Horse Race News: Remembering Billy Turner and Da Hoss PLUS More Baffert News

This week in horse racing news, we have a lot of information on tracks, trainers, horses, jockeys, and more. On the podcast, I start by updating track news as the winter/spring meet at Sam Houston Race Park begins on Thursday, January 6 and will have a 50-day meet that concludes on April 9. Next week, on-air analyst and handicapper at Sam Houston, Jessica Paquette, will join the podcast to preview their races on Saturday, January 15. If you’ve never played or followed Sam Houston before then you’ll definitely want to listen to Jessica’s insights and also be aware that Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has won the training title at Sam Houston 13-times and is going for his 14th training title this meet, so betting on an Asmussen horse at Sam Houston is traditionally a pretty good bet. In other track news, Fair Grounds (LA) announced a 15% increase on purses across the board effective January 13. The 15% increase in purse money is the result of the strong handle and wagering brought into the meet so far and is a sign that wagering is a critical component to the ultimate success of the sport.

In trainer news, this brought the news of the passing of Billy Turner, the Hall of Fame trainer of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Turner passed away at the age of 81 but leaves behind an enduring legacy of a man who cared deeply for his horses and always kept a modestly-sized barn because he wanted to know his horses well. In addition to training Seattle Slew, Turner also trained great winners such as Salerno, Czaravich, Gaviola, Play On, and Virginia Horse of the Year Punch Line. In current trainer news, the Bob Baffert saga continues as we approach the date of his disciplinary hearing in the State of New York and earlier this week, NYRA added to the list of charges to include two medication violations from 2019 reported by the California Horse Racing Board. The CHRB investigation also found a slew of medications that were improperly labeled and expired at Baffert’s Del Mar training facility. Baffert, for his part, claimed someone was intentionally drugging his horses and offered a monetary reward to anyone who could crack the case. No matter your thoughts on Baffert, a resolution on this matter is critical whether that be guilt or exoneration. The continued cloud hanging over the sport based upon the inaction of the various state boards does nothing to help the situation.

In horse news, the week saw the retirement announcements of Rombauer and Gamine. I talk about both of their legacies on the podcast and how Gamine may go down as the greatest female sprinter in history. Rombauer was forced into retirement due to repeated ankle issues and after taking a bad step during a recent workout, his trainer, Michael McCarthy, and the Fradkin family decided it would be best to retire the 2021 Preakness Champion. Meanwhile, Gamine’s retirement was expected after an absolutely wonderful career that was defined by speed. She nearly broke the 1-mile world record at the Acorn Stakes and tied the 7-furlong world record during her marvelous 2020 campaign. She finished her career with 9 wins (5 Grade I) in 11 starts. She will retire to Hill ’n Dale Farm in Paris, KY.

Finally, oft-criticized but oft-successful jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. returns to action on Thursday after serving his 30-day suspension for reckless jockeying stemming from multiple incidents at Aqueduct. Ortiz Jr. will have six mounts on Thursday at Gulfstream Park, which includes four morning line favorites. Ortiz Jr. will ride for trainers Wesley Ward, Saffie Joseph Jr., Larry Rivelli, Chad Brown and others. Riding for Brown is particularly noteworthy given that Brown was highly critical of Ortiz Jr. after his performance at the Remsen Stakes as Brown believes Ortiz Jr.’s reckless aboard Mo Donegal cost Brown’s horse, Zandon, the victory. The fact Brown welcomes Ortiz Jr. back aboard the day his suspension ends speaks to the strong and enduring relationship Brown has with Ortiz Jr. and his brother, Jose.

As we head down the backstretch in our run for the Kentucky Derby, more and more names were emerge as contenders and the Win Place Show will keep you updated on all of them and the latest happenings in horse racing. Make sure to follow on the podcast platform of your choice, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow me on Twitter at @failedtomenace.

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