Kirkwood’s Competitive Edge filly gets fastest quarter in 21.1

Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables sent out Monday’s fastest quarter-mile breezer when Le Competition(Competitive Edge) worked in :21 1/5. The dark bay filly is out of the unraced Lefreakcestchic (Bellamy Road), a half-sister to multiple stakes placed He’s So Chic (Jump Start) and from the family of graded stakes winners Living Vicariously, With Distinction and Sightseeing.

“We had as good and as safe a track as we could possibly have under the conditions,” said Elser, who sent out eight horses to work Monday. “They did a great job with the track. The horses went well and everybody came home well. I think some of them were more confident going over the mud than others, but those are today’s conditions.”

Of Le Competition, Elser said, “She is one that really relished a wet track. I was in the chute, I didn’t see her frontside, but I know she galloped out past me tremendously.”

Diverse Panel Voices Horse Racing Integrity Act Support

Terry Finley at the Ocala Breeders' Sales March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training
Terry Finley at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training

Photos by Z

Diverse Panel Voices Horse Racing Integrity Act Support

Respected panel presented at Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club meeting.

Saying horse racing is at a tipping point in terms of public acceptance, panelists at the April 2 Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club meeting voiced support for the 2019 Horse Racing Integrity Act (H.R. 1754) as a way to move the industry forward.

A full house of both industry veterans and young blood packed into Copper Roux in Lexington, Ky., as a diverse panel of five discussed the importance of recognizing the general public’s perception and where the sport goes from here.

Fasig-Tipton president and CEO Boyd Browning, Kirkwood Stables owner Kip Elser, Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage, Blackwood Stables co-owner Matt Hogan, and West Point Thoroughbreds president and CEO Terry Finley all expressed concern for the future of racing and the belief that the Horse Racing Integrity Act could help move the sport in a positive direction. The bill—sponsored by Rep. Andy Barr, a Kentucky Republican, and Rep. Paul Tonko, a New York Democrat—would establish an independent non-profit to develop and administer national anti-doping and medication rules, as well as develop testing and laboratory standards.

Medication rules currently fall under the jurisdiction of each of the more than 30 states that allow horse racing.

In beginning the Horse Racing Integrity Act conversation, KTFMC president Carl McEntee noted perception is reality.

“It doesn’t matter whatever side of the fence you guys sit on, whether you’re pro or anti any form of drug that we use in this industry,” he said. “The simple fact is that the perception from those not involved in the Thoroughbred industry is poor. They think we beat our horses, we feed them full of drugs, and then we kill them in the end. It’s horrible to say that, but that is the perception.”

Bramlage suggested horse racing take a page from the NFL on how to handle a public relations crisis by making significant rule changes. When the NFL was faced with players suffering concussions and dealing with side effects of depression, suicide, and entering hospice prematurely, the organization changed the game.

“Now you can’t hit somebody with your face mask like I learned when I was a kid playing football. I really liked football,” Bramlage said. “They are the example of how you take what could be a crippling issue—the idea that every kid who plays football is going to end up with a mental disease because they’re hitting their head over and over—to eliminating how they hit their head.”

Bramlage noted he has changed his mind on federal legislation in horse racing, saying he first hated the idea of Congress becoming involved. Now, he believes there needs to be a bill in place that pressures the industry to make positive changes that improve the industry. He said a united industry voice needs to speak for the bill so it doesn’t stall in Congress with divided industry opinions.

“If you read it closely, the government is not taking over our industry unless we screw up,” he said. “They have supervisory capability, but if we do a good job, there’s no reason to step in. There’s no cost to it.”

Browning used the experience of shopping at Whole Foods as an example of how the public’s perception on animal treatment has changed. Consumers now want organic products and to ensure their food was handled ethically.

“I think we’re delusional with many respects within our industry,” he said. “We sit here and argue within our industry about what’s right and wrong, and we don’t know what the hell the general public’s perception of us is.”

He added both track attendance and handle, when adjusted for inflation, are shrinking.

“We’re ignoring the root issues the public cares about,” he said.

The point was made that the racing industry is capable of working together to make a change. Multiple sales companies put their foot down with off-label use of bisphosphonates, which Bramlage said can disrupt the remodeling process in horses under 4.

“I think it’s wonderful how the industry came together so quickly and has regulated and banned bisphosphonates when they have shown to be dangerous,” Esler said. “Here’s a drug that had legitimate uses when it was first developed. It was prescribed for several years. The side effects and the misuse were discovered, and the industry got together and said, ‘No more.’ I think that is a great example of what this industry can do when our backs are to the wall.”

However, Esler also noted what the industry has yet to agree upon.

“The dragon in the room is Lasix,” Esler said of the diuretic used to prevent or reduce the severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage. “It is the most divisive issue in the whole industry.”

Finley’s solution to move forward with split opinions, such as Lasix, was to take those issues off the table and have a group of key stakeholders sit down and figure out what they can agree on to better the horse racing industry. He said New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association president Joe Appelbaum could be a driving force.

Finley also pointed out it would only take 600,000 signatures for a horse racing ban to be placed on the ballot in California. The issue already has made national news and caught the attention of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat. Feinstein wrote a letter April 2 to the California Horse Racing Board calling for the suspension of racing in the state until the 23 equine deaths at Santa Anita Park since its Dec. 26 opening day are investigated.

“Certainly, this is an opportunity,” Finley said. “I think five years from now, we’ll look back and we’ll see we either took advantage of an opportunity, albeit a very turbulent period in our industry—I might say the toughest period in our industry in a long time, if ever—or we’ll look back in five years and say we squandered an opportunity.”

Hogan made sure to note that those who work in the industry do so because they love the animals. He encouraged the audience to speak with legislators to make major changes in the horse racing industry.

“You work night and day. Even if you’re at a point in your life where you’re not having to work night and day, but you did to get where you are in this business,” Hogan said. “It’s blood, sweat, and tears all the way in this game. You do it because you love the animals.

“It’s kind of disheartening to see all this stuff in the media now. Every media channel, social media, newspapers across the country, national news.”

Hogan added that if nothing is done to improve the current state of horse racing, the effects could be immediate.

“I’m worried about right now,” he said. “I’m not worried about whether my kids are going to take to any of this stuff going forward. I’m worried about what I’m going to do.”

Bramlage put it bluntly, in terms of the current environment.

“Dead horses and drugs will never be acceptable.”


Splashy Kisses Among Supplements To Keeneland April Sale

Splashy Kisses



Two 3-year-old graded stakes-placed fillies, Sweet Diane and Splashy Kisses, are among six horses – five horses of racing age and one juvenile – supplemented to the Keeneland April 2-Year-Olds In Training and Horses of Racing Age Sale on April 9.

Splashy Kisses, a filly by Blame, finished second in the 2018 G2 Pocahontas Stakes and third in the G3 Sweet Life Stakes at Santa Anita Park in February. She is consigned by Claiborne Farm, agent.

SPLASHY KISSES was a member of the first Kirkwood Gallop Group at Gulfstream, She was sold for $100,000 to Dennis O’Neill / ERJ Racing

The digital Horses of Racing Age Sale catalog is available online by clicking here. The digital catalog features Daily Racing Form past performances, and Thorograph and Ragozin sheets. Sellers also have the opportunity to submit professional walking and/or conformation videos and professional photography of the horses to accompany this information.


The April Sale to date has cataloged 73 juveniles in addition to the horses of racing age. An addition to the catalog is a 2-year-old filly by Will Take Charge who is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Big Trouble and stakes-placed Silver Lining John and Silver Sidney, consigned by Wavertree Stables, agent. Click here for the 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale catalog.

Keeneland will host a preview day featuring breezes by cataloged 2-year-olds over both the dirt track and turf course on Monday, April 8, beginning at 11 a.m. The sale on Tuesday begins at 2 p.m.

SW REALM 3rd in the Skip Away at Gulfstream

Winner of the Alydar last summer at Saratoga and also multiply graded stakes placed , REALM (Haynesfield) added to his laurels running third in the Skip Away at Gulfstream. He dueled on or close to the lead and could not quite hold on for the win. He missed by 1/2 a length and a neck. The 6 year old gelding has earned over $365,000 for owners Eric Dattner, Harry Astarita and owner/trainer Barclay Tagg.


Coal Front and Jose Ortiz take the Godolphin Mile at Meydan
Coal Front and Jose Ortiz take the Godolphin Mile at Meydan

Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club

Coal Front Edges Heavy Metal to win Godolphin Mile

Coal Front earned most lucrative win of career in $1.5 million Godolphin Mile (G2).

Coal Front rallied sharply in deep stretch to catch frontrunning defending champion Heavy Metal and win the $1.5 million Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City—District One (G2) by three-quarters of a length March 30 at Meydan.

Coal Front, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Jose Ortiz—in his first Dubai World Cup Day race—waited well back of the early battle between Heavy Metal and the international favorite, Muntazah. Heavy Metal began to edge clear as the field hit the Meydan Racecourse stretch.

Ortiz, however, had kept Coal Front wide of the leaders and in the clear and was in full flight 200 meters from home, closing ground on the tiring, 9-year-old leader. He hit the lead five strides short of the wire in the one-turn, 1,600-meter (about one-mile) test and finished in 1:36.51.

“He’s a frontrunner,” Ortiz said. “Being where I was, I didn’t want to put him behind horses and take the kickback. I was happy where I was. Coal Front was a tough customer. But we had it. I was riding for the win.”

Muntazah, winner of the local prep for the Godolphin Mile, held off surging Kimbear to salvage third by a short head.

Coal Front, a 5-year-old Stay Thirsty  ridgling, came to Dubai after a victory in the Feb. 18 Razorback Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park in his first start of the year. He closed an abbreviated 2018 campaign with a win in the Dec. 22 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) at Gulfstream Park. As a 3-year-old, he won the Gallant Bob Stakes (G3) at Parx Racing and the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course.

Bred in Kentucky by Michael Edward Connelly out of the Mineshaft  mare Miner’s Secret and owned by Robert LaPenta and Sol Kumin’s Head of Plains Partners, Coal Front now has seven wins from nine starts. Saturday’s score marked the most lucrative of his career, earning $900,000.

LaPenta said the owners and Pletcher, who scored his first win on a World Cup card, debated whether to even send Coal Front to Dubai because they didn’t know if he’d handle the travel.

“Up until three weeks ago, we spent a lot of time on this,” LaPenta said. “He’s very nervous, and we thought about the travel, the quarantine, all those things. Should we go? Todd did a great job.”

LaPenta said he was worried as Heavy Metal took a substantial lead in the stretch.

“What was going through my mind at the sixteenth pole was, ‘Call a doctor!'” he said. “He is a frontrunning horse. This time, he had to catch a horse. We’re so proud of him.”

LaPenta said there are no firm plans for Coal Front’s future.

Consigned by Kirkwood Stables to the 2016 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training, Coal Front went to LaPenta for $575,000. His dam produced an American Pharoah  colt in 2018 and was bred to Arrogate  for 2019.

USA Scores First In Dubai – Kirkwood consigned COAL FRONT wins the G2 Godolphin Mile

Courtesy of the TDN

2nd at Mey, Gr. Stk, $1,500,000 G2 Godolphin Mile (1600m) Winner: Coal Front, r, 5 by Stay Thirsty

Coal Front |

‘TDN Rising Star’ Coal Front (Stay Thirsty–Miner’s Secret, by Mineshaft), the last-out winner of the G3 Razorback H. at Oaklawn Park, notched a victory for the U.S. in the opening Thoroughbred race of the Dubai World Cup card at Meydan when getting up in the dying strides to clinch the G2 Godolphin Mile under Jose Ortiz. Defending Godolphin Miler winner Heavy Metal (GB) (Exceed and Excel {Aus}) set the pace and looked to have gotten away at the top of the lane, but the lightly raced progressive 5-year-old Coal Front gradually wore away that lead and got up within the final furlong.
Lifetime Record: 9-7-0-0.
O-LaPenta, Robert V. and Head of Plains Partners LLC.
B-Michael Edward Connelly  (KY).
T-Todd Pletcher
Sold at OBS April for $575,000

Coal Front in the Godolphin Mile G2

The $1.5 million Godolphin Mile Sponsored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum City-District One (G2) March 30 on the Meydan Racecourse dirt

The U.S. runners also bring solid credentials. Coal Front, a 5-yearold Stay Thirsty ridgling, has won six of eight starts. He most recently captured the Razorback Handicap (G3) at Oaklawn Park, looking sharp going 1 1/16 miles. “He’s trained impressively, like he always does,” said Pletcher, who also trained Coal Front’s sire. “He’s a beautiful horse, and we feel like the one-turn mile should suit him perfectly, especially backing up off a two-turn race.”

Coal Front was a $575,000 sale by Kirkwood at OBS April

Mucho Gusto may not be done on 2019 Kentucky Derby trail

Mucho Gusto may not be done on 2019 Kentucky Derby trail

Mucho Gusto may not be done on 2019 Kentucky Derby trail

Photo: Benoit

Trainer Bob Baffert considers Mucho Gusto to be “a much better horse than what you saw” in Sunday’s Sunland Derby (G3) — and that belief could earn him another shot at qualifying for the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

Baffert said the multiple Grade 3-winning son of Mucho Macho Man is under consideration for Keeneland’s Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington Stakes on April 13, the final day for points qualifiers.

While Mucho Gusto’s third in the Sunland Derby boosted him to 16th on the current Derby leaderboard, his 24 points are not on pace to remain in the Top 20 with most major preps still left to run. The Lexington awards points on a 20-8-4-2 scale to its first four finishers, and the winner’s share could certainly send him on to Churchill Downs.

RELATED: Who’s in, out and on the Kentucky Derby bubble?

Campaigned by Michael Lund Petersen, Mucho Gusto “sort of ran the same race as he did in the Los Alamitos Futurity,” Baffert said, “where he pressed the pace and pressed the pace.”

Setting the fractions, the colt went in 22.76 and 45.63 for the opening splits of the 1 1/8-mile race, locking up along the rail in a speed duel with the local stakes winner Hustle Up. Mucho Gusto eventually faded to finish third, six lengths behind the dueling Cutting Humor and Anothertwistafate. Hustle Up dropped to seventh.

“If he’d have been on the outside, I think he could have run a better race — been in a spot where the winner was, sitting four to five lengths off and finish up,” Baffert said of Mucho Gusto.

“…The mile and an eighth, it’s all about the pace. We’re just going to have to regroup here.”

The Lexington runs at 1 1/16 miles. Last year, its winner, My Boy Jack, used a victory there to solidify his standing in the Derby Top 20. Baffert won the 2016 Lexington with Collected, who from there pointed to the Preakness Stakes.

The Hall of Fame trainer confirmed his other Derby hopefuls are all on track for their final preps — but Baffert laughed, calling these “stressful times.”

Game Winner, narrowly defeated by Omaha Beach in the second division of the March 16 Rebel Stakes, returned to the work tab Tuesday with a half-mile breeze. He’s targeting the April 6 Santa Anita Derby (G1).

“The way he worked, everybody said he looked good,” said Baffert, who’s in Florida for Gulfstream Park’s Wednesday sale of 2-year-olds. “I saw the video, and he came out of the race well.”

Roadster, a come-backing March 1 allowance winner, is also gearing up for the Santa Anita Derby. He glided through six furlongs Tuesday in 1:14.

“Drayden (Van Dyke) worked him and said he looked good,” Baffert reported. “He’s an interesting horse there. He’s got a lot of talent.”

Van Dyke will cede the mount next time to Jose Ortiz on the Arkansas Derby (G1) contender Improbable, who “looks good,” Baffert said, exiting a neck defeat in the Rebel’s first flight.

Game Winner is likely already in the Kentucky Derby on points; Improbable needs only to hit the board; and Roadster will have to win or place in the Santa Anita Derby to earn his trip.

#FTGulfstream: Kip Elser of Kirkwood Stables on the reception of “Gulfstream Gallop” horses

Courtesy of the DRF
Joe Nevills , 2018-03-28 – DRF Breeding Live

#FTGulfstream: Kip Elser of Kirkwood Stables on the reception of “Gulfstream Gallop” horses

Kip Elser and his unnamed “contrarian” partner picked up a lot of ink heading into this year’s Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale for their plan to buy a handful of yearlings for the express purpose of galloping them through this particular breeze show.

The five “Gulfstream Gallop LLC” horses went through their paces on Monday, and went under the microscope from buyers in earnest yesterday. I spoke with Elser yesterday afternoon about his slate of juveniles and how they were received, and this is what he had to say…

“It’s been mostly positive. We won’t be able to tell how it’s been received until they go in and put their hand up, but off the early indications, we’re getting plenty of looks, and plenty of looks by good, solid judges that are perfectly capable of picking a horse that went steadier than the general population.”

Though advertised as an untimed gallop, the horses went through the straightaway at a decent clip – far from dialed all the way in, but certainly not a leisurely lope. Elser said the speed of the gallop was for a reason.

“Yes, they went a fairly good clip, but we were told that they really had to go fast enough for the video and motion analysis people to be able to run their programs. We aimed to go down there a quarter in 26 or so to give those people enough information. I don’t even know how close we got to it, but that was the plan. We’re doing something different, but we’re trying not to alienate anybody.

“They’re horses with good bottom in them, and they should be able to go right on and fit into anybody’s program.”