Susan Salk reports on the October 14 CANTER New England Suffolk Showcase, in which 80 Suffolk Downs racehorses were featured. Thirteen went to new homes that day, another eight left shortly after, and more are purchased each day as the meet gets closer to its end. Because of Hurricane Sandy, racing at Suffolk on Monday, October 29 has been cancelled and rescheduled for Saturday, November 3. (Hey, that’s means there’s live racing at Suffolk on Breeders’ Cup Saturday!) Saturday is the last day of racing for 2012; horses must be off the grounds by November 14. Check the CANTER New England listings to see the horses available, and check frequently — at this time of year, listings change almost daily.
The 2012 Suffolk Downs meet ends on October 31, and CANTER New England will be helping move horses from the racetrack to second careers over the next three weeks. Those new jobs can be diverse:
“One of our buyers,” noted Montfort, “trained the horse for mounted skeet shooting. Hey, whatever works. The owner’s happy, and so is the horse. That’s all we’re looking for.”
Find your OTTB: Browse the CANTER listings.
Our Revival had a modest career as a racehorse — she won her maiden at Keeneland, and then won 10 more times in 34 starts, at tracks such as Tampa Bay and Suffolk Downs — but trainer John Botty remembered her well:
“She was like a street fighter. She mostly won off the pace. She didn’t mind dirt in her face, she relished it,” says Botty, who claimed her as a 3-year-old in 2003. “She was like Dustin Pedroia, never afraid to get dirty. Like Milan Lucic, not afraid to dig in the corners.”
Thank goodness, because when the mare turned up at auction in Texas, it was Botty — and a network of dedicated horse people — who ensured she ended up at Old Friends in Kentucky and not at a Mexican slaughterhouse.
Botty is also one of the many trainers at Suffolk Downs who work with CANTER New England to move horses from the track to a second career when their racing days are over. The organization’s annual end-of-the-meet showcase is scheduled for Sunday, October 14, beginning at 8:30 AM, and if you’re looking for a new jumper, eventer, or companion (or you know someone who is), be sure to put the Suffolk showcase on your calendar — it’s a chance to check out several horses up close and talk to their connections. Browse the listings of currently available horses; more will be added in coming weeks!
If you’re wondering what an off-track Thoroughbred is capable of, here’s just one success story of many: Unbridled’s Jewel, renamed The Tempest and pictured below with her owner and Susan Salk of Off-Track Thoroughbreds, was the star of a Steuart Pittman eventing clinic earlier this year, mere months after leaving the Suffolk Downs backstretch.
Are you coming to Suffolk Showcase on Sunday?
Looking for a new horse? The sixth annual Suffolk Showcase is this Sunday, October 23, at Suffolk Downs. From 9:00 AM to noon, visitors will have a chance to check out dozens of great thoroughbreds ready for new careers and ask questions of trainers and owners directly. Browse the CANTER New England listings to get a sense of what’s available. It’s no exaggeration to say there’s a horse for every rider — CANTER volunteers (including me) have been busy as the Suffolk meet winds down, cataloging horses athletic and adorable. Racehorses make terrific sporthorses and companions — as the success stories Susan Salk has been publishing on Off-Track Thoroughbreds prove, there’s little these athletes can’t do when they leave the racetrack.
As Ed DeRosa writes today in a piece about the importance of sanctuaries such as Old Friends, Joe Drape’s reporting on TRF has made the discussion about providing for racehoses when their careers end more public. It also seems to have made the conversation more urgent. The situations aren’t quite analogous, but there’s something reminiscent of the safety debate that followed Eight Belles’ death in the fresh attention on the retirement and rescue issue, a sense that racing has to come up with a solution to a problem that hasn’t been neglected — the work of hundreds of organizations attests to that — but is complex and will probably take collective action to solve. “The only chance that something good can come out of this mess is if this turns out to be a watershed moment in horse racing,” writes Bill Finley. He’s right.
Prepping for the Florida Derby, Dialed In worked four furlongs in :47.55 at Palm Meadows yesterday. Trainer Nick Zito, who said the colt “bounced” in his last race, “caught the final eighth in :11 flat.” Handicapper Mike Maloney calls Zito’s prospect one of three likely Kentucky Derby winners. “If he shows a decent finish in the FL Derby, even if not winning, I think he will be fine.”
Tomorrow is Dubai World Cup day, and Raceday 360 has an overview of every race. I wrote about the UAE Derby, a weak renewal this year, for the HRF Derby Prep alert, and only glancingly mentioned the remarkable entry of two Aidan O’Brien trained starters in the race, the first in six years. Like last year, I assumed that this year no UAE Derby finisher was likely for the Kentucky Derby — Sheikh Mohammed seems have given up on that path for Godolphin 3-year-olds after the disappointments of Regal Ransom and Desert Party in 2009 — but Alan Shuback proposes Coolmore could be using the race as a Derby prep for Master of Hounds or Alexander Pope. “It would be a large irony, indeed, if Magnier & Co. pulled a Kentucky Derby runner out of the UAE Derby hat in Sheikh Mohammed’s backyard.”
Sweet Ducky, recently sold and transferred to trainer Herman Brown, is apparently possible for Churchill Downs, though, if he runs big in the UAE Derby. “It would be tough to turn it down if he runs a great race.” That would certainly be an interesting move, considering the colt’s new ownership. Would Kentucky license Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, called by the late Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, “a Stalin of our times“?
Violette said there has been discussion about dedicating one-tenth of one percent of New York’s handle to retirement programs, which would need legislative approval. This would generate about $2.2-million per year.
“That way everybody that participates in racing — handicappers, tracks, jockeys, trainers, owners — would be giving something,” he said. “Yes, it means an increase in takeout. But I can’t think of a better reason for a takeout increase than the protection of our race horses.”
Raise takeout? An unfortunate necessity. Mandate that everyone who registers a foal pay $25 toward racehorse retirement? An impossible dream.
I’ve given money to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and other retirement groups in the past; I’ll surely do so in the future, because horses deserve a decent quality of life after the racetrack. But like most horseplayers, I don’t breed horses. I don’t own horses. And until those who do breed and own horses levy a similar burden on themselves to help cover thoroughbred retirement costs through registration, sales, or earnings — all possible sources of funds — then I’m not going to see a takeout increase, for the horses, as anything other than what it is — a politically palatable passing of the buck.
3/25/11 Note: There’s an excellent conversation going on in the comments about takeout and funding racehorse retirement, to which Violette thoughtfully replied this afternoon. “I will go even further; let’s not raise the takeout and take the same .001 from the existing levels,” he writes. “NO INCREASE. A solution must be found, this is for the greater good.”
Several weeks ago, in a post called “The Invisible Sport,” Jennifer Wirth of the Saturday Post inspired a campaign to increase mainstream media coverage of horse racing. A worthy goal, but as the reaction to Joe Drape’s New York Times story on the the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation shows, it’s the whole industry that’s largely invisible, not just the sport.
Outside of Kentucky and New York, there aren’t many non-trade publications covering the larger stories of racing business and politics, and outside of the New York Times, almost none doing investigative work.
Vic Zast runs down the reasons for the lack of horse racing coverage in his HRI column today. All are familiar (fewer reporters, reduced resources, turf writers “captured” by sources), but that doesn’t make the problem any less an issue.
Wirth argues that racing won’t last if people aren’t exposed to the game and its stars through news stories; it also won’t last without press oversight, exposing serious issues and compelling change. Whatever the debatable flaws in Drape’s work, his reporting is necessary, and racing needs more of it.
3:15 PM Addendum: Writing on the Atlantic, Andrew Cohen reacts to the TRF story. “No matter who is at fault, no matter what happens to the TRF from here, please, someone, take care of those poor damned horses.” It seems like there should be a mechanism, some simple way to gather small sums for retirement funds — something like the Jockey Club check-off program, made mandatory. An an opt-in program, it isn’t attracting much support.
Joe Drape is out with a scathing story this morning in the New York Times, alleging that the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has had difficulty meeting its obligations to satellite farms caring for retired racehorses over the past two years, leading to cases of neglect and starvation. How deep is the mess? There’s no indication in Drape’s story that the quality of care horses get through the TRF Secretariat Center or prison farms has been compromised — and I hope that’s not because we don’t have the full story yet.
11:15 AM Update: TRF replies to Drape’s report on Facebook: “The TRF disputes the allegations by Joe Drape about the OK farms. They are either untrue or mis-characterized …” Further comment to come this afternoon.
12:30 PM Update: In a teleconference scheduled for 2:00 PM, TRF president George Grayson and board chairman Tom Ludt will speak to the press.
Ray Paulick is out with piece, from his perspective as a board member, that refutes the allegations in the NYT article and provides important context re: the financial turmoil that’s afflicted the organization for several years.
3/19/11 Addendum: “TRF defends itself against NYT article.” See also: “Dr. Patty Hogan responds to Drape.” I’m hesitant to say much at this point, because it’s obvious that the information out is incomplete, but what does come through re: TRF is that there’s tension with the Mellon Foundation, and re: retired racehorses is that not enough is being done (which is something that’s been known for a while). Drape’s story, which was followed up today with a report that the New York Attorney General’s Charities Bureau will review the complaints against TRF, has had one beneficial effect for TRF. “We’ve gotten a lot of money donated today, and that’s a positive thing.”
3/20/11 Addendum: The NYT reports that the veterinarian conducting the evaluations of TRF farms has been fired. “There were serious questions about her objectivity.” (But firing her raises serious questions about retaliation.) On the Paulick Report, Dr. Hogan “clarifies” the story by alleging Dr. Stacey Huntington released her findings “to the media for the purpose of creating drama” (comment #106). Dr. Huntington replies (comment #127).
Zenyatta paraded for fans in sunny California on Sunday, in snowy Kentucky on Monday. Despite the cold, a good-sized crowd turned out at Keeneland to see the champion one last time before she retreats to stud. I wish the same could have been done for Rachel Alexandra, unceremoniously retired at the end of September. But even though honoring the filly was something Churchill Downs was interested in doing, her connections were not, explains Jennie Rees: “However, six days before the fall meet began, Stonestreet Stable quietly sent a van to pick up Rachel at Churchill to take her to the farm …”
10:50 AM Update: Many thanks to Susan for pointing out a recent post (with photo!) on the Stonestreet Farms Facebook page: “For those of you who are interested in seeing [Rachel Alexandra], we wanted you to know that after the first of the year, we will be announcing … occasional visitation days …”
Next Saturday, at a racetrack hundreds of miles away and before a crowd many times larger, another beloved record-setting distaffer known as the Queen may be brought into the winner’s circle for the last time and cheered by fans who have adored her for years.
But stars can be found at every track, and this Saturday, it was Ask Queenie’s time to be celebrated at Suffolk Downs in front of the hometown fans who have followed the 9-year-old mare through an eight-year career in which she won 27 races, finished in the money in 56 of 63 starts, and earned $780,365 — more than any Massachusetts-bred in history.
A winner of 20 state-bred stakes, seven of those against males, and a five-time winner of the Isadorable Stakes, Ask Queenie won races short and long, over turf and dirt. In 2005, she was voted New England’s Horse of the Year by the New England Turf Writers’ Association, picking up additional championship honors that year and in 2006, 2007, and 2009.
In recognition of her accomplishments, Suffolk held a winner’s circle ceremony for the recently retired “Queen of the Mass-Breds” before the day’s fifth race.
“I’ve been around her all her life,” said groom Cindy Thorpe as she rubbed Queenie’s dappled coat in preparation for her final photo. “It’s been an honor.”
Outside Queenie’s stall before the ceremony, balloons — a traditional reward for the mare after a stakes win — twirled on their ribbons in the breeze. “It started when she was a 3-year-old,” said owner Laurine Barreira. “We wanted to get her carrots, but they [the neighborhood grocery] were out, so we got her a balloon and a flower. She was so excited! She tried to break through her webbing.” Barreira kissed Ask Queenie on her nose. “She’s spoiled.”
By 1995 Suburban winner Key Contender out of the stakes-placed Time to Ask, Queenie was bred by Barreira’s grandfather, Lloyd Lockhart, and trained by her mother, Lori Lockhart. Her success at Suffolk has been especially meaningful to the Lockhart family, which has deep roots in Massachusetts racing. “She has meant everything to us — financially, emotionally,” said Barreira. “You can’t say enough about her.”
Decked out in Mardi Gras beads and a pink and purple racing bridle, the colors of the family stable, Ask Queenie walked to the paddock, where she paraded before the audience gathered along the fence and posed for photos, gamely wearing an “Officially Retired” tiara. She lost her composure only when the gate opened for the fourth — the one-mile John Kirby Stakes for state-breds, a race she won in 2004 — in front of the grandstand. Tossing her head at the bell, she watched intently as the field ran into the clubhouse turn.
“She thinks she should be running,” laughed an observer.
Laurine Barreira (left), Ask Queenie, and Lori Lockhart (right).
Following the Kirby Stakes, Ask Queenie was brought into the winner’s circle, where Barreira and family were presented with a framed photo collage honoring Queenie as “The All-Time Richest Mass-Bred.”
Her racing days over, Ask Queenie will begin her new career as a broodmare at one of the Lockhart farms in Massachusetts or Florida. The mare may be bred to Smarty Jones in 2011, and while her first foals may be sold, the family plans to keep at least one of her later foals for racing. “That’ll be fun,” said Barreira.
2/4/11 Update: From Ask Queenie’s Facebook page: “Excited to announce that I will be bred to Awesome Again, who stands at Adena Springs in Kentucky!“