The weekly TRC industry digest - a round-up of international racing news from the past week.
Omaha Beach to stand at Spendthrift
North America: Spendthrift Farm has entered into an agreement with Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm to acquire the breeding rights to G1 Arkansas Derby winner Omaha Beach.
The son of War Front had been ante-post favourite for the Kentucky Derby until a respiratory issue meant that he was scratched from the race on Wednesday. The entrapped epiglottis is, in most cases, not life-threatening but will require the horse to have surgery.
The plan is that Omaha Beach will be campaigned by Fox Hill Farms and trainer Richard Mandella, but at the end of his racing career he will retire to B. Wayne Hughes’ Lexington farm to take up stud duty, which may now come earlier than expected.
Nevertheless, Hughes was effusive in his praise for his new prospect, who he sees as “a big part of the future at Spendthrift”.
“He is truly a rare package – elite looks, pedigree, sire power, speed, class, you name it,” said the 85-year old. “He has everything, and we feel the best is yet to come for him. We also think the best is yet to come for Spendthrift, and it is important to us that we continue to bring in premier stallion prospects.”
Omaha Beach, an on-track earner of $1,121,800 to date, has notched three straight wins, including back-to-back scores at Oaklawn in the $750,000 G2 Rebel in March and $1 million Arkansas Derby.
Sadness over loss of Just The Judge
Europe: David Redvers revealed the sad news that Qatar Racing’s Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Just The Judge had been put down following complications post colic surgery.
The 9-year-old broodmare was Sheikh Fahad’s first classic winner and the first classic winner that Redvers – racing manager for the operation and owner of Tweenhills Stud Farm - had anything to do with. She also won the G1 EP Taylor Stakes at Woodbine the following year (2014).
Bred by Joan Keaney Dempsey, the daughter of Lawman was out of the Rainbow Quest mare Faraday Light, a half-sister to the Oaks third High Heeled. Her first two foals, a 2-year-old colt and yearling filly by Dubawi, raised €1.4 million and €1m at Arqana last year, and her Galileo filly this year was born at the end of the first week in March.
“It’s massively disappointing for me personally and it’s hugely disappointing for Sheikh Fahad and Melissa [Fahad’s wife], but it’s even more disappointing for the team here,” said Redvers. “Victoria and everybody who looks after these horses on a daily basis become incredibly fond of them.
“Anyway, now the process begins of fostering the gorgeous Galileo filly across and luckily it’s a filly.”
Death of Melbourne Cup hero Dunaden
Europe: Another huge blow for David Redvers and Sheikh Fahad came this week with the death of Dunaden - best known for giving Sheikh Fahad’s Pearl Bloodstock victory in the Melbourne Cup in 2011. He died aged 13 at Overbury Stud in England due to complications following a paddock accident.
Purchased privately as a 4-year-old by Redvers on behalf of Pearl Bloodstock in 2010, Dunaden would go on to win multiple top-level prizes, including the G1 Hong Kong Vase (on his next start after Flemington) and the following year’s G1 Caulfield Cup. He won more than £5 million in prize money over seven seasons.
Sheikh Fahad said: “Dunaden was a horse of a lifetime. Winning the Melbourne Cup is a day I will never forget. He was pure class – consistent, strong and incredibly competitive. Qipco’s initial increase in investment in racing is largely down to Dunaden’s success. It is a terrible loss.”
Dunaden’s first crop of 3yos are running in 2019 and are represented, among others, by Ranch Hand, who made it two from two when winning impressively on Monday for Andrew Balding.
Ruby Walsh calls time on magnificent riding career
Europe: 12-time Irish champion jumps jockey Ruby Walsh shocked the industry by announcing his retirement with immediate effect after riding Kemboy to a two-length victory over Al Boum Photo, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
“That’s it,” Walsh told the collected media in typically phlegmatic manner. “When you’re going out at Punchestown, you go out on a winner. You’ll never again see me on a horse – I’m finished. That’s it – it’s all over.”
Walsh retires having won more than 2,500 races, the third winningmost jump jockeys behind only Sir Anthony McCoy and Richard Johnson. The Irishman is regarded by many to be greatest jumps jockey of them all, however. He holds the record of 59 winners at jump racing’s showpiece Cheltenham Festival, where he was the leading rider 11 times between 2004 and 2017, winning all the championship races at least twice. He also won the Grand National twice, once for his father Ted on Papillion.
The 39-year-old rode for then English champion trainer Paul Nicholls and current Irish champion Willie Mullins and is synonymous with many of the great steeplechasers of the past two decades.
“Any jockey is only as good as the horses he is riding. I was lucky to be riding the best. A lot of the best horses there ever was. In my lifetime anyway,” Walsh said.
Walsh joined the Mullins yard aged 15. “It will be strange without him,” said the trainer.
Walsh’s long-time rival and friend McCoy described Walsh as the “best jockey I ever saw riding and the best I ever rode against”, comparing his talents to Argentinian football star Lionel Messi.
Damian Browne quits the saddle
Oceania: 16-time G1-winning jockey Damian Browne announced his retirement via Twitter, stating that “my heart and soul wants to get back on the horse, but my body knows the ride is over”.
The New Zealand-born jockey - and current world #147 – hasn’t ridden since January, when he fell ill two days before the A$2 million Magic Millions Guineas at the Gold Coast. He later underwent surgery to correct a perforated bowel, which was caused by taking anti-inflammatory medication for leg pain on an empty stomach for a long period of time.
Browne, 46, enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Robert Heathcote’s much-loved sprinter Buffering, who gave Browne international recognition when claiming the 2016 Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan during on the Dubai World Cup card in 2016.
Weighing room colleague Blake Shinn told his 18,000 Twitter followers that Browne was “one of the most gifted jockeys Australia has had in the last few decades”. The world #32 wrote of Browne’s “perfect poise and balance” in the saddle, adding the “Australian jockey ranks will be diminished in not having Browney in our ranks”.
Commonwealth Cup: geldings are out
Europe: The British Horseracing Authority has announced that from 2020 geldings will no longer be permitted to run in the G1 Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, in line with the European Pattern Committee’s (EPC) Ground Rules.
The EPC initially agreed to relax its rules relating to 3-year-old-only G1 races to help establish the six-furlong contest, which debuted in 2015. The BHA, with the support of the EPC, has now decided that the race, won by Sir Michael Stoute’s Eqtidaar last year, will become restricted to colts and fillies only from next year.
New face at Breeders’ Cup
North America: The Breeders’ Cup has appointed Christopher McNamara as its new senior vice president of corporate partnerships.
McNamara will oversee the business development and sponsorship sales for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. The American joins the Lexington-based operation marketing after nine years at agency Team Cornett, as well as senior roles at New York agency Havas Life, Lantus and Apidra Professional.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join the Breeders’ Cup team,” said McNamara. “The Breeders’ Cup is a world-class event which provides current and new partner brands an opportunity to integrate into a celebration unlike any other in the world.”
Craig Fravel, Breeders’ Cup president, said: “Chris’s creative and strategic abilities in forging effective brand partnerships will be terrific assets to our overall sponsorship efforts.”
$1.3m boost for equine drug research program
North America: The Keeneland Association continued its long-standing philanthropic relationship with the University of Kentucky with a gift of $1.3 million to the Keeneland Endowed Chair in Equine Veterinary Science.
This gift will boost the fund to $3 million and will allow the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s Gluck Equine Research Center to launch a world-class equine drug research and testing program under the direction of Scott Stanley.
The laboratory at UK’s Coldstream Research Campus will provide drug testing services to a diverse equine clientele from the performance horse and racehorse industries.
“Keeneland applauds UK’s commitment to create a true center of excellence at the Gluck Center,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “In support of our mission, Keeneland has long championed UK’s goal to become an industry leader in equine safety, integrity and research.”
Dr Stuart Brown, chair of the Gluck Equine Research Foundation, added: “Historically, the Keeneland Association and its leadership have been instrumental in the successful achievement of the mission of the Gluck Equine Research Center to advance the health and well-being of the horse.”
It’s Flemensfirth again
Europe: Flemensfirth, a 27-year-old son of Alleged, is the champion jumps sire in Britain and Ireland by prize money for the 2018-19 season.
The Beeches Stud stallion topped the table for the second consecutive year, his progeny earning just shy of £2.3 million. The bulk of this came from Grand National runner-up Magic Of Light, RSA Novices’ Chase victor Topofthegame and Mildmay Novices’ Chase winner Lostintranslation.
Coolmore’s Grange Stud residents filled the other spots in the top three: the late Oscar, with £2.13m in progeny earnings, once again finished second (a position he has filled four times before) while third place went to Milan.
Previous champion jumps sires Presenting, Beneficial and King’s Theatre finished fourth, fifth and sixth.
Gold Rush Weekend ‘a massive success’
North America: Golden Gate Fields’ inaugural Gold Rush Weekend produced one of the biggest handle marks in the San Francisco track’s history: a pari-mutuel handle of $8.1 million with wagering on Golden Gate races totalling $7.3 million, easily exceeding the $2.7 million bet a year ago on San Francisco Mile Day.
Stronach Group vice president of racing P.J. Campo all but confirmed that it would remain a permanent fixture, stating that it was a “massive success”, adding that the group “will only look to improve our product”.
“We are ecstatic with how things went on Saturday,” said David Duggan, general manager at Golden Gate Fields. “This was a day to celebrate horse racing in California and at Golden Gate Fields.”
Keeneland and Churchill Downs back university projects
North America: Keeneland and Churchill Downs have each committed $100,000 in contributions to the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, the non-profit charitable organisation that funds specific research projects at the 44 U.S. universities.
The contribution will enable the sponsorship of two Grayson-approved projects. For the initial two years, 2019 and 2020, the funds will sponsor Dr Sue Stover’s Grayson-funded research project ‘Training Programs for Prevention of Fetlock Injury’. Projects to be funded in 2021 and 2022 will be determined later.
Bill Thomason, president of Keeneland, praised the research that foundation does in ameliorating the “health and well-being of our horses”, remarking that it “sets a standard that is emulated by so many other foundations”. Bill Carstanjen, Churchill's chief executive, said he “look[ed] forward to seeing our contributions lead to advancements that help all horses”.
Year four for Sentient Jet
North America: For the fourth successive year Sentient Jet will be the preferred private aviation partner of the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Churchill Downs.
As an official partner of the opening U.S. classics, the aviation company is offering bespoke private travel services, special on-site hospitality offerings and the third annual Derby Day Breakfast, hosted by its brand ambassador chef and Thoroughbred owner, Bobby Flay, who called the Derby a “highlight of my annual calendar”.
Sentient Jet was named the first Preferred Private Aviation Partner of the Kentucky Derby.