I saw an ad recently for a major Kentucky farm looking for full-time grooms. The starting pay was $10.25/hour, with benefits. That’s not bad for central Kentucky living expenses, and I did what those grooms are going to do, and I got paid in room and board. It did make me think, though, about how important it is to take care of the people who take care of these horses that we love, analyze, and depend on. Do you know about Anna House? (Anna House info ) It’s a childcare and education program for the backstretch workers at Belmont Park, and is part of the Belmont Child Care Association, a necessary and invaluable resource that, if you have the means and ability, you should think about giving time and money to.
I grew up in Indiana, about a twenty-minute drive south of Indianapolis, admiring Kentucky breeding and racing three hours to the south. I eventually followed that passion to Lexington, where I went to school and lived for twelve years. This really isn’t a new observation, but over the last eight years or so, Indiana has established itself as an up and coming place to race and breed Thoroughbreds. Indiana Grand offers competitive purses (Indiana racing as a whole averaged $27, 800 per race in purse money in 2016) and hosts the Grade 2, $500,000 Indiana Derby. In 2016, Indiana was 10th in the US in number of mares bred, ahead of states with more established breeding programs like Texas, Ohio and Illinois. It’s nice to see, especially when I think back to my family foaling and raising Indiana-breds, at a time when there were just not many people doing that.
Tapit is an incredible stallion. He’s had 60 graded stakes winners, 22 grade 1 winners. He’s been the leading North American sire over the last three consecutive years. He stands for $300k, and yearlings have averaged more than twice that over the last three years. He’s a powerhouse. I bring all of this up because while it’s also pretty amazing that he’s had the Belmont winner three of the last four years, I kind of think that’s not that big of a deal. Winning the Belmont means you’re a world-class Thoroughbred, of course, but I also think it’s much more of a test of how far a horse can run, rather than how fast. American racing isn’t built on consistently running a mile and a half, to me it’s about those mile to a mile and an eighth races. So, while it’s a remarkable accomplishment, I’m just not sure it’s a game changer. Still, credit where it’s due.
This time of year REALLY makes me miss Hollywood Park. I mean, I loved it year round, but the spring/summer meet was my favorite. The late Friday night cards, the Gold Cup usually around the 4th of July, it just went hand in hand with summer, at least for me. I would often watch the 6am TVG replay show with Kurt Hoover before I went to work feeding mares and babies and walking yearlings til I needed a new pair of sneaks. Here’s some past photos I took from Hollywood Park (Great memories, and I hit a daily double)
What a performance by Gun Runner in the Stephen Foster. Sure, the field wasn’t jaw dropping, but there were some graded stakes quality horses in there, and Gun Runner breezed past them. The Breeders’ Cup Classic will be fun, round three of Arrogate v. Gun Runner, and I think I read Gun Runner is maybe being considered to run at five? I’d support that.
Thunder Snow, he’s gone back to Europe and shown the potential Godolphin saw in him to bring him to Kentucky for the Derby. He’s run second in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas, and third in the St. James Palace. That first Saturday in May at Churchill, who knows what happened. The saddle may have slipped, he wasn’t feeling it, not sure, but happy for the horse that he’s made up for a very public bad day at the office.
Saturday’s Affirmed Stakes (gr. 3) at Santa Anita is highlighted by Battle of Midway, for Don Alberto and Winstar Farm. He’s a nice colt, and from one of Smart Strike’s last crops. Never off the board in five starts, including a nice third in the Kentucky Derby. He’s using the Affirmed as a prep for the Haskell next month at Monmouth, which should be a fun race to watch and bet on. Battle of Midway looks like the class of the field, though at the right price Term of Art could be interesting.
Nice edition of the Ohio Derby (gr. 3) at Thistledown on Saturday also. You have four horses who ran in the Kentucky Derby and some good local horses lining up for $500,000. Girvin, Irap and Untrapped look the class of the race, but I wouldn’t blame you if you had a few across the board on Hinton, a son of Candy Ride who steps up in class for Thomas Drury and John McKee.
Thanks for reading, enjoy the racing this weekend, take care of your horses and the people that take care of them, and I’ll see you next week.