ACCOMPLISHED WOMEN PURSUING THE FAMILY BUSINESS OF HORSE RACING

Making a living in horse racing is not for the faint of heart.  It involves long hours and the emotional makeup to cope with adversity and fickle fate.  Yet children raised close to the sport often choose to pursue some aspect of racing as an occupation.

Well-known names come to mind when one thinks of men who are training racehorses, as did their fathers before them—Bob Baffert, Norm Casse, Todd Pletcher, and Dale Romans, to name a few.  But what struck me while watching a lot of racing on TV during the ongoing pandemic is the number of current female trainers and television commentators in horse racing who hail from racing families.

While I am sure I’ll leave someone out, following is a sampling of women active in horse racing with generational ties to the sport:

Christina Blacker, daughter of retired jockey Frank Olivares.

Caton Bredar, daughter of trainer Raymond Metzler and granddaughter of HOF jockey Ted Atkinson.

Donna Brothers, daughter of Patti Barton, the first female jockey to win 1,000 races.

Cherie DeVaux, daughter of trotter/pacer trainer Adrian DeVaux and sister of harness driver Jimmy DeVaux.

Britney Eurton, daughter of trainer Peter Eurton.

Gabby and Lacey Gaudet, daughters of trainers Linda and Eddie Gaudet.

Linda Rice, daughter of Clyde Rice.  (Clyde was a boyhood friend of HOF trainer D. Wayne Lukas.)

Maggie Woffendale, daughter of trainer Howard Woffendale.

Christina Blacker, Donna Brothers, Gabby Gaudet, and Maggie Woffendale are married to trainers and Cherie DeVaux is married to a bloodstock agent.

Without exception, putting these women in front of fans as race analysts and commentators, or as trainers, is a huge benefit to improving the public’s image and understanding of horse racing.  Their family backgrounds make them very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the sport and they are poised and articulate when on-air as commentators or doing interviews as trainers.

The trailblazer for women in American horse racing was Mary Hirsch McLennan, daughter of HOF trainer Max Hirsch and sister of HOF trainer William “Buddy” Hirsch.  Mary Hirsch was the first woman in the United States to obtain a trainers’ license from the Jockey Club, the first woman to be the trainer of record for a horse entered at Saratoga, the first woman trainer in the Kentucky Derby, and the only woman to train a winner of the Travers. 

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business

THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN KENTUCKY DERBY HORSE OWNER

Even though the 2020 Kentucky Derby has been postponed until September, May remains the month when Derby history most comes to mind.

People old enough to remember Jack Benny’s television series, which ran from October 1950 to September 1964, or his radio program before that, will recall the character Rochester, played by Edmund Lincoln Anderson (1905-1977).  Mr. Anderson is historically significant in American horse racing as the first African American to own a Kentucky Derby starter. The year was 1943, four years before Jackie Robinson became a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers and integrated Major League Baseball.

Following is an excerpt from the Notable Kentucky African American Database at the University of Kentucky, which describes what transpired when Mr. Anderson’s horse, named Burnt Cork, took on the eventual Triple Crown winner Count Fleet (the term “burnt cork” refers to makeup used by white blackface performers in old-time minstrel shows):

“Several newspapers around the country accused Anderson of entering Burnt Cork in the 1943 Kentucky Derby as a publicity stunt, and prior to the race, Anderson was advised not to enter his horse; its odds were 25-1.  Anderson would not be swayed, however; he attempted to hire jockey Carroll Bierman, who had won the 1940 Kentucky Derby with longshot Gallahadion. 

Anderson, his wife, and his valet stayed at the home of Kentucky House Member Mae Street Kidd in Louisville; the hotels in Louisville were segregated.  Mae Street Kidd did not care much for Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, but got along well with his wife.  Kidd was invited to join the Andersons in their box during the derby.  Burnt Cork came in last place. He had come out of the gate fast, but quickly ran out of steam and came in 10th, 38 lengths behind the winner, Count Fleet, owned by Mrs. John D. Hertz.

Burnt Cork was ridden by jockey Manual Gonzalez and was trained by A. E. Silver.  Edmund Anderson was disappointed in his horse’s performance, but the loss became part of the comedy routine with Jack Benny ribbing ‘Rochester’ on air during The Jack Benny Program.  The newspapers and other comedians also poked fun at Anderson.  During 1943, there were more than 200 newspaper stories in the United States and Canada about Burnt Cork’s loss in the Kentucky Derby. Anderson continued to race Burnt Cork until the horse died in July of 1944 [of a natural cause].”

Some of the criticism, perhaps most, that Mr. Anderson received for running Burnt Cork in the Kentucky Derby was almost certainly racially motivated in that other owners had previously entered manifestly unqualified horses without such media carping.  In fact, the practice of owners running hopeless longshots in the Derby continued to be commonplace until 2012, when Churchill Downs instituted a qualifying point system for the 20-horse field.

Two other African Americans of show business fame would someday own horses in the Kentucky Derby.  In 1992, rapper M. C. Hammer’s Dance Floor finished third and in 1994 Motown founder Berry Gordy’s Powis Castle came in eighth.  But the pioneer in breaking the color barrier was Eddie “Rochester” Anderson…and pioneers usually get arrows shot their way.

The inscription on the Anderson monument in Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles says simply “Loving Husband and Father Eddie (Rochester).” A very humble epitaph for a resolute man who did so much to pave the way for African Americans in both network radio/TV and sports.

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NEW JOCKEY CLUB RULE CAPPING STALLION BOOKS AT 140 MARES PER YEAR

In an effort to ensure diversity in the Thoroughbred horse gene pool, the U. S. Jockey Club recently instituted a limit on the number of mares that a stallion can breed in any calendar year.  Following is an excerpt from the media release from the Jockey Club pertaining to the rule:

“Effective today, The Jockey Club’s Principal Rules and Requirements of the American Studbook are amended by adding the following italicized language to the text of Rule 14C:

C. Based on the information on a completed Report of Mares Bred form, The Jockey Club will forward to the stallion owner, lessee or authorized agent a preprinted Service Certificate for each broodmare bred, including the name of the stallion, the name of the broodmare, the name of the dam of the broodmare, and the date of the last cover.

The total number of broodmares bred per individual stallion whose year of birth is 2020 or thereafter shall not exceed 140 per calendar year in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The Jockey Club shall limit the number of Stallion Service Certificates for such stallions to a maximum of 140 per calendar year.

In an effort to illustrate the operation of the new rule, The Jockey Club offers the following examples of how it will be applied:

(1)  For stallions born in 2019 and earlier, there will be no limit to the number of mares reported bred in the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The Jockey Club will issue stallion certificates for all mares bred by such stallions within the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico during a calendar year.

(2)  For stallions born in 2020 and later, the maximum number of mares covered within the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico in a calendar year will be 140. It would be a violation of Rule 14C for such a stallion to cover more than 140 mares within the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico during a calendar year. The aforementioned limit will apply to all mares bred during a calendar year regardless of when The Jockey Club receives a Report of Mares bred (or any amendments or supplements thereto).”

This rule raises at least three questions and issues.

First, to what extent can the letter and intent of the rule be avoided by shuttling popular stallions to countries that register foals through their own registries?  A North American stallion shuttled to a Southern Hemisphere nation could service far more than 140 mares in a calendar year, thereby exacerbating the problem of a concentrated gene pool.  Southern-Hemisphere-registered foals can race in North America and stand at stud in Canada, Puerto Rico, or the United States.

Second, suppose a stallion typically gets 80% of the mares he services in foal.  That would mean that under the new limit of 140 mares, he would usually sire about 112 foals per year.  This would create the temptation for a stallion owner to breed, say, 165 mares and count on, say, 132 foals.  This roundabout gamble is apparently prohibited under the new Jockey Club rule and would be very risky if a stallion with an average 80% conception rate happened to get, say, 90% of his mares in foal.  It is similar to the way airlines and hotels overbook knowing that there will be cancellations.  Sometimes, however, the overbooking comes back to bite them when more people than planned show up.

Third, assume that a stallion has bred 140 mares in a calendar year and two of the mares die or abort during the breeding season.  Would the stallion owner then be able to breed mares 141 and 142 as replacements?

Copyright © 2020 Horse Racing Business