Saturday, May 28, 2011

Riders' Up!

Today I visited Monmouth Park for the first time. I was excited to see what New Jersey racing had in store, and as it turns out, it was a beautiful day of racing and a great atmosphere! Many fans were in attendance at the popular picnic area, and most of them ventured over to visit the hotdog competition, where countless cooks were pulling out all the stops to see who could fry up the best lunchtime treat. The highlight of the day was watching Addie's Surprise, a first time starter by War Front, win the seventh race. Addie's Surprise is named for a 101 year old woman (an aunt of the owner) who happened to be in attendance! A close second in terms of highlights was meeting the jockey pictured below. He was named on a live mount in the second race, but unfortunately had to take off the mount for being overweight. He visited the picnic area and had a few drinks to console himself. Better luck next time, my friend! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

So Long Lexington

It’s hard to believe the time has come to bid farewell once again. Yes, I will be back for two weeks in July to wrap up my Flying Start affairs, but after this week, in essence, my time here is finished.
I have had a lot of practice with goodbyes since joining Flying Start. In just nine months we have moved camp three times, and within in our three locations we have done many short courses and work placements in which people and places move quickly in and out of our lives. It’s never easy to say good bye to any place or anyone, but I expect it will be especially difficult to say so long to Lexington. Over the past five months I feel that it has become my home.
Perhaps it is the trials and tribulations that have inspired such an attachment. Myself and my fellow Flying Starters have been through a lot in Lexington. We braved and suffered the treacherous cold for far too long, pounded through mentally and physically demanding courses like the farrier school, nutrition class, the steward’s accreditation course, and a variety of work placements. We experienced the challenge of all-night vigils in the foaling barn, and in contrast, early mornings at the racetrack and on the stud farms.
It seems as if for every challenge, however, there was a reward. We got to assist with foalings, experience the rewards of getting mares in foal, and work with some of the best bloodstock in the world. I won’t soon forget the time I spent with Street Cry, Bernardini, Medaglia d’Oro, Ashado, Music Note, and the likes. We also made many new friends along the way. We won’t soon forget all the Darley employees who became our comrades, and all of the wonderful industry professionals and management staff who helped us along the way.
Then there was the Keeneland Spring Meet and the Kentucky Derby. A trip to Nashville. Nights in Downtown Lexington. Life in Lexington has truly been a pleasure.
So the next stop for me will be New Jersey, where I will complete my six week work placement with the TDN. I am so excited for this opportunity and everything the company and the city has to offer. I will be sure to give you all an update from the Jersey Shore, but until then, so long.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Canadians Busy at OBS March

Canadians were active at the OBS March Sale on March 15-16. Canadian-based trainer Mark Casse lit up the board, signing tickets for six two-year-olds for a total of $1,755,000, making him the sale’s leading buyer by gross over the likes of Bob Baffert, Todd Pletcher, and Lane’s End Bloodstock.
Casse’s most expensive purchase was hip 329, a $450,000 Medaglia d’Oro – User History (Mr. Prospector) filly. The Sovereign award-winning trainer also picked up:

Hip 463: Malibu Moon – Deputy Cures Blues ($325,000)

Hip 294: Lawyer Ron – Steal the Show ($320,000)

Hip 271: Congrats – Silver Spook ($260,000)

Hip 373: First Samurai – A Touch of Glory ($220,000)

Hip 435: Any Given Saturday – Classic Approval ($180,000)

Also active was the Alberta-based Donver Stable, which went to $310,000 for hip 379, a filly by Tapit out of Barsanti. Donver has campaigned another prominent Tapit filly: Careless Jewel, who won the 2009 Alabama Stakes (G1).

Hip 306, an Indian Charlie filly out of Symphonic Lady, brought $300,000 from Frank Fletcher Racing Operation during the second session. The filly was bred in Ontario by Josham Farms and Yvonne Schwabe.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Stallion Advertising: Then and Now

Anyone who picks up a thoroughbred trade publication is affected by (and likely aware of) the power of advertising. For media producers, advertising drives revenue and is largely responsible for the survival of a publication. For consumers, advertising influences learning and decision making, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Advertising in thoroughbred trade publications is dominated by stallion ads. For stud farms, it is no longer enough to just advertise stallions; Many farms today put considerable time, effort and resources into producing the most creative and eye-catching ads. Just as much time is put into devising deals to attract mare owners, such as foal shares, boarding deals, and early payment discounts, which are largely pushed through the ads.

While much has changed in the form of advertising, a lot has also remained the same. Below is a stallion ad from 1817 that I photographed at the Kentucky Horse Park museum.

This ad for leading 19th century racehorse and sire Sir Archie displays a creative illustration of the stallion underscored by details such as his location, stud fee and payment terms (including an early payment discount), mare boarding rates, and the stallions credentials (“Sir Archie’s blood, great size...Performance on the Turf, and celebrity as a Foal getter, are sufficient recommendations”).

While most payment details wouldn’t be included in today’s stallion ads, much of this information is still there. Below is an ad from Three Chimneys in Kentucky. Three Chimneys, which has stood Kentucky Derby winners Smarty Jones, Big Brown, Silver Charm, and Seattle Slew as well as leading sires Dynaformer and Rahy, is well-known for its creative advertising and social media presence. When Big Brown’s first foals arrived in January 2010, Three Chimneys used the creative slogan “the Brownies are out of the oven” to promote their young stallion. This ad outlines the stud fee and general payment terms. Photos of the first foals are used to attract breeders.

While we can see that advancements in media and technology have allowed for remodelling of stallion ads, it is also apparent that, like most other aspects of the thoroughbred industry, tradition still holds true with stallion advertising.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Man

Check out this excellent tribute to Man O 'War from the Daily Racing Form:

This story, complete with video, audio and photos, describes in detail Man O' War's funeral. While it shows that a horse of his stature is in fact mortal, the story also reiterates the fact that equine athletes can be great heroes, and people should not be afraid to show their love and appreciation for them.

During the time of Man O' War, horses were well utilized, and they were a necessity in American society. Today, those of us in the racing industry are in the unique position of trying to market the Sport of Kings in a society where the horse is no longer put on a pedestal. Racing fans can be criticized for their appreciation of the beauty of the horse. Those who criticize, however, need only read this tribute to realize there is room for a little compassion in our rough and tough industry. It was there during the golden years, so why not now?

I hope 21st century greats like Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra, and Curlin will be remembered and celebrated with the same enthusiasm and perfection that Man O' War was.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Top Hat

While working with Darley rehab trainer Johnny Burke at Keeneland last week, I was very fortunate to run into millionaire racing veteran Brass Hat. Now 10 years old, Brass Hat is looking in great condition, and is reportedly doing well with an eye towards a racing campaign this year. After walking out to train on Keeneland's Polytrack, Brass Hat paused and posed for about five minutes while a few bystanders snapped photos. Even with age he still knows who's tops!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hoofing It Up

It feels like it's been forever, but I've finally been published again. Check out my guest blog post on about my time as an amateur horseshoer at Old Friends:

This guest blog is for Beyond the Blinkers, the blog of Blood-Horse staff writer Esther Marr. Beyond the Blinkers features a variety of topics, but has recently focused on Thoroughbred rescue and rehoming. The blog is always a heartwarming and encouraging read for those of us who love Thoroughbred racing.

Thanks to Esther for helping me share my experiences, and I hope you enjoy it!