Trainer Magazine

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RACING (NAT)

The Art of Clocking Horses

RACING (NAT)Web Master

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Time, an old racetrack axiom holds, only counts in prison.

But that ain’t necessarily so to horse players and horsemen worldwide who depend diligently on mathematical mavens called clockers to provide thorough, accurate, and prompt figures that might help cash a bet or win a race.

Clockers, succinctly described as people who time workouts, ply their trade at tracks from Aqueduct to Zia Park, zeroing in on Thoroughbreds and their exercises from before sunup until the track closes for training, a span of some five hours.

There are private clockers, too, whose primary interest focuses on padding their wallets or making their valued information available to the public for the right price.

They all watch like hawks, displaying the close-up intensity of a movie directed by Sergio Leone, often adding a comment such as “breezing” or “handily,” the latter being the most accomplished workout.

Each track later in the morning sends its works to Equibase, which publishes distances and times of said workouts for all to see, a regimen that has been ongoing for decades...

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PHBA: PA Day at the Races

RACING (NAT)Web Master

Pennsylvania’s Day at the Races 2017 kicked off Parx Racing’s fall season, and proved to be another exciting day in Pennsylvania racing. Despite the rain that threatened, then rolled in, before the first stakes race, over 80 PA-breds showed what they’re made of as they battled down the stretch in each of the card’s 10 races.

The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association (PHBA) treated Pennsylvania breeders and their guests, owners, and trainers to a buffet lunch, complete with a private third-floor view of the track. Keith Jones, retired NHL player, current hockey studio analyst for NBCSN, and member of competitive nature, as he has throughout his career, and never gave up. He took on his rivals in the stretch, grabbed the lead near the wire, and won with the determination that he’s known for.

Winning the Medal and his connections celebrated for the second year in a row as the six-year-old son of Medallist rallied to win his second $100,000 Marshall Jenney Stakes. Even with the race being forced off of the turf due to the nonstop rain, the gelding provided the biggest upset of the day, blasting from last at the half-mile pole and flying by his competitors to for the win. Bred by Rick Molineaux, owned by R and L Racing, and trained by Patricia Farro, he went off at 15-1, paying $32.

Ted Vanderlaan, brother to Dr. Teresa Garofalo, namesake of the fourth stakes race of the day, was in attendance to cheer on the winner and celebrate his sister. Garofalo was the treasurer of the PHBA board before she passed away in 2010 from acute myeloid leukemia. Her equine practice in West Chester, Smokey’s Run Farm, focused on equine reproduction, and the stakes in her name is a special one to the PHBA. The winner, three-year-old Grand Prix -- a half-sister to 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint-G1 winner Finest City -- had her own cheering section with breeder and owner Hank Nothhaft and the crew that traveled to Pennsylvania to watch the filly run. Under jockey Jose Ferrer, the daughter of Tale of the Cat went to the front after the first sixteenth of a mile and never looked back to win by a length and a half. Grand Prix won the New Start Stakes at Penn National back in June, and the win in the Garofalo gives her a second black-type win.

As the rain continued to fall, the $100,000 Mrs. Penny Stakes for fillies and mares aged three and up, was also moved off the turf. Jockey Brian Pedroza and four-year-old filly Great Soul, by Great Notion, opened a three-length lead with an eighth of a mile to go and held off latecomer Imply for a close win. Great Soul was bred and is owned by Steve and Jane Long, and trained by Tom Proctor.

We extend a sincere thank you to all of our members and guests who attended, as well as the board members and special guests who presented the gifts in each race. We’re looking forward to a successful and productive 2018 breeding season and wish everyone the best of luck in the coming year. Visit www.pabred.com for a full gallery of the day’s photos!

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Plantation Field: Racing goes Eventing

RACING (NAT)Web Master
  When Two Worlds Collide       By Jenni Autry       Two worlds are set to collide in September when the mid-Atlantic racing and eventing communities join hands to showcase the versatility of the Thoroughbred breed in idyllic Unionville, Pennsylvania.        Plantation Field International Horse Trials, known colloquially as the “Best Event Ever” thanks to its legendary parties on the grounds, will forego its usual theme weekend to instead devote Septemper 14-17 to honoring the Thoroughbred’s storied role in racing and eventing.       In announcing a multi-year partnership with Retired Racehorse Project (RRP), Plantation Field will celebrate excellence in Thoroughbred racing culture and bring together two groups that share the same desire to see Thoroughbreds thrive and flourish, both on the track and after their careers as racehorses are complete.       Steuart Pittman, RRP’s president, said he hopes the racing community will embrace the concept, venturing from the racetrack to the cross country course in the name of the Thoroughbred.        "We hope this will be a real coming together of the racing world with eventing so we can have a positive impact that will support both sports and ultimately the Thoroughbred in the long run,” Pittman said.        “The goal is to bring the racing community out to enjoy everything Plantation Field has to offer and introduce the Retired Racehorse Project as a resource. We can help owners, trainers, and breeders sell their horses through our resource directory. If we work together, we can successfully transition horses to second careers after the track.”       Eventing: An Equine Triathlon       Originally developed as a method for training military horses, eventing ultimately evolved into a sport that first appeared in the Olympic Games in 1912. Eventing is essentially an equine triathlon, combining the three phases of dressage, cross country, and show jumping into a sport that demands a well-rounded equine athlete.       Considering the grueling fitness test required in the cross country phase — when horses will gallop and jump for more than 10 minutes over as many as 45 obstacles at the highest level of the sport — the Thoroughbred’s gallop and stamina helped the breed find a stronghold in eventing.       Countless Thoroughbreds have taken top eventing honors in the U.S. and beyond, and the United States Eventing Association’s leaderboard of all-time high scoring horses shows three Thoroughbreds in the top 10.       Phillip Dutton knows all too well how perfectly suited the Thoroughbred is to eventing. Hailed the Angel Cordero of the eventing world by West Point Thoroughbreds’ Terry Finley, Dutton won two Olympic team gold medals in 1996 and 2000 for his native Australia — both times riding Thoroughbreds.       Since then Dutton has piloted many Thoroughbreds to top results around the world. He rode TruLuck, purchased off the track in Oklahoma, to team gold and individual silver at the 2007 Pan American Games.        The Foreman came to Dutton from Maryland steeplechase trainer Bruce Fenwick and also went on to have a dominant eventing career, placing second at the prestigious Burghley CCI4* and Kentucky CCI4* and sitting seventh on the list of U.S. all-time high scoring horses.       “When it comes to the cross country, no horse will have a better gallop, stamina, and natural athletic ability than a Thoroughbred,” Dutton said. “They also have an incredible amount of heart. When other horses will get tired and quit, the Thoroughbred will keep trying and keep going for you.”       Icabad Crane       Considering Dutton’s history of successfully training Thoroughbreds, he became Graham and Anita Motion’s first choice when they were looking for an eventing trainer to work with their Thoroughbreds.       The Motions first had the idea to send horses to Dutton for a shot at a second career when Icabad Crane retired from the track in 2013. Icabad Crane finished third in the 2008 Preakness Stakes and won or placed in 15 other stakes for owner Earle Mack, earning $585,980.       When he retired as an 8-year-old, the Motions took over ownership of Icabad Crane and knew the horse didn’t want to stand around in a field. They decided to send him to Dutton for training at True Prospect Farm, about seven miles from Plantation Field and an hour from the Motions’ base at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.       It proved to be a match right from the start, with Dutton seeing Icabad Crane’s innate drive and desire to succeed in everything he did, which made his transition to an eventing career virtually seamless.       “Icabad was always a very willing horse,” Graham said. “It’s one thing to be athletic, but he also always had the right attitude. His disposition absolutely helped in his new career.” Anita added: “Phillip wouldn’t have competed him if we didn’t think the horse had what it takes. Not only was there a real talent there, but Icabad wanted to do it.”       Icabad Crane flourished in his new career, winning his first Beginner Novice event and going on to finish his first eventing season with a win in the $10,000 America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred Contest, hosted by the RRP at Pimlico Racetrack in 2014.       Icabad Crane continued to rack up top results, culminating in a win in the Plantation Field CIC* in 2015 in his first start at the one-star level. The Motions proudly held the winner’s cooler that day, and since then they have traded roles with the Duttons, who joined in on the West Point Thoroughbreds partnership on Grade I winner Ring Weekend.       Now the Motions and Dutton hope the greater mid-Atlantic racing and eventing communities can unite at Plantation Field to build on what they started: joining two worlds that both hold an immense respect for the Thoroughbred.       Showcasing Thoroughbreds       The weekend will be dedicated to showcasing the breed, with the RRP taking center stage. The timing is ideal, as Plantation Field takes place annually three weeks prior to the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, which this year goes from October 5-8 at the Kentucky Horse Park.       With RRP now on board as Plantation Field’s beneficiary, the event will also serve as a preview show for Thoroughbreds that will compete in and ultimately be available for sale at the Makeover.       "That way people can see horses they like at Plantation Field and then go on to the Makeover to shop,” Pittman said. “There will be a number of really nice horses ready to start second careers, and we are excited to show them off at Plantation Field."       Beyond that, Pittman said he hopes Plantation Field will serve as an opportunity for the racing world to see Thoroughbreds galloping across an entirely different type of track — one dotted with cross country jumps.       "What we've seen is that racing people love eventing when they take the time to go watch the sport,” Pittman said. “They get to see horses galloping on the cross country course, which is something they can get excited about.”         In addition to previewing horses that will compete at the Thoroughbred Makeover, the RRP’s demonstration will also feature celebrity Thoroughbreds, including Makeover graduates from prior years. Icabad Crane will also make a special appearance with Dutton.         "Icabad is a perfect example of what Thoroughbreds can do in second careers if given the chance,” Dutton said. “We are continually grateful to Graham and Anita for giving him that opportunity. Our hope is that when people see Icabad at Plantation Field they might be inspired to give a Thoroughbred a second career after the track, whether as a rider, owner, or trainer.”       The highlight of the weekend will be the Real Rider Cup, which will pit some of the biggest names in racing against each other for a show jumping competition in the main arena.        Rodney Jenkins, Rosie Napravnik, Joe Sharp, Sean Clancy, Michael McCarthy, Erin Birkenhauer, and Sanna Neilson will all make an appearance at the Real Rider Cup, with Zoe Cadman from XBTV acting as emcee for the event. More celebrity competitors will be unveiled in the countdown to Plantation Field.       “The Thoroughbred community are intrigued with the eventing and show jumping world and are totally committed to providing other outlets for our retirees,” Anita said. “The Real Rider Cup event shows a fun side to this endeavor."       Dutton said he hopes Thoroughbred trainers, owners, and breeders will get involved in support of the RRP and second careers for racehorses.       “Retired Racehorse Project is a perfect example of how we can help the transition from racing to a successful second career,” Dutton said. “By attending Plantation Field and supporting the event, you can bring greater attention, participation, and financial support to the successful transition Thoroughbreds can have.”       If You Go       In addition to three days of exhilarating competition, Plantation Field features a country fair atmosphere with a sprawling vendor village, a food court, and kid’s corner to provide entertainment for the whole family.          Admission to Plantation Field Horse Trials is free on Friday, September. 15, with general admission on Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17 priced at $20 per carload.         For more information, visit www.plantationfieldht.com. Tickets and tailgate passes can be purchased in advance on the website. Follow Plantation Field on Facebook for news and updates.    

Words by Jenni Autry / Photos by Amy Dragoo

FIRST PUBLISHED IN NORTH AMERICAN TRAINER AUGUST - OCTOBER 2017 ISSUE 45

Two worlds are set to collide in September when the mid-Atlantic racing and eventing communities join hands to showcase the versatility of the Thoroughbred breed in idyllic Unionville, Pennsylvania.

Plantation Field International Horse Trials, known colloquially as the “Best Event Ever” thanks to its legendary parties on the grounds, will forego its usual theme weekend to instead devote Septemper 14-17 to honoring the Thoroughbred’s storied role in racing and eventing.

In announcing a multi-year partnership with Retired Racehorse Project (RRP), Plantation Field will celebrate excellence in Thoroughbred racing culture and bring together two groups that share the same desire to see Thoroughbreds thrive and flourish, both on the track and after their careers as racehorses are complete.

Steuart Pittman, RRP’s president, said he hopes the racing community will embrace the concept, venturing from the racetrack to the cross country course in the name of the Thoroughbred.

plantation-field1

"We hope this will be a real coming together of the racing world with eventing so we can have a positive impact that will support both sports and ultimately the Thoroughbred in the long run,” Pittman said.

“The goal is to bring the racing community out to enjoy everything Plantation Field has to offer and introduce the Retired Racehorse Project as a resource. We can help owners, trainers, and breeders sell their horses through our resource directory. If we work together, we can successfully transition horses to second careers after the track.”

Eventing: An Equine Triathlon

Originally developed as a method for training military horses, eventing ultimately evolved into a sport that first appeared in the Olympic Games in 1912. Eventing is essentially an equine triathlon, combining the three phases of dressage, cross country, and show jumping into a sport that demands a well-rounded equine athlete.

Considering the grueling fitness test required in the cross country phase — when horses will gallop and jump for more than 10 minutes over as many as 45 obstacles at the highest level of the sport — the Thoroughbred’s gallop and stamina helped the breed find a stronghold in eventing.

Countless Thoroughbreds have taken top eventing honors in the U.S. and beyond, and the United States Eventing Association’s leaderboard of all-time high scoring horses shows three Thoroughbreds in the top 10.

Phillip Dutton knows all too well how perfectly suited the Thoroughbred is to eventing. Hailed the Angel Cordero of the eventing world by West Point Thoroughbreds’ Terry Finley, Dutton won two Olympic team gold medals in 1996 and 2000 for his native Australia — both times riding Thoroughbreds.

Since then Dutton has piloted many Thoroughbreds to top results around the world. He rode TruLuck, purchased off the track in Oklahoma, to team gold and individual silver at the 2007 Pan American Games.

The Foreman came to Dutton from Maryland steeplechase trainer Bruce Fenwick and also went on to have a dominant eventing career, placing second at the prestigious Burghley CCI4* and Kentucky CCI4* and sitting seventh on the list of U.S. all-time high scoring horses.

“When it comes to the cross country, no horse will have a better gallop, stamina, and natural athletic ability than a Thoroughbred,” Dutton said. “They also have an incredible amount of heart. When other horses will get tired and quit, the Thoroughbred will keep trying and keep going for you.”

 

Plantation Field1

Icabad Crane

Considering Dutton’s history of successfully training Thoroughbreds, he became Graham and Anita Motion’s first choice when they were looking for an eventing trainer to work with their Thoroughbreds.

The Motions first had the idea to send horses to Dutton for a shot at a second career when Icabad Crane retired from the track in 2013. Icabad Crane finished third in the 2008 Preakness Stakes and won or placed in 15 other stakes for owner Earle Mack, earning $585,980.

When he retired as an 8-year-old, the Motions took over ownership of Icabad Crane and knew the horse didn’t want to stand around in a field. They decided to send him to Dutton for training at True Prospect Farm, about seven miles from Plantation Field and an hour from the Motions’ base at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. It proved to be a match right from the start, with Dutton seeing Icabad Crane’s innate drive and desire to succeed in everything he did, which made his transition to an eventing career virtually seamless.

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“Icabad was always a very willing horse,” Graham said. “It’s one thing to be athletic, but he also always had the right attitude. His disposition absolutely helped in his new career.” Anita added: “Phillip wouldn’t have competed him if we didn’t think the horse had what it takes. Not only was there a real talent there, but Icabad wanted to do it.”Icabad Crane flourished in his new career, winning his first Beginner Novice event and going on to finish his first eventing season with a win in the $10,000 America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred Contest, hosted by the RRP at Pimlico Racetrack in 2014.

Icabad Crane continued to rack up top results, culminating in a win in the Plantation Field CIC* in 2015 in his first start at the one-star level. The Motions proudly held the winner’s cooler that day, and since then they have traded roles with the Duttons, who joined in on the West Point Thoroughbreds partnership on Grade I winner Ring Weekend.

Now the Motions and Dutton hope the greater mid-Atlantic racing and eventing communities can unite at Plantation Field to build on what they started: joining two worlds that both hold an immense respect for the Thoroughbred.

"If we work together, we can successfully transition horses to second careers after the track"

Showcasing Thoroughbreds

The weekend will be dedicated to showcasing the breed, with the RRP taking center stage. The timing is ideal, as Plantation Field takes place annually three weeks prior to the $100,000 Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium, which this year goes from October 5-8 at the Kentucky Horse Park. With RRP now on board as Plantation Field’s beneficiary, the event will also serve as a preview show for Thoroughbreds that will compete in and ultimately be available for sale at the Makeover.

"That way people can see horses they like at Plantation Field and then go on to the Makeover to shop,” Pittman said. “There will be a number of really nice horses ready to start second careers, and we are excited to show them off at Plantation Field." Beyond that, Pittman said he hopes Plantation Field will serve as an opportunity for the racing world to see Thoroughbreds galloping across an entirely different type of track — one dotted with cross country jumps.

"What we've seen is that racing people love eventing when they take the time to go watch the sport,” Pittman said. “They get to see horses galloping on the cross country course, which is something they can get excited about.” In addition to previewing horses that will compete at the Thoroughbred Makeover, the RRP’s demonstration will also feature celebrity Thoroughbreds, including Makeover graduates from prior years. Icabad Crane will also make a special appearance with Dutton. "Icabad is a perfect example of what Thoroughbreds can do in second careers if given the chance,” Dutton said. “We are continually grateful to Graham and Anita for giving him that opportunity. Our hope is that when people see Icabad at Plantation Field they might be inspired to give a Thoroughbred a second career after the track, whether as a rider, owner, or trainer.”

The highlight of the weekend will be the Real Rider Cup, which will pit some of the biggest names in racing against each other for a show jumping competition in the main arena.

ex racehorse sj plantation

Rodney Jenkins, Rosie Napravnik, Joe Sharp, Sean Clancy, Michael McCarthy, Erin Birkenhauer, and Sanna Neilson will all make an appearance at the Real Rider Cup, with Zoe Cadman from XBTV acting as emcee for the event. More celebrity competitors will be unveiled in the countdown to Plantation Field. “The Thoroughbred community are intrigued with the eventing and show jumping world and are totally committed to providing other outlets for our retirees,” Anita said. “The Real Rider Cup event shows a fun side to this endeavor."

Dutton said he hopes Thoroughbred trainers, owners, and breeders will get involved in support of the RRP and second careers for racehorses. “Retired Racehorse Project is a perfect example of how we can help the transition from racing to a successful second career,” Dutton said. “By attending Plantation Field and supporting the event, you can bring greater attention, participation, and financial support to the successful transition Thoroughbreds can have.”

If You Go

In addition to three days of exhilarating competition, Plantation Field features a country fair atmosphere with a sprawling vendor village, a food court, and kid’s corner to provide entertainment for the whole family.

Admission to Plantation Field Horse Trials is free on Friday, September. 15, with general admission on Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17 priced at $20 per carload.  

For more information, visit www.plantationfieldht.com. Tickets and tailgate passes can be purchased in advance on the website. Follow Plantation Field on Facebook for news and updates.

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Or click here to order this back issue! 

Fields of Dreams

RACING (NAT)Web Master
  Fields of Dreams    Words:  Denise Steffanus       Racing secretaries nationwide are clamoring for horses to fill races while industry groups try to find a solution. But it's a complex issue. Everybody with a role in the decline in field size seems to point the finger at someone else. Trainers, owners, racing secretaries, breeders, consignors, track management, and the horses themselves all have been blamed.       The simplest explanation for the decline in entries is that there are fewer horses. But when you compare statistics for 1990 and 2016, disregarding horses not old enough to race, they tell a different story.       When looking at horses of racing age, the 2014 foal crop (the youngest horses eligible to race in 2016) was 43% of the 1988 crop (for the 1990 racing season). But the number of races in 2016, compared with 1990, declined by 52%.       Today's racetracks have full barns, and many impose a limit on the number of horses a trainer can have on the grounds. So why aren't these horses racing?       "People say, 'Well there's nothing in the [condition] book that I can find.' But there are plenty of races," said Jim Cassidy, president of California Thoroughbred Trainers.        He thinks trainers sit out races primarily to protect their win percentage because owners look at this statistic when they select a trainer. So rather than race a longshot, trainers will instead breeze the horse and wait for a sweet spot that all but guarantees them a win.        Ron Ellis, who has a stable of 32 horses in California, is known for taking his time with his horses. He disagrees with the premise that trainers are holding back horses that could be racing.       "I really think that if horses are doing well, trainers run them," he said. "That only makes sense because that's basically how we make our money, off the commissions of horses that are racing and winning.       "It's my feeling that trainers, if they have a horse that's doing well and it's sound, they would prefer to run it over not running it. Trainers don't run horses when they're not doing well. I don't think they sit on horses that are doing well is basically what I'm saying."        Training philosophies have changed since the days when trainers raced a horse to keep it fit and hoped to take home a check in the process. Also gone are the days when owners were delighted just to watch their horses race.        "Most owners want instant success, and this is the problem," Cassidy said. "They don't want to go out there and finish fifth or sixth. They want to win. And this places a lot of pressure on the trainers."       Cassidy believes the type of horses breeders produce goes hand in hand with an owner's desire for instant success. Buyers want speed horses who have proven themselves as ready to run at two-year-old sales.       "You have so many commercial breeders now, and all they do is breed speed to speed and softness to softness, and we wind up with horses that are very tender, soft, can't take the pressure, can only run so many times and they get hurt easily," he said.       Jockey Joe Bravo, a fixture on the East Coast, takes it one step further. He blames consignors for cranking down on two-year-olds to produce insane fractions in breeze shows.       "Couldn't they two-minute lick these horses instead of going all out and having a baby put everything on the line? It would be nice to keep those horses around, and they would stay around a lot longer if they weren't asked to do so much at a young age," he said.       Consignors and breeders       David O'Farrell, farm manager of his family's Ocala Stud in Florida, which has been a leading consignor at two-year-old sales since 1958, said Bravo has it all wrong.        "Studies have shown, and it's proven, that two-year-olds-in-training sales produce horses with higher than average earnings, more average starts, and a higher percentage of starters than yearling sales or homebreds," he said.       O'Farrell cited studies done by Dr. Larry Bramlage, chief of surgery at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, whom he calls "the most well-respected veterinarian in the equine world." Bramlage presented the data on behalf of the Thoroughbred Safety Committee at the Jockey Club's 2008 Round Table Conference in response to industry questions about the durability of the breed, training and racing practices for two-year-olds, and the current training philosophy, among other issues.       Bramlage told participants that preparation for sales did not compromise the horse's ability to race when compared to the breed average.       "This data is definitive," he said. "It shows that horses that began racing as two-year-olds are much more successful, have much longer careers, and, by extrapolation, show less predisposition to injury than horses that did not begin racing until their three-year-old year. It is absolute on all the data sets that the training and racing of two-year-old Thoroughbreds has no ill effect on the horses' race-career longevity or quality."       O'Farrell said the industry needs to look at so-called "super trainers" when it comes to the decline in field size, a point Tim Ritvo, chief operating officer of The Stronach Group, made in several interviews after his recent move to Santa Anita.        Ritvo told the Los Angeles Times: "We have a lot of super trainers, who have these huge 200-horse outfits. Are they good for the game? A lot of us would argue no. Those guys that have them have worked hard. They’ve developed great skills and they are great guys. But how does a smaller guy get started if the owners are giving all their horses to the same guys? Let’s face it, if you have a 2,000-horse population, are you better with 25 trainers or 100 trainers? We’re better off with 100. Why? Because rather than having 20 two-year-olds, not willing to run them against each other, this population would get spread out."       Super trainers       When the finger points at super trainers, Karl Broberg bristles.       "They have no idea how our operations work," he said.       In 2016, Broberg had the second-highest number of starts (1,566) nationally. His win score was 55%. The Louisiana-based trainer, with about 130 horses in training, typically has strings running at six racetracks. His horses compete from Texas and Louisiana to Iowa to the Kentucky-Ohio circuit.       Some of you may not have heard of Broberg, and the names of his top horses probably aren't familiar. Broberg's highest racing achievement was with Diva's Diamond in 2015, when she was second to Untapable in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park. This is the only time he has hit the board in a graded stakes in his eight-year career. Broberg's stable consists primarily of claimers, allowance horses, and those competing in local stakes. Yet, year after year, he takes home leading trainer titles at many of the tracks where he competes. Nationally he has been the top trainer by wins since 2014, ranking second behind Steve Asmussen in 2013.        Unlike high-profile super trainers such as Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown, Broberg is a blue-collar trainer with whom most horsemen can identify.       He scoffed at the notion that a super trainer with, say, 20 horses fitting the same conditions would make most of them sit out a race in favor of the one or two he thinks have the best chance to win. He explained that his operation functions like six smaller stables at various tracks; he doesn't have all 130 horses stabled at a single track.        Most super trainers operate the same way, because many racetracks limit stall allotments to 35-40, Broberg said. One exception is Saratoga Race Course, which allows high-profile super trainers to bring 100 or more of their horses to the boutique meet, largely because these horses are the elite runners fans want to see.       Broberg said changes in claiming rules and entry rules would enable trainers to race more often. He is especially frustrated with the rule that a claimed horse must run at a 25% higher claiming price for 30 days after the claim.       "Say I claim a cheap $5,000 horse," he said. "In the past in Louisiana, I could run that horse back within two or three weeks. Now, I'm forced to sit on that horse, unless it's proven to be worth more, for 30 days."       Broberg objects to restrictions on how soon a trainer can run a horse back, citing Louisiana's rule that states a trainer is not permitted to enter a horse that is already in a race, even though entries are taken seven or eight days in advance.       "That has cost them a ton of starts from me, because when a horse is doing good, the best thing you can do for that horse is get him right back in," he said. "Not all horses are the same, but with many horses, when one's hot, you want to get it right back in there."       Racing secretaries       Racing secretaries are responsible for drafting condition books and adding extra races during the meet when the need arises. Three principal components help a racing secretary put together a meet that produces the best possible racing product: past experience of the type of races expected to be in demand; a database of the past performances for every horse named on stall applications; and good, open communication between the racing office and trainers.       Since 2003, Rick Hammerle has been the racing secretary for Santa Anita, where he also is vice president of racing. Outside California, he did stints at racetracks in New Jersey and Florida.       "My job is to provide races literally for every horse that is on the backside in a certain period of time," he said.       Hammerle has an open-door policy to encourage trainers to let him know what conditions they are looking for if they can't find them in the book. He even accepts lists from trainers of the types of races they would like him to write—in fact, he welcomes suggestions.       "Most of them know the pattern," he said. "They know there are going to be certain races that are going to be there every couple of weeks, and they don't need to ask for them. But they may have a horse that's returning after a layoff or a special-conditioned horse that they're looking for something, and they ask if I can put it in there."       Santa Anita canceled four Thursday cards during its spring meet because of lack of entries. Hammerle said the weather was to blame, not the racing office or the trainers.       "Here in California, and specifically at Santa Anita, we got pelted by two months of steady rain, right at the beginning of our meet," he said. "When it rains, all those horses that weren't quite ready all of a sudden are a month behind, and some of them are two months behind because they just couldn't get them consistent training on the racetrack. That really pushed us back here."       If Mother Nature cooperates, Hammerle is confident things will be fine, especially with track management, trainers, and owners all working toward a successful meet that will draw fans and increase handle.        Field size has a direct impact on handle. Gamblers bet more money on larger fields, because larger fields offer more betting opportunities and a greater potential for longshots to come in. For the fans, who are the bedrock of the racing industry, larger fields offer more excitement. Even though they may not singularly wager as much as professional gamblers, collectively their dollars are a large part of the handle. Attract more fans and you attract more dollars. New owners evolve from avid fans, and more owners translate into more horses.       Economics Is the Issue       Bramlage is especially interested in what is causing field sizes to decline, so he has studied the trends in racing to determine their impact. To him, the answer is straightforward—economics. The cost of racing a horse has gone up, but purses have not kept pace, except at the high end of the sport, he said.        "If you look at the economic model and all the factors that go into that—the trainer's strike rate, the cost of racing, and our inability to be patient with a horse—they have to be successful fairly early on or we give up on them," Bramlage said. "But that's just not with racing. That's with stallions and everything, because the economic pressures are a lot higher than they used to be when racing was generally in the hands of the philanthropist families, where Darby Dan is racing because they like their colts and mares and they'll give them all the chance they can, and they might give them 20 starts before they give up on them. Now, for most people, they probably don't give them five starts."       Owners       An information sheet for potential owners issued by West Point Thoroughbreds estimates the cost to maintain a horse at $50,000 to $60,000 per year. This includes an average day rate of $100 for training; veterinary and farrier bills; transportation and other miscellaneous costs; and, if necessary, a quarterly call for $600 to $750 additional funds for unanticipated expenditures. This means the meter is ticking on any horse that is not earning its keep.        So while some people view fewer starts per horse as a decline of durability in the breed, Bramlage sees it as a lack of patience with young horses who aren't performing. In a nutshell, owners are cutting their losses and moving on to another horse they hope will do better. Similarly, trainers rely on commissions on purse money for their livelihood, with their day rates devoted to covering expenses. If their horses don't get a check, neither do they.       An interesting statistic Bramlage uncovered is that the average starts per horse rise and fall with the value of yearlings at sale.       "The reason is that when yearling values go up, horses retire faster … Starts go back up when sales prices go down, because horses stay in training longer," he said.       Presumably this trend is intended to protect the owner's investment in a high-dollar yearling by racing the horse only when it has a good chance of winning in order to maximize its value in the breeding shed. Bramlage said it is now common for trainers to scratch horses if the morning line is unfavorable, alleging the horse is ill. There's even a term for it, "30-to-1 fever," he said.       Modern racing has become more of a business than a sport.       Potential solutions       The California Horse Racing Board's Race Dates Committee met on May 24 to brainstorm ways to increase entries and field sizes in California. One suggestion was to charge trainers stall rent, which they could recover pro rata each time they raced. This would discourage trainers from using the racetrack as a training center while racing few horses.       Changes in claiming rules and scratch rules also were mentioned as a possibility.       An unpopular suggestion was to initiate a single racing circuit in California, where the show would travel from track to track like a carnival, instead of tracks in the north and south operating simultaneously.       Fred Pope, a Lexington advertising executive and racing commentator, has been on this soapbox for decades, arguing that the salvation of racing would be a national circuit featuring celebrity horses. His "talent-centric" idea, as he calls it, would elicit racing groupies, like those fans who follow NASCAR, wanting to see their favorite runners in action.        The racing industry scoffs at Pope's idea every time he trots it out. Yet, he keeps tilting at that windmill.       Horses aren't Indy cars. Their bodies simply cannot withstand the kind of national campaign that circuit racing would impose upon them. The average number of starts per horse in 2016 was 6.2—hardly enough appearances to sustain a successful campaign on a nationwide circuit.        Gone are the days of champion John Henry, who made 83 starts during his eight seasons on the track; Hall of Fame mare Pan Zareta, who raced 151 times over 22 tracks in three countries during her five-year career; and the ultimate fan favorite, Seabiscuit, who traveled coast to coast, racing 89 times between 1935 and 1940.       Weekend racing only       Some of the nation's racetracks that are having difficulty filling races have cut back to a three-day weekend of live racing. Horsemen on both coasts think weekend-only racing would be a hardship for everyone whose livelihood is the track—right down to the maintenance crew that sweeps the grandstand. Essentially, their full-time job would become a part-time, weekend job. But because their track job would entail working either Fridays or Mondays, they would have difficulty finding a job through the week.       Beyond the economic hardship, Bravo said weekend-only racing would be physically tough on riders.       "It's tough to keep your fitness during the week without riding," he said. "You see the tracks with the least racing days, they try to put more races on the card. Instead of like a ten-race card, they try to run 12 races. It makes it hard if you're doing nothing for four days and then you get thrown into the weekend of riding a bunch of races. It's physically demanding, and it's hard to keep your weight, it's hard to keep your timing.       "A lot of us have tried to do it at tracks where they have shorter racing days or are just racing weekends, but it's physically demanding. I'm lucky, I'm very small so I can keep my weight down. But for a heavier rider, you're asking them to cut back four days and not eat. It's pretty tough."       Tracks that cut back to weekend-only racing risk losing the best of their jockey colony to tracks that offer them more opportunities to ride.       "I wouldn't mind seeing shorter racing days but compacted into a full schedule instead of just weekends," Bravo said. "Dragging it out makes it hard on everybody. The majority of gamblers and a lot of the higher-end people have nothing going on during the week. What is there to do for daytime entertainment if you take horseracing away, go to a movie theatre or the mall? What's better than watching horses run around every half hour and have action from one o'clock to five every day during the week?"        New owners       The only consensus is that the sport needs more owners. More owners will bring more horses into the sport, and more horses could attract more trainers. Larger fields will attract more fans and drive up handle. Greater handle would enable racetracks to raise purses—the trickle-down effect.       In 2011, The Jockey Club commissioned a study to determine how to address the decline in foal crops. The study's recommendation was to promote new ownership. The Jockey Club initiated such a campaign, developing an owner website at www.ownerview.com and sponsoring a series of Owner Conferences, the next one scheduled for October 30-November 1 at Del Mar.       “One of the most important recommendations emanating from the comprehensive economic study of Thoroughbred racing conducted by McKinsey & Company in 2011 centered on the need for a central resource to encourage ownership of Thoroughbreds and provide accurate information about purchasing and owning a Thoroughbred," said Bob Curran, vice president of communications for The Jockey Club. "In an effort to reduce the barriers to ownership, The Jockey Club and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association subsequently created OwnerView in May 2012, and we continue to provide pertinent information to new, prospective, and current owners through our website and our very popular Thoroughbred Owner Conferences which are held during Breeders’ Cup week each year.”       Olympic skier Bode Miller, one of the sport's new, exciting owners, offered an idea to get more owners into the sport—a tax exempt, not-for-profit entity, similar to a syndicate, to which owners could donate active racehorses, and those who want to be involved could donate funds to support the stable. All donations would be tax deductible through the 501(c)3 status, and any profit would benefit designated charities.       "So it's a way for people to have a super-duper, low-entry point financially and have ownership in horses with it only benefitting charities, not-for-profits," he said.       Allowing people to dip their toes in the industry could entice new owners into the sport.       The future?       "Any sport has trends up and trends down," Hammerle said. "I do think we may have hit bottom four or five or six years ago. We, the industry as a whole, have recognized some of the mistakes we've made and made some adjustments. I feel very positive about the way things are going.       "I think we'll continue to see some evolution in the way things are being done, both for the owners and the trainers, and obviously the fans. I think we'll see a lot more fan involvement with the game. And I'm very high on it. I see some people involved now who really get it and want to do the right thing. So, as I make the trips around the country for the bigger [racing] weekends here and there, I'm very pleased at what I see."          [sidebar]    Marketing the sport       One of the goals of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association was to market the sport nationally, but ads have been dust in the wind. The best commercial to come along in years that drives interest in Thoroughbreds is the new Audi S5 Sportback spot that features 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat. The ad was filmed at Santa Anita, and it pulses with the excitement of the sport.        No doubt, the Audi commercial cost a lot of advertising dollars, but marketing doesn't have to be expensive. Racing needs more creativity and thinking outside the box.        While Lexington advertising executive Fred Pope's idea for a "talent-centric" racing circuit has never sprouted wings, the notion of a "talent-centric" marketing approach might work. Exploiting the old saw that everyone has a story to tell, racetracks could feature a "Trainer of the Day," telling his or her story in the program and introducing the trainer to fans during a spot between races. What better way to market blue-collar trainers to prospective owners? Interesting stories about horses or riders or trainers could be offered to local news outlets, who always welcome free copy.       Old black-and-white newsreel footage of the golden age of racing, when it was chic for celebrities to be seen at the races, shows starlets reading the program, smoking cigarettes on long-stemmed holders, and waving their tickets at the camera. Movies were rife with racing slang and people reading the Daily Racing Form. To draw more fans to the sport, we need to make the races "the" place to be again. Imagine if the racetrack were the favorite spot of the Kardashians!       Smaller, regional tracks might consider contacting their state's film office and other entertainment groups to find out what celebrities are in town and extending those celebrities a day at the races, courtesy of the track—dining in the clubhouse, a tour of the backstretch, a visible yet private "Celebrity Box," and maybe a cache of Celebrity Dollars to wager, like Monopoly money, that could be tracked for fans as the day progresses.        Fans would know to look for the Celebrity Box to see who is there and to watch them enjoy the races. TVG and other groups televising the races could be asked to spotlight the box and the celebrities during their telecasts. Perhaps, with the approval of the celebrity, the track could announce the celebrity's presence in advance.     —Denise Steffanus

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PHOTO GALLERY

Racing secretaries nationwide are clamoring for horses to fill races while industry groups try to find a solution. But it's a complex issue.

Everybody with a role in the decline in field size seems to point the finger at someone else. Trainers, owners, racing secretaries, breeders, consignors, track management, and the horses themselves all have been blamed.

The simplest explanation for the decline in entries is that there are fewer horses. But when you compare statistics for 1990 and 2016, disregarding horses not old enough to race, they tell a different story.

When looking at horses of racing age, the 2014 foal crop (the youngest horses eligible to race in 2016) was 43% of the 1988 crop (for the 1990 racing season). But the number of races in 2016, compared with 1990, declined by 52%.

Today's racetracks have full barns, and many impose a limit on the number of horses a trainer can have on the grounds. So why aren't these horses racing?

"People say, 'Well there's nothing in the [condition] book that I can find.' But there are plenty of races," said Jim Cassidy, president of California Thoroughbred Trainers.

He thinks trainers sit out races primarily to protect their win percentage because owners look at this statistic when they select a trainer. So rather than race a longshot, trainers will instead breeze the horse and wait for a sweet spot that all but guarantees them a win.

Ron Ellis, who has a stable of 32 horses in California, is known for taking his time with his horses. He disagrees with the premise that trainers are holding back horses that could be racing.

"I really think that if horses are doing well, trainers run them," he said. "That only makes sense because that's basically how we make our money, off the commissions of horses that are racing and winning.

"It's my feeling that trainers, if they have a horse that's doing well and it's sound, they would prefer to run it over not running it. Trainers don't run horses when they're not doing well. I don't think they sit on horses that are doing well is basically what I'm saying."

Training philosophies have changed since the days when trainers raced a horse to keep it fit and hoped to take home a check in the process. Also gone are the days when owners were delighted just to watch their horses race.

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