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Voices From The Backstretch
Welcome to “Voices,” our public forum where horsemen and horsewomen are able to share their thoughts and concerns about the important issues facing the Thoroughbred racing and breeding industry. All opinions are welcome, and we value yours!

All comments must be submitted by email. Be sure to write “Voices” in your subject line, and include your name, city and state in your message. Fictitious names are not allowed.

Content that promotes a commercial interest or product, or content that is libelous, defamatory or abusive will not be accepted.  The opinions expressed below are not necessarily those of the owners and/or hosts of this website, and Thoroughbred Information Agency shall not be held responsible for content.

We also invite you to join the conversation on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Larry Stevens, Kennewick, WA:

I had to come back here to see if there was any talk about Cal-bred California Chrome. Sadly, not a word.

Where are all you California breeders? I would be thinking that you would be jumping up and down, tooting your horns because a Cal-bred has won the first two legs of the Triple Crown. Does he have to win the Triple Crown to get any recognition, even from his home state? Is it jealousy? Is it because his sire stands (well, did) for $2,500 and his dam won $6,000?

He very well could be the first to win the Triple Crown since 1978. He possibly could be the first Cal-bred in history to win the Triple Crown. They are already making plans for a movie on California Chrome, to which I will go.

I can remember back when I was managing breeding farms in California, that if this was happening then, the whole Thoroughbred industry in California would be on fire. What’s with you people? No wonder you can’t have a successful Cal-bred sale anymore.

Don’t leave it up to Los Alamitos to promote your product; get on board.

Editor’s Note: Larry, we invite you to join the ongoing conversation about California Chrome and the 2014 Triple Crown trail on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

May 27, 2014
11:08 a.m.
Larry Stevens, Kennewick, WA:

It’s been awhile since I have posted on here. We in the QH circle are excited on the expansion of Los Alamitos Race Course.


While many tracks are going by the wayside, Dr. Ed Allred continues to make adjustments in order to provide a top-notch track to run both Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. He needs to be congratulated for his interest in horse racing and for his efforts.


One question I have, is the track surface at Hollywood Park being used to resurface the track at Los Alamitos? Does anyone know?
January 13, 2014
10:21 a.m.
Don Sandri, Hayward, CA:

Anyone notice that the Sonoma County Fair pulled out of CARF? I understand the issue was money. In the minutes of a CARF meeting dated 2-5-13, Sonoma County Fair Manager Tawny Tesconi stated “the CARF model for providing live racing services to member Fairs is broken and needs to be fixed.” She also stated “Sonoma County Fair has done its due diligence and has determined that they can run their meet more efficiently without CARF.”


I guess we will see how it goes next month. Let’s hope the turf course will be in better shape than the disaster it was last year.
June 17, 2013
4:43 p.m.
Jessica Boyd, Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show, Sierra Madre, CA:

Thoroughbreds are bred to race, but they also used to fill the show rings and win ribbons after they were done running races. Somewhere along the line, that started to change but there is a fresh and growing wave of Thoroughbred enthusiasts out there starting to make a lot of noise about how great their off-track Thoroughbreds (OTTBs) are at everything from eventing to barrel racing to dressage.


Thoroughbred-only shows are popping up all over the country — shows set up to give OTTBs the chance to strut their stuff in an environment that is supportive and encouraging to those who love the energy and nuances of retired racing Thoroughbreds. To this stage of events comes the Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show Series at Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano, California. The first show is April 20-21, 2013. Classes will include Hunters/Jumpers, Western Pleasure, Ranch Versatility, Showmanship, Dressage, Combined Training and Western Dressage, as well as clinics with top trainers to help show-participants and future show participants get their OTTBs to the next level.


For more information, please visit the Thoroughbred Classic Horse Show website and sign up for updates and our newsletter. You can also like the show on Facebook. The show organizers are all OTTB fans themselves and love to hear new stories from people like them who have each made a journey with a special retired racing Thoroughbred.
February 22, 2013
3:38 p.m.
Patrick Hurley, Medford, OR:

Now that the government has resolved the tax issues as of December 31, the equine industry has to be aware of the responsibilities of owning an equine business.


If you are paying for an individual or partnership for services consisting of rent, board, farrier, vanning, breeding, training, veterinary, outside services and other expenses in which you are not buying a product, but primarily for services, you must issue that individual or business a Form 1099. These should be given by January 31 and sent to the Internal Revenue Service by February 28.


The penalties can be severe if you do not. The Internal Revenue Service has penalties that range from $30 per Form 1099 upwards to $250 for failure to issue a timely Form 1099 to the recipient and the same penalty applies for failure to furnish the Internal Revenue Service a copy. The state of California penalty will come into presence when and if they do a tax examination, your entire deduction will be disallowed for failure to issue the Form 1099.


I strongly suggest that you discuss this with your tax professional and if you do your own tax return, call a professional and see if they can be of assistance.

January 19, 2013
4:53 p.m.
Don Sandri, Hayward, CA:

To Patrick Hurley,


I had my first experience with a nurse mare this spring. My mare died foaling a filly. We were fortunate enough to locate a nurse mare nearby the ranch my filly resided. I paid for all costs for the mare while she nursed my filly. Once weaned, the mare owner swung by and picked up the mare. I was not charged for that. I did pay for an additional week board for the mare until the owner picked her up. In your case with the farm 400 miles away it should have been completely understood from the beginning who would pay the van expense to and from the farm. You didn’t say in your comment who paid for the initial trip to the farm. I assume it was not you.
November 2, 2012
2:35 p.m.
Patrick Hurley, Medford, OR:

In April, my mare gave birth to a colt that had to be put down the following day. The ranch was 400 miles away from me. The ranch owner notified me immediately and within 24 hours she had a call from another ranch that needed a nurse mare. I was asked and said alright and asked that the mare be returned to me. Beginning in October, I called the ranch where my mare was and asked upon completion of her nurse mare duties if she would ship the mare back to my ranch at her expense. She was appalled that she would have to pay for the vanning back to my ranch.


I received an email from the original ranch saying the mare was being shipped to her ranch and I would have to make arrangements to either leave the mare for next year breeding, give the mare away or make arrangements to have her shipped back to my ranch.


You try to be a good horseperson, and help others, but you never realize how cheap someone is or ranches are. I have had to use a nurse mare twice in the past and made sure that I paid all the costs and the nurse mare was returned in the same condition that I want my horses to be.


Take heed and perhaps you should get an agreement in writing before trying to be a good horseperson.

October 22, 2012
9:00 a.m.
Dawn Mellen, After the Finish Line, Toluca Lake, CA:

Actor/Comedian Paul Rodriguez will headline After the Finish Line’s comedy fundraiser, “Stand Up For Horses,” at the IMPROV in Los Angeles on April 29 to raise money to help Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses. You know Paul from his starring roles and featured appearances in over 45 films and countless television series and comedy specials.


After the Finish Line is an all volunteer 501(c) 3 funding non-profit dedicated to the welfare of Thoroughbred horses that can no longer race or breed. ATFL awards year round funding to rescue organizations that save, rehabilitate, re-train and adopt the ex-racehorses into new homes.


Silent Auction: 5:45 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.

Show Time: 7:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.


VIP tickets are $45; General Admission tickets are $35. VIP tables for 6 are $270; General Admission tables for 6 are $210.


You can request an invitation by email or use our website PayPal account. Tickets can also be purchased online through the IMPROV and LaughStub.


If you are interested in sponsoring, donating auction items or volunteering, contact ATFL President/Founder Dawn Mellen at (858) 945-1371.
April 17, 2012
9:56 p.m.
Larry Stevens, Kennewick, WA:

Although I haven’t kept up to date on The Kentucky Derby trail as well as I used to, there is one big difference in advertising that I have noticed. I no longer see it listed as “The Kentucky Derby sponsored by Yum Brands.” What a wonderful piece of deletion. I am assuming that they have gone back to the original name of “The Kentucky Derby,” as it was and should always be. Remember how upset our mentor Don Engel was about that? I truly miss him and his wisdom.

April 15, 2012
9:34 a.m.
Leigh Ann Howard, Bonsall, CA:

December 6. One year ago, Don and Jean acted together to end their lives. They had planned well, arranging to close out their long lives completely and quietly. They didn’t want to be a bother or problem to anyone. A few personal good-bye letters were arranged to be mailed out a few days after their passing. For what they chose to do they did an excellent job. I miss them both and think of them often. Rest in peace, my friends.
December 6, 2011
8:44 p.m.
Larry Stevens, Kennewick, WA:

Well, five months is a long time without any input to “Voices.” Sandy, I do agree with you on the admissions thing. It’s my opinion that all tracks should not charge admission. More turnout means more dollars through the windows.


I was shocked about the dates that might be given Ferndale. It is amazing that in the realm for greed that Stronach would try to destroy a meet that has been going on for decades. Especially when he can operate without those dates and Ferndale can’t.


We watched this year as the Washington Horse Racing Commission cut the dates to Class Three tracks from 18 or 20 to just six days on what is called the Blue Mountain Circuit. The tracks involved were Sun Downs in Kennewick and the fairs in Walla Walla, Dayton and Waitsburg. Sun Downs was awarded the six days, which left those three fair meets without horse racing. Not only a blow to the horsemen, but also to the county fairs and their success for the year.


Things don’t look good for racing in these parts.

November 25, 2011
11:13 a.m.
Sandy Nickols, Hayward, CA:

I started preaching free admission on this site several years ago, and leave it to the little Stockton fair to show the big boys what needs to be done if we hope to survive and compete with other forms of legalized gambling. Finally, someone else realized we can no longer do business as usual and acted on it. Way to go, Stockton.
June 23, 2011
6:45 p.m.
Lisa Engel Belhage, Espergaerde, Denmark:

Today on Father’s Day, I would like to take the belated opportunity to express my deep gratitude to everyone who wrote in with letters of sympathy, memories or stories of my father, Don Engel, and his wife, Jean. It has been a painful time for me, and for the rest of my family. Reading how much both my father and Jean meant to so many people has been an enormous comfort to all of us.


Thank you all!

June 19, 2011
1:50 p.m.
Larry Stevens, Kennewick, WA:

OK. Let’s talk about the response that Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor and owners of 2011 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Animal Kingdom, made in his interview after the race when asked by the reporter why he changed trainers.


First, it surprised me that the reporter would ask that question, knowing that he is not going to get a positive answer. You don’t change trainers if you are happy and you shouldn’t incite a negative one right after the owner just won the most prestigious race in the world. “I am just tired of trainers that lie and cheat.”


I support him on his vendetta to clean up racing and the black eye that it causes in the industry. I thought his timing might have been a little off, but then, when is the right time. Since it was said on national TV, it certainly brought negative attention to horse racing. Maybe Barry thought this was the best time to expose that black cloud while he had a national audience.

May 10, 2011
3:52 p.m.
Larry Stevens, Kennewick, WA:

Well, that didn’t work out very well, did it? Congratulations to Animal Kingdom.


Here at our little Class III track in Kennewick, we experienced our best day ever in pari-mutuel handle: $104,110. There was over $35,000 bet on the Derby alone. The racing commission cut our meet by two weekends, as we used to run five weekends and this year, three. Three other little tracks that made up the Blue Mountain Circuit didn’t get any racing dates this year, so basically our season in Washington is over unless some of these horses go to Emerald Downs, but most won’t be competitive there. The Quarter Horse people have very few options.


Our purse money to the Class III tracks came from Emerald Downs from a very small percentage of their handle. We got .01% of the win/place/show handle from their meet, and none from any exotic wagers. They claimed that their handle was so low that they could not give us money for purses. I heard that there was a law that the Class III tracks were to receive a percentage of off-track handle on Emerald Downs racing, but to my knowledge that hasn’t happened either. Not a very bright future for Washington racing.

May 9, 2011
5:19 p.m.
Eric W. Anderson, Santa Rosa, CA:

Should a claim be voided if the tagged horse suffers a fatality during the race or before returning to be unsaddled?


On the homepage (lower left-hand corner), a poll is asking the above question.


Although certainly not based on a perfect sample or responses, I find it interesting that for the past few days the vote tally has been very close to 50/50 on this question with only 33 votes tallied. Is this something the CHRB is actually looking for, this type of feedback or have they reached a decision that, “what the board feels is correct” should be implemented. Maybe based on the poll results no change should be made. Be interesting to see where the CHRB is on seeking the public’s response and if they list or reveal what the public is saying about this.

May 9, 2011
7:17 a.m.
Larry Stevens, Kennewick, WA:

With all the scratches in the field for the Derby, I see a need to revise my selection.


As I said in my last post, I really wanted to bet on The Factor. When he left the scene, I shifted to Uncle Mo and now comes the news of his scratch due to an intestinal problem. I hope all goes well with him.


They say a racehorse is dangerous in anyone’s hands and Nick Zito is one of the best conditioners around the game. Plus, he has a bona fide runner with Dialed In. He is my pick to take the Roses.

May 6, 2011
10:41 p.m.
Don Sandri, Hayward, CA:

I just found out about the passing of longtime veterinarian and consummate assessor of Thoroughbred horseflesh, Jack Woolsey. Jack was one of the first to give me a hand with Thoroughbred pedigree and physical evaluation.


I remember flying down with Jack to the Barretts January sale back in the late 1980s. I had picked out a Never Tabled short yearling in the catalog and went to see him first. I really liked him but, unsure and inexperienced, I waited for Jack to come take a look and give his opinion. Jack showed up; looked at the colt carefully. I impatiently turned to Jack and asked, “What’s wrong with him?” Jack paused a few seconds, turned to me squarely and said, “He’s gorgeous.” Long story short, I bought him for $4,500 and he became my first good horse, competing very well in conditioned allowance fields prior to contracting the dreaded EPM.


Jack remained part of my life, doing castrations on my colts—the last one in Fall 2009 on a Boomerang colt. He left a note on the bill: “Nice colt.” That colt just last Friday broke his maiden in his first start for me in very impressive fashion.


RIP Jack. You and your fabulous eye will be missed.

March 25, 2011
9:02 a.m.
Larry Stevens, Kennewick, WA:

I watched Bob Baffert’s horse The Factor win by 5 or 6 lengths last Saturday. I love the name and I’ll tell you why.


I generally can come up with a story about some coincidence, so here goes. One night while living in Murrieta, four of us rounders decided to go into Los Alamitos for a night of QH racing. While there, Jim, an old cowboy type, proceeded to take it upon himself to empty the bar, if you know what I mean. We lost track of him until he made an appearance for the last race. He decided to pick a horse to win and bet $20 on its nose.


As he was looking over the field he explained that #6 was the only horse in there that had “the factor.” I finally got him to tell me what “the factor” was. He said, “See how calm he is, and his tail is just hanging straight down and relaxed?” I said yep, and again, “Well, he has the factor.”


He gave me the $20 and I made the bet for him. Then he questioned me, “Did you put it all on his nose?” I assured him with, “Sure, I’m not going to bet against the factor.” This was all going on amongst a lot of laughter.


Anyway, it became post time and then, “they’re running.” When it was all over, #6 was last by at least 25 yards or more. So much for the factor. On the way home, we laughed until Jim fell asleep.


I’m going to keep The Factor in my sights for the Kentucky Derby, and nothing will stop me from putting $20 on his nose. Good luck Bob! I wish he could read this.

March 21, 2011
9:54 a.m.
Julie Kluesener (2010 Don Engel California Freshman Sire Contest Grand Prize Winner), Sunman, IN:

I received my prizes last week and went home from college to enjoy them! Everything was in wonderful shape and I’m so happy with my halter. My mom said there were even gray hairs in the grooves of the inside stitching when she pulled it out of the box.

I want to thank the TIA for providing such a wonderful contest. Winning came as a total surprise to me as I had little to no knowledge of California sires beforehand, being from Indiana and all. This contest has definitely sparked an interest for California racing and breeding and I plan on following it much closer from now on.

Thanks again!

February 21, 2011
7:27 a.m.
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