The weekly TRC industry digest - a round-up of the international racing news from the past week.
Appeal planned over Baffert suspension
North America: Bob Baffert has been suspended for 15 days after two of his horses - Charlatan and Gamine - failed drug tests at Oaklawn Park on May 2. The ban starts on August 1, but Baffert’s attorney, Craig Robertson III, who is “very disappointed in the stewards’ ruling” stated their intention to appeal.
Both Charlatan, winner of the first division of the G1 Arkansas Derby, and Gamine, who won an allowance race on the same card before running out an impressive 18½ -length winner of the G1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park on June 20, will forfeit their victories and purse money.
Robertson said it was a “case of innocent exposure and not intentional administration” and that the levels of lidocaine – a permitted therapeutic that has a 72-hour withdrawal period before raceday - found in both horses would have had “no pharmacological effect, much less a performance-enhancing one, on either horse. Zero”.
“As such, a suspension of Mr Baffert and a disqualification of either horse is completely unwarranted. We will pursue our legal rights until justice is obtained.”
Geroux tests positive
North America: Florent Geroux has become the latest U.S.-based jockey to confirm that he had tested positive for Covid-19, becoming at least the fifth high-profile rider to contract the virus.
He follows Martin Garcia, Luis Saez, Victor Espinoza and Flavien Prat, all of whom rode at Los Alamitos on July 4.
Geroux – who didn’t ride at Los Alamitos – tweeted that he is “currently feeling well, quarantined, and looking forward to rejoining the racetrack when I’m cleared”. While it is not clear where and when he contracted Covid-19, his schedule overlapped with Saez at Indiana Grand on July 8.
Specific coronavirus safety protocols and compliance differ from track to track, and Terry Meyocks, president of the Jockeys’ Guild, thinks that “we're lacking in consistency”, which has “come back to bite us in the rear”.
Corvid impact growing on U.S. racing
North America: As a result of the spike in jockey infections, New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced an updated health and safety protocol, which is being implemented for Saratoga’s 2020 meet, which begins today.
Saratoga will be closed to out-of-town jockeys and, in addition, any member of the regular NYRA jockey colony who travels to ride at any other racetrack will not be permitted to return to Saratoga.
“These measures prioritize the health and safety of the jockeys competing in New York, and are designed to combat the spread of Covid-19,” said NYRA President and CEO Dave O’Rourke. “Unfortunately, the restrictive travel policies implemented today have become necessary as cases continue to rise in states across the country.”
Meanwhile, Del Mar has canceled its next three days of racing - July 17-19 - after 15 jockeys tested positive for Covid-19. All Del Mar’s jockeys and jockey room personnel were tested on Tuesday by San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency staff as requested by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
Ellis Park Racing & Gaming has said that all jockeys and valets must have a negative Covid-19 test result taken before being admitted.
Penalties for Aidan and Donnacha
Europe: Aidan and Donnacha O’Brien became the latest Irish trainers to fall foul of Irish racecourses’ strict anti-Covid-19 protocols when they failed to enter the Curragh through the designated screening area on Irish 2000 Guineas day.
Both were fined €2,500 and banned from attending race meetings for two weeks.
Donnacha’s racecourse ban started on Tuesday, while the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s disciplinary panel accepted a submission from O’Brien senior asking for his ban to be suspended until next Monday.
Keeneland wagering bonanza
North America: Keeneland closed its unprecedented five-day Summer Meet on Sunday with all-sources wagering of more than $63 million despite being held behind-closed-doors.
Average daily all-sources handle was $12.7m, which was boosted by a single-day all-sources handle for the ten-race card on Toyota Blue Grass Day (July 11) of $23.8m.
“Horsemen and fans alike highly anticipated the Summer Meet, and their expectations were exceeded by the breathtaking level of racing we enjoyed here this week,” said Keeneland president Bill Thomason. “I can’t express how much we missed our fans at Keeneland, and we thank them for their strong support from afar.
“This pandemic created a number of operational and logistical challenges for us to make this season a reality. I am so proud of the collaboration between state and local health officials, our horsemen, our corporate partners and our Keeneland team, all of whom worked tirelessly to create a safe environment on track and deliver such incredible racing.”
Barry Geraghty calls it a day
Europe: Barry Geraghty, generally recognised as one of the three great European jump jockeys of the century alongside Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy, has announced his retirement, having ridden 1,920 winners, including 121 G1 victories.
Geraghty, 40, rode 43 Cheltenham Festival winners and is one of the few jockeys to have ridden the winners of the Big Four Championship races (Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Stayers Hurdle and Gold Cup) at the Festival.
He told the Racing Post's Racing Riot podcast he will still be involved with jump racing in future and is leaning towards a career in bloodstock, in which he has already proved successful.
Filly is first multiple winner under new bonus scheme
Europe: Brazen Belle became the first multiple winner under the new Great British Bonus scheme when landing the six-furlong fillies’ novice race at Catterick on Wednesday, with the daughter of Brazen Beau having now netted two bonuses to earn an additional £40,000 for connections.
Bred and owned by Kevin Nicholson and trained by David O'Meara, Brazen Belle won her first bonus in early June, when scoring at Beverley on debut. Connections targeted a second bonus on her next start at Ripon earlier this month, but the filly finished only third. In Wednesday’s contest, she was always prominent and took the lead two furlongs from home to score by a length and a quarter.
The filly has now earned £7,506 on the track and £40,000 in bonuses, an incredible result for Nicholson, who bred the filly when her former shuttle sire stood for an advertised fee of £10,000 at Dalham Hall Stud. Offered last year at the Goffs UK September Yearling Sale, she was bought back by Nicholson after failing to find a buyer in the ring at £5,000.
She is out of the smart mare and Ripon specialist Pepper Lane (by Exceed And Excel), who was jointly raced by Nicholson to win six times, including two renewals of the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon, as well as earning her all-important black type when third in the listed Guisborough Stakes at Redcar on her final start.
Pepper Lane is the only mare owned by Nicholson, an electrician by trade, and boards at Richard Lingwood’s Norton Grove Stud in North Yorkshire, where Nicholson visited every weekend prior to lockdown.
Nicholson's experiences with breeding from Pepper Lane highlight the highs and lows of the industry and underlines the importance of bonuses to breeders. The mare’s first two foals did not enjoy any luck. One broke a leg and had to be put down and the other did not make it to the racecourse.
Her first foal to run was Infinite Grace (by Sepoy), who scored twice last year for her owner-breeder and O'Meara, winning at Ripon and Beverley, and now Brazen Belle has emulated her older half-sister with two victories. The mare has a yearling full-sister to Brazen Belle waiting in the wings, but sadly slipped last year so has no foal at foot.
Nicholson summed up his double bonus victory with more than a touch of understatement, saying “that was certainly welcome!”
Elsewhere in racing …
North America: Trainer Chad Brown, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr and owner Klaravich Stables topped their respective classifications as Belmont’s 25-day meet, which concluded on Sunday. More here
Europe: The Laytown Races Committee has cancelled its popular beach-run September fixture with concerns over social distancing. More here
Oceania: Jockeys will be able to ride trackwork at a maximum of two training venues as part of updated Covid-19 biosecurity protocols announced by Racing Victoria. More here
Europe: Goffs and Tattersalls have worked together to produce a revised sales schedule for the delayed 2020 National Hunt Store Horse sales in Ireland and Britain. More here
Europe: Kenny Alexander to step down as chief executive of betting giant GVC Holdings. More here