Archive for the ‘News Articles’ Category


English Cricket: He Who Dares…Wins

After a disappointing winter season the England team is looking to up their game in 2018 with new national selector Ed Smith taking the reins following the departure of James Whittaker in April.

Ed Smith

In one of his first moves, Smith made the decision to recall Jos Buttler to the squad. He noted that Buttler’s world class performance in 2016 against India was a flavour of things to come.

Along with some other choice appointments, including Joe Root as Captain, this means the first Test against Pakistan at Lord’s on 24th May will likely be a scene setter for the year ahead.

Perhaps most surprising is the omission of James Vince who scored 76 against New Zealand in March and a phenomenal 201 for his home team, Hampshire at the start of May. The feeling is that the new line up will benefit from Smith’s positive attitude without dwelling too heavily on those not joining the current tour.

The Test series will continue again in June, again seeing Pakistan’s return against England.

Meanwhile, a series of one day internationals against Australia will sharpen the team’s coordination throughout June until the Twenty20 season begins in July. Whether the squad will remain in its current form throughout the summer is anyone’s guess.

One surprise addition to the team was that of Dominc Bess who replaces Jack Leach. Leach’s sudden departure was due to a broken thumb, a resolute and disappointing game changer for the bowler.

In reality, whilst every game is important in its own right, the next couple of months are effectively warm up games for the extended play against India which begins at the start of July. Several Twenty20 and One Day International matches will lead almost seamlessly toward the International Test Series with India being held across England.

Bold words from Alastair Cook, inviting his dismissal should he not perform to standard, echo the determination of his team-mates. Jonny Bairstow and Stuart Broad have both asserted their dedication to Test Cricket and to England suggesting this year may be England’s return to dominate the game.


Irish Jockey Brian O’Connell retires early

The early retirement of Brian O’Connell, Irish Jockey and multiple award-winner in the horse-racing sports arena came as a shock to his fans worldwide.

The retirement of Brian O’Connell

The 31 year-old Irishman suffered injuries to his right shoulder when he fell off his horse. In spite of major surgery and four different interventions on the affected area to try and reattach his ligaments and tendons, his chief medical officer, Dr. Adrian McGoldrick, advised him to quit the sport for good.

Looking back on his career, O’ Connell can boast of some truly impressive wins. He was seven times Grade 1 winner and is mostly associated with Dunguib,with whom he achieved top-level success in the Champion Bumper at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival. O’Connell is also known for another 3 Grade 1 wins in the Fort Leney Novice Chase, the Dr P J Moriarty Novice Chase and the Irish Hennessy with the horse Last Installment. Both Dunguib and Last Installment were trained by Philip Fenton, to whom O’Connell remains grateful for what he learned from him. Another win that will not be forgotten is O’Connell’s riding of Don Cossack in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in 2014.

In spite of this setback, Brian O’Connell remains positive and determined to stay in the industry. Let us see if he makes a surprising comeback as a trainer, rather than a jockey.


Ten finalists named for hall of fame of Racing

Ten finalists have been named on the 2014 hall of fame ballot for the National Museum of Racing. There are four thoroughbreds, four jockeys and a pair of trainers named on the ballots with the voting being done by the Hall of Fame Nominating Committee.

The jockeys are Alex Solis, Chris Antley, Craig Perret and Garrett Gomez. The thoroughbreds are Curlin, Ashado, Xtra Heat and Kona Gold while the trainers are Gary Jones and Steve Asmussen. Curlin, Kona Gold and Asmussen are all first-time finalists. The voters are allowed to choose as many of the candidates they like when voting for the hall of fame induction. However, just the four candidates with the most votes will be inducted.

Antley was on board for 3,480 victories during his career and had $92,261,894 in total purse earnings. His career began in 1983 and lasted until 2000. He won 293 stakes with 127 of them being graded stakes. Antley also won the Preakness once and the Kentucky Derby twice (1991 and 1999) and led North American racing with 469 wins in 1985.

Gomez has won a total of 3,769 races and his purse earnings are $205,224,899. His career kicked off in 1998 and he’s won 566 stakes overall with 318 being graded stakes. He was honoured with the Eclipse Award in 2007 and 2008 as the Outstanding Jockey. He also led North American jockeys in earnings from 2006 to 2009 and has 13 Breeders’ Cup victories.

Perret’s career lasted from 1967 to 2005 and he took 4,415 races in total for $113,837,299 in career purse earnings. He won the Eclipse Award in 1990 as Outstanding Jockey and the same year won the Kentucky Derby when he rode Unbridled. He also won the 1987 Belmont Stakes aboard Bet Twice as well as four Breeders’ Cup events.

Solis began his career in 1982 and he has won a total of 4,980 races for $234,665,846 in purse earnings. He’s won 633 stakes with 321 being graded. He has captured three Breeders’ Cup races and won the Preakness in 1986 aboard Snow Chief. Solis is currently ranked number 30 in wins and ninth in all-time earnings.

As far as the horses go, Ashado started 21 races during her career and won 12 of them for $3,931,440 in purse earnings. In 2004 the horse was named the champion three-year-old female and a year later was named champion older female. Ashado was trained by Todd Pletcher.

Curlin had 16 career starts and took 11 of them. The horse also holds the North American record for the most purse earnings ever at $10,501,800. Asmussen trained Curlin for most of the horse’s career and it was named horse of the year in 2007 as well as the champion three-year-old male. He was named the horse of the year again in 2008 as well as the champion older male.

Kona Gold won 14 out of his 30 career starts and earned $2,293,384 in purse money. In 2000 he was named the champion sprinter and finished second in horse of the tear voting. At the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, the horse broke the race’s and the Churchill Downs six-furlong record with a time of 1:07.77.

Xtra Heat started 35 career races and won 26 of them for $2,389,635 in purse earnings. She was trained by John Salzman Sr. and in 2001 was named the champion three-year-old filly. Twice during her career Xtra Heat had six-race winning streaks and won a total of 10 stakes races.

Trainer Asmussen has 6,703 wins to his credit along with $214,030,552 in purse earnings since kicking off his career in 1986. He’s ranked number two in all-time wins and number five in earnings. He took home the Eclipse Award in 2008 and 2009 as outstanding trainer. He has led the way nine times during his career in wins for North American trainers and three times came in first for earnings. He’s won 752 stakes overall with 164 being graded stakes. Asmussen won a record 650 races in 2009 and trained Rachel Alexandra as the horse of the year in 2009. In 2007 and 2008 had trained Curlin to the same honour.

Jones had 1,465 wins in his career between 1975 and 1996 along with $52,672,611 in purse earnings. He won 233 stakes with 102 of them being graded stakes. Jones trained a total of 104 stakes-winning horses during his career and trained Kostroma to a world turf record of 1:43 ⅘ at the 1 ⅛-mile Las Palmas Handicap.

There were originally 84 candidates on the ballot and they were narrowed down to 10. To be eligible for selection the trainers must have been active for at least 25 years and the jockeys for 20 years. The thoroughbreds need to be retired for at least five years and every candidates had to have been active in the last 25 years.

The final results of the voting will be made public on April 25 and the free, public induction ceremony is scheduled to take place on August 8 at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion which is located in Saratoga Springs.


Samraat remains undefeated by taking the Gotham Stakes

Undefeated Samraat beat Uncle Sigh at the Aqueduct Racetrack in New York on Saturday, March 1 to win the $500,000 Gotham Stakes and also earn 50 points on the long and hard road to this year’s Kentucky Derby. The two horses also met at the Withers Stakes on February 1 and Samraat took it by a length. The Gotham Stakes turned out by be an exciting three-horse contest as In Trouble kept pace with Samraat and Uncle Sigh most of the way.

Rick Violette, the trainer of Samraat said he knew the horse was good after winning the Withers, but he proved today that he’s going to be tough to beat. Samraat was ridden by 123 lb. jockey Jose Ortiz and settled in third place on the outside as In Trouble took the early lead in the 1 1/16-mile race. Samraat, In Trouble and Uncle Sigh then broke away from the other nine horses as they entered the far turn.

Samraat then pulled even with the two frontrunners and inched ahead of them down the stretch and won the event by a neck in front of Uncle Sigh while In Trouble was another neck behind Uncle Sigh. Violette said the race was filled with good horses and he was worried that Samraat might falter as he had an extra five pounds on him from his last race. Jockey Ortiz said the horse proved he has a lot of heart and he responded well.

The final time of the race was 1:44.44 and it took place on the fast inner track. Samraat has now won five straight races. He’s owned by My Meadowview Farm and now has now reached a total earnings of $583,200. The two-year-old horse is the son of Noble Causeway. He also won the Damon Runyon back on December 18.

As for betting, Samraat paid out $6.40, $3.90, and $2.40 and went into the race as the 2/1 favourite along with Noble Cornerstone. Uncle Sigh’s odds were 7/2 while In Trouble went into the race at 9/2. Financial Mogul finished fourth and was followed by Harpoon, Master Lightning, Deceived, and Extrasexyhippzster. Classic Giacnroll and Monopolize were both scratched from the race.

Gary Contessa who trains Uncle Sigh, said that Samraat definitely a nice horse and he’s a believer in him. He felt that his horse was intimidated a little by Samraat since he’s still quite young, but Uncle Sigh is getting better and developing with each race. Uncle Sigh trains out of New York and Samraat will now head back to Florida to the Palm Meadows training center.
Violette added that he’s thinking about Samraat in the Kentucky Derby and wants to make sure his horse makes it there.


Pontchatrain wins fourth straight while Onlyforyou remains unbeaten

Pontchatrain won her fourth straight stakes at Santa Anita when she won the $201,250 Buena Vista race by a length on Monday February 25. The horse took the lead from Miss Serendipity on firm ground and took the mile-long event in a time of 1:33 ⅕. Pontchatrain went into the race as the second favourite with odds of 5/2. She paid $7 to win.

Jockey Gary Stevens said Pontchatrain ran a perfect race as the filly was relaxed and really took off and finished well. He said he believes if the horse can keep on running relaxed then she should be able to continue the hot streak. He added that Pontchatrain is a great horse at the mile length even when she doesn’t relax.

Finishing second at the Buena Vista was Egg Drop, which started the race as the 2/1 favourite. Egg Drop was looking to win her fourth consecutive stakes after some close wins at the Yellow Ribbon Handicap, the Matriarch and the Goldikova. Third place went to Tapicat with Miss Serendipity finishing in fourth and being followed by Stormy Lucy, Moone’s My Name, Dancingtothestars, Unusual Hottie, and Customer Base, with Appealing rounding out the field.

Pontchatrain won her very first race in her debut back in August of 2012. The horse is the daughter of War Front and she finished in fourth place in the Sandy Blue Handicap which was her Stakes debut. Following that, Pontchatrain won the stakes races Senator Ken Maddy, Monrovia, and Unzip Me. All of these races were at about 6.5 furlongs and took place at the downhill turf course in Santa Anita, California. After 15 races Pontchatrain has a record of 8-6-0-1 and the total purses won are up to $444,882.

On Saturday February 22, Onlyforyou won her fourth race in four starts at the $200,000 Grade 2 Davona Dale which was run at Gulfstream Park. The three-year-old Onlyforyou is owned by Glencrest Farm and is the daughter of Malibu Moon. She’s trained by Todd Pletcher and was ridden by jockey Javier Castellano. She went into the race as the favourite at even money and won it by 2 ¼ lengths. The horse finished the 1 1/16 of a mile event on the fast track at a time of 1:43 ⅗ and paid out $4.20.

Castellano said Onlyforyou flew out of the starting gate and didn’t seem to have any problem handling the pressure. Second place went to House Rules and third place was taken by Aurelia’s Belle. The rest of the field was Penwith, Stopchargingmaria, Luna Santa, Abou, and then Holiday Magic. Onlyforyou debuted at Aqueduct back in November 10 and won her six-furlong maiden by 2.25 lengths.

She raced again on December 15 at Gulfstream Park and won by 3.5 lengths. This was followed up by a 2.75 length win over seven furlongs at the Forward Gal on January 25. Onlyforyou now has career earnings of $308,100. The horse was bred by Elm Tree Farm and Popatop in Kentucky and was bought in 2012 for $115,000 at the Keeneland September sale.


Belmont Park features six $1 million-races this season

belmontparkThere will be a few new race names this year at Belmont Park as well as larger purses. The New York Racing Association (NYRA) announced there will be two busy days of USA horse racing during the spring and summer season as well as the Belmont Stakes Festival which takes place from June 6 to 8. The other two big days will be the Stars and Stripes Day on July 5 and a card held on May 11 for Mother’s Day.

The season kicks off on May 1 and concludes July 13. In total, there will be 62 stakes races taking place for a combined worth of $17.95 million. Six of the races will have a purse of at least $1 million and another 16 of the overnight stakes will each feature a purse of $100,000. The biggest payday is Belmont Stakes Day which takes place on June 7 when there will be $8 million worth of stakes up for grabs with the big race being the Belmont Stakes race with a $1.5 million purse.

There will also be five more Grade 1 races on June 7. These are the Ogden Phipps for mares and fillies four-year-olds and up, the Metropolitan Handicap for three-year-olds and up, the Manhattan Handicap for turf horses four-year-olds and up, the Longines Just a Game Stakes for mares and fillies on turf and the Acorn Stakes, which is for three-year-old fillies.

The $8 million in total purses Belmont Stakes Day makes it the second richest event on the horse racing calendar in North America. The richest day is the Breeders’ Cup World Championships’ second day of competition. The very first Stars and Stripes Day will be held at Belmont on the July 5 holiday weekend. This event features two $1 million races, which are the Belmont Derby Invitational worth $1.25 million and the Belmont Oaks Invitational which is worth $1 million.

The races were previously called the Garden City and the Jamaica Handicap. Both of these races are for three-year-olds and are 1 ¼-mile turf events. However, the Belmont Oaks is for fillies only. The card on July 5 also features the $500,000 Suburban Handicap along with the $400,000 Belmont Sprint Championship, which was called the James Marvin in the past. Also on the bill is the $200,000 Dwyer.

On Mother’s Day, the attractions will be the $400,000 Man o’ War as well as the $100,000 License Fee, the $150,000 Westchester and the $250,000 Ruffian. On May 31 the Big Apple Showcase Day takes place and features half a dozen stakes races for New York-breds. May 26 will see Belmont host a Memorial Day card with a trio of stakes races including the $300,000 Poker and the $200,000 Pennine Ridge.

Also, this year’s schedule will see the Astoria and the Tremont return. The Astoria takes place on June 14 for two-year-old fillies while the Tremont takes place the next day and is for two-year-olds. It’s the first time these two races have been scheduled since 2008.


Groupie Doll retires on winning note at Hurricane Bertie Stakes

Groupie Doll came all the way from last place to take the $200,000 Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie Stakes on February 9 at Gulfstream Park. The two-time champion horse was running the last race of her career and went out on a winning note after getting off to a slow start with jockey Rajiv Maragh on board. Groupie Doll started the race as a 2/5 favourite, but was trailing the field of seven horses at the backstretch before Maragh took control of the situation in the upper stretch.

The six-year-old horse ran the race at 1:14.68 and won it by seven lengths. The time was close to the track record of 1:14.44 which was set back in 2005 by Forest Danger. Groupie Doll won the Eclipse Award in 2012 and 2013 as North America’s best female sprinter. She will now head off to the breeding farm after 23 career races and a record of 12-4-4. Her total earnings reached $2,648,850.

Groupie Doll was bought for $3.1 million in November by Mandy Pope and after the race said she was so excited for the chestnut mare that she was in tears. Pope said she was worried when Groupie Doll fell behind, but the fans told her not to worry about it.

During her career Groupie Doll has won some major races such as the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes and the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in 2012 and 2013 and the Vinery Madison and Humana Distaff stakes in 2012, and the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes in 2012. Originally, the horse was going to run her last race back on November 30 against males at the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct Racetrack.

However, after she struggled to a fourth-place finish at the event Pope decided to race again and let her go out in style at the 6-and a-half furlong Hurricane Bertie. Groupie Doll will now be bred to Tapit and Pope said she doesn’t think she’ll be tempted to attend the horse’s racing career.

Jamaican Smoke led the Bertie and was closely followed by Distortion, Wildcat Lily and Five Star Momma while Groupie Doll fell to the rear. Maragh said the horse sometimes gets off to a slow start, but it worked out well since he then had a chance to move to the outside. The jockey said he didn’t want to get pinned on the inside. Groupie Doll came on at the quarter pole and was soon out in front for good.

Maragh claimed Groupie Doll was just flying by then and believed she’d easily win the race. He added that he even slowed her down near the finish line since there wasn’t any need for her to run any faster. Maragh stated that he’s happy Groupie Doll is going out in style as a winner, especially after the disappointment of the Cigar Mile and it was a remarkable performance by a remarkable horse.

Five Star Momma was ridden by Abdiel Jaen and they placed second with Wildcat Lily three lengths behind to show in third with jockey Jose Alvarez aboard. Fourth place went to Jamaican Smoke followed by Heart Stealer then Distortion and My Due Process finished seventh.


Scherzinger wins $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes

scherzingerJockey Mike Smith rode Scherzinger to victory at the Santa Monica Stakes at Santa Anita Park in California on January 25. It was the horse’s stakes debut and she ran to a one-length victory at the $200,000 event. Scherzinger is a four-year-old daughter of Tiz Wonderful and she’s trained by Jerry Hollendorfer.

Scherzinger flew by Teddy’s Promise down the deep stretch then held on to take the race on the fast track. She ran the seven furlongs in a minute and 22 seconds. Teddy’s Promise, who won the Santa Monica Stakes by three lengths last year, was racing in her final event and was hoping to go over the $1 million mark in career earrings. However, she placed third. The six-year-old daughter of Salt Lake will soon be heading to Kentucky for breeding.

Scherzinger started the race with at 4 to 1 odds at the online racebooks and the chestnut filly has now won four out of her last five starts. The Santa Monica Stakes was also her first race beyond six furlongs. For jockey Smith, it was his 23rd victory of the Santa Anita meet. Smith said he likes seven-eighths for Scherzinger because of her long stride. He said she just keeps on coming and wears down her opponents.

Scherzinger ran the opening quarter mile in 23 seconds and led by one length over Teddy’s Promise. Teddy’s Promise then took the lead at the three-eighths pole after 45.48 seconds. Scherzinger fell back by two lengths, but the leaders then began to tire down the drive. Scherzinger came up alongside the rail and took over at the 16th pole. Lotapa finished in second followed by Teddy’s Promise. Heir Kitty finished in fourth place with Winding Way coming in fifth and Lexington Pearl rounding off the field in sixth place.

Scherzinger’s owners said Mike Smith did a fantastic job since they thought it would be a tough task to win a race with Teddy’s Promise in it. Scherzinger was bred down in Kentucky and made her debut in November of 2012 when she was the runner up at the Calder Casino and Race Course. The horse has now won four of her seven starts and has career earnings to of $245,374.

Jockey Victor Espinoza who rode Teddy’s Promise during the race, said it was a difficult run right from the start. He remarked that Scherzinger broke out of the gate pretty quick and he was then stuck on the inside. He added that he didn’t really want to go head and head with her so he then moved to the outside. However, Heir Kitty, who was on the outside, put pressure on him immediately and Teddy’s Promise just didn’t have enough left to finish strongly.

The Santa Monica Stakes is the first one of six stakes races which are on the Santa Anita Sunshine Millions/California Cup program. The events are for state-breds and are funded by the Golden State Series.


Todd Pletcher named North America’s horseracing trainer of year a record sixth time

Horse racing trainer Todd Pletcher was recognized for his work in 2013 as he was recently named the winner of the Eclipse Award as North America’s trainer of the year. It’s the sixth time he’s taken the award home, which is a new record for the sport. It was the first time the 56-year-old native of Dallas, Texas has been the recipient of the trophy since 2010 and he edged out Hall of Fame trainers Bill Mott and Bob Baffert to do it.

Pletcher was tied for the most Eclipse Awards at five with the late, great Bobby Frankel. The award was created back in 1971 with Pletcher winning his first one in 2004. He also took the honours in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2010. Pletcher easily won the most purse earnings for 2013 when his horses brought in a total of $25.2 million. It was the third time during Pletcher’s career that he’s reached the magical $25 million mark and the eighth time in his career that he’s led the field in purse money. Baffert came in second in the category for 2013, but was trailed Pletcher by approximately $10 million.

Pletcher also led trainers in graded stakes victories at 48 while Baffert was also second in that category with 28. Pletcher was the best in Grade 1 wins at 13 and his horses won 24 per cent (224) out of their 946 starts. The horses earned money in 57 per cent of their races. Princess of Sylmar, a three-year-old filly trained by Pletcher, didn’t win anything at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, but the horse had a great year otherwise by winning Grade 1 events at the Beldame, Coaching Club American Oaks, Kentucky Oaks, and Alabama.

Pletcher also won other major races during the year with Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice, Verrazano (Wood Memorial, Haskell), Graydar, (Donn Handicap), Havana (Champagne), and Cross Traffic (Whitney Handicap). Other Grade 1 winners for Pletcher included Capo Bastone at the King’s Bishop, We Miss Artie at the Breeders’ Futurity and Overanalyze at the Arkansas Derby.

During the voting process for the Eclipse Award, Pletcher received 183 first-place votes. D. Wayne Lukas received 21 of them while Jerry Hollendorfer had nine, Bill Mott earned seven, Charles LoPresti and Shug McGaughey received half a dozen, Bob Baffert had five, Steve Asmussen received three, Chad Brown and Kathy Ritvo each had a pair and single first-place votes went to Ollie Figgins, David Jacobson, Dale Romans and King Leatherbury.


Midnight Hawk wins the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita

midnight-hawkThere were just four runners at Santa Anita Park in the $100,000 Sham Stakes on January 11 so it wasn’t surprising that it went down to the last sixteenth of a mile. It was the first major three-year-old race in Southern California this season and Life is a Joy and Top Fortitude were both scratched from the event. Midnight Hawk, who is trained by hall of famer Bob Baffert, and Kristo were head to head for most of the mile-long race which is good for 10 points towards the Kentucky Derby.

Midnight Hawk, who is the undefeated three-year-old son of Midnight Lute, eventually pulled away and won the event by 1 ¾ lengths. The colt’s owners include Mike Tice, the offensive line coach with the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL and Joel Quenneville, the head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks NHL hockey team. Tice said it was exciting to see the horse win especially since jockey Rafael Bejarano took the lead early on with Kristo.

Midnight Hawk, who was ridden by hall of famer Mike Smith, quickly caught up though and was just ahead at the halfway point and hung on for the victory. This was the first race Midnight Hawk has run without blinkers and finished the mile in 1:36.48. Ontology finished in third place followed by I’ll Wrap It Up in fourth. Midnight Hawk paid out $2.80 and $2.10 to win and Kristo paid $2.20 to place.

Baffert said he liked the way Midnight Hawk ran without blinkers and he didn’t seem to be tired at the end of the race, which is a good sign. He added that he was impressed with his horse and happy with the win. Midnight Hawk, a roan or gray colt, was bred by Mike Pegram in Kentucky, has won both of its starts now and has earned $87,000.

Smith feels the horse still needs experience and there’s more work to be done even though he’s improved quite a bit since his debut. He added that Midnight Hawk seems to get a little scared by the crowd noise and they may try to alleviate that by putting some cotton into his ears. Smith stated that there’s some room to grow for the talented colt and he’s excited about his future potential. Midnight Hawk will run again on February 8 at Santa Anita in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

Meanwhile, John Sadler the trainer of runner-up Kristo, was happy with the race and believes the horse will get better with time, but Midnight Hawk was simply too fast this time out. Top Fortitude was scratched by trainer Kory Owens due to a problem with one of the horse’s back shoes.