Nyra President, Vp, Counsel on Leave

Follows Takeout Rate Scandal

C. Steven Duncker, chairman of NYRA’s Board of Directors, has announced that the NYRA Executive Committee has placed NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward and NYRA Senior Vice President and General Counsel Patrick Kehoe on administrative leave without pay, pending further review.

The actions follow the Apr. 29 release of the New York State Racing and Wagering Board’s interim report into the matter of incorrect takeout rates at NYRA and a letter to Duncker, also dated Apr. 29, from Robert L. Megna, Chairman of the Franchise Oversight Board.

“NYRA takes the matters identified by the Franchise Oversight Board and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board extremely seriously,” said Duncker in a statement. “NYRA will take all appropriate steps and actions to cooperate with the state’s inquiries and insure the integrity of our operations. As part of these efforts, we will respond to Chairman Megna’s letter as requested by May 4. NYRA has worked diligently over the past number of years to improve the racing and agricultural industries in New York State and enhance its national status as an industry leader, and we will continue with that commitment.”

Mott barn looks ahead

To Honor and Serve returned from his Grade 3 Westchester Handicap victory in fine form and remains on target for the Grade 1, $750,000 Metropolitan Handicap on May 28, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said Sunday morning, Apr. 29.

“He looked really good this morning,” said Mott of the Bernardini colt, who has now won graded stakes at ages 2, 3 and 4. “He jogged good, his legs look good, he ate well. He seemed happy. He made us happy for such a good return. No complaints. Yeah, we’re pretty happy with him.”

Next Saturday, Juddmonte Farms’ Principal Role will be making her United States debut for Mott in the Grade 3, $150,000 Beaugay Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on the turf. Previously trained by Sir Henry Cecil, the five-year-old daughter of Empire Maker won four listed stakes in England, including the TRM Severals Stakes at Newmarket, the Irish EBF at the Races Musker Fillies Stakes at Great Yarmouth and the EBF Kheleyf Hoppings Stakes at Newcastle in 2011. She also placed third behind Midday and Snow Fairy in the Group 1 Markel Insurance Nassau Stakes at Goodwood last July.

“She’d probably be much better at nine or 10 furlongs, and this is only 1 1/16 miles,” said Mott. “I could have run her against the boys on Thursday [Milesius Stakes at 1 1/4 miles] if I wanted the distance, but I didn’t think about it. This will get her started.”

Principal Role breezed five furlongs in 1:00.96 Sunday morning over Belmont Park’s turf, the first time since midwinter she has worked on the grass.

“We had her on the grass once down in Palm Meadows,” said Mott. “She put in a good work this morn- ing. The clockers said it was pretty good. If she runs okay on Saturday, we’ll look at the Sheepshead Bay [Grade 2, 1 3/8 miles, May 26] or the New York [Grade 2, 1 1/4 miles, June 30].”

Bad break for Lezcano

Jockey Abel Lezcano was expected to be discharged from North Shore University Hospital Sunday afternoon after an overnight stay following a fall at Belmont on Saturday, Apr. 28.

Lezcano, 21, was unseated when his mount, Catreign, fractured his left front cannon bone and fell on the backstretch in Saturday’s first race. Catreign was euthanized.

“Abel is doing much better,” said the rider’s agent, Jean-Luc Samyn. “They are going to release him today. He broke two ribs-but they were not displaced, which is good-and has a laceration on his left ear. There was a lot of dirt in the cut and that’s why they kept him overnight. It was difficult to clean and they were concerned about infection, so he is on antibiotics. I think he’ll be out a month, more or less, but we’ll know more after he sees the doctor again on Tuesday. He’s banged up, but pretty lucky.”

Lezcano is 7-9-12 from 124 starts in 2012 with more than $280,000 in purse earnings.

Turf runners invading

After winning Grade 1 turf races in 2011 with European imports Stacelita and Zagora, trainer Chad Brown is primed to make a similar assault on major grass events in America this year after receiving an influx of talented international runners.

“It’s important that different people have seen that we know what to do when you send us the right horses,” said Brown. “We have a program that seems to work, and I had always hoped to take on some of the European horses who had shown some talent over there.”

One of the new additions to Brown’s stable is Desert Blanc, who last year won a listed stakes in France. Now 4, Desert Blanc will make his stateside debut for new owner Swift Thoroughbreds in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Fort Marcy at Belmont. The son of Desert Style turned in a 1:02.22 five-furlong turf breeze at Belmont on Sunday.

“He came straight into Palm Meadows, and he trained pretty well down there,” said Brown. “He’s been right there in group races, and he’s been holding good company over there. He’s a good-looking horse, so I’m anxious to get him started. I think he could be a factor in some of these big turf races for boys.”

While Brown believes Desert Blanc can be effective at the Fort Marcy’s 1 1/16-mile distance, the trainer plans to race the colt, who was Group 3 placed at 1 1/4 miles, in longer races later in the year. . “He’s run as far as a mile and a quarter over there, but I think I think this is a good comeback, a mile and a sixteenth, to see where we’re at with him,” said Brown. “He’s a versatile horse, but I’ll be looking to stretch him out after this race. He should handle the mile and a sixteenth.”

Brown considered running Dealbata, another four-year-old French listed stakes winner who is unraced in the United States, in Saturday’s Grade 3 Beaugay before withdrawing her from consideration following a 50.78 four-furlong breeze on turf Sunday morning at Belmont. Dealbata was bought privately by Martin Schwartz, the owner of now-retired Stacelita.

“I think [Dealbata] is going to need more time after watching her breeze,” said Brown.

Yet another talented import in Brown’s barn is Banimpire, a fivetime group winner in England and Ireland. Banimpire, who also has a pair of Group 1 placings to her credit, was purchased at auction in Ireland by Schwartz for approximately $3 million in November.

“She came up here [from Palm Meadows] and kind of took one step backwards,” said Brown of the fouryear old. “Minor stuff, just adapting. She had been doing super in Florida. There’s a different environment up here, a different climate, different tracks. I felt she took one step backwards, so we’re regrouping with her and are going to focus on a summer campaign. She should be fine, and we have a few horses coming up behind her.”

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