NEWS: racing

Rudy Rincon, Shesastonecoldfox inducted into FL HOF; Breakin the Fever named FL HOY

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

By Sarah Mace

Finger Lakes Gaming and Racetrack wrapped up its 2016 season on Thursday, November 30, but not before taking care of some important business: naming two 2016 inductees to the Finger Lakes Hall of Fame and announcing its 2016 equine honorees.

Inducted to the Hall of Fame this year were jockey Rudy Rincon and the state’s star juvenile filly of 2001 Shesastonecoldfox. Named the 2016 Finger Lakes Horse of the Year was Breakin the Fever. The 4-year-old Roaring Fever gelding, bred, owned and trained by Debra Breed, won six of seven starts in 2016, including the George W. Barker Stakes and Leon Reed Memorial Stakes at Finger Lakes, as well as the Hudson Handicap on Empire Showcase Day at Belmont Park.

Finger Lakes Hall of Fame 2016 Inductees:

(Edited FL HPBA release)

Courtesy FLGR

Courtesy FLGR

Rudy Rincon

Career earnings: $9,252,809
Finger Lakes leading rider: 1962, 1973, 1974 and 1978

After gaining competitive experience in various styles of racing, Rudy Rincon’s official career began in 1958 at Ruidoso Downs. He made his local debut in 1962 and won the jockey title during the inaugural season at Finger Lakes. Rincon remained one of the top riders during the next two decades, earning a total of four jockey titles during that span. He claimed top jockey honors in 1973, 1974 and 1978.

Rincon continued to persevere and recorded seven stakes victories during the 1980s. His final stakes win was with CB Account in the 1997 Wadsworth Memorial Handicap. He was aboard CB Account when he set a track record the same year. Rincon completed his extensive and prosperous career in 1999. He finished as one of the most successful jockeys in Finger Lakes history with a total of 2,975 victories.

 

Courtesy FLGR

Courtesy FLGR

Shesastonecoldfox

1999 bay filly
Foxhound – Morgans Raider, by Giboulee
Owner: Dennis and Deborah Petrisak (Langpap Stables)
Career earnings: $216,409
Won: 2001 Lady Finger Stakes, 2001 New York Breeders’ Futurity, 2001 Joseph A. Gimma Stakes
Breeders’ Cup participation: 2001 Juvenile Fillies

Shesastonecoldfox displayed exceptional talent in her first start for owner Langpap Stables. She scored a three and three-quarter-length victory in her career debut at Saratoga. The young star continued to establish herself as the best New York-bred 2-year-old filly with a convincing five-length victory in the $65,350 Lady Finger Stakes. The M. Anthony Ferraro-trainee earned her most notable win when she defeated male rivals in the $137,900 New York Breeders’ Futurity.

Shesastonecoldfox was voted champion New York-bred 2-year-old filly, and Ferraro was named Outstanding Trainer by the New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. in 2001. Her accomplishments made her eligible to compete against the best young thoroughbreds in the world in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Her dominance against her juvenile rivals in 2001 distinguished Shesastonecoldfox as one of the best 2-year-old fillies ever to race at Finger Lakes.

Finger Lakes’ 2016 NY-bred Honorees

Breakin the Fever, Hudson H. (NYRA/Susie Raisher)

Breakin the Fever, Hudson H. (NYRA/Susie Raisher)

Horse of the Year: Breakin the Fever

Best 3-Year-Old Filly: Fingerpainter

Best 3-Year-Old Colt/Gelding: Saratoga Giro

Best Older Filly/Mare: Midnight Champagne

Best Older Colt/Gelding: Breakin the Fever

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Lubash promoted to first in Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap

Saturday, November 26th, 2016
Photo: Lauren King

Photo: Lauren King

By Sarah Mace

Making his fifty-first lifetime start Saturday in the Grade 3, $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap at Gulfstream Park West, Aliyu Ben J Stable’s Lubash (Freud), a 9-year-old homebred and the reigning New York-bred male turf champion, was able to put one more in the win column.

The outright winner of the Tropical Turf Handicap in 2014, Lubash was second across the line this year, but his number was justifiably put up by the stewards.

In the early stages of the 1 1/6-mile turf contest, Lubash sat off the pace with only one horse beaten of eight, but picked things up rounding the far turn and began to circle the field. Angling out five wide at the head of the lane, in midstretch he only had Rose Briar left to pass.

Rose Briar ducked out abruptly multiple paths in the final sixteenth, and Lubash, who was in an active drive and closing, had to check hard and lost momentum. He finished 1 1/4 lengths behind the erratic horse before being promoted to first.

Jockey Joe Bravo said after the race, “It’s a shame, I don’t know if Trevor’s horse [Rose Briar] spooked from the inside or what, but he came out a long way and we were impeded.”

Continued Bravo, “I’m glad everything worked out OK today. Lubash is a classy old warrior. He’s a New York-bred but he wins anywhere.”

Lubash now has eighteen career victories, topped by 12 stakes scores, nine seconds and five thirds. He has bankrolled $1,488,139.

Although trainer Christophe Clement also had mixed feelings about getting the win via a DQ, ultimately, he came down on the side of the notion that “a win is a win.”

Said Clement, “I really don’t like to win a race that way because I don’t like that. Nevertheless, I’m thrilled for the horse. He’s a wonderful horse. he’s nine years old. He overcame me for many years, which is great. I don’t like to win a race that way, but we’ll take it.”

Clement is uncertain as to what the future holds for the champ. “I’m not sure (what’s next). The idea was to retire him, but it’s hard to retire a horse that just won a Grade 3. It will be up to the owner.”

Lubash was trained at three and four by James Ryerson, for whom he won his first three stakes victories (the NYSS Cab Calloway Division, open Fifth Marine Stakes and open Monarch’s Maze).

Moving to the Clement Barn in 2012, his career has been nothing short of remarkable. Year-in and year-out (with breaks for the winter scheduled in), he has been in the thick of the ultra-competitive New York-bred turf male division, knocking heads with the likes of Kharafa and King Kreesa. His forays into open company have also been successful. Lubash especially relishes firm turf, which is why Clement has brought him twice to Gulfstream Park West this time of year.

Lubash’s 12 stakes victories are topped by the Grade 3 Fort Marcy (2013) and the pair of victories in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap (2014 and 2016). In the New York-bred ranks he has won, among other stakes, the West Point at Saratoga twice (2012 and 2015) and the Ashley T. Cole twice (2012 and 2014). In 2015 he set a new course record for 1 1/16 miles in 1:39.08.

Foaled at Carapan Farm, Lubash is the most successful offspring of Nasty Cure, a stakes-placed six-figure earner by Cure the Blues ($153,122). who has produced five multiple winners. Her stakes-placed New York-bred Netcong by Meadow Flight started 87 times and banked $327,924. Her most recent reported foal is a yearling full-brother to Lubash.

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Filibustin stays perfect with Key Cents score

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Filibustin the Key Cents 2By Sarah Mace

Once the New York-bred juvenile fillies finally got a chance to face the starter for the 6-furlong $100,000 Key Cents Stakes Friday  — rescheduled after last Sunday’s high winds KO’d the Aqueduct card — Alan R. Cook’s Filibustin by Bustin Stones scored a clear-cut victory over 11 rivals to drive her record to a perfect three-for-three.

Drawn in post four the first time around, but migrating out to the 10-hole when the race was redrawn, Filibustin (3-1) broke alertly, and made her way efficiently toward the inside under Jose Lezcano. The filly then settled in the two path, where she hooked up with Ribbonite to her inside – winner of the Lady Finger Stakes in Farmington September, but let go at odds of 64-1.

The pair raced in tandem for a half-mile in 47.39, and Ribbonite had a slight advantage as they reached the quarter pole. Filibustin then began to assert herself in upper stretch, and around the furlong marker launched her drive to the wire in earnest. She ultimately opened up to a decisive 3-length victory in 1:12.50.

Second time starter Overnegotiate (3-1), the lone filly to join the lineup when the race was drawn a second time, closed into second from third, while longshot Ribbonite tired and drifted out, but held on for third. [VIDEO]

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Jockey Lezcano, summed things up neatly: “She’s a very nice filly. She broke very good and I let her go and do her thing. I asked her within the last sixteenths, and she really took off and won the race easily.”

Trainer Greg Sacco first talked race tactics, beginning with Filibustin’s outer post in the rescheduled Key Cents. “When we drew the outside post today,” said Sacco, “I just left it up to Jose. We were on the inside going seven-eighths last time [in the Gimma] and we just wanted to get her out in the clear. This time, we had speed on the inside, the filly that won impressively first time out [Kim Royale] and Ribbonite, and I just told Jose, ‘wherever you’re comfortable, you’re comfortable, but she will rate.’”

Sacco continued, “She’s rated kindly in the mornings and it’s much different than a race. I thought she was in a good position the whole race and then sending her for home, it’s just whether you’re good enough. Every time you run, you have to answer the bell.”

Sacco also felt the significance of the victory and filly’s perfect record. “There were some really impressive horses in this race, which made the race a little interesting. There was a little different dynamic than the last race. Three wins at three different tracks, three different surfaces; she’s just a really neat New York-bred filly to have. It’s exciting, and I’m really happy for Mr. Cook. It’s the only horse he has.”

Continued Sacco, “She’s a really easygoing filly to train and just a pleasure to have. We’re fortunate to have a nice filly that can run like this.”

Winner of her debut at Monmouth Park by more than eight lengths on September 4, Filibustin captured the Joseph A. Gimma by nearly five lengths on October 2. She has earned $161,970 from her three wins.

Sacco is thinking about bringing her back from her Parx home base for the NYSS Fifth Avenue on December 19. “That would obviously be her last race of the year and then we’ll see if we’ll give her a little break,” he said. “When they’re going good, you don’t want to stop, and she doesn’t mind getting spaced out. I’d like to space her out and not run her too much over the winter and have her ready for this summer.”

Bred by Luck Be a Lady Racing, Filibustin was foaled at Waldorf Farm in North Chatham, home of her sire Bustin Stones who stood for $2,500 in 2016.

Filibustin is one of two winners from two foals to start out of Sweet Aloha, a West-Virginia-bred six-figure earner. The mare has a yearling filly by Take Charge Indy, a weanling colt by Forty Tales and was bred back to the same sire in 2016.

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Loki’s Vengeance repeats in NYSS Thunder Rumble off the bench

Friday, November 25th, 2016
NYRA/Chelsea Durand

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Blue Bison Stable’s Loki’s Vengeance (Frost Giant), coming off a layoff of more than four months and shooting for his second consecutive victory in Aqueduct’s $125,000 Thunder Rumble division of the New York Stallion Stakes (NYSS), was ready to go on Friday, thanks to trainer Mike Hushion. Last year the handsome 5-year-old won the 7-furlong race for older New York-sired horses with a stalking trip. This time around, the tactics were different.

Sharp out of the gate under jockey Jose Ortiz, Loki’s Vengeance drove to the front from post six and settled on the lead, where he maintained a measured half-length advantage over 8-1 Becker’s Galaxy.

Through a quarter-mile in 23.32 and half in 46.69, the relative positions of the top two remained unchanged. The two-horse merry-go-round lasted until upper stretch, when Loki’s Vengeance found another gear, opened up and eventually romped to a much-the-best 7 1/4-length victory in a final time of 1:23.20.

Becker’s Galaxy held on for second, while, a neck back West Hills Giant (2-1) and favorite Empire Dreams (9-5) checked in noses apart third and fourth. Jet Black, We Did, Bust Another and Cloud Control completed the order of finish. The race, originally carded for last Sunday, was rescheduled to Friday after Thanksgiving after high winds forced NYRA to cancel racing. [VIDEO]

lokis vengeance3

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

Winning jockey Jose Ortiz reported, “Mike [Hushion] told me that [Loki’s Vengeance] breaks really good, and don’t be afraid to go to the lead. He did, and when I asked him to go at the three-sixteenths pole he exploded. He gave me a great turn of foot.”

Hushion added, “Sometimes Loki’s Vengeance breaks so hard he stumbles only because he’s so powerful coming out of there like a quarter horse. When I looked at the quarter-pole and I saw everyone moving already and nobody really closing, that was a real help, and when he kicked away from Irad [Ortiz on Becker’s Galaxy] I felt pretty good.”

As to “Loki’s” time on the sidelines, Hushion explained, “His time off was never due to any physical issue, it was just time for a break.”

Bred by Andrew Cohen, whose Sunrise Stables stands Frost Giant at Keane Stud in Amenia, and foaled at Vinery New York in Hudson, Loki’s Vengeance is the first foal out of Subtle Sweetness (During), a multiple winner who was bred in New York by Thomas-Narlinger, LLC and Dennis Repp. Subtle Sweetness has five more foals on the ground and two more winners, all sired by Frost Giant. The mare was bred back to Frost Giant this year.

A graduate of the 2012 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale, Loki’s Vengeance was purchased by Blue Bison Stable for $35,000. As a sophomore, he won the NYSS Times Square division, the Affirmed Success Stakes the following year and, now, back-to-back runnings of the NYSS Thunder Rumble. His earnings from seven wins, five seconds and a pair of thirds are approaching the half million-dollar mark with $492,201.

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Artie Schiller’s Macagone shocks Artie Schiller field at 34-1

Saturday, November 19th, 2016
NYRA/Chelsea Durand

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Trinity Farm homebred Macagone, a 5-year-old gelded son of Artie Schiller, meted out some very satisfying poetic justice at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Dismissed at odds 34-1, he won his sire’s namesake race, the $150,000 Artie Schiller Stakes, at one mile on the turf after employing (for him) an unorthodox strategy.

On paper, the competing speeds in the Artie Schiller field did not bode well for Macagone’s success, especially the speed of Heart to Heart, who was drawn toward the outside. Macagone’s six prior victories had all come gate-to-wire and he had no history of rating successfully. As it happened, the Bill Mott-trainee did the unthinkable: sat a pocket trip rating under jockey Kendrick Carmouche, and closed with determination to get the win.

Exiting post 3 of 10, Macagone settled in at the rail and raced covered up in fourth. Favorite Heart to Heart set the pace, running the first quarter mile in 23.72 and the half in 47.95, pressed along by New York-bred King Kreesa.

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

NYRA/Adam Coglianese

After three-quarters of a mile, Macagone got some extra room to run. Heart to Heart spurted ahead at the head of the stretch and Macagone angled out for the drive and moved into second.

Charging to the wire, the gelding passed Heart to Heart with a furlong to go and dug in to ward off the fast-closing runner up Blacktype to secure the win by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:36.66. Night Prowler finished a length in third. [VIDEO]

Said Leana Willaford, assistant to trainer Bill Mott, “Kendrick [Carmouche] did a great job. He mentioned before about the speed on the outside [Heart to Heart], so he sat in a stalking position and it worked out for him. I thought the horse has been doing awfully well, I was a little surprised to see him at that price actually [34-1, $70 to win]. He has races on his back form that showed if he ran his best races today, he could be competitive. It was a very good race.”

Carmouche, commented, “I had a perfect trip. There were two speed horses that just happened to be on the lead and my horse had tactical speed, but I wanted to sit on my horse and relax. I fell into the right spot, got a real run and angled out at the top of the lane and he excelled from there and held on. I’d like to thank Leana and the whole crew for putting me on the horse.”

Carmouche inherited the mount from Chris DeCarlo after DeCarlo went to the hospital for x-rays following a spill two races earlier on the card. Carmouche said, “I’m sorry that Chris couldn’t ride the horse. That’s a tough deal, but he ran perfect.” The DRF’s David Grening tweeted later that DeCarlo’s x-rays were negative and he would be back in the saddle by Thanksgiving, adding, “DeCarlo’s agent Winston Heslop said DeCarlo ‘is talking. He’s happy. Only thing he’s sad about is Billy Mott’s horse won [the] stake’ without him.

A consistent runner throughout his career, Macagone owns seven wins (led by victories in the open Danger’s Hour earlier this year and the Artie Schiller on Saturday), three seconds and five thirds from 23 lifetime starts. He is closing in on the half-million-dollar mark in earnings with $462,167.

Foaled at Monhil Farm in Pine Plains, Macagone is out of Isabel Away, a winning daughter of Skip Away. Isabel Away is also the dam of successful turf runner Birchwood Road by Pure Prize, a three-time grass winner over $220,000.

The mare currently has a 2-year-old full brother to Birchwood Road named Red Knight, a yearling colt by Colonel John, and a weanling filly by Freud.

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Favorite Gold for the King obliges in Notebook Stakes

Saturday, November 19th, 2016
NYRA/Chelsea Durand

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Francis Paolangeli’s homebred Gold for the King by Posse, third in the slop in the 1-mile Sleepy Hollow Stakes at Belmont on October 22, returned to winning form Saturday at Aqueduct as the 8-5 favorite when he got back on a fast track, cut back to six furlongs and donned blinkers for the $100,000 Notebook for New York-bred 2-year-olds.

Lined up toward the outside of the 7-horse field in post six, Gold for the King was the fastest out of the blocks, but deferred to Sal the Turtle, a game 22-1 longshot, and 9-1 Tribecca, who hooked up with one another to his inside. Instead, he sat a stalking trip in the early stages, a half-length back in third and well off the rail.

Gold for the King moved up into second when Tribecca tailed off after an opening quarter in 22.46, and, catching up with Sal the Turtle, got on even terms with the leader at the top of the lane.

The pair raced stride-for-stride in upper stretch, but inside the final furlong, Gold for the King began to edge away from his grudging rival, eventually opening up in the final sixteenth to a 1 1/4-length victory. After a half-mile in 45.73, Gold for the King stopped the timer at 1:10.70.

Bourbon Empire closed from last to finish third, followed by Eddie’s Gift, Fled, Hamptons Holiday, Caught a Heater and Tribecca. Breeze Burner, La Cat Warrior, Macho Miah Mr. Buff and Three to Thirteen were scratched. [VIDEO]

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

Winning trainer Charlton Baker said, “[Gold for the King] broke good, Jose had to use him a little to get involved early as he sat back, but it was a great setup.”

Baker feels, however, that his charge is still a work in progress. “I thought he still kind of played around with [Sal the Turtle] in the stretch, but he’s still a young horse. He’s going to learn as he goes along. I think the blinkers made a difference. Not a big difference but just enough. We used a small cup, maybe we’ll make more of adjustment going forward.”

Victorious jockey Jose Ortiz thought the blinkers were just the right prescription. “Charlie [Baker] did a great job adding the blinkers to cut him back to six [furlongs] today. He [Gold for the King] really liked them. They weren’t too closed, just like cheaters.”

Ortiz also explained his decision to race off the fence. “Last time I rode him, he wasn’t comfortable behind horses so I didn’t want to end up behind horses today. He broke sharp and running, so I got him in the clear, which is what I wanted.”

Continued Ortiz, “He put me in a great position the whole way. The whole time, I was waiting, waiting and I knew when I turned for home, that I had to beat the horse on the inside of me so I tried to keep with him. My horse ran a really good race.”

Never out of the money in five starts, Gold for the King broke his maiden by 3 1/4 lengths at first asking at Saratoga. After finishing third to Syndergaard in his stakes debut in the Funny Cide later in the meet, he returned to the races five weeks later to capture Finger Lakes’ New York Breeders’ Futurity by 2 3/4 lengths. His bankroll stands at $280,568.

Foaled at Thomas Dushas’ Pegasus Farm in Dover Plains, Gold for the King is the second foal and first winner out of Gold for the Queen, a New York-bred multiple stakes winner bred by Pegasus Farms Inc., campaigned by Paolangeli and trained by Baker. Gold for the Queen currently has a weanling colt by Frost Giant named True Gold, and was bred this spring to Japan.

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Strong finish in NYSS Staten Island gives Highway Star first stakes score

Sunday, November 13th, 2016
NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

By Sarah Mace

Chester and Mary Broman’s 3-year-old homebred Highway Star (Girolamo) ran down Frosty Margarita in late stretch to collect her first black type victory Sunday in Aqueduct’s $125,000 Staten Island division of the New York Stallion Stakes series for New York-sired fillies and mares.

Winner of a restricted allowance race at Belmont on September 28 going a mile, Highway Star turned back to seven furlongs in the Staten Island, while looking for a fourth victory in her sixth career start as the second betting choice at odds of 7-2.

In the early stages of the race, Highway Star led the second flight of runners in fourth position, while longshots Rosie P and Perfect Freud zipped along on the front end through a quarter mile in 22.44 and half in 45.46. Frosty Margarita tracked the top two in third.

Advancing on the far turn, Highway Star gained two spots as the longshots faded, and set her sights on Frosty Margarita, who had fully gained command.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Charging homeward in the two path, with more than two lengths to make up at the top of the lane, Highway Star eroded Frosty Margarita’s lead, fully opened up her stride in the final sixteenth and charged to a decisive 3 1/4-length victory. After six furlongs 1:10.54, the final time for seven panels was 1:24.18.

Frosty Margarita (8-1) held the place, followed a half length back by odds on favorite Super Surprise. Longshot Familyofroses (24-1) finished fourth followed, across the line by Wonderment, Lady Kreesa, Perfect Freud, Rosie P and Storied Lady. Hey Kiddo and Uncle Southern were scratched. [VIDEO]

Trainer Rodrigo Ubillo explained his master plan for jockey Angel Arroyo, aboard the filly for the first time Sunday. “I told Angel just let her tell you where she wants to be. She’s pretty smart and it worked out perfectly. I told him just let her be and in the end, she’ll need to get going. They went kind of quick 22 [seconds], I mean she’s fast, but not that fast.”

Continued Ubillo, “I didn’t want her to run her at 7 furlongs but there wasn’t another race for her so we decided to run in this spot. We could have run her a mile and an eighth but that wasn’t the right distance for her. This worked out perfect”

Arroyo commented simply, “She’s a nice filly and I got a good trip; the best trip. I had a lot of horse left in the end. She ran great.”

Unraced at two, Highway Star won her first two starts at three, breaking her maiden on debut last May at Belmont and following up with a restricted allowance victory in July. Unplaced in her first stakes try, the Statue of Liberty division of the NYSS at Saratoga, she finished third in the Fleet Indian at the Spa.

Highway Star is one of three winners, and the first stakes winner, out of Stolen Star, a multiple stakes placed homebred for the Bromans and a half sister to multiple stakes winner and sire Friend or Foe.

Highway Star’s sire Girolamo, a Grade 1-winning son of A.P. Indy owned by Darley, began his stud career in 2012 at Becky Thomas and Dennis Narlinger’s Sequel Stallions New York before relocating to Kentucky.

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Rip Loves Maize gives trainer first stakes win in Shesastonecoldfox

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016
SV Photography

SV Photography

By Jim Dunleavy, courtesy DRF.com

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

IMG_1609

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

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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.