By: Dick Jerardi
The best performances and best performers at Parx in 2022 will be celebrated at appropriately enough Celebrations Ballroom on the evening of Friday, Feb. 24.
As one of the voters in each of the categories and for Parx Horse of the Year, I thought this was a bit more difficult than some other years. It was so close in several of the categories that I am not sure there was a right answer.
Even though Winning Time beat Gordian Knot in the Pennsylvania Nursery, I thought Gordian Knot’s overall body of work was sufficient to get my vote as best 2-year-old male. Winning a stake at Parx followed by another at Presque Isle before finishing a solid third in the Nursery was just enough to trump Winning’s Time’s emphatic Nursery win.
In addition to getting my vote as best 2-year-old female, Flor de Sombra, with a stakes win at each of Pennsylvania’s three thoroughbred tracks and going 4-for-5 overall, had something else in common with Gordian Knot. The two Pennsylvania breds are owned by Joe Imbesi and trained by Parx Hall of Famer Lupe Preciado.
Girl Trouble, who won her first race of 2023 in the same dominating fashion she won her last two races of 2022, would be a worthy winner for 2-year-old female in most years.
I found it just about impossible to separate Scaramouche and That’s Right for top 3-year-old male. Scaramouche went 6-for-10 and earned nearly $400,000 for owner Nick Cammarano and that man Preciado. That’s Right went 4-for-9 and earned just over $300,000 for owner Jim Shannon and trainer Michael Moore. Each horse won a graded stakes on Pennsylvania Derby Day and two stakes overall. Scaramouche won his races on dirt, That’s Right on grass. Scaramouche has positional speed. That’s Right is all speed.
In the end, I went with Scaramouche in a photo. Scaramouche won the Grade II Gallant Bob in the race after That’s Right won the Grade III Turf Monster. I thought the Gallant Bob was the slightly more difficult race this year so that is what got me to Scaramouche. But That’s Right ran like a champion too.
Morning Matcha was a relatively easy choice for me as the top 3-year-old female. She won a stakes, finished third in the Grade III Delaware Oaks, the Grade III Comely and the Cathryn Sophia as well as a terrific second to runaway winner Society in the $1 million Grade I Cotillion. She raced from January until November and earned more than $400,000 for owners Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, Chuck Zacney’s Cash Is King, Gary Barber and trainer Butch Reid.
So many talented older males. Buy Land and Sea won two grass stakes, one at Penn National and another at Parx. Violent Turbulence won the Parx Dash.
Ridin With Biden and Fortheluvofbourbon, however, separated from the pack.
Ridin With Biden had a wonderful year for Cash Is King, LC Racing and Butch Reid with nearly $300,000 in earnings. The horse won three stakes, including the Grade III Greenwood Cup on Pennsylvania Derby Day. He only had one poor finish all year and that was more due to circumstance than ability.
Fortheluvofbourbon raced nine times with seven wins and a second. The horse, trained by Mike Pino for Dan Ryan’s Smart Angle LLP won three stakes at Parx and another at Laurel with earnings of more than $360,000.
I ended up voting Fortheluvofbourbon as my winner, but am not at all sure I have it right. Ridin With Biden, after all, did have that graded stakes win and was winning around two turns and in the case of the Greenwood Cup, three turns. Bottom line, I went with sprint star Fortheluvofbourbon because winning 7 of 9 in this sport is incredibly difficult no matter the level or distance.
Love in the Air, trained by John Servis for Lou Bucky’s Main Line Stable, is my choice for top older female. She won the Plum Pretty and Mrs. Penny at Parx while also finishing second in the Lyphard at Penn and third in the Doc Penny at Parx. Turf or dirt, the daughter of Constitution came with a big effort just about every time.
My top claiming horse and outstanding claim are one and the same: Exit Right. The horse, trained by Jamie Ness for Morris Kernan, Yo Berbs Racing and Jagger Inc, went 8-for-10 between March and August while winning $200,000. That is the very definition of a top claiming horse and an outstanding claim.
I gave consideration to the well named Get the W (15 starts, 7 wins, 5 seconds) for claiming horse and the incredible Ruby Bleu for outstanding claim.
My Parx Horse of the Year is Fortheluvofbourbon. If it ends up being Ridin With Biden, I will have no issues for the reasons cited in the older male section – two really good horses who had great years at Parx and wherever else they raced.