By Dick Jerardi
Now, “that’’ is how you come back from a 19-day break: a total of 26 races and 10 stakes over two days and 12 hours of racing, a combined handle of $8.47 million ($2.31 million better than the same days in 2021), parking lots overflowing, so many powerful performances from the Pennsylvania breds on Pennsylvania’s Day at the Races Monday and during Tuesday’s three open stake prep races for Pennsylvania Derby Day on Sept. 24.
Last year’s Smarty Jones was won by Fulsome trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux. Tuesday’s $300,000 Grade III Smarty Jones was won by 5-2 Best Actor, trained by Cox and ridden by Geroux.
Best Actor turned what looked like an even race with Preakness third Creative Minister and Louisiana Derby third Pioneer of Medina into a 5 3/4 length blowout. The result was not in doubt when Gary and Mary West’s Best Actor took over on the far turn. Kissalot was second at 12-1 while favored Creative Minister was a never-in-it third.
“He relaxed very nicely, he was perfect,’’ Geroux said.
When asked if he thought Best Actor might return for the Pa. Derby, Geroux said: “I think he could for sure…(Cox) and the owner will make the call.’’
Violent Turbulence was entered as a Main Track Only for the $200,000 Parx Dash which was taken off the grass after providential overnight rains. Loose on the lead on the main track at 12-1, the perfectly named Violent Turbulence, ridden by Silvestre Gonzalez, looked the winner the entire trip, giving Parx Hall of Famer Kate DeMasi one of the biggest victories of her career. The trainer, who has 1,672 wins, was ill and could not make the race, but Sal Spedale, co-owner with Kate and Greg DeMasi’s Pewter Stable, was there for his first stakes win at Parx.
“Loved (off the turf),’’ he said. “I was happier when (favored Doc Amster) got left in the gate which made my life that much easier.’’
Spedale has been with DeMasi for three years and Gonzalez, who got the biggest win of his career, has been the regular rider.
Irad Ortiz, Jr. had a fun two days at Parx, topped off by 5-2 Green Up rolling by favored Interstatedaydream on the turn of the $150,000 Cathryn Sophia and going on to win by 3 3/4 lengths. Green Up, unbeaten in four starts for trainer Todd Pletcher, could not have been much more impressive.
“It’s been great,’’ Ortiz Jr. said of his Parx stay. “Had some winners.’’
The jockey brothers, Irad and Jose, drove down from Saratoga together and headed back after the Tuesday races.
The quality of the $100,000 Pa. Day stakes races were so strong that the 2021 Parx Horse of the Year Chub Wagon and 3-year-old male champion Beren could do no better than second in their races.
The Pa. bred stakes bonanza began with the Mrs. Penny, which came off the grass much to the delight of trainer John Servis. He had a powerful one-two punch under any circumstance, but dirt was better.
Love in the Air, sent off at 1-2, was purchased for $130,000 in July 2021 at the Fasig/Tipton Kentucky racing age sale by Lou Bucky’s Main Line Racing Stables and Will Schwartz. The 4-year-old filly had the rail, the speed and Paco Lopez in the Mrs. Penny. So it was no surprise that she led all the way and won by a comfortable 6 lengths, with stablemate Midnight Obsession getting up for second.
“She’s gotten really good,’’ Servis said. “She’s grass or dirt which is tremendous. I was kind of hoping it would come off the grass because she struggled with this grass course last time.’’
Chub Wagon, going for win No. 13 in 14 races, was 3-5 in the Dr. Teresa Garofalo, ironically the only race she ever lost when second last year. Well, she finished second again, but the circumstances were quite different. Co-owner/breeder Danny Lopez had decided to switch barns from Lupe Preciado to Regina Brennan before the race and Chub Wagon did not show her customary early speed. And then when she finally started to move on the far turn, she was beaten to an open spot by a surging Remain Anonymous, a recent $32,000 claim at Saratoga by trainer Robert Falcone for owner Sanford Goldfarb.
Remain Anonymous won going away under Irad Ortiz, Jr. by 5 3/4 lengths. Chub Wagon, farther back than she had ever been, still came running in the stretch to finish a clear second.
`They kind of ran her off her feet the first part,’’ Chub Wagon’s jockey Silvestre Gonzalez said. “It was a little bit hard to make up the ground with the short stretch…We never had a couple of horses in front of us like that before. She had to overcome that, but the winner kind of exploded down the stretch.’’
The Marshall Jenney was a rematch of the match race from the year before when the race came off of the grass and Admiral Abe led all the way and held off Smooth B. It was the same scenario this time with the two heavy favorites providing a different ending. Admiral Abe led, but Smooth B caught and passed his nemesis in the stretch, winning by 3 1/4 lengths, with Admiral Abe 8 lengths clear of third.
“He’s just a fun horse,’’ winning owner Glenn Bennett of LC Racing said. “He’s extremely competitive…I bring the family and all. That what it’s all about, the win and having the family here.’’
Smooth B, trained by Butch Reid and ridden by Frankie Pennington, upped his career earnings to $640,000 in 45 starts, with 9 wins, 9 seconds and 5 thirds. Prior to his second place finish in the 2021 Jenney, Smooth B had finished second in the 2020 edition and third in 2019, each time when the race was on grass. Now, the horse has his Jenney win.
The Miss Blue Tye Dye and Whistle Pig were new editions to the Pa. Day program, both races for 2-year-old Pa. sired and bred horses.
The Miss Blue Tye Dye went first and Flor de Sombra, a dominating winner of a maiden race, overwhelmed her field from the start, grabbing a clear lead at the break, widening to 7 lengths in the stretch and easing up late to win by 2 lengths.
“She’s got a lot of ability,’’ winning rider Gonzalez said. “I can’t wait to see what’s next for this little filly…She’s up there with some of the best (2-year-olds) I’ve gotten on…I think she’s got plenty of ability to go with an open company, no problem.’’
Flor de Sombra is owned by Joe Imbesi and trained by Lupe Preciado. The filly would appear to be very difficult to beat in any upcoming Pa. Bred stakes.
Marion Grace, a first-time starter for Bob Hutt’s Uptowncharlybrown Stud and trained by Ed Coletti, came on very nicely to be second at 14-1.
It was Reid and Bennett again in the Whistle Pig with 6-5 favorite Ninetyprcentmaddie, one of the first horses Bennett actually bred. The colt stalked the early pace and won comfortably by 3 1/2 lengths, with that man Pennington riding.
Reid, who won three races on the card, has dominated 2-year-old racing at track the last two years.
“It’s just fantastic,’’ Reid said. “With owners like Chuck (Zacney) and Glenn (Bennett) and Tom McGrath, they keep bringing me the raw material and it’s just a matter of getting them over here.’’
Keithsendshelloooo, named after retired Parx announcer Keith Jones, was a very game second at 57-1 for Hutt and Coletti.
Trainer Mike Pino claimed Fortheluvofbourbon for Dan Ryan’s Smart Angle on May 29, 2020 in Kentucky. That $50,000 investment has now returned $429,210 after Fortheluvofbourbon won the Banjo Picker Sprint for the second straight year, each time with Lopez riding.
It was a strange race as 6-5 Beren did not show his customary speed and was well back early. But like Chub Wagon, he still closed nicely to be second, but was no threat to the 3-2 winner who was 4 lengths clear.
“He’s been a solid horse, really fun to work with, happy for the owner, the way the horse is doing,’’ Pino said.
Too Boss had three career wins for trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Michael Cascio. Each time, he had been ridden by Parx legend Kendrick Carmouche. So when Carmouche returned from Saratoga to his home away from home to ride Too Boss in the Storm Cat, the public made him the 6-5 favorite. They were rewarded when Carmouche kept the horse out of trouble, cruised into contention on the far turn and won it by 1 3/4 lengths. Far Mo Power closed to be second for trainer Lou Linder and owner Joseph Sutton.
“He’s just a horse that runs for me,’’ Carmouche said. “I kind of know him by now. Just glad Todd and the owners keep picking me to ride him because I try to make it count every time I ride him.’’
THE HUGE PRELUDE TO THE RETURN
Prior to Monday, horses with Parx connections won out-of-town stakes on the preceding Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was 33-1 Golden Rocket (trainer Patricia Farro) in the New York Stallion Series at Saratoga, 6-1 Leader of the Band (John Servis) in the Summer Colony at Saratoga, 14-1 Informative (Uriah St. Lewis) in the Grade III Iselin at Monmouth Park and 9-1 Vedareo (Butch Reid) in the Sorority Stakes at Monmouth.
A $2 win parlay on the four horses would have returned a cool $62,380.
by Dick Jerardi
When the annual August break at Parx ends on Monday Aug. 22, it will mark the beginning of the best month of racing at the track, culminating on Pennsylvania Derby Day Saturday Sept. 24. Pa. Derby Day has become not only the highlight of the racing calendar in the Commonwealth, it has become recognized around the country as a must-see event.
This year, the program, which will be anchored by the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby and $1 million Cotillion, will feature 10 stakes, five graded and two new stakes for Pa. bred and sired 2-year-olds (the Prince Lucky and Imply). The Gallant Bob, Turf Monster, Greenwood Cup, Alphabet Soup, Plum Pretty and Parx Dirt Mile have all become serious races of their own. Put them together with the Grade I headliners and the new stakes, you have a card that may attract enough betting attention to break last year’s record $13.2 million handle.
The two big races and several of the undercard races will once again be shown on PHL-17 from 4-6 p.m. Fields are still taking shape, but trainer Bob Baffert said he is sending stable star Taiba, Santa Anita Derby winner and Haskell runner-up, for the Pa. Derby, a race he has won three times – Bayern (2014), West Coast (2017) and McKinzie (2018).
Pa. Derby Day is the main course, but the appetizers are served on the day live racing returns with Pa. Day at the Races, followed the next day by three preps for the Pa. Derby, Cotillion and Turf Monster – the $300,000 Smarty Jones, the $150,000 Cathryn Sophia and $200,000 Parx Dash.
Pa. Day is just like it sounds – races for Pa. Breds. There will be seven stakes on the card for horses in different divisions on varying surfaces and at several distances, all for $100,000. The Mrs. Penny, Storm Cat, Marshall Jenney, Dr. Teresa Garofalo Memorial and Banjo Picker are back. New this year at the Whistle Pig and Miss Blue Tye Dye, races for Pa. bred and sired 2-year-olds which will also serve as preps for the 2-year-olds stakes on Pa. Derby Day.
No horse has yet won the Smarty Jones, first run in 2010, and come back to win the Pa. Derby. 2019 Smarty winner Spun to Run ran really well in the Pa. Derby before coming back to win the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile two months later at Santa Anita.
However, “the’’ month plays out, it will be memorable. Each year, it somehow gets bigger and better. No reason to think 2022 will be any different.
Some time into their relationship, Regina Brennan relayed that she thought Donnie Reeder was from Oklahoma. He explained that he was actually from Beaver Falls, Pa. and said “that only crooks and thieves come from Oklahoma.’’
“Yeah,’’ Brennan replied, “and so does my mother.’’
Such was their wonderful time together that lasted several decades. After Reeder, 81, passed away on the last day of July, Brennan remembered a horse trainer who loved the game and the people in it.
Parx Hall of Fame trainer John Servis, then a jockey’s agent, first met Reeder in 1979 at Penn National when he shipped a horse in from Waterford Park. He’d heard he was a terrific horseman.
“I made it a point to introduce myself to him,’’ Servis said. “We hit it off and we’ve been friends ever since.’’
Brennan wonderfully described Reeder as “good time Charlie, he lived the dream with no money in his pocket.’’
Servis concurred that Reeder loved to have a good time.
“He worked hard, taught me a lot watching what he did,’’ Servis said. “He was great working on horse’s legs. And he got results with horses he was holding together.’’
Parx HOF trainers Scott Lake and Phil Aristone were regulars by the rail with Reeder. Brennan, a trainer at Parx with such good horses as Promised Storm and Rock On Luke, said: “I’d be doing all the work. They’d just be up there laughing.
“`Did you see that horse work,’ she would ask. `Ah, I missed it,’’’ Reeder would say.
Lake called Reeder: “the classic definition of a race tracker, have fun, good guy.’’
Reeder had some solid horses in a career that spanned four decades and included 978 winners.
“He didn’t have the good horses either, he had the ones you had to work on,’’ Brennan said.
Heart’s Cry and Stephan’s Prize raced a combined 152 times, the vast majority of them with Reeder. They combined to win nearly $500,000 with Reeder, a few years before the slot-infused purses came to Parx.
Reeder’s best horse was the wonderful sprinter True Passion, winner of the 2002 Grade III Philadelphia Park Breeders’ Cup Handicap, the end of a six-race winning streak. True Passion, owned by Eliott Krems, was later named PhillyPark Horse of the Year for 2002.
True Passion, like many of Reeder’s top horses including Tizagal, raced in Southern California with limited success until they came east and Reeder got them to the winner’s circle over and over again. Tizagal won seven races from September 2001 until May 2002.
Brennan remembers putting $9,000 on her credit card for Tizagal before she saw her past performances and noted that “she had been beaten for $6.500 at some fair.’’ Then, she won all those races for them and was claimed for $50,000.
“Well, I guess you’re off the hook,’’ she told Reeder.
Even as he had a few horses of his own to train, Reeder was an assistant to Parx Hall of Fame trainer Dennis “Goose’’ Heimer. When Heimer died in 1989, Reeder got some of his owners and horses. His best years were 1999 with 85 winners and 2004 with 80.
Reeder served as PTHA president from 2009-2011. His preference was to remain in the background, but when needed, he was there.
“He was all about race trackers,’’ Brennan said. “Whatever they needed, he would try to get it done.’’
Reeder retired from training in 2012. According to Brennan, after being diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001, Reeder had been cancer free until the past couple of months when the cancer returned. He was in hospice when he died.
“I knew Don before we ever started dating,’’ Brennan said. “Just from being race trackers.’’
Reeder, she said, “just had that charisma. He always had something funny to say.’’
And he had stories, especially about riding in rodeos before becoming a trainer.
“His father got him a pony as a little kid,’’ Brennan said. “They’d go to the fairs…Every time something came on TV and I’d say `I’d like to go there,’ he’d say, `yeah I rodeoed there, I’ve been there, done that.’’’
True at the rodeos, true at the race track; Donnie Reeder has been there, done that.