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Updated on 09/15/2011 2:01PM
Racing slowly gets back on track
Keeneland resumed its yearling sale; Fairplex and three other tracks - Delaware Park, the Downs at Albuquerque, and Rockingham - conducted racing programs; and racetracks around the country were preparing on Wednesday to return to action after the hijacked airline attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. had prompted a one-day shutdown of the Thoroughbred industry on Tuesday.
At Keeneland, business was brisk for the sale's second session as buyers put on a show of market confidence. A colt by Storm Cat out of Halory brought $6.4 million. The Thoroughbred world's usual big bidders - including the $6.4 million colt's buyer, agent Demi O'Byrne - converged to produce an unexpectedly strong showing. The colt was the auction's - and the season's - top price Wednesday, the sale's final select session.
O'Byrne, representing Coolmore Stud owner John Magnier and English owner Michael Tabor, signed the ticket for the Storm Cat colt after fending off a long challenge by John Ferguson, who was representing Dubai minister of defense Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum. The Storm Cat colt, offered by Lane's End on behalf of Stonerside Farm, was one of 15 lots sold for $1 million or more at the session.
Keeneland president Nick Nicholson began the session with a moment of silence in memory of the victims of Tuesday's attacks. He also announced that Keeneland, consignors, and buyers, have begun coordinating a relief fund for the victims, with donations going to the American Red Cross.
Even though Keeneland resumed its sale, it was far from business as usual. At 2 p.m. Pacific time Wednesday, patrons at Fairplex Park were ordered to evacuate the grandstand. A Fairplex spokeswoman said a bomb threat had been called in, and while Fairplex did not believe it to be credible, "we want to take every precaution," she said. At the time the grandstand was cleared, the horses were on the track for the third race. That race was canceled. The fourth race was run approximately one hour later, after both Fairplex security and Pomona, Calif., police searched the grandstand and found nothing.
At Belmont Park, where the smoke and debris from the World Trade Center destruction can be seen from the rooftop, racing was canceled through Friday "out of a deep sense of mourning and a respect for the many lives lost in this tragic event," said New York Racing Association president Terry Meyocks.
The Breeders' Cup contacted Churchill Downs this week to see if Churchill could be used as a back-up Breeders' Cup site, but NYRA officials said they were certain the World Thoroughbred Championships would be held as planned on Oct. 27 at Belmont Park.
Belmont and Aqueduct are both being used as staging areas for fire and emergency vehicles that may be used in the search and rescue effort. The Meadowlands also is being used in a similar fashion.
Racing was scheduled to resume at Belmont on Saturday with an 11-race card that features three graded stakes, including the Grade 1 Ruffian, the Belmont Breeders' Cup Handicap, and the Jerome.
Saturday's stakes, along with Sunday's Grade 1 Futurity, for juvenile colts, and Grade 1 Matron, for juvenile fillies, could be affected by the federal restrictions on flight travel. A Tex Sutton plane originating from Kentucky on Wednesday and scheduled to go to New York and then back through Kentucky en route to California was grounded. That same plane was scheduled to take horses from California to New York on Thursday.
Among the horses stranded in New York is defending Horse of the Year Tiznow, who finished third in Saturday's Woodward Stakes.
Among the horses scheduled to come to New York but who likely will not make it for this weekend's stakes are Beautiful Pleasure (Ruffian), Hero's Tribute and I Love Silver (Jerome), Essence of Dubai and Siphonic (Futurity), and Imperial Gesture (Matron).
The Meadowlands canceled racing through Friday. No determination has been made beyond that by track officials. In response to a request from Verizon Wireless to set up a temporary cellular site to assist New York City's communications, a truck with an 80-foot antenna will be positioned at the Meadowlands complex, a spokesman said.
In addition to Belmont Park and Meadowlands, racing was canceled on Wednesday at Arlington Park, Bay Meadows, Charles Town, Penn National, Pimlico, Retama, Thistledown, and Turfway, according to the Thoroughbred Racing Associations. There was no simulcast wagering offered Wednesday at Calder, Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, Finger Lakes, Great Lakes Downs, Hollywood Park, Hoosier Park, Laurel, Lone Star Park, Monmouth Park, Nassau and Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting, New York City OTB, Northern California OTBs, Pocono Downs, Prairie Meadows, Sam Houston, and Sportsman's Park, according to the TRA.
Santa Anita opened for simulcasting, at the request of Fairplex. Both Mountaineer and Philadelphia Park also were open for simulcasting.
Tracks scheduled to re-open on Thursday included those owned by Churchill Downs, Inc., including Arlington, Calder, and Hoosier. Calder and Hoosier are dark on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so they did not lose any racing dates, although both were closed for simulcasting those days, too. Churchill's simulcast facilities also were scheduled to re-open onThursday.
Other tracks scheduled to resume racing Thursday included Bay Meadows, Emerald Downs, Louisiana Downs, Penn National, Pimlico, Remington, and Turfway.
Racing was scheduled to resume on Friday at Columbus (Neb.), Great Lakes Downs, Finger Lakes, Sam Houston, and Thistledown.
Mountaineer and Philadelphia Park will not resume live racing until Saturday.
In Canada, there was no interruption to the racing schedule, with tracks such as Hastings, Northlands Park, and Woodbine all in action on Wednesday night. Fort Erie raced as scheduled on Tuesday.
- Additional reporting by Glenye Cain, Brad Free, David Grening, Marcus Hersh, Karen M. Johnson, Marty McGee, Bill Tallon, and Mike Welsch.