Betsy Blue kicks off Showcase Day with Bouwerie win

Monday, May 31st, 2021

Betsy Blue runs record to 4-for-5 in Bouwerie Stakes to open Big Apple Showcase Day at Belmont Park. NYRA Photo.

By Paul Halloran

As a former country music promoter, Joe Gehl is familiar with the concept of a comeback tour. Now, he has experienced it as a racehorse owner.

Gehl, who had been out of the racing game for 20 years, made a successful return Monday when Betsy Blue was an easy winner in the $125,000 Bouwerie Stakes for 3-year-old New York-bred fillies on Big Apple Showcase Day at Belmont Park.

“My partners think I’m pretty smart right now,” said Gehl, managing partner for Cloud Nine Stable, which recently bought the horse from trainer Linda Rice.

Bred by Blue Devil Racing and foaled at Sugar Maple Farm in Poughquag, the daughter of Tonalist out of the Yonaguska mare Honest to Betsy improved her record to 4-for-5 with with $157,100 in earnings in the Bouwerie. The win in the Bouwerie – the original spelling for the lower Manhattan neighborhood – was her fourth straight and second for Rice, who claimed her for $50,000 at Aqueduct March 25.

Ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., Betsy Blue sat fourth off a pace set by longshot Beach Banker and went by favorite Secret Love in the stretch, drawing away to win by 5 1/4 lengths.

“I had plenty of horse,” Ortiz said. “I hit her a couple of times and she took off. I knew I had plenty left in the tank.”

Although the filly had won her first start for Rice, the trainer and jockey thought the mile distance was pushing it, so they welcomed the cutback to 7 furlongs.

“Irad and I agreed that she’d be better from off the pace than pressing it,” said Rice, who sold the horse to Cloud Nine after that starter allowance win. “It worked out perfectly.”

Gehl and his partners – Jack Tavone, Bruce Weiner and Jerson Suarez – would agree.

“We’ve owned her for 30 days,” said Gehl, who owned horses from the early 1980s until about 2001. “With this purse ($68,750), we’ve got enough to pay the monthly bills and look for some more horses.”

Cloud Nine has one other horse, Brazillionaire, a colt they also bought from Rice, who had claimed him out of a maiden win.

Rice claimed Betsy Blue for $50,000 in her half-length win March 25 at Aqueduct. She ran that day for James Politano and trainer George Weaver, who claimed her for $25,000 in her win for a $25,000 tag in state-bred maiden claiming company for owner and breeder Marc Holliday’s Blue Devil Racing Stable and trainer Carlos Martin.

Betsy Blue is the fourth foal out of Honest to Betsy, a stakes-placed daughter of Yonaguska campaigned by Holliday. She won three of 26 and earned $182,530. Her first foal, the City Zip mare Sand City, won two of 25 starts with 10 placings and earned $87,895. Honest to Betsy is also the dam of a yearling filly by Unified and was bred to Tonalist in 2020.

Once he made the decision to get back into horse ownership and had formed the partnership, Gehl reached out to Rice, whose father, Clyde, was a friend during his first foray in the business. Two starts in, they have a stakes winner.

“It’s something I love doing. Horses have been a big thrill for me all my life,” said Gehl, who grew up in southern Indiana and whose father owned work horses. “I started going to the (Kentucky) Derby when I was in college.”

Gehl, a Florida resident who was the promoter for country music stars such Reba McEntire (with whom he owned horses), Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels and Ronnie Milsap, received a life-saving liver transplant in 2013. He vowed that if he survived, he would get back into horse racing. Saturday conversations at Gulfstream Park led to the formation of Cloud Nine.

“Being in racing is like having a sold-out show,” he said. “It puts you on cloud nine.”

That’s certainly how they felt Monday as they hit the top of the charts.

Leave a Reply