CHESS CHIEF named Virginia Horse of the Year

Purchased as a yearling at Saratoga by Kirkwood for trainer Dallas Stewart and the Estate of James Coleman
Chess Chief (outside) wins the 2021 Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds
Chess Chief (outside) wins the 2021 Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds

Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges, Jr.

The annual Virginia Breeder’s Awards program has been scheduled at Great Meadow Friday May 6th—the evening before the Virginia Gold Cup Races—in a return to more of a “normal times” format for the first time since 2019. The event will take place in a trackside tent on Member’s Hill overlooking the deep stretch and finish line areas where steeplechase horses are set to compete the next afternoon. A list of awards to be presented that night follows.

Horse-of-the-Year honors go to Chess Chief, who was also recognized as Virginia-Bred Older Horse Champion based on two stakes wins and $446,290 in earnings. The Dallas Stewart trainee struck early and late in the year, connecting at Fair Grounds twice in the Grade 2 New Orleans Stakes March 20 and in the Tenacious Stakes December 26. Bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm, the 6-year-old Into Mischief horse heads into spring with $865,338 in winnings overall.

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KIRKWOOD EXCLUSIVE!

saxonSelling as Hip 413 at OBS March – likely the only available 2-year-old in the US by Coolmore’s G1 and classic mile winning SAXON WARRIOR.  SAXON WARRIOR is a son of  Japanese super stallion DEEP IMPACT out of a G1 stakes winning Champion Galileo daughter. The Kirkwood colt is out of a graded stakes-winning Smart Strike mare. Deep black-type U.S. family – 2nd dam a SW, 3rd dam a multiple graded stakes producing 1/2 sis to ALLEGED.

Kirkwood is proud to have worked with Ambassador Mack on the Man O’ War project.

Earle I. Mack

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters (NTWAB) announced today that the honorable Earle I. Mack, who has burnished a remarkable career serving his country and the Thoroughbred industry through racing, breeding and philanthropic causes, has been selected to receive the Eclipse Award of Merit in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding achievement.

Mack, 83, will receive the Award of Merit at the 51st annual Eclipse Awards ceremony, honoring racing’s champions of 2021 on Thursday, Feb. 10 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. Winners in 17 horse and human categories will be announced at Santa Anita and live on TVG, and other outlets, beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT. The evening will culminate with the announcement of the 2021 Horse of the Year.

Eclipse Awards tickets and information on the awards show, dinner and party is available at the NTRA website https://www.ntra.com/eclipse-awards/.

Ambassador Mack, from Florida, has enjoyed a career of varied accomplishments in business, government, the military, the arts, and Thoroughbred racing. He served as the United States Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Finland in 2004 and 2005 under President George W. Bush.

Ambassador Mack served in the U.S. Army Infantry as a Second Lieutenant while on active duty, and as a First Lieutenant, U.S. Army Infantry and Military Police.

Ambassador Mack has been breeding and racing Thoroughbreds since 1963, and has bred or raced 25 stakes winners, including 1993 Canadian Triple Crown winner Peteski, 2002 Brazilian Triple Crown winner Roxinho, November Snow and Mr. Light. He has also served the industry through his participation on numerous endeavors. He was a member of the Board of Trustees for the New York Racing Association (1990–2004), Chairman of the New York State Racing Commission (1983–1989), Member of the New York State Thoroughbred Racing Capital Investment Fund (1987–1996) and a Member, Board of Directors, of the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund Corp. (1983–1989). He served as Senior Advisor on Racing and Breeding in New York State for the Thoroughbred Industry to Governors Mario M. Cuomo and George E. Pataki. The Earle I. Mack Thoroughbred Champion Award has been presented annually since 2011 to an individual for outstanding efforts and influence on Thoroughbred racehorse welfare, safety, and retirement.

“This is a distinct honor. Since college I have devoted my life to the equine industry. I love the horse. I love our veterans who have fought hard for the survival of our freedoms and the democracy we embrace as Americans. I am grateful for and would like to give special thanks to the NTRA and the Eclipse selection committee for this special recognition,” said Mack. “I am also immensely grateful to those in the industry who have supported my vision for the Man O’ War Project, most especially The Jockey Club.

“The health, safety and welfare of our horses and the integrity of our sport have been at the center of my advocacy over the years. I’m very heartened by the new HISA legislation which will most certainly inure to the greater good of our industry.”

Ambassador Mack has been a long-time supporter of numerous equine charities, including the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation, and has inspired others to do good works through his establishment of the Ogden “Dinny” Phipps Award, given annually to someone who has performed meritorious service to racing.

Mack’s most recent cause, as founder of The Man O’ War Project, has allowed him to combine his interest and passion for military veterans and retired racehorses. The focus of the project is to search and discover effective treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in wartime veterans. The Man O’ War Project team is comprised of researchers from the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute (Columbia University Irving Medical Center) with expertise in PTSD, assessment, development and testing of psychotherapeutic treatments, namely Equine-Assisted Therapy (EAT), which is a widely used alternative treatment for many people struggling with mental health and life problems, including veterans.

The initial goal of the Man O’ War Project (MOW) was to examine the effectiveness of EAT for military veterans and military personnel with PTSD. Ambassador Mack approached his friend, David Shaffer, MD, and soon a team was formed at Columbia led by Dr. Prudence Fisher and Dr. Yuval Neria. The project was the first-ever university-led research study to examine the effectiveness of equine-assisted therapy in treating veterans with PTSD. The promising clinical and MRI results have been published in three highly regarded medical journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Building on the success of the study, the Man O’ War Center at Columbia University is under development with the mission to train others in the EAT field in the Man O’ War protocol, expand access to the therapy for veterans, and adapt the protocol for children and adolescents.

“Ambassador Mack’s contributions to the Thoroughbred industry go well beyond his successful breeding and racing operations,” said James L. Gagliano, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Jockey Club. “His support of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, creation of the Dinny Phipps Award, and contributions to the Man O’ War Project exemplify what the Eclipse Award of Merit represents, and he is well-deserving of it. We are honored to have him as a member of The Jockey Club.”

Among his many other endeavors, Ambassador Mack served on the board of directors of the New York City Ballet. He is also a former co-chairman of the board of the Dance Theater of Harlem and a former member of the New York Governor’s Committee on Scholastic Achievement. He was chairman and CEO of the New York State Council of the Arts in New York from 1996 to 1999, being named Chairman Emeritus upon his retirement.

Ambassador Mack and his wife Carol have two children, Andrew and Schuyler.

The Eclipse Awards are sponsored by Roberts Communications, Four Roses Bourbon, Daily Racing Form, Breeders’ Cup, FanDuel Group, The Stronach Group and 1/ST Racing, Santa Anita Park, TVG, Dean Dorton, Stonestreet Farm, Keeneland, Racetrack Television Network, Jackson Family Wines, Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, Hallway Feeds and the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association.

The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.

BELUGA wins in Hong Kong

Beluga was bought as a yearling by Kirkwood/ Joe Miller in New Zealand and sold through Sam Beatson at the NZB Ready to Run

 Courtesy of HK Racing

David Hall’s Beluga takes advantage of slow pace to upstage Classic Mile contenders

The five-year-old enjoys the gun run in transit as The Irishman, Master Delight and Ima Single Man fail to enhance their claims for the HK$12 million feature

by Tom Biddington

The likes of Fantastic Treasure and Packing Victory can sleep easy – the Classic Mile picture remains much the same after a handful of potential contenders were upstaged by Beluga in the Class Two Chek Keng Handicap (1,600m) at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Punters had focused in on four-year-old series hopefuls Master Delight ($2.2) and The Irishman ($4.4) pre-race, expecting the talented types to lay down a marker ahead of the Classic Mile in three weeks’ time, but they were no match for David Hall’s consistent gelding, who took full advantage of a dawdling pace to secure his first Class Two victory at $5.2.

The Tony Cruz-trained Ima Single Man – another heading towards the Classic Mile – found the lead unchallenged and got away with a pedestrian speed early, going through the first 800m 2.5 seconds outside standard.

It essentially turned the race into a 400m sprint home, significantly disadvantaging those towards the rear but playing into the hands of Beluga and his jockey Matthew Chadwick, who peeled off the heels of the early leader to come away and win by a length and a quarter.

Ima Single Man held on for second and the eye-catching run came from Francis Lui Kin-wai’s The Irishman, who missed the start but rattled home in the last section in a brilliant 21.40 seconds to snatch third from Master Delight.

The lack of speed was the talking point after the race and trainer John Size thought it brought a few undone, including his charge Master Delight, and is hopeful things change for the Classic Mile, where big guns like Fantastic Treasure and Packing Victory await.

“The pacing is going to be a problem – most horses need races run to suit. He’s got plenty of friends that need the same thing so we’ve just got to work through that for the moment,” the 11-time champion trainer said.

“In slow-run races sometimes you don’t see the best of them so I’m hoping he’ll go better when there’s a true tempo.”

Of the other Classic Series prospects, Cruz confirmed Ima Single Man will press onto the Classic Mile, while the slow pace didn’t suit either New Zealand Derby winner Rocket Spade or S J Tourbillon, who both finished at the tail of the field.

But to the winner go the spoils and Hall was delighted to see Lady Luck smile upon Beluga after the five-year-old had been lumped with double-digit barriers in nine of his 15 previous starts.

“How many times has he just run unbelievable races from those wide gates? To see him finally get the charmed run and deliver like he did was pretty fitting considering the way things went with him last year,” Hall said.

“He’s in a good place at the moment and he’s probably not done with. Now is a good time to experiment with him – he’s by Tavistock, they can run a trip and if you take up those box-seat positions in slow-run races it’s a big advantage.

Beluga’s connections enjoy the win.Beluga’s connections enjoy the win.

“I’ll put him in an 1,800m next time and then see whether he becomes a handicap Queen Mother [Memorial Cup] horse or something.”

Chadwick had a similar sentiment.

“He was in the right spot, right time. He also got the run of the race today and he got there,” said Chadwick, who also tasted success earlier on the card with Paul O’Sullivan’s August Moon.

“He’s been threatening to do that for a while. [It’s] good to get a double.”