By Dick Jerardi
The rains finally ceased, so the sixth annual Turning for Home Day at Parx Racing on Saturday, June 22, was appropriately glorious on the first day of summer.
The racing was great, the cause even greater.
“We had a great picnic lunch for the Partner Farms and the adopters; anybody that helps us,” said TFH Program Administrator Danielle Montgomery. “And we try to bring new faces out to the races. Some of our adopters know they have ex-racehorses, but they have no idea about what they actually do. They have never seen live races.”
They got to see two TFH alumni—Dover Point and Sterling’s Maximus—lead the post parade for the $75,000 Turning for Home Stakes. The race was won by 16-1 longshot His Royal Majesty, who gave the best performance of his career, coming from way back early in the mile and a sixteenth race to blow by the field in the stretch and win by 3 1/4 lengths. Moon Gate Warrior, second in the TFH Stakes in 2018 to Parx Horse of the Year Aztec Sense, was a hard-trying second again.
There were two $100,000 Pennsylvania-Bred stakes prior to the Turning for Home Stakes. The grass course was soaked from all the rain during the week so they had to be moved to the main track.
Favored Chilly in Charge dominated the Crowd Pleaser, winning by 12 lengths. Wildcat Combat won the Power By Far by a length at 7-1.
Power By Far, now a 24-year-old stallion following a great racing career, paraded just before the race named in his honor. He was joined by one of his offspring, TFH graduate Aye Jay Power. The stallion’s owner Barbara Geraghty presented a spray of flowers to the winner of the Power By Far race.
“We had a good turnout,” Montgomery said. “We had a lot of people that don’t normally come to the races. The picnic area was full. It was a picture-perfect day.”
The TFH program is mainly funded by a $30 per start fee that comes from horse owners and annual donations by the PTHA, Parx, Parx jockeys and the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders’ Association (PHBA).
Each of those organizations got plaques on TFH Day thanking them for their role in helping find new homes for nearly 2,700 retired racehorses so far.
Prior to the races, the Cotillion Room was packed for seminars by state veterinarian Dr. Shari Silverman and Turning for Home vet Dr. Tom Lurito. Videos of the seminars are on the TFH Facebook page. Dr. Silverman’s colleague, Dr. Craig Goldblatt, received a plaque for his long service at Parx in the winner’s circle after the first race. He is retiring after 33 years of service in July.
“Tom Lurito, our Turning for Home vet talked to the adopters about the process, kind of dispelled some myths, talked about how the horses never do as much and are never the same as what they did here racing,” Montgomery said. “Horses maybe can’t race, but they can still do every kind of second career because it’s not as demanding. Nothing is as demanding as racing at the top peak level.”
And that is the essence of the Turning for Home program. Racehorses that have given their all on the track are re-trained for second careers and get to find a comfortable place to live out the rest of their lives.
His Royal Majesty rallied from far behind, caught the leaders in mid-stretch and then powered away to a convincing three length victory in the $75,000 Turning for Home Stakes Saturday afternoon at Parx. Now celebrating its 11th anniversary, the race was the centerpiece of an afternoon dedicated to the Turning for Home program, the racing industries leader in finding and providing new homes and new careers, having now placed nearly 2,700 retired thoroughbred race horses.
Taken far back by winning jockey Frankie Pennington, His Royal Majesty turned into the backstretch with only one horse beaten and almost fourteen lengths off pace setter, Dirt in Your Face. With a solid pace to run at, an opening quarter of 23.54 and a half in 47.47, the five year-old gelded son of Mutadda began to quicken with about a half mile to go. Sweeping past horses while running five wide around the entire far turn, he moved within striking range coming to the quarter pole. His rally never stalled. He continued his terrific rally on the far outside, blew past the leaders just outside the sixteenth pole and then pulled away to win by three widening lengths. Claimed in December for $12,500 by Morris Kernan, Jr. & M-Z Racing Partnership and trained by Marcos Zulueta, he went off as a 16-1 longshot and paid $34.60 win, covering the mile and a sixteenth in 1:46.71.
Newtown Anner Stud’s Chilly in Charge proved much the best in winning the $100,000 Crowd Pleaser Stakes for PA-bred three year-olds. Originally carded for the turf, it was moved to the main track after heavy rains here this week. Ridden by Angel Rodriguez, Chilly in Charge sat just off the two front runners for the first three-quarters of a mile before taking command on the far turn. Opening up a clear lead turning for home, the Take Charge Indy colt left his six rivals far behind, widening his lead through the final quarter mile and rolling home an eye catching twelve lengths in front. Trained by Miguel Vera, he went off as the 4-5 favorite and paid $3.80 to win. He ran the one mile and one-sixteenth over a fast track in 1:47.51.
The $100,000 Power by Far Stakes, a five furlong sprint for PA-bred fillies and mares also came off the turf. Lyno Maraspin’s Wildcat Combat sat a great trip in behind dueling front runners Captain Sam and The Circle Game before angling out for a clear path coming into the stretch. In the middle of the racetrack, the five year-old Messner mare charged to the lead with about a sixteenth to go and then held off the late bid of Afleet Tizzy to win by a length. Ridden by Dexter Haddock and trained by Miguel Penaloza, she went off at 7-1 and paid $17.80 to win. Her final time for the five-eighths was :58.72.
By Dick Jerardi
There are more significant annual racing days at Parx now than ever before, but the most impactful day will come on Saturday June 22, the sixth annual Turning for Home Day.
The 11-year-old racehorse retirement program, which is owned and run by the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (PTHA), has become the industry model with almost 2,700 horses retired from the track that are eventually rehomed and retrained. The program is mostly funded by a $30 per start fee that comes through horse owners and annual donations by the PTHA, Parx, Parx jockeys and the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders’ Association (PHBA).
Turning for Home Day is an opportunity to showcase the program and raise some additional funds for an endeavor that has become even more important in 2019 when so much national attention has been focused on the horse deaths this winter at Santa Anita.
The day will start with an 11:45 AM presentation in the Cotillion Room by state vets Dr. Craig Goldblatt and Dr. Shari Silverman. It is open to the public and highly recommended that trainers also attend.
“They’re going to talk a little bit to the public and the trainers about what goes into making sure that these horses are safe to race,” TFH Program Administrator Danielle Montgomery said. “They’ll talk about what they do for their vet exams, not just the morning of (a race), but all that we do here at Parx to make sure these horses are safe for racing.”
In addition to the $75,000 Turning for Home Stakes, the race card will also include the $100,000 Power By Far Stakes and $100,000 Crowd Pleaser Stakes.
“We are going to bring out some of our alumni and just have a great day celebrating Parx Racing and what we do for our adopted horses,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery is hoping that Power By Far, who stands at Castle Rock Farm in Unionville, Pa., will be making an appearance before the race named in his honor. Power By Far, a stallion since 2002, won 15 of 32 races and $544,335 in his career. One of Power By Far’s sons, Aye Jay Power, is coming to Turning for Home Day.
“(Aye Jay Power) was adopted by one of our great ladies who adopted three of our Turning for Home horses,” Montgomery said. “She’s going to bring him around just so you can see the father, the son, talk a little bit about how great these bloodlines are and how the mentality of a Thoroughbred transfers into them as riding horses.”
Aye Jay Power raced 32 times from 2013 to 2015 with three wins, six thirds and earnings of $77,127. When he was no longer competitive on the track, he was a perfect TFH candidate. In addition to bringing Aye Jay Power, Susan Ospina is donating her time and resources as a floral designer for her Bella Design Company on TFH Day.
When National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) representatives were at Parx for the track’s recent safety accreditation, they spent some time with Montgomery. They were especially impressed with how TFH keeps tabs on the retired horses that are in the program.
“Turning for Home does a lot of tracking,” Montgomery said. “We have three people full time who are following up with our adopters, following up with our farms, and I think they were impressed with the tracking that we do here and how we make sure we don’t just send them to the first place and turn them loose. We follow them… It’s a full-time job just keeping up with them as they get to their third and fourth home.”
The very first horse in the TFH program was named Maneuverable. That was 11 years ago. Over the years, the program has just gotten stronger and more streamlined with each link in the chain critical to its success. All of it will be rightly celebrated on Saturday, June 22 at Parx.