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MojoMonthlyNewsletter

September 2013

Fall Racing: A special time of the year.

A crispness in the air greets the morning sun,
A feeling of anticipation, a new day has begun.

Harvest days are ending, winter is drawing near,
Yet in between is surely the most special time of year.
They call it Indian Summer, and it seems to fit the bill,
For it's as if the Lord took a feathered brush and painted all the hills.
“Autumn” by Julie L. O’Connor

Autumn is definitely a special time of year for horse racing. The legendary race tracks: Belmont Park, Keeneland, Santa Anita Park, and Churchill Downs host prestigious meets during the fall that feature some of the best horse racing from around the world—including the Breeders’ Cup Thoroughbred Championships.
 

Fall In Love With Racing

I’ll admit it—I’m a fall racing fanatic.  I love horse racing in October and November.  I can’t help it.  Some of my best racing experiences happened when the autumn leaves were on the trees.

In fact, the most adoring racing memory that I have is from a first date at Churchill Downs with my then girlfriend, Julie, during the Fall Meet in 1987. 

The leaves had changed, and the trees were awash in brilliant red, orange, and gold.  The air that day was cool, crisp, and fresh.  And, the afternoon sunshine was warm and welcome.  The conditions were picture perfect for both the horses and the fans. 

In the fourth race, there was a horse named Boothby’s Jig that I was familiar with.  He was a campaigner that had fared well during the previous Spring Meet at Churchill Downs; but, since then, his results over the summer weren’t very good.  This was his first race back at Churchill, and he was being reunited with jockey, Charles Woods, Jr. who rode him in the spring. 

Even though his odds were 12 to 1, I told Julie that Boothby’s Jig could win.  And, I knew if he did, that would cover dinner for the night.  So, with hope in one hand and $5 in the other, I placed the bet. 

Being slightly vested with my meager wager, we took our seats in the Third Floor Clubhouse and waited for track announcer Mike Battaglia’s signature call: “They’re at the post.” As we stared across the infield while the horses were being led to the gate, I was thinking how lucky I am to be under the Twin Spires, on a glorious fall day, with a lovely young lady by my side that I had met just a month earlier in my college algebra class. Julie was smart, had a good sense of humor, attractive, and we seemed to be interested in the same things, which is what brought us to Churchill Downs in the first place.

“And, they’re off.  For the lead…”  The frisson of excitement when the horses sprang from the gate leavened my preoccupation and refocused my attention upon the horses as they raced along the backside.  They were bunched together around the turn heading toward the quarter pole and, for a time, it was difficult to tell how the race would turn out.  The pace eventually freed a few horses and allowed them to move away from the pack.  That’s when Batagllia called out those encouraging words: “In-to-the stretch, it’s Boothby’s Jig out in front”.

In any race, when the horses reach the top of the stretch, the fans will instinctively rise to their feet and shout out to the horses on which they placed their bets.  “Stay up, baby.”  “Yes."  "That’s it.”  “Get to the wire!”  “Come on!!”  These are tribal-like battle cries of pent-up, short-term, nervous energy and emotion.  The kettle has reached the proverbial boiling point.  It's an opportunity to step outside of your otherwise collective self and cheer for the sake of cheering.  Of course, Julie and I were no different that afternoon.

As luck and, perhaps, fate would have it, Woods guided Boothy’s Jig to victory—he won by a little over a length.  The win returned $60, which provided a couple of ragtag freshman with a good meal later that night and great conversation about our wonderful day at the races.

Julie and I were married five years later, and every year since our date at Churchill Downs, Fall Racing has held a very special place in my heart.

The Breeders' Cup

In addition to Boothby’s Jig's victory at Churchill Downs that autumn afternoon, I’ve been blessed to witness other amazing moments in Thoroughbred racing history during the fall.  The Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championships are particularly special to me in this regard.
 
Founded in 1982, the Breeders’ Cup was created to be a year-end championship for the major Thoroughbred racing divisions; and, based upon the healthy purse money and generous incentive programs, the event now attracts the best race horses from around the world.

Perhaps, one the most exciting horse races, ever, happened in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic—the feature race and grand finale' for the event.  That year, it was held at Churchill Downs (the Breeders’ Cup rotates its venues) and in the Classic was the winner of the Kentucky Derby, the returning Classic Champ, and other well known winners of graded stakes races.  But the 17th running of the Classic came down to the “Iron Horse,” Giant’s Causeway, for Ireland and a late-blooming, lesser-known colt that was tough as nails named Tiznow.

From the moment the gates opened, Tiznow went to the front and never looked back.  Giant's Causeway stayed close to Tiznow and was positioned off of his hip for the entire race.  As the field turned for home, Tiznow, ridden by Hall of Fame jockey, Chris McCarron, was on the lead at the top stretch.  Giant’s Causeway drew even with a furlong to go.  For what seemed like an eternity, the two battled head-to-head down the stretch.  And, at the wire, Tiznow held his ground to prevail as the Champion.  (He went on to repeat the following year at Belmont Park, and is the only horse to win the Classic twice.)

What makes watching this race so exhilarating is that the NBC Network used an experimental camera technique that followed the horses stride-by-stride down the stretch.  You can watch the heart-pounding, pulsating race replay by clicking: 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic.  This horse race is what Thoroughbred racing is all about—I get cold chills every time I watch it, and I can’t help myself to root for the horses over and over again.  It is a Classic, and it is fantastic!  

I’ve also been lucky to see other great champions in their own divisions: Ouija Board winning the Filly & Mare Turf twice: 2004 at Lone Star Park and again in 2006 at Churchill Downs.  Goldikova winning the Mile for the third consecutive year in 2010 at Churchill Downs.  And, in another thrilling (yet heartrending) stretch run under the Twin Spires, I saw Blame defeat Zenyatta by a nose in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic ending her undefeated streak and preventing her from becoming the second horse to repeat in the Classic.  The following year, I was on the winning side of the ticket when the horse I backed, Drosselmeyer, won the Classic in 2011 (held again at Churchill Downs).

Mojo's First Race

In hindsight, what seems like fate more than coincidence, the first horse that ran for Mojo Racing Partners actually raced at Churchill Downs on a blustery, but nevertheless thrilling, November day in 2007.  This must have been what the racing gods had in store for us because it certainly was not what we had planned.

Earlier that year, we were going to launch the inaugural Mojo Racing campaign during the Spring/Summer Meet at Lone Star Park.  In spite of our best efforts, things just didn’t work out the way we planned; and, like all good horsemen, we regrouped, shifted gears, and doubled down—setting our sights on the Bluegrass State instead.

In April 2007, we purchased a somewhat small filly named Not In My Court by Doneraile Court out of Overcame It All from the Fasig-Tipton Texas Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale for $3,500.  Our goal at the time was to have some fun with our little filly at the Lone Star Spring Meet while our other horse, Hollywood Pegasus, who was a stout, dark bay colt by Fusaichi Pegasus out of Hollywood Princess, was waiting in the wings and growing into his rather hulkish body.

Even though Not In My Court was kind and gentle in the barn, she had good conformation and was actually a very determined race horse when she was on the track.  She was also known to be a bit stubborn and intentional about the way she liked to do things.  In fact, in our joint debut at Churchill Downs, she was hesitant to load in the gate.  And, I remember Luke Kruytbosch (Churchill’s track announcer at the time…God bless his soul) saying in his distinct, resonating voice:  “Waiting on Not In My Court…Not In My Court backs out…(then a long pause while the gate crew moves her up and jockey Miguel Mena climbs back in the irons)…In the gate...Theeeey’rrre off and running!”

Not In My Court didn’t disappoint—she ran off the pace for the opening quarter, made her move around the turn, and showed good speed in the stretch to get up to finish fourth.  As you would imagine, we were all proud of her effort, pleased with the result, and elated with the way she represented Mojo that day. 

Not In My Court went on to win three races and came in second once.  She raced another year before being retired to become a broodmare.  Her first foal is now a two-year-old filly named She’s Not Guilty by Mauk Four.  She’s Not Guilty recently ran her first race at Louisiana Downs, and just like her momma, she finished fourth in her debut too!

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Mojo Background

Mojo Thoroughbred Holdings, LLC (which conducts its racing operations as Mojo Racing Partners) is based in Fort Worth, TX and was formed in 2006.  Since then, Mojo has raced at Arlington Park, Churchill Downs, Indiana Downs, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Lone Star Park, Remington Park, and Turfway Park.


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