Category Archives: Racing

Australia’s Melbourne Cup: Seeing Thoroughbred Legends in Action and Retired

You have to love a country which stops everything for a horse event, and in this case Australia’s Melbourne Cup Day definitely qualifies as a candidate for My Perfect Nation. The Melbourne Cup, held in Australia’s spring (North America’s autumn) is popularly known as “The Race That Stops a Nation.” A public holiday in Victoria, the rest of Australia tends to take a 3 PM break to party, bet on the horses, and simply enjoy fast horses doing what they do best.

Yes, I was definitely born on the wrong continent.

Past Melbourne Cup winner Brew (now at Living Legends) and Doriemus on parade. Photo: Chris Phutully/Flickr

Past Melbourne Cup winner Brew (now at Living Legends) and Doriemus on parade. Photo: Chris Phutully/Flickr

One thing that’s certainly on my list if when I visit Australia is Living Legends: The International Home of Rest for Champion Racehorses. This retirement farm is literally right next to the Melbourne Airport, located on more than 1,500 acres of bush-land (that’s Australian-speak for semi-urban wilderness) is where some of Australia’s greatest champion racehorses have been retired to live in comfort.

Here you can meet Melbourne Cup winners like Efficient, Brew, Rogan Josh and Zipping. You’ll  also find a dozen other legends of the turf, such as the flashy chestnut sprint champion Apache Cat, or two-time Horse of the Year Silent Witness, who broke Cigar’s famous record of 16 consecutive wins in the 2005 Queen’s Jubilee Silver Cup.

Living Legends maintains a fun special events calendar, but you can join them just about any time of year for a tour to meet the horses, plus a walk through the bushlands (they have a mob of wild kangaroos!) and the opportunity to take tea at Woodlands Historic Park.

This year the race, which is just shy of two miles and for 3-year-olds and up, is on Tuesday, November 1st. With a purse of over $6 million Australian dollars, it’s one of the richest races in the world, edged out only by the Dubai World Cup and the Japan Cup. It’s certainly a popular betting race, and if you want to try your luck, you can get the latest on Melbourne cup betting at William Hill.

 

Of course, a race like this is celebrated with a over-the-top pageantry and excitement. The Melbourne Cup Carnival showcases the best horses in racing with multiple stake races, plus events celebrating everything from high fashion to family. There’s even a parade right through downtown Melbourne featuring jockeys, trainers, celebrity guests, and past winners of the Melbourne Cup. It’s truly a festival of the Thoroughbred horse!

The more I see and hear about Melbourne Cup, the more I want to add it to my dream Australia itinerary. If seeing the best racehorses in the world, both in action and after retirement, is on your bucket list, it’s hard to see how you could do much better.

 

 

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Talk Derby to Me. If You Must. I Have No Idea.

I have a co-worker who enthusiastically starts asking me all kinds of questions about the Kentucky Derby the moment he sees me. He’s been doing this for at least a month. He leans in with what he apparently thinks is a suave backstretch-insider smirk and starts talking about works and post position win statistics and how much he’s going to put into his exacta box. And every time I smile really politely and remind him that this year is not a Derby year for me.

I got a media request for an interview regarding this year’s Derby and my thoughts on the dwindling popularity of horse racing for the general public, and I had to politely decline.  (I should’ve just referred the reporter to this guy at work. They might not have gotten the perspective they expected.)

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Me at a racetrack: “Let’s stand by the hoses so we can see the horses get showered off! Best part of the race!”

I’ve been paying absolutely no attention to the Kentucky Derby. Oh, I went to the Tampa Bay Derby and saw one of Saturday’s starters win that day. But I was still so star-struck after seeing champion mare Tepin win, I actually forgot who won the feature race and had to be reminded later it was Destin! Sorry, Destin!

The reason is two-fold: one, I have been really focused on eventing this year, because that’s the subject matter of the novel I just finished, and two, I prefer summer and fall racing. I particularly love the big summer races at Belmont and Saratoga. Maybe it’s just that I really love summer, I don’t know. The Travers Stakes is my derby.

But I know a lot of equestrians get this level of May-Day enthusiasam at work and they never, ever, have anything to say about racing because they just aren’t interested in it. What pleasure rider hasn’t had a picture of her horse pinned to her cubicle wall that garners absolutely zero interest 51 weeks out of the year, but in the first week of May, suddenly finds it has marked her as ground zero for conversations starting with, “So, who do you like in the Derby?”

It’s kind of crazy that the number one event non-equestrian people associate with horses, is probably one of the least popular events for the general population of equestrians. I know I have plenty of readers who don’t like horse racing. Or who don’t mind the concept, but can’t abide with the execution. Or who are completely indifferent. Even if you come to this blog because you love your retired racehorse and you’re proud that your OTTB was once a warrior on the track, I’m aware that probably more than half of you just plain don’t like horse racing.

That’s okay. There are plenty of reasons to not like racing, or just to insist that the industry hold itself to a higher standard and fix itself, for goodness’ sake — just like there are opportunities for any other equestrian sport to do better by its horses and by its people.

I just wish that other sports could grab hold of the American imagination as whole-heartedly as horse-racing, and more to the point, that other single competitions could enter the line-up of great American sporting events, as well as the Kentucky Derby. My big equestrian moment of the year isn’t tomorrow, it was last weekend, and it wasn’t even on television, but live-streamed: Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. For other riders, it might be World Cup show-jumping, or dressage, or reining, or… or… so many disciplines, so little market share.

I love horse racing because I think at its heart, racing is the most pure form of equestrian sport: My horse is faster than your horse.

But at the same time, horse racing isn’t a fair representation of what the horse means to us in America. The Kentucky Derby isn’t the symbol of our collective horsemanship. It’s just one drop in the bucket of all of our love and hard work and passion and drive and sweat and tears. (But hopefully not blood, to quote Grace Wilkinson in her new eventing novel A Perfect Stride.) It’s a part of all of us, whether we like it or not, because we’re horseman and at our core we know only endless labor and endless love can produce good horses. But we all add up to more than fast horses: we add up to strength, endurance, scope, elegance, precision, sensibility as well as speed.

What’s the point of this ramble? I wish horses were more popular, and less insular, I suppose. I wish more kids got to be working students at a barn a bike-ride away from their neighborhood. I wish there was a barn in my town. I wish Pony Club was as normal in a suburban town as soccer or gymnastics. I wish horses were more of a way of life and not mistaken for a status symbol, since I daresay most of the horse-owners in the United States would laugh heartily if you accused them of being rich (or possibly even middle-class).

I wish someone would ask me about who I liked at Badminton this weekend.

(It’s Michael Jung, of course. We all like Michael Jung.)

 

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Racehorse Training: Everything Old is New Again

This week the racing world prepares for the Preakness Stakes. As all the racing journals focus on the stories behind the trainers who are prepping their three-year-olds for the second leg of the Triple Crown, so the sporthorse writers are featuring the human (horse) interest stories in that mysterious racehorse world.

In doing so, an interesting angle has arisen: the old training models of a man lauded as a True Horseman, Shug McGaughey, and the new training methods of a group of dedicated horsepeople who are providing “before-care” for their racehorses.

Circuitous gallops on training track for Mosaic Racing Stable

Mosaic Racing’s Circuitous mid-October 2011. Photo: Fiona Farrell

In The Chronicle of the Horse, there is an article on Mosaic Racing Stable, a small, New York-based operation whose horses aren’t just galloped around a track. They also learn skills that will come in handy in their second career: a laudably lucid forethought in a business where it’s nearly a given that a horse will need a second job by the time he’s just reaching maturity.

If Mosaic Racing Stable is a familiar name, that might be because contributor Fiona Farrell wrote about their unique training style here at Retired Racehorse Blog last March.

In addition to setting aside 15% of a horse’s earnings towards its retirement, the horses from Mosaic are given basic lessons they’ll use later in life — lesson that also make them happier, healthier horses in the meantime. Founding partner Monica Driver explains their practice of sending the horses to Aiken, S.C., for the winter, where they get some turn-out and hop over fences:

“Horses need downtime from any endeavor, I think. They need time off to graze, hang out and be horses, especially when they’re asked to live in a city and do something as physically and mentally demanding and stressful as training and racing,” she adds. “We don’t believe much in 2-year-old racing, and we don’t believe in year-round racing for our horses.”

Horses learn to bend, go over cavelletti, and walk on a loose rein. It’s not such a go-go-go life for them, and they reward Mosaic with performance: their first racehorse, Vicarious, won more than $100,000 at the racetrack.

What seems insanely forward-thinking in a sport like horse racing really might not be lifted straight out of history. The Mosaic method gets nods from trainers like Michael Matz and Rodney Jenkins. Well that makes sense, right? They’re both former show jumpers. But what about veteran Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens? Jimmy Jerkens, Allen’s son, says:

“Years ago at Belmont, my dad used to use a corral where they’d set up jumps [for steeplechase training],” he recalls. “It was a little course inside of a quarter-mile training track. I remember he had a couple of fillies that were kind of sour from doing the same old thing, and they got a kick out of it, and it seemed to turn them around. When you have a horse that’s very sour, you’ve got to try to do things to turn their heads around. Sometimes things like that are a godsend.”

And that brings us to the other story of the week, the connections of Orb, the handsome Kentucky Derby winner who will try to bring home the Woodlawn Vase, the silver trophy awarded to the winner of the Preakness Stakes each year.

There are many articles out there about Shug McGaughey, Odgen Mills Phipps, and Stuart S. Janney III, and I can’t add much to them, only quote them here. I do know what when Orb (not the horse I had money on) came in first in the Derby, I agreed with my husband when he said “Good for Shug!” This is a man you think of as a horseman in the best possible way, not just in the way that there is a horseman’s entrance at the track. A true horseman. 

Why, when there are a lot of fellas in the horse-racing game who have been training for a very long time? Well in McGaughey’s case, just for starters, you have the pristine record. One drug violation in 34 years, and that one, he says, was a veterinarian error that he felt very badly about. “I try to do what’s best for the horse,” McGaughey tells Sports Illustrated.

In this recent Sports Illustrated article, writer Tim Layden explains the good feeling about a “throwback” trainer and horse:

Orb, meanwhile, is a majestic bay colt, 16 hands tall and — McGaughey guesses — something between 1,000 and 1,100 pounds. He is muscular, yet not thick, and lean, yet not slender. “He’s an old-time looking horse,” says McGaughey. “He’s not like those speedier, blockier-type horses that are very popular today. He’s a homebred, with a homebred pedigree on the female side, and I think he’s a throwback to all that.”

Orb was bred by owners Ogden Mills (Dinny) Phipps and Stuart S. Janney III, longtime horsemen with deep roots in the history of the game. Like earlier generations, they breed horses with the primary goal of racing them, hence their emphasis is on steady development, rather than sudden growth for a stunning appearance in the sales ring or while working a fast eighth of a mile at a two-year-old sale.

Good horses, bred to run. Good trainers, training instead of medicating. Good people, teaching horses the skills they’ll need in the future, beyond the racetrack. It’s been an interesting run-up to the Preakness. I’m looking forward to seeing what all of these good folk bring to the table next.

Read more: http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/training-race-horses-tomorrow-today
Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/more/news/20130513/preakness-stakes-orb-shug-mcgaughey/#ixzz2TZTKbdE4

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Lazy Sunday Update: Kentucky Derby Weekend Edition

What’s new? So there was this horse race yesterday, a horse won it, he got some roses, no big deal…

I KNOW, I KNOW. Everyone wants to know about BADMINTON.

Oh, and the Kentucky Derby.

Well, as I type this, the cross-country for Badminton just ended. I have no idea what happened because I was writing something else. I don’t know what Thoroughbreds are there but I have to tell you, if you’re a good enough horse to get around Badminton, you’re a good enough horse. You’re a good enough Pegasus crossed with a dinosaur to get around Badminton. Those are big, fabulous, horrifying, wonderful fences out there. Witness this alarming box someone planted a hedge on and then made horses jump over for fun:

Two Thyme and Ruth Edge Badminton 2011

Suck it in! Two Thyme at Badminton 2011.
Flickr: Nick Kidd

You know you’d jump it. If you knew your horse would jump it.

But in other news, Kentucky Derby, where 19 racehorses run the line between future sire and future OTTB. Orb won the race, so he’ll be moving on to the stallion barn the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18th. Orb made a decisive closing run in an incredibly filthy track, giving Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey his first Kentucky Derby win. I was rooting for Shug when I was five years old and my hero, Easy Goer was making a bid for the Derby, so hey, Shug, we both won this year!

We celebrated here with mint juleps in our new fancy crystal set. Of course we used Maker’s Mark bourbon because they sponsor retired racehorses with the Maker’s Mark Secretariat CenterNow we have lots of left-over simple syrup that I am resisting, with great difficulty and heroism, the urge to pour into my French Roast and turn my calorie free caffeine party into a more delectable and decadent treat. What did you celebrate with? Or are you saving all your party for Cinco de Mayo?

In other, other news, I’ve started writing horse-centric pieces at Examiner.com. I thought this would be an interesting way to write about Thoroughbreds for a new audience. Examiner pieces show up in different Google results than Retired Racehorse’s does. Technology SEO blah blah blah. I’ll link to the pieces at Retired Racehorse Blog’s Facebook page and also here in a weekly update of what’s been going on around the Internets and OTTBs and all of that. Click on the box to the right of this to “like” the Facebook page and keep updated on lots of Thoroughbred news from other bloggers and websites. And if you go to Examiner and click “subscribe” next to my name, important people will think I’m popular and it will move my articles up in the queue, thus more exposure for OTTBs!

Current articles are:

Racehorse Retirement Focus on Kentucky Derby Weekend, which is about the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and their first accredited adoption and aftercare facilities.

Kentucky Derby Winners, Bios, and Fiction Dominate Horse Racing Reads, which follows the interesting little trend at Amazon in which most of the horse racing books sold are either fiction or bio pieces… nothing to do with gambling! I like it.

And that leads me into my book update, which is that for the rest of today, Sunday May 5, my short story collection Horse-Famous is free at Amazon, and my first novel, The Head and Not The Heart, is now 99 cents at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Find them via my Amazon author page and my Barnes & Noble author page!

That’s my news on a lazy Sunday. I hope your weekend has ponies in it!

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Senator: Horse Racing Should Fall Under Anti-Doping Agency

Good timing: I just received this press release from the office of Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico. He and representatives from Kentucky and Pennsylvania have drafted legislation that would put horse racing under the authority of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. You might remember them from that fellow Lance Armstrong everyone was talking about a few months ago?

From their FAQ: “USADA is the United States Anti-Doping Agency, the independent, non-governmental, national anti-doping agency for Olympic, Paralympic Pan American and Para panamerican sports in the United States.”

It’s not quite the same thing. But I like the idea nonetheless. I think the argument that they will make is that since parimutuel wagering crosses state and international borders, it’s international sport.

Or something. Anyway, here is the press release.

New Bill to End Doping of Racehorses on Horizon

Sen. Udall & Reps. Whitfield, Pitts preparing legislation to cleanup sport

WASHINGTON – Ahead of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Reps. Ed Whitfield (R-Ken.) and Joe Pitts (R-Penn.) revealed draft legislation they intend to introduce to end doping in horseracing and kick cheaters out of the sport.

The Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act would provide the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) with authority to cleanup the sport and enforce anti-doping standards in races with simulcast wagering.

USADA is a non-governmental organization that is designated as the official anti-doping agency for the U.S. Olympics and works with sports leagues to strengthen clean competition policies.

“The chronic abuse of race horses with painkillers and other drugs is dangerous and just plain wrong,” said Udall. “Racing groups have promised drug reform for decades, but this bill would bring in real standards and enforcement from an organization with a proven record for cleaning up sports.“

“This weekend, the very best of horseracing will be on display at the Kentucky Derby. Yet, for too long, the safety of jockeys and equine athletes has been neglected for the pursuit of racing profits,” stated Whitfield. “The doping of injured horses and forcing them to compete is deplorable and must be stopped. Despite repeated promises from the racing industry to end this practice, meaningful action and oversight has yet to come forth. This legislation would bring much-needed reforms to an industry that supports thousands of jobs and is enjoyed by spectators nationwide.”

“Last year, I chaired a hearing that took a deep look into the problems of both legal and illegal drugs in horseracing,” said Pitts. “We heard testimony about how abuse of drugs is killing horses and imperiling riders. Before more people and animals are hurt, we need to put a responsible national authority in charge of cleaning up racing. This is a sensible, bipartisan measure to restore trust in racing and protect lives.”

Horseracing showcases the beauty of an iconic American animal. The industry also has a $10 billion annual economic impact and sustains about 380,000 jobs nationwide. Last year, over $10.8 billion was wagered on American horseracing, including $133 million for the Kentucky Derby. However, as the New York Times reported in 2012, doping undermines the safety and viability of the sport, and twenty-four horses die each week from racing injuries.

Under the new legislation, USADA would develop rules for permitted and prohibited substances and create anti-doping education, research, testing and adjudication programs for horseracing. It would also:

  • Put an end to race day medication;
  • Set a harmonized medication policy framework for all races with interstate simulcast wagering;
  • Require stiff penalties for cheating, including “one and done” and “three strikes, you’re out” lifetime bans for the worst cases; and
  • Ensure racehorse drug administrations comply with veterinary ethics.

Last year, Udall, Whitfield and Pitts participated in Congressional hearings that explored medication and performance enhancing drug problems in horseracing.

In previous years the lawmakers introduced similar legislation tasking the Federal Trade Commission to improve the sport. Their new approach, however, would enable USADA to act as the anti-doping body without amending the Interstate Horseracing Act or involving any federal agency or regulation. The legislation would not require any federal taxpayer funds.

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Close Competition for the 2013 Hurdle — Cheltenham

Sponsored Post*

Technically, the Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious event in the hurdling calendar.  Although it is somewhat upstaged by the Gold Cup, it remains one of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival.

Cheltenham Racecourse

Cheltenham Racecourse. Racing began in Cheltenham in 1815.

There have been several horses who have made names for themselves thanks to the Champion Hurdle, including National Spirit, Persian War and most recently Istabraq, the last horse to win the race three times.  This year, there is plenty of competition and certainly for Irish fans Cheltenham Festival betting Champion Hurdle odds will be scrutinised by fans of Hurricane’s Fly. If he should win, then Willie Mullins’ horse will be considered the best hurdler since Istabraq. His jumping is incredibly impressive and victory at the Irish Champion Hurdle indicates that Hurricane Fly has the appetite to write his name in history.

Rock on Ruby

Rock on Ruby, 2012 Hurdle Champion. Gorgeous face, too. -flickr: Carine06

However, last year’s winner Rock on Ruby will be back to defend his crown and will be hoping for a repeat performance, having romped home last year with Noel Fehily in the saddle.  There will also be plenty of competition from some younger horses out there too. Zarkandar, many say, has looked particularly slick recently and will certainly look to be a contender.  There are plenty of other names to throw into the mix too. Nicky Henderson will have high hopes for two of his horses, Grandouet and Darlan, with the latter having captured the Christmas Hurdle just a few weeks ago.  Meanwhile, the 2010 Champion Hurdle winner Binocular will also be somewhere in the shake up.  Cinders and Ashes, trained by Don McCain, may prove his versatility, and  what better place to show it than the Festival’s Champion Hurdle.

Hurdle horse racing

Hurdle racing. Flickr: Paolo Camera

*From time to time, Retired Racehorse runs sponsored posts to help pay the bills. In this case, your editor is a big fan of hurdling and National Hunt racing, and riding across a steeplechase course may or may not be on her bucket list! 

Natalie Keller Reinert, editor.

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The Suffolk Showcase 2012 — Your new racehorse is waiting.

This is a reblog from last year, but the main message remains the same. The Suffolk Showcase is upon us, and it is time to get your new retired racehorse — racetrack direct! 

I’m so excited to have a Guest Blogger today: Jennifer Montfort from CANTER New England. She’s going to tell us why the Suffolk Showcase is the coolest thing since, well, Thoroughbreds.

So, by now you’ve read Natalie’s I NEED TO HAVE THEM posts highlighting some of the horses we have for sale through our trainer listings. And you’re of course wondering how you can get your hands on one, or what “Suffolk Showcase” is all about, right?

Don't tell me you don't want to meet Martins Flyin in person.

We at CANTER NE have been working especially hard the past few weeks as we approach the end of the Suffolk Downs meet on November 5. It’s an extremely busy time for us; as trainers make their plans for the winter they need to find new homes for horses that aren’t making it at the track anymore. Each weekend brings more horses for sale, but it also brings news of horses who have found new homes.

As Natalie has shown, there’s a ton of really great prospects available for sale, and the highlight of the end of the season for us is our Suffolk Showcase. This event aims to break down any barriers people may have that are preventing them from coming to the track to purchase a horse. And it also aims to give the trainers at the track one big chance to present their horses for sale.

 If you’re in New England, and at all interested in OTTBs, you should attend. Really. Here’s why:

 Over 80 horses, all in one place. It’s like the Keeneland sales. Well, sort of. We DO provide you with a catalog with information on each horse including basic information, a brief description, and trainer contact info. We also bring each horse out individually to a showing area where they will be presented and jogged. We DON’T have hip numbers, an auctioneer, or bidding wars. So you don’t have to worry about itching your nose and ending up spending $100K on a horse, we promise.

CANTER volunteers are there to help you. See a horse you like? Not sure what the next steps are? Ask a volunteer! We’ll be there and available to answer any questions you have to help demystify the process. We’re also happy to go see a horse or two (or 20!) with you. We’re like personal shoppers for Thoroughbreds. Who doesn’t love a personal shopper?

Meet the horses you’ve been admiring online. All those pictures of horses you’ve drooled over on our trainer listings page? Those pictures don’t do them justice. Really. We certainly try our best to get great photos, but they will never compare to seeing that horse right in front of you. You’ll see them move, you’ll see their personality, you’ll see how they handle a group full of people staring at them. And you’ll get to hear great stories from the people who work with them every day.

There is a horse for everyone.  No, really. There is a horse for everyone. Pasture pals, trail horses, family pleasure mounts, polo ponies, hunters, dressage mounts, and eventers. Bay, chestnut, grey, black. Flashy and plain, big and small. It’s like the jumbo mega Crayola box of horses.

Just showing up supports Thoroughbred retirement. Even if you don’t purchase a horse (why wouldn’t you!?) it’s a great day to enjoy with a bunch of people who all believe that these horses deserve great lives once it is time for them to hang up their racing shoes. And it helps us show trainers that there IS a market for their horses, which in turn helps more horses find homes. You’re paying it forward. Awesome.

All good reasons, right? So bring your trailer and come on out and see what Showcase is all about, this Sunday, October 14, from 8:30 am – noon on the Suffolk Downs backstretch.

If you have questions you can contact us at 617-207-1238 or at canterne.events@gmail.com. And join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter (@canterne) for all the newest updates. And if you can’t come, please share our posts, blogs, etc. with all your horsey friends. There are open stalls everywhere!

There you have it. And as Jennifer says, please share and share and share! I’m going to sweeten the pot…

Link Sharing Contest!

Reblog, retweet, or share this post on Facebook. Make sure you mention why you think Thoroughbreds are the greatest horse on the planet. In the comments, either here or at the Facebook page for Retired Racehorse Blog, post links to your shares. For every ten links posted, I’ll give away an ebook of my horse racing novel, The Head and Not The Heart. For every twenty links, I’ll give away a paperback copy!

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