Gray (Boston Herald) and Fred Faust (Rolling Good Times Online).

DRF National Handicapper Mike Watchmaker captains the morning line favorite Team Industry Pubs of Bill Heller (Thoroughbred Times), Dan Liebman (Blood-Horse), Andy Plattner (Backstretch Magazine) and Tom Quigley (Horseplayer Magazine).

"The Industry Pubs Team is odds-on," admitted Crist. "Anything less than crushing, runaway victory by these savvy industry professionals over the Scribblers, Beach Bums and Cal-Texes will be a stunning humiliation for Watchmaker & Co."

"Very clever of Steve, painting his team as the rank outsider," said Watchmaker. "He can pick and back all the 8-1 shots he wants. It doesn't matter if they don't win. My team will crush Steve's team into a fine powder."

Brad Free, DRF Southern California correspondent, will head the mixed breed Team Cal-Tex, which includes California based Jason Levine ( and "Thoroughbred Hotline" radio host Felix Taverna (KOGO 600 AM in San Diego) and Texans Fred Faour (Houston Chronicle) and sportstalk radio host Norm Hitzges (KTCK 1310 AM in Dallas).

Las Vegas-based Lauren Stich, DRF's pedigree handicapping columnist, is captain of a Team Vegas squad that features Dave Tuley (Daily Racing Form), Chuck Di Rocco (Gaming Today), Rich Eng (Las Vegas Review Journal) and "RaceDay Las Vegas" radio host and columnist Ralph Siraco (Las Vegas Sun).

"From a publication that bases its heart and soul strictly on past performances, the ONLY team that has two proven tournament winners in Grade I events is Team Las Vegas," said Stich. "Bring on the shippers."

Said Brad Free: "Based on overall team strength, one expects nothing short of clear victory by the Cal-Tex handicappers. From the West Coast savvy of Levine, Taverna and yours truly, to the Texas intellect of Faour and Hitzges, Cal-Tex is prepared to deliver a handicapping lesson not likely to be forgotten by its overmatched opponents. This contest may look like a four-horse race on paper, but it has all the makings of a virtual walkover."

Each individual entrant must place a mythical $2 Win and $2 Place wager on 15 races each day. Eight mandatory races will be selected by Daily Racing Form, and all players must wager on these races. The remaining seven races will be selected by each individual entrant from the eligible tournament races. The team with the most accumulated mythical winnings will be declared victorious.


Team National:
DRF Captain - Steve Crist
Boston Herald - Ed Gray - Mike Kane - Mike Brunker
Rolling Good Times Online - Fred Faust

Team Industry Pubs:
DRF Captain - Mike Watchmaker
Backstretch Magazine - Andy Plattner
Blood-Horse - Dan Liebman
Horseplayer Magazine - Tom Quigley
Thoroughbred Times - Bill Heller

Team Cal-Tex:
DRF Captain - Brad Free - Jason Levine
Houston Chronicle - Fred Faour
KOGO 600 AM (LA) - Felix Taverna
KTCK 1310 AM (Dallas) - Norm Hitzges

Team Vegas:
DRF Captain - Lauren Stich
Daily Racing Form - Dave Tuley
Gaming Today - Chuck Di Rocco
Las Vegas Review Journal - Rich Eng
RaceDay Las Vegas - Ralph Siraco

Live updates of all the tournament action will be available starting Friday at and Last year's DRF/NTRA Handicapper of the Year, Steven Walker of Lincoln, Neb., will be back to defend his title against the the 203 other contestants gunning for the $100,000 top prize.





Jockey Russell Baze has won the Isaac Murphy Award presented by the National Turf Writers Association for the sixth consecutive year, but by the slimmest margin yet.

The award, given to the jockey with the highest winning percentage (with a minimum of 500 mounts) during the year, was inaugurated in 1995 and has been presented to Baze each year since its inception.

In 2000, the Northern California-based rider won 412 races from 1,513 mounts (27.2%), according to Daily Racing Form statistics. Jerry Bailey, for the third straight year, ranked second, with 27.1%, winning 246 of 907 mounts.

Baze has ridden 400 or more winners eight of the past nine years. He would have likely reached that level again in 1999, except an injury caused him to miss part of the year. He became the sixth rider to reach 7,000 victories in 2000.

Baze won with 29.1% of his mounts in 1995, 28.3% in both 1996 and 1997, 27.6% in 1998, and 28.1% in 1999.

The Isaac Murphy Award is named in honor of the legendary 19th century black jockey who won with 44% of his career mounts.

Baze will receive his award later this year.

RACING ON THE AIR (all times Eastern)
January 13 Racehorse Digest, 4:30-5:00 a.m., ESPN
January 17 Racehorse Digest, 3:00-3:30 p.m., ESPN
January 20 Racehorse Digest, 5:30-6:00 a.m., ESPN
January 23 Racehorse Digest, 3:00-3:30 p.m., ESPN


Jan. 11, 1950: Five-year-old Citation returned to racing at Santa Anita Park, having been sidelined by injury since December 1948. Sent off at odds of 3-20, he won easily over a sloppy surface to log his sixteenth consecutive victory. His winning margins for those races totaled 59 1/2 lengths.

Jan. 13, 1978: Seattle Slew, in training for his four-year-old seasonal debut at Hialeah, first displayed symptoms of the deadly virus Colitis X. The colt was sidelined until May 14, when he won an allowance race at Aqueduct Racetrack as the 1-10 favorite.

Jan. 13, 1989: Jockey Brian Peck was injured when his horse, Top Booking, collided with a deer in the fourth race at Turfway Park. The deer jumped onto the track from the infield, where it had gone to drink from a man-made lake. Top Booking was unharmed, but Peck suffered a broken arm.

Jan. 14, 1932: Jockey Eddie Arcaro rode his first career winner, at Agua Caliente.

Jan. 14, 1953: Pimlico's Preakness Stakes, originally slated for May 16, was put back to May 23, allowing a three-week layover after the Kentucky Derby for the first time.

Jan. 14, 1989: Jockey Kent Desormeaux scored his 1,000th career win in the tenth race at Laurel Racecourse, aboard Eesee's Taw, in the Francis Scott Key Handicap.

Jan. 15, 1932: Australian champion Phar Lap arrived in San Francisco. He was shipped by steamship to the U.S., en route to Agua Caliente in Mexico, where he was to make his North American racing debut in the March 20 Agua Caliente Handicap, the continent's then-richest race.

Jan. 15, 1969: Barbara Jo Rubin was named to ride in a race at Tropical Park. Thirteen male riders subsequently boycotted the race rather than compete against a female, and were fined $100 each.

Jan. 19, 1955: Swaps won the San Vicente Stakes, the first race of his three-year-old campaign, by 3 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita Park. He went on to triumph over Nashua in the Kentucky Derby, but was in turn defeated by his rival in a $100,000 match race at Washington Park on Aug. 31, his only loss of that year.

Jan. 20, 1972: Secretariat was shipped from Virginia to Florida to be trained by Lucien Laurin.

Jan. 20, 1979: Odds-on favorite Affirmed, with Steve Cauthen aboard, finished second in the San Fernando Stakes at Santa Anita, beaten 2 3/4 lengths by Radar Ahead. It was their fourth consecutive defeat. Cauthen subsequently lost the mount on Affirmed to jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., who rode the horse for the remainder of its four-year-old season, winning seven victories in as many starts. Affirmed was later voted Horse of the Year for 1979. Cauthen had ridden Affirmed to a Triple Crown sweep the previous year and the pair recorded 11 wins in their 16 races together.

Jan. 23, 1994: Pat Day, 40, became the tenth rider in North American racing history to ride 6,000 winners, when he rode Miss Popsnorkle to victory in the first race at Oaklawn Park.

Jan. 24, 1974: Jockey Chris McCarron rode his first race, in which he finished last aboard Most Active, at Bowie Racecourse.

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

San Fernando Breeders' Cup Stakes, 4yo, $250,000, Grade II, 1 1/16 M, Santa Anita Park
San Miguel Stakes, 3yo, $100,000, Grade III, 6F, Santa Anita Park
Affectionately Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $100,000, Grade III, 1 1/16 M, Aqueduct
Skip Away Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, Grade III, 1 1/16 M, Gulfstream Park
Colonel Power Handicap, 4&up, $75,000, 6F, Fair Grounds

The First Lady Handicap, 3&up (f&m), $100,000, Grade III, 6F, Gulfstream Park
Sixty Sails Handicap, 4&up (f&m), $75,000, 1 1/16 M (T), Fair Grounds

San Gorgonio Handicap, 4&up (f&m), $150,000, Grade II, 1 1/8 M (T), Santa Anita Park
Mr. Prospector Handicap, 3&up, $100,000, Grade III, 6F, Gulfstream Park
Fred Capossela, 3yo, $75,000, 6F, Aqueduct




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