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Sport Kentucky Derby trainers got $7.4M combined in PPP money during COVID-19 pandemic

16:35  27 april  2021
16:35  27 april  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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A year after the COVID-19 pandemic jumbled the Triple Crown calendar, the sport will once again bask in the national spotlight on the first Saturday in May with the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby.

a group of people riding on the back of a horse with Churchill Downs in the background: The 147th Kentucky Derby will be run Saturday at Churchill Downs, with most of the trainers sending horses postward having secured Paycheck Protection Program loans last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. © Associated Press The 147th Kentucky Derby will be run Saturday at Churchill Downs, with most of the trainers sending horses postward having secured Paycheck Protection Program loans last year during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as the nation's top trainers take center stage at Churchill Downs, it's in stark contrast to 12 months earlier when racing's most prominent figures were taking full advantage of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

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According to public records examined by the Asbury Park Press, some 14 trainers in this year's Kentucky Derby received a combined $7.369 million from the program, which provided taxpayer-funded forgivable loans designed to help struggling small businesses retain workers.

The top 25 trainers on the earnings list in 2020, whose horses won a combined $206.5 million on the track, secured loans totaling at least $10.4 million, while some of the sport’s top institutions made use of the coronavirus bailout.

Brad Cox trains favored Essential Quality for Godolphin LLC, owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and prime minster of the United Arab Emirates. Cox received a $550,000 loan.

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Todd Pletcher has four horses entered including Known Agenda for St. Elias Stable, the racing operation of Florida Panthers owner Vinnie Viola. Pletcher secured the second-largest payout among trainers nationally at $1.294 million.

The biggest loan went to Chad Brown, with the trainer of Highly Motivated getting $1.767 million.

Bob Baffert, the sport’s most identifiable figure, won 2020 Kentucky Derby with Authentic, who bankrolled nearly $6 million for winning in the Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Baffert received a PPP loan for $556,187.

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Baffert will look to win his record seventh Kentucky Derby with Medina Spirit, owned by Saudi Arabian businessman and philanthropist Amr Zedan.

Other Kentucky Derby trainers who received loans include:

  • Steve Asmussen ($1.088 million)
  • Brad Cox ($550,000)
  • John Sadler ($449,2370)
  • Peter Miller ($425,000)
  • Ken McPeek ($424,384)
  • Doug O’Neill ($366,947)
  • Mark Casse ($296,571)
  • Robertino Diodoro ($239,206)
  • Vicki Oliver ($116,200)
  • Greg Foley ($91,839)
  • Wesley Ward ($70,722)

The $649 billion Paycheck Protection Program was instituted to help small businesses cover payroll and other key expenses during the pandemic, providing forgivable loans of up to $10 million.

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It’s unclear if the recipients paid some or all of the money back, but what is clear is that the industry leaned heavily on the program as racing days were lost and purses trimmed.

The New York Racing Association, which operates Belmont Park, Aqueduct and Saratoga, and was shut down from March 15 to June 1, got a $10 million loan, listing 453 jobs impacted. Monmouth Park, which had its opening delayed two months, got $2.319 million.

Many racetracks lost racing dates, and were either prohibited from having fans or faced strict attendance limits. Among other tracks that got relief were Del Mar ($2.814 million), Emerald Downs ($2.133 million), Tampa Bay Down ($1.68 million), Kentucky Downs ($1.68 million) and Turf Paradise ($1.477 million).

a man wearing sunglasses: Authentic trainer Bob Baffert talks to the media after Authentic's win in the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic race during the 37th Breeders Cup World Championship at Keeneland Race Track. Authentic won the Kentucky Derby earlier in the year. © USA TODAY Sports Authentic trainer Bob Baffert talks to the media after Authentic's win in the Longines Breeders' Cup Classic race during the 37th Breeders Cup World Championship at Keeneland Race Track. Authentic won the Kentucky Derby earlier in the year.

And it wasn’t just trainer and racetracks using the PPP program.

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West Point Thoroughbreds, an industry innovator in racing partnerships, received $232,675.  Winchell Thoroughbreds, a racing and breeding operation that campaigned champion filly Untapable, got a $157,900 loan.

Farms in the most important areas for thoroughbred breeding, development and sales took advantage of the program, including Wavertree Stables, in Ocala, Florida, which received a $296,243 loan, and Brilliant Stables in Paris, Kentucky, which received $293,000, while Millennium Farms in Lexington, Kentucky got a $238,500 loan.

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in Saratoga Spring, New York, received $171, 400, the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau in Elkton, Maryland got $179,347 and the Backstretch Employee Service Team of New York got $134,106.

Several jockeys are listed as having received loans as well, including Kendrick Carmouche ($20,800) and Drayden Van Dyke ($20,833).

Locally, trainers who stabled horses at Monmouth Park sought relief, including Jerry Hollendorfer ($353,142), Michael Stidham ($301,519), Kent Sweezey ($114,200), Jane Cibelli ($93,051), Ben Perkins ($40,000), Pat McBurney ($26,455) and Wayne Potts ($20,832).

The New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which leases Monmouth Park, got a $16,100 loan.

Here are the top-25 trainers from 2020 who received PPP loans:

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Rank  Trainer                      PPP loan      purse money won

1. Steve Asmussen          $1,088,000     $19,969,514

2. Bob Baffert                     $556,187       $19,140,487

3. Brad H. Cox                   $550,000       $18,991,552

4. Chad C. Brown            $1,767,600      $16,596,956

6. Mark Casse                    $296,571      $11,396,030

7. Todd A Pletcher           $1,294,412      $11,200,790

8. William Mott                   $395,500       $9,467,346

9. Christophe Clement       $507,100       $6,227,813

10. Peter Miller                   $425,000       $6,134,655

11. Wesley Ward                   $70,722      $6,106,095

12. Robertino Diodoro        $239,206      $6,042,443

14. Bret Calhoun                   $80,200     $5,575,054

15. Jamie Ness                    $157,933     $5,244,920

17. Ken McPeek                  $424,284     $5,180,764

18. Richard Baltas               $314,272     $5,157,398

19. Saffie Joseph                   $66,400     $4,994,188

20. Tom Amoss                     $366,047    $4,812,411

21. Doug O’Neill                   $366,947    $4,422,371

22. Michael Stidham            $301,519     $4,306,027

23. Graham Motion              $503,547    $4,183,483

24. Michael Trombetta          $246,300    $4,132,422

25. John Sadler                    $449,237     $4,108920

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Kentucky Derby trainers got $7.4M combined in PPP money during COVID-19 pandemic

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Essential Quality is a deserving favorite to win at Churchill Downs, but you might want to look elsewhere for a better value. If you like Essential Quality as your bet to win the Kentucky Derby, I’m sorry. The prospective payout is small and likely to get smaller.The unbeaten two-year-old champion was established as the 2–1 favorite in the morning line by Churchill Downs oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, lower than many expected. “I thought he might be 3–1,” said Essential Quality trainer Brad Cox, “but I’m not betting, so.

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