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Thoroughbred Today 2016 Year-End


Inside: a profile on Arrogate that will

leave you speechless, 2016’s top 10 races, Mike Smith on success, Penny Chenery, Equestricon and more!

January 2017


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Someone once told me that the way you spend New Year’s Eve is the way you’ll spend the rest of the year. When the countdown to 2016 kicked off last New Year’s, I was on the dance floor with a friend. 29… 28… 27… So much time to go, I thought to myself. And then, it happened. The group next to us had started wrong. We went from 25 to 3… 2… and instead of correcting myself, I yelled, ‘I’m not ready!’ 2016 was an interesting year for me. I spent the first several months chasing an illusion that did nothing but deter me from my goals. By the time I got my head on straight, it was mid-June. I worked double time to make up for lost time and I think I did well. 2016 felt like two years in one, marked by the three-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail and the big name horses. I never thought it could outdo 2015, but the excitement of 2016 reached a whole new level. It was a year of rivalries that started in March with Mohaymen and Nyquist, followed through the summer with California Chrome and Dortmund, Beholder and Stellar Wind, Carina Mia and Songbird, and climaxed in November at the Breeders’ Cup with Beholder and Songbird in the Distaff and Arrogate and California Chrome in the Classic. In between the battles of one favorite taking on another were solo performances by horses that did the unthinkable, such as Tepin and Frosted, and the very inspirational story of Lady Eli. With the new year come new beginnings, new lessons to be learned and opportunities to be seized. Don’t dwell on the past. Surround yourself with people that lift you up and push you to become better. Grab 2017 by the horns and repeat after me: 2017, I’m ready for you! The Thoroughbred Today team and I wish you all a happy 2017!


Everything Equestrian, LLC. Wilmington, DE. Editor-In-Chief Claudia L. Ruiz

Managing Editor Lauren Lima

Cover Photography Alex Evers Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup

Contributing Writers Ciara Bowen, Jimmy Goldenberg, Nicole Schiveley, Delaney Witbrod

Editor-In-Chief Thoroughbred Today

Contents 03 Mike Smith

13 Getting to Know:

Handling success

North America’s leading sire continues to impress

05 Tapit


25 Did You Know?

What it takes to manage a top-notch racing stable

07 Penny & Riva

28 OTTB Spotlight

Without Riva Ridge we may have never experienced Secretariat

Marcus Furius’s calling was not on the track, but in the show ring

12 Equestricon

The founders and how it all came to be

Photographers Samantha Bussanich, Alex Evers, Mary Ellet, Eric Kalet, Amanda Murphy, Danielle Murphy, Casey Phillips, Claudia L. Ruiz, Scott Serio, Delaney Witbrod

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CONNECT ON SOCIAL MEDIA /everythingeq @EverythingEqLLC @everythingeqllc

On The cover: Year in Review

The year’s best moments and the Top 10 races of 2016... pg. #15-24 Thoroughbred Today


Mike Smith: Handling Success By: Claudia L. Ruiz


he Breeders’ Cup Classic was the cherry on top of an outstanding year for jockey Mike Smith. From Songbird to Effinex, to Tamarkuz, Finest City and Arrogate, 2016 holds the memory of what Smith considers one of the greatest years of his career. “I started out the year looking forward to the possibilities of what could come,” he said over the phone. “Now I look back on everything and I can’t help but think, ‘wow, what an incredible year it’s been.’” Ever since Songbird’s huge run in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, Smith has been all over the headlines. The year began with Songbird and Effinex, and little by little it started coming together. By the second half of 2016, Smith was picking up horses left and right, and then came Arrogate. “To pick up a horse like Arrogate and win the Travers like that was just amazing. Then to go on and win the Breeders’ Cup Classic, beating a great horse in California Chrome, I mean, talk about a way to really finish out the year.” To an outsider looking in, being a jockey 3

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may seem like a glamorous occupation that is relatively simple: Get on the horse, win, and repeat. However, there is a lot more than meets the eye, especially in being a Hall of Famer like Mike Smith.

restrict himself to what he can or cannot eat. “I like to eat whatever I want, but when I’m training and riding, especially right before the big races, I eat very healthy and take a lot of vitamins. I have to stay on top of myself now that I’m getting older, but I eat the same foods I did when I was younger. I just push myself harder at the gym.”

Aside from the insanely early waking hours to gallop horses and visit trainers, jockeys, like all athletes, must stay in the best shape possible to handle the rigors of riding half-ton He rode to three Breeders’ Cup wins in 2016– animals. Smith, who turned 51 in August, fol- the Classic on Arrogate, Filly and Mare Sprint lows an impressive workout on Finest City, and Dirt Mile on regime. “I weight train with “Success is a lot Tamarkuz–and finished second a personal trainer anywhere by a nose, on Songbird, in the to handle, but I thrilling Breeders’ Cup Distaff. from an hour to an hour and know when to Now, Smith is looking forward a half and then do two hours of cardio on my own. I do shut down and to what 2017 will bring. “There’s this almost six days a week.” lot to look forward to with when to put my aArrogate He uses the time at the gym and Songbird coming game face on.” back. I’m just blessed to be doing to clear his mind and to better himself physically so to bring so much and I take it day by day. - Mike Smith, out the best in the horses he 2016 was a great year, but who Hall of Fame jockey knows, 2017 could be the best yet rides. to come for me.” Following a healthy diet is also a major component in staying on top of his game. Smith Photos (left to right): Amanda Murphy, makes it a point to eat healthy, but does not Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup

TAPIT North America’s Leading Sire By: Delaney Witbrod Top 3 Earners of 2016



e was foaled February 27th, 2001, and stands 16 hands tall with a wellbalanced physique and striking white coat. Tapit’s career on the track was short and modest with just six starts–three of which he won, including the 2003 Laurel Futurity and the 2004 Wood Memorial–and career earnings totaling $557,300. He retired in 2005 to Gainesway Farm after an up and down three-yearold campaign. His stud fee set at a rock bottom $15,000. No one knew it then, but Tapit would soon grow to become one of the biggest influencers in the sport.





$1,464,421 Photos (above): Eric Kalet


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Tapit’s first crop hit the track in 2008 and it became clear, shortly after, that his true calling was in the breeding shed. He was named leading sire in 2008, ranked third on the general sire list in 2011 and finished fourth and seventh in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Then, in 2014, Tapit struck gold. His once modest $15,000 stud fee shot to $150,000 and his stud book filled with quality mares. 292 of his offspring hit the track that year, yielding 140 winners and 15 stakes winners. He took over the top spot on the North American Leading Sire standings with $16,482,151 in earnings and has dominated ever since. The conspicuous grey returned in 2015, doubling his stud fee to a jaw-dropping $300,000. He broke his earnings record by nearly $1 million, led North America with 174 winners and was the leading sire for every “Black-Type” category. Fast forward to present day and Tapit has sired 175 black-type horses, 85 stakes winners, 53 graded stakes winners, 21 Grade 1 winners and five Breeders’ Cup winners. On June 16, 2016, he cleared the $100 million mark in progeny earnings when son Cupid won the $500,000 Indiana Derby

and now totals upward of $104 million. This momentous milestone was achieved with nine crops of racing age that include notable winners such as Testa Matta, Frosted, Untapable, Tonalist, Stardom Bound, Hansen, Lani, Creator–stop to breathe for a second because there’s more–Tapiture, Cupid, Time and Motion, Mohaymen, Anchor Down, Ring Weekend, Scuba and Tahltan. It’s tough being Tapit these days, living the life at Gainesway Farm, where some of the most prominent fillies in the sport line up just to get a few minutes of his time. As most of the stallions do at Gainesway, Tapit sticks to a daily routine: “[Assuming good weather], all of our stallions spend the mornings outside. It gives them a chance to stretch their legs, graze, roll, and just be a horse,” says Ian Tapp, who handles the sales and bloodstock development at the farm. Shortly before noon, the son of Pulpit and Tap Your Heels (by Unbridled) goes back inside, where he will either be bathed or vacuumed depending on the weather and how dirty he is. During the breeding season, which runs from February to June, Tapit will cover no more than three mares per day, with scheduled coverings at 9:00AM, 2:00PM, and 6:00PM in the breeding shed. His book is limited to 125 mares, as it has been for the last few seasons. “We do this to limit Tapit’s workload so that he’s happy and healthy, and also to limit the supply of his progeny in the marketplace. The reduced number helps ensure demand for his yearlings and keeps the average sale price high to benefit owners who send mares to him,” says Tapp. After the day is done, Tapit spends the night in his stall and will start the routine over

His foals all seem to thrive in their racing days, with that added fire to compete and to get their noses in front. - Ian Tapp

Bloodstock Development, Gainesway Farm

again the next morning. “Stallions thrive on a consistent schedule, so this is what we try to achieve with all Gainesway Stallions.” Being the leading sire in North America makes Tapit popular among breeders, but also among fans, many which stop by to visit on a daily basis. “He’s definitely the most popular stallion among tour guests. He’s a once-in-a-generation stallion, so it’s special to just set eyes on him. Plus, his grey coat makes him very unique and interesting to photograph. “Unlike other stallions, he has an uncommon ability to pass along his elite genetic material, which means he sires elite runners much more frequently. He also tends to pass along his competitive spirit; his foals all seem to thrive in their training and racing days, with that added fire to compete and to get their noses in front,” explains Tapp. Described as strong and determined, Tapit is the embodiment of masculinity; an alpha stallion that commands respect. “That’s not to say he’s a mean horse, but he’s certainly a strong personality. When he is on his regular routine, he is very professional and a pleasure to be around.” On the farm, this champion sire is known for being a notorious and typical grey horse–meaning rolling in the mud is one of his favorite activities. In fact, he is pretty much expected to come in sporting some kind of unique mud pattern on his coat, sometimes ending up so muddy that he resembles a bay. Who wants to play dress-up? Tapit does! Much like Storm Cat, who passed away in 2013 having produced 108 Graded Stakes winners, Tapit has made a name for himself as one of the most prominent influences of the breed in the last half century. He is playing a significant role in racing’s history, bettering the sport one foal at a time.

Tapit pictured at Gainesway Farm, November 2016. Photo: Delaney Witbrod


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Penny & Riva Ridge The colt that saved the Meadow Stable may have played second fiddle to Secretariat, but he will always have a very special place in owner Penny Chenery’s heart. By: Nicole Schiveley


o be eclipsed is to have one’s own light be obscured by the light of another. We see this in many aspects of life. Every once in a while, we find greatness in two subjects, athletes specifically, and by the time one really begins to shine his or her light, another light, often even more illuminating, comes along. We know the story of Secretariat. We’ve seen the documentaries, the movie, and the 1973 Belmont Stakes more times than we can remember. This is not an extension of his story. This is the story of Riva Ridge, and the woman who loved them both. When Christopher Chenery’s Meadow Stable found itself in financial trouble in the early 1970’s, it was proposed by his children that the stable be sold. Christopher was no longer in a state to care for the horses or finances himself, which left his daughter Penny, both strong-willed and determined, to advocate for what was left of the stable her father so loved, refusing to sell as long as he was alive. Among the horses which remained in its ownership, was a relatively plain bay colt by the name of Riva Ridge. Not necessarily a physically-gifted, four-legged powerhouse like his big red stablemate that would come just a year after him, Riva Ridge was an unassuming colt, whose long, deer-like legs, as well as fear of other horses, would carry him to stardom. “Riva was a very timid horse. Secretariat ran to dominate and intimidate other horses. Riva ran to get away from them.” Penny tells me. His remarkable career began at Belmont Park in 1971, where he finished seventh after a troubled trip. Trainer Lucien Laurin, who would also train Secretariat, added blinkers to the nervous colt and he responded by winning his next two outings. But in his stakes debut, Riva Ridge would finish off the board, once again. That is when Penny and Lucien looked to Ron Turcotte–a young, hotshot rider– to take the reins aboard Riva Ridge. Turcotte would guide Secretariat to win the Triple Crown less than two years later. With the French-Canadian jockey aboard and eager to work through the colt’s nervousness, the team bumped up into stakes competition once again, this time finishing victoriously. Together they would go on to win the Belmont Futurity, Champagne Stakes, Laurel Futurity, and the Garden State Stakes, rounding out 1971 with Riva Ridge receiving the Eclipse Award for Champion Two-Year-Old Colt.

Photo: Riva Ridge, with Ron Turcotte up, trainer Lucien Laurin, Penny Chenery and groom Eddie Sweat (right, behind) in the 1971 Futurity | NYRA and

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In 1972, Riva continued to dominate with victories in the Hibiscus Stakes and Blue Grass Stakes, before going on to win two legs of the Triple Crown–the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes–and topping off his three-year-old campaign with a win in the Hollywood Derby. That year, Secretariat was crowned 1972 Horse of the Year and Key to the Mint was named Champion Three-Year-Old Male, both casting a shadow over Riva’s accomplishments. However, in 1973, the bay sired by First Landing and out of Iberia (by Heliopolis) went on to win Champion Older Horse after wins in the Massachusetts Handicap, Brooklyn Handicap and Stuyvesant Handicap. He was later inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. Contrary to popular belief, largely built upon Disney’s “Secretariat,” a movie which left out the colt’s existence altogether, the success of Riva Ridge saved the Meadow Stable when he became racing’s twelfth equine millionaire, winning seventeen of thirty starts. His legendary stablemate, Secretariat, would become the first Triple Crown Winner in a quarter of a century in 1973, continuing the wave of success catalyzed by the plain bay colt one spring prior. Both horses would retire to Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, where Penny would continue to visit throughout their lives. She recalls her days spent at Claiborne with her beloved horses, “I did visit them,” she said. “There was never a time when Riva wouldn’t come up to me to say hello. He always knew me. Secretariat had so many people surrounding him all of the time, I was just another one of the masses, but Riva always remembered me.” It comes as no surprise that his sudden death to Anaphylaxis at the age of sixteen was, as Penny describes, “Devastating.” Though she cherishes the memories of several Meadow Stable horses such as Hill Prince, Cicada, and of course Secretariat, there is without a doubt a sense of childlike wonder which overcomes her voice when she speaks of Riva Ridge. Those of us privileged to be in the presence of horses know we all have a “Heart Horse”–a horse who stays with us long after they leave; a horse that changes the way we see the world; a horse who teaches us something about ourselves that we never even realized. After my brief conversation with Penny, it was clear to me that Riva Ridge was her “Heart Horse”–the one she will always remember. Though Secretariat’s accomplishments will forever be what is most remembered when thinking of the Meadow Stable’s legacy, we must take a moment to realize that without a timid bay colt named Riva Ridge, there may have never been the Secretariat whom we have come to cherish. Without Penny’s unwavering belief in Riva, everything would have been different. No article and no length of time will remove the shadow which was cast on the career of Riva Ridge in the spring of 1973, but I like to think that, though he is not often spoken of, he is forever entwined with the success of Secretariat. Riva Ridge is the underlying hero and the one Penny Chenery finds impossible to forget.

visit to learn more about 1973 Triple Crown-winning owner Penny Chenery.


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Photos (top to bottom): Jockey Ron Turcotte aboard Riva Ridge, led by owner Penny Chenery and trainer Lucien Laurin in the 1971 Champagne Stakes | The NYRA and; Penny Chenery and Riva Ridge posing for a photo during the 1973 running of the Massachusetts Handicap | Ron Turcotte.

Photo: Kathryn Sharp

For The Love of Racing The founders of Equestricon share how one small idea turned into the first ever international horse racing convention and industry trade show. By: Ciara Bowen


ustin Nicholson, Kathryn Sharp, and Dan Tordjman are three very different individuals with one common goal: the continual building and maintenance of racing’s fanbase. Nicholson and Sharp, a husband and wife duo, are horse owners and breeders who also founded the successful Ninety North Racing partnership. Tordjman, along with being a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, is a correspondent with America’s Best Racing and regularly contributes to other major racing publications. They met at the 2015 January Keeneland Sale and it didn’t take long for them to discover their common ground. For all three, fan development and involvement is extremely important. That’s what prompted Tordjman to pitch what some people may have called a crazy idea–a gathering for racing fans and industry members alike. “As younger people in the [sport] we want to support it and make sure it’s there in the future. It started out as a small idea, then Katie threw out some more ideas and we had this convention,” Tordjman said. “It goes back to what we’ve been doing for a while–working in fan development and bringing in new fans and owners to the sport. Racing is often focused on one thing or another; for instance people who are really into betting. But there are more sides to racing. We have to look at ways we can bring in other people.” Racing fans have longed for opportunities to connect with each other and with members

of the industry for years. With Equestricon, “I have a lot of contacts in betting, handicapthey will finally get that possibility. ping, and media, and I know people from being “This is a chance for racing fans to get a look be- around the track,” Tordjman said. “Through hind the velvet rope, so to speak, and celebrate them I’ve been filling out the schedule and setthe sport,” said Nicholson. “It’s geared toward ting up the panels, making sure those are filled the good that racing can do and for everyone to and confirming schedules. Justin and Katie are have a fun, party atmosphere.” splitting up the other work, such as bringing in The inaugural convention promises end- sponsors and exhibitors and the support of othless entertainment and educational expansion. ers.” Among some of the attractions and events The event will be held at the Saratoga planned are live music, a racing arcade, auto- Springs City Center, located near Saratoga graph signings, meet-and-greet sessions, and Race Course, August 13 through 15. exhibitor booths. There will “There’s something about celalso be discussions about many ebrating the sport of racing in “We’re here to one of its most historic venues. aspects of the sport through panels and Q&A sessions. DisSaratoga’s special in the way it’s give the fans cussion topics will vary widely and celebrates its racmore access, to preserved from photography and social ing history,” Sharp said when media presence to breeding and bring them into asked why they chose Saratoga Thoroughbred aftercare, anSprings as the host city. the fold and other topic near and dear to the “It’s the mecca of horse racing,” show them we Tordjman added. “The eyes of founders. Sharp stated that it is imthe industry and fans are on care” portant to the founders that the Saratoga every summer. Eques- Dan Tordjman, fans know Equestricon is truly tricon gives people another reafor them. “Our big immediate is son to go and we couldn’t think co-founder to bring as much of the industry of a better location. The city has together under one roof, so that been so supportive. The people we show all of the industry support, which has of Saratoga just get it.” been significant so far. The industry wants this Fans that cannot attend Equestricon’s 2017 as much as the fans.” inauguration need not fret. “This is not a pop Nicholson, Sharp and Tordjman are also up event, a here one year and gone the next,” the organizers of the event, with each taking on said Tordjman. “We’re here to stay.” their fair share of work. Thoroughbred Today


Getting to Know:

Arrogate Exercise rider Dana Barnes calls Arrogate the most impressive horse she has ever ridden. Get to know the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner through the eyes of Barnes.

Q&A with Dana Barnes Arrogate (KY) Colt, foaled April 11, 2013 (Unbridled’s Song - Bubbler, by Distorted Humor)




17 hands



Earnings: Record: G1 Wins:

$4,084,600 6 - 5 - 0 - 1 (as of 12/31/16) Breeders’ Cup Classic Travers’ Stakes


Juddmonte Farms


Bob Baffert


Mike Smith

Favorite Treat: Records Set: Miles Traveled in 2016:

Baby peeled carrots Fastest Travers Stakes ever 1¼-mile in 1:59.36 5,595.2 (CA to NY and back)

TT: What is Arrogate’s personality like? DB: “He’s a really cool horse; he’s really laidback, always happy and is very unassuming.” TT: What is he like in the mornings? DB: “He likes going at his own pace and doesn’t like his groom hanging on to him. He bounces out of the barn, marches to the track and then he’ll just stop to check things out. It’s always his way or the highway in the mornings.” TT: What is he like in the afternoons before his races? DB: “When we first got him, he used to want to go, go, go, but he’s settled down a lot. Now he’s always so calm and relaxed. Nothing bothers him.” TT: What is it like to ride him? DB: “I’ve never ridden a horse that felt the way he feels; it’s indescribable. He floats over the ground and his acceleration is remarkable. Once you ask him to go, he goes. If we open in 12, there’s no slowing down. He’s going to pick it up every eighth. But he doesn’t pull on the reins, which I’m thankful for.” TT: How does he compare to American Pharoah? DB: “I rode American Pharoah a couple of times before he broke his maiden, but it was nothing like the first time I rode Arrogate. I was just like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this horse is unbelievable.’ I’ve never been more impressed.”

Arrogate galloping under Dana Barnes at Santa Anita Park.


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Photos: Amanda Murphy (bottom) Samantha Bussanich/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup (top)



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The field for the Breeders’ Cup Classic makes their first run down the stretch. Arrogate (far left) winning made for a climactic finish to a very thrilling year. Photo: Claudia L. Ruiz

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Photo: California Chrome and Dortmund put on a thriller in the Gr.II San Diego H., with Chrome winning by half-a-length on July 23 | Amanda Murphy

Photo: Stellar Wind (outside) defeats champion mare Beholder for the very first time in the Gr.I Clement L. Hirsch on July 30 | Amanda Murphy

Year In Review

Top 10 Races of 2016 Editor-in-Chief Claudia L. Ruiz lists the top 10 graded stakes run in the United States in 2016. Ranking is based on sportsmanship, class, and overall impact the race had on the public.


Santa Anita Derby – In my opinion, this was Exaggerator’s most impressive win all year. While the Preakness and

the Haskell were big wins for his connections, his original breakthrough performance in the slop put him on the radar.


Ashland Stakes – Weep No More wasn’t even on the screen until the quarter-pole, where she exploded and then stole the

show right at the wire from top 3-year-old fillies Carina Mia, Rachel’s Valentina and Cathryn Sophia.


Kentucky Derby – So many people said Nyquist wouldn’t get the distance, but on the first Saturday in May, the son of

Uncle Mo silenced the critics with his dominant performance at Churchill Downs.


Clement L. Hirsch – Stellar Wind caught the Queen B late on the stretch and the win earned her a lot of respect. I’m

not sure who was hungrier for the win here, Victor Espinoza or Stellar Wind? You decide.


Belmont Stakes – Creator proved a talented closer in the Arkansas Derby, but the way he nipped Destin in the Belmont

was something else. If you yelled a curse word watching this, you weren’t alone.


Coaching Club American Oaks – Making her first start at Saratoga, Songbird simply toyed with Carina Mia and then

shook her off to win by 5 ¼-lengths, like it was no big deal. One of the biggest showdowns of the summer.


Travers Stakes & TVG Pacific Classic – The way a jockey rides has a huge impact on the outcome of a race.

Arrogate ran the Travers in 1:59.36 with a 13 ½-length lead, but he was urged with the whip, while California Chrome was eased, clocking 2:00.13 in the Pacific Classic. Had Victor Espinoza ridden Chrome the way Mike Smith rode Arrogate, he could have easily cut his final time by a second. Espinoza’s much more conservative ride compared to Smith’s aggressive ride makes these two races dead even. Both were dominant performances, and neither field was stronger than the other.


Met Mile – Frosted shook loose a monster that none of us knew existed. Exploding down the lane, the son of Tapit won

by 14 ¼ lengths in 1:32.73 (the fastest Met Mile) and entirely in-hand! It was mind-blowing.


Breeders’ Cup Classic – California Chrome fans will feel the sting for decades, but this was a jockey’s race from the

start. Still, you’ve got to give it to Mike Smith, whose ride showcased Arrogate’s monstrous stride and inexorable speed.


Breeders’ Cup Distaff – If you’ve ever wondered what horse racing is all about, this is it. The heart and athleticism

Beholder and Songbird exuded on the stretch, combined with the performances by jockey-friends Gary Stevens and Mike Smith, made this one of the greatest Breeders’ Cup races of all time. Songbird lost nothing in defeat and it was the perfect send-off for Beholder, who retired a 3x Breeders’ Cup champion.

Honorable Mentions

Flower Bowl – Lady Eli beating laminitis is one thing, but the fact that she came back to win in just her second start after

San Diego H. – One of the most anticipated races between two favorites. Neck and neck down the stretch, a courageous

Florida Derby – An east coast verses west coast showdown that put two undefeated Kentucky Derby favorites head-to-

Ballerina – I love myself a closer, and the way Haveyougoneaway defeated top fillies and mares in this race had me jump-

a year-long lay-off is unbelievably inspirational. Dortmund fought hard to catch California Chrome, who simply refused to yield. head in their final prep before the first Saturday in May. Not only did Nyquist win, he also got an extra $1M for showing up. ing up and down. The win gave trainer Tom Morley his first ever Grade One win and a ticket to his first Breeders’ Cup.

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Year In Review

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A Race For The Ages Songbird and jockey Mike Smith lead the field at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on November 4. The race would provide 2016’s most epic stretch duel between six-year-old champion mare Beholder (orange and purple silks) and then undefeated three-year-old super filly Songbird. In the end, a photo would show Beholder had defeated Songbird by a sliver of a nose. It was an outrageously exciting race and the perfect send-off for Beholder, who made the final start of her career.

“That was kind of one of those races where, even though we lost, I was just so proud of the effort Songbird gave me. And I was happy for Gary because I know the win meant a lot to him, to have Beholder go out a champion like that.” - Mike Smith, Hall of Fame jockey

“It’s the race and performance I had dreamed of since I was a kid. [Beholder] proved why she’s the best I’ve ever ridden.”

- Gary Stevens, Hall of Fame jockey Photo: Danielle Murphy

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Year In Review

Photo: Fan favorite Tepin is given lots of love by her connections following her win in the Gr.II Churchill Distaff Turf Mile on May 7 | Scott Serio/Eclipse Sportswire

Photo: California Chrome leads the cavalry charge as Victor Espinoza looks back to find Beholder (orange cap) and Dortmund (blue cap) in close quarters in the Gr.I TVG Pacific Classic on August 20 | Casey Phillips/Eclipse Sportswire

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Year In Review

Photo: Sheer Drama (gold cap) puts a neck in front of Stopchargingmaria (blue cap) to win the Gr.1 Madison on April 9 | Mary Ellet

Photo: Cavorting, with Florent Geroux up, closes late to beat Forever Unbridled (blue cap) and Carrumba (red cap) in the Gr.I Ogden Phipps on June 11 | Mary Ellet

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Did You Know?

Managing Team O’Neill From the horses to the staff, Sharla Rae Sanders is responsible for making sure everything at Doug O’Neill Racing Stables runs smoothly. By: Delaney Witbrod


anaging the day-to-day operations of a racing stable may sound like a daunting challenge to most, but to Sharla Rae Sanders it’s just another day in paradise. While some may know the basic outline for the job, very few actually know what being an operations manager for a top notch stable entails. Sharla has had a passion for horses since she was a little girl. Nowadays, she wears many hats, handling all of the essentials that keep Team O’Neill running smoothly on a daily basis. Thoroughbred Today was recently able to catch up with Sharla, who openly discussed her background with horses, job responsibilities and her outlook on the future of horse racing.

TT: “First off, how did you get into horse racing?” SS: “I’ve loved horses since I was three-years-old, when I fell in love with a mean palomino pony. I read horse stories, collected Breyer horses and went riding at the local stables, but I never went to the races until I saw War Emblem win the Kentucky Derby (in 2002). Something about him struck a chord in me, I don’t know what it was, but I just wanted to know more about racehorses. In 2004, I became a sponsor of an ex-racehorse at the California Equine Retirement Foundation (CERF), which dispelled some of the notion that all racehorses are “crazy” and can’t be trained to learn something new. At the time, I worked in the mortgage industry managing three departments and 56 employees until the implosion in 2005. I would set aside some money to bet and went to the races at Santa Anita on weekends 25

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as a stress reliever, enjoying the beauty of the Thoroughbreds and the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains.”

TT: “How did you join Doug O’Neill Racing?” SS: “After a few years of volunteering with CERF, I went out on my own to help rehome horses. First I was just a fan of Lava Man and was somewhat familiar with the O’Neill barn. Doug was one of the first trainers that utilized me to rehome his horses. I did that for a number of years and formed a friendship with him. Back then, I had no idea what went into training a horse to get to a race; the juggernaut that is a trainer’s livelihood and all the moving parts is unbelievable. I joined the team in October 2011 when an opportunity became available and the position grew to what it is today, which is Operations Manager.”

TT: “What is it like to be a part of Team O’Neill?” SS: “Team O’Neill employs a team of 60 and we are a very solid team. Doug fosters a positive work environment and encourages input from all levels so that everyone feels they have a stake in the success of the barn. Doug is one of the most generous and humble people you will ever meet. I can’t imagine handling all of the facets of my job without such a well-rounded work environment. We have a lot of fun, work hard and also play hard. Our motto is “Why Not Us.”

TT: “What are your responsibilities as Operations Manager?”

SS: “My day is a usual routine, but there is a rhythm to it I really like.

My responsibilities are to assist Doug from an administrative aspect; run our social media accounts, manage our website, marketing, and sponsorships, do monthly billing, process payroll, handle paperwork and computer filings. We currently have about 100 horses in training between two tracks. I do the stall applications, stakes nominations, communicate with the vet, coordinate shipping within and outside of the U.S., let owners know when their horses are running and set up track accommodations for them on race days. Horses going to layup farms leave with surgical instructions and notes from our vet, along with shoeing information. I compile a list of equipment each horse will run in and give it to the foreman on race days, and work to find good homes for our horses that are ready to retire. Whatever Doug, Leandro, Steve or Dennis need taken care of, I’m there to get it done so they can do what they do best: train and win.”

TT: “What is the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome to get to where you are today?”

SS: “I think the biggest challenge for most women in the racing industry is being taken seriously. In my opinion it’s still a “boys club,” and you have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. Through my work rehoming, I knew some people in the industry, so I was accepted in Doug’s barn fairly easily. I would say that my years of mid-level management, sales, administration, marketing and building my own business served me well.”

TT: “There are people that believe racing is cruel and that the horses are not seen as living, breathing beings. As a horse lover

that manages a barn of racehorses, what can you tell people that are skeptical about the sport and its practices?”

SS: “Find a trainer that will allow you into their barn to see how well the horses are cared for. Now, I am not naive and know that not all trainers are great–there are exceptions to everything. However, you have to see the grooms that live and breathe the horses in their care 24/7 and the bonds that are formed between them. I’m around horses that are given care most people would be lucky to have, but I’m fortunate to be on a top level circuit. The industry as a whole has come a long way in the last 15 years. Accreditation programs that help fund racehorse retirement and regulations on tracks with anti-slaughter policies grow each year. The industry has much to improve, but the transparency has expanded. Those that say it’s a cruel, heartless industry often don’t take the time, nor do they care to learn what really goes on in our sport. My advice is to come to the track, watch the horses and meet the connections (owners, trainers, jockeys). Educating yourself is the first step in garnering an informed opinion.”

TT: “What do you love most about your job at Doug O’Neill Racing?”

SS: “Seeing the horses each day. The little girl in me can’t believe I get to work with these amazing athletes that give you everything they have, day in and day out. It’s like falling in love over and over again.” Photos (from left to right): Sanders and O’Neill retired racehorse turned lead pony, Lava Man; Sanders posing with an unnamed full brother of Ralis. Photos courtesy Doug O’Neill Racing

The Dark Knight Rises

Photo Courtesy: Michelle Motyl

His career on the racetrack was short and unsuccessful, but trainer Emily Mode knew Marcus Furius was destined to become a top athlete. Just not on the racetrack. By: Claudia L. Ruiz


oaled April 7, 2011 in the sunny state of California, Marcus Furius was one of 25,000 Thoroughbred foals registered in North America by the Jockey Club that year. And, like most Thoroughbreds, he was bred with the hopes of one day becoming a winning racehorse. He would grow to become a top equine athlete, just not the kind he was intended to be. Then trainer Emily Mode was working to make a name for herself on the competitive SoCal racing circuit and purchased the young Fury, for short, with a friend. “He was a character,” Mode recalled. “In the barn, he was always very playful and had a great personality. But on the track he would run bullet works and was very aggressive in his gallop. He was so talented and always wanted to please.” His bullet works would never translate to his actual races and a mysterious lameness would surface several times that scared Mode half to death. “He would warm up like a million bucks, gallop tremendously and then wouldn’t be able to walk when he pulled up.” It came without warning and would be gone 48 hours later. Upon returning to good health, he had two unsuccessful starts and attempted one last time. But shortly after arriving to Los Alamitos racetrack, Mode made the decision to retire him. “Marcus was the kind of horse that didn’t know how to run without giving it his all. He wouldn’t acknowledge pain until it became unbearable.

He had to ride in the ambulance one morning after showing no signs of discomfort during our gallop. That’s when I decided to stop. I didn’t want him to get hurt.” Mode called a friend, and an ad, complete with photos and videos, was put up on Within weeks, Michelle Motyl, a hunter/jumper trainer based out of the San Diego Equestrian Center, welcomed Fury into her barn. “I really liked his conformation,” Motyl explained of Fury. “But he was physically immature, so I didn’t know what to expect.” Given time, Fury began to fill out and developed more leg once he was gelded. The greatness Emily Mode had seen in him since day one was finally coming to surface. He was just never meant to be a racehorse. Fury could not have ended up in better hands as Motyl grew up galloping racehorses at Pleasanton Racetrack and has about fifteen years of experience retraining off-the-trackThoroughbreds (OTTB’s). Several years ago, she worked with a gentleman by the name of Blake Shelton (not the singer), who used to be the go-to guy before organizations like CARMA and CANTER were established. “I would ride the Thoroughbreds for him on the weekends and he would work on rehoming them.” Today, Motyl takes a lot of OTTB’s into her training program. “I think they’re becoming more attractive these days because of all the attention they’re getting on social media. It’s so important that people know there are other

careers available to them after they’re done racing.” As for Marcus Furius, who is just coming up on turning six, life has never been better, thanks to Emily Mode for realizing his calling was not on the track and Michelle Motyl for giving him a chance to thrive in a second career. He is registered with the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF)–the national federation responsible for maintaining order in horse sports–under the name Dark Knight. Back in November 2016, Fury was at the Las Vegas National Horse Show, where he placed second (out of 26) in the Children’s Jumpers Championship, eighth (out of 42) in the 1.15m Jumpers, and fifth in the $5,000 Children’s Jumper Classic - NAL Final, all under Michelle Motyl’s 14-year-old student Demi Zarlin. “He’s just turned into this great athlete,” Motyl said of her four-legged pupil slated to compete in the six-year-old Young Jumpers division on the competitive “A” circuit in 2017. “I would love to see more hunter/jumper trainers working to get OTTB’s back into the show ring as much as I see them working with Warmbloods,” Motyl said. “We can’t help every single horse, but we can help one horse at a time. If we focus on working together, we can make a difference.” To learn more about Michelle Motyl visit

Thoroughbred Today


Photo: Amanda Murphy

Thoroughbred Today January 2017  

2016 will go down as one of the most epic years in horse racing. Relive some of the moments in the 2016 year-end issue of Thoroughbred Today...

Thoroughbred Today January 2017  

2016 will go down as one of the most epic years in horse racing. Relive some of the moments in the 2016 year-end issue of Thoroughbred Today...