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Purses, Dubai, Stallions Down Under
The latest figures on annual national purse structures for 2009 from the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) is revealing. The five countries with the highest average purses per race all lie in Asia. They are the UAE ($135,000), Hong Kong ($128,000), South Korea ($64,600), Singapore ($51,800) and Japan ($49,000).
With the exception of the UAE, this is evidence of a Far East culture that is not only still booming economically, but is populated by people for whom gambling is free of Western ideas of sin. Asians gamble like there is no tomorrow, at least compared to Europeans, Americans and Arabs. Imagine what will happen when China develops a viable racing industry.
Ireland broke the Asian straglehold in sixth place at $38,400 but with the economic difficulties that nation is having that figure will drop in 2010 and 2011.
The rest of the Top 10 was filled out by Macau ($36,200), France ($32,000). Turkey ($30,200) and Asutralia ($18,900). Britain was next at $18,500, followed by the United States in twelfth place at $18,100. We ran the most flat races of any country in the world in 2009 with 49,196, followed by Australia at 19,326 with Japan third a 17,568. By comparison the UAE ran just 295 races, Hong Kong 767, South Korea 1,833, Singapore 822. Ireland ran just 1,032, France 4,730 and Britain 6,254.
Average prize money in Argentina was $9,900 (5,593 races); in Brazil $4,800 (4,416 races); and in Chile $4,850 (4,868 races). In South Africa 3,756 races averaged $9,900. In New Zealand 2,880 races averaged $13,100. Germany ran 1,433 races worth an average of $11,800. Italy ran 4,448 races at an average of $13,200. Figures for Canada were not available.
The UAE will surely increase its lead in this regard in 2010, what with the Dubai World Cup having been increased from $6 million to $10 million.
*With the continued strength of the yen, the first Japanese Grade 3 races of the new year have surpassed the $1 million mark for the first time. Wednesday's Nakayama Kimpa at 1 1/4 miles on turf was worth $1,007,664, as was the one-mile Kyoto Kimpa the same day.
*The Dubai Racing Carnival opens at Meydan Racecourse next Thursday when the feature race will be Round 1 of the Maktoum Challenge. The switch last year from Nad Al Sheba's dirt track to Meydan's Tapeta surface, coupled with the chnage back to dirt at Santa Anita, leaves one to wonder about the nature of the American challenge on this year's Dubai World Cup Night, scheduled for March 26.
Ostensibly, the key American preps for the Dubai World Cup are Gulfstream Park's Donn Handicap on Feb. 5 and Santa Anita's San Antonio Stakes the next day, and perhaps the Santa Anita Handicap on March 5. All three of those races will be run on dirt, not the best way to prepare for a World Cup run on a synthetic surface.
The two best American performances on the Meydan Tapeta track on World Cup Night last year were produced by turf horses: Kinsale King's victory in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, and Gio Ponti's close fourth in the World Cup itself. Gio Ponti is shooting for the World Cup again this year. It remains to be seen how many of America's best older horses on dirt will follow suit.
*Sending Northern Hemisphere-based stallions to Australia to serve stud duty Down Under is a lucrative proposition for shareholders, but recent events suggest it may also be a dangerous one.
Shamardal, whose exploits as one of the best young stallions in the world were reviewed in this space last month, slipped and fell at Darley's Kelvinside Stud in Australia late last year, necessitating exploratory surgery after his return to England at the Newmarket Equine Hospital on Dec. 21. Darley expects Shamardal to make a full recovery and be ready to cover his full Northern Hemisphere book this season.
Rakti was not so lucky. The 5-time Group 1 winner died on Dec. 31 at the age of 11 after suffering a pelvic fracture that pierced an artery in Australia, to where he had been shuttling on an annual basis from the Irish National Stud. He had not been scheduled to return to Ireland this year.
A son of Polish Precedent, Rakti won the Italian Derby at three when trained by Bruno Grizzetti. Switched to Michael Jarvis in England after being purchased by Gary Tanaka, he won the Gran Premio della Repubblica and the Champion Stakes at four, the Prince of Wales's Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at five, and the Lockinge Stakes at six.
More bad news on the stallion front came from France on Tuesday when it was announced that Green Tune had been put down. The 20-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Green Dancer had fractured his right hind leg at Haras d'Etreham.
As a racehorse, Green Tune was trained by Criquette Head for the Wertheimer brothers to win the one-mile Poule d'Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) at three and the 1 1/8-mile, 55-yard Prix d'Ispahan at four. A half-brother to Cheveley Park Stakes winner Pas de Reponse, Green Tune is the sire of the recently retired Fuisse, the runner-up at three in the 1 5/16-mile Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) and the winner at four of the one-mile Prix du Moulin de Longchamp.
Green Tune was also the sire of Lune d'Or, the winner of the Group 1 Premio Lydia Tesio at 1 1/4 miles and a pair of Group 2's in France, the 1 1/2-mile Prix de Malleret and the 1 9/16-mile Prix de Pomone. His son Marend won the 1 9/16-mile, Group 2 Grand Prix de Deauville, while his daughter Zagora is a 2-time Group 3 winner in France who finished second in last year's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland.
Just want to say that I agree with your HOTY choice. It almost seems like a protest vote, and will be viewed as such by many; however, the campaigns of both Blame and Zenyatta, two sound horses, were the most underwhelming in history. It will send a horrendous message, and set a bad precedent when one of them eventually will win HOTY 2010- moreso if Blame wins because at least Zenyatta has been the feel-good story of the year in the U.S. Goldikova has been, and continues to be a tremendous gift to the racing world, and she has the most deserving connections, who will allow her to shine for yet another year. As emotional as the BC Classic was, the most compelling scene was of Goldikova's groom sprinting along the fence, cheering his charge to glory.