Friday, March 18, 2011

News and Notes: Chantal, Hastings and Irish Eyes Not Smiling

Chantal Sutherland announced on Thursday that she would be riding full time at Santa Anita this season.

Good luck Chantal!

The decision is not surprising following Sutherland's breakthrough victory in the Big Cap aboard Game On Dude. Steve Anderson filed a report for the Daily Racing Form:

Sutherland, 35, said on Thursday that the win in the Big Cap was a contributing factor in her decision, which she reached after consulting with her agent, Brian Beach. In past seasons, Sutherland has ridden in Southern California from mid-December to late March before returning to her native Canada.

“It’s exciting,” Sutherland said. “It’s been a personal goal to ride here year-round. The opportunity, in my heart, says this is the year to try it.”

Sutherland won 136 races at Woodbine in 2010, good for third in the standings behind Eurico Rosa da Silva (190) and Patrick Husbands (172), including a meet-leading 18 stakes victories. Her final stakes victory at Woodbine was aboard Inglorious in the Ontario Lassie Stakes on closing day. Sutherland will ride Inglorious in the Fair Ground Oaks on March 26th, a race that sees the pair get a second crack at Kathmanblu who beat them to the wire in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes in February. A date in the Kentucky Oaks awaits further down the road.

Will Luis Contreras take over where Chantal left off?

The absence of Sutherland at Woodbine opens up a lot of mounts for the strong Woodbine colony and it will be interesting to watch the agents get busy working the phones as a number of jocks are more than capable of stepping up. Luis Contreras made a name for himself in 2010 winning 127 races from 675 starts, while Justin Stein (58 wins) had a strong campaign steering the Ian Black charge Fifty Proof through a variety of graded events including a second place finish in the Northern Dancer. Emma-Jayne Wilson won 70 races in an injury shortened campaign and has worked hard over the winter at Parx and Gulfstream to be back in peak shape for the new season. Eclipse Award winning apprentice Omar Moreno (126 wins) will also be looking to prove himself as a journeyman as the 2011 campaign begins.

Emma-Jayne Wilson is always happiest in the winners circle

Consideration must also be given to new jockeys that might decide to follow the influx of American trainers to the valuable slots-infused purses at Woodbine. Click on this link to see the stats for Leading Jockeys at Woodbine in 2010.

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Hastings Racecourse in B.C is making a big play for the consumer dollar by lowering takeout to just 15% for win, place, show, pick four and pick five wagers in an inspired move by General Manager Raj Mutti. The new pick five wager, which has been a success at Gulfstream Park this winter, will also feature a carryover component. Bill Finley penned the following piece for ESPN, At Hastings, The Player Is King:

Whether it's with on-track or simulcast bettors, Mutti wants people to know that Hastings is doing something different and trying to offer the customer a better value than he or she could get most anywhere else. He knows that a small track like Hastings can easily get lost among the glut of simulcasting signals. This year, he hopes to make his track stand out from the crowd.

"Our ideal goal is a 10 percent increase in handle at the meet," he said. "We are hopeful for 10, but are realistically thinking we will have, maybe, a 5 percent bump. We are going to do a lot of work promoting and advertising the takeout decrease to the players, so players are more aware of the Hastings product. It's not a product that has been promoted much throughout North America over the last few years so we're trying to get it back on the horseplayer's radar screen. We want them to know it is a good product with good-sized fields and good value."

Those looking for a refresher on Hastings jocks as they plan their wagers might want to check out their recent press release that booms, RICHARD HAMEL WILL HAVE HIS WORK CUT OUT IN DEFENDING LAST YEAR’S LEADING RIDER TITLE:

In the past five seasons at Hastings Racecourse there have been four jockeys capture the leading rider title. Richard Hamel is the defending 2010 champ; Fernando Perez won it in 2009; Mario Gutierrez was on top of the heap in 2008 and 2007; Pedro Alvarado laid claim to the championship in 2006.

All four are back with a vengeance...

The Hastings meet begins on April 16th.

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While many raised a glass on Thursday to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, the BBC chose to post a depressing, and distressing, video/article on the effect that the recession in Ireland is having on their thoroughbred industry. It's well worth clicking on this link to watch the video interview with trainer Terry Hogan who speaks candidly about the changes he has witnessed first hand. Rebecca Morelle's piece is entitled, Irish racehorses led to slaughter as recession bites:

To keep up with this new demand, thoroughbreds - a breed of horse used specifically for racing - were being produced at an unprecedented rate: between 2000 and 2007, the number of registered foals increased from 8,793 to 12,633.

But these horses are expensive, costing approximately 17,000 euros (£15,000) a year to keep.

And when Ireland plunged into one of the deepest recessions to hit the eurozone, they became a luxury very few could afford.

Mr Hogan, who is based in Nenagh, County Tipperary, explains: "Quite a lot of those horses would have been owned by syndicates - basically blocklayers, carpenters, electricians - people involved in the big property boom. And they just disappeared overnight."

Suddenly he was left with horses, but with no money coming in from their owners to pay for them.

It has been a very difficult time, he says. Some of these horses have had to be exported, others retrained, and a few he has kept on himself. Some, though, have had to be put down.

It should be this easy

The video is heartbreaking as Hogan essentially suggests that it's more humane to euthanize the animals than see them go to homes that might mistreat them. It's not even close to the first story of its kind to come out of Ireland in the past few months. A New York Times piece in December screamed, Hardships of a Nation Push Horses Out to Die which depicts the plight of the horse in a weakened economy. The story of the downfall of the Celtic Tiger is best told in this Michael Lewis piece for Vanity Fair, When Irish Eyes Are Crying.

Times are tough

Stories like this remind me how important it is that the industry give back to their retired equine stars and that we should support the success of organizations like the Woodbine-based LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society. Those readers that have cashed a bet recently and are feeling a bit generous can donate to LongRun via the PayPal widget in the right-hand margin of this blog.

Be generous to our retired stars

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I cannot possibly end this post on such a dour note so I'll sign off with a link to the best horse racing story I've read thus far in 2011. After reading the above pieces about the horses of Ireland, you'll be moved from tears of heartache to tears of joy with the following words by Steve Haskin who takes readers on a trip down memory lane with Alysheba in a piece named, Sheba, Joe, and J P:

I can remember the image like it was yesterday. And why not? I saw it enough times. The handsome bay colt, his regally arched neck so low you could swear he was looking between his legs. And those strides: smooth and effortless, always reaching out for more ground. Before the term “in the zone” became popular, Alysheba was in the zone every day of his racing life. When he moved, he was sheer poetry, like a Richard Stone Reeves painting come to life. When he broke off into a gallop and began arching that neck he captured the essence of the Thoroughbred in motion in all its beauty and grandeur.

On his back, in perfect harmony with the magnificent steed beneath him, was 38-year-old Joe Petalino, the right-hand man of Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg. Petalino, on the surface, was the quiet type, with not a heck of a lot to say. He left the verbal tapestry to Van Berg, who had a bag full of aphorisms about every aspect of life, and applied almost every one of them to racing. Van Berg was the first person I ever heard use the expression “Time only matters when you’re in jail.”

Alysheba wins the 1988 Breeders' Cup Classic in the dusk

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There are plenty of Woodbine trainers keeping busy in the off season so why not click into my Entries/Results page. (Good luck to Scott Fairlie and Milwaukee Appeal in the Inside Information Stakes at Gulfstream on Saturday!)

Keep track of the latest horse racing news by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page or join in on the conversation by following TripleDeadHeat on Twitter. (Honestly, if you're not on Twitter, you're missing the time a news story is linked in a blog it's old news!)

Still need more? Check out my archived posts including Feature Stories and Photo Essays.

1 comment:

The_Knight_Sky said...

Good move by Hastings Park. Orchestrated by a young gun in Raj Mutti. When are the rest of them going to follow suit?

Every racino should be lowering their takeout rates and investing in the future of their horse racing product. Racino revenues are not going to stay on the table forever.

When it isn't there.
What happens to the horse racing?
Lowered purses and a depleted/aging fan base. Serious problems to address.