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Horse Racing

Kentucky Derby Drama: Mystik Dan Claims Victory in Photo Finish Upset

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Kentucky Derby Race

Mystik Dan stole the spotlight at the 150th Kentucky Derby, clinching victory in a nail-biting three-horse photo finish. Despite Fierceness entering the race as the odds-on favorite, it was Mystik Dan who surged ahead, edging out Sierra Leone and Forever Young in a thrilling display of speed and determination. The margin was so razor-thin that it took nearly ten minutes for Churchill Downs to confirm the triumph, marking only the tenth time in Derby history that a winner prevailed by a nose.

Trainer Kenny McPeek made history over the weekend by securing victories in both the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks, a feat not accomplished since 1952. Guided by jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., Mystik Dan defied the odds with an 18-1 underdog status, captivating fans with a performance that epitomized the essence of horse racing’s unpredictability.

Derby Day

While Fierceness initially led the pack, the favorite faltered down the stretch, ultimately finishing in 15th place. Meanwhile, Mystik Dan seized control, only to face a relentless challenge from Sierra Leone and Forever Young as they thundered towards the finish line.

In the lead-up to the Derby, Fierceness commanded attention as the favored contender, carrying the weight of high expectations. Despite starting as a 3-1 favorite, the Todd Pletcher-trained horse couldn’t secure victory, highlighting the unpredictable nature of the sport.

The significance of the Derby was not lost on spectators, as Churchill Downs spared no expense in enhancing the overall experience. With a purse of $5 million, distributed among the top five finishers, the stakes were higher than ever. Moreover, significant investments were made to enhance safety protocols and improve the overall track experience, highlighting a commitment to advancing the sport while ensuring the well-being of its participants.

Although the Derby was a spectacle to behold, it was also a reminder of the challenges facing the sport, including the suspension of prominent trainer Bob Baffert. Nonetheless, for the 156,000 attendees and millions watching around the world, the Derby remains a timeless tradition, offering a glimpse of sporting greatness and a celebration of the enduring spirit of competition. 

Mystik Dan Doubt for Preakness

At 7:40 a.m. on Sunday, Kenny McPeek received the anticipated call from Preakness Stakes officials, extending the invitation for the Kentucky Derby victor to join the lineup for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

However, McPeek’s response to reporters painted a picture of uncertainty regarding Mystik Dan’s potential appearance at Pimlico. “We’re not committed to the Preakness. No, not yet,” he stated, hinting at a decision that would hinge on Mystik Dan’s condition in the days to come. “We’ll let him tell us. If he’s not in the feed tub, he won’t run.”

The morning after clinching his inaugural Kentucky Derby win in 40 years of training, McPeek found himself basking in the momentous achievement. Yet, amidst the celebration, McPeek remained grounded, recognizing the tiring task ahead in potentially pursuing the Triple Crown. With the $2 million Preakness slated for May 18 at Pimlico, Mystik Dan’s status would significantly influence the race’s narrative.

Assessing Mystik Dan’s well-being, McPeek disclosed plans for the colt’s brief respite before gauging his readiness for the next challenge. However, a less-than-optimal food intake following Saturday’s festivities cast a shadow of uncertainty over the horse’s immediate future.

Considering Mystik Dan’s demanding schedule as a 2-year-old, McPeek deliberated over the wisdom of another swift turnaround. The possibility of bypassing the Preakness in favor of the Belmont Stakes at Saratoga emerged as a viable alternative, with co-owner Lance Gasaway expressing reservations about the rigorous competition and timing of the former.

Winner Payouts

As mentioned, this year’s Derby boasts a record purse of $5 million, marking a significant $2 million increase from the purse in 2019, which stood at $3 million. According to Bill Carstanjen, CEO of Churchill Downs Incorporated, these record purse increases reflect the robust health of horse racing in Kentucky. Churchill Downs Incorporated’s substantial investment of over $1 billion in live and historical horse racing in Kentucky over the past five years has significantly bolstered the entire Kentucky Derby Week and year-round racing program.

  • 1st Place: Mystick Dan – $3.1 million
  • 2nd Place: Sierra Leone – $1 million
  • 3rd Place: Forever Young – $500,000
  • 4th Place: Catching Freedom – $250,000
  • 5th Place: T O Password  – $150,000

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A lifelong sports enthusiast with a recent interest in technology, Web3, and cryptocurrency. Every weekend you can find me watching football(soccer) and keeping up to date with stocks and crypto. Writing about the things I love and hopefully painting a picture for the reader.

Horse Racing

Mystik Dan’s Triple Crown Hopes Dashed as Seize The Grey Claims Preakness Stakes

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Horse Racing

Seize the Grey went wire to wire to win the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, giving Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, 88, his seventh victory in the race and ending Mystik Dan’s Triple Crown bid. The gray colt, ridden by Jaime Torres, thrived on the muddy track as Lukas had hoped, pulling off an upset at Pimlico Race Course just two weeks after an impressive start on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs. Seize the Grey, one of the longest shots at 9-1, took the lead early and never relinquished it.

Coming Into The Race

The original favorite, Muth, trained by the controversial Baffert, was scratched earlier this week due to a spiking fever. This led to Mystik Dan becoming the favorite in his quest to be the first Triple Crown winner since Justify in 2018. Muth opened as the 8-5 favorite, ahead of Mystik Dan at 5-2 (later closing at 2-1). Baffert reported that the horse was ruled out after its temperature spiked to 103 degrees Fahrenheit approximately 12 hours after arriving at the racecourse.

The purse for the 2024 Preakness Stakes was $2 million, with the winner receiving $1.2 million and the second-place finisher $400,000.

Winners’ Reflection

The winning horse trained by Lukas, is now the oldest trainer to win a Triple Crown race. This victory marks Lukas’ seventh Preakness win. Seize the Grey is owned by a record 2,570 people, one of the largest ownership groups in horse racing.

“I thought his action down the backside was beautiful, and I knew that he was handling the track,” Lukas said. “I said, ‘Watch out, he’s not going to quit.'”

Lukas, who has saddled more horses in the Preakness than anyone else with 48 entries since 1980, had two horses in this race, with Just Steel finishing fifth. 

“Can you imagine how many people are going to relish in this and enjoy it?” Lukas said. “I mean I don’t even know how many people own this horse. I don’t know. It’s a lot of people, I know that.”

Seize the Grey paid $21.60 to win, $8.40 to place, and $4.40 to show. Mystik Dan paid $4.20 to place and $2.80 to show, while third-place Catching Freedom paid $3.20 to show.

Bob Baffert, aiming for a record-extending ninth Preakness victory, had to scratch morning line favorite Muth earlier in the week. His other entry, Imagination, finished seventh.

“He is still learning,” Baffert said. “I think we are learning his style. I saw a lot today that I can change going forward. I don’t think he wants to run like that. We didn’t really have a plan. We thought it would be Wayne or us.”

“I have no words,” said Torres, a native of Puerto Rico who began racing after seeing it on TV in late 2019. “I’m very excited, very excited and very thankful to all the people that have been behind me, helping me.”

No Triple Crown

Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan, aimed for the Triple Crown despite initial concerns from trainer Kenny McPeek about the short recovery time. McPeek, however, was reassured after checking the horse’s airway and bloodwork. Other Derby participants, Catching Freedom and Just Steel, also competed in this year’s Preakness.

“My colt’s a fantastic colt and proud of him,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “It just wasn’t his day, but he’ll live to race again.”

Mystik Dan’s second-place finish extends a six-year streak where the Kentucky Derby winner has failed to win the Preakness Stakes, the longest such drought since 1989 to 1997. Seize the Grey’s win was unexpected, facing tougher competition than in the Pat Day Mile on May 4, but with Lukas at the helm, surprises are always possible.

Mystik Dan finished second in the field of eight horses in the $2 million, 1 3/16-mile race. After narrowly winning the Kentucky Derby, it remains uncertain if he will compete in the Belmont Stakes on June 8 at Saratoga Race Course.

This Preakness marked the last held at Pimlico Race Course before demolition begins on the historic track, which will still host the 150th running next year during construction. The final leg of the Triple Crown will be shortened to 1¼ miles due to the course shape. Kentucky Derby runner-up Sierra Leone is expected to headline, with Lukas considering whether Seize the Grey will also compete.

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The Macau Jockey Club Is No More

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Flat Horse Racing

The Macau Jockey Club (MJC) held its last race day on March 30. The government announced almost three months ago that the racetrack would close. The club and land will be handed over to the government, and the MJC won’t receive a penny. The government hasn’t revealed what they will do with the land, but it may be turned into apartment complexes.

The MJC currently has over 250 horses that need to be shipped overseas or to mainland China. Some local owners are deciding to retire the horses and give them to the club. The MJC also has over 200 staff, most of whom will be made redundant. The club is committed to helping staff members find new roles.

Why Did The Macau Jockey Club Close?

Flat racing has been taking place at the Macau Jockey Club since 1989. In 1991, the club was purchased by billionaire Stanley Ho, who was responsible for employing up to 25% of Macau’s population via his numerous businesses.

The MJC never made any profit and, as the years went by, continued to lose money. The government was on the verge of shutting down the horse racing track in 2018, but they came to an agreement with the owners. The agreement stipulated that the track could continue to operate for 24 years as long as the club increased its capital and invested in the facilities.

Unfortunately, the losses continued to pile up, and the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. The government stepped in and, in January 2024, made the decision to permanently close the race track. With this decision, horse races will no longer be held in Macau. 

The MJC was being run by Stanley Ho’s wife, Angela Leong, but she was a poor steward. Under her watch, attendances collapsed and the business found itself in the red to the tune of $310 million.

Macau Horse Racing Never Recovered After the Pandemic

Horse racing across Asia suffered during and after the pandemic. The lengthy lockdowns made it impossible to generate revenue. The MJC was also reluctant to invest in the club, considering the uncertain economic conditions and the fact that the club has never been profitable.

The Macau Jockey Club was founded when Macau was still a Portuguese colony. With the club closing, Macau loses a piece of its European culture. Many locals have been attending races at the track since the 80s and have fond memories of the packed stands and countless races. 

Visitors from the mainland are puzzled as to why the race track was closed. They were having a great time soaking up the races and feeling the excitement of picking winners. Horse racing is definitely viable in China. You just have to look at Hong Kong which saw a record breaking turnover of $39 billion last year.

The Government Wants the Land

The Macau Jockey Club is a 400,000-square-metre sprawling complex. The mounting losses were a convenient reason for the government to swoop in and seize the land, which is at a premium on the cramped peninsula and has an area of 32.9 km2. The government will take ownership of the entire complex and the land for free.

So far, the government has been tight-lipped on its plans for the site, but rumors are swirling that they plan to build high-rise apartment buildings and an entertainment district. It’s definitely the end of an era, as there are no plans to hold further horse races in Macau. Now, Chinese citizens will have to pop over to Hong Kong if they want to catch some races live as the sport is also prohibited on the mainland, but not for long.

The Chinese government is taking an increased interest in horse racing. In 2020, Beijing issued a five-year blueprint for national equine industry development. In 2025, there will be races held in Guangzhou as a test run. If everything goes well, you can expect to find horse racing tracks popping up all over mainland China.

So, it’s a slightly puzzling decision to completely shut down the MJC. Insiders thought the government would look for a new, more fiscally responsible operator. However, backroom deals may have been at play, and the land is simply too valuable for a horse racing track.

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Horse Racing

You Won’t Catch Legendary Trainer Bob Baffert at This Year’s Kentucky Derby

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Racing Hall of Famer and Legendary Horse Racing Trainer - Bob Baffert

Bob Baffert has decided not to shift any of his top 3-year-old horses to other trainers, which means they won’t be eligible for this year’s Kentucky Derby. Baffert and his horses will be missing from the biggest event in the 2024 horse racing season. 

Baffert is currently banned from participating in the Kentucky Derby after his horse Medina Spirit tested positive for a medication not legal on race day in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit, who won the race, was later disqualified following the post-race test.

Baffert’s Stables Still Active Elsewhere

In previous years, Baffert has skirted the Kentucky Derby ban by transferring his best horses to former assistant Tim Yakteen. However, you’ll still find his horses participating in the other legs of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. 

Baffert’s best horses are Nysos, who won his first two races, and Muth, who raced to victory at the American Pharoah Stakes named after Baffert’s Triple Crown winning horse. Muth also tasted victory at the San Vicente Stakes.

After the initial suspension, Baffert launched litigation against Churchill Downs Inc., the owners of the Kentucky Derby. However, recently, he decided to drop the case, which hinted at improved relations between the two parties.

Baffert said, “I’ve instructed my attorneys to dismiss the appeal related to the disqualification of Medina Spirit in the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Zedan Racing owner and I decided that it’s best to positively focus on the present and future that our great sport offers. We thank the KHRC and Churchill Downs for considering our point of view, and we’re grateful for the changes and clarity that HISA brings to our sport.” Churchill Downs Inc. didn’t grant the legendary trainer any slack and upheld the suspension.

How Did Baffert Get Suspended?

The whole fiasco started in May 2021 after Baffert and his team were still riding high after Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby. He was informed that the horse had tested positive for betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory that isn’t considered a performance enhancer. However, horses are still prohibited from taking the medicine on race day.

Baffert said that Medina Spirit had received the medicine in the form of an ointment to treat a rash. He said that betamethasone can be legally used on race day as long as the drug isn’t injected into the horse.

Baffert Hosts Fiery Press Conference

Following the positive drug test result, Baffert held a fiery impromptu news conference outside his barn at Churchill Downs Inc. He then talked to every media outlet that would listen, arguing his case. The Triple Crown winning trainer said, “I was convinced, after talking to my veterinarians, that the positive was impossible. Then it dawned on them 48 hours later, be careful with the ointment Otomax.”

The press conference only inflamed the feud between Baffert and Churchill Downs Inc. The racetrack owner didn’t take kindly to be the subject of Baffert’s wild accusations, and it may have played a role in the trainer receiving such a lengthy ban. Baffert stated that he deeply regretted holding the press conference but said it was partly the media’s fault who were waiting outside his barn.

What Was Baffert’s Punishment?

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert from its tracks for two years, while the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission gave the trainer only a 90-day suspension and a fine. Baffert claimed he was being unfairly treated by Churchill Downs Inc. due to personal conflicts with members of the company.

As part of the Churchill Downs Inc. suspension, Baffert’s horses were unable to earn Derby qualifying points, which made it impossible for them to earn the points necessary to compete at the Kentucky Derby. Baffert launched multiple lawsuits that tried to get Medina Spirit’s win reinstated and the ban overturned, but they proved unsuccessful. 

Baffert thought he’d served his suspension and was ready to take part in the Kentucky Derby when it ended in July 2023. However, Churchill Downs Inc. added another year to suspension despite no further wrongdoing.

Even though Baffert won’t be participating at the Kentucky Derby, the master trainer is still finding immense success at the race track. He guided National Treasure, a three-year-old colt, to victory at the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park and a $3 million prize!

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