By Dick Jerardi

So what do you do for an encore after training the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly in 2020? Just have the best year of your career.

With just a month to go in 2021, Butch Reid needs a bit more than $100,000 in earnings to surpass 2011 when his stable earned $2,275,592.

“I’d be very disappointed if we don’t surpass that,’’ Reid said.

Reid thinks Morning Macha will be favored in a $500,000 New York Stallion race to be run at Aqueduct. Eloquist runs in the Remsen at Aqueduct.

Beren has been the stable star this year, but the 3-year-old Pennsylvania bred is far from the only stakes-caliber horse in the barn. The brilliantly fast 2-year-old filly Disco Ebo just won the $200,000 Shamrock Rose at Penn National. And she is just the latest in the barn from that same family. Reid has three other full sisters or brothers in training. And has trained eight of them altogether.

“She’s pretty good,’’ he said. “I’ve had this whole family.’’

 By Weigelia out of  Katarica Disco, Disco Ebo, who was purchased as a yearling for $52,000 by Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King and Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, will be pointed for the Parx Futurity, one of the five newly announced $100,000 Parx stakes to be run Dec. 28 and 29. Reid thinks he will have horses in four and possibly five of the stakes. Disco Ebo’s full brothers and sisters include Smooth B, Fat Kat, and Disco Rose.

 “We’ve had a ton of them and they’ve all been moneymakers,’’ Reid said.

 Reid thinks he has had around 20 horses by Weigelia. He has 22 horses in his stable at the moment with plans to take five of them to Florida while the rest remain at Parx.

 What has made his 2021, with 174 starters, 45 wins 39 seconds and 22 thirds, more amazing is that he had done it all without what he was certain was going to be the stable star – 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Vequist. After racing just once this year, she was not able to overcome several issues and never made it back to the races. She was sold for $3.4 million at the “Night of the Stars’’ sale.

“Imagine if (Vequist) was still going,’’ Reid said. “I lost my best horse and her little sister Mainstay. They were like the superstars at the beginning of the year. And they’re both on the farm.’’

So why all this success?

“It’s all about having the right owners, Chuck and Glenn and Tom McGrath,’’ Reid said, “They got to the sales, they’re enthusiastic and they do the right thing by their horses. We give them time. Coincidentally, I’ve got a lot of fast horses this year. I’ve never won this many races with 2-year-olds in my career. I’m over a dozen, I think. Talented young horses is the key.’’

That and a great help in the barn.

“I’m lucky enough to have fantastic help this year,’’ Reid said. “They’re really done a great job. The barn is enthusiastic. It’s good when it’s going good. It just seems to build on itself.’’

Reid and wife Ginny have been in a great partnership at the barn for decades. That they are enjoying such success now is a fitting reward for all that work for all those years. And, with all those 2-year-olds running so well, 2022 will start with the potential of even more success.


By Dick Jerardi

Andy Hernandez rode his first race on April 1 at Gulfstream Park. He rode race No. 130 last Wednesday at Parx. Hernandez does not ride like an inexperienced jockey. He looks good on a horse, makes smart decisions and rides with confidence.

His 130 mounts have yielded 11 wins, 11 seconds, and 17 thirds. After three rides at Gulfstream Park, he headed north to Delaware Park where he rode his first winner on August 8. He began to ride at Parx in late September. Now, he is a regular, his 7-pound apprentice allowance and obvious skill getting him live mounts with better chances to win. He models how he rides after Mike Smith.

“He’s very intelligent in the races,’’ Hernandez said.

He had no family in racing, but when he came to Florida from Cuba, he lived not that far from Gulfstream. He had a friend who was a trainer. He took him to the track where he started off as a hot walker. Eventually, he graduated to galloping and then to ride in races.

He won that first race on his 20th try. The second came after 14 more losing mounts. He won another right after that and then went 36 races between wins, not atypical for a young rider trying to find a niche. Now, the wins are coming much more frequently.

“I love it,’’ Hernandez said. “The moment inside the gate, that’s a beautiful moment.’’

Like any good jockey, he has a pre-race strategy but is ready to call an audible.

“I have one plan before the race,’’ Hernandez said. “When they open the gate, the race does change. You need a good plan at the moment; get a good position in the race.’’

When he is not at the track, Hernandez likes to fish.

“I love it, same as my agent, ’’ Hernandez said.

His agent is Jim Boulmetis who knows what a good rider looks like and could not wait to get Hernandez to Parx.

It’s still early in his career, but the results so far are quite positive.

Hernandez rode some quarter horses in Cuba, but that’s much “different than here, that’s no saddle, no track, nothing.’’

Hernandez has been in the United States for a bit less than five years. He could not speak English when he first arrived. Just as in the saddle, he has been a quick study with English.

There have been some wonderful apprentice jockeys who have come through Parx over the years and gone on to great careers. Is Andy Hernandez next? Time will tell.


By Dick Jerardi

Joe Besecker owned horses in partnerships for decades. The horses began to run just in his name at the start of the 21st Century. As we hit the 2010s, he began to implement a plan.

“It became with the advent of slots and increased purses a pretty nice business opportunity if you could exploit the inefficiencies that are constant in the racing game,’’ Besecker said. “So that was the big change, kind of the increase in the economics of the sport and you could deploy a business model over top of that.’’

Besecker, a Saint Joseph’s University graduate, was uniquely positioned to marry his love of horses with his understanding of business. As the founder, president, and CEO of Emerald Asset Management which is located in Lancaster, his business acumen was obvious. Apply some of those principles to racing horses and voila, you get sustained success.

“I love racing,’’ Besecker said. “I’m not afraid to bet a horse. It’s not about betting. Right now, you’re taking huge advantage of the reduced herd because the herd is down dramatically. You’re also taking advantage of the ability to run at different venues. There is a cost involved, but if you can overcome that cost, we do take a lot of state breds from out of state and bring them into the state.

“There are just a lot of inefficiencies that exist and if you can take advantage of some of those and go from a lower percentage trainer to a higher percentage trainer and move to a different state with the state-bred situation…There’s a lot of trainers that aren’t particularly good at the condition book. You can tell by where they run them. It doesn’t make sense.’’

Jeff Matty, also a St. Joe’s grad, manages Besecker’s racing operation.

“He’s critical,’’ Besecker said. “The business aspect of racing is chaos whether it be licensing and registration…There is no consistency on the financial side. Some places, you can’t wire, some places you can. In the registration process, some places still have old-fashioned papers. That takes a lot of effort. The more horses you have, the more effort that takes.’’

From 2014 to 2021, Besecker’s horses, racing mostly in the mid-Atlantic, but also, at times, with a string in California, have won 774 races and $16.5 million in purses. He’s had horses at Parx with trainer Carlos Guerrero. Right now, he has horses at Parx with trainers Scott Lake and Jamie Ness.

In 2019, he was the leading owner at so many meets it was hard to keep up. The stable won 199 races and nearly $5 million in purses. At his peak, Besecker had 130 horses racing with eight or nine trainers. But, by the end of the year, Besecker decided it was time to get out, concentrate on his business, charitable foundation, and family.

So, he held a dispersal sale that December at Timonium. A total of 95 horses brought $3 million. A week or two after the sale, he sold all but two of the rest of the horses; approximately 145 were sold in all.

He didn’t know then, but his timing was perfect. Three months later, racing was shut down in much of the country because of the pandemic. If Besecker still owned all those horses, it would have been an economic disaster.    

In 2020, he got back in just a touch, with 142 starters, 38 wins, and earnings of $1 million. In 2021, he got all the way back in with 408 starters, 103 winners, and stable earnings of $2.3 million. Besecker is back to owning 90 horses so he didn’t get out for long.

“It may be more,’’ Besecker said. “It’s hard for me to keep track of the mares and foals.’’

He won his 1,000th race on Aug. 14 at Del Mar as the great Trevor Denman brought Diva’s Finale across the finish line in style: “What a win for owner Joe Besecker, 1,000 wins as an owner.’’

Diva’s Finale’s trainer Doug O’Neill, who has Besecker’s horses in California, had a poignant video message: “Joe, you did it man. I’m sure when you won your first couple of races, you had no idea that you’d be winning a thousand of these. So, just all the men and women that you’ve employed along the way who have been able to work alongside all of your amazing horses, what an amazing achievement, hopefully, we can win another thousand. Knowing the way you are Joe, I know 2,000 is right around the corner.’’

Besecker’s best horse unquestionably was Aztec Sense, a horse he claimed for $12,5000 in 2017. In 2018, Aztec Sense went 8-for-8 and earned $408,540. Four of his wins were at Parx, including the Turning For Home Stakes, the Sal DeBunda PTHA President’s Cup, the Pa. Derby Champion Stakes, and a starter allowance. Aztec Sense was named Park Horse of the Year for 2018.

“That guy gave it to me every time,’’ Besecker said.

And the horse absolutely loved running at Parx.

“There is no doubt his favorite track is Parx,’’ Besecker said at the time.

Besecker sold around 60 of his horses late in 2020 and plans to do the same thing this December.

“It’s just like clearing out a portfolio,’’ he said.

And then he will be building it back up again. The record now is 4,778 starters, with 1,039 winners, 834 seconds, 648 thirds, and earnings of $20,456,284. The horses may change; the results do not.


By Dick Jerardi

Pennsylvania Derby Day on the last Saturday of September, Breeders’ Cup on the first weekend of November.

Privileged to have been there for both and can hardly wait until 2022 to do it all over again.

Got to Del Mar last Tuesday evening after my first flight in almost 20 months. The track’s lights were on with the darkened Pacific Ocean just to the other side of Highway 101. There can’t be many more glorious settings in sports than the Del Mar Turf Club where the turf actually does meet the surf.

The racing on Friday and Saturday perfectly fit the venue. Two races decided by the tiniest of noses. Six foreign-bred winners. Four winners based in Kentucky, three in New York, three in Europe, two in California and two in Japan, the country’s first BC win. Three wins for Godolphin, trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick, all by Dubawi, making that stallion the first to sire three BC winners in the same year. Gun Runner became the 10th Classic winner to sire a BC winner, Echo Zulu. Four of the world’s best jockeys _ Buick, the Ortiz Brothers, Irad and Jose, and Joel Rosario _ won 10 of the 14 BC races. And Knicks Go, finishing off a Horse of the Year campaign and the two days with a dominating, front-running win in the $6 million Classic.

Trainer Wesley Ward completely dominated the two turf sprints _ again. Twilight Gleaming wired the field in Friday’s Juvenile Turf Sprint and Golden Pal, seemingly 2 lengths in front two jumps out of the gate in Saturday’s Turf Sprint, became the fifth horse to win different BC events. Knicks Go later became the sixth.

Would not be shocked if trainer Steve Asmussen, who has won every big race there is to win except the biggest race of all, points the filly Echo Zulu to the Kentucky Derby next year. She was every bit as impressive in the Juvenile Fillies as the unbeaten colt Corniche was in the Juvenile. In fact, she ran the mile and a sixteenth in 1:42.24 while Corniche finished in 1:42.50.

Now, there is a question of what happens with Corniche, six months before the Derby. Normally, the colt would have earned 30 Derby points by now, but because trainer Bob Baffert is currently banned from running horses at Churchill Downs (when will the Medina Spirit hearing be scheduled and the positive test issue resolved?), Corniche has no Derby points and the owners may have to make a decision in 2022 to give the horse to another trainer if this does not get resolved in Baffert’s favor.

Nice to see Christophe Clement (was 0-for-41 in BC) finally get that first win when Pizza Bianca flew from last to first in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. (Keep an eye on Bubble Rock for the future. Hers was the greatest 12th place finish you will ever see. She was 5 lengths back and had 10 lengths worth of trouble).

As to the fiasco that was the Juvenile Turf, it was hard to understand the miscommunication between the vets at the gate and the stewards that resulted in the “scratch’’ of favored Modern Games. Harder to handle still was the resulting disaster for bettors who were locked into Modern Games in the double, pick 3, pick 4 or pick 5. When the horse ran for “purse money only,’’ by rule, they ended up with the post time favorite Dakota Gold who, if they had wanted to use him, they would have used him.

When Modern Games won and Dakota Gold finished fifth, the Modern Games multi-race bettors got nothing. How is that fair? In 2021, they really need to develop a software program to address that obviously rare issue. Even if the horse is running for “purse money only’’ and refunds need to be issued for in-race bets (win, place, show, exacta, etc.), there is no reason players that had multi-race wagers should not have been paid off if they had Modern Games.

The great Gamine was beaten in Saturday’s Filly & Mare Sprint when she got into a speed duel and the deserving Ce Ce, brilliantly trained by Michael McCarthy, was there to take advantage, jockey Victor Espinoza getting his first BC win since American Pharoah finished off his epic “Grand Slam’’ in the 2015 Classic.

How good was Life Is Good in the Dirt Mile? And wouldn’t it be cool, if as planned at the moment, Life Is Good and Knicks Go really hook up in the 2022 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park? Think the fractions will be fast?

Loves Only You gave Japan its first BC win in the Filly & Mare Turf, followed two hours later by 49-1 shocker Marche Lorraine when, after favored Letruska was taken out by a pace meltdown  (21.84, 44.97), the Japanese bred and trained mare took the Distaff by an inch over Dunbar Road.

To me, the most shocking defeat was Jackie’s Warrior finishing sixth in the Sprint when Aloha West, who did not make his first start until Feb. 7, caught Dr. Schivel on the last jump. There is some evidence the rail was not the place to be on Saturday, but, other than that, Jackie’s race did not make much sense.

McCarthy did another fabulous job with Smooth Like Straight who nearly stole the Mile until the Appleby-trained Space Blues, sitting a perfect rail trip, came and got him in the stretch.

 Appleby did it again with Yibir in the Turf, the 3-year-old unleashing an almost impossible late run to blow by the field. It is hard to be certain from the video, but my estimate is that Yibir ran the final quarter mile in 22.50 seconds. That is sprinter speed at the end of a mile and a half grass race. Unreal.

Knicks Go did not need to run his last quarter that fast because the 5-year-old won the race in the first quarter when he cleared the field. Before coming to trainer Brad Cox last year, Knicks Go was 2-for-14, his 70-1 win in the 2018 Breeders’ Futurity and 40-1 second in the BC Juvenile looking like flukes.

All Knicks Go has done for Cox in eight two-turn races was go 8-for-8, winning by a combined 38 lengths. None of those wins were ever in doubt. Knicks Go will be the 2021 Horse of the Year.

I loved the Knicks Go-Hot Rod Charlie exacta and thought I had it until I didn’t. Perhaps, being on the rail hurt Charlie as he faded to fourth.

Medina Spirit outran Essential Quality for second and that will make for an interesting dilemma for Eclipse Award voters when they consider the 3-year-old championship.

Essential Quality won the Southwest, Blue Grass, Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy and the Travers while finishing fourth in the Derby and third in the Classic. Medina Spirit won the Robert Lewis, Kentucky Derby, Shared Belief, and Awesome Again while finishing second in the Sham, San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby and Classic and third in the Preakness.

I think Essential Quality won the better overall quality of races, but Medina Spirit fans will rightly point out that Medina finished in front of Essential Quality in the only two races where they met. It will be a fascinating debate.

There will be no debate about the success of the 38th Breeders’ Cup. It was wonderful, as always. On to Keeneland 2022 next November.

2021 Breeders’ Cup

Dick Jerardi

The Parx Breeders’ Cup winning streak will end at three, but the wins by Jaywalk, Spun to Run and Vequist will live on.

Unless there are multiple late scratches in the Turf Sprint, no Parx-based horses will be in the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar this weekend. Turf Monster winner Hollywood Talent (who could forget 108-1?) was entered, but was so far down the list of also eligibles, there was essentially no way the horse was going to get to run.

It was a bit surprising that Parx Dash winner The Critical Way was also left out of the main Turf Sprint body. The wonderful Pennsylvania bred filly Caravel did make the race and is not without a chance. Neither is based at Parx, but racing at the track counts for something.

Even without a “Parx’’ horse, there will be no shortage of Parx storylines, all emerging from that wonderful Pennsylvania Derby Day on Sept. 25.

Pennsylvania Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie is a major contender in the $6 million Classic, the race of the year with Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality, Whitney winner Knicks Go, Woodward winner Art Collector, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Max Player and Pacific Classic winner Tripoli.

Cotillion winner Clairiere has been working brilliantly in California for her start in the $2 million Distaff. She will be facing a powerhouse field, including Spinster winner Letruska (17 for 22 lifetime), Alabama winner Malathaat and La Troienne winner Shedaresthedevil.

Gallant Bob winner Jackie’s Warrior, nearly perfect in one-turn races, will be a heavy favorite in the Sprint. He will be taken on by, among others, Bing Crosby winner Dr. Schivel, 14-time winner Firenze Fire and Vanderbilt winner Lexitonian.

Life is Good will be a huge favorite in the Dirt Mile and maybe the most likely winner in any of the 14 races over the two days. The Parx Dirt Mile 1-2, Mind Control, and Silver State, originally were both set to run. Mind Control, however, spiked a temperature and was not entered. Silver State likely will be the second choice.

The Turf features defending champion Tarnawa, most recently a hard-luck second in the Arc de Triomphe. In addition to Tarnawa, there are six other horses running Saturday after winning a 2020 BC race – Essential Quality, Knicks Go, Glass Slippers and Golden Pal ( both Turf Sprint), Gamine (Filly & Mare Sprint), and Audarya (Filly & Mare Turf).

I am most looking forward to the Classic which will be on NBC in primetime Saturday night. The nine horses entered have won a combined $19,102,919 and 11 Grade I races. Essential Quality and Knicks Go, stablemates from the Brad Cox barn, enter as co-favorites for Horse of the Year and likely will be 1-2 in the betting.

Essential Quality’s only loss was a very close fourth in the Derby. The 3-year-old has won the Breeders’ Futurity, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Southwest, Blue Grass, Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy, and Travers. His style is adaptable to any situation. Slow pace, he’s close. Fast pace, he’s midpack.

Since being transferred to the Cox barn last year, Knicks Go has been in seven two-turn races and won them all by open lengths. He just goes to the front and none of the other horses can keep up. The colt has won the BC Dirt Mile, the Pegasus World Cup, the Cornhusker, Whitney, and Lukas Classic.

The first 100 yards of the Classic will be critical. Medina Spirit is really fast. Fast enough to make Knicks Go have to run too fast too soon? That will be the key to the race.

If Knicks Go clears the field again, I see him as being very difficult to catch. If it’s a fast contested pace, Knicks Go becomes vulnerable and the race could set up the late run of Essential Quality or the potentially perfect trip-off-the-speed Hot Rod Charlie.

However it plays out, the Classic will be the perfect finale of two great days of racing (the 2-year-olds take center stage Friday). The Breeders’ Cup was conceived 40 years ago by John Gaines. It was a brilliant idea that has stood the test of time and is a perfect final examination for the horses that are so talented and horseplayers that are so dedicated.

Can’t wait to see what happens.