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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


Hallandale Beach, FL, November 5, 2023 — The riding stars of Breeders’ Cup 40, Irad Ortiz Jr. who won his fifth Shoemaker Award as the event’s outstanding rider, and Ryan Moore, who handled Turf-winning Auguste Rodin brilliantly, have both been censured by Santa Anita Park stewards for riding infractions on Championship Saturday.

Ortiz was handed a three-day suspension for veering into the path of the leading Society aboard Goodnight Olive, Filly & Mare Sprint champion while enroute to a comprehensive title defense. There was no stewards’ inquiry nor a jockey’s claim of foul.

Moore won his second race of Breeders’ Cup 40 with a rail-skimming performance, taking command after entering the stretch for a driven-out victory. In the process, he struck Auguste Rodin seven times, one over the mandated six-strike limit. In both instances, it was a triumph of de jure over de facto rules.

These incidents needed to be a judgment call. There is no way reasonable observers would consider Moore’s use of the crop excessive, unless one was counting whip strokes. Moore was fined $20,000 for the infraction, or about 10% of his share of the winning purse. Blimey.

The Ortiz incident was a little more complex. Unfortunately for Ortiz, his reputation for rough race-riding precedes him. Indeed, he has been criticized in this space often for his rough-housing, dating back to his ride aboard 2021 Remsen Stakes winner Mo Donegal.

A case can be made that in taking away Society’s path, forcing his rider to steady his mount, cost the tiring filly third money, passed in the final strides by Three Witches who finished three-quarters of a length in front of Society.

Indeed, a case can be made, albeit not a very strong one.

If Society’s rider didn’t claim foul, and if the stewards didn’t think the crowd was owed an official look at the incident in real time, apparently they believed the best filly won, and that a demotion would have been egregiously unjust. Once again, the letter of the law triumph over the spirit of the mandates

Contextually, the three-day suspension and the $20,000 fine were ham-fisted. As of this posting, it is unknown whether either rider intends to appeal the rulings.


I woke up to the news this morning to learned that young, brave Cody Dorman passed away on Sunday. I have no words for this one. The following is a statement made by Breeders’ Cup Ltd: IN MEMORY OF CODY DORMAN

The entire Breeders’ Cup team is devastated by the news of Cody Dorman’s passing yesterday. His story captured our hearts and minds, and his strength, spirit, and determination were fittingly embodied by his namesake’s commanding performances in his honor. We send our sincere condolences to the Dormans, who gave our sport so much by welcoming us into their family.


It’s been a couple of decades since Eclipse Award vote-splitting was verboten, but if there ever was a year when two outstanding horses and horsemen deserve year’s end recognition, 2023 would be that year.

As to the best story of the year, well, that’s another story.

First, the horses. It’s always the horses because it’s rare when a trainer or jockey can bring you to tears, wagering frustrations notwithstanding.

On Championship Saturday, it didn’t take long for the waterworks to begin

Like any true fan of Thoroughbred racing, the saga of Cody’s Wish never will fail to elicit an emotional response, and his story ends exactly where it began last year, at the finish of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

In between those two Grade 1 titles came three graded stakes, two more Grade 1s including the storied Met Mile.

The loss was a 10-length thumping by White Abarrio in Saratoga’s equally legendary G1 Whitney. All Cody’s Wish lost that day was a mile-and-an-eighth horse race, each having now beaten the other.

However, following yesterday’s head-bobbing thriller, Cody’s Wish is now a perfect 8-for-8 at one mile.

But of course, that’s not the story. This is Cody Dorman’s story, his and his amazing family. That story, to paraphrase what was uttered often during Saturday’s telecast, how the outside of Cody’s Wish was good for the soul of a young man and his struggle to overcome.

The manner of Cody’s Wish’s victory was script worthy, both the exciting finish and the drama created by an inquiry into the stretch run where he and this year’s Preakness winner, National Treasure, brushed up each other for strides approaching the finish line.

Ultimately, the stewards got that one right, reasoning that since National Treasure initiated the contact the result should be allowed to stand even if Cody’s Wish had responded in kind.

As for White Abarrio, who showed enough quality to win the G1 Florida Derby last year, got his second Grade 1 this year on the first weekend of August in Saratoga. In doing so, he the best Thoro-Graph speed figure since the great Flightline.

The almost white son of Race Day, he a son of Tapit that had not sired a stakes winner until Saturday, was always talented but wasn’t Classic worthy until he matured at 4 and was given over to Rick Dutrow to train. who in six months time turned him into a top class handicap runner.

Two variables in the management of White Abarrio’s development are a result of Dutrow’s horsemanship: Dealing with the 4-year-old’s foot issues then, that done, listening to what White Abarrio was telling him.

Not satisfied with the colt’s condition, Dutrow called on noted blacksmith Ian McKinlay who came to New York, pulled White Abarrio’s shoes, tended to his feet, and fitted him with a set of glue-on shoes that would enable the horse to strike the ground more uniformly.

But the feet remained an issue that needed addressing. A scheduled final workout was postponed, Dr. McKinlay made another house call , White Abarrio got a new set of glue-ons and worked to everyone’s satisfaction, his 59.80 rescheduled workout, satisfying Breeders’ Cup veterinarians and drawing rave reviews from the clockers.

Lacking access to 39 prior years of Classic past performances, if memory serves White Abarrio became the first horse to win America’s most prestigious dirt race without having a traditional fall prep race.

Ten years on the sidelines did not blunt Dutrow’s talent in the care and management of race horses. Trainer Dale Romans describes Dutrow as a savant.

Legendary equine surgeon Dr. Larry Bramlage, testified at Dutrow’s administrative hearing that Dutrow saved many equine careers by identifying issues before they became major problems.

And so Dutrow’s career has come full circle, to the point where he accomplished something no other horseman had done; win this country’s most important race for older horses off a 91-day layup.

Via phone in September, I said to Dutrow “wouldn’t it be something if you won the Classic then came down to South Florida for the Pegasus World Cup? The colt loves Gulfstream.”

“The following month, there’s a $20 million race in Saudi Arabia we’d like to win,” Dutrow shot back.

“So you could prep in the Pegasus,” I said. “The Breeders’ Cup will be his prep for Saudi,” Dutrow quipped.”

That was the Dutrow I knew back in 2013. Time has made 10 years wiser and Saturday’s victory has renewed his confidence.

The story of the year is a match race between a great horse and a great horseman. My vote is a dead-heat.

*** 08:54 pm

Forgot to mention the other trainer … Bill Mott who only won three races, virtually assuring titles with defending champion sprinter Elite Power and the talented, promising juvenile filly, unbeaten Just F Y I. His work rejuvenating Cody’s Wish and Elite Power and keeping them happy is trademark of his Hall of Fame skills.

East Coast and Midwestern-based horses, along with legendary international talent, human and equine, had a feast in Southern California. The home team not so much.

At the end of the day, hey, it’s horse racing. Enjoy, and deal with it.

this live column will be updated

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14 Responses

  1. Oh, Dutrow only followed that up by going out and winning the Nashua at Aqueduct today at 19/1 with a stretchout going 6f to 8f.

    No big deal. That’s what Hall of Fame trainers do.

    1. Wow, could have used a wakeup call on that one Doc… just so busy with post BC duties. Good for him, and yes, that’s what Hall of Fame trainers do.
      Think he will need a new generation to garner enough votes for that. Have to laugh. All of a sudden everyone is recognizing that this is a very gifted horseman.
      Anyway, good for him–and for you if you cashed…

  2. JP–
    After a season at Saratoga that was marred by too many tragic breakdowns of the sport’s finest equine athletes, how wonderful that the heart warming story of Cody’s Wish had a fairy tale finish.
    What an amazing ride Junior Alvarado gave this champion after getting squeezed at the start and how fitting that the stewards wisely chose not to deny this noble horse its well deserved win.

    1. Great ride by Junior, who had an extremely solid BC. Irad Ortiz won 3, and he rode a masterpiece only to get beaten barely in the Turf by the Euro in what might have been 2 of the best rides of the whole day. Just a great BC for Euros on turf as usual, and by NYRA connections.
      Rough day for the Cali horses. I believe I read that every American based horse who won a BC race this weekend ran at Saratoga this summer. That is amazing.

      1. Will have to check on that Saratoga note in the PPs, sounds plausible certainly.{Checked as promised and yes, every non-Euro winner raced at Saratoga–as it should be}.
        I guess it turned out that the California horses were not as good as advertised Doc, although Tamara did come out with a minor issue needing attention.
        Her effort is similar to the one offered by Fierceness in the Champagne; she’s much better that that!

    2. Yes, Alvarado’s ride was superb, as noted by Doc and yourself, and the Cody-Cody phenomenon defies belief, especially in the tough game that is horse racing.
      But the news of the brave young man’s passing is just heartbreaking and devasting.
      Cosmic forces at work, I suppose, in relation to the timing.

  3. Split vote seems like a great choice this year with two well deserving HOY candidates in Cody and White Abarrio.

    Let talk about the Eclipse Award for Best Trainer, this too should be split between Dutrow and Mott.

    BC never disappoints…..

    1. I like the idea… of course, there’s no vote spitting, but Mott developing that filly and keeping those old boys in fine fettle is indeed Eclipse worthy.
      Funny, but listening to Rick in various press conferences and interviews, he made getting this horse ready no big deal and gave a lot of credit to his blacksmith.
      WA has a heel issue that they would like to finally resolve. Until then, it will be day to day.

  4. While watching the big races at Santa Anita , my wife, a former ICU ,Mcu nurse for many years she mentioned to me that that handicapped, sleeping, young Cody should not be there among all of those people, horses and media cameras. He did not look well, especially for a young body , mind. She was right on this one. When I heard that he had passed away I did not want to mention it to her because it would have started another long argument, even if we both agreed on this topic. Her opinion was that horseplayers, owners, trainers , ,television et al,, have lost any sense of decency, even for visibly handicapped humans, for the sake of ” show ” business and fake emotions. It ruined the day, unfortunately. I agree with her: That kid Should Not have been there. He was not a puppet , but a suffering human being. He did not know that ” his Horse” had won. Now , we lost , as we keep on losing any sense of logic in favor of our capricious , blind addictions. If he was a family member, would you have wanted him there in those precarious conditions ? Let’s be honest, once in a while.

  5. I love the idea of White Abarrio & Cody’s Wish splitting the Eclipse. I also think Rick Dutrow deserves recognition on Eclipse night. He is an absolute training prodigy and always has been.
    He served his time and that should be good enough for anyone. The fact that he was falsely accused and Imprisoned just makes the whole thing infinitely more tragic.

    On a more cheerful note, NY racing fans could not have it much better despite all the washed out weekends we have been hit with. We get to see Bill Mott, Rick Dutrow, and a number of other all time great trainers ply their trade daily, all the best horses in this country are running at NYRA tracks these days, and we have an all time jockey colony in quality and depth, led by a man who – all feelings aside – is simply one of the best we have ever seen do it.

    It’s not enough because I’m selfish though, so I want a spring 2024 meet with Tyler joining the daily ranks.

  6. Doc, in a perfect world, both horses and horsemen would share the top award for accomplishments in 2023. But, alas …

    I too would love to see Tyler join the New York colony on a more permanent basis, but he’s said he loves living in Kentucky and may have designs on becoming this era’s Pat Day, in terms of dominating that circuit. Just speculation on that, of course.

    1. Nothing wrong with that at all. There is something to be said for measuring yourself up against the game’s best each summer at Saratoga and then going to KY and taking little new things you catch from the top few guys and incorporating them into your style. It obviously worked like a charm for Pat Day for decades. If Irad Ortiz is a large helping of Angel Cordero Jr with a sprinkle of Garrett Gomez, perhaps Tyler Gaffalione will end up being a large helping of Jerry Bailey with a sprinkle of Irad Ortiz. I honestly haven’t been this excited about a younger jockey since the Ortiz brothers hit.

  7. I liked your jockey analogy vis a vis Tyler. Jerry Bailey with a sprinkle of Irad Ortiz — brains and brawn…

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