NEWS: racing

Rip Loves Maize gives trainer first stakes win in Shesastonecoldfox

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
SV Photography

SV Photography

By Jim Dunleavy, courtesy

Rip Loves Maize gave trainer Linda Dixon her first career stakes victory and jockey Dean Frates his first since 2009 by winning a head decision in the $50,000 Shesastonecoldfox Stakes at Finger Lakes on Monday.

Rip Loves Maize is now 2 for 3 in her career. She finished second in her August debut and won a maiden race in early September prior to the Shesastonecoldfox, a six-furlong race for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies.  Ribbonite, the 1-5 favorite, bumped with Market Music at the start but moved up to take the early lead. She was pressed early by Lily’s Secret, who also is trained by Dixon, while Rip Loves Maize tracked the leaders three wide.  Ribbonite disposed of Lily’s Secret nearing the stretch and drew clear but began to tire after setting fractions of 22.02, 45.91, and 59.51 seconds.  Gonna Be Morgan, who had broken alertly but dropped well off the pace, found her best stride while saving ground on the stretch turn and was up to take the lead inside Ribbonite in midstretch. Gonna Be Morgan held the lead until the final jump, when Rip Loves Maize nailed her on the wire.

Rip Loves Maize, a daughter of D’ Funnybone, was fanned wide into the stretch after racing in good early position. She continued willingly to wear down Gonna Be Morgan.  Rip Loves Maize paid $26.40 in the seven-horse field. She was timed in 1:13.56. The final furlong of the race went in 14.05.  Rips Loves Maize combined with 50-1 Gonna Be Morgan for a $2 exacta worth $481.50.  A Lovely Rose, the 7-2 second choice in the race, was fanned widest of all into the stretch and then was slowly getting to the top pair late. She finished 1 1/4 lengths behind Gonna Be Morgan.  Ribbonite tired to fourth, five lengths behind A Lovely Rose.

Royal Posse Makes it Three Straight with a Dominant Victory in the Empire Classic

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016


By Bill Heller

All Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and Gary Aisquith’s five-year-old New York-bred gelding Royal Posse does is run his heart out every time he steps on the racetrack. On Saturday at Belmont Park, he notched his third straight victory, taking the 41st running of the mile-and-an-eighth $300,000 Empire Classic under Irad Ortiz Jr. by 3 ½ lengths over favored Governor Malibu in 1:52.15 on the sloppy track in the final of eight stakes on New York-bred Showcase Day. Royal Posse was the 5-2 second choice and Governor Malibu the 6-5 favorite under Joel Rosario in the field of nine.

Governor Malibu had to settle for second, 3 ¾ lengths clear of last year’s Empire Classic winner Empire Dreams, who was 7-1 under Manny Franco. Pax in Terra, who was 31-1 with John Velazquez riding, finished fourth, a length and a quarter behind Empire Dreams.

Royal Posse’s trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, tried to find the right words for his talented horse. “We’re just very blessed to have him in the barn,” Rodriguez said. “He wants to run all day.”

Royal Posse finished second by three-quarters of a length in last year’s Empire Classic. He hasn’t really had a break since and it doesn’t seem to matter. In his next start, he shipped to Gulfstream Park and won a $200,000 restricted stakes on a sloppy track. He followed that with two seconds and a 3 ¾-length score in the open Mr Sinatra Stakes. Back with New York-breds, he finished second in a pair off New York-bred stakes before winning the $100,000 Alydar Stakes and, in his final start before this year’s Classic, the $98,000 Evan Shipman Stakes by 5 ¼ lengths. That gave him five victories and five seconds in his last 10 starts.

Yet he would go off the 5-2 second choice to Governor Malibu, the highly accomplished three-year-old who finished second in the Grade 2 Peter Pan, fourth in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes, second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy and fifth in the Grade 1 Travers before dropping to a New York-bred allowance race. Sent off at 1-10, he won by 7 ½ lengths on a muddy track.

But Governor Malibu got away dead last Saturday, as three horses skirmished on the front end: 5-1 Wake Up in Malibu and Jose Ortiz, 5-1 Hit It Once More and Javier Castellano and Royal Posse. Wake Up in Malibu led Hit It Once More by a head through a :24.45 first quarter and a half-mile in :48.61. Irad Ortiz Jr. kept Royal Posse a close, three-wide third.

Heading into the far turn, both Hit It Once More and Royal Posse made their moves on the outside and both of them had no trouble passing Wake Up in Malibu. Hit It Once more took a narrow, short-lived lead before Royal Posse surged past him with a powerful brush. By then, Governor Malibu had rallied into third on the inside.

But Royal Posse was long gone. He had no trouble holding off Governor Malibu, winning by himself.

Rodriguez deferred praise to Royal Posse’s jockey: “You have to give Irad a lot of credit. He knows the horse and he rode him great.”

Ortiz deferred praise to Royal Posse’s trainer: “He (Royal Posse) is doing so good and Rudy is doing such a great job with him and keeping his momentum.”

And, yes, Ortiz did smile when the track came up a sea of slop. Royal Posse had a record of three wins and four seconds from nine starts on wet tracks. “He loves the mud,” Ortiz said. “It wasn’t a problem for him at all.”

Perhaps it was, at least a bit, for Governor Malibu. “It just took a long time to get him in the race today,” Rosario said. “He put in a little run at the end, but, by then, he (Royal Posse) was too far away from him.”

That happens to a lot of horses who run against Royal Posse. Royal Posse is now 10-for-32 on dirt with 10 seconds and no thirds. He has earned more than $900,000 and he just may be better now than he has ever been.

Old Harbor wins the Off-the-Turf Ticonderoga

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016


By Bill Heller

Joseph Birnbaum’s home-bred, five-year-old mare Old Harbor disputed the early lead with Invading Humor, cleared that rival and rolled to a 6 ¾ length victory under Manny Franco in the 36th running of the mile-and-a-sixteenth $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes shifted from grass to the sloppy main track on New York-bred Showcase Day at Belmont Park Saturday. Old Harbor was 5-2 in the field of seven and Invading Humor 6-1 under Jose Lezcano.

Tahoe Tigress, who was 5-1 with Irad Ortiz Jr. riding, rallied to finish second, 8 ¾ lengths clear of Flipcup, the 2-1 favorite ridden by John Velazquez. Selenite, who was 10-1 under Kendrick Carmouche, finished fourth, four lengths behind Flipcup.
Franco was concerned how Old Harbor galloped out after the race. “I didn’t like the way she pulled up,” he said. “I think it was the right-hind leg. I tried to protect her.”

There was no immediate word from the New York Racing Association regarding Old Harbor’s status after the race.

Russell Cash trains Old Harbor, a daughter of Raffie’s Majesty out of Royal Mast by Roy who had won two of her four prior starts on grass. She hadn’t raced on dirt since November 15th, 2015, when she finished third in a $125,000 division of the New York Stallion Series.

She prepped for the Ticonderoga with a bullet four-furlong dirt work at Monmouth in :48 3/5, the fastest of 37 horses working that distance on Oct. 7th.

Bettors liked her Saturday and she broke sharply. So did Invading Humor on her inside. Old Harbor took a narrow lead on Invading Humor in a :23.58 first quarter, then put Invading Humor away. Old Harbor took a 2 ½ length lead after a half-mile in :47.69 and stretched the margin to three lengths, hitting three-quarters in 1:13.09.

Tahoe Tigress made a bold rush into second but couldn’t get near Old Harbor, who continued on strongly to the wire, winning in 1:46.05.

Old Harbor is now two-for-five on dirt with one second and one third. On turf, she is six-for-20 with three seconds and three thirds for total earnings of more than $600,000.


Bar of Gold wows them by 18 lengths in Empire Distaff

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016



By Bill Heller

Chester and Mary Broman’s home-bred, four-year-old filly Bar of Gold, the 4-5 favorite in the field of six contesting the third running of the mile-and-a-sixteenth $250,000 Empire Distaff, upped her wet track record to five-for-five, exploding between horses at the top of the stretch under Joel Rosario to win by an astounding 18 lengths in-hand in 1:43.10 on the sloppy track at Belmont Park Saturday, the “Wow!!!” race on New York-bred Showcase Day.  “She’s very happy in the mud,” Rosario said. “She loves it.”

Mecke’s Madalyn, who was 27-1 under Jose Lezcano, finished second, 5 ½ lengths clear of 2-1 Jules N Rome and Javier Castellano. Literate, who went off at 7-1 with Luis Saez aboard, was another head back in fourth.

Bar of Gold, a daughter of Medaglia d’Oro out of Khancord Kid by Lemon Drop Kid, was making her 14th dirt start for trainer John Kimmel. On dry tracks, she was zero-for-nine with three seconds and two thirds. But she was taking on top competition. Nine of her previous 10 starts came in open graded stakes. The other was in a New York-bred stakes, when she won the $200,000 Critical Eye May 30th by a length and a half on a muddy track under Junior Alvarado as the 3-2 favorite.

In her prior start to the Empire Distaff, Bar of Gold finished third by a half-length under Rosario in a Grade 2 stakes on the synthetic track at Presque Isle Downs.

When Wonder Gal, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, scratched early Saturday, the Empire Distaff figured to go through Bar of Gold.

Kimmel had some advice for Rosario before the race: “I just said to Joel, `With the way we’ve been working her, be patient.’ Some of the other riders had been letting her run a bit too quick early.”
Rosario complied, and Bar of Gold got away fifth on the rail. Isabelle, who was 6-1 under Junior Alvarado, took a narrow lead as Jules N Rome set up in second on her flank. Isabelle led Jules N Rome by a head after a :23.70 first quarter-mile and by a half-length in a :47.67 half-mile. Jules N Rome pulled with a head of Isabelle as 20-1 Jc’s Shooting Star and Manny Franco and 7-1 Literata and Luis Saez rallied strongly on the far outside around the far turn.

Then Rosario, who had kept Bar of Gold on the rail, shot her through a narrow opening between Isabelle and Jules N Rome at the top of the stretch.
Bar of Gold opened five lengths on the field in a matter of seconds, an explosive burst of power. She kept increasing her lead with every stride, prompting announcer Larry Collmus horses to call, “Look at her!”

Despite being in-hand the final eighth of a mile, Bar of Gold kept expanding her lead to a winning margin seldom seen in any races, let alone a $250,000 stakes. She was simply unbelievable.

Bar of Gold is now five-for-14 on dirt with three seconds and two thirds. She has one third in one try over synthetic and has compiled more than $710,000 in earnings.

Pat on the Back wins Sleepy Hollow at 20-1

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016



By Bill Heller

Benefitting from a fine front-end ride by Dylan Davis, Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stables’ colt Pat On the Back captured the 20th running of the one-mile $250,000 Sleepy Hollow Stakes for Two-Year-Olds by a length and a half at 20-1 on New York-bred Showcase Day Saturday at Belmont Park.

Tellmeafookystory, who was 9-2 under Luis Saez from the outside post in the field of nine, rallied from far back for second, a length and a quarter ahead of 5-2 Gold for the King and Jose Ortiz. There was a gap of 2 ¼ lengths back to 13-1 Mr. Buff and Kendrick Carmouche in fourth.

Sugar Maple Farm bred Pat On the Back, a son of Congrats out of Accomplished by Awesome Again who sold for $70,000 as a yearling at Saratoga in August, 2015, and is trained by Kenny McPeek.

Why Pat On the Back went off at odds of 20-1 off a morning line of 10-1 is a legitimate question. In his prior two starts, he won the $120,000 Aspirant Stakes at Finger Lakes at 5-1 and finished in a dead-heat for second in the $147,000 Bongard Stakes at Belmont Park at 9-2.

Davis, who has ridden Pat On the Back in all of his five starts, got him away in good order from the seven post, but he was challenged on the inside by 7-1 Haul Anchor and Junior Alvarado. “He was sharp coming out and he pulled me right to the lead,” Davis said. “I didn’t want to take anything away from him.”

Pat On the Back led Haul Anchor by a head after a first quarter in :23.61, but Haul Anchor took the lead by a head after a half-mile in :47.45.

Despite the early pressure, Davis felt good about Pat On the Back’s position. “I found myself being very comfortable at the half-mile pole,” Davis said. “I just let his speed carry him.”

Pat On the Back put away Haul Anchor and opened a three-length cushion by running three-quarters in 1:13.72. Tellmeafookystory closed strongly, but Pat On the Back still had plenty left.

Pat On the Back is now three-for-five with one second and earnings of a tad over $300,000. Not bad for a 20-1 shot.

Brother O’Connell holds off Tapitation in Off-the-Turf Mohawk Stakes

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016


By Bill Heller

Tenaciously holding on to a narrow lead the length of the stretch under John Velazquez, Donegal Racing’s four-year-old colt Brother O’Connell held off favored Tapitation and Manny Franco by a neck in the 38th running of the mile-and-a-sixteenth $200,000 Mohawk Stakes switched from turf to the sloppy main track on Showcase Day Saturday at Belmont Park. Brother O’Connell, who had finished out of the money in his only two dirt starts, was 9-2 and Tapitation the even money favorite in the field of five.

Macagone, who was 3-1 under Joel Rosario in his first start on dirt, finished third, 3 ½ lengths behind Tapitation. You needed a telescope to find 3-1 King Kreesa and Jose Ortiz in fourth.

Brother O’Connell, a son of Giant’s Causeway out of Shared the Dreams by Seeking the Gold, was bred by Sarah Leigh and sold for $125,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September, 2013. Christophe Clement trained Brother O’Connell through his 2015 season before he was switched to trainer Tom Morley’s barn.

New York Racing Association officials waited until early afternoon before deciding to switch both the Mohawk and the Ticonderoga off the turf to the sloppy track.

The Mohawk was supposed to have been the latest, and possibly the last match-up of three New York-bred turf millionaires, nine-year-old Lubash and seven-year-olds King Kreesa and Kharafa.

Collectively, they had won 13 of the last 15 major New York-bred turf stakes the past four years. The Mohawk was No. 16, but only King Kreesa, who was off the board in his only prior dirt start, made it to the starting gate after the surface switch.

Tapitaion was the only horse in the field of five who had ever won a race on dirt and he was made the solid favorite. He had a win and a second from two prior starts on wet tracks.

Brother O’Connell had finished seventh and fourth in two prior dirt races. “I had a feeling he could handle it,” Morley said.

Indeed he did under Velazquez, Brother O’Connell’s sixth different jockey in his eighth start this year. “Johnny gave him an absolute peach of a ride,” Morley said.

Brother O’Connell had to work past King Kreesa to take the lead after a first quarter in :24.03. Brother O’Connell led King Kreesa by a half-length after a half-mile in :48.15. He maintained that advantage through three-quarters in 1:13.68 before Tapitation, who had been alternating in third and fourth, split Brother O’Connell and King Kreesa.

Tapitation had all the momentum when he hooked up with Brother O’Connell, but Brother O’Connell refused to wild after a mile in 1:40.11. Tapitation kept trying, but he couldn’t get to Brother O’Connell, who won in 1:47.23.

“As soon as Tapitation came to him, I didn’t think he’d get by,” Morley said. “Johnny said to me, “I’m more tired than the horse because he can just keep on going.”

Velazquez was impressed with Brother O’Connell’s resolve. “When the other horse came to him, he started fighting so hard,” Velazquez said.
Brother O’Connell, who is four-for-11 on grass with one second and one third, increased his lifetime earnings to more than $290,000.

Morley said Brother O’Connell will ship to The Fair Grounds in New Orleans for the winter. “We’ll target state-bred stakes when we come back,” Morley said.

Bonita Bianca Makes It Two-for-Two in Maid of the Mist Romp

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016



By Bill Heller

Confidently ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and Michael Imperio’s unbeaten two-year-old filly Bonita Bianca upped her record to two-for-two with an impressive 5 ¼ length victory in the slop in the 20th running of the one-mile $250,000 Maid of the Mist Stakes on Showcase Day at Belmont Park Saturday. Sent off the 6-5 favorite from the outside post in the field of nine, Bonita Bianca won in 1:40.19 on the sloppy track.

“I just let her do her thing,” Ortiz said after the race. “She was a little green in her first start. Today, she’s showed that she has some talent. She’s going to get better going a little longer.”

Bonita Bianca’s new stable-mate Tainted Angel, who was 7-1 under Javier Castellano, held well for second, 11 ¾ lengths ahead of 6-1 Bree’s Got Heart and Angel Arroyo in third. Iron Mizz, the 7-2 second choice on the rail ridden by John Velazquez, finished fourth.

Dormellito Stud bred Bonita Bianca, a daughter of Curlin out of Friendly Michelle by Artax who sold for $97,000 in March and is trained by Rudy Rodriguez, who also trains Tainted Angel after claiming her for Lianna Stables for $40,000 Sept. 15th when she broke her maiden by 2 ¼ lengths at even money.

Bonita Bianca began her career Sept. 22nd at Belmont Park. Sent off at 10-1 under Ortiz, Bonita Bianca won from well off the pace by 2 ¼ lengths.
Ortiz got Bonita Bianca away in fourth on the outside as Tainted Angel had to fight off 6-1 Mo Promise and Jose Lezcano and Iron Mizz to make the front after a first quarter in :23.59. Tainted Angel took the field to a :47.96 half-mile as Ortiz sent Bonita Bianca up on the far outside into second.

Tainted Angel had a half-length lead on Bonita Bianca after three-quarters in 1:15.19, but Bonita Bianca maintained her momentum and took the lead. Then she drew away to win by herself. She has already made $186,000 in two starts.

“She’s been showing us that she could be a nice horse,” Rodriguez said. “We were worried a little bit about the slop. She’s got shins and it can be a little hard on them. She’s a nice, long filly. She’s still learning and she’s much more comfortable on a fast track.”

Debra Breed’s Breakin the Fever Upsets Weekend Hideaway in Hudson

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016


By Bill Heller

Breakin the Fever, a four-year-old gelding owned, trained and bred by Debra Breed, shipped in from Finger Lakes to keep his wet-track record perfect Saturday at Belmont Park. Taking it to the odds-on favorite Weekend Hideaway right out of the starting gate, Breakin the Fever inched away in deep stretch to win the 39th running of the $150,000 Hudson Stakes Saturday by a half-length. Sent off the 3-1 second choice under Finger Lakes jockey Nazario Alvarado, Breakin Fever won in 1:16.97 on the sloppy track.

“He has a lot of guts,” Breed said afterwards. “He puts himself out there.”

Weekend Hideaway, who had finished third in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Invitational in his previous start, Oct. 1st, was the 2-5 favorite in the Hudson field of just four under Luis Saez. He had to settle for second, 7 ¾ lengths ahead of 4-1 Drama King, who was a distant third under Irad Ortiz Jr.

Breakin the Fever is a son of Roaring Fever out of Breakers West by Rodeo who had won one of two previous starts at Belmont Park. More recently, he’d been racing at Finger Lakes, where he won six straight races – the streak broken up only by a journey to Presque Isle Downs where he finished ninth at 12-1 in a $100,000 stakes June 16th. Breed freshened Breakin the Fever, who came back to win a handicap and a stakes at Finger Lakes, the latter by a neck as the 3-5 favorite.

On wet tracks, Breakin the Fever was four-for-four. “He loves the mud,” Breed said.

Weekend Hideaway and Breakin the Fever broke out of the two and three posts, respectively. Weekend Hideaway broke first, but Breakin the Fever stuck a head in front of Weekend Hideaway after a first quarter in :22.84.

Breakin the Fever then stretched his lead to a half-length after a half-mile in :46.36. Weekend Hideaway fought on bravely on the inside, but Breakin the Fever was absolutely resolute and maintained a half-length margin to the finish line.

Breakin the Fever improved his dirt record to 10-for-17 with two seconds and one third. He also has a third from three starts on synthetic and has total earnings of more than $440,000.

“He’s a good, game horse,” Breed said. “We’re blessed. He’ll run until he can’t run anymore.”

Quezon Romps in the Slop at 1-5 in the Iroquois to Begin Showcase Day

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016


By Bill Heller

Confidently ridden by Javier Castellano, Marc Keller’s talented and ultra-consistent three-year-old filly Quezon, sent off the 1-5 favorite in the field of just five, overhauled front-running Court Dancer, who was 8-1 under Manny Franco, and cruised to a 5 ¼ length victory in the 38th running of the $150,000 Iroquois Stakes on a sloppy track at Belmont Park Saturday, the first of eight New York-bred stakes on Showcase Day.

In doing so, Quezon increased her lifetime earnings to more than a half-million dollars.

Wondermint, who was 8-1 under Joel Rosario, rallied to finish second, four lengths ahead of Court Dancer in third. Frosty Margarita, who was adding blinkers and went off the 5-1 second choice under Irad Ortiz Jr., was a distant fourth.

Apache Farm bred Quezon, a daughter of Tiz Wonderful out of Kalookian Dancer by Olympio who is trained by Bobby Ribaudo. Quezon had finished fourth or better in all her nine previous starts, including a strong second by three-quarters of a length to Paulassilverlining in the Grade 2 Gallant Broom Handicap Oct. 1st on a muddy track.

Dropping back to New York-bred stakes company was one reason Quezon became the overwhelming favorite in the Iroquois. Another was the scratch of Hot City Girl, who was the 6-5 morning line favorite. Quezon, who had split two recent meetings with Hot City Girl when she finished second in both the Dancin Renee Stakes and the Union Avenue Stakes, was 8-5 on the morning line.

Hot City Girl had finished fourth on a muddy track in her only try on a wet surface. Quezon was two-for-four with one second.

“When Linda (Rice, Hot City Girl’s trainer) scratched, it naturally made it much easier on us,” Ribaudo said.

Saturday’s foul weather prompted the New York Racing Association to delay post time for the Iroquois 15 minutes to let the worst of the rain work its way out, which it did.

Ivery Sister Racing’s five-year-old mare Court Dancer, who had been claimed for $40,000 at Saratoga when she won by 6 ¼ lengths three starts back, shot to the lead on the rail in the Iroquois. Leaving from the two post, Quezon settled in second on the outside.

Court Dancer led by a length after a first quarter in :22.72. She stretched her lead to 2 ½ lengths after running a half-mile in :45.74.

Castellano hadn’t asked Quezon yet, and when he did, she responded immediately. Quezon shot past Court Dancer in mid-stretch and won handily in 1:16.38.

“I had a perfect trip,” Castellano said. “She was much the best. She handled the slop well. It’s a big advantage when a horse likes the slop.”

Quezon improved her record to five-for-10 with three seconds and a pair of fourths and earnings topping $510,000.

“This is her last start for the season,” Ribaudo said. “We’re going to bring her back next year. Hopefully, she comes back alright. We’ll maybe try some bigger things next year if she’s as good as she is this year.”

Breakin the Fever repeats in Leon Reed

Thursday, October 13th, 2016


Courtesy of

Breakin the Fever won the $50,000 Leon Reed Memorial for the second straight year on Wednesday. He is now 11 for 13 at Finger Lakes and has a career record of 13 wins from 23 starts and earnings of $355,721.

A fast son of Roaring Fever, Breakin the Fever defeated older horses in the Reed Memorial last year as a 3-year-old. On Wednesday, he outsprinted Baime for the early lead in the six-furlong race for New York-breds, then held on by a neck to defeat 16-1 Sundae On Sunday, who closed from far back.

Last year, Breakin the Fever went wire to wire to beat Bigshotinthenews by a neck. Bigshotinthenews finished last of six Wednesday.

Owned, bred, and trained by Debra Breed, Breakin the Fever paid $3.20. He cut out fractions of 21.84, 44.79, and 57.32 en route to a final time of 1:10.46.

Baime, the 2-1 second choice, vied for the early lead inside the winner, eased back nearing the far turn, then could not come on again. He finished third, 1 3/4 lengths behind Sundae On Sunday.

Breakin the Fever was named the horse of the meet last year at Finger Lakes and is again in the running for that honor. He is 4 for 4 at Finger Lakes this season and won the George W. Barker Stakes in June. His only loss as a 4-year-old came in the Karl Boyes Memorial over Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs..

The Leon Reeed is named after the assistant starter who was killed on the job at Finger Lakes in November 2005. Reed was 47. He worked at Finger Lakes for 21 years.