NEWS: racing

Frosty Margarita leads every step in Jack Betta Be Rite Stakes

Monday, August 13th, 2018

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

Frequent Saratoga invader Frosty Margarita made relatively short work of a competitive six-horse field in Monday’s featured race at Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack, the $50,000 Jack Betta Be Rite Stakes for New York-bred fillies and mares. When she cruised unchallenged to a front-running 2-length victory in her 30th start, the 5-year-old daughter of New York sire Frost Giant (Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions) added a fourth black type score to her career tally.

A Gabrielle Farm homebred trained by Rudy Rodriguez, Frosty Margarita has been working regularly at Saratoga, but for her two most recent starts has shipped west to Finger Lakes for a pair of conditioned allowance races.

The mare won a 6-furlong contest by three lengths on June 20 and suffered just a neck loss to Frostie Anne going one mile at the same venue on July 17. Frosty Margarita was flattered when Frostie Annie came back to win an open Saratoga allowance race on Sunday by nearly five lengths as the even-money favorite.

Away alertly from her rail post under John Davila, Jr. as the odds-on favorite, Frosty Margarita out-sprinted Pride of Saratoga to the lead and established a half-length advantage by the first point of call. Pride of Saratoga at the rail and Rosyjersey in the two path chased through opening splits of 24.22 and 48.33.

Extending her lead to 1 1/2 lengths along the backstretch, Frosty Margarita only improved her position from there. Set down for the drive fully in command of her destiny, the dark bay drew off without a serious challenge to win by two lengths in a final time of 1:44.75. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Rosyjersey, who shook off Pride of Saratoga in the turn, finished a clear second followed five lengths back by Pride of Saratoga in third. Completing the order of finish were Beyond Discreet, Satin Frost and Amanda Lane. Super Nova was scratched

Frosty Margarita waged outstanding campaigns at two and three, collecting runner-up finishes in the Joseph A. Gimma and Maid of the Mist as a juvenile in 2015, before breaking through with her first pair of stakes wins in the Key Cents and Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion series, both run at Aqueduct.

In January of 2016, Frosty Margarita won the Maddie May. Since she has added steadily to her earnings bankroll but her form has been a little bit in and out. She is experiencing something of a resurgence this summer, however, capped by this breakthrough Jack Betta Be Rite victory. Overall in four seasons of racing she has recorded eight wins, seven seconds and two thirds and earned $576,176.

Frosty Margarita, who was foaled at Saratoga Glen Farm in Schuylerville, is out of Mango Margarita, an unraced New York-bred daughter of Not For Love also bred by Gabrielle Farm. She has four winning siblings but only she has earned black type. Mango Margarita’s most recent reported foal is a juvenile colt by New York freshman sire Central Banker named Mr. Muy Bien, who has posted a steady series of works at Saratoga this summer.


Spa-loving Voodoo Song works his magic in Grade 1 Fourstardave

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

NYRA/Coglianese Photo

By Sarah Mace

Last summer, when Voodoo Song put his name in the history books alongside the legendary Native Dancer by winning four straight races at Saratoga, even his connections could hardly have imagined that he could top that feat. Au contraire.

At Saratoga on Saturday, as Barry and Sheryl Schwartz looked on, their homebred 4-year-old son of English Channel ran his Spa record to a perfect 5-for-5 with a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Fourstardave Handicap on the inner turf.

In the words of trainer Linda Rice, “Who better to win the Fourstardave than a horse who is obviously a Saratoga star?” The race is named, of course, for the “Sultan of Saratoga,” aka New York-bred Fourstardave who won at least one race at the Spa each year from 1987 to 1994 and is buried near the tunnel leading to Clare Court.

As is natural for one of Saratoga’s marquee races, the one-mile Fourstardave attracted a world-class field. Moreover, on paper Voodoo Song appeared to up against it owing to the presence in the lineup of multiple Grade 1 winner Heart to Heart. Both horses are confirmed front-runners and were almost guaranteed to hook up early, duel one another into defeat and leave the closers to pick up the pieces. Voodoo Song was sent off at odds of 6-1, fourth choice in the field of six.

A speed duel may have been the script, but the field adlibbed. Sent hard from post six, by the time he approached the first turn Voodoo Song was well on his way to having the having the lead all to himself. Heart to Heart showed early speed right after the break, but then took back and tracked the pace.

Winging his way unmolested around the first turn and up backstretch over the “good” inner turf course, Voodoo Song opened up more than five lengths on Heart to Heart. In fact, it wasn’t until the far turn that Voodoo Song began to feel the heat of approaching rivals as the field advanced and whittled the lead of the free-wheeling front-runner down to 1 1/2 lengths.

NYRA/Annette Jasko

Delta Prince, last early stages, fought his way into contention in the turn and was moving best of all in upper stretch. Up into second just past the furlong marker he posed the most serious threat, but Voodoo Song dug in afresh and gamely held off the would-be spoiler in the final sixteenth, recording a neck victory.

Delta Prince finished two lengths clear of Divisidero in third and completing the order of finish were Made You Look, 9-5 favorite Yoshida and Heart to Heart. After a half-mile in 46.89, Voodoo Song stopped the clock at 1:35.96. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“He’s fast out of the gate and you always want to let him do whatever he wants to do,” said jockey Jose Lezcano, aboard for all four of Voodoo Song’s Saratoga wins last summer. “That’s the thing with him, and he keeps going. I leave him alone, you don’t want to fight with him. The longer you leave him in the bridle, the better he is. I felt confident all the way around. Let him do whatever he wants to do.”

Describing the late challenge from Delta Prince, Lezcano said, “I waited on the inside closer to the rail and when I saw the Number 2, I came outside a little bit, so he could see him and he rebroke again. He kept going and wouldn’t let him pass.”

Voodoo Song began his career in the barn of Mike Hushion before the beloved New York conditioner retired at the conclusion of Belmont’s 2017 Spring/Summer race meet. When the chestnut moved to Rice, she stretched him out from sprints and returned him to the grass for his historic four-race run. This season he has won an open allowance, finished third in the Grade 3 Poker and scored a front-running victory in the Forbidden Apple on July 14. The Fourstardave is his third career stakes victory.

“It’s very exciting,” Rice said. “It’s hard to move up on what he did last year here with winning four races. It was an unbelievable meet and so special to all of us. I think he got a lot of fans here by winning so many races at Saratoga, so it’s so exciting to come back. What do you do next? Win the Fourstardave! It’s just fantastic.”

The conditioner addressed the condition of the Spa turf course, which during this rainy summer has caused big headaches for trainers. “[Soft turf is] a big concern for a speed horse. Frankly, I’ve been having a tough time at the meet because a lot of my horses historically have speed. A lot of my grass horses usually love this course. Frankly with all the rain we’ve had, we haven’t been able to put it together on this soft turf course, but Voodoo made up for that.”

Rice applauded Voodoo Song’s will to win. “When they came to him at the three-eighths pole, I didn’t know how he’d handle that. In the past, he really fought off the competition. [Today], I was really thrilled with him in the stretch. He just dug in and he wouldn’t be denied. I’m so thrilled for [the owners]. They bred this horse in New York for Stonewall Farm. This is their first Grade 1 victory at Saratoga. I’m thrilled for them.”

Voodoo Song, who has earned $870,435 from 16 starts, with eight wins, two seconds and a third, is out of Mystic Chant, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Unbridled’s Song purchased by Barry Schwartz for $200,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale. In an eight-race career Mystic Chant became a stakes winner for Schwartz before graduating to broodmare duties.

She has produced six winners, but Voodoo Song is her star. The mare has a yearling full brother to Voodoo Song and a weanling colt by Japan. She was bred back to Flatter this year.

Sue’s Fortune strikes pay dirt in G2 Adirondack

Saturday, August 11th, 2018

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

By Sarah Mace

For the second year in a row, a New York-bred juvenile filly got the better of a top-flight field to win Saratoga’s Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack Stakes. Last year Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Pure Silver annexed the race to for her third win in a row. This time around Sue’s Fortune (Jump Start), a homebred for Richard Nicolai’s Fortune Farm and second-time starter, earned the bragging rights after making a winning move in the far turn.

When she was unveiled on July 5 in a 5 1/2-furlong state-bred maiden special weight at Belmont Park, Sue’s Fortune broke on top and led every step of the way to score an impressive 8 1/2 length victory. Posting three interim works, she flagged to trainer Jeremiah Englehart in her August 5 move, a :49 second flat half-mile over the Saratoga training track, that she was ready to go 6 1/2 furlongs and face the big guns.

Out of the gate well from the outside post of six as the 7-2 third choice, Sue’s Fortune sat off the pace-setters in fourth in the two-path. Meanwhile 7-5 favorite Lyrical Lady set the pace, a half-length ahead of Mucho Amor, Guacamole and Grandma Gertie through a sharp 21.72 quarter-mile over the “good” going.

NYRA/Arianna Spadoni

When the field was midway around the far turn, Alvarado decided to take his game to the leaders. He made a confident move, passed horses and challenged Lyrical Lady directly. By the time he and Sue’s Fortune straightened away at the top of the stretch, they were fully in command.

Extending the lead to three lengths and appearing to gear down in the final sixteenth, Alvarado asked the filly for one final surge as Virginia Eloise, well behind early, closed with intent. Sue’s Fortune got home safely with a half-length to spare in a final time of 1:19.83. Virginia Eloise in second finished 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Guacamole. Mucho Amor, Lyrical Lady and Grandma Gertie checked in next in order more than seven lengths back. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Alvarado, who had contemplated sending the filly from the bell, described his race strategy as “Plan B.” “We tried to go with Plan A, which was hoping she broke like [in her debut],” Alvarado said. “She broke good, but not as sharp as last time. We wanted to put a little pressure early, though. I was sitting in a perfect position. By the three-eighths pole, she started pulling me. I saw horses struggling and I saw horses coming near, so I thought I had to take a shot at that point to let me filly go and hope she would hold. It worked out.”

Englehart, for his part, confessed to some late-stretch nerves: “Deep stretch, I was a little worried. Top of the stretch, I felt pretty good. I thought Junior made the right move. He looked behind him; he thought the leader was getting a little leg weary. He wanted to take the race then and see if they could come and catch her, and we held on. I had a bad beat the other day, so I’m going to enjoy this one.”

Englehart was pleased to see Sue’s Fortune’s budding versatility. “I think the biggest thing for her is her first race. She goes out she takes the lead and she runs away. This race she stalked. She’s a racehorse. …She’s won on the lead [and] she’s won off the lead, so hopefully now we can get her to relax even more and finish strong as well.”

Sue’s Fortune, who has earned $147,200 from her two victories, is named for Sue Carlson of Carlland Stables in Avon. As Englehart explained, “Sue does all of Dick’s [Richard Nicolai’s] broodmares and raises the foals so he named one after her. He’s got to name some more after her now!”

Nicolai and his wife are among Englehart’s first clients. “You want to talk about someone who puts their heart and soul in the game. No one deserves this more. It took me 12 years to win a stakes for them. That will tell you how patient [Dick] is. I’m glad he gets to enjoy this.”

Sue’s Fortune is out of Democrat Taxes, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Catienus who won five races and hit the board in 16 of 20 starts. Democrat Taxes has produced four winners, but Sue’s Fortune is the first to earn black type. The mare foaled a full brother to Sue’s Fortune this year and was bred to Dialed In.

Goodbye Brockley says “Hello” to NYSS Statue of Liberty winner’s circle after a squeaker

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

It took the skills of the Saratoga placing judges to determine the outcome of an extremely close head-bobbing finish in Thursday’s $100,000 Statue of Liberty division of the New York Stallion Series (NYSS), but when their review of the photo was complete, 9-5 favorite Goodbye Brockley (Cosmonaut) ended up on the winning end of the thrilling finish. Wegetsdamunnys (D’Funnybone) had to settle for the tough beat in a race where both fillies ran too well to lose.

In the early stages of the one-mile turf contest for eligible New York-sired 3-year-old fillies, Goodbye Brockley settled in fourth in the second flight under Luis Saez, while three early-speed types — Byself, Miss Jen and Crashing Connie — stacked up across the track in a fierce battle for the lead through the first turn.

After Byself clocked a first quarter-mile in 25.01 over the yielding course pressed along by her pursuers, Goodbye Brockley shifted off the fence three-wide as the half went in 50.98 and readied a challenge to the two survivors of the duel, Byself at the fence and Crashing Connie two-wide.

NYRA/Susie Raisher

Coming under a ride in the bend, Goodbye Brockley responded in upper stretch and advanced between horses in tandem with Wegetsdamunnys who closed from sixth. They passed the two leaders past the furlong marker and were left to decide the issue in the final sixteenth.

Goodbye Brockley appeared to have a slight edge late, but in the final stride the pair were inseparable to the eye. The photo showed Goodbye Brockley’s nailing down the victory by a short nose.

The final time for the mile over the yielding inner turf course was 1:39.25. Kreesie finished third, and completing the order of finish were Barrel of Destiny, Crashing Connie, Byself and Miss Jen. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Luis Saez gave a “play-by-play” account of the action in late stretch. “[There was] a lot of bumping everywhere,” said Saez. “At one point, I thought she gave up, so I just kept trying and try and she responded when I switched my stick and I saw Manny [Franco on Wegetsdamunnys] come outside I said, ‘Man, he’s beat me.’ But when I switched my stick, she tried to come back and she did. She responded and that was the way we won the race.”

Saez added, “Manny surprised me, because I never thought that he was going to come flying from outside, so I just kept riding to see if she can give me another gear and she did.”

Trainer Phil Serpe gallantly paid tribute to the competition. “That [photo finish] was very tight. At first, when I was watching the race I actually thought she won, but then you start looking at the slow-motion views and they might make you crazy. You’re like, ‘Did we? Didn’t We? Maybe?’ I had no idea,” Serpe said. “My hats off to [Wegetsdamunnys].”

Serpe also observed that the condition of the course might not have been ideal for Goodbye Brockley. “She’s a nice filly and obviously, the two turns helps her. I think she may have been struggling, the turf’s a little bit soft. I think she likes to hear her feet rattle a little bit, but a win is a win and she did great.”

Serpe is very familiar with the entire family of Goodbye Brockley, who is a homebred for Hilly Fields Stable and was foaled at Irish Hill Century Farm in Stillwater.  He trained her sire Cosmonaut for Flying Z Stable, in addition to her first dam Ladywell Court (a winner also bred by Hilly Fields) and second dam Commander’s Lady. He also trains her half-sister by Courageous Cat, Lady Joan. Serpe said that the win felt “special.”

Goodbye Brockley was unveiled at Belmont on May 3, 2017. She broke her maiden third out when she tried the grass for the first time on July 1, but spent the next 10 months on the bench before embarking on her sophomore campaign.

The filly shook off the rust in a fourth-place finish while going a route of ground and two turns for the first time at Belmont on April 21. After dominating a state-bred allowance, on June 24 she got her her first taste of stakes competition in the Cupecoy’s Joy division of the NYSS, finishing just a half-length behind Kreesie and earning her career-best Beyer of 83. From three wins, two seconds and a third from seven career starts, Goodbye Brockley has earned $176,900.

Her dam Ladywell Court has a yearling colt by Courageous Cat named Crofton Court and this year foaled a colt by War Dancer on May 9. Ladywell Court has been bred back to the same sire for a 2019 foal.

Therapist draws off at will to win NYSS Cab Calloway

Monday, August 6th, 2018

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

The 8-horse field of the $100,000 Cab Calloway division of the New York Stallion Stakes series for eligible New York-sired 3-year-olds was decimated on race day by scratches, losing five entries (including one MTO) in the run-down of changes.

That said, the accomplished Therapist, who would have been a prohibitive favorite in any case, delivered a powerful performance, stalking the pace in the 1-mile turf contest before striking the lead in upper stretch and drawing off at will to win by 5 1/2 lengths.

Slated to pay .35 cents on the dollar by post time, the chestnut son of Freud tracked the early pace under regular rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., 2 1/2 lengths behind Collective Effort (Mission Imapazible), who logged very comfortable early fractions of 25.50 and 50.13. Ten Eyck pursued another three lengths back in third.

Ortiz shook Therapist up in the far turn urging him into contention, hooked Collective Effort late in the bend and captured the lead with three-sixteenths to go.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

From this point forward, it was only a matter of settling the margin of victory. Ultimately Therapist crossed the wire 5 1/2 lengths clear of Collective Effort. Ten Eyck, also by Freud, was third another 3 1/2 lengths back. Following six furlongs in 1:14.49, the final time for the mile over the “good” inner turf course was 1:37.94. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“It was a perfect trip,” said Ortz. “There were only three horses, so there was not too much traffic. I was without any trouble in this race. When you’ve got a nice horse like that in a three-horse field, it’s hard to get beat.”

Therapist his been nearly flawless in two seasons. A winner of six of eight starts, he has posted victories in three open company stakes and, last out on June 24, in the seven-furlong Spectacular Bid division of New York Stallion Series, which he won by two lengths.

His open wins came in in last year’s Laurel Futurity and Belmont’s Awad Stakes and, on March 31, he won the 1-mile Cutler Bay Stakes at Gulfstream Park. Testing graded competition twice, Therapist finished third in Gulfstream’s Grade 3 Palm Beach. He suffered his lone off-the-board finish in the Grade 2 Penn Mile, when he appeared to tire after attending the pace.

The Cab Calloway victory improved Therapist’s career record to six wins and a third in eight starts. The purse of the Cab Calloway increased his career earnings to $363,725.

Fielding questions under the broiling sun, Therapist’s trainer and co-breeder Christophe Clement quipped, “Usually I sweat a bit more than that.”

Continued Clement, “It was a fun race. I thought we were a touch aggressive at Belmont going seven-eighths [in the Spectacular Bid]. The way we saw [the Cab Calloway] on paper, we just wanted to wait a bit no matter what. He has a very good turn-of-foot. I know it’s only a field of three horses, but he ran well and was impressive. I don’t think he had a hard race, which was great. I’m not exactly sure where we’ll go next, we’ll just enjoy this for a day or so.”

Clement is also lavish in his appreciation of Therapist’s co-breeder and owner Richard Leahy, whose Oak Bluff Stables also bred New York-bred Audible, winner this year of the Florida Derby and Holy Bull and third in the Kentucky Derby.

“Oak Bluff Stables has always supported my stable. To win [for] Oak Bluff Stables is a big deal for me,” said Clement. “It’s wonderful to win for people who have a long-term relationship with us.”

Foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, Therapist is one of two winners out of Lady Renaissance, a winning Kentucky-bred daughter of Sharp Strike who was purchased by Oak Bluff Stables for $15,000 at the 2009 Keeneland November sale. Lady Renaissance has produced a yearling full sister to Therapist. At the 2018 Keeneland January sale she was purchased by Dennis Yokum for $52,000 and foaled a Temple City colt on February 13.

The only time Therapist was offered at public auction he left the grounds as a $8,000 buyback, to which Clement’s succinct comment was, “Thank God!”

Therapist’s sire Freud, perennial leader among the ranks of New York stallions, stands at Sequel New York. His 2018 stud fee was $7,500.

Sandy’z Slew captures Troy with front-running tactics

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

NYRA/Elsa Lorieul

By Sarah Mace

At eight years old, Sandy’z Slew is having his best year ever. The winner of three of four starts dating back to last November 17, he capped the series with a fourth victory Sunday when he posted a wire-to-wire score in Saratoga’s $200,000, 5 1/2-furlong Troy Handicap, which was upgraded this year to a Grade 3.

Exactly one year ago to the day, original connections Rick Schosberg and Team Clear Stars Stable dangled Sandy’z Slew for $40,000 in a state-bred optional claimer. Fourth that day, only three lengths behind the winner, he was collared by astute horseman Jimmy Ricco who sent the Limehouse gelding to join Jeremiah Englehart’s string.

A confirmed turf sprinter, Sandy’z Slew posted a pair of solid, but off-the-board efforts in state-bred allowance company first out for his new connections. Then the gelding found a new gear, winning three out of his next four starts by wide margins. His only miscue came in Gulfstream Park’s Janus Stakes where he finished midpack.

Most effective as a front-runner, Sandy’z Slew (4-1) kept to his playbook for the Troy, hustling to the lead from post seven under Jose Ortiz and leaving a distinguished field, which also included multiple graded stakes winner and world-record setting New York-bred sprinter Disco Partner, in his wake.

Carving out the first quarter in a testing 22.58 as he opened a length and a half on Tombelaine in second, Sandy’z Slew moderated the pace in the next two panels, posting a half-mile in 46.22 as Tombelaine whittled away his lead to one length.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Set down for the drive over the “soft” course, Sandy’z Slew had enough left in the tank to hold Blind Ambition who charged from midpack and secure the victory by three-quarters of a length.

Blind Ambition out-finished Disco Partner who had to settle for third as the 3-2 favorite and may not have cared for the soft sod. Completing the order of finish were Square Shooter, Holding Gold, Tombelaine, Ready for Rye and Eastwood. The final time for the race was 1:05.07. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Unfortunately Sandy’z Slew was not able to come back to the winner’s circle to have his picture taken. He switched leads in deep stretch and, once the horses reached the backstretch in the gallop-out, Jose Ortiz pulled up his mount and dismounted. Sandy’z Slew, who did not appear to be in distress, walked into the equine ambulance and was vanned back to the barn.

“He didn’t break down. [But] I could feel it when I started jogging, so I pulled him up,” explained Ortiz. “He took a bad step near the quarter-pole, it was probably there. But he kept going in the stretch and showed a lot of heart. I didn’t notice [at first], I thought it was just a bad step. He was good enough to keep running. But when I started jogging him, it [looked like] he hurt a little bit.”

Ortiz added an encouraging assessment: “I think he’ll be OK.” [*UPDATE BELOW]

Bred by Robert Hahn and foaled at Dutchess Views Farm in Pine Plains, Sandy’z Slew is out of Charleston Springs, a Maryland-bred winner and stakes performer by Capote also bred by Hahn. A productive broodmare, Charleston Springs has produced seven winners from seven foals to start, including two more stakes performers. Her total progeny earnings top $1,125,000.

Currently Charleston Springs has a juvenile colt by Paynter named Paynt the Edges, did not produce a foal in 2017, and foaled a Gemologist filly on April 5, 2018.

Sandy’z Slew changed hands twice via public auction. A $65,000 yearling purchase by W. D. North Thoroughbreds and Stacy Yagoda and the 2011 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale, he brought $70,000 from Team Clear Stars Stable when offered the following year at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic two-year-old sale.

Over the years, Sandy’z Slew has taken the occasional stab at stakes competition, even finishing third by just three-quarters of a length in the 2014 renewal of the Troy, but he reserved his first breakthrough black-type victory for the 43rd start of his career. In all, Sandy’z Slew has won ten races with eight seconds and five thirds. He has bankrolled an impressive $684,487.

[*UPDATE 8/6/2018: Per the Daily Racing Form, Sandy’z Slew was diagnosed with a suspensory injury. “He was walking around on it pretty good today,” said Englehart. “Whether he hit it, pulled it, or strained it, we’ll see.”

The conditioner added, “I don’t want to say one way or another whether he’ll be retired, but everyone involved in the situation knows he doesn’t owe us anything and if we’re the least bit skeptical whether he can come back, everyone is on the same page. In fact I’ve already heard Jose say he wants to make him his first horse on the farm he bought in Ocala if we do have to retire him.” Read more from the DRF.]

[UPDATE 8/10/18: Jeremiah Englehart reported, “Sandy’s doing well, we’re going to retire him.” He may well  become the first resident of Ortiz’ Ocala farm.]

Downpour? Delay? Slop? Not a problem for Diversify, wire-to-wire Whitney winner; “Biscuits” completes NY-Bred exacta

Saturday, August 4th, 2018

NYRA/Amira Chichakly

By Sarah Mace

Trainer Rick Violette felt in his heart that Ralph M. and Lauren Evans’ Diversify was ready to turn in a characteristically brilliant performance in the Grade 1, $1.2 million Whitney Handicap Saturday, but Mother Nature’s curve balls are beyond the power of any trainer to anticipate. So, when the lightning flashed, and heavens opened up on the horses in the paddock, leaving them to wait out a 44-minute delay, Violette wondered what effect that would have on his charge.

Like the true professional he is, the 5-year-old gelded son of Bellamy Road (Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions) seemed unfazed. He circled patiently in the paddock under the care of Violette’s soaking assistant Melissa Cohen, was eventually united with his regular rider Irad Ortiz, Jr., got out to the track (which was downgraded from “fast” to “good” to “sloppy” during the storm) and did what he does best: wired a field of top-notch competitors.

Primed to go and sent off to travel nine furlongs as the 8-5 favorite and 124-pound co-highweight, Diversify bounded out of post six at the bell, and in no time cleared the field and put a length between himself and his nearest pursuer, 52-1 longshot Dalmore. Cruising through an opening quarter in 23.22, Diversify extended his lead to two lengths as the half ticked by in 46.50.

NYRA/Coglianese Photo

As Diversify began to draw off in the far turn, late in the bend Ortiz asked for a little more and Diversify had the answer. The 5-year-old gelding drove to wire and, without a challenge, recorded a 3 1/2-length victory in a final time of 1:49.62.

Star New York-bred sprinter Mind Your Biscuits, trying two turns and nine furlongs for the first time, closed well from mid-pack to finish second, a half-length ahead of Discreet Lover. Completing the order of finish were Tapwrit, Good Samaritan, McCracken, Backyard Heaven and Dalmore.

“[Diversify] was a little nervous, but he was feeling good [in the paddock],” said Ortiz. “They sealed the track, and I think that helped him a little bit. I have no complaints. I wanted to be on the lead. He did everything right for me. He was ready.”

Asked whether he was worried about facing Mind Your Biscuits’ notorious turn of foot in the stretch, Ortiz said, “I knew somebody was going to be coming, no matter what. It’s a Grade 1, and there’s nice horses who want to win the race. He proved he could keep going. Only nice horses can do that. He was steady; he wasn’t dying at the end, he’d keep trying. He did it the right way.”

A visibly emotional Violette said, “He is such a cool horse. Irad really threw down the gauntlet at the half-mile pole. He [Diversify] didn’t quite drag him down there, but he [Irad Ortiz, Jr.] said ‘Let’s go’ and dared anybody to catch up.”

As to the race strategy, Violette said, “I felt the outside of the track was playing better than the inside [earlier] and I thought maybe sealing the track in the rain might have even it out a little bit, and I felt better about that. We planned on being very aggressive, period, and see what would happen. If it were to be a mistake, so be it.”

Violette originally thought he would skip the Whitney in favor of the Woodward to give the gelding a little more time to recharge after his dazzling performance in the Suburban, but Diversify’s demeanor and interim work convinced him otherwise.

“Everything he did said run. He ate well, he shipped up here well, he breezed well last Sunday and came out of it [breeze] good, his blood work came back well, so [I said], ‘OK, stupid, stop being a chicken and run him.’”

The Whitney is Diversify’s second career Grade 1 victory, to add to last year’s Jockey Club Gold Cup. It was also his second straight lights-out performance following a tour de force score in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 7. The Whitney win brought Diversify’s earnings to $1,959,425 and improved his record to 10 wins and two seconds from 15 lifetime starts. The Whitney is a “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series race for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Bred by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding and foaled at Majestic View Farms in Gardiner, Diversify is one of two winners out of Rule One, a placed daughter of Street Cry (IRE), whom Hertrich bought at the 2010 Keeneland November sale for $57,000. On February 16 of this year Rule One foaled a colt by More Than Ready.

Diversify brought $150,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred preferred yearling sale. Unraced at two, he flashed talent as soon as he got to the racetrack, opening his account in 2016 with four straight front-running route victories and earning a “TDN Rising Star” designation after September 22 allowance win for WinStar Farm LLC.

Offered as a racing prospect at the 2016 Keeneland November sale, Diversify was purchased by Lauren and Ralph Evans for $210,000. The couple opted to stay with Diversify’s original trainer Violette.

As the winner of the Whitney Handicap, Diversify joins an elite group, becoming the third New York-bred to win the storied race. Fio Rito, the first horse bred in the Empire State to win a Grade 1 race, won the Whitney in 1981. It wasn’t until Commentator came along in 2005 that another New York-bred landed in the Whitney winner’s circle. The legendary chestnut replicated the achievement in 2008.




Still There captures Laurel’s Twixt in stakes debut

Saturday, July 28th, 2018

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

By Sarah Mace

Employing a perfectly-executed a stalk-and-pounce strategy, PTK LLC’s Still There scored a convincing open-length victory in her stakes debut Saturday, the $75,000 Twixt Stakes at Laurel Park. The Twixt was only the fourth date with the starter for the 4-year-old blaze-faced daughter of Union Rags.

Unveiled by trainer Dane Kobiskie on April 18, Still There reeled off two straight wins to open her account, breaking her maiden at Keeneland by two-plus lengths going six furlongs, and airing by 7 1/2 lengths going seven furlongs in Belmont slop on May 27. Most recently, when she stretched out and gave turf a try in a second-level state-bred allowance, she finished last as the post-time favorite.

Returning to her preferred dirt surface in the Twixt and cutting back to seven furlongs, Still There was relatively ignored at the windows, as bettors gravitated to stakes winner Bishop’s Pond (2-1 favorite), multiple stakes winner Lake Ponchatrain (5-2) and multiple graded stakes winner Tequilita (3-1). Still There went post-ward with Jevian Toledo in the irons as the fifth choice of seven at odds of 6-1.

Having stalked successfully in her two winning efforts, Still There embarked on the same strategy in the Twixt. After the bell she set up in third, two lengths behind pacesetter Magician and one length off Bishop’s Pond in second. The early fractions went in a reasonable 22.82 and 45.50.

In the far turn Still There drew even with Bishop’s Pond as the pair issued a challenge to Magician. Negotiating the turn three-deep, she advanced into contention and poked a head in front at the head of the stretch.

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Kept to business by her jockey in the charge for the wire, Still There gradually extended her lead to 3 1/2 lengths by the finish. Lake Ponchatrain closed into second, a neck ahead of Bishop’s Pond, who weakened to third. Completing the order of finish were Tequilita, Magical, Power of Snunner and outsider Not Taken. New York-bred Absatootly was scratched. The final time for seven furlongs over the fast track was 1:21.72.

“She’s a nice filly,” said Toledo, Maryland’s leading rider in 2015 and 2017. “[The trainer] told me he got her ready today, and he was right. I just put her in a great spot and when I asked her she gave me everything she had. I had plenty of horse. In the last part, I just put my stick away.”

Trainer Dane Kobiskie is a former jockey who won his share of of races at Laurel and, as a trainer, won the Laurel Park meet titles in 2011 and 2012. He said, “It’s good to be back when you win like this. We’ve just been gone for a few years.”

Kobiskie continued, “I brought a few horses to run this weekend and she was the main reason for coming. She’s a New York-bred and I had run her on the grass up there because they didn’t have any long dirt races for her. She didn’t like the grass at all and this was our [next] option. The race came up a little bit tougher than I thought it would, but we decided to go ahead and run anyway.”

Bred by Joanne T. Nielsen, Still There is one of five winners produced by Kentucky-bred mare Forever Smart. A stakes-placed turf runner by Smart Strike, Forever Smart and is a half-sister to graded stakes winner Raging Daoust (Kafwain). Bred by Arthur B. Hancock III, she last changed hands at public auction when purchased by Find a Cure Stable for $21,000 at the 2010 Keeneland November sale,

Forever Smart’s Blue Baby, by Touch Gold is a multiple stakes performer and all the winners she has produced have earned six figures, topped by her New York-bred Scat Daddy gelding Forever in Love, who has banked nearly $225,000. The mare also has a juvenile filly by Flatter named Mesa Member and an unnamed yearling full-sister to Still There.

PTK purchased Still There at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale from the Summerfield consignment for $200,000. From her three wins Still There has banked earnings of $119,900.

Still a tough nut at eight, Weekend Hideaway captures second John Morrissey stakes

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

NYRA/Elsa Lorieul

Sarah Mace

Exactly one year ago, Red and Black Stable’s 8-year-old millionaire Weekend Hideaway (Speightstown), disappointed his connections. Winner of the 2014 John Morrissey Stakes for older New York-bred sprinters, Weekend Hideaway was training well and primed for a repeat.

As trainer Phil Serpe explained, “One year ago today, this horse was just as ready as he could be to run in this race and unfortunately, he grabbed his quarter. He abscessed, and we didn’t realize it until the morning of the race, because he was fine the day before. It really killed me to not see him run last year because I really felt like he was in a position to win.”

The popular runner more than made amends to Michael Hoffman of Red and Black Stable, Serpe and the rest of his fans at Saratoga on Thursday, when he beat an extremely salty Morrissey field to win the race for a second time. In Serpe’s word’s, “To come back and do this today was great.”

The race-day conditions suited the veteran to a tee. Weekend Hideaway loves off-going, winning five of 10 starts on a wet track, and there had been heavy rain overnight leaving the track in a muddy (sealed) condition. Weekend Hideaway also loves Saratoga, with four victories here in 10 tries. The fact that the multiple stakes winner was sent off as the fifth choice of seven at odds of 10-1 is only a testament to the strength of the field of stakes winners and graded stakes performers that the Morrissey attracted this year.

NYRA/Coglianese Photo

Aggressively handled from the bell under regular rider Luis Saez, Weekend Hideaway hooked up early from his outside post with fellow-speedster Eye Luv Lulu as the opening quarter went in 21.77.

Eye Luv Lulu backed out of the tussle along the backstretch and Weekend Hideaway was able to open up some daylight by the time field entered the far turn and the half ticked by in 43.93.

Gold For the King aimed for Weekend Hideaway in the turn, but to no avail and Weekend Hideaway was able to increase his advantage to two lengths in upper stretch, but his work was not yet done.

In the final stages, Eye Luv Lulu proved resurgent, while Celtic Chaos launched a strong bid at the rail. Digging in for the final push while shifting inward, Weekend Hideaway held on to secure the victory by 1 1/4 lengths. After six panels in 1:08.52, he stopped the clock after 6 1/2 furlongs at 1:15.18.

Eye Luv Lulu and Celtic Chaos finished noses apart in second and third, while completing the order of finish were Gold for the King, Mighty Zealous, favorite Long Haul Bay and T Loves a Fight. Runaway Lute was scratched in the paddock. Brad Cox, the trainer of Celtic Chaos lodged a trainer’s objection against Weekend Hideaway for interference in the final sixteenth, but no change was made to the order of finish. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“He loved the mud,” said Luis Saez. “I loved the way he ran today. When we broke, and I saw the speed was not that hot, I let him go and he was energetic. He ran hard in the stretch.”

Addressing the objection, Saez said, “I was on the lead and controlling the pace. When I came to the stretch, my horse came out a little, but I corrected him and tried to stay in my line. It looked like [Celtic Chaos] was coming, but he didn’t come with the fastest speed to get in the hole. I was there and never came out at that point and stayed in my line. I think the stewards made a good decision.”

Serpe, for his part, quipped, “We’ve seen good calls and calls we thought weren’t so good, I’m glad they left him up because I don’t have the money to pay the fines for cursing out every one of those stewards for taking this 8-year-old horse down from a race he deserved to win.”

Given Weekend Hideaway’s ability on wet tracks, Serpe also confessed he had something else on his mind once the rainy overnight and morning turned into a bright, sunny afternoon. “I was worried the track was drying out a little bit too much, because that sun’s been beating on it and its gone from pretty sloppy to muddy, so it was worrying me a little bit.”

The winner of at least one black type event every year since 2012, when he won a pair of stakes as a juvenile, Weekend Hideaway’s stakes tally is now nine, including a pair of wins in the $200,000 Commentator Stakes. His career best Beyer Speed Figure of 107 came in January 2015, when he dominated the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Gulfstream, completing six furlongs in 1:08.64.

From 13 wins, seven seconds and nine thirds in 48 starts, Weekend Hideaway has earned $1,134,212.

Serpe summed up the case nicely: “Look, he’s a great horse. He does this stuff on his own and we’re just happy to be along with him.”

Bred by the late Carl Lizza’s Flying Zee Stables, for whom Serpe was a long-time trainer, and foaled at Highcliff Farm in Delanson, Weekend Hideaway was purchased by Michael Hoffman’s Red and Black Stable for $40,000 in the yearling portion of the Flying Zee Dispersal in October 2011.

He is one of only two foals produced by Apocalyptical, an unplaced New York-bred daughter of Wiseman’s Ferry. The mare’s other foal, Chosen One Elijah earned six figures.


Split Time rallies straight into New York Oaks winner’s circle

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

Tic Stables’ Split Time (Take Charge Indy) rallied energetically in the stretch to score a decisive victory over nine rivals in the $75,000 New York Oaks, which was co-featured along with the New York Derby on Saturday afternoon at Finger Lakes.

Coming into the New York Oaks, Split Time had yet to run a poor race for trainer Linda Rice. Second in her unveiling last December 6, the bay followed up with four victories in her next five starts.

Split Time reeled off her first three wins from mid-January to late March, culminating in a half-length score in the Maddie May Stakes on March 24, her stakes debut. Following a brief freshening, the filly finished a solid third in the Bouwerie behind the accomplished Midnight Disguise and English Soul – her main rival in the New York Oaks and fellow co-highweight at 124 pounds. Most recently, on June 16, Split Time made the trip to Laurel Park where she captured the Alma North Stakes after being pinched back at the start.

When the gates opened on the 1 1/6-mile New York Oaks, four fillies vied for the early lead, but 3-2 favorite English Soul won the battle from her advantageous rail post and set the early pace pressed along by local heroine Crashing Connie, winner of the Niagara Stakes on June 18. Split Time, who broke from post six, was content to settle in the second flight in sixth place in the two-path

Two-wide along the backstretch and into the far turn, Split Time appeared to check in the compact field around the quarter pole and lose some ground. The filly regrouped quickly though and fanned out four-wide for the drive.

Up front, after English Soul completed a moderate six furlongs in 1:14.49, she faced a serious challenge from Crashing Connie, who took over a narrow lead in upper stretch.

At this point Split Time was just finding her best stride. She passed three rivals in mid-stretch, then reeled in the new leader just shy of the sixteenth marker. With a driving finish, Split Time hit the wire a two-length winner with her ears pricked.

Crashing Connie and English Soul finished noses apart in second and third, and Indy’s Lady, a two-time Finger Lakes stakes winner, completed the superfecta. Split Time’s final time for the 1 1/6 miles was 1:47 flat. [VIDEO REPLAY]

With the $45,000 winner’s share of the purse, Split Time’s earnings increased to $240,700 and her record improved to five wins a second and a third in seven starts. Second choice at post time, she paid $7.80 to win.

Bred by Sequel Stallions New York and foaled at Sequel’s farm in Hudson, Split Time issues from a familiar New York family. Her winning dam Speed Dating, a $155,000 yearling purchase in 2007, is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner and $693,500-earner Saratoga Snacks.

Speed Dating has an unnamed 2-year-old colt by freshman Sequel stallion Alpha named Bet Alpha, who has not yet started, and a yearling filly by Freud named Afreud of a Storm. The mare has no reported foal this year.