Monthly Archives: May 2008

Tell NYRA to Stop It!!!

NYRA Customer Service at Belmont (~ RAYMOND)

As I was watching the video of Dr. Ian McKinlay repair a quarter crack over at fellow TBA-er Fran’s fab Hoofcare Journal, I was struck by something he said about Belmont.

He talks about how it’s apparent to him that the track is really hard at Belmont right now and how he never used to see wall separations, but in this year alone they are 30% of the injuries he sees! Sprinkle in Paul Moran’s recent post about hard tracks and that the person at NYRA who is responsible for the maintenance of the track goes by the nickname of “fast track” and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

John “Fast Track” Passero first popped up on my radar last summer when Bloodhorse ran an article about how the New York Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association voiced it’s displeasure with the overly fast surfaces.

Trainer Tom Bush was quoted as saying:

“Horses are running way too fast; we’ve got track records being broken,” Bush said. “The track is hard because there isn’t enough preparation after repetitive sealing. Horses are suffering from more foot issues–shedding frogs and bruises–and it is because they are being concussed. After all, the message on John Passero’s cell phone is, ‘John Fast Track Passero.’”

What was “Fast Track’s” response?

“I was a bit surprised by all this,” Passero said. “I don’t know what is driving this train. If horses are having problems, it’s not because of the track. I will stand by the tracks. The NYRA tracks speak for themselves.

So, over tea this morning (which is actually having the desired “happy caffeine feeling” effect, unlike yesterday) I put this letter together to send NYRA. I sent it to, the only email address I have (as it’s listed on their site)… if anyone has a better address, please post it here!

I encourage you to copy this letter and send it, or write your own (it’s not like mine is stellar, I just wanted to send something)… but PLEASE, voice your displeasure over their ridiculous practice! Over sealing tracks to make them artificially fast is a complete scourge that must be stopped, let NYRA know that!

To Whom it May Concern:

The recent report of the reemergence of Big Brown’s hoof problems combined with the following quote from Dr. Ian McKinlay are disconcerting at best.

“The tracks at Belmont have definitely firmed up, I can tell that from they type of injuries I’m getting now. When I started in 85 at Belmont, very rarely would I see a wall separation, which starts in the sole. You get an abscess in the sole and it travels up the wall and eventually comes out at the hairline, it’ll take the whole quarter out… I never saw them. As of the the last 4-5 years I’ve been getting more and more of them. This year being 2008, I’m probably running at 30% of the injuries are these wall separations.”

(quote is from the video and starts at 5:58)

As a fan of the sport and NYRA track regular I’m asking that you please stop your practice of over sealing all NYRA tracks. The fact that the director of racing surfaces, John Passero, refers to himself as “fast track” sums up the attitude that must be examined and addressed in this new era of concern for safety of the horses and scrutiny by the media.

Last year when the horseman brought the issue of the over sealed track to the attention of NYRA, Passero was quoted in Bloodhorse as saying:

“If horses are having problems, it’s not because of the track. I will stand by the tracks. The NYRA tracks speak for themselves.”

Please, for the safety of the horses, reexamine and change your track maintenance practices, enough is enough!

Just When I Was Getting Excited

Big Brown in the barn prior to the Preakness (rick samuels photography)

at the real prospect of a Triple Crown winner. I was over at YouTube watching replays of Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and others when this pops up on my RSS.

Then, over at Railbird, this rumor resonated with something that seemed odd to me but I passed off as my apparently new seasonal allergy induced drowsiness (which is irritatingly impervious to caffeine).

In an(other) article about how a mount for Casino Drive hasn’t been decided upon yet:

Desormeaux’s mount for the Belmont is unbeaten Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Big Brown, who will have to outrun Casino Drive to become racing’s 12th Triple Crown winner.

Nobutaka Tada, managing director of Globe Equine Management Ltd. and spokesperson for Yamamoto and Fujisawa, expects a jockey decision to be made soon and said Take is one of the riders being considered.

“We will wait a few days to see how Big Brown is doing and how we are doing,” Tada said.

Desormeaux has ridden Big Brown in four straight starts, including a 5 1/4-length victory in the Preakness on May 17 at Pimlico Race Course. The Boundary colt previously scored a 4 3/4-length win under Desormeaux in the Kentucky Derby on May 3 at Churchill Downs.

Odd, right? I mean why mention that they’ll wait to see how Big Brown is doing? Perhaps I’m taking it out of context too much because the next paragraph goes on to quote Tada as saying that BB was impressive in the Derby and Preakness but that they brought Casino Drive here specifically for this race. But still.

Well, I guess I could have included a “He won’t make it to the Belmont” selection in my poll but even I wouldn’t have voted for that! I actually voted for “They’ll go after Curlin“, and I still really, really hope for that.

So, let’s hope Babe is right and that it really is no big deal… at least that’s what I hope (along with a full 3 yo campaign where he stays sound).

Curtain Call for Nobiz Like Shobiz

Nobiz Like Shobiz and his entourage after winning the 2007 Wood at Aqueduct (Sarah K. Andrew)

Nobiz Like Shobiz is inextricably tied to my intro to horse racing. The 2006 Champagne was being run at Belmont on my second trip to the track. Besides being a fan of champagne in general, I quickly became a fan of Nobiz, although at the time Swifty and I couldn’t tell a claiming race from a Derby Prep. No Biz, along with Hard Spun were my very first Derby horses.

You may remember that No Biz was a bit of a Derby hype horse. The Times had a great feature on him and his team prior to the Derby that not only included the picture used in this post (possibly one of my all time fav pics), a quote from his exercise rider, Derrick Sturniolo, that Swifty and I still use to this date:

He’s all business on the racetrack. But he’s a big old love bug in the barn.

but a pre-First Saturday in May video that gives the casual fan a look at how horses get to the Derby entitled The Education of a Race Horse.

What I loved about Elizabeth Valando as an owner is that she would run Nobiz as long as he was sound. I had high hopes for a long(ish) career for him, particularly since he so brilliantly lived up to his potential on the turf.

Fellow TBA-er Michael recently shared a conversation Rick Porter about his deal with Hard Spun where Porter had admitted regrets about rushing into the deal and would liked to have campaigned him as a 4yo. It’s unclear to me from Porter’s quote if he meant that Darley wanted to campaign Hard Spun as a 4yo and Porter wouldn’t agree to it or if Darley wanted to start running Hard Spun in their colors immediately (hopefully Michael can clear up my confusion).

I feel like I grew up quick, fast and in a hurry this year as horseplayer… I’m no longer shocked by the “bred to be a stallion” culture, but No Biz was one of those rare horses that we could have counted on seeing mature into an elder statesman, if you will. Which makes his injury all the more sad. I really didn’t want to see him in the BC last year as it wasn’t really his distance, although he ran a really game race. Who’s to say the injury wouldn’t have emerged eventually (what I don’t know about horses physically is a LOT).

And one more thing, I STILL didn’t see anything about his retirement at DRF! Was it buried in another article? That’s a bit ridiculous.

Alright, Queue Ethel Merman and dim the house lights while we take a look at the big old love bug’s notable moments:

Holy Bull:


Tagg after the Wood:

View at NTRA

Hall of Fame:

View at NTRA

Kent Stakes:

View at NTRA

Jamaica Handicap:

View at NTRA

BC work:

BC Turf Mile:

A few odds and ends:

Elizabeth Valando talks about Nobiz

NTRA video archive

Flickr photos tagged with Nobiz Like Shobiz

Sarah K. Andrew’s Nobiz photos.

Thanks to Nobiz, Barclay Tagg and team and Elizabeth Valando for the fond memories… I can’t wait to visit Nobiz, wherever he ends up!

My Job is Not to Talk About Big Brown

Kent D, who’s job it IS to talk about Big Brown (~ RAYMOND)

Thus spoke Tada Nobutaka in a video interview held recently at Belmont.

I love the way he talks about Casino Drive. He characterizes the challenger as “a happy horse”, “relaxed”, with a “nice mind”, who is “very cute”… he goes on “we love him”. Awwwww! And in fact, Casino Drive does look cute in the video, no news there!

In reference to his antics in the paddock prior to the Peter Pan, Nobutaka said that he didn’t want to kick anyone, he was just ready to run. And run he did!

There’s also a clip of Dutrow of talking about Big Brown, he says something to the effect of “we don’t have to do anything special to get him ready for this race, it’s just in him”. Now there’s something I believe coming out of his mouth!


Turf course at Santa Anita (Charles Pravata)

In a post from a few days ago, I mentioned that Dominican and Wicked Style were entered in a Turf allowance race at Churchill. I didn’t catch that A to the Croft was also entered in a Turf allowance on the same card!

A to the Croft finally got a win, closely tracking Princess Westley in what I believe was her turf debut. She dueled the pacesetter in the stretch and just as she pulled away Dragum started to come on. She showed a nice bit of acceleration mid-stretch to win over the game Dragum by 2 lengths. Congrats to her and her connections!

Dominican and Wicked Style weren’t quite as lucky although Dominican hit the board in third. He sat at the back of the back and came on nicely but didn’t quite have enough to catch Faith’s Magic ($32!) and A. P. Xcellent. Wicked Style sat near the back of the pack with Dominican and never really fired.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Dominican on turf again… and speaking of that, I wonder what No Biz is up to?

Don’t Forget!

Brad & John Hennegan working the crowd at the Preakness (wendyu)

We’ve all been a little distracted, what with the Triple Crown going on AND a Triple Crown on the line with what looks to be the most well positioned horse to get the job done in a quite awhile.

But remember how much you liked the film The First Saturday in May? Or, remember how much you wanted to see the film The First Saturday in May if it wasn’t playing near you? Great, then go buy yourself a copy or two of the DVD! Get a hat, some shirts or a poster!

You won’t be sorry, this blogger wasn’t:

My DVD copy of The First Saturday in May arrived yesterday and I couldn’t wait to watch it and after viewing it last night for the first time, I came away very impressed. The behind the scenes stuff was terrific and I’m glad I made the investment. The personalities on the backstretch (grooms, cousins, sons, daughters, etc.) ended up being the most entertaining piece of the movie. Good stuff, get your copy while you can….

And look at the Hennegan Brothers at the Preakness… out there, working the table. They need your support! Hell, they weren’t allowed to walk around and sell their wares. Only beer and girls selling Frank’s Energy Drink were allowed to walk around and actively hawk the crowd, as Wendyu reports.

I mean we all would have liked to have seen the Hennegan’s in bikinis, and lord knows they’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done… but if our own venues won’t even support our own attempts to support the our sport, it’s up to us to do it!

So, don’t forget… order your DVD(s) today!

Jock Night at GbG Manor

Carol Cedeño at Belmont (~ RAYMOND)

Jock night started off like any other night… I was over at flickr, looking photos from my contacts, commenting on some photos from the Preakness and looking at some amazing jockey portraits going on over at Raymond’s.

Then I was over at fellow TBA-er Superfecta’s, reading about how there’s still more work to be done before any grand proclamations should be made. The topic of Casino Drive came up, natch, and more specifically the topic of his jock.

At first it seemed like he would get Japanese superstar Yutaka Take, but then another report indicated that they’d actually prefer an American jock.

Nobutaka Tada, the representative for Yamamoto, said he was leaning toward an American-based rider.

“A mile and a half, you need to understand the pace,” Tada said. “American jockeys have an advantage here.”

This made me start to think about who’d I’d like to see on Casino Drive, or on any of them, for that matter. Kent D, who had the mount last out, is clearly spoken for and Denis of Cork is switching from Borel to Albarado.

Denis of Cork, owned by William Warren, worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Monday at Churchill Downs. In the Belmont, he will be ridden by Robby Albarado, replacing Calvin Borel, who rode Denis of Cork to a third-place finish in the Derby.

“I have no issue with Calvin – he has two wins on him and a third in the Kentucky Derby,” said David Carroll, who trains Denis of Cork. “Mr. Warren felt like Robby Albarado’s success at Belmont Park and winning nine Grade 1s there is the way he wanted to go. He wants to give [Denis of Cork] every opportunity and was very adamant that if Robby was available, then that was the way he wanted to go.”

Here’s a run down of the last rider for each of the other known contenders:

Macho Again – Leparoux

Tale of Ekati – Coa / Prado

Anak Nakal – Bejarano

Tomcito – Cornelio

Behindathebar – David Flores

Ready’s Echo – Johnny V

Spark Candle – Chavez

Also from the article:

Top riders yet to commit to a Belmont mount include Garrett Gomez, Edgar Prado, and John Velazquez.

So I guess Ready’s Echo is not spoken for and maybe Coa is on Tale of Ekati.

In no particular order my fav riders are Albarado, Prado, Bejarano, Cornelio, Castellano, Coa, Alan Garcia, Channing Hill and Carol Cedeño. It’s tough to pick one, I can’t get Castellano’s ride on Pays to Dream in the Dixie out of my head but I also loved Prado’s ride on Tale of Ekati in the Wood, which is closer to Casino Drive’s running style.

Damn, is it too early to make a new poll? Who would you like see on Casino Drive?

Update: for the current jock assignments, check DRF.

New Poll, Big Brown Post Belmont?

Unimaginative, I know… but I needed a new poll and I’m wondering what you think!

He’s insured for $50 million and Dutrow/IEAH are making the calls with regard to his retirement date… after the Belmont do they call it quits, go after Curlin, will he even hang in there?

It was a tough long battle for the biggest problem in racing with Drugs and All of the above tied at 17 each. Breeding rang in with 10 votes, Lack of Centralization with 6, Greed with 4 and Apathy and Track Surfaces with 2. As always, thanks!

How About The Rest of Them?

Racecar Rhapsody and the rest of the pack head down the stretch in the Preakness (wendyu)

Big Brown blah, blah, blah… here’s how the rest of them came out of the race.

The good news is everyone came away in good order, although there was no mention of Yankee Bravo and Tres Borrachos.

Update: Here’s what some of the jocks had to say about their trips.