In the Money

Horse racing insight that's loose on the lead

Flattery for Honor Code

September 30th, 2013

Two winners from key race boost Shug’s top juvenile

By J.J. Hysell

Just when you thought the Honor Code hype had reached a pinnacle – there’s more.

Shug McGaughey

Shug McGaughey

The promising 2-year-old son of A.P. Indy, trained by 2012 Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Shug McGaughey, turned heads and elicited the first true Kentucky Derby chatter of the season with his late-closing debut on slop at Saratoga on Aug. 31.

Last weekend, two runners Honor Code beat in the race – Misconnect (second) and Purple Sky (third) – followed up with wins next-out. Both were quite impressive.

Misconnect, a son of Unbridled’s Song trained by Todd Pletcher, strolled past Endowment Manager to win a seven-furlong test at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Purple Sky delivered one of the most eye-catching performances for a juvenile so far this season at Churchill Downs when he powered up the rail to beat Commanding Curve by a neck in a mile race on Saturday. Purple Sky, a son of Pulpit, is trained by Al Stall.

Honor Code is being pointed to the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes on Oct. 5 at Belmont Park.


Gary Stevens has monumental weekend, wins for Mom

September 30th, 2013

Monumental weekend for comeback rider who had a motive: Win for Mom

By J.J. Hysell

Jockey Gary Stevens has had many memorable weekends during his riding career, including last Saturday and Sunday at Santa Anita.

Stevens, 50, tallied four stakes wins – three graded – during that time and five wins overall. He piloted Mucho Macho Man to his first Grade 1 win in the Awesome Again Stakes, Beholder to a front-running win in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes and Pontchatran to victory in the Unzip Me Stakes on turf.

On Sunday, Stevens guided Indy Point to a scintillating win at 10 furlongs on turf in the Grade 2 John Henry Turf Championship Stakes for trainer Richard Mandella.

On Saturday night, Stevens celebrated a victory by another family member. His son, T.C. Stevens, won his first race as a trainer when Sultry Warrior, 51-1, won a maiden race at Churchill Downs.

It all came together at a time when family was even more prominent in Stevens’ mind.

“My son (T.C.) won a race last night at Churchill and that was really special,” Stevens said Sunday after Indy Point’s win. “My mom had a stroke last Monday, though, and that’s really put everything in perspective.”

Stevens’ tweets from his trip home last Wednesday gave hints as to what was to come, as well as insight into his thoughts.

Stevens tweeted: “Never ever forget how important family is. I was just reminded. Warning shot. Leaving Idaho headed back to So. Cal to make mom proud.”

After his winning weekend, Stevens tweeted: “Thanks to everyone this past weekend for your support and most of all, the great performances of the great athletes that gave me the thrills.”



Joyful Victory retired

September 30th, 2013

By J.J. Hysell

Joyful Victory, the gray daughter of Tapit trained by Larry Jones, has been retired and will be entered in the Fasig-Tipton November Select Sale, Rick Porter of Fox Hill Farms announced Monday.

Joyful Victory finished third in Saturday’s Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park, won by Beholder.

In a statement on his website, Rick Porter said: “I have decided that Joyful Victory has done all and more than Larry Jones and I have asked of her during the last four years. I have been very proud to race Joyful Victory in the red and white silks of Fox Hill Farm, but it is time for her to begin her career in the breeding shed.

“She will fit right in with any of the top broodmare bands worldwide. She is by the top sire, Tapit and is his leading earner in 2013 and 5th leading lifetime earner. She ticks all the boxes to be a successful broodmare.

” I went to Santa Anita yesterday hoping to see her win her last career start but it was not to be. At least I was able to witness her final race.  Joyful Victory won or hit the board in 12 of her 16 starts in graded stakes. She raced at 10 different tracks. She retires with a record of 20-7-5-4 and was a millionaire with earnings of $1,252,679. She has been entered in the Fasig-Tipton November Select Sale and will be consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency. I sure will miss watching this gorgeous gray mare race at the top of the sport.”

Career highlights for Joyful Victory, an Ontario-bred out of the Wild Again Mare Wild Lucy Black, include the 2011 Fantasy and Honeybee Stakes and the 2013 Santa Margarita Stakes.

Video: Ian Wilkes discusses Fort Larned’s Homecoming Classic win

September 30th, 2013

Wilkes says he’s happy with the result – a 1 1/2-length victory over Windswept.

“He was a different horse today. He was very quiet in the paddock. I didn’t know what to think. Charlie (LoPresti)’s horse ran good. I think this race is going to help us a lot. You see he got a little tired at the end and we needed this race. I missed the last race in the Woodward and I needed this race today to get to where I want to be. I’m not taking anything away from any of the other horses here, but he wasn’t 100-percent today. I wanted this race to move forward off of.”

Shanghai Bobby retired

September 29th, 2013

By J.J. Hysell

Just as he was making his comeback, the 2012 2-year-old champion has suffered a setback that will end his racing career.

Coolmore announced Sunday that Shanghai Bobby was retired to due to a suspensory ligament injury he sustained while winning the Aljamin Stakes on Sept. 20. The son of Harlan’s Holiday was coming off a nearly six-month layoff in the six-and-a-half furlong race at Belmont.

Shanghai Bobby retires with a record of six wins from eight starts with one second and career earnings of $1,857,000. His notable wins include the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the Grade 2 Hopeful and the Grade 1 Champagne during an undefeated juvenile season.

Shanghai Bobby, owned by Starlight Racing and Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, will stand at Ashford Stud in Kentucky.

“It’s very disappointing as he ran really well off the layoff and we were looking forward to going back to Santa Anita with him for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint or the Dirt Mile,” trainer Todd Pletcher said in a release. “He was a really great two-year-old, undefeated in five starts over five different distances ranging from 4½ furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. He displayed his brilliant speed in the Hopeful and Champagne and then showed tremendous courage to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.”

Starlight Racing co-manager Jack Wolf: “We’re disappointed as we were looking forward to him returning to top level competition following his win in the Aljamin Stakes. This horse has taken us on a great adventure, from his undefeated 2-year-old campaign and Eclipse Award, to his successful return at 3. We are proud to have owned this special horse, and we wish him the best as he begins his new career at Ashford.”



Downs After Dark: Photo Album

September 29th, 2013

Some scenes from the “Homecoming Night” festivities at Churchill Downs Sept. 28:

Fort Larned and Brian Hernandez capture the inaugural Homecoming Classic.

Fort Larned and Brian Hernandez capture the inaugural Homecoming Classic.



General Election returned to the winner's circle at Churchill Downs with a win in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup. Joe Rocco aboard.

General Election returned to the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs with a win in the Grade 3 Jefferson Cup. Joe Rocco aboard.



The newly-crowned Homecoming King and Queen joined the connections of General Election in the winner's circle.

The newly-crowned Homecoming King and Queen joined the connections of General Election in the winner’s circle.



Shaun Bridgmohan celebrates after winning aboard Billy Two Hats in race 4 for trainer Gary Thomas.

Shaun Bridgmohan celebrates after winning aboard Billy Two Hats in race 4 for trainer Gary Thomas.


Calvin Borel won race 5 with an astute rail ride on Drogue.

Calvin Borel won race 5 with an astute rail ride on Drogue.



Baby Lis, half-sister of Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty, was seventh in her debut.

Baby Lis, half-sister of Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty, was seventh in her debut.





Mike Smith prefers Breeders’ Cup Distaff for Royal Delta

September 27th, 2013

By J.J. Hysell

After Saturday’s Grade 1 Beldame Stakes at Belmont Park, the connections of two-time champion Royal Delta will have a decision to make: compete against males in the marquee event, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, or chase a historic three-peat in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (formerly named the Ladies’ Classic).

Royal Delta prior to the 2013 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs.

Royal Delta prior to the 2013 Fleur de Lis at Churchill Downs.

Royal Delta, a 5-year-old daughter of Empire Maker trained by Bill Mott and owned by Besilu Stables, would be the first filly or mare to collect three wins in the Distaff/Ladies’ Classic if she proves victorious on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. Mott indicated recently that Royal Delta would be cross-entered in both races.

Jockey Mike Smith, the regular rider of Royal Delta, expressed his preference as to where Royal Delta should compete.

“I’d like to see her back in the Distaff this year to be honest,” Smith said. “She can always run next year (in the Classic). She could always try it then if that’s the plan so far. . . She’d be the only filly to have ever done it three times.”

Smith took over the mount on Royal Delta in the 2012 Fleur de Lis and has been aboard since.

“That was the deal whenever I picked up to ride her a year ago,” he said. “It was a long-term deal that I would ride her until she retires.”


Analysis: 2-year-olds to Watch

September 25th, 2013

ITM analysis of the top 2-year-olds to watch from: September 19 – September 25:

(* denotes a previous ITM Horse to Watch)


*Yes I’m Lucky (turf) (colt, Yes It’s True – Whenthedoveflies by Dove Hunt) – The Laurel Futurity was a statement race for this Eddie Plesa runner, who challenges No Nay Never (Scat Daddy) for best juvenile turf sprinter in the country. He’s now four of five after the runaway victory, in which he covered five-and-a-half furlongs in 1:01.30. His only loss was a runner-up finish to Dunkin Bend in the Sapling on dirt, his only try in graded stakes company. He boasts wins on both dirt and turf, at three different tracks, but seems to really enjoy the lawn. He doesn’t need the lead and sprinting suits his speedy style. Not sure about him beyond a mile, but up to that point, he is a contender.

*Lady Grantham (filly, Yankee Gentleman – Yes It’s Gold by Yes It’s True) – She’s won two of her last three starts and had an excuse in the runner-up finish last out as she was in tight late in the stretch. The Brett Brinkman runner bounced back with an authoritative win from the rail post in the Louisiana Stallion Stakes for fillies at seven furlongs.

Zdeno (gelding, Milwaukee Brew – Silver Sonnet by Silver Deputy) – The talk of Assiniboia Downs, this Manitoba-bred is now four for four after he romped by 13 lengths in the Buffalo Stakes at a mile. He proved he can come from off the pace in his last start, the Winnipeg Futurity, in which he rallied late for the win at six furlongs. Can anyone at Assiniboia beat him?

*Lapsang (filly, Smoke Glacken – Genska by Appealing Skier) – We tabbed her as one to watch after her eye-catching debut at Woodbine. The Suzanne Drake trainee followed up with an off-the-pace victory in the Deputy Jane West Stakes at six furlongs. She reeled in Enoree just in time, but was eight lengths ahead on the gallop out. She should handle some added distance without issue and the pedigree is multi-surface.

Poblano (gelding, Minister Eric – Jalapena by Dixie Union) – After an impressive debut, this New Mexico-bred stepped up to stakes company in the Gold Rush Futurity, but showed little in a sixth place finish. He bounced back with a dominant performance in the George Maloof Faturity, winning by more than seven lengths and crossing the line in 1:10.79 for trainer J. Owen Bringhurst.


Enquete (filly, Indian Charlie – North of Neptune by Mr. Prospector) – She flashed a competitive spirit when she was stuck behind traffic on the rail in her second start at Gulfstream. The Todd Pletcher runner powered her way through, literally pushing her way to the front as she drew off to win by four on the sloppy track. She’s now two for two and an under-the-radar prospect with a nice middle-distance pedigree.

Cassatt made a good impression in her debut

Cassatt made a good impression in her debut

Cassatt (filly, Tapit – Justenufftime by Giant’s Causeway) – While Harlan’s Special (Harlan’s Holiday) was much the best in this test, and was disqualified from first to third for interference, this Larry Jones trainee made a strong impression going 1 1/16-miles at Churchill. A strapping, physically imposing and energetic gray filly, she was rating well on the lead and executing a reasonable pace (:24.35, :48.54) until Harlan’s Special raced up to engage. The two dueled in the stretch with Harlan’s Special lugging in at one point and Cassatt growing weary nearing the wire. Harlan’s Special drew off and Clever Beauty (Indian Charlie) rallied late. Clever Beauty was designated the winner after a steward’s inquiry. Although Cassatt probably wasn’t winning even with the interference, she fared well at the long distance first out and should improve off this effort. Jones thinks highly of this filly, who boasts a versatile pedigree that would also transfer to grass.

Potosi’s Silver (filly, Badge of Silver – Classy Date by Saint Ballado) – Credit jockey John Velazquez for keeping this second-timer in a pivotal spot despite her urge to veer toward the rail from the No. 1 post at Belmont. Velazquez kept the Todd Pletcher runner in a mid-pack stalking spot, where she tracked the pace with the group. The green light appeared when she pushed her way through an opening in traffic in the stretch and showed some nice acceleration. She finished the five-and-a-half furlongs in a sharp 1:03.99. The win flatters Gracer (Exchange Rate), who topped this filly in her debut. Also to watch from this race is first-time starter and third-place finisher Biddy Martin (Medaglia d’Oro), a Chad Brown trainee who was running best late.

Playful Love (filly, Tapit – Palacio de Amor by Dixieland Band) – Last heading into the stretch in her debut at Churchill, this 17-1 shot for Ian Wilkes motored her way into second and passed sharp winner Bread and Butter (Pure Prize) in the gallop out. This is a filly to watch next out and with added distance beyond the six-and-a-half furlongs.

Dynamic Impact

Dynamic Impact

Dynamic Impact (colt, Tiznow – Featherbed by Smart Strike) – He caught a sloppy track for his debut going six-and-a-half-furlongs at Churchill Downs, plus he started from the widest post in a nine-horse field. The Mark Casse runner was positioned in the back of the pack early and made up ground in the stretch. Although unable to reach winner Plug Catcher (Roman Ruler), somewhat green in the final furlong and suffering a scary stumble on the off-going, he managed to finish fourth. He should improve with experience and better track conditions. Unstoppable Colby (Pulpit) also endured a tough start in his debut and was fifth. Note that favorite Kowboy Boots (Kodiak Kowboy), sixth, and early pacesetter Broadway Zen (Zensational), ninth, were high-strung prior to the race, with Kowboy Boots exerting considerable energy in the paddock.

Kowboy Boots was very animated pre-race.

Kowboy Boots was very animated pre-race.

*Bacopa Breeze (filly, Visonaire – Dakota Rae by Stephen Got Even) – She’s two for two since switching to the Mountaineer dirt and has won those races by a combined 19 1/2 lengths.

Naïve Enough (filly, Street Sense – Light From Above by A.P. Indy) – What an improvement from her eighth-place debut at Delaware Park. She moved her game to Laurel Park and delivered a stellar performance, romping in a six-furlong test and crossing the line in 1:09.97 for trainer Ignacio Correas. She has a true router’s pedigree.

Academic Probation (turf) (filly, Einstein – Dblsecretprobation by Proud Citizen) – This Kellyn Gorder runner had a lot to overcome in her debut going a mile on the grass at Churchill. She started from the widest post in the 10-horse field and was last until she started making up ground heading into the stretch. She unleashed a six-wide rally and caught Candy Crush (Candy Ride) in time in 1:40.35. The Einstein progeny are ones to watch on any surface and early runners have proven they can win at first asking. Also to watch from this race is Gina’s Kitten (Kitten’s Joy), a first-time starter from Dale Romans who rallied late to be fourth. Courageous Julie (Pioneerof the Nile) was in the mix until she was bumped, but showed improvement in her second start.

More on the cleverly named Einstien youngsters:

Daring Dancer (turf) (filly, Empire Maker – Vienna Affair by Red Ransom) – Dandy debut on grass at Laurel by this Graham Motion-trained filly. She showed a superb late kick for a first-time starter, rallying late to win in 1:03.74 with a final split of 5:85. Watch out for Motion and Sagamore Farm, as they have several intriguing juveniles this season.

*Bakken Baby (filly, Valid Expectations – Royalactgo by General Royal) – The Texas-bred is two for two at Remington Park with jockey Chris Landeros. Her most recent win at the allowance level was a 12-length victory in hand.

Man o’Bear (colt, Corinthian – Mahalo by Gulch) – After starting his career against Woodbine’s top juveniles in two sprint stakes, he dropped back to the maiden ranks and stretch out to a route. That was to his liking, as the Ontario-bred patiently waited behind horses before making his move in the stretch to an easy win.


Great Minds (turf) (colt, Stroll – Staff Nurse by Arch) – The Bill Mott runner was valiant in defeat to Request (Dynaformer) in his debut going a mile on grass at Belmont. While Request took the outside path in his wide rally, Great Minds was looping and weaving between horses on the inside in traffic. He was stuck in the middle in a tight battle for the wire along with Mr. Speaker (Pulpit), who finished third. One of many winners from this juvenile crop for sire Stroll, who is proving to be a multi-surface sire.

Curlins Queen (turf) (filly, Curlin – Catbaby by A.P. Indy) – The Michael Stidham runner made a solid impression on debut when she broke from the widest post in a field of 10 and showed late interest to get third in a mile test at Arlington. This is a filly to watch with added distance and particularly with a switch to dirt. She boasts an outstanding classic distance dirt pedigree.

Timeless Pleasure (filly, Curlin – Salty Sal by Cox’s Ridge) – A notable debut at Emerald Downs for this Tom Wenzel trainee. She rallied late for third after a sluggish start and energetically passed winner Guinevere’s Finale (Tale of the Cat) with an A-plus gallop out. She’s half to Desert Stormer and Moccasin victor Puxa Saco.

Crissy Field (turf) (filly, City Zip – Coffee House by Storm Cat)  – This Philip Oliver runner is one to watch if she returns at Keeneland or Churchill after her rally for fourth place in her debut going a mile at Kentucky Downs.

Manhattan Johnnie (colt, Roman Ruler – Fancy Deed by Alydeed) – An easy debut win going six furlongs at Belmont for this Eddie Kenneally trainee, who set swift early fractions but crossed the line in a pedestrian 1:12.01. It didn’t appear to be a strong field; taking a wait-and-see approach. It should be noted that Maximus Decimus (Offlee Wild), sixth, had a very rough start and it’s a toss race for him.

Randy Paul (colt, Salute the Sarge – Walk Away Rene by Gold Alert) – He switched back to dirt after he was caught as the pacesetter in a try on turf and flourished, romping by more than five lengths at Louisiana Downs. A superb final time of :58.89 for the five furlongs. He was eighth in his debut, a key race won by top ITM Horse to Watch Louisiana Flyboy (Fusaichi Pegasus), who is now training at Saratoga.

Strike Twice (turf) (filly, More Than Ready – Musical High by Mozart) – The Donnie Von Hemel first-time starter just missed when trying to reach leader Lady Hughes (Henny Hughes), who had the benefit of a previous race. She was a bit green during the stretch run but should improve with experience; a perfect pedigree for turf.

Proroguing (colt, Silent Name – Executive Mist by Bold Executive) – Determined in his debut, this Ontario-bred missed the break but didn’t flinch; he saved energy before he rallied five-wide for an impressive win on the Woodbine synthetic in a five-furlong test.

Duty Proper (colt, Exclusive Quality – Hay Chief by Chief Seattle) – Outstanding debut for this runner from Touchdown Stables at Suffolk; he romped by more than seven lengths and finished the five furlongs in :58.84.

Chella (filly, Where’s the Ring – Always Loving by Hennessy) – Watch for this Steve Attard trainee next out. She missed the break in her debut sprinting at Woodbine, yet managed a charging late rally that just missed behind winner Fast ‘n Firm (Elite Squadron).


Richard’s Kid retired

September 24th, 2013

By J.J. Hysell

Trainer Doug O’Neill reported via social media Tuesday that multiple graded stakes winner Richard’s Kid has been retired due to a slight tendon tear.

“It has been a pleasure to have such an incredible gentleman of a horse in our barn,” the statement said. “We wish him well in his next career at stud.  Plans to be determined at a later date.”

Richard’s Kid, an eight year old son of Lemon Drop Kid, retires with over $2 million in earnings and a record of 12 wins from 47 starts. Some of his notable wins include the 2009 and 2010 Pacific Classic, the 2010 Goodwood Stakes and the 2012 and 2013 Cougar II Handicap.