Tiz the Law makes it look easy in Travers

August 8th, 2020

Tiz the Law and Manny Franco roll to victory in Saturday’s Grade 1 Travers. NYRA/Susie Raisher Photo.

By Paul Halloran/The Saratoga Special

Ever the pragmatist, Barclay Tagg had 535,000 reasons why he was just fine with winning the Travers Stakes in front of a pandemic-restricted gathering of horsemen, owners and media.

“The purse is the same,” Tagg quipped, after Tiz the Law joined the $2 million earners’ club with an effortlessly dominant performance in Saratoga Race Course’s signature race, becoming only the third New York-bred ever to win it (Ruthless 1867, Thunder Rumble 1992). Tiz the Law moved into 10th place in career earnings among New York-breds, with $2,015,300 banked from six wins in seven starts.

Sackatoga Stable operating manager Jack Knowlton, while equally thrilled with the result, would have much preferred to have a typical Travers Day crowd share in the hometown hero’s glory.

“I wish there were 50,000 people here to see this performance live,” said Knowlton, whose modest outfit that focuses on New York-breds has now struck lightning twice. Seventeen years after Funny Cide – the leading New York-bred earner with $4,279,566 – won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, but was forced to scratch from the Travers, Sackatoga is back with a horse that can only be considered a monster. Or perhaps a magician.

“I was getting closer to Tiz the Law at the quarter pole,” said Javier Castellano, who rode Caracaro to a very respectable second-place finish, “and he disappeared.”

The final margin was 5 1/2 lengths in 2:00.95, the fastest winning time since Arrogate’s 1:59.36 in 2016. It almost certainly could have been faster if jockey Manny Franco didn’t gear him down in the final sixteenth, fully realizing that the delayed Kentucky Derby will be run in four weeks.

“I think there’s a lot more in the tank,” said Franco. “I tried to save some horse.”

Franco had Tiz the Law positioned just outside Bob Baffert’s next would-be super horse, Uncle Chuck, and 77-1 shot Shivaree as they ran down the backstretch after a quarter mile in :23:65. As they entered the far turn after a half in :48.36, Luis Saez was already asking Uncle Chuck, while the most movement coming from Franco was a glance behind him as he pulled ahead.

“Going from the half-mile pole to the three-eighths pole, I was trying to wait, because I knew I had him,” Franco said of Uncle Chuck, the 5-2 second choice who faded to sixth. “I was worried about the horses behind me and I was trying to save some horse before I made my run.”

As it turned out, Franco’s biggest worry was needing to hustle back to the jockey’s room after the winner’s circle presentation in time to ride Blitchton Lady, another New York-bred whom he rode to victory in the finale.

“It gave me chills,” said Franco, who picked up his first Triple Crown race win when he piloted Tiz the Law to a Belmont Stakes victory June 20. “When I pushed the button, he took off.”

Not bad for a $110,000 purchase at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. By Constitution out of the Tiznow mare Tizfiz, Tiz the Law was bred by Twin Creeks Farm and sold by Sequel New York. It was another bargain for Knowlton and Sackatoga, who paid only $75,000 for Funny Cide.

“We’re getting redemption 17 years later,” Knowlton said of Funny Cide missing the Travers. “Tiz won the Belmont and now he won the Travers. It’s quite an accomplishment for our little stable of New York-breds.”

Knowlton has 35 partners in the Tiz the Law ownership group, including Bill Evans of Philadelphia, who was introduced to Knowlton by a mutual friend 11 years ago and has bought into 17 Sackatoga horses.

“This one turned out to be the charm,” Evans said.

Maybe because of the pandemic, and certainly due to fans not being able to attend the races, Knowlton has not yet sensed the widespread fervor for Tiz the Law that he saw with Funny Cide. Saturday’s win figures to change that.

“We had Funny Cide Mania, in this town and everywhere,” he said. “There was a Funny Cide store and everything. It’s taken a little time for Tiz to get to that point. I really believe after this race he is going to be adopted by not only Saratoga, but even more so New York and hopefully the country.”

While Tagg fittingly credited his team that includes assistant/partner Robin Smullen, exercise rider Heather Smullen and groom Juan Barajas, he had a one-word explanation when asked what makes Tiz the Law so good.

“God,” said Tagg, who won’t get an argument from anyone who watched the 2020 Travers.

Tiz the Law set for next challenge

August 7th, 2020

Tiz the Law poised to become third New York-bred winner of Saratoga’s Travers Stakes. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law and Sean Clancy

Spectators won’t see fan favorite Tiz the Law make his run at history in Saturday’s 151st running of the Travers but that won’t stop the parties or the diminish the pressure.

“He’s a good horse, doing well and in very capable hands,” a horseman without an iron in the fire remarked Friday morning while a light rain fell during training hours at Saratoga Race Course. “But boy, he sure will have a lot of weight on his shoulders.”


Tiz the Law not only carries the hopes of his connections – owners Sackatoga Stable, trainer Barclay Tagg, jockey Manny Franco and his growing legion of fans in and around Saratoga and beyond in the $1 million Travers. He also carries the dreams of his breeder, Randy Gullatt and the team at Twin Creeks Farm who produced the colt mating the Tiznow mare Tizfiz to popular young sire Constitution; and New York state’s breeding industry at large.

Tiz the Law, already the winner of the Grade 1 Champagne at 2 and Grade 1 Belmont Stakes and Florida Derby at 3, will try to become the first New York-bred to win the Travers since Thunder Rumble in 1992 and just the third in the 151-year history of the Saratoga’s signature race.

“It’s a little daunting having an even-money favorite in the Travers but I’d rather be there than 15-1, he’s just got to go out there and do it,” said Jack Knowlton, who heads up the Sackatoga group that bought Tiz the Law for $110,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale in 2018. “All the signs are that he can and he will. He’s not been pushed this year, Manny hasn’t had to dig down and really ask for something that he hasn’t given him readily.

“I’d love to get through this race the same way, but I do think if Manny needs to get more out of him, I think it’s there, based on the way I see him train and the way I see him finish his races. Barclay’s got all the confidence, he was wanting the Belmont to be a mile and a half so a mile and a quarter I’m not too concerned about.”

Tiz the Law already made history winning the Belmont, joining Ruthless as New York-bred winners of the American classic. He’ll try to join Ruthless again winning the Travers; she did in 1867.

Tagg, who completed a personal Triple Crown winning the Belmont after training New York-bred and Eclipse Award champion Funny Cide to victories in the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, relishes the next opportunity.

“He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. We’ve been very fortunate,” Tagg said Wednesday. “I don’t think any distance makes a difference for this horse. From what I’ve seen, I just don’t have any feeling that he can’t handle it. It would be nice to win it if we could.”

Tiz the Law meets a few old foes but mostly new shooters in the Travers. He won the Belmont by 3 3/4 lengths over Dr Post with Max Player another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Max Player returns for another run at Tiz the Law for trainer Linda Rice and is the 6-1 co-third choice on the line with Grade 3 Peter Pan winner Country Grammer.

Shivaree, a homebred for Fred Brei and trainer Ralph Nicks at 30-1 on the line came within 4 1/4 lengths of Tiz the Law in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park March 26. He’s run twice since, finishing third in an optional claimer at Gulfstream and 11th in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland.

The others in the field of eight for the Runhappy Travers are fresh faces, at least to Tiz the Law and his connections.

Bob Baffert ships the 2-for-2 Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby winner Uncle Chuck from his summertime Del Mar base seeking his fourth win in the Travers. The son of Uncle Mo looks to join Point Given, Arrogate and West Coast as Baffert’s Travers winners, but the Hall of Fame trainer respects Tiz the Law and his team.

“I’ve been very impressed with him,” Baffert said. “They’ve managed them really well. They picked the right spots with him, they had one hiccup when they went to Churchill Downs and … he was in a tough spot the whole way around there. Since then they’ve kept them out of trouble and that’s the thing, you know, these riders … keep these good horses out of trouble.

“He’s progressed perfectly. And he’s definitely the best 3-year-old in the country right now. I’ll get an idea if I can run with him or not. It’s going to be going to be exciting. I’m hoping we’re as good as he is and that’s why we’re going over there.”

Country Grammer won the Peter Pan by a neck over Caracaro, who also returns in the Travers. Trained by Chad Brown for Paul Pompa Jr., Country Grammer is 2-for-5 and will be ridden by Saratoga’s leading rider Irad Ortiz Jr.

The others in the field are double-digit longshots – late July maiden winner First Line at 30-1, Shivaree, Caracaro at 10-1 and Ohio Derby runner-up and recent private purchase South Bend at 15-1.

The Travers goes as the 11th of 12 races Saturday at Saratoga with a post time of 6:15 p.m. The race will air on the FOX broadcast network as part of a 1 ½-hour broadcast from 5-6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Jolting Joe clips competition in Cab Calloway

August 6th, 2020

Jolting Joe, son of New York-based sire Mission Impazible, scores maiden victory in Cab Calloway division of New York Stallion Series. NYRA Photo.

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog

Second in his first four starts, Jolting Joe timed his maiden-breaking victory to perfection Thursday in the Cab Calloway division of the New York Stallion Series Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

Already stakes-placed in his second start, the 3-year-old colt by the Sequel New York-based Mission Impazzible broke strong in the 1 1/16-mile turf race and slotted into third under Tyler Gaffalione as the favorite. Bellamy Road’s Stuy Town Baby set the pace when covering the first quarter in :25.19 before feeling some pressure from Dream Bigger when stopping the clock in :49:24 for the half.

Stuy Town Baby yielded the lead around the far turn as Jolting Joy swung ride to try and chase down Dream Bigger. It turned into a three-way battle with Dream Bigger, Jolting Joe, and Turbo Drive dueling down the stretch until the final sixteenth. Finding another gear, Jolting Joe broke away from his rivals and started to pull away in the final stage to cross the line 1 3/4 lengths in front with a final time of 1:43.07.

The victory led to a 1-2 finish for Mike Maker with the trainer’s Turbo Drive finishing second and three-quarters of a length in front of Zipalong.

“With a short run into the first turn, I was trying to be a bit more forwardly placed but we didn’t get away the cleanest,” Gaffalione said. “I looked to my inside and there were two going at it, so I figured I would just sit behind them and let them do the dirty work. He was traveling nicely throughout, and when I asked him for run at the top of the lane he gave me an extra punch. I still think there’s more in the tank. We haven’t seen the best of him yet. Hopefully, he just keeps improving.”

A Kentucky-bred half-brother to New York-bred champion and fellow Mike Maker trainee Somelikeithotbrown, Jolting Joe is the second stakes winner of the Saratoga meet for Marilyn Monroan alongside his half-brother who took the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch July 26.

Jolting Joe, a 3-year-old Mission Impazible son bred by Hot Pink Stables, races for his breeder and Skychai Racing. Skychai co-owns Somelikeithotbrown and co-owned their dam with Hot Pink Stable and Sand Dollar Stable during her racing career.

A $255,000 weanling, Marilyn Monroan’s family is headlined by U.S. champions Stevie Wonderboy and Big Blue Kitten. The mare has an unnamed 2-year-old Temple City colt, a yearling Palace Malice colt and had a Hard Spun filly in April. She was bred to Mendelssohn in 2020.


Bluewater’s Levy relishes strong run with NY-breds

August 6th, 2020

Bowling Green winner Cross Border (right) was part of magical weekend for Bluewater’s Meg Levy. Joe Labozzetta/NYRA Photo.

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog

What do a weanling, a lay-up and a $500 mare have to with a top weekend at the races? For Meg Levy they led to an unforgettable 72-hour stretch at Saratoga last weekend with New York-breds.

The biggest personal win came Sunday when Levy-bred Simply Ravishing won on debut for trainer Ken McPeek and owners Harold Lerner, Magdalena Racing and Nehoc Stables. Bred on a stallion right her husband owns in Laoban, the New York-bred filly was also sold by Bluewater Sales for $50,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale.

The victory was a fitting next chapter in the story of Simply Ravishing’s dam Four Wishes, who had been abandoned at a boarding facility and purchased for just $500 by Levy on her birthday in 2017.

“It was on my birthday in February and we were driving over to the Fasig-Tipton February sale,” Levy said. “Someone called me and said ‘there’s a mare by More Than Ready that is in a bad place, she’s been abandoned and the boarding farm is just trying to sell her for whatever they can get.’ I asked what her name was and they said ‘Four Wishes’ and I thought ‘Oh my gosh, how can I resist stopping by to see a mare named Four Wishes on my birthday?’ I arrived and she was pretty thin and something just told me that she deserved a better place so I gave the guy $500 and we picked her up.”

Feeling that being in the New York-bred program would help both the mare and her foal, Four Wishes was shipped up to New York to foal out a Revolutionary colt and be bred to Laoban.

“I have felt that the weanlings and the yearlings in the last few years being New York-bred has made them 20 percent more valuable so that was the decision,” she said. “She came out with a great looking baby that we got lucky with. (Simply Ravishing) was supposed to go to the New York-bred sale in Saratoga and when the staff went to load her on the van, she kicked the wall so hard she cracked her foot so she couldn’t ship and had to go to the October sale.

“It was great that Kenny was around to buy her because where they go is obviously very important. We were pleasantly surprised. Kenny had been sending us some videos over the last couple of the days before the race and I thought to myself ‘he isn’t sending videos because he doesn’t like her.’ ”

Simply Ravishing’s victory was the final touch on a strong weekend of racing in Saratoga for Levy connected horses.

The winning started Friday when New York-bred Jewel of Arabia won her second straight start impressively. Sold by Levy’s Bluewater Sales for $140,000 as a weanling on behalf of breeder SF Bloodstock at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, Levy still remembers the filly handling everything beautifully.

“We sold her as a foal and she was awesome,” Levy said. “SF Bloodstock bred her and the market was strong, it was Daredevil’s first year. She was so attractive and strong, we sold her for $180,000. She was such a strong filly, great, very intelligent. She was pretty special, it was fun to see her win.”

Only 24 hours later, another horse connected to Levy visited the winner’s circle when New York-bred Cross Border won the Grade 2 Bowling Green for his second victory in 10 days. Owned by Bluewater client Three Diamonds Farm, Cross Border spent time laying up at the Levys’ Kentucky farm and eased some of the pain of having to watch the races from home.

“It’s at those moments that you feel so amazingly grateful,” she said. “We were sitting here watching the races here in Kentucky on the television and we had our friends win with Cross Border and he was a lay-up here as well. It’s just fun to be rooting for horses that you’ve been around. Whoever they’re owned or bred by, when you can claim to have touched a hair on that body it’s really, really exciting and that’s kind of what we do it for.”

Based in Lexington, Ky. Levy admits she hasn’t had many New York-bred foals but that hasn’t kept her from admiring the program from afar. Simply Ravishing also provided her an exciting first as the first she’s bred by a New York stallion. Levy was even more impressed by the program once she saw the additional awards given to New York-sired horses.

“Every time I have bred a New York-bred, we’ve had some great luck,” she said. “I’ve never had a New York-sired New York-bred before and when I read what the breeders’ reward is, I was like ‘holy moly.’

“You actually get 30 percent of what they win! The first time I had a New York-bred I couldn’t believe I got a check in the mail immediately. She was a mare called Pronto Pronto that had several babies and I just couldn’t believe it. You go to the mailbox and there’s a check for like $5,000. It’s unbelievable, truly. We’ve had great luck in New York and we love New York and our people there.”

Laoban sires first New York-bred winner

August 3rd, 2020

Simply Ravishing rolls in debut to become first NY-bred winner for Laoban. NYRA Photo.

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog

Simply Ravishing followed her sire’s lead Sunday, breaking her maiden at Saratoga Race Course to become Laoban’s first New York-bred winner.

While Simply Ravishing’s win came in an actual maiden race instead of the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes like her sire, she showed a similar running style when racing second most of the way in the 1 1/16-mile turf race. Simply Ravishing proved a little green in the lane but with Luis Saez keeping her focused took over the lead at the top of the stretch. Saez stayed busy on the filly and she scored by a length over favorite Mrs Frankel in 1:44.76.

Simply Ravishing is the second winner for Laoban from eight runners, with half those runners placed in the top three in at least one of their starts. The filly is a third generation Saratoga winner, following the lead of her sire with grandsire Uncle Mo also winning on debut at this track in 2010.

Saratoga success runs on both sides of her family with damsire More Than Ready winning both his starts at Saratoga – including the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes.

Standing at Sequel New York, Laoban finished in the top three in four of his nine starts with a pair of placings on the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby trail when third in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita Park and second in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

Laoban retired later that year with $526,250 in earnings and bred 122 mares in 2017 with 80 live foals according to The Jockey Club’s Live Foal Report. The stallion bred 91 mares in 2018 and 72 last year.

Bred in New York by Meg Levy, Simply Ravishing is the second foal for Four Wishes, who was purchased as a yearling for $28,000. Nearly doubling her dam’s purchase price, Simply Ravishing sold for $50,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale.

Cross Border adds Grade 2 on quick turnaround

August 2nd, 2020

Cross Border (right) earns Bowling Green victory after the DQ of Sadler’s Joy Saturday at Saratoga. Joe Labozzetta/NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law/The Saratoga Special

The connections of Cross Border weren’t crazy about the idea of running the son of English Channel back on short rest in Saturday’s Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

He’d just won, like just won, the inaugural Lubash Stakes 10 days before the 11-furlong Bowling Green and Kirk Wycoff didn’t mince words in the race preview that ran in Saturday’s edition of The Saratoga Special.

“We’re not big fans of running back on short rest but he ran very well in the Lubash and it wasn’t a particularly tough race,” Wycoff said.

Wycoff said much the same Saturday after Cross Border survived a tough race this time and emerged victorious in the Bowling Green after crossing the finish behind Sadler’s Joy before being elevated to the win via disqualification.

“This is just a gutsy New York bred and its good for the game that they can breed a New York-bred that can win a Grade 2 at Saratoga,” said Wycoff, the head of his family’s Three Diamonds Farm. “We love the Bowling Green. We were second in it three years ago with Bigger Picture. It was a calculated risk to come back in 10 days and we weren’t all in agreement, but Mike Maker made the decision and obviously it was the right one.”

The stewards made the decision to disqualify Sadler’s Joy from first to fourth after he and Javier Castellano caused interference in the stretch that affected Cross Border and fourth-placed finisher Channel Maker. After a long review, which also included a trainer and jockey objection from Mike Maker and Jose Ortiz, respectively, Cross Border’s number went up and he improved his Saratoga record to 5-for-5.

The victory also kept Three Diamonds atop the owner standing at Saratoga, providing a fifth win from 11 starts. They lead defending champ Klaravich Stable by one win and have two on Waterford Stable and Noda Brothers LLC heading into Sunday’s card.

“Look, we just love winning at Saratoga,” Wycoff said. “The first year back up here with any meaningful horses, we won seven and thought it was easy. Two years ago, we won zero. We’re thankful for every one. It’s impossible, really, for a small owner to compete for the owners’ title but we’ll make our mark.”

In its 13th consecutive season at Saratoga, the family-run stable has marked its way to the top.

The winners encompass Three Diamonds’ diversified approach to the sport.

Turbo Drive, an $80,000 2-year-purchase in 2019, paid $36.60 in a New York-bred allowance on the grass. Favorite Turn Of Events, a $50,000 horses-in-training sale recruit in 2019, won a New York-bred maiden claimer on the grass. Cross Border, a $100,000 horses-in-training purchase, dominated New York-breds in the Lubash and added the Bowling Green. Escape Fund, a $105,000 purchase at a 2-year-old sale in 2019, returned $71 in her debut in open company on the dirt.

Cross Border proved to be a project for Three Diamonds and Wycoff after they bought him at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July horses of racing age sale. He’d been off for more than a year before returning in late June 2019.

Cross Border finished second in his comeback going 6 furlongs on the grass at Belmont then shipped to Saratoga with Maker’s string and won three at the 2019 meet – a starter allowance at 1 1/16 miles July 19, state-bred allowance at 9 furlongs Aug. 11 and a state-bred optional at 9 furlongs again Aug. 29.

His state-bred conditions exhausted, Cross Border ventured mostly into graded stakes from there, finishing a close fifth in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont, sixth in the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale in mid-December at Gulfstream and second in the Grade 3 W. L. McKnight at Gulfstream in late January in three of his next four before another break.

“It took a year. He was pretty tired coming out of Woodbine,” said Wycoff. “Like we do with all our older horses – we like to run them at 5, 6, 7 – he got a year off, he got the best treatment he could get at Bluewater in Kentucky and said when he was ready to run he was obviously ready because he won three at Saratoga last year.”

Wycoff said Cross Border could return for a third start again at Saratoga, possibly in back against New York-breds in the West Point Handicap on the Saratoga Showcase card late in the meet.

Foaled at Berkshire Stud in Pine Plains, Cross Border is out of the unraced Empire Maker mare Empress Josephine. Co-bred by Berkshire Stud, Empress Josephine produced two other foals – the 7-year-old winning Flatter mare Votre Coeur and the unraced 5-year-old Blame mare Blame Me Forever.


Funny Guy keeps Big Brown hot in John Morrissey

July 31st, 2020

Funny Guy shortens up from Commentator victory with John Morrissey score. NYRA Photo.

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog/The Saratoga Special

Consistent New York-bred stakes winner Funny Guy continued Big Brown’s successful week at Saratoga Race Course Thursday when providing him a John Morrissey Handicap victory.

Coming four days after Somelikeithotbrown won the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap for the Irish Hills Century-Duchess Views Stallions-based sire, Funny Guy went off as the second choice in the 7-furlong Morrissey. An early leader out of the gate, Funny Guy yielded by a length to odds-on favorite Amundson shortly after they left the chute and settled in second. Racing a few paths off the rail, Funny Guy was attended by T Loves A Fight as Amundson continued his pace-setting duties by nearly a length until midway through the far turn.

With the half run in :46.29, Funny Guy moved up to challenge the frontrunner for the lead. Amundson put up a good fight but yielded just outside the final furlong as Funny Guy made it clear his victory would be no joke.

The 4-year-old colt was left alone by Joel Rosario as he pulled away from the field and won by a wrapped up 2 lengths over T Loves a Fight with My Boy Tate in third.

Trained by John Terranova II for Gatsas Stables, R.A. Hill Stable and Swick Stable, Funny Guy is the second stakes winner in two days for Rosario. It was also the second straight stakes victory for Funny Guy, who beat Grade 1 Whitney runner Mr. Buff last time out in the Commentator.

“It surprised me a little bit that he jumped out to the lead, but he’s a good colt,” said Terranova. “He’s versatile. He’s won at different distances and won on both surfaces and seems to handle any kind of track. Shortening up to seven-eighths was fine. He’s fresh still. He’s been really sharp since the Commentator.

“That was a big race off a long layoff, and he ran like he’s been training. He’s really stepped up as a 4-year-old, gotten a lot stronger, and he’s just got gears. He can turn it on, turn it off, whenever you need him and he’ll wait. He’ll do anything. He’s real kind for a jock to ride and he’s got a lot of heart.”

Funny Guy’s connections wavered between going to the John Morrissey and Saturday’s Whitney, and Terranova said open company is on the radar.

“I know this colt can win open company,” he said. “He’s got a race with his name on it somewhere. I just didn’t want to jump into it too soon. He’s a fresh horse this year, we’ve got the fall and hopefully we continue racing and everything goes well and there will be some spots with him. Distance-wise, he’ll turn it on or turn it off. He’ll do whatever. There’s a big one down the road for him, hopefully.”

Out of five-time stakes winner Heavenly Humor, Funny Guy is one of two stakes winners and eight winners from eight to race out of his dam. Also the dam of last season’s Bertram F. Bongard Stakes second Three Jokers, Heavenly Humor had a New York-bred Overanalyze filly last year and was bred to Hard Spun this season.

Heavenly Humor is herself out of stakes-placed Call From Heaven, who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Heavenly Ade and granddam of Grade 3 winner Devil’s Honor with Heavenly Humor’s fourth dam top broodmare and Group 1 Epsom Oaks runner-up Monsoon.

Bred by Hibiscus Stable, Funny Guy was in utero when his breeder bought Heavenly Humor for $25,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga fall mixed sale. Funny Guy was sold for $10,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale then pinhooked for $45,000 at the OBS April 2-year-olds in training sale when purchased by Gatsas Thoroughbreds.

Classic Lady extends Clement hot streak at Saratoga

July 30th, 2020

Classic Lady (right) holds off War Canoe in Wednesday’s Dayatthespa Stakes at Saratoga. NYRA Photo/Susie Raisher

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog

Making a case this season for Saratoga Race Course to be renamed Clement Race Course, Christophe Clement won his third stakes race of the meet – and second in a New York-bred stakes – with Classic Lady in the Dayatthespa Stakes Wednesday.

The 5-year-old Classic Lady has taken a major leap in form this year when stepping up to stakes class in her only two 2020 starts.

Entered in the Mount Vernon Stakes for her seasonal debut, she lost by a nose to multiple stakes winner and New York-bred champion Fifty Five at Belmont Park over a mile July 2. An extension to 1 1/16 miles on Wednesday meant she had a few noses to spare when securing her first stakes success by a neck in the Dayatthespa.

Classic Lady made it clear she was going to be a threat from the start when racing in second with Joel Rosario aboard. It was an easily run race for the field with the first half run in :51.69 as the leading Vortex Road opened up 2 ½ lengths on the field with Classic Lady more than five ahead ahead of the third position.

Getting a breather through most of the early stages prepared Classic Lady for the duel she was about to enter racing into the stretch.

First focused on running down Vortex Road, Classic Lady was able to reach the longtime leader by the eighth pole but War Canoe was gaining. Those two entered a knockout battle with Classic Lady seeing her margin shrink to only about a head. The mare made one last burst to get her neck fully in front near the line when stopping the clock in 1:44.36.

“It was a perfect trip,” said Rosario. “I was just following the horse on the lead and I just wanted to take my time. She looked like she was there for me nicely, and I just waited for the right time to start going forward. She was very comfortable and happy where she was, and I was just following the horse on the lead waiting for the time when she was ready to go on.”

Classic Lady and War Canoe gave Michael Dubb and Bethlehem Stables something to celebrate with the pair owning both mares, along with Madaket Stables in War Canoe. The Chad Brown-trained War Canoe also split stablemates Classic Lady and Wegetsdamunnys to give Clement another big stakes result.

Dubb and trainer Jorge Abreu claimed Classic Lady for $50,000 at Gulfstream Park in January 2019 and she won twice in New York-bred allowance company before moving to Clement’s barn for 2020. Likewise, War Canoe was claimed by Dubb and trainer Jason Servis out of a win in November 2019. Moved to Brown’s barn, she opened her 2020 campaign with a third in the Mount Vernon.

“I like turf horses. I think often they peak by the time they’re five or even six,” Dubb explained. “I thought she had a future and had the right running style. We lost to Fifty Five by a nose last time, so Christophe really did a good job with her. War Canoe is an interesting mare. She’s seven years old. The owners last year put her [up for a claim] in November and I’m a patient guy, so I knew that if I paid the money and took my time, she would be able to compete at Saratoga in the summertime. It was a bit of advanced planning and she ran lights out.”

Crossing the $250,000 earnings mark with the victory, Classic Lady is the highest earning foal out of three to race from the stakes-placed Elle Tish Slew. Bred by Seth Gregory and Robert Barney, the Dayatthespa winner is far from her dam’s only successful racehorse, as Elle Tish Slew has also produced last year’s New York-bred Arctic Queen Stakes runner-up Forever Changed and 10-time winning New York-bred Calzini Rossi. Gregory purchased Elle Tish Slew at Keeneland November in 2010, and sold Classic Lady for $22,500 at the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred yearling sale in 2016.

Mr. Buff aims high in Grade 1 Whitney

July 29th, 2020

Mr. Buff, champion New York-bred older male and winner of the Empire Classic in 2019, bids for upset win in Saturday’s Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga. NYRA Photo.

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog/The Saratoga Special

Mr. Buff will attempt to make history as only the fourth New York-bred to win Grade 1 Whitney when he takes on four opponents Saturday at Saratoga Race Course as the longest shot in the field if the morning line holds true.

An impressive winner in three straight New York-bred races over the winter, 12-1 shot Mr. Buff will be trying to prove his doubters wrong nearly a month after he finished fifth in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park.

Trainer John Kimmel admits that Mr. Buff might give people pause, but he’s confident that the 6-year-old gelding will take to Saratoga the way he handled Aqueduct’s surface over the winter. That could be a scary thought to rivals, with Mr. Buff winning three starts by a combined 32 1/2 lengths, including a 20-length romp in February’s Haynesfield Stakes.

“We’ve got a racetrack here now with the crushed stone base that’s very similar to the Aqueduct track, where he’s been phenomenal,” Kimmel said. “The other thing is, there are no more New York-bred races this year so basically this horse was going to be sitting on the fence for the whole summer unless we ran in this race. He’s out of conditions, obviously. The horse is a very good horse and someday, maybe just like Bar of Gold, they show up on the right day at the right time and knock the hell out of the odds.”

Kimmel and Mr. Buff’s owners and breeders Chester and Mary Broman aren’t strangers to upsetting big race with the trio winning the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint with Bar of Gold at odds of nearly 67-1.

Kimmel said it makes sense to give the Whitney a try since the gelding had an excuse for his Suburban defeat and looks to stack up well against the competition.

“This horse in his last race actually had a little bone bruise in his foot,” Kimmel said. “We went into it thinking he was OK, but I definitely think it bothered him. The blacksmith after that race cut out a little area and he had a little area of blood and some damage and since we have re-shod him, he has been a very happy horse here. People might look at his last race and just kind of think that he’s a little bit off form. But this horse has run commensurate numbers with all the horses in this race when he’s been running against New York-bred company.”

If Mr. Buff can spring the upset Saturday, he’ll be the second New York-bred in three years to visit the Whitney winner’s circle after Diversify in 2018. The other New York-bred Whitney winners were Commentator in 2005 and 2008 and legendary Finger Lakes shipper Fio Rito in 1981.

A third generation homebred on the male line for Chester and Mary Broman, Mr. Buff is by the Broman’s multiple stakes winning homebred Friend or Foe, who is by the Broman’s homebred and Florida winner winner Friends Lake.

Mr. Buff’s dam Speightful Affair is a graded stakes-placed Ontario-bred by Speightstown, who was purchased by the Bromans for $80,000 at the Fasig-Tipton 2013 winter mixed sale.

In 2018 Speightful Affair produced a full sister to Mr. Buff named Miss Buff. With no surviving foal in 2019, she produced a colt by Accelerate April 25 at the Broman’s Chestertown Farm in Chestertown.

Added success for Fresco’s breeder Waterville Lake Stable

July 28th, 2020

Fresco, winner of last week’s Statue of Liberty division of the New York Stallion Series, is latest success for Waterville Lake Stable. Susie Raisher/NYRA

By Joe Clancy

When Dick Leahy and partner John Meriwether jumped into Thoroughbred racing, their Waterville Lake Stable bought 20 yearlings – and soon decided that was not the right business model.

“We had 16 colts and four fillies and after a couple years we asked ourselves, ‘What are we doing?’ If you have a well-bred colt that can’t run very fast, his value is close to zero,” Leahy said. “A filly that is well-bred that can run a little, you have some equity. You don’t have the home run, the stallion prospect, but you stay around for a longer period.”

So they thought a bit more long term, and changed strategies – a plan that lined up with Leahy’s profession in the investment world. He co-founded Episteme Capital, a global investment manager.

“What I do (for work) is quantitative and fundamental, both,” he said Thursday. “I think of racing and breeding as having some similarities where you’re digging into the data and not just making intuitive decisions but trying to look at as many pieces of data as you can.”

The result has meant racing and breeding success for Waterville Lake (Leahy and partners) and Oak Bluff Stable (Leahy, solo). They’ve bred or owned such New York-bred luminaries as Sea Foam, Therapist, Audible, Hessonite, Strike It Rich, Miss Valentine, Mariensky, Akilina and a $775,000 yearling of 2019 named Brattle House among others.

Add last week’s Statue of Liberty winner Fresco to the portfolio.

Owned by Oak Bluff, and trained by Christophe Clement, the 3-year-old filly lived up to her 1-2 odds with a score in the $100,000 Statue of Liberty Stakes – a division of the New York Stallion Series. The daughter of Freud came into the race a maiden, but that did little to discourage anyone from touting her quality off three prior starts – a third and a fourth in open company at Gulfstream Park and a second against New York-breds at Belmont Park in June.

“They were pretty salty races she was in, I was pleased every time she ran,” said Leahy. “Her last race (a nose defeat) I think she did hang, at least to me it seemed like she did. I even talked about it with Christophe. In training, I always wonder if we’re teaching some horses to stay with the other horse too much. Some horses want to put their heads in front. Others might not. They might think they’re being trained to stay with the other horse all the time. I’m not a trainer, so I don’t know . . . she ran away from them this time so maybe some just take a little longer to learn about it.”

There was no hanging Thursday. Fresco sat fifth of six early for Irad Ortiz Jr., angled outside off the turn and ran past Dixie Cannon to win by 1 ¾ lengths in 1:45.43 for 1 1/16 miles on the inner course. Nick Scissors was third.

A full-sister to $534,345 earner Therapist, Fresco is out of Lady Renaissance. The daughter of Smart Strike raced for Waterville Lake and Clement in 2006 and 2007 before being bred and offered for sale in 2009. Leahy paid $15,000 for her. Her first three foals to race (by Bernstein, War Front and Gio Ponti) won two races combined. The next, Therapist, picked up the slack with eight wins (seven stakes) including the open-company First Defence at Belmont June 7.

“She never won a stakes and only ran in one, but she had stakes caliber numbers and her career was cut a little short so we didn’t get there,” Leahy said of Lady Renaissance. “I just thought she looked pretty interesting and bought her. The program in New York is very attractive, Freud was there, he’s a full-brother to Giant’s Causeway and I thought that was an interesting match. We got Therapist.”

And now Fresco. The dark bay was part of a fast start to the meet for Clement, who won with nine of his first 21 starters to take a narrow lead in the standings. To Leahy, the success is much-deserved, as Clement has long been a key part of the breeder’s success. And the Clement barn was rocked by the death of 10 horses in a van accident on the New Jersey Turnpike June 7. The tractor trailer was on its way to New York from Florida when it struck a concrete divider and caught fire.

Waterville Lake runner Apogee died in the fire, and Leahy won’t forget the phone call from Clement afterward.

“When he called me he was in tears, and it wasn’t because he was concerned about my reaction,” the owner said. “It’s one thing to be the owner/breeder but you don’t live with them day in and day out. They’re like children to them. On that day, Therapist won the open stakes which was pretty exciting for me, yet it just didn’t have the same excitement that it otherwise would have had.

“Having success has hopefully been a little bit of a distraction from the devastation. I’m happy for him and everyone in the barn.”