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Jan 14, 2011

American Turf Club Lead

By: Joe Girardi

            As we move on into the third week of the New Year many of the horses that highlighted 2010 will be returning from their well deserved break. BIG DRAMA gets his season underway in the Grade III Mr. Prospector stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday January 15th. A solid runner last year, BIG DRAMA had three wins and two seconds from just five starts in 2010, but none bigger than the Breeders’ Cup Sprint that saw him go wire to wire, scoring by more than a length. He is listed as the 4-5 favorite in a field of six and this is a good place to start as he readies for a campaign that will hopefully lead to a defense of his Breeders’ Cup Sprint title.

            We have talked a lot about the 2010 Horse of the Year in this section and whether ZENYATTA should be crowned this year or if the award should go to BLAME. Well the waiting will be no longer once Monday, January 17th arrives as the winner will be announced at the 40th annual Eclipse Awards dinner at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach Hotel. Both parties believe their respective horse should win the top honor of Horse of the Year but it can only go to one of them. In an article written in the Daily Racing Form, Jerry Moss, who owns Zenyatta with his wife, Ann, said it would be “very disappointing” if Zenyatta came up short for the third straight year in her quest for racing’s greatest year-end award. We’re going there to win Horse of the Year,” Moss said on a teleconference organized by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which sponsors the Eclipse Awards along with the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters and Daily Racing Form. “If we don’t win the big prize, we will be very disappointed.” BLAME’S connections feel the same way and here is what BLAME’S trainer Al Stall Jr. had to say. It’s out of our control,” Stall said. “We campaigned to win races all year long. That’s all we concentrated on all year long. If Zenyatta wins, we’ll be happy for Zenyatta and move on. The Horse of the Year winner will be well deserved either way and it makes for good television and promotes this great sport well as many people, even those who are not die-hard racing fans will be tuning in to see who wins.

            Oaklawn Park was supposed to open its doors on January 14th but had to cancel opening day because of snow. The racing surface failed to thaw fast enough which caused the cancellation. It is the fourth time Oaklawn has been forced to cancel an opening-day program. The track lost openers in 2003, 1997, and 1979. They expect to open their meeting Saturday as the temperatures are expected to rise. The forecast for Saturday is expected to reach 46 degrees.

 Junior Alvarado, a journeyman jockey who moved his tack to New York at the beginning of November has really made a name for himself so far. He is winning races and has done so for many outfits. However, he was in the news last week for something that happened in the paddock on January 8th. Before the sixth race he was kicked by his mount STARLANTIC and he fell to the ground. He lay on the cold floor in pain from the kick but was not attended to. Fellow jockey David Cohen, wrapped him in a horse blanket and carried him back to the jockeys’ room where he was finally taken to a local hospital. He stayed overnight for observation and was released. He returned to the saddle this past Thursday. “A little sore, nothing bad,” said Alvarado, who said the bulk of the pain was in his lower right rib cage. However, the lack of care for Alvarado and the time that went by before he was seen by professionals was disturbing. The jockeys were not going to ride the last three races but decided that it would hurt the trainers and owners who had horses in that day. In the wake of a poor response from medical personnel to a jockey who was injured in the paddock at Aqueduct on Saturday, the New York Racing Association implemented several new procedures designed to better serve the riders. According to the Daily Racing Form here are the following changes; First, NYRA assigned a dedicated emergency medical technician to shadow the jockeys throughout a racing day. This EMT will be in the jockeys’ room, lead the riders to the paddock, and follow them back to the room after the race is run. Second, the EMT functions will be centralized in a “command post” that will be in the first-aid trailer outside the grandstand. With the construction of the casino forcing the relocation of some first-floor offices - including first-aid - those functions had recently been moved to the third floor. There will no longer be any EMT personnel positioned on the third floor. Third, radio checks will be conducted between the EMTs, security, and the stewards prior to every race. Previously, radio checks were conducted only at the start of each race day. Fourth, Eileen Sullivan has been hired as the new EMT supervisor. She has worked at NYRA for six years and has been an EMT since 1978. The previous EMT supervisor, Tommy Wittmer, was planning to leave NYRA within two weeks. Finally, one of four ambulances NYRA has on the grounds will be moved from in front of the clubhouse to the tunnel in between the jockeys’ room and the paddock.

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