Keith Jones

Dick Jerardi is an award winning sports writer as well as a radio/television host and commentator, and is arguably best known for covering the sport of Horse Racing.

Though his work as a journalist at The Philadelphia Daily News, Dick has covered every Triple Crown race since 1987 (he is a five-time winner of theRed Smith Award for Kentucky Derby coverage). Dick Jerardi famously chronicled the remarkable Smarty Jones during the Triple Crown chase of 2004 s the Thoroughbred won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes for trainer John Servis.

Since 2011 Jerardi has been an on-air analyst for the live television broadcasts of The Pennsylvania Derby from Parx Racing, most recently for NBC Spots Philadelphia.

Many fans know of Dick Jerardi’s work from the long running Let’s Go Racing TV program where he works alongside fellow Parx Hall of Fame members Keith Jones and producer Bruce Casella.

Dick also continues to provide color commentary for the live broadcasts of Penn State basketball.


SENIOR INVESTMENT ON A ROLL FOR SCOTT LAKE

By Dick Jerardi

Scott Lake-trained horses have started 28,813 times. Lake, who began training in 1987, has won more races at Parx than any trainer and was a member of the inaugural Parx Hall of Fame class, has sent out 6,104 winners and those horses have earned $118.6 million in purses.

But, like most of his compatriots in the mid-Atlantic, Lake has been stuck on those numbers for several weeks as nearly everything in society has come to a halt. Whenever racing returns, Lake will have a serious star in his Parx barn ready to win stakes.

Lake claimed Senior Investment for $50,000 on Sept. 9, 2019 at Delaware Park for owner Richard Malouf. The horse was 2-1 that day, the only time in a 31-race career he has been favored.

“We were just hoping he was a solid 50 horse and we ended up winning a shake on him that day,’’ Lake said. “He turned out really good.’’

On March 14, Lake sent Senior Investment to Laurel Park for the $100,000 Harrison E. Johnson Memorial. The 6-year-old went right to the front and blew the field away, winning by 5 lengths and getting a career-best 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

Before he claimed Senior Investment, Lake called the horse’s original trainer, Kenny McPeek. It was McPeek who was training the horse in 2017 when he won the Lexington Stakes and was third in the Preakness.

“Kenny told me the horse never had any issues whatsoever,’’ Lake said.

The Johnson Memorial was Senior Investment’s third consecutive win and fourth straight big speed figure, numbers the horse had not hit since he was a 3-year-old.

“I’ll tell you what really moved him up,’’ Lake said. “Two things. The groom (Hermenio Guevara) that I have who rubs on him is fantastic and Josue Arce gallops him and he’s a tough, tough horse and Arce’s got him going beautifully.’’

Senior Investment has already won $120,590 in 2020. The horse won the majority of his $702,367 in 2017 and now has 7 wins, along with 4 seconds and 4 thirds.

Senior Investment was the final horse Lake started before the last of the mid-Atlantic tracks closed. Now, like everybody else, he waits.

“As of right now, we’re just training and keeping our fingers crossed hoping for the best,’’ Lake said. “I’m trying not to get the horses too geared up, like they’re totally coming out of their skin and then not being able to run. So we’re spacing our works a little bit, just keeping them going until we have some kind of an idea of when we are going to start running. I’ve sent probably five or six horses out to the farm.’’

When horses go to farms, it’s a bit cheaper for the owners, but the trainers get fewer day rates and the help has less to do. No racing affects everybody and everything.

“It cuts into everybody,’’ Lake said.

Horse owners have only expenses and no income from purses while their trainers are trying to figure out how to keep their operations going.

“I’m still paying the help and trying not to cut their pay,’’ Lake said.

The only long-term answer is get racing back, but when that happens is as unpredictable as how and where the Covid-19 virus will spread. There remain many more questions than answers.

Lake has 16 employees at Parx and another six at Pimlico.

“Every day, I go to the barn and watch them train, go home and binge watch Netflix,’’ Lake said. “The highlight of my day the other day was washing the linens off my bed.’’

Lake should be scouring condition books, entering horses and watching races. Instead, he’s watching South Park.

This is difficult for a trainer with just a few horses. For a trainer like Lake who thrives on the action and won an incredible 528 races in 2006, this has to be disorienting.

“It’s culture shock,’’ Lake said. “It’s only been two weeks and it feels like months and months and months.’’

The days, which flew by, now seem endless. Life in fast forward has been paused.

“My cats think I’m out of my mind because I’m chasing them all around the house,’’ Lake said.

He is not out of his mind. He is just out of his comfort zone, like most everybody these days.

REALITY TRUMPS FANELLI’S PLANS

By Dick Jerardi

When 2020 began, John Fanelli was thinking he was in position for the best few months of his horse racing life. And that’s saying something for the South Philly native who claimed 2019 Pennsylvania Derby winner Math Wizard for $25,000.

Math Wizard was being geared up for an appearance in the new $20 million Saudi Cup and then a run at the $12 million Dubai World Cup. Ny Traffic, who made his debut at Parx on the day Math Wizard won the Pa. Derby was beginning to train like a potential Kentucky Derby contender.

Fast forward to the end of March. Math Wizard is in a quarantine facility near Newark (N.J.) Airport, after no invitation to the Saudi Cup and a flight from Dubai after the World Cup was cancelled. Ny Traffic was third in the Risen Star Stakes and second in the Louisiana Derby, accumulating more than enough points to earn a spot in the Derby starting gate if the race was on the first Saturday in May instead of the first Saturday in September.

Now, Fanelli is awaiting word on how Math Wizard is doing and when the horse might be released from quarantine. Planning for the Derby is just about impossible because nobody knows the spring and summer 3-year-old schedule if and when racing resumes nationally.

“I can’t understand it because they had no spectators,’’ Fanelli said of the World Cup. “The trainers, the help and the jockeys, they were all there. Might as well run it. Just move it up a couple of days, run it and then send the horses back.’’

Did not happen that way so Fanelli awaits the release of his horse and the return of his $126,000 entry fee.

Not to mention an updated Derby schedule which awaits decisions by management at Pimlico and Belmont Park about when or if the Preakness and Belmont Stakes will be run.

“It’s such a frustrating thing for me,’’ Fanelli said. “I hate to be selfish about it, but this could have been the best six months of my life. I’ve got a Derby horse. I’ve got a horse running for $12 million. Instead, everything’s up in the air.’’

It’s hard enough to miss out on chances that may never materialize again, about as hard not to know what is next. Horse owners are like so much of society, just waiting on the pandemic to slow down or end, but having nothing even close to a target date.

At some point, Churchill Downs is going to add some Derby points races. That, of course, won’t be fair to connections whose horses have already qualified, but there really is no perfect way to deal with America’s most prestigious race in a year marked by so much uncertainty. Late-developing Derby contenders will have an edge in September they would not have had in May.

Whenever normality returns. Fanelli will have two horses that cost a little and have won a lot. Math Wizard has won the vast majority of his $1,042,290 since that $25,000 claim. After Ny Traffic failed to meet his reserve at $27,000, Fanelli went to the seller and bought the horse with Lenny Liberto for $22,000. Ny Traffic has won $336,970.

Fanelli has owned horses that race at Parx for years. He has become friendly with Parx owners Chuck Zacney and Glenn Bennett who bought into Math Wizard and then Ny Traffic.

Ny Traffic is back at Gulfstream Park with trainer Saffie Joseph who took over for Parx trainer Harold Wyner when the colt was shipped to South Florida before the 2020 racing season began. Math Wizard will eventually go back to Gulfstream and Joseph as well.

And someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, Fanelli, his partners and his trainers, can make some plans for their horses.

JACK ARMSTRONG AND FELLOW PARX OWNERS CAN ONLY WAIT AND HOPE

BY Dick Jerardi

Jack Armstrong has been a horse owner for 20 years. According to Equibase, his horses have started 3,584 times, with 601 wins, 575 seconds, 538 thirds and nearly $12 million in earnings.

Since What About Tonight finished second in the second race at Parx on March 10, Armstrong has had no starters with no wins and no earnings.

Meanwhile, the expenses have continued unabated.

“My thinking with this is you can’t do much about it,’’ said Armstrong, a member of the Parx Hall of Fame.“Getting upset isn’t any good for my health and it’s not going to get us anywhere.’’

“This’’ of course is the coronavirus which has shut down much of the world. Some American race tracks have remained open, but Parx is not among them. That decision was first made by management and then made official by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf who has shut down much of the state.

Armstrong has 15 horses in training at the moment with trainers Scott Lake, Phil Aristone and Bobby Mosco.

“The bills are going to pile up pretty fast if they don’t come up with a plan,’’ Armstrong said.

Unfortunately, planning is impossible because nobody knows when the virus might abate enough so we can all get back to some form of normality.

Meanwhile, the horses have to be fed and trained, the trainers have to get their day rates and the stable help has to be paid.

“I use the number $2,600 a month, but that’s based on my day rate, what my guys charge me,’’ Armstrong said.

That’s $2,600 per month per horse. So that’s $39,000 per month for a 15-horse stable like Armstrong’s. If he’s winning 46 races and nearly $1.2 million in purses like he did in 2019, those numbers work nicely. If he’s winning no races and no money, those numbers don’t work so well.

That $2,600 per month is a bit less now because the horses are not getting treated for races. But Armstrong would happily pay the $2,600 if his horses had a chance to run.

Armstrong rarely ships so his van bills are minimal. His horses are stabled at Parx and run at Parx.

He did have two in at Laurel on March 20 and another on March 21. They looked to be in good spots until racing was shut down in Maryland on March 20.

Right before Maryland was shut down, it was announced Laurel would only let horses that were stabled there or at Pimlico run in their races. Armstrong had sent three horses to Pimlico to be stabled with Lake. They were about 30 minutes from Pimlico when the local ban was announced. The van returned to Parx with the horses. Turned out to be moot anyway when everything was shut down, but it exemplifies the uncertain times for horse owners.

“Other tracks run with no fans, no owners, then why we can’t we?’’ Armstrong wondered. “That’s the frustrating part.’’

Parx was among the very first tracks to shut down, as New York, Maryland and even Penn National remained open. Tracks in Florida, Arkansas and California have remained open. Penn National closed for racing when the governor gave his edict. Now, Laurel and Aqueduct, after a stable worker tested positive for Covid-19, have been closed for racing.

What Armstrong and other owners at Park found upsetting was when the track building was closed but the Parx casino remained open. That didn’t last long as casinos were closed as well by Gov. Wolf.

The casino’s closing obviously will affect purses once the track and casino reopen as the purses are so dependent on a slice of the slot revenues.

Trainers generally are not making money on their day rates. They make money when their horses run well and they get 10 percent of the owner’s share of the purse.

“They say the day rate gets sucked up with feed and shavings and hay and the workers, bandages, exercise riders every day,’’ Armstrong said.

So, owners, trainers and jockeys are all being affected by the shutdown.

“The biggest problem is there’s no date,’’ Armstrong said. “If you said it was June 1st, I would say okay, get my horses to the farm for a month, then I’ll bring them back in training and they’ll be ready to roll by June 1st.’’

But nobody knows how this is going to play out. So, we wait.

CHARLATAN EMULATING JUSTIFY

By Dick Jerardi

Even as the world is stuck in place, hoping this hideous virus can be contained in the coming weeks, the horse racing dreamers among us saw a young colt run so fast and win by so much on the second Saturday of March that our minds turned to the Kentucky Derby, even as we await the almost inevitable word that it will be moved back off its annual and iconic first Saturday in May date.

Charlatan won his first start on Feb. 16 by 5 3/4 lengths. He shaded 1:09 for 6 furlongs at Santa Anita, earning a 105 Beyer speed figure, a number good enough to win the Derby most years. Two years before, on Feb. 18, 2018, Justify won his first start by 9 1/2 lengths, shading 1:22 for 7 furlongs and getting a 104 Beyer.

Justify came back on March 11, 2018 to win a 1 mile race by 6 1/2 lengths, earning a 101 Beyer. Charlatan returned on March 15 to win a 1 mile race by 10 1/4 lengths, getting a 106 Beyer.

Justify, of course, went on to win the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes, a 111-day tour de force unlike anything in horse racing history, ending as just the second unbeaten Triple Crown winner.

To this point, Charlatan has been even faster and more impressive than Justify. There is no guarantee, of course, that Charlatan will emulate Justify as he gets into the bigger races. In fact, there is no guarantee as to when the bigger races will even be run. It is a strange and disorienting time in horse racing and life, as sports and so much else in our society shuts down.

So as we who love horse racing grasp on to the hope that sustains us, it is comforting to think about what could be as legendary trainer Bob Baffert goes for his sixth Derby whenever it is run.

Yes, Baffert trains Charlatan, just like he trained Justify, American Pharoah, Point Given, Silver Charm, Real Quiet and War Emblem. Baffert has not only won the Triple Crown twice, he had four other horses that won two-thirds of the Crown.

Is Charlatan next? We shall see.

Even for him, Baffert holds an incredibly strong Derby hand this year. He trains two other unbeaten horses as well, Authentic and Nadal. Each is 3-for-3. Nadal won the San Vicente and Rebel Stakes, each by three-quarters of a length. Authentic won the Sham and San Felipe by a combined 10 lengths.

These days, three or four races qualifies as enough experience for the Derby. It is possible, if the Derby indeed is run later in the year, the Baffert horses may have a bit more race experience.

Experience is nice, but talent is nicer. Authentic and Nadal are very nice. Charlatan may be Justify II.

When I posed that exact question about Charlatan possibly being another Justify to Baffert after Charlatan’s dazzling debut, he texted back: “Not sure, but we’re going to find out.’’

Let’s hope we all get that chance.

MISCHEVIOUS ALEX WINS SECOND STRAIGHT GRADED STAKE

BY Dick Jerardi

Mischevious Alex cost $140,000 at an Ocala, Fla., 2-year-old sale in April 2019. After winning the Grade III Swale Stakes on Feb. 1 at Gulfstream Park and the Grade III Gotham Stakes on March 7 at Aqueduct, the 3-year-old colt, named for co-owner Chuck Zacney’s son Alex, has banked $344,230, with more on the horizon.

“He’s pretty good,’’ said trainer John Servis. “He’s got such a good mind. Nothing bothers him, He’s so laid back. I don’t know how good he is…It’s like Irad (Ortiz who rode him in the Swale) said, `it’s like driving a car he just waits for you to step on the gas.’’’

Mischevious Alex has been perfect in three starts with blinkers. The colt overwhelmed the field in the Nov. 5 Parx Juvenile before winning the Swale and Gotham.

It was quite the day at Aqueduct for Servis, co-owners Zacney and Glenn Bennett, as well as Parx Hall of Fame jockey Kendrick Carmouche. Eighty minutes before favored Mischevious Alex won his race by a comfortable 2 lengths, the group also teamed up as 4-1 Diamond King won the Stymie Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths, running the mile in 1:38.04, nearly four-fifths of a second faster than his two-year younger stablemate. Diamond King has now won $713,350 in his 42-race career.

“That’s the way it was supposed to go,’’ said Carmouche who has had two-stakes days before but never “big ones like that. We got what we set out to get.’’

This is a particularly strong year for 3-year-olds in the run-up to the Kentucky Derby, with several horses from powerful stables already earning Beyer figures in the triple digits and near triple digits. In the Gotham, Mischevious Alex got a 90 Beyer, a nice number but not really good enough to compete in the Derby without significant improvement.

The colt’s schedule is in flux. Obviously, Zacney especially would love to win the Derby. It was 15 years ago when he and his partners ran the best 3-year-old of 2005 in the Derby, only to see Afleet Alex run third behind two longshots. The colt then dominated the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

The co-owners and Servis are nothing if not realistic. Zacney was talking maybe Wood Memorial and Preakness. Servis was not sure, thinking maybe Mischevious Alex would be best at a mile, but not discounting the possibility that he could be effective going longer. The Derby is a bit of a longshot, but not out of the question yet.

“He’s so tactical,’’ Carmouche said. “You get a horse that can break that fast and can do anything. He’s rateable. You don’t have to be on the lead…He sits good in your hand. If I wanted to wire the field I could have. That’s how much horse I had.’’

Carmouche gave Diamond King a similar ride with the same result.

“I was glad to get (Carmouche) on Diamond King because I want him to ride him at Charles Town,’’ Servis said,

That would be for the $1 million Charles Town Classic, a race Diamond King lost by a half-length in 2019.

That could be a cool victory for Servis, a West Virginia native.

“It’s huge for the horse too,’’ Servis said. “A million-dollar race, graded earnings, What’s he worth as a stallion?’

Diamond King, by the top stallion Quality Road, is a full brother to the excellent stakes-winning filly Bellanfina.
So Mischevious Alex and Diamond King, a strong exacta as we head into the spring and the prime racing season.

Carmouche especially loved the day because he got to do it “with my Parx people. You know how I feel about that. It’s good to see my people come to New York and be successful at it.’’

His “Parx people’’ took a quarter million in purses back home following a New York Saturday to remember.

JAMIE NESS GETS 3,000TH VICTORY

By Dick Jerardi

By the time Blue Rocket got into the starting gate at Canterbury Park in 1999, Jamie Ness had started 30 horses. None of them had won.

“I just remember saying I just want to win one,’’ Ness said. “It’s so hard to win races. Just give me one.’’

Blue Rocket won that race, Ness’s first. Fast forward two decades to Feb. 18, 2000, Race 6 on Feb. 18 at Parx. Late Breaking won that race for Ness. In between the first win and that win, Ness won 2,998 more races.

“I’ve always been a hard worker,’’ Ness said. “This is what I wanted to do so I didn’t want to give up. There was a point where I was like I don’t think I can do this. I’m young. I’ve got to do something else. I’ve got a college education, what am I doing? I had a feeling in my stomach that I wanted to make this work. And here we are 20 years later, kind of made it work.’’

So, from hoping to win just one race to winning 3,000 in just over 20 years as a trainer. It had been some run for the man from South Dakota.

“I don’t think it’s an achievement, but it’s a milestone,’’ Ness said at his Parx barn. “It came up kind of fast…I look a the company that I’m in with and it’s very humbling.’’

From 2007 to 2016, Ness won 2,353 races at tracks all around the country.

“You name (the track), I’ve probably been there ’’ Ness said.

There would include tracks in his native South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and Arizona. He was the dominant trainer at Tampa Bay. He’s been in the mid-Atlantic for about 10 years.

Ness won 395 races in 2012. No. 1 in the country. He was second in wins with 330 in 2011. All that after going 2-for-43 in that first year as a trainer.

Ness does not have owners who go to sales to pay big money for yearlings. He is a claiming trainer.

He has made so many great claims, it’s hard to count that high. But none has been better than Ghost Hunter, claimed for $25,000 on June 4, 2014 at Belmont Park from fellow South Dakota native Bill Mott. The horse won that day, his second win in nine starts.

Since that day, Ghost Hunter has won 20 more times from 56 starts. The horse won the 2017 Arlington Handicap. All told, Ghost Hunter, recently turned 10, has won about $800,000 for Ness.

“I just put him back in training,’’ Ness said. “He’s taken me all over the country.’’

The horse that really got him on the map was Lookinforthesecret. Claimed for $12,500 on Jan. 5, 2007 at Tampa Bay Downs, Lookinforthesecret was 13-for-21 for Ness, running great and often winning sprint stakes on turf and dirt at tracks in Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Kentucky and Canada.

“I scratched together $12,500 to get him claimed,’’ Ness said. “He went on and won a lot of stakes and was probably the fastest five-eighths turf horse in the country for like a year. I took him him everywhere Nobody really knew me until I had that horse.’’
Ness’s horses have won $50 million in purses the hard way. There are no $20 million Saudi Cups in his future that has already included more than 12,000 starters.

Ness has 30 horses at Parx, another 30 at Laurel and 15 at a training center in Delaware, not far from where he lives on his farm in Chesapeake City, Md., exactly 80 miles from Parx and 80 miles from Laurel. His toughest decision every day is whether to head north or south.

“I get on 95, I go left or right, I’m the same distance,’’ Ness said. “I like coming here a little more than going to Laurel, a little bit different racing, a lot more claiming horses, a lot of action going on.’’

And Jamie Ness is right in the middle of that action, looking to claim another horse, win another race.

GUSTAVO CHACON HOPING TO FIND BIG HORSE OF HIS OWN

By Dick Jerardi

Gustavo Chacon will never forget the feeling of the Kentucky Derby walkover. He was trainer Derek Ryan’s assistant on May 2, 2009 when he accompanied 19-1 shot Musket Man as the colt headed for the paddock.

“That’s one of the experiences everybody wants to have,’’ Chacon said at his Parx barn. “It was one of the dreams come true. It was like being in the Super Bowl. It’s the biggest thing you ever think when you are in the horse business…The horse ran amazing. I was so happy to be there.’’

Musket Man finished a solid third in the Derby behind Mine That Bird. The horse also finished third behind Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird in the Preakness.. Earlier, Musket Man had won Tampa Bay Derby and Illinois Derby. In 2010, Musket Man finished second in the Met Mile and third in the Whitney.

Chacon, a native of Guatemala, has been training for a decade after coming to the United States in 1989. His first job in horse racing was at Santa Anita Park with trainer John Sadler. His horses have earned $1.5 million.

“I’m really happy to be around horses all the time,’’ Chacon said, “It makes you feel better.’’

He has a very good horse in training now, E. T’s Gypsy Woman, a 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred filly with two wins in three starts and earnings of $67,790.

“We’re thinking about the open allowance race,’’ Chacon said about what’s next. “She just won the Pa. bred allowance…Then, we’re looking at the Pa bred races.’’

Chacon was also the trainer for Exotic Appeal during much of her career which ended after 53 races in 2019 and included $127,540 in earnings.

“She was an excellent filly, but she got really sick,’’ Chacon said. “One day, she was completely down. She was like a 104.5 temperature. I called the doctor. The doctor looked at her and said `I don’t think she’s going to make it.’’’

Chacon was having none of that. He was told it would cost a lot of money to save her. He said “that’s fine. I don’t care how much it costs.’’

He was also told, even if she survived what turned out to be an ulcer on her lung, she would not run again. Chacon wasn’t buying that either. Exotic Appeal was given 200 tablets of medication for 21 days.

“She started coming around.’’ Chacon said.

The owner decided he did not want Exotic Appeal anymore so he sold her to Chacon for $3,000.

She finished third in her first start back, then second and first.

“After they sold her to me, she made about $70,000,’’ Chacon said.

After being retired, she was adopted as part of the Turning for Home program.

“She was very special, a little filly,’’ Chacon said.

The trainer believed in her and was rewarded. Now, he has another nice filly in E. T’s Gypsy Woman. Perhaps, the really big horse will be next.

PROMISED STORM A GREAT START FOR JENNIFER TRUEHART

By Dick Jerardi

Jennifer Truehart grew up around horses in South Jersey, owned barrel horses and quarter horses, but never a thoroughbred. A few years back, her sister brought her to Parx and she decided to buy a yearling Pennsylvania bred filly by El Padrino that would be named Promised Storm.

“On a whim, a friend of a friend was selling her, we took her and took a chance,’’ Truehart said while pointing to Promised Storm in her Parx stall.

A now 5-year-old-mare, Promised Storm has made 21 lifetime starts with six wins, seven seconds and $292,684 in earnings.

“She gives 110 percent every time she goes out,’’ Truehart said. “She’s just been a blessing to me. My kids love her.’’

According to Truehart, the mare will eat anything  _ bananas, pizza, lifesavers.

And she can really run. Trained by Regina Brennan and ridden by either Mychel Sanchez or Luis Ocasio in 2019, she won $201,024 last year.

Truehart also has a newly turned 3-year-old that she likes. Rock on Luke, named after her 6-year-old son. She is also the mother of a 4-month-old.

Brennan does not have many horses, but she does very well with what she has.

“She’s been exceptionally great to me to help me through this,’’ Truehart said of her trainer. “It’s a lot different from our barrel horses.’’

Promised Storm was purchased from her breeder so with the Pa. breeder bonuses, everybody has been winning with the mare.

“She loves to be out,’’ Truehart said. “We’ll take her out of her stall at nightime. She loves to train.’’

And she clearly loves to run.

“She broke her maiden third time out at Penn National,’’ Truehart said. “After that, she just kept climbing.’’

The maiden win was against strictly Pennsylvania breds. The other five wins have come in open allowance and optional claiming races at Parx

Promised Storm will not be entering any races where she could actually be claimed. Truehart has a very small stable, but is considering whether to invest some of those Promised Storm winnings in more horses.

“This is probably going to be her last year racing,’’ Truehart said of Promised Storm “No tag for her. She’s going to go home. We’ll see if we can breed her and continue to keep going.’’

Truehart had always owned geldings until Promised Storm. She grew up in the Mount Holly, N.J. area, but now lives in Bensalem, near the track, near her horses, near her star horse, Promised Storm.

THE MISUNDERSTOOD HORSE OWNER

By Dick Jerardi

When Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in his annual budget address, “let’s bet on kids, instead of bankrolling horse owners,’’ he demonstrated what has sadly become a familiar refrain: All horse owners are rich and are getting richer off horse racing purses.

The facts tell the real story. In 2018, according to the Jockey Club Fact Book, there were 46,144 starters in North America. They ran for $1.1 billion in purses.

The average starter made $24,223 that year. The average annual training bill is between $30,000 and $50,000 per horse, depending on the circuit.
The math clearly demonstrates the vast majority of horse owners lose money. And some quite small percentage are actually rich when they decide to get into the game. Owners buy and claim horses because they love the animals, love the competition, love the game, definitely not to get rich.

And without horse owners, there is no game. Thus, the governor not only missed the point with his implication about horse owners, he also missed the wider point that horse owners are the engine that drives the entire vast economic engine that is estimated to have a $1.6 billion impact in the commonwealth, once you consider the approximately 20,000 jobs that are related in one way or another to horse racing.

There are jobs away from the tracks in agriculture, manufacturing and construction. There are jobs directly related to the tracks _ jockeys, van drivers, blacksmiths and veterinarians. There are jobs that lead to the other jobs and people with seemingly unrelated jobs that absolutely trace to horse racing.

Nobody is against providing scholarships for 25,000 students in the 14 state system colleges as the governor is proposing. It is a worthwhile goal, but there are many other revenue sources beyond the $204 million in the Race Horse Development Fund.

Destroying an entire industry makes no economic sense. Beyond that, it is unfair and ignores the history behind the Fund.

In the early 2000s, the state’s horse racing industry was in serious trouble because Delaware and West Virginia were growing purses with money from gaming revenue. Getting slot machines at tracks to help with purses was the reason casinos came to Pennsylvania. Too many people seem to have forgotten that.

When slots were legalized in 2004, the industry underwent an almost immediate transformation. Horse owners were getting more money for their investment which meant thousands had a real chance to earn a decent living. New breeding farms were developed. Pennsylvania breds were desirable.
Those slots casinos have become goliaths, slots leading to table games leading to sports betting. It was anticipated that casino gambling on site would lead to less race track betting.

Thus, the assessment paid by casinos that would go to purses. The “Fund’’ comes directly from casino money, not from taxes paid by the citizens of the Commonwealth.

As casinos have expanded their menu of gambling options, the effect on race track handle has become more dramatic. There is no way handle can be the only driver of purses as it once was.

So the government decided as recently as 2017 that horse racing had such a state-wide economic benefit it was worth preserving, that it needed to give some certainty about the Fund to anybody who planned to make a long-term investment.

What happened between then and now is unclear, as Gov Wolf’s proposal came with no warning, as well as no understanding on what the Race Horse Development Fund actually does and why it came into existence in the first place.

Now that so many in horse racing have made their voices heard, hopefully facts will trump soundbites and reality will overcome a misunderstanding.

MISCHEVIOUS ALEX DOMINATES SWALE STAKES FOR JOHN SERVIS

BY Dick Jerardi

When last seen in a race prior to Feb. 2, Mischevious Alex overwhelmed the field in the Nov. 5 Parx Juvenile, winning by 9 3/4 lengths. When he appeared in the Swale Stakes 1,225 miles south at Gulfstream Park, Mischevious Alex was just as dominant, winning by 7 lengths and running his 7 furlongs in 1:22.83.

“I don’t know how far he’ll go,’’ trainer John Servis said from Florida the morning after the race. “On the pedigree and the way he’s built and everything, he doesn’t look like a horse that’s going to go real far. I don’t want to be one of those guys that put him on the (Kentucky Derby) trail trying to make him go that far and then have nothing at the end of the summer.’’

So how far is a question. How fast is not a question. The 3-year-old son of Into Mischief, owned by Chuck Zacney’s Cash Is King and Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, got a 93 Beyer Figure in the Swale.

With any luck in the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct which went off 15 minutes after the Swale ended, Zacney and Bennett could have had a stakes double. Based at Parx with trainer Butch Reid, Monday Morning Qb got off to a terrible start, made what was probably a premature move on the backstretch, then surged to near the front on the far turn and into the stretch before tiring very late to finish fourth.

Servis said the March 7 Gotham Stakes, a one-turn mile at Aqueduct, is likely next for Mischevious Alex. If the colt really runs well and the Derby begins to come into focus, Servis said he might consider the Lexington Stakes which is two weeks prior to the Derby.

Is the Derby possible after the Lexington?

“If he runs really well, but that’s way down the road,’’ Servis said.

Right now, Servis has a really good 3-year-old.

“If you throw out this horse’s turf race, he should be undefeated,’’ Servis said. “In his second race at Laurel, he got in a little tight and almost dropped himself and dropped back and came running and just got beat. In the Sapling, Trevor [McCarthy] came back and said, ‘John, this horse should have galloped. I’m just sitting. When I pulled the trigger I didn’t expect him to move like he did.’ He looped around everybody, opened up three and just pulled himself up.

“So we knew the talent was there. He’s always been a push-button horse but very green. When we decided to put the blinkers on him (before the Parx Juvenile), that’s when he started to mind his business. I really think, me personally, a one-turn mile is going to really hit him on the head. Is he a mile and a quarter horse? I don’t think so.”

Mischevious Alex is not the only talented 3-year-old in the Servis barn. He also has the very exciting Dreams Untold, a Pennsylvania bred son of Smarty Jones owned by Pat Chapman who broke his maiden by 14 1/4 lengths at Parx on Jan. 4. Servis is likely to run the horse next in the Feb. 15 Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel.

Dreams Untold does not have nearly the experience of Mischevious Alex, but he has serious talent.

“If he shows he’s good enough, I might think about the Preakness with him,’’ Servis said.