Current News for the Horse Racing Enthusiast

posted by Kalina on May 10

Eskendereya in the Wood Memorial

Eskendereya in the Wood Memorial

Eskendereya, the Zayat Stables colt who was scratched from the Derby six days before the running because of an injury, has been retired from racing.

Owner Ahmed Zayat will retain a significant ownership stake in partnership with Jess Jackson of Kendall Jackson Wine Estates and the owner of  Curlin and Rachel Alexandra. Together, Zayat said, they “will work to develop the best progeny for American racing.”

They have not decided where the colt will stand. According to Zayat, the decision to retire Eskendereya was made after “exhausting all possible options.”

“We sent him to two clinics for diagnostics and I wanted to send him to one more to get a third opinion, because I wasn’t willing to give up,” Zayat said. “But with a soft tissue injury, we pretty much knew he was done. The horse was sound as could be and had been training extremely well at Palm Meadows. Everything was ideal until it started going downhill when he went to Churchill.
“I cannot tell you how heartbroken I am and how hard it was for my whole family every time they showed the Wood Memorial (gr. I) on TV. We were all tearing up watching such a breathtaking performance. I can’t express my sadness, but there is also joy to have been so close to a horse like this and picking him out at the sale. I broke the news to my son Justin and he is totally crushed.”  

Trainer Todd Pletcher finds in Eskendereya a special significance.

“Eskendereya is as good a horse as I’ve ever brought to the Triple Crown races,” Pletcher said. “Mr. Zayat and I investigated every possible avenue to get him back into racing form at the level that his fans expect, but after leaving no stone unturned, it became clear that this was the best decision to make for Eskendereya. His Fountain of Youth (gr. II) and Wood Memorial victories were the most impressive prep races that we have ever had and we had tremendous confidence in his ability to excel at the distances of a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. We look forward to this next stage of his career as a sire and creating the next generation of racing stars.”

According to Zayat, Eskendereya helped him bond with Pletcher.

“I feel Todd and I developed an emotional touch, with our baby, Eskendereya, the common bond,” Zayat said. “He thought the world of him and he expressed his feelings about how he could be a Triple Crown winner. The affection he had for the horse and the dreams he had for him, it was like we had lost a family member, God forbid. It was very painful. I kept text messaging Todd to keep his chin up. He said he knew he had to focus on the Derby, but it wasn’t going to be the same. He sent me a text after the Derby and said, ‘Sorry, I couldn’t win it for you.’

“The scary part is that the horse was getting better. He is a once in a lifetime horse. Todd and I discussed every other possibility before concluding that retirement was the only option and the right decision to protect Eskendereya’s health. This will probably take me a very long time to get over, but I am comforted by the fact that I will have the chance to see his offspring follow in his racing footsteps.

“We are excited about the future and are confident that he will continue to thrill the racing world by siring the best future progeny. Mr. Jackson is the perfect partner for such a beloved horse and I look forward to working with him as he has proven to be a true sportsman and a credit to our industry. He has tried to create the best breed and bring back the legacy of American racing. He has over 100 broodmares and I have 50, all top broodmares. Between us we are trying to bring stamina back in racing, not just speed. It’s very important that I’m staying in, both emotionally and financially.”

Jackson said: “I am extremely pleased to partner with Zayat Stables in ownership of this magnificent Thoroughbred. Eskendereya is best of class and his progeny will only add to his legacy and that of American racing.”

Eskendereya, which is Arabic for the city Alexandria, was bred in Kentucky by Sanford R. Robertson. He retires with four victories from six starts, with one second, for earnings of $725,700.

posted by Kalina on Apr 26

Eskendereya, with John Velazquez up, won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct with ease last weekend and is considered a favorite in the May 1 Kentucky Derby.

Eskendereya, with John Velazquez up, won the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct with ease last weekend and is considered a favorite in the May 1 Kentucky Derby.

The anticipated favorite going into the Kentucky Derby, will not be participating in the Run for the Roses on May 1st, due to a slight filling in his left front leg.

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Zayat Stable’s 3 year old son of Giant’s Causeway, made the announcement on Sunday, April 25th at a press conference at 9:30 AM.

“Yesterday morning I noticed a little bit of filling in his left front leg,” Pletcher said. “We looked at and worked on it overnight but didn’t see any improvement. He’s too special of a horse to take any chances.

“Basically his left leg is filled from his ankle up to the knee,” he said. “We need to get some of that edema out of there before we can do any diagnostics. He’s not uncomfortable. I got him out early this morning on the asphalt and jogged him, and for me, he was slightly off.

“I spoke with Mr. (Ahmed) Zayat and we decided to stop here. The horse is not lame. The horse is slightly off. I haven’t felt like his last couple of gallops have been up to what we normally see. I was hoping that maybe it was attributed to the sloppy track but we’re going to do some more diagnostics later in the week when some of the swelling and filling goes down in his leg. Hopefully it’s nothing that would be career ending, but at this point it’s too premature for me to speculate.”

Eskendereya galloped on April 24th on a sloppy track at Churchill Downs, but did not put in a work.

It was discovered earlier in the morning that Eskendereya  would not be putting in his scheduled workout. Churchill Downs officials put together a press conference soon after.

Pletcher has plenty of possibilities for the Derby, though, what with the colts Super Saver, Rule, Discreetly Mine, and Mission Impazible, and the filly Devil May Care. Interactiff may also run.

“I don’t know if it (Eskendereya’s declaration) changes Interactif’s status,” Pletcher said. “I was hoping to work him this morning but felt the track was still drying out. Even though it may have looked better from a distance it wasn’t as good as it was yesterday. He’ll breeze tomorrow.

“I’d say the biggest impact will potentially be with the filly,” he said. “Obviously that opens up (jockey) John Velazquez which was one of our biggest concerns. Mr. (John) Greathouse is going to come over tomorrow and we’re going to look at it. It swings the pendulum toward her running, but that’s without any confirmation from Mr. Greathouse.”

Devil May Care, owned by the Greathouse family’s Glencrest Farm, became a consideration for the Derby last week. The daughter of Malibu Moon may be entered in both the Derby and the April 30 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). She won the nine-furlong Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park March 20 in her last start.

posted by Kalina on Jun 2

Calvin Borel was optimistic after working Mine That Bird a half mile in :50 on the morning of June 1st at Churchill Downs.

“Perfect,” says Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby on Mine That Bird, a son of the upset Belmont winner of  the 2004 Belmont Stakes. “He’s ready. We’re going to win. No questions asked.He’s ready. We’re going to win. No questions asked.”

Borel’s boast was similar to the one he made before the BlackBerry Preakness when he won on Rachel Alexandra. Mine That Bird had come in 2nd then, with jockey Mike Smith in the saddle. Borel was freed up to ride Mine The Bird in the Belmont after Rachel Alexandra’s owners, Jess Jackson and Harold McCormick had announced on May 29th that she would not be running in it. Her next start has not been announced, but she galloped five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 on June 1st. Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kalina on May 28

Jockey Rene Douglas was injured in a racing accident at  Arlington Park in the May 23rd Arlington Matron Handicap (gr. III). He went into surgery at 2:30 AM May 24th, and came out around 9:30 AM. Even after a seven hour surgery at Northwestern Hospital, he came out without feeling in his lower extremeties. His agent, Dennis Cooper reported that doctors say the 42 year old rider may not walk again.

“They said he might not walk again, it didn’t look like,” Cooper said. “He’ll probably have use of his upper body, but they gave it to me straight that he’s not likely to walk. They won’t be a million percent sure until after the swelling goes down in about 10 to 14 days, but it doesn’t look good.”

Douglas will remain in ICU for two weeks, until he moves to rehab. Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kalina on May 18

Calvin Borel and Rachel Alexandra made history, winning the Preakness Stakes. Rachel Alexandra was the first filly to win it in 85 years, since Nellie Morse in 1924, and only the fifth filly to win overall.

Once they had broken from the gate, Musket man took the lead at first, with Freisian Fire showing early speed, and Rachel Alexandra coming up on the far outside. Coming into the first turn, Rachel Alexandra took the lead. She kept it up during the entire race. Mine That Bird was in a similar position as in the running of the Derby, all the way in the back. Papa Clem was in fourth, with Freisian Fire in third, and Big Drama in second to Rachel Alexandra. Pioneerof The Nile was running in fifth. With three furlongs to go, however, Mine That Bird shot around the outside and started moving up. With only one furlong left, Musket Man moved up in second with Mine That Bird third on the outside and Rachel Alexandra still holding a convincing lead. Under the wire, Rachel Alexandra was ahead by a length with Mine That Bird in second and Musket Man in third. The final time was 1:55 flat.

posted by Kalina on May 13

Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird to an upset victory in the Kentucky Derby, has decided that he will ride the filly Rachel Alexandra in the upcoming Preakness Stakes. Mine That Bird is also headed for the Preakness and has arrived in Baltimore.

“It came down to the facts that he (Borel) knows and loves this horse, that he knows how to get the most from her, and he knows how to win,’’ said Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables and proprietor of Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates. “They were an amazing team at the Kentucky Oaks—winning by over 20 lengths. We think this is a perfect match of rider and horse.’’

Rachel Alexandra will continue her workout schedule under trainer Steve Asmussen.

“If she continues to be in perfect condition, our intention will be to run her in the Preakness,” Jackson said, adding that the final decision would be made next week.

posted by Kalina on May 5

Calvin Borel and Mine That Bird win the Kentucky Derby, 2009

Calvin Borel and Mine That Bird win the Kentucky Derby, 2009

Saturday, May 2nd, was a huge upset for everyone. Mine That Bird, a horse purchased for $9,500, beat the rest of the field by lengths. With Pioneerof  The Nile in second, Musket Man in third, and Papa Clem in fourth, the race was strong and fast the whole way. Join In The Dance led for most of the way, but finished in seventh. The favorite, Friesian Fire, was back in eighteenth place.

posted by Kalina on May 2

I Want Revenge, the favorite betting choice for the race, was scratched the day of the running, because of a hot spot found on the horse’s left front ankle. Trainer Jeff Mullins found a hot spot on his left front ankle in the morning.

The X-ray and ultrasound showed nothing, but a flex test showed tenderness. With the track promising to be sloppy (as it was through the Eight Belles) Mullins and owner David Lanzman did not want to chance the colt’s wellbeing.

“When the word came out that running could hurt the horse, I looked at both doctors and said, ‘Then this is no debate,”’ Lanzman said. “‘What are we talking about? We’ll fight another day.”’ Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kalina on Apr 30

Win Willy, seen here on April 27th, will not be running in the Kentucky Derby. (picture by Anne M. Eberhardt)


Win Willy, the winner of the March 14 Rebel Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn Park, was declared not entering the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) on the morning of April 29th by trainer Mac Robertson. The declaration was made hours before entries were to be taken for the race taking place at Churchill Downs on May 2nd. Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Kalina on Apr 29

Pioneerof the Nile wins the Santa Anita Derby

Pioneerof the Nile wins the Santa Anita Derby

He gallops effortlessly over the track, working five furlongs in 1:01. It is hard to believe that this Zayat Stables homebred was a sickly foal, who almost didn’t make it. Sobhy Sonbol explains the story of this Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) contender.

“He got colic, and he had surgery a few weeks after he was born,” says Sonbol, who serves as the vice president of Zayat Stables. “He almost died, and then he had to have another operation a few months later. He had some adhesions in there from the first surgery, so they had to go back in there again.” Read the rest of this entry »

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