NEWS: racing

Pandagate storms to victory in Gander Stakes

Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Pandagate improves to 2-for-3 with victory in $100,000 Gander Stakes at Aqueduct. NYRA Photo.

Christophe Clement shipped Pandagate back to his native state with confidence for the Arrogate ridgling’s first foray into stakes company and was rewarded.

Pandagate overcame a hard bump at the start and powered to a 5 ½-length victory in Sunday’s $100,000 Gander Stakes, improving to 2-for-3 in the process and giving his connections reason to think about bigger things down the road.

“He’s been training very, very well at Payson Park and we were excited to see him run,” Clement said. “Thank you to all the owners to be so patient. He’s a stakes winner and a New York-bred going long on dirt, so it’s a lot of fun for us.”

A 9-length winner in his debut under Dylan Davis during the Belmont at the Big A meeting, Pandagate reunited with that rider for the 1-mile Gander. He was ridden by Victor Carrasco when second in a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional in early December. Davis liked the reports from Clement and his team and also came into the Gander with confidence aboard the morning-line pick and eventual post-time 7-5 favorite.

“He’s been training down at Payson Park with Clement’s crew,” Davis said. “They did a great job getting him ready. He had a little layoff, but I just wanted to break him well and not get too much distance from the front leaders. That is what the boss said.

“I haven’t seen him in a while, but the Clement crew gave me videos of him working and in the paddock. It was nice to see him again, he’s still the big horse that I knew before, but he was a little more mentally better today. Just hopefully will keep on improving.”

Pandagate wound up squeezed between Bali Amour and Brown Don’t Stop at the break and was last while The Big Torpedo, Liberty Central and Doc Sullivan scrimmaged through the opening quarter in :24.42.

The Big Torpedo, a 10-length maiden winner last time out and the 5-2 third choice, continued on the lead through the half in :48.55. Liberty Central, who hounded the leader most of the way on the backstretch and on the far turn, took the lead just before hitting 6 furlongs in 1:14.15 just as Pandagate found his best stride several paths off the rail. Pandagate widened his advantage all the way through the lane, kept to task by Davis to win in 1:40.67 over the fast track.

Doc Sullivan finished second, a neck in front of Liberty Central with Brown Don’t Stop fourth. The Big Torpedo and Bali Amour completed the field.

Pandagate’s connections celebrate victory in Sunday’s Gander Stakes. NYRA Photo.

“He did get a little bump there at the break but he got into stride, got on the bridle, and switched off, then at the three-eighths pole, I turned him out,” Davis said. “It took a little while to get going but once he did that, he was game. I kept him to task all the way to wire because he is still a young horse that doesn’t know what is going on, but he has a nice big stride and galloped out, not really that tired.”

Clement also heaped praise on Davis’ effort.

“Dylan knows him well and it was a perfect ride,” he said. “He was a little bit lost coming out of the gate and Dylan got him to settle. Then he got into a very good rhythm and when he decided to pick it up, he finished well. He’s a nice horse and by Arrogate – it’s a nice family. Everything seems to be working out nicely, and I’m just very grateful to the owners. I’m delighted to train this kind of horse.”

Bred by Fred Hertrich III and out of the stakes-placed New York-bred Sky Mesa mare Kitty Panda, Pandagate sold to Clement, as agent, for $130,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. He races for Adelphi Racing Club, Madaket Stables, Corms Racing Stable and On The Rise Again Stable.

Pandagate is one of three winners – all New York-breds – out of Kitty Panda. She’s also the dam of three-time winner and $151,380-earner Panster and the two-time winner Countable. Kitty Panda is also the dam of a 2-year-old colt by City of Light. Hertrich purchased Kitty Panda, in foal to Blame, for $160,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale.

Pandagate picked up $55,000 for the Gander victory, boosting his bankroll to $101,650.

Clement didn’t commit to any specific for Pandagate’s next target, but is thinking about some lucrative summer stakes in the New York-bred 3-year-old division.

“At the moment, he just won, so we are going to enjoy that for 24 hours,” Clement said. “The way the program is made, the two New York-bred races going long on the dirt are the New York Derby at Finger Lakes or the Albany at Saratoga. That’s a long way down the road, so let’s try to find him something in late March or early April going long on dirt. Let’s keep him eligible for everything and enjoy this for a moment.”


Whittington Park gets up in time to win Haynesfield

Saturday, February 24th, 2024

Whittington Park (left) gets past Anejo in the final stages of the Haynesfield. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog

Whittington Park became a stakes winner in the $100,000 Haynesfield Stakes for New York-breds at Aqueduct Saturday, but it wasn’t easy.

The Midnight Lute 5-year-old broke a step slow from the inside post of a six-horse field and was last after a few strides. He refused to stay there for long, working his way outside and into a settled spot in fourth down the backstretch as the front runners caught up after Mama’s Gold went the first quarter-mile in :23.72 and opened 2 ½ lengths on the field. The pacesetter refused to bow to the early pressure when keeping a half-length on the field through a half-mile pole in :47.80.

By the turn, Mama’s Gold finally gave in as Anejo flew past to quickly open 5 ½ lengths on the field at the top of the stretch. Anejo looked like an easy winner near the wire, but Whittington Park didn’t give up and closed with every stride.

Racing down the center of the track on the leader’s outside for jockey Kendrick Carmouche, Whittington Park got to Anejo just in time to win by a half-length in 1:39.88 for the mile. Dr. Ardito finished third, 11 ¼ lengths behind.

“He just seems like he has a lot more desire and knows what he wants to do,” trainer Jeremiah Englehart said. “You give him a target now and he wants to run the horse down. Last year, a couple races, Kendrick would say he would just wait and make spotty moves. Now, he’s putting himself in the position rather than having to have Kendrick urge him somewhere. A lot of those Midnight Lutes seem to get better as they get older.”

Bred by Marshall Gramm and Clay Sanders, and racing for Gramm’s Ten Strike Racing, Whittington Park improved to 2-for-2 this year with six wins overall and six other top three finishes for $335,810 in 17 starts.

Whittington Park is the third stakes winner for six-time winner See The Forest, also the dam of New York-bred stakes winners Looms Boldly and Critical Value among her seven winners from seven to race. See The Forest is out of dual Grade 1 winner Critical Eye, who saw another daughter produce stakes winner Little Kansas and Grade 3-placed Headline Report.

After a few years without foals reported after Looms Boldly was foaled in 2020, See The Forest produced a New York-bred Constitution colt for Ten Strike Racing last year. The mare visited Irish Hill and Dutchess Views Stallions’ Warrior’s Charge’s last year in his first season at stud.


My Mane Squeeze makes it 3 straight in Maddie May

Sunday, February 18th, 2024

My Mane Squeeze cruises to third straight stakes win in Sunday’s Maddie May at Aqueduct. NYRA Photo.

Buck Butler wryly admits he’d like to see My Mane Squeeze in some big spots, possibly against open company on one of racing’s biggest stages in a race like the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

He’s just not about to get ahead of his skis.

“I do have the dreams, but I have the right people who make the decisions,” Butler told NYRA’s Richard Migliore after his homebred Audible filly won her third straight stakes in Sunday’s $100,000 Maddie May for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies.

My Mane Squeeze made relatively easy work of her nine foes under Jose Lezcano, adding the Maddie May to victories last fall in the Maid of the Mist Stakes on Empire Showcase Day and in mid-January in the Franklin Square. Butler will leave the decision where My Mane Squeeze, a finalist for 2023 New York-bred champion 2-year-old filly honors, will go next.

Meanwhile, he and wife Loretta will continue to enjoy the ride.

“The people I’ve surrounded myself with make it easy for me,” Butler said. “My job, I sign the checks. I went to school in Loyola, but I’m a New Yorker born and bred. I don’t have a plan [for a next start for My Mane Squeeze]. Mike has a plan and I follow Mike’s plan. It’s gotten me here; why should I change?”

The 3-5 favorite off those two stakes wins from the outside post, My Mane Squeeze was content to track the early speed first from Cara’s Time and then Florida shipper and recent claim Blue Eyed Warrior. Running several paths off the rail, Blue Eyed Warrior clicked off the opening quarter-mile in :23.27, ahead of Kentucky shipper Landed down on the rail.

Landed, a half-sister to New York-bred champion Venti Valentine and multiple stakes winner and $516,625-earner Espresso Shot, slipped through the inside to take over approaching the half in :47.59. Lezcano and My Mane Squeeze took up the chase with more pressure from there and the top two separated from the field approaching the stretch.

After passing the 6-furlong split in 1:13.76, My Mane Squeeze took over in upper stretch and edged clear approaching the eighth pole. Lezcano hand rode the filly from there, winning by 4 3/4 lengths and finishing in 1:40.64 over the fast track.

“She broke pretty good, especially (at) a mile it gives you more time to find your stride,” Lezcano said. “I rode her like she’s the best horse in the race and kept her face clean. When I asked her, she kept going and won the race.

“I liked [Landed] and wanted to keep her close to me and see what happens. Stay close enough and when I asked, she kept going and won the race. … She’s pretty versatile.”

Landed, a daughter of Omaha Beach who cost Lael Stable $500,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings, finished second in her stakes debut. She was 8 lengths clear of third-place Bernietakescharge, with Walk With Me fourth. Midnight Concerto, Munny Grab, Cara’s Time, Baroness Bourbon, Rumint and Blue Eyed Warrior completed the field.

My Mane Squeeze earned $55,000 for her Maddie May victory, to boost her bankroll to $293,960 from a record of 4-0-2 in six starts.

Foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, My Mane Squeeze is the fourth foal out of Butler’s Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama.

In Spite of Mama is also the dam of multiple stakes winner and $582,955-earner Rotknee, stakes-placed winner and $170,220-earner Lookin for Trouble, four-time winner and $166,181-earner Mama’s Gold and an unnamed 2-year-old filly by War of Will. In Spite of Mama is also the dam of a New York-bred yearling colt by Runhappy and was bred by popular young New York sire Honest Mischief in 2023.

Carrying Butler’s colors, Rotknee won the Say Florida Sandy Stakes Jan. 28 at Aqueduct to improve to 9-for-17 in his career. A five-time stakes winner, Rotknee joined his younger half- sister as a finalist for champion New York-bred honors. The son of Runhappy is one of four finalists in the male sprinter category.

The New York-bred championships will be presented at the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc.’s Awards Dinner sponsored by the New York Thoroughbred Breeding & Development Fund Monday, May 13 at Sacred Saratoga on the property of GMP Farm in Schuylerville.

Coincidentally that’s five days before the 100th renewal of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico Race Course.

“There’s a joke to that—to the extent that the world wants to get into the Kentucky Oaks or the Kentucky Derby,” Butler said about his dream of winning the Black-Eyed Susan. “I started watching horse racing down at Pimlico in Section AA at Pimlico. I would hang out there on a regular basis. On Fridays, there would be nobody there for the Black-Eyed Susan and I would see these magnificent fillies run. It was a goal I set back then—this is over 50 years ago.


Security Code unlocks first stakes score in Broadway

Saturday, February 17th, 2024

Security Code holds off Venti Valentine for her first stakes score in Saturday’s Broadway. NYRA Photo.

Phil Serpe never doubted Security Code’s ability, all the way back to the daughter of Frosted’s 2-year-old season. Security Code lived up to that billing in 2022, winning in her second start after a runner-up finish to the talented Maple Leaf Mel in her debut at Saratoga Race Course.

“We’re looking to run her longer as we get down the road,” Serpe told The Saratoga Special in his annual Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour. “She’s a nice filly and we like her a lot.”

Serpe said similar last season, when the bay filly came to Saratoga with one more win and three stakes placings

“I always thought she was going to be a nice horse,” Serpe said in 2023. “She seems like she just doesn’t quite get there in the stakes, but she ran well here and will get another chance before the end of the meet.”

Security Code made the most of that chance – winning a 6-furlong restricted allowance-optional over closing weekend – and ended her run of futility in stakes competition Saturday, holding off her late-running rivals to win the $100,000 Broadway for older New York-bred fillies and mares. Again, to the delight of her veteran conditioner.

“She’s got some fight in her, doesn’t she?,” Serpe said Saturday after Security Code won by a neck over 5-2 favorite Venti Valentine. “We were kind of resigned to the fact that 6 furlongs might be her thing. She did win at 7 furlongs before, but usually you see how good a horse is going to be somewhere into their 3-year-old year.

“She just keeps getting a little bit better and she just seems to be improving. Maybe seven-eighths will be as far as she wants to go, but it’s a good result considering the New York-bred program, which we love and we’re a big part of, so that works out for her.”

Campaigned by Dr. Robert and Laura Vokovich’s WellSpring Stables, Security Code landed her first stakes victory after winning a 6-furlong open-company allowance last month. She won the 7-furlong Broadway in 1:26.77 over the good track under Jose Lezcano.

Security Code improved to 5-for-19 with five seconds and five thirds and earnings of $419,040.

“Dr. Vukovich and his wife, Laura, are great people to train for and it’s always good to win for them,” Serpe said. “It’s good for this filly and she just keeps churning out a lot of good races. It’s funny, Andy Serling mentioned [on America’s Day at the Races] that she just keeps going. She was running here last January and she was running every month into February.”

Bred by Rockridge Stud LLC, Ascendant Farms LLC and Godolphin and out of the Grade 3-placed Montbrook mare Stopspendingmaria, Security Code is indeed proving to be a throwback. Since her debut Aug. 10, 2022, she’s made starts in every month but one (June 2023) since leading up to the Broadway.

Placed in the 2022 Key Cents at Aqueduct and the 2023 Franklin Square Stakes and East View Stakes, both also at the Big A, Security Code went to the post of the Broadway as the 5-1 fourth choice behind Venti Valentine, Kant Hurry Love and Majestic Return.

Lezcano put her in the race early from post six, keeping tabs on early battling leaders Kant Hurry Love and Majestic Return to through opening splits of :23.11 and :47.23. They stayed wide approaching the stretch run and needed to only pass Kant Hurry Love in the lane.

Security Code edged clear of that foe inside the final sixteenth and had enough left to hold off Venti Valentine. Kant Hurry Love finished another 1 ¼ lengths back with Sweetest Princess fourth in the field of seven.

“She broke pretty good and I was happy with the position I got,” Lezcano said. “She’s more comfortable when she’s outside horses. I put her in the clear and she take me from there. When I asked her at the quarter-pole, she kept running. My filly felt the other horse [Venti Valentine] outside and she picked it up again. She pinned her ears back and she wasn’t going to let her go by. She kept running.”

Security Code is one of four winners and two stakes winners out of Stopspendingmaria, originally a $90,000 purchase by Repole Stables at the 2010 OBS Calder sale of selected 2-year-olds in training. She later sold in foal to Outwork to Rockridge Stud for $32,000 at the 2019 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.

Stopspendingmaria is the dam of the Uncle Mo mare No Mo’ Spending, winner of the 2020 Joseph A. Gimma Stakes; stakes-placed $360,765-earner Blewitt, an 8-year-old New York-bred son of Uncle Mo and the winning New York-bred Overanalyze mare Analyzeyurspending.

Stopspendingmaria is also the dam of the 2-year-old New York-bred Malibu Moon filly Maria Moon, who was bred by Rockridge, Ascendant and Spendthrift Farm and sold for $225,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale; and a yearling New York-bred colt by Modernist bred by Rockridge and Ascendant. The same breeders also welcomed a filly out of the mare by Greatest Honour born on Valentine’s Day.


Kinza goes to 2-for-2 in Las Virgenes

Saturday, February 10th, 2024

Kinza and jockey Juan Hernandez win the Grade 3 Las Virgenes Stakes Saturday at Santa Anita. Benoit Photo.

An impressive maiden special weight winner on debut to end last year, the New York-bred Carpe Diem filly Kinza easily stayed undefeated Saturday with a win in the Grade 3 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Stretching out to 1 mile for her second start, the Bob Baffert trainee went straight to the lead and set an easy pace a length ahead of the rest of the field. Setting early fractions of :22.99 and :46.91, Kinza faced mild pressure for the first time going into the turn when Kopion tried to mount a challenge but Kinza proved to be too good.

Kinza was comfortably ahead throughout the stretch run to win by 2 lengths in 1:37.03 for owner Michael Lund Petersen. The 2024 Las Virgenes was the third win in the stakes in as many years for Baffert, who has eight Las Virgenes winners overall.

“I never asked her to go that fast she was doing it all on her own,” winning jockey Juan Hernandez said “That was the key to win the race, that she was comfortable the whole race. When I asked her at the quarter pole, she picked it up, so I think she is a really nice filly.”

The victory took the undefeated filly to $99,000 in earnings in her two starts with both those wins coming at Santa Anita. Kinza will most likely stretch out even more from here with assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes thinking there is more to come.

“She acts like a filly that can handle (two turns),” Barnes said. “You don’t know until you do it, but she had shown in the morning, in her workouts that she could go further. I was more concerned there was so much speed, with the small field and a lot of speed.”

Bred by JD Business Ventures, Brushy Hill Stables and the Carpe Diem Syndicate, Kinza was sold three times before her debut.

The filly made her auction debut as a weanling when consigned by Schuylerville Thoroughbred Farm and brought $17,000 from Marysue Stable at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall mixed sale. The following fall, she was purchased as a yearling for $30,000 by Grassroots Training and Sales for $30,000 at the OBS October sale.

Donato Lanni went to $350,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale to purchase her for Petersen as the second most expensive New York-bred of that sale. Kinza is the first foal out of winning Quality Road mare Secret Wonder.

A $100,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase in 2014, Secret Wonder is a half-sister to the stakes placed Mylastfirstkiss. The family also includes Grade 3 winner Gentler Ruler and two other stakes winners under Kinza’s third dam.

Secret Wonder’s youngest foal is a New York-bred Instagrand filly born March 9, 2022.


Mischief Joke splashes to Rego Park win

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

Mischief Joke gives trainer Mike Maker a stakes double Sunday at Aqueduct in the Rego Park. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

A return to more aggressive tactics early in the race paved the way for Mischief Joke to land his first stakes victory in Sunday’s $97,000 Rego Park at Aqueduct.

Fifth and third in his prior two stakes tries after a more forward maiden-breaking victory in September during the Belmont at the Big A meeting, Mischief Joke took command early and rolled to a 1-length victory in the rescheduled Rego Park under Dylan Davis. The 3-year-old son of Practical Joke made quick work of his four rivals in the Rego Park, originally scheduled for January 21 but run a week later after frigid weather canceled racing in New York last weekend.

Davis rode Mischief Joke last time out, a close runner-up finish in an allowance-optional December 15 at Aqueduct, and learned about the colt.

“Last time, I broke him well and once I got him to the outside he kept running – so he was more of a steady moving type,” Davis said. “Today, I just wanted to break well so he could get into his stride. After that, I found myself on the lead which I was happy with. I would have taken second or third.”

Mischief Joke, the 9-5 second choice in the field of five, wound up on the lead after Trevor McCarthy and Detective Tom conceded the early advantage over the sloppy and sealed track.

Mischief Joke led Detective Tom by a length through the opening quarter-mile in :23.47 with 4-5 favorite Antonio of Venice another length back in third. The top three stayed in those positions through the half in :47.54

Davis kept Mischief Joke well off the rail turning for home and they spurted away to a 2 1/2-length lead in midstretch.

“Turning for home, I just wanted to get his stride going because I knew I had a lot of horse to finish up with based off his last effort,” Davis said.

Mischief Joke held sway in the lane, despite drifting out, as Antonio of Venice rallied for the place spot. Detective Tom finished 5 lengths back in third, with the filly Thirteen Red Flags and Always a Warrior completing the field. The final time was 1:19.76.

“It looked like [Antonio of Venice] didn’t have the best of breaks and [Detective Tom] was struggling a little bit there a sixteenth after the gate,” Davis said. “After that, he [Mischief Joke] just took control. He got happy up there and I punched him a little early before they could get to him and he kept on going.”

Owned by Paradise Farms Corp., Parkland Thoroughbreds, Barry Fowler and Angelo Carlesimo, Mischief Joke gave trainer Mike Maker a stakes double on the card. Maker sent out Buck Butler’s homebred Rotknee to victory in the $100,000 Say Florida Sandy Sunday at the Big A.

Mischief Joke improved to 2-for-10 with seven placings and earnings of $204,595 with the Rego Park victory.

Bred by Pine Ridge Stables LTD and foaled at Waldorf Farm in North Chatham, Mischief Joke is out of the unraced Distorted Humor mare Shesabitdistorted.

Shesabitdistorted is a full sister to graded stakes winner and Grade 1-placed Sharp Humor, champion New York-bred 2-year-old male in 2005 and champion New York-bred 3-year-old male in 2006. She’s the dam of six winners including the Rego Park winner. That group includes the New York-bred It’s Mo Joke.

Mischief Joke sold for $6,500 to Erick Torres as a short yearling at the 2022 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. He started his career in Kentucky for Torres and owner Twin Oaks LLC, finishing second in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race at Keeneland Race Course, before being purchased privately by his current connections.

After finishing second in three straight maiden races in June, July and August on the NYRA circuit, Mischief Joke was offered but not sold on a bid of $150,000 during the Fasig-Tipton August digital sale. He won about a month later, winning a 6 1/2-furlong maiden by 4 1/4 lengths after never being more than a half-length behind.


Rotknee rolls to Say Florida Sandy victory

Sunday, January 28th, 2024

Rotknee splashes to his latest victory in the NY-bred ranks in Sunday’s $100,000 Say Florida Sandy Stakes. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

When Rotknee’s name appears in the entries for a New York-bred race – particularly a stakes – it’s safe to expect a victory from Buck Butler’s homebred son of Runhappy.

Rotknee returned to the state-bred ranks Sunday and won again, improving to 7-for-8 at the level with a victory in the $100,000 Say Florida Sandy Stakes. The 5-year-old won his fifth New York-bred stakes in the 7-furlong Say Florida Sandy, taking over in the stretch en route to a 4-length victory over Aggregation.

“He’s a champ,” Butler said of Rotknee, who won in 1:27.19 on the sloppy track under Jose Lezcano. “He’s been a lot of fun and loves being in with his New York friends.”

The friends might not be so keen on Rotknee, who won the Damon Runyon Stakes, Mike Lee Stakes and Ontario County Stakes as a 3-year-old and the Hudson Stakes at 4 before his latest victory. Trained by Mike Maker, Rotknee came into the Say Florida Sandy off a third in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap and a second in the Gravesend Stakes, both at Aqueduct and against open company.

Rotknee also improved to 3-for-3 going 7 furlongs, although the added distance after back-to-back tries going 6 furlongs concerned Lezcano.

“I worried a little bit today about the seven-eighths, a little more distance for a three-quarters horse,” he said. “But today, he was relaxed the whole way and when I asked him, he was gone. The track helped with it being a sealed track to carry him through to the wire.”

The 9-5 favorite in the field of six just ahead of Aggregation at the same price, Rotknee rated just off the early speed of Disarmed with Andiamo a Firenze mixing it up early though the opening quarter-mile in :23.15. Andiamo a Firenze, claimed for $62,500 last time out by trainer David Duggan, came away with the lead approaching the half in :46.78 with Rotknee keeping close tabs around the far turn.

Rotknee took command near the 5/16ths pole and rolled into the stretch at least five paths off the rail. He opened up 3 lengths in midstretch, passed 6 furlongs in 1:12.90 and stayed well clear late as Aggregation got up for second by a neck over Andiamo a Firenze with General Banker another neck back in fourth. Disarmed and Ocean’s Reserve completed the field.

Foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, Rotknee is the second foal and one of two stakes winners out of the winning Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama.

In Spite of Mama is also the dam of the 3-year-old Audible filly My Mane Squeeze, the winner of three of five starts after her recent score in the Franklin Square Stakes at Aqueduct for Butler and Maker. An earner of $238,960, she also won the Maid of the Mist Stakes on the same Empire Showcase Day card where Rotknee won the Hudson.

In Spite of Mama’s first foal, the 6-year-old New York-bred Into Mischief colt Lookin for Trouble, was a winner and multiple stakes-placed for Butler and Maker. He earned $170,220. In Spite of Mama is also the dam of the 4-year-old New York-bred Bolt d’Oro colt Mama’s Gold, a four-time winner in 14 starts with earnings of $168,641; and a New York-bred 2-year-old filly by 2019 Preakness Stakes winner War of Will and a yearling full brother to Rotknee.

In Spite of Mama, a 12-year-old out of the Carson City mare Mama Theresa, went 3-2-2 in 17 starts for Butler and Maker from 2014 to 2016.

Butler bought Mama Theresa for $65,000 at the 2005 OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training. She won six of 25 starts, placed in two stakes and earned $240,898 for Butler and Timothy Twomey and the late trainer Dominic Galluscio. In Spite of Mama is Mama Theresa’s second foal and a half-sister to four other winners, including stakes winner A Freud of Mama, an earner of $399,818 who also finished third in the Grade 3 Matron Stakes at Belmont Park in 2019 for Butler and Maker.

Rotknee earned $55,000 for his latest victory to boost his earnings to $582,955. He’s won nine of 17 starts overall. As for that lone defeat in the state-bred ranks? That goes all the way back to Rotknee’s debut July 9, 2021, when he finished second by 3 lengths as the favorite in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race at Belmont Park.


Roanan Goddess scores in Xtra Heat Stakes

Saturday, January 27th, 2024

Roanan Goddess rolls to first stakes victory in Saturday’s Xtra Heat at Laurel Park. Maryland Jockey Club Photo.

Mens Grille Racing’s Roanan Goddess improved off her first two tries in stakes company to start her sophomore campaign with a victory in Saturday’s $99,000 Xtra Heat Stakes at Laurel Park.

Sixth in the Smart Halo in November and fourth in the Gin Talking in December – both at Laurel – Roanan Goddess overcame some jostling and tight quarters late in Saturday’s Xtra Heat to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Reconcile. Jeiron Barbosa rode the winner, a 3-year-old daughter of former New York-based sire Leofric, for trainer Hamilton Smith.

Sent off as the 2-1 third choice in the field of five, Roanan Goddess rated third behind the early speed Reconcile and C C Royal through the opening quarter-mile in :22.86 over the muddy and sealed track. Reconcile continued to lead by a length over C C Royal around the far turn and to the half in :46.74, with Roanan Goddess just behind while still on the inside.

Roanan Goddess challenged for the lead near the 3/16ths pole and jostled a bit with Reconcile making her bid. She took over from there and drew off inside the final sixteenth to win going away. Reconcile held second, 2 lengths ahead of C C Royal with 7-5 favorite Heart fourth. The final time was 1:11.82.

Bred by Chad Carter, foaled at Rockridge Stud in Hudson and out of the winning Midnight Lute mare Night Madam, Roanan Goddess sold for $30,000 to C & C Stables at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale. She later sold to Mens Grille Racing for $60,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale.

Roanan Goddess is the second foal out of Night Madam, who is also the dam of the eight-time winning New York-bred Alpha mare Madam Alpha. Night Madam is also the dam of a West Virginia-bred 2-year-old full brother to Roanan Goddess named Snowy Night.

Roanan Goddess has raced exclusively in the Mid-Atlantic region, starting her career with a sixth in a turf sprint maiden at Laurel before a victory in a similar 5 ½-furlong maiden race in early September at Colonial Downs. Switched to the dirt after that victory, Roanan Goddess finished second and first in allowance-optional races at Laurel to earn those tries in stakes company to end her juvenile campaign.

The Xtra Heat was worth $60,000 to Roanan Goddess’ connections and the filly improved to 3-1-0 in seven starts with $147,240.


My Mane Squeeze wins Franklin Square in comeback

Sunday, January 14th, 2024

My Mane Squeeze scores in sophomore debut, taking the Franklin Square at Aqueduct. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

My Mane Squeeze solidified her credentials as one of the best New York-bred 2-year-old fillies in last season’s Maid of the Mist Stakes on Empire Showcase Day. A little more than two months later Buck Butler’s homebred daughter of Audible showed she’ll be plenty tough as a 3-year-old with a comeback victory in Sunday’s $100,000 Franklin Square Stakes at Aqueduct.

Off since the Oct. 29 Maid of the Mist at 1 mile, My Mane Squeeze returned with a 1 1/4-length victory over Bernietakescharge in the 6 1/2-furlong Franklin Square under Jose Lezcano. My Mane Squeeze won in 1:18.76 and gave Lezcano his third win on the card.

“I was jumping up and down and I’m not sure I saw it all,” Butler said. “I can’t say a whole hell of a lot except I love it and I’m praying that from what I’ve seen from her, it’s not the bottom of her yet. I’ve got my fingers crossed.”

The 8-5 favorite in the field of six reduced by the scratches of Soloshot and Unicorn Cake, My Mane Squeeze raced fifth early as Flight Control and Cara’s Time battled early and through the opening quarter in :22.63 over the fast track.

Lezcano guided My Mane Squeeze into third and outside of Bernietakescharge around the far turn as Flight Control continued to lead to the half in :46.76. My Mane Squeeze turned into the stretch at least five paths off the fence, engaged Bernietakescharge outside the eighth pole and eventually wore that rival down inside the final sixteenth for her third win in five starts. The first two finished well clear of the field, with 7-2 third choice Tricky Temper 10 1/4 lengths back in third. Flight Control finished fourth as Sweet Brown Sugar and Cara’s Time completed the field.

“She broke very good and I got a chance to put her outside in the clear,” Lezcano said. “She traveled very comfortable. In the stretch, I asked her to go on and she gave me what she’s got. …I was feeling good. In the clear, she jumped on the bridle and was galloping pretty nice. When I really had to ask her, I had plenty of horse and plenty of gas in the tank.”

My Mane Squeeze started her career with a third and a victory in maiden races at Saratoga Race Course, before a third in the Joseph A. Gimma Stakes in late September during the Belmont at the Big A meeting. She improved off that effort to win the Maid of the Mist by 3 lengths over Cara’s Time and Calwell Luvs Gold.

Maker and Butler gave My Mane Squeeze a short freshener after that victory and set sights on a sophomore campaign for the bay filly.

My Mane Squeezed breezed seven times on the Belmont training track for her return, including a bullet half in :48.25 Dec. 12 and a 3-furlong tightener in :38.21 three days before the Franklin Square. She pocketed $55,000 for the Franklin Square to boost her bankroll to $238.960.

Foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, My Mane Squeeze is the fourth foal out of Butler’s Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama.

In Spite of Mama is also the dam of multiple stakes winner and $527,955-earner Rotknee, stakes-placed winner and $170,220-earner Lookin for Trouble, four-time winner and $166,181-earner Mama’s Gold and an unnamed 2-year-old filly by War of Will. In Spite of Mama is also the dam of a New York-bred yearling colt by Runhappy and was bred by popular young New York sire Honest Mischief in 2023.


Bold Journey adds Gravesend to resume

Saturday, December 30th, 2023

Bold Journey, a half brother to New York-bred Horse of the Year Americanrevolution, wins second straight stakes in Saturday’s Gravesend at Aqueduct. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

Bold Journey loves Aqueduct. Like, really loves it.

The 4-year-old son of Hard Spun has made 14 of his 20 starts at Aqueduct – not really his decision mind you – and six of his seven wins have come at the Big A. That’s entirely up to the chestnut colt, who collected his latest score in Saturday’s $145,500 Gravesend Stakes.

Bold Journey, a half-brother to New York-bred Horse of the Year Americanrevolution, added the Gravesend to his victory a month ago in the Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap. Bold Journey won the latter by a length over Durante with fellow New York-bred Rotknee third, and topped Rotknee by 4 1/2 lengths in the Gravesend with 4-5 favorite Durante third.

Jockey Eric Cancel, who returned from injury in late October, returned on Bold Journey for the first time since June when he won that one time away from Aqueduct going 6 furlongs on the turf.

“He broke very sharp. He usually sits back early in the race,” Cancel said. “I just let him get comfortable and once I asked him, he knew what he needed to do. He just engaged and from there on that was it.

“He was very explosive. As soon as I asked him, he didn’t hesitate. He didn’t take a while like he usually does. He just exploded and from there on I just had to hang on tight.”

Bold Journey, who won the 6-furlong Gravesend in 1:09.46 over the drying out track labeled muddy, improved to 7-for-20 and collected $82,500 to boost his bankroll to $568,743 for trainer Bill Mott and owners Pantofel Stable, Wachtel Stable and Gary Barber.

The 3-1 third choice in the field of five, Bold Journey raced fourth early as 5-2 second choice Rotknee blazed through the opening quarter mile in :21.94. Durante and Stage Left took up the chase up the backstretch, with Bold Journey 8 1/4 lengths back in fourth.

Bold Journey inched within 6 lengths around the far turn and to the quarter-pole, with Rotknee still in front after a half in :44.95.

Cancel guided Bold Journey to the inside of Durante in the stretch, passed that foe outside the eighth pole and set his sights on the leader approaching the sixteenth pole. Bold Journey accelerated from there and widened his advantage with every stride to the wire. Rotknee held second for the New York-bred exacta, a nose in front of Durante, who has a head clear of Stage Left. Greeley and Ben completed the field.

“He broke a step behind and broke out,” said Jose Lezcano, who rode Rotknee. “After that, I sent a little bit and he jumped in the bridle and went on. That’s the way he wants to run. The winner can run – can’t take nothing away from him. My horse gave me what he’s got. He ran his best.”

Bred by Fred Hertrich III and John Fielding and foaled at Waldorf Farm in North Chatham, Bold Journey is one of three winners out of the winning Super Saver mare Polly Freeze. Named New York-bred broodmare of the year in 2021, Polly Freeze produced the Kentucky-bred Wicked Strong mare Text Dont Call, won two of 16 starts and earned $42,109.

Americanrevolution, a son of Constitution and Polly Freeze’s second foal, earned New York-bred Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old honors in 2021 after a 5-for-6 season highlighted by victories in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap, Empire Classic Handicap and Albany Stakes. He recently retired to stand his first season in 2024 at Rockridge Stud in Hudson.

Polly Freeze’s fourth foal, the 3-year-old Collected filly Paleta, sold for $60,000 as a broodmare prospect at this year’s Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Polly Freeze is also the dam of a yearling filly by Frosted that sold for $150,000 at the Keeneland September sale and a weanling colt by Constitution born March 18.

A $75,000 RNA at the 2020 Keeneland September yearling sale, Bold Journey later sold for $80,000 to McMahon & Hill Bloodstock, agent, at the 2021 OBS April sale. He won one of two starts at 2 before a second in the Gander Stakes in February 2022. Ninth in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes that March, Bold Journey didn’t return to stakes company until this past April when fifth in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap presented by NYRA Bets at Aqueduct.

Bold Journey has won four of seven starts since the Carter, including three straight over the Aqueduct main track.