There is profound sadness in the Bluegrass region as its residents and extended network of friends and family begin to deal with the tragedy of Comair flight 5191, which left 49 people dead when it crashed on takeoff at the end of Lexington's Blue Grass Airport Runway 26 in the pre-dawn hours of Aug. 27.Like so many other businesses, the horse industry was affected, with the deaths of breeder George Brunacini, veteran consignor Dan Mallory, trainer Jeff Williams, and Marcie Thomason, the daughter of Mill Ridge Farm financial manager Bill Thomason. As this is written, only about half of the names of the victims have been released.It really doesn't matter where you turn or who you ask. Everyone either knows someone who was on flight 5191 or has friends or loved ones who suffered a terrible loss. They didn't have to be in the horse industry to touch your life.It could be someone who lives down the street, a co-worker, a classmate of a son or daughter, someone you've shared a church pew with, or a business associate. We're all experiencing six degrees of separation from someone on that plane. We're all hurting, and we're all grieving. Lexington has a population of 250,000, but it still has a small-town feel. It's the kind of place where comforting neighbors show up with baskets of food and open hearts when tragedy strikes as it did the morning of Aug. 27. The worst of times can bring out the best in people.
DARLEY DOMINANCEIn the racing world, Darley Stable's Bernardini was the toast of the Travers (gr. I) at Saratoga, winning off as he and rider Javier Castellano pleased, the official margin being a widening 7 1/2 lengths. But the victory by the son of A.P. Indy was just one of several eye-catching performances in Saratoga by horses racing for various entities owned by Dubai's Sheikh Mohammed and family.The day before the Travers, Godolphin Stable's Discreet Cat toyed with allowance rivals going seven furlongs, winning off by 11 lengths with jockey Garrett Gomez standing like a statue in the irons. It was the 3-year-old Forestry colt's first start since winning the U.A.E. Derby (UAE-II) by six lengths in March. By some estimates, his performance was every bit as impressive as Bernardini's win in the Travers.On the same card as the Travers, another 3-year-old, Henny Hughes (by Hennessy), carried the yellow silks of Sheikh Mohammed's son, Rashid, to a 5 1/4-length triumph in the King's Bishop (gr. I) over seven furlongs. On the same program, Ashkal Way (by Ashkalani) won the Bernard Baruch Handicap (gr. IIT) going nine furlongs on turf for Godolphin.Finally, on Aug. 27, the day after the Travers, Darley's Dubai Escapade (by Awesome Again) won her first grade I race by taking the Ballerina Breeders' Cup going seven furlongs. That's three grade I wins, a grade II, and an allowance victory that some observers felt showcased the most impressive performance of the weekend. Sheikh Mohammed and his family are putting together a North American operation that has the potential to dominate racing at the highest level.Bernardini's win in the Preakness (gr. I), followed by Sheikh Hamdan's successes with Jazil in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and Invasor in the Whitney (gr. I), have revved up the competitive juices of the Maktoum brothers. The family's spectacular weekend at Saratoga adds further fuel.Considering how dominant the Maktoums have been in Europe, it was only a matter of time before their sights were set on American racing. A critical element to success was the purchase of the former Jonabell Farm and the establishment of a top-rung stallion business at the new Darley at Jonabell.Bernardini, Discreet Cat, and Henny Hughes give the farm three exciting stallion prospects.