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.


PARX STAR SPUN TO RUN A BREEDERS’ CUP WINNER

-By Dick Jerardi

The setting is simply the most breathtaking in American sports, the San Gabriel Mountains beyond the backstretch, separating Santa Anita Park from Pasadena, a testament, perhaps, to the possible.

When Spun to Run began flying around the old racetrack on Breeders’ Cup Saturday, essentially in a race of his own, the colt’s trainer Carlos Guerrero had one overwhelming thought as he watched on the giant screen in the paddock.

“It felt like I was watching the same race he had run at Parx,” Guerrero said.

And why wouldn’t he? Spun to Run was doing exactly what he had done three weeks before at his Parx base. The purse had gone from $100,000 in the M.P. Ballezzi Appreciation Mile to $1 million in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The result was exactly the same. Spun to Run had blown away the best older milers at Parx, and then followed it up by blowing away the best milers in the United States and the best horse in the history of South Korea.

“I told Irad (Ortiz), just get him out of the gate and let him run,” Guerrero said.

So America’s top jockey did exactly that.

Ortiz asked Spun to Run to go from the gate so the brilliant three-year-old son of Pennsylvania-Bred Hard Spun went immediately to the front. The other nine horses were chasing from there and never got close to catching up.

It was Korea’s superstar Blue Chipper who did the chasing to the far turn. Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite Omaha Beach chased Spun to Run home in the stretch, but there was never any chance Blue Chipper, Omaha Beach or any of the other nine horses were going to catch Spun to Run on this day. The colt was simply too fast.

“I think today wasn’t riding; I was just a passenger, to be honest,” Ortiz said.

Spun to Run emulated Parx-based Jaywalk from 2018 when the two-year-old filly wired her field in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, giving the track Breeders’ Cup winners in consecutive years.

“This horse, the more you give him, the more he wants,” Guerrero said.

This was, in fact, the colt’s fourth race in 61 days. Guerrero won his first graded stakes when Spun to Run won the Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes on Smarty Jones Day.

After he crushed the field on Oct. 12 at Parx, Guerrero thought about giving the colt some time off. Owner Robert Donaldson, sensing the moment, suggested they take a look at the Grade I Dirt Mile. Once it was clear Spun to Run was still training brilliantly, Guerrero said go. So they sent the horse to California and the horse sent them back home with the biggest win of their lives.

Donaldson, who first went to the races at Garden State Park, with his then girlfriend and now longtime wife when they were both 14, had Guerrero purchase Spun to Run for $64,000 at the 2018 Timonium Sale that is held annually right after the Preakness. The colt just went over $1 million in earnings and who knows what he might yet accomplish.

Guerrero knew early on he had a special talent, but the colt’s spring campaign ended after surgery for an entrapped epiglottis. Something, however, was missing in his training when he brought him back. Once the trainer outfitted the colt with “those big red blinkers”, the change was instantaneous.

Spun to Run was third in the Haskell off a four-month layoff, and followed that up with the Smarty Jones win, a close fifth in the Pennsylvania Derby after a tough trip, and now these two mile wins—which produced the two fastest two-turn Beyer Speed Figures by a three-year-old in 2019, a 110 at Parx and a 109 at Santa Anita.

“This puts me at a different level as a trainer,” Guerrero said during the victory ceremony above the winner’s circle.

One of his Parx owners, Marshall Gramm of Ten Strike Racing, was crying when he came to see Guerrero after the race. It was that emotional.

“He has this unique stride,” Guerrero said of Spun to Run. “The way he strides out and the way he looks, he just looks like a good horse, like a star.”

A Parx star clearly has been born.

The massive crowd at one of America’s iconic race tracks. The attention that the winner of a Breeders’ Cup race gets. It is intoxicating and it was that for Guerrero.

“I can’t explain it, but I definitely liked it, let’s put it that way,” Guerrero said.

And he would like to do it again. With this brilliant colt, this Spun to Run, there is every chance he will.

SOUTH PHILLY GUY WITH SCORE OF A LIFETIME

By Dick Jerardi

John Fanelli grew up in South Philly (Sixth and Fitzwater and then 16th and Mifflin). He was introduced to gambling and the race track by his father who owned a nearby bar called Sidestreet.

“My dad took me to (Keystone) when I was 7 or 8 years old,” Fanelli said. “From there, Garden State. I just loved racing. It was in my blood even though I came from South Philly where there’s no farms, no horses.”

It was the gambling that got him into it. During high school in the mid to late 1980s, he was a regular at Garden State with his dad, even though the racing was at night and he had school the next day. It was his father’s passing in 2001 that got him involved in horse ownership.

“I wanted to do something for him so I decided to claim a couple of cheap horses,” Fanelli remembered. “At the time, I was playing poker professionally. I came here and claimed some horses with Lou Linder. Came back in three weeks. They were both running on the same day. One wins, the other finishes second and gets claimed. I made like $25,000 the first day and I’m walking around like this is the greatest thing in the world.

“I was hooked right then and there, beginner’s luck. Coincidentally, I didn’t win a race for another nine months. I learned my lessons. For the next three years, I got beat up pretty good with a lot of different things.

“I just started studying it. I spend about two hours per night looking at horses, studying video. It’s like anything else. You put the time in and you’re going to see results. And you need a little luck.”

Combine that study with some luck and you wake up on Jan. 31, 2019 with a list of horses at various tracks you want to look at. One of them was entered in a $25,000 claiming race at Gulfstream Park.

Math Wizard had broken his maiden impressively 25 days prior, winning a maiden $16,000 claimer by 6 3/4 lengths.

“I try to dabble in Gulfstream in the winter,” Fanelli said. “I try to claim two or three horses and bring them up here, figuring the class relief will help, even though sometimes these races are tougher.”

Joe Taylor, who has been in front of the Parx trainer standings all year, is Fanelli’s local trainer. Math Wizard was ticketed for Taylor if Fanelli decided to claim him.

He did put in a claim. So did five other owners.

When the horse won the 1-mile race by 18 1/2 lengths in a very fast time, Fanelli desperately wanted to win the six-way shake. He did.

When the colt’s Beyer Speed Figure improved by 19 points to an 87, Fanelli started to think big, maybe even the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby. Math Wizard was good in sprints, but was much better in his first longer race. The colt, however, came down with a case of colic and they had to wait.

Math Wizard stayed in South Florida with trainer Saffie Joseph, first running second in an optional claimer, then a solid fourth in the Wood Memorial at 64-1. Math Wizard did not have enough points for the Kentucky Derby so Fanelli figured they would wait for the Preakness. It turned out that Math Wizard was not nominated to the Triple Crown, so the $150,000 to supplement would have been prohibitive.

So, Math Wizard was sent to Arkansas where he ran fourth in the Oaklawn Park Invitational as the favorite. From there, he ran a great second in the Ohio Derby and then a solid fourth in the Indiana Derby. His only bad race was when they admittedly brought the colt back too quickly in the Aug. 3 West Virginia Derby.

Math Wizard had been traveling all over so the plan was to get him back to South Florida and wait for the Sept. 29 Oklahoma Derby.

Then, fate intervened.

Parx’s director of racing David Osojnak informed Fanelli that the Sept. 21 Pennsylvania Derby was going to have a short field. The trainer Joseph, however, informed Fanelli that Math Wizard really was not ready, and was laying down a lot.

Fanelli decided he would put up the $2,000 to enter five days before the race and see if the horse got better. The day after entries were taken,

Maximum Security got a case of colic and was scratched. Math Wizard was feeling better and so was Fanelli.

“It was a short field for a million or probably a full field for $400,000 (in Oklahoma) and my own track,” Fanelli said.

Math Wizard got better all week and was flown to Newark, N. J. Airport two days before the Pa. Derby.

That Irad Ortiz just happened to be at Parx to ride the card and was without a mount added to the karma. He would ride Math Wizard.

“Obviously, the rest is history,” Fanelli said.

Sent off at 31-1, Math Wizard came from last in the six-horse field and caught Mr. Money in the final strides to win the $1 million Grade I Pa. Derby.

As Math Wizard began to rally, you could only hear the colt’s people, Fanelli foremost among them, yelling in the owners’ box seats.

“I lost my voice screaming,” Fanelli said. “I was screaming ‘Irad, Irad, Irad’! We were, like, in tears.”

Now, it’s on to the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita for the general manager of Turnersville (N.J.) Nissan who lives in nearby Williamstown.

Right after Fanelli claimed Math Wizard, he was getting a lot of offers to sell because the colt ran so fast. It was a bit dizzying and the offers kept changing.

“I told one guy, ‘you’re trying to negotiate against a poker player and a car salesman, you’re in a bad shape,’” Fanelli said.

Fanelli has sold percentages at different times in Math Wizard, but still has controlling interest. The plan for 2020 starts with the new $20 million Saudi Cup in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 29 and the $12 million Dubai World Cup on March 28. But first, the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic.

THE EMERGENCE OF MYCHEL SANCHEZ

By Dick Jerardi

Josiah (Joe) Hampshire’s distinguished riding career was nearing an end when Mychel Sanchez first began to ride at Parx in June 2013.

“I remember thinking, ‘why can’t this kid catch on, he’s the best bug boy here?’” Hampshire said.

Hampshire, who went “from a kid standing on the corner in South Philly with a quart of beer,” to winning 3,801 races over 33 years, understood what a good jockey looked like.

Hampshire retired in 2014. Almost immediately after he stopped riding, Sanchez asked him to become his agent.

“I wasn’t going to do it and (trainer) Ron Dandy told me that I should,” Hampshire said.

So, he took Sanchez’s book.

“That kid, he’s come a long way,” Hampshire said. “Nobody gave him anything. He worked hard. He would be out there every morning and he still is. He’s got a great attitude. When bad things happen, he handles it well. He doesn’t get mad, he doesn’t get angry. He’s the full package as far as I’m concerned.”

Sanchez won 16 races in 2013, 34 in 2014, 91 in 2015, 79 in 2016, 118 in 2017 and 137 in 2018.

Do you notice a pattern?

This year through October 20, Sanchez has already won 131 races and is making a strong run at ending Frankie Pennington’s record five-years-straight run atop the Parx jockeys’ standings. With 10 weeks to go, Pennington has 117 Parx wins, Sanchez 112.

“I think it means a lot for every jockey’s career,” Sanchez said. “I think it’s a big thing. I’ve still got to appreciate having an amazing year… Frankie’s a great guy, a great jockey. Hopefully, I can get it done. He needs some competition and I’m giving him some competition.”

Hampshire, who would know, thinks Sanchez is on the cusp of greatness.

“(Trainer) Kate DeMasi calls him an old soul,” Hampshire said. “He’s very mature.”

According to Hampshire, Sanchez emerged from the jockey’s school in Venezuela as “the top pupil”.

“He wants to go as far as he can in this game, I know that,” Hampshire said. “Not that I’m looking to lose him, but I think that kid can ride anywhere.”

And if they have their way, jockey and agent will stay very close to a Parx-based horse that may be able to compete anywhere.

Sanchez rode Spun to Run in his second start, but, due to a combination of circumstances, did not ride the colt again until Oct. 12 in the $100,000 M.P. Ballezzi Appreciation Mile.

All Spun to Run and Sanchez did was deliver the performance of the year at Parx. The three-year-old colt took off on the far turn like the race had just begun and crushed a very good field of older horses by 6 3/4 lengths. The 110 Beyer Speed Figure was the best of 2019 by any three-year-old in America going two turns. The only two-turn figure as good at Parx in the last decade was when Bayern set the track record in the 2014 Pennsylvania Derby.

“I broke, I put him in the race; I thought he was the best horse in the race,” Sanchez said.

He was so right about that.

“I kind of just let (Carlos L.) go (to the lead),” Sanchez said. “I let him do the first half, the next half was mine.”

The feeling Spun to Run gave Sanchez “was awesome”.

Owned by Robert Donaldson and trained by Carlos Guerrero, Spun to Run looks like the kind of horse that can win big races at any track in the country.

When Sanchez heard about the 110 Beyer, he was not surprised.

“I think he has the ability to compete with the best horses in the United States,” Sanchez said.

Hampshire won 18 riding titles. He won 300 races in 2002. He knows what it is like to be on top. Now, he would love to help get his rider there at Parx.

“That’s our goal,” Hampshire said. “It would be a small miracle to beat Frankie just because of who he is. We’re still trying and I want to say it’s going to go down to the last couple of weeks.”

Sanchez also is the regular jockey for DeMasi’s excellent Pennsylvania-bred Word on a Wing, who like Spun to Run is one of the top three-year-olds at Parx. Word on a Wing is 0-for-2 with other riders, 4-for-4 with Sanchez.

So, jockey and agent will stay very close to those “big” horses while they try to stay close or perhaps pass Frankie Pennington.

FRANK HENSON RETURNS TO PARX

By Dick Jerardi

Frank Henson has been around the race track for seven decades. He had seen it all and done it all—from growing up in Baltimore where he remembers sleeping in the car on his way to Laurel and Bowie as a little kid, to moving with his family to Harlem when he was nine and going with his horseman dad in the summers to Belmont Park and Saratoga, and seeing the legends of the game in the 1950s, including Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Bill Shoemaker and Eddie Arcaro, on the backstretch in the mornings.

See Frank’s trainer profile on equibase here.

“I used to get down in the stall and lay down with the horses,” Henson said.

Henson, 74, was telling his story on a Tuesday morning while standing outside the stall of the first horse he would run at Parx in many years.

According to Equibase, Henson, who looks at least a decade younger than he is, trained horses from 1977 to 1987 and won 125 races. But record-keeping from that era is notoriously unreliable and does not go back to when Henson started at Liberty Bell and Keystone when it opened in 1974. What is certain is that Henson is back at Parx.

Henson purchased Son of Darkness for $35,000 at the Timonium sale in May. The two-year-old New York-bred son of Justin Phillip was with the leaders for a few hundred yards in a maiden race on Oct. 12 at Parx before fading to ninth of 10 at 67-1.

Henson’s best horse was Golden Chance Farm’s Good Ole Master who raced 83 times over seven years with 17 wins, 11 seconds and 13 thirds. Good Ole Master was a son of 1975 Preakness winner Master Derby (also owned by Golden Chance). Henson trained Good Ole Master for the final 44 races of his career from June 1984 until August 1987.

The horse raced at Atlantic City, Keystone, Suffolk Downs, Meadowlands, Aqueduct, Garden State Park, Pimlico, Bowie, Monmouth Park and eight times at Philadelphia Park after the name change from Keystone in 1985.

Ten of the horse’s wins came with Henson, but the win he remembers most is the $50,000 City of Baltimore Handicap at Pimlico on May 18, 1985, the race before Tank’s Prospect won the Preakness. Good Ole Master was 10-1 that day. Henson did like to bet.

“I would run a horse here (Parx) and she would get beat,” Henson said. “I ship up to New York and she would win. I’ll never forget the horse ID guy tell me: ‘Frank if you come up here again and do this again and don’t tell me, I’m calling the IRS’. And he didn’t crack a smile.”

Henson was not betting $2 to show.

“I just looked at him and smiled, said, ‘I ain’t telling you nothing,’” he said.

Henson got Good Ole Master and some other Golden Chance horses later in their careers. He did so well with them that he became the farm’s trainer. He trained Win Dusty Win, a grandson of 1970 Kentucky Derby winner Dust Commander, both horses owned by Golden Chance, one of the top farms of the day.

Win Dusty Win finished third in a $500,000 stake at the Meadowlands and third in a $200,000 stake at River Downs, both in 1986. The horse was in the money in eight of 11 starts for Henson in 1986 and 1987 before a breakup with Golden Chance sent all the farm’s horses to another trainer.

Henson never really stopped being around the game. He owned horses and contributed to their training. He relocated to Ocala, Fla., where he bought and sold horses for years.

In 2010, he suffered a major heart attack. He survived that only to be diagnosed with terminal cancer the next year and given 90 days to live. There were massive tumors all over his body and his PSA level was off the charts.

Miraculously, he beat that too and is now back in the area, living with his son in Princeton and spending every morning at Barn 10, surrounded by Eddie Coletti’s horses with one of his own.

Henson knew all the Parx training legends like Dennis “Goose” Heimer, Mark Reid, Dave Vance and E.T. Garcia.

“I gave E. T. Garcia horses to train,” Henson said. “Everybody we touched turned to gold.”

He remembers spending summers at Monmouth Park, hanging out in a box seat right on the finish line.

“I was something when I was young,” Henson said.

He still is.

TURNING FOR HOME WELL REPRESENTED AT MAKEOVER

By Dick Jerardi

To understand the kind of care so many retired Thoroughbreds are getting in the United States, one almost has to make a stop at the annual Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover in the Kentucky Horse Park. Held in Lexington during the first week of October, the Makeover is a showcase for the retraining of recently retired racehorses.

The horses must have less than 10 months of retraining and can compete in up to two of ten different disciplines, including barrels, dressage and show jumping.

“The mission is to put these retiring horses in the hands of good trainers who can transition them carefully into second careers and transform them into solid citizens so they are safe for the rest of their lives,” said Danielle Montgomery, Program Administrator for Parx Racing’s Turning for Home Program.

By mid-August, there were 474 horses entered in the 2019 Makeover. They had combined for more than 10,133 starts, 1,158 wins and $28 million in earnings. There were 26 states, four Canadian provinces and two European countries (Ireland and France) represented.

TFH originally had 24 horses entered. Fourteen went to Kentucky. Two were late scratches so 12 competed.

“It’s a training test,” Montgomery said. “It’s not that these horses are going to win an open, real competition. This is not that. This is a marketplace where we try to get the best trainers we can get and bring these horses along and present them as a makeover in 10 months of training. They shouldn’t be the finished horses. They should be able to show that they are calm and relaxed and ready to go on to their second careers.”
Edger Jones, a seven-year-old son of Smarty Jones and a TFH graduate, finished 10th in dressage and 13th in freestyle.

The gelding raced 44 times over four years with four wins and $128,656 in earnings. All but six of those races came at Parx. When he was no longer competitive on the track, he was signed over to TFH which then placed him with one of its Partner Farms (KL Sporthorses) on the way to retraining for that second career. Just 13 months after his last race, Edger Jones was competing in the Makeover.

“Anytime we can take a Turning for Home horse that is right off the racetrack and put the horse with a good trainer that understands Thoroughbreds and understands the process of what they go through when they’re decompressing (is helpful),” Montgomery said. “They’re young horses. They go from being broken to the sales sometimes right to racing.”

Henny Strike, from the William Hedus barn, raced 10 times from November 2017 until August 2018. He won just once, but when it became obvious he could not compete at Parx, he became a TFH horse and just over a year later a horse good enough to finish seventh in eventing and 22nd in show jumping, earning him the Turning for Home High Point Award. He is currently available for adoption through Full Gallop Farm in Aiken, South Carolina.

Aces for John’s entire 50-race career was in South Florida. When he was brought to Parx in 2018 by trainer Eli Betancourt, it was discovered he had a knee issue that would not allow him to race again. He became yet another TFH horse that competed in the Makeover, this time in foxhunting and freestyle.

Shoppingforsilver finished 18th in barrels but found the perfect home on her return to New Jersey. I’m Truly Blessed was 26th in competitive trail. Pulpituity finished 17th in show jumpers which was definitely the right division. The horse reared so high in the paddock before his first (and last race) on Sept. 1, 2018 that the jockey slid right off.

“What’s great about the Makeover (is) it shows that every horse that retires can do something,” Montgomery said.

MOTHER AND SON RUN ON PA. DERBY DAY AT PARX

By Dick Jerardi

Get Set, making the fourth start of his career, finished an impressive second in the second race on Pennsylvania Derby Day at Parx. Two and a half hours later, his mother, Enthusiastic Gal, ran seventh in the Turf Amazon, the seventh race on the card.

Something strange is going on here. Yes, it is true. Mother and son are each stabled at Parx with trainer Steve Klesaris and both are racing.

So, what is the deal?

Enthusiastic Gal injured a tendon after racing four times from September 2015 to January 2016 when she was trained by Ben Perkins, Jr. for three races and Shug McGaughery for one race.

“The owner (Joe Imbesi’s Briardale Farm) actually did some research and found by breeding them, the stem cells that the foal and the mare share together heals tissue in the mare,” Klesaris said.

So, in 2016, Enthusiastic Gal was bred to Awesome of Course. Her foal, a Pennsylvania bred like Enthusiastic Gal, was born in 2017. And made it to the races on June 26, 20 days after his mother ran in a Grade III stakes at Belmont Park.

“She came to me after she had dropped the foal,” Klesaris said. “She’s been really perfect ever since. You wouldn’t even know she had a tendon. There’s certainly something to be learned from this.”

Enthusiastic Gal has won three races and $150,000 the last two years. Each of her four career wins and all but one of her 17 starts have been on grass.

This was a first for Klesaris and perhaps a first in the 45-year history of Keystone/Philadelphia Park/Parx.

“I’ve seen mares have foals and come back and run, but I’ve never had the mare and the foal,” Klesaris said. “This is pretty unique. I’ve never seen it before. She (Enthusiastic Gal) has a sister in the barn and a brother which makes him the uncle to the foal.”

And all of them are with Klesaris at Parx.

The mare Twiggles is the mother of all those siblings, including Enthusiastic Gal. The brother, two-year-old Buy Land and See, won the third race on that Pa. Derby Day card, winning by 8 1/4 lengths and setting a course record (1:30.03) for 7 1/2 furlongs on grass in just his second start. Like Get Set, Buy Land and See is a two-year-old. Klesaris thinks he may turn out to be the best of the bunch.

“There is a lot to be said for the mare who’s thrown nothing but runners,” Klesaris said. “Twiggles was hand selected in the (auction) ring by Joe’s daughter Amanda because she liked the looks. Joe raised his hand and bought her for a ham sandwich, three or four thousand dollars.’’

So it was Twiggles who foaled Enthusiastic Gal (who in turn foaled Get Set) and all his relatives.

The trainer has high hopes for Get Set as well. The gelding has two seconds in four starts.

“He’ll be a useful horse in his own right,” Klesaris said.

And the answer to a question that had probably never been asked at Parx before: What is the name of the horse that ran on the same card as his mother?

THE AMAZING SAGA OF MATH WIZARD

By Dick Jerardi

None of the 11 horses that left the Gulfstream Park starting gate at 5:12 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2018 had won a race. All of them were eligible to be claimed for $16,000.

The winner, a horse that was making his first start, would go on to finish first in the 2019 Florida Derby, Kentucky Derby and Haskell Invitational. The horse that finished second was 0-for-9 after that race, is now 1-for-14 and most recently finished third in a $10,000 claiming race at Gulfstream for horses that have never won two races. The horse that finished third won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Sept. 21.

Horse racing’s allure is its possibilities. You just never know.

The first three horses across the wire that day in Hallandale, Florida were Maximum Security, Guerreron and Math Wizard.

Only Math Wizard was claimed. Seventeen days later, Math Wizard was entered in another maiden $16,000 claimer. The colt won by 6 3/4 lengths and was claimed again. Guerreron was a distant second. Twenty-five days later, Math Wizard was entered in an open $25,000 claimer. He won by 18 1/2 lengths and was claimed again, this time by John Fanelli, the general manager of Turnersville (N.J.) Nissan, a horse owner who also is a major player in the stable of Joe Taylor, the leading trainer at Parx in 2019.

Math Wizard stayed in South Florida with another of Fanelli’s trainers, Saffie Joseph, Jr. Fanelli sold off percentages of the horse, but stayed as majority owner as Math Wizard raced in stakes races in New York, Arkansas, Ohio, Indiana and West Virginia. The colt ran second once (Ohio Derby), third once (Indiana Derby) and fourth twice (Wood Memorial, Oaklawn Park Invitational). Math Wizard’s only poor performance came when he finished sixth in the Aug. 3 West Virginia Derby, the colt’s third race in six weeks.

Fanelli was considering the Pa. Derby as entry time neared on Sept. 16. Joseph was more thinking Oklahoma Derby. Fanelli said it was only $2,000 to enter, so why not? Barely after entries closed, Maximum Security, the horse that won that maiden claimer by 9 3/4 lengths and was clearly the country’s most accomplished three-year-old, developed a serious colon problem at his Monmouth Park base. The colt was rushed to a New Jersey equine clinic, was treated and is now recovering. It was announced the next day that Maximum Security would be scratched.

The Pa. Derby was down to six, one of them a maiden who clearly had no chance. Math Wizard was going to finish no worse than fifth, which would be worth $40,000 and push the colt’s earnings to $300,073. Math Wizard was flown north two days before the race and hit the Parx track for the first time the day before the race.

Edgard Zayas, who had ridden Math Wizard twice, was named to ride in the Pa. Derby. But, due to the original uncertainty about whether the colt would run, he chose to stay in South Florida and ride the Gulfstream Park card. He went 2-for-4, winning a $16,000 claimer with a $24,000 purse and a $10,000 claimer with a $21,000 purse.

Irad Ortiz, Jr, the 2018 Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s leading jockey, was at Parx to ride Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress in the Cotillion. He also rode a few of the undercard stakes and was on a hot first-time starter for Todd Pletcher that would win the day’s last race. Neither Irad nor younger brother Jose, who rode Cotillion favorite Guarana and had ridden Math Wizard in both his Gulfstream wins in January, had a mount in the Pa. Derby.

Irad ended up on Math Wizard for the Pennsylvania Derby. The colt was 31-1 as the horses came out of the gate.
Well, all but 6-5 favorite Improbable came out of the gate. That colt, trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Mike Smith, the exacta that had won the last two Pa. Derbies, completely missed the break and was immediately several lengths behind the field. Instead of being in front where Baffert and Smith wanted him to be, Improbable was last.

Instead of a comfortable front-running trip, Improbable would have to pass them all. Instead of stalking from second, Mr. Money, who had won four straight stakes with a close-to-pace running style, was instead looking uncomfortable on the lead. The fractions were slow, with Preakness winner War of Will just behind Mr. Money and Parx-based Spun to Run just behind War of Will. Improbable gradually moved into a good striking position.
A half-mile into the race, Math Wizard was last, just behind the maiden Shanghai Superfly. But the pace was so slow that Math Wizard was not that far from first.

And when the pace really picked up during the third and fourth quarter miles of the race, Math Wizard really picked it up too, coming off the rail and making a powerful outside move on the far turn.

With 100 yards to go, it really looked like any of five horses could win. At the wire, it was Math Wizard just in front of Mr. Money, the top five separated by just 1 1/2 lengths. It was mayhem in the owner’s boxes as the Math Wizard team rooted their horse and jockey home.
That $25,000 claim had just taken down a $600,000 first prize, a Grade I and more than likely earned a trip to run in the Nov. 2 $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

Horse racing can’t be scripted. It just happens, you marvel and you smile.

“I’ve got to retire now,” Joseph said. The trainer is 32.

He won’t be retiring. Fanelli will keep running horses at Parx with Taylor. Math Wizard will run some more.

And anybody who was there at Parx on Sept. 21, 2019 will never forget what they saw on a day when nearly $9 million was bet on the 13 races (seven stakes), with purses of $3.24 million. They will remember the brilliant ride by English native Sophie Doyle on the Larry Jones-trained Street Band to win the Cotillion and the California sprinters, King Jack and Landeskog flying home 1-2 in the Gallant Bob.

The lasting memory will be Math Wizard—an owner who believed in his horse, a trainer who got him right for his first Grade I, a jockey who gave the colt a chance and that moment when anything seemed possible.

PARX HALL OF FAME CLASS OF 2019 HONORED

By Dick Jerardi

Click here to see a gallery of this year’s event.

From the first class—which was honored in 2011—to the ninth class—which was presented on Sept. 14—the Parx Racing Hall of Fame has never lacked for deserving enshrinees in its five categories – Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Owner and Special Achievement. And that was certainly true this year with a trainer who has been at the track for 30 years, a longtime owner who was also a well-known public handicapper, a beloved veterinarian and three horses that gave Parx an unforgettable fall of 2018 in Grade I stakes.

Going back to 1984, Alfredo “Freddie” Velazquez has won 1,117 races from 7,077 starters. His horses have taken down nearly $19 million in purse earnings. In a sport where winning any race is difficult, winning 1,000 races is a serious milestone.

“You work all your life to get here and it happened,” Velazquez said. “When you start, you never think you are going to get here.”

Velazquez trained the wonderful Traffic Light who began his career at Parx on Oct. 24, 2011 with a 5 3/4 length win and ended it at Parx on Dec. 21, 2015 with an 8-length win. The horse won three Pennsylvania-Bred stakes and $613,160 in a 29-race career that included 10 wins and seven stakes. All but six of his races came at Parx.

As Traffic Light’s career was playing out, Velazquez got the chance to train the top horse Private Zone for three races in the fall of 2014 and he made them count, winning the Grade I Vosburgh and the Grade I Cigar Mile while running a close third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Nicholas Saponara was honored in the Special Achievement category and there is no question his unique horse racing resume, which began in 1963 at Liberty Bell, was always going to get him a spot in the Hall.

He was a handicapper for the “Philadelphia Bulletin” for 20 years. He also made the morning line at Brandywine, Liberty Bell and Parx when it was known as Keystone. He was equally at home with the Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.

He owned harness horses before claiming his first Thoroughbred. His horses race under the familiar Club Risque Stable silks for trainer Randy Allen.

“This is a special day I will never forget the rest of my life,” Saponara said. “I’ve been in racing for 56 years; did it all.”

Dr. James Penny started in Thoroughbred racing in Pennsylvania when the sport began in the Commonwealth—1969 at old Liberty Bell Park. Before that he was the track veterinarian at Garden State Park in the 1940s. He worked at Monmouth Park, Atlantic City and Delaware Park.

Anybody who was around Keystone/Philadelphia Park knew “Doc” Penny. He was such a beloved figure that after his death, a major stakes race at the track was named in his honor. The Doc Penny Memorial on grass is a summer fixture at Parx, and marks the first graded stakes of the year.

“It’s a great honor (for Dr. Penny); it’s a great honor for us too,” said Doc Penny’s son, James “Mac” Penny, Jr. “The family is all here for this induction. He really, really, really liked the life at the race track.”

Horses and the race track were his life. Thus, it was only fitting that Dr. James Penny take his rightful place in the Parx Hall in the Special Achievement category.

Discreet Lover, Imperial Hint and Jaywalk were the 18th, 19th and 20th horses to be elected to the Hall.

That they went in together made perfect sense as it was those three horses, all stabled at Parx, that won a combined five Grade I Stakes in 2018, two by Imperial Hint, including the Vosburgh, two for Jaywalk, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and one for Discreet Lover, the unforgettable stretch run to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup on the final jump.

Imperial Hint ($2,034,155), Jaywalk ($1,623,500) and Discreet Lover ($1,449, 685) have combined to win $5,107,340 and counting.

Imperial Hint is going to run in the Vosburgh again and then try for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint where he finished third last year after finishing second in 2017. Jaywalk is going to run in the Grade I, $1 million Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 21.

Discreet Lover, purchased for $10,000, has been the horse of a lifetime for owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis.

“We’ve been here 30 something years and it’s been working out very good,” St. Lewis said. “To have a horse like this, it’s been fantastic.”

Discreet Lover has been out of training for a while, but just got back to the barn and St. Lewis hopes to run him in 2020.

Imperial Hint is trained by Luis Carvajal, Jr., for owner Raymond Mamone.

“It’s a great achievement, especially for us with such a small barn,” Carvajal said.

Jaywalk, along with Smarty Jones and Jostle, is the third horse to make the Hall for inaugural Hall of Fame member, trainer John Servis.

“It’s pretty special,” Jaywalk’s co-owner Chuck Zacney said. “Growing up in Northeast Philly, coming to Keystone Race Track way back in the ’70s (and) now all of a sudden making the Hall of Fame with Jaywalk means a whole lot to me. It’s great to share it with the Greens.”

Lois Green was at Parx to represent D.J. Stable.

“Jaywalk has been the peak of a long career here at Philadelphia Park, Keystone and Parx,” Lois said. “We started out with Walter Reese as our trainer. The Eclipse Award (as 2018 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly) and Breeders’ Cup were so phenomenally exciting, we couldn’t be happier.”

SPUN TO RUN WILL GO IN THE PENNSYLVANIA DERBY

By Dick Jerardi

Right after he won the first graded stakes of his career, trainer Carlos Guerrero said he needed a few days before he could commit to trying to win the first Grade I race of his career.

After Spun to Run’s thrilling win in the Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes on Labor Day at Parx, the trainer took that time to evaluate owner Robert Donaldson’s horse. Guerrero liked what he saw, so Spun to Run will be entered in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby on Sept. 21 where he will be running against Kentucky Derby winner (for 20 minutes) Maximum Security and Preakness winner War of Will.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” Guerrero said.

Spun to Run tried Maximum Security in the Grade I Haskell Invitational on July 20. The colt by Pennsylvania-Bred Hard Spun finished third, 9 1/4 lengths behind Max. But there were extenuating circumstances. It was Spun to Run’s first race in four months, his first race since surgery to repair an entrapped epiglottis, and jockey Paco Lopez, against instructions, took Spun to Run from behind horses on the turn sooner than the trainer wished.

Guerrero does not think the colt was going to win that day, but does think he would have been closer. Lopez waited longer behind horses in the Smarty Jones Stakes and the colt had a much stronger finish. After getting passed by Ellis Park Derby winner Gray Magician in the stretch, Spun to Run came back to take the lead and was easing away at the finish line. This was, just as the trainer expected, a better horse in the Smarty Jones than he was in the Haskell. The winning Smarty Jones Beyer Speed Figure was 97, five points lower than the Haskell’s Beyer of 102, about three lengths on the track

So Spun to Run will have to be better again to win the Pa. Derby, but you can’t win if you are not in.

Spun to Run was purchased for $64,000 at the Timonium two-year-old sale right after the 2018 Preakness. Guerrero knew quickly this was a good one.

“He showed me a lot of class when I started training him, very professional with everything,” Guerrero said.

The colt did not win any of his first four starts, but he ran well enough and those were sprints. After the Smarty Jones win, Spun to Run is now 3-for-4 around two turns, including that third in the Haskell.

“It’s funny when you win a claimer and then you win a graded race,” Guerrero said. “Everybody and their mother, it’s like congratulations.”

The Pa. Derby likely will be Spun to Run’s final race of 2019 unless, of course, the colt wins. Then, they will have a lot to think about.

Soon after the Smarty Jones Stakes, the lady who cuts Guerrero’s hair reminded him what he had said about Spun to Run when he was getting a haircut on Jan. 14, near where he lives in South Jersey.

“Keep an eye on this horse,” he told her then. “He’s going to be a nice one.”

Spun to Run has now won $300,000 more than his purchase price, so he is definitely a nice one.

Spun to Run won’t have to go Maximum Security’s home track at Monmouth Park this time. All of them will be coming to Parx, Spun to Run’s home track. On to the Pennsylvania Derby.

IT WILL BE A SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER AT PARX

By Dick Jerardi

As the annual 25-day break ends on the last day of August, what has been anticipated for months is now upon us. September has become “the” month at Parx since its most important races were moved to the third Saturday and placed together on a racing card that now has significant championship and Breeders’ Cup implications. That is every year. This year, however, is even more special because on Labor Day, almost exactly 15 years after his final appearance on the Parx track (Aug. 14, 2004), Smarty Jones will return to be paraded late that afternoon.

Smarty’s appearance will come between the $300,000 Turf Monster and the race named in his honor, the $300,000 Smarty Jones Stakes. Those races will be preceded by the $150,000 Cathryn Sophia Stakes and four $100,000 MATCH series races.

The races will be nice, but Smarty’s appearance will be the highlight of the day and maybe the year. Who knows what the track or the racing would look like without Smarty’s impact (Gov. Rendell says the horse’s popularity was critical to passing the slots bill) in the spring of 2004 when he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness? Smarty was denied the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes only because he was targeted by other jockeys less interested in winning the race than seeing Smarty Jones get beat.

None of what happened in his final race, however, can ever lessen the brilliance of the greatest horse ever born in Pennsylvania and the best ever to occupy a stall at what was then called Philadelphia Park: Barn 11, Stall 38 to be exact.
The return of Smarty Jones is so big that there will be a two-hour television show (4-6 pm) on PHL-17, featuring four of the races and the Smarty Jones appearance. The races, no doubt, will be terrific, but it will be Smarty Jones that brings people to the track who got into the sport because of Roy and Pat Chapman’s horse and, in many cases, became fans for life.

Exactly 19 days after Smarty Jones Day, Parx will be in the spotlight again when the first national telecast in the track’s history will feature the Grade I $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and the Grade I $1 million Cotillion Stakes. The races will be on NBC from 5-6 p.m. on Sept. 21.
Not only will they be on national television; both races could go a long way toward determining 3-year-old championships.

The Pa. Derby appears as if it will include the horses that finished first in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Florida Derby and Haskell Invitational winner Maximum Security, who was disqualified from first and placed 17th in the Derby, and Preakness winner War of Will are both on schedule to run in the race.

The Cotillion looks as if it will include Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress, unbeaten Guarana for superstar trainer Chad Brown and local hero Jaywalk, the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and Eclipse Award-winning Two-Year-Old Champion Filly.

Jason Servis trains Maximum Security while his younger brother John trains Jaywalk so that could be some day for the Servis brothers. Whatever happens that day, it will be not be as emotional as Labor Day no doubt will be for John Servis, the man who trained Smarty Jones so brilliantly.
“He gave us a helluva ride,” John Servis said on the day of Smarty’s last appearance at Parx, fifteen years ago. “We had the time of our lives.”