What’s been happening in the racing industry around the world

Bound for Spendthrift: Vekoma (Javier Castellano), pictured winning the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (the ‘Met Mile’) at Belmont Park on Saturday, will stand at the Lexington farm on his retirement from the track. Photo: Joe Labozzetta/NYRA.com

The weekly TRC industry digest - a round-up of the international racing news from the past week.


Racing up in arms over racist comments

North America: Tom VanMeter, whose Stockplace Farm in Lexington was the birthplace of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, has received widespread condemnation from the industry for racist comments he made on Facebook over the weekend.

His comments – brought to wider attention by handicapper Michael Beychok - came in response to a post made by farm manager Donnie Snellings, who asked people to repost his post if they planned to boycott the NFL season. VanMeter’s first reply contained an abbreviation of the “N-word”, when he referred to the NFL as the “n-word football league”. He later posted, “Put ‘em back in their cage!!!”

VanMeter wrote an apology to Thoroughbred Daily News describing his outburst as “unjustifiable [and that] I was wrong and am disgusted by my actions”. He did, however, add that “certainly, I am frustrated with the current social situation in our country”. He has – “as a gesture of goodwill” – made a donation to the civil rights organisation the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Several members of the Thoroughbred industry condemned VanMeter’s comments.

The Jockey Club said that “there is no place in racing or our society for racially hateful language”. Keeneland said of he post, “There is no place for racism in our sport or our society and his words are antithetical to Keeneland’s values of respect.”

Fasig-Tipton president Boyd Browning Jr said the sales company doesn’t “support any statements or actions that do not promote a more diverse, inclusive environment to [our] participants.” Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said VanMeter’s comments have “no place in society” and it will “no longer will accept financial contributions of any kind from him or others who share his views”.

ITV on the front foot as Derby viewing figures soar

Europe: Host broadcaster ITV has revealed that almost 2.3 million viewers watched Serpentine’s shock Investec Derby win, making it the most viewed Derby since Camelot’s win in 2012 and 31 per cent higher than last year. 

The Oaks, run unusually on the same day as the Derby, was watched by 1.5 million, an increase of 600,000 viewers from a year ago. The average audience throughout Saturday’s four-hour broadcast, between 1.30pm and 5.30pm, was 1.2 million, 51 per cent up on last year. 

Lead presenter Ed Chamberlin said he was “thrilled with that number” and that, with racing taking centre stage in the UK – with many other sports still unable to resume, he felt “people are falling in love with racing again, which is great for the sport”.

Vekoma to Spendthrift

North America: Spendthrift Farm has acquired the breeding rights to multiple G1-winning millionaire Vekoma, the third Met Mile winner in the last four years who will take up stud duty at the Lexington farm.

Ned Toffey, Spendthrift general manager, said that “you just will not find a better-bred son of Candy Ride” and that everyone there is “extremely excited about Vekoma and his future as a stallion”.

Toffey added that the horse is a “terrific blend of his sire, Candy Ride, and his Speightstown dam Mona de Momma”, showing brilliance from six to nine furlongs from two to four.

Bred in Kentucky by Alpha Delta Stables, Vekoma has been trained by George Weaver for owners RA Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables throughout his career.

Winx half-sister stars as live sales return to Australia

Oceania: A colt out of a half-sister to champion mare Winx topped the Inglis Easter Round Two sale at Riverside, Sydney, in the first live auction to be held in Australia since the coronavirus-led lockdown.

Almost 75 per cent of all stock offered was sold to a diverse range of buyers from around the world. And Lot 95, by world #14 stallion I Am Invincible out of the unraced Miss Atom Bomb, sold to Rosehill trainer Gerald Ryan for $700,000 as the day’s #1 seller.

“He’s a nice horse who is by a great stallion out of a mare who was unraced but I knew what she could do [when she was trained at Rosehill by Tim Martin],” Ryan said of the Bhima Thoroughbreds-consigned colt. “She had a stack of ability and she was very fast and she is a half-sister to none other than Winx, so you wouldn’t get a better page.

“He’s an athlete this colt. He’s a big, strong horse. You wouldn’t say he’d be a pre-Christmas 2-year-old, but he’d definitely be ready to run in the autumn.”

King George takes a pay cut

Europe: Ascot’s richest race, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, will be run for a reduced purse of £400,000 later this month, having been worth more than £1.2 million in 2019.

Nick Smith, Director of Racing and Public Affairs, said, “With the deeply appreciated support of our Official Partner and race sponsor QIPCO, we will be running this year’s King George at £400,000. 

“We wish to make entering as appealing as possible for owners across the spectrum at a time where, unavoidably, prize money nationally is having to be reduced significantly without paying crowds. In our case, 70 percent of annual income comes from racegoers’ attendance and spend.”

The race is expected to see world #1 trainer John Gosden’s superstar mare Enable bid to win a third King George in four years, having missed the 2018 race through injury.

Elsewhere in racing …

Oceania: 81 horses are set for disqualification in the Aquanita doping scandal in Victoria. More here

North America: Bob Baffert claims that two horses in his barn were “unknowingly and innocently exposed” to a banned substance that wound up in their post-race test samples from May 2. More here

North America: Marsha Hudgins has been appointed to the Virginia Racing Commission. More here

North America: The Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium has been postponed until 2021. More here

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