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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

An Open Letter to the Industry on Environmental Contamination

National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback and Dr. Steven A. Barker, one of the world’s foremost experts in equine drug testing and research, have written an important open letter to the industry on environmental contamination.

The letter begins, "On behalf of owners and trainers in every jurisdiction, we would like to address comments made during a recent Kentucky Horse Racing Commission meeting regarding the dismissal of several dextrorphan cases. Dr. Mary Scollay, who serves in an advisory capacity for the KHRC as its equine medical director, told those regulators that environmental contamination as a source had nothing to do with three violations for the presence of dextrorphan in urine being thrown out.

After publicly thanking the KHRC last month for taking the lead on the significant issue of environmental contamination, something horsemen deal with on a day-to-day basis, we find Dr. Scollay’s comments disappointing. We believe Dr. Scollay is mistaken regarding elements of environmental contamination. Yet in explaining why the cases were dismissed, she also established a sensible policy change."

To read the complete letter published in the Thoroughbred Daily News, click here.

Friday, February 24, 2017

KEEP Day Connects KEEP Members with Friends in the Legislature, Old and New

Senator Steve West (left) with National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback
Kentucky equine-industry participants and supporters got the chance to emphasize the important impact horses have on the state and local economies during visits with state legislators on Wednesday’s KEEP Day in Frankfort organized by the Kentucky Equine Education Project.

Several dozen stake-holders in Kentucky’s $4 billion horse industry told an array of lawmakers their individual stories and advocated for state sales tax exemption for feed, equipment and supplies, equal to that provided to other livestock.

Edmonton County’s Linda Starnes, a team leader in KEEP’s state-wide grassroots network who owns, trains and shows Tennessee Walking Horses, said the Kentucky Breeders’ Incentive Fund (KBIF) is a tribute to all breeds in the state working together to enhance the overall horse industry. The KBIF, whose creation was spear-headed by KEEP working with legislators, provides funding for non-racing breeds and is largely financed by sales tax on Thoroughbred stud fees. This month, the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission released $940,000 from the KBIF to non-race breeds, bringing the total distributed since the fund’s 2005 inception to $10.8 million.

“If it wasn’t for the horse-racing industry, we wouldn’t have the Breeders’ Incentive Fund program,” Starnes said. “And if we didn’t have the Breeders’ Incentive Fund Program, this kind of horse-showing wouldn’t be happening; it would be gone.”

Sen. Robin Webb of Grayson County, a member of the executive committee of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association, said the KBIF is attracting horses from non-racing breeds to Kentucky, resulting in a huge surge in competitions.

“It helps infuse money into our local economies, maintains facilities and provides opportunity to show and utilize your horses and equines of all kinds,” Webb said. “… The numbers don’t tell the tale of the impact. You can’t look at that ledger book and make a valid assessment of the impact, because it’s so far greater than that.”

Said Rep. James Kay of Versailles: “We absolutely benefit from the horse industry every day in ways that people don’t always understand. We need to do a better job articulating that, and showing the economic driver that the industry is for our people.”

Agreed Rep. Adam Koenig, whose district includes Turfway Park: “There are so many jobs associated with horses, horse racing. People like green space and open space. It adds to the economy in so many ways through direct and indirect jobs. Obviously it’s our signature industry - in large part our identity.”

Rep. Kelly Flood of Lexington said KEEP has done a good job focusing on the economic benefits of the industry.

“That’s what it’s about, if you don’t have horses in your district,” she said of the legislature. “Not everybody has the bourbon industry in their district. But the bourbon industry is good for the whole commonwealth. You have to do the same thing with all our signature industries.”

Eric Hamelback, chief executive officer of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, told Sen. Reggie Thomas of Lexington that, “What Kentucky does is viewed by every other racing state there is…. This state is the measure of what every other state tries to get to. Very important for us.”

“It was a great day in the capitol for Kentucky’s horse industry,” said Joe Clabes, KEEP executive director. “Our members were able to visit with some longtime friends and also get acquainted with some of the new legislators. These interactions with our members are critical to helping legislators understand the beneficial role horses have in our state. KEEP will continue to create opportunities for our grassroots horse folks to develop relationships with elected officials. It will be a year-around effort, not just during the legislative session.”

The Kentucky Equine Education Project is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky's signature horse industry. Support for KEEP’s activity comes directly from the horse industry and horse industry supporters. To learn more about how you can become a member or make a contribution, please visit

Pennsylvania HBPA's New Start Re-homing Program Wins Zoetis Equine Charity Sweepstakes

From left to right: Megan Lapp, Zoetis; Dr. David Marshall; Lauren Zagnit, New Start; Sandee Martin, PA HBPA president; Todd Mostoller, PA HBPA executive director.
New Start, the Pennsylvania Horsemen's Benevolence and Protective Association (PA HBPA) retired racehorse re-homing program, was named grand prize winner in the Zoetis Equine Charity Sweepstakes. The equine charity in Grantville, Pennsylvania, received a $5,000 cash donation from Zoetis on behalf of the nominating veterinarian, Dr. David Marshall. Dr. Marshall nominated New Start while attending the 2016 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Annual Convention. He practices veterinary medicine at Penn National Race Course.

“This is the first sweepstakes I’ve ever won – it’s a wonderful contest to win because I can pass on the value to an organization in need and help support the equine industry,” said Dr. Marshall. “My responsibility at the racetrack, in part, is to secure the health and welfare of the horses that race here. While the career of a racehorse is limited, racehorses have many valuable years to give following their time at the track. That’s why I nominated New Start, they help provide temporary homes for racehorses before beginning their second careers.”

As a part of the PA HBPA, New Start has helped re-home more than 350 former racehorses over the past three years. The program focuses on placing horses where they will succeed in second careers as show horses, barrel racers, eventers, polo mounts, pleasure horses and more.

“Once a horse is donated to our program by an owner, our committee’s veterinarian and I examine the horse. Our findings determine which one of our foster farms will be most suitable for transitioning the horse to a successful second career. The vast majority of our Thoroughbreds excel in a wide range of riding disciplines but a few go to a sanctuary we help support,” said Lauren Zagnit, program coordinator, New Start. “We are so appreciative of the support Zoetis has provided and the opportunity to utilize these funds to help more horses find second careers.”

“Zoetis is committed to working together with veterinarians, horse owners and equine professionals to help improve health and wellness for all horses,” said Sally Amtmann, senior equine marketing manager, Zoetis. “We are pleased to extend our industry support to provide New Start with resources to assist in managing the horses in their care.”

Building on a six-decade history and a singular focus in animal health, Zoetis colleagues work every day to be a comprehensive resource for the equine industry. Zoetis is a proud educational partner of the AAEP, the American Horse Council, the American Quarter Horse Association and a supporter of Time to Ride, A Home For Every Horse and many other equine community initiatives. For more information on how Zoetis supports the equine industry and works to help horses live long, healthy lives, visit

The Zoetis Equine Charity Sweepstakes was held at the 2016 AAEP Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, from Dec. 3-7, 2016. Convention attendees nominated any equine 501(c)(3) charity of their choice at the Zoetis booth, and one grand prizewinner was drawn at random following the show.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kentucky HBPA and Turfway Park Team Up to Present Happy Hour Handicapping

Turfway Park and the Kentucky HBPA are teaming up March 3 for Happy Hour Handicapping, an interactive event where people who love racing, horses or just a good time can learn the basics of playing the races and take a first look at Kentucky Derby contenders.

The free event is part of that week’s Rockin’ Dollar Friday at Turfway, featuring live racing, one-dollar draft beer, hot dogs and bets as well as live music. Happy Hour Handicapping will begin on Turfway’s third floor at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 45 minutes after the first race, and conclude an hour before the popular band DV8 takes the stage at 9:30 p.m.

Mike Battaglia, Turfway associate vice president and Kentucky Derby oddsmaker, who last year retired from the Turfway announcer’s booth after 43 years, and award-winning turf writer Jennie Rees will share simple handicapping strategies for those new to betting on races. Battaglia and Rees also will discuss their top picks for the Kentucky Derby and its Turfway preps: the $100,000 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes on March 4 and the $500,000 Grade 3 JACK Cincinnati Casino Spiral Stakes on March 25.

Those who attend Happy Hour Handicapping will receive free general admission to the showcase Spiral card, also featuring the Grade 3 Bourbonette Oaks, a prep for the Kentucky Oaks.

“We are always looking for ways to team with our track partners to promote horse racing,” said Martin Maline, executive director of the Kentucky division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, which represents about 6,000 owners and trainers racing in the Commonwealth. “Those who come to Turfway primarily for the band can learn simple techniques for handicapping that will enhance their trip to the track. Plus, it’s never too early to decide who you like for the Derby.”

“It’s fun to be at the races, and the excitement increases as you learn how to pick horses,” said Turfway general manager Chip Bach. “Mike and Jennie will share their knowledge in a casual, fun environment. We look forward to all of our participants then joining us for the Spiral to see who earns a coveted spot in the Kentucky Derby this year.”

Happy Hour Handicapping also includes drawings for prizes, including tickets to the Spiral’s VIP tent; a Woodford Reserve 2016 Kentucky Derby commemorative bottle featuring the work of equine artist Thomas Allen Pauly; a print of Pauly’s bottle painting; reserved seats at Keeneland’s spring meet; racing-themed merchandise from All Pro Championships; and 13” X 19” prints of the 2015 Eclipse Award-winning photo taken by Courier-Journal photographer Michael Clevenger just after Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza crossed the finish line of their historic Belmont Stakes.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ohio HBPA Donates $50,000 to Support New Vocations’ Aftercare Efforts

New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program announced today that the Ohio Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA) has donated $50,000 to support the program’s aftercare efforts at their Ohio facility. In 2016, New Vocations took in over 450 retired racehorses, 66 of which came directly from an Ohio racetrack or farm.

“It is important to the Ohio HBPA that our retired Thoroughbreds be given a chance to thrive in a second career. We are proud to continue our partnership with New Vocations, an organization that began 25 years ago right here in Ohio to give our horses that chance," said Dave Basler, Ohio HBPA Executive Director.

“We are extremely grateful to the Ohio HBPA for their generous donation and ongoing support of our aftercare efforts in the state. Their support over the last several years has allowed us to expand our rehabilitation program and ultimately help more horses. The funding is greatly needed and will help us continue to serve horses retiring from Ohio racetracks,” said Anna Ford, New Vocation Program Director.

The Ohio HBPA donation comes during New Vocations’ 25-year anniversary of operations in Ohio. With seven facilities in Kentucky, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the program has grown into the largest racehorse adoption organization in the country. Its mission to rehabilitate, retrain and rehome retired racehorses has led to the placement of over 6,000 horses. New Vocations serves over 40 racetracks and focuses on working directly with owners and trainers in need of racehorse aftercare options. To learn more about the program, visit

About the Ohio HBPA: The Ohio HBPA is a multi-jurisdictional, benevolent and trade association. It provides financial assistance to members in need, educational and informational programs, health fairs, social events, services to members, representation before the Ohio General Assembly and the Ohio State Racing Commission, and negotiates contracts and resolves disputes with tracks.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Complete Starts Information and Top Horses by Jockey, Trainer, Owner, now Available on

Equibase Company today announced the expansion of racing statistics available on with the addition of complete starts information for every jockey, trainer and owner as well as the top horses ridden, trained or owned, respectively, by each person.

In addition to the statistical expansion, has also transitioned to a responsive design technology to enhance the user experience when viewing the data from a mobile device.

“Fans now have easy access to the detailed history of every single start for jockeys, trainers and owners,” said Jason Wilson, president and chief operating officer for Equibase. “This comprehensive data can now be viewed in a more user-friendly way through our responsive site, regardless of whether individuals are using a desktop, tablet or phone.”

Complete lifetime starts information for jockeys, trainers and owners can be accessed by year and are searchable and sortable by the following categories: track name, race date, race type, purse, horse name, and finish position.

Individual profile pages for jockeys, trainers and owners now offers a “Top Horses” section that provides the Top 20 horses lifetime (ranked by purse earnings) that the person rode, conditioned or owned. Users also have the option to view the Top 20 horses by year and to rank the data by other categories.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Sunshine Millions a "Huge Success," Sees $900K Handle Increase

Hallandale Beach – 2017 Sunshine Millions Classic, the last race of the day, Hy Riverside, longshot Nauset Beach and heavy-favorite Awesome Slew battle down to the wire, nip and tuck, head to head, in a super tight photo finish! And the winner…

Hy Riverside trained by Antonio Sano, owned by Mar Racing Stable and expertly ridden by jockey Jose Ortiz.

The perfect finish to a thrilling day of Florida-bred championship racing at Gulfstream Park.

In the winner’s circle light bulbs were flashing, and high-fives were flying. Handle for the 2017 Sunshine Millions jumped from $13,403,368 in 2016 to $14,309,524. A healthy 6.761% increase.

But the real winners were Florida-based owners, trainers, and breeders.

Bill White, President of the Florida HBPA, who for many years participated as a trainer in this benchmark event, was impressed with the quality of races and crowd participation.

“Huge, huge success,” he said. “Better than we expected. I’m thrilled we could keep the races as Florida Bred races. The FHBPA looks forward to expanding and supporting racing opportunities like this one for Florida-breds in the future.”

For those unfamiliar with the background story, the 2017 Sunshine Millions came perilously close to not running, due to the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association (FTBOA) declining to fund and participate at the last moment. But working together with Gulfstream Park the FHBPA struck a deal in which not only would the races run, but most importantly they were kept as restricted to Florida-breds.

A very competitive mix of Florida-breds showed up to battle for $600,000 in total purse money, with the Sunshine Classic purse totaling $200,000.

Sunshine Millions winners were:

Filly and Mare Turf: Family Meeting by General Quarters, trained by Thomas Proctor, owned by Glen Hill Farms and ridden by Jose Lezcano.

Distaff Sprint: Mia Torri by Sky Mesa, trained by Jorge Navarro, owned by Phillip Sagan and ridden by Javier Castellano.

Sprint: Early Entry by Keyed Entry, trained by Kathleen O’Connell, owned by Tommy Roberts Racing Stable LLC and ridden by Paco Lopez.

Turf: Our Way by Keyed Tizway, trained by Harold James Bond, owned by William L. Clifton Jr. and ridden by John Velazquez.

Classic: Hy Riverside by Macho Uno, trained by Antonio Sano, owned by Mar Racing Stable. and ridden by Jose Ortiz.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Join Us in Las Vegas for the National HBPA Convention

Topics include horsemen’s relations, aftercare, ADWs; Kentucky Downs’ Johnsen delivering keynote address

Racetracks developing strong relations with their horsemen is good for business. So is the sport’s stake-holders investing in thoroughbred retirement.

Those are two panel discussions during what promises to be a lively and informative National HBPA Convention March 7-10. at Las Vegas’ South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa. The Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association is the world’s largest organization representing Thoroughbred owners and trainers, with close to 30,000 members across the United States and Canada.

The convention kicks off with a reception the evening of March 7, with full days of programming March 8-10 open to all attendees. In addition, the complete HBPA board will meet March 11. It is the only convention the HBPA will stage in 2017 after having two in prior years.

Registration is now open at for the event, at which elected officers and board members of the 28 state and five Canadian affiliates will discuss the issues and challenges facing the sport through committee meetings, panels and presentations. The assembly is open to anyone involved in the racing industry, including handicappers and fans. Sponsored by Xpressbet and the National HBPA, the convention for the first time includes a handicapping tournament that serves as a qualifier to the 2018 DRF/NTRA National Handicapping Championship.

Corey Johnsen, president and part-owner of Kentucky Downs as well as an owner and breeder, will deliver the keynote speech on March 8. He’s also part of a panel titled Horsemen’s Relations: Building Positive Momentum Working Together, a session that also includes The Stronach Group’s Mike Rogers and Canterbury Park’s Randy Sampson, with Virginia HBPA executive director Frank Petramalo moderating.

Johnsen, Ray Reid and their partners in Kentucky Downs began operating Historical Horse Racing terminals on Sept. 1, 2011, and have used that innovative pari-mutuel technology as a game-changing force for the good. In the last five years, the track’s purses have mushroomed from $746,810 for the meet to $7.8 million in 2016. Kentucky Downs also is using its economic firepower to benefit the entire state circuit, including working with the Kentucky HBPA to transfer $1.35 million in purses to Ellis Park for its 2016 meet.

“One thing that I have tried to bring to the National HBPA’s platform is the importance and proclamation of being positive in our industry,” said Eric Hamelback, the National HBPA’s chief executive officer. “Corey Johnsen clearly fits that bill.”

Kentucky HBPA president Rick Hiles, New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association president Rick Violette and the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance’s Stacie Clark will share their experiences and thoughts in the session TAA: Protecting Your Investment in Retirement.

Other topics and presentations include what the growth of advance-deposit wagering platforms means for the sport; medication updates, including hair and out-of-competition testing; equine nutrition and veterinary topics, exchange wagering, equine research and legal updates and member benefits. Ed Martin and Judy Wagner, the CEO and chairman of the board for the Association of Racing Commissioners International, will summarize the racing regulators’ town-hall meetings and results of its survey of racing participants.

“Our convention provides an excellent opportunity for individuals and affiliates to network, discuss concerns and solutions, and hear a variety of topics affecting our national horsemen,” said Leroy Gessmann, the National HBPA president and chairman. “The NHBPA is committed to helping shape the future of the Thoroughbred racing industry and representing the interests of its owners and trainers.”

At the Races with Steve Byk will broadcast live from the convention with live streaming at and on Sirius 220/XM 206.

Registration, agenda and more information at

The National HBPA ( based in Lexington, Ky. is the largest racing horsemen’s representative organization in North America with 30 affiliate organizations and over 30,000 member horsemen. Big Dee’s Tack & Vet Supplies, Lavin Insurance Group LLC, Xpressbet, NTRA Advantage,, Finish Line Horse Products Inc., Horseman Labor Solutions and Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals Inc. are proud corporate partners of the National HBPA.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Registration Now Open for National HBPA Convention in Las Vegas

Registration is now open for the National HBPA Convention set for March 7-11, 2017, at the South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa in Las Vegas. The tentative agenda is also posted. Click here for information about the convention and registration.

The NHBPA March event will be the only convention in 2017. Elected HBPA horsemen from across the country will, through committee meetings, panels and presentations, discuss issues and challenges the industry is facing. The NHBPA is the largest Thoroughbred horsemen’s association in North America. It represents approximately 30,000 owners and trainers throughout the United States and Canada. The NHBPA’s goal is to provide leadership and help shape the future of the Thoroughbred racing industry.

Discussions at the convention will revolve around topics such as equine nutrition, exchange wagering, equine veterinary topics, equine research and legal updates, member benefits, matters regarding equine aftercare, and media relations.

Corey Johnsen, president and part-owner of Kentucky Downs, will give the keynote address.

The NHBPA Convention will be open to anyone involved in the racing industry as an owner, trainer, veterinarian, rider, racetrack official or operator, fan or in any other capacity.

“This convention is an excellent opportunity for individuals and our state affiliates to network, share concerns and become educated on topics affecting our national horsemen” said Eric Hamelback, CEO of the organization. “The NHBPA represents the important perspective of its owners and trainers in addressing and helping shape the future of the Thoroughbred racing industry.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

When a Positive Brings Good Results: National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback's Op/Ed in Thoroughbred Daily News

National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback penned an Op/Ed that ran in the January 8 edition of Thoroughbred Daily News.

"As a horseman tasked with navigating the complex political waters on behalf of many of the horsemen and women of horse racing, I am in constant search of positive news in our great industry. We regularly are assaulted with unflattering reports which don’t provide all the facts, including “bad” tests and the perceptual blurring of lines when necessary, therapeutic medications are proclaimed by some as performance-enhancing drugs."

Read the complete Op/Ed by clicking here.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

National HBPA Sets up Horse Cents Fund for Eric Reed after Barn Fire in Kentucky

Eric Reed - Photo by Coady Photography
The National HBPA Foundation and HBPA state affiliates are rallying to assist trainer Eric Reed and his wife, owner Kay Reed, after 23 horses in their care were killed in an early-morning barn fire Sunday.

The large barn, believed to have been struck by lightning, is one of three at the Reeds’ Mercury Equine Center on Russell Cave Road in Lexington, Kentucky. Another 13 horses were saved by the Reeds’ employees who risked going into the burning barn at the private training facility.

Through its charitable foundation, the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association will match HBPA affiliated-organizations contributions to help the Reeds. The foundation’s contribution will cap at $10,000, but the hope is that much more than $20,000 is donated overall.

While Reed is based in Kentucky, he also races extensively in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Illinois. He told Kentucky HBPA Executive Director Marty Maline that he had lost almost everything, including substantial tack and supplies.

The HBPA contributions will go into an account for the Reeds at Horse Cents tack shop in Versailles, Kentucky, where the trainer does considerable business, allowing him to buy what he needs.

“Benevolence is the core of what the National HBPA stands for,” said Leroy Gessmann, president of the National and Iowa HBPA and chair of the organization’s National Assistance Committee. “We are first and foremost here to help horsemen. In this instance, Eric Reed and his stable have undergone a severe tragedy, a nightmare for any trainer. We are here to help him, as we know he would do for us.”

There are several ways that individual horsemen and the public can help:

  • Donations to Reed’s fund through the National HBPA, a tax-exempt 501 (c)(3) fund, are tax deductible. Contributions can be made online via credit card at Checks made out to the National HBPA Foundation, with “Eric Reed fund” written in the memo, can be mailed to the National HBPA, 870 Corporate Dr., Suite 300, Lexington, KY 40503-5419.
  • Donations also can be mailed to, or dropped by, Horse Cents, 199 Markham Drive, Versailles, KY, 40383. Such checks should be made payable to Horse Cents-Eric Reed fund. Credit card contributions can be made over the phone by calling Horse Cents at 859-873-4707. These donations are not tax deductible.
  • Donated tack and supplies can be dropped off at Horse Cents or any of three Kentucky HBPA offices: the main office at 3729 S. Fourth Street, Louisville, 40214, or the backside offices at Turfway Park in Florence and The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington.
  • A GoFundMe account has been set up by the Reeds’ close friends Mike, a steward in Ohio and the 1970 Kentucky Derby-winning jockey, and Kitty Manganello at

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Interactive, Electronic Edition of The Horsemen's Journal Winter 2016 Issue is Now Available

The interactive, electronic version of The Horsemen's Journal's Winter 2016 issue is now available online. It is an enhanced version of our Fall issue, which is currently being mailed. To view it, click here.

Features in the issue include:

The 18th running of the Claiming Crown proves how far the event has come

Marketing and promotion do not have to be dirty
words to horsemen

The first Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards
in America gets off to a great start

What the RMTC isn’t telling us about its proposed

Much more than a PDF, the interactive electronic edition of The Horsemen's Journal includes the ability to save, print, email, or share content on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Please enjoy this exciting offering from the National HBPA and share it with anyone you think might enjoy it.

All hyperlinks/URLs and email addresses in the electronic edition are working, clickable links. So be sure to click on some of them - especially those in the advertisements to get more information on the great products and services being offered by the companies supporting your horsemen's organization.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Kentucky Downs’ Johnsen to deliver keynote address at National HBPA convention

Corey Johnsen (Reed Palmer photo)
Corey Johnsen, president and part-owner of Kentucky Downs, will give the keynote address at the National HBPA’s 2017 convention March 8-11 at Las Vegas’ South Point Hotel and Casino.

Johnsen heads the management team that has taken Kentucky Downs from novelty to industry leader, offering some of the most lucrative purses in America during its boutique all-grass meets. Johnsen, Ray Reid and their partners in Kentucky Downs began operating Historical Horse Racing terminals on Sept. 1, 2011, and have used that innovative pari-mutuel technology as a game-changing force for the good. In the last five years, the track’s purses have mushroomed from $746,810 for the meet to $7.8 million in 2016.

Kentucky Downs also is using its economic firepower to benefit the entire state circuit, including working with the Kentucky HBPA to transfer $1.35 million in purses to Ellis Park for its 2016 meet. That largesse, enticing trainers and jockeys to stay in Kentucky for the summer, sparked the best racing at Ellis Park in years, if not ever.

Eric Hamelback, chief executive officer for the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, said he wanted a keynote speaker in the mode of Tampa Bay Downs president Stella Thayer and Oaklawn Park general manager Eric Jackson, who gave the featured addresses the past two conventions.

“One thing that I have tried to bring to the National HBPA’s platform is the importance and proclamation of being positive in our industry,” said Hamelback. “It’s unfair at times to our owners and to our participants that all they hear is negativism. We have got to get out of that mindset. That’s been my goal in setting up our conventions, starting with Mrs. Thayer and Mr. Jackson.

“Corey Johnsen clearly fits that bill. He is positive. He is upbeat and believes in being a team player and working together with horsemen and other tracks. He is very appreciative of the participants and our national owners and trainers, what they go through and what they have to give to this sport. Being a horseman himself makes him ideal to set off our convention. If everybody had his attitude, racing would be in great shape.”

Johnsen calls being the HBPA’s keynote speaker one of the biggest honors in a career that saw him start as a teenage $2 bettor at Longacres Racetrack in Renton, Wash., and groom at Centennial in Littleton, Colo., the summer before his graduation from Arizona State University.

He shot up the management ranks through the publicity and marketing departments at Turf Paradise, Arlington Park, Louisiana Downs, Remington Park and Lone Star Park, being instrumental in the development, construction and launch of the latter two. Johnsen, who rose to become president and part-owner of Lone Star Park before its sale, also has been involved in the opening or re-opening of four tracks in the Americas, including in Mexico City and Uruguay.

An innovator, Johnsen helped build Louisiana Downs’ Super Derby into one of the country’s top 3-year-old races at the time and was a key player in getting slot machines at Oklahoma horse tracks, bringing the Breeders’ Cup to Lone Star Park in 2004 and Historical Horse Racing to Kentucky. At every track stop, he has been immersed in the local market’s civic and charitable works and tourism.

Johnsen has owned horses since 1979, when he began putting together partnerships to race claiming horses. He and Reid were so enchanted with Kentucky Downs when there for the first time to watch their Argentine mare Honey Rose make her U.S. debut (narrowly losing the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf) that they wound up buying the track in 2007.

Since the Kentucky Downs purchase, Johnsen has been heavily involved with the Kentucky Equine Education Project, including succeeding co-founder Brereton Jones as KEEP’s second chairman. The multi-breed coalition, created to increase awareness of the benefits of the commonwealth’s horse economy and to promote jobs and economic influences for Kentuckians through the world-class industry, was a driving force in creating an additional $190 million to be paid out through the Kentucky Breeders Incentive Fund, purses and Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund since 2006.

“When I was grooming horses the summer before my senior year in college, to even dream that I would have the honor to address the National HBPA conference was beyond comprehension,” said Johnsen, who also is a breeder. “Throughout my career, I’ve always tried to remember that this is about the horse and all the participants involved in the sport. That’s been my guiding light. So it’s really gratifying to have this opportunity.”

Johnsen also will be part of a convention panel comprised of track operators discussing how strong working relationships with their owners and trainers is good for business.

“There are so many things positive about our sport, sometimes we get lost in all the negativity,” Johnsen said. “I think it’s important that we all discuss those positive advantages we have over other sports and entertainment to allow us to work together and maximize our success.”

Founded in 1940, the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association is the world’s largest thoroughbred horsemen’s organization, representing approximately 30,000 owners and trainers throughout the United States and Canada. The responsibilities of the NHBPA and its affiliates have greatly expanded as the racing industry has become more complex. In addition to its original general benevolence mission, the HBPA is the leading force for horsemen in negotiating contracts with tracks as well as the advancement of the sport through safety and integrity initiatives, promoting racing and assisting in the development of aftercare programs for retired racehorses.

 The National HBPA is proud partner with its corporate sponsors: Lavin Equine Insurance Services, Xpressbet LLC, Jockey Club Information Systems, Big Dee’s Tack & Vet Supplies, Finish Line Horse Products, Horseman Labor Solutions, Omega Alpha Pharmaceuticals Inc, NTRA Advantage Program and Equine Savings Group.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Royal Posse Claims a Second Jewel During Record-Breaking Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park

Royal Posse (Photo by Coglianese Photos)
The Claiming Crown celebrated its 18th renewal on December 3 at Gulfstream Park, and just like a young adult, the event for the sport’s blue-collar horses seems to have reached maturity after debuting in 1999 at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. Hosted for the fifth time at the South Florida track, the $1.1 million event set an all-time handle record of $11,115,864 with perfect weather conditions, continuing the trend of increased wagering every year at Gulfstream while becoming an increasingly important fixture on the national racing schedule.

A joint venture between the National HBPA and Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, the Claiming Crown has reached new heights over the past five years thanks in large part to the efforts of the Florida HBPA and Gulfstream Park in making it the signature event to kick off the Championship Meet at the Hallandale Beach oval. Earlier this year, it was announced that Gulfstream will host the Claiming Crown through at least 2018.

This marked the first Claiming Crown since the passing of NHBPA First Vice President Tom Metzen Sr., one of the founding fathers of the event. The richest race on the card, the $190,000 Claiming Crown Jewel won by Royal Posse for the second consecutive year, was presented as the Tom Metzen Sr. Memorial in the track program.

“The success of the Claiming Crown is a testament to the vision of Tom and all the others who helped launch this event at Canterbury Park,” said NHBPA CEO Eric Hamelback. “It wasn’t easy to establish a new program like this from scratch, but it has proven to be a very important day of racing to recognize the horses and horsemen who are so vital to our industry.”

One of the constants in recent years has been the participation—and winning—of owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker. The all-time leading Claiming Crown owners and trainer added another victory to their tally, as they teamed to win the final race on the card, the Emerald, with Keystoneforvictory to run their total to 15 wins apiece.

This year also marked an expansion of the races leading up to the Claiming Crown as three tracks—Kentucky Downs, Laurel Park and Gulfstream Park West (formerly Calder Race Course)—held preview races with the winners earning free entry and transportation expenses to the main event.

The Claiming Crown races were run under starter allowance conditions for horses who had started for a specified claiming price since January 1, 2015, save for the Express and Iron Horse, which were open to horses who started at the $8,000 level or below anytime in their careers. With nine races on dirt and turf at a variety of distances and for both sexes, there was an option for virtually any kind of racehorse.

“We’re extremely pleased with the opening of what promises to be an historic Championship Meet,” said P.J. Campo, vice president of The Stronach Group and general manager of Gulfstream Park. “The support from horsemen throughout North America for the Claiming Crown was extraordinary. We had full, competitive fields and some spectacular performances by horses and riders.”

Distaff Dash • Spectacular Me
The first of the Claiming Crown races, the $106,700 Distaff Dash for fillies and mares who had started for $25,000 or less, featured a Claiming Crown Preview Day winner putting on an encore performance for the big money as Spectacular Me followed her Laurel Park victory with another at Gulfstream. Ridden by Jose Ortiz for trainer Steve Klesaris and owner Winning Move Stable, the 6-year-old daughter of Catienus came from off the pace to win by 1 ¾ lengths in a time of :56.91 for five furlongs on the turf.

“I really had no instructions,” said New York-based Ortiz, the leading North American rider in 2016 by wins with 335 after the Claiming Crown card. “I talked to Steve last Tuesday at Parx when I saw him there. He told me that I know the filly well and to ride her with confidence and that she is ready.”

Ortiz had ridden the mare to victory twice last summer at Saratoga Race Course in turf sprints, but this marked his first trip aboard her in more than a year.

Bred by the University of Kentucky in the Bluegrass State, the 9-5 favorite easily towered over the field in terms of starts, wins and earnings, and she extended that margin by picking up her 15th career victory from 47 starts. Her bankroll now stands at $471,234. Not bad for a horse who originally sold for just $1,600 as a yearling.

Steven Bertrando and Paul Trapani’s My Sister Caro, a West Virginia-bred daughter of Bop trained by Clyde Martin, had the lead in the stretch and held on to finish a game second. Lady Coventry, running for Zoom and Fish Stable Inc. and trainer Ralph Nicks, rallied late to take third.

Rapid Transit • Shaft of Light
Monster Racing Stables’ Shaft of Light came into the $105,600 Rapid Transit with a history of winning races by open lengths, and the 5-year-old gelding continued that tradition with an impressive 6 ¾-length score in the seven-furlong contest for horses who had started for $16,000 or less.

Jockey Emisael Jaramillo hustled the Ontario-bred to the lead right out of the gate, and the Jorge Navarro-trained runner cruised home with a final clocking of 1:21.84 as the 7-5 betting choice.

“My horse had a hard campaign for the summer, and we backed off running him because of this race,” Navarro said. “He had some issues and we worked on him, and he came around. He was training really good in the morning.”

The gelding was bred by Sam-Son Farm, the storied Canadian operation that has bred and raced notable horses like Dance Smartly, Sky Classic and Smart Strike, the sire of the Rapid Transit winner.

Shaft of Light began his career in his native country but really didn’t flourish until this spring in South Florida, where he won a conditioned $12,500 claimer by 9 ¼ lengths and a $16,000 optional claimer by 11 ½ at Gulfstream. This win improved his record to 15-6-2-2 with earnings of $211,280.

“The main focus was to break well, and we had to be on the lead,” Jaramillo said. “That’s the way I wanted to ride him and the way the trainer told me to ride. The fractions were fast but he was going very easy and was very comfortable on the lead, and when I called on him at the eighth pole, he exploded. The faster the better.”

Flashy Jewel, who was claimed out of his last start for $25,000 by owner/trainer Eddie Kenneally, nearly earned back that purchase price with a second-place effort. Patrick Maguire’s Day of Fury, a Street Sense gelding conditioned by David Fawkes who was claimed in five consecutive starts this year, crossed the wire third.

Glass Slipper • Tormenta de Oro
The biggest upset on the Claiming Crown card came in the $110,000 Glass Slipper for fillies and mares who had started for $12,500 or less when Tormenta de Oro prevailed by a neck at odds of 44-1. Owner/trainer Patrick Marcondes claimed the Benny the Bull filly for just $6,250 in August at Gulfstream and earned a return of $60,500—nearly 10 times her claiming price—for the victory at one-mile timed in 1:38.53 under jockey Luca Panici.

This was easily the biggest career win for Marcondes, who moved to the United States with his family from Brazil in 1995 and interrupted his racing career to study for a civil engineering degree at Barry University near Miami. He always wanted to train Thoroughbreds, but in his first year as a trainer in 2015, he failed to find the winner’s circle in 15 starts. His record improved in 2016, but he entered the Claiming Crown with just five career wins from 65 starts.

“I worked for a few guys here and then stopped for college,” he said. “I came back and quit everything. I said, ‘This is going to be my profession.’ ”

Bred in the Sunshine State by the University of Florida Foundation, Tormenta de Oro has won seven of 33 starts with earnings of $145,345.

“I had a perfect trip; I could save ground, and this filly, the last time, ran huge against Esken Lady and Arella Princess, and they were both favorites in this race,” said Panici about the November 6 starter allowance at Gulfstream Park West that produced four starters in the Glass Slipper. “I was pretty confident. I was able to save ground and when she got between horses, she had more heart. She ran huge.”

Esken Lady, who was also taken for $6,250 over the summer at Gulfstream, just missed out on the victory for trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. and owner Drawing Away Stable. Roger Moore’s Amaluna, trained by Aubrey Maragh, came from far back to take third.

Express • Defer Heaven
Trainer Jorge Navarro, jockey Emisael Jaramillo and owner Monster Racing Stables scored a Claiming Crown double as Defer Heaven captured the $108,900 Express exactly one hour after those connections teamed to win the Rapid Transit with Shaft of Light. This was another decisive win with a favorite, as Defer Heaven defeated by 1 ¾ lengths a field of horses who had started for $8,000 or less in their lifetimes. The Defer gelding covered six furlongs in 1:09.77.

“I tried to make the lead, but when I saw those other two horses hook up, I decided to just lay right behind them and try to come get them at the head of lane,” Jaramillo said. “He ran a great race.”

“[Emisael] knows him better than me, and he made the right move,” Navarro said. “I told him, ‘Send, send, send.’ I guess he couldn’t make the lead. He did make the right choice. Also, the horse loves this track. This is a cool horse all around; he’s got 19 wins now.”

Bred in Kentucky by Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, the 6-year-old gelding won for the eighth time in 11 starts on the year while racing at Gulfstream, Monmouth Park, Delaware Park and Parx Racing. Defer Heaven was claimed for $16,000 at Keeneland Race Course in his last start of 2015, and he banked $195,690 in 2016 alone. While the gelding seems to win everywhere he goes, Gulfstream might be his favorite after picking up his sixth win there in seven trips to the post. All told, he has won 19 of 35 starts with earnings of $324,678.

Proper Freud, who came in off consecutive victories at Parx Racing and Laurel Park, grabbed second for trainer and owner David Jacobson. Bersalu Farm Inc.’s Express Jet, who was a maiden until this past July and had won two of his last three starts, rallied to finish third.

Iron Horse • Chepstow
The $110,000 Iron Horse lived up to its name as the two favorites, Chepstow and Goodtimehadbyall, with a combined 20 career wins, battled almost right from the start of the 1 1/16-mile contest for horses who had started for $8,000 or less at any time. At the wire, Chepstow and rider Edgard Zayas prevailed by a half-length in a time of 1:43.90.

“I hoped he would be on the lead,” said winning trainer Ralph Ziadie, who saddled the 6-year-old Harlington gelding for GLAB Racing Stable LLC. “When he was being pressed, I thought he was going to be beat. I was worried my horse was going to be tired when he straightened up for home, but he had a big heart and he ran super.”

Chepstow, who was bred by Eugene Melnyk and becomes the second Ontario-bred winner in this year’ s Claiming Crown, improved his lifetime bankroll to $205,284 with his eighth career win from 34 starts. He started his career at Woodbine in Canada but has raced exclusively in South Florida since the end of 2013. The gelding raced well mostly in sprints through the end of last year, but running exclusively in two-turn events this year he has had even greater success with four wins, a second and two thirds from nine starts.

“My horse, he loves to fight,” Zayas said. “Whenever he gets the lead, he’s just a different horse. You have to ride him and ride him. He looks like he’s always beat, but he always keeps trying. Whenever they get close to him, he’s a grinder. He just keeps going.”

Goodtimehadbyall, an earner of nearly $600,000 trained by Jorge Navarro and owned by Ten Strike Racing, finished a clear second after coming in off a victory at Monmouth Park. GTG Racing LLC and Intuition Racing’s Chiseled, trained by Fernando Abreu, got third.

Canterbury • Super Spender
Six years after his sire Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby (G1), Super Spender rallied to win a race that could not be any different than the 1 ¼-mile classic on the Churchill Downs dirt. The $107,800 Canterbury for horses that had run for a tag of $25,000 or less was over in just :56.54 when Super Spender and jockey Nik Juarez hit the wire a neck in front after running five furlongs on the turf at odds of 5-1.

“He’s kind of a funny horse because he runs like he’d like 5 ½ or 6 furlongs, but every time you stretch him out, he doesn’t run well,” said Jane Cibelli, who conditions the 4-year-old gelding for Goodwood Racing V. “So I think I’ll stop trying to reinvent the wheel and keep him at five-eighths. That’s what he wants to do.”

Super Spender, a $30,000 Keeneland September yearling bred by Three Lyons Racing LLC, has won six of 11 starts at five furlongs on the turf but is just one-for-nine in other situations. That still ads up to a solid record of 20-7-3-1 with earnings of $218,320. His most recent victory before the Canterbury came on Claiming Crown Preview Day at Gulfstream Park West, making him one of three horses to win a preview race and come back to win the big money.

“He responded so well coming out of his last race,” Juarez said. “We know he is a come-from-behind sprinter. Jane told me to let him do his thing and settle and make one run. Luckily, everything opened up in the lane. Jane told me to be patient until we turned for home and then to pop to that lead. I was waiting for the opportunity, and he just shot right through there.”

Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey’s Partly Mocha, from the Mike Maker barn, rallied from the back of the pack to run second as the 5-2 favorite. Divine Warrior, owned by Carl Hurst and trainer William “Buff” Bradley, took the show position.

Tiara • Marabea (GB)
The $125,000 Tiara at 1 1/16 miles on the grass for fillies and mares who had started for $25,000 or less had a distinct international flavor as a horse bred in Great Britain that broke her maiden in Italy ended up in the winner’s circle. Farfellow Farm Ltd.’s Marabea, trained by Maryland-based Lacey Gaudet, closed with a rush to win by a neck at odds of 6-1 with Jose Lezcano aboard.

“I was nervous,” said Gaudet after winning her first-ever race at Gulfstream. “She broke fine, but then they kind of came over on her. I thought she was going to be in trouble, but you’ve got to be confident with a rider like Lezcano. He put her in the spot where he knew she needed to be, and he figured out the right moment and got there in time. He did a great job.”

Gaudet’s first Gulfstream victory was even sweeter as she shared it with her sister Gabby, the on-air host for the Maryland Jockey Club who was also making her Gulfstream debut as an on-air host for the Championship meet.

Although Marabea, who was bred by Charley Knoll Partnership, showed promise as a 2-year-old with two easy wins and a Group 3 placing in Italy, she went out of form in the United States and dropped to the $25,000 claiming level this summer at Saratoga. But the 4-year-old found her form again at Laurel Park, where on November 6 she won a Claiming Crown Preview race for her first win in more than a year.

“I’m not sure what kind of filly she is,” said her trainer. “She’s a very, very nice filly. She clearly ran a race back to what she did last time. She could be any kind of filly.”

William Cubbedge’s Lobelia, conditioned by Carlo Vaccarezza, hit the board for the eighth time in 10 starts with a runner-up finish. Seeking Treasure, owned by Steven Frum and trained by Doug Matthews, finished third.

Emerald • Keystoneforvictory
Trainer Mike Maker and owners Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey have made no secret of the fact that they are constantly on the lookout for potential Claiming Crown horses, and 14 times prior to the $125,000 Emerald they ended up in the winner’s circle with a Claiming Crown winner. But Keystoneforvictory was a little different in that he wasn’t a horse that the powerful connections claimed or one that was bred by the Ramseys, who are Eclipse Award winners as Outstanding Breeders and Owners. Instead, their 15th Claiming Crown win came via a $25,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase who subsequently ran for that same price in a Gulfstream maiden claiming race in January.

The 3-year-old colt by Shakespeare, who was bred in Kentucky by Dell Ridge Farm LLC, quickly developed into a stakes horse after that maiden win and took the $75,000 Forty Niner Stakes at Gulfstream in June. The Emerald, run at 1 1/16 miles on the turf for horses who had started for $25,000 or less, included the added challenge for Keystoneforvictory of facing older horses for the first time, but the colt passed the test with a neck victory as the tepid 3-1 favorite under Jose Ortiz.

“Every race we win is important, obviously, but we love the Claiming Crown,” Maker said. “We love coming to it and love being part of it. I’m glad we didn’t get shut out again this year. I thought I had won a couple earlier today and it didn’t work out so I was due, I guess.”

The Ramseys and Maker have won at least one Claiming Crown race every year since 2008, except for 2011 and last year.

Bruce McCrea’s Flashy Chelsey, a Churchill Downs invader trained by Robert O’Connor II, surged to take second at odds of 23-1. Another horse coming from Churchill, Market Outlook, finished third for owner Hot Scot Stable and trainer Gary Contessa.

Jewel • Royal Posse
The words “claiming horse” and “millionaire” normally do not go together, unless you are talking about Royal Posse, who won the $190,000 Jewel for the second consecutive year and pushed his bankroll into seven-figure territory. Of course, it could be argued that the New York-bred son of Posse is not the same horse taken for $20,000 out of a May 2015 race at Belmont Park, and he’s unlikely to see the claiming ranks again anytime soon.

Since being claimed, the gelding has turned into a bonafide star with a total of six stakes wins, including three straight coming into this renewal of the Claiming Crown. He benefited from his status as a New York-bred, with four of those six stakes wins coming against state-bred foes, headlined by the $300,000 Empire Classic Handicap at Belmont. After the Rudy Rodriguez trainee crossed the finish line a half-length in front at Gulfstream as the 7-10 favorite in the Jewel, his earnings stood at $1,011,245 with a record of 34-11-10-0. He covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.84 under Luis Saez. Racing’s newest millionaire was bred by Richard Troncone and Richard Troncone Jr.

“We claimed him at the right time,” said Rodriguez, who trains the 5-year-old for Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables LLC and Gary Aisquith. “When we got him, he was a pretty sound horse. He’s like an ATM. You put him in [a race], and he gives it to you. You don’t have to put much back, just keep him happy.”

The outcome of the Jewel, however, looked far from certain on the far turn as the favorite still had plenty of work to do from fifth place.

“I wasn’t worried,” Rodriguez said. “I know when he’s outside, he’s a grinder. Luis said as soon as he took him outside, he started grinding and grinding. That’s what he does most of the time.”

A three-peat in the Jewel is highly improbable for Royal Posse, as he would have to be entered again for a tag of $35,000 or less to become eligible to defend his title.

Diamond Bachelor, a two-time stakes winner on the Gulfstream turf for Diamond 100 Racing Club LLC, Robert Trussell and co-owner/trainer Patrick Biacone, put in a valiant effort but came up just short of pulling off a 38-1 upset. John Jones, a winner of four straight races including a Claiming Crown Preview race at Laurel Park, took third for owner Matthew Schera and trainer Lacey Gaudet.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Important Message to All Horsemen About Our Industry's Workforce

To all trainers, horse owners and farm owners/managers:

On Monday, we need to light up the phone lines to Congress.

We must rally our forces to make sure that Congress re-instates the Returning Worker Exemption that allows our temporary migrant work force to be in the U.S. legally for 10 months a year, return to their home country for two and then come back to work at our racetracks, training facilities and farms. It’s called an H-2B visa. We can’t overemphasize that those holding H-2B visas are in the country legally. As we know, these are jobs that otherwise would be hard to fill.

Finding seasonal labor to take care of our horses will become a nightmare without these men and women (and it’s not just racing impacted, but many small businesses). Time is of the essence as Congress is expected to vote on this in a matter of days.

Here’s how you can help:
On Monday, when their offices will be open, call Sen. Mitch McConnell at (202) 224-2541 and Rep. Hal Rogers at (202)225-4601 in Washington, D.C. Once connected to the office, ask to speak to the person who handles H-2B issues. Tell them Congress must understand that a failure to reinstate the H-2B returning worker exemption before March of next year will hurt the horse racing industry and will result in the loss of jobs in Kentucky and around the country.

In the meantime, tweet #saveH2B to @SenateMajLdr and @RepHalRogers and others in Congress with a message on the lines of “Include returning worker exemption to H-2B program in CR – Kentucky jobs are at stake!” Another to tag is @HouseAppropsGOP,

You can learn more following @H2Bworkforce, which stresses that H2B protects American workers by ensuring small and seasonal employers have access to legal temporary workers during peak times.

Equine Equipment breaks ground: Sponsors track-crew internships at Keeneland, Mahoning Valley

 Mahoning Valley track superintendent R. J. Moore with his track crew 
Innovative Equine Marketing, which provides manufacturer discounts to the horse world through its Equine Equipment program, is launching America’s first internships for college students interested in the field of race-track maintenance and getting on course to being a track superintendent.

Keeneland Association in Lexington, Ky., and Hollywood Gaming Mahoning Valley Race Course in Youngstown, Ohio, have been awarded the first Equine Equipment Track Internship scholarships for 2017. Seed money for the internships will be provided by Equine Equipment, which gets facilities and active participants in the horse industry leading discounts through local dealers on tractors, mowers and paint with best-selling brands such as Toro, Massey Ferguson, Exmark, FarmPaint and Challenger.

“This is just my idea to give back to the industry and to support the racing facilities and the tracks that support me,” said Innovative Equine Marketing founder Steve Andersen, a life-long racing enthusiast. “Maybe a University of Kentucky ‘ag' student doesn’t want to work in soybeans, corn and tobacco. But he likes dirt, likes equipment and likes being outside. We want to give them the opportunity to see the wonderful world of being a track superintendent.”

Andersen is working with the University of Kentucky and Youngstown State University to provide candidates for the internships at Keeneland and Mahoning Valley. Keeneland track superintendent Javier Barajas and Mahoning Valley track superintendent R.J. Moore will then pick the recipients.

“Keeneland is excited to be able to offer this internship to introduce college students to race-track maintenance and encourage them to pursue a career as a track superintendent,” Barajas said. “With a dirt track, turf course and all-weather training track at Keeneland, a student will receive a unique opportunity to learn about the maintenance of three different surfaces.”

Mark Loewe, vice president for racing operations at Mahoning Valley, applauded a program that will give smart and motivated students the opportunity to learn under the direction of two of the best track superintendents in the business.

“It’s a great idea. As an industry I think we should be looking at more internships for other positions,” Loewe said. “Working race tracks is a science, certainly not something that anybody can walk in off the street and do. It’s a great idea if we can get some young people interested in it. And it’s a very interesting profession, to say the least.”

Other tracks can apply for a 2018 Equine Equipment Track Internship by contacting Andersen at or (877) 905-0004, as well as by seeing him and Equine Equipment’s display at the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program’s Dec. 5-7 Global Symposium on Racing and Gaming at Tucson’s Loews Ventana Canyon Resort.

“These guys are the hardest-working guys on the track,” Andersen said of track superintendents. “There are many of them working the track all night long so it doesn’t freeze. It’s not a question of ‘What time are you coming home?’ It’s ‘Are you coming home tonight?’ They’re often expected to hold equipment together with fishing line, duct tape and gum and hope it holds up because they’re not going to get the budget to do or buy more. And sometimes it’s ‘Don’t spend too much on the gum.’

“It’s a tough business, and track supers have to fight to get the equipment they need and get the very best value and take care of it. They have to appease the horsemen and appease management.”

Thursday, December 1, 2016

It Behooves Me Sets Sights on Claiming Crown Rapid Transit

Four weeks after paying immediate dividends by winning first time out for his new connections, T D C B E Stable’s It Behooves Me takes aim at a bigger prize in Saturday’s $125,000 Claiming Crown Rapid Transit at Gulfstream Park.

The seven-furlong Rapid Transit and $110,000 Express at six furlongs are two of nine stakes on the $1.11 million Claiming Crown Day program that kicks off Gulfstream’s 2016-17 Championship Meet. This is the fifth straight year in South Florida for the Claiming Crown, created in 1999 to honor the blue-collar horses that are the foundation of the racing industry nationwide.

It Behooves Me had run exclusively on the West Coast when he was claimed for $16,000 out of a runner-up finish Sept. 26 at Los Alamitos. Sent to Maryland-based trainer Kieron Magee, the gelded 4-year-old son of Grade 1 Bluegrass Cat picked up $22,800 for his victory in the Rapid Transit Preview Nov. 6 at Laurel Park, earning an all-expenses-paid trip to South Florida.

“He’s good. We’re excited. We’re ready to hopefully make some money,” Magee said. “He ran so big last time that we figured, why not give it a shot. He does everything right. He’s a cool horse to be around.”

It Behooves Me was one of two horses Magee inherited after being claimed by the owner in California. The other, Nicaradalic Rocks, won the Maryland Million Sprint in October.

“I had told the owner this horse could be better than that one,” Magee said. “I told him he still has his a-other-than condition so we can go to Florida and then we can try that when we get back.”

Ridden by Julian Pimentel, It Behooves Me was unhurried in the early stages last time out before sweeping by the field with a five-wide move around the turn and going on to win by 1 ¼ lengths in 1:23.72 for seven furlongs.

“He came from way back and the rider never even hit him. Julian said he did it all by himself. He never even asked him,” Magee said. “There was plenty of speed in there so we thought to just let them go and sit off it and see what happens. I thought he’d probably be better going a little further but at the three-eighths pole he looked like a winner.”

Antonio Gallardo will ride It Behooves Me from Post 9 in a field of 11.

Shaft of Light, second in the Mr. Prospector June 26 at Monmouth Park, returns to the races for the Rapid Transit after finishing fifth as the favorite in a third-level optional claiming allowance Sept. 10 at Parx. Prior to that, he rolled by 8 ¾ lengths over the same track in a second-level event.

“He’s a super nice horse. I think he’s a stakes horse,” trainer Jorge Navarro said. “The last race he took back, and he doesn’t want to sit back there. He wants to be on the lead. He’s working really, really good. Last week he worked in 58 [seconds] and change and galloped out in 1:11. He’s ready. He’s a nice horse.”

Rounding out the field are Dancin in the Heat, Day of Fury, Fire Mission, Flashy Jewel, Marrakech, Norman’s Hero, Prudhoe Bay, Sharp Art and Tenango.

Stakes Winner Defer Heaven Aims for New Streak in $110,000 Express

Monster Racing Stables’ Defer Heaven, who lost for the first time in three races last time out, will attempt to regain his winning form in the $110,000 Express for horses that have run for a claiming price of $8,000 or less lifetime.

A 6-year-old Defer gelding, Defer Heaven returns to Gulfstream where he has won five of six career starts, the only loss coming in the seven-furlong Sir Shackleton in April. On Feb. 15 he romped to a front-running 8 ¼-length victory in the seven-furlong Trust Buster.

“I think he’s better going seven-eighths,” Navarro said. “Going three-quarters, he’s not that fast out of the gate. Second quarter, he’s pretty fast. The longer he goes, the better he gets. I don’t think coming out of the gate he’s got that speed.”

Overall Defer Heaven owns 18 wins from 34 career starts, and he is 11-for-20 lifetime at six furlongs. In his most recent start, he led early but tired to finish sixth of seven in a third-level optional claiming allowance Sept. 10 at Parx

“The race at Parx, coming from a fast track at Monmouth Park, the track was real deep and he didn’t get over it. He had a good summer, so we backed off and gave him a break,” Navarro said. “He’s a pretty cool, neat horse to be around. He loves Gulfstream Park. He likes the fast tracks.”

David Jacobson-owned and trained Proper Freud earned automatic entry to Express with his half-length victory Nov. 6 at Laurel, where he came four wide down the stretch after running in mid-pack and got up in time, hitting the wire in 1:10.97. It marked the second straight win for the 5-year-old son of 2005 Preakness (G1) and Belmont (G1) winner Afleet Alex, both since being claimed for $40,000 Aug. 24.

Also entered are Alfredo Romana, Blings Express, Capital City, Como Se Llama, Divine Ambition, Express Jet, Great Lou, J B Quick, Li’l Meatball, stakes-placed Mitos Y Leyendas, Running Cat and Skippy Is Back.

Claimed for $12,500 out of his last start Nov. 4 at Aqueduct, Great Lou is making his first start for owner Ken Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker. Ramsey and Maker have a record 14 wins apiece in the Claiming Crown.

John Jones Puts Win Streak on the Line in Saturday's Claiming Crown Jewel at Gulstream Park

The claiming of John Jones couldn’t have worked out more perfectly for trainer Lacey Gaudet and owner Matthew Schera.

The 4-year-old gelding has been undefeated since being claimed for $25,000 at Laurel Park July 17 and will bring a four-race winning streak into Saturday’s $200,000 Jewel at Gulfstream Park on the 11-race Opening Day program of the 2016-2017 Championship Meet.

John Jones is scheduled to clash with defending champion Royal Posse in the 1 1/8-mile centerpiece of the nine-race $1.1 million Claiming Crown.

Gaudet spotted potential in the son of Smarty Jones prior to his first start in a $25,000 claiming race at Laurel June 29, but her enthusiasm for the winner of 3 of 14 start wasn’t enough to prompt any of her clients to take the plunge into the claiming box.

“When John Jones first ran for $25,000, I called some of my Maryland-based owners about him, because he’s a Maryland-bred. It’s a huge incentive to run for the extra 30-percent. Nobody was really game on wanting to claim him,” Gaudet said. “They ran him back for $25,000 and I said, ‘We really want to get him in the barn.’”

New client Matthew Schera gave Gaudet the go-ahead on July 17, when he finished fourth after pressing the pace in a mile race on the main track.

“The main goal was: here’s a Maryland-bred and there’s a Maryland-bred stakes coming up. His breeding shows he might be a little better on the grass, so let’s go with that angle,” the Maryland-based trainer said. “We had a plan with him. Plans usually don’t work out that well.”

Although he had come up empty in two previous starts on grass, John Jones made an instant return on his new connections’ investment by capturing the $75,000 Mr. Diz Stakes over the Laurel turf course, defeating the venerable Ben’s Cat, who finished third. John Jones scored by a front-running victory by two lengths at 43-1.

“It wasn’t his best distance, but we really wanted to get him on the grass. He was 40-1. It wasn’t until 10:30 or 11 o’clock the day of the race that we said, ‘Let’s go for it. At least we’ll see if he likes the grass. If not, we won’t try it again,’” Gaudet said. “He was a rocket out of there. He surprised us all running that big going three-quarters on the grass.”

Although he won on turf, Gaudet ran John Jones on dirt in his three subsequent starts, each resulting in victory.

“I don’t think it was necessarily a fluke that he got the race that he did going three-quarters on the grass, but his numbers and past performance did show that he really liked to go a mile on dirt,” she said. “He showed us that we really did the right thing.”

In his most recent victory in the “Win & You’re In’ Jewel Preview at Laurel Park, John Jones won an automatic berth in the Jewel and free shipping to Gulfstream Park while stretching out to 1 1/8 miles to score by 4 ¾ lengths..

“He did a lot of things in that mile-and-an-eighth race. It was a bit slower than he would have wanted but he rated great going into the first turn. It’s something he’ll probably have to do here. There will be more speed down here. He laid off them and then he just overtook the field,” said Gaudet, who will also saddle Marabea for a start in the $110,000 Glass Slipper and Music Critik in the $125,000 Emerald after both horses also won ‘Win & You’re In’  races at Laurel.

Maryland-based Luis Garcia, who has been aboard all four of his victories, has the return mount for John Jones’ clash with defending champion Royal Posse, who scored an impressive 2 ½ -length victory last year.

Owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and Gary Aisquith, Royal Posse was claimed on May 31, 2015 and has gone on to win seven races, including six stakes, and finish second six times in 13 starts for New York-based trainer Rudy Rodriguez.

“He’s been very, very consistent. I’m very blessed having him around. He’s as game as they come and he does everything right. He’s had a very good season,” Rodriguez said. “It’s hard to describe how he’s been for us. He’s been a horse come true.

“He’s been one of the best horses in the barn for a long time. He’s a nice horse to be around. He’s a very good horse. We’re just happy to be in the position to go back to Gulfstream.”

The 5-year-old gelded son of Posse enters the Jewel with three straight New York-bred stakes scores, including a 3 ½-length victory in the $300,000 Empire Classic at Belmont last time out.

Luis Saez is slated to ride Royal Posse for the first time in the Jewel, which attracted nine entries Wednesday.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who have a record 14 Claiming Crown victories to their credit, are slated to be represented by two Michael Maker-trained runners, Bigger Picture and Homespun Hero, in the Jewel.

Claimed for $32,000 in November 2015, Bigger Picture has won four of seven turf starts this season, including a triumph in the Red Smith Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct Nov. 12. The son of Badge of Silver has raced four times on an ‘off’ main track during his career, winning once. Homespun Hero, claimed for $50,000 three starts back, has a victory in a $50,000 claiming race and a third-place allowance effort in two races for his new connections. Jose Ortiz will ride Bigger Picture, while Julien Leparoux.has the mount aboard Homespun Hero.

Like Bigger Picture, the Patrick Biancone-trained Diamond Bachelor is also slated to run in the Jewel after recent success on grass. Owned by Biancone, Diamond 100 Racing Club and Robert Trussell, the 5-year-old son of War Front is coming off back-to-back scores in the Mr. Steele and The Vid over the Gulfstream turf.

“It’s probably a bit of a gamble to run him on the dirt, but it’s a big race,” Biancone said. “We’ll try to do the best we can.”

Lane Luzzi has the return mount aboard Diamond Bachelor, who has one victory in three wet-track starts on dirt.

Enders Cat, Mr. Kisses, My Point Exactly and We’re All Set round out the field for the Jewel, and event for horses that have started for a claiming price of $35,000 or lower at least once in their careers..
Goodtimehadbyall Back Again to Stake Claim in $110,000 Iron Horse  

Ten Strike Racing’s Goodtimehadbyall was entered for the $110,000 Iron Horse Wednesday for an attempt to recapture past Claiming Crown glory in Saturday’s nine-race $1.1 million Claiming Crown at Gulfstream Park.

The son of Quiet American captured the 2013 Rapid Transit before finishing second in the Rapid Transit for trainer Jorge Navarro. The 8-year-old gelding, who was claimed away for $62,500 out of a Gulfstream optional claiming allowance on Feb. 25, 2015, missed last year’s Claiming Crown.

After notching one win in 16 starts since the claim, Goodtimehadbyall returned to Navarro’s barn through the claiming box at Parx in June and is set for a return to the Claiming Crown in the Iron Horse, a 1 1/16-mile event for horses that have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or lower at least once during their careers.
“He won (the seven-furlong Rapid Transit) the first time and then came back and ran second, and now he’s back at it again,” Navarro said. “I lost him for $62,500 two years ago. I took him back at Parx for $5,000, and since I’ve had him he’s been doing good. He’s a cool horse to have around. He’s an 8-year-old; he’s won a bunch of races; and you know what, he’s pretty happy.”

Goodtimehadbyall finished second in three straight photo finishes before breaking through with a dominating 6 ½-length starter allowance victory at 1 1/16 miles at Monmouth Park.

“He’s always given me his all. We’re looking to do the right thing with him. The owner took him back and told me straight out, ‘Jorge, if you think he’s not going to make it as a racehorse, let’s find him a home,’” Navarro said. “So I claimed him back. He was pretty clean and he’s training really, really, really good. I think he’s going to be tough. He loves Gulfstream Park, too, so we’ll see.”

Jose Ortiz has the mount aboard Goodtimehadbyall, who drew the outside post in a field of 14 entered Wednesday.

Racetrack Romance, owned by Acclaimed Racing Stable and Jagger Inc., rates as the horse to beat in the Iron Horse looking to his photo-finish win over Goodtimehadbyall in a Monmouth starter allowance Aug. 28. The Jamie Ness-trained gelding, who was claimed for $6,250 at Gulfstream last February, has won five of his last six starts for trainer Jamie Ness.

Paco Lopez has the mount aboard Racetrack Romance, who drew post No. 12.

Cause I’m Alex, Cheech Thunder, No Brakes, Chiseled, Boca Scuttlebutt, Legacy Danseur, Papa Pig, Rich Daddy, Toh’s Grey Cat and Valid Concept round out the field.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TOBA Ownership Seminar to be Part of Claiming Crown Weekend at Gulfstream Park

This weekend, Saturday, December 3, is opening weekend of the Gulfstream Park Championship meet. It is also Claiming Crown weekend and TOBA’s Ownership Seminar.

The TOBA Thoroughbred Ownership Seminar includes  breakfast at 8 a.m. during morning workouts to begin the conference. Following that, attendees will spend time with industry professionals as they discuss racing business topics. Afterwards, there will be a special guest handicapper and attendees will enjoy the races from the presidential suite! All guests are welcome. You are invited at the member rate of $90 – which includes all of your materials, meals, seating, etc.

Speakers include:
Aly Strainer - TOBA properties, workouts, host
Christina Bossinakis (former TVG analyst) - Owner’s Concierge program
Sandy Levine (Drawing Away Stable) - claiming, syndication, ownership
Kip Elser (Kirkwood Stables) - buying/selling, breaking/training
Kathleen O’Connell (leading Florida trainer) - on track horses – owner/trainer relationships
Laura D’Angelo (Dinsmore) - legalities, partnerships, syndications
Jen Shah (Dean Dorton Allen Ford) - tax tips, business classification, filing
Erin Crady (Thoroughbred Charities of America) - exit strategy, second careers

For more information and to register, go to

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Claiming Crown Receives 279 Nominations for December 3 Running at Gulfstream Park

The 18th running of the $1.1 Claiming Crown, to be hosted by Gulfstream Park for the fifth consecutive year, received 279 nominations for the nine-race event that will highlight the opening of the Championship Meet on Saturday, Dec. 3.

"We appreciate the participation of all the horsemen and we're delighted to be hosting this great event for a fifth consecutive year," said P.J. Campo,  Gulfstream's General Manager and The Stronach Group's Vice President of Racing. "The Claiming Crown is the first of several major events we will play host to at Gulfstream this winter, including the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational, $1 million Florida Derby, the Eclipse Awards and Sunshine Millions. The Claiming Crown is a great way for everyone in Thoroughbred racing to kick off the Championship Meet."

The inaugural Claiming Crown was held in suburban Minneapolis at Canterbury Park in 1999. The Claiming Crown had also been held previously at Parx, Fair Grounds and Ellis Park. The event was started to reward the blue-collar horses that provide the backbone of day-to-day racing programs. Total handle for the Claiming Crown the past two seasons at Gulfstream has topped $10 million.

Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, who have won a record 14 Claiming Crown events, have 10 horses nominated including Homespun Hero in the $200,000 Jewel and Keystoneforvictory, Xaverian and Creaky Cricket in the $125,000 Emerald.

Although the Ramseys failed to own a Claiming Crown winner last year, they bred Tiara Stakes winner Quiet Kitten.

Michael Dubb has six horses nominated to the Claiming Crown including Royal Posse, who will attempt to defend his title in the Jewel while coming into the race off a victory in Belmont's $300,000 Empire Classic.

Loooch Racing Stables, winner of last year's Glass Slipper with Moonshine Promise and the Iron Horse with Run With Bulls, nominated Moonshine Promise for the Glass Slipper

Those nominated to the 1 1/8 mile Jewel along with Royal Posse include Red Smith Handicap (G3) winner Bigger Picture, Greenwood Cup (G3) runner-up Hawaakom, Diamond Bachelor, a winner this summer of two consecutive stakes at Gulfstream, and John Jones, a winner of four consecutive races at Laurel including a "Win & You're In" on Nov. 6.

Fifty horses were nominated for the Emerald. Along with stakes winners Xaverian, Keystoneforvictory and Aire Bueno, Thinkinquality, a winner of six consecutive races earlier this year, has been nominated.

Turf Monster (G3) winner Doctor J Dub and Kentucky Downs Turf Sprint winner Successful Native were nominated to the Canterbury at five furlongs on the turf. Galton, third in Keeneland's Woodford (G3), was cross-entered in both the Canterbury and Emerald.

The Claiming Crown is a joint venture between the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. The Claiming Crown has been held annually since 1999.