" Every calling is great when greatly pursued."-- Oliver Wendall Holmes


Courtesy of the TDN

by Andy Belfiore

They haven’t raced in South Carolina since gambling was outlawed in the 1940s, but the state has a long history with the “Sport of Kings.” Every year, some 1,500 Thoroughbreds migrate to South Carolina, most during the winter months. There are approximately 30 training centers in the state, with the biggest based in Aiken, Camden and Elloree.

Frank “Goree” Smith has owned and operated the Elloree Training Center since 1973; it was the site of the Palmetto Racing Track 70 years ago, and will host the 50th annual Elloree Trials next year.

No less than 39 champions, the likes of Conquistador Cielo, Kelso, Shuvee, Tom Fool and 2008 twoyear- old Eclipse winner Midshipman, have learned the ropes at the Aiken Training Track since it was established in 1942.

Camden Training Center, created in 1935 by Marion duPont Scott, has been home to superstars such as Damascus, Forego, Hoist the Flag, Inside Information and Ruffian. GI Breeders’ Cup Classic hero and 2010 Horse of the Year finalist Blame bedded down at Jane Dunn’s Holly Hill Training Center.

But, without a racetrack to showcase their efforts, members of the South Carolina Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association wanted to find a way to reward the many horsemen who support the industry in the state. That was the idea behind the South Carolina Residency Races.

Established in 2005, the Donna Freyer S. and Christopher Elser Memorial S., held each fall at Parx Racing (formerly Philadelphia Park), are open to nominated\ two-year-olds who were stabled at least 90 days in South Carolina between Jan. 1 and June 30 of that year. The $100 early-bird nominations close Jan. 15. “We asked the question,  how can we promote the training centers in South Carolina?'“ SCTOBA President Lee Christian said. “That's what we were trying to achieve.

The weather is as good as Florida, the facilities are as good, and certainly the horsemen are as good. You can put the South Carolina folks up against the Florida horsemen any day--both do a very good job.”

How did SCTOBA land on Parx Racing to host its races? “We wanted to pick a track in the northeast, because many, if not most, of the horses training in South Carolina get dispersed to that area,” Christian explained. “We needed to have the races at a track near where the concentration of horses would be. We looked at Colonial Downs, because that is the closest track to South Carolina, but their meet is so early in the year--it can be tough to have the two-year-olds ready to run that early.”

The purses for the races are funded in part by nominations, and in part by Parx. “[Parx Racing] has been a great partner for us,” Christian added. “Sal Sinatra [Parx’s director of racing] stepped up to the plate and, with blind faith, we closed our eyes and said, let's give it a try.' It's been great,
and it's gotten more traction over the years.”

There were 274 nominations the first year, and the inaugural Donna Freyer went to the talented Maryland-bred Smart and Fancy (Not for Love), who won 14 of her 28 starts and earned $826,433.

Some 23 different training centers have been represented in the entries; Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables led the way in nominations the first five years, but last year it was Webb Carroll, with 102, who topped the list. “We have a lot of owners who look forward to it every year, and our training centers have gotten exposure, and maybe a bit more business,” Christian said “More people are sending their horses to South Carolina--it's been a win for everyone.”

What draws the racing community to the Palmetto State? Donna Freyer, a trainer who serves as vice president of the SCTOBA, underscored the highlights. “Wherever you are down here, you have great soil,” Freyer, who plies her trade at Custom Care Equine in Camden, remarked. “Most of the training centers are on the sand belt--the tracks are natural, they absorb water well and they don't freeze, so its great footing for the horses. It's a good climate, too--they get used to four seasons, which I think is good for them.

“There is also so much land--here in Camden, we have six different places to train. You're not restricted to just going to the track every day. You can get on the turf, there are woods and fields to hack in. The horses love it.”

A native of New Jersey, Freyer got her start in racing in South Carolina. “I evented at a pretty high level, and I had taken a horse to train in Aiken, but he got hurt,” she recalled. AI needed to make money, and someone told me,  they'll pay you to ride horses just down the street.’ I was hooked.”

Freyer galloped horses, getting her start with Bruce Johnstone and working for Hall of Famer Frank Whiteley before taking out her trainer’s license. She served as private trainer for Wilhemine Waller’s Tanrackin Farm in New York until Waller retired from racing, then decided to trade life at the track for quality of life in Camden.

“We had come down to South Carolina every winter-- back in the heyday, when there was no winter racing in the north, you'd have Phipps and Rokeby and Greentree all in Aiken,” Freyer said. AWe stuck with the tradition, we'd bring the older horses down and break the babies. I had a place to live, and when Mrs. Waller got out of racing, I decided to stay. I got a few horses to break, and it has been a pretty good business for me.”

While the Rokeby and Greentree strings are a thing of the past, there are still dozens of horsemen based in South Carolina. Shadwell has a barn in Camden, and Darley purchased land in Aiken a year ago with the intention of building a training operation. They have a barn under the supervision of Tim Jones at the Aiken Training Track.

“We don't breed many horses in South Carolina, but we produce a lot of good horses,” Freyer said. “We train them, that’s what we’re good at, and that’s what we wanted to highlight [with the South Carolina Residency Races].”

The Residency Races were modeled after Delaware’s Certified or Bred Thoroughbred Program, which offers bonuses and restricted stakes races to owners who breed or stable in the state. One future goal of the two programs in to get the stakes events eligible for black type. Herb Moelis, vice president of the Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, made a case for black type for the restricted races before the Society of International Thoroughbred Auctioneers last year.

“I would like to think they will [be granted black type, because they deserve it,” Christian said. “The races deserve it, and the horses and horsemen deserve it. I understand the position of the SITA committee--if you start making too many exceptions, pretty soon you don't have any rules at all. But if someone is trying to promote the industry, and the races merit black type, I
think that endeavor should be encouraged.

“The horsemen run for the purse money, for sure, but we'd like to reward them by offering black type as well. I think the quality of the winners each year would stack up against any of the $50-75,000 stakes in the area.”

SITA has not yet ruled on the issue.  “The SITA committee agreed to look at it, but they are going to review all the exceptions right now, and they aren't going to consider any new exceptions until the review is completed,” Christian continued. “So it's in limbo right now."
The SCTOBA is also hoping to expand the program in the near future.
“For the last year or so, we've been looking at the idea of having a race for three year olds and up,” Christian remarked. “All the previous nominees would be eligible. When you nominate early, a lot of the horses don't pan out as two-year-olds--they are late bloomers, or the timing isn't right, or they have little issues. We'd like to give the folks who have supported the races another chance to run. We're looking at trying something like that--we're discussing it now.”

For more information on the South Carolina Residency races, or to take advantage of the Jan. 15 earlybird nomination, go to www.sctoba.org.

Courtesy of the NYRA PRESS OFFICE

With winter around the corner, trainer Tom Bush is planning vacations for many of his turf horses, New York-bred standout Banrock, and talented 3-year-old Get Stormy among them.

“They’ll get on the van tomorrow and head to Camden Training Center [in South Carolina],” Bush said Saturday. “In few days they’ll be rolling in the mud down there, which will be great for them. Donna Freyer broke Banrock there when he was a baby and she’s had him every winter since.”

Nyala Farm’s Banrock returned from last year’s winter break to win the Kingston Stakes at Belmont Park by 4¾ lengths, one of four stakes victories for the gelding in 2009. Get Stormy raced in March at Tampa Bay Downs before returning to New York later in the spring. The colt kicked off a four-race win streak in an allowance contest at Saratoga Race Course on July 29, followed by three straight stakes wins in both New York and Kentucky.

“Camden is a nice place for horses in the winter,” Bush said. “They have a one mile dirt track and a turf course – it’s not like sending them to the farm, this is a training center.”

In all, Bush said 13 of his 38 horses would have the winter off, leaving him 25 horses in active training here in New York for the winter.

12/07 - Bob Duncan recently conducted a two day clinic at the Camden Training Center, for Custom Care Equine.

Bob was head starter at the New York Racing Association for Eleven of the Forty years that he worked on the gate. His retirement did not last long, as he was called in this summer after a rash of gate problems during the races.

The techniques used in this school of natural horsemanship has made a huge difference in life at the gate for equines and the handlers. Bob has worked with Pat Parelli, Ray Hunt and Monty Roberts.

The two days Bob spent working with the horses, assistants and riders left us all with a foundation to build on. The time passed quickly, but generated more interest and enthusiasm with the amazing results.

We all hope to have Bob return this Spring to see how we have put his methods to work. Bob will be spending this winter in Florida working with Todd Pletcher's horses.



Tagg Latest to "Pony Up"
Courtesy of the Thoroughbred Daily News

Donna is Vice President of the SC chapter of the TRF which has an excellent program at a local correctional institution.

Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Barclay Tagg is the newest addition to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Pony Up Program. Pony Up participants donate a set amount of money each time they have a winner. Tagg will donate $50 for each winner he saddles. Through Nov. 18, Tagg has had 63 winners in 2007. "I was happy to get involved with this program," Tagg said. "The TRF is a great group and does a terrific job finding homes for retired racehorses. So many horses have been good to me during my career that I felt it was appropriate to give something back." The Pony Up program continues to grow.

The list of participants (trainers and owners) is small, as we’ve just started, but it already consists of Gary Contessa, Jim Jerkens, Allen Jerkens, Lisa Lewis, Kiaran McLaughlin, Ken McPeek, Graham Motion, Chuck Simon, Todd Pletcher, William Entenmann, Howie Tesher, Tom Albertrani, John and Susan Moore and Brent Johnson.

It is designed not just to get people within the industry to donate to the TRF but to have them do so only at a time when they can share the largesse each time a horse comes through for them with a victory. Any owners, trainers or jockeys who would like to take part in the Pony Up program may call our Saratoga office at 518-226-0028. To donate to the TRF, please visit the website at https://trfinc.org/donations.php

Barclay Tagg Visits TRF Wateree Farm

Trainer Barclay Tagg made a surprise visit to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's Second Chances program at the Wateree River Correctional Facility in Rembert, South Carolina Nov. 29, and spent an hour touring the facility and visiting with the inmates who care for the program's 34 equine retirees. The trainer of 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, Tagg toured the facility, admired the condition of the horses, listened to a description of the course material from corrections officer Tim Amerson, and watched Dr. Reid McClellan, the program's chief instructor, give a round-pen lesson.

"This program is much more in-depth than I imagined before I got here," Tagg told the inmates, "and you guys will be well-prepared for jobs in the horse business when you complete the course and leave here. There is no reason for anyone who is willing to work and likes horses to ever be without a job."

Kip Elser, president of the South Carolina chapter of the TRF, said that the men were stunned that a person of Tagg's stature in the Thoroughbred industry would pay them a visit. "Several men asked questions and it really gave them a pickup that somebody from the outside would really tell them that they can get a job, that there is something ahead," said Elser.

Tagg also became the latest person to join the TRF's "Pony Up Program." Pony Up members donate a set amount of money to the TRF each time they have a winner. Tagg contributes $50 each time one of his horses wins a race.

Wateree is one of seven correctional facilities which have partnered with the TRF to bring groundbreaking vocational programs to the inmates while offering top-quality care for ex-racehorses with no other retirement options. To learn more about the TRF's South Carolina chapter, visit them at www.trfsc.com.

In everyone’s best interests, we will continue this column as more of a news and notes. News as in graduates and notes will include a calendar and auxiliary activities such as Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation of South Carolina, and the industry at large in South Carolina.

The SCTOBA, largely due to the efforts of our president Lee Christian, has secured a large list of nominees for the 2007 residency race. This is the new cornerstone of our association and we need all the support of owners and trainers nationwide to make it a solid foundation.

The horse population continues to grow at the new retirement facility at the correctional institute in Rembert. Our concern is always funding for their support. On the plus side we have a match from the state up to $50,000. New fundraising activities are in the works. "First TRF Graduation at Wateree" - TDN April 22, 2006

We are proud of Wilhemina Combs’ of Fenwick Farm appointment to the board of House PAC, an exciting new division of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. They are getting positive legislation passed for the thoroughbred industry in Washington. Horse PAC Legislative Summary


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