By Dick Jerardi
It was a week late and a new year, but the man who dominated the Parx stakes action in 2022 started off 2023 with two wins in the five $75,000 post Christmas Stakes that became post New Year’s Stakes after the rain/freeze cycle caused the track to be closed for nearly a week.
Trainer Butch Reid won Tuesday’s Parx Futurity which went from a 2-year-old to a 3-year-old race with the calendar turn and Wednesday’s Kris Kringle for older males.
“She’s really come a long way since she hooked up with Paco (Lopez),’’ Reid said after Girl Trouble dominated the Futurity. “For $15,000 out of the Timonium sales, she’s proved to be quite a bargain.’’
It was her third straight win by a huge margin – 8 lengths, 6 lengths and this time 5 1/4 lengths, all with Lopez riding.
Owned by Tom McGrath’s Swilcan Stable and Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, Girl Trouble has already returned 15 times her purchase price.
“We’re thinking New York and a little further,’’ Reid said. “They have the series of races for her. And Maryland has a nice series of races too. We’re going to run her sparingly because we’d like to have a nice fresh Jersey bred for the summer at Monmouth Park.’’
Ridin With Biden won three stakes for Reid in 2022 and started off 2023 with another, but just barely in Wednesday’s Kris Kringle. A big stretch lead was diminished to just a nose at the wire, but Ridin With Biden held on.
“Love this horse,’’ said Chuck Zacney of Cash Is King who owns Ridin With Biden with LC Racing. “He just keeps getting better.’’
Lopez rode Ridin With Biden as he has many of the stable’s horses since winning several stakes for them on Pennsylvania Derby Day.
“We’ve had a great couple of months,’’ Zacney said.
Speaking of domination, Jamie Ness won his third consecutive Parx training title in 2022. He started off 2023 by getting a three-quarter length win in The Blitzen on Wednesday with Repo Rocks. “We had him three weeks before the first race, trained well,’’ Ness said.
Ness has 50 employees and he said it takes all of them to make his vast operation work. It works quite well.
The gelding won a Parx Stakes in his first start for Ness. Now, he has two in two starts both with Andrew Wolfsont riding for owner Double B Racing Stables.
“He’s really difficult to ride actually,’’ Wolfsont said. “He just wants to go, go, go even in the mornings. During the race, it helps that he just breaks a step slow.’’
Repo Rocks actually broke a bit better in this race which helped as Wolfsont said it was a surface where you did not want to be too far back. The first of the five stakes was Tuesday’s Parx Juvenile won impressively by unbeaten (4-for-4) Recruiter. Trained by Cal Lynch at Fair Hill, the colt was ridden by Mychel Sanchez and won by 2 3/4 lengths for owners Nick Sanna Stables, Lynch and Jack Armstrong.
“I think this horse is any kind; when this horse first got into the barn, I was the first one to work him,’’ said Sanchez who was riding him for the first time. “This is preparation for hopefully bigger things for him.’’ Lynch is also thinking big.
“This was a steppingstone today,’’ Lynch said. “We were back and forth. It was between this race and the Jerome on Saturday. We missed a few days at Fair Hill last week because of the weather. I just thought going seven-eights instead of a mile…He’s a lovely horse, does everything right, has a good way about him.’’
Next up likely will be a stakes race at Aqueduct to see if Recruiter is good enough to get on the Triple Crown trail. Jonathan Wong has become a major training force in Northern California and is winning on the tougher Southern California circuit. Before all that, he had horses at Parx He brought two back to the track for the stakes finale, Wednesday’s Mrs. Claus. My Kentucky Girl was more well thought of by the bettors at 5-2, but it was 11-1 Empire House who got the lead under Ruben Silvera and never looked back, winning by 2 1/2 lengths.
“She ran awesome,’’ Wong said. “Ruben rode her perfect. The track was favoring speed today.’’
Empire House was with the pace in the Grade III Chilukki at Churchill Downs on Nov. 19 before fading. Back on Lasix at Parx, she ran right back to her best races.