TRC’s weekly industry digest - a round-up of international racing news from the past week.
Change of colours for Justify in the Belmont
North America: Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Justify will run under the red-and-yellow silks of the China Horse Club (CHC) in the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
The undefeated colt had worn silks of major shareholder WinStar Farm in the aforementioned classics. “The China Horse Club and WinStar Farm share the use of colours on the horses we race in partnership,” said Eden Harrington, the vice president of CHC. “Every fourth start, a horse will race in China Horse Club silks.
“The sharing of silks ensures both the WinStar brand and China Horse Club brand are promoted. As an ownership group, we are very tight-knit. But the importance of having our red-and-yellow silks worn by Mike Smith as he rides Justify in the Belmont Stakes for a tilt at the Triple Crown will undoubtedly be the most important.”
Elliott Walden, chief executive of WinStar, added, “The partnership has been great, and we’re excited for Mr. Teo [Ah Khing] and the China Horse Club to have the opportunity to have Justify wear their silks in the Belmont. While we would love to have him in our silks, I’m excited about the fact that he’s wearing the China Horse Club’s, too, and that they can share in the fun of the Triple Crown.”
James McDonald booked for Royal Ascot
Oceania: James McDonald – the former Godolphin jockey who has recently returned to action having served an 18-month suspension for betting on one of his mounts at Randwick in 2015 – is believed to have been booked to ride Charlie Hills’ sprinter Equilateral in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
The 26-year-old New Zealander was suspended by Racing New South Wales stewards in December 2016, after which Godolphin released the multiple G1-winning jockey from his position as their retained rider in Australia. McDonald, who was a top ten jockey in the TRC Global Rankings before his suspension and is still as high as #33, won his comeback race onboard Cormac at Warwick Farm on May 16.
“James is going to come over for Royal Ascot and maybe for a couple of days before as well," said Hills. “Equilateral is one he can ride, and I'll see what else I can put him on, but if the word's out other trainers might want to use him as well.
"I think he's a world-class jockey who has a very cool head on him. We had a good bit of success together in the past – he won the Lennox Stakes on Dutch Connection in 2016 – and it'll be good to link up again. I think he's a great young talent."
‘Fragile’ breeze-ups market
Europe: The final results have been confirmed for the major European breeze-up sales in 2018. According to the Racing Post, there is a ‘fragility in the market, particularly below the top tier, with demand failing to keep pace with a significantly increased supply’.
The downturn was initially seen at European breeze-up season's curtain raiser, the Tattersalls Ireland Ascot Sale, and that trend remained throughout the six remaining major 2-year-old auctions.
Each sale was responsible for an expanded catalogue in 2018 - meaning an 18.5 per cent year-on-year increase overall, and a gain of 200 horses. A total of 1,071 2-year-olds were up for auction for a 17 per cent increase (157 horses) on the number offered in 2017.
Despite the significant increases in the number of horses catalogued and offered, the number of sold lots only increased by four per cent, with 767 juveniles changing hands compared with 738 in 2017.
East Coast casino deal
North America: The Rooney family has agreed to sell its Empire City Casino and Yonkers Raceway to MGM Resorts International for $850 million. The family had owned the property for 46 years.
“We are excited to announce the addition of Empire City to the MGM Resorts portfolio,” said Jim Murren, chairman of MGM Resorts International. “This acquisition represents an excellent opportunity to further solidify our presence on the East Coast, and in particular, expand our reach into the high-density New York City region.
Late rush for million-dollar mares
Oceania: Three mares broke the million-dollar barrier during the closing 15 minutes of the second day of the Magic Millions Gold Coast National Broodmare Sale.
Of the triumvirate, it was Courgette, the dam of Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign and offered in foal to I Am Invincible, who received the highest price. She was sold for A$2.1 million to E Thoroughbreds’ Tony Bott, who said that the mare “ticks all the boxes”.
Day one of the sales saw Australian champion stayer Jameka remain in the ownership of Colin McKenna and his wife Janice after they bought out their partners for a session-topping A$2.6 million.
Punchestown chief moves aside
Europe: Punchestown Racecourse announced that Dick O’Sullivan will step down as general manager following a 16-year term.
O’Sullivan will be replaced by Conor O’Neill, but the Irishman will remain within the organisation in a newly created executive role as president of Blackhall Racing Company, and he will continue to be involved in the day-to-day running of the business.
During his tenure, O’Sullivan has brought Punchestown back from the brink of closure to what is now one of Ireland’s leading racecourses, on and off the track.
David Mongey, chairman of BRC, said, “On behalf of the board of Blackhall and the members of Kildare Hunt Club, I can’t thank Dick enough for the enormous impact he has had on Punchestown.
“In Punchestown’s 200-year history not many people, if any, have contributed as much to the racecourses success as Dick has, and it has been a privilege working with him throughout that time.”
Death of Fasig-Tipton VP
North America: William E. Graves, a senior vice-president with Fasig-Tipton for 26 years, passed away after a short illness on Wednesday.
In his early 20s, the Virginia-native was renowned as one of the best Thoroughbred yearling showmen at Saratoga and Kentucky. After many spells at leading farms in Kentucky, Graves opened Graves Stable, primarily for training and selling 2-year-olds in training.
In 1992, he was recruited by Fasig-Tipton to review and manage its selected yearling sale process.
$1m for Kentucky Derby Museum
North America: The Kentucky Derby Museum (KYM) has announced that the James Graham Brown Foundation has awarded it a $1 million grant.
The donation will be used explicitly for the museum’s renovation and expansion project, which is currently underway. It is the largest single contribution to date for the campaign to fund the $6.5 million development.
Patrick Armstrong, president of the KYM, said, “We are honored by this substantial gift from our long-time partner. Year after year, the museum continues to develop and grow as one of the state's premier attractions.
“The additional space and amenities will create an even more inviting and exciting experience for our guests and enhance our educational and outreach programming.”
The museum will remain open to visitors during the duration of the project, which is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2018 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs.