NEWS: racing

Silver Skillet skips to Mount Vernon win; Spirit of St Louis wins the Kingston

Sunday, June 9th, 2024

Silver Skillet dominates the off-the-turf Mount Vernon. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

Christophe Clement heard the rain. Then he saw the rain. He didn’t care either way, Silver Skillet was running, rain or shine, turf or dirt. 

Silver Skillet showed she could handle either in her first 12 starts and did so again on Sunday’s New York Showcase Day card to close the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course. The 4-year-old daughter of Liam’s Map, a stakes winner in New York-bred company and placed in open stakes last year, added another stakes victory in the off-the-turf $125,000 Mount Vernon.

Joel Rosario rode Silver Skillet to her front-running score, finishing 4 lengths clear of Stonewall Star with 8-5 favorite Tough Street third in the scratched-down field of six. 

“She likes a wet track,” Clement said after the win. “She has run well before on a wet track. She was a little bit unlucky first time back at Aqueduct on the grass. She’s trained well. I just told Joel to break well and make it simple. And she broke well and he made it simple.”

Silver Skillet took command from the start, opening up 2 lengths through the opening quarter-mile in :24.31 and Rosario put his five rivals to bed from there. 

“With a sloppy track, we get in a position and see where we’re at,” Rosario said. “It looked like she showed a lot of speed and I was able to just go to the front and let her do what she wants to do.”

Silver Skillet continued to lead without pressure through the half in :47.35 and 6 furlongs in 1:11.21. She turned for home well in front and opened up 2 lengths in midstretch. Silver Skillet cruised from there, winning under a hand ride after on tap of Rosario’s right-handed whip in deep stretch. Silver Skillet won in 1:37.55. 

Silver Skillet improved to 2-for 4 on a wet track, adding the Mount Vernon to a 14 ½-length maiden win in December 2022. 

“She ran before on this kind of track and has run very well,” Rosario said. “Today, she proved that she’s OK with this track. You never know because (when a race comes off the turf) you could lose the speed of the race. We just try to get a good spot in the beginning and I was hoping to be close on the pace. I just tried to ride it from there.” – Tom Law

Sprit of St Louis handles off going to win Kingston to close New York Showcase Day card. NYRA Photo.

• Spirit of St Louis owner Michael Dubb didn’t have a stressful weekend.

He was only stressed before the Belmont Stakes festival started when he saw the thunderstorms scheduled for the weekend but other than that, there was no stress.

There definitely wasn’t any stress when he was standing in the winner’s circle after his New York-bred Spirit of St Louis won the $125,000 Kingston Stakes to close out the New York Showcase Day at Saratoga.

“I’ve been coming to Saratoga for 50 years and I’ve never had an experience like this in Saratoga,” Dubb said. “On Thursday when I arrived, I said ‘It’s a little awkward to be here.’ When I left Thursday afternoon, I said ‘Oh my God, this is unbelievable. I wish we could do this all the time.’ ”

Due to rain Sunday morning, the usual 1 1/16 mile turf race was moved to the dirt track for a muddy mile. It didn’t seem to bother the Chad Brown-trained 4-5 favorite.

Jockey Manny Franco put the son of Medaglia d’Oro near the lead in the shortened five-horse field and surged coming out of the final turn, passing Jerry the Nipper and Disarmed. From there, the race became how about the winning margin.

“He’s a good, consistent horse,” Brown said. “He’s effective on the dirt, particularly when it’s wet. He’s a real pleasure to have and he just continues to improve.”

The 5-year-old posted a 1:37.44 time and added his seventh victory and fourth stakes win in nine starts. This was his first dirt victory since his debut at Aqueduct in early 2023.

“He does whatever you ask him to do,” Franco said. “From the turf to dirt, he is a nice horse. He is very nice. Every time I ask him, he is there. He’s a cool horse.”

Dubb, before answering questions, asked a question of his own: “Where’s the champagne room?”

“It’s just phenomenal,” Dubb said. “This is the best racing place on Earth.” Spencer Ripchik

Doc Sullivan delivers for Lostritto in Mike Lee; Clear the Runway: Landed wins Bouwerie

Sunday, June 9th, 2024

Doc Sullivan and Javier Castellano roll to victory in Sunday’s Mike Lee at Saratoga. NYRA Photo.

As he celebrated Doc Sullivan’s win in the Mike Lee Stakes on New York Showcase Day at Saratoga Race Course Sunday, Joe Lostritto had one concern.

“This is the major league,” Lostritto said. “This is make believe. This is not real. I’ll wake up tomorrow and say, ‘What a hell of a dream I had.’ ”

Not to worry, Joe, it is indeed real and your horse is a stakes winner.

Doc Sullivan, a 3-year-old son of Solomini, enjoyed a perfect trip in the Saratoga slop under Javier Castellano, taking the lead at the three-eighths pole and gradually extending it down the stretch to win the $125,000 stakes by 4 lengths in 1:22.61.

“Once he got the lead, he looked really tough,” trainer Mike Miceli said. “He was laying in a good position down the backside. Javier had him within range. When he asked him to run, he had a lot of horse. I said to myself at the head of the lane, ‘they’re going to have to run to get by him because I could see Javier hadn’t asked him to run.’ ”

Castellano was relieved that his horse behaved better on the racetrack than in the paddock, when he was a bit obstreperous when being saddled.

“He kind of reacted a little bit in the walking ring when they put (the saddle) on,” he said. “But before the race he was well-behaved today. He warmed up really good.”

The fifth foal and first stakes winner out of Queen Frostine, Doc Sullivan was bred by Seamus Coughlan. He went for $58,000 as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton 2022 New York Bred sale and Lostritto and his son, Glenn, who race as Tristar Farm, bought him for $59,000 at last year’s OBS June 2-year-olds in training sale. Doc Sullivan became the latest stakes winner by Solomini, a 9-year-old son of Curlin who stands for $7,500 at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughreds in Saratoga Springs.

Lostritto, a former trainer who has a 50-acre farm in Old Brookville on Long Island, said the horse was named for a medical doctor friend of his and a professor his son had at Penn State. “I think he named him more after his professor than I named him after the doctor. But he was also a doctor of teaching,” he said.

Doc Sullivan broke his maiden and romped in an allowance at Aqueduct before running second in the Gander Stakes for New York-breds and the New York Stallion Series. He came back with a solid win in an allowance in his last start before the Mike Lee for Miceli, whose Saratoga entries always deserve a second look.

“You just have the right horses because this is always a tough place,” he said. “So we like to try to come here with a loaded gun.” – Paul Halloran

Landed gives her dam Glory Gold a second Showcase Day victory in Sunday’s Bouwerie Stakes at Saratoga Race Course. Jetta Vaughns/NYRA Photo.

• Landed looks like she’s on her way to bigger and better things after her 1 1/4-length win in Sunday’s $125,000 Bouwerie Stakes for owner Lael Stable and trainer Wesley Ward. The 3-year-old filly by Omaha Beach broke well and sat close to the pace set by Sunday Girl on the backstretch through fractions of :22.15 and :44.83. Under jockey John Velazquez, Landed started to inch her way clear as the field arrived at the top of the stretch and was able to hold off the late rallies from Caldwell Luvs Gold and Tricky Temper to get her first stakes victory in 1:23.61 for the 7-furlong distance on the main track.

“I didn’t think I was going to be in the lead, but I wanted to make sure she came out running,” Velazquez said. “She was misbehaving a little bit in the gate. All of a sudden I was close to the lead and I just left her alone.”

Velazquez noted that Landed did have to regain concentration late in the stretch after she had opened a gap on her competition, but once she realized there was still work to do, she was all business.

“Coming down the lane, she’s by herself and easing up, and I said ‘OK, we’ve got to get focused here,’ ” Velazquez said. “I went left-handed and kind of drifted out a bit so she could feel the competition and then she did it pretty handily after that.”

Co-breeder Shaun Nettleton of Final Furlong Racing Stable was in the winner’s circle to celebrate the win after having already won as an owner with the filly’s half-sister, Venti Valentine, earlier on the card in the Critical Eye Stakes. As one can imagine, he was thrilled.

“It’s a true honor,” he said. “We bought the mare for $13,000 on a whim. We owned Espresso Shot who was a great New York runner, turned around and had Venti Valentine who has given us the ride of a lifetime, and now to watch her younger sibling just keep following those winning ways on the New York circuit, we are thrilled to support the family and couldn’t ask for any more.”

Nettleton hopes that Landed can make a step forward into deeper waters.

“It looks just like her sister Venti where she could start stepping into bigger shoes, step into an open competition and start stretching out and see what life has in store for her,” he said. “We are excited for the future.”

It certainly seems like the race for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies is going to be a stepping stone to Landed’s future.

“We’d love to get some open black-type for her, and she’s just the horse to do it,” Nettleton said. “She has a great ownership and trainers behind her, so we wish them the best of luck and we love it.”

Landed is out of the winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Glory Gold. Lael Stables purchased Landed for $500,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings out of the Eaton Sales consignment. – Alec DiConza

Venti Valentine cruises to Critical Eye victory; Drake’s Passage wins Saratoga return in Commentator

Sunday, June 9th, 2024

Venti Valentine shines on Showcase Day with victory in the Critical Eye. NYRA Photo.

Dan Zanatta and Vince Roth jumped from their seats in the Saratoga Race Course clubhouse and headed to the top of the stairs leading to the winner’s circle Sunday, patting each other on the chest in excitement.

The representatives of NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds celebrated after watching their New York-bred mare Venti Valentine break away from the pack to win the $200,000 Critical Eye Stakes Sunday on the New York Showcase Day card at Saratoga.

“Any place on New York Showcase Day is a dream,” Roth said. “But to be here, Belmont Stakes at Saratoga weekend, and have her win like that, that’s the race you plan and today it happened.”

Venti Valentine stayed off the lead early in the 9-furlong stakes over the muddy track, waiting until the top of the stretch to make her move and track down frontrunners Bustin Bay and Bon Adieu. The daughter of Firing Line won by 6 3/4 lengths as at the 5-2 second choice in the field of six. Venti Valentine won in 1:52.51.

Venti Valentine’s trip wasn’t quite the trip trainer Jorge Abreu envisioned for jockey Irad Ortiz Jr.

“I’d like to see her on the lead,” said Abreu, decked out in a New York Yankees sweater for the occasion. “Irad told me ‘three other horses are going to go, so I am going to sit right off of them.’ I said, ‘well I’m not going to tell you how to ride it.’ He gave her a perfect ride.”

Venti Valentine hadn’t seen the winner’s circle since October 2023, when she won the Jack Betta Be Rite Stakes at Finger Lakes. She lost six straight after that win, racing in one- and two-turn races. She exited a second in the Serena’s Song Stakes at Monmouth Park May 12.. Abreu said she came out of the race in “great shape.” 

“Early on she looked like a horse that wanted to go a one-turn mile,” Abreu said. “Now that she’s older she’s got that speed and she wants to go two turns.”

Abreu doesn’t have a definite next outing in mind for Venti Valentine, but she’ll likely stay in similar spots to the Critical Eye. 

“We’re going to see how she comes out,” Abreu said. “We’re just going to keep her a New York-bred for now.” 

Bred by Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable and foaled at Schuylerville Thoroughbred Farm in Schuylerville, Venti Valentine improved to 7-5-5 in 21 starts and boosted her bankroll to $883,600 with the victory. Spencer Ripchik

Drake’s Passage adds the Commentator to his victory in last year’s Albany Stakes on Sunday’s New York Showcase Day card. NYRA Photo.

• Robert “Shel” Evans’ homebred Drake’s Passage improved to 2-for-2 at Saratoga in Sunday’s $200,000 Commentator Stakes, a 9-furlong contest for older New York-breds on the main track. The son of Tonalist added the Commentator to his 7 3/4-length victory in last year’s Albany Stakes at the same distance.

Breaking from post 2, the 4-year-old colt took the lead right away after the expected early pacesetter to his inside, Sheriff Bianco, stumbled at the start and almost lost rider Jose Lezcano. Drake’s Passage ran the opening quarter-mile in :24.45 and the half in :48.88 with Donegal Surges about a length behind on the backstretch. As the field rounded the turn and entered the stretch, Drake’s Passage gained some separation over that rival and was all by himself with a furlong to go. He galloped home on the muddy and sealed track 4 lengths ahead of Donegal Surges in 1:49.32 under jockey Manny Franco. Christophe Clement trains the winner. 

“When I saw the one stumble out of there, I said I’m going to go,” Franco said. “After that, I was in cruise control there the whole way.”

The winning trainer was pleased with the effort by his colt.

“He was very impressive,” Clement said. “Great trip. He was in front, comfortable. He’s a nice horse. When he got to an easy lead, I thought he’d be very dangerous, because I know he stays a mile and an eighth.”

Drake’s Passage came out of two runner-up finishes in open-company allowance races at Aqueduct. Despite the defeats, Clement was encouraged by how well he ran on both occasions coming into the Commentator.

“I know we got beat in New York in these allowance races, but they were actually spectacular allowance races if you look at numbers,” he said. 

Drake’s Passage could try to go 3-for-3 at Saratoga this summer in another major stakes event for New York-breds, according to Clement, with a possible start before then.

“We got a big stakes, New York-bred, in the Saratoga meet,” he said. “Where do we go in between? I’m sure we’ll find a place for him.”

As for the day as a whole, Clement is grateful that there is a day to celebrate the New York-breds as well as their owners and breeders with a card full of stakes races.

“It’s a great program,” he said. “There’s a lot of money. It’s a great owner/breeder program because they get us all these breeders’ awards. We need that kind of day to be successful for everybody involved.” – Alec DiConza

Six stakes highlight New York Showcase Day

Sunday, June 9th, 2024

Fingal’s Cave, winner of the Fleet Indian as a 3-year-old, is among the stars on Sunday’s Showcase Day card at Saratoga. NYRA Photo.

By Alec DiConza/The Saratoga Special

Two years after Fingal’s Cave won both starts at Saratoga Race Course, the 5-year-old mare returns to the Spa in Sunday’s $200,000 Critical Eye Stakes as part of New York Showcase Day and the final card of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

The Critical Eye is one of six New York-bred stakes on the card, along with the $125,000 Mike Lee for 3-year-olds, $125,000 Bouwerie for 3-year-old fillies, $200,000 Commentator for older horses, $125,000 Mount Vernon for fillies and mares on the turf and $125,000 Kingston for older horses on the grass.

In 2022, Fingal’s Cave opened her career with five consecutive wins, highlighted by the Fleet Indian Stakes at Saratoga. She finished with a good second in the Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland. After a 14-month layoff, she returned with a win in Aqueduct’s Bay Ridge Stakes last December before most recently running third and fourth in the Grade 3 Distaff and Grade 2 Ruffian respectively. 

“She’s a really nice filly,” trainer David Donk said. “I would say she was pretty impressive off the long layoff in December. Had a slight break on purpose because of the weather, came back and she ran well in the first race with open company and then her last race wasn’t quite as good. She didn’t finish up quite as well. I’m not sure, it was kind of a funny race. But she’s done well since, she’s had a couple good breezes. She breezed well here last week. She’s won at the distance, so it’s a good spot to hopefully get her back on the right track.”

Donk reflected on the 2022 season and believes the filly will enjoy the return to Saratoga for Alifyfe Racing and Mo Speed Racing.

“She was 2-for-2 that year, won the allowance race and won the stake, so that’s nice,” he said. “A lot of horses that seem to run well here in the past continue to. She’s been up here a couple weeks, settled in. So I’m hopeful that this is the right spot.”

Donk thinks the return to New York-bred company could help.

“I think she needed ideally easier company, although this is a pretty good race,” he said. “Being New York-breds, you get the opportunity to run against their own kind.”

Fingal’s Cave will have plenty of work ahead of her in the eighth race. She breaks from post eight as the 2-1 morning line favorite in a field of nine. Several, like Fingal’s Cave, are generally forward early. Donk will leave the tactics up to jockey John Velazquez.

“There’s a lot of pace in the race, especially for a mile and an eighth race,” he said. “He’s a Hall of Famer, there aren’t really going to be any instructions. I’m going to let him do what he thinks is best. She likes to be up on the pace or close, but I’m going to leave it in his hands.”

Second choice Venti Valentine lost to Fingal’s Cave twice, but trainer Jorge Abreu thinks the distance could be the difference maker for the daughter of Firing Line owned by NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds.

“She’s acting like she wants to go two turns,” he said. “Before, she was acting like she only wanted to go seven-eighths of a mile. Last race, the Serena’s Song at Jersey, she was just compromised by being checked pretty hard and she still got up out in front of everybody. Nice field. David Donk’s horse is the one to beat on paper but my filly is pretty good.”

Other major contenders include Bustin Bay, winner of the first race on opening day last year at Saratoga, for trainer Linda Rice and Winning Move Stable. She comes off a front-running victory at Aqueduct. Midtown Lights comes in for trainer Brad Cox off two wins going a mile at Aqueduct. Sunset Louise comes back to dirt after the Plenty of Grace Stakes at Aqueduct and is 2-for-3 at Saratoga. Others are Sweet Mystery, Amanda’s Folly, Lavon, and Bon Adieu.

Drake’s Passage returns in Sunday’s Commentator. NYRA Photo.

• Trainer Christophe Clement will be well represented with four stakes entries. Drake’s Passage goes in the Commentator. He impressed in a win in last year’s Albany at Saratoga. Although winless since, the 4-year-old son of Tonalist owned by Robert “Shel” Evans has put forth seconds in his last two starts against open company. Clement’s son and assistant, Miguel Clement, said the horse comes into the contest in good form.

“He’s doing very well,” he said. “We’re excited to see him run. His race here last season was very impressive.”

Breaking from post two, the 7-5 favorite will sit wherever is necessary. He has performed well from many early positions.

“Manny Franco is riding very well, he knows the horse inside out,” Clement said. “And Drake’s Passage is versatile. He can be forwardly placed, he can come from a bit off the pace, stalk. It’s very much whatever Manny would like to do, so we don’t have to worry about the pace.”

The race drew a competitive group of seven. Sheriff Bianco breaks from the inside for Linda Rice and finished second in the Empire Classic last October at Aqueduct. Dr Ardito was a closing winner of the Alex M. Robb Stakes and won the Evan Shipman last year. Whittington Park won the Haynesfield at Aqueduct and returns to New York-bred competition after two graded stakes tries. Donegal Surges stretches to two turns but comes off a third in the Affirmed Success. Union Fleet won over the slop at Pimlico in an allowance three weeks ago. 

• The stakes action for Clement continues in the Mount Vernon with favored Silver Skillet for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Tango Uniform Racing, and Steven Rocco. She exits a fourth in an allowance at Aqueduct off a layoff. Last year, she won two races at the Spa including the Suzie O’Cain. Joel Rosario has the mount. Clement is enthusiastic about her chances. 

“Makes a lot of sense, it’s a mile, I believe that’s her favorite distance,” he said. “She won well at Saratoga last year, two races here last summer, and it’s a logical place to go. She was the New York-bred champion for turf filly and mare last season, and hopefully we kick off the year in the right way in this spot.”

Second choice Marvelous Maude, a Chad Brown trainee, who won this race last year at Belmont Park. She has only run once since then, a third in the Plenty of Grace Stakes. Brown also trains Klaravich Stable’s Overacting, who broke her maiden in her debut last summer at Saratoga and comes out of a win at Aqueduct. Stonewall Star makes her turf debut for Barry Schwartz and trainer Horacio De Paz. She won the Biogio’s Rose at Aqueduct last out. Completing the field are Lady Jasmine, Lisa’s Vision, Masterof the Tunes, Snowy Evening, and Sweetest Princess.

• The longest shot of Clement’s quartet is The Shoe Lady, who at 10-1 under Dylan Davis will contest the Bouwerie going 7 furlongs. She comes off two victories at Aqueduct and steps into stakes company.

“The filly has done very well at Aqueduct,” Clement said. “She’s 2-for-3 and this is the next logical step. Without a doubt it’s a more ambitious placement, she’s going to have to step up in company. Nevertheless, she’s giving us every indication that she at least merits a try in order to obtain some precious black type.”

Race favorite Landed comes off a victory going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland and cuts back for trainer Wesley Ward. Caldwell Luvs Gold also figures, with the two wins coming at Saratoga for Dicke Racing and trainer Brad Cox. La Banquera won her debut at Aqueduct. Tricky Temper has shown up in state-bred stakes, most recently third in the Franklin Square in January. Sunday Girl is 2-for-2 with impressive victories in a division of the New York Stallion Stakes series and a maiden special weight. The other entrants are P Mutter Pickle, Tough Love Torres, Bernietakescharge, and Carol T.

Multiple stakes winner City Man returns for title defense in Mohawk. NYRA Photo.

• The final horse from Clement’s stable running in a stakes today is City Man, a 7-year-old model of consistency with 11 wins and 22 top-three finishes in 32 starts for Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Peter and Patty Seales. The son of Mucho Macho Man makes his 2024 debut in the Kingston Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile event. 

“He’s been very good to us,” Clement said. “That horse, he’s a millionaire, winning stakes races from the age of 2 all the way to 6. He broke his maiden at Saratoga and won a stakes here sprinting on the dirt. He’s amazingly versatile to the surface, distance, he’s done it all. He’s a great horse for all of us involved and a lot of fun.”

The last time fans got to see City Man was in the Mohawk at Aqueduct last year, where he finished second over a yielding turf course. It has been a little more than seven months since he has raced, so Clement believes there is a chance he will need the race.

“Not entirely sure if he’s fully cranked or might benefit from the race,” he said. “Nevertheless, good horses overcome when the variables are not always in their favor, and he’s a top class horse. Maybe he’s good enough to overcome it all.”

Last year, City Man not only won the Kingston by a nose at Belmont, but also won the West Point Stakes at Saratoga in August. He has run six times over the Saratoga turf course and won three with two seconds.

“He’s very consistent at Saratoga,” he said. “He’s won multiple stakes here, so he does have an affinity for the turf course and it’s exciting.”

City Man has developed a rivalry with Kingston favorite Spirit of St. Louis over the past year. Trained by Brown, this son of Medaglia d’Oro has never been worse than second and has won six of eight.  In three matchups last year,  City Man won the first with Spirit of St. Louis sweeping the the second two. Spirit of St. Louis has recency on his side, winning the Danger’s Hour Stakes at Aqueduct.

The trifecta from last year’s Kingston returns for this year’s edition. Jerry the Nipper, nipped at the wire last year, is coming back from a fourth in the Barbados Gold Cup in March and looks for his first win since July 30 at Saratoga last season for trainer Todd Pletcher. Dakota Gold, finished third behind Spirit of St. Louis in this year’s Danger’s Hour for his 2024 debut. 

The Kingston will go as the final race on the card at 6:48 p.m.

• The other stakes on the day is the Mike Lee, which will see a major scratch of initially favored Antonio of Venice, according to trainer Rudy Rodriguez. That leaves five horses with Doc Sullivan taking over the role of favoritism. He exits an allowance win at Aqueduct last month. He has never missed the board in six starts and will break from post four for Tristar Farm, trainer Mike Miceli, and jockey Javier Castellano. 

That’s Money was fourth in the same race as Doc Sullivan. Elysian Meadows tried a couple races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and sixth in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial before running in the Woodhaven Stakes on grass. He has won twice in state-bred company for trainer Bill Mott. Mischief Joke and Grand Opening complete the field.

The Wine Steward, My Mane Squeeze headline Belmont Festival

Thursday, June 6th, 2024

The Wine Steward, already an open-company stakes winner, leads the NY-bred contingent at the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga. Coady Photography.

Grade 1-placed stakes winner The Wine Steward and Grade 2 winner My Mane Squeeze lead a strong group of New York-breds headed into stakes company during this week’s Belmont Stakes Racing Festival.

Paradise Farms Corp.’s and David Staudacher’s The Wine Steward, a son of Vino Rosso bred by Sequel Thoroughbreds, Lakland Farm and Mark Toothaker, tops the group and runs in Saturday’s headlining Grade 1, $2 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRABETS. Trained by Mike Maker, The Wine Steward comes off back-to-back runner-up finishes in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and Grade 3 Peter Pan at Aqueduct.

Foaled at Sequel Stallions New York in Hudson, The Wine Steward originally sold for $70,000 to Oldham Bloodstock at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. He was purchased by his current connections for $340,000 at last year’s OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training out of the Sequel Bloodstock consignment.

The Wine Steward will look to join Tiz the Law [2020], Forester [1882], Fenian [1869] and Ruthless [1867] as New York-bred winners of the Belmont Stakes.

Maker said he hopes The Wine Steward can sit off a pace duel in the Belmont before making his run.

“I’d like to see a pace duel develop and us maintain a stalking position,” Maker said. “If there was more of an honest pace last time, he would have appreciated it and maybe would have won it. We will hope for better luck this time. The owner has been very supportive of me and of New York. It would be great to win for them.”

The Wine Steward is the first foal out of the To Honor and Serve mare Call to Service, a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Isotherm and stakes-placed winners Gio Game and Giant Game.

The Wine Steward, who drew post four of 10 and is 15-1 on the morning line, is one of six New York-breds entered in stakes during the festival.

My Mane Squeeze also bids for Grade 1 success in Friday’s DK Horse Acorn Stakes against the likes of Kentucky Oaks 1-2 finishers Thorpedo Anna and champion Just F Y I.

Bred and co-owned by William “Buck” Butler and also trained by Maker, My Mane Squeeze comes into the 9-furlong Acorn (lengthened by a furlong and around two turns instead of one when contested at Belmont Park) off a victory in the Grade 2 Eight Belles on the Kentucky Oaks undercard.

My Mane Squeeze, a daughter of Audible also co-owned by WinStar Farm, drew post 5 in the field of nine and is 12-1 on the morning line. She bounced back from an eighth in the Grade 2 Fantasy to win the Eight Belles going 7 furlongs.

“It was a great effort [at Churchill],” Maker said. “I’m happy to see that she turned it around from the debacle at Oaklawn. We’ll hopefully see a true test at two turns. I’ve always had the impression that the further the better for her. I don’t know what set her off at Oaklawn, but hopefully we can cross that out and keep moving forward.”

Foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia and out of the Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama, My Mane Squeeze won three straight New York-bred stakes before venturing into graded company for the first time in the Fantasy.

“From a breeding standpoint, WinStar stands Audible so that would be a plus and Buck [Butler] is from New York and a win would be extra special for him, as well,” Maker said.

R T Racing Stable’s Dominican Thunder, a 2-year-old son of Improbable bred by and foaled at Thirty Year Farm in Saratoga Springs, looks to kick things off early for the New York-bred team in Thursday’s $150,000 Tremont. A first-time starter trained by Jose Jimenez, Dominican Thunder drew post 3 in the field of eight and is 20-1 on the morning line.

Butler is also represented at the festival by his homebred Rotknee, a half-brother to My Mane Squeeze who runs in Saturday’s Grade 2 True North Stakes. The 5-year-old son of Runhappy drew post 2 in the 6 1/2-furlong True North and is 6-1 on the morning line.

Rotknee, also foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia, comes off a victory in the Affirmed Success Stakes May 2 at Aqueduct. He also won the Say Florida Sandy Stakes in late January at Aqueduct.

The New York-bred contingent gets another chance at a Grade 1 victory – and a two-pronged challenge at that – when Thin White Duke and Dancing Buck run in Saturday’s $500,000 Jaipur Stakes.

J and N Stable’s and Diamond M Stable’s Dancing Buck, a 6-year-old gelding by War Dancer bred by J & N Stables and foaled at Sundial Farm in Amsterdam, is 3-1 for the 5 ½-furlong turf stakes from post 3. Trained by Michelle Nevin, Dancing Buck won the May 4 Elusive Quality Stakes against open company in his return to his native state last time out at Aqueduct. He’s 8-1 on the morning line.

Thin White Duke won last year’s Harvey Pack Stakes for owners Phil Gleaves, Steve Crist, Ken deRegt and Bryan Hilliard. Trained by David Donk and fifth in the Elusive Quality last time out, the 6-year-old son of Dominus bred by Gleaves drew post 1 for the Jaipur and is 30-1 on the morning line. Thin White Duke was foaled at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs.

Jak N Burny scores front-running win in George W. Barker

Monday, May 27th, 2024

Jak N Burny rolls to first stakes win in Monday’s $50,000 George W. Barker at Finger Lakes. SV Photography.

Sherry Washburn’s homebred Jak N Burny repelled multiple challenges in the stretch from Flying Emperor to win Monday’s $50,000 George W. Barker Stakes at Finger Lakes.

Off since a runner-up finish in late November, Jak N Burny shook off any rust early and fended off Flying Emperor late to win by 2 lengths as the 7-5 favorite in the field of nine for the traditional Memorial Day feature and first stakes of the season at Finger Lakes.

The 4-year-old gelding by Destin improved to 5-for-7 with the victory – his first in stakes company – for Washburn and trainer Debra Breed. Joel Cruz rode Jak N Burny, who won in 1:10.69. The Institute finished four lengths back in third at 22-1, a head in front of Tra Lad in fourth.

Cruz hustled Jak N Burny away from the gate at the break and established a clear 1-length lead from Flying Emperor with Writer’s Regret and Shipsational chasing another length back. Jak N Burny led through the opening quarter-mile in :22.77.

Jak N Burny continued to lead entering and around the far turn, holding Flying Emperor off by a length before running past the half in :45.71. Flying Emperor and jockey Emanuel De Diego made repeated tries to run down Jak N Burny in the lane, through 5 furlongs in 57.77, but couldn’t get past.

Unraced at 2, Jak N Burny rattled off three wins in open company by a combined 27 1/2 lengths in July, August and September. Sent off as the odds-on favorite in the Leon Reed Memorial going 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in mid-October at Finger Lakes, Jak N Burny hopped and bobbled at the start, never reached the lead and finished fourth behind Allure of Money, Flying Emperor and Lady’s Golden Guy.

Jak N Burny rebounded from his initial stakes foray with a victory in a state-bred allowance November 8 before a runner-up finish behind The Institute to end the season two weeks later.

Breed breezed Jak N Burney four times – including a 6-fiurlong tightener in 1:13.40 May 14 – for his 2024 debut in the Barker. He earned $30,000 for his Barker victory and boosted his bankroll to $102,680.

Jak N Burny is the fifth foal out of the winning New York-bred Duckhorn mare Betty’s Chance. He’s a half-brother to multiple stakes winner, 14-time winner and $495,264-earner Winston’s Chance – a three-time starter in the George W. Barker – and 13-time winner and $423,174-earner Ifihadachance and winner Honest Chance.

Betty’s Chance, bred by Washburn and Michael Haers, went 2-3-0 in six starts for $23,930 in earnings. She’s also the dam of the 2-year-old New York-bred Cloud Computing filly Cloudy Chance, who was also bred by Washburn.

Tapalo rolls to victory in Lazaro Barrera

Sunday, May 12th, 2024

Hronis Racing’s Tapalo and jockey Hector Berrios dominate Sunday’s Lazaro Barrera. Stakes at Santa Anita Park. Benoit Photo.

Hronis Racing’s Tapalo, a 3-year-old son of Tapiture bred by Saratoga Glen Farm, became the latest New York-bred stakes winner in Southern California with a victory in Sunday’s $98,000 Lazaro Barrera Stakes at Santa Anita Park.

Tapalo, who earned his first stakes placing two starts back in the El Camino Real Derby, broke best in the 7-furlong Barrera and went straight to the lead. Allowed to set his own pace under Hector Isaac Berrios, Tapalo looked much the best down the backstretch as his rider sat quietly with a loop in his reins. Berrios had plenty of horse left as they entered the turn after setting early fractions of :22.69 and :45.02.

Running just behind the leader for much of the race, fellow New York-bred and 2-5 favorite Ball Don’t Lie was asked to close in the final quarter-mile but never mounted a serious challenge. Tapalo felt the whip a few times early in the stretch, but Berrios put it away in the final furlong to let the ridgling coast home a 7-length winner in 1:21.86. Ball Don’t Lie, a son of Blame bred by River Valley Farm and Hidden Lake Farm, settled for second with Tessuto another 5 1/2 lengths back in third.

“The break was perfect, he was traveling very comfortably,” Berrios said. “At the turn, he was very comfortable. The other horse needed a faster pace. My horse finished well. He has matured since the last time I rode him in October.”

Breaking his maiden in January for Hronis Racing and trainer John Sadler, Tapalo finished second in the $101,350 El Camino Real Derby in early February. He finished fifth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in early April. The Barrera victory improved his record to 2-2-1 from seven starts with $137,020 in earnings.

Sadler said Tapelo will most likely continue to be seen in middle-distance races in the future.

“He got eliminated in the Santa Anita Derby and I was thinking about giving him a little more time, but he had such a good work last weekend. I said ‘he’s ready to go back,’ ” Sadler said. “I thought this was a good distance for him. Anywhere from 7 to a mile, a mile and an eighth might be OK. He’s kind of a free-running horse. He has a lot of mobility. Hopefully we have a lot more ahead of him.”

Although he’s spent his racing career California, Tapalo has plenty of experience traveling around the country after selling at three sales in two states before making his way to the West Coast.

He sold for $40,000 as a short yearling at the 2022 OBS winter mixed sale before returning to his native state to sell for $20,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. Tapalo later sold for $55,000 at last year’s OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training to Martin Anthony.

Foaled at Saratoga Glen Farm in Schuylerville, Tapalo is one of three winners from three to race out of the Empire Maker mare Agent Romanoff. A daughter of Grade 3 winner Bridge Game, Agent Romanoff is a half-sister to the stakes-placed Shalako and six other winners from 11 runners out of her their dam. Tapalo descends from the extended family of Horse of the Year Tiznow and Grade 1 winners Paynter, Oxbow and Sweet Azteca.

After two years without foals, Agent Romanoff foaled a Saratoga Glen Farm-bred colt by Sequel Stallions New York’s Honest Mischief in March.

Tapalo joins two-time graded stakes winner Kinza as California stakes winners hailing from the New York-bred program in 2024.

Dancing Buck wins NY return in Elusive Quality

Sunday, May 5th, 2024

Dancing Buck draws off to win Saturday’s Elusive Quality in his New York return. NYRA Photo.

After a pair of runner-up finishes in graded stakes events at Santa Anita Park, Grade 3 winner Dancing Buck returned to his winning ways Saturday with a victory in the $150,000 Elusive Quality Stakes.

Racing over 6 furlongs on the turf in one of three stakes that highlighted the first Saturday card of the Belmont at the Big A meeting, Dancing Buck broke well and immediately took the lead to control the pace. The 6-year-old son of War Dancer opened more than a length on the field early before the other added pressure through the first quarter in :22.40.

Dancing Buck didn’t have it easy on the front end but kept his lead through the half in :44.60. He turned for home in front, putting away his early arrivals and bracing for a late run from American Monarch. That rival cut the gap but fell short by 1 1/4 lengths. Alogon finished another half-length back in third. Dancing Buck won in 1:07.58 over the firm turf.

“Manny (Franco) gave him a great ride,” said Michelle Nevin, who trains Dancing Buck for his breeders J & N Stables and Diamond M Stable. “He took advantage of (Nothing Better) not breaking and once he had control of the race, the horse was there for him.”

The Elusive Quality was Dancing Buck’s first victory since he took the Grade 3 Belmont Turf Sprint back on Oct. 2, 2022 during the first Belmont at the Big A meet. Dancing Buck improved to 7-for-21 with five seconds in the Elusive Quality and padded his bankroll to $592,920. Included in those 21 starts are two stakes wins and five stakes-placings.

Dancing Buck spent the winter in Southern California with trainer Rick Dutrow before returning to Nevin’s barn in New York after his second in the Grade 3 San Simeon March 9. He also finished second in Santa Anita’s Grade 2 Joe Hernandez in late December.

“Having more recency on the other horses is always going to help,” Nevin said. “He loves this turf course, so we were excited to have him back.

Nevin said Dancing Buck’s next start could come in the Grade 1 Jaipur on the June 8 Belmont Stakes card at Saratoga Race Course.

A third-generation New York-bred, Dancing Buck is out of the multiple stakes-placed Catienus mare Frivolous Buck. That mare has produced four winners from six to race with Dancing Buck’s full sister, Mz Big Bucks, earning her own stakes victory in June 2023. Mz Big Bucks has been working regularly at Belmont Park as she prepares for her 2024 debut.

Frivolous Buck is one of two stakes performers for her own dam Terminal Buck, who produced multiple stakes placed Buck Mountain. Buck Mountain is also the dam of multiple stakes-winning mare Our Last Buck.

Frivolous Buck foaled a War Dancer colt named Shenanigans Buck last year for Elizabeth Jameson and was bred back to the stallion for 2024.

My Mane Squeeze upsets Grade 2 Eight Belles

Friday, May 3rd, 2024

My Mane Squeeze keeps big week rolling for her breeder and co-owner Buck Butler in the Grade 2 Eight Belles Friday at Churchill Downs. Coady Media/Churchill Downs Photo.

By Tom Law

William “Buck” Butler won a maiden race Sunday at Aqueduct with homebred Mama’s Dream – who wound up claimed for $30,000 to add to the $19,800 he picked up from the purse – and figured the week couldn’t get much better.

Friday between raindrops at Churchill Downs in front of a packed pink-clad house on Kentucky Oaks Day, Butler went for a revision.

“This is pretty good,” he said after celebrating with new partners from WinStar Farm when My Mane Squeeze scored a mild upset in the Grade 2, $534,340 Eight Belles Stakes. The 3-year-old daughter of Audible won the 7-furlong Eight Belles under Luis Saez by 2 lengths from Impel over the sloppy and sealed track.

Butler, who bred My Mane Squeeze out of his Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama, said the Eight Belles ranked as his best win.

“This has got to be it,” he said. “My first graded win. Some of the others with offspring of my mares, with siblings … they were real good, too, but not like this. And it all goes back to my Mama Theresa. She was the only stakes placed horse I had so that’s where I started with her.”

Mama’s Dream, a 3-year-old by Freud claimed Sunday, is out of the Carson City mare Mama Theresa. So is In Spite of Mama, who has now produced a graded stakes winner in addition to the multiple stakes winner Rotknee. About 24 hours before My Mane Squeeze’s victory, Butler and his wife Loretta were on hand at Aqueduct to celebrate Rotknee’s win in the $97,000 Affirmed Success Stakes to open the Belmont at the Big A meeting.

An early-morning flight from New York to Louisville got the couple to Churchill with plenty of time, but when Buck Butler felt the heat and humidity that blanketed the area following overnight, morning and afternoon showers he wasn’t quite sure what to think.

“With the rain and the heat, I said, ‘I’m going home,’ ” Butler said. “But (Loretta) made me stay. We went down and saw her in the paddock and I was overjoyed when I saw her. She wasn’t feeling real good out at Oaklawn. She looked her old self out here.”

Eighth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes March 30 at Oaklawn, a defeat which scrapped any aspirations for a run in Friday’s Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks, My Mane Squeeze went to the post for the Eight Belles as the 6-1 third choice behind odds-on choice Denim and Pearls and 9-2 second pick Impel.

Saez kept My Mane Squeeze in close pursuit of Asternia, Halina’s Forte and R Harper Rose as they scrimmaged through the opening quarter-mile in :22.46.

My Mane Squeeze inched up to third behind Asternia and Halina’s Forte through the half in :45.23. Saez kept her to the outside to that point and around the far turn before taking the lead turning for home.

“My horse handled the off track beautifully,” Saez said. “She traveled great the entire backstretch and was in a very comfortable position. You can tell by my silks that they are still clean and I think that helped her down the lane. We stayed out of all the kickback and she got stronger as we got closer to the wire.”

My Mane Squeeze, winner of the Franklin Square and Maddie May against fellow New York-breds to start her sophomore campaign, opened up a 1-length lead in midstretch and widened it to 2 at the finish.

Juddmonte’s Impel, third in the Grade 1 Central Bank Ashland last time out, rallied to finish third and was 4 1/2 lengths ahead of the 28-1 Asternia. My Mane Squeeze won in 1:22.85.

Mike Maker, who trains My Mane Squeeze for Butler and WinStar Farm, said the filly was in season during her trip to Hot Springs last time out. She acted up in the starting gate, dropped back to last of 10 early and finished a non-threatening eighth behind eventual Kentucky Oaks winner Thorpedo Anna.

“That was out of character,” Maker said of My Mane Squeeze’s antics in the gate at Oaklawn. “We did some schooling and it looks like it paid off. Maybe the outside post helped, she wasn’t in gate too long. But the previous start just wasn’t her.

“I was happy the way she saddled, and then when she loaded in the gate and she was behaving I was happy, and then the way she broke it was like, ‘we’ll see if she’s good enough.’ ”

Maker and Butler, who took on WinStar as a partner after her victory in the February 18 Maddie May, said My Mane Squeeze earned a shot at Grade 1 company in the Acorn Stakes June 7 during the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course.

My Mane Squeeze and Rotknee were foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia and they’re two of four winners out of In Spite of Mama.

In Spite of Mama is also the dam of 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 $172,641; 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 five other winners, including Mana’s Dream and 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.

My Mane Squeeze picked up $291,400 for her Eight Belles victory to boost her earnings to $604,110 from a record of 5-0-2 in eight starts.

Butler’s Rotknee rolls in Affirmed Success

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

Rotknee returns to the winner’s circle in Thursday’s Affirmed Success to kick off the Belmont at the Big A meeting. NYRA Photo.

Rotknee kicked off what could be a super weekend for William “Buck” Butler and his family with a victory in Thursday’s $97,000 Affirmed Success Stakes on Opening Day of the Belmont at the Big A meeting.

The 5-year-old homebred son of Runhappy topped four opponents in the 6-furlong Affirmed Success, run about 24 hours before his half-sister and fellow Butler homebred My Mane Squeeze runs in the $600,000, Grade 2 Eight Belles Stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs.

Rotknee also opened a Belmont meet the same way he closed last year’s fall stand at Aqueduct, winning a stakes against fellow state-breds. He won by 1 3/4 lengths over Sheriff Bianco in 1:09.89 over the fast track. Manny Franco rode the winner for trainer Mike Maker, with Butler and his family on hand before a trip to Louisville Friday morning to catch My Mane Squeeze.

“I’ve never seen a bad step from him,” Butler said. “He’s been outrun before, other than that, he knows how to race. He knows how to race and has a heart. He’s got a big heart. I felt that coming down the stretch.

“I wish I could add something. Honestly, I was watching my grandsons as much as I was watching the horse. I had an absolute ball watching them. They come out with me occasionally and it is nice to be able to bring them along here.”

Rotknee, who improved to 10-for-19 with his sixth stakes victory, won last year’s Hudson Stakes on the Empire Showcase Day card to close the Belmont at the Big A fall meeting. Franco didn’t ride that day, nor in Rotknee’s victory two starts back in the Say Florida Sandy Stakes in late January at Aqueduct, but never felt like he was on anything but the winner.

“Yes. Definitely,” he said when asked that very question.

“I knew Excellent Timing, the horse outside me, he got speed, so I was thought he was going to do it [set the pace],” Franco said. “He never cleared me, so I just kept my position and my horse ended up on the lead before the half-mile. I was comfortable where I was.”

Rotknee led at every call in the Affirmed Success, clicking off splits of :22.39 and :44.97 before turning for home with an almost 2-length lead. He rolled past 5 furlongs in :56.93 and held off Sheriff Bianco’s late run. Donegal Surges finished another 2 ¾ lengths back in third with Excellent Timing and Thrill of It completing the field.

Rotknee earned $55,000 for his latest victory and pushed his earnings to $640,580. He also bounced back from a sixth in the Grade 3 Tom Fool Handicap March 2 at Aqueduct.

“He had some tough competition,” Butler said of the Tom Fool. “He came back to visit the New York-breds and he’s pretty successful here.”

My Mane Squeeze ventures out of the New York-bred ranks for the second straight start in the 7-furlong Eight Belles, which goes as the ninth race on the Oaks Day card at 4:04 p.m. ET. The daughter of Audible finished eighth in the Grade 2 Fantasy last time after trouble behind the starting gate, but won three straight New York-bred stakes before that effort at Oaklawn Park.

Butler remains confident in the filly out of his Speightstown mare In Spite of Mama.

“I’m really excited [after the effort] we gave them last time, and I think we had an excuse with the acting up [before the Fantasy],” Butler said. “I’m very, very excited.”

Rotknee and My Mane Squeeze were foaled at Keane Stud in Amenia and they’re two of four winners out of In Spite of Mama.

In Spite of Mama is also the dam of 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 $172,641; 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.