The New York Racing Association released its 2013 stakes schedule this week, and the only profound change from recent years is a more even spread of races for 3-year-olds, both colts and fillies, throughout the calendar.
Specifically, the Grade II Jerome was moved earlier, to Jan. 5, so that there will be a natural progression from that race to the Withers on Feb. 2, Gotham on March 2 and Grade I Wood Memorial on April 6.
On the filly side, the Grade II Gazelle, at a mile and an eighth, will replace the Grade III one-mile Comely on the Wood card, giving the New York circuit a more attractive prep for the Kentucky Oaks.
Also, the mile-and-a-sixteenth Busher for fillies, usually run at the end of February, has been moved to Feb. 2, with a purse boosted from $75,000 to $100,000.
The Aqueduct winter/spring and Belmont spring/summer stakes schedules have been approved by the NYRA Reorganization Board, and the remaining schedule, including the Saratoga Race Course summer meet, has been set, pending board approval.
The Belmont Stakes is scheduled for June 8, and the $1 million Travers will be held at Saratoga on Aug. 24.
The Wood card will be further enhanced by the restoration of the Grade II Ruffian at one mile for fillies and mares.
The Belmont spring meet will add a New York Showcase Day comparable to the traditional fall slate, with seven stakes restricted to New York-breds — the Kingston, Mount Vernon, Affirmed Success, Mike Lee, Bouwerie, Dancing Renee and Commentator.
Those races will be held the Saturday before Belmont Stakes weekend.
G’DAY, ANIMAL KINGDOM
John Messara’s Arrowfield Stud has acquired a majority interest in the breeding rights to 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, who will begin his stud career in Australia next September and likely shuttle to the northern hemisphere, beginning in 2014.
The deal is subject to Animal Kingdom passing importation protocols, which involve bloodwork that should be finalized in the next few days.
The 20 Team Valor International partners in Animal Kingdom will retain a significant interest in his stud career. He is scheduled to run in the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 9 as a prep for the $10-million Dubai World Cup (G1) on March 31.
Then he will be flown to England and considered for an additional start, possibly at Royal Ascot in June.
Team Valor CEO Barry Irwin fielded a regular stream of offers for Animal Kingdom’s stud career ever since the Kentucky Derby. He stands to be the only Derby-winning stallion prospect to race as a 5-year-old since Silver Charm, who won the 1997 Run for the Roses.
“Originally, it was our intention to race Animal Kingdom for the entire 2013 season,” Irwin said in a Team Valor release. “However, the prospect of getting the support of John Messara’s Arrowfield Stud in the southern hemisphere was so meaningful, that I advised my partners to sublimate their fun and take the deal. It is critically important to get a history-making stallion master behind a new prospect and in John Messara we have that. He has developed two of the world’s most successful sires in Danehill and his son, Redoute’s Choice. No way I was going to pass up this opportunity.”
Team Valor will form broodmare partnerships to breed to Animal Kingdom, with the plan of selling
and racing his offspring around the globe.
AWESOME FEATHER RETIRED
The popular Eclipse Award Champion Awesome Feather has been retired from racing, six weeks after suffering the only loss of her injury-hampered 11-race career, a sixth to Royal Delta in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic.
Trained by Mechanicville native Chad Brown for five starts since she won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Awesome Feather was purchased by Frank Stronach of Adena Springs for $2.3 million at the Fasig-Tipton November sale right after the Breeders’ Cup.
A tendon problem limited her to two starts last year, including the Grade I Gazelle at Aqueduct.
She won twice at 4 this year, the Florida Sunshine Millions at Gulfstream Park in January, followed by an eight-month break to get healthy for a Breeders’ Cup prep, the Nasty Storm 111⁄4 lengths at Belmont in September.
“Working for Bobby [Frankel], I was around several of Stronach’s best runners, and Awesome Feather was right up there with the best of them,” Brown said on the Adena Springs website. “She is a rare horse to overcome a tendon injury like she did, and maintain top form. She is truly special.”
A granddaughter of Adena Springs’ top stallion, Awesome Again, Awesome Feather, retires with earnings of $1,912,746. She will become a broodmare at Adena Springs Farm in Paris, Ky.
Voting is under way at the NTRA website, www.ntra.com, for the 14th annual “NTRA Moment of the Year.”
The winning moment will be recognized on Jan. 19 at the Eclipse Awards; those selecting the winning image will be entered in a random drawing for a $100 gift certificate for Breeders’ Cup merchandise.
Listed chronologically, the events that fans can choose from are:
u Rosie Napravnik becomes the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks, on Believe You Can.
u I’ll Have Another and jockey Mario Gutierrez pull the upset from post 19 in the Kentucky Derby.
u I’ll Have Another runs down Bodemeister to win the Preakness by a neck.
u On the eve of a highly anticipated Triple Crown bid, I’ll Have Another is scratched from the Belmont Stakes.
u For the first time since 1874, the Travers ends in a dead heat as Alpha and Golden Ticket hit the wire together.
u Haskell winner Paynter overcomes deadly battles with laminitis and colitis and begins rehab for a possible 2013 campaign.
u For the second straight year, Royal Delta wins the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic for trainer Bill
Mott and jockey Mike Smith, who registers his record 16th Breeders’ Cup riding win.
u Groupie Doll trounces her opponents in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
u Shanghai Bobby digs in under Napravnik to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and remain undefeated.
u Wise Dan breaks the course record in capturing the Breeders’ Cup Mile over an international field.
u Fort Larned holds off Mucho Macho Man to take the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
u Shackleford ends his career on a winning note in the Clark Handicap.
Fans 18 years and older can register to vote online at www.ntra.-com. There is a limit of one vote per valid email address. Votes must be received by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, Jan. 2.
Saginaw’s busy 2012 season will continue in today’s 54th Gravesend Handicap at Aqueduct, where he’s the 4-5 morning-line favorite.
Trained by David Jacobson, Saginaw is 9-1-0 from 12 starts this year, the one low point being a sixth against open company in the Grade I Met Mile, won by Shackleford.
Saginaw won twice at Saratoga, including the John Morrissey Stakes.
“He was in over his head in the Met Mile,” Jacobson told NYRA. “He runs well at a certain level, and we’re hoping he can take it to the next level in this race.”
Despite running 13 times, the Gravesend isn’t necessarily season’s end for Saginaw, who could come back in the Alex Robb on Dec. 26.
Among the five he’ll face is the 2011 Gravesend winner, Frazil, who just came back from a long break to finish second in a starter handicap.
Juvenile colts will take the spotlight at Hollywood Park in the Grade I CashCall Futurity, where trainer Bob Baffert will try to win the race for the seventh time.
He has four entered against the likes of He’s Had Enough, runner-up to Shanghai Bobby in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Grade II Nashua winner Violence, who won his career debut at Saratoga for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Baffert’s four include Grade III winners Den’s Legacy (Generous, on the turf) and Really Mr Greeley (Hollywood Prevue); Real Quiet Stakes winner Carving; and Title Contender, who was eighth of nine in the BC Juvenile.
He’s Had Enough has the same connections as I’ll Have Another — owner Paul Reddam, trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Mario Gutierrez.
The card also includes the Grade II Hollywood Turf Cup, where the D. Wayne Lukas-trained 3-year-old Optimizer will try the grass again.
He ran in all three Triple Crown races, finishing no better than sixth in any of them. He was fifth on the turf in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga and won on the grass in the Grade III Kent at Delaware Park.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Pure Fun used a last-to-first move to sweep by Blonde Fog and 2-5 favorite Executiveprivilege to win the Grade I Hollywood Starlet at Hollywood Park last Saturday, likely scuttling Executiveprivilege’s bid to beat Beholder for the 2-year-old filly championship. . . .
Eblouissante, the half-sister to Zenyatta who impressively won her career debut at Hollywood Park on Nov. 16, will make her second start today against four rivals in the fourth race at Hollywood.
Post time is 5:01 p.m. (ET). . . .
With his win in the Queens County at Aqueduct last Saturday, San Pablo has won four of his last five, all stakes, since August. He was ninth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup during that stretch.
“He’s one of those horses who is just steadily improving, a horse we’ve always liked,” trainer Todd Pletcher told NYRA. “He seems like he is kind of putting it together. If he can take another step forward, then he could fit with the top echelon.” . . .
In the juvenile stakes at Aqueduct last Sunday, Smooth Bert beat Notacatbutallama by three-quarters of a length in the Damon Runyon for colts, and Kell Got Frosty romped by 91⁄2 lengths at 2-5 in the East View for fillies.
“I think she’ll be fine going two turns,” trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. “I think the longer she goes, she’ll get more comfortable.”
Smooth Bert debuted at five furlongs at Saratoga, and should also benefit from longer distances, trainer Leah Gyarmati said.
“He’s a neat horse. He can probably do anything once he figures it all out. The longer, the better, and he has some speed if you want him to use it. He’s very athletic. He looks like a 5-year-old, but he’s not clumsy. He’s not one of those big horses where it takes a lot for him to get into himself. Right from the beginning, he’s been athletic.” . . .
Despite missing the last two weeks of the Aqueduct fall meet with an injured foot, Ramon Dominguez still won the meet title by eight, with 32, over Jose Ortiz.
David Jacobson edged Rodriguez, 19-18, for the trainer title.
HERE AND THERE
Shanghai Bobby is scheduled for his first post-Breeders’ Cup breeze next weekend at Palm Meadows. . . .
Jockey Calvin Borel’s pursuit of 5,000 career victories is in a holding pattern at 4,998 after he went 0-for-2 at Fair Grounds on Thursday.
He’s taking a break for Christmas, and isn’t scheduled to ride again until Oaklawn Park opens on Jan. 11. . . .
Sightseeing, sire of Spinaway winner So Many Ways, died last Saturday from complications due to intestinal surgery.
The 8-year-old son of recently deceased sire Pulpit was in Chile at Haras Santa Monica for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season when he began to display signs of discomfort, prompting the surgery. . . .
Kelli Got Frosty’s victory in the East View was good news for Sunset Stables LLC and her sire, Frost Giant.
Sunset Stables and Frost Giant established a record for progeny earnings for a New York-based freshman sire. Kelli Got Frosty’s East View win put Frost Giant, the 2008 Suburban Handicap winner, at $752,543, breaking the record of $709,293 set by Precise End in 2004.
A son of Giant’s Causeway, Frost Giant ranks sixth among all stallions on the North American freshman sire list even though he has fewer juveniles in his first crop than any other sire in the top 30.
“We’re pleasantly surprised at how well Frost Giant’s first offspring are doing as 2-year-olds because they are big horses who we expect will get better as they mature and go longer distances,” Sunset Stables manager Andrew Cohen said.
Frost Giant will stand his first season at Keane Stud, east of Poughkeepsie, in 2013, after being located at Vinery at Sugar Maple. . . .
Linda Rice, whose father, Clyde, was leading trainer at Penn National several times from 1973-82, is bringing a string of horses there for the first time.
“Penn National was a great place to grow up,” she told the Penn National media office. “My passion for racing started at Penn National, and I learned to gallop horses as an exercise rider there when I was 15. I’m excited about driving down the mountain road and coming back to a place where I spent a lot of time.”
She’ll continue to keep most of her stock in New York.
“Penn National has some conditions available that meet the needs I am looking for,” she said. “In addition, it is very accessible from New York, and is familiar territory for me.”