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Atchata First Winner for Louisiana Sire Apriority

The 2-year-old filly broke her maiden June 15 in her second start.

Heiligbrodt’s Atchata overcame a stumble at the start to score by 1 1/2 lengths in a June 15 maiden special weight on the turf to become the first winner for freshman sire Apriority.

Despite the stumble, the 2-year-old filly settled just off the pace behind Too Foofoo for You, who took the field through a quarter-mile in :22.08. Coming off the turn in the six-furlong race, Atchata rolled to the front unchallenged and caught the timer at :44.77 for the half-mile. Pulling away in the stretch, she finished the distance in 1:08.75 over the firm turf course.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Atchata was purchased under Heiligbrodt’s East Hickman Racing for $85,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale, where Robert Brewer consigned her. She was bred in Louisiana by 4M Ranch out of the Stormy Atlantic  mare Sweet Jackie Jo.

Apriority raced from age 3 to 7 and won the 2011 Mr. Prospector Stakes (G3) as a 4-year-old. The son of Grand Slam retired with a record of 6-9-3 from 36 starts. Four of his second-place finishes were in stakes, including a nose difference in the 2011 Churchill Downs Stakes (G2). He also finished second to Morning Line  in that year’s Carter Handicap (G1).

Standing at Elite Thoroughbreds in Louisiana, Apriority has a 2018 stud fee of $2,000.

Victory Trip First Winner, Starter for Guilt Trip

The 2-year-old colt won by 7 3/4 lengths June 13.

 

Victory Trip went gate-to-wire June 13 to represent Guilt Trip‘s first winner from the stallion’s first starter.

Victory Trip, a 2-year-old colt bred by Terry Adcock in Louisiana, broke on top to set fractions of :23.06 and :46.71 through a half-mile and finished out the 4 1/2-furlong maiden test in a final time of :53.17 over a fast track.

With no challengers in the remaining field of four, Victory Trip sped to a 7 3/4-length score.

The colt was purchased at the 2017 Equine Sales of Louisiana yearling sale by his connections for $20,000. He is out of the Songandaprayer mare Anne Margaret.

Guilt Trip, a 9-year-old son of Pulpit, was campaigned by Gary and Mary West and trainers Chad Brown, Bob Baffert, and Wayne Catalano. After breaking his maiden in his second start with Brown and following it with an allowance-level score, he was unable to make the grade as a 3-year-old. But he returned the following year to take the Strub Stakes (G2) with Baffert.

Bred by Winsong Farm in Kentucky, Guilt Trip is out of the Quiet American mare Mysterieuse Etoile. From two crops the stallion has 67 registered foals to date.

Guilt Trip stands at Jay Adcock’s Red River Farms in Louisiana for $2,500.

Study Narrows Focus on How Furosemide Works

Learning how the medication works could lead to alternative treatments of EIPH.

A recently published study in Comparative Exercise Physiology found a relationship between the administration of the medication furosemide, used to prevent exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, and an enzyme that affects the pressure within the blood vessels in a horse’s lungs.

The relationship potentially points toward new avenues to explore regarding the treatment of EIPH in Thoroughbred racehorses.

The study, conducted at Gávea Racecourse in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, analyzed post-race blood samples from 73 horses over eight race days. Of the 73 horses, 47 had been treated with 250 mg of furosemide before their race and 26 were not medicated.

These samples were then tested for levels of angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), a potent vasoconstrictor that when active contributes to higher blood pressure. Several studies have affirmed furosemide’s effectiveness in reducing incidences of EIPH, but how the diuretic drug actually works is still unknown. This study showed ACE activity was significantly reduced in the horses that had been treated with furosemide.

“Multiple regression analysis demonstrated that pre-race furosemide significantly influenced ACE activity post-race, while distance raced, temperature, humidity, and hematocrit did not,” the study concluded. “This is a novel finding which might impact on the search for the exact implications of furosemide use, and its effects on physiology and performance of Thoroughbred racehorses utilizing loop diuretics as treatments for EIPH.”

The horses used in this study were already stabled at Gávea and the treated horses were part of the racetrack’s established protocol on managing EIPH. At Gávea, a horse is entitled to pre-race furosemide if an official racetrack veterinarian has documented a bleeding episode through tracheobronchoscopy exam. A registered bleeder can receive furosemide four hours prior to post time and must continue to receive treatment for every race within 90 days from diagnosis. Horses that are younger than 3 1/2 years old are not allowed to receive pre-race furosemide, and any medicated horse is prohibited from competing in a group 1 or group 2 race.

While furosemide has proven to be the most effective method of reducing EIPH, the medication still does not entirely prevent its occurrence. In the Gávea study, 36.2% of the non-medicated horses showed some degree of post-race bleeding compared with 76.9% of the treated horses.

“This study confirms that, although furosemide might reduce EIPH severity after a single bout of exercise, it does not abolish or reduce its occurrence,” wrote the study’s authors. “This conclusion does not argue against the use of furosemide as a treatment for control of EIPH, but indicates the continuing need for better alternatives to limit the progressive and deleterious effects of repeated episodes of EIPH on the lungs of horses, and that further research into the possible role of renin-angiotensin aldosterone system components (like ACE) in developing new treatments is needed.”

The study was published by Dr. Maria Fernanda de Mello Costa, Dr. Fernanda Aparecida Ronchi, Dr. Yoonsuh Jung, Dr. A. Ivanow, Dr. Juliana Braga, Dr. M.T. Ramos, Dr. Dulce Elena Casarini; and Dr. Ronald F. Slocombe.

Justify 13th Triple Crown Winner After Belmont Victory

Undefeated chestnut set the pace and held off multiple challengers.

 

The trio of tests is designed to expose chinks in otherwise strong armor, missteps in well-thought-out game plans, holes that even those closest to the horse going through the gauntlet didn’t even know were there.

It is the whole reason the five-week exercise that is the American Triple Crown remains the most heralded achievement in a sport that counts its age in centuries—because unlike any other challenge, it separates those who almost can from the select few who refuse to be denied.

Since the start of his career 112 days ago, Justify has been jumping through hoops that horses with his experience, or lack thereof, should never be able to handle. He went from maiden winner to grade 1 victor to classic hero in just over 70 days. He went into a quagmire two weeks after shoving history aside on the first Saturday in May and emerged more tested and hardened than ever. He arrived in New York to try his hand in a race that has flattened horses whose plaques hang in the Hall of Fame, while only serving as a coronation on 12 exceptional occasions.

And so it was in the 150th edition of the final leg of the Triple Crown that the son of Scat Daddy, already deemed a prodigy, became racing’s newest living legend. At the end of a five-week odyssey logic says should have taxed his chestnut frame to detrimental levels and highlighted the foundation that was poured in at an accelerated rate, he managed to redefine what those of his ilk can achieve.

Three years after a Bob Baffert-trained freak ran right on through the most heavily guarded club in racing, the velvet rope dropped once more for another prodigy from the barn of the man who himself keeps raising his own ceiling on greatness. Justify, the horse who didn’t make his first start until Feb. 18 and, thus, should have cracked under the strain that has undone many of an all-timer before him, captured the June 9 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) by 1 3/4 lengths in gate-to-wire fashion over the Chad Brown-trained Gronkowski to become just the 13th horse in history to sweep the Triple Crown.

The list of barriers that have gone down since Justify first announced himself at Santa Anita Park are as notable as the colt’s unprecedented ascension into racing’s annals. When he captured the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), he became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to take the 10-furlong test without having raced as a 2-year-old. When he turned back Eclipse Award winner Good Magic in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and then held off late-running Bravazo to prevail by half a length, he gave his Hall of Fame conditioner what was then a record-tying 14th victory in a Triple Crown race and put himself in position to join Seattle Slew (1977) as the only undefeated horses to take all three classics.

In equaling Slew’s feat with a sublime triumph Saturday that never saw him get seriously tested, Justify not only gave Baffert his record-breaking 15th Triple Crown race win, he put the white-haired savant alongside the great “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons as the only trainers to condition two Triple Crown heroes, with Baffert also having guided American Pharoah , who famously ended the 37-year drought between feats in 2015.

Justify also provided his 52-year-old legendary jockey Mike Smith—pilot of such Hall of Famers as Zenyatta, Holy Bull, and Inside Information—the one accomplishment that was missing from his résumé.

“I’ve been through it and … if he was great, he was going to do it. And that’s what it’s about,” an emotional Baffert said of Justify. “To me, I wanted to see that horse, his name up there with the greats. If they’re great, they’re going to win the Triple Crown. It takes a great horse to win the Triple Crown.

“I don’t have to really compare (Justify and American Pharoah) because if they make it on that wall (of Triple Crown winners), that’s all you need to say.”

That Baffert has been dropping Justify’s name in the same breath as American Pharoah’s since his 2 1/2-length victory over juvenile champion Good Magic in the Kentucky Derby was a shot across the bow of what would be coming down the pike heading into Belmont Park‘ssignature 1 1/2-mile test.

Where American Pharoah proved the game hadn’t passed the current-day Thoroughbred by in terms of being able to thrive during the Triple Crown grind, Justify illustrated that superior talent can get a late start and still run every obstacle into the ground. In his first career outing, Justify set testing fractions of :21.80 and :44.37 and still drew off to win by 9 1/2 lengths going seven furlongs. That display of speed and stamina proved to be just the tip of the iceberg of what he was about to become.

Following an equally handy 6 1/2-length, optional-claiming allowance win March 11, Justify was in a progress-or-bust situation where his Kentucky Derby prospects were concerned. He needed a top-two finish in the April 7 Santa Anita Derby (G1) to ensure himself a shot to make history beneath the Twin Spires. As has become his trademark, he took it to the more seasoned members of his class—besting multiple grade 1 winner Bolt d’Oro by three lengths—in an effort Baffert didn’t even think was emblematic of the colt’s upside.

“When we came with this horse, when he won his second out, I was thinking, ‘I think this is a Derby horse. He could be a Triple Crown horse, man,'” Baffert said. “He just showed us that raw talent was there. He’s like a walk-on. He just came on there and he broke every curse there was. It was just meant to be.”

After chasing a hot pace in the Kentucky Derby and after Good Magic tried to put the heat on him in the Preakness, the only vulnerability anyone could come up with when forecasting a dismal Belmont scenario for Justify was if the strain of packing five races into just over 90 days hit him between the ears when he had to stretch himself for 12 furlongs over a track whose surface can sap form from even the fittest of runners.

Even before the field of 10 was drawn, that notion took a hit when the colt campaigned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing, and Head of Plains Partners threw down a pair of impressive works at Churchill Downs—most notably a four-furlong sizzler in :46 4/5 May 29 that had a look of a horse going through a routine gallop.

When he leaped out of post 1 Saturday and began his devastating rhythm before he even reached the first turn, the gauntlet was effectively thrown down.

“I knew if I jumped out well, he’s just faster than they are,” Smith said. “He was about a neck to a head in front the first couple of jumps, so I was really happy with the way he got away from there.

“Some horses just stay on, or some just completely stay off. But he just listens to everything I say. Every time I want him to just take a breather, I just put my hands back down and he’d settle right back down. And if I wanted to squeeze him a little, he’ll jump right back again.”

Smith is savvy enough to know not to get in the way of a great horse doing his thing. Making his life even easier was the fact none of Justify’s nine rivals bothered to press his tactical speed.

With his stablemate Restoring Hope going wide around the first turn and moving into second position, and Bravazo settling in third, Justify ran the opening quarter in an honest :23.37 but was allowed to back things off a bit through a half-mile in :48.11. As Smith and his partner reached the final turn after clocking a mile in 1:38.09, the Todd Pletcher-trained Vino Rosso loomed to his outside just a half-length behind.

Where that challenger and the rest of his brethren were coming under a ride, however, Smith was still sitting in statue mode, yet to call upon all the gas in the tank.

“I just wanted to wait as long as I could before I really put the pedal to the metal,” Smith said. “He dug back in, and I felt at that point he would hold off anybody that was coming.”

“Down the backside, I figured it would be nearly impossible for (Justify) to get beat by anyone when I saw 1:13 and change (for three quarters),” Brown added. “I changed my mind a little at the quarter pole when I saw Gronkowski saved every bit of ground because … (jockey) Jose Ortiz gave me a million-dollar ride today.”

As Justify hit the top of the lane with history within his grasp, Gronkowksi—who was last in the early going, several lengths behind the field after breaking slowly from post 6—indeed tried to do what his stablemate Good Magic had done before him and inject some drama into the outcome. The son of Lonhro whipped up the inside rail in his first Stateside start and first try on dirt and came with a rally that in most years would have been good enough to make him a stunner of a classic hero.

This was no ordinary season, however. And Justify reaffirmed in the stretch he was no ordinary athlete. As the crowd provided an emphatic soundtrack befitting the achievement before them, the big red specimen dug in gamely to hit the wire in 2:28.18 over a fast track, with Gronkowski besting the Bill Mott-trained Hofburg by 1 3/4 lengths for place honors.

“It was no fault of Jose that the horse didn’t break well,” Brown said of Gronkowski. “From there, he got everything out of this horse. He did a great job for me. (Baffert) did a training job that is one of the greatest of all time. The pace might have been a little slow, but this horse (Justify) ran in three Triple Crown races, and he showed up and earned it.”

“You can’t doubt Justify now,” Mott added. “There’s no way. You’ve got to give him credit.”

Vino Rosso faded to fourth, with Tenfold rounding out the top five. Bravazo, Free Drop Billy, Restoring Hope, Blended Citizen, and Noble Indy completed the order of finish.

With his record a spotless 6-for-6 and his place among the best of the best secure, it is a wonder what the colt bred in Kentucky by John D. Gunther could do next to add to his level of acclaim. A summer campaign was mentioned in the aftermath of his trek into the history books.

The most pressing thing all involved wanted to focus on, however, was giving themselves the proper time to soak in the achievements of the horse who took on a most improbable task in the most improbable of fashions and made it all look normal.

“To have the opportunity to be here and to make history like this is an incredible feeling,” said Elliott Walden, president of WinStar Farm. “These horses just … you buy them or whatever, but a horse like this just kind of happens. You can’t find these horses. They find you.”

https://vplayer.nbcsports.com/p/BxmELC/nbcsports_embed/select/media/xTr_cAHnUJEc

DHS Authorizes Additional 15,000 H-2B VIsas for FY2018

Considerations for filing an H-2B petition per the new regulation.

 

Following several weeks of tense discussions between Congress and the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security published a final rule May 31 in the Federal Register authorizing issuance of 15,000 additional H-2B visas for the remainder of fiscal year 2018.

As reported this spring, Congress authorized the DHS to raise its cap on H-2B temporary worker visas from the current cap of 66,000 to 129,500 visas for FY2018 within the context of the omnibus appropriations law passed in late March. DHS states that by issuing 15,000 extra H-2B visas—significantly below the additional 63,500 authorized by the FY2018 omnibus—the agency will prioritize employers who demonstrate that they would suffer “irreparable harm” to their business unless they are able to hire additional seasonal workers during the summer and fall 2018 seasons. DHS further states that it seeks to avoid possible abuse of the H-2B program by limiting the pool of extra visas to 15,000.

According to the rule, DHS punted the broader temporary worker shortage issue to Congress, urging lawmakers to reform the Immigration and Nationality Act, which establishes the H-2B visa program. During the course of the extended back-and-forth discussions between the legislative and executive branches this spring, DHS claims that only congressional action can provide long-term certainty with respect to the issuance of more guest worker visas. According to federal regulators, addressing worker shortages through the annual appropriations process fails to create certainty, undercutting the ability of the business community to plan long-term.

Since moving forward with a limited cap increase, DHS’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Service has outlined some practical considerations for filing an H-2B petition per the new regulation:

  • An employer “must meet all existing H-2B eligibility requirements,” which includes receipt of “an approved Temporary Labor Certification from the Department of Labor that is valid for the entire employment period stated on the petition.” DHS reminds employers that “the employment start date on the petition must match the employment start date on the TLC, even if that date has passed.”
  • Employers must also “conduct a fresh round of recruitment for U.S. workers if the TLC contains a start date of work before April 15, 2018.”
  • A business must “submit an attestation on Form ETA 9142-B-CAA-2 in which the petitioner affirms, under penalty of perjury, its business will likely suffer irreparable harm if it cannot hire all the requested H-2B workers before the end of the fiscal year.” The agency provides Form ETA 9142-B-CAA-2 Instructions to properly complete the attestation.
  • DHS further states that it “will not accept” an “expired ETA 9142-B-CAA from fiscal year 2017.”  The agency will reject any “petition that does not include the new ETA 9142-B-CAA-2 attestation form for fiscal year 2018.”

Recognizing the time constraints associated with the application process, DHS states that it will “adjudicate” applications within 15 calendar days for employers opting for “premium processing,” and 30 days for standard applications. To learn more about how to fast-track an H-2B visa application, please go to: https://www.uscis.gov/forms/how-do-i-use-premium-processing-service.

The unprecedented demand for guest worker visas this year will create a narrow time frame in which to submit an application.

As details unfold related to practical considerations associated with the new rule, American Horse Council will continue to inform members about developments and helpful notes for members who are considering moving forward with summer applications.

As a reminder, AHC will be conducting a panel discussion featuring congressional and industry experts June 12 in Washington as part of the association’s annual meeting. To view a copy of the final rule, go to: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-05-31/pdf/2018-11732.pdf.

Louisiana Bred Pickett Impresses as First Winner for Goldencents

The Louisiana-bred gelding drew clear by 6 1/2 lengths at Evangeline Downs.

Louisiana-bred Pickett was an impressive first winner May 30 for freshman sire Goldencents  at Evangeline Downs.

Making his first start for owner Charles Carlton and trainer Glenn Delahoussaye in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight for accredited Louisiana-bred 2-year-olds, Pickett broke sharply under jockey Timothy Thornton and went straight to the lead with four rivals in pursuit. The dark bay or brown gelding posted fractions of :22.93 and :46.37 while increasing his advantage and steadily drew off through the lane under a moderate hand ride to win by 6 1/2 lengths.

The final time was :52.87 on a fast track.

Pickett was bred by William D. Pickett out of the unraced Dixie Brass mare Street Beat and was a $50,000 purchase by his owner from Pickett Thoroughbreds’ consignment to the 2017 Equine Sales of Louisiana yearling sale. Street Beat also produced stakes winners Ahead of Her Time (Leestown) and Hisse (Buddha).

Two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Goldencents, by Into Mischief , counts the 2013 Santa Anita Derby (G1) and Sham Stakes (G3), and the 2012 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes (G3) among his conquests. He entered stud in 2015 at Spendthrift Farm near Lexington with seven wins and seven seconds from 18 starts, with earnings of $3,044,000. He stands the 2018 season for an advertised fee of $12,500.

 

Appropriations Bill Could Provide H-2B Visa Relief

Bill could double number of visas available.

 

Congress on the morning of March 23 passed a Fiscal 2018 omnibus appropriations bill, which includes language that could almost double the number of H-2B visas available, potentially improving a dire situation for Thoroughbred trainers who depend on these visas for the industry’s sizable foreign temporary workforce.

The bill provides the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to raise the cap on H-2B visas if the Secretary, in consultation with the Department of Labor, determines there is an economic need.

If the omnibus spending bill is signed into law by President Trump, the total number of H-2B workers that may enter the U.S. during fiscal 2018, which ends on Sept. 30, 2018, will then be capped at 129,547. If fully implemented, this new cap would be equal to the number of new and returning H-2B workers admitted to the U.S. in fiscal 2007, which is the fiscal year when the highest number of H-2B foreign temporary workers participated in the H-2B program.

“Congress provided the Secretary of Homeland Security with the same discretionary power to increase H-2B limits as part of the 2017 omnibus spending bill passed in May of last year,” said National Thoroughbred Racing Association President and CEO Alex Waldrop. “Unfortunately, the Secretary did not make the necessary finding of economic need until July of last summer when it was too late for most employers to take advantage of the increased number of H-2B visas before the end of the fiscal year.”

The NTRA, through its membership in the H-2B Workforce Coalition, will urge the Administration to swiftly implement this H-2B cap relief and will continue to encourage Congress to pass permanent H-2B cap relief.

Panel Discusses Sexual Harassment at Tracks

Panel said backstretch workers need to know where to turn.

Members of a panel discussing sexual harassment issues at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association convention March 16 in New Orleans said potential places for workers to turn include backstretch chaplains, horsemen’s groups, backstretch health workers, and stewards.

Loretta Brennan, executive director of the Arkansas HBPA, applauded the move by the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association to place forms in its office that allow workers to fill out a complaint about sexual harassment. Brennan acknowledged that not every worker may feel comfortable filling out such a form, but noted that it’s important to have options and make workers aware of those options so they don’t feel isolated.

Jennifer Johnson, vice president of Mountaineer HBPA who grew up on the backstretch, said workers need to have the ability to seek help and know where to turn.

“They do have to seek some help to make sure that behavior doesn’t continue,” Johnson said, noting that victims need to understand that they didn’t do anything wrong, and by speaking up they can stop this behavior. “They have to understand they have rights.”

The panel said sexual harassment can occur on the front side as well, and those workers should address the human resources department. They noted that where a worker can turn is not as well defined on the backstretch, and language barriers as well as the enclosed environment can potentially lead to feelings of isolation.

Brennan said that like every work environment, sexual harassment occurs on the backstretch. Some of those workers, who may not feel  they are in a position of power, have shared their stories with Brennan.

“It definitely happens. I have had young women come to me in need and seek advice. I always reach out to my chaplain. I advise them that they can seek legal avenues. If it’s serious enough, they can hire a lawyer, but that hasn’t happened,” Brennan said. “My chaplain goes and talks with them, and gets pretty stern with them. I don’t think it’s happened again once I’ve had that conversation.”

Panel moderator Lynne Schuller recalled a personal incident where a horseman client she was representing at a hearing before the stewards said something highly offensive to her.

“I was going into a stewards meeting on a horseman, and he said something to me so shocking that I won’t repeat it,” Schuller said. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘You idiot, you’re going to say that to me right before a meeting. What would you say to an employee you hired mucking a stall?'”

Schuller said she informed the stewards of what was said, and they took some level of action against the horseman. She said it was never a problem again. But she said women working on the backstretch may not feel like they are in a position to say something. She said there have to be ways to communicate, and any victim has to feel comfortable in telling her story.

Richard Riedel, executive director of the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund, said horsemen and backstretch groups should start activities and events that are popular with women like yoga classes and self defense. He said as members become comfortable in that atmosphere, advocates can present on topics like sexual harassment and inform them of their options.

Dan Waits, executive director of Race Track Chaplaincy of America, said part of chaplaincy training now includes training on sexual harassment.

“While the horse racing environment is unique, this problem goes on in any environment. As employers and supervisors, we need to provide a safe environment. Some of this is not just about sexual advances, some is about control,” Waits said. “People want to work in a safe environment where they are respected. It’s that simple.”

Louisiana Horsemen Aim to Strengthen Aftercare Support

Lawmakers considering changes after stories showed Thoroughbreds in kill pens.

 

The Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association supports state legislation that would make changes to its aftercare program the organization believes will lead to greater participation.

Lawmakers are considering changes after stories and social media posts showed Thoroughbreds who had raced at Delta Downs in kill pens. Industry groups also are rallying to put additional safety nets in place.

The issues in Louisiana proved a timely topic for a panel on aftercare at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association convention March 15 in New Orleans.

Louisiana HBPA president Benard Chatters said his organization supports the proposed legislation, which would have all horsemen participate in a program of financial support for aftercare that could be based on a per-start basis or a commitment from purse earnings. Chatters said the current Louisiana HBPA program allows horsemen to opt in to support aftercare, but he believes moving to a system where horsemen are in the program unless they opt out will see improved participation.

“If they’re already in the program, a lot of them won’t make the effort to opt out,” Chatters said, noting that there may not be full awareness of the current opt-in program.

Patrick Richmond, president of Louisiana Horse Rescue Association, said similar legislation has been proposed before, but he thinks the recent effort has a better chance of passing because of support from the Louisiana HBPA; Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs owner Boyd Gaming; state Quarter Horse breeders; and the racing commission. They expect support from the state’s other two track owners, Churchill Downs Inc. and Harrah’s.

Richmond said aftercare groups would like to see a commitment of $5 a start. Chatters said Louisiana HBPA might be more receptive to a plan that makes a commitment from purse earnings after a horse has won. Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance operations consultant Stacie Clark, who moderated the panel, said either type of approach can work.

Michele Rodriguez, founder and president of Elite Thoroughbreds and a board member of the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association, said Boyd will commit to matching funds by horsemen, and she’s certain CDI also will get on board.

Chatters noted, with the emergence of social media, a small percentage of horsemen not acting properly can endanger the sport.

“The largest percentage of trainers and owners are responsible,” Chatters said. “It only takes one person, or one horse. … Something happens in some remote corner of the state, and all of a sudden it’s all over the nation because of social media.”

Panel participants and National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback said that something as simple as improved communication between horsemen and aftercare facilities can make the difference for a horse.

“We have to make that connection and keep them together,” Hamelback said. “Aftercare needs to become part of your business plan.”

Jessica Hammond, program administrator of Maryland’s Beyond the Wire—a state aftercare initiative of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the Maryland Jockey Club, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, and Maryland jockeys—encouraged horsemen from states without similar aftercare programs to take the initiative.

She said owners are contributing $11 a start, and it’s enjoyed about “99% participation.” She said jockeys will contribute about $60,000 this year. The program works with six TAA-accredited facilities.

“Just jump in. … You kind of just have to get the idea on how you want your program to run and just start it,” Hammond said. “You’re not going to have everything perfect from the get-go. You’re going to have to tweak things along the way, and that’s OK. There’s no reason for not starting.”

Hamelback emphasized that the stakes are high, and not having an aftercare plan in place is no longer acceptable.

“We have to educate people that there is a second chance after racing. We have to stop these horses from getting to the pen,” Hamelback said. “We need racetracks’ help, but we also need horsemen’s help when it comes to education.”

Prominent Owner Tom Benson Dies

Owner of New Orleans Saints, Pelicans was active in Thoroughbred racing.

 

Tom Benson, a Louisiana sports icon who took his football and his basketball with a healthy side of horse racing, died March 15 at Oschner Medical Center in Jefferson, La., with his wife Gayle Marie Benson at his side. He was 90, and was hospitalized with the flu Feb. 16.

For all his success as owner of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans, including the Saints’ Super Bowl XLIV victory and a plaque in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, there was one sports trophy the Louisiana native joked he might not want to claim. As much as he loved Thoroughbreds, as a savvy businessman Benson recognized how horses pull you in.

Greg Bensel, general manager of the Benson family’s GMB Racing—who confirmed Benson’s death through his role as senior vice president of communications and broadcasting for the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans—spoke Wednesday at the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association convention in New Orleans. He recalled how Benson approached the morning of the 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), just two years after GMB Racing was formed.

“We’d rented a home in Louisville. At breakfast he said, ‘You know, Greg, I don’t know that I really want to win the Kentucky Derby today.’ I said, ‘Why is that, Mr. Benson? He said, ‘If we do win, we have to buy more horses, a farm, and really get into this,” Bensel said.

While they dabbled in racehorse ownership in the 1970s and 1980s, the Bensons returned to the sport after a multi-decade absence with renewed vigor in 2014, inspired by the rags-to-riches story of two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome .

“He said, ‘Greg, what would it take for us to get in the business?’ I said, ‘Why don’t you give me a check for $2 million—that will be a start—and we’ll go out and hit the Keeneland September sale and we’ll buy some horses,'” Bensel said.

From their first modern crop of yearlings, they campaigned not one, but two starters in the 2016 Kentucky Derby—graded stakes winner Mo Tom (eighth for trainer Tom Amoss) and multiple graded stakes winner Tom’s Ready  (12th for trainer Dallas Stewart).

“We finished eighth and 12th, which I thought was respectable, but he ended up buying more horses and one of the most beautiful farms I’ve ever been on,” Bensel said, mentioning Benson Farm at Greenwood Lodge in Paris, Ky., home to a broodmare and boarding operation.

“We had tremendous, uncanny success. He realized that was not the norm in this business,” Benzel said. “It started out as a hobby for us, and now it’s nearly a $21 million business.”

Benson was born Thomas Milton Benson Jr., on July 12, 1927, in New Orleans. The son of Thomas Milton Benson Sr. and Carmelite Marie Pintado Benson, he was raised in the 7th Ward neighborhood of New Orleans and graduated from St. Aloysius High School (now Brother Martin High School) in 1944.

Benson enrolled at Loyola University New Orleans to study business and accounting. He interrupted his education to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he was assigned to the USS South Dakota. Upon the conclusion of World War II, he returned to New Orleans and continued his business administration studies.

In 1948, Benson went to work as a bookkeeper for the Cathey Chevrolet Company in New Orleans, and by 1956, at age 29, was on his way to managing a Chevrolet dealership as a junior partner. Six years later, he took full control of the company and established a multi-dealership organization, with outlets throughout the New Orleans area and South Texas. In 1972, Benson entered the banking business and eventually took his banking network public as Benson Financial World.

In 1985, Benson purchased the New Orleans Saints after learning that the NFL franchise was on the verge of being sold to parties interested in relocating the team. He purchased the Saints on May 31, 1985. In 2012 Benson purchased the New Orleans Hornets NBA franchise and renamed it the New Orleans Pelicans the following season.

Through his sports teams, business interests, and the Gayle and Tom Benson Foundation, Benson was dedicated to assisting myriad charitable, faith-based, and educational causes in the New Orleans and South Texas communities. Under Benson’s direction, his businesses and sports teams annually have put millions of dollars back into the community in financial support, in-kind donations, charitable appearances, and the donations of goods and services.

“It is a sad day for Louisiana. Thank you for everything you have done for our state, our country, and the sport of horse racing,” Amoss said of Benson, in a statement posted on his Twitter account. “It is hard to put into words what you have meant to all of us. I am honored to have been a small part of your story.”

Details regarding public visitation and funeral will be forthcoming.

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