Stonewall Star shines in Franklin Square


Stonewall Star picks up second stakes victory in Sunday’s Franklin Square at Aqueduct. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

Barry Schwartz’s homebred Stonewall Star continued her forward movement that started back in late summer with a victory in Sunday’s $100,000 Franklin Square Stakes at Aqueduct.

Coming off a third in open company in the Gin Talking Stakes last month at Laurel Park, the 3-year-old daughter of Flatter dominated the 6 1/2-furlong Franklin Square from start to finish en route to a 6 1/4-length tally under Kendrick Carmouche. Trained by Horacio De Paz, Stonewall Star added the Franklin Square to her victory two back in the Key Cents Stakes at Aqueduct and improved to 3-for-6 overall in her young career.

“I’m very happy,” De Paz said. “She controlled the race and was able to get it done. We figured we would get her into the race like she usually runs and nobody really pressed her, and she really kicked on. I told Kendrick, ‘Just have fun, she’s your kind of horse.’ ”

Carmouche, riding the filly out of the winning Proud Citizen mare Jonata for the first time, relished that bit of confidence from De Paz.

“Catch me if you can,” he told De Paz.

That’s exactly how the Franklin Square unfolded, and nobody caught Stonewall Star.

Sent off as the 6-5 favorite against her five opponents – which included stakes-placed Security Code and Little Linzee – Stonewall Star took the lead shortly after the break and opened up a length through the first split in :22.93 over the fast track.

Carmouche said the first quarter felt much softer and continued to keep the filly alone on the lead around the far turn and to the half in :46.30.

“The horse warmed up really well,” he said. “It looked like I was the speed of the race and the track is favoring speed. I just broke and went and made myself a winner. They said 22, but it felt like I went 23 the first quarter, that’s how easy I had it going down the backstretch.”

Carmouche gave a look back over his right shoulder turning for home as Stonewall Star lengthened her stride and her advantage to 3 1/2 lengths in midstretch. No serious threat emerged from there and Stonewall Star cruised through the final furlong to win in 1:19.20.

“When I asked her, she leveled off and did everything perfectly,” Carmouche said. “I’m just grateful for the owner and trainer to give me the shot.”

Little Linzee made a mile rally in the lane to finish second, three quarters of a length in front of Security Code with Stonewall Star’s early stalker, Banterra, a head back in fourth. Lockbox and Starry Midnight completed the field.

Stonewall Star picked up $55,000 for the win to pad her bankroll to $195,808. Stonewall Star started her career with a runner-up to Security Code late in the Saratoga Race Course meeting before a win at Belmont at the Big A and a third against males in the New York Breeders’ Futurity at Finger Lakes in mid-October. Those three races proceeded her 4-length win the Key Cents and her third in the Gin Talking, where she led in midstretch.

De Paz said she’ll most likely stay in her home state and face fellow New York-breds in the immediate future, possibly in the March 24 East View Stakes.

“We’ll look at the stakes schedule in New York and keep her around here for right now,” De Paz said. “She’s worthy of [open company] and I will definitely take a look at both of those races.”

Bred and foaled at Schwartz’s Stonewall Farm in Granite Springs, Stonewall Star is the fourth foal and one of two stakes winners out of Jonata. La Fuerza, a 6-year-old full sister to Stonewall Star won three stakes carrying his owner and breeder’s black and white colors in 2018. He won four of eight and earned 4261,610.

Jonata is also the dam of New York-bred winners Citizen K, a gelding by Mizzen Mast also trained by De Paz; and Whatlovelookslike, a 3-year-old by English Channel who won at Saratoga in early September and is 2-2-1 in seven starts with $155,250 for trainer Todd Pletcher.

A $100,000 purchase by Schwartz at the 2011 Keeneland September yearling sale, Jonata won two of 17 starts with five placings and $140,800.

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Betsy Blue starts 2023 with Interborough win


Betsy Blue adds another open-company stakes, the Interborough, to season-ending victory in Garland of Roses. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

New year, same result for Betsy Blue.

Cloud Nine Stable’s 5-year-old Tonalist mare picked up where she left off in late 2022 with a rallying victory in Saturday’s $97,000 Interborough Stakes at Aqueduct. Betsy Blue closed from last after the opening half-mile to run down leaders Miss T Too and stablemate Piece of My Heart inside the final sixteenth for her second straight stakes victory for trainer Linda Rice and jockey Jose Lezcano.

Sent off the 1-5 favorite in the field of five reduced by the scratch of Easy to Bless, Betsy Blue also improved to 10-for-21 with seven seconds and two thirds and $659,510 in earnings.

“The numbers say she shouldn’t be doing this, but she continues to just find a way,” said Jerson Nauricio Suarez, a partner in the Cloud Nine group that came on board as the mare’s owner before her victory in the 2021 Bouwerie Stakes on Big Apple Showcase Day at Belmont Park.

Betsy Blue went 5-3-1 in 11 starts last year, earning $379,010, and Rice and the Cloud Nine group are optimistic for another strong campaign in 2023.

“We’ll just play it by ear. I’ll see what the Barbara Fritchie looks like,” Rice said of the Grade 3 stakes for fillies and mares February 18 at Laurel Park. “I’d prefer to stay in New York when I can. I’d rather not ship and run. She’s run very well at Aqueduct so I just assume I’ll keep her here if I can. But I will look at the Barbara Fritchie. The long-term goal would be the Distaff (April 3 at Aqueduct).”

Kentucky shipper Miss T Too, a daughter of Into Mischief making her final start before heading to the breeding shed, took the early lead not long after the break. She led and jockey Eric Cancel led by a head from Flight to Shanghai with Self Isolation close up. Betsy Blue trailed early but inched up to fourth as Miss T Too hit the opening quarter-mile in :23.54.

Miss T Too continued to lead around the far turn and held a half-length advantage over Self Isolation. Betsy Blue continued wide around the bend and into the lane and made a run toward Miss T Too and Piece of My Heart outside the eighth pole. Betsy Blue gained the advantage just inside the sixteenth pole and drew away late to a 1-length win in 1:25.94 for 7 furlongs on the fast track.

Piece of My Heart, second to Betsy Blue in an optional-allowance in mid-September during the Belmont at the Big A meet, held Miss T Too a length clear for the runner-up spot. Self Isolation and Flight to Shanghai completed the field.

“I saw the three horses go head-to-head there and I kept her in the clear,” Lezcano said. “In the middle of the turn, [Flight to Shanghai] kind of went out a little, but she was the best filly in the race and she showed it.

“She’s so good. She keeps holding her form and in every race, she keeps running better and better. She’s a nice horse and there’s nothing more I could ask for.”

Betsy Blue also improved to 4-for-6 at 7 furlongs, although her trainer feels she might be more effective going a touch shorter.

“She might be better at 6 1/2, closing into faster fractions,” she said. “I’m not sure seven-eighths to a mile is her best distance but she’s pretty versatile.”

Bred by Blue Devil Racing and foaled at Sugar Maple Farm in Poughquag, Betsy Blue was claimed by Rice for $50,000 out of a victory March 25, 2021 at Aqueduct. Betsy Blue won her next two starts, including the Bouwerie, during a sophomore campaign where she went 4-4-1 in nine starts.

“She’s a great filly to have in the barn for almost two years now,” Rice said. “I was impressed with her first two races before claiming her. I actually was out-shook on her and then we doubled up on her. There was a seven-way shake on her the first time and the second time it was just us. We had to reach a little harder.”

Betsy Blue is the fourth foal out of the stakes-placed Yonaguska mare Honest to Betsy. Her first foal, the City Zip mare Sand City, won two of 25 starts with 10 placings and earned $87,895. Honest to Betsy is also the dam of the unraced 3-year-old New York-bred Unified filly Midnight Confession and a yearling New York-bred colt by Mitole.

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Wudda U Think Now fends off foes in Say Florida Sandy


Wudda U Think Now and Dylan Davis team for second straight stakes victory in Sunday’s Say Florida Sandy at Aqueduct. NYRA Photo.

Rudy Rodriguez came into Sunday’s $97,000 Say Florida Sandy at Aqueduct knowing Wudda U Think Now would face a tall order against the likes of New York-bred champions Bankit and My Boy Tate. He also came into the 7-furlong stakes knowing the 5-year-old Fast Anna gelding had run his best races at the Big A.

Wudda U Think Now improved on that record in the stakes named for the two-time New York-bred Horse of the Year and multiple divisional champion, fending off Market Alert and Bankit for his second straight victory. Dylan Davis rode the gelding for Rodriguez and owner Stuart Grant’s The Elkstone Group.

“He’s a really big horse and he travels well,” Davis said. “He’s really aggressive in the mornings and the same in the races. He’s a little easier to manage during the races than in his breezes when he’s a little tougher.

“What I’ve noticed is that he’s a hard-trying horse that will give you everything he’s got, but you’ve got to know how to ride him because he doesn’t have a big turn of foot and he’s just a real steady grinder.”

Wudda U Think Now, sent off as the 9-5 second choice in the field of five off his win in the Dec. 17 Alex M. Robb, improved to 7-for-11 at Aqueduct with the grind-it-out style.

The grind was far from slow, however.

Wudda U Think Now and Davis set a strong pace from the start, leading an attentive Market Alert by a half-length on his outside to the opening quarter-mile in :22.96 with Bankit and My Boy Tate tracking side-by-side up the backstretch.

Market Alert inched within a head to the half in :45.58, and the two separated from the other three around the far turn. Bankit, the 6-5 favorite coming off a victory in the Thunder Rumble division of the New York Stallion Series Stakes in early December, made a run just before the straight but couldn’t match the top two.

Wudda U Think Now cut the corner and opened up in the lane, extending his advantage to a half-length in midstretch and past 6 furlongs in 1:10.50. Bankit continued to gain on the outside from there, and rallied with Market Alert in deep stretch before running out of racetrack.

“I was really trying to manage what I could get away with,” Davis said. “Kendrick [Carmouche, aboard Market Alert] was pressing me and he kept the pace honest for me. Because he shortened back up from the mile, I knew he handled the distance and I could ride him a little earlier. I really got into him once we got to the turn. He just kept finding more and more.”

Wudda U Think Now won in 1:24.23 for his ninth win in 20 starts, to go with four seconds and two thirds, and picked up $55,000 to pad his bankroll to $558,750. Market Alert held second, beaten three-quarters of a length and a head in front of Bankit. My Boy Tate and Reggae Music Man completed the field.

Bred by Mina Equivest LLC and foaled at Five Oak Farm in Saratoga, Wudda U Think Now is out of the stakes-placed Unbridled Jet mare Unbridled Grace.

Grant purchased Wudda U Think Now for $60,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. He’s one of five winners from five foals to race out of Unbridled Grace. In addition to Wudda U Think Now, Unbridled Grace is the dam of New York-bred stakes performers James Jingle and C d’Cat. She is also the dam of the New York-bred Yes It’s True gelding Dean Verdile, who won 12 of 69 starts with 16 placings and earned $239,160.

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City Man closes 2022 with Fort Lauderdale victory


City Man and Joel Rosario cruise to rail-skimming victory in Saturday’s Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale. Lauren King/Gulfstream Park Photo.

City Man started his 2022 season with an open company stakes victory, and did one better in his finale.

The 5-year-old New York-bred son of Mucho Macho Man delivered on New Year’s Eve for owners Dean and Patti Reeves of Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Peter and Patty Searles and trainer Christophe Clement, coming up the inside under Joel Rosario to win Saturday’s 66th renewal of the Grade 2 Fort Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

City Man improved to 5-for-8 with the victory – all stakes wins – and added the Fort Lauderdale to prior open company wins in the Danger’s Hour in early April at Aqueduct and Grade 3 Forbidden Apple at Saratoga Race Course. He also inched closer to the seven-figure earnings mark, collecting $115,320 to boost his bankroll to $987,120, ahead of a more lucrative start in the January 28 $1 million, Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream.

“He was running so well up in New York and we just felt like he was really on top of his game,” said Dean Reeves. “I’ve never seen him run this well. We thought, ‘Let’s run another race and really see how he does against open company in a Grade 2,’ and if we did well there we’d look probably to go to the Pegasus. Christophe stables at Payson Park, so we’ll leave him here in Florida and get him ready for the Pegasus.”

Sent off as the 3-1 second choice in the field of 12 behind last year’s Pegasus World Cup Turf winner and even-money choice Colonel Liam, City Man and jockey Joel Rosario tracked in third early. Winfromwithin, a 34-1 longshot under Chantal Sutherland, set the pace on an open lead through splits of :23.62 and :46.92 ahead of Decorated Invader, City Man and Colonel Liam.

Winfromwithin continued to lead through 6 furlongs in 1:10.11 over the firm ground with Decorated Invader within a half-length and City Man and Rosario looking for room on the inside.

The room eventually came as the field turned for home and City Man spurted clear on the rail. He drew off from there, widening his advantage inside the final eighth as Decorated Invader held second in a four-way photo with Street Ready, Winfromwithin and Good Governance. The latter two finished in a dead-heat for fourth and Colonel Liam checked in sixth.

City Man, the winner of nine of 26 in his career, won in 1:46.10.

“It was a good trip,” Rosario said. “He came out of the gate well so I could get a good position. I was in a good spot. He did the rest after that.”

City Man made it three straight in the Fort Lauderdale, after victories in the Ashley T. Cole Stakes and Mohawk Stakes, both over New York-breds during the Belmont at the Big A meeting at Aqueduct. He also finished second in the Grade 3 Bernard Baruch Handicap on Closing Day at Saratoga Race Course this season.

Clement was pleased with the performance, of City Man and his rider.

“The idea was to be forward with him. I told [Rosario] not to fight him and be comfortable, and he won well,” Clement said. “It’s a nice race, a prep for the Pegasus. That would be the plan. He’s a New York-bred, so I gave him a break [in the winter] in the past. But this year, I just thought we had never run in the Pegasus and I told Mr. Reeves, ‘Why don’t you try to run in the Pegasus?’ It’s a beautiful turf course, well done by Gulfstream. They got it right. All the jockeys have been very positive about it, and I’m delighted.”

Bred by Moonstar Farm, City Man is the fourth foal out of the winning City Zip mare City Scamper. A half-sister to New York stakes winner Alysinstilettos and stakes-placed Always For You, City Scamper is also the dam of the five-time winning and $105,017-earning New York-bred Majestic Warrior mare Go Kelly Go and two-time winning and $61,687-earning New York-bred Laoban ridgling El Mayor.

City Man originally sold for $20,000 as a weanling at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall mixed sale. He showed up in the OBS April sale 18 months later and was purchased by Dean Reeves for $185,000. He was in the second crop of Mucho Macho Man, whom Reeves campaigned to a victory in the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

City Scamper also produced a New York-bred colt by Hoppertunity in early March 2020 and is the dam of the yearling full sister to City Man, Miss City Girl, born April 7, 2021. Moonstar Farm bred those two, along with a weanling filly by Vino Rosso born May 10, 2022.

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General Banker gives Seacoast Thoroughbreds big win in Great White Way


General Banker picks the right day to break his maiden, taking the $500,000 Great White Way division of the NYSS at Aqueduct. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

By Paul Halloran

Prior to Saturday, John Forma’s biggest thrill in a half-century in horse racing was when his Take the El Train won at 128-1 odds at Aqueduct in 2013. The winner’s share of $21,600 was nice, but Forma recalls collecting even more at the mutuel window.

“That was my biggest accomplishment,” said Forma, who races under Seacoast Thoroughbreds of New England.

Make that second-biggest.

General Banker, a homebred son of leading New York sire Central Banker, made a sweeping move on the far turn and pulled away to an 8 1/2-length win in the $500,000 Great White Way division of the New York Stallion Series Stakes at Aqueduct. The $275,000 winner’s share brought his career earnings to $345,600.

The Great White Way was the first win in eight starts for General Banker, who is out of Seacoast’s broodmare Elusive Jozi and was bred and foaled at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga Springs.

“Imagine, breaking your maiden for half-a-million dollars,” Forma said. “That’s crazy.”

Crazy good, that is.

Trained by Jimmy Ferraro and ridden confidently by Eric Cancel, General Banker sat off a pace set by longshot Playingwithmatches and favorite Vacation Dance, went five-wide on the turn and took the lead at the stretch call before running up the score. The winning time was 1:25.49 for 7 furlongs over the muddy and sealed surface.

“I thought he was in a great spot,” Ferraro said. “Those Central Bankers love the mud. At Saratoga, he was still really green. He’s still learning things.”

He gets a straight-A for his performance Saturday, much to the delight of his owner, a Brooklyn native who has lived in Portsmouth, N.H., for 25 years and named his stable accordingly.

“I told the trainer to get him a massage and let him feel great (after his last race),” Forma said. “Between the blinkers (added three races back), the massage and good training, we got the win.”

It was a 1-2 finish for McMahon of Saratoga stallions as Ramblin’ Wreck, a son of Redesdale, finished second.

“Central Banker has been so much fun,” Joe McMahon said. “His oldest horses are 5 now and he just keeps coming up with nice horses. It’s a real credit to our syndicate, our help, and everybody. We’re having a great run.

“And Redesdale, too. A Redesdale ran second in the other race [Midtown Lights in the NYSSS Fifth Avenue] as well. He’s a very well-bred stallion. He won 3-of-4 starts and all four Beyers over 90. I’m glad to see his book picking up as well.”

Forma claimed Elusive Jozi for $20,000 at Belmont Park in 2013 with the intention of turning her into a broodmare. She had her first foal in 2016, Wailin Josie, also by Central Banker, who earned $249,863 in 42 starts and will become a broodmare next year, Forma said. Olivers Fortune, a 4-year-old gelding by Laoban, has won twice in 29 starts. General Banker was the third foal for Elusize Jozi, who died earlier this year.

“I own some shares in Central Banker with Joe McMahon so all my horses are bred in-house,” Forma said. “I have a lot of Central Bankers. I have four on the track now.”

Forma is a longtime participant in the New York breeding program and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I don’t know if I’d want to be in Thoroughbred racing if not for the New York breeding program,” he said. “It gives you such an edge. The residual income (from breeder awards) makes a big difference.”





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Wudda U Think Now upsets Alex M. Robb


Wudda U Think Now and jockey Dylan Davis head to the winner’s circle after Saturday’s Alex M. Robb at Aqueduct. Joe Labozzetta/NYRA Photo.

Wudda U Think Now loves Aqueduct. The Elkstone Group’s 5-year-old Fast Anna gelding came into Saturday’s $100,000 Alex M. Robb Stakes for older New York-breds with five wins in nine starts at the Big A – not counting a decent fourth last time out in the Hudson Stakes on Empire Showcase Day at the so-called Belmont at the Big A meeting.

Wudda U Think Now added a sixth win in the 1-mile Alex M. Robb, saving ground most of the way and giving the field the slip turning for home en route to a 3 1/4-length win over Sea Foam as the second longest shot on the board. Sent off 9-1 in the field of seven, Wudda U Think Now won his third stakes of 2022 after taking the 6-furlong Hollie Hughes in February and the 6-furlong John Morrissey in August.

“We were a little concerned about the distance, but he went a mile at Aqueduct [as a 3-year-old],” winning trainer Rudy Rodriguez said. “He loves Aqueduct and he loves the winter. As soon as the winter gets to him, he gets stronger in the mornings. He’s a nice horse to be around.”

Wudda U Think Now also pushed his earnings past $500,000 for owner Stuart Grant, adding $55,000 from the Alex M. Robb to go to $503,750 in his career from eight wins in 19 starts.

Dylan Davis, who also rode Venti Valentine to victory in the Bay Ridge Stakes Saturday, came away impressed in his first ride on the gelding.

“I’m always happy with one [stakes win], and if I can get a second one for the day, it’s always a bonus,” Davis said. “I’ve been working this horse a couple times and I’ve been very impressed with him. He’s aggressive, strong and I’m happy I got on him because he’s a horse where if you fight him too much, he’s going to get aggressive with you.”

Wudda U Think Now and Davis battled early for the lead from the inside with Empire Classic winner Dr. Blute to their outside and Sea Foam tracking in third. The top pair clicked off strong splits of :22.96 and :45.72 before Wudda U Think Now opened up by a length through 6 furlongs in 1:11.23.

Wudda U Think Now drew off from there, opening up 4 lengths in midstretch as Sea Foam rallied past Dr. Blute and into second. Sea Foam held second at the finish, 2 3/4 lengths ahead of Perfect Munnings with Market Alert fourth and 2-1 favorite Barese sixth of seven. Wudda U Think Now won in 1:39.33 over the muddy and sealed main track.

“I was a little concerned because the other horse, Sea Foam, he’s a nice, solid horse, too,” Rodriguez said. “When I see him sitting third, I said, ‘Oh my God, we’re just setting the race up for him.’ But I think the track has changed a little bit. I thought the inside was a little tiring, but Dylan took him outside. I was a little concerned with him changing leads, but I think he changed leads because they went fast early and he was kind of tiring. But we got the job done.”

Bred by Mina Equivest LLC and foaled at Five Oak Farm in Saratoga, Wudda U Think Now is out of the stakes-placed Unbridled Jet mare Unbridled Grace.

Grant purchased Wudda U Think Now for $60,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. He’s one of five winners from five foals to race out of Unbridled Grace. In addition to Wudda U Think Now, Unbridled Grace is the dam of New York-bred stakes performers James Jingle and C d’Cat.

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Les Bon Temps adds NYSS Fifth Avenue to growing resume


Les Bon Temps wins second straight stakes in Saturday’s Fifth Avenue division of the NYSS. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

Les Bon Temps delivered as the favorite and significantly padded her bankroll with a victory in Saturday’s $500,000 Fifth Avenue division of the New York Stallion Series Stakes at Aqueduct.

The 2-year-old daughter of the late Laoban, upset winner of the Maid of the Mist Stakes on Empire Showcase Day in late October during the Belmont at the Big A meeting, won the 7-furlong Fifth Avenue as the 6-5 favorite in the field of 10 under Jose Lezcano. Owned by Deuce Greathouse, Cindy Hutson and Brett Setzer and trained by Mike Maker, Les Bon Temps improved to 3-for-6 with two thirds with $462,260 in earnings.

Bred by Southern Equine Stables, foaled at Irish Hill Century Farm in Stillwater and out of the unraced Tapizar mare Winsanity, Les Bon Temps was purchased by Greathouse and Pura Vida Racing for $65,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale.

“She was a big, pretty filly,” Greathouse said of his first impressions of Les Bon Temps at the October sale. “People like Laoban. She didn’t have that huge, flowing walk at the yearling sale that everybody pays the real money for. If she had a big walk, she probably would have brought $125,000 or $150,000, but she just didn’t want to walk and that turned a lot of people off, I think, right away. Obviously, that doesn’t affect her running.”

Lezcano was content to let Les Bon Temps run seventh early as Gulfstream Park maiden winner Forces Sweetheart clicked off the opening quarter-mile in :22.86 ahead of Central Speed, Small Pebbles and Fema Funds.

Les Bon Temps inched up to fifth after a half in :46.92 as Forces Sweetheart continued to lead and Sweet Liberty ranged up on the outside. Sweet Liberty appeared poised to roll by the field until she bore out badly on the turn, all while Les Bon Temps continued to make progress toward the lead.

Midtown Lights came away with the lead in the stretch, just ahead of Little Linzee but couldn’t hold off Les Bon Temps inside the eighth pole. Les Bon Temps took over at the sixteenth pole and won by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:27.28 over the muddy and sealed main track. Midtown Lights held second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Little Linzee with Dream on Cara fourth.

“With this kind of filly, you have to use her,” Lezcano said. “You have to keep her in position. I had to keep waiting until making my move at the quarter pole. When I did, she went on and won the race. It was easy to get to the outside. She handled the track well. The only thing is I think she could have used somebody next to her to keep going more.”

Les Bon Temps made her first three starts for Norm Casse before being transferred to Maker, who prepped the filly for her New York startings out his Belmont Park barn.

Les Bon Temps finished third in her first start for Maker, beaten just 2 1/2 lengths in the Joseph A. Gimma in late September before her victory in the Maid of the Mist. She won her debut May 26 at Churchill Downs going 5 furlongs in the slop before a third to presumptive Eclipse Award winner Wonder Wheel in the Debutante and a fourth in the Seeking the Ante on Saratoga Showcase Day in late August.

“Honestly, when she ran at Saratoga, I don’t think the mud bothered her. She hadn’t run in a while and she just looked like she needed that race really badly,” Greathouse said. “Mike just worked her one time and ran her up here and she was on the lead and got a little tired. I thought her last start was us finally getting to see what kind of a filly she was, and obviously she built off that, so that was great.”

Les Bon Temps is the second foal out of Winsanity, who also produced the winning New York-bred 3-year-old Bodemeister gelding The Man to See, and a yearling full brother to the Maid of the Mist winner and a weanling New York-bred filly by Honest Mischief foaled March 1. The latter two foals were bred by Cypress Creek Equine.

Greathouse applauded the Stallion Series and hinted that Les Bon Temps could show up in some other top New York races after the New Year.

“It’s a great program they’ve put together and I wish there were more of these New York sire races,” Greathouse said. “We’re going to see what Mike says. At some point she deserves a chance [at open company]. She broke her maiden in open company. So, I don’t know, maybe the Busanda [January 14] or the Busher [March 4]. We’ll see what Mike says. Two turns is going to be her friend.”

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Venti Valentine ends season with Bay Ridge score


Venti Valentine adds the Bay Ridge Stakes to her 2022 resume Saturday at Aqueduct. Chelsea Durand/NYRA Photo.

By Melissa Bauer-Herzog

New York-bred champion Venti Valentine returned to her winning ways on Saturday with a 3 3/4-length victory in the $100,000 Bay Ridge Stakes at Aqueduct.

Racing at a mile on the dirt as the second choice in the race, Venti Valentine broke strong on the sealed, muddy track before settling a few lengths off the pacesetting Mashnee Girl. Racing a few paths off the rail under Dylan Davis, Venti Valentine easily settled as they raced through early fractions of :23.24 and :46.94.

The complexion of the race changed around the turn when most of the field converged on the leader and Venti Valentine went wide for her challenge. It didn’t take long for the 3-year-old daughter of Firing Line to stick her nose in front with only Know It All Audrey the closest rival as they raced through the stretch. That rival didn’t have enough left to stick with Venti Valentine and she faded to finish 3 3/4 lengths off the winner with Spungie ralling for third and another 6 3/4 lengths back. Venti Valentine won in 1:39.19.

“Everything worked out great today,” winning trainer Jorge Abreu said. “Being in the outside post [helped], too. I don’t think she likes being on the inside. I felt pretty comfortable turning for home and Dylan was just sitting there. He had plenty of horse and everything played out good.”

The Bay Ridge was the second win of the year for the homebred filly for Final Furlong Racing Stable, which bred her with Maspeth Stable and races her with Parkland Thoroughbreds. Venti Valentine won the listed Busher Invitational Stakes in March before finishing second in the Grade 3 Gazelle Stakes. The 3-year-old also finished third in the $200,000 Fleet Indian Stakes in late August at Saratoga Race Course.

Venti Valentine’s record sits at four wins in 10 starts with three other top-three finishes, including two wins and a second as a juvenile. Saturday’s victory took her earnings to $524,250. Abreu said that the immediate plan for the filly is a winter break, with Venti Valentine heading to Ocala for 60 days off Tuesday.

Foaled at Schuylerville Thoroughbred Farm in Schuylerville, Venti Valentine is one of two stakes winners out of the winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Glory Gold, whose produce record includes multiple stakes winner Espresso Shot. That mare was also raced by Venti Valentine’s connections and trained by Abreu.

Espresso Shot was sold for $300,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton November Sale three years after Final Furlong purchased Glory Gold carrying Venti Valentine for $13,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. They purchased that mare after being impressed with Espresso Shot, who they purchased for $69,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale.

“The best part of today is the breeders’ awards we’ll get from it,” said Final Furlong Racing Stable’s co-managing partner Dan Zanatta. “Being the breeder of a stakes horse always makes it extra meaningful. We still have the mare [Glory Gold] and she’s in foal to Munnings and will go back to Uncle Mo next year. We’re really supporting her and we have a lot of progeny we’re waiting for. The New York breeding program is great, and we’ve invested a lot of money into the breeding program, not just the racing program. We’re big supporters of it.”

The dam of four winners from five runners overall, Glory Gold had a New York-bred filly by Omaha Beach last year. Bred by Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable, that filly sold for $500,000 to Lael Stables at this year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. Glory Gold did not have a foal this season.


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Betsy Blue wins Garland of Roses off short rest


Betsy Blue storms from off the pace to win Saturday’s Garland of Roses at Aqueduct. Susie Raisher/NYRA Photo.

Betsy Blue went from Grade 3-placed to open stakes winner in a weeks’ time Saturday, taking the $116,400 Garland of Roses with a last-to-first run through the Aqueduct stretch.

Cloud Nine Stable’s 4-year-old daughter of Tonalist bounced out of her third in the Grade 3 Go for Wand last week at Aqueduct and shortened up to win the 6-furlong Garland of Roses by 1 1/4 lengths over Beguine. Jose Lezcano rode the winner for trainer Linda Rice.

“We accomplished what we wanted with the Grade 3 [placing] and, frankly, I knew it was back on short rest, but she’s won all of her conditions and there’s limited opportunities for her,” Rice said. “It’s on her home court and she came out of the race great, so I said ‘let’s go right back.’ ”

Betsy Blue not only added the Garland of Roses to her third in the 1-mile Go for Wand, she collected her second stakes victory after taking the 2021 Bouwerie Stakes on Big Apple Showcase Day. She improved to 9-for-20 and boosted her bankroll to $604,510.

Bred by Blue Devil Racing and foaled at Sugar Maple Farm in Poughquag, Betsy Blue was claimed by Rice for $50,000 out of a victory March 25, 2021 at Aqueduct. Betsy Blue won her next two starts, including the Bouwerie, during a sophomore campaign where she went 4-4-1 in nine starts.

Betsy Blue has been equally effective at 4, now with five wins in 11 starts to go with three seconds and a third. She won back-to-back starts in allowance-optional company in mid-August at Saratoga Race Course and at the Belmont at the Big A meet before a fourth in the Iroquois Stakes on Empire Showcase Day in late October.

Betsy Blue went off as the 2-1 second choice in the field of five for the Garland of Roses, behind even-money choice Smash Ticket.

Lezcano was content to let Betsy Blue trail the field – which was reduced by two after the scratches of Hot Peppers and Dontletsweetfoolya – as Smash Ticket and Disco Ebo battled through the opening quarter-mile in :22.51. Beguine, racing just behind the top two early, took over before the half in :45.78 with Betsy Blue still 4 1/2 lengths back trailing the field.

“I saw Lezcano was urging her to keep her close enough to win and that was the idea,” Rice said. “She’s coming off of a mile, so he had to encourage her a little bit but she’s such a professional and she loves what she’s doing.”

Lezcano tipped Betsy Blue wide turning into the lane, gained on the leader with every stride and took control inside the sixteenth pole to win going away. Betsy Blue won in 1:10.92 with Beguine second, 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Disco Eba. Snicket, another New York-bred running back on short rest, finished fourth with Smash Ticket fifth.

“She’s a very good mare. She always tries hard and gives me her best,” Lezcano said. “They went pretty quick in front early on and when they turned for home she found another gear, went on and won the race. Any race from a mile to three quarters, she always tries hard.”

Betsy Blue is the fourth foal out of the stakes-placed Yonaguska mare Honest to Betsy. Her first foal, the City Zip mare Sand City, won two of 25 starts with 10 placings and earned $87,895. Honest to Betsy is also the dam of the unraced 2-year-old New York-bred Unified filly Midnight Confession and a New York-bred colt by Mitole foaled April 30.

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New York-bred champion Gander passes at 26


Multiple New York-bred champion Gander won six stakes during his career, including two editions of the Empire Classic. Adam Coglianese/NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law

Four-time New York-bred champion, graded stakes winner and fan favorite are just a few easy ways to describe Gander.

Anne Morgan, who took care of the popular gelding the last few years at her Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater, summed him up far better.

“We are devastated. Gander was a very special horse,” Morgan said Thursday, the day after the son of Cormorant passed at age 26. “His big personality was a force to be reckoned with.  He was a big gentleman who loved people and especially loved his carrots.”

Gander earned those carrots and more, after a career that started when the Gatsas family bought him for $50,000 at the 1998 OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training and culminated with retirement more than seven years later. He won 15 of 60 starts and earned $1,824,011.

Mike Gatsas called him a “lunch box horse,” in a NYRA feature story almost three years ago, when Gander was well into retirement and before a now annual stakes race named in his honor was run at Aqueduct.

“Every time we put him on the track, he performed well,” Gatsas said.

Bred by Angela Rugnetta, Gander started his career for the late trainer Charles Assimakopoulos before moving to the barn of John and Tonja Terranova. He compiled a record of 15-10-9 along the way, and became a popular member of the NYRA circuit and a poster boy for the state’s breeding program.


Gander last summer at Mill Creek Farm in Stillwater. Susie Raisher Photo.

Gander won two of six starts as a 2-year-old and finished second in the Damon Runyon Stakes late in the year to set up his sophomore campaign that produced the first of his New York-bred championships. He won three of 12 starts, with four seconds and two thirds, including victories in the Albany Handicap at Saratoga Race Course and Empire Classic Handicap at Belmont Park late in the season.

Gander followed those campaigns with New York-bred championship seasons in 2000, 2001 and 2002 – in the 4-year-old and up male category – with victories in the Evan Shipman Handicap in 2000, Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup Handicap in 2001 and Empire Classic in 2002.

Gander enjoyed his best season in 2001, winning two of 10 and earning $557,060. He also placed in that year’s Grade 1 Whitney Handicap, Grade 1 Donn Handicap and Grade 3 New Hampshire Sweepstakes Handicap and contested the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park.

His bankroll of more than $1.8 million made Gander the third highest New York-bred earner when he retired in 2003. He initially went to Better Days Farm in Bedford Hills, New York, before spending time at the late Peter Fuller’s Runnymede Farm in North Hampton, New Hampshire. Gander also lived at Stone Bridge Farm in Schuylerville for several years before making his way to Mill Creek Farm.

“He was one of the smartest horses I have had the privilege to be around,” Morgan said. “He will be sorely missed here at Mill Creek. He was one of a kind.”

The Gander Stakes was inaugurated in the mid-2000s, initially for 3-year-olds and up in the fall at Aqueduct and then for 4-year-olds and up in the spring at Belmont Park. The $100,000 Gander is now for 3-year-old New York-breds and will be run at 1 mile Saturday, Feb. 25 at Aqueduct.

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