NEWS: racing

Fire Key locks down back-to-back stakes scores in Floral Park

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

NYRA/Elsa Lorieul

By Sarah Mace

Backwards Stable homebred Fire Key (Friesan Fire) couldn’t seem to catch a break this summer. However, given opportunities this fall to show what she is made of, she has been perfect, scoring two straight stakes victories on two different racetracks in a 21-day span.

On September 22 Fire Key snuck out of the gate at odds of 11-1 and went virtually last-to-first to capture the Sensible Lady at Laurel Park by nose. On Saturday she improved on that effort by when she rallied to win Belmont’s Floral Park Stakes by a solid three-quarters of a length.

Ending her 4-year-old campaign with a bang by winning the Autumn Days Stakes at Aqueduct, Fire Key began this year auspiciously enough, with a runner-up finish in an open turf sprint allowance at Belmont Park. Her next three starts for trainer Pat Kelly, all at Saratoga, were brutal. Bested by “soft” turf in the Caress Stakes at Saratoga on July 23, Fire Key fared poorly over the main track in a rained-off allowance on August 12. On August 26, she was essentially pulled up out of the ill-fated Smart N Fancy Stakes when her trip was impeded by a fallen competitor.

Julian Pimentel, who rode Fire Key to victory last out at Laurel retained the mount for the Floral Park. The mare was once again let go by bettors at relatively long odds, no better than 7-1, the fourth choice of six who lined up to contest the 6-furlong dash over the “yielding” Belmont inner turf course

A versatile runner who can pick and choose where she sets up, Fire Key spent the early stages of the race near the back of the field, five lengths off the pace. Up front, Battle Joined knocked heads with Black Canary, who moved aggressively from her outside post.

Advancing closer to the vanguard in the far turn, Fire Key came off the fence in the bend and was angled out five wide before being set down for the drive. By the time she started passing horses the lead had passed from Battle Joined to Black Canary, then to a rallying Fear No Evil.

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

Fire Key overhauled Black Canary and the rest by mid-stretch and took aim at the new leader. She finally reeled in Fear No Evil inside the final sixteenth and drew off with energy to spare to win by a half length in a final time of 1:13.03. Following runner-up Fear No Evil across the line were Black Canary, New York-bred Jc’s Shooting Star, 3-5 favorite Tillie’s Lilly and Battle Joined. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“I just wanted to get her to relax, said Pimentel. “That was most important. Sometimes she gets a little keen and wants to go early. I wanted her to relax and make one move. She’s very capable of doing anything you want. Everything set up for her.”

Trainer Pat Kelly is acutely aware how the Racing Gods, so unforgiving in the summer, are smiling now.

“We finally have things headed in the right direction,” Kelly said. “We had a rough Saratoga with the real soft turf and then we had trouble last time [in the Smart N Fancy Stakes], so nothing you can do about that, but Fire Key bounced back.”

Continued Kelly, “She ran a nice race in Maryland [the Sensible Lady] and even better today. She loves it here at Belmont. She learned to relax this year, she used to speed herself, but she’s really learned to relax which helps her finish a lot stronger. She’s had some races here where the turf has been yielding. For some reason, her race this summer at Saratoga when it was soft turf she didn’t like at all and maybe it’s just a different kind of turf course up there. This is home and she had a real nice work here last Sunday and she ran back to it. She’s a nice filly.”

Fire Key, now a three-time stakes winner, sports a career record of seven wins, seven seconds and a third from 23 starts with $$483,785 in earnings.

Fire Key was foaled at Sun Valley Farm in Ballston Spa and is out of U R Key, an unraced Backwards Stable homebred by Albert the Great. Her second dam Sugar Key (Missionary Ridge GB) was bred in New York by Jill Rich and Edward Michaels II.

U R Key’s first foal Masterkey (Will He Shine) is a Finger Lakes-based six-figure earner. Currently the mare has an unnamed juvenile filly by Emcee, a weanling colt by Micromanage and was bred to Mr. Z in 2018.

Leon Reed title passes from Breakin the Fever to Winston’s Chance as stablemates finish 1-2

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

Char-Allie Stable and Kathy Haers’ Winston’s Chance scored his first career stakes victory at Finger Lakes Tuesday when he ran down three-time defending champion and stablemate from the Debra Breed barn Breakin the Fever to win the $50,000 Leon Reed Memorial Stakes.

Three-time Finger Lakes Horse of the Year Breakin the Fever, who is bred, owned and trained by Debra Breed and, like Winston’s Chance, sired by former New York sire Roaring Fever, has enjoyed a stranglehold on the six-furlong sprint for New York-breds for the past three years. The 6-year-old gelding has, however, struggled in 2018, coming into the Leon Reed winless in three 2018 starts. He was bet accordingly, sent off at odds of 10-1 in the six-horse field with new jockey Oscar Gomez in the irons.

Enter upstart stablemate Winston’s Chance, a 5-year-old gelding who won a 7-furlong second-level allowance for New York-breds at Saratoga this summer. Runner-up in the Genesee Valley Breeders’ Futurity for two straight years, he was looking for a first black type win. More of a router than a sprinter (though he did win one of two prior starts at six furlongs), he attracted the services of Nazario Alvarado, Breakin the Fever’s regular rider, and was bet down to 5-2 at post time.

For favoritism, bettors went a third way, betting down the in-form Saratoga Giro to even money. Winner of the George W. Barker Stakes in June, he has finished first or second in his four most recent starts.

After an even break for all, Bavaro (2-1) took the initiative from his inside post, but Breakin the Fever also had good early speed and attended the pace from post two. The top pair vied along the backstretch though hot early splits of 22.05 and 44.91 while Winston’s Chance raced in fifth, three lengths off the early pace and well off the rail.

In the far turn Breakin the Fever engaged Bavaro directly, took over around the quarter pole and opened some daylight at the head of the lane. Winston’s Chance uncoiled his own bid as he angled out five-wide for the drive.

Saratoga Giro made a run at Breakin the Fever in the stretch and was repelled, but Winston’s Chance on the grandstand side had more momentum. Taking a bead on his stablemate, he ran down Breakin the Fever in the final strides, getting the victory by a half-length in a solid final time of 1:09.71. Breakin the Fever, in his best performance of the season finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Saratoga Giro in third. Bluegrass Flash, Sundae On Sunday and Bavaro completed the order of finish. [VIDEO REPLAY]

The Leon Reed Memorial, now in its eleventh running, is named in honor of the Finger Lakes assistant starter who died in a tragic gate accident on November 19, 2005. Leon Reed worked at Finger Lakes for 21 years and members of his family were in attendance to present the trophy on Tuesday.

Bred by Sherry Washburn, Winston’s Chance is the first foal and lone winner out of Betty’s Chance, a two-time winner by Duckhorn, who was bred in New York by Washburn in partnership with Michael Haers. Second dam Erica’s Chance (American Chance), also a New York-bred, was bred by Edwin Wachtel and campaigned by Char-Allie Stable.

The most recent reported foal by Betty’s Chance is a juvenile filly by Courageous Cat, who has not yet started. She was bred to Honorable Dillon this year.

Fourstar Crook pockets Grade 1 honors and Breeders’ Cup berth in Flower Bowl

Sunday, October 7th, 2018

NYRA/Coglianese Photos

By Sarah Mace

After departing the New York-bred ranks for graded stakes competition this season, Fourstar Crook delivered a career performance Sunday when she charged home from off the pace to win the Grade 1, $500,000 Flower Bowl on the inner turf at Belmont Park. The Flower Bowl, which is part of the Breeders Cup Challenge Series, assures Fourstar Crook an automatic and free entry into the Breeders’ Cup Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on the first weekend in November.

Trained by Chad Brown for owners Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stable and Gary Aisquith, Fourstar Crook is a 6-year-old millionaire by New York sire Freud (Sequel Stallions) who has battled, and sometimes beaten, the best fillies and mares in the turf division all season.

Opening her account on March 10, Fourstar Crook rallied to a head victory over multiple graded stakes winner Proctor’s Ledge. In her next three starts she split decisions with divisional leader Sistercharlie. Second to Sistercharlie on April 14 at Keeneland in the Jenny Wiley Stakes, Fourstar Crook turned the tables in June, when the pair contested Grade 2 New York Stakes at Belmont. In their most recent meeting, Fourstar Crook came up a half-length short when trying to run Sistercharlie down in the Beverly D. Stakes at Arlington Park.

In each race Fourstar Crook has followed the same playbook: relax early and unleash a devastating late kick. Chad Brown has spaced out Fourstar Crook’s races this year, so 57 days’ rest between the Beverly D and Flower Bowl was nothing out of the ordinary.

With Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons and heavily favored at odds of 4-5, Fourstar Crook stuck to her script, settling last of seven horses several paths off the rail. Meanwhile, Dubb-owned, Servis-trained New York-bred Feeling Bossy took the initiative, leading the field through accelerating splits of 25.71, 51.72 and 1:15.80.

About seven lengths off the pace along the backstretch, Fourstar Crook didn’t pass her first horse until the approach to the far turn, before she retired to the hedge for a ground-saving trip around the bend.

In the far turn pacesetter Feeling Bossy yielded the lead to a surging Onthemoonagain, another Chad Brown trainee, and the field tightened ranks. A confident Ortiz waited for the chance to tip Fourstar Crook out for the drive, then angled out five-wide at the head of the stretch.

NYRA/Coglianese Photos

After inhaling all her rivals but the new leader in upper stretch, Fourstar Crook hooked up with Onthemoonagain with a furlong to go. She took over the lead around the sixteenth marker and flew home a 2 1/2-length winner. The final time for 10 furlongs was 2:03.28 over the “good” inner Belmont turf course. The final quarter went the fastest, in 23.46. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“She flew home. She was going so comfortable and when I asked, she just exploded,” said Ortiz.

Brown was thrilled. “This horse ran super,” the conditioner said. “We expected a short field and that the pace wouldn’t be that strong, and it wasn’t, but she was able to overcome it. She’s a really consistent horse and she particularly likes Belmont. She ran to her odds. She seemed very deserving to finally win a Grade 1. When you look at who’s she’s beaten when she’s not in Grade 1s, and who she’s lost to by short margins, this filly is very deserving to finally achieve that and remarkable at age six.”

Continued Brown, “Michael Dubb and his partners have really done right by this filly her entire career. Every winter she’s gone to Ocala and rested, and every year she’s come back bigger and stronger. They’ve managed her very well.”

As to Fourstar Crook’s prospects for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf to be run at 1 3/8 miles, Brown said, “The way she finished today she surely looks like a mile the three-eighths won’t be a problem for her. We know that it will be a much deeper field, but she’s game and she’s not afraid to run against anybody, I tell you that. She’s a brave horse.”

Fourstar Crook is a model of consistency as well as bravery, having won 12 of 19 career starts with four seconds and third. She has shipped around, but Belmont has been the stage for her greatest achievements with seven wins in eight tries. The eight stakes victories that have helped Fourstar Crook bankroll $1,604,566 in earnings are: the Grade 1 Flower Bowl, Grade 2 New York Stakes, Grade 2 Hillsborough, Grade 3 Dr. James Penney Memorial, and four New York-bred stakes – the Yaddo, Mount Vernon and two editions of the John Hettinger.

Bred by Kathleen M. Feron and foaled at Akindale Farm in Pawling, the long-eared bay sold as a yearling to Allied Bloodstock at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred sale for $55,000. A $70,000 buyback when offered at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton March 2-year-old sale, she was purchased by owner Michael Dubb for $110,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic sale.

Fourstar Crook is out of Avril a Portugal by D’Accord, an unplaced John Hettinger-bred mare. The producer of six winners, Avril a Portugal is also the dam of Coaltown Legend (Jump Start), who earned over $325,000. The mare currently has a juvenile full-sister to Fourstar Crook named Kitty’s Legacy with a placing from two starts, and an unnamed yearling full-brother. With no reported foal in 2018, she has been bred back to Freud.



Streaking Disco Partner repeats in Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational, is BC-bound

Saturday, October 6th, 2018

Coglianese Photos

By Sarah Mace

If the outcome of Disco Partner’s two most recent starts was not all his connections could have desired, the 6-year-old son of late New York sire Disco Rico made amends in spades Saturday when he came flying in the stretch to post a confident 4 1/2-length victory in the $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Stakes. The grey, who also won the race in 2017, will be pointed next to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

A homebred for Patricia and Frank Generazio trained by Christophe Clement, Disco Partner was looking for just his second win in his fifth start of the term. He started things off in April in the Grade 2 Shakertown Stakes at Keenland, where he finished third. Disco Partner may hold the world record time for six furlongs on turf (1:05.67 in the 2017 Jaipur at Belmont Park) but has not been successful on soft turf, which was the condition of the Keeneland course for the Shakertown.

In his second start of the year, Disco Partner Successfully defended his Jaipur title in June, but followed up with a pair of losses. He was fifth in the Forbidden Apple after being bumped at the break and flattening out, and third in the Grade 3 Troy Handicap at Saratoga where, once again, he was faced with soft turf.

“Disco Partner has been a little bit unlucky in his last two starts,” said Christophe Lorieul, longtime assistant to trainer Christophe Clement, at the time of the Turf Sprint Invitational draw. “The firmness of the ground is a big factor for him but with the race going at his usual distance (six furlongs), we hope he gives a good account of himself.” On race day, Belmont’s inner turf course was labeled “good,” but, as it turned out, this was well within Disco Partner’s comfort zone.

Even money favorite at post time and breaking on top from post one under regular pilot Irad Ortiz, Jr., Disco Partner took back into fourth for tactical stalking. Meanwhile Pure Sensation – Disco Partner’s uncoupled stablemate, fellow Generazio grey homebred and fellow sprint star– set the early splits, clocking a quarter mile in 21.07 and half in 45.08.

NYRA/Annette Jasko

Continuing his hedge-hugging trip up the backstretch, Disco Partner began his bid mid-way around the bend and angled out three-wide at the head of the lane. He gained second, then set his sights on his stablemate.

Running down Pure Sensation around the furlong marker, Disco Partner then poured it on, finishing up a 4 1/2-length winner under a strong hand ride and completing the six furlongs in 1:08.50. Blind Ambition (8-1) rallied into second while Pure Sensation hung on for third. Proforma, fourth, was followed by Gidu and Pocket Change. [VIDEO REPLAY]

“I got a perfect trip,” said Ortiz, Jr. “He broke well. I took a hold of him, and when I asked him, he took off.”

The pilot continued, “He made me feel very confident on top of him. When I asked him, he was there for me. He was traveling perfect and then I smooched on him at the three-eighths pole and he took off right away for me. I knew he was going to be there for me. He’s a fighter. He always shows up.”

Trainer Christophe Clement said, “[Disco Partner]’s getting older, but he’s still one of the best, if not the best sprinter, in New York, and I thought it was a very impressive performance. Irad [Ortiz, Jr.] was not too hard on him which is great.”

Clement felt that the race set Disco Partner up well for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. “I don’t like to have too hard of a race before the Breeders’ Cup, so I was very happy with the performance today.”

Disco Partner began his career with a successful three-year run with trainer Jimmy Ryerson (2014-2016), breaking his maiden first out on dirt, switching to turf in his fifth start, winning through his allowance conditions and winning the Troy Stakes after a couple of stakes placings.

Relocating to Clement’s barn in 2017, he won four of six starts, headlined by his record-setting Jaipur. In addition to victories in the Elusive Quality and Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational, Disco Partner also successfully stretched out to a mile to win the Forbidden Apple Stakes which was a tour de force performance for a confirmed sprinter. His Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational win this year brings the tally of his stakes victories to seven.

Winner of 11 of 26 starts in all with four seconds and five thirds, Disco Partner has earned $1,264,810.

A third-generation product of Patricia and Frank Generazio’s breeding program, Disco Partner was foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia.  His dam is Lulu’s Number (Numerous), a New Jersey-bred multiple winner of over $200,000 trained by Ben Perkins, Jr. Disco Partner’s second dam Mary Lou’s Magic (Concord Dream) was bred in Florida and trained by Frank Generazio.

As a broodmare, Lulu’s Number has produced six winners from seven starters, including Don Six’s Number (Don Six), a stakes performer and earner of $212,686. Lulu’s Number has yearling colt by First Samurai, foaled a colt by Into Mischief on May 20, 2018 and was bred to Arrogate in the spring.

I Still Miss You reunites with winner’s circle for third straight time after taking Arctic Queen

Monday, October 1st, 2018

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

Gold Star Racing Stable, Matthew Hand and Brian McKenzie’s sophomore filly I Still Miss You (Majestic Warrior) collected her third straight win on Monday afternoon – and third career stakes victory – when she won the 19th edition of the $50,000, 6-furlong Arctic Queen Stakes under a tactically-minded Jaime Rodriguez.

Trained by Jeremiah Englehart, I Still Miss You has been looking to build on a strong juvenile campaign, where she won three of six starts, including the open Astoria Stakes at Belmont Park and, in her November 24 season finale, Aqueduct’s Key Cents for state-breds.

The dark bay filly kicked off 2018 by finishing unplaced in two relatively ambitious spots: Aqueduct’s open Mizdirection Stakes on April 15 and the Grade 3 Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. I Still Miss You then moved her tack to Finger Lakes and, in three subsequent races, improved with every start.

Fourth to Arctic Queen rival Crashing Connie in the Niagara Stakes for 3-year-old New York-bred fillies on June 18, she followed up with back-to back victories in conditioned allowance races against elders in July and August. In both sprints I Still Miss You battled for the lead before drawing away to open-length victories. These confidence-builders seem to have done the trick.

Breaking from post two to face elders again as the 5-2 second choice, I Still Miss You rushed up to join the group tussling for the lead, but then deferred, letting Royal Inheritance establish a one-length lead through an opening quarter in 22.22 and taking back into the third.

Rodriguez whose mind was in the game from start to finish, switched I Still Miss You one path out on the backstretch, regained second and set up in a stalking position vis a vis the frontrunner.

With a length still to make up, I Still Miss You angled out for clear running in the lane and began to wear down her rival. Steadily eroding the leader’s advantage, I Still Miss You gained the front inside the final furlong and kept to business to ward off a rallying Timely Tradition.

Home safe by a head, I Still Miss You stopped the clock at 1:12.16 after six furlongs over the “good” main track. Timely Tradition in second finished one length ahead of Royal Inheritance. Frosty Margarita, the 7-5 favorite finished another 1 1/4 lengths back in fourth. Completing the order of finish were Satin Frost, She’s Quiet, Pachamama and Crashing Connie.

I Still Miss You, who has earned $263,047 from six wins and a second in 12 starts, was bred by Emcee Stable, LLC and foaled at Hickory Hill Farm Thoroughbreds. She is the first foal out of Maryland-bred Lion’s Terms by Lion Hearted who won 16 races for Englehart and Gold Star Racing Stable and earned $235,042.

Lion’s Terms has a juvenile colt by Blame who brought $100,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling. With a weanling filly by Congrats this year, she has been bred to Flatter.


“Biscuits” too hot to handle in Lukas Classic

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Coady Photography

By Sarah Mace

Mind Your Biscuits, the richest horse in the history of the New York breeding program, padded his bankroll yet again on Saturday night when he put away all challengers to score a dominating victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Lukas Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles. His Lukas victory on this year’s final nighttime card at Churchill Downs was worth $120,280, which increased 5-year-old Mind Your Biscuit’s career earnings to $4,279,566 (83rd all-time) from a record of 24-8-10-3.

Never out of the exacta in four prior starts in 2018, Mind Your Biscuits, by former New York sire Posse, has contested three Grade 1s in 2018. At Meydan Racecourse on March 31 he closed like a bolt out of the blue to score an all-but-impossible head-victory in course record time for a repeat win in the Dubai Golden Shaheen. Freshened until June 9, he missed by just a nose to Bee Jersey in the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont. On August 4 at Saratoga, in one of the more memorable renewals of the Whitney Handicap – complete with a downpour, rain delay and sloppy track – Mind Your Biscuits completed an historic New York-bred exacta 3 1/2 lengths behind Diversify. The Whitney was “Biscuit’s” first try at the 1 1/8-mile distance and around two turns.

In the lead-up to the Lukas Classic Mind Your Biscuits posted three works, including a five-furlong bullet move at Saratoga on August 31 and an easy five furlongs at Churchill Downs on September 21, after shipping in on September 13. Commenting on his charge’s most recent work, trainer Chad Summers said, “When he breezed the other day and worked in 1:02, he broke off in :13 4/5 and got the last three-eighths in :36 flat, and that’s what you need to see. We know how fast he is. Now it’s a matter of getting him to stay.”

Drawn in post six of eight and paired for the first time with Florida-based Tyler Gaffalione, Mind Your Biscuits went off as the 6-5 favorite in the Lukas Classic. Regular rider Joel Rosario was booked to ride Accelerate in the Grade 1, $300,000 Awesome Again at Santa Anita. Accelerate won the race recovering from a slow start after he acted up in the gate.

Away well with the vanguard, Mind Your Biscuits settled in the two-path behind pacesetter Flowers for Lisa, but had company on either side: Honorable Duty to his inside and Breaking Lucky outside.

Coady Photography

Vying between horses most of the way along the backstretch, Mind Your Biscuits shook off his immediate neighbors in the approach to the far turn, advancing to a clear second, and set his sights on Flowers for Lisa.

Even with the leader in the turn, “Biscuits” came off the bend with a narrow lead at the quarter pole. After that it was “all she wrote.”

Drawing off under a hand ride from Gaffalione, he steadily put more daylight between himself and the competition, eventually crossing the wire 4 3/4 lengths to the good. Following a half-mile in 48.09 and a mile in 1:36.19, Mind Your Biscuits stopped the clock after nine furlongs at 1:48.64.

“This horse is so classy,” said Gaffalione. “I’m thankful for Chad for letting me ride. This horse was very impressive tonight and going into the Breeders’ Cup in great shape. We sat a perfect trip and when I asked him to run he responded right away and finished well.”

Summers had already confessed to suffering sleepless nights in the lead-up to the Lukas Classic about coming in such a heavy favorite — tabbed at even money on the morning line.

“I can breathe a little bit now,” Summers said after the race. “This horse is so special to us and he proved tonight he can go the longer distance. We’ll get with all of the owners and see which race we’ll run in for the Breeders’ Cup. He’ll stay here at Churchill Downs and train up to the race.”

Third in the last two runnings of the six-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint (six furlongs), “Biscuits” is also under consideration for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (10 furlongs) and $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Mind Your Biscuits was bred by Jumping Jack Racing LLC and foaled at Sue and Gary Lundy’s Cedar Ridge Farm in Pine Plains. He is one of four winners from four foals to start out of the late Jazzmane, an unraced Kentucky-bred daughter of Toccet and a half-sister to Canadian champion 3-year-old filly Kimchi (Langfuhr).

Mind Your Biscuits was first purchased as a short yearling by Machmer Hall at the 2014 Keeneland January sale for $47,000. When he RNA’d for $47,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale, Summers and Susan Montanye purchased the colt privately as a pinhooking prospect.

A buyback once again at the OBS Spring 2-year-old sale for $47,000, Summers bought out the colt and, over time, lined up J Stables LLC, Head of Plains Partners and Michael E. Kisber to complete Mind Your Biscuits’ first ownership group. Shadai Farm bought into Mind Your Biscuits in May and he is slated join the Teruya Yoshida’s Shadai Farm stallion roster in Abira on the island of Hokkaido in Japan at the conclusion of his racing career. The full ownership roster of Mind Your Biscuits is: Shadai Farm, J Stables LLC, Head of Plains Partners LLC, M. Scott Summers, Daniel Summers, Chad Summers and Michael Kisber.



Dugout gallops away with New York Breeders’ Futurity, keeps record perfect

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

In his most recent race, Dugout (Adios Charlie), won the Funny Cide Stakes by a nose over Bankit at Saratoga on August 24 in a nail-biter. The principals knocked heads from the backstretch to finish line, and the issue was decided by a photo.

Saturday’s $200,288 New York Breeders’ Futurity, Finger Lakes richest stakes race, was an entirely different story. In command from the start, Dugout powered his way to a front-running 3-length victory to go a perfect three-for-three in his young career for owners Richard Ravin, Patricia`s Hope LLC and Larry Rivelli. Ravin and Rivelli bred Dugout and Rivelli is his trainer.

Heavily favored at odds of 2-5 in the field of six New York-bred juveniles under Jose Valdivia Jr., Dugout reverted to the tactics he used in his July 23 debut, which he won gate-to-wire by seven-plus lengths. The grey exited his far outside post guns blazing and tail streaming and, in no time, crossed over assumed command.

Gobbling up ground with powerful strides, Dugout ran the first quarter-mile in 22.10 and half in 45.27, while second choice True Gold (3-1) chased a length behind in second.

SV Photography

In upper stretch, Dugout extended his lead under a vigorous hand ride and, in the final furlong, Valdivia gave him a couple reminders to keep to business. In the final strides Dugout veered out a couple of paths, but no harm, no foul – there was nobody in the neighborhood for him to bother. Dugout notched the win by three lengths in a final time of 1:10.66

True Gold, second throughout, got the money for place, followed 1 3/4 lengths back by La Fuerza, winner of the Aspirant at Finger Lakes on September 8. Completing the order of finish were Bourbon Mission, Possetizzly and Queens Dude. [VIDEO REPLAY]

A first homebred for Ravin and Rivelli and foaled at Sequel Stallions in Hudson, Dugout is the most recent foal out of Rooney Doodle, an unplaced California-bred daughter of Lit de Justice who has produced six winners from six foals to start. Dugout’s full-sister Jean Elizabeth is a stakes winner at Hawthorne, and half-sister Hollarforadollar is stakes placed. The mare has been bred back this year to Adios Charlie.

From his trio of victories, Dugout has earned $271,423.

Black Tide aces Ashley Cole at 28-1 doing what he does best

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

NYRA/Coglianese Photo

By Sarah Mace

There aren’t many horses in training who are more fun to watch than Ivery Sisters Racing’s Black Tide (Hold Me Back). Win, lose or draw, his take-no-prisoners approach to racing is always a thrill. Just ask his trainer Dave Cannizzo. “I think he’s one of the coolest horses I’ve ever trained and one of the best horses I’ve ever trained,” Cannizzo said Sunday afternoon. “The stuff he does is insane. The feelings you get watching him are scary.”

The cause for celebration for Team Cannizzo Sunday was Black Tide’s second career stakes score: a wire-to-wire victory the 43rd running of the Ashley T. Cole for New York-breds going 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf course.

Black Tide had not visited the winner’s circle since last October 21, when he opened up daylight in the Mohawk Stakes on Empire Showcase Day and never looked back, holding on to win by 1 1/4 lengths and post a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

Black Tide’s tactics are no mystery. His best weapon is speed, and his trainer is not shy about telling regular jockey Jose Lezcano to use it. This approach, obviously, can be hit or miss. Once overtaken, the free-wheeling runner can end up out of the money. Cannizzo has spotted the 6-year-old confidently in all four starts this year: a pair of high-priced open allowance/optional claiming races, the Grade 3 Poker and Saratoga’s West Point Stakes. Each time he has challenged the field to catch him if they can, and so far this season they have succeeded, with his best finish being a fourth in his seasonal debut on May 11.

Cannizzo commented on some of the factors at play thus far in Black Tide’s 2018 campaign and the reasons the trainer feels, “He’s finally back to his old self.”

“He got some soft turfs,” Cannizzo said. “At Saratoga, he just wasn’t himself all meet. He was just wild in his stall. He’s finally back to [being] himself. You have to get him so fit to do what he wants to do. I probably gave him too long off; I sent him to Ocala and gave him three months off. To bring him back in these races, he was nowhere near ready. He runs all out the whole race, so he’s finally tight.”

Black Tide broke alertly under regular rider Jose Lezcano, as is his custom, but had to deal with some early company in front in the form of 70-1 Winston’s Chance, who pressed the pace through an opening quarter in 23.92.

After shrugging off that rival for good, Black Tide put four lengths between himself and nearest foe Hit It Once More, who was positioning himself to get first run on the pacesetter as the half and three-quarters ticked by in 47.81 and 1:12.07.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Maneuvering out into the five-path at the head of the lane, Black Tide showed no signs of tiring as the cavalry charge closed ranks behind him. In the end, victory was never in doubt, as the dark bay hit the finish line full of run with 1 1/4 lengths to spare.

Offering Plan (5-2) closed from well out of it to finish second. A half-length back the next six horses finished just 1 1/4 lengths apart: Gucci Factor (4-1), Call Provision (2-1), Red Knight and the venerable Kharafa, 9-year-old winner of the West Point in his previous start.

Completing the order of finish were Tapitation, Rapt, Winston’s Chance, Hit It Once More and Leaveematthegate. The final time for the 1 1/8 miles over the “good” inner turf course. was 1:48.09. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Lezcano said, “I liked today that the speed on the grass was kind of holding and I wanted to be there. He broke good and put me there. I got very good fractions and when I asked him, he clearly responded and went on. From the three-eighths to the wire, I felt really confident. I knew I had plenty of horse under me. I just had to ask a little bit and he was gone.”

As to sticking to the same game plan with Black Tide in every start, Cannizzo explained, “I don’t think distance is that big of a problem. It’s just letting him do his own thing. We got to the point where Jose started trying to get him to rate a little bit and try and finish. He’s not going to beat horses doing that because the real closers will outkick him late. He needs to beat them by emptying out. He did that today and it worked.”

The conditioner hopes Black Tide can wrap up the year with a repeat in the $200,000 Mohawk Stakes on October 20, Empire Showcase Day.

Bred by Snow Lantern Thoroughbreds and foaled at the former Highcliff Farm in Delanson, Black Tide is one of four winners from four foals to start out of Turn the Tide, an unraced Theatrical (IRE) mare. Turn the Tide’s second foal Avanzare won a pair of Grade 2 turf stakes on the west coast and earned $536,705. The mare has a juvenile filly by Stormy Atlantic named Tide Storm, who has not yet started and a weanling filly by Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.

Black Tide, whose record stands at eight wins, six seconds and five thirds in 40 starts with $535,220 in earnings, first sold for $30,000 to Thoroughbred Management at the 2013 OBS Yearling sale. He was purchased the following year at the OBS spring 2-year-old sale by McMahon & Hill Bloodstock for $50,000.




Fifty Five posts confident victory in John Hettinger Stakes

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

By Sarah Mace

After just missing wins in the first two races of this year’s NYRA stakes series for New York-bred turf fillies and mares, Fifty Five gave the field of the $125,000, 1 1/8-mile John Hettinger Stakes a tutorial at Belmont Park on Sunday scoring a decisive victory from off the pace piloted by a supremely confident Javier Castellano.

A graded stakes-winning 4-year-old daughter of Get Stormy, Fifty Five has been remarkably consistent throughout her career, finishing in the money in 13 of 14 prior starts. Winner of the Grade 2 Florida Oaks and Ticonderoga Stakes for state-breds at three, Fifty Five came into the Hettinger with four starts under her belt in 2018. She put in a characteristically strong effort each time, but only managed to get her picture taken once.

Second by one length in Aqueduct’s open Plenty of Grace Stakes in April to Uni, winner of Saturday’s Grade 3 Noble Damsel at Belmont, Fifty Five fell a neck short in the Mount Vernon to Feeling Bossy, who was also in the Hettinger field. Fifty Five then won an open allowance at Belmont on July 15, but at Saratoga on August 24 had to settle for neck-loss, when she finished third in a blanket finish in the Yaddo stakes, beaten by the talented La Moneda and Lady Joan. The speedy Lady Joan was drawn at the rail for the Hettinger.

Unhurried after breaking from post seven, Fifty Five tracked in sixth, five lengths off the pace through the first turn and up the backstretch. Up front Lady Joan battled for the lead from her rail post with Conquest Hardcandy who crossed over from the outside post and was, no doubt, unwelcome company. The early splits were slow over the “good” inner turf: 24.59 and 49.96.

Gearing up to make a sweeping move in the far turn, Fifty Five passed rivals, spun six-wide into the stretch and did what she does best – unleashed her patented (and devastating) late kick. Blowing past rivals with apparent ease and gaining the front with a furlong to go, Fifty Five was able to call it “mission accomplished” with a 2-length victory at the wire.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

After six furlongs in 1:14.09 and a mile in 1:37.24, the final time for the 9-furlong Hettinger, after Fifty Five’s final panel in 11.74, was 1:48.98. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Javier Castellano was ebullient (“What a horse! She’s special!”) and spelled out why he seemed so confident in the irons.

“I believed that [Fifty Five] was the best horse in the race,” Castellano said. “I didn’t have the best post and I didn’t have the best trip, to be honest, but I rode her like she was the best horse in there. I took my time with her, tried to be patient, and, turning for home, I got the jump on everybody. I wanted to move outside and kick clear and that’s exactly what she did.”

Addressing the challenge of the show early splits, Castellano said, “There was a lot of speed in the race, but they were walking too. There were four horses [with speed], so I knew I was going to be mid-pack, that’s her style, but I didn’t expect them to be walking like they did. I even lost some ground at one point. She was very impressive, finishing the way she did today.”

Trainer Chad Brown also commented on the race dynamics. “It was a bit of a tough trip. She was really much the best today. I was really impressed with her race. She just had a wide trip off a slow pace. I was quite concerned. I figured she was going to have to be much the best today watching the race unfold, and she certainly was.”

Continued Brown, “I’m extremely impressed with her effort. Probably the worst trip you can have in a turf race, wide with no pace through no fault of Javier, and for her to still prevail, it was a monumental effort.”

Brown plans to start Fifty Five once more this year in state-bred company, and, perhaps return to open company next year.

Bred by John and Sandy Crowe’s Empire Equines and foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, Fifty Five is one of two winners out of Empire’s homebred mare Soave. Soave was by Brahms out of New York-bred Cozzene mare Cozzekiki.

Fifty Five RNA’d for $24,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sales only to emerge as Get Stormy’s first stakes winner when she won the Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs. Brant purchased the filly privately from Empire Equines’ John Crowe after the Florida Oaks coup. She now sports a record of six wins, three seconds and five thirds from 15 starts with $545,788 in earnings.


“Gutsy” Fire Key hangs tough to win Sensible Lady Turf Dash at Laurel

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

By Sarah Mace

Last September when Backwards Stable’s Fire Key shipped to Laurel Park with high hopes to contest the $100,000 Sensible Lady Turf Dash, she had to return to Belmont with a second-place finish to show for her efforts. On Saturday the 5-year-old daughter of Friesan Fire put that near-miss in the rear view, when she held off late challengers at each flank to win the race at odds of 11-1.

The reason that the accomplished Fire Key was sent off at relatively long odds was that her form was significantly dirtied up. Following a strong runner-up finish in an open allowance to kick off her 5-year-old campaign, she suffered three defeats by double-digit lengths in three Saratoga starts – each apparently worse than the last – but each involving more-then-legitimate excuses.

On July 23, when she was beaten more than sixteen lengths in the Caress Stakes, the race was run over a turf course labeled “soft” (aka boggy), which was evidently was not at all to her liking. On August 12 she fared even worse in an open allowance that was taken off the turf and clearly not her game. In the Smart N Fancy Stakes on August 26 Fire Key had an absolutely nightmare trip, brushing a fallen rival and finishing 25 lengths behind the winner.

Prior to this trio of tough outings Fire Key finished only once out of the exacta in nine starts and won the open Autumn Days Stakes last November 26. She clearly belonged with this group and trainer Pat Kelly had her teed up to make amends for everything.

Ridden by Julian Pimental Saturday, Fire Key was unhurried after the break, settling in the two path near the back of the 10-horse field while 99-1 longshot Daylight Ahead and odds-on favorite Smiling Causeway vied for the lead while carving out moderate opening splits of 23.87 and 49.44.

Gearing up in the approach to the turn and beginning to pick off rivals while rounding the bend, Fire Key fanned out six-wide into stretch. She ran down the front runners and poked a head in front, but there was still some work to do.

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club

Fire Key was set upon on both sides in the final furlong. Compelled, the 5-2 second choice who was shuffled back early, closed rapidly on her outside flank. Fear No Evil made a serious bid at the rail.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Fire Key never faltered, digging in gamely and keeping a nose in front at the wire. Compelled in second finished a head in front of Fear No Evil. The final time for six furlongs over the “good” Fort Marcy Turf Course was 1:14.96.

Pat Kelly, a Maryland native – albeit well-traveled – remarked first that he always enjoyed the chance to come “back home.”

Continued Kelly, “[Fire Key]’s been very sharp the last couple years. We came down here last year and just missed in this race. The plan was to try and get back this year and it worked out.”

Summing up the nail-biting photo finish, Kelly said, “She doesn’t win by much, but she’s gutsy.”

Fire Key, who was foaled at Sun Valley Farm in Ballston Spa, is out of U R Key, an unraced Backwards Stable homebred by Albert the Great. Her second dam Sugar Key (Missionary Ridge GB) was bred in New York by Jill Rich and Edward Michaels II.

U R Key’s first first foal Masterkey (Will He Shine) is a Finger Lakes-based six-figure earner. Currently the mare has an unnamed juvenile filly by Emcee, a weanling colt by Micromanage and was bred to Mr. Z in 2018.

Fire Key’s second stakes victory improved her career record to six wins, seven seconds and third from 21 starts, and boosted her earnings to $426,035.