NEWS: racing

Red Knight shines bright in Point of Entry

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand

By Sarah Mace

Trinity Farm homebred Red Knight burst onto the scene last December 29 when he won the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes, a 2-mile turf marathon, at Gulfstream Park. Since then, the 5-year-old Pure Prize gelding has collected a pair of solid seconds in the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland and off-the-turf Johns Call at the Spa, but another stakes win has been elusive.

Red Knight changed that storyline at Belmont on Sunday when he got a second black-type photo-op after winning the $100,000 Point of Entry Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile turf contest for 3-year-olds and up over the Widener.

As often happens at marathon distances, it took the seven Point of Entry jockeys a little while to stake out their positions for the chess match to come. It wasn’t until field approached the clubhouse turn that stretch-out sprinter Paret (22-1) assumed the lead and, by the backstretch, widened his advantage to four lengths.

Behind Paret the field split into the two groups. Four in front opened up eight lengths on a second flight, which was led at the rail by 5-2 Red Knight. Historically tending to get rank in the early stages of a long race, on this occasion he appeared to rate kindly.

After the field moved into closer order by the approach to the far turn, Red Knight advanced into fourth between horses in the bend. Angling out three-wide at the head of the lane, and perfectly in the clear, the chestnut was set down vigorously for the drive by jockey Junior Alvarado, whose early tactics had been a model of patience.

Steadily eroding the pacesetter’s advantage, Red Knight reached the lead about a sixteenth from home and carried his momentum to the wire for a 1 1/2-length win.

Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher

Paret held second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Pillar Mountain, one of two Todd Pletcher-trained runners in the Point of Entry and the 2-1 post time favorite. Manitoulin followed more than four lengths back in fourth. Carlino, Arrocha and Noble Indy completed the order of finish. After a mile in 1:38.29, the final time for 12 furlongs was 2:25.94.

Red Knight’s second stakes victory improved his record to seven wins from 17 starts with four seconds and a third and he has earned $486,258.

“I broke good,” said Junior Alvarado. “We sat in a perfect position and it was a good trip. Halfway around there, the field started slowing down a little bit up front. My horse got a little excited and he probably thought it was time to go. He got a little keen. I was able to loosen the reins and he calmed back down for me. When I moved to the outside heading into the stretch he responded very well.”

Alvarado continued, “This is the perfect distance for him. He was born to run this type of race. Everything matches perfect for him – his style and his build to be successful at this type of race, to run a mile and a half.”

Bill Mott, for his part, concurred and was pleased with the gelding’s demeanor. “The mile and a half is good for him,” said the Hall of Famer. “He’s coming out of some graded races, so the class relief probably helped him a little bit. I was pleased that he wasn’t rank. Sometimes he can pull a little bit, but he was off the bridle early and saving his energy.”

Red Knight, who was foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, is one of five winners and the second foal to earn black type out of the late Isabel Away, a winning daughter of Skip Away who was purchased by Trinity Farm’s Thomas and Jaye Egan for $60,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Isabel Away’s third foal, New York-bred Macagone by Artie Schiller, is a three-time open stakes winner, taking back-to-back editions of the Danger’s Hour Stakes in 2016 and 2017 and his sire’s namesake race in 2016. His career earnings to date stand at $636,881. Isabel Away’s final foal is a yearling colt by Magician.


Determined Fire Key doubles up in Floral Park Stakes

Saturday, October 12th, 2019

Coglianese Photos/Joe Labozzetta

By Sarah Mace

For the second straight year Backwards Stable homebred Fire Key earned a trip to the the winner’s circle in Belmont’s $100,000 Floral Park Stakes for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up. Her determined effort on Saturday also allowed her to turn the tables on a familiar rival.

A game competitor with tactical speed, Fire Key joined forces in the Floral Park with jockey Julian Pimentel for the second straight time. Their most recent joint effort came in the Sensible Lady Stakes at Laurel Park on September 21, a race which Fire Key won in 2018. This year, after being marooned in post 10 of 12 by the draw, they had to settle for second, a half-length behind Floral Park rival Goodwood. For the Floral Park Fire Key drew the one-hole.

Popping out of the gate like a cork as the narrow 2-1 post time favorite (2.10-1), Fire Key staked out her position at the rail as a joint-third, while the speedy Goodwood (2.15-1), riding a five-racing winning streak, took control of the pace. Covered up and saving ground until midway through the turn, Fire Key angled out two-wide for the drive.

Ears pinned with determination, Fire Key drew even with Goodwood in midstretch, edged into the lead just past the furlong marker and kept to her task to secure the win by neck in a strong final time of 1:08.29.

Coglianese Photos

The remainder of the close-packed field stampeded home behind her. When a photo sorted out the remaining placings, Goodwood held for second, a head in front of Fear No Evil (3-1), a nose in front of Dynatail (12-1). Longshot Lady Mamba finished a neck further back while Mominou was eased to finish last. Misericordia and I’llhandlethecash were scratched. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Fire Key’s victory in the six-furlong tilt over the Widener turf bolstered her already impressive record over the track and at the trip. In ten Belmont turf starts, the 6-year-old dark bay New York-bred daughter of Friesan Fire has collected five wins and three seconds. In 12 tries at six furlongs, she has seven wins and four seconds.

Pimentel reported, “We just had a perfect trip. A couple speed horses went ahead, and I just sat behind them. When it was time, I moved, and she had plenty of horse to get home. Going into the turn, I was pretty confident, and I knew I had enough horse to get there. I think the distance made the difference today, going from five and a half [furlongs in the Smart and Fancy at Laurel] to three-quarters [of a mile]. I was sitting forwardly placed and when I asked her, she responded.”

Trainer Jim Ryerson has had Fire Key in his care for six starts, resulting in two stakes wins and three seconds. He also felt the six-furlong distance was exactly what the doctor ordered.  “The three-quarters really seems to help her. She hasn’t won going five and a half [furlongs] in a while. You have to ride her a little bit to get the position you want to get, and going three quarters, she’s able to get that without any difficulty and she has more left to finish. Unlike seven-eighths, which is a little far, she’s able to hold off horses going three quarters. It just hits her in the head.”

As to Fire Key’s success at Belmont, Ryerson opined, “I think the wideness of the turns helps. She’s a big filly and at Laurel, she’s on the outside, running hard but not going anywhere.” He continued,” She’s able to get better positions through the turn here. Every aspect seems like it’s better when she’s here. At Aqueduct, it may be different.”

Fire Key’s second Floral Park win was her fifth career stakes victory. She broke through as a black type winner for the first time in Aqueduct’s Autumn Days, her final start of 2017. In 2018, in back-to-back starts, she collected victories in the Sensible Lady and Floral Park. This past April she won the License Fee at Aqueduct. She has five additional stakes placings, including a runner-up finish to Significant Form in the Grade 2 Intercontinental, and her earnings bankroll stands at $735,910.

Foaled at Sun Valley Farm in Ballston Spa, Fire Key is the second foal 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.

The producer of three winners from four to race, U R Key’s first foal was Masterkey (Will He Shine), a Finger Lakes-based six-figure earner. Currently the mare has yearling colt by Micromanage, a weanling colt by Mr. Z and has been bred this year to Bayern.

Tribecca notches first stakes victory in Leon Reed

Monday, October 7th, 2019

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

Recent claim Tribecca stole the show at Finger Lakes on Monday when he notched his first stakes victory in the featured 12th running of the $50,000 Leon Reed Memorial Stakes. This was Tribecca’s second win since being claimed by Chris Englehart for Ronald A. Brown out of a winning effort at Saratoga on August 4. A 5-year-old Bustin Stones gelding, Tribecca is in career form in 2019 with five wins from nine starts for three different barns.

Tribecca began this year in the barn of Rudy Rodriguez racing in the colors of Red Storm Stable et al, for whom he won a second level state-bred allowance on January 27. The chestnut was claimed on April 10 by John Toscano, Jr. on behalf of Bran Jam Stable for $40,000 out of his second victory for the year at the same level. In his second start for Toscano, while being dangled for $25,000 in a 6-furlong sprint at the Spa, Tribecca won again and was astutely scooped up by Englehart.

When he made his first start for his new connections on September 18 – also his Finger Lakes debut – Tribecca utterly demolished an allowance / optional claiming field by 11 1/2 lengths, earning the right to take a shot in the Leon Reed.

This year’s renewal of the Leon Reed attracted some of the top Finger Lakes sprinters. Saratoga Giro, last year’s Finger Lakes Horse of the Year for trainer Paul Barrow, was entered, along with his uncoupled stablemate P J Advantage, winner last out of the George W. Barker on June 3, and looking for a third straight win. Winston’s Chance, who won the Genesee Valley Breeders’ Stakes on August 19 won the Leon Reed last year for Debra Breed, her fourth training victory in the race in four years .  Leap to Glory was the 18-1 longshot of the field and Royal Asset was scratched.

Exiting post two as the 4-5 favorite under John Davila, Jr., Tribecca was out a step slower than Leap to Glory, but gunned his way to the front and opened a length on his rival for the trip along the backstretch.

Widening his advantage to three lengths through the far turn after a quarter in 21.77 and half in 44.98, Tribecca continued to hold sway unchallenged. Meanwhile late-running Winston’s Chance uncoiled his rally from the back of the pack and, at the top of the stretch, commenced a five-wide charge.

Flying late, Winston’s Chance passed the rest of his rivals but was unable to catch Tribecca, who held firm under a drive to get the win by three-quarters of a length. P J Advantage finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Winston’s Chance, followed by Saratoga Giro and Leap to Glory, who weakened after contesting the pace. The final time was 1:11.03. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Bred by Laurel Least and Joseph Lech, Tribecca is one of two winners out of Heck, by Heckle, a three-time winner bred in New York by JMJ Racing Stables. She currently has a weanling by Revolutionary.

Tribecca was originally purchased by his first conditioner Gary Sciacca for Dan and Michael A. Henning for just $10,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic October yearling sale. A consistent and hardy competitor, Tribecca has earned $415,721 from nine wins, four seconds and four thirds in 32 career starts.

The Leon Reed Stakes is run in honor the Finger Lakes assistant starter who tragically lost his life in a starting gate accident in 2005.


Sackatoga’s Tiz the Law earns Derby points with commanding victory in G1 Champagne

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

Coglianese Photos

By Sarah Mace

Ownership group Sackatoga Stable and trainer Barclay Tagg – the connections of New York-bred Funny Cide who famously won the 2003 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby and Grade 1 Preakness – had ample reason to break out the bubbly again on Saturday afternoon. As they looked on, their flashy bay son of Constitution, Tiz the Law, drew off to a commanding victory in the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne Stakes in his second career start.

The victory brings with it 10 qualifying points for the 2020 Kentucky Derby. It also punches the colt’s ticket to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on the first weekend in November. The connections are, however, inclined to pass on Santa Anita and set their sights further down the road.

Tiz the Law turned plenty of heads after his Saratoga debut on August 8 at 6 1/2 furlongs when he arguably delivered one of the best juvenile performances of the meet. The blaze-faced colt rallied from a covered-up fourth and shot past heavy favorite Dream Bigger to win by 4 1/2 lengths. He was further flattered when Dream Bigger overpowered a strong field in the New York Breeders’ Futurity at Finger Lakes on September 30. For his debut effort Tiz the Law earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90, which topped the Champagne field.

Tiz the Law got a little extra time off after his unveiling to resolve some minor shin issues, but had hardly been idle in advance of the Champagne. The colt turned in four works in all, including a pair of bullet moves at four and five furlongs on September 19 and 26, going :46 4/5 and :59 2/5, respectively.

The Champaign field was strong, headlined by undefeated Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner Green Light Go, along with TDN “Rising Star” Gozilla, and a determined September 7 maiden-breaker trained by Todd Pletcher named Alpha Sixty Six.

Let to go as the narrow 7-5 second choice behind 6-5 Green Light Go, Tiz the Law bobbled at the break from his outside post, but his forward momentum allowed him to get right in stride before jockey Manny Franco took him back to sit fifth along the backstretch.

Coglianese Photos

Meanwhile Green Light Go led the way, clocking the first half in 46.15 pressed along by Gozilla. Covered up on the backstretch, and at one point checking lightly off heels, Tiz the Law advanced into third between horses in the turn and angled out three-wide in upper stretch.

Green Light Go and Gozilla were still vying in the lane, but Tiz the Law had the number of them both. Accelerating into the lead with a little more than a furlong to go, he powered home to a 4-length victory in a final time of 1:35.41 for the mile. As in his debut victory, the youngster was a little green in stretch, which gives him room to move forward yet again in the future.

Green Light Go finished second, a neck in front of Big City Bob. Gozilla, Alpha Sixty Six and Truculent completed the order of finish. [VIDEO REPLAY]

Franco reported, “[Tiz the Law] broke a little bit aggressive. He bobbled a bit and then he took a strong hold early, but I got him to relax and he came back to me. I was just waiting for the moment. I didn’t want to move too early because I knew I had a lot of horse under me. I was trying to wait as long as I could. He lugged in a bit, he’s still a little green. I had a lot of horse at the end. He’s a nice horse.”

“It was just what I wanted to see,” said Barclay Tagg. “Out of the gate, he bobbled badly. He out-broke himself. Manny did a great job with him. He got him all the way back and saved some ground.

Continued Tagg, “You’re taking a chance to jump into a big race like this in just his second start. We didn’t do that to Funny Cide. [Funny Cide] had it a little easier, but we were very pleased with [Tiz the Law].”

Funny Cide stayed in the New York-bred ranks as a juvenile, winning all three starts at two, including the Bertram F. Bongard and Sleepy Hollow Stakes.

Tagg was encouraged to try the Champagne with Tiz the Law by the way the colt was training. “I wanted to work him one more time before making a decision. He worked Wednesday and I liked what I saw. [Owner] Jack [Knowlton] is good about these things.”

Knowlton, the face of Sackatoga Stable, said, “In his debut, [Tiz the Law] was never asked for anything. He was inside, he split horses, had dirt in his face and that told us a lot and it paid off today. I didn’t think he would have any dirt on him today. I figured that Manny would be sitting outside and be able to do it, but he put him right in there and he responded just like he did at Saratoga.”

As to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Tagg said that Tiz the Law is likely to take a pass. The implications for next year’s classics, however, are not lost on him. “I don’t think [we’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup]. It’s a little bit close and it’s a long way away. We can always go to California another year, but we can only go to the Kentucky Derby one year.”

Knowlton seconded the view. “Highly, highly, highly unlikely [we’ll go to the Breeders’ Cup] for a lot of reasons,” Knowlton said. “Shipping across the country with a young horse and going a mile and a sixteenth around two turns the first time against top competition.” Knowlton mentioned the Remsen as a possible next start.

Cleverly named for his sire Constitution and dam Tizfiz by Tiznow, Tiz the Law was bred by Twin Creeks Farm and purchased by Knowlton at the 2018 Saratoga New York-bred preferred yearling sale from the Sequel consignment for $110,000. From his two victories he can boast a $317,900 bankroll.

Tiz the Law’s dam, Kentucky-bred Tizfiz, is a winner of four stakes on turf with a graded placing on dirt. She was purchased by Twin Creeks Farm for $125,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Tiz the Law is Tizfiz’ second foal to earn black type. Awestruck, by Tapit, who was a $525,000 yearling, has collected four stakes placings to date. A full sister to graded stakes winner Fury Kapcori, Tizfiz also issues from the female family of 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick (Phone Trick). She has a yearling filly by Mission Impazible named Angel Oak, a weanling by the same sire and went back to Constitution this year.



Audible Retired to Stand at Winstar Farm

Friday, October 4th, 2019

G1 Florida Derby (Photo: Leslie Martin)


Audible, Into Mischief’s [New York-bred] Florida Derby (G1) winner, has been retired and will enter stud at WinStar Farm for the 2020 breeding season.

One of the most consistent 3-year-olds of his generation, Audible was never off the board in five stakes with three stakes wins in his sophomore season for owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Starlight Racing, and Head of Plains Partners and trainer Todd Pletcher.

“He was one of the best in a historic class,” said Elliott Walden,” president, CEO and racing manager of WinStar Farm. “He separates himself from other sons of Into Mischief with his looks and presence.”

In his seasonal and stakes debut at three, following a pair of wins at two, Audible captured the $350,000 Holy Bull S. (G2) at Gulfstream Park in decisive fashion, defeating Grade 1 winner Free Drop Billy by 5 ½ lengths. He powered home as much the best to cover 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.92, the fastest time in the race in the last six years.

Following up his romping Holy Bull win, Audible stamped his ticket to the Kentucky Derby (G1) with another eye-catching performance in the $1,000,000 Florida Derby, rolling to a dominating three-length victory over subsequent multiple Grade 1 winners Catholic Boy and Promises Fulfilled. He demonstrated his versatility in winning the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby, his fourth consecutive win, rallying from far back after winning the Holy Bull with a pace-stalking trip.

“Audible’s Florida Derby showed the world how talented he was,” said Todd Pletcher. “He has a great disposition and mind with a beautiful physical. He is the best Into Mischief I have seen.”

Audible headed into Churchill Downs on the First Saturday in May ranked third on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with 110 points. After being repeatedly blocked and altering course in the stretch of the Derby, he bravely rallied along the rail and finished a determined third to eventual undefeated Triple Crown winner Justify. Audible returned in November and won the inaugural running of the seven-furlong Cherokee Run Stakes at Churchill Downs by two lengths with a bold five-wide move.

An earner of $2,130,520, Audible retires with five wins from 10 starts.

A $500,000 Fasig-Tipton March sale graduate, Audible was bred by Oak Bluff Stables and hails from a deep female family. The family traces directly to multiple Grade 1 winner and Graded stakes producer Classy Cathy, who won the Alabama S. (G1), Ashland S. (G1), and Gazelle H. (G1) during her outstanding racing career

Maiden Dream Bigger overpowers rivals in New York Breeders’ Futurity

Monday, September 30th, 2019

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

Twice a beaten favorite in the New York-bred maiden special weight ranks, Repole Stable’s Dream Bigger put the world on notice Monday that he was wasn’t fooling around anymore.

Shipping in to Finger Lakes with his maiden status, a pair of seconds and jockey Jose Ortiz in tow, the grey son of New York sire Mission Impazible dominated the richest race of the season in Farmington, winning the 57th running of the $204,713 New York Breeders’ Futurity for New York-bred juveniles by more than 10 lengths

This year’s New York Breeders’ Futurity attracted the first- through fourth-place finishers of the local prep, the $114,000 Aspirant Stakes on September 9: Listentoyourheart, Mission Wrapitup, A Maize Zing Rip and Disco Deano. Also throwing her hat in the ring, as the lone filly of the field, was My Italian Rabbi, winner of the $108,000 Lady Finger Stakes run on the same day.

Still, Dream Bigger, who is conditioned by Rudy Rodriguez, came into the race with a Beyer edge even over his stakes-winning rivals. Earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 81 when second in his debut to impressive Sackatoga Stable prospect Tiz the Law on August 8 at Saratoga, he notched a 77 when second by three-quarters of a length on September 15 at Belmont. The next highest Beyer in the field was 75, earned by My Italian Rabbi in the Lady Finger. Finger Lakes bettors no doubt also took the hint that the presence of top NYRA jockey Jose Ortiz could mean that Dream Bigger was sitting on a big race. The colt was sent off as the 4-5 favorite, accordingly.

Breaking from post three, Dream Bigger powered confidently to the front the of the pack, ridden by Ortiz as if he knew he was on the best horse. As he led by by three-quarters of a length through early fractions of 22.65 and 45.76, the only rival able to exert even token pressure was the filly My Italian Rabbi (2-1), despite her slow break.

Once Dream Bigger hit the head of stretch, however, the race was, for all practical purposes, over. He powered home, extending his lead to more than six lengths by midstretch. By the finish line, Dream Bigger was 10 3/4 lengths to the good. The final time for the six furlongs over the fast dirt track was 1:11.01.

My Italian Rabbi held second, four lengths ahead of Mission Wrapitup in third. Completing the order of finish were Listentoyourheart, A Maize Zing Rip, Disco Deano and Dr Mac.

Bred by Sequel New York, Twin Creeks Racing and Pamela Zielinski, Dream Bigger is the most recent reported foal, and one of two winners, out of Downtown Daria, a Kentucky-breed winner by Sky Mesa. The mare’s Noonmark filly Downtown at Noon placed in the Niagara at Finger Lakes in 2017 and earned just shy of six figures. Downtown Daria has been bred back to Mission Impazible.

Dream Bigger took three trips through auction ring. Northface Bloodstock purchased him for $15,000 as a weanling out of the 2017 Fasig-Tipton New York fall mixed sale. Returning next summer in the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale, he brought $65,000 from Whetstone Farm. Mike Repole went to $205,000 to take him home from the OBS spring 2-year-old sale this spring. From the pair of seconds and the Futurity victory, Dream Bigger has earned $150,828.

New York sire Mission Impazible stands at Sequel Stallions New York in Hudson.

Baby Boss calls the shots in Arctic Queen

Monday, September 30th, 2019

SV Photography

By Sarah Mace

Neal Allread’s Baby Boss showed heels to a field of New York-bred fillies and mare sprinters in the 20th running of the $50,000 Arctic Queen Stakes at Finger Lakes on Monday, taking command shortly after the break, and pouring it on in the stretch to earn her second career stakes victory for trainer Jeremiah Englehart.

The blaze-faced 4-year-old bay daughter of Frost Giant was sent off at odds of 9-5, but had stiff competition for popularity. Charlton Baker-trainee Forever Changed vied for favoritism (1.65) with a coupled entry of Chester and Mary Broman homebreds trained by Chris Progno – New Girl in Town and Investment Invite (1.75).

Exiting post three (of eight) under Luis Colon, the Baby Boss didn’t get out of the gate the fastest of the bunch, but remedied that situation well before the first point of call, rushing up to the lead and opening up a length advantage. She was pursued by a cluster of five rivals all jockeying for position to get first run at her, chief among them sophomore Forever Changed and New Girl in Town, who vied throughout for second.

Cruising through opening splits of 22.34 and 45.70 while extending her lead to two lengths, Baby Boss got a couple of sharp reminders from her pilot to keep her mind on business once she straightened away for the drive. The filly responded by pouring it on, ultimately crossing the finish line a 5-length winner in a final time of 1:10.65 for six furlongs over the fast track.

Forever Changed won the battle for second, finishing 2 1/2 lengths ahead of New Girl in Town. Longshot Tax Me Naught (42-1) completed the superfecta followed home by Dragoness, Investment Invite, Crashing Connie and Ohmygollymsmolly.

The Arctic Queen score improved Baby Boss’ record to five wins, one second and one third from 15 starts and was her second career stakes victory. In her fourth career start in April 2018 she won her stakes debut in the Park Avenue Division of the New York Stallion Stakes. She suffered a win drought after that, but has been rounding back into form of late with back-to-back victories at Laurel in February and June. In her most recent start, she tired after setting the pace in the Union Avenue at Saratoga on August 15.

Bred by Eric Bishop, Baby Boss is one of three winners from three foals to start out of Wild in Montana, a Kentucky-bred multiple winner by Yankee Victor. Neal Allread purchased Baby Boss for $23,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic spring sale of 2-year-olds for $23,000. Her earnings now stand at $214,690.

Wild in Montana has a juvenile by Verrazano named Lasagna who has not yet started and her most recent reported foal is a yearling colt by Big Brown.

Baby Boss’ sire Frost Giant stands at Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions LLC.

Fifty Five successfully defends title in John Hettinger Stakes

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

NYRA/Elsa Lorieul

By Sarah Mace

It can be risky to take consistency for granted, but Peter M. Brant’s Fifty Five appears to be the exception that proves the rule. Successfully unleashing her patented winning move in late stretch, the 5-year-old daughter of Get Stormy captured her second edition of the $125,000 John Hettinger Stakes at Belmont Park Sunday as the 1-2 favorite.

A winner of 10 races in 21 starts, with only two off-the-board finishes in her career, this dream horse has now earned $917,788. Her stakes wins total seven, led by the Grade 3 Florida Oaks.

Despite Fifty Five’s apparent dominance in the New York-bred female turf division, there was no shortage of would-be spoilers signed on for this year’s Hettinger, which is run at a nine furlongs on the inner turf. The size of the field field yielded one potential Achilles heel for Chad Brown-trainee when she drew the outside post of nine. Given the short run into the clubhouse turn, regular rider Javier Castellano would have his work cut out to get position without losing too much ground early. Castellano was up to the challenge.

Able to make her way over into the three-path by the first turn, Fifty Five set up shop in fifth just three lengths off the pace. Wish Upon, on the lead, posted very moderate early splits of 25.12 and 49.61.

Travelling comfortably, along the backstretch, Fifty Five began to move while rounding the far turn, got set down for the drive three wide and began picking off her foes.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Striking the front past the furlong marker, she was called upon to dig in as War Canoe, outrunning her 9-1 odds, made a menacing rally into second. Fifty Five responded and held, securing the win by three-quarters of length. Further back by 2 3/4 lengths 9-1 Wegetsdamunnys got third. After a mile in 1:36.45, the final time was 1:47.67.

Castellano was all admiration for his mount. “She’s a special horse,” the pilot said. “She’s very consistent and I like the way that she did it today. You can see the pace was slow, but she was close to it and in a good position. Usually, she isn’t that close but with the way the pace was, she was in a good comfortable rhythm and in a good spot in the race. She got the job done. She just knows how to win. I thought I had the best horse in the race and I’m glad to get it done.”

Chad Brown’s assistant Whit Beckman said “She appreciates this turf course a lot. The wider turns give her a little more room to negotiate, although she set herself a little closer today going with the trend. Javier [Castellano] knows her very well. I didn’t have to tell him much as he has ridden her in many of her starts.”

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 stakes-placed mare Soave by Brahms. 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 after the Grade 3 Florida Oaks, which she won for trainer Tom Bush. She moved to Brown’s barn after changing hands.


Dot Matrix on point in Ashley T. Cole

Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

NYRA/Elsa Lorieul

By Sarah Mace

Dot Matrix, a 6-year-old gelded son of Freud campaigned by Marshall Gramm’s Ten Strike Racing, is in career form these days. He underscored the point Sunday with a half-length victory over a deep field in the 44th running of the $125,000 Ashley T. Cole for New York-breds at 1 1/8 miles over the inner turf at Belmont Park.

The victory was Dot Matrix’ fifth win in his last nine starts and his second career stakes tally. Second by just a neck last out in the West Point at Saratoga, the flashy bay sealed the deal this time around when he wrested the lead from tenacious pacesetter Voodoo Song.

As a testament to the strength of the field assembled for this year’s Ashley T. Cole, Dot Matrix was let got at odds of 8-1 – the second longest price of seven — despite his recent success.

The post time favorite was Gucci Factor (8-5), winner of his last three, most recently the Grade 3 Poker on June 16. Also, in the mix was Grade 1 winner Voodoo Song (3-1), unplaced in two 2019 starts and seeking to regain his form after a late start to training this year. Other stalwarts from this competitive division included multiple stakes winners Offering Plan (9-2), who beat Dot Matrix by a nose in the West Point, and Therapist (7-1), also by Freud

The lone speed on paper, Voodoo Song followed the script and took control of the pace after the break. He led the field unchallenged through a first half-mile in 48.14 and three-quarters in 1:11.78. Favorite Gucci Factor, meanwhile, had a disastrous break, lurching to the right just before the gate opened, smashing the wall and spotting the field 13 lengths.

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

Dot Matrix marked Voodoo Song from the start, pursuing 2 1/2 lengths behind. Closing the gap in the far turn he began to turn on the pressure. Dot Matrix engaged Voodoo Song at the head of the stretch then got a head in front around the furlong maker.

Voodoo Song fought on bravely on the inside, but ultimately to no avail. Dot Matrix crossed the line a half-length winner. A half-length behind Voodoo Song, Offering Plan closed well from far back get third, while Therapist completed the superfecta.

Completing the order of finish were Red Knight and Gucci Factor, whose trip was ill-fated from the start, and Memories of Peter After one mile in 1:35.08, Dot Matrix completed the nine furlongs in 1:46.57.

Luis Saez said, “What a nice trip! He broke so perfect. I let Voodoo Song take the lead because I knew he was the target. I had plenty of horse at the half-mile pole and, when we came to the stretch, I was worried a little bit because Voodoo Song tried to come back. But my horse was responding very well.”

Brad Cox’s assistant Dustin Dugas said, “He’s a hard-knocking horse who has been around here forever, and it’s nice to finally break through up here. He runs well everywhere else, but to finally get it done in his own state is nice. Luis knows him so well and gave him a terrific ride. He was a lot closer than I thought he was going to be, but he was comfortable cruising along. Luis rode him so confidently. It kind of helped the horse out as well. It was a nice victory.”

Voodoo Song’s pilot was encouraged by an improved effort in his third 2019 start. Said Jose Lezcano, “He broke running and he ran a good race. It was a good effort and [Dot Matrix] just got up to get him in the end, but it was an encouraging effort.”

A consistent runner for Abby Adsit in 2016 and 2017, Dot Matrix joined Brad Cox’s barn in late December 2017. Since then he has won six of 11 starts including his first stakes victory last year at Indiana Grand, when he captured the Warrior Veterans Stakes. For his career, he has won nine times in 28 starts, with four seconds and four thirds and earned $455,487.

Bred by Truxton Stables and foaled at Winslow Stevens and Philippe Lasseur’s Keane Stud in Amenia, Dot Matrix is one of five winners from five foals to start out of six-time winner Aunt Dot Dot by Gulch. Aunt Dot Dot’s second foal, PA-bred Aunt Ellipsis by Successful Appeal, is also a stakes winner. The mare’s most recent foal is a juvenile filly by Normandy Invasion named Dash Dot Dot who has not yet started. She was bred this year to Sharp Azteca.

Congratulations in order to Grade 2 Kelso winner and new millionaire Pat On the Back

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

NYRA/Susie Raisher

By Sarah Mace

Harold Lerner, AWC Stables, and Nehoc Stables’ Belmont-loving Pat On the Back earned the first graded victory of his career on Saturday when he rallied to win Belmont’s Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap. The extra icing on the Kelso cake for his connections was that the $165,000 winner’s share of the purse pushed Pat On the Back’s earnings over $1 million.

In 25 prior starts, Pat On the Back had already compiled a top-notch resume, and came into the Kelso looking for his eighth stakes victory. A 5-year-old horse by Congrats, Pat On the Back was precocious, winning the Aspirant and Sleepy Hollow at two for trainer Ken McPeek. He picked up the Ontario County Stakes the following year. In 2018 and 2019, the chestnut really came into his own in the barn of Jeremiah Englehart, taking down four major New York-bred stakes: the Saginaw and Empire Classic last year and Affirmed Success and Commentator in 2019.

Unplaced in a pair of Grade 3 tries at two and three and a solid fifth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile last year, Pat On the Back has largely stuck to the state-bred ranks, but that has not shielded him from graded-caliber competition.

He gave multiple Grade 1 winner Diversify almost everything he could handle in the 2018 Commentator, finishing second by just a nose, and downed multiple graded stakes winner Giant Expectations and the talented Mr. Buff in the same race this year. All that was lacking was that graded win. He took care of that on Saturday.

Very keen out of the gate, Pat On the Back (7-2 third choice) nevertheless allowed regular rider Dylan Davis to wrangle him back to draft in behind a three-ply pace duel that percolated up front. Monongahela led inside (9-1) pressed hard by both True Timber (6-1) and favorite Prince Lucky (6-5) through opening splits of 22.96 and 45.73.

NYRA/Chelsea Durand

Tracking the front three along the backstretch and through the far turn, Pat On the Back edged toward outside for running room in the approach to the quarter pole, angled out four wide and got set down for the drive.

After passing True Timber, Pat On the Back set about grinding down new leader Prince Lucky until he grudgingly gave up the advantage midstretch. Pat On the Back then edged away to win by one-half length in an impressive final time of 1:33.97.

Pat On the Back’s Kelso victory improved his already-impressive Belmont record to six wins in 11 starts with three seconds and one third. The purse also propelled his earnings to $1,101,032.

Englehart credited his jockey for settling Pat On the Back sufficiently so he could run his race. “He really is a fighter and Dylan did a fantastic job of getting him off the pace,” the conditioner said. “We didn’t want to be on the lead today and Dylan really did a masterful job of being able to get him back behind horses without fighting him too much. That was amazing.”

Davis also addressed mount’s keenness. “Today, I just tried to get him to relax. He broke sharp again today and I got a good hold of him and he settled behind the leaders. I put myself behind Johnny [Velazquez, aboard Prince Lucky]. He was the horse to beat. Once they kicked on, he opened up for me outside of [Prince Lucky] and he finished well.

Continued Davis, “This is the best horse I’ve had in my career. I’ve been with him from when he was a 2-year-old, watching him grow. It was a little emotional galloping out. We’re a team and we were pushing up the stages and both working a rank up.”

Co-owner Harold Lerner said, “He’s gotten better with age. Obviously, he loves Belmont. He’s a one-turn horse and a mile is perfect for him. We got some pace up front which set him up real well. Dylan knew exactly what he had to do. He had to sit off the pace and when he asked ‘Pat’ to go, ‘Pat’ went. We’ve seen this before from this horse. He just seems to get the job done. He’s a real working class racehorse. It was a good horse race and we couldn’t be happier.”

Continued Lerner, “He knows what to do in a brawl, he’s a back alley fighter and he comes prepared to give his best. Jeremiah had him cranked up real well. I’ve been in this game a while and I love to see what I just saw – a horse that tries super, super hard. I tip my hat to the horse that ran second [Prince Lucky], he’s a real nice horse. Today, we got the job done. Everything all around worked out great.”

Lerner now finds himself in the enviable position of weighing the options of sending Pat On the Back to the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita or contesting the Empire Classic at home.

“I’m going to think about it this week. I’ll have to speak with Jeremiah. We’ve never shipped this horse 3,000 miles. The Empire Classic was on our calendar towards the end of the meet and it’ll be here at Belmont, so that’s a big plus for us. I think we’ll talk about it. How far we get in the conversation I’m not sure, but it’ll be an interesting conversation to have.”

Bred by Sugar Maple Farm where he was foaled, Pat On the Back is the last foal out of an unplaced Kentucky-bred Awesome Again mare named Accomplished. Purchased by Dan Haydon at the 2004 Keeneland November sale for $40,000, Accomplished produced eight winners from eight foals to start. Her other foal to earn black type, Sarah Accomplished by Performing Magic, won the 2008 Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Stakes series.

Pat On the Back was purchased by Ken McPeek for $70,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton New York-bred preferred yearling sale. After 17 starts, he moved his tack to the Englehart barn where he has thrived.