Top Jockey’s Set to Battle for Riding Title at Saratoga

Meet Starts July 22 at Saratoga

An intense 40 days of racing gets underway on Friday at Saratoga for the 148th meet at The Spa. And some of the top jockeys are ready for another strong meet as they compete for the top-rider title in upstate New York.

Hall of Fame Jockey John Velazquez, 44, has won the Saratoga riding title five times since 1998. He’s the all-time leading rider at the Spa.

The top jockey's took the ice bath at Saratoga for ALS awareness in 2014
The top jockey’s took the ice bath at Saratoga for ALS awareness in 2014

“Saratoga is important for the young guys coming up,” said Velazquez. “They want to make a name for themselves.”

Velazquez is one of three jockeys in the New York riding colony to win the riding title. The other two, Javier Castellano won it in 2013 and 2014, and Irad Ortiz, Jr. won it last year.

“Everyone wants to win at Saratoga,” Ortiz said. “Everyone knows that everyone is watching.”

Velazquez’s agent is Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero, Jr, ‘The King of Saratoga.’ Cordero was obsessed with winning Saratoga titles, something he did 14 times, including 11 in a row (1976-86). In 2011, the NYRA honored the Saratoga Jockey title in Cordero’s name.

Velazquez is not likely to win this year’s title, as he doesn’t ride as many horses as the other two. However, he did win a remarkable five Grade I races at Saratoga last year, which made him the earnings leader at the meet despite riding 45 fewer races than Ortiz and 57 less than Castellano, who won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top rider the last three years.

All three will try to hold off the favorite for this year’s meet, 22-year old Jose Ortiz, the younger brother of Irad. Jose just dominated the Belmont spring/summer meet.

You will see jockeys, even the top ones, all over backstretch at Saratoga and the Oklahoma Training Track. They will exercise more horses here than they do at Belmont, looking for any edge they can. That’s because there is more purse money on the line at Saratoga.

And on Friday, July 22 the racing action begins. Saratoga races six days a week Wednesday through Monday.

Parx Racing Creates Stakes Race to Lure Cathryn Sophia

A $150,000 one-mile stakes for three-year-old fillies has been added to the Parx Racing schedule. It will take place on September 3rd and will be a prep race for Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Cathryn Sophia, as she readies herself for the Cotillion Stakes (gr. I). 

The Street Boss filly is trained by John Servis, who is pointing her towards the $1 million Cotillion on September 24. The newly created race has been named after Princess of Sylmar, who earned over $1.8 million in her career.

Also expected to enter the race is undefeated Songbird, who is currently preparing for the July 24 $500,000 Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) that will be held at Saratoga Race Course.

Cathryn Sophia’s last start was the June 11 Acorn Stakes (gr. I), where she came in third place. The only previous race experience she has at Parx came in her maiden special weight debut last October. She won by 12 3/4 lengths.

“We’re looking forward to it,” said Servis, speaking to Parx media officials. “It’s still a ways off and we hope all goes well up to that point, but it gives us a chance to get a race over the track before the Cotillion.”

The race created by Parx to entice Cathryn Sophia to run at their venue is expected to be a part of the September 3rd program at Parx dubbed “Pennsylvania’s Day at the Races”. It will feature five stakes exclusively for state-bred runners with purses of $100,000.

Handicapping the Yellow Ribbon at Del Mar

Del Mar Opens and Fillies Hit the Turf for Yellow Ribbon

Del Mar opens its 77th summer of racing July 15 with a huge turnout expected for the opening weekend of racing. Beautiful San Diego provides the racing excitement ‘Where the Surf Meets the Turf’, and 43 stakes races will be run at Del Mar through Labor Day with the Oceanside kicking off the stakes schedule Friday. The $200,000 Grade II Yellow Ribbon Handicap for older females will take center stage on Saturday, July 16.

Nine fillies will take to the turf in Race 9 going 1 1/16 miles. Nancy from Nairobi (3/1) carries the most weight in this handicap and the English import looks like the one to beat. She’s won three straight on the turf capped off by the Grade II Royal Heroine Stakes at Santa Anita May 5. She closed strong from seventh at the three-quarter pole to win the mile race at 5-1 odds in a field of 14. Her last race was a sixth in the Grade I Gamely, but her Del Mar debut should have her making a winning move in the stretch.

Prize Exhibit (12/1) is another English import that could reverse her current form at a square price. She had a string of big efforts last summer over the Del Mar turf, and the temperamental filly is a graded stakes winner here. Plenty of class but has to overcome sub-par current form.

Finest City (7/2) takes a class drop after a solid third in the Grade I Vanity Mile behind top fillies Beholder and Stellar Wind. She had a sharp score in the Grade II Great Lady M the race prior April 23, and the 4-year old daughter of Zip City could make this her finest yet as the controlling speed.

Majestic Heat (4/1) is a California-bred filly with talent that is now blossoming for her Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. She ran well here last year despite just 1 win in five starts, but her comeback win June 17 at Santa Anita suggests another sharp effort. Finest City looks strong here following a third in her last start, the Grade I Vanity Mile. But that was against Beholder and Steller Wind.

She’s Not Here (12/1) is the defending Yellow Ribbon champ but has not done well in her last six races while facing stronger. Plenty of others look similar with some recent struggles but lots of back class. That includes Her Emmynency 6/1), who won a pair of Grade I races last year and was second in the Del Mar Oaks. Queen of the Sand (6/1) has been first or second in five of seven local starts, but she’s been off eight months and can’t see her figuring in her return. Fresh Feline (12/1) is a longshot that will be on or near the lead, and ran her best last out finishing third in the Grade II Santa Ana. Keri Belle (8/1) made up ground late to finish second in the Grade I Gamely. The 6-year old daughter of Empire Maker should be running late in a field that lacks much early speed.

Del Mar is set to go for another season of good horses and good times for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.

The Yellow Ribbon Handicap is Race 9 with post time near 6:03 pm PT on Saturday, July 16.


Dortmund To Debut At San Diego Handicap?

The horse racing world has eagerly anticipated the return of Dortmund and news has been fairly sparse, but there’s been recent confirmation that the four-year old colt is set to make his 2016 debut at the San Diego Handicap. Unfortunately, that means that he could be barreling straight in to a stacked field that’s topped by California Chrome. Is he up for the task?

It’s been a long and winding road for the Bob Baffert specimen who remains one of the most visually impressive thoroughbreds on the circuit. Sired by champion Big Brown out of Our Josephina, Dortmund is an impressive 8-0-1 in ten races. Undoubtedly one of the Triple Crown considerations last season, he placed third at the Kentucky Derby and fourth at the Preakness Stakes in 2015 behind American Pharoah. A long layoff through last summer led to back-to-back triumphs at the Big Bear and the Native Diver Handicap, but he’s been struggling with injuries since.

They’re not the type that send off alarm bells. He had some bruised ribs and an assortment of ailments that kept him from debuting back in January at the San Pasqual Stakes, which was won by California Chrome. It’s obvious that his connections aren’t scared of the 2014 Horse of the Year and desire a matchup against perhaps the finest older horse in the business.

The long game for Dortmund is the same as many other big names. It’s more than likely that he follows California Chrome on his road to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, via the Pacific Classic. That race is part of the challenge series with the winner earning a berth straight in to the biggest race a the world championships. With or without a win, Dortmund has the stock and reputation to earn a place in that competition simply by being nominated.

But everything depends on how this horse has recovered from a long layoff. If Dortmund is unable to race in the San Diego Handicap, throwing him against the wolves at the Pacific Classic seems like an uneasy gamble. For now all we can do is keep our finger’s crossed and hope that the powerful and talented four-year old is capable of making the trip and getting back to the track, where he belongs.

Cherry Wine heads to Indiana Derby

Cherry Wine Favored At Indiana Derby

After finishing as the runner-up in the 2016 Preakness Stakes, there were hopes that Cherry Wine would bust through in to the top tier as a late bloomer. It didn’t happen. The Dale Romans trainee fell to 7th in the gruelling battle that is the Belmont Stakes. That, however, hasn’t disrupted expectations as the three-year old colt is headed to the Indiana Derby as the favorite.

The 1 1/16th mile race hosted by Indiana Grand may not be a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series entry, but it offers $500,000 in purse money. That makes it one of the big events this coming weekend. It’s also worth pointing out that the Indiana Derby serves as a kind of “last chance” rally for some of the year’s mid-level three-year olds.

The prime time challenge, which occurs quite at night, will be a swamping test for Cherry Wine who will be ridden by Jose Luis Flores. Romans didn’t seem particularly fazed by his tranee’s performance in the Belmont and spoke candidly about those poor results. “The Belmont is the Belmont. It’s a classic race. He ran mid-pack and didn’t embarrass himself. But he probably doesn’t want to go a mile and a half,” Romans stated flatly. “I really didn’t think I’d run him back this quick. I was going to give him a little bit more time, run in the Haskell or Jim Dandy, but we’re right here at home, in our backyard. This is where some horses will step up and start looking like the top horses for the last half of the year.”

A packed field of 12 will be on hand to try and spoil Cherry Wine’s bid for the Indiana Derby title. Cupid stands as one of the main threats despite running from the outside in post eleven. The Bob Baffert trainee was last sighted slipping to a disappointing 5th at the Easy Goer.

There will also be a handful of untested three-year olds coming off wins as they make their stakes debuts this weekend. Those include Pilot House, Whateverybodywants, Seeking Blame and The Player. Those four represent the only horses entering the Indiana Derby coming off a victory.

The Indiana Derby will run this Saturday, July 16th with a late start time of 9:41pm EST.

Indiana Derby – Saturday, July 16th at 9:41pm EST
1 1/16th miles, 3 Year-Olds, $500,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Discreet Lover (FL) Jose Luis Flores 117 Uriah St. Lewis
2 Cherry Wine (KY) Luis Saez 117 Dale L. Romans
3 Pilot House (KY) Richard A. Bracho 117 Thomas M. Amoss
4 Takeittotheedge (KY) Miguel Mena 117 Dale L. Romans
5 The Player (KY) Shaun Bridgmohan 121 William B. Bradley
6 Cocked and Loaded (KY) Willie Martinez 124 Larry Rivelli
7 Seeking Blame (KY) Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr. 117 Dallas Stewart
8 Whateverybodywants (IL) Robby Albarado 121 Kellyn Gorder
9 Torrontes (KY) Albin Jimenez 117 Kellyn Gorder
10 Call the Colonel (KY) Santo Sanjur 121 Jon M. Cowan
11 Cupid (KY) Rafael Bejarano 124 Bob Baffert
12 Star Hill (KY) Corey J. Lanerie 117 George R. Arnold, II

Delaware Handicap Preview

Grade I Delaware Handicap and Kent Stakes Highlight Saturday Card at Delaware Park

We go off the grid a bit for coverage at Delaware Park July 16 for the Grade I Delaware Handicap. The 1 ¼ mile race for fillies and mares has attracted a field of six with a purse of $750,000.

Locally-based I’m A Chatterbox won her recent race by 8 ½ lengths in the Obeah Stakes June 11.  The Kentucky-bred has four stakes wins and a career record of 6-2-3 in 13 starts with earnings of nearly $1.4 million. She’ll be the betting favorite in the Del ‘Cap with regular rider Florent Geroux aboard against a number of challengers shipping in.

“She has been doing well,” said trainer J. Larry Jones.  “We have worked her one time since the Obeah, but she got enough out of that race to cover her a long way. She should be ready to go.  We kind of had to go into Obeah one work short of what I intended, needless to say it worked out okay.  She won and ran well, but the Obeah should have us ready and where we need to be.  We are good to go.”

Paid Up Subscriber will look to move forward after notching a 3-length triumph in her first around two turns in the mile and an eighth Grade II Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs on June 18.

The Fleur de Lis was her first race around two turns and she handled it really well,” said her trainer Albert Stall Jr.  “I got to think her last race will set her up great for the Delaware Handicap. Her sire is Candy Ride who won the Pacific Classic and her broodmare sire, Street Cry, won the Dubai World Cup, so she also has the pedigree for a mile and a quarter.”

Also on the Saturday card at Delaware Park is the Grade III $200,000 Kent Stakes for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on the turf. Inspector Lynley has been installed as the 5/2 favorite for trainer Claude McGaughey. The son of Lemon Drop Kid has a win and three seconds in seven starts. He’ll get a strong challenge from William Mott-trained Mighty Moe (7-2), Chad Brown’s Converge (4-1) with Michael Makers’s Keystoneforvictory (6-1), Todd Pletcher’s American Patriot (6-1) and Steve Asmussen’s Mad Tap (8-1) looking to cash in on top.

750,000 Grade I Delaware Handicap

For  fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up at a mile and a quarter

1 Paid Up Subscriber Klaravich & Lawrence Albert Stall Jr. Ricardo Santana Jr 2-1
2 Mony’soncharlotte George Hall Kelly John Breen Carol Cedeno 15-1
3 Milaya Stepanie& George Autry Michael Dilger Brian Pedroza 15-1
4 I’m a Chatterbox Carolyn & Fletcher Gray J. Larry Jones Florent Geroux 6/5
5 Mei Ling Barry Schwartz Todd Pletcher Jose Ortiz 15-1
6 Penwith Godolphin Racing Kiaran McLaughlin Joel Rosario 9/2

Donegal Moon No-Sale Adds Intrigue to Fasig-Tipton

The latter stages of the July selected horses of racing Fasig-Tipton sale yesterday had a bit of intrigue to the proceedings during an apparent sale of Donegal Moon for the sum of $1.6 million. The high bid added an air of excitement to the auction but it wasn’t meant to be, as Donegal Racing’s Jerry Crawford informed the audience that the bid did not meet the seller’s expectations.

The son of Malibu Moon, Donegal Moon was cosigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, and was a supplemental entry in the auction. He recently won the Pegasus Stakes (gr. I), which is a prep race for the $1 million Haskell Invitational (gr. I) on July 31st. The Pegasus win improved his record to 3-1-1 (in 11 starts) and he has earned $199,252 in his career under the training of Todd Pletcher.

“There weren’t enough of those types of buyers here,” said Duncan Taylor in reference to saying the $1.6 million bid for Donegal Moon feel short of expectations. “He’s a good horse and I think he’s worth that.”

There’s a possibility the colt could trade hands as part of a private transaction, which is an option that wasn’t ruled out by Crawford.

“If we don’t sell him, we’re going to have the 5-2 favorite in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) and say ‘Come and catch us.’ There are worst things than that,” said Crawford.

In the end, 72 horses were sold for a gross of $5,048,500, with 19 horses going unsold. The average sales price was $70,118 and the median price was $42,000. Last year saw 65 horses sold for an average of $61,477 and a gross of $3,996,000, with a $48,000 median.

“It was a pretty similar marketplace to what we have seen in recent years,” said Fasig-Tipton President/CEO Boyd Browning. “I thought it was pretty competitive bidding on most of the lots. There was plenty of activity and interest for the most part on the vast majority of racehorses.”

Haskell Invitational preview

Nyquist Headed To Haskell Invitational

It’s been well over two months since we last saw Nyquist fading to third at the Preakness Stakes and watching his Triple Crown hopes vanish in the thick mud at Pimlico. A low-grade fever knocked him out of contention for the Belmont and horse players have been eagerly anticipating his return. Now we know that will be definitively. Nyquist is set to run the Haskell Invitational at the very end of July.

As a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series race, the winner of the Haskell Invitational will be awarded automatic entry in to the Breeders’ Cup Classic, a $6 million challenge which will feature some of the best talent if all pans out the way it should. Amongst the hopefuls for that race are California Chrome and Beholder, two of the most dominant older horses out there.

It’s hard to say where Nyquist fits in to that equation. The previously undefeated three-year old struggled at the Preakness Stakes during a fight with the slop, and trainer Doug O’Neill and the horse’s ownership group have taken a lighter approach to training than you might expect.

“The Haskell was always the obvious choice, and it’s a ‘Win and You’re In’ race too,” Paul Reddam said regarding the Haskell Invitational. “We just didn’t want to paint ourselves into a corner by announcing he was going to run somewhere and then have him not be ready.

“The report I got is he worked very well this morning, well within himself, and Doug said he went in :59 very comfortably. Depending on flight availability Nyquist should go out to Monmouth three or four days before the race. I expect the field to be relatively short, with the Jim Dandy (gr. II) running the day before and the West Virginia Derby (gr. II) the following week.”

The timing of the event is pretty perfect as it gives Nyquist plenty of time to rest between the end of summer and the world championships. His main competition will be Gun Runner, who topped the derby trail points list prior to the first leg of the Triple Crown. The Steve Asmussen trainee was last seen finishing a respectable third at the Kentucky Derby.

The Haskell Invitational is set for July 31st at Monmouth Park and will be a can’t miss race for thoroughbred fans.

Pimlico to Host Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show

Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show is July 17 

The Thoroughbred Alliance Show Series (TASS) heads to Pimlico Race Course on Sunday, July 17 for the Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show. The thoroughbred-based organization’s goal is to provide horse show venues for thoroughbreds transitioning off the race track into new careers.

Maryland Jockey ClubThe Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show to benefit the Foxie G Foundation and Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue is open to thoroughbred horses only which will compete under their Jockey Club registered name.

Since 2012, the Totally Thoroughbred Horse Show has raised more than $45,000 to benefit thoroughbred aftercare organizations.

Horses will show in five divisions starting at 8:00am ET: the In Hand Division sponsored by Maryland Million Ltd.; Low Hunter Division and Child/Adult Amateur Working Hunter Division, sponsored by the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association; Open Working Hunter Division sponsored by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association; and the Jumper Division. A complete schedule of the horse show is here.

Trainer Rodney Jenkins, an inductee in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame, will be one of the judges.

All classes except for Low Hunter Division are eligible for TASS year-end award points in their respective divisions.

Prize money totaling nearly $15,000 will include the featured class of the day the $7,500 Hillwood Stable Jumper Speed Stakes. Vendor row will include jewelry, equestrian items and information about Thoroughbred organizations. T-shirts and caps will also be available with all proceeds going to the beneficiaries. Rafflepaloozza will offer tickets for $1.


Gabriel Charles Retired

Upon discovery of a bowed tendon, Grade I winner Gabriel Charles has been retired, according to his trainer Jeff Mullins.

This is the second time he bowed the tendon, and the first time it happened he was forced to miss 18 months following a second place finish in the 2013 Twilight Derby (gr. IIT). Gabriel Charles was last seen on the track on June 4 as part of a workout session in preparation for the Wise Dan (gr. IIT).

After winning the Eddie Read (gr. IT), a bout of colic forced him to skip out on training. He later made his return and debuted as a six-year-old in the San Francisco Mile (gr. IIT), where he finished in second place to Alert Bay. Mullins was encouraged by the result and shipped Gabriel Charles east to prepare for the Wise Dan.

“We thought we were rolling again,” said Mullins. “The thing about soft tissue is, sooner or later it’s going to rear its ugly head again. To compete at that level—that level of athlete—it’s just a matter of time. Unfortunately, it didn’t last that long this time.

“He’s been through a lot and we’ve been through a lot, and we’re thankful we were along for the ride.”

With breeding season over, Gabriel Charles will be sent to a Temecula, California farm that will allow him to be closer to co-owner Michael House.

“He’s just a superior athlete and he loves his job,” said Mullins. “He’s been ornery since we retired him, because he can’t go to the track. He’s one who wants to be out in the fight.”