3 Results Found For: September 2017

24th September 2017 – Naas, Co. Kildare

I like to think I shoot straight from the hip and say it as it is but I have to admit that my assessment of the Keeneland sale was a bit wet when compared with James Delahooke’s. His letter to the Thoroughbred Daily News (see below) hit the nail on the head. I wish I’d written it.

‘The sad truth is’, he says, ‘ that nobody here wants your horses anymore’. Maybe a slight exaggeration but pretty much fact. James used to buy 15-20 yearlings at Keeneland, last year he bought one, this year none. I peaked at 20, last year I bought none, this year one.

‘They don’t trust your black-type, your under-raced stallions or your medication policies’, he said. I absolutely agree and I also fear that, with the vast majority of US sales yearlings having had some sort of surgical procedure or other significant interference, we can’t trust that they have had a proper upbringing with adequate time in the paddock.

When noticing a couple of symmetrical  scars on the fetlocks of a yearling last week, I asked the vendor if he’d had some surgery there. ‘No’, he said, ‘he just had a screw in as a baby’.They are so obsessed with presenting a ‘correct’ yearling with a ‘clean’ set of x rays that they have come to class anything short of invasive joint surgery as normal husbandry. It is a very sad state of affairs.

On one of my first visits to Keeneland I wrote for the Sporting Life that, ‘it is hard to tell which has had the most cosmetic surgery, the women or the yearlings’. I think the yearlings now have the edge.



I have resisted previous temptations to ally myself with WHOA (the Water, Hay, Oats Alliance) on the basis that, as a Brit, I have no business pontificating about U.S. drug policies.

Two recent events have decided me to strap on my guns and head into town to join the battle.

Firstly, I read with incredulity an advertisement in which one of your leading trainers enthusiastically endorsed a product specifically designed to speed recovery from pre-race medication.*

Then today, I read that a trainer filmed boasting about “juice” will be welcomed back at the same track next year.

As the cockney wide boys in London would say, they must be ‘aving a larf!

I have just returned from my 39th consecutive visit to Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale, where I regularly purchased 15-20 yearlings to race in England. Last year, I bought one, this year, none. In spite of Wesley Ward’s single-handed efforts to promote the American Thoroughbred, the sad truth is that nobody here wants your horses anymore.

They don’t trust your black-type, your under-raced stallions or your medication policies. There are plenty of good, young men and women in the breeding industry in the U.S. They need to strap on their guns and have a shootout with the complacent, laissez-faire politicians and racecourse managers. And your trainers who bleat that they cannot train without drugs, tell that to the Australians, the Japanese, and the Europeans who are all managing very well on hay, oats and water.

James Delahooke.

* This advertisement did not run in the TDN.

15th September 2017 – Bluegrass Airport, Lexington, Kentucky

It was great to be back in Keeneland after three or four years absence but I am far from sure that it was a commercially viable trip.

At one time I used to come here with three assistants and stay for over a week but, at peak, I bought twenty yearlings and they sold like hot cakes when I sent out the list to my owners. In more recent times the numbers bought declined well into single figures and some took months to find owners. Eventually, I decided it wasn’t worth coming and I have missed, at least, three years.

This time it was a low-key exercise compared with those days. I came on my own, travelling last Sunday, viewing in the mornings before the sale started, and returning today.

I bought just one yearling. She happens to be a full sister to the Queen Mary winner Acapulco and, like in the old days, she sold to Jaber Abdullah before I even had a chance to add her to my list of horses for sale. But, as we stand all the costs of coming to the sales and do not pass them onto the purchasers of the horses, it is hard to justify such a trip to buy just one horse.

Sadly, the factors that led to me deleting Keeneland from our round of yearlings sales, still exist. With the exception of Scat Daddy, War Front and Giant’s Causeway, whose progeny are generally very expensive, there are few stallions that would be known to my owners back home. Tapit is probably the most fashionable sire here at present and, dare I say, many of my owners have never heard of him.

When I was buying yearlings by the likes of Theatrical, Diesis, Seeking the Gold, Dynaformer, Rahy, Woodman, Trempolinio, Kris S, Dixieland Band, Gone West and occasionally pushing my boat right out to acquire the cheapest of Danzig’s or Storm Cat’s, my owners were fighting each other to get one.

Times have changed. To be blunt, I think we now have the best sires, especially for turf racing, in Europe and it may be that our stock now has the edge when it comes to soundness and durability.

I still love the place and I hope I  continue to come but it may be for bus man’s holidays rather than serious business trips.


5th September 2017

I can assure that my praise of Chelmsford’s prize-money in the Kingsley Klarion was written before I attended on Saturday evening and won the two richest (£80,000 and £50,000) races. In fact, when I arrived direct from Germany where I had been at the Baden Baden sale, early, in the hope of watching my runners from other tracks, and discovered that there was a Boyzone concert after racing, I was planning to retract everything good I had said about the place.

I had been at Windsor the previous Saturday for their biggest race-day of the year and they also had Boyzone playing. It was a shambles and it confirmed everything I have come to believe about the folly of combining racing and concerts. The place was packed with people who had come to watch Boyzone and get drunk. The vast majority were showing no interest whatsoever in the racing and, as they had their bottles and glasses perched on every inch of the stands that their bodies weren’t occupying, there was no possibility of watching a race live. I had come from Goodwood and the car which had dropped me off could not get back in to pick me up as the security personnel are so obsessed with the idea that people are trying to gate-crash their concert. As with every other racecourse concert I have had the misfortune to attend, I could not see that this was doing anything for racing at all.

So, when I arrived at Chelmsford I thought I was in for a dose of the same and I wasn’t best pleased but, as concerts combined with racing go, this was the best organised that I have seen. The owners and trainers had been moved to a non-viewing tent but, at Chelmsford, that isn’t a great hardship as most places are non-viewing and every member of staff I came into contact with, from the time I arrived until I left, apologised for the inconvenience. The main stand was out of bounds to those that had come principally for the music and it was easy to move back and forward between it and the parade ring. There was no shortage of space in front of the big screen at the winning post.

It certainly helped that they have Derek Thompson. He can entertain any crowd and get them involved. They don’t just sit around, drink, and wait for the music to start when Tommo’s on the mike. He introduced the ‘kiss cam’, where couples are expected to kiss if the camera is focused on them. I have only previously seen that at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, where there is non-stop entertainment throughout the night, and it drew a few funny looks when I tried to suggest it to the Hamilton Park board. It worked at Chelmsford and, in between kissing and being interviewed by Tommo about their reasons for being at Chelmsford that night, the crowd were fed horseracing and Tommo’s commentary on trainers, jockeys, horses and all things racing. I would like to have seen them fed even more horseracing, from other tracks, but, as I’ve said, as these events go, this was the best.

To cap it all, they had the band come out to present the trophy for the big race and, of course, the crowd were five deep round the winners enclosure to see them rather than sitting on a step somewhere drinking. It is something that I have been saying for years. Any artist employed to play on a racecourse, in an event combined with racing, should be obliged to take part in the proceedings of the race meeting. If they won’t do that, their concert should stand alone. Don’t tell us that concerts bring a new audience to racing when the vast majority don’t see a horse and those that came to see racing are charged extra and denied the opportunity to watch racing in comfort.

There is much, much more that could be done, beyond what I saw at Chelmsford, but at least they were making an effort. I haven’t seen that on any other course.

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