Chris McGrath

This Side Up: Still Amending the Derby Agenda

We should have known better. The moment we deceived ourselves that we had a crossroads of perfect symmetry, with four standout colts converging inexorably on the first Saturday in May, one promptly limped off the trail and then last weekend another was beaten at odds-on. Nobody, then, will be making any assumptions when the other two complete their GI Kentucky Derby preparations, Concert Tour (Street Sense) in the GI Arkansas Derby next week and Essential Quality (Tapit) as the geographical and narrative pivot of three rehearsals staged coast to coast...

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Reviving a Forgotten Classic Agenda

Breeders on both sides of the Atlantic have become so childishly dogmatic about sealing off their respective bloodlines--as dirt or turf, and "never the twain shall meet"--that even a GI Kentucky Derby might not suffice to open some eyes. It is almost as though they have forgotten the mutual transformations achieved by the likes of Nasrullah and Northern Dancer. To those who remain a little more open-minded, however, Known Agenda (Curlin) has already rebuked some lazy assumptions with his breakout score in the GI Florida Derby last Saturday. Plenty thought...

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Letters to the Editor: Carl McEntee

Good Morning, It's not often that I feel compelled to write, but in this case the sensitivity and poise by which Chris McGrath addressed the passing of Sheihk Hamdan was truly skillful. The world of horse racing, and for that matter, breeding, has been dealt a huge blow with the passing of both Sheikh Hamdan and Prince Khalid. As Chris so poignantly mentioned, we have taken for granted the impact both men had on our industry on a global scale, and the thought of a world in which racing will...

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This Side Up: Seconds Out for the Next Round

No getting away from it: even 107 previous runnings, a million bucks and 170 starting points can't dress up the recent misfortunes of the GII Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby as a springboard to the first Saturday in May. Maybe that's because it falls between stools, in terms of scheduling, the previous cycle of rehearsals having left trainers scope for one more start before the GI Kentucky Derby. Not many around, nowadays, who'd even be thinking about running again with just six weeks to go. Credit to the Fair Grounds team, then,...

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This Side Up: River Levels Rising

They used to say that when you think you have two Epsom colts in your stable, you don't have any. The axiom has long since been decommissioned, however, by the skills of Aidan O'Brien and his patrons, albeit with the inane complicity of a commercial market that is disastrously diluting competition. And it looks as though it no longer transfers to the GI Kentucky Derby, either. Having (eventually) landed running with champion Essential Quality (Tapit), and with Caddo River (Hard Spun) and Mandaloun (Into Mischief) testing their own credentials over...

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Tapit Doubles Down on Twin Spires

He doesn't need the publicity: as he approaches the evening of his career, his fee is $185,000 and, with his book as wisely controlled as ever, demand should always exceed supply. Nonetheless, there's something highly gratifying about the prospect of Tapit redressing one of the few gaps in a resume that otherwise qualifies him as unmistakably the most accomplished stallion in the land. The horse himself, of course, would remain totally unwitting--just as he was, when his 20th birthday last Saturday was so aptly marked by two sons emphatically confirming...

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Dr. Gary Lavin Passes Away

Dr. Gary Lavin, one of the Thoroughbred industry's most respected and accomplished veterinarians, passed away Saturday morning at his home in Louisville, Kentucky after a long battle with cancer, according to his family. He was 83 years old. Lavin is a past president of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Steward of The Jockey Club, trustee of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association and the Breeders' Cup, director at Keeneland, and vice-chairman of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. Lavin was a 1962 graduate of the University...

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This Side Up: It's Elementary as Fire Tests Water on Dirt

On the day that the leading grass juvenile of 2020 rolls the dice on the GI Kentucky Derby trail, here's a really important question for every American horseman. Just what was it about European turf star Mishriff (Ire) that qualified him to run down as irresistible a dirt runner as Charlatan (Speightstown) for the richest prize in our sport last weekend? The answer is so straightforward that it condenses into a single word, yet the implications continue to elude almost everyone in our industry. And that word is: opportunity. There...

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Sires for 2021: The Regional Scene

After completing our marathon tour of covering options in the Bluegrass, today we take a tour of the main regional hubs. Clearly, it would be impractical to go into anything like the same depth and, besides, local breeders know their own markets best. But while we will only visit some of the principal centers, and pick out only one or two names in each, bloodstock investors anywhere can acknowledge the professionalism that unites horsemen, coast to coast, and think about the possibilities of diversification or experiment--above all in those programs...

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Salvaged Vequist Puts Swilcan on Fairway

It's remarkable what people can do nowadays. The company co-founded by Tom McGrath converts glass bottles into lightweight construction aggregate. This stuff starts out as curbside recycling, your emptied beers and so on, and ends up supporting you as you drive over a bridge. But then there's nothing like raising and racing Thoroughbreds to show the latent capacities lurking in refuse material. Because Vequist (Nyquist), the champion juvenile filly homebred by McGrath's Swilcan Stable, was rejected in the ring twice over. The first time, she was in utero when her...

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This Side Up: Proxy Steps In to Try that Unique Fit

Derby dreams at this time of year can prove as ephemeral as the vapours rising into the glacial air of Hot Springs. But the owner of the champion juvenile knows perfectly well that plans, with Thoroughbreds, can only ever be provisional--and that the postponement of Monday's Oaklawn card is a relatively trivial inconvenience to Essential Quality (Tapit). To recall the graver vexations that can unravel a Derby colt, Sheikh Mohammed needs only rewind to the last cycle, and the last colt that offered to requite perhaps the greatest single ambition...

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Kentucky Sires for 2021: Established Stallions

So here we are at last, rounding the home turn. This series has unfolded in familiar fashion, with an initial stampede of unproven young stallions progressively thinned out by the impatience of a commercial sector operating in ever decreasing cycles. Today we finish with a selection from those admirable stallions who have survived the ruthless attrition, and created a viable niche at various levels of the market. The odds they have overcome, to get here, are such that the long-term health of the breed is clearly being treated as something...

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