By Dick Jerardi
In the history of Parx racing, only one trainer has ever won 2,000 races while spending most of his career with the track as his home base. That would be Scott Lake. (Ron Dandy and Ned Allard have won 2,817 and 2,715 races respectively, but the vast majority of those wins came in New England before they came to Parx).
Well, Scott is going to have some company sometime in the near future. Lupe Preciado, one of very best ever to train a horse at Parx and a Parx Hall of Famer, has 1,987 winners.
“It’s very hard to win 2,000 races,’’ Preciado said. “I’ve got 13 more races. It seems like it takes forever to get to 2,000.’’
It has only taken him since 1989. And, if you could count some of the races his wife Wendy Mutnick won while Lupe was working with her in the years before he took out his license, the family would already be there.
When they started to have children, Lupe took over as the trainer. He has been winning races ever since, including three in a row on Tuesday July 21.
“When the owner is happy, it makes you feel good,’’ Preciado said.
Preciado, who has been making owners happy for three decades, does not have as many horses as he used to, just 18 now. He used to have between 40 and 50. But give the man a good horse and he will find his way to the winner’s circle.
The stable has been in the top 100 for wins eight times. Preciado won 118 races in 2004. His horses have won 12 graded stakes and earned $44 million. He is closing on 12,000 starters.
His best horse was the wonderful sprinter Favorite Tale. He also had two-time stakes winner Caught in the Rain.
Favorite Tale finished third in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint behind the great Runhappy. And who knows what might have happened if all the plans owner Paul Conaway and Preciado had laid out for a year had not blown up in the final weeks before the race at Keeneland.
Just after Favorite Tale’s final prep race at Parx, the track was quarantined when a 2-year-old filly tested positive for Equine Herpesvirus. Favorite Tale was given special permission to leave. He trained for a time at a private farm and then at Delaware Park before a van ride to Kentucky. Naturally, the van broke down on the way and the horse got the 14 post.
Raceday itself, however, was memorable. Favorite Tale, ran brilliantly, nearly overcame everything, a tribute to his trainer.
“I wanted to win the race because I wanted to make a movie,’’ Preciado said.
Favorite Tale raced 24 times, with nine wins, five seconds, four thirds and earnings of $1,026,300.
After returning from the winter in Florida with most of his horses, the recent three-win day at Parx was nice for Preciado. The trainer remembers winning five in one day. It is quite a long way from going to the races in Mexico City with his brothers as an 11-year-old.
When he first came to the United States in 1974, Preciado went to Monmouth Park and worked as a groom for trainer J. Bowes Bond who told him: “the way you take care of your horse is the way the horse will take care of you.’’
Preciado also worked as a groom for Stanley Hough. He “rubbed some nice horses.’’ The stable had Proud Appeal, the favorite in the 1981 Kentucky Derby and Reinvested who finished third in the 1982 Derby. They also had a really good 3-year-old in 1980 named Irish Tower.
It was a great training ground for a man who has been winning races for three decades now, a special milestone not that far away.
By Dick Jerardi
The two horses that had been acquired for a combined $47,000 in 2019 raced 5 hours apart at Parx last September 21.
It was Pennsylvania Derby Day. Ny Traffic, making the first start of his career, was 47-1 in Race 2. Math Wizard was 31-1 in Race 11, the Pa. Derby.
Fast forward 10 months. After finishing third in that debut, Ny Traffic is now a serious Kentucky Derby contender. Math Wizard, of course, won that Pennsylvania Derby and appears to be back to his very best form.
Last Saturday at Monmouth Park, the horses raced just one hour apart _ Math Wizard finishing second in the Monmouth Cup and Ny Traffic, making an incredible run in the final 100 yards of the Haskell, beaten just a nose by 3-5 frontrunner Authentic.
It was Parx owner John Fanelli who claimed Math Wizard for $25,000 on Jan. 31, 2019 and then went partners on Ny Traffic in a private sale after the colt did not meet his reserve at the May 2019 Timonium sale. The partners bought the New York bred for $22,000.
Math Wizard has won $1,102,740. Ny Traffic has won $565,470.
The Pa. Derby was incredible. The Ky. Derby?
“It’s obviously a dream come true,’’ Fanelli said. “I could have never said this would happen, especially after last year, for this to happen so quickly, back-to-back success in less than a year.’’
It has happened. And who knows what might still be possible?
Rather than go back to Gulfstream Park where they had been stabled, Ny Traffic and Math Wizard were shipped to Saratoga with trainer Saffie Joseph to take advantage of the cooler weather. There are races at Saratoga for Math Wizard. And there is that race on the first Saturday in Kentucky for Ny Traffic.
Last year, Ny Traffic was a nice 2-year-old at Parx for trainer Harry Wyner who recognized the colt’s potential quickly. The horse ran a few races perhaps too close together later in the year and then had some minor physical issues.
Since Ny Traffic was sent to Florida to train with Joseph and started running in longer races, the colt has been a revelation, each race better than the one before it. His Beyer speed figures demonstrate the upward trajectory.
Ny Traffic got a 77 on Jan. 11, followed by an 82 when third in the Risen Star, an 89 when second in the Louisiana Derby, a 95 when second in the Matt Winn and a 100 when just missing in the Haskell.
As patterns go for the Derby, they don’t get much better. Ny Traffic has 110 Derby points, fourth on the list behind Tiz the Law, Authentic and Honor A. P. Art Collector is fifth, King Guillermo sixth. The points list is also the right list at this moment. Ny Traffic is somewhere among the top six Derby contenders.
Fanelli bought out Lenny Liberto, his original partner in Ny Traffic. After selling 20 percent interests in the colt to fellow Parx owners Chuck Zacney and Glenn Bennett, Fanelli then sold 10 percent to Florida owner Paul Braverman.
So Fanelli still owns 50 percent of Ny Traffic and Parx owners are responsible for a 90 percent interest in the horse. In the final weeks before the Derby, this is the most Parx-centric major contender since Smarty Jones in 2004.
“It’s super exciting,’’ said Fanelli. “I just can’t believe it’s happening to me again.’’
By Dick Jerardi
When the newly turned 3-year-old filly My Best Friend passed the eighth pole with a clear lead in the seventh race at Aqueduct on Jan. 6, 2019, her trainer Harry Wyner could have been excused if his mind started to wonder to what the New York bred owned by John Fanelli might be able to conquer next.
Then, My Best Friend started to shorten stride. She wasn’t getting tired. When you watch the replay now, you can tell something was going wrong. The filly had suffered a major leg injury.
“She spiral fractured a cannon bone,’’ Wyner said, “She still finished second. We had to van her off. We gave her a year and a half off and it’s healed.’’
Dr. Patty Hogan explained to Wyner that surgery was not an option for the injury. So it was just all about time.
“John was a fantastic owner with this horse, lots of patience,’’ Wyner said.
And there was My Best Friend well in front at the eighth pole in the sixth race at Parx on July 7. She kept on running right through the wire, 5 3/4 lengths clear at the finish.
It was a very emotional win for obvious reasons. But not nearly the only win. Wyner’s horses won another race that day and two more the next day.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,’’ he said. “We went through the coronavirus. We never ran a horse. I kept these horses training and my help kept with me and did a tremendous job. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do this. My horses just came back firing.’’
Wyner, originally from Manchester, England, rode steeplechase horses for Michael Dickinson in his native country. When Dickinson moved his operation to America in the late 1980s, Wyner came with him as a groom and exercise rider.
His riding background really helps as a trainer. He tries to get on each of his horses at least twice per week.
Wyner has had some very nice horses in his training career which began in 2004. He had English Manor at the beginning of his career. The horse ended up running an incredible 115 times, with 15 wins, 20 second, 13 thirds and earnings of $344,650.
“He always wanted to be second,’’ Wyner said. “We must have made $100,000 with that horse just being second.’’
English Manor did have seven seconds in the two years Wyner had him before he was claimed in 2014 He also had four wins.
“He was an iron horse,’’ Wyner said.
Winter Ride won six races for Wyner in 2015 and 2016.
“Winter Ride was a beautiful horse,’’ Wyner said. “I bought him for $10,000 off Andrew Simoff. He was a big horse. He just needed time. We gave him time and he just went on and progressed to be a real nice horse. I think he made like $300,000 for me.’’
The trainer’s memory is excellent. Winter ride raced 42 times, with 10 wins, three seconds, nine thirds and earnings of $319,973.
Wyner trained the top 3-year-old Ny Traffic for Fanelli at the beginning of his career last year.
Wyner and Fanelli liked the colt at a sale. He did not bring the sale price so they went back to see what the owner would take. They agreed on $22,000.
“I just liked the way he was built,’’ Wyner said, “He was a late-developing foal. They didn’t break him until December and his rear end hadn’t really developed. I said `John, we give this horse some time, he’s going to be okay.’
“I brought him back here and started doing our work with him. I was getting on him every day. I said to John after the second time I breezed him, `this is going to be an exceptional horse for you, a Derby horse.’ He just laughed and said `from your mouth to God’s ears.’’’
So far in 2020, Ny Traffic has finished third in the Risen Star, second in the Louisiana Derby and second in the Matt Winn. The colt is on target to run in the July 18 Haskell at Monmouth Park, with a trip to the Kentucky Derby after that.
Wyner said he had the option of going to Florida when the colt was shipped south last winter. But he has 25 horses at Parx so Saffie Joseph, who also has horses for Fanelli, now trains Ny Traffic.
Ny Traffic will ship from Florida to New Jersey with $365,470 in earnings, another Harry Wyner success story that he was a big part of at the very beginning.
BY Dick Jerardi
Butch Reid knew Project Whiskey was better than her last two races indicated. The 3-year-old filly had been training wonderfully at Parx since an unsuccessful trip to Churchill Downs in late May. So he entered her in the July 4 Grade III Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park.
“I expected her to run really well,’’ Reid said. “She had a couple of excuses. Her last Maryland race last year, she came up with a fever the next day. That race in Kentucky was a joke. The filly that beat her ran 1:08 and change. (Project Whiskey) is not that fast. She had just trained spectacularly since then. I thought she’d run a good race, but you never know.’’
No, you don’t. Project Whiskey, off at 38-1, ran the race of her life, stalking the pace three wide until the far turn when she began to move on favored Piece of My Heart. Just at that moment, 9-1 shot Dream Marie rushed up outside Project Whiskey.
Jockey Frankie Pennington, riding Project Whiskey, probably had to ask the filly a bit sooner than he wanted to in order to hold his position. She responded, ran by the favorite, held off the challenge of Dream Marie in the stretch and was actually edging away at the wire to win by a half-length.
“As soon as that horse came to her, she responded,’’ Reid said. “She’s such an easy horse to train. She has no equipment, no tongue tie, no noseband, no blinkers.’’
Project Whiskey had been beaten by 20 3/4 lengths in that Maryland race, but Reid knew why. At Churchill, she chased the very fast filly Frank’s Rockette, who came back to win the Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont Park two hours before the Delaware Oaks. That race followed a nearly six-month layoff and an 11-hour van ride the day before the race.
Project Whiskey, co-owned by Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King LLC and Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, was one of four horses purchased by Reid for the partnership at the Timonium October 2018 yearling sale.
The other three are Johny Ritt, Monday Morning Qb and Bella G. The four cost a total of $116,000 and have already earned a combined $564,450.
An investment banker from the Mufson Howe firm that Bennett was working with when they were talking to private equity about their company, Unified Door & Hardware, termed the company Project Whiskey during the discussions. The company was eventually purchased by Dunes Capital and it has worked out really well. So has Project Whiskey, the filly.
Project Whiskey cost $35,000. After her Delaware Oaks win, she has won $262,580. She is by Tapit’s son Tapizar out of a Malibu Moon mare.
“She’s bred to run long,’ Reid said.
The Oaks was her first two-turn race.
“She’s very well put together,’’ Reid said. “She’s not the biggest horse ever, but she has a very solid body on her.’’
Project Whiskey was Reid’s 10th graded stakes win. The terrific Maximuus Mischief won the Grade II Remsen in 2018. Poseidon’s Warrior won the Grade I A. G. Vanderilt in 2012. Afleet Again won the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Marathon in 2011. All told, Reid has had at least 20 horses make more than $200,000, including Miss Blue Tye Dye, Disco Rose and Fat Kat, all Parx regulars.
Project Whiskey would obviously be a candidate for the Grade I Cotillion at her home track if the race was in its usual September spot. But, like the Pennsylvania Derby, it is unclear if the Cotillion will be run this year because the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are now the first weekend in September and in clear conflict with both of Parx’s signature races.
Wherever and whenever Project Whiskey runs next, one thing is certain. She won’t be 38-1.