Americans Drawn Midfield In Saudi Cup

Courtesy of the TDN

Maximum Security in Saudi Arabia | Saudi Cup

By Jessica Martini

They traveled thousands of miles to get there, but the four main American contenders will all start within feet of each other in Saturday’s inaugural $20-million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh after post positions were drawn Wednesday evening in Saudi Arabia. Bloom Racing Stable, Madaket Stables and Allen Racing’s champion filly Midnight Bisou (Midnight Lute) will break from post six, while 2019 champion 3-year-old Maximum Security (New Year’s Day) will break from post seven and Bob Baffert stablemates Mucho Gusto (Much Macho Man) and McKinzie (Street Sense) drew posts eight and nine, respectively.

Also representing the U.S., Juddmonte Farm’s Tacitus (Tapit), who has impressed while training in the desert this week, drew post two.

“We blew him out Tuesday,” Riley Mott, deputizing for his father, trainer Bill Mott, said Wednesday. “He went in a pretty snappy time of :35 with a gallop-out of :48 3/5. He looked like he was galloping through the stretch. It didn’t seem he was going that fast, but good horses will do that. He’s generally not that aggressive of a work horse and he was by himself. Given those factors, it was very impressive.”

Tacitus, who made a habit of finding trouble for himself, while consistently hitting the board, in most of last year’s major sophomore races, will be making his first start since finishing third in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup last September at Belmont Park.

The gray colt, a son of Juddmonte’s champion Close Hatches (First Defence), has acclimated well since shipping to Saudi Arabia last week, according to the 28-year-old Mott.

“He settled in immediately,” Mott said. “He’s very professional in that regard. His appetite has been good, his temperature has been good. Legs are clean. He’s moving sound. He seems to get over the track very well. When the horse gets over it, he doesn’t seem to be ‘spinning his wheels’ or struggling. It seems like a good surface as far as I can tell.”

While Midnight Bisou, Maximum Security, and McKinzie will all be making their 2020 debuts in the 1800-meter Saudi Cup, Mucho Gusto is coming off an authoritative victory in the Jan. 25 GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational.

Trainer Bob Baffert, who was on hand trackside in Riyadh for the first time Wednesday morning, said he has been impressed by the 4-year-old’s recent progress which culminated with the break-out win at Gulfstream Park last month.

“Mucho Gusto has really changed a lot,” Baffert said. “These last three months I’ve seen a big change in him. He’s filled out. He’s just changed for the better. You could tell from that last work right before the Pegasus Cup Invitational a light went on in him. The way he ran. He’s always shown up. He’s always run hard. He’ll be right there.”

Mucho Gusto will be making his second start for Prince Faisal Bin Khaled after beginning his career for Michael Lund Petersen, for whom he won four Grade III races at two and three.

Another veteran of the Pegasus World Cup card going postward in the Saudi Cup is the globe-trotting Irish mare Magic Wand (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), who drew post 12 in the 14-horse field. The 5-year-old, campaigned by Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier and Derrick Smith, has won or placed in Group 1 races in Australia, Hong Kong, the U.S., Ireland, and France. She will be making her first start on dirt following a runner-up effort in the GI Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational.

Godolphin’s Benbatl (GB) (Dubawi {Ire}), a Group 1 winner on three continents, took to the dirt with aplomb in his most recent start, winning the G2 Al Maktoum Challenge Round 2 at Meydan Feb. 6. The 6-year-old will break from post three Saturday.

“It would mean a lot for us to win,” trainer Saeed Bin Suroor said. “It is the first ever Saudi Cup and the first big international race in Saudi. It is a very important race and would be important for us to see him run well and win. He has been a very good Group 1 horse for us and very versatile. I’m very happy with him and I think he will give a good run.”

The Saudi Cup will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 at Noon ET (DIRECTV ch. 219, Dish ch.150) with the undercard airing on TVG.The Saudi Cup will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 at Noon ET (DIRECTV ch. 219, Dish ch.150) with the undercard airing on TVG.

1 – Gold Dream
2 – Tacitus
3 – Benbatl
4 – North America
5 – Gronkowski
6 – Midnight Bisou
7 – Maximum Security
8 – Mucho Gusto
9 – McKinzie
10 – Chrysoberyl
11 – Great Scot
12 – Magic Wand
13 – Capezzano
14 – Mjjack

MGSP CHESS CHIEF takes allowance at the Fair Grounds

Courtesy of the TDN

7th-Fair Grounds, $46,000, Alw (NW1X)/Opt. Clm ($17,500), 2-24, 4yo/up, 1 1/16m, 1:43.57, ft.
CHESS CHIEF (c, 4, Into Mischief–Un Blessed, by Mineshaft), second in last year=s GIII West Virginia Derby and third in the GIII Oklahoma Derby, was most recently second over this track and trip in a Jan. 4 optional claimer. The prohibitive 1-10 favorite settled within striking distance along the rail through a quarter in :24.45 and a half in :48.42. Tipped out three wide at the top of the lane, the bay colt forged to the lead in upper stretch and powered clear to win by 4 3/4 lengths. Irish Wind (Daaher) was second. Chess Chief RNA’d for $145,000 as a FTSAUG yearling.

Morgan’s Ford Farm purchased Un Blessed, in foal to Sidney’s Candy, for $110,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November sale. Her Ghostzapper colt sold for $150,000 as a weanling at the 2018 Keeneland November sale and for $430,000 at last year’s Keeneland September sale. The mare, a daughter of Grade I winner Plenty of Grace (Roberto), also has a yearling filly by Gun Runner and was bred last year to Ghostzapper. Plenty of Grace also produced the dam of multiple graded stakes winners Diabolical (Artax) and What a Name (Ire) (Mr. Greeley), as well as the dam of Grade I placed Grace Anatomy (Aldebaran).
Lifetime Record: MGSP, 15-2-3-2, $314,830
O-Estate of JamesJ. Coleman, Jr.
B-Morgan’s Ford Farm (VA)
T-Dallas Stewart

Kirkwood Keeps Gallop-Only Program at Gulfstream Sale

Anne M. Eberhardt

Four previous sale horses asked only to gallop have become black-type performers.

Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables will continue to only gallop its entrants during the under tack show for The Gulfstream Sale as the stable has done for the past two years, rather than push the juveniles through a timed workout.

Elser launched this experiment in 2018 at Fasig-Tipton’s select 2-year-olds in training sale at Gulfstream Park following a conversation during the Saratoga Race Course meet with a friend who proposed pinhooking yearlings at the 2-year-olds in training sale without pushing the young horses during the under tack show.

Previous “gallop-only” prospects, offered only at The Gulfstream Sale, had been cataloged as part of the Kirkwood Stables consignment but also under the names Midway Gallop or Gulfstream Gallop so buyers knew what to expect. This year the Gulfstream entrants have been cataloged only under Kirkwood Stables, so Elser wants to be sure buyers know the gallop-only program is still in place.

“We have had very positive results at the sales and on the racetrack,” Elser said. “Maybe we leave a little money on the table, but we are selling every horse and reducing the injury rate.”

During the first two years of the program, Kirkwood offered 14 juveniles, of which eight were sold in the ring for an average of $121,250. The others that did not meet their reserve prices all found new homes through private sales.

Out of these 14 horses, 11 went on to start in a race, and six became winners. Four of the horses became black-type performers, led by winner Splashy Kisses, a daughter of Blame  who was second in the Pocahontas Stakes (G2) and third in the Sweet Life Stakes (G3), and Defense Wins, a son of Flatter  who was third in last year’s Runhappy Del Mar Futurity (G1). Both of these graded stakes horses are trained by Doug O’Neill. Kirkwood also sold stakes-placed winners Irish Hustle, a daughter of Data Link, and Wicked Slider, a gelding by Wicked Strong .

“The better our results on the racetrack, the better our sales results will continue to be,” Elser said.

At the upcoming April 1 auction at Gulfstream, Kirkwood will offer the following horses as part of its gallop-only program:

Mucho Gusto Tops First NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll

Courtesy of the Paulick Report

Mucho Gusto, under Irad Ortiz Jr., in the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle after the Pegasus World Cup

After starting his year off with a handy victory in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes on January 25, the Bob Baffert-trained Mucho Gusto finds himself on top once more in the initial National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Top Thoroughbred Poll of 2020, the NTRA announced today.

In his 4-year-old debut, Mucho Gusto earned the first Grade 1 victory of his career when he drew off for a 4 ½-length victory over Mr Freeze in the 1 1/8-miles Pegasus. The chestnut son of Mucho Macho Man was a multiple graded stakes winner as a sophomore but took a big step forward in his first outing since September – one that was noticed by voters who gave him 12 first-place votes and 224 total points.

Champion Midnight Bisou, who is gearing up to make her seasonal debut in the $20 million Saudi Cup on February 29, ranked second in the poll with 4 first-place votes and 188 points. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Midnight Bisou earned the 2019 Eclipse Award for Champion Older Dirt Female following a campaign that saw her win seven of eight starts.Maximum Security, the reigning champion 3-year-old male, received 11 first-place votes and 186 points to sit third. Like Mucho Gusto and Midnight Bisou, Maximum Security is also slated to make his next start in the Saudi Cup.

Grade 1 winner McKinzie, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 2, ranks fourth with 1 first-place vote and 156 points. Zulu Alpha, winner of the Pegasus World Cup Turf, is fifth with 89 points followed by champion Covfefe (75 points), Code of Honor (57) and Grade 1 winner Firenze Fire (45).

Graded stakes winners Silver Dust and Warrior’s Charge each have 40 points to round out the top ten.

The NTRA Top Thoroughbred polls are the sport’s most comprehensive surveys of experts. Every week eligible journalists and broadcasters cast votes for their top 10 horses, with points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. All horses that have raced in the U.S., are in training in the U.S., or are known to be pointing to a major event in the U.S. are eligible for the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll.

The NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll concludes November 9 after the running of the Breeders’ Cup.

With the Road to the Kentucky Derby starting to heat up, the flashy Tiz the Law stands as the one his classmates are chasing. Trained by Barclay Tagg, Tiz the Law sits atop the first edition of the NTRA Top 3-Year-Old Poll with 17 first-place votes and 252 points following his season-opening triumph in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes on February 1.

Tiz the Law captured the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes last October and suffered his lone blemish in four career starts when he finished third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes on November 30.

Unbeaten Thousand Words, winner of the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in his sophomore debut, earned 4 first-place votes and 199 points to rank second with stablemate Nadal (2 first-place votes, 141 points) in third.

Baffert trainees occupy three of the top four positions on the NTRA 3-Year-Old Poll with Grade 3 Sham Stakes winner Authentic (1 first-place vote, 128 points) sitting fourth. Dennis’ Moment, who went off as the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is fifth with 1 first-place vote and 125 points followed by Risen Star Stakes winner Mr. Monomoy (112 points).

Sole Volante, winner of the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes, is seventh with 103 points followed by Independence Hall (70 points), Maxfield (2 first-place votes, 66 points) and Silver Prospector (1 first-place vote, 59 points).

The Top 3-Year-Old Poll concludes June 8 after the Belmont Stakes.

Mucho Gusto Works Toward Saudi Cup

Mucho Gusto was a $625,000 two-year-old purchase at Timonium prepared and  consigned by Kirkwood
Mucho Gusto, who debuted for his new owner, Prince Faisal Bin Khaled, in the Pegasus, worked six furlongs on a fast track for trainer Bob Baffert. The 4-year-old Mucho Macho Man  colt was timed in 1:11 4/5, the fastest time of seven at the distance.

Campaigned by Michael Lund Petersen through his 3-year-old season, Mucho Gusto also placed in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) and the Runhappy Travers Stakes (G1).

The Saudi Cup will be run at 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) at King Abdulaziz Racetrack. Both horses have won at the grade 1 level at the distance

MUCHO GUSTO breezes – preparing for $20 million Saudi Cup

HRH Prince Faisal Bin Khaled’s Mucho Gusto recorded his first breeze since winning the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes Presented by Runhappy (G1) with a five-furlong workout at Santa Anita Park in 1:02 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.Mucho Gusto, meanwhile, has been pointed by Baffert for the $20 million Saudi Cup at King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Saudi Arabia Feb. 29.

Stakes placed JUS LIVELY wins 2nd allowance in a row – 4 wins in 6 starts!

Recently 2nd in the Crescent City Derby, last out, JUS LIVELY (Paddy O’Prado) won in allowance company going a mile and seventy on the dirt at the Fair Grounds. Racing back at the same distance and track she overcame being boxed in on the rail and cleared to win for the 2nd time in a row. She has now won 4 of her 6 starts plus a stakes placing. The four year old filly is owned by Ellen Addison  and is trained by  Steven M. Asmussen. She has earned over $115,000.

NYRA Manager of Racing Operations Bruce Johnstone Dies

We here at Kirkwood will miss him,
Bruce Johnstone
Bruce Johnstone

Coglianese Photos

California native moved from training career to work for New York Racing Association.

At NYRA, Johnstone served as the bridge between management, horsemen, and riders, working with everyone from the stewards to jockeys, the gate crew, outriders, and anyone else connected to racing. Imposing at 6’4″ and with a deep, baritone voice, Johnstone stood out for his commanding presence at the track—and for his knowledge, wise counsel, experience, and diplomacy in times of stress.

“Bruce was a true horseman who used the lessons of a lifetime to make all of us better in so many big and small ways,” said NYRA CEO and president Dave O’Rourke. “He was a man of impeccable integrity who was a beloved member of the Thoroughbred racing community here in New York and around the country. Bruce was universally admired for all the right reasons and we will miss him every day.”

NYRA created Johnstone’s position when he joined the organization in 2007. “If I’m talking to a trainer, I know what they’re saying,” he said of his duties in a 2018 interview. “I’ll know how to address a concern or an issue. I have an office, but that’s not where I live.”

Instead, Johnstone could often be found in the paddock, on the edge of the track, the backstretch or the barn area, navigating between groups and attending to any and all issues. Those issues could range from something as basic as a sauna without hot water to pop-up decisions on whether to postpone or cancel racing in poor weather conditions and ensuring the horses were adequately hydrated and sponged down in hot weather.

In 1974, Johnstone went to work at the Phipps Stable with accomplished trainer John Russell and Hall of Famer Angel Penna. Johnstone took out his own training license in 1980. Among his career highlights were wins with Secrettame in the 1983 Shirley Jones Stakes at Gulfstream Park and Buck Aly in the 1986 Bay Shore Stakes (G2). Secrettame, a daughter of Triple Crown winner Secretariat, was owned by Venezuelan owner Jose “Pepe” Sahagun and his Villa Blanca Farms.

While at NYRA, Johnstone also served from 2018-19 as chairman of the famed Aiken Training Center in Aiken, S.C.

Born and raised in Santa Barbara, Calif., Johnstone attended the University of California at Berkeley on an athletic scholarship as a swimmer and a water polo player, and also played rugby. After earning a degree in International Relations and Diplomacy, Johnstone was recruited by the U.S. Coast Guard for the Special Coastal Forces Program, an elite group of college graduates who had been Division 1 athletes.

Johnstone then ran a successful steakhouse, Chuck’s of Hawaii, in his native Santa Barbara, a job in which he worked his way into an ownership stake. The restaurant celebrated 50 years in business in 2017 and remains open.

It was through time spent with his biological father, Charles “Sandy” Johnstone, a New York-based veterinarian, that he turned to horse racing. Visiting his father in both New York and Kentucky, Johnstone, in his mid-20s, became smitten with Thoroughbreds to the point where he made it his career change.

“I got the bug with horses,” Johnstone said in the 2018 interview. “It must have been the pedigree. So I packed up my orange VW van and my two dogs and headed to Kentucky.”

In 1972, he joined trainer Victor J. “Lefty” Nickerson at Elmendorf Stable, where he was a part of one of racing’s biggest upsets, Big Spruce’s victory over Forego in the 1974 Marlboro Cup at Belmont Park.

“I live racing seven days a week,” Johnstone said in 2018. “And when I go to the neighborhood bar to get away from it, I find that people want to talk about what I do—not their jobs, but mine. That’s always fun—and it makes me realize how much I enjoy this life.”

Johnstone is survived by his daughter, Kelly Johnstone.

Details on a memorial service will be announced when available.