Thursday, June 8, 2017

Derby Winner Classic Empire...!! What?

This is a story the Cincinnati Enquirer printed in its Saturday, May 27, 2017 edition.  The article read:

Derby Winner Classic Empire skipping Belmont

New York - Kentucky Derby winner Classic Empire will Skip the Belmont Stakes next month after finishing eighth in the Preakness.

Trainer Todd Pletcher says the 3-year-old will be pointed toward either the $600,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 29 or the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth on July 30, according to the Daily Racing Form.

Trainer Chad Brown says he will wait until after the Memorial Day weekend to announce where Preakness winner Cloud Computing will run next.  However, it appears likely that he will run in the Belmont.

The Belmont field is limited to 16 starters.  Horses expected include Conquest, Mo Money, Japan-based Epicharis, Gormley, Irap, J Boys Echo, Lookin At Lee, Meantime, Multiple, Patch and Senior Investment.

Associated Press

Derby Winner Classic Empire (?)

The Cincinnati Enquirer began as the Cincinnati Commercial in the mid-1800's and survived the shake-out of our two afternoon daily newspapers, The Cincinnati Post and The Cincinnati Times Star. It was a proud newspaper with a great tradition and a conservative editorial board.  But with the advent of online resources the Enquirer, like many other newspapers, began cutting costs to make up for lost revenue and increased costs.  The Enquirer isn't even printed in Cincinnati anymore, it is printed in Columbus and is now owned by the USA Today group.

The paper staggers beneath the weight of change, but never is its decline more evident than in the quality of its editing.  There are grammatical and syntax errors and this unedited news wire story makes you wonder about the accuracy of stories that are of substantially more significance than this 
collection of misbegotten prose.

So I wrote the following email to Jason Hoffman, the sports editor.


Of course by now you know that it was Always Dreaming who won the Kentucky Derby and not Classic Empire as reported in today's Enquirer.  Over the past several years I have been disappointed by the quality of editing at the Enquirer.  This egregious error is just another reason why newspapers straddle a fine line between relevance and obsolescence.  It makes no difference that the blurb about Classic Empire and the Belmont may have been sourced from the Associated Press, the error should have been caught.

As a writer of articles that primarily deal with horses and horse racing, I am always careful to make certain my facts are in order, and I have an editor that demands that accuracy.  We rely on you to bring us sports news that is accurate and not merely laughable.

And in all fairness I have to report the presence of egg on my face, because in my haste to dash off this email to Mr. Hoffman,  I typed "...Always Dreaming who one," when I meant Always Dreaming who "won" the Kentucky Derby.  lol.

By the way, The Enquirer did not respond to my email.

Wearing the symbol of his Kentucky Derby win, Always Dreaming.

Copyright June 6, 2017 by Loren Schumacher
Photo copyrights belong to the photographers
Derby Winner Classic Empire skipping Belmont by the Associated Press and published by The Cincinnati Enquirer on May 37, 2017

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wild Dayrell

The three foundation sires of the modern Thoroughbred date to Byerly Turk, 1680, Darley Arabian, 1704 and Godolphin Arabian in 1729.  Wild Dayrell, an English Thoroughbred foaled in 1852, was just six generations removed from Herod and eight from Godolphin Arabian.  He was the product of the union of Ellen Middleton, a horse purchased for 50** guineas and the runner up in the Epson Derby of 1838, Ion.  A photo of Wild Dayrell taken in 1855, the year he was retired, is the earliest known photographic image of a Thoroughbred.

Wild Dayrell in 1855

The Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer (Canberra, Australia) of Friday, September 14, 1855 described him this way:
"He is a rich brown horse, standing sixteen hands one inch high of immense power, he has a good lean head, rather long arched neck (compare to paintings of the Godolphin Arabian), good shoulder, great depth of girth (69 inches), immense ribs, and very powerful strong muscular quarters, immense arms (?), gaskins, knees, and hocks and is very short from knee to ground.  If anything, he is a little "in" at the elbows, and his toes turn outward.  He has no white about him and "take him all in all," is one of the finest specimens of a race horse that has been seen for years."  It looks like he might be "sickle hocked" as well, but it could just be the way he is standing.

His breeder, Francis Popham of Littlecote House in Wiltshire, had no prior experience in breeding horses, nor did his "trainer," John Rickaby, Popham's "hunting groom." Throughout his brief but successful racing career, Wild Dayrell was dogged by the public's opinion that he had been "trained by a gardener."

Wild Dayrell's name is the stuff of local legends in Wiltshire.  It is said to stem from the murder of an illegitimate child.  Its unthinkable death came at the hands of one of Popham's male forbears named Darrell.  The child was first thrown into an open fire at Littlecote House.  When it somehow escaped the flames, the baby was thrown onto the fireplace grate where it died.  A scorned husband could leave no evidence of a woman's infidelity it seems.

Wild Dayrell was sold as a yearling for 100 guineas, with an extra 500 guineas to be paid should the colt win the Epsom Derby.  The purchaser was John Kent, the agent for Lord Henry Lennox, the son of the Duke of Richmond.  These people traveled in lofty circles.

As a two-year old in 1854 he was repurchased by Popham for 250 guineas after proving himself "backward and immature."  Popham sold a share in Dayrell to Lord Craven and on September 27, 1854 the horse easily won by two lengths a three-horse sweepstakes at Newmarket, beating horses named Hazel and Para.  In winning, Wild Dayrell so impressed onlookers that he was installed as a contender for the following year's Epsom Derby.

After turning down a 3000 British pound bid for the horse by Baron Meyer de Rothschild, his owners stepped up the pressure, racing him in a private trial just 10 days before the 1855 Derby, where he soundly defeated three rivals, including a classy colt by the name of Jack Shepherd, while giving away 21 pounds to his three rivals.

What followed is the stuff of Hollywood. Gamblers and bookmakers feared loosing a small fortune should Wild Dayrell win the Derby.  A member of Popham's staff was let go for acting "suspiciously" and the horse was put under guard.  There is more.  The horse-box (trailer) hired to transport the colt was sabotaged and collapsed when it was pulled by a bullock.  Then a 5000 British pound bribe was offered to Popham and Lord Craven, which they refused,

The even money favorite against an eleven horse field that included the 2000 Guineas winner, Lord of the Isles at 7/4.  Stalking the leader Kingstown, Dayrell made his move just a furlong from the finish, winning by a length from Kingstown with Lord of the Isles finishing third.   Lord Craven made a killing on the outcome, winning 10,000 British pounds, While Lord Craven cashed in, Dayrell emerged from the race lame in the left front, most likely because of the course's firm turf.  His unfortunate injury would resurface later.

He won in a lark at York in the "Ebor St. Leger" over a well thought of colt named Oulston.  He was next entered in the Doncaster Cup, a race of two and a half miles.   While he was the favorite and gave away seven pounds to his rivals, he came to the post with heavily bandaged legs.  He pulled up lame, failing to finish for the first time and suffering his only defeat.  A short while later he was retired and first stood at Littlecote for 30 guineas, where he sired many winners including his daughter, Hurricane, the 1000 Guinea winner of 1862 and Atlantic, the 1874 winner of the 2000 Guineas.

Wild Dayrell died where he was born, at Littlecote in November 1879.  He was 27.

One writer said of him, "There is no saying how good as a race horse he really was," because he was never truly tested.

Compare if you will, the photo of Wild Dayrell to Thoroughbreds of more recent vintage:

The beautiful Practical Joke.

The incomparable American Pharoah.

Regardless of who wins the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 6, 2017, we wish horses and riders alike a safe trip and God's speed.

** A historical currency calculator gave me the buying power in current US dollars and these are the results.

30 guineas, Dayrell's opening stud fee:  $3507.00 in today's dollars.

50 guineas, purchase price for Ellen Middleton: $5844.00 in today's dollars.

100 guineas, Dayrell's original selling price: $11,689.00 in today's dollars.

250 guineas, price Popham paid to repurchase Dayrell: $29,244.00 in today's dollars.

3000 British pounds, price offered by Baron de Rothschild for Dayrell: $333,999.00 in today's dollars.

5000 British pounds, bribe offered Popham to pull Dayrell from the Epsom Derby: $556,666.00 in today's dollars.

10,000 British pounds, Lord Craven's winnings at the Epsom Derby: $1,033,338.00

These numbers would be enough to save Downton Abbey!

Copyright May 4, 2017 by Loren Schumacher
Copyrights for all photos belong to the photographer

Monday, February 13, 2017

...step off the sidewalk.

"For the record, we were NOT lost-not after we figured out we'd dropped two miles and 1,500 vertical feet in the wrong direction in a near-whiteout."   Just a postcard from the edge. a near-whiteout."

To be honest, I really don't know Steve Woodruff well.  He is the friend of a friend.  What I know of him comes from our brief and infrequent digital correspondence and his photographs.  But we do share a love of horses and the outdoor life.  And for me, that's enough.

Montana is fly-over country.  It is the hyphen that connects the urban centers of the east and west coasts.  The graceful neck around which hang the pearls.  There are just over a million people living in Montana.  Compare that with Ohio, where I live, and its population of nearly twelve million souls.  There are few homesteads, outposts in a sea of grass, and fewer cars.  The wind gathers up what is not secured and pushes it for mile upon mile until a taut fence line catches up what it can. Tumbleweed, just Russian Thistle really, torn from the thin soil rushes about madly just ahead of the wind.  And there is water, cold water and cutthroat trout, elk and deer, the larder of past times.  Foxes raise their generations, while buzzards make death pristine and hawks deal with the problem of over population.  There is still more in the jagged granite peaks, creeks that tumble white over their rocky paths, and rolling meadows of purple and yellow blooms rife with long grass,sweet and green.

Steve, you see, is not afraid to step off the sidewalk, to peer through the hedges, to look up and down country.  He fishes for trout in cold fast running streams and scours the tussocks for pheasant along with his two yellow labs, and rides his good horse Ranger along narrow paths into a wider, wilder world.

There is an intimacy and warmth in Steve's photographs.  However, in many of the photographs, survival and not the animal is the real subject. No matter the animal and no matter its size, all of them face deep snow, brutal cold and solitary searches for food that never end.  For the most part, leisure and a full stomach are unknown in the animal world.  

Steve has graciously allowed me to use his photographs.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.  

First, the horses:

Ranger in a sea of grass.  Notice his muscle mass.

 Zimba's Partial Eclipse
My favorite of all the horse photos.

Zimba is Ranger's pasture buddy.

Ranger patrolling the fence line.

From the field:


If Today Could Last Forever.
This is achingly beautiful and almost moves me to tears.

Rough-Legged Hawk

Coyote and Hitchhiking Magpie

In order to subjugate the Plains Indians we nearly
hunted the Bison to extinction.  When that didn't work, we rounded up
their horses and killed them all.

Bull Elk

Great Blue Heron on the Bitterroot River

Magpie in the Snow
Magpies are ubiquitous.  And everywhere too!

Winter on the Mountain

Day's End

All photos by Steve Woodruff,  Copyright 2/13/17

Text and captions by Loren Schumacher, Copyright 2/13/17

Sunday, January 1, 2017

In The Rear View: 2016

Maybe it's because I don't have the best eyesight, that I love to look at pictures.  Life in stop action, every detail frozen in time to be savored, to be examined in your own good time.  I've collected photographs since I can remember and the computer, a treasure trove of digitized images, has given me a resource that I could never have imagined and at a price that anyone can afford.

 Horses satisfy our souls, elevate our spirit and stir our hearts and let's not forget the human beings who ride them, the courageous men and woman who risk their lives to do the one thing that few can, ride a thoroughbred gate to wire faster than the rest.

These are just a few of the photos I've collected in the past year, 2016.  Perhaps one of these horses is a favorite of yours.  I hope so.

First, a remembrance or two and some wistful goodbyes.

Trainer Richard Mandela saying goodbye to Beholder

Cigar 15 days before his death.

Lady's Secret, the Hall of Fame daughter of Secretariat.

Secretariat is better known for his fillies and mares than his male progeny, an exception is Tinner's Way, now a resident of Old Friends Equine in Georgetown, Kentucky.  While she is deceased, Lady's Secret's record remains.

Arguably the greatest thoroughbred of all time, this is Secretariat in 1973, his legendary Triple Crown year.  This photo was taken by famed photographer Barbara Livingston when she was twelve years old.

The late Garrett Gomez aboard the incredible Beholder.

Speaking of Beholder, six year old Beholder ( 8) with Gary Stevens up, defeats three year old Songbird (1) and Mike Smith by a scant nose in the 2016 Breeders Cup Distaff.

Beholder was retired to Spendthrift Farm in Lexington after winning the Distaff in perhaps the greatest horse race anyone has ever seen.  Her first suitor in February will be the great Uncle Mo.

Earlier I mentioned the danger in horse racing and the courage of the jockeys.

Aiden Coleman falls with Mick Thonic at Cheltenham, England in late 2016.

Northside Downs, North Sydney, Australia.  A catastrophic wreck in which everyone, horses and drivers survived, although one of the drivers was hospitalized.

Lest we forget the ladies.

Chantal Sutherland

Chantal Sutherland has been a very successful jockey in her home country, Canada.  She always ranks among the leading jockeys at Woodbine.  She has had more difficulty finding rides and owner/trainer support in the states, but is currently riding at Santa Anita  Here she is seen aboard Coasted, a contender for the 2016 Breeder's Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf 

Chantal was once the paramour of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and was featured in the realty series,Jockeys, which ran for two seasons.  Her rocky relationship with Smith was the focal point of the series and when the break-up came between them, the series ended. The two were lovers and roommates and the series' tension was driven by the dichotomy of her love for Smith versus his ego and unwillingness to commit to the Canadian beauty.  His loss.

Afterward she married and had a child, retired and began a career unrelated to horse racing, but she simply could not stay away and she has returned to her first love, racing.

Nicole Vuille, an Australian jockey whom I became aware of through Facebook.  Click on the photo and see that she is screaming.  I would have been too.

It has been a year of retirements, too.

Frosted in a lather.

Frosted (Tapit x Fast Cookie) needs no one to apologize for his sterling career. He was always a threat whenever he raced.  Wherever there was racing, Frosted and his connections were there, be it in Dubai, Kentucky, Maryland, New York or California.  He raced the life out of a tired American Pharoah at Saratoga, but he seemed to have a problem carrying his speed to the finish in some of the longer route races.  But his record setting effort in the 2016 Met Mile (1:32.73), winning by 14 1/2 lengths, was a historic achievement and his victory has been judged the premier racing performance of the year.  He is retired now and I think racing is poorer for it.  I will try to see him at Godolphin's Jonabelle this year.

The haughty visage of Tourist (Tiznow x Unbridled Melody x Unbridled's Song).

This is Tourist, who defeated the favorite, Tepin, in the 2016 Breeder's Cup Mile.  In the same race in 2014 he finished 13th and 8th in 2015.   Look at the hard set of his eye.  I imagine that this horse can be a handful if you don't stay on top of him and after seeing him act up during a workout prior to the Breeder's Cup, my suspicions were confirmed.  I believe that Frosted would have easily bested Tourist in the BC Mile.

It was a year of early retirements, adding credibility to what we already knew, that stallions and mares are chattel to be used as cash generating breeding machines, until they can no longer perform or are too old and fragile to bear a foal.  

Nyquist ( Uncle Mo x Seeking Gabrielle ) was never right after winning the Derby this year. Mysterious illnesses plagued him off and on and his performances suffered.  His connections sited a "growth spurt."  He is recovering nicely at Godolphin's Jonabelle farm after recent colic surgery!

Ironicus, the middle distance turf horse by Distorted Humor was retired to Claiborne Farm.  In the last two years the five year old won 5 of 10 races with 4 second place finishes.

Tamarkuz (x Speightstown) won the BC Dirt Mile in 2016 with Mike Smith aboard.  The five year old began his career in Great Britain before heading to Dubai and then the U.S.  A winner of 8 of 20 starts with additional placings, Tamakuz won nearly two million dollars and will spend retirement at Sheikh Handen's Shadwell in Kentucky.

Run Happy

Known as much for his hilarious sleep habits as his speed, Run Happy was retired to Claiborne Farms after finishing 8th in the BC Dirt Mile as a four year old.  He was undefeated in sprint races and was 6 for 7 as a three year old, winning an Eclipse Award as Champion Male Sprinter. 

But in the present and recent past there more than enough equine heroes to capture our attention and our hearts.

After American Pharoah and Frosted, my personal favorite is the Candy Ride colt, Gun Runner.  This is a  horse that can never be counted out and while he may not be Arrogate, he brings grit, guts and determination to every starting gate.  In 11 starts he has 6 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds, among them a win in the G1 Clark Handicap in November.  He is a possible starter in the Pegasus, where he will acquit himself with his usual maximum effort.  Did I mention that I love this horse?

My guy, Gun Runner.

And here are a few more still racing in the present or in out hearts.

California Chrome will race anyone, anywhere, anytime.  He will be retired to Taylor Made after the Pegasus.

Courage and speed to spare, Arrogate with Dana Barnes up.  He was scratched from the San Pasqual
stakes (GII) on New Year's day, due to wet track conditions.  Trainer Bob Baffert felt that Arrogate was not mature enough to test the Triple Crown waters, so as a late bloomer, he is a super-horse in training,

Effinex, post race, with lightening in his veins.  His eyes appear almost glazed and vacant.  He is spent after giving everything.

Two words: American Pharoah.  Nothing more needs to be said.

And I've saved the best for last (If you don't count American Pharoah.).

My paint mare, Callie (Calliope)

This is my beautiful girl fresh from a bath, but still wearing a dirty face, courtesy of a weed in our pasture that goes dormant every fall.  At fourteeen Callie has never been able to give everything that she has to offer because of a chronic navicular problem, aggravated by her foot stomping fly dance during the summer.  I hope to give her relief this year with two injections of Osphos, a drug whose specific purpose is to relieve navicular distress.  The drug can lead to colic, so I have every finger crossed.

She is unbelievably powerful, a bit stubborn and given to atmospheric bucking when her thoughts on an issue go unresolved.  I have never ridden a horse that is so responsive.  You have only to stay centered on her long back and think about what you want from her. 

Callie is playful, winding up my other mare, Stormy Monday, whenever she takes a notion to.  She is loving and affectionate and I can only hope that Osphos will be a blessing to my good and kind friend. Oh yes, she likes to eat and will defend her vittles from her domineering sister, long as there is a gate between them.

Callie makes the world a better place.


Her name fits her. Stormy, my pint sized registered paint horse, thinks, connives, remembers and gets even.  She is a second hand rose that no one could do anything with, but she was looking for someone to trust, someone strong enough to endow with the title of herd leader.  Though she never stops testing me and never will, I've gained her trust and that means a lot to me.

Stormy is difficult to ride, her trot is killing, because she has a short wheelbase, but her slow canter is worth whatever the cost might be.  To watch her canter or gallop freely is like watching Astaire and Rogers, or Gene Kelly in Singing In The Rain on the silver screen.  She is that graceful.  Stormy needs an experienced rider, but if the rider begins to daydream, there is a price to pay.  The price, she assumes you are no longer in control and so she must be.  Stormy will tolerate no passengers.  

As I said, she can be difficult and quite often her eyes are as hard and edgy as they appear in her picture. Romance her, but don't bribe her and she will be putty in your hands. Well, you can bribe her just a little if it makes you feel better.  If she knew how predictable and funny she is she would be mortified.  There is no other like her and I am glad for that.

Copyright, January 1, 2017 by Loren R. Schumacher

Photograph credits as noted, or photos in the public domain.
Callie and Stormy Photographs, Copyright, Loren R. Schumacher, January 1, 2017

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Long Riders

Somehow the words to the song Route 66 came to mind whenever I read about Valerie Ashker, her friend Peter Friedman and their two off-track Thoroughbred horses, Primitivo and Solar Express, on the Off-Track website.  Route 66, now a relic of our motoring past, ran from Chicago to LA, nearly 2000 miles one way, but only two-thirds the distance Ashker, Friedman and their horses planned to ride.

For those of you who have never been to the United States, it is a big country. I mean it is a big country.  More than 3300 miles end to end, it crosses desert infernos, the Rocky Mountains, where a fourteen thousand foot mountain is more the norm than an aberration, The Great Basin, home to freakish weather and the dust storms of the Great Depression, until the green rolling land of the mid-east gives way to the ancient Appalachian Mountains and then to the eastern most coast and some of America's greatest urban centers.  

Valerie Ashker, 60, is a long time Off-Track Thoroughbred trainer, she, her daughter, Lainey a four-star Eventer and Rolex competitor and Friedman left her Georgetown, California ranch in May of 2016.

A joyous gallop for the camera.  Valerie Ashker and Primitivo.
(photo by Tylir Penton)

The mountains and high altitude came quickly, as did a number of falls that left Ashker with broken ribs and and a broken clavicle.  Along the way a suspicious spot discovered on her lungs was found to be scar tissue from an earlier injury and not cancer, as was first feared.  The emotional and physical toll did not weaken her resolve as she was determined to "call attention to the usefulness of Thoroughbred horses once their racetrack careers are over."

Of the ride she said, it is "not about me, but about the horses that have so much to give once their racing days are past."

It was when Ashker and Friedman reached Cincinnati (my hometown) in mid-October that I began to follow their progress as they made their way toward Loudon County, Virginia, their destination. Solar Express and Primitivo ambled along our city's congested roads with the cool confidence that experience bestows. They stood calmly as children from a city apartment complex swarmed around them "like bees," asking countless questions and hoping to pet the horses which most of them had never before seen in the flesh.

Valerie Ashker and Peter Friedman near Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Cincinnati Bengals.

By November 7th, the caravan had crossed into Grafton, West Virginia where Ashker took time to thank the local Dairy Queen for the complimentary ice cream cones (for human consumption only) and gave thanks for the great weather that we have experienced in the mid-east this fall.  By now we are usually experiencing nights in the low 30's F, killing frosts and torrents of bone chilling rain that can turn to sleet and sometimes to snow.

The journey ended in November with their arrival at the Middleburgh Training Center in Loudon County, Virginia, with smiles, hugs and a good gallop by the fit and trim Thoroughbreds that delighted the eye and the camera.

Welcoming Valerie Ashker and Primitivo to Virginia.

Primitivo, Ashker said, began as "sort of spooky, " but quickly adjusted to the noise and confusion of busy highways and congested cities.  "Along the way he became more confident in his own skin," she said.

Primitivo in Virginia.

"This horse never stops," she said of Solar Express. "He had his eye on the next mountain and the next twenty miles the whole way."  Solar Express was once her Eventing horse and Ashker once said that he was "on the muscle too much."  She added, "Now I see that he belongs in the realm of endurance horses.  He lead the entire time...his ears pricked."

Seventeen year old Solar Express.

Ashker and her horses will soon be moving to Virginia where they will have time to reflect on their journey and its meaning,  Saying of the long haul, " I have a total new appreciation for the country and its people. And the timing was right.  Looking back on the entirety of this, I'd say its been the ride of a lifetime."

A fitting end.  Look at the condition of these two horses.

Copyright, November 26, 2016 by Loren R. Schumacher

Sources:  Off-Track,  The Loudon Times-Mirror.

Your can also learn more about Valerie Ashker's journey on her Facebook page: 2nd Makes Through Starting Gates. 

Only one photo has been credited and the balance came from each of the websites/Facebook pages noted above.  They seem to be without credit.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A Local Legend Calls It Done

Russell Road, a 10-year old gelding by Wheaton out of the Verification mare Roberta Grump (Roberta Grump produced 11 starters, all winners), called it a career recently at  Charles Town (W Va.) Races.  Winning  more than two million dollars during his career, Russell Road leaves behind a stellar record of 31 wins (22 were stakes wins) in 62 starts.

A farewell to Russell Road

Bethanny Roll, a photographer at the Hollywood Casino at the Charles Town Races, had this to say about the chestnut gelding;

"This horse was truly something to watch,  He won over half of his career starts and is a local legend here at the Charles Town Races.  

He was always a competitor at the race track.  In fact, when the track had him in the post parade for the West Virginia Breeder's Classic, a race he won three times, he was a struggle to jog off the track, because he wanted to join the competitors and race again.

He had a presence when he came on the track unlike any other (you get an idea of his presence in the picture above). He was the type of horse you knew was something big without even knowing his name."

Russell Road winning the 2014 West Virginia Breeder's Classic

Owner Mark Russell knows that Russell Road is a candidate for the retirement blues and needs to stay busy.  "He'll make any kind of jumper or riding horse and we're going to explore those possibilities for him.  He's not the kind of horse that's going to be happy stomping flies out in the field. Russell said.  He wants to do a job, he loves being around people, he loves having something to do. It's just who he is. It doesn't matter if you take him home and put him out in the paddock. 30 minutes later he's at the gate wanting back in.  He just likes that connection with folks."

Russell Road wins the 2015 Roger Ramey Stakes

Russell Road is the second leading money winner among all West Virginia bred horses and is held in such esteem that the Wild & Wonderful-a race Russell Road hit the board in three times in his career-will be renamed the Russell Road Stakes in 2017

I published this little story of an obscure gelding from a third tier track because so many stories from the racing world are scarred and ugly. corrupt and tawdry.  Tales of injured horses running on pain-killing drugs until they break down or are sold to slaughter when they can no longer produce on the track or the pay window are common.  This is a story of triumph.  A happy story.  Racing needs more of them.  And so do we.

Copyright: October 18, 2016 by Loren R. Schumacher
Photo copyright as noted.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Soft White Underbelly, Part 1

Since the coming of American Pharoah I have thought about little else, when it comes to horses, than thoroughbreds and racing.  I'm never going to know the lineage of every champion who put hoof to dirt or shoe to turf, but I will always love the game, the color, the mud spattered jockeys and the thoroughbred's time-compressing speed.  Feeling the tension before my horse enters the gate is part of the thrill of racing for me.  I remember literally being unable to sit down in the hours just before American Pharoah ran the Belmont and then plundered the field in the Breeder's Cup Classic in 2015.  Similarly, I suffer with California Chrome and Frosted each time they race.

One of my favorites was Big Brown (Boundary - Mien by Nureyev), trained by Rick Dutrow.   Now eleven years old, his progeny have begun to make their presence felt in racing circles.  His Derby and Preakness victories in 2008 left the racing world hungering for a Triple Crown Winner, the first since Affirmed decades before.  But in the Belmont he finished 9th, barely crossing the finish line before the last beer concession closed for the day.  A collapse so dramatic that it cast his entire race record in doubt.  In eight races, he finished first in seven of them.  His list of victories also include the Florida Derby, The Haskell Invitational and the Monmouth Stakes.  But to this day, a stench surrounds his career, the same stench of unscrupulous illegality and deception that follows trainer Rick Dutrow.

Big Brown and people who loved him.  Check out the watch on this guy.

Trainer Rick Dutrow.

Dutrow is now serving a 10-year suspension (at one point the state's Racing and Wagering Board recommended Dutrow be banned for life)  of his trainer's license in 2011 by New York regulators.
The former trainer of Big Brown has waged a continuous legal fight to have that judgement overturned.  But the beleaguered trainer's most recent appeal was rejected in federal court.

"The board's decision resolves two specific matters that arose in November 2010: Dutrow's horse Fastus Cactus tested positive for the drug butorphanol-a pain killer 10 times more potent than morphine-after winning the third race at Aqueduct Racetrack on November 20, and three hypodermic needles "loaded with the drug Xylazine" were found in Dutrow's desk in Barn 10 at Aqueduct on November 2.  Xylazine is an analgesic and tranquilizer that can enhance performance by alleviating lameness or calming a nervous horse."  While  he had probably not done anything that other top trainers had done, or been suspected of, he did get caught with his hand in the cookie jar, not once, but many times.  Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen, both Hall of Fame trainers, have been under some scrutiny in the past for similar infractions.  "If anything, he's (Dutrow) had multiple opportunities to practice his profession in compliance with the rules.  After all these infractions, I don't think any court will say he has been discriminated against...given his record" said Louisville attorney and racing official Robert Heleringer.

While there is nothing to say Dutrow could not set up shop in another state, most racing jurisdictions will uphold the findings of other racing authorities.  An exception might be Louisiana where Heleringer said they "have a reputation for being more lax when it comes to honoring suspensions,

At the apex: Big Brown

but Dutrow's notoriety makes it less likely a state would take that chance."  If he were to apply for a license in a state other than New York and was denied, he would have to disclose the denial in future applications.

So unless Rick Dutrow pulls some nefarious behind the scenes shenanigans, he is out of racing,

At this point Big Brown's future is much brighter than Rick Dutrow's.  And that is a good thing.