News and STORIES

Horse Racing News: April 18, 2019

Author: Don Mckee
Published: Friday April 19, 2019

Smith to Ride Omaha Beach
Jockey Mike Smith has opted to ride presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach on the first Saturday in May. Smith will ride Richard Mandella’s son of War Front instead of Roadster, the Santa Anita Derby runner-up, for regular client Bob Baffert. Ironically, Smith has only bee aboard Omaha Beach twice, guiding him to in the Rebel and Arkansas Derby both over the Oaklawn Park strip.

“I would not be surprised if either Omaha Beach or Roadster won the Derby,” Smith told the Albany Times Union’s Tim Wilkin. “If they don’t win, I think they are going to run well, but there are more than just those two in there. Omaha Beach just seems to be getting better; the ‘now’ horse.”

Scene Shifts to West Virginia
Charles Town Race Course hosts a full day of stakes action on Saturday, highlighted by the crown jewel of the track’s stakes calendar, the $1M Charles Town Classic for older horses going 1 1/8 miles on the tracks dirt course. Ten horses are entered with Todd Pletcher’s lightly-raced Rally Cry expected to garner favoritism once the gates open. A 6-year old with just 14 career starts, Rally Cry has proven formidable against top stakes company, finishing 4th in the Woodward on closing weekend at Saratoga last summer.

“Rally Cry has always impressed us with his physical presence and training,” Pletcher told “We feel like he will run well off the bench and think he will handle the track.”

Other horses who figure to attract the public’s attention are War Story, the runner-up in last year’s edition of the Charles Town Classic. Trained by Jorge Navarro with veteran Kendrick Carmouch in the irons, War Story never ran back to his Charles Town form the rest of 2018 but could be a proverbial horse for course on the tight and uniquely configured West Virginia oval.

Freshened by his trainer John Servis, 4-year old Diamond King, a son of Quality Road, appears to have what it takes to contend as well. Two defending champions could offer bettors potential value as 2018 victor Something Awesome and Imperative who took home the title in 2015 are part of the field.

Lasix Ban Closer to Coming to Fruition
A coalition of leading Thoroughbred racing associations and organizations unveiled a new initiative geared to phasing out the use of anti-bleeding medication Lasix beginning in 2020 and eliminating the use of Lasix in stakes races held at their racetracks beginning in 2021.

Coalition racetracks that have signed on to this initiative include all tracks owned or operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) and The Stronach Group as well as Del Mar, Keeneland, Lone Star Park and Remington Park, Los Alamitos Racecourse (Thoroughbred), Oaklawn Park and Tampa Bay Downs. Taken together these tracks represent 86% of the stakes races assigned graded or listed status in the United States in 2018.

Under the new program, beginning on January 1, 2020, two-year-old horses would not be allowed to be treated with Lasix within 24 hours of a race. Beginning in 2021, the same prohibition would extend to all horses participating in any stakes race at coalition tracks. Accordingly, in 2021 the races comprising the Triple Crown would all be run under the new rules regarding race day medication.

“This is a progressive and unified approach to the subject of race day medication, achieving consistency with international standards for young horses and those that form the foundations of our breeding stock,” NYRA President and CEO David O’Rourke said in a statement.