Toys for Tots Weekend Dec. 3-4 at Aqueduct

NYRA Helps Promote Toys for Tots at Aqueduct

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) will host its annual “Toys for Tots” weekend of giving Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 4 at Aqueduct Racetrack. The weekend of giving is being offered in partnership with the Marine Corps Reserve “Toys for Tots” Foundation, with support from thoroughbred owner Harold Lerner and the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA).

The Toys for Tots program collects and distributes new, unwrapped toys to local children in need each holiday season. Donation boxes will be located at Aqueduct’s main clubhouse entrance, as well as at the Turf and Field entrance.

“The New York Racing Association is proud to support the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots Foundation during this season of giving,” stated Lynn LaRocca, New York Racing Association Senior Vice President and Chief Experience Officer. “We encourage all horseplayers and fans to join us at Aqueduct on December 3 and 4, and to bring an unwrapped toy in support of this important community effort.”

Two races on Saturday’s Aqueduct card will be named for supporting organizations. This includes a race honoring the “Toys for Tots” Foundation and a race honoring the United States Marine Corps Reserve. Following the conclusion of each race, representatives from these participating organizations will join NYRA officials in the Aqueduct winner’s circle for a special presentation.

“New York’s horsemen are honored to be part of this holiday tradition,” said NYTHA President Rick Violette Jr. “There is no better way to get into the spirit of the season than by helping the Marine Corps’ ‘Toys for Tots’ Foundation deliver smiles to the children in our community.”

“I really believe anything you can do for kids that unfortunately get left behind in the holiday season; it’s a wonderful thing to put a smile on their face,” said Lerner. “I’ve been committed to this program for a number of years after being initially introduced to it by my trainer Gary Contessa, who has been contributing part of his earnings to “Toys for Tots” on a Saturday in the past for years and thankful to a part of it again.”

For more information on the United States Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation, visit

Al Stall Jr. at Top of His Game

Al Stall Jr. toes the line of favorite and longshot when it comes to the 80-day meet being held at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots this year. However, the New Orleans-native has easily exceeded any expectations placed on him, as he has been a part of six winning races out of his 11 first starts. Two of those wins were of the stakes variety — Seaside Candy winning the Si Cima Stakes and Yockey’s Warrior taking home the Thanksgiving Handicap. Stall Jr. also has three additional second-place finishes and has finished outside of the top-four just once. al-stall

“Racing is great when things go well for you,” said Stall. “You just have to know how to deal with it when they don’t. We had a slow summer and we had little issues with horses. Seaside Candy and Yockey’s Warrior are great examples where they went through a lot of minor setbacks and we had to be patient and give them the time they needed.

“The game isn’t as difficult when they’re sound. When you get all that behind you is when you start having your horses doing well together—and we have some more coming after the turn of the year that I really like and are exciting. Hopefully we will do well.”

The six wins places Stall at the top of the Fair Grounds standings, two spots ahead of last year’s meet champion Mike Stidham. Through the first six races days, Stall has earned $202,260, which is 29.3 percent of what he earned the entire 2015-2016 season ($683,175).

Anchor Down has Smoking Speed in Cigar Mile at Aqueduct

Anchor Down Tries to Speed Ahead of Connect, Economic Model and Divining Rod in Cigar Mile

Anchor Down is the speed of the speed as the favorite in Saturday’s $500,000 Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct. But the gorgeous gray son of Tapit will be challenged by Connect (5-2) and another Tapit colt, Divining Rod (8-1). Trainer Todd Pletcher saved Anchor Down for this race instead of running in the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Mile. Anchor Down beat Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Tamarkuz in his last race, the Kelso Handicap Oct. 8 at Belmont, going wire-to-wire and just missing the track record with his 1:32.90 time.

Anchor Down
Anchor Down

“He’s got good tactical speed and it seems like he’s proven that a one-turn mile is his favorite trip,” Pletcher said. “Anytime you can run a solid 1:33 mile, you’re in rarefied territory,” Pletcher said.

Connect (5-2) is a very strong challenger for trainer Chad Brown, and has something to prove facing older horses in stakes company for the first time. He’ll try to chase after Anchor Down, but the Curlin colt showed his speed against this year’s top 3-year olds when he won the $1.25 million Pennsylvania Derby last time out September 24. His strong rail rally around the turn saw him sail past Cupid and favorite Nyquist and he outkicked Gun Runner in the stretch to win over a top-heavy field that also included Preakness winner Exaggerator.

Connect cuts back her from that 1 1/8 mile win and shoots for his 5th win in six starts this year for trainer Chad Brown.

“He’s fine to cut back,” Brown said. “He won on Belmont Day in a (1 1/16 mile) allowance race going one turn and he looked good doing it, so I don’t think the move to one turn will bother him.”

Brown will also saddle Economic Model and Threefiveindia, both 6-1 and contenders. Economic Model was 2nd behind Breeders’ Cup Spring winner Drefong in the Kings Bishop Stakes (G1) at Saratoga in August. He could benefit from the speed up front and showed a solid closing kick passing horses in the stretch in the Kings Bishop.

But a horse with value that will get overlooked a big in the field of 10 is Divining Rod (8-1), another Tapit Colt. Divining Rod chased Noble Bird around in the Fayette last out when Noble Bird set a track record at Keeneland going 1 1/8 miles. Divining Rod adds blinkers for trainer Arnaud Delacour, a strong conditioner who switches back to the jockey Daniel Centeno, who won both races aboard Divining Rod at Parx in September. Divining Rod also finished third to American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness., and should be in your exotics as a solid speed horse in good form. He’s finished in the money in 11 of 12 starts and is 2-1-0 in three starts this year.

Cigar Mile H. (gr. I)

Aqueduct Racetrack, Saturday, November 26, 2016, Race 10 (4:20 ET)



PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 1

Anchor Down (KY)

Jose L. Ortiz 121 Todd A. Pletcher 2/1
2 2

Economic Model (KY)

Joel Rosario 116 Chad C. Brown 6/1
3 3

Realm (VA)

Paco Lopez 114 Barclay Tagg 20/1
4 4

Mylute (KY)

Eric Cancel 114 Ralph E. Nicks 30/1
5 5

Ocean Knight (KY)

John R. Velazquez 119 Kiaran P. McLaughlin 10/1
6 6

Tale of S’avall (KY)

Manuel Franco 114 Barclay Tagg 20/1
7 7

Connect (KY)

Javier Castellano 118 Chad C. Brown 5/2
8 8

War Story (KY)

Antonio A. Gallardo 116 Mario Serey, Jr. 50/1
9 9

Threefiveindia (KY)

Irad Ortiz, Jr. 116 Chad C. Brown 6/1
10 10

Divining Rod (KY)

Daniel Centeno 119 Arnaud Delacour 8/1


2016 Remsen preview

2016 Remsen Headed By Takaful

The 2016 Remsen Stakes is always an intriguing indicator of the Triple Crown. Mohaymen was the big winner last year and used it to propel himself to the front of the class in the Kentucky Derby Futures Wager. That same pool is being released for the first time over the weekend so it will be interesting to see how the market reacts to the results of this big rase. Takaful is expected to be the favorite.

Takaful is coming off a strong performance at a 6 furlong Belmont allowance. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin knows it’s far too early to tell whether or not his juvenile has a shot at doing something incredible next year.

“It’s a big step up from a maiden to a grade II and it’s a big step up from 6 1/2 to a mile and an eighth, but he’s certainly a grade II type,” McLaughlin said. “The distance is a little bit of a concern, but we don’t have a lot of options, so we’re going to give it a go. We’ve missed out on a prep, but we can’t do anything about that, so we’re going to hope for the best.”

Almost the entire field will be making their stakes debuts in this race. The only two that aren’t are No Dozing, who finished 4th at the Breeders’ Futirity, and Sleep Hallow Stakes runner-up Tellmeafookystory.

The 2016 Remsen Stakes is on Saturday, November 28th and offers a point distribution of 10-4-2-1 as part of the derby trail. The Kentucky Jockey Club and the Cattleya Sho (Japan) are another pair of races in that series.

2016 Remsen Stakes – Saturday, November 28th at Aqueduct
1 1/8th Miles – Juveniles – $300,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Tellmeafookystory (NY) Kendrick Carmouche 116 Todd A. Pletcher
2 Newman (KY) Joel Rosario 116 Thomas Albertrani
3 Hookup (KY) Manuel Franco 116 David A. Cannizzo
4 Takaful (KY) Jose L. Ortiz 116 Kiaran P. McLaughlin
5 Tale of Silence (KY) Jose Lezcano 116 Barclay Tagg
6 Win With Pride (KY) Irad Ortiz, Jr. 116 Todd A. Pletcher
7 You’re to Blame (KY) Javier Castellano 116 Chad C. Brown
8 Mo Town (KY) John R. Velazquez 116 Anthony W. Dutrow
9 No Dozing (KY) Daniel Centeno 116 Arnaud Delacour
10 Lead Astray (KY) Antonio A. Gallardo 116 Claude R. McGaughey III

Beholder Settles at Spendthrift Farm

Three-time champion and 2016 Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) victor Beholder made the trek to her new home at Spendthrift Farm close to Lexington to begin her new broodmare life. beholder

“Well, we’ve been waiting for a while for this, it’s really exciting for the farm,” said Spendthrift Farm General Manager Ned Toffey. “It’s a neat thing because we’ve closed a chapter on one part of her career and we’re opening the chapter on the next.”

Henny Hughes’ six-year-old daughter closed out her racing career on a storybook ending by winning the Distaff, which was her second time claiming the event and third overall Breeders’ Cup win. That win ended a 26-race career, which included 18 wins and an additional six second-place finishes. She never finished worse than fourth in any race and earned over $6 million. Of the 18 wins, 11 were of the grade I variety, including the aforementioned three Breeders’ Cup victories.

“It’s really exciting for us to get to see what kind of foals we’re going to get out of her,” said Toffey. “There’s so much anticipation and so much hope that goes with her and with those foals.

“That’s one of the great things about this business, whether it’s the next race or the next foal, you’re always looking ahead to that.”

What we do know about Beholder’s new life as a broodmare is that she has been paired to bred to Uncle Mo, last year’s top first-crop sire. What we don’t know yet is whether or not Spendthrift Farm will offer the foal at public auction.

“All of our yearlings go through the sale with very few exceptions. What we decide to do with that one will just be like all the rest that are here, it’s a horse by horse decision,” said Toffey.

“Obviously (the foal would) have great value at auction and also be an awful lot of fun to take to the races. If it can run and if it’s a colt—we’re about standing stallions here—we’d love to have a son of Beholder in the stud barn.”

Racing Interest Continues to Rise in Maryland

Laurel Park Sees Sharp Spike in Handle During Fall Festival of Racing

The interest in Maryland racing continues to rise.

Following Saturday’s Fall Festival of Racing at Laurel Park, the Maryland Jockey Club reported the big gains in handle. Saturday’s handle increased 19.6% over last year, as the 11-race program generated a total handle of $4.513 million compared to $3.775 million in 2015. The in-state handle was up 16.4% as the expansion of the Maryland Jockey Club’s off-track betting facilities triggered additional growth.

“We were pleased with Saturday’s handle as well as the crowd that came out to watch a great race card,” said Sal Sinatra, President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. “We want to thank everyone who came out and enjoyed our renovated facility, those who bet the program on-line or at simulcast facilities, and those who came out for the Brew & Bourbon Festival. We also want to thank horsemen locally and nationally who continue to support our program.

“We want to continue to offer fans and horsemen these spectacular programs and events. Fans like the renovations we’ve made and horsemen love the new barns and improvements to the backside. Our Sunday program continues to build as well with dining options and Fantasy Football. We’re going to continue to work hard because we believe there’s tremendous potential in Maryland.”

That potential is being realized. Saturday’s feature race was the $250,000 De Francis Dash (G3), won by 6-year-old Ivan Fallunovalot, his first stakes win. It was also the first stakes victory for formerly retired jockey Calvin Borel, who returned to riding five months ago.

The increases on Fall Festival continued a growing trend in the Maryland Thoroughbred industry. On Oct. 22, total handle on Jim McKay Maryland Million Day was up 18.5 percent over the previous year and a whopping 59.8 percent over 2014.

Earlier this year, the 141st Preakness Stakes (G1), the Middle Jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, set all-time records in total handle ($94.127 million) and attendance (135,256). Black-Eyed Susan Day also had increases over the previous year with total handle of $18.661 million compared to $17.815 in 2015.

The Maryland Jockey Club expects to take in $425 million in total handle this year, an increase from $355 million in 2015 and $296 million in 2014.

Churchill Downs Announces Renovations

Churchill Downs announced on November 17 plans for a $37 million capital project. The upgrades will create over 1,800 new seats and should be unveiled in time for the 2018 Kentucky Derby day. The new seats will be made up of interior dining tables, third-floor Grandstand seats, and luxury suites. church

Dubbed the “Starting Gate Suites capital project”, the new renovations will take up 77,250 square feet of be space located at the north end of the 147-acre Churchill Downs facility. It will be adjacent to the 2003-built Jockey Club Suites and will feature individual suites located on three floors.

Indoor lounge seating, private balconies, and a bar will be included in the new luxury suites. You will also get a view of the Kentucky Derby start. Each new level will include 24 eight-top tables and 576 seats in total and there will be 110 new Grandstand seats on the third floor.

“The Starting Gate Suites project is our next step in the company’s ongoing efforts to improve and enhance the facilities and the customer experience at Churchill Downs,” said Churchill Downs Racetrack President Kevin Flanery. “The demand for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks tickets remains extraordinary with the number of reserved seating requests vastly exceeding our available inventory on an annual basis. This sweeping new addition will be a terrific benefit to our facility on many levels.”

Construction on the Starting Gates Suite will start in January and will end before the 2017 Spring Meet starts on April 29. Once the Kentucky Derby ends steel will be erected.

Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash 2016

Stallwalkin’ Dude Heads Francis Memorial Dash

The Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash will snap open its gates this coming weekend from Laurel Park. A field of nine will be piloted from the outside with Stallwalkin’ Dude and X Y Jet set to go head-to-head from the start.

Stallwakin’ Dude will challenge from the outermost post as the 5/2 favorite after a win at the Bold Ruler Stakes. The six-year-old gelding has been a strong threat all year long with a record of 3-1-1 in seven starts. David Jacobson and his team are excited to see what their contender can accomplish in what’s expected to be his final contest of the year.

“Any graded race is huge but when you’ve competed so hard for so many times against all these great horses, to finally win one of those was a little extra special,” Jacobson said of Stallwalkin’ Dude. “To be able to campaign for as long as he’s been campaigning at this level is very impressive.”

It’s worth noting that the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash will be the eighth race for Stallwalkin’ Dude, but he seems to be in strong form heading in. “It’s one race at a time, and right now it looks like he’s right there at the top of his game and we’re going to take advantage of it.”

X Y Jet will post up next to the favorite as the 9/5 second choice, but is coming off a poor showing at the 2016 Vosburgh which was perfectly explainable by his trainer. “We did surgery on him and he was out for three months. He came back in training again and it was another three months, but he’s ready,” trainer Jorge Navarro said. X Y Jet was essentially caught in an unexpected drag race at the Vosburgh, but a lighter pace will benefit him in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash. “I watched the races at Belmont for the last two months and there was nothing even close going that fast. He came out of the last race really good. He’s ready.”

The flier play for the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash is Ivan Fullanovalot, who made his season debut at the David M. Vance Stakes in a romping triumph. At 7-2-0 in 10 starts, his only falter was at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Problematic feet have held him back for the entire year, but when he’s always a worthy play at his peak.

“Once we got ready to roll again, there’s not that many kinds of races around there where we’re at, so we headed off this way,” stated his trainer. “He comes back good. He knows his job and he tends to business. He doesn’t get worried about much. He’s pretty relaxed and on race day he knows what he’s doing.”

Overall, the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash has the makings of a three-horse battle. An exacta box on X Y Jet and Stallwalkin’ Dude is the most logical play.

Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash – Saturday, November 19th at Laurel Park (6:35pm EST)
6 Furlongs – 3+ Year Olds – $250,000

PP Horse Jockey Wgt Trainer M/L
1 Sonny Inspired (MD) Jevian Toledo 118 Phil Schoenthal 20/1
2 Ivan Fallunovalot (TX) Calvin H. Borel 118 W. T. Howard 5/1
3 Pomeroy’s Package (FL) Hector Caballero 118 Mario Serey, Jr. 20/1
4 Weekend Hideaway (NY) Paco Lopez 118 Philip M. Serpe 6/1
5 Life in Shambles (KY) Ricardo Santana, Jr. 118 Steven M. Asmussen 8/1
6 Final Prospect (MD) UNKNOWN 118 Gary Capuano 20/1
7 Rockinn On Bye (MD) Taylor M. Hole 118 Stephen M. Casey 15/1
8 X Y Jet (FL) Emisael Jaramillo 118 Jorge Navarro 9/5
9 Stallwalkin’ Dude (FL) Joe Bravo 118 David Jacobson 5/2

Fall Festival of Racing at Laurel Park

Seven Stakes Set for Saturday’s Fall Festival of Racing

The Fall Festival of Racing is set for Saturday, Nov. 19 at Laurel Park, and seven stakes races worth $825,000 highlight the 11-race card.

The $100,000 Smart Halo gets the stakes started in race 2 with 9 two-year-olds sprinting 6 furlongs.

Race 5 features Multiple Grade 3 winner Tommy Macho, Canadian Classic winner Ami’s Holiday and 2013 Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Golden Soul among a solid cast of 14 entered to run in a competitive edition of the $100,000 Richard W. Small Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

In race 4, a total of 11 two-year-olds will sprint 6 furlongs in the $100,000 James F. Lewis III Stakes.

The $100,000 Safety Kept Stakes is race 6 with 14 three-year-old fillies striding 7 furlongs. Following that is the $100,000 City of Laurel Stakes with 14 three-year-olds entered for the 7 furlong race.

The headliner of the Fall Festival of Racing is the $250,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3). Currently nine are entered for the 6 furlong sprint in race 9. New York-based Stallwalkin’ Dude and Weekend Hideaway are not yet definite for the race.

The $75,000 Geisha Stakes for fillies and mares is the final race on the 11-race card with a total of 12 entered to run 1 mile on the dirt. Stakes winners Lovable Lady and Chapel of Chimes, who each lost for the first time in four races last time out, will look to get back to winning form.

Post time for the Fall Festival of Racing, which also includes four races over Laurel’s world-class turf course, is noon EST. A total of 142 horses were entered on the day, an average of 12.9 starters per race.

Chao Chom With Big Upset in Betty Grable Stakes

The November 13 Del Mar card featured quite the upset in the $100,000 Betty Grable Stakes when Chao Chom beat 1-9 favorite Enola Gray, who was previously unbeaten heading into the race. Chao Chom entered the Betty Grable Stakes with three straight second place finishes. She ended up winning by 1 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:22.35. chao_chom

“We won easy, so easy,” said jockey Kent Desormeaux. “There were dawdling fractions. She was just cantering down the backstretch. Then we turned for home and she just ascended to the front. She finished with her ears pricked. She just couldn’t have won much easier.”

The three-year-old daughter of Tizbud had a promising start last year, winning her maiden race at Del Mar by 8 1/4 lengths. In four starts after that though she came in second or third and was never better than 6-5 odds.

In the Betty Grable Stakes, the Gary Stute-trained Chao Chom was given odds of 9-1. For winning, she returned prices of $19.80, $3.60, and $3. Enola Gray’s second place finish brought $2.10 for both place and show. For coming in third, Cuddle Alert paid $6.40.

“I got tired of her getting beat as the favorite, so I put her in a race where I knew she wouldn’t be the favorite,” said Stute. “Originally I was thinking about taking her back, because she hadn’t been finishing. Then I looked and thought Enola Gray is the only speed, so maybe we’ll get a slow pace and be close. I just left it up to Kent and he did the job.”