Praise Boyd for loyalty to Delta Downs regulars

Sep 19, 2017 3:00 AM

Delta Downs Racetrack and Casino has made a mark on the Triple Crown trail with the $1 million Grade III Delta Downs Jackpot traditionally run the Saturday before Thanksgiving weekend each year. Recent winners of this two-year-old Stakes who have gone on to bigger and better things as three-year-olds and older horses include:

• 2012 winner Goldencents, who later accounted for the Breeders Cup Mile;

• 2015 winner Exaggerator, who returned in 2016 to win the Preakness Stakes;

• 2016 winner Gunnevera, who came back to win this year’s Grade II Fountain of Youth and was most recently a good second in the Grade I Travers at Saratoga.

Alas, Hurricane Harvey’s impact on the Houston and Lake Charles regions that provide much of the customer base for Delta Downs has resulted in Boyd Gaming cancelling the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot and the $500,000 Delta Princess for 2017.

Management at Boyd Gaming should be applauded for concentrating on keeping the purse levels acceptable on a daily basis for the horsemen who support Delta Downs throughout their meet. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery in the area that leads to a resumption in the Delta Downs Jackpot and Delta Princess. I think it is very commendable a small track like Delta Downs can play a part in determining the participants for a classic like the Kentucky Derby each year.


The largest sale of thoroughbred yearlings occurs each September at Keeneland racetrack in Lexington, Ky. This year’s two-week sale kicked off Sept. 11, with over 4,000 yearlings scheduled to pass thru the auction ring before the final hammer comes down this Friday.

In the current environment of declining race days, smaller fields, flat handle, and a corresponding flattening out of purses, the following results just don’t make economic sense to me. Thru last Saturday, 681 yearlings had been sold for a total of $196,645,000. The average sale price of $288,759 is up 24% over the same period in 2016, while the median price of $200,000 is up 18% over last year. The $196 million total revenue is up over 4% from the same period in 2016.

As an active owner for 30 years, I have to determine not only what horses to add to the stable, but just as important (if not more so) have an exit plan to maximize revenue and minimize losses.

How many horses win over $200,000 in their careers? Assuming 50 percent of the horses sold are colts, how many of those over 300 colts sold will have a successful career as a stallion? If not, they must earn their way out on the track.

Given the current horse racing business model, it is no wonder the horse population continues to shrink. There is less individual ownership, more partnerships, and less competition at the highest level. Over the long term, that can’t be healthy for the racing side of the sport. Ask the breeders and you will get another opinion, however.

Chenery passing

Penny Chenery, the owner of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, passed away at the age of 95 last Saturday from complications due to a stroke.

The classy Mrs. Chenery took the time to speak to old and new fans whenever asked, always had time to sign an autograph, and did her best for decades to put the sport in a positive light while campaigning one of the most popular horses ever.

It should be pointed out that Mrs. Chenery’s Meadow stable also won the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes with Riva Ridge, a fact that was not disclosed in the 2010 movie “Secretariat,” which starred Diane Lane playing Penny.

Horse racing has lost a true ambassador. She will be missed.

Los Alamitos

• Apprentice Laura Werner suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday and will have surgery to repair the injury, sustained when her mount Dressed in Prada stumbled and unseated the rider at the start of the third race. There is no timetable for her return.

• Jockey Kent Desormeaux has chosen his mounts carefully at Los Alamitos and is a perfect 4-for-4 going into closing week.

• There is a Super High Five carryover going into Thursday of $9,118.

• Sunday, Sept. 24 is closing day at Los Alamitos with mandatory payouts in the Pick Five, Pick Six, and Super High Five. Opening day for the autumn Santa Anita meet is Thursday, Sept. 28.

Play of the Week

Los Alamitos, Friday Race 5 – Kershaw (post 8). Outside post is perfect for fast-working first-time starter from Peter Miller stable. Jockey Kent Desormeaux only accepting very live mounts during this short meet.