Archive for May, 2008

Unsung heroes of the racetrack

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

Outrider: A range rider; a cowboy who rode his employer’s range far and yon to spot trouble. – Dictionary of the American West by Winfred Blevins

They don’t look like cowboys, with their riding helmets, walkie-talkies and waistcoats. But make no mistake, racetrack outriders could throw in with the best of them. Some of these unsung heroes are former rodeo performers; some former jockeys or trainers. But as outriders, they are a jockey’s best friend.

Race fans rarely notice outriders because most of the time these mounted racetrack employees are out of the line of action, along the outside rail. They only come into focus as first responders, if a horse or rider is in trouble on the track during races and morning workouts.

Several years ago, I spoke with outriders Grady Likes and Jack Bruner (pictured) about the demands of their work during the summer race meet at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, TX.

“You’ve got to have a cool head and have confidence that you can take control of any emergency situation,” said Likes. “But a loose horse going the wrong way up the track is an outrider’s worst nightmare. You never want to see a horse run head-on into a field of horses.”

“The hardest part of the job is having to ride by (a fallen rider) and not stop to help,” Bruner added. “Your first instinct is to move the rider out of the way. But you have to make sure his loose horse doesn’t run into somebody and cause a wreck.”

Why defile Native Dancer?

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

How ironic that Native Dancer, the first thoroughbred to capture a public following on television, is being cast as a villain in some quarters, following the breakdown of Eight Belles in the widely televised Kentucky Derby.

The theory possibly started with an article by Jon Weinbach in the May 2, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal, where he pointed out that all 20 horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby were descended from Native Dancer. From that platform, Weinbach concludes: “Like hemophilia in the Russian royal family, Native Dancer’s line has a fatal flaw. Thanks in part to heavily muscled legs and a violent, herky jerky running style, Native Dancer and his descendants have had trouble with their feet.”

Native Dancer appears once, in the seventh generation, on the top side of Eight Belles’ pedigree, and in the fifth and sixth generations on the bottom side. In her seven generation pedigree of 254 ancestors, Native Dancer appears four times, no closer than as her maternal great-grandsire’s dam’s sire. I wonder if Mr. Weinbach knows any more about the Russian royal family or genetics than he does about racehorses?

In his New York Times column “The Rail,” writer Joe Drape, who does know racehorses, included a short piece written by Alfred Vanderbilt, whose father bred Native Dancer. Vanderbilt corrects Weinbach on some points, but mostly reminisces about the Gray Ghost.

Facts about Native Dancer:

  • He was bred by Alfred G. Vanderbilt, sired by the 1945 Preakness winner Polynesian, and foaled in 1950 out of Geisha, by Discovery.
  • He broke his maiden in his debut at 2.
  • He won 21 of 22 starts during his three-year career, including the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.
  • He suffered his only defeat, by a nose, to Dark Star in the Kentucky Derby.
  • He was honored as Horse of the Year in 1952 and 1954, and Champion 3-Year-Old in 1953.
  • He was referred to as the Gray Ghost during his racing career.
  • He preferred to rate mid-pack and strike in the stretch.
  • He had a stride comparable to Man O’War’s – 28 feet.
  • He was temperamental, but loved the kittens that often played in his stall.
  • He sired 1966 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Kauai King, and 1968 Kentucky Derby winner Dancer’s Image.
  • His son Raise A Native sired Mr. Prospector, Alydar, Exclusive Native, and Majestic Prince, all influential sires. Another son, Dan Cupid, sired European champion Sea Bird II
  • His daughter Natalma produced the great sire Northern Dancer.

Leading LAE Sires of 2008

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Here’s a look at the leading sires of National Cutting Horse Association limited age event finalists for the 2008 calendar year. These standings are based on Open, Non-Pro, Amateur, Limited, Novice and Senior classes for major events held January 1 through May 23. The top sires are ranked by number finalists. Unofficial earnings in these finals are totaled for each sire, and the average amount earned in those events by each sire’s finalists.

Sire Finalists Champs   Res
3rd +
LAE $*
Average $*
HIGH BROW CAT 249 26 17 206 1,703,595 6,842
DUAL REY 108 7 15 86 788,908 7,305
PEPTOBOONSMAL 80 5 2 73 601,069 7,513
SMART LITTLE LENA 64 4 4 56 383,375 5,990
DUAL PEP 57 3 4 50 363,851 6,383
CD OLENA 47 5 8 34 373,076 7,938
HES A PEPTOSPOONFUL 40 1 2 37 202,523 5,063
SAN TULE FRECKLES 39 6 3 30 806,507 20,680
SMART SUGAR BADGER 38 1 3 34 590,718 15,545
SMART MATE 30 0 2 28 148,831 4,961
CD ROYAL 29 3 2 24 140,471 4,844
BODEE BOONSMAL 28 2 2 24 264,487 9,446
SMART LIL SCOOT 26 4 3 19 114,882 4,419
PLAYGUN 24 2 1 21 88,124 3,672
PLAYDOX 20 3 2 15 231,672 11,584
SMART LITTLE JERRY 18 6 2 10 85,150 4,731
PEPTOS STYLISH OAK 17 3 0 14 46,899 2,759
PEPTO TAZ 17 1 0 16 73,898 4,347
ZACK T WOOD 17 0 0 17 99,138 5,832
GRAYS STARLIGHT 15 2 2 11 48,650 3,243
BOBS FRECKLE 15 2 0 13 90,501 6,033
DOCS STYLISH OAK 13 4 1 8 70,012 5,386
MECOM BLUE 13 3 2 8 75,092 5,776
NITAS WOOD 13 0 3 10 40,814 3,140
SMOOTH AS A CAT 13 0 1 12 53,497 4,115
HICKORYS INDIAN PEP 12 1 1 10 48,734 4,061
DUALIN JEWELS 11 5 0 6 34,091 3,099
ILL BE SMART 11 2 3 6 32,035 2,912
SWEET LIL PEPTO 11 2 1 8 125,632 11,421
PLAYIN STYLISH 11 1 2 8 26,259 2,387
SMART LIL RICOCHET 11 1 1 9 133,195 12,109
DULCES SMART LENA 11 0 1 10 41,773 3,798
FRECKLES FANCY TWIST 11 0 1 10 92,689 8,426
MR PEPONITA FLO 10 2 0 8 30,263 3,026
COLOR ME SMART 10 1 2 7 29,265 2,927
BLUE BAYOU BOON 10 1 1 8 36,377 3,638

*Does not include go-round or weekend show earnings.

Jess Significant fastest Ruidoso Futurity qualifier

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

Jess Significant ran 350 yards in :17.66 on Friday, May 23, to top 119 entrants, spread over 12 races, in the trials for the G1 Ruidoso Futurity. The 10 fastest qualifiers are eligible for the $500,000 stake to be contested on June 8 at Ruidoso Downs.

Trained by Carl Draper, Jess Significant made her debut at Sunland Park with two wins, including her West Texas Futurity trial. She then finished sixth at 5-1 odds in the Grade 1 West Texas Futurity. The Mr Jess Perry daughter, owned by La Feliz Montana Ranch, was a $130,000 purchase at last year’s Ruidoso Select Sale.

“She’s really a nice filly and we expected her to do well,” said Draper, who also saddled the second fastest Ruidoso Futurity qualifier, Misty Blue Mercedes.

A $27,000 purchase at the Ruidoso Select Sale, Misty Blue Mercedes, owned by Lola Willis and Sheryl Cox, qualified for the G1 West Texas Futurity, but broke her bridle and finished last wearing a substitute bit.

Jockey Bonifacio Perez had the mount on both Jess Significant and Misty Blue Mercedes Perez. Draper also sent out All American Futurity winner Heartswideopen on Saturday to top the trials to the G1 Ruidoso Derby.

Ruidoso Futurity qualifiers

Horse Trial Trainer Jockey Time
Jess Significant 7th Carl Draper Bonifaco Perez 17.666
Misty Blue Mercedes 11th Carl Draper Bonifacio Perez 17.709
Jesstifiable 1st Blane Wood Ricky Ramirez 17.733
Feature Ten 7th Wes Giles G.R. Carter Jr 17.739
Winners Version 11th Paul Jones Ramon Sanchez 17.771
Miss Lena Perry 9th Jose Efren Meraz Noe Garcia 17.776
Lake View Dreams 5th Blane Wood Stormy Smith 17.780
Quik Brew 2nd Heath Taylor G.R. Carter Jr. 17.822
Dashazoom 12th Blane Wood Ricky Ramirez 17.823
Vrrroom 9th James McArthur G.R. Carter Jr. 17.848

Heartswideopen fastest Ruidoso Derby qualifier

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

All American Futurity winner Heartswideopen made a sensational 2008 debut at Ruidoso Downs on Saturday, May 24, posting the fastest qualifying time to the G1 Ruidoso Derby.

“It went easy,” said jockey Larry Payne, who picked up the mount for trainer Carl Draper, after regular rider Oscar Hernandez was injured on Friday afternoon. “I just turned the whip over and tapped her twice to keep her attention.

Heartswideopen outclassed her rivals by easily winning the fourth of four 400-yard trials in :19.628 for owners Manny and Javier Rodriguez. The trial, her seventh win from eight career starts, was her first start since she won $1 million for winning the All American Futurity last year, on Labor Day. The Feature Mr Jess daughter prepared for her return with two best-of-the-day works.

“Everything went as expected,” said Draper. “That should set her up well for the finals.” Draper also sent out the two fastest qualifiers – Jess Significant and Misty Blue Mercedes – to the G1 Ruidoso Futurity on Friday afternoon, opening day of the Ruidoso Downs meet.

Heartswideopen was the overwhelming selection as 2007 champion two-year-old and champion two-year-old filly. She won last year’s Ruidoso Futurity in a stakes-record :17.089, then raced to the fastest 440 yards ever by a female, when she won her All American Futurity trial in :20.921. Sent off as the 9-10 favorite in the All American Futurity, she responded with a neck win over longshot SF Royal Bank.

Ruidoso Derby Qualifiers

Horse Trial Trainer Jockey Time
Heartswideopen 4th Carl Draper Larry Payne 19.628
Boys All Jacked Up 2nd Paul Jones Freddie Martinez 19.667
Noconi 4th Paul Jones Freddie Martinez 19.862
Eye Of Glory 1st Blane Wood Ricky Ramirez 19.914
Shy Ann Jess 2nd Tony Sedillo Noe Garcia 19.985
Strong Hope 1st Fred Danley G.R. Carter Jr. 20.009
Arealshaker 4th Roy Marcom Salvador Martinez 20.042
Funparty 1st Bob Williams Esgar Ramirez 20.137
Saturday Night Ride 2nd Mike Joiner Sam Thompson 20.150
Hawkin Had It 2nd Paul Jones Mark Villa 20.152

Double the pleasure for Wrigley

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Julie Wrigley shut out the non-pro competition with wins in both the Non-Pro Derby and Non-Pro Classic/Challenge during the Breeders Invitational, which concluded on Friday, May 23 in Las Vegas. The two championships plus a sixth-place check on Faith In My Cat in the Non-Pro Classic/Challenge earned Wrigley a total of $63,698.

Wrigley claimed the Derby with 222.5 points aboard Special Nu Kitty, with Matt Miller as reserve with 221 on Skylin And Profilin. Wrigley had scored 219 to win the Classic/Challenge last week on CD Graceful Dual, with Hope Mitchell as reserve riding Cat N A Hat.

Special Nu Kitty, by High Brow Cat, was the horse that Clint Allen rode for Wrigley Ranches to mark 227 points in the first go-round of the NCHA Futurity, and to earn $42,734 in the Futurity Finals. Allen also rode the bay mare as reserve champion of the Tunica Futurity, placed third with her in the Cotton Stakes, and was an Abilene Spectacular, Augusta Futurity and Breeders Invitational finalist.

Wrigley, an attorney and Phoenix-based businesswoman, at one time managed the famous Wrigley Arabians, owned by her late husband, William Wrigley III, president of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company. She had owned cutting horses briefly in the early 1980s, and returned to the sport as an amateur competitor in 2001. Wrigley maintains Wrigley Ranches in Weatherford, TX, which is operated by Clint Allen.

Combined, Wrigley and Allen’s earnings from the 2008 Breeder’s Invitational totaled $101,942. Earlier this year, Wrigley placed as a finalist on Wood I Never in both the open and non-pro divisions of the Western Horseman Cup.

In addition to placing as the Derby reserve champion on Skylin And Profilin, Matt Miller also won the Novice Non-Pro title on the gelded son of Mr Skyline Peppy, and split seventh in the Non-Pro Classic/Challenge riding Soda Rey Bay.

2008 Breeders Invitational 4yo Non-Pro

Friday, May 23rd, 2008
Earned: $34,548