belmont stakes winning owner returns to parx

By Dick Jerardi

Nearly 14 years after Jon Ebbert was at Parx to watch the first horse he ever owned run last of seven, he returned on June 27 to talk about the horse he owns that just happened to win the Belmont Stakes 17 days earlier.

The owner of Arcangelo was seated quietly on a bench near the paddock midway through the Tuesday card, low key and unrecognized, which was probably just fine by him.

He had agreed to meet to do an interview for “Let’s Go Racing” and I found him unassuming, pleasant and a natural storyteller.

“It’s been an amazing experience for real, a dream of a lifetime,” Ebbert said when I asked him what the last few weeks had been like.

He was standing just outside the walking ring, the same place where Daydreamin Boy had been before Race 6 on Sept. 26, 2009. Sent off at 40-1, the horse showed no speed and checked in 20 lengths behind the winner. The result was not an aberration.

“I remember having high hopes,” Ebbert said. “It was my first horse. Steve Rowan trained him. He was ready to go. He was a 2-year-old. I remember him going backwards in a maiden special weight and you feel a little defeated. It’s your first horse and you expect big things.”

Daydreamin Boy ran 15 times for Ebbert and never finished within 13 lengths of the winner. His best finish was fifth. A new owner took the New York bred to Finger Lakes, where the horse was never closer than 18 lengths behind the winner – until the horse’s career mercilessly ended four years after it began with 20 starts and earnings of $5,625.

Despite that experience, Ebbert stayed in the game.

“It’s something about the horses,” Ebbert said. “They just bring you back for more. It’s just a beautiful game.”

So there he was at the 2021 Keeneland September Sale when the bidding began on a yearling by Arrogate.

“I scoped the horse out back in the barns and had a feeling he might go for about $40,000,” Ebbert remembered. “They bid up to 20, I jumped in at 25. They went 30. I went 35. I was kind of hoping they didn’t go too much more. Nobody else bid and it was my horse. The rest is history.”

And that is how you get a Belmont Stakes winner for $35,000. Such an easy game.

The day before he bought Arcangelo, Ebbert met trainer Jena Antonucci. They hit it off and spent the rest of the sale together. After Clovis Crane broke the horse, Ebbert sent Arcangelo to Antonucci in April 2022.

Arcangelo made his debut at Antonucci’s home base of Gulfstream Park on Dec. 17. The horse was 6-1 and finished a solid second, a long way from the daze of Daydreamin Boy.

Arcangelo won his maiden on his third attempt and it was so impressive that the horse was sent to Belmont Park to run in the May 13 Peter Pan Stakes where he was 5-2 and won by a head.

“We win the Peter Pan, we get to the top of the Belmont Room, we’re sitting down drinking champagne, eating a little bit, they’re bringing us our trophy and Jena says, I have some bad news I have to tell you,” Ebbert remembered.

He was thinking: “what could possibly be bad right now? We just won the Peter Pan.”

As they thought Arcangelo would develop later, he was not nominated to the Triple Crown races. It was going to cost $50,000 for Arcangelo to run in the Belmont.

“I thought about it for maybe half a minute and said “you know what, he made the money, let’s go for it,” Ebbert said.

So they went for it.

“It was more than I paid for the horse,” Ebbert said.

It was, he said, when prompted “the best decision I ever made.”

And when Arcangelo made that big move into the stretch to pass Preakness winner National Treasure trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and open up a substantial lead over Blue Grass Stakes winner Tapit Trice and 2-year-old champion Forte, from HOF trainer Todd Pletcher’s stable, with horses trained by HOF Steve Asmussen and future HOF Brad Cox, struggling to keep up, Ebbert was thinking: “just get there and finish this.”

Arcangelo finished it, beating Forte and Tapit Trice by 1 1/4 lengths, with all those other accomplished horses from top barns fading in the stretch.

Ebbert’s stable name is Blue Rose Farm because blue roses don’t exist so “it’s trying to achieve the impossible.”

He has a little farm between Allentown and Quakertown, breeds a few horses, has two by Smarty Jones. Buys and sells some, supports the Pennsylvania breeding program.

Now, he just happens to own the best son of the wonderful Arrogate who sadly sired just three crops before he died. Which makes Arcangelo a serious stallion prospect. With $1,067,400 in earnings, more races on the horizon and a potential stallion deal, that $35,000 is looking better all the time.

Each of Arcangelo’s races has been better than the previous one on the Beyer figure scale – 53, 70, 84, 97 and 102 in the Belmont. There really is no way to know how good this horse might be.

“When I bought him, I had a plan and I was kind of thinking Breeders’ Cup 2024,” Ebbert said. “He was that immature at the sales.”

Ebbert was very surprised when his trainer told him the horse was ready to run last December. The horse is now at Saratoga, with the Aug. 26 Travers as a late summer goal. And, of course, there is the Sept. 23 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx, a potential full circle moment for Ebbert who was reminded of the $50,000 bonus for any owner and trainer of a horse that wins a Triple Crown race, the Haskell or the Travers. So, the owner and trainer could each be looking at $100,000 if Arcangelo wins the Travers.

“The bonus money sounds really nice,” Ebbert said. “I can’t commit on that, but it’s on our radar.”

Imagine that scene. Ebbert, who lives 30 minutes from Parx, returns to the track where he ran his first horse almost 14 years to the day, this time with one of the favorites for a $1 million race. And that horse just happens to be trained by the first woman to win a Triple Crown race. Now, that would be something.

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