GENERAL DOWNS victorious in the Native Dancer S at Laurel

Kirkwood grad GENERAL DOWNS was a game winner of Native Dancer S at Laurel Park for West Point TB. He rated along the rail and then moved 4 wide to clear the field for the victory. The 6 year old Mineshaft gelding is trained by Kelly Rubley and has earned $209,056.

Kirkwood goes way back with this family including starting his dam Plaid who was trained by Dallas Stewart for Mt Joy Stables

I’M BETTY G a determined 2nd in the MARSHUA’S RIVER S. G2 at Gulfstream

I’M BETTY G is a stakes-winning and multiple graded stakes-placed newly turned 5 year old mare by Into Mischief. She dueled throughout and after a very game try, she had to settle for 2nd in the MARSHUA’S RIVER S. G2. Earlier this year she wired the field to win the Kentucky Downs Preview Ladies Turf Stakes at Ellis Park and right before that, she scored in  the Lady Canterbury S. at Canterbury Downs. In 2017 she was victorious in the Pearl Necklace S. at Laurel and added a pair of thirds in the South Beach S. at Gulfstream and the Albert M. Stall Memorial at the Fair Grounds.
Sales history: CONSIGNED BY KIRKWOOD STABLES)$150,000 2yo ’16 EASMAY.
Lifetime Record: SW, 19-5-2-5, $353,1005.
T- Mike Maker
O-Three Diamonds Farm
B-Carol Kaye & Boyce Stable (MD)

Coal Front Fires in Mr. Prospector Stakes

Courtesy of the BloodHorse

Coal Front wins the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream Park
Coal Front wins the Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream ParkCoglianese Photos/Lauren King

Stay Thirsty ridgling pulled away to win by 3 3/4 lengths.

Robert LaPenta and Head of Plains Parners’ Coal Front proved he was back in top form Dec. 22, when he turned in a dominating performance in the $100,000 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park.

After suffering a condylar fracture to his right front leg in 2017 that required surgery and a layoff of 13 months—the second condylar fracture of his short career—the multiple stakes winner returned to racing in the fall of 2018.

The 4-year-old Stay Thirsty  colt’s first effort back in the Nov. 2 Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrackwas not on par with his prior efforts, and he finished fifth in the six-horse field.

“Last time at Aqueduct, he drew the one hole going a demanding distance in his first start off a layoff,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, “He got in a speed duel that day, and the track was very deep and tiring. It’s hard to win in those scenarios off that long of a layoff.”

Saturday proved to be a much different story.

After a sharp break from the far outside post 11, Coal Front rated well on the outside in third behind early leader Kroy, who led the field through a half-mile in :45.31.

Four wide with a quarter-mile to go, Coal Front advanced steadily and dueled briefly with Kroy in the upper stretch, where the two made brief contact.

Edging past his rival with a final kick, Coal Front straightened out and pulled away to win by 3 3/4 lengths. The final time for the seven furlongs was 1:23.16.

“It ended up being perfect out there, with so much speed in the race,” said winning jockey John Velazquez. “I let him do his own thing out there, relax well outside horses, and when I asked him he was there for me.”

Cutting through the pack to find clear trip on the rail, Storm Advisory rallied for second and was followed by Heartwood in third. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to last-out Claiming Crown Rapid Transit Stakes victor Uno Mas Modelo in fourth.

“We’ve targeted this race since then, and he’s trained as well (as) we’d hoped he would have—actually, as well or better than ever—and got the trip we were wanting today,” Pletcher said. “To be honest I’d be really disappointed had he not performed well today based on the way he’s been training.

“The things he’s been showing us training and the way he ran today and galloped out, I think he’s wanting to stretch out. We’ve got to see if that’s a mile or two turns. We’ve got all kinds of options.”


MUCHO GUSTO 2nd in the Los Al Cash Call Futurity

Recent winner of the Bob Hope S G3, MUCHO GUSTO  led through a quarter in 23.25 and a half in :47.25  in the Los Al Cash Call Futurity.  The eventual winner tracked two wide in a joint third under a tight hold from Van Dyke. Mucho Gusto tried his best to stick with his stablemate, winner Improbable but that one hit another gear in mid-stretch and powered clear of the pacesetter.

Kirkwood consigned, MUCHO GUSTO was a $625,000 2yo ’18 EASMAY purchase

FIRE FOR EFFECT takes Woodbine allowance

4 year old FIRE FOR EFFECT (Smart Strike) was claimed recently by trainer Norman McKnight for Newtop Stables. He made good on the claim quickly by winning an allowance race at Woodbine going 1 1/16 on the all weather surface. He hugged the rail early then swung out to clear and win by a length and a half,

Lifetime Record: 17-3-2-3, $109,204.


American horseman Kip Elser made a successful debut at Karaka this week. Photo credit: Trish Dunell

American horseman Kip Elser has recorded a great result in his first foray into the New Zealand thoroughbred scene.

Elser, who operates Kirkwood Stables in South Carolina in the United States, purchased two yearlings earlier this year and made a profitable return when offering them at New Zealand Bloodstock’s Ready to Run Sale at Karaka this week.

Elser’s wife, Helen, was intent on coming to New Zealand to further their global operation, and they did so this year after testing the Australian market.

“My wife and I were looking for something new to do and two years ago she came here (to New Zealand) and I went to Australia,” he said.

“She wanted to come here right from the start and I decided to go to Australia, mostly because I had a partner and old friend over there, Murray Johnson, to work with.

“The Australian experiment did not work, the market is just not there for us, and a year later we did what my wife suggested.”

Elser raised some money for his New Zealand venture and teamed up with local horsemen Sam Beatson and Eion Kemp to select his pinhooks.

“With Joe Miller from home, who is the NZB representative in the US, we put together a little group to buy a couple here,” Elser said. “We bought one with Sam (Beatson) and bought another with Eion (Kemp) and they both did a great job.”

Beatson offered a Tavistock colt in his Riversley draft that sold for $400,000 to bloodstock agent John Foote, while Kemp prepared a Smart Missile gelding under his Kilgravin Lodge banner which fetched $90,000 when sold to Alrashid Group from Malaysia.

It was a solid first-outing in New Zealand for Elser after pinhooking the Tavistock colt out of New Zealand Bloodstock’s Yearling Sale this year for $150,000, while he purchased the Smart Missile gelding from Australia for A$30,000.

Elser, who has pinhooked thoroughbreds all around the world, said there wasn’t a huge contrast when it came to selecting yearlings in New Zealand.

“I just love going to different places and doing it (pinhooking),” he said. “We have done it in Europe, South Africa, we tried Australia and now we are here. A racehorse will take you anywhere in the world you will let him.

“I’m not sure if there is a tremendous difference in the style of horse (in New Zealand). The main difference over here is that most of them breeze in pairs and there is a lot of time between the breeze and the sale.”

Kelser said that while he was not familiar with local sires such as Tavistock, he looked at statistics to get a gauge on the trends in the local market and worked with local horsemen such as Beatson and Kemp in the selection process.

“You just look at the sire tables and try to get something by a well-established older horse or a bright star of the future just starting out,” he said.

“We all went out and looked at horses and then came back and compared lists. Any horses that were on both lists we went back and appraised.”

Elser said the majority of his business at Kirkwood Stables comes from pinhooking yearlings to sell as two-year-olds and he will look to continue his New Zealand venture at next year’s sales. However, business will mean only his wife Helen will be able to enjoy an extended stay next January.

“Nearly half of our business is buying yearlings and getting them ready for two-year-old sales and about 40 percent of it is pre-training and the rest is buying for clients, be it at yearling sales or two-year-old sales,” he said.

“Helen is going to stay for a while after the sale in January, but I’m going to head right back because we will have sales coming up.”

Pedigree Insights: Mucho Gusto

Mucho Gusto Benoit

Courtesy of the TDN
By Andrew Caulfield

With its history now extending to 35 years, we’ve seen the Breeders’ Cup Classic arguably develop into the supreme test for the American dirt horse, especially when it attracts the crème de la crème of more than one age group. As such, it should also be the perfect testing ground for the next generation of stallions.

So has this theory become reality? Of course, the high failure rate among the general population of stallions means that no race can claim to be a highly reliable pointer to stallion success, but the Classic is faring better than most. Inevitably there have been plenty of Classic winners which have faded into oblivion–think of Proud Truth, Ferdinand, Alysheba, Black Tie Affair, Concern, Skip Away and Cat Thief from the early Classic winners.

On the plus side, the inaugural winner Wild Again did consistently well in Kentucky, with his GI winners reaching double figures. The 1989 winner Sunday Silence must be classed as the one that got away, but he reshaped the breed in Japan, to the extent that his blood ran through the veins of nearly all of the 18 runners in Sunday’s Mile Championship at Kyoto.

Next came Unbridled, whose impact on the Triple Crown events has been considerable, and two years later it was the turn of A.P. Indy, a two-time champion sire who is grandsire of the three-time champion Tapit. There was a six-year wait for the next high-class stallion, in the form of Awesome Again, who numbered Ghostzapper, another winner of the Classic, among his four GI Breeders’ Cup winners. Needless to say, Ghostzapper has replicated his sire’s success at Adena Springs, where he will stand the 2019 season at $85,000.

The dual Classic winner Tiznow has also been a prolific sire of GI winners, while the 2007 winner Curlin is now priced at $175,000, after giving us sons of the calibre of Palace Malice, Exaggerator, Good Magic, Keen Ice and Connect. The Classic’s roll of honor also features a couple of winners who, with better luck, might have made a similar impact. Saint Liam, the 2005 winner, left fewer than 100 foals, but one of them was the Horse of the Year-winning filly Havre de Grace. And who knows what the great Cigar might have achieved had he not been completely infertile.

It is fair enough to expect some of the recent Classic winners, such as American Pharoah, Arrogate and Gun Runner, to follow in these top stallions’ footsteps, but I will admit that I wasn’t too sure about the prospects of 2013’s winner, Mucho Macho Man, when he joined the Adena Springs team in 2015, at a fee of only $15,000.

Certainly he’d had a colorful career, but he had had to share the attention with his trainer and rider. Trainer Kathy Ritvo’s well-known story told how she became the first female trainer to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, even though she had previously undergone heart-transplant surgery. And rider Gary Stevens was 50 years old and making a comeback when he managed to keep Mucho Macho Man’s nose just in front of Will Take Charge and Declaration of War in a thrilling finish at Santa Anita.

Any recap of Mucho Macho Man’s career must start, as Julie Andrews would say, at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Bred by John D. and Carole A. Rio in Florida, the son of Macho Uno wasn’t born until June 15, 2008. Over the years I have noticed that American breeders seem less averse to a late foal than their European counterparts, perhaps because the racing season continues through the winter, whereas the Anglo-Irish season used to take a winter break of more than four months prior to the advent of all-weather tracks.

Whatever the reason, quite a few colts have won the GI Belmont S. not long after their actual third birthday, good examples in recent decades being Touch Gold (May 26), Victory Gallop (May 30), Lemon Drop Kid (May 26), Birdstone (May 16), Afleet Alex (May 9) and Palace Malice (May2). Mucho Macho Man, though, was born more than two weeks later than any of these. Bearing in mind that he now stands 16.3 hands and is a tall and leggy individual, one could be forgiven for thinking that Mucho Macho Man had every right to be physically backward as a youngster.

Perhaps it is relevant that his sire Macho Uno had been a champion at two, when he landed the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and that Mucho Macho Man’s sire Ponche de Leona had won four of her six juvenile starts, including the Anoakia S. at Santa Anita. With their input, the 2-year-old Mucho Macho Man proved much more forward than could reasonably have been expected.

Mucho Macho Man made his debut over six furlongs at Calder on July 17, when just a month past his actual second birthday, and showed plenty of promise in finishing a length second to the subsequent GIII winner Gourmet Dinner. Two months later, on his third start, he won decisively over an extended mile at Monmouth to earn a shot at Graded company. He progressed again to chase home To Honor And Serve in a pair of GIIs at Aqueduct, notably running him to two lengths in the Remsen S. Those efforts earned him a weight of 115 on the Experimental Free Handicap, which had to be considered an excellent achievement for a colt born as late as June 15.

There was every chance that Mucho Macho Man would continue to improve long after some of the more mature members of his year group had shown the full extent of their abilities. He duly won the GII Risen Star S. on his second sophomore start, followed by a third in the GII Louisiana Derby, to earn a shot at the Kentucky Derby, I may be laboring the point when I mention that he was still 39 days short of his actual third birthday when he ran on to take third place at Churchill Downs, beaten by the March-foaled Animal Kingdom and February-foaled Nehro.

Maybe this was asking too much too soon of Mucho Macho Man, as he didn’t run nearly so well in either the Preakness or the Belmont, but he returned refreshed after 151 days off to round off his three-year-old campaign with a smart win over a mile at Aqueduct.

Predictably his next two years on the track proved much more rewarding, with his highlights at four featuring GII wins in the Gulfstream Park H. and Suburban H. and a very creditable second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The five-year-old Mucho Macho Man won the GI Awesome Again S. in addition to his success in the Classic, but he managed just two starts at six, when he recorded his second win in the Florida Sunshine Millions Classic. By July, his retirement had been announced, with Kathy Ritvo explaining that he was showing some signs of minor wear and tear and that he was being retired because he had nothing more to prove.

It was appropriate that he retired to Adena Springs, which also stands Macho Uno and Macho Uno’s half-brother Awesome Again. It seems that I wasn’t the only one unsure about Mucho Macho Man’s prospects as a stallion. He attracted 99 mares in his first season, for around 70 foals, but his book was down to 72 mares in his second season and then to only 35 in 2017, even though his fee had been reduced to $10,000. Fortunately, his popularity revived earlier this year, when he covered 96 mares. This revival no doubt owed a lot to the 2018 2-year-old sales, which showed Mucho Macho Man’s progeny in a new light.

Mucho Macho Man was arguably at his most impressive when on the move, with his long stride, and his breeze-up horses were also impressive, selling for such good prices as $625,000 and $575,000, for an average of over $170,000.

Now several of his youngsters have shown that they have inherited plenty of his talent, including those two high-priced colts. Each of them was named a ‘TDN Rising Star’ after making a successful debut, the $625,000 Mucho Gusto at Los Alamitos and the $575,000 Fortin Hill at Belmont. Incidentally, these two colts were also born quite late, Mucho Gusto’s birthday being Apr. 26 and Fortin Hil’s May 2.

Mucho Gusto has become his first Graded stakes winner, with his success in the GIII Bob Hope S. over seven furlongs at Del Mar. Mucho Macho Man’s daughter Belle Laura has also run creditably at Graded level, finishing third in the GII Jessamine S. prior to her seventh in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

There can be little doubt that Mucho Gusto–a late-April foal– will eventually stay a mile and a quarter, as his first two dams are daughters of Giant’s Causeway and Seeking the Gold, two stallions who finished a close second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The second dam, Countervail, was a half-sister to Canadian Horse of the Year Peaks And Valleys, a dual GI winner over a mile and an eighth despite being a son of the sprinter Mt Livermore.