As 2017 winds down, it's time to take a look back at the most popular stories of the year, per Paulick Report tradition.
This year's group is a diverse one, with readers following some of the legal cases we reported, debating regulatory issues, but also delighting in some of the uplifting and educational pieces we did.
It's A Boy! American Pharoah's First Foal Born In Versailles – More than a year after his last race, 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was responsible for the most popular story of 2017. Brookdale Farm announced the birth of the Coolmore stud's first foal on Jan. 3 to Tizway mare Kakadu. The colt was Kakadu's first foal. He did not show up for sale as a weanling in the November auctions, although other weanlings from Pharoah's first crop did well at Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland.
Secretariat Owner Penny Chenery Dies After Complications From Stroke – After a lifetime devoted to Thoroughbreds, beloved Secretariat owner Helen “Penny” Chenery died this year at the age of 95. Chenery was one of the first women admitted to The Jockey Club, the first female president of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and was the creator of the Secretariat Vox Populi Award. She received an Eclipse Award of Merit in 2006 for her contributions to the racing industry and her work as an advocate for laminitis research and bans on performance-enhancing drugs. A subsequent memorial service for Chenery in Central Kentucky was broadcast online and a number of tributes were written to her memory, including one by E.S. “Bud” Lamoreaux.
Tampa Bay Downs Bans Trainer After Horse With Burned Lip Tattoo Rescued From 'Kill Pen' – A disturbing tale out of South Florida led to a ban on entries from trainer Horacio Barbaran after Tampa Bay Downs officials said Barbaran violated its anti-slaughter policy. Win Cruise, a 6-year-old former Barbaran trainee, was found at a Louisiana kill pen with his lip tattoo burned off to conceal his identity. His rescuer requested a DNA test and identified the horse, who had run a few weeks earlier at Tampa Bay. We later examined anti-slaughter policies and enforcement at other racetracks and learned Tampa Bay's decision to ban Barbaran was not unprecedented, although unusual.
I Owe You How Much? The Cost Of Shoeing Horses – A piece by Denise Steffanus in our Horse Care section shed light on the many costs that go into a farrier's price structure. Besides equipment and insurance, there's the matter of the physical toll of shoeing horses. Farrier Pat Broadus estimated most people in his line of work make 60 percent of their income in the first 15 years of their career. Hoof care stories remain popular with our readers, particularly this one we published in 2015 about a new open-toed shoeing technique.
AQHA Champion Trainer Kearl Suspended 19 Years: Stroud, Sanchez Also Sanctioned – Trainer Judd Kearl was suspended 19 years and fined $110,000 by Texas stewards in the case of five runners that tested positive for the Class 1 drug nomifensine. Two other trainers were also hit with suspensions for the same substance, which has been off the American market for the past 30 years. Kearl and the others claimed the drug was given without their knowledge and that all three used the same veterinarian. We later learned it's becoming easier for people via the Internet to access drugs which are no longer produced legally, along with instructions on how to abuse them. That may make things more difficult in the future for regulators trying to determine whether a finding is based on intentional administration or environmental contamination.
San Luis Rey Downs Fire: Estimated 25 Horses Dead Despite Heroic Efforts Of Workers, Volunteers – Readers followed along with shock and sadness a few weeks ago as we monitored the situation at San Luis Rey Downs and the Lilac Wildfire that engulfed the training center. The official equine death toll later climbed to 46. The situation continues to develop as injured horses and humans recover. From tragedy came stories of great courage and also of great kindness.
Commentary: Graceless Finish To A Night Of Champions – Ray had some thoughts (and shared some of yours) about an embarrassing ramble by Perry Martin as the co-owner of California Chrome accepted the 2016 Horse of the Year award in January. Martin spent part of his six-minute speech attacking racing media (which is part of the electorate for the award), then bounced from talking about desiccant silica gel packets to Yuba City, the Viking Bar and mass murderers.
Trainer Beattie At Rojas Trial: 'Almost Everybody' Illegally Treated Horses On Race Day – Our coverage of the federal trial of Pennsylvania trainer Murray Rojas for wire fraud, conspiracy, and misbranding prescription drugs proved a hot topic to readers. Rojas was alleged to have requested and received race-day treatment for her horses in order to win races, and then falsified records to conceal the administrations. While this story focused on fellow trainer Stephanie Beattie's testimony that many trainers at Penn National were illegally dosing horses, Rojas coverage remained a popular read for some time. Beattie and Rojas were permanently ejected from Penn National after Rojas was found not guilty of wire fraud and guilty on misbranding charges. The trial prompted Stuart Janney III, chairman of The Jockey Club, to make a statement on the case at the Jockey Club Round Table several weeks later.
You 'Do It For The Love': The Story Behind A Horse's Sale At Magic Millions – When we saw a photograph of a groom wiping away tears as she led a yearling out of the ring at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, we had to know the story behind the image. Readers related to Jamee Ryder, assistant farm manager at Musk Creek Farm in Flinders, Victoria, as she revealed her closeness with the yearling colt. For a brief time, the son of Sebring was the top price for the session and Ryder told us about what a long road she took to nurse the colt from a small, sickly foal to an in-demand prospect.
Pennsylvania: Trainer Suspended 45 Days After 'Failure To Provide Care' To Horse With Broken Leg – Readers reacted with outrage at the 45-day suspension handed to Pennsylvania owner/trainer Mario Rafael Rodriguez in the case of Silent Ruler. The gelding was found in a stall nearly a month after his last start with a broken sesamoid. The 45-day suspension came from a stewards' hearing, and although the state's racing commission told us at the time they would not pursue further action, Rodriguez's suspension was later extended to one year. Rodriguez has since had his owner and trainer licenses revoked.
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