Those who closely follow horse racing are apt to know that Hall of Fame racehorse trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert were outstanding Quarter Horse trainers before making the transition to Thoroughbreds.  A trio of famed show-jumping riders also carved out second careers as Thoroughbred  trainers.

Toronto-based Roger Attfield was born in 1939 in Newbury, England, where he became an amateur steeplechase jockey and a professional show-jumping rider.  He emigrated to Canada in 1970 and soon began to train racehorses.

Attfield is an inductee in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, NY and has won an unparalleled six Sovereign Awards as Canada’s leading trainer.  Among many accomplishments, he has won the Canadian Triple Crown three of the six times it has been achieved.

The Show Jumping Hall of Fame is located at the Kentucky Horse Park.  The biographical entry for Laurel Park (Maryland)-based racehorse trainer Rodney Jenkins (born 1944) reads in part:

“Rodney Jenkins dominated the American show ring in the 1960s, ‘70s and through most of the ‘80s, and retired as the winningest rider in the history of U.S. show jumping.  The Virginian-born son of a famous horseman-huntsman, Jenkins grew up in the saddle and soon earned recognition as a ‘natural horseman’ who could ride just about any horse and get it to perform at its best.  Jenkins accumulated more than 70 grand prix victories in his illustrious career, and his longevity is what separates him from many other great equestrians.”

Michael Matz (born 1951), best known as the trainer of the star-crossed Barbaro, is also an inductee of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame.  An excerpt from his biographical sketch states:

“Michael Matz of Collegeville, Pennsylvania is a three-time Olympic and four-time Pan American Games veteran.  He won the USET Show Jumping Championship a record six times, and first represented the United States in international competition in 1973.  He competed in the 1976 Montreal, 1992 Barcelona, and 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, winning a team Silver Medal in Atlanta.  Matz won eight Pan American Games medals, including five Gold, and rode in three World Championships where he won a team Gold Medal in 1986, as well as team and individual Bronze Medals in 1978.   In 1981 and 1984, he was the American Grandprix Association (AGA) Rider of the Year.  Matz was also a two-time AGA Show Jumping Champion in 1991 and 1992.”

The Lukas/Baffert move from Quarter Horse racing to Thoroughbred racing did not involve a steep learning curve.  By contrast, the elite world of show jumping that Attfield, Jenkins, and Matz hailed from is quite different from Thoroughbred horse racing.  The requisite skills of a world-class show-jumping rider are not the same as required for a racehorse trainer.  But Attfield, Jenkins, and Matz made the leap.


The Blood-Horse reported that Ahmed Zayat, owner of American Pharoah, rode show jumpers while growing up in Egypt.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business


After American Pharoah’s impressive Preakness win, three of the announcers on NBC’s telecast were discussing the colt’s chances to complete the Triple Crown.  They cautioned of how much the Triple Crown races take out of a horse and pointed out how rested horses that skipped the Preakness have such a conditioning advantage in the Belmont.

This conversation promoted me to revisit the past performances of 1941Triple Crown winner Whirlaway.  Following is his 20-race schedule for the entire year 1941 along with the distance of each race.

February 8, 6 furlongs
February 18, 7 furlongs
March 22, 6 furlongs
March 28, 5.5 furlongs
April 11, 6 furlongs
April 24, 9 furlongs (2nd in Blue Grass)
(Between the April 24 and April 29 races, Whirlaway was worked 10 furlongs in 2:07 2/5)
April 29, 8 furlongs (2nd in Derby Trial)
May 3, 10 furlongs (1st in Kentucky Derby)
May 10, 9.5 furlongs (1st in Preakness)
May 20, 8.5 furlongs
June 7, 12 furlongs (1st in Belmont)
June 21, 10 furlongs (1st in Dwyer)
July 15, 9 furlongs
July 26, 10 furlongs
August 6, 8 furlongs (1st in Saranac)
August 16, 10 furlongs (1st in Travers)
August 23, 10 furlongs (1st in American Derby)
September 13, 9.5 furlongs
September 20, 12.5 furlongs (1st in Lawrence Realization)
September 27, 16 furlongs (2nd in Jockey Club Gold Cup)

The 20 races were held at eleven different racetracks and ranged from 5 ½ furlongs to 16 furlongs.  Whirlway’s record was 13-5-2.  He was not aided by race-day medication.

Winning the Triple Crown is difficult, no doubt about that.  However, by Whirlaway’s standard, the annual dialogue about the rigor of the Triple Crown looks like whining.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business


Finding a diamond in the rough for a bargain price is the goal of most buyers of unraced horses.

While seven-figure yearlings and 2-year-olds receive the lion’s share of attention at auction, they usually don’t live up to their lofty prices, whereas a few of the relatively inexpensive yearlings typically prove to be steals.

In spite of the advancements made in evaluating racing prospects, the selection process is still far more art than science, with a strong dose of luck mixed in.  But this is true of assessing aspiring athletes in any sport, as vividly illustrated by the 44 exclusive players who started for their respective teams on offense and defense in the centerpiece of America’s most popular sport, the 2015 Super Bowl.

An organization named 247Sports has a staff of 50 recruiting evaluators and reporters that compile data– from the major media recruiting services–on America’s high school athletes in football and basketball.   Each prospect is ranked on a scale ranging from no stars or unranked to the elite category of five stars.

CBS Sports examined the high school star rankings for the starting players for the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks in the 2015 Super Bowl and found that “not one starter was a 5-star recruit out of high school” and only seven of the 44 players or 16% were 4-star recruits.   The average player ratings for the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots were 2.4 and 2.3, respectively.  The quarterback for the Seahawks, Russell Wilson, was a 2-star prospect.

Individuals and partnerships in horse racing also have a chance to find the next I’ll Have Another or even a John Henry for a modest sum.   This has always been the allure for owners with meager budgets.  What’s being purchased is not a horse, but rather dreams, opportunity, and hope.

Copyright © 2015 Horse Racing Business