Jessica Chapel / Railbird

Trainers

Character Unbecoming

Roguish trainer Rick Dutrow is being called to account:

In a five-point “show cause” notice ordering Dutrow to appear before the board on March 30 and 31, the racing board states that the trainer is a “person whose conduct at racetracks in New York state and elsewhere has been improper, obnoxious, unbecoming and detrimental to the best interests of racing.”

I may have been wrong last month about the NYSRWB.

Enough Isn’t Enough

Following the news that Rick Dutrow had been suspended ninety days* for two infractions, RCI president Ed Martin formally asked the NYSRWB for a review of the trainer’s license, citing his lengthy record of violations (PDF):

At some point, an individual who continues to violate the rules of racing forfeits through his own actions the ability to be in the game. At some point, enough is enough.

Since 1979, racing regulatory jurisdictions have sanctioned Mr. Dutrow at least 64 times for various rule violations in nine different states at fifteen different racetracks.

The board isn’t rushing to consider the request, reports David Grening:

“If I had a crystal ball with high-definition and 3-D I’d be in a better position to make predictions,” said Joe Mahoney, a board spokesman.

Dutrow’s New York license is valid through Aug. 5. Mahoney said the board does “look at the licensee’s record at the time of renewal.”

Grening describes Mahoney’s reply as “non-committal.” I’d say it sounds more like, “No way in hell.” The Babe’s not going anywhere, except on vacation.

*Pending appeal, of course.

2/20/11 Addendum: Dutrow’s attorney replies to Martin: “We hope that Mr. Martin did not rush to judgment and that he paid more attention to the actual facts when he was in charge at the New York State Racing and Wagering Board than he has demonstrated in his recent unfounded and irresponsible letter.”

Sadler’s Year?

Trainer John Sadler is hardly unknown. Steadily climbing the rankings over the past decade, he’s been among the top 10 conditioners nationally by earnings since 2008, and six weeks into this year, he’s number four, behind perennial leaders Asmussen, Baffert, and Pletcher. On opening day at Santa Anita, he won three graded stakes. This past weekend, he won three of the four graded stakes run at the track — the Strub Stakes with Twirling Candy (“possesses an undeniable brilliance,” gushed Mike Watchmaker), the Las Virgenes with Zazu (Green but Game’s expert pick and newest crush), and the San Antonio Handicap with Gladding. With 4-year-old stakes winners Switch and Sidney’s Candy also in his barn, the Santa Anita press office calculates that he has “serious contenders … in no less than six of racing’s divisions.” Not bad. While Sadler isn’t well stocked in racing’s glamour division — his most promising 3-year-old male so far this winter is Runflatout, a debut maiden winner — with three of the best older horses in training, he seems poised to have the kind of breakout year that leads to an Eclipse Award.

Hold off on adding Cal Nation to your Kentucky Derby top 10:

“Cal Nation came out of his race well,” said Pletcher of the 3-year-old Distorted Humor colt who was impressive in breaking his maiden at first asking in Saturday’s eighth race [at Gulfstream].  “It’s a little late [for him to get onto the Kentucky Derby trail].  We’d have to make up a lot of time.  I think we’ll just take the conservative route with him.”

Kentucky Derby and Oaks prep schedules updated: Beyer speed figures of 88 for Toby’s Corner in the Whirlaway and Zazu in the Las Virgenes.

Brad Free was out with an interesting post on Santa Anita’s new dirt surface over the weekend: “No one wants to knock the surface. Not publicly, at least. But behind the scenes, many are frustrated.” For whatever reason, the track composition is not as as expected; more sand is to be added. Via Derby List comes this report of bruising clods being thrown up by the dirt: “I had the misfortune of being behind one horse while working a set 2 mornings ago …

2/9/11 Addendum: Sadler tells Jay Privman that Runflatout is possible for the San Vicente Stakes on February 20. “I want to give him a chance to get to the Kentucky Derby, but I want to be smart, too, about how we go at it.”

Astounding

Nick Kling delves into trainer Rudy Rodriguez’s first-year numbers:

Because of this lucrative pipeline, Rudy has compiled one of the most phenomenal statistics I’ve ever seen. Horses making their first start for the Rodriguez barn after a straight trainer change have won 15 of 29 starts, a celestial 52 percent. In addition, Rudy has hit first-time out with 8 of 22 claimed horses. That is a 36 percent strike rate.

And his ROI is excellent.

Rodriguez’s win rate is 30% for the year, 35.7% at Belmont since the start of the fall meet. He’s in the money 65% for the year, 69% at Belmont.

It’s the Same All Over*

Greg Wood on Sir Michael Stoute’s post-Arc reticence:

It was a reminder that for all the good intentions at Racing For Change, the attitude that the punters do not really matter will always have the upper hand until the Stoute generation makes way for younger, less-blinkered trainers.

My only quibble is that it’s about mindset, not age.

*Borrowed from Equidaily.

Talking with Todd

Tim Wilkin interviews trainer Todd Pletcher:

Q: When you won the Kentucky Derby in May — your first — how much of a relief was that to you, especially with all the scrutiny people put on you [he had started 28 horses in the Derby, four of them this year, before getting a win]?

A: I don’t know. I didn’t really feel like I thought I would feel. It didn’t feel like a big relief. It was exciting, it was great to have done it. Maybe I looked at the Derby a little differently than most people maybe perceived it. I have an appreciation for how hard it is to win, how many factors have to go right and there are so many things out of your control that have a say in the outcome of the race. I never just assumed it would happen. People kept saying, ‘you are going to win the Derby, you are going to win the Derby eventually.’ I was certainly happy when it happened.

Understated, as always.

See also, response re: trainer Derek Ryan’s post-Whitney comments.

Weekend Review and Blind Luck over on BC360.

Managing Expectations

Trainer Linda Rice on defending her 2009 Saratoga title:

“A lot of people are expecting an awful lot, but realistically I just hope we go there and have a good meet, the horses run well and we win our share of races, have good racing luck and try not to embarrass myself.”

Since her history-making win last summer, Rice has picked up a few new clients, but she’s still seeking owners offering the sort of financial backing that would allow up her to acquire and train top-class horses. Somewhat ironically, her current stock, largely comprising turf horses and NY-breds, may actually better position her for a repeat title than would a barn full of champions, as 2009 runner-up trainer Todd Pletcher tacitly acknowledged:

“What we need to be successful at Saratoga is to be able to participate in open allowance races. If the cards are weighed heavily with a lot of New York-bred races and sprint races on the turf, we just don’t have the horses to participate in those categories.”

The trends of the past decade aren’t in Pletcher’s favor.

The headline says it all: “Rachel towers over Lady’s Secret field.” Monmouth anticipates the reigning HOTY will go to post “at the absolute minimum price” of 1-20. “I think we are running for second,” said trainer Patrick Biancone, who will saddle Queen Martha on Saturday. “But second would be good.”

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