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Kentucky Derby

Songbird's Wings Clipped

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Songbird's Wings Clipped

Instead of the Derby, Songbird will be pointed toward the Kentucky Oaks. It’s an important race, but it pales in comparison to the Kentucky Derby in every way imaginable, starting with the purse. The Oaks goes for $1 million, the Derby for $2 million.

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Bring on the Belmont!

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Bring on the Belmont!

Mubtaahij will be staying on in the USA to be aimed at the third leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes to be run over 2400m on 6 June at Belmont Park in New York, Mike de Kock confirmed on Monday afternoon.

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The Best 4x4 By Far

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The Best 4x4 By Far

The local racing fuss on the weekend was mainly about Legislate's return to racing in the Drill Hall Stakes (Gr.2), with the press overlooking the fact that Greyville was also the scene for the KZN versions of both the Colts' and the Fillies' Guineas, with Kenilworth staging the winter version of the same event.

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American Pharoah Conquers Kentucky Derby 141

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American Pharoah Conquers Kentucky Derby 141

Ahmed Zayat's Zayat Stables, a three-time runner-up in the GI Kentucky Derby, finally broke through in the "Run for the Roses" Saturday with homebred American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile), a son of Zayat's 2009 Derby runner-up. Firing Line (Line of David) completed the exacta over pacesetting Dortmund (Big Brown), who gave Hall of Famer Bob Baffert a one- three finish with his two superstars.

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Kentucky Derby 141 Cheat Sheet

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Kentucky Derby 141 Cheat Sheet

South African trainer Mike de Kock is set to make history Saturday at Churchill Downs when the talented Mubtaahij will become the first South African-based horse to compete in the Kentucky Derby. Here is the 2015 Kentucky Derby Cheat Sheet from TDN Senior Editor Steve Sherack and TDN Racing Editor Brian DiDonato.

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Mubtaahij thriving post USA arrival

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Mubtaahij thriving post USA arrival

Mubtaahij (Dubawi), the Irish-bred colt who recently annexed the G2 UAE Derby for South African trainer Mike de Kock, notched his first piece of American prep work ahead of the May 2 GI Kentucky Derby with a three-furlong move at Arlington Park Tuesday morning.

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A GOOD HORSE CAN COME FROM ANYWHERE

Sitting outside his barn one day many years ago during the Keeneland September sale, Bob Courtney said, “A good horse can come from anywhere.” Asked if he was speaking about the sales or the races and his answer was short and succinct. “Both.”

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CALIFORNIA CHROME WINS KENTUCKY DERBY 140

California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) kept his winning streak alive yesterday when collecting his fifth straight win, his first outside California, in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby crowning trainer Art Sherman at 77, the oldest handler to train a Kentucky Derby winner.

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FIRST BLOCKBUSTER CLASSIC WEEKEND OF 2014

The first blockbuster classic weekend of 2014 kicks off Friday with Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable (Tapit), who won her two races at Fair Grounds this winter (GIII Rachel Alexandra Stakes and GII Fair Grounds Oaks) by a combined 17 lengths, likely to go off at nearly even-money in the GI Longines Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Saturday morning U.S. time sees the G1 English 2000 Guineas at one mile at Newmarket.

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ORANGES AND LEMONS

Churchill Downs
Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs

(Photo : Athens)

“The only way you could actually see the race live over here

was on the Internet.”

Bill Oppenheim
Bill Oppenheim

Bill Oppenheim

Thoroughbred

Daily NewsLet’s begin with Orb, only the fourth Grade 1/Grade 2-winning colt in 10 crops by the amazing Malibu Moon. You bet he’s amazing, he started out at the Pons Brothers’ Country Life Farm in Maryland for a $3,000 fee, as a 3-year-old in the year 2000 (and what a great job they did with him, by the way), and look where he is now. As you might imagine, he’s now the number two sire in North America, with only G1 Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom’s sire, Leroidesanimaux, ahead of him. The gap was $1.9-million yesterday, but with 166 runners this year, compared to 49 for “Leroi”, this is only going to have one outcome. Right now Malibu Moon is a big favourite to become North America’s Leading Sire this year. He must have always shown them a lot as a racing prospect. He was bred by Spendthrift’s now-owner B. Wayne Hughes way before he acquired (and restored) Spendthrift, and made his debut for trainer Mel Stute over 4 1/2 furlongs at Hollywood Park in April as a 2-year-old, finishing second. He then won at five furlongs in :57 2/5 seconds in May.

But a slab fracture ended his career, and the Pons boys rolled the dice and bought half. Good call. Malibu Moon moved to Castleton Lyons in 2004, then over to Spendthrift in 2008. He’s been in the top six on the North American General Sire List the last three years (third in 2010), and all this with a 14-to-3 filly bias among his Grade 1 and Grade 2 winners (combined) through the end of 2012. It may be America’s greatest race, and the best horse did win, I’m pretty sure of that. He figured to get the trip, he handled the conditions, and won with a Beyer 104, which is at least respectable (Animal Kingdom 103, I’ll Have Another 101, before his Preakness 109), but there were some unsatisfactory aspects to the race.

First, it was run in the slop after persistent rain most of the day in Louisville, and several major contenders, including previously unbeaten Verrazano (14th) and Goldencents (17th), might just have hated the going. Second, Palace Malice more or less ran off with Mike Smith in first-time blinkers, setting a suicidal pace (45:1/5, 1:09:4/5). Everything chasing him backed up as well, setting up the race for closers. Of the first five finishers, only Normandy Invasion was closer than 15th after the first half-mile. Third, and this is really unsatisfactory, from my point of view, Churchill’s infamous hard-bargain negotiating stance meant they priced the feed so high the European racing channels couldn’t justify buying it, so the only way you could actually see the race live over here was on the Internet, and that was only because I borrowed a friend’s TwinSpires account. From reading Michael Bronzino’s letter in the TDN Monday, there were problems in Florida watching Churchill races live, too. Yeah, I get it that Churchill Downs are hard negotiators; and yeah, I get it they’re a public company and slaves only to the almighty dollar. But what I don’t get is why breeders aren’t up in arms. Churchill Downs is not their friend.

When racing was on the ropes in the early 1980s the breeders, led by John Gaines, created the Breeders’ Cup as a vehicle whereby breeders could contribute to the revival of racing, and it worked. Now it’s the breeders who are on the ropes, and don’t let anybody tell you different. North American breeders desperately need to recapture European markets, not just to sell their horses, but to generate investment to become competitive again for top stallion prospects worldwide, which presently they are not. Australia and Japan, please note, are standing the two Kentucky Derby winners before Orb, who will, presumably, stay in America, but only because the owners can afford to keep him.

Yet, prospective customers for America’s breeders cannot even watch America’s so-called greatest race in Europe, because the racetrack company really doesn’t care if it’s free to watch there, or not, just like they don’t care, as the new points system guarantees, that horses trained in Europe are virtually shut out, unless they win the UAE Derby in Dubai. How are prospective buyers going to get excited about American racing, not to mention owners who might actually have horses racing there, like jockey Ryan Moore was when he came back and told Channel 4’s Emma Spencer at Newmarket on Sunday that it was about the greatest buzz he’s ever had as a rider - when they can’t even see the race live? I know nostalgia won’t buy you a ham sandwich, and, honestly, the last thing I think of myself as is a whiner, but I’ll guarantee you one thing, there’s no way this would have happened when Warner Jones, Jrwas running the show. Churchill Downs used to work in tandem with Kentucky breeders. Now, they couldn’t care less.

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SUPER SAVED

Dinny Phipps, Claude McGaughey and Stuart Janney
Dinny Phipps, Claude McGaughey and Stuart Janney

Dinny Phipps, Claude McGaughey and Stuart Janney celebrate Kentucky Derby victory

(Photo : Baltimore Sun)

KENTUCKY DERBY 139

That Orb was the victor in Saturday’s 139th Kentucky Derby is already a universal truth, and besides reflecting on another outstanding product of the A.P. Indy male line, there’s not much more the scribes haven’t already told you.

What isn’t in broader circulation though, is the anecdotal stuff behind his breeding. Remarkably, for one whose former colour-bearers include Personal Ensign, Buckpasser and Easy Goer, American Jockey Club chairman Dinny Phipps, has never had a winner of America’s marquee horserace. Remembering that his grandmother, Gladys Carneigie Phipps in 1957 bred and raced Bold Ruler to victory under the twin spires of Churchill Downs, it’s been a long and frustrating haul since for the Phipps family, given that they are without peer among America’s most successful owner/breeders of the past fifty years, and that they’ve had any number of near misses. As recently as 2006, Phipps, who maintains a vigilant grip on the quality of his mares, parted with Super Charger (by A.P. Indy) while carrying the 2010 Derby hero, Super Saver, for $160,000 at the Keeneland November Sale. And with Orb, it was very nearly a case of “play it again, Sam”. More about that in a minute, but let’s recall how Orb came about.

First cousins Stuart Janney III and Odgen Mills “Dinny” Phipps teamed up to provide two of thoroughbred racing’s most distinguished families with a coveted first Derby trophy on Saturday. Janney, the Chairman of Bessemer Trust, Trustee of Johns Hopkins University, Vice Chairman of The Jockey Club and a member of the Board of Trustees of NYRA, was introduced to the sport by his parents, who raced the brilliant Ruffian. Orb’s fourth dam Laughter (Bold Ruler) is a half-sister to the ill-fated champion. “This horse’s bloodline goes back to our grandmother, and Dinnys father was instrumental in getting me to take over my parents’ horses 20-some years ago”, Janney commented. “And so I just couldn’t be more delighted that we’re doing this together. I remember when (trainer) Shug (McGaughey) was inducted into the Hall of Fame, that he said at the end of his speech, I really would like to win a Kentucky Derby for Stuart or Dinny, and I thought, well, that’s a good sign because we don’t want him laying down after he gets in the Hall of Fame”. Phipps, a retired American financier was the recipient of the 2003 Eclipse Award of Merit for his contributions to racing. “I think it’s terrific, absolutely wonderful, it’s really the culmination of my horse racing, and I am thrilled to be here today”, Phipps said.

Phipps continued, “I would like to say one thing. I started coming around here in 1957 with my grandmother when she had Bold Ruler, and there was a gentleman who was awfully nice to me, and every time I’ve been here since that time, he was always very nice to me; the last 20 years I’ve seen him at the Masters, and I didn’t see him this year. But Furman Bisher (a celebrated columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) is one of my favourite people, and Furman covered this race with distinction for many years until he died, and I just wanted to say that”.

Distance was never going to be an issue for Orb. Malibu Moon has already been represented by top runners Ask the Moon, Funny Moon and Life At Ten, all Grade 1 winners at 10 furlongs, and his first three dams are by Unbridled, Cox’s Ridge and Damascus. Orb’s second dam, Mesabi Maiden, captured the 1996 Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes. Orb’s dam Lady Liberty, failed to earn any black-type, but enjoyed a respectable career posting a record of 23-4-4-4 and earnings of $202,045. Orb was the first stakes winner produced by his 14-year-old mother. After slipping in 2011 and 2012, she produced a Flatter colt in 2013.

Phipps admitted that he almost lost another Derby winner. “I wanted to sell her”, he said.

“This mare had a difficult production history, and so Dinny was a little bit impatient about what was going on”, Janney revealed. “But I have to say that Seth Hancock (Claiborne farm, where the Phipps mares reside) was very helpful in taking my side of the argument because he said, ‘Look, she’s a good-looking mare, she’s by Unbridled. Unbridled is getting to be a good broodmare sire, and we need to give her some more chance”. Janney continued, “I certainly was interested in Malibu Moon, and I kept saying to Seth ‘What about Malibu Moon?’ and there was one year where he said ‘Not yet’. And then the next year, I raised Malibu Moon as something we ought to do, and he said ‘I think he has shown he’s a top sire, and we’ve seen that he is, in fact, a top sire’. And with Orb it was pretty clear that you had by far the best-looking offspring from this particular mare. That didn’t mean that we’d be sitting here today, but at least it was a step in the right direction”.

The moral of the story? Patience, patience, and more patience.

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ORB WINS KENTUCKY DERBY 139

Orb - Kentucky Derby
Orb - Kentucky Derby

Watch Orb winning the Kentucky Derby

(Image : AJC - Footage : Intangedous)

KENTUCKY DERBY (Grade 1)

Churchill Downs, Dirt, 2000m

4 May 2013

Hovering around as the second choice for most of the betting leading up to Saturday’s 139th Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, Stuart S. Janney III and Phipps Stable homebred Orb (Malibu Moon) garnered a flurry of late support to go off the public’s choice. That money proved the smart money as the 5-1 shot roared home in the slop to earn the roses by 2 1/2 lengths and provide Hall of Fame conditioner and Kentucky native Shug McGaughey with a first Derby. Unheralded 34-1 longshot Golden Soul (Perfect Soul) got up for a surprising second, while second choice Revolutionary (War Pass) got up for third under a patented rail-skimming ride from Calvin Borel to fill out the trifecta.

All besides Java’s War (War Pass) were away well, and Orb settled into rhythm well off the pace and in the two or three path. Meanwhile, Palace Malice (Curlin), a surprising pacesetter with first-time blinkers, zipped clear to set hot opening splits of :22.57 and :45.33 with a slew of horses in hot pursuit, including Palace Malice’s stablemate Verrazano (More Than Ready), Vyjack (Into Mischief), Goldencents (Into Mischief) and Oxbow (Awesome Again).

The leader started to come under a ride entering the home bend, and Normandy Invasion (Tapit) was the first to catch the eye with a sharp sweeping move. That runner hit the straight with the lead, but Orb was winding up after tipping into the six or seven path. He angled in slightly as Joel Rosario provided right-handed reminders, and drifted back out a bit as he blew by Normandy Invasion at the eighth pole. Nobody was getting to Orb at that point, and he bounded clear without having to empty the tank.

Golden Soul and Revolutionary also came from a similar place to Orb in the pack, with the latter leading the former up the inside turning for home. Robby Albarado on Golden Soul opted to come off the rail while Revolutionary stayed inside, but that additional ground covered by the runner-up didn’t cost him the placing.

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News

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KENTUCKY DERBY 139 : POST DRAW

Verrazano
Verrazano

Verrazano (More Than Ready)

(Photo : Kentucky Derby)

KENTUCKY DERBY (Grade 1)

Churchill Downs, Dirt, 2000m

4 May 2013

An oversubscribed field of 21 was yesterday drawn for Saturday’s 139th running of the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, with 7-2 morning-line choice Orb (Malibu Moon) drawing post 16 and 50-1 longshot Fear The Kitten (Kitten’s Joy) the lone entrant on the also-eligible list. Unbeaten Verrazano (More Than Ready) is the 4-1 second choice on the morning line and drew post 14.

Connections of the two favorites had to sweat out the pill draw as both were left late in the process and with the unpopular inside posts remaining. Orb’s number was the 14th pulled and Verrazano pulled 16th, but both camps were visibly relieved by their post positions.

“There was a lot of anticipation, maybe more anticipation than I remember, but I’m pleased with the 16 and we’ll take it from there,” reported Shug McGaughey, who trains Grade 1 Florida Derby winner Orb. “I think from where he is, we’ll try to hold our position and maybe try to creep in a little bit around the first turn and then Joel Rosario can watch what’s going on inside of him. He can watch what Johnny Velazquez is doing on Verrazano. If Johnny thinks Orb is the horse to beat, he’s going to be watching what we’re doing too.”

A native Kentuckian, McGaughey is looking for his first Derby win with his first starter in the race since Saarland in 2002. Orb has been impressing onlookers at Churchill this week and McGaughey thinks he has earned the favourite’s role. “I heard a little rumor that linemaker Mike Battaglia was a little confused about who the favourite was,” McGaughey said. “I think it’s because the way Orb has done here that he went on and made him the favorite. As we all know, Verrazano is a very, very talented horse. We’ll see what the public does on Saturday, but I think he’ll probably still be the favourite.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher was also pleased with Verrazano’s draw. “We hadn’t gotten a spot for Verrazano and with some tough posts - the one and the two - still out there, I was concerned,” Pletcher admitted. “But then he drew the 14 and it was a sigh of relief.” Of being second choice on the morning line, Pletcher added, “Orb deserves to be the favorite. And it might even be an advantage. There’s usually more pressure on the favorite.”

Kentucky Derby 139

Draw

Draw

Horse

Sire

Trainer

Jockey

Odds

1

BLACK ONYX

Rock Hard Ten

Kelly Breen

Joe Bravo

50-1

2

OXBOW

Awesome Again

D Wayne Lukas

Gary Stevens

30-1

3

REVOLUTIONARY

War Pass

Todd Pletcher

Calvin Borel

10-1

4

GOLDEN SOUL

Perfect Soul

Dallas Stewart

Robby Albarado

50-1

5

NORMANDY INVASION

Tapit

Chad Brown

Javier Castellano

12-1

6

MYLUTE

Midnight Lute

Thomas Amoss

Rosie Napravnik

15-1

7

GIANT FINISH

Frost Giant

Anthony Dutrow

Jose Espinoza

50-1

8

GOLDENCENTS

Into Mischief

Doug O’Neill

Kevin Krigger

5-1

9

OVERANALYZE

Dixie Union

Todd Pletcher

Rafael Bejarano

15-1

10

PALICE MALICE

Curlin

Todd Pletcher

Mike Smith

20-1

11

LINES OF BATTLE

War Front

Aidan O’Brien

Ryan Moore

30-1

12

ITSMYLUCKYDAY

Lawyer Ron

Eddie Plesa

Elvis Trujillo

15-1

13

FALLING SKY

Lion Heart

John Terranova

Luis Saez

50-1

14

VERRAZANO

More Than Ready

Todd Pletcher

John Velazquez

4-1

15

CHARMING KITTEN

Kitten’s Joy

Todd Pletcher

Edgar Prado

20-1

16

ORB

Malibu Moon

Claude McGaughey

Joel Rosario

7-2

17

WILL TAKE CHARGE

Unbridled’s Song

D Wayne Lukas

Jon Court

20-1

18

FRAC DADDY

Scat Daddy

Kenneth McPeek

Victor Lebron

50-1

19

JAVA’S WAR

War Pass

Kenneth McPeek

Julien Leparoux

15-1

20

VYJACK

Into Mischief

Rudy Rodriguez

Garrett Gomez

15-1

21

FEAR THE KITTEN

Kitten’s Joy

Michael Maker

Alan Garcia

50-1

Extracts from Thoroughbred Daily News

www.kentuckyderby.com

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I'LL HAVE ANOTHER WINS KENTUCKY DERBY THRILLER

I'll Have Another wins Kentuck Derby
I'll Have Another wins Kentuck Derby

Click above to watch I’ll Have Another winning the 138th Kentucky Derby…

(Image : KVAL - Footage : Kentucky Derby)

KENTUCKY DERBY (G1)

Churchill Downs, Dirt, 2000m

5 May 2012

I’ll Have Another (USA) (Flower Alley) sat the trip in the 138th GI Kentucky Derby Saturday beneath jockey Mario Gutierrez, and came streaking down the Churchill Downs stretch to reel in the game-as-can-be pacesetter Bodemeister (USA) (Empire Maker). Dullahan (USA) (Even The Score) charged home for third.

Gutierrez settled his charge brilliantly in seventh after breaking from post 19 as Bodemeister whistled through fractions of :22.32 and :45.39 with Trinniberg (USA) (Teuflesberg) right on his heels. I’ll Have Another began to launch his bid on the turn for home, and came rolling off the bend four wide as Bodemeister kicked clear by three. Gutierrez kept plugging away right-handed and I’ll Have Another continued to respond, reeling in the pacesetter late to pull off the upset. “He broke sharp, as he usually does,” Gutierrez said. “He’s such a professional horse. I knew he was going to help me 100% through the first part. In the end, he just give 100% all the time. As soon as you ask him, he throws everything on the race, and he didn’t disappoint today.”

Owner J. Paul Reddam, whose white-and-purple colors have been carried to Breeders’ Cup victories by Red Rocks (IRE) (Galileo) and Wilko (USA) (Awesome Again), was surprisingly composed in the winner’s circle. “I don’t know how at this point anything could be bigger than the Kentucky Derby,” Reddam responded when asked to place the win in perspective with his other accomplishments as an owner. “If you hear of something, let me know.”

The one-time philosophy professor was asked by NBC’s Bob Costas to sum up his emotions and Reddam, without missing a beat, opted to paraphrase Ludwig Wittgenstein. “After all the philosophical problems have been solved, nothing will have been accomplished, so we decided to get into horse racing,” Reddam, president of the financial lending company CashCall, said on national television. “I’m kind of numb. This one is for the whole team: Doug, Dennis, and Mario, and to all those people behind the scenes.” What keeps Reddam going to stay involved in the Sport of Kings? “Well, horse racing is the most dangerous kind of addiction because it has intermittent reinforcements, right,” he replied. “Every once in a while something good happens, and that keeps you gambling or buying horses, what have you. I never really dreamed that I would be in a position to own racehorses, but I got very lucky in my life and it happened. I guess I’m still pretty lucky.” It’s on to Baltimore for the Derby winner. “We gave the horse only two preps this year,” Reddam offered. “Part of the idea was we knew we had a good horse, and we wanted to make sure he was fresh because the Triple Crown is a gamble and it looks like it paid off. We’ve only run three times this year, so Preakness, here we come.”

Extracts from Thoroughbred Daily News

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MY OLD KENTUCKY HOME

Claiborne Farm
Claiborne Farm

Photos from Claiborne Farm…

(Image and Footage : Mrs LW)

“If you keep quiet and listen,

it’s evident you can learn a lot at Claiborne.”

Mick Goss
Mick Goss

Mick Goss

Summerhill Stud CEOA year ago to the day, and fresh out of a Warren Buffett presentation of epic proportions, we were winding our way to Churchill Downs for the curtain-raiser to America’s greatest horse race, the Kentucky Derby. The first Saturday in May marks the “Run for the Roses”, and in 2011, we were there to witness a famous victory for Summerhill clients, Team Valor, and their new-found hero, Animal Kingdom. Our friends at Team Valor bid for a double tomorrow with Went The Day Well, though they could’ve been represented in a three way assault if things had gone their way, double-handed as they are in the talent at their disposal.

For several days we traversed the pikes and turnpikes of Lexington, from one great farm to another, renewing our acquaintances with old friends like A.P. Indy, Pulpit, Distorted Humor and Dynaformer and a few new pretenders, Tapit, Malibu Moon and Giant’s Causeway. We kicked off deep in Bourbon County, just outside of Paris, Kentucky, like Mooi River, a slow town alongside a little railway station which looks as if it was a remnant of the Civil War. Everywhere are the fields of dreams, dotted with oak trees and enclosed by identical four-rail fences, all stained black. Wisps of fog hover low over the blue grass which has been washed bright green by a summer shower. Every so often, the columns of a white mansion peek discreetly through a cluster of trees. The mood is such that if Scarlett O’Hara was suddenly to glide by in hooped skirts, carrying a parasol and cooing, you would probably think, yes, she fits well enough. We are, after all, in a rare place, some of the richest farming dirt in the world. Old families, old money, nicely understated. A warm hand of friendship greets you, much like your arrival at Summerhill, but this time with a greeting “good to see y’all”, which can be confusing if, as often happens, there is only one of you. Like us, the racehorse is the reason for it all.

The Hancock’s Claiborne Farm is just outside Paris. No farm anywhere has more influenced the evolution of the American thoroughbred this last century. Claiborne is all about the brotherhood and, God knows, it is understated: no bragging, no hussle, no brochures in technicolor. Claiborne has been going so long it is a shrine as much as a business, and like us, it’s only as good as its current batch of stallions. You learn soon enough why Claiborne is what it is. All you need do, is watch and listen.

I recall my visit to Claiborne in the dead of winter, 1988. We were there to buy Coastal, the first American classic winner to set foot on African shores. Clay Arnold, one of the stallion men, was stooped by his 70 years, yet there was a boyish serenity in his face. You figure this was because he liked horses and the place, and never wanted to do anything else, and Clay said “you figured right”. He clipped the lead shank on the old bay stallion who was bathed in a pale yellow glow by the sunlight streaming into his box. Most things at Claiborne are in pale yellow, including the paint on the stables. The stallion stepped out calmly, tall with a great length of rein, and a head that was surely what the man meant when he coined the line about “the look of eagles”. But the bay was light of flesh on top and behind, the near-hind was swollen up to the hock, the off-fetlock was so thickened as to be deformed, turned way out and filled so tightly that pink skin flared through the white hairs just above the hoof.

The old horse was grinding away on courage at the end of his career: he was not about to play the invalid now. The light still burnt brightly in his eye. He let us rub his forehead, but he did not acknowledge us. Like any good stallion, he does not look at you, but over and beyond, out over the fields of dreams. He was Nijinsky, the last winner of the English Triple Crown in 1970. Here was another Claiborne legend, the genuine article, the sire of 125 Stakes winners and a sales yearling who brought $13 million (about R104 million). Clay Arnold had handled a few legends. He merely touched the old horse on the neck and drawled: “yessir, he’s a nice horse… a nice horse… I like him a lot, yessir”.

Claiborne is also about ghosts. To feel them you need but step into the stallion cemetary, and read the names on the grey headstones. Nasrullah, died 1959, one of the immortal sires…Secretariat, the great red horse with flaring nostrils who won the Belmont by 31 lengths…Bold RulerRound TablePrincequilloBlenheimGalant FoxBuckpasserCourt Martial. Go to a yearling sale anywhere in the world, Dublin, Buenos Aires, Sydney or Johannesburg, and these names appear on practically every page of the catalogue. Claiborne was running out of burying room, but there was a place for Nijinsky. Standing there though, he seemed happy to stay out of the place. He stood quietly for us, and never thought to fidget.

Clay brought up stallion after stallion; not one played up. At last there was Mr. Prospector, whose blood runs so thick and so deep here at Summerhill these days, and who stood for around $300,000 in those days. And little Danzig, commanding much the same fee and built in the classic Northern Dancer mould: neat, strong through the body and with a lovely head and jowl. As I’ve said, all you had to do to learn was to watch. These stallions were so well behaved, so content, because generations of stallion-handling were built into Claiborne. The place has always believed in the primacy of stallions, in the farming truism that a good bull is half your herd, and a bad bull is all your herd.

Claiborne has been chasing stallions since Captain Richard Hancock came back from the Civil War, determined to breed the best. He chased stallions in Europe, South America and Australia, looking for hybrid vigour, for that magical beast who outbreeds his own pedigree and performances, and South Africa has not been exempt from their shopping list. Hawaii, officially a son of Utrillo, but rumoured in fact to have been sired by Joy II, was one South African who had the distinction of getting a winner of England’s most famous race, the Epsom Derby, as well as a second and a third in the same race. Horse Chestnut, as good a racehorse as this country’s known, was another to grace those historic pastures. No family has done more to turn the American thoroughbred into an international commodity than the Hancocks.

And so the story goes on, one great stallion after another, and sooner or later we will provide you with a little more of the history of this great farm.

The most intriguing building on Claiborne is not the white stallion barn with its yellow trim and the brass name plates that tell you that Bold Ruler and Secretariat lived here. It is the breeding shed. In recent times, some very elaborate breeding sheds have gone up in various parts of the world, complete with hot and cold running vets, lasers, rubber floors, videos, and all the software of the hi-tech age. They have the décor of hospitals. The breeding shed at Claiborne is clad with warped slats on which the black paint has blistered and peeled. The shingles on the roof are stained green with mildew. Inside the floor is uneven and covered with bark. The only concession to modern times is the yellow padding around the walls. Yet heaven knows how many great horses have been fashioned in greatness here.

There’ve been only 11 Triple Crown winners in the history of American racing, which brings us back to tomorrow’s race, the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of this illustrious treble. No less than five of these heroes were conceived in this rough old Claiborne shed. A Kentucky horseman, one of the brotherhood, explained it this way: “Yessir, it’s not the fancy things inside the shed that count: it’s the quality of the horses that grow up outside of it once their mothers have passed through the middle”. If you keep quiet and listen, it’s evident you can learn a lot at Claiborne.

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KENTUCKY DERBY 2012 IMPRESSIONS

Creative Cause
Creative Cause

Creative Cause

(Image : M.Compton - Footage : TVG)

KENTUCKY DERBY (G1)

Churchill Downs, Dirt, 2000m

5 May 2012

Lucas Marquardt - Who knows what was sacrificed to the gods to secure this week’s weather in Louisville, but who cares? Totally worth it. Once again, racetrackers got an ideal morning at Churchill yesterday, with pleasant temperatures and a mild breeze. As of 6pm Thursday, weather.com was calling for scattered thunderstorms both today and tomorrow and a 50% chance of rain. Fingers crossed. After two days of walking the shedrow at Churchill, which generated a couple of rumours that trainer Mike Harrington quickly squashed, Creative Cause returned to the track for the first time since his :47 4/5 work at Churchill Monday. He’s another horse I got a chance to see up close as a juvenile-at Becky Thomas’sSequel operation in Florida, (where all our Summerhill Ready To Run scholarship recipients go) and as opposed to El Padrino, Creative Cause was much more of a finished product at two. That’s born out by his race record: he broke his maiden in mid-July of 2011 and won the GII Best Pal Stakes three weeks later. It’s impressive that he’s trained on the way he has.

There aren’t too many horses that can win on debut going five furlongs in :56 4/5 and be in the Derby mix months later. Looks wise, if you’ve liked him all spring, there’s no reason to jump off now. Harrington yesterday called all the talk about the shoe Creative Cause tossed earlier in the week much ado about nothing. “People asked why the horse didn’t go out at 8:30 a.m. (Sunday morning) and I told them we had to put a shoe on him, and people have been asking about it since,” he said. “I wish I’d just told them the exercise boy got drunk and didn’t show up on time.” The horse himself is as solid as his race record. He might not have the ‘wow’ factor of a Union Rags, but he looks strong and alert. The odd-couple pairing of the soft-spoken trainer Mike Maker and his impulsive owner Kendall Hansen has made for interesting watching on the Derby trail this year. Maker might not be a quote machine, but he can be a pretty funny guy. Yesterday, a reporter asked him what was going through his mind at the draw, when, with just two pills remaining and post one looming a serious threat for Hansen, the horse was assigned a much better spot in the 14 hole. “I thought, man, I might have to give these doctors to my left mouth-to-mouth, and I’m not going to do it,” Maker said. “I’m not qualified.”

From a betting perspective, I’m not in love with Hansen. I think he’s got a lot of talent and of course would be no surprise, but he was relatively fiery on the track yesterday morning and, given his disposition before the Blue Grass Stakes, could really be wound up by post time. Couple that with the fact that he figures to be close to what could be a hot pace, and the mile and a quarter becomes a serious question. Still, he looks good and I wouldn’t blame anyone who is looking for a repeat of his GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile score. I spent a bit of my morning collecting quotes for the Derby experiences story that ran in our special Kentucky Derby section today. Not all the quotes/stories made it in there, and there were a few good ones. I asked Hidden Brook’sJack Brothers about his biggest Derby score. It came, not surprisingly, on the horse Brothers himself signed for at auction, Big Brown. (Hidden Brook bought the horse at KEEAPR for client Paul Pompa, Jr.) “I put down a sizeable win bet, the biggest I’d ever made before,” he said, later revealing that he collected $6,000 on the bet in the 2008 Derby. Two weeks after that, he nailed the David Donk-trained Pays To Dream at 19-1 in the GII Dixie Stakes on the Pimlico, and wheeled the winnings back on Big Brown in the Preakness. Nice two weeks. Here’s an interesting note: Brothers (acting on behalf of Hidden Brook) signed for Big Brown at auction, while his son, bloodstock agent Chris Brothers, signed for Union Rags as a yearling. If Union Rags is able to win tomorrow, it could represent, I guess, the first time a father and son have personally signed for Derby winners.

Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News

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