Dacita Wins Thrilling Finish in Diana Stakes

Dacita Rallies from Last to Win Grade I Diana for Second Straight Victory

In a thrilling race that saw four horses surging to the finish together, Dacita rallied from the back of the pack to take the Diana Stakes by a nose. Trainer Chad Brown saddled both Dacita and near miss third place finisher Rainha Da Bateria, the longest shot on the morning line who went off at 28-1.

“Dacita loves Saratoga and knows where the wire is. They were really rolling along the first quarter and it set the tone for the race, that someone from behind, or at least mid-pack at worst, was going to have the best run. Irad was patient and worked out a great trip, he timed it just right.”

With a $500,000 purse in the Grade I at Saratoga, Dacita finished the 1 1/8 miles on the turf in 1:46.25 and paid $10.20, $5.70 and 4.20 across the board as the 4-1 choice. Recepta was 9-1 and finished second by a nose while 28-1 longshot Rainha Da Bateria was third. Favorite Miss Temple City (5/2) was fourth in a blanket finish. The $2 exacta paid $95.90 and the $2 trifecta was $1,217.

“She’s a nice filly,” said the winning rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. “I got the perfect trip while saving ground. She came from last and come running at the end.”

Dacita defeated the great Tepin in her U.S. debut nearly a year ago at Saratoga in the Ballston Spa Stakes. She then was off her game and was a well-beaten fourth to Tepin in April before flashing her winning ways again last time out at Belmont in the New York Stakes.

Dacita has now won nine of her 15 career starts to boast earnings of nearly $970,000.


Saratoga Preview Panelists Raise Awareness

NYRA Missing Member for Saratoga Preview Panel Discussion

The annual Saratoga Preview took place July 20 at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. This year’s audience-driven discussion featured insight from four panelists covering Thoroughbred racing. The question and answer session included discussion on night racing, entertainment options to increase attendance, jockey promotion, Thoroughbred aftercare and control of the New York Racing Association. Interesting that no representative of the NYRA was present.

The Saratoga Preview panel included three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez, Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Graham Motion, Starlight Stables founder Jack Wolf, and ST Publishing managing editor Tom Law.

National Museum of Racing HOFDominguez addressed the issue of the current race fan demographic and getting younger fans interested in racing with a focus on the experience at the track and relationships. That included offering a variety of entertainment options to get more people involved in racing with a goal of increasing attendance.

“We could be doing a better job,” the retired jockey said. “The current demographic of people who go to the track is 50 (years old) and up; they’re set in their ways and probably fine with the old model of racing.”

He also said racetracks could do a better job promoting jockeys, whose careers are much longer than those of racehorses.

“You will grow old following these guys, following a human, and being connected to this person,” Dominguez said to a round of applause. “It’s that human connection, which is really second to none.”

In response to a question from the audience about Thoroughbred aftercare, Wolf, who was instrumental in establishing the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, said that while awareness of the issue is broadening, the TAA has been unable to meet its original goal of mandating funding at each level of the industry.

“We raise $3 or $4 million a year, and that just scratches the surface of what’s needed,” Wolf said. “The Jockey Club has been very helpful with seed money, and I would love to see them possibly make it a sizable amount to register a horse. Presently they’re charging $25. If that could be something like $800 or $1,000, that would pretty much take care of the deal.”

Motion pointed out that racing is a “spectacle” at some of the boutique meets like the one opening at Saratoga July 22. The trainer raised concerns for many smaller tracks, and said given a smaller foal crop and the current number of racing days, some tracks will likely need to close in order to preserve the industry.

“Racing isn’t a spectacle on a Tuesday at (Parx Racing),” he said. “There’s too much racing and it’s a real struggle to fill entries. It puts a tremendous strain on horses and horsemen.”

Motion also noted the impact night racing, which has proven successful at several venues, can have on racing staff, but he acknowledged its ability to attract new customers.

“I think there’s a great future for it,” he said. “It’s easier for people to go after work, and it makes racing a social event. But it’s incredibly hard on the staff, who come in at 4:30 in the morning and don’t finish until 8:30 or 9 at night. It’s a tremendous strain on the outriders and the jockeys, too. But it’s definitely a concept that has something to be said for it.

“It worries me. We run very late here (at Saratoga) now. It’s a long day for everyone.”

The 40-day Saratoga meet, which opens July 22 with racing six days a week, continues through Labor Day, Sept. 5.

NYRA president and chief executive officer Christopher Kay addressed the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce July 21 during a breakfast event. He discussed a list of improvements that the special NYRA board were putting in place for the upcoming race season.

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.

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.

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

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.


Belmont Derby Preview

Belmont Derby Features Competitive International Field

The Stars and Stripes Festival starts Saturday at Belmont Park, and a pair of prestigious Grade I races highlight the 6-stakes race card. The Belmont Derby got a purse increase in 2014 and this year’s race is run at 1 1/4 miles and has a $1,250,000 purse. A highly competitive, international field of 13 sophomore colts will take to the inner turf.

Aidan O’Brien is an Irish horse racing trainer in Ireland who has won 22 percent of his horses races over the past 90 days covering more than 300 races. He has a pair of fine colts in here including Deauville (4-1), who will break from the outside post and cut back to 10 furlongs following his out of the money finish at 12 furlongs last time out. First time Lasix and Deauville is bred for distance and was second by a neck going 1 ¼ miles May 12 while rallying to slow fractions. Long Island Sound (7/2) is the ‘A’ entry for O’Brien who was third last out in the Grade III Tercentary going 10 furlongs last out at Royal Ascot. Those Grade III races are closer in class to a Grade I in the U.S. The Kentucky-bred colt by War Front was an $800,000 weanling purchase and is a top contender here. Humphrey Bogart (5-1) is another European horse who finished in front of Deauville when fifth in the Investec Derby at 25-1 June 4.

The top American choices in the 13-horse field are Camelot Kitten, Beach Control, Airoforce and longshot Highland Sky. Camelot Kitten is one of three Chad Brown-trained colts running, and the kitten has won his last two races. That includes this race’s local prep June 4 in the Pennine Ridge Stakes going 1 1/8 miles as the 9/5 favorite. He somehow went off at 18-1 when he crossed the finish line first by a head May 7 at Churchill in the American Turf. Irad Ortiz Jr. stays aboard for the ride.

Camelot Kitten (5-1) has a pair of wins and three places in six starts with both wins over Belmont’s inner turf course.

He likes Belmont,” said Brown, noting the colt’s local record. “And he is undefeated with the addition of blinkers.”

American Turf runner up Beach Patrol (12-1) can turn the tables this time and was the 5-1 third choice that day. Surgical Strike (15-1) can close in here as he did to finish third in that race May 7. The circuits leading rider Jose Ortiz takes the mount with a shot to surprise. Highland Sky (8-1) continues to improve in his 3-year-old season, and he was coming fast and furious down the lane running the final 1/8 mile in 11.1 seconds to finish second to Camelot Kitten in the Pennine Ridge as the 5/2 second choice.

Airoforce (10-1) returned to his preferred surface in the American Turf on the Kentucky Derby undercard, controlling the early pace before getting reeled in late to finish fourth. In the Penn Mile, Airoforce was forced to take back early after breaking off balance before regrouping with a late charge in the stretch to finish second to stablemate Catch a Glimpse.

“He was off form at the beginning of the year, but he need the race on Derby Day and I thought he had a tough trip in the Penn Mile. I really think he’s sitting on a big one on Saturday,” said Norm Casse, head assistant to his father.

Airoforce stretches to this longer distance for the first time, but is expected to enjoy the extra ground. “He’s a horse that doesn’t run as well when he gets pressed or whenever the pace is a little hotter,” said Casse. “I think he showed a new dimension last time, that he can sit off of horses. The race, going from a mile to a mile and a quarter, the pace will be a little bit slower, he’ll be able to relax a little bit more early, and I actually think that will actually be better for him.”

NBC will provide live coverage from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm, ET.  The Belmont Derby, Belmont Oaks and Suburban are slated to be broadcast live.  The audio is available for free on the NYRA website, and you can bet the races online at TwinSpires.

Belmont Park — Race 8 — G1 Belmont Derby Invitational– One and one-quarter miles on Inner Turf — post time 4:38 PM ET

Off The Tracks Wins Mother Goose

Off the Tracks Goes Wire-to-Wire in Mother Goose Victory

A strong group of four fillies headlined the $300,000 Grade I Mother Goose Stakes Saturday, and Off the Tracks was expected to have a solid shot for trainer Todd Pletcher. She broke sharply and never lost the lead as the 3-1 third choice in Saturday’s 1 1/16 mile feature race at Belmont. The Bay filly by Curlin went through swift splits and cruised home to win by 3 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:41.01.

Jockey Jose Ortiz was aboard and he held off his brother Irad riding runner-up Lewis Bay. Lightstream and Joel Rosario finished third while race favorite Rachel’s Valentina, also trained by Pletcher, was a disappointing fifth and never a factor.

Off the Tracks’ second victory in graded stakes company was rewarding for his trainer, and he paid $8.10, $3.60 and $2.70. Pletcher will now give her a lot of consideration for the Spa’s premier 3-year-old filly classic, the Grade 1 Alabama on Aug. 20.

“Even though the fractions were very fast, the track seemed to be playing pretty fast today. I was a little concerned going as fast as they were, but she seemed to be doing it comfortably and in good rhythm. I was happy to see her have something left to finish,” Pletcher said.

After the race, Pletcher was uncertain concerning Rachel Valentina’s performance. “I really don’t have a great explanation… It looked like she was in a decent spot, but Johnny seemed like he had to start asking her for a lot earlier than you would expect him to. We’ll see how she comes out of it and try to regroup.”

Gallop Hour Friday Racing Kicks off Summer Meet at Laurel Park July 1

Summer Racing at Laurel Park Expected to be Strong

Opening day of summer racing at Laurel Park starts July 1. A big weekend of racing is expected with the Gallop Hour Twilight racing program beginning Friday and holiday racing continuing on Monday, July 4. Laurel Park is expecting a strong opening weekend after increases in total and average handle were reported following the winter-spring meet.

The Maryland Jockey Club noted that average daily handle at Laurel was $2.372 million, up 34.5 percent from $1.764 million in 2015. Total handle on Laurel’s winter-spring meet was $151.1 million, up 9-percent from $140 million in 2015, while in-state wagering on Laurel was up 25 percent from $37.4 million in 2015 to $46.7 million.

“We continue to see growth in the Maryland Thoroughbred industry both locally and nationally,” said Sal Sinatra, President and General Manager of the Maryland Jockey Club. “The sport is clearly undergoing a resurgence, and racing is being revitalized with better quality racing, more participation from horsemen around the country, and our growing off-track betting network have helped. We’ve never had such a wonderful working relationship between horsemen, the commission, legislators and our fans. We are looking forward to continued growth this summer at Laurel Park.”

Post time for Race 1 of the Gallop Hour Twilight Racing Friday, July 1 is 3:40 p.m. ET.

Trevor McCarthy Wins Riding Title at Pimlico

22-Year Old Trevor McCarthy Rides 3 Winners on Final Day to Win Riding Title

Heading into the final week of racing at Pimlico, jockey Feargal Lynch had 23 winners with Trevor McCarthy and Victor Carrasco just behind with 22. Jevian Toledo also had a shot at the riding title with 20 winners.

But McCarthy rode three winners Sunday on closing day of the Preakness Meet at Pimlico to earn his second consecutive meet title in Maryland this year.

“It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling, especially because I missed a lot of days this meet,” he said. “I was able to ship out and ride some good horses, and to be able to do both means a lot.”

McCarthy entered Sunday’s nine-race program tied with Victor Carrasco at 26 wins, with Feargal Lynch and Jevian Toledo right behind with 25. Toledo won the seventh race to reach 26 wins and tie for second with Carrasco.

Kieron Magee, Maryland’s leading trainer in 2014 and 2015, clinched his fourth consecutive meet title during Friday’s program and finished with 14 winners.

“This is home. I love Laurel, but this is home for me so this means a little more,” Magee said. “I galloped horses here for 25 years and live 20 minutes from here. It’s home.”

McCarthy credited his fellow jockey’s for encouragement and his success.

“We have a good colony here, I think. Everybody wants to win and everybody wants to ride a good race. Everybody wants to be on the good horses, hustles hard and works in the mornings. It all came down to the last couple weeks,” McCarthy said.

“Victor, Toledo, Feargal, Edgar, I’ve learned a lot from them and I just want to thank all of them for kind of pushing me to do better and ride better and pay attention to what they’re doing,” he added. “Especially Edgar, he’s come here and I’ve learned so much just watching him. He’s a great role model to look up to and we’re privileged to have him here.”

Maryland’s leading rider in 2014, McCarthy edged Carrasco, 66-60, to win Laurel Park’s winter-spring meet that preceded Pimlico.

“I couldn’t have done it without the trainers and owners; my agent Scotty has done a great job. We had an awesome weekend this weekend,” he said. “I just want to say thank you to all them, all the grooms, hotwalkers, exercise riders, everybody that really takes part in the barn to get the horses ready and give me the privilege to ride them. When you’re riding good horses, you’re going to win a lot of races.”

Live racing moves from historic Pimlico Race Course to Laurel Park beginning Friday, July 1.