Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shipping Down: Are There Advantages to High-Altitude Conditioning?

--Mark Cramer

   What if there were a revolutionary training method that improved horses’ oxygen delivery capacity
and thus their aerobic power and stamina? Such a method seems to exist, but digging for the story is daunting because most of its practitioners are not interested in spreading the word.
   Anecdotal evidence abounds that high-altitude training improves the performance of Thoroughbreds. Canonero II, an outlandish Kentucky Derby outsider (500-1 in the Caliente book), shipped in (and down) to win the 1971 Derby. He had raced in Venezuela at 3,704 feet above sea level, lower than Denver, but still considerably higher than most American race tracks.
   The inspiring Canonero story is too exquisitely complex to detail here--see Steve Haskin's 2011 piece. Was high-altitude living and training a factor in Canonero’s Derby and Preakness victories? One piece of evidence says yes: Canonero’s pre-Preakness electrocardiogram. Haskin writes: When a Baltimore radiologist, Dr. George Burke, took an electrocardiogram of the horse, he discovered his heartbeat was only 30 beats per minute, which was five less than the average horse. “Fantastic,” Burke said. “That’s as low as a horse will go.”
   Following Canonero’s Preakness win, the effects of the altitude should have begun wearing off, but his loss in the Belmont could have also been attributed to physical ailments. The following year, stabled in the USA, his career did indeed tail off with life at sea level. However, the following year he beat Riva Ridge by five in record time in the Stymie at Belmont.
   Mine That Bird (Birdstone) also shipped down, from the 6,500 ft. altitude in New Mexico, to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby at 50-1. Sid Gustafson, a specialist in Thoroughbred sports medicine and equine behavior, attributed the win to altitude training.
   I have accumulated other pieces to the puzzle, including stories of horses that had overachieved after shipping down from mile-high Arapahoe, with confirmations from the trainer that his precise intention had been to descend in altitude just before the race.
   The logistics and expense of training horses at Arapahoe, Ruidoso or other high-altitude venues and then shipping down will discourage most trainers from trying the method. But some owners and trainers who believe in the altitude factor are resorting to hypoxic (oxygen reduced) stabling of horses in climate-controlled stalls.
   In 2003, Howe and Swanson presented their findings on the subject, in “Athletic Performance and Altitude Response in horses exposed to simulated altitude (3658 meters).” “Through the use of the latest altitude simulation technology as a training aid, trainers are realizing increases in aerobic power and endurance that reflect the horse’s true genetic potential,” the researchers noted.
   Their study advocates “living high and training low”: The proven advantages of the 'live high, train low' approach to altitude training are that horses can benefit from the physiological effects of altitude acclimatization without suffering the untoward effects of chronic altitude exposure. High-low training allows for the beneficial physiological adaptations from exposure to hypoxia with
concurrent maintenance of high intensity exercise because of maximal oxygen flux during low altitude training.

   Some high-profile human athletes abide by this approach. Notably, Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps admitted that he was sleeping at 8,500 to 9,000 feet, in an altitude chamber (watch here).
   In Australia, simulated high-altitude conditioning purportedly contributed to the success of Shamus Award (Aus) (Snitzel {Aus}), the first maiden to ever win the A$3 million-dollar G1 Cox Plate in Australia.

Shamus Award                                                              Racing and Sports

   “At his Flemington stables sit three stables that look a bit different to the rest. Shamus Award spends a fair bit of time in one of them. In layman’s terms, the oxygen is drawn out, emulating altitude training, like running in the mountains to increase lung capacity,” wrote Matt Steward in the Oct. 26, 2013 Herald Sun.
   In 2012, Australian trainer Darren Weir incorporated simulated high-altitude training into his horses’ routines. “The trainer has enjoyed a seemingly blessed run of luck in the past 12 months, and is well on target to post his best season ever. Weir has trained nine country cup winners, becoming the first trainer to train 100 winners in Victoria for the current season.” (“Horse racing to reach new heights,” by Aaron Hamilton, On the Record, March 26, 2013)
   The specially designed altitude simulator was purchased for Weir with the help of Gerry Ryan. Ryan is connected with the 2010 G1 Melbourne Cup winner Americain (Dynaformer).
   Individual success stories become newsworthy, but as a horseplayer, I would like to know the return on investment for all horses using reduced-oxygen climate controlled stalls. Even the most down-and-out horseplayers offer their big-score stories as a smokescreen for their negative bottom line.    
   The wife-husband team of Dina Alborano and Don Carmody manufacture climate-controlled horse stalls, with floor-to-ceiling kickboard, rubberized walls, a pure-air monitor, a power-failure ventilator system, and generator limiters that simulate high-altitude training for their company called Equine Altitude .Com.
   Both are athletes who have used high-altitude simulation in their own training regimens. But their clients are secretive about using the stalls. Once Shamus Award became a lucrative breeding prospect, his handlers denied using the stalls supplied by Equine Altitude, Alborano said. 
   Dina Alborano told me that harness trainer Noel Daley used their product on Hambletonian winner Broad Bahn, so I phoned Daley and asked him if it was true. Daley told me that Broad Bahn stayed in the self-enclosed simulated altitude stall for “12 hours per day, for five to six months prior to his Hambletonian victory.”
   However, Daley also used the stall for a 3-year-old filly and “with the filly I didn’t see a huge difference,” he said. “The stall is a bit claustrophobic and I would have liked to have a bigger stall that could contain a treadmill.”
   Even with the dominating Hambletonian victory of Broad Bahn, Daley remains skeptical about the live-high-train-low approach and would prefer his horses to live high and train high as well.
I am a visceral believer in “live high and train high” because I’ve tested it on myself and felt the tremendous boost when running and bicycling at sea level. Right off the plane after descending from my residence at 12,000 feet to sea level, I could literally run all day.
   Nairo Quintana, the Colombian cyclist who finished second in the 2013 Tour de France and then won the demanding Giro de Italia in 2014, is not worried about his pedigree value, and so he openly confides on how he lives and trains in his native country at about 8,000 feet prior to his races.
Sifting through the scientific literature and anecdotal evidence, it’s not clear whether natural or simulated high-altitude training is ultimately superior. Personally I would rather travel and train high than sleep in a contraption.    
   But as more horse trainers explore the more practical mechanical method, questions have arisen about the fairness of the simulated version of altitude training.
   Back in 2006, the ethics panel of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was considering banning altitude tents or altitude rooms because they violated the “spirit of the sport.”
   However, two months later the same “World Anti-Doping Agency declared that altitude simulation does improve performance, but is not doping.” The decision to not ban hypoxic training was supported by the worldwide scientific community.
   Four essential questions must be answered about the simulated high altitude:

Does it work successfully on horses? 

Is it safe?

Is it doping?

Does it create an unfair advantage?

Does it work?

   Dina Alborano claims that, “Every horse that has utilized our system has had increases in blood parameters. These increases are documented in RBC count [number of red blood cells], PCV [overall amount of cells in the blood], MCV [mean corpuscular volume, which includes number plus size of red blood cells], Hematocrit [the proportion of your total blood volume that is composed of red blood cells] and Iron Building Total Capacity.” (Bracketed definitions inserted by this writer.)
   Even without seeing copies of before-and-after blood tests, most high-altitude medical specialists would not be at all surprised that hypoxic living would increase oxygen delivery capacity.
   But does this translate into consistent improvement for race horses? We will not know for sure until those trainers who use the simulation techniques are forced to come forward with results that can be translated into statistics. (Of course, it’s in their interest to keep it a secret.)

Is it safe?
   The high-altitude stall is a non-pressurized system and a low-oxygen environment that is unable to support fire. This is the opposite of the potentially dangerous  hyperbaric chambers that use pressurized highly explosive compressed oxygen as a quick fix.
   In hyperbaric therapy, air pressure/oxygen density is increased, which has caused occasional fatal fires. Furthermore, the suddenness of hyperbaric therapy involves physiological risks, including potential lung damage.
   Once you mimic the “hypoxic” low-oxygen environment of high altitude, the chance of a fire decreases abruptly. On my first Christmas in La Paz, Bolivia, 12,000 feet above sea level, I was alarmed to see folks place lit candles on a carpeted floor. I blurted out “fire hazard”. What fire hazard? they said. There’s not enough oxygen to support a fire. (La Paz fire fighters have plenty of time to play cards and watch TV.) 

Is it doping?
The World Anti-Doping Agency says it isn’t.
   Altitude researchers Baker and Hopkins (“Altitude training for sea level competition,” in Sportscience Training & Technology. Internet Society for Sport Science. explain the dilemma succinctly:
   Altitude chambers, nitrogen houses and nitrogen tents would be dangerous if the simulated altitude was high enough and long enough to raise the thickness of blood to an unsafe level… so far, no one has made a public case for banning these devices on the grounds of health or safety.  It also seems unlikely they will be banned as an expensive innovation, because they are no more expensive than the high-tech equipment used in training or performance by many Olympic athletes. If they aren't unethical, are they unsporting? Perhaps... Somehow it's less objectionable if the individual athlete pursues this avenue of performance enhancement via a personal altitude chamber or tent. Still, it will be a sad day when all endurance athletes have to spend weeks of their lives in such apparatus to keep up with other competitors. Can they be banned?  No, because you can't ban normal altitude training, so it's unfair to ban a safe practice that makes it easier or cheaper for athletes to achieve the same effect.

Is it fair? The $64,000 question

   A single high-altitude stall currently costs $64,000. This would clearly favor the wealthier stables.
   Horseplayers need to demand disclosure: past performances should include whether or not a horse uses a simulated high-altitude stall, and if he does, how long he has been using it. This should be no different from transparency about the use of blinkers or mud caulks.
   Trainers should go public about their use of simulated high altitude. The betting public should not be left in the clouds.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Thrilling Race. Deplorable Hospitality

by Carly Silver

            “TRIPLE CHROME!” proclaimed purple-and-green signs strewn across the grass. The green strands had long since been tramped down by coolers, 100,000 pairs of feet, and canvas chairs. Heineken cans lay on the ground, tossed carelessly a yard short of the nearest garbage can, alongside crumpled betting tickets, discarded in post-race rages. No one bothered to discard the refuse, so focused were they on the “Big Race” at Belmont Park that humid Saturday.
            June 7, 2014 saw the 146th Belmont Stakes. That evening, California Chrome would seek racing immortality as the twelfth Triple Crown winner. He ultimately failed, falling short to Tonalist and two others in the Test of the Champion. But, for this racegoer, the thrilling race was far overshadowed by the deplorable hospitality on race day.
            The day itself dawned bright and hot. Perfect conditions for a great race, I figured as I navigated my way through a Long Island Railroad (LIRR) train. The train itself was packed beyond belief, primarily with racegoers who wanted to see history made. Decked out for the day in jaunty attire, including sundresses, fascinators, suspenders, suits and button-down shirts, bowties, and Great Gatsby-style straw hats, these newbies raised an earsplitting ruckus wherever they went. Unfortunately for me, that was pretty much everywhere at the track.

          Now, I am in full support of bringing new fans into our sport. The more, the merrier! And I will readily admit that NYRA and Belmont Park had nothing to do with the kinds of folks who attended the race. I don’t mind that the new fans didn’t know much about the sport. Even the ridiculously long lines at the betting booths barely fazed me.

What did make an impression, however, was the rudeness these individuals often exhibited. They bellowed so loudly to each other that I could barely hear myself think, chugged beers and didn’t bother to properly throw out their own trash, and giddily sprawled all over the limited green space available to all. They lit cigars in primarily non-smoking areas and were some of the instigators behind the near-riot that resulted after the race. While their poor behavior isn’t NYRA’s fault, the organization should be held accountable for not policing their actions. If you smoke in the non-smoking section, you should be asked to leave that section. Period. It’s not fair to those who dislike having smoke blown in their faces to be forced to endure puffs of cancer-causing substances floating around their heads. Similarly, is it that hard to throw your cans in the trash? NYRA didn’t have enough trash cans, sure. Even as we walked into the track, garbage was overflowing. They should have had more disposals, yes, but is it their fault that people just dropped their garbage on the ground like slobs? No.

It is safe to say NYRA was woefully unprepared, especially for the crowd that resulted. It’s no excuse that more people came out to the race than the organization might have expected. In fact, thousands more attended ten years ago to witness Smarty Jones’s near-Triple Crown than came out in 2014. Meanwhile, the only food available was terribly overpriced - $5 for a soft pretzel? $5 for cold water on a hot day? Not even the vendors of New York City would dare to charge such an exorbitant amount.  If you wanted gluten-free or healthy food, you were out of luck. I was lucky I didn’t get separated from the person I was attending with. The promised wireless and cell phone service at Belmont barely functioned. If we had gotten caught up into the crowd or lost, there’s no way we would have been able to find each other again.

When we entered the clubhouse, trash overflowed from the too-few garbage cans like a rancid waterfall. Mysterious liquids—Bbeer? Urine? Who knows?—cascaded down the clubhouse’s floor, pooling around benches crowded with programs placed in futile attempts to “save a seat.” Fans were stuffed into the track apron as tightly as an overweight jockey in his silks. Sweet sunshine poured down from the heavens on the lucky few who garnered positions near the rail meanwhile, the unlucky many who needed to use the bathrooms waited on lines nearly as long as the Belmont’s mile-and-a-half distance.

When the time came for the Belmont itself, a great sound thundered from outside, near the rail. My friend and I had positioned ourselves in the best possible spot we could find to view the race--that being a smudged window in front of the apron, crowded by children. We did our best to hoist ourselves up onto the skinny windowsills to see the track, but that required us to hang on to the window pane for dear life. We clung to the panes and gazed out at the tops of heads.

Was this a Belmont for the ages? I have no idea, since I couldn’t see the actual race. I got a glimpse or two of bay bodies thundering down the stretch near the wire, but I couldn’t see or hear anything else. There were no TVs in the clubhouse for those who couldn’t see the track. After it was announced that Tonalist came in first, my friend and I sighed. Our Chrome had been denied the crown, but at least we could head on home. Or so we thought.

We headed to the exit, where a massive crowd milled. We were shoved about into a mosh pit dozens deep as the NYPD tried valiantly to create order on the way to the LIRR, which we only later found out broke down. Where were the extra (and reliable) trains the MTRA promised? Where were the necessary additional security officers NYRA should have hired, in anticipation of many visitors wanting to see a popular horse try for the Triple Crown? Nowhere to be found. I asked one NYPD officer what had happened, and he claimed NYRA had failed to hire enough people to keep order.

Eventually, since the only means of public transportation remotely close by had shut down, the racegoers nearly began to riot. They hollered insults at the police officers and those that did get on the first train, decided to light cigarettes in a packed crowd (dangerously passing a lit cigarette right over my head), and chanted an incessant “Let’s Go, Rangers!” It got to the point that we were being jostled around, yelled at, and sweated on to such a degree that we turned around and left the park entirely. No one, outside of the few people visibly trying to rectify the people, seemed to care that many of the 100,000 patrons of a racetrack were receiving abominable treatment; either.

We assumed it would be possible to get a town car back to Manhattan, since the LIRR wasn’t working. Again, we were wrong. Every local car service was completely booked, so people milled in gas stations, packed themselves into a Wendy’s, and tried to hail any cab within sight. Eventually, by ducking into a closing laundromat to charge our phones, my friend and I managed to call a New York cab service that sent a car from Manhattan to Elmont, just to take us back to the city. If we hadn’t been able to get that cab, we might have been waiting outside closed stores, sitting on the street, for hours more.

As we sweated out the wait for the car, it was already 10:15 PM. We’d been on our feet for ten hours and had undergone a singularly unpleasant experience at a track we loved. I can only imagine what casual racing fans might say about their time at Belmont. I was answered by the comments of someone I met waiting in line for a bus to Queens (which was, of course, packed and unable to take more passengers): “We’re never coming back.”

NYRA did a great job of attracting racegoers, but a terrible job of making their experience enjoyable. Why was hospitality not the number one concern for race day? Why were such inadequate arrangements made? Thanks to the 146th Belmont, NYRA has probably lost thousands of revenue sources and fans. I myself am extremely disappointed in the New York Racing Association. As a lifelong proponent of the local racing circuit, I feel ignored by the group I so avidly support. Where were the most basic of safety concerns and customer service? Nowhere to be found.

Looking forward, there will be a Belmont 147 next year. Will I be back? I don’t know. NYRA, you’d better step your game up. Big time.

Triple Crown: Much More Than What Meets the Eye

-- Drew Rauso

   There's been plenty of talk recently about making horse racing more appealing to a younger generation--from recommendations in the McKinsey Report to the formation of the America's Best Racing bus. TDN decided to get our own take on what young people like and don't like about racing, and have engaged Drew Rauso, a recent graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, to share his insights from the outside looking in. Drew will be blogging for us over the next few months, offering his opinion on a variety of matters--some trivial and not so trivial in nature. 
   Thank you, Mr. Coburn. The “cowards” comments that stole the headlines away from Tonalist at the Belmont on Saturday were much appreciated, for it opened my eyes to a conversation I had never even thought about. “It’s unfair to these horses that have been in the game since day one,” Coburn said to the media afterwards. If we are talking about unfair, maybe we should talk about it being unfair that horses get “treated” with various drugs, some of which controversially lead to more injuries and fatalities. I’ll save that conversation for a later date (please save judgment for then).
   The issue at hand is sure to be blown up in the ensuing days, but what if a topic worth discussing isn’t exactly what is being talked about? Call me crazy, naive or ignorant (but believe me when I say I try my best to be none of the above), but for all my years, I had just assumed that the Triple Crown was a joint effort, a conglomerate comprised of three races that all operated under one name, if you will. My impression was that this pinnacle of an age-old sport was that, a singular event, albeit with three legs. Over the last six weeks, well, it has been discovered that that is not the case.
   The Kentucky Derby shines bright over all else, Churchill Downs a gleaming castle reigning over the kingdom of the “royal” sport. Nineteen horses, their owners, trainers and riders all vying for a place in the record books, but in reality the book isn’t written when the race is over. The first of a trilogy, much more important than the premier book on its own, is what is on everyone’s mind.

   The Preakness is next, several weeks later in the height of May, turning the corner into summer, where countless college students and recent graduates alike flock to the infamous Pimlico infield, a setting of full-fledged debauchery long associated with the ancient ground. Even on the tails of the Derby, the biggest headline for the majority of the crowd under a certain age is which musician will be entertaining a massive pulsating herd of 20-somethings. There, the anticipation of the Triple Crown is at its turning point, where the country watches, hoping to see the familiar long face from three weeks prior come out in front.
   It is at this moment where the excitement of the Triple Crown is made or lost for another year, a moment when casual observers and investors in the sport can come together not only to witness a second step towards history, but to revel in the sport. Fate decides whether the Belmont will have significance to many more than just the bettors’ wallets, but if an entire nation will be hanging on their seat come another 3 weeks.
   And so the Belmont Stakes arrives, with summer nearing fifth gear and this year, the talk of “the one.” California Chrome, complete with two owners and over 18,000 Twitter followers (don’t be impressed yet, a soccer ball has over 160,000) enters stage left as the darling of the country. On this Saturday in June, racing is a must-watch (indeed, more people tuned in to NBC than those that watched Game 6 of the World Series last year), and California Chrome cannot escape the lips of any Saturday barbeque conversation.
   Unfortunately, as is the way with America and seemingly more and more people (personal statement), trends, fads and styles come and go faster than a plate of summer barbeque in front of me. Bandwagon sports fans, while teased relentlessly, are commonplace in all sports: some people just want to root for the favorite, just as others want to root for an underdog. This immediate jump was seen over the last several weeks, as friends and acquaintances alike were asking, “Do you think Chrome can do it?” He captivated a country in such a short amount of time unlike any human athlete could, creating a bond between both animal lovers and sports fans alike.  

   And so the Belmont was ran, Tonalist took charge and Steve Coburn made sure to speak more brashly than any underdog could. Which is why I return to my foremost statement. I want to thank him for bringing to light that these races are in fact, entirely their own. Many trainers do not consider them a whole; they just enter the ones that are optimal for their own gains. While this may be an underwhelming fact for some or many of you, I thought it was quite interesting that the structure of such a well-known event had largely gone misinterpreted for my whole life. There are more horses running in the Derby than the Preakness which had more than the Belmont. Different numbers in each as well as different horses. I had blindly thought prior to Coburn’s comments that what he wished were the case actually was.  I had no idea that horses were intentionally left out of the earlier races to be fresh in the Belmont and play spoiler.  My first reaction to what he said? I agreed with him.
   The fact that Chrome was “almost” not allowed to run in the Belmont at all because of his breathing strip, while it was not a problem at the other two tracks is another example of the odd-in-my-eyes lack of unification between the races. Granted, he was allowed to, as he should be, so the conversation is moot, but it is yet another example of what I found surprising about these famous races.
   After having yet another conversation with a friend deeply invested the sport (he has become anonymous in these posts, and will stay so), it became clear to me that while I may have initially agreed with Coburn, the idea is just too difficult to put in practice, given trainers’ agendas and different race populations. At first, I envisioned the three different lengths and short break enough of a challenge so that the same horses in every field had a chance to win one of the three, and a Triple Crown was not guaranteed. But you don’t get 36-year droughts when something is merely not guaranteed.
   The Triple Crown is damn well near impossible, and that’s the way it should be, at least according to Unnamed Friend et al. You have to qualify for the Derby, win in a big field of 20 horses, win again in a short period of time, and then win a race that you possibly have never run before, against horses trying to upset you and may very well be fresher than you. When Coburn said that Chrome had a target on his back, he was right, but isn’t that commonplace for a favorite in sports? How many times do lesser teams show up and play even harder when given the chance to ruin an opponent’s chances for glory? Can something be said of a similarity when a team’s best hitter comes to the plate with a chance to win the game, only to be intentionally walked and not given a chance?
   Unfair? Maybe. Who said sports, or life even, are completely fair? Talk about the person with the most career home runs ever, and you mention an asterisk. The most gifted player in the last twenty years of baseball is also under scrutiny for steroids and cheating. While I am not saying what Coburn’s fellow trainers and owners did was cheating, I do acknowledge that it is just a part of the sport.
   Doing some reading, I came across Bill Finley in ESPN, who admitted that Coburn was right about one thing, that he will very possibly never see another Triple Crown winner in his lifetime. Thinking about it in my own terms, I realized I have a very good chance to never see another baseball player hit .400, nor will I probably see someone break Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak. Does this mean we should move the pitcher’s mound back and make it easier to hit? Of course not. The sheer magic of winning these incredible feats is that they should be magical, something that does not come around often, like a far-off planet’s sighting that occurs once every 400 years. Maybe I’m being a narcissist, but if everyone wants rules to be changed just to see a new winner, maybe they should take a step back and stop being so selfish. Let another generation have its joy, who knows, they might deserve it more than we do.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chrome is the New Black: Zodiac Zar, Ken's Kitten, and Secret Santa

California Chrome is poised to make his bid for Triple Crown greatness in less than 48 hours. He may be a trendsetter with his nasal strips, unorthodox trailer exiting strategies, and unique background, but he's not the first blaze-faced chestnut Thoroughbred with an alliterative name to make the news this year. 
Zodiac Zar

Zodiac Zar, whose incredible progress at Days End Farm Horse Rescue following a 2010 neglect case was chronicled on this blog (click here to read), moved to his adoptive home in 2012. He lives on a beautiful private farm with Willow and Classy, two mares also adopted from Days End Farm Horse Rescue.  

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit and photograph Zodiac. His expression is the same as the day I first met him, but he looks like an entirely different horse in every other way. Muscle fills his powerful frame-- he looks taller every time I see him. Gone is the tired, brittle, patchy coat-- he now glows in the sun with an iridescent sheen. 

Excellent care, a comfortable environment, companionship, and good food have brought out the best in this horse. He is thriving in every way. Success stories like his are the reason why rescues like Days End work so hard to help thousands of horses in need. Days End Farm Horse Rescue's calendar is full of fundraisers, education series, and volunteer opportunities. If you'd like to get involved, please visit the DEFHR website for more information.
Zodiac, May 2014
Zodiac in September 2010
Zodiac in 2014
Zodiac in 2010
Zodiac in 2014
Zodiac with his mare friends, Classy and Williw
Synchronized rolling in the pasture

 Ken's Kitten 

Days End Farm Horse Rescue is not the only organization with a busy schedule. Every time I check the Retired Racehorse Project's Facebook page, I learn about more events, educational resources, and fantastic Thoroughbreds for adoption/sale. On June 7, an hour or so before California Chrome is saddled for the Belmont, the RRP online auction fundraiser begins. Artwork, services, and unique experiences/opportunities will be auctioned on eBay. Trainer Nuno Santos, pictured below on his super-chromey Thoroughbred dressage superstar Ken's Kitten, donated a lesson package, and it's sure to be a hot item. Bidding ends on June 14 at the Thoroughbreds & Wine For All event at Dodon Farm in Davidsonville, Maryland. Click here for tickets.

The excitement continues on Monday, June 9, when ten trainers, horses, and racing connections will be announced for the "America's Most Wanted" contest this October at the RRP Symposium at Pimlico. Already on the roster are MSW Icabad Crane, Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion, and Olympian Phillip Dutton. 

Secret Santa

On Kentucky Derby day, Secret Santa and Jeffrey Ayers swept all four TAKE2 hunter classes at the Garden State Horse Show. The duo also cleaned up this spring in TAKE2 hunter classes in Culpeper, VA.

Since its formation in 2012, TAKE2 has worked tirelessly to promote the value of retired racehorses in the sport horse world through its hunter and jumper divisions at top horse shows. The Take the Lead program  is a valuable resource for those who are interested in retiring, retraining, rehabbing, placing, or purchasing horses off the track. The TAKE2 Facebook page is a very active showcase of both winners of TAKE2 classes and Take the Lead horses, available through outreach programs such as New Vocations.


You're in excellent company, Mr. Chrome. Best of luck on Saturday.

 - Sarah Andrew