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Feb 12, 2010

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            Over the last week or so there were many track cancellations as could be expected with the snow that hit along the east coast. Aqueduct was forced to cancel two days this week because of the snow that hit the New York area as well as Laurel, Penn National and Charles Town. Last week, however, Santa Anita had to cancel two days also because of more rain. They were forced to cancel some big races even one that would be a prep along the road to the Kentucky Derby. They are rescheduled for this week but a few of the top horses have already stated they were going to race at Oaklawn because of this. Hopefully this will be the final straw in Santa Anita switching back to a dirt surface.

The race of year, let’s call it the race of the Century or maybe even the last few centuries could be happening in the near future. Even though I am only 36 years old I have been following racing since 1980, when I like to say when racing was racing. There wasn’t a big move to retire early, race less and dodge the sport’s other top stars. Heck there would be allowance races on the weekends with the top stars of the game prepping for a race two weeks down line rather then training into a race three months out. Now with the help of Oaklawn Park and their president Charles Cella an offer of a $5 million dollar purse was made as long as both ZENYATTA and RACHEL ALEXANDRA showed up for the race. They changed the distance of the Apple Blossom Stakes and said that all the horses would carry 123. In addition to that it would also be an invitational race. However, there was a problem, Jess Jackson, the owner of RACHEL ALEXANDRA thought the April 3rd date might have been too close to a possible prep race she will have in March. He had asked for a possible extra week to make the race happen. Well Oaklawn was able to move the date back from April 3rd to April 9th and it seems as long as everyone stays healthy they will both enter the race. This will be the biggest race of the year by far easily outlasting the Kentucky Derby or Breeders’ Cup races. Hopefully this race will come to fruition as well as Jess Jackson’s proposal to the NTRA about a series of races between these top two horses.

On a sad note, prominent owner Edmund Gann died on Sunday February 7th after a bout with cancer, he was 86 years old. Gann was involved in racing for more than 40 years and had campaigned some of racing top horses over the last decade. He owned MEDAGLIA D’ORO who won seven stakes races including the 2002 Travers Stakes; PEACE RULES was another Gann runner who won the 2003 Haskell Invitational, YOU was another top runner for Gann as she was a Multiple Grade I winner. According to the Daily Racing Form Gann was a native of Massachusetts, he moved to California with his family before World War II. Early in his life, Gann worked in a grocery outlet established by his father, and later took a leading role in the family's fleet of fishing boats. It was through his involvement in fishing that Gann first became involved in racing. When a business deal in Korea struggled, one of Gann's colleagues offered a racehorse as restitution. The horse, Bold Producer, won his first three races for Gann, securing his interest in the sport. He will be sadly missed.

Hawthorne opens its doors on February 12th for a meeting that will run through April 25th. The highlight of the meeting will be on April 3rd when they host the Grade 3, $500,000 Illinois Derby for three year olds which will have a big impact on the road to the Kentucky Derby. However, a very positive sign heading into this meeting is that the horse count is up. 1200 horses compared to 990 that were on track in 2009. The break that they took and the lesser racing through tough weather was the key. Some other tracks should follow suit this way the horses get a break and the handle will go up as bettors will not have to bet into five horse fields all the time. If you are looking for more info just go to their website at







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