NEWS: racing

Miss Lily B wins one for the home team in Niagara Stakes

Monday, June 17th, 2019

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

The field of six lined up for Finger Lakes’ $50,000 Niagara Stakes Monday was equally divided between NYRA invaders and Finger Lakes-based runners. Of the players for the home team, Ronald A. Brown’s homebred Miss Lily B appeared to have the most upside on paper and did not disappoint, scoring a dominant victory in the annual six-furlong sprint for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies.

The luck of the draw landed the NYRA shippers in posts 1-3. Lined up from the rail out were Franklin Square winner Stonesintheroad, Elegant Zip with placings in four New York-bred stakes and Cartwheelin Lulu, winner of the Joseph A. Gimma. Of the three, only “Lulu” had a prior start over the racetrack, having broken her maiden at first asking in Farmington last August.

Exiting posts 4-6 were the locals: Twice For Honey, looking for a third career victory but with ground to make up in the Beyer department, eventual winner Miss Lily B, and stakes-placed Wait a Minute.

A chestnut daughter of Yes It’s True and never out of the exacta in seven prior starts for trainer Chris Englehart, Miss Lily B. was the clear third choice in the betting at 5-1 behind odds-on favorite Stonesintheroad and 9-5 Elegant Zip. The lightbulb seems to have come on for this filly in her final start of 2018, when she broke her maiden on November 28 following four runner-up efforts. She came into her stakes debut undefeated in two 2019 allowance starts, which she won by a combined nine lengths.

Miss Lily B showed her hand under John Davila immediately after the bell, charging to the front and opening up a length. Cartwheelin Lulu then charged up the inside to issue a challenge, and the pair hooked up through snappy quarter in 22.18.

Miss Lily B easily turned back her challenger by the approach to the far turn and regained a clear lead by the time the half ticked by in 45.66.

As Miss Lily B straightened away for the dash home, expanding her lead the whole time, it was immediately clear that no rival was close enough to pose a threat. Instead the battle was going to be for second among Elegant Zip at the rail, Cartwheelin Lulu in the two-path and Stonesintheroad three-wide.

Miss Lily B poured it on in the stretch, cruising under the wire to win by 7 1/4 lengths and stopping the clock over the fast going in a strong final time of 1:10.63.

Favorite Stonesintheroad out-finished Cartwheelin Lulu to claim second by 1/2 length, while Elegant Zip followed up 2 3/4 lengths further back. Wait a Minute and Twice for Honey completed the order of finish. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Miss Lily B, who has earned $84,220 from four firsts and four seconds in eight starts, is the only foal produced by Magnificent Mia, a Kentucky-bred 7-time winner by Jump Start whom Brown campaigned for four seasons. Brown purchased Magnificent Mia for $14,500 at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton October yearling sale.

Late bloomer Gucci Factor wins Grade 3 Poker in style

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

NYRA/Susie Raisher

By Sarah Mace

Following a protracted (and certainly, for the connections, anxious) wait for the results of a five-horse photo-finish from the placing judges, Castleton Lyons’ New York-bred Gucci Factor emerged as the winner of the Grade 3, $300,000 Poker Stakes featured at Belmont Sunday.

Taking his third trip to the winner’s circle in a row, the late-blooming 6-year-old son of Gio Ponti fully ratified his first stakes victory 20 days ago in the Kingston Stakes for New York-breds, and considerably upped the ante by winning his graded stakes debut.

Partnered with Joel Rosario to go a mile over the firm Widener turf, Gucci Factor had good support at the betting windows as the 5-1 third choice in a deep field. Favorite Clyde’s Image (9-5) and second choice Dr. Edgar (3-1) book-ended the group of eight. Gucci Factor was drawn in post four, but for the late runner, post position would not be an issue.

Gucci Factor and Rosario watched the early stages of the race unfold from second-to-last position, cruising comfortably in the clear just off the rail about eight lengths off the pace. Up front Dr. Edgar took the group through splits of 23.71 and 46.68, a length ahead of Krampus and Clyde’s Image.

Around the far turn, Gucci Factor came out a path and began his bid in earnest, while up front Dr. Edgar issued a direct challenge to Clyde’s Image.

Fanning out widest of all at the quarter pole as the six furlongs ticked by in 1:10.44, Gucci Factor made up ground in upper stretch. At the furlong marker he still had five to pass, chief among them Clyde’s Image, who was edging ahead.

Driving to the wire widest of five and ultimately moving best of the closers, Gucci Factor and got the bob in a speedy final time of 1:32.54.

The final order of finish for the quintet lined up across the track was: Gucci Factor, Hembree, Krampus, Dr. Edgar and Clyde’s Image, with official margins of nose, nose, nose and nose. In the final strides Clyde’s Image lost position after taking a bad step. Placed under a protective hold, the favorite was pulled up after the wire and vanned off. The preliminarily diagnosis as reported from trainer Tom Bush’s barn was a tendon injury. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Quipping that Gucci Factor might have blossomed earlier “with a better trainer,” Christophe Clement said, “He’s a nice horse that has never stopped improving. Of the five horses at the end, they all finished about a neck apart. It was a pretty good race. We’re very grateful [to] the owners. Castleton Lyons were patient with this horse.”

Continued Clement, “You could see he was coming with run toward the wire and watching Joel [Rosario] not having to use his whip. You know he thought he was going to get there. A very tight race and they all ran well.”

Rosario reported, “[Gucci Factor] was trying really hard and running at the end, I’m just glad we got close at the wire. He showed a lot of heart. He’s there for you all the time. He’s a real honest horse. He just loves to run. I thought he got the jump in the last minute, but I wasn’t sure.”

Gucci Factor has quietly compiled an impressive resume over four campaigns. A winner of seven of his 14 career starts, he worked steadily thorough his New York-bred and open conditions, after breaking his maiden in his fourth attempt at Belmont in June 2017. Although he has five dirt starts under his belt, the gelding has really come into his own as a full-time turf runner, winning five of six races on the green since last June. In his first foray into black type territory, he finished third in last year’s Ashley T. Cole for state-breds at Belmont Park. The Poker victory brings Gucci Factor’s earnings to $443,450.

Clement concluded, “He loves Belmont Park and he never stopped getting better. It’s nice when the patience pays off. He’s also a son of Gio Ponti, which is always fun.” Clement trained Gio Ponti to back-to-back Eclipse turf championships in 2009 and 2010 for Castleton Lyons, before the turf superstar was retired to stud duty with $6.1-million in earnings.

Bred by Highclere and foaled at Waldorf Farm in N. Chatham, Gucci Factor is out of Shoo In, an unraced Highclere-bred daughter of Dynaformer who has produced five winners from five foals to start. In addition to budding star Gucci Factor, her Ichiban Warrior (First Samurai) is stakes placed. Her most recent reported foal was in 2015



Multiple Grade 1 winner and New York-Bred HOY Diversify retired at 6

Sunday, June 16th, 2019

Coglianese Photos

Courtesy (By Mike Welsch)

Owner Ralph Evans announced Sunday that his two-time Grade 1-winning [and 2018 New York-bred Horse of the Year] Diversify has been retired after coming out of a workout Saturday at Belmont Park with a suspensory injury.

Diversify was owned by Evans and his daughter Lauren, who purchased the horse from WinStar Farm at the 2016 Keeneland November sale for $210,000 after he had opened his career with a pair of one-sided victories that season at Belmont. A 6-year-old gelded son of Bellamy Road, Diversify retires with 10 wins in 16 starts and earnings of just under $2 million.

His Grade 1 victories came in the 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park and the 2018 Whitney at Saratoga.

Diversify was trained by the late Rick Violette and made his final start last September, finishing fifth in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He was turned out on the farm following Violette’s death shortly thereafter and was transferred to trainer Jonathan Thomas to train for his 2019 campaign.

“He had a suspensory issue that we’ve had to deal with,” said Ralph Evans. “But it’s been a great ride a million-dollar ride. Diversify was the first horse my daughter ever owned; now she’s hooked for life. He won some of the biggest races around, and I am delighted we were able to win a second Grade 1 before Rick passed away last year. The horse meant a great deal not only to us but to Rick and his family as well.”

Diversify worked five furlongs in 1:02 in company with 2018 Travers winner Catholic Boy on Saturday.

“I thought he worked very well, and he came back from the work completely sound,” Thomas said. “But I discovered some inflammation different from the norm when I went back to check him yesterday afternoon. It was a recurrence of an old injury. You could press on, but it wouldn’t be fair to bring this horse back in any way other than the best shape possible.

“As his trainer, I want to assure he retires sound and has a happy life. Even though I didn’t get to run him, it was a real privilege to have a horse like him in our barn and to work for a man like Mr. Evans, who really spared no time or expense in trying to bring this horse back in the best way possible.”

Melissa Cohen served as Violette’s assistant throughout Diversify’s career and now works for Thomas. Upon the announcement of Diversify’s retirement, she said, “This horse did more for so many people when we needed it the most, I could never be upset about a happy retirement.”

Holiday Disguise hoofs it in Dancin Renee

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Following back-to-back fifth-place finishes in the Grade 3 Distaff and Grade 3 Vagrancy in April and May, Holiday Disguise fully appreciated the return to the company of fellow state-breds in the $100,000 Dancin Renee Stakes at Belmont Park Saturday. Running to her 9-5 favorite’s odds, she rallied into first with a furlong to go and closed with conviction to win the 6-furlong sprint by 1 1/2 lengths. She was third in the race last year.

The Dancin Renee field was small (reduced to five following the scratch of Chester and Mary Broman homebred Out of Orbit) but not short on intrigue. Not least, the race was the first head-to-head meeting for pair of accomplished half-sisters: Lady Sheila Stable’s Holiday Disguise (Harlan’s Holiday) and Dr. William B. Wilmot and Dr. Joan M. Taylor’s Midnight Disguise (Midnight Lute). The “Disguise Sisters” were bred by Wilmot and Taylor, and their dam Thin Disguise issues from the family of New York legend Naughty New Yorker. Both are trained by Linda Rice and both have closing running styles.

Holiday Disguise, now five, won the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap last year and was looking for her sixth stakes victory in the Dancin Renee. The statuesque Midnight Disguise, four, was looking for a third stakes win. Rice had been able to keep the sisters apart in 2018 during “Midnight’s” sophomore campaign, but this time found that her options were limited. She wanted to give “Holiday” some class relief and was not prepared to throw “Midnight” (5-2 at post time) into graded company just now.

That said, each of the three other fillies and mares was in with a chance: Jc’s Shooting Star (12-1), a hard-knocking one-run closer who would break from the rail, speedy Leah’s Dream (5-2), looking for a third straight win for Chris Englehart, and Broman stakes-winning homebred Pauseforthecause (5-2) hoping to improve on a pair of seconds and thirds this year.

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

After breaking slightly inward under regular rider Jose Lezcano, Holiday Disguise settled in third, about three lengths off leader Leah’s Dream who was pressed along through an opening quarter in 22.93 by Pauseforthecause.

Shifting in a path to the fence to save ground through the far turn, Holiday Disguise still had two lengths to make up on the leaders after the half went in 46.29.

Tipping out into the three-path for the charge home, “Holiday” inexorably closed the gap in upper stretch, struck the front with a furlong to go, and finished a convincing 1 1/2-length winner in a final time of 1:10.33.

Jc’s Shooting Star (Miracle Man) spoiled a “Disguise Sister exacta,” rallying from last to edge Midnight Disguise for second by a neck. Pauseforthecause and Leah’s Dream completed the order of finish. (VIDEO REPLAY)

Winning rider Lezcano, very familiar with Holiday Disguise’s tendency to get wound up pre-race, observed, “She was acting good in the paddock. Today, she did whatever I asked her to do.”

Continued Lezcano, “She broke good and settled well. When I asked her to go at the quarter pole, she put her head down and really took off to win the race. It was a very good performance.”

Rice, convinced beforehand that the class relief for Holiday Disguise would do the trick, sounded pleased to see her theory borne out.

“Getting away from graded stakes company and getting away from Come Dancing, who was running triple digit Beyer Speed Figures, was definitely a help,” Rice said.

Having burnished her credentials with a sixth career stakes victory, Holiday Disguise boosted her lifetime earnings to a formidable $623,875.

The trainer’s thoughts on “Holiday’s” next start include graded and New York-bred options at Saratoga: the Grade 2, $200,000 Honorable Miss on July 24 and the $100,000 Union Avenue on August 15.

Foaled for Wilmot and Taylor at Gallagher’s Stud in Ghent, Holiday Disguise changed hands twice via public auction. She was first purchased by John Greathouse as a weanling for $70,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November sale. The following year Rice bought her for Sheila Rosenblum’s Lady Sheila Stable for $220,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale.

Her dam Thin Disguise (Yes It’s True) is a winning half-sister to millionaire and 2007 New York-bred Horse of the Year Naughty New Yorker and out of Wilmot and Taylor’s late star broodmare Naughty Natisha.

Thin Disguise has produced four winners from five foals to start, led by the half-sisters in the Dancin Renee. Midnight Disguise has three stakes wins to her credit. A sophomore colt by Verrazano named Daring Disguise is placed on turf.

In the future we can look forward to a 2-year-old filly by Tiznow, who brought $485,000 at last year’s Keeneland September yearling sale, and a yearling filly by Bodemeister. Thin Disguise foaled a colt by Gun Runner on April 13, 2019.



Longshot P J Advantage surprises in George W. Barker Stakes

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

P J Advantage, owned and trained by Paul Barrow, sprang a surprise on bettors in Monday’s $50,000 George W. Barker Stakes, the first race of the 2019 Finger Lakes stakes program. Let go as the longest shot on the board at odds of 16-1, the 4-year-old gelded son of Posse edged ahead in the stretch to win the 6-furlong sprint for New York-breds by one length. Saratoga Giro, his stablemate and last year’s Barker winner, finished second at 6-1 generating a “all-Barrow” exacta worth $126.50.

P J Advantage came into the Barker sporting a strong record of eight wins in 15 prior starts. Three weeks earlier he won the local prep for the race, besting Finger Lakes stakes winners Saratoga Giro and Winston’s Chance in a sloppy Finger Lakes allowance. Still, the six-horse Barker field was a relatively salty mix of six locals and shippers and, by post time, bettors had gravitated to a pair of stakes horses from downstate: Bavaro, winner of the Hollie Hughes on February 18 (4-5 favorite), and Sudden Surprise, a five-time stakes winner making his Farmington debut (3-1 second choice).

After the break, Sudden Surprise darted up the fence to grab the lead from Saratoga Giro in the opening strides and the field split into two flights. The leading group consisted of Sudden Surprise inside, Saratoga Giro two-wide and Bavaro in the three-path. Chasing three lengths back were Aveenu Malcainu on the outside, P J Advantage between horses and Winston’s Change at the fence.

After Sudden Surprise took the field through a testing opening quarter in 21.55, P J Advantage found room to angle inside under jockey Daniel Vergara. Saving ground in the bend as the quarter went in 44.77, he cornered well and advanced into contention at the rail.

Making the front with a furlong to go, P J Advantage’s final task was to keep Saratoga Giro, who survived the early pace, at bay. In the end, he out-finished his stablemate to record the win in a final time of 1:10.10.

Saratoga Giro finished 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Aveenu Malcainu in third while Bavaro completed the superfecta. Sudden Surprise and Winston’s Chance, the back marker throughout, completed the order of finish. So Noted, originally drawn at the rail, was scratched. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Bred by Andiamo Farm, P J Advantage is the most accomplished offspring of Weefc with a record of nine wins and two seconds from 16 starts. The winner’s share of the Barker purse brings his earnings to $171,845.

Weefc is a winning Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit who raced at Finger Lakes and on the NYRA circuit for two seasons and retired with 27 starts to her credit. She has produced two other winners and currently has a yearling Girolamo filly. She was bred to Boys at Tosconova in 2018.

Pat On the Back narrowly prevails over Giant Expectations in dramatic Commentator finish

Monday, May 27th, 2019

NYRA/Susie Raisher

By Sarah Mace

The finish of the $200,000 Commentator Stakes that wrapped up the stakes portion of the Big Apple Showcase Memorial Day card at Belmont could not have been more dramatic.

Harold Lerner, AWC Stables and Nehoc Stables’ Pat On the Back (Congrats) was returning to set matters straight after falling just a nose short in the Commentator last year to eventual New York-bred Horse of the Year and Whitney winner Diversify. West Coast raider and multiple graded stakes winner Giant Expectations swooped onto the scene to spoil Pat On the Back’s chances. The pair ended up noses apart on the wire, with the narrow decision falling to Pat On the Back.

Giant Expectations, favored at 9-5 odds over Pat On the Back at 2-1, seemed to smooth his rival’s path to victory from the get-go when he stumbled badly after the break and had to regroup near the tail of the field. Up front the accomplished Mr. Buff, who was let go at 13-1 in this formidable field of seven, led the way through opening splits of 22.80 and 45.54. Pat On the Back traveled three-wide in fourth.

In the approach to the far turn, Pat On the Back advanced into contention, gaining third position. Several lengths back, Jose Ortiz aboard Giant Expectations had expertly regathered his mount after the initial stumble and was on the move, making up ground on the outside.

By the quarter pole Mr. Buff still had the lead at the fence, but the pair of challengers loomed menacingly to his outside in upper stretch.

With a furlong to go and three very game horses lined up across the track, it looked like it could be anybody’s race. Mr. Buff hung tough at the rail, Pat On the Back refused to give ground between horses, and Giant Expectations, equipped with blinkers for this outing, was completely focused on the task at hand.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

In the final jumps it came down to Pat On the Back and Giant Expectations. Both horses ran too well to lose, but Pat On the Back just prevailed with a nose in front in a strong final time of 1:33.43.

Mr. Buff was a game third three-quarters of a length back, followed across the line by Syndergaard. Completing the order of finish were Honor Up, Control Group and Haul Anchor. [VIDEO]

Winning rider and Pat On the Back’s regular jockey Dylan Davis said of the close finish, “I really did think he had it, but being so close I was just hoping for the best. We were matching strides head and head and I did have a couple of inches on him. You just never know riding hard all the way through the wire.”

Davis continued, “He was in battle mode today. I felt like he was going to let up a little bit at the sixteenth pole. What he did today I’ve never seen him do. It felt like he was going to pull up and let [Giant Expectations] go by at the sixteenth pole, but he put his head down, put his ears back and gave a little extra of what we needed. It was like he knew where the wire was, and he just got it done. I think this was one of his career-best runs today.”

“This was a tough race, said trainer Jeremiah Englehart. “Giant Expectations stumbling at the start didn’t help his chances and he ran his eyeballs out. When they linked up at the sixteenth pole, I knew our horse would dig in. It was just a great race out of him. This horse is just so special. He’s all heart, all guts. Every time you ask him to go to bat, he’s swinging.”

Jose Ortiz, who had the call on Giant Expectations, said, “He stumbled badly at the break. We got lucky he stood up and put himself back in the race very quickly and put us in a position to win. He grabbed his quarter and to run a mile like that, as fast as he did, is very impressive. I just feel bad for the connections because if we had a clean break, I think we would have won.”

Bred by Sugar Maple Farm where he was foaled, Pat On the Back is the last reported foal out of an unplaced Kentucky-bred Awesome Again mare named Accomplished. Purchased by Dan Haydon at the 2004 Keeneland November sale for $40,000, Accomplished produced eight winners from eight foals to start. Her other foal to earn black type, Sarah Accomplished by Performing Magic, won the 2008 Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Stakes series.

The Commentator is Pat On the Back’s seventh stakes victory and boosts his career record to eight wins, four seconds and four thirds from 24 starts. His earnings, which are fast approaching the $1 million threshold stand at $924,032.

Pat On the Back was purchased by Ken McPeek, his trainer for 17 starts, for $70,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale. In seven outings for Englehart Pat On the Back has finished in the exacta six times with wins in the Saginaw Stakes, Empire Classic and Affirmed Success. Last December he took a shot in the Grade 1 Cigar mile and finished a solid fifth only 3 3/4 lengths behind winner Patternrecognition.

Homebred Blindwillie McTell wins Mike Lee

Monday, May 27th, 2019

NYRA/Susie Raisher

By Bill Heller

What could be better than winning a stakes race on Big Apple Showcase Day for an owner of a New York-bred? Winning it with a home-bred. That’s exactly what Jerold Zaro did on Memorial Day Monday at Belmont Park, as his gelding Blindwillie McTell captured the seven-furlong $125,000 Mike Lee Stakes for three-year-olds by two lengths, giving both jockey Jose Ortiz and trainer Linda Rice their second Big Apple Showcase Day stakes scores. Sent off at 5-2 in the field reduced to eight with the late scratch of Stone Breaker, Blindwillie McTell won in 1:21.53. It was Ortiz’s third overall victory of the afternoon.

Funny Guy, who was 4-1 with Rajiv Maragh in the saddle, edged 4-1 Bank It and Ricardo Santana Jr. by a neck for a second. There was a length and three-quarter gap back to 9-1 Just Right and Manny Franco in fourth.

A son of Posse out of Bold Child by Flatter, Blindwillie McTell has done nothing wrong in his brief career. After finishing second at 19-1 in his maiden debut, November 17th, Blindwillie McTell won back-to-back stakes as a maiden, taking a $150,000 division of the New York Stallion Series by 2 1/2 lengths December 16 – beating Funny Guy by 18 1/2 lengths – and then the $101,000 Rego Park Stakes by three-quarters of a length on January 13.

Rice freshened Blindwillie McTell and he returned to action on April 20, finishing second by three-quarters of a length to Funny Guy as the 3-2 favorite in a $200,000 division of the New York Stallion Series on a sloppy track.

On Monday, Blindwillie McTell broke sharply from the six post and Ortiz settled him in second on the flank of 3-1 Le General and Jose Lezcano. Blindwillie McTell narrowed a three-quarters of a length deficit after a quarter-mile in :22.84 to just a neck in a :45.80 half-mile.

Then Ortiz gave Blindwillie McTell his cue, and he took the lead. He was in control after three-quarters in 1:09.27 and maintained a comfortable margin all the way to the wire. [VIDEO]

With three victories and a pair of seconds in his first five starts, Blindwillie McTell has earned more than $255,000.



Gucci Factor surprises in the Kingston Stakes

Monday, May 27th, 2019

Coglianese Photos

By Bill Heller

Monday’s renewal of the one-mile $125,000 Kingston Stakes on turf on Big Apple Showcase Day at Belmont Park on Memorial Day Monday was supposed to be a showdown between Offering Plan, who was seeking his third consecutive victory in the stakes for trainer Chad Brown, and Therapist, who had a perfect four-for-four record at Belmont Park for trainer Christophe Clement, who co-bred the four-year-old gelding with owner Oak Bluff Stables. But Clement also saddled Castleton Lyons’ idle six-year-old gelding Gucci Factor, who had three wins and a third in his previous four starts, in the field of six.

And after Mo Maverick and Luis Saez took a shocking 15-length lead midway through the race, it was Gucci Factor and jockey Jose Ortiz who surged to a length and a quarter victory at odds of 9-2. Mo Maverick, who was 7-1, held on for second, a length and a quarter ahead of Offering Plan, the even-money favorite under Javier Castellano. Therapist, who was the 9-5 second choice under Eric Cancel, finished a nose behind in fourth.

Highclere bred Gucci Factor, a son of Gio Ponti out of Shoo In by Dynaformer, who had made just one stakes start in 11 previous races, when he finished third by a length and three-quarters in the Ashley Cole Stakes, a half-length behind Offering Plan, who finished second that day to Black Tide last September 22. Gucci Factor then won an open allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs on December 22 in his final start as a five-year-old.

Coglianese Photos

Clement did a masterful job of getting Gucci Factor ready for the step up to stakes company off a five-month layoff.

Riding Gucci Factor for the first time, Ortiz got him away second, three lengths behind Mo Maverick after an opening quarter-mile in :23.33.

Then Saez let Mo Maverick loose, and he sprinted away to a 10-length advantage, then a gaping 15-length lead by running a half-mile in :46.53. Ortiz kept Gucci Factor in second, meaning he would get first shot at the frontrunner if and when he stopped.

Gucci Factor pulled within 10 lengths after three-quarters of a mile in 1:09.96, and then Mo Maverick began to weaken. He still had a five-length lead in mid-stretch, but Gucci Factor hauled him in and drew away late for his first stakes victory. [VIDEO]

Gucci Factor is now five-for-seven on grass with one third. He also has one win, one second and one third from six dirt starts for combined earnings of more than $270,000.

Kathryn the Wise records second brilliant victory in Critical Eye

Monday, May 27th, 2019

NYRA/Coglianese Photo

By Sarah Mace

Two years after Lawrence Goichman’s homebred Kathryn the Wise (Uncle Mo) won the $200,000 Critical Eye Stakes by more than eight lengths in 2017, she left her competition in the dust in the same race Monday on Big Apple Showcase Day at Belmont Park, this time in stakes record time.

Setting out on a front-running mission under Javier Castellano, the 6-year old fast set fast fractions, was unopposed from gate to wire and stopped the clock after the one-turn mile at 1:33.63.

Poking her head in front in the first couple strides after the break, Kathryn the Wise quickly opened two lengths on the field, tracked along the backstretch by Frostie Anne and Indy’s Lady. Whizzing through an opening quarter in 22.49 and half-mile in 45.12, she preserved a measured lead into the far turn.

Midway around the turn, the field appeared to mount a collective challenge, whittling away at “Kathryn’s” lead, but the threat was illusory. The filly kicked on through six panels in 1:09.46, spurted ahead again in the stretch and extended her lead to more than three lengths. She ultimately cruised under the wire to win by five lengths in a final time of 1:33.63. [VIDEO]

NYRA/E;lsa Lorieul

“My filly broke well, and I didn’t want to take anything away that came easy,” said Jockey Javier Castellano.  “She broke on top and I let her run her own race. She galloped along on the lead and she was just amazing. The way she did it today, I was very impressed. I have to thank Mr. [Chad] Brown for giving me the opportunity to ride the filly. It was my first time on her, and she made me look good today.”

Although she had only seven prior lifetime starts to her credit due to several setbacks over the years, Kathryn the Wise is an outstanding talent and has amply rewarded the patience of her connections. In her debut and lone start at three at Aqueduct on November 25, 2016, she aired by 5 1/2 lengths in a state-bred maiden special weight. In two 2017 starts, she won the pair by a combined 20 1/4 lengths – a first-level state-bred allowance and the Critical Eye in her stakes debut.

Sidelined until fall 2018, Kathryn the Wise took two races to shake off the rust but came roaring back in the La Verdad Stakes January, winning by more than 10 lengths. She came into the Critical Eye following a sixth-place finish in the Grade 3 Distaff at Aqueduct after blowing the break. She has been sent off as the heavy favorite in every start, including the Distaff.

Whit Beckman, assistant to winning trainer Chad Brown commented, “This was a nice performance from her today. After her last start [in the Distaff] she seems to have rebounded fine. She runs real well on the lead. We didn’t expect to be in front like that, but it worked out well for us.”

From five victories in eight starts with one runner-up finish Kathryn the Wise has earned $375,250.

Foaled at Vivien Malloy’s Edition Farm, Kathryn the Wise is out of Goichman homebred Shea d’Lady, who has produced three foals to race, all winners. Goichman purchased “Kathryn’s” third dam, unraced Kentucky-bred Elhasna (Danzig), at the 2002 Keeneland January sale for $92,000. Without issue for three years after Kathryn the Wise, Shea d’ Lady has one more reported foal: a colt by Northern Afleet who is now two.

Fifty Five delivers again at 1-2 in Mount Vernon Stakes

Monday, May 27th, 2019

NYRA/Coglianese Photos

By Bill Heller

Consistency separates good horses from great ones, and Peter Brant’s outstanding 5-year-old mare Fifty Five proved again on New York-bred Big Apple Showcase on Memorial Day Monday at Belmont Park just how great she has become under the tutelage of trainer Chad Brown.

Sent off the 1-2 favorite on the rail under Javier Castellano in the field of 11 contesting the one-mile $125,000 Mount Vernon Stakes on turf for New York-bred fillies and mares, Fifty Five rallied from seventh on the far turn to a one-length score, extending her win streak, which began last September, to four. In doing so, she blazed her final quarter-mile in about :22 flat, winning in 1:34.09 on the “yielding” Widener Turf Course.

Fifty Five has finished in the money in nine straight races with six victories, two seconds, including a neck loss in last year’s Mount Vernon Stakes, and one third, a remarkable run for a consistent closer who may always run into traffic problems. She avoided them Monday in the capable hands of Castellano, who has ridden her in six of her last seven starts.

Munchkin Money, who was 13-1 under Junior Alvarado, nipped 18-1 Kreesie and Jose Ortiz by a neck for second. Three-quarters of a length behind Kreesie, the 34-1 gray Wegetsdamunnys and Eric Cancel finished fourth after walking out of the starting gate and spotting the field two lengths.

Fifty Five, a daughter of Get Stormy out of Soave by Brahms, began her win streak last fall with a two-length victory in the $125,000 John Hettinger Stakes September 23. She added on a one-length triumph in the $200,000 Ticonderoga Stakes October 20 in her final start as a four-year-old.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Fifty Five made her five-year-old debut with a length and three-quarters victory in an open stakes at Aqueduct April 14 at odds of 1-2 under Irad Ortiz  Jr.

Castellano regained the mount and delivered a typically patient ride on the classy closer Monday, not panicking when she still had a lot left to do heading into the far turn.

Castellano got her away near mid-pack in the bulky field of 11 as 52-1 Vip Nation and Mike Luzzi took the field to an opening quarter-mile in :24.08, a half-mile in :47.88 and three-quarters of a mile in 1:11.04.

Then the longshot leader tired and the pack closed in. Moving fastest of all was Fifty Five, who took command past the sixteenth pole, opened a clear lead and kept the others safe to the wire. [VIDEO]

Fifty Five, who was bred by Empire Equines, LLC, is now nine-for-18 with three seconds and five thirds in her all-turf career with earnings now of more than $780,000. Her only finish out of the money in her entire career was an eight-wide fifth in the Grade 2 Sands Point Handicap on September 16, 2017. That’s 20-months straight of finishing in the money with six wins, two seconds and a third, a great accomplishment for a great grass mare.