By Dick Jerardi
As I was cruising around the Equibase website doing some research on trainer Steve Asmussen as he pursues the all-time wins record (after Saturday’s races, he trailed Dale Baird by 11 wins, 9,445 to 9,434), my eyes kept darting to the all-time wins list for horses, trainers, and jockeys because I kept seeing horses and people with Parx connections.
Win Man, a Parx Hall of Famer, is second all-time with 48 wins (the records only go back to the 1970s so some horses with more wins are not on the list). Racing from 1987-1995, Win Man, trained by Ernest Cranfield, started 178 times with those 48 wins, 18 seconds, and 23 thirds. Almost all of his races were either at Parx or Penn National.
Jilsie’s Gigalo, with 45 wins, is tied for fourth-most with Guy. Jilsie’s Gigalo raced all over in his 136-race career but made his final eight starts at what was then called Philadelphia Park in 1996. The guy was a Maryland fixture who was golden when he made the lead, hopeless when he didn’t. He raced 161 times from 1976 to 1986. His lone stop at old Keystone was on March 3, 1984.
Cheating Arthur, a Parx HOF trained by a Parx HOF (Dennis Heimer), is tied for 69th on the list with 34 wins after a great career, mostly at Keystone. Dave’s Friend, like Guy, was a Maryland horse until later in his career, but he did race at Keystone. Dave is tied for 53rd on the list with 35 wins. Arthur and Dave were each multiple stakes winners.
Scott Lake, a first-year Parx HOF, is sixth all-time in wins (6,190) for trainers. He has been a Parx regular for years. He is no longer trying to win 500 races in a year. He downsized his stable because the pace was impossible to keep. But he remains one of the sharpest minds in the sport.
Jamie Ness, the 2020 and certain 2021 leading Parx trainer, is 26th with 3,359 wins. At his current pace, he will hit the top 10 (now 4.745 wins) in a decade or less.
Dave Vance (3,186, 30th) was a Keystone regular back in the day. Ron Dandy (2,829, 39th) and Ned Allard (2,730, 46th) won the majority of their races in New England, but spent considerable time at Parx.
Just 37 jockeys are in the exclusive 5,000 wins club. Tony Black is the all-time leader at Parx. Stewart Elliott rode the great Smarty Jones. Each was a first-year Parx HOF. So was the brilliant Rick Wilson who would have joined them in the 5,000-club had his career not been prematurely ended by injury.
Black (5,211 wins) is just ahead of Elliott (5,204) now. Tony is sort of retired, but who knows. Stewart, still going strong, just won the Lone Star Parx meet with 71 wins. They are 31st and 32nd all-time. Rick is 39th with 4,939 wins.
The wonderful Jose Flores, who tragically died in a racing accident, is 44th with 4,650 wins. The great tactician Jeff Lloyd (4,276) is 59th. Each is a Parx HOF. Robert Colton (3,988 wins), who won big at Penn National and Parx, is 81st on the all-time list
Joe Bravo, who really got his career started at Philadelphia Park in 1988 is 24th with 5,498 wins. But he is Jersey Joe for a reason. Jose Ferrer (4,585, 45th) is another rider who spent considerable time at Parx, but, like Bravo, is probably more identified with Jersey racing.
The bottom line, this is an amazing list of accomplishments for some of the best in the sport who just happened to do most of their winning at Parx.
By Dick Jerardi
Danny Lopez was just about to retire Hey Chub as a stallion. The New Jersey breeding incentives were gone. Not many people wanted to bring mares to a Jersey stallion anyway. He was frustrated. Then, a friend of his girlfriend said it would be great for the Delaware Valley University Equine program students to work with a thoroughbred stallion.
And that is how Hey Chub, Jersey bred winner of $441,755, ended up in the 24-stall Sydney J. Markovitz Equine Breeding Center at DelVal Univ. in Doylestown, surrounded by 550 acres of the picturesque campus, paddocks and rolling fields right outside his stall.
“Most of our time is caring for Chub and friends,’’ said DelVal’s Breeding Center manager Jenna Reigle. “He’s great to work around on a day-to-day basis. The students groom him, feed him, turn him out, bathe him.’’
Providentially, just 22 miles from the university, Hey Chub’s daughter, Chub Wagon, is stabled at Parx Racing. The Pennsylvania-bred 4-year-old filly has raced eight times and won them all. Owned by Lopez and his friend George Chestnut, Chub Wagon is trained by Parx Hall of Famer Lupe Preciado.
As advertisements for a stallion, they don’t come much better than Chub Wagon. Lopez said he is getting more than a few calls about the 2022 breeding season. Hey, Chub raced from 2003 to 2008 and, despite not getting many opportunities, has five stakes winners and offspring with earnings of nearly $5 million.
Chubilicious won the DeFrancis Dash at Laurel Park and has earned $753,628. Brother Chub has won $548,986. Now, there is Chub Wagon and her $342,800, with the promise of more to come. Chub Wagon has two younger full sisters that hopefully will be getting to the races in a few years.
Hey, Chub first came to DelVal for the 2020 breeding season so 2021 was his second year at the university. The students had worked with standardbred stallions, but those breedings are done through artificial insemination. Hey Chub was their first experience with live cover.
“It was definitely a learning curve,’’ Reigle said. “He’s a quirky stallion. Once you figure out his quirks, he’s amazing to be around. We are excited to have him. The component of the live cover was also really great for our students.’’
Some of the mares just ship for the cover. Others board with the program after being bred. Some end up foaling at the breeding center. In 2020, Hey Chub was bred to five mares. This year, it was nine.
The DelVal Equine program has 120 students. The Equestrian Center has a 52-stall barn. It is Kentucky brought to Bucks County at a university that is celebrating its 125th anniversary of what is termed “Experiential Learning.’’
So Hey Chub and DelVal have been the perfect equine marriage. Lopez, who won 1,533 races as a trainer over 40 years, gets his stallion some action while helping the students. And the university gets the benefit of standing the sire of Chub Wagon, the hottest horse in Pennsylvania.
“I watch her races every weekend when she races,’’ Reigle said. “I have been itching to go to see her race live. Some of the students are now following her and they watch her as well.’’ And, during the breeding season, they get to hang out and care for her sire who turned 21 in 2021 and, after spending the summer and fall back with Lopez in New Jersey, will turn 22 on Jan. 1, just in time for the 2022 breeding season at the Delaware Valley University Markovitz Equine Breeding Center.
By Dick Jerardi
If you are at Parx for the races anyday, there are some people you will always see because they are there everyday – fixtures, constants, characters.
They have stories from yesterday and yesteryear. Some of them are even true.
Ralph Riviezzo is one of those people at Parx. The Equibase statistics say he has been training horses since 1976. That’s because the statistics only go back that far. Ralph predates the stats.
The stats say he’s had 6,056 starters, 574 winners, 680 seconds, 674 thirds and $7.28 million in earnings for his owners. But Ralph has never been about numbers. He has always been about the stories and the smiles and the laughs.
He was at the track when it opened in November 1974 as Keystone. Prior to that, he was at old Liberty Bell Park in Northeast Philly, closed more than three decades ago and now the site of the Philadelphia Mills Mall.
“When I was galloping horses and training horses at Liberty Bell, I was also in the mounted police in Philadelphia,’’ Riviezzo said.
Of course he was.
It was a while back when he was asked about his career in horse racing and before racing, but it could have been anytime. The stories never end.
“I’d get done training and I would run to the city,’’ Riviezzo remembered.
If he had the right shifts with the police, he had time for mornings at the track.
“It’s been horses all my life,’’ Riviezzo said.
His family had no background in horses, but if you grew up in Roxborough in the 50s like he did, “everybody had horses, like little stables all along the Wissahickon. I got myself into it actually and then I just stayed with the horses all my life.’’
Riviezzo has never had the big horse or anything close. He’s had seven horses earn more than $100,000, but none more than $200,000. So he is the ultimate grinder and he is still there. In 2021, he has 81 starts with 13 wins, 12 seconds, and 14 thirds, with earnings of $266,359. His best year for money was 2019 when his horses earned $551,431.
Ralph knows every part of the game. He started pulling horses shoes off when he was 12, “working with blacksmiths, dressing the hooves.’’
He learned from George Fulton and they worked on horses for the Wideners. They shod all the horses at the Valley Forge Military Academy. He worked on a horse for President Eisenhower.
“Kings Ranch had given him a horse,’’ Riviezzo remembered. “It was called Ike. Shoeing was my passion. Horses were my passion. The mounted police, we went up to 168 horses and we had a couple of horseshoers get hurt and they called me in one day’’ and asked if he could shoe the horses. He could and he did.
They were, Riviezzo explained, shod differently than race horses, “with a hard metal that kept them from slipping on the street.’’
They had a police vehicle: “with a forge in it. We went around the city and kept shoes on the horses.’’
It was, Riviezzo said, “the biggest mounted police force in the country.’’
They led the Thanksgiving Parade every year.
He remembers when Alabama governor George Wallace was at the Spectrum in 1968 campaigning for president. He and another mounted policeman rode their horses up the steps of the Spectrum to “clear about 75 or 100 people who were fighting in the back of the Spectrum. It was a wild night.’’
When Ralph gets on a roll, it is a stream of consciousness that could start anywhere and end anywhere. Being a cop and on the track was the perfect exacta for times lived and stories told.
“The people that you meet, movie stars, actors, athletes ‘’ Riviezzo said. “I trained for some of the 76ers, Henry Bibby. Al Domenico was a trainer for 25-30 years in the (NBA).’’
Like anybody who spends any time at the track, Riviezzo got injured. He would then go see Domenico to help him recover. One time the trainer said Ralph would have to wait because he “had to get Moses Malone in the tub.’’
Ralph was important, just not as important as the centerpiece of the Sixers 1983 championship team.
“It’s been kind of a wild ride,’’ Riviezzo said. “If you want to know something about how I feel, I love horse people. I respect what they do. I love owners, trainers, hot walkers, grooms. It’s seven days a week.’’
Riviezzo was on the PTHA board for 20 years, arguing along with Mike Ballezzi and Sal DeBunda for slots
“And here we are today,’’ Riviezzo said.
A mounted policeman for eight years. On the track for more than a half-century. Ralph Riviezzo, the ultimate Parx character.
And he will be here.
“Where am I going?’’ Riviezzo said. “I’m a quart low on embalming fluid and they give me a discount in the (track) kitchen, you know what I mean…I go in and I go `how much is a free coffee?’’’
By Dick Jerardi
Horses from the barns of the two Parx trainers with the most stakes caliber talent went north and south over the long July 4 weekend and acquitted themselves quite well in graded stakes, finishing in front of everything except odds-on winners.
And the “weekend’’ finally ended Tuesday when Parx ran its first open stake of 2021, the $200,000 Grade III Dr. James Penny Memorial at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
John Servis sent two fillies to Delaware Park Saturday for the Grade III $300,000 Delaware Oaks. Midnight Obsession (Main Line Racing Stable) and Leader of the Band (SMD Limited) finished second and third so they are now graded stakes placed.
They just happened to run into the 1-5 Ken McPeek-trained Crazy Beautiful who won the race by 6 lengths. It was the third Oaks win of the year for Crazy Beautiful after previously getting the Gulfstream Park Oaks and Summer Oaks at Santa Anita. The CCA Oaks and Alabama could be on her schedule as well as the Sept. 25 Grade I $1 million Cotillion at Parx.
In his first stakes try after breaking his maiden and winning an optional claimer at Parx, the Butch Reid-trained Ridin With Biden (Cash Is King LLC and LC Racing) ran a phenomenal race in Monday’s $250,000 Grade III 1-mile Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park. Sent right to the lead by the great Irad Ortiz, Jr. Ridin With Biden was still leading in deep stretch before getting passed by the unbeaten (3-for-3) $1.5 million yearling First Captain (Terry Finley’s West Point Thoroughbreds is part owner).
Trainer Shug McGaughey was talking Travers with First Captain. Ridin With Biden was beaten by just 1 3/4 lengths while finishing second. The winner earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure while Riden With Biden got an 87
Reid has two very talented 3-year-olds in Beren and Ridin With Biden. Beren is already at Saratoga getting ready for the July 30 Curlin Stakes. Down the road, there is the Aug. 24 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx and, of course, the $1 million Grade I Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Sept. 25 for 3-year-olds.
The “Doc Penny’’ went to 1-1 favorite Princess Grace. The 4-year-old filly has now won 4 of 5 starts, with her lone loss by a half-length. The Penny was her first start since November for trainer Michael Stidham. Jockey Joe Bravo kept her just off the pace and when a hole opened up on the rail, horse and rider took it. And they needed every bit of a good trip to run down 6-1 Madita right before the wire.
As we hit July and the second half of the racing season, all of the big national races are, one way or another, preps for the first weekend of November when the Breeders’ Cup returns to Del Mar.
There were three “Win and You’re In’’ races over the weekend and two more races that featured defending champions in dominating double-digit length wins.
Max Player upset Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide in Saturday’s Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park to earn a BC Classic berth. The Parx-based, Uriah St. Lewis-owned and -trained Informative finished fifth after his amazing win at 79-1 in the Salvator Mile.
Mind Control beat Firenze Fire after a race-long duel in the John Nerud at Belmont, getting an automatic spot in the BC Sprint. Ce Ce the only Grade I winner in the field won Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park to earn a spot in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint.
Defending BC Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go could not have been any more impressive at Prairie Meadows on Friday while crushing the field by 10 1/4 lengths in the Cornhusker Handicap and getting a 113 Beyer figure. Defending BC Filly & Mare Sprint champ Gamine overwhelmed the field in the Great Lady M Stakes at Los Alamitos Monday, winning by 10 lengths. She is now unbeaten in seven one-turn races, winning by a combined 55 lengths. So the four-month race to Del Mar has officially begun. The Haskell, Travers, and Pa. Derby. The Alabama and Cotillion. The Whitney and Woodward. The Hopeful and Champagne. All the great fall races at Keeneland and Santa Anita. Check out all the big races. They are the tests on the way to the final exams at Del Mar.