BY Dick Jerardi

The Kentucky Derby is only four months late. In 2020, that’s progress

The three favorites in May would have been Nadal, Charlatan and Tiz the Law.

“The’’ favorite in September will be Tiz the Law.

Nadal and Charlatan finished first in divisions of the Arkansas Derby on what would have been Kentucky Derby Day in May. Nadal was injured in training shortly thereafter and retired. Charlatan had a less-serious injury but needed surgery and will miss the Ky. Derby.

Tiz the Law has missed nothing. The New York bred colt won the Belmont Stakes in June and the Travers in August, making him the first horse in history to win the Champagne, Florida Derby, Belmont and Travers. Tiz the Law will be a heavy favorite in the Derby.

Parx will be very well represented by the “other’’ New York bred in the race. Ny Traffic only cost $22,000. He has not won a stakes race. But don’t be fooled. This gray colt gets better with every start. If he can make one more jump, he has a chance in the Derby.

Ny Traffic made his career debut on Pennsylvania Derby Day almost one year ago. He broke his maiden in his next start at Parx and remained at the track with trainer Harry Wyner until he was sent to Florida to train with Saffie Joseph and prepare for a chance at the Derby.

If the race had been in May, Ny Traffic would have been in it, but probably would not have had a realistic chance to win. Even though he had won an optional claimer, finished third in the Risen Star and second in the Louisiana Derby, he just wasn’t fast enough.

Since then, Ny Traffic has finished second in the Matt Winn and second in the Haskell, one more jump from catching 3-5 favorite Authentic. The colt has gotten faster in each start. Now, he is firmly into Derby contender territory.

Ny Traffic is 90 percent owned by Parx regulars _ John Fanelli (50 percent), Chuck Zacney (20 percent) and Glenn Bennett (20 percent).

It was Zacney who explained to Fanelli before a maiden race on Oct. 12 at Parx how much he liked his colt Monday Morning Qb, not realizing at first that Fanelli had a horse in the race. Zacney’s horse ran well, but finished second to Ny Traffic. Zacney was interested in buying a piece of Ny Traffic. After Fanelli bought out his original partner, he did sell those percentages to Bennett and Zacney.

Now, all three of them, together with families and friends, will be at fan-less Churchill Downs Saturday to see if their New York bred can beat the other New York bred and the rest of the first (and hopefully last) September Derby field.

Three-year-olds in September are very different from 3-year-olds in May _ more mature physically, more racing experience, faster, just better in every way.

Tiz the Law was already a very good horse in May. He is a way better horse now.

Ny Traffic was a nice horse in May, a really good horse now.

Is that improvement enough to win the Derby? We’ll know by Saturday evening.

Parx Awards Coming Soon

BY Dick Jerardi

No racing for three months. No open stakes. No Kentucky Derby Day in May.

Since March, nothing has been as normal about 2020 at Parx, with even some carryover from 2019.

We all missed the annual Awards Night in March at Celebrations to acknowledge the best horses to run at the track the previous year. The good news is those horses and their connections are still going to be honored with a day at the track (date to be determined) and video tributes to the winners in all the categories.

The voting has been done, but the winners have not yet been revealed. Most of them are fairly obvious, none more so than 2019 Horse of the Year. It has to be Spun to Run, the 3-year-old colt that completely dominated some of the fastest horses in the world when he blew away the competition in the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.

Racing for owner Robert Donaldson and trained expertly at Parx by Carlos Guerrero, Spun to Run was being pointed for the Preakness in the spring until he was sidelined for several months due to an entrapped epiglottis.

Outfitted with blinkers for his comeback, Spun  to Run ran third behind Maximum Security in the Haskell Invitational before winning the Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes on that memorable Labor Day when Smarty Jones returned to the track for the first time in 15 years. It was the first graded stakes win of Guerrero’s career, but it was just the appetizer.

After finishing fifth in a strangely-run Pennsylvania Derby, Spun to Run blew away the best older horses at the track in the M.P. Ballezzi Appreciation Mile. That effort was so good that it was decided the ship Spun to Run west for the Breeders’ Cup. He was 9-1, but ran like 1-9, getting the lead immediately and winning convincingly over heavily-favored Omaha Beach, giving Guerrero his first Grade I win.

Spun to Run finished off his season with a strong second to eventual 3-year-old champion Maximum Security in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. All told, Spun to Run won five races and $1,140,660 in 2019. Five of his races and four of his wins were at Parx.

In addition to Parx Horse of the Year, Spun to Run will almost be named top 3-year-old colt or gelding.

There were so many fascinating categories, but none more fascinating than the 2-year-old colts or geldings. What a powerhouse group that includes Monday Morning QB, Johnny Ritt, Ny Traffic and Vanzzy.

Ny Traffic was second by a nose in the Haskell and will run in the Kentucky Derby. Vannzy won the Jersey Derby. The 2020 races, of course, don’t count towards 2019 awards, but it will be interesting to see how the voters looked at the 2-year-old males and all the other categories, including top 2-year-filly, 3-year-old filly, 4-year-old and up males, 4-year-old and up females, outstanding claim and top claiming horse.


By Dick Jerardi

It was just about inevitable that Mike Pino would end up at the race track.

“We were raised with horses,’’ he said. “My brother Mario is a jockey. I have another brother who is a blacksmith.’’

Mike went to work for trainer Dick Dutrow as a groom because he wanted to train horses. He learned so well that his horses have won 1,883 races from 1983 until 2020.

Pino came to Parx when the slot machines arrived. He has been one of track’s top trainers ever since.

“I was at Delaware when the slots were the only thing in town and it worked out great,’’ Pino said.

It has worked out even better at Parx where the slot revenue accounts for about 85 percent of the terrific purse structure.

Pino has had some very good horses through the years, including Ten Keys who won $1.2 million and six graded stakes from 1986 to 1990.

“I was a young guy,’’ Pino said. “There was a carpenter I knew at the races. He won some exotic bet and he wanted to claim a horse. We wind up picking this horse for like maiden $14,500.’’

It was January 1987 when Pino claimed Ten Keys. All the horse did was win 21 races and all those stakes. Eight of those wins came with brother Mario riding. All Mario has done in his career is win 6,948 races, 10th all time.

“It taught me a lot and had a lot of fun,’’ Pino said.

Forest Park won nearly $500,000 for Pino. Boston Common won almost $400,000.

Fast forward to 2011 and that was Pino at Churchill Downs as the trainer of Perfect Officer, third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

“We claimed him at Gulfstream that year,’’ Pino said, “He won a couple of stakes.’’

Perfect Officer was claimed for $50,000 and won more than $250,000 the rest of that year. He was also second to the great Ben’s Cat in the Turf Monster at Parx.

Most recently, Pino won the Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park with Vanzzy.

“It was awesome the way he ran,’’ Pino said. “I always thought the horse had talent. He would get a little rank early in his races.’’

Everything went right in the Jersey Derby. The horse took off in the stretch and won by 3 1/2 lengths.

“I was impressed by the way he punched away,’’ Pino said. “A lot of turf horses just don’t punch away like that. It looks like he has some more for the future so that’s what we’re hoping for.’’

Vanzzy has now won $232,726, with more on the way.

If he’s anything like Ten Keys then Pino really has something.


By Dick Jerardi

When the Belmont Stakes, Haskell, Travers and Ellis Park Derby are major Derby preps, it is by definition a very strange year.

But when the last of the major preps were run for the September Kentucky Derby, we were left with two horses that have separated from the pack _ one that would have been among the favorites in May and another that had not even started in 2020 when the Derby was originally supposed to be run.

Tiz the Law could not have not have been any more impressive winning Saturday’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He went by the highly-touted and very talented, but quite inexperienced, Uncle Chuck on the far turn, and it was very quickly over, the New York bred running his final quarter mile in :24.53 seconds while being geared down.

It was quite the performance for a colt that is one unlucky trip last fall at Churchill Downs from heading back to Kentucky a perfect 7-for-7. He will go there as the first horse ever to win the Champagne, Florida Derby, Belmont Stakes and Travers. Now, Tiz the Law is the only horse with a chance to win the backward and very bizarre 2020 Triple Crown.

Art Collector made his seasonal debut on May 17. The colt won easily. He came back a month later and won easily again. A month later in the Blue Grass, it was another blowout win. Sunday in the Ellis Park Derby, Art Collector led all the way and was never threatened, winning with minimal urging again.

Tiz the Law’s trainer Barclay Tagg won the Derby and Preakness 17 years ago with New York bred Funny Cide. Now, he is back with an even more accomplished horse, a colt whose six wins have come by a combined 26 3/4 lengths.

Art Collector’s trainer Thomas Drury, Jr. had never won a graded stakes race prior to the Blue Grass. Now, he’s won two in a month and will be able to train Art Collector at Churchill where the colt has been all summer and where he won twice in May and June.

Tiz the Law and Art Collector are a combined 8-for-8 in 2020. None of their races has been close.

Tiz the Law will be favored because he got a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 109 in the Travers. It wasn’t just how fast the colt ran; it was how he ran fast. He has that speed to get great position and that instant acceleration that leaves opponents helpless.

Art Collector, who got a 100 Beyer in the Ellis Park Derby, has won from well back. He has won on the lead. He has won from just off the lead. In a sport where multidimensional horses are a rare breed, Art Collector appears able to adjust to any situation.

Now, it’s on to the Kentucky Derby for those two and other accomplished horses like Authentic, Honor A.P and Ny Traffic, the horse with all the Parx connections. Given the time of year and how many horses have already shown they are not good enough (many of which would have run in May), it is likely to be fewer than 20 this year, ironically the first year when Churchill has a new 20-stall starting gate.

But the Big Two, Tiz the Law and Art Collector, are fascinating. And so, of course, is the Kentucky Derby whether it’s run on the first Saturday in May or first Saturday in September.


By Dick Jerardi

The top 3-year-old filly and 3-year-old colt in the Parx stable area were both out of town Saturday, with mixed results.

The filly Project Whiskey, who won the July 4 Delaware Oaks at 38-1, ran another terrific race in the Grade III Monmouth Oaks. But, after running 7-5 favorite Lucrezia out of the race with her speed and stamina, she had to settle for second behind Hopeful Growth from Vinny Viola’s powerful St. Elias Stable.

Frankie Pennington has ridden Project Whiskey in each of her three wins, but he was unable to ride as many jurisdictions are only letting local jockeys ride at their meets because of Covid-19. Jorge Vargas rode the filly well enough, but Frankie knows her best.

Trained by Butch Reid and owned by Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing and Chuck Zacney’s Cash Is King, Project Whiskey had an amazing four weeks, winning and then placing in two Grade III stakes. The filly, who cost just $35,000 at the 2018 Timonium Yearling Sale, has now earned $362,580.

Mischievous Alex, also owned by Zacney and Bennett and trained by John Servis, tried the Grade I Allen Jerkens at Saratoga. The colt, winner of the Grade III Swale and Grade III Gotham this winter, was put right into the 7-furlong race by top jockey Irad Ortiz, sitting third early behind frontrunner and Grade I Woody Stephens winner No Parole and the Bob Baffert-trained Eight Rings. Those two backed out at the top of the stretch. Mischievous Alex was still in the race at the eighth pole, but could not keep up in the final 200 yards, eventually finishing sixth behind runaway winner Echo Town.

Mischievous Alex, a $75,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, has earned $360,730.

Servis was looking for ninth Grade I stakes win and 33rd graded stakes win overall. It would have been his first in a Grade I sprint stake which are hard to come by because there are so few.


Prominent Parx owner Marshall Gramm, whose Ten Strike silks are so familiar at the track, is one of the country’s best handicapping contest players.

Gramm really liked Echo Town in the Jerkens and parlayed that opinion into a second-place finish in a NYRABETS contest. That got him $14,000 in cash and an entry into the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (a $10,000 value). In addition to the BCBC, Gramm has already qualified for the 2021 Pegasus Contest and has two entries for the 2021 NHC in Las Vegas. Those three are the highest-value contests in the country.


As we hit August in this bizarre year where we missed four months of racing, Mychel Sanchez and Jamie Ness have huge leads in the Parx jockey and trainer races respectively.

Sanchez leads Pennington 61 to 37. Last year, they tied with 146 wins each.

Ness leads last year’s winner Joe Taylor, 40-23.