Category Archives: Racing

Aidan O’Brien Aiming for Epsom Double

Racing Post via Twitter.

Leading Irish Trainer Aidan O’Brien has already made a fantastic start to the 2017 campaign as he has claimed the opening two Classics of the season with the 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas which were won by Churchill and Winter respectively.

O’Brien is now eying Epsom success as he bids to win the Oaks and Derby which take place 24 hours apart on the Downs in Surrey. The last time the Ballydoyle trainer claimed both races in the same year was in 2012 when Was came out on top in the fillies contest and then Camelot went on to claim the most prestigious Classic of the campaign.

In the latest Oaks betting, O’Brien has the +200 in the form of Rhododendron who was very unlucky in the 1000 Guineas where she had to settle for second place behind her stablemate Winter. Just as the three-year-old filly was starting to reach top speed, she found trouble in running and was forced to check her run. That cost the Ryan Moore’s mount a couple of lengths at the very least, while the winner had a clear passage on the outside of runners.

Rhododendron will have to reverse the form with Winter as the pair will meet at Epsom, giving their trainer a strong hand in the race. It is the Newmarket second which has been heavily tipped up to improve for the step up to 2400m.

In the Derby it is unclear at this stage whether connections will take their chance with Churchill. The vibes from the yard are that his optimum trip is over 1600m where he excelled in the 2000 Guineas. The other option O’Brien has is to hold the horse back for Royal Ascot and run him in the St James’s Palace Stake over the distance he has been so successful at so far in his career.

RTE Racing via Twitter

Churchill’s absence could therefore lead the way for Cliffs of Moher to be O’Brien’s leading chance in the Derby this year. The Irish horse was successful in the Dee Stakes at Chester earlier this month in one of the leading trials for Epsom. He was able to handle the undulations at the Cheshire-track which is a positive sign ahead of the Classic on the Downs.

If you enjoy backing horses in a double, as pointed out from odds at the Winners Enclosure, who provide a daily double tip and the accumulated odds, it is a great chance to turn a small stake into a big return. With Rhododendron and Cliffs of Moher, the double works out at +2100 and it would be no surprise to see both horses prevail for a trainer who has had so much success at the meeting.

In terms of the dangers to O’Brien’s dominance in the Oaks, the leading threat, according to the betting, is Enable who can be backed at +500. John Gosden’s filly scored In the Cheshire Oaks at Chester’s May Meeting where she quickened up nicely inside the final 400m. Frankie Dettori is expected to be on board again at Epsom where he is bidding for his fourth victory in the Classic.

In the colts’ race, Cracksman is currently vying for Derby favouritism with the O’Brien pair of Churchill and Cliffs of Moher. The Frankel colt has been prominent in the market for this race ever since his success in the Derby Trial at Epsom last month. He’s set to feature in the Dante Stakes before his shot at the 2400m contest.

This year’s Oaks takes place on Friday, June 2, with the Derby scheduled a day later on Saturday, June 3 along with the Coronation Stakes, which is one of the leading middle distance races of the season for the older horses.

Old Friends Auction Halters Open for Bid

GEORGETOWN, KY – MAY 2, 2017 – Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility is Georgetown, KY, will host its 13th Annual Homecoming Event on Sunday May 7th beginning at 1 pm.

The event features a live and silent auction of artwork, prints, and racing memorabilia, including several premiere collectible stallion halters.

On the block are halters worn by:

  • American Pharoah, who won the Belmont Stakes in 2015 to become history’s 12th Triple Crown Champion. By capturing the Breeders’ Cup Classic that same year, he became the first horse to win racing’s Grand Slam. He now stands at Ashford Stud.[*]
  • California Chrome, who won the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness stakes as well as the GR1 Pacific classic, the GR1 Awesome Again Stakes, and the Dubai World Cup. The two-time Horse of the Year now stands at Taylor Made Farm.
  • Curlin, the two-time Horse of the Year, now a leading industry sire at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm. His son, Irish War Cry, is a leading contender for this year’s Kentucky Derby.
  • Runhappy, winner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the 2015 Eclipse Sprint Champion award, who now stands at Claiborne Farm.
  • Littleprincessemma, the dam of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. She was named Broodmare of the Year in 2015. She resides at Summer Wind Farm.

Interested buyers unable to attend on Sunday can now absentee bid on these items. To bid, email your name, address, and phone number along with your highest bid to:

The deadline to receive bids is Saturday May 6th, at 9 pm (EST).

At the event, someone will be assigned to proxy bid for you starting low and bidding up to your highest number.

The Old Friends Homecoming event will be highlighted by live music, a barbecue buffet, and farm tours where guests can meet the farm’s two Kentucky Derby Champions, Silver Charm and War Emblem, among other memorable equine athletes. There will also be a special book signing by Eclipse Award winning photographer Barbara Livingston, who will autograph copies of her new book Old and New Friends (Daily Racing Form, $39.95).

Tickets are still available and can be reserved by calling (502) 863-1775 or booked online by visiting the website at Tickets are $25; $15 for Old Friends members. Children under 12 are free.

Special thanks goes out to the farms that so generously donated these and other wonderful halters to Old Friends. For more information on the event, visit the website or call the farm at (502) 863-1775.

* This item lists with a reserve of $3,000.

Old Friends is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that cares for more than 175 retired racehorses. Its Dream Chase Farm, located in Georgetown, KY, is open to tourists daily by appointment. Old Friends also has a satellite facility in Greenfield Center, New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division, which is also open to visitors. For more information on tours or to make a donation, contact the main farm at (502) 863-1775 or see their website at

MEDIA CONTACT: Cynthia Grisolia, (502) 863-1775,; or Barbara Fossum, (502) 863-1775,

Early Season Form Crucial for Churchill in 2017

Source: Yorkshire Post via Twitter.

Churchill and trainer Aidan O’Brien will be aiming for a strong start to their quest to dominate the flat season in 2017. The Bay Colt has boasted a formidable record in the early stages of his career, but now must deliver on his promise with victories in the biggest races on the calendar. Churchill will have to find his form around the track before the crucial meets of the campaign, having not raced since October last year.

He will have no shortage of challengers, who have used races across the country to build up a rhythm ahead of the hectic part of the season. The three-year-old will return to the track at the 2000 Guineas as one of the leading contenders to secure the win, being backed in the latest horse racing betting odds at 15/8 to claim victory at Newmarket.

He will be eager to begin his 2017 season on the highest of notes, with the Dante Stakes next on the agenda after the Guineas – where Churchill will be looking to join former greats by winning at York. Momentum will be key for the Bay Colt and O’Brien over the course of the season with bigger meets on the horizon in June at the Epsom Downs and Ascot. As a result, extending his winning streak will be imperative in pursuit of greater glory.

Churchill began his career at the European Breeders Fund Maiden, but just missed on a debut win as he was edged out on the final furlong by Van Der Decken and Magnification. To this day it’s the only race where the Bay Colt has failed to claim victory.

Source: Ascot Racecourse via Twitter

His first appearance at Ascot was a success, as although he entered the meet as the favourite, the Irish horse was able to stride to a comfortable win down the stretch ahead of Isomer. The Bay Colt delivered in his next out at Leopardstown with his second victory at the Tyros Stakes, producing a strong run to the finish to beat out Alexios Komnenos by a neck.

Churchill’s form was going from strength to strength signalled by his best outing at Curragh where he blew away the rest of the field with an excellent run to win the Futurity Stakes. The National Stakes was a statement win for the Bay Colt, highlighting his dominance at the top of the field. Jockeyed by Ryan Moore the Irish horse cruised to victory by 4¼ lengths ahead of Mehmas and Frankie Dettori.

He secured his fifth straight win at Newmarket in the Dewhurst Stakes in October, with another flawless performance, defeating Lancaster Bomber – who will be one of his challengers over the course of the season.

Churchill has the talent to enjoy an extremely successful season, with the possibility of matching Golden Horn’s achievements in 2015 of winning the Dante Stakes, Epsom Derby, Irish Champion Stakes and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. His early season form will be crucial to beginning on the right note and his performances must be of a high standard at the Guineas and the Dante Stakes.

Should Churchill continue his winning streak at both meets, then it would be no surprise to see the Bay Colt enjoying further success at the biggest races later in the campaign.

Two Contenders to Challenge Churchill at 2000 Guineas

Al Wukair. Source: Al Shaqab Racing via Twitter.

Churchill is the leading candidate to triumph at the 2000 Guineas to kick start an important run of races in the flat season. The Bay Colt has known nothing other than success in his career to date, winning five of his six meets to date along with a third-place finish on his debut.

Aidan O’Brien’s charge has been touted to make a run at all the major crowns this term, with Dante Stakes, Epsom Stakes and Royal Ascot all on the agenda in the near future.

He has not raced since October and that could allow the rest of the field a chance strike at the three-year-old in the race, catching him cold and out of rhythm.

Here are two of the potential candidates that could snatch the victory away from Churchill and O’Brien.

Al Wukair

The Irish horse has been touted as one of the main challengers for Churchill in the race. He trains under the tutelage of Andre Fabre and reports from France suggest that he could be in line for a very successful season.

He has been limited in his action on the track with only two races to his name thus far. The three-year-old’s first meet came at the Isonomy Listed Stakes in Deauville.

Jockeyed by Gregory Benoist the Bay Colt secured a comfortable victory by one-and-a-half lengths, delivering on expectations having been named the favourite before the race.

After a six-month break, Al Wukair returned to the track at the Djebel Stakes in Maisons-Laffitte. Once he again the three-year-old was heavily backed, with Benoist and the Irish horse securing another victory.

With two wins under his belt, Al Wukair has a decent chance to beat out Churchill, being backed in the latest horse racing betting odds at 4/1 to triumph at Newmarket.


The Bay Colt will come into the major racing fold under the weight of expectations. Eminent is the son of the legendary horse Frankel, who was truly dominant in the flat between 2010 and 2012.

Eminent. Source: Read Sport via Twitter

Success is in the three-year-old’s blood and trainer Martyn Meade will be determined to guide the horse to victory and continue his bright start to his career.

Eminent will be on familiar territory at Newmarket, where his two previous races to date have been situated.

He made his debut in September last year at the Stallions Maiden Stakes, and jockeyed by Jim Crowley, the Irish horse produce an excellent display to triumph by two-and-three-quarter lengths, finishing well ahead of favourite Taj Mahal.

The Bay Colt returned to action at the end of April after seven months off the track. However, he displayed no signs of rust at the Craven Stakes winning the race with a fine run down the stretch, once again finishing ahead of the touted favourite War Decree.

Eminent’s familiarity on Newmarket racecourse will stand him in good stead for the 2000 Guineas and he has already shown a propensity for causing an upset. Churchill will have to be well aware of the threat the Irish horse can pose down the final furlong in the meet.

Kentucky Derby

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The Kentucky Derby is a horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday in May, capping the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. The race is a Grade I stakes race for three-year-old Thoroughbreds at a distance of one and a quarter miles (2 km) at Churchill Downs. Colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57 kilograms) and fillies 121 pounds (55 kilograms).

The race is known in the United States as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” or “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports” for its approximate duration, and is also called “The Run for the Roses” for the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is the first leg of the American Triple Crown and is followed by the Preakness Stakes, then the Belmont Stakes. Unlike the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, which took hiatuses in 1891-1893 and 1911-1912, respectively, the Kentucky Derby has been run every consecutive year since 1875. A horse must win all three races to win the Triple Crown. In the 2015 listing of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), the Kentucky Derby tied with the Whitney Handicap as the top Grade 1 race in the United States outside of the Breeders’ Cup races.

The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes, and the Breeders’ Cup.

The 2017 Kentucky Derby will be the 143rd running, and is set for Saturday, May 6, 2017 with a $2 million guaranteed purse.

A Visual Guide to The Kentucky Derby is an interactive infographic dealing with interesting facts and trivia on the history and pageantry of one of sport’s biggest events. From the Derby’s origins to dominating bloodlines and on to ladies fashions and mint juleps… this infographic has a little bit for every one as it unfolds the most exciting two minutes in sports!

Classic Empire Heads Entries for Kentucky Derby

Credit: Paul Miles via Twitter.

Classic Empire is set to begin his Classic campaign this year in the Kentucky Derby, where he is the bookmakers’ favourite to prevail in the 2000m contest at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Mark Casse-trained horse was one of the most impressive two-year-colts last year in the United States where he won on three of his four starts at the racecourse, including the Grade One Clairborne Breeders’ Futurity Stakes at Keeneland and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita during the World Championship meeting in November.

Classic Empire has already had the benefit of two starts in 2017. He made his seasonal reappearance at Gulfstream Park where he could only come home third in the Grade Two Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes when going off at -200. He did though come on for that outing on his most recent run at Churchill Downs when he won the Grade Three Bashford Manor Stakes.

Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner is a best price of +700 for victory in the first leg of the Triple Crown; however, if you are looking to back Casse’s talented horse, check out comparison sites like who collate the best sign-up offers and odds for the meeting at Churchill Downs next month.

Always Dreaming is unbeaten since moving to Todd Pletcher’s yard and is also set to line up in the Kentucky Derby for his connections. The three-year-old ran only once last season, where he finished third at Belmont Park. He’s already had two outings in 2017 as he scored on his return at Gulfstream Park, where he stepped up to 1800m for the first time in his career.

Credit: Jonatan Meza via Twitter

Pletcher’s colt made a quick return at Gulfstream Park to land the Grade One Florida Derby by an impressive five lengths. He was ridden that day by John Velazquez, who tracked the leaders early on and made a challenge in the home straight where his horse picked up really well.

Always Dreaming is available at +800 in the latest betting, at the time of writing. Pletcher is bidding for his second Kentucky Derby winner as he trained Super Saver to success in 2010.

Another horse who is expected to be in contention at Churchill Downs is Irish War Cry for H. Graham Motion, who last won this race in 2011 with Animal Kingdom. The horse, whose sire is Curlin, has already recorded a couple of Grade Two successes.

After making his a winning debut Laurel Park, Motion’s colt went straight into the Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes where he upset the short-price favourite Classic Empire. A month later he ran a below-par performance as he came home down the field at the same course in another Grade Two contest.

Irish War Cry looked right back to his best earlier this month in the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct as he finished the strongest of the eight runners to claim success with Rajov Maragh on his back.

This year’s Kentucky Derby will be the 143rd renewal of the race and will take place on May 6 where there are currently 23 entries remaining with just two weeks to go.

Willie Mullins Looking to Rule the Punchestown Festival Again

Credit: Telegraph Sport via Twitter.

Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins is set to run a strong team at the Punchestown Festival later this month. The Irish meeting is the last major international meeting in national hunt racing, and attracts the best horses from the UK, France and Ireland.

Mullins ended the Cheltenham Festival with six winners, a fine total considering he drew a blank on the opening two days after a slow start to the week. He also had four winners recently at the Irish Grand National meeting at Fairyhouse, including with Thomas Hobson who prevailed in the Grade A Glascarn Handicap Hurdle ahead of the highly regarded Veinard, who was tipped up by Oddschecker, while JP McManus-owned After Rain was in the third.

The feature race next week is the Punchestown Gold Cup, where Mullins is bidding for his fourth success in the three-mile, one-furlong contest. The Irishman is set to saddle Djakadam, who has been second in this Grade One contest in 2015 and 2016. Djakadam finished fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which was won by Sizing John last month where he went off as the +300 favourite. He was travelling really well in the race until he made a bad blunder at the second-to-last fence, which really cost him any chance of coming out on top. Mullins will be confident his horse can deliver again at Punchestown as he was successful at the same track earlier in the campaign in the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase.

The Punchestown Champion Hurdle could be the race in which Mullins’ star mare Annie Power makes her return to the track in what would be her opening run of the campaign. The 2016 Champion Hurdle winner was unable to defender her crown at Cheltenham due to a leg injury. She currently tops the betting at +200 to win this prestigious hurdle race, which may also feature her stablemate Arctic Fire, who defied top weight in the County Hurdle last month. Vroum Vroum Mag, meanwhile also has an entry, as she will be bidding to go one place better than her second-placed finish in the Mares’ Hurdle behind Apple’s Jade.

Nichols Canyon caused a surprise at Cheltenham in the Stayers’ Hurdle where he prevailed at odds of +1000. The seven-year-old appeared to enjoy the step up to three miles where he got the better of Lil Rockerfeller by just under a length, while the short-price favourite Unowhatimeanharry was third. The first three home at Cheltenham are set to do battle again at Punchestown, where Mullins will be hoping his hurdler can topple his rivals again in which he is +150 to do so.

Credit: Racing Post via Twitter

Mullins also has the favourite for the Punchestown Champion Chase, where the Ryanair Chase winner Un De Sceaux is set to drop back down to two miles. The former Arkle winner went up in distance at Cheltenham to prove he is very versatile; however, the Champion Chase trip is thought to be his optimum trip.  Un De Sceaux is set to meet Cheltenham runner-up Fox Norton in Ireland, while Gods Own and Rock The World both have entries in the leading two-mile race over fences.

In the Trainers’ title at the meeting, Mullins is odds-on to gain compensation for losing his trophy at Cheltenham to Gordon Elliott. His rival also had six winners at the Festival last month but finished the week with more seconds to gain the prize on checkback. Mullins is locked in a battle with Elliott for the Irish Trainers’ Championship where he is second going into the last big meeting of the season.

71st Block House Races Attracts High Praise and Strong Attendance

Balance The Budget and Mark Watts. ©ErikOlsen.

Columbus, NC – April 19, 2017 – More than 9,000 spectators turned out for the 71st annual Tryon Block House Races, the historic steeplechase of Tryon Riding & Hunt Club, at its new venue in Columbus, NC. Thanks to the partnership between Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) and the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club (TRHC), the 2017 event grew from four races to six and from 17 entries to 40 entries. The prize money more than doubled to $175,000.

Tryon Equestrian Partners’ Roger Smith, who had the vision for the new venue, was honored with a new perpetual trophy – the Roger Smith Cup.  Smith commented, “This was a dream come true for me to see such a great turnout from spectators, trainers, and owners for the inaugural event. The weather and the event could not have been more perfect.”

Balance The Budget, owned by Stonelea Stables and trained by Julie Gomena, rose above the field in the most anticipated race of the day, taking the $40,000 Tryon Block House Race by almost four lengths. The now eight-year-old took a major win last season at the 2016 Carolina Cup in Camden, SC before capturing victory this week at the 71st annual Tryon Block House Races in Columbus, NC. The dashing chestnut gelding was piloted by Mark Watts of Camden, SC and the pair finished the 2 ¼ mile race in 4:03.80 on the new turf course, besting six other pairs.

Off track, spectators got in on the competition with the annual hat and “Go to Heck” pants contests. Pants contest winner Beau Harling of Greenville, SC, a 17-year attendee of the Tryon Block House Races, was highly-complimentary of the event’s new venue.

“This is my 17th year at the Block House Races, although my family has been coming for 60 years, and this new venue is gorgeous,” said Harling. “With the stage and the vendors now and the kids’ area, this event is going to grow and considering this is just the first year, y’all have done a heck of a job. People better buy their tickets fast for next year because in three years; this event will be a sell-out.”

The opening ceremonies entertainment continued with a welcome by the Green Creek Hounds, a daring performance by the Shea Rose Vaulters, and Presentation of Colors by the Polk County Veterans Memorial Honor Guard. Skydivers descended with American Flag to the singing of the National Anthem before starting the first race.

For many families, like Amy Washburn Cooke of Bostic, NC, the Tryon Block House Races is a tradition generations old.

“We have been coming every year for at least 20 years and our group gets bigger every year,” said Cooke. “We have three generations here today and we hope it will be their tradition as well to come every year.”

Roy Brock of Asheville, NC enjoyed all aspects of the event, commenting, “We’ve had a great time here today. Great hospitality, terrific event site, horses beautiful, riders beautiful, hats beautiful, pants beautiful. It’s really a terrific experience. I would recommend this event to anyone who wants to enjoy a beautiful spring day in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

The president of the National Steeplechase Association (NSA), the governing body for the sport of steeplechase, was very impressed with the entire event.

“I think it was a fabulous day of racing,” said NSA President Guy Torsilieri. The horsemen loved it; the owners and trainers loved it. Very impressive.”

Rug Howard, Chief Steward, said the event was “very, very well organized.” He continued, “It’s a beautiful race course, rode well, couldn’t have been a better day – especially for the first time,” emphasized Howard. “Whether the event is here or at the equestrian center, they [Tryon International Equestrian Center] always do a first-class job.”

Mark Bellissimo, CEO of Tryon Equestrian Partners that owns and operates Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC), is pleased with the event and is looking forward to future growth and ongoing improvements.

“We are pleased with our inaugural steeplechase through this partnership and look forward to making the event even better for future years,” said Bellissimo. “Our goal is to continue to expand the equestrian lifestyle offerings of Tryon Resort. We are confident that the Block House Races will become one of the most enjoyable and sought-after steeplechases in the circuit. We are grateful for the positive feedback from NSA and everyone who helped make this transition smooth and successful.”

For more info on the Tryon Block House Races and Tryon International Equestrian Center, please visit

About the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club

Formed in 1925, the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club seeks to enhance and preserve the traditions of the Tryon area by conducting equestrian and philanthropic programs that benefit the entire community. Learn more at

8th April Horse Racing – Grand National (Aintree)

The Grand National is a National Hunt horse race held annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. First run in 1839, it is a handicap steeplechase over 4 miles 514 yards (6.907 km) with horses jumping 30 fences over two laps. It is the most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund of £1 million in 2016. An event that is prominent in British culture, the race is popular amongst many people who do not normally watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year.

The course over which the race is run features much larger fences than those found on conventional National Hunt tracks. Many of these, particularly Becher’s Brook, The Chair and the Canal Turn, have become famous in their own right and, combined with the distance of the event, create what has been called “the ultimate test of horse and rider”.

Who will win the 2017 Randox Health Grand National? It’s the question everyone is asking, and without the aid of a crystal ball or a time machine we’re all forced to study Grand National odds to help us find the winner.

The Grand National betting market is of course the most popular of the year and once again it is looking like the National’s odds is wide open with any number of horses in with a genuine chance. Vieux Lion Rouge is a major contender for David Pipe this season. Favorite backers have found it hard to find Grand National winners in recent years but confidence is growing that Vieux Lion Rouge could become the third market leader to prevail at Aintree in the last decade.

The most recent running of the race, in 2016, was won by Rule the World, ridden by jockey David Mullins for trainer Mouse Morris. The next Grand National is on 8 April 2017.

70 horses in all will attempt to navigate the 30-fence, four mile, 514 yard steeplechase course, with the race scheduled to begin at 5:15pm BST/DST on Saturday. List of Grand National 2017 runners and riders: full list of horses and jockeys for Aintree race.

The Grand National has been broadcast live on free-to-air terrestrial television in the United Kingdom since 1960. From then until 2012 it was broadcast by the BBC. Between 2013 and 2016 it was shown by Channel 4; the UK broadcasting rights transfer to ITV from 2017. An estimated 500 to 600 million people watch the Grand National in over 140 countries. It has also been broadcast on radio since 1927; BBC Radio held exclusive rights until 2013; however, Talksport also now holds radio commentary rights.

The Course

The Grand National is run over the National Course at Aintree and consists of two laps of 16 fences, the first 14 of which are jumped twice. Horses completing the race cover a distance of 4 miles 514 yards (6.907 km), the longest of any National Hunt race in Britain. As part of a review of safety following the 2012 running of the event, from 2013 to 2015 the start was moved 90 yards (82 m) forward away from the crowds and grandstands, reducing the race distance by 110 yards (100 m) from the historical 4 miles 880 yards (7.242 km). The course is also notable for having one of the longest run-ins from the final fence of any steeplechase, at 494 yards (452 m).

The Grand National was designed as a cross-country steeplechase when it was first officially run in 1839. The runners started at a lane on the edge of the racecourse and raced away from the course out over open countryside towards the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The gates, hedges and ditches that they met along the way were flagged to provide them with the obstacles to be jumped along the way with posts and rails erected at the two points where the runners jumped a brook. The runners returned towards the racecourse by running along the edge of the canal before re-entering the course at the opposite end. The runners then ran the length of the racecourse before embarking on a second circuit before finishing in front of the stands. The majority of the race therefore took place not on the actual Aintree Racecourse but instead in the adjoining countryside. That countryside was incorporated into the modern course but commentators still often refer to it as “the country”.

Old Friends “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” Unveils “The Danthebluegrassman”

Jockey Chris and his wife Shelby Landeros. Photo © Equisport Photography.

The 8th Annual Maggie Mae Designs® Old Friends-sponsored online fashion auction, “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby”, has opened bidding on the final hat in the 2017 series.

The Derby-style chapeau currently up for bid honors one-time Derby contender Danthebluegrassman.

Bidding in this online auction will be available through April 11, 2017, 8:00 pm (EST). To bid, CLICK HERE.

This unique fundraiser features one-of-a-kind couture hats created by Maggie Mae Designs®, the sale of which benefits Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement Facility based in Georgetown, KY.

To date, this annual online fashion auction has raised over $30,000 for Old Friends.

Kentucky-bred Danthebluegrassman captured the 2001 Gold Rush Stakes as a two-year-old and then the 2002 Golden Gate Derby, which made him a top contender for the 2002 Kentucky Derby. But injury kept him from starting on the First Saturday in May in the race that was won by his stablemate, War Emblem. Dan continued to race, but by 2008 had fallen down the claiming ranks. Thanks to several fans and supporters, the chestnut son of Pioneering was claimed and retired to Old Friends.

The custom-crafted chapeau honoring this athlete makes use of owner Mike Pegram’s bright racing silks of bold red and yellow. The hat features a champagne silk foundation highlighted by wispy layers of bright tulle. The centerpiece is a large red rose placed along the crown. The flower is framed with a medley of yellow organza leaves, each of which is delicately top stitched in red for added detailing.

As with all of the Maggie Mae Designs®, the “Danthebluegrassman” hat is stunning from every angle with no detail left untouched.

Special thanks to our models Krystal and Jon Court and their daughter, Aubrey, and Shelby and Chris Landeros. Thanks also to Lexington-based boutique Bella Rose for furnishing Krystal and Shelby’s lovely dresses!

To see more photos and read more about the hat’s design, CLICK HERE.

Old Friends, Inc. 1841 Paynes Depot Rd., Georgetown, KY 40324

Old Friends at Cabin Creek   483 Sandhill Rd., Greenfield Center, NY 12833