"The Inside Track" - a weekly behind the scenes look at Thoroughbred racing.

Special Collection
Even though Ted Watkins is only a casual fan of Thoroughbred racing, he might know more about the breed’s early history than some of the sport’s most enthusiastic admirers. He owns a copy of the first edition of An Introduction to a General Stud-Book, which was printed in England in 1791. Read Full Story  


Folly Good Fellow
When Ruberto Racing Stable Inc. claimed Frazee’s Folly in January of 2005 he was already a 9-year-old who had been through 11 different owners and won 10 of 65 lifetime starts. For most Thoroughbreds, that is a full career, and then some. Read Full Story  


A True Original A True Original
Attorney Jim Philpott has taken a lot of journeys throughout his life. And though he was casually involved with horses at a young age, he never imagined his career paths after law school would eventually revolve around the Thoroughbred world.  Read Full Story  


Yatta Yatta Yatta Yatta Yatta Yatta
Exercise riders have a special trash talk all their own, usually along the lines of how the horse they are aboard can trounce anything on four legs in this century or last. That’s why few people paid any attention in 2007 when Steve Willard, riding a huge unraced filly from John Shirreffs barn, told a Hollywood Park outrider, “This is the second coming of Ruffian.” Read Full Story  

Number Seven, To Show Number Seven, To Show
The 10th annual Daily Racing Form National Handicapping Championship will be held in January, 2009, in Las Vegas, and carries with it a $500,000 first prize, and an Eclipse Award as Handicapper of the Year to the winner. Read Full Story 


A Dedicated Professional A Dedicated Professional
On Dec. 17, tributes poured in for South African master horseman Felix Coetzee, who said goodbye to Hong Kong racing after an “experiment” that lasted 16 years, to be reunited with his family in Cape Town. Read Full Story 


Lucky Stars Lucky Stars
Many Thoroughbred farm workers consider themselves lucky if they played a part in buying, selling, or raising at least a couple successful horses throughout their careers. With less than a decade of experience, however, Randy Gilbert has already had his hands on around a dozen high profile Thoroughbreds, including 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. Read Full Story 

From Riding to Writing From Riding to Writing
Kris Prather did not just enter the world of Thoroughbred horse racing in 2000, she burst onto the scene like a woman on a mission. Read Full Story



An Investment in Youth An Investment in Youth
University of Kentucky student Sean Feld (left) and alumnus Billy Ajello have defied the notion one must reach a particular age or gain a certain level of experience to invest in the Thoroughbred industry. Read Full Story


Multi-tasker Multi-tasker
For many, getting an after school job is an important part of learning responsibility and gaining financial independence during the high school years. In that respect, Arizona Miller, a 16-year-old junior at Beaver Local High School in Liverpool, Ohio, is not unlike any other teenager. Read Full Story


Fandom Fandom
Michael Amo’s innovative idea for Thoroughbred racing’s first organization dedicated solely to fans started innocently enough. Amo was having a casual conversation with a New York state senator about getting fans more involved in some of the decisions made by the New York Racing Association. Read Full Story


Capturing the Spirit Capturing the Spirit
What started as a simple conversation 13 years ago with the then chairman of Ocala Breeders’ Sale Co. has turned into an extended labor of love for artist Catherine Goldman-Bloomfield – nearly 2,500 square feet of painstaking Thoroughbred painting excellence. Read Full Story



Fitting Tribute Fitting Tribute
Close your eyes for a minute. Imagine the scene. Barbaro is roaring down the stretch in his runaway victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Read Full Story



Painting Tribute Twin Inspiration
For artist Merritt Finnell, painting horses was never his thing. Horses were his twin brother Michael’s territory, and like many twins Merritt was different from Michael. Read Full Story



Haven Helper Haven Helper
When Thoroughbred horse trainer and former Louisville police officer Jay Wilkinson retired from the service, he did not picture himself volunteering for a job that would teach kids a whole new career. Read Full Story



Argentine Aspirations Argentine Aspirations
From just 14 starters, Argentina has been represented as the breeding ground of the winners of four Breeders’ Cup World Championships races. Owner/breeder Ricardo Benedicto wants to make it five. But not just yet. First, he has another goal—becoming the first owner from Argentina to win a Breeders’ Cup race. Read Full Story


Sculpting a Legend Sculpting a Legend
When Shelley Hunter was asked by officials at the Kentucky Horse Park to create a sculpture of legendary racehorse John Henry earlier this year, she not only felt honored, but a strong sense of karma. You see, Hunter was introduced to both sculpting and John Henry during the same week in 1987. Read Full Story


Change Agent Change Agent
For the past year change has been the buzzword in America. That’s nothing new for Dr. Sue McDonnell. At her lab at the New Bolton Center, McDonnell has spent more than two decades fostering positive changes in what outsiders might term oddballs and misfits. Read Full Story


Turning It Around Turning It Around
For the first 45 years of his life, Vincent Harris had absolutely no experience with horse racing. As a youngster growing up in New York City, working at a Thoroughbred racetrack was one of the last things on earth Harris envisioned for himself as an adult. Read Full Story


A Natural Rider A Natural Rider
Walk around Calder Race Course and you’ll keep hearing the word “Paco” from the lips of trainers, bettors, stewards, and other track officials. Paco is the nickname for Pascacio Lopez, a 22-year-old native of Mexico who is gaining attention for running away with this season’s riding title. Read Full Story


Lovin It Lovin' It
Loving what you do for a living certainly improves your odds at succeeding. At least, that was the case for Tim Kegel, a Louisville-based bloodstock agent, who has certainly had his share of success.
"I have always loved racing," said Kegel. "I trained for a while, and that didn't work out. I had a few good years, but it got lean and then I gravitated to what I liked most, which was the horse." Read Full Story

The Obies The "Obies"
Family members are always doing something special for each other, but perhaps trainer Leo O’Brien’s selfless act for his son, Keith, is beyond the call of duty. Since the training partnership has horses both at Saratoga and Belmont, someone has to mind the store in the concrete jungle of the downstate facility while the other gets to breathe in the country air of the Spa. Read Full Story

Elite Groom Elite Groom
It is fair to say that when Mike Chapple enrolled in the Groom Elite Certification School at Gulfstream Park this spring, he was not the average pupil. At the time, Chapple was the vice president of security and surveillance for the track, and he recently added assistant general manager to his title. Read Full Story


Auerbach's Karma with CARMA Auerbach's Karma with CARMA
Look in the winner’s circle after any offspring of Unusual Heat wins a race and you’ll likely see a petite, brown-haired woman hugging the jockey, high-fiving the trainer, or congratulating the owner. Madeline Auerbach fiercely champions her former racehorse-turned-stallion, and she, along with trainer Barry Abrams, has been his biggest booster. Read Full Story


Wedding at the Wire Wedding at the Wire
A relationship that began nine years ago will culminate in a wedding revolving around two passions the betrothed couple share: horse racing and Saratoga Race Course. Between the third and fourth races on the twilight card of Saratoga’s final Friday of the season, Aug. 29, Jim Barbetta and Michelle Mattiske of Waterford, N.Y., will exchange vows courtesy of the track’s first-ever “Race to the Altar” contest. Read Full Story

Purple Haze Purple Haze
With thousands of unwanted racehorses throughout the country and the ongoing effort by many to stop slaughter in the United States gaining momentum, the need for Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse adoption programs has never been greater. Read Full Story

Top o' the Hill Top o' the Hill
It was one of those eureka moments. In early 1992 veterinarian Kathleen Anderson drove through the front gates and down the dirt and gravel road at the Fair Hill Training Center. The barns were in tatters. Top-flight horses were non-existent. Read Full Story

Midsummer Derby Artist Midsummer Derby Artist
When the owner of a Saratoga Springs, N.Y., gallery learned that a visitor thought a poster commemorating the 1985 Travers Stakes didn’t serve the gallery or the race proper respect, the owner challenged the visitor to create something finer. Read Full Story

A Different Kind of Beginning A Different Kind of Beginning
In this day and age, more and more stories seem to be popping up about Thoroughbreds being retired from racing and retrained to do different jobs, from police assistants to track ponies to show circuit performers. Read Full Story

Like Father Like Son Like Father, Like Son
Brandon Meier stepped into the winner's circle, his mouth bloodied and teeth fractured. He grin was ear-to-ear, reminiscent of a boxer who had just survived a 12-round unanimous decision. Read Full Story

Go To Guy Under the Wire
Racing’s photo-finish camera was invented for and first used at Del Mar—and as Thoroughbred fans know, there are photo finishes virtually every day at the track, some of them so tight the phrase “won by a whisker” is literally true. Read Full Story

Go To Guy Go To Guy
In 1973 when Gene Guy was only 15 years old, he wasn't quite sure the direction in which his life was headed. And then he had a conversation with John W. Greathouse Sr. - one that would change his life forever. Read Full Story

Rehab Specialist Rehab Specialist
Hundreds of former racehorses owe their second careers to Leigh Gray. Gray not only rehabilitates racehorses for a living, she does it in her spare time. Read Full Story

Happy Trails Happy Trails
In the midst of the disappointments and tragedies that sometimes occur in the horse industry, it’s refreshing to hear a story with not one, but two happy endings. Read Full Story

Overcoming Obstacles Overcoming Obstacles
Brian Pitnick grinned widely as he stood under a television monitor in the Bay Meadows clubhouse the evening of April 11. “I can’t wait to see this chart,” the trainer said as he anxiously awaited the replay of his filly’s maiden-breaking score in the last race on a Friday night. Read Full Story

Burnett's Journey Burnett's Journey
On April 28, long time racetrack worker and paraplegic Rodney Burnett began a daunting journey with a worthy mission. Burnett, 51, is currently en route to the West Coast in a covered wagon on a 2,500-mile cross country trip that began in Williston, Fla. Read Full Story

Great Expectations Great Expectations
On the morning of April 30, as the eyes of the nation turned to Churchill Downs for the upcoming running of the 134th Kentucky Derby, a Brook Ledge horse van arrived at Stephens Thoroughbreds in Ocala, Fla. Nicanor was shipping to Fair Hill. Read Full Story

Picture Perfect Picture Perfect
When Shawn Faust wanted to enhance his portrait studies in oils, the equine artist enrolled in a class with Daniel Greene, one of America’s foremost artists in oils and pastels. Read Full Story

Overcoming Adversity Overcoming Adversity
Because of the physically demanding nature of competitive sports, it is rare when athletes find their prime after two decades of competing, especially once they hit the magical age of 40. It is even more uncommon for an athlete to find that prime after overcoming several injuries, a life-threatening illness, and a pair of childbirths. But that is exactly what Tammi Piermarini has done. Read Full Story

Living the Dream Living the Dream
Pam Stockard’s first dream as a child was to ride racehorses at Churchill Downs. Her second dream as an adult, perhaps more fanciful than the first, was to have her artwork exhibited at the Kentucky Derby Museum. Dreams do, indeed, come true: the drawings and paintings of the Churchill Downs exercise rider will be part of an exhibition of art by members of the track’s backside community. Read Full Story

Record Smasher Record Smasher
Records are made to be broken. Yada, yada, yada. You never hear anybody say that records are made to be smashed. But on the closing night of March 29 at Delta Downs, after winning both ends of the Daily Double, Gerard Melancon guided Bandido under the wire 3 1/2 lengths clear. Say hello to win number 146 and a meet record smashed. Read Full Story


Safety First Safety First
In 1986, Art Gray watched one of his closest friends—driver William “Billy” Haughton—die due to injuries suffered in a harness racing collision at Yonkers Raceway. The accident happened about two months after another driver, Dave Dunckley, was killed at Roosevelt Raceway in a similar type of accident. Read Full Story

A Briefback Colton Makes a Briefback
To say that Robert Colton is back in the saddle could be slightly misleading, since he never really left. The 51-year-old jockey has been galloping horses since he stopped race riding in 2002, but now he’s donning silks in an attempt to reach a specific milestone. Colton wants to ride 4,000 winners. Read Full Story

Working on a Comeback Working on a Comeback
Every morning for more than four decades David Vance made the same trek up Interstate I-71 to Turfway Park. Beginning in 1966, his first year as a trainer, Vance’s schedule was the same, waking up at the crack of dawn, jumping in his car, and venturing to the Florence, Ky., racetrack to tend to his stable of horses. But Dec. 9, while making the drive for who-knows-how-many-thousandth-time, life changed in an instant. Read Full Story

The Hardest Mile The Hardest Mile
Feb. 14 was a relatively normal day for Justin Vitek, although the jockey felt a little more fatigued than usual after riding in several races at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky. Normally a strong competitor, Vitek was unaware that two days later he would be diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, a fast-growing form of cancer. Read Full Story

A Satisfying Ride

A Satisfying Ride
Write about a kid who loved racing, a horse called Daisy Mae, and summers spent on a big ranch out in South Dakota, and you end up with a tale straight out of My Friend Flicka. Read Full Story



All in the Family All in the Family
Jackie Davis was three years old when she rode a horse for the first time. As a child, she spent all of her time at the racetrack, shadowing her father, Robbie, as he made a career as a jockey. Read Full Story


The Perfect Ending The Perfect Ending
Sherpa Guide found a friend in author Maggie Estep, who followed the New York-bred throughout his 39-race career and claimed him so he would be guaranteed a good retirement home. Read Full Story


Much Too Young Much Too Young
Nearly three decades ago, Arlene Phillips predicted she wouldn’t leave horse racing any time soon. At age 83 and much too young to hang it up, Phillips continues to breed, own, and train Thoroughbreds despite her advanced age. Read Full Story


Classic Success Classic Success
Danzel Brendemuehl’s passion for Thoroughbred racing was ignited – almost literally – when she was just 16 years old. Living in Malibu, Calif. in 1973, she watched as the nearby mountains burned with raging wildfires and knew she would have to leave the area. What she didn’t know was how the evacuation would change her life. Read Full Story


Flipping Lips Flipping Lips
By now, most horse racing fans have long forgotten about the infamous Blairwood-Briarwood switcheroo on Kentucky Derby day at Churchill Downs in 1988. But one person who still remembers the event well is Barb Borden. Although Borden was not involved in the incident, the next 20 years of her career were directly impacted because of it. Read Full Story


Make It or Break It Make It or Break It
Timothy Thornton's injuries from race-riding include, in chronological order, a broken right wrist that was misdiagnosed and later required surgery; torn ligaments in the same hand; torn ligaments in a left leg; a torn left rotator cuff; and innumerable bumps and bruises  And he has only been wearing silks for the past five years. Read Full Story


Running Back to the Track Running Back to the Track
At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Maurece “Moe” Williams is not your typical Thoroughbred trainer. Of course, not too many trainers are former college football stars or retired NFL running backs either. Read Full Story


The Making of a Trainer The Making of a Trainer
Kellyn Gorder is a skilled horseman and one of the few trainers, say his clients, who is truly worthy of that description. Gorder is not famous – yet. But those who work closely with him feel he is on the verge of a career breakthrough. Read Full Story


Fighting for a Happy Ending Fighting for a Happy Ending
Last July the sudden kick from an aggravated horse left trainer Elaine Ferri with 100 facial fractures and stole the use of her left eye. Since then, she has been fighting a daily battle filled with pain, depression, and the financial strain of a six-figure medical bill. Read Full Story


A Racetrack Original Racetrack Original
They call Camac "a Calder original," but the more appropriate term might be “racetrack original.” Brought up on the backstretches of Mid-Atlantic racetracks like Delaware Park and Garden State Park, he inherited a love for horses and the skill to handle them from his father, leading trainer Charles Camac. Read Full Story


Harris' Long Climb to the Top Harris' Long Climb to the Top
On Dec. 1, a longshot wired the field in the final race on a cold day at Hawthorne Park, but it wasn’t the winner Wildwood Pegasus. The longshot was jockey Sylvia Harris, who overcame two decades of hardship to capture her first career victory at the age of 40 and became a part of horse racing history. Read Full Story


The Quiet Man The Quiet Man
Given his low profile in the racing industry, it is a bit remarkable that the 39-year-old Cornelio Velasquez is wrapping up a career-best season in 2007. Velasquez is no charismatic self-promoter. He rides with little fanfare, does not regale the media with tales of his racing exploits. Read Full Story