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Dec 19, 2014

American Turf Club lead-news and notes

By: Joe Girardi

               Let’s take a look at some news that has happened over the last few weeks before we give you our wishlist for 2015 next week.

               An article in the racing form on December 14th by David Grening explained that trainer David Cannizzo would be suspended for 45 days after three of his horses tested positive for the illegal substance Propoxyphene, a painkiller also known as Darvon. He was actually suspended 75 days but had 30 days stayed as long as he doesn’t incur another equine drug positive before February 14th, 2016. Darvon is considered a class 3 drug. In addition to his suspension which runs from January 1st through February 14th, he was also fined $6,000. The three horses which tested positive were Rachel’s Temper, who finished second in the 10th race at Saratoga on August 3rd, Bernie The Maestro who won the first race at Saratoga on August 22nd and Ave’s Halo, who won the first race at Belmont Park on September 24th. All of that purse money had to be forfeited by the owners of those horses, a total of over $77,000 in purses. This is an unfortunate incident as horse racing tries to gain a better reputation as we move into 2015.

               Social Inclusion, one of the top three year olds of 2014 who missed out on the second half of his three year old season with a tendon injury is back on the track for his new trainer Chad Brown. Brown was quoted in the racing form article on 12/19/14 “I got him in here a couple of weeks ago and he’s jogging now. He’s got a ways to go but so far he looks good. We’ll take it one step at a time, but at the moment I’m cautiously optimistic we can get him back to the races again.” Hopefully Brown and his team can him back to the races because is he an exciting prospect who showed flashes of brilliance.

               It was announced on 12/18/14 that retired track announcer Tom Durkin was selected to receive the Eclipse Award of Merit in an article on the Daily Racing Form website. The Award of Merit is one of the highest honors in racing, recognizing a lifetime of outstanding achievement in the sport. It caps an extraordinary 43-year career for Durkin, who called his last race Aug. 30 at Saratoga Racecourse. After the final call, Durkin gave a moving speech in front of the track’s grandstand thanking “you, the racing fan, the horseplayer.” Durkin will receive his eclipse at the Eclipse Awards ceremony on January 17th at Gulfstream Park. “This is quite an honor and quite a surprise,” Durkin said in a statement. “The award has never been given to a track announcer before, and to be singled out when you consider all of the great announcers who preceded me like Fred Cappossela, Joe Hernandez, Chick Anderson, and Dave Johnson, this is quite a distinction.” It is quite an honor and a well deserved one at that as Durkin will go down in my opinion as the best track announcer I have had the pleasure to listen. The fact that he was in New York for well over 20 years was an honor for me as a lifelong racing fan.

               NYRA is currently in the midst of their 10 day “Holiday Break”, they will not have live racing again until Friday December 26th. Winter racing has not gotten off to a very good start with a rash of breakdowns since the inner track has opened. As we move into 2015, NYRA has plans to raise the prices of admission and parking but they haven’t announced for which days and how much the increases would be. Looking forward to a better year of racing in 2015 for the NYRA.

               At Los Alamitos on Saturday, December 13th, 2014, they hosted the Grade I Starlet stakes, a race for two year old fillies run over 1 and 1/16th miles with a purse of $350,000. Take Charge Brandi who made a last second push for the Eclipse Award for top two year filly with her wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at 61-1 and her win the Grade III Delta Princess all but sewed up that honor with her win in the Starlet. A field of seven horses went postward in the Starlet with Take Charge Brandi going off as the 6-5 favorite over Feathered, a fourth place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. When the gates opened, Take Charge Brandi, under Victor Espinoza was sent to the lead while being pressured by Maybellene. She held that lead down the backstretch through fractions of 23:3, 47:3, 1:11:1. As they moved around the far turn, she was still in front and was facing challenges from both sides. She continued on gamely through the lane and held on to score by a half-length over Feathered who was a neck in front of Maybellene. The final time of the race was solid 1:42 flat and this win should make Take Charge Brandi the Eclipse Award winning two year old. With two months to go in the year back on November 1st before they ran the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Take Charge Brandi virtually had no shot to win the Eclipse and now she seems to be a virtual lock.

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