The weekly TRC industry digest - a round-up of international racing news from the past week.
Glimmer of hope for Royal Ascot – minus the public
Europe: Organisers of June's Royal Ascot have reached the “difficult but unavoidable conclusion” that the five-day festival will not be able to “take place as an event open to the public”.
It may prove possible to run the races behind closed doors, dependent on Government and public health policy and the approval of the British Horse Authority (BHA), which the Berkshire course believes would be for the “benefit of the industry, our valued partners and suppliers, and our television audiences at home and internationally”.
The total attendance at last year’s Royal meeting was more than 290,000. Customers who have bought tickets and/or hospitality for the meeting will be refunded in full.
Justify’s baby sister
North America: Glennwood Farm’s Tanya Gunther has revealed that a half-sister to 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify has been foaled at her family farm in Kentucky.
Gunther told her 3,255 Twitter followers that their homebred Stage Magic, the dam of the 2018 Horse of the Year, who now stands at Ashford Stud, delivered a filly by Curlin in the very early hours of Tuesday.
She wrote, “Look what the stork delivered under cover of lockdown darkness!!!” Adding, “Mum & baby doing well. #Justify has a little sister! #itsagirl”
The filly is the seventh foal out of the 13-year-old Stage Magic. Curlin, a 16-year-old son of Smart Strike and a two-time Horse of the Year, stands at Hill 'n' Dale Farms for an advertised fee of $175,000. He is ranked #1 dirt sire in the world and is #15 in the TRC overall sire classifications.
Van Niekirk is sacked
Asia: South African jockey Grant Van Niekirk was sacked on Monday by the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) with immediate effect, as a result of a “conduct-related matter, which does not pertain to any race riding or integrity-related matter”.
The South China Morning Post reported that it understood the 28-year-old “was involved in a domestic dispute”, but the police have not been involved in Van Niekirk’s alleged misdemeanour and he remains in Hong Kong.
In his second season riding in the territory, Van Niekirk currently sits in fifth place in the jockeys’ classifications with 37 winners from 350 rides.
Virtual Grand National a big success
Europe: A peak audience of 4.8 million people tuned in to the Virtual Grand National on UK commercial broadcaster ITV last Saturday. The race was ‘won’ by 18/1 shot Potters Corner, who is trained by Christian Williams. A Virtual Legends National, won by Red Rum, who famously won the real race three times in the 70s, peaked at 4.3 million viewers.
A remarkable £2.6 million was raised for National Health Service charities through betting on the animated contest, a total that standards body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) hopes will grow with many winning punters expected to donate some or all their profits.
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher was “overwhelmed with the public support” for the initiative, which came about due to the cancelation of the ‘world’s most famous race’ last month.
“When the nation was in much need of some light relief, millions joined in the fun in honour of one of Britain’s greatest sporting events and helped raise a fantastic amount for our brave heroes in the NHS,” added Dugher.
Meanwhile, the Jockey Club revealed that it will be donating 10,000 tickets to the NHS and social care sector in Merseyside for the first day of the 2021 Randox Health Grand National Festival at Aintree.
Talks over moving Britain’s Classics
Europe: Jockey Club Racecourses has confirmed that the first four British Classics of the season have been postponed. It has, however, begun talks over rescheduling the races – the 1000 and 2000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Derby and the Oaks at Epsom Downs – to an unconfirmed date later in 2020.
Ruth Quinn, director of international racing at the BHA, said that racing’s governing body will continue “to work together to deliver the optimal outcome within these unprecedented set of circumstances” and are “developing plans to help ensure that a suitable race programme, for the long-term health of the sport, can be delivered”.
A statement from Phil White, London regional director for Jockey Club racecourses, did caution that the “the unique nature of the Downs as a public space” will make it logistically difficult to stage the Derby festival behind closed doors.
Tepin leads Hall of Fame inductees
North America: The Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame has announced the names of its class of 2020. Details of all human and equine inductees can be found here.
The list is headed by dual Eclipse Award winner Tepin, who won six G1s, in Canada, England, and the United States. The ‘Queen of the Turf’ famously beat the boys in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Mile and the following year in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Other notable inductees are veteran jockey and winner of 42 Graded stakes Gary Boulanger, two-time Queen’s Plate-winning trainer Michael Keogh, and Play The King, a son of King Of Spain, trained by Roger Attfield for owner-breeder Kinghaven Farms, who won 15 of 29 starts.
Elsewhere in racing …
North America: A shortfall in California’s self-insured workers’ compensation program caused in part by the temporary cessation of racing has led to trainers being invoiced $1,233 per horse retroactively for the first quarter of 2020. More here
Europe: Newmarket-based veterinary research centre the Animal Health Trust is set to close thanks to coronavirus crisis unless emergency funding can be found. More here
North America: Canterbury Park has released plans to modify its live horse racing meet for 2020, with the horse stabling area to open no earlier than May 1 with live racing anticipated this summer. More here
Europe: With British jump racing not due to resume until July, Brian Hughes has been officially awarded his maiden champion jockey title, with 141 wins to defending champ Richard Johnson’s 122. More here
North America: The 2020 Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships Series (MATCH) has been cancelled. More here