Santa Anita and Golden Gate implement Lasix ban

In a bombshell announcement, Belinda Stronach, chairman and president The Stronach Group, laid out new protocols in a quest for the betterment of racing including a ban on race-day Lasix.

In addition, Stronach addressed the need for stricter whip rules, transparency of vet records and pre-race diagnostics.

The press conference, held at Santa Anita on Thursday morning, was met with mostly positive reviews from the racing world. Of course, there is no Lasix for racing in Europe and The Stronach Group has always been advocates for banning race day medication.

As welcome as these rules are, there will be an adjustment period as horses have been racing on Lasix in North America since 1995. The anti-bleeding diuretic is deemed essential for racehorses by many. What came to mind quickly with many in the industry is when will these rules be implemented?

Horses are less than 2 months out from the Kentucky Derby, will Santa Anita’s next major Derby prep race, the Santa Anita Derby next month, be Lasix free?

The Breeders’ Cup ran its 2-year-old races in 2012 Lasix-free and that was met with a lot of unrest. The ban on race-day Lasix was soon lifted.  Woodbine trainer Mark Casse has been vocal about his pro-Lasix stance –

Bill Finley discusses some questions in Thoroughbred Daily News:

Santa Anita Race-Day Medication Ban Leaves Many Questions Unanswered

Excerpt from Stronach announcement: The sport of horse racing is the last great sporting legacy platform to be modernized. If we expect our sport to grow for future generations, we must raise our standards.

Today, I’m announcing The Stronach Group will take the unprecedented step of declaring a zero tolerance for race day medication at Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields. These Thoroughbred racetracks will be the first in North America to follow the strict International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) standards.

We have arrived at a watershed moment.  The Stronach Group has long been a strong advocate for the abolishment of race-day medication, but we will wait no longer for the industry to come together as one to institute these changes. Nor will we wait for the legislation required to undertake this paradigm shift. We are taking a stand and fully recognize just how disruptive this might be.

This mandate encompasses a complete revision of the current medication policy to improve the safety of our equine and human athletes and to raise the integrity of our sport.

These revisions comprise best practices currently employed at racetracks around the world:

  • Banning the use of Lasix.
  • Increasing the ban on legal therapeutic NSAIDS, joint injections, shockwave therapy, and anabolic steroids.
  • Complete transparency of all veterinary records.
  • Significantly increasing out-of-competition testing.
  • Increasing the time required for horses to be on-site prior to a race.
  • A substantial investment by The Stronach Group in diagnostic equipment to aid in the early detection of pre-existing conditions.
  • Horses in training are only allowed therapeutic medication with a qualified veterinary diagnosis.


South Carolina training track comes alive for three straight weekend










Started in 1942, the Aiken Trials in South Carolina are a series of horse races for young horses. The day is the first of three weekends of horse related events called the Aiken Triple Crown.

Saturday’s Aiken Trials are six races at 2 to 4 1/2 furlongs, essentially schooling type races for horses. Exercise riders get to ride their favourites in the races.

The day is also a festival with pony races, food and all the imaginative fun for a day at the races.

A regular participant in the Aiken Trials is Woodbine trainer Mike Keogh who conditions the horses of Gus Schickedanz of Schomberg, Ontario.

Keogh oftens wins at least one race during the fun afternoon and this year he has two entrants on the card.

ROANSMOKE, a 3-year-old maiden filly by Proud Citizen – Woodsmoke, is in race 5 at 4 1/2 furlongs with Tom McKingey facing two other fillies. One of the other entrants is MISS BOBBIT, a Kentucky bred filly by Shanghai Bobby owned by Hillsburgh’s Shawn Minshall.

Keogh will also saddle SILVER SHERIFF for the City of Aiken Trophy, the featured dash of the day. The bay 4-year-old is by Badge of Silver from Silent Course and he is owned by Schickedanz and Don Howard.

In race 1, Ontario owners Eileen Gilbert and Larry Butler start their colt DANCER’S GHOST, a 2-year-old by Giant Gizmo – Zafrina, purchased for $12,000 at the CTHS Ontario Yearling sale last fall,. He has post 1 in the Gaver Trophy at 2 furlongs.
Gilbert and Butler have raced horses at Woodbine with trainer Phil Gracey.

Check out the Aiken Training centre Facebook page for updates.


Frodon: “He is Pegasus”

BRYONY FROST guided FRODON to victory in the Group 1 Ryanair Chase Thursday during the prestigious Cheltenham Festival – Cheltenham photo

Today – 11:30 a.m. Group 1 Cheltenham Gold Cup $800,000

More than 67,000 people were in attendance for Day Three of the Cheltenham Festival on Thursday and one of the highlights of the day was a highlight for horse racing lovers everywhere.

BRYONY FROST became the first woman to win a Group 1 at Cheltenham and the news and video footage is exquisite.


Bryony Frost, with an ecstatic triple fist-pump as she crossed the line, made history on an emotionally charged day at the Festival when, most unusually, both the big races gave in to public demand and yielded the longed-for “fairytale” results. Angry words have been bandied around here this week, the result of conflict between racing professionals and those who run the sport, but those tensions were forgotten in collective admiration of the ebullient, charismatic Frost and her splendidly game partner, Frodon, who fought off all challengers to win the Ryanair Chase.

“He is Pegasus, he has got wings,” gushed Frost, who became the first woman to ride a Grade One winner over these fences. The most blue-sky-thinking PR worker could not have dreamed up a more likeable jockey to achieve the feat, or a more versatile one, since Frost can drive a horse to the line and then immediately switch to eulogising his performance.

Full story at The Guardian –

Video of Bryony’s journey to the big win:


Track steps in and offers 2 divisions of $750K Rebel stakes

GAME WINNER, the Champion 2-year-old colt in America in 2018, begins his Derby quest Saturday – COADY PHOTO











As expected, one of Oaklawn’s signature races for 3-year-olds was divided into two divisions after 19 horses were entered Wednesday morning for Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, the final major local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13. The split means the Rebel, originally a $1 million race, will be worth $1.5 million overall, with each division offering $750,000 and 63.75 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby to the top four finishers (37.5, 15, 7.5 and 3.75).

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert figures to have the betting favorite in each division. Unbeaten champion Game Winner drew post five in the second division (10 entrants) and unbeaten Grade 1 winner Improbable drew post 9 in the first division (nine entrants).

Probable post time for the first division of the Rebel, the eighth of 11 races, is 4:57 p.m. (Central). Probable post time for the second division of the Rebel, which goes as race 10, is 6:06 p.m. Doors open Saturday at 11 a.m., with first post 1:05 p.m. Clear skies and highs in the upper 50s are predicted Saturday. Weather permitting, the infield will be open.

Game Winner (4 for 4) clinched an Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old male in his last start, the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs. The son of Candy Ride is owned by Gary and Mary West, who won the 1993 Arkansas Derby with 108-1 shot Rockamundo. Improbable (3 for 3) hasn’t started since the $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) Dec. 8 at Los Alamitos.

Both horses were scheduled to make their 3-year-old debuts in the $500,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) March 9 at Santa Anita. They were re-routed to Arkansas after Santa Anita announced March 5 it was suspending racing indefinitely because of poor weather and track conditions


A chance to own a Thoroughbred/Standardbred in Ontario




A new venture to introduce people to the amazing experience of owning a racehorse is being formed in Ontario by Mark Hetherman and Larry Simpson.

Two Breeds Racing Club offers fractional ownership in Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds for a first step into the world of horse ownership.

The Club’s website can be found by clicking on ‘About’. There is also a story on the new venture in the latest issue of Ponies 24/7.

About Us


Free racing data, industry promoting its sport and hiking handle discussed


All the industry’s efforts are about getting somebody to a horse race, to show young people who are good-looking having a good time…. What I always really loved about horse racing was being around the horses. I think we as an industry need to show that to the outside world, to be our own advocates.” – Craig Bernick – Thoroughbred Idea Foundation 

To grow its consumer base and revenue, horse racing must change the way it does business — including giving away free past-performance information that horseplayers use to handicap before placing bets.

That belief was expressed repeatedly throughout Wednesday’s first day of panels and presentations at the National HBPA Convention at the Sheraton Sand Key. The theme of the annual conclave of the Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association’s national organization and affiliates was finding ways for horse racing to do things better. Adding to the sense of urgency for well-reasoned change is the expansion of legalized sports betting nationally as well as messaging about how horse racing cares for its equine participants.

The No. 1 goal in this industry should be to increase handle,” said Patrick Cummings, executive director of the new Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, a horse-racing think tank created to find paths to growth for horse racing. “…. When you have to pay to become more informed, we’re saying release those shackles and turn it into a marketing expense.”

Eric Hamelback, the National HBPA’s chief executive officer, opted to have a keynote panel comprised of Thoroughbred Idea Foundation representatives instead of an individual speaker. Most prominently was the idea of making more data available for free to the public, especially with the anticipated growth of sports betting.

An afternoon panel titled “Accessing Our Industry’s Stats into the Future,” urged horse owners to stake a right to the statistics compiled from their horses’ performances. While Hamelback was not a panelist, he has advocated that racehorse owners deserve a seat at the table in determining how data compiled from their horses’ performances is utilized — including offering free past performances.

“One of the biggest hurdles when I’m trying to get my friends involved is that you have to pay for the basic information to make an educated wager,” said Papo Morales, simulcast director/program coordinator for the online wagering platform AmWest Entertainment/AmWager. “… I’m not talking about speed figures necessarily — but the raw data should, if not free, be available at minimal cost, cents actually. If you want to upgrade, if you want to get Bris, Thoro-Graph, then you’re going to have to pay for a premium product.”

Equibase, the industry’s official data-keeper formed in 1990 by The Jockey Club and Thoroughbred Racing Associations-member tracks, does offer considerable free information at but not the basic past performances or raw data files, as the TIF recommends.

“Equibase is one of the best things to happen to our industry in the last 20-30 years,” said TIF board member Corey Johnsen, a horse owner-breeder and racetrack operator who spent 12 years as Kentucky Downs’ president until its recent sale. “… Let’s just make a guess that Equibase turns out $4 million a year in profits, split by The Jockey Club and the tracks. Let’s just say we could move the needle and increase handle $100 million by making data more available to our fans – an assumption, I understand. With takeout, you probably have $20 million in commissions. I think anybody would take a $4 million investment to then make $16 million — and I think it could be much more.

Steve Byk, host of the popular online racing talk show “At the Races with Steve Byk,” said sports betting provides an opportunity to attract those gamblers to horse racing but has work it must do first.

“There are all these people with pent-up demand to bet sports, and they think it’s going to be easy,” Byk said. “‘I’m right all the time. I get Marymount plus five. I’m going to be the next Jimmy the Greek.’ They’re going to find out that it’s not easy to win. At that point, I think racing has got to be in the position to say, ‘Come on over here.’ Just like we try to explain to casino bettors and other bettors that this is a game you can win, because you’re betting against the opinion of others. Yes, there is a house take, obviously, but you’ve got a fighting chance in our game as a bettor.”

However, he cautioned, “We’ve got the most complex wagering equations of any betting game. We’ve got more moving parts. The fact is there are some things we’re not doing well enough going into this: confusion over run-ups (from the gate to where timing actually starts), the ‘about’ distances — it’s 2019! Why are we running ‘about’ distances? Using teletimers that haven’t changed since the 1950s, there are some things we need to take care of in a hurry to even get to a level playing field to get to the next generation of statistical discussion.”

Glen Hill Farm president Craig Bernick, who came up with the idea for the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, said during the keynote panel that the think tank has four areas it believes the horse industry needs to improve: Pricing for customers gambling on horse racing, transparency, innovation and technology and access to information.

“The retail price for horse racing generally at 20 percent is four times what it costs to bet on a normal sporting event,” he said, referring to takeout, or the money coming off the top of each dollar bet that goes to the track, purses and taxes. “As young people decide they want to start gambling, and sports betting gets legal in more and more states, we’re up against it if we continue with that model.”

TIF panel moderator Justin Nicholson said racing could work well with sports betting, noting horses could fill the gap at slow times for team sports. “People will be looking for gambling options for those who aren’t looking to bet cricket matches at 2:30 on a Wednesday,” he said.
Wilson Shirley, an industry consultant on the statistics panel, said other sports are catching up with baseball’s Sabermetric revolution in the 1970s and that racing must as well. That includes tracking all the information of individuals horses, rather than just where the field is at a certain point in a race, he said.

“It’s going to be like the cameras on self-driving cars that have to process trillions of terabytes of information every second to stop wrecks,” Shirley said. “… It’s a great challenge and a great opportunity for developing data as a way to deliver the sport to the public.”

Shirley urged horsemen’s organizations to assert and claim a proprietary right on behalf of their members to the data record of horses’ performance in the race. While there was debate over whether data rights exist, the conclusion was that horsemen should make it part of their contracts with racetracks, which in turn would negotiate with the data-collection system.

“These are questions that you have to ask now,” Shirley said. “Because if you don’t, five years from now, these systems will be running and whatever claim to the property rights of horse owners in this matter, they’ll be gone.”

The care of racehorses during their careers and afterward — and horse racing getting that message out to the mainstream public — was another topic threaded among panels. Bernick said there have been “about five nuclear bombs” for horse racing since 2007, most recently Santa Anita shutting down temporarily in the wake of a rash of equine fatalities that made headlines across the country.

“We all want more press about the horse business, but we want that when there’s a Derby and Preakness winner and why aren’t more people talking about the Belmont?” he said. “It’s disappointing as an industry as a whole that we haven’t handled this situation well enough to the outside world… All the industry’s efforts are about getting somebody to a horse race, to show young people who are good-looking having a good time…. What I always really loved about horse racing was being around the horses. I think we as an industry need to show that to the outside world, to be our own advocates.”

Bernick cautioned that factions in the industry must work together instead of, in some instances and some jurisdictions, going “back to their own corner and just screaming louder and louder about what they’re saying. The circus is gone. Dog racing in Florida, they voted to get rid of it. SeaWorld is in trouble…. The message to the public is something that, wherever you sit, it’s very, very crucial that we get it right.”

Putting the “We” in Welfare
Wednesday’s programming started with an analytical view of why racing must embrace racehorse welfare if the industry wants to thrive, let alone survive.

Dr. Jennifer Durenberger, the New York Racing Association’s chief examining veterinarian and operator of the Racing Matters consulting business, traced how Americans have transformed from an agricultural lifestyle where humans and animals were dependent upon one another to a society where a majority have never had physical contact with a non-companion animal and 75 percent of households have pets.

“Today’s relationship to animals is primarily one of emotional companionship,” and that influences perceptions about horse racing, Durenberger said. But she said the majority of people just want to know that the horses are being well-cared for – and that’s where racing can tell its story better.

Durenberger said horse racing is different than the now-defunct Ringling Bros. circus or SeaWorld because of the massive employment and economic impact, statistics that many people don’t realize but appreciate hearing. “Know your numbers. Talk about those numbers,” she said.

Also: “Listen and respond to concerns. Don’t be afraid to make change where needed.”

Durenberger urged everyone in racing to be an ambassador for the sport. Example: she tweeted on Aqueduct’s Gotham Day: “… when horse claimed, new groom will find old groom and ask about favorite treats and toys so horse can feel right at home in new barn.” She said the tweet resonated with the general public and got a huge amount of traction.

“This is free,” she said. “It took me like 15 seconds.”


The $750,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 14 for older fillies and mares remains on the table for 2018 Queen’s Plate winner Wonder Gadot following a runner-up finish in her 4-year-old debut, trainer Mark Casse said.

Making her first start since the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs, Wonder Gadot was beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Go Google Yourself in a 1-mile allowance race Friday.

“I was OK with her,” Casse said. “In all honesty, I probably rushed her a little bit to that race. One, you don’t get the opportunity to get an allowance race that often, so you have to take them when they give them to you. So, you have to play the cards that are dealt.

“But I wanted to get a race into her before the Apple Blossom. For that reason, I thought it went well. She had a big, strong gallop out after the race.”

Wonder Gadot is a finalist for a Sovereign Award as Canada’s champion 3-year-old filly after beating males in the first two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, including the Queen’s Plate. She also finished second in the Kentucky Oaks and Oaklawn’s Fantasy Stakes (G3) last year.