Homebred Success: Butler’s My Mane Squeeze takes Maid of the Mist; Schwartz’s El Grande O wins Sleepy Hollow

Sunday, October 29th, 2023

My Mane Squeeze continues family legacy of success for Buck Butler in the Maid of the Mist. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

By Alec DiConza

William “Buck” Butler’s homebred My Mane Squeeze notched the first stakes victory of her career in Sunday’s Maid of the Mist Stakes, a 1-mile event on Aqueduct’s main track for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies.

Trained by Mike Maker, the daughter of Audible sat in a stalking position on the rail behind pacesetting Cara’s Time and jockey Dylan Davis through fractions of :23.97 for the quarter-mile and :48.26 for the half. Turning for home, My Mane Squeeze found room between rivals and ran down the frontrunner just inside the eighth pole en route to a 3-length score. The final time over the fast and sealed racetrack was 1:38.73 under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

“She did everything right,” Ortiz said. “She broke well, I was happy where I was biding my time and followed Dylan. I saved all the ground because I feel like this horse needs a little break to save something for the end, but she was there when I tapped her on the shoulder at the quarter pole. I saw I could get out and then she did the rest. She kept going after I hit the clear and galloped out nicely. Mike Maker does a great job, especially with the New York-breds.”

William “Buck” and Loretta Butler had plenty to celebrate on Empire Showcase Day with victories by My Mane Squeeze and Rotknee. Walter Wlodarczyk/NYRA Photo.

My Mane Squeeze is the latest success for Butler and his Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama. My Mane Squeeze is the fourth foal out of the mare, whose record of producing winners is unvanquished. Her most successful runner to date has been Rotknee, a two-time stakes winning colt also trained by Maker. The 4-year-old son of Runhappy won the 2022 Damon Runyon Stakes at Aqueduct and the 2022 Ontario County Stakes at Finger Lakes, along with a victory in the Hudson Stakes later on Sunday’s Empire Showcase Day card.

In Spite of Mama’s other two foals of racing age are Mama’s Gold, a three-time winner in 11 starts by Bolt d’Oro; and Lookin For Trouble, a colt by Into Mischief who won in his second career start and is also multiple stakes placed. Needless to say, the stakes-winning effort by My Mane Squeeze made Butler very proud.

“This New York program, I love it,” he said. “I’m really enjoying it and enjoying the success that I’ve had with my mares. It’s just great. I’m three generations in with this horse. Mama Theresa [second dam] is my linchpin here, and In Spite of Mama [first dam] has given me nothing but runners.”

My Mane Squeeze finished third in her debut in August at Saratoga Race Course before breaking her maiden in her second start Sept. 1. Though she finished third in the Joseph A. Gimma Stakes in her next start behind Cara’s Time and Caldwell Luvs Gold, the filly turned the tables on these two rivals in Sunday’s triumph.

Foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, My Mane Squeeze earned $110,000 for the Maid of the Mist Stakes and improved her record to 2-0-2 in four starts and earnings of $183,960.


Barry Schwartz’s homebred El Grande O rolls to victory in the Sleepy Hollow. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

• It has become unusual to see a 2-year-old make many starts in a first season on the track, but El Grande O’s frontrunning score in Sunday’s Sleepy Hollow Stakes proved that some horses simply relish the opportunity to race.

Under the care of trainer Linda Rice, Barry Schwartz’s homebred New York-bred colt made his eighth start of the season a winning one and picked up his second stakes win to go with two other stakes placings.

“Mentally, he’s really handled everything well,” Rice said. “Peter Moore, Barry Schwartz’s farm manager, and I were commenting that you rarely see a 2-year-old that has run as much as we’ve run him. He walks around the paddock calm and happy to be here and that’s allowed us to run him more frequently than we’ve run other 2-year-olds. He did bring him in in March, which is earlier than we normally do.”

In the Sleepy Hollow, El Grande O challenged Solo’s Fury for the lead through the opening quarter-mile in :22.82 before taking control approaching the far turn. After a half in :46.17, the Take Charge Indy colt started to separate himself from his competition.

Entering the stretch, victory seemed all but certain, with the colt only having to worry about a stretch rally from stablemate B D Saints that proved too little too late. El Grande O crossed the wire 1 1/4 lengths ahead of B D Saints in 1:37.98 under Jose Ortiz. Aggelos the Great was 5 1/2 lengths farther back in third, with Wine Responsibility, another Rice trainee, fourth. Mischief Joke, Two’s a Crowd, Bonne Chance, Skyler’s Starship and Solo’s Fury completed the field.

El Grande O dominated the Sept. 24 Bertram F. Bongard Stakes by 8 1/4 lengths over a sloppy and sealed track, so there was no worry about whether the colt would be able to handle the muddy surface he faced Sunday.

“He’s run very well on the mud, that’s for sure,” Rice said. “It wasn’t an unknown for us.”

Jose Ortiz, who called El Grande O a “dream to be around in the barn,” gives Showcase Day winner some love Sunday at Aqueduct. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

Ortiz, aboard El Grande O for seven of his eight starts, including all three of his victories, has a lot of appreciation for the very experienced colt.

“He’s a dream to be around in the barn; he always has been,” he said. “I’ve been around him for a while now. We ran him on the dirt and he ran good. He ran good on the turf – he went back to the dirt and has been amazing. He’s a very cool, collected horse. Nothing bothers him, and he’s fast.

“He’s going to be tough in this crop and can do any distance 6 [furlongs] to a mile. The Champagne, you’ve got to draw a line through it. It was a very tough race. It was an off track, but he liked that today so it’s not an excuse. I think Linda managed him very well and I’m very happy for Barry and everybody in the whole team. I’m very proud of the work NYRA has put together with the New York program. It’s been great.”

El Grande O, sixth last time out in the Grade 1 Champagne, improved to 3-3-1 in his eight starts with earnings of $319,000.

Foaled at Stonewall Farm in Granite Springs, El Grande O is the ninth foal out of the stakes-placed Unbridled’s Song mare Rainbow’s Song. A half-sister to multiple stakes winner and stakes producer Class Above, Rainbow’s Song is the dam of five winners led by Grade 2-placed Meal Ticket.

Schwartz purchased Rainbow’s Song in foal to American Pharoah for $13,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale. El Grande O is her third New York-bred foal and she’s also the dam of a New York-bred yearling filly by Dialed In that sold for $32,000 at the recent Keeneland September sale. St. Simon Place, which purchased the mare for $17,000 at the 2021 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, bred that yearling and also a Kentucky-bred colt by Mendelssohn born March 30.

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