By Dick Jerardi
Just over three hours after the son of a Parx Hall of Famer got the biggest win of his young career, a Parx Hall of Famer got the biggest win of his incredible career that began 20 years ago.
It was some Saturday at Aqueduct for trainer Danny Velazquez and jockey Kendrick Carmouche, the trainer winning his first graded stakes, the jockey winning his first Grade I. The only way it could have been better is if they had done it together. That had to wait a day.
It was some show on Saturday.
When two horses came together in the final 100 yards of the Grade II Remsen Stakes, it was 6-5 favorite Ten for Ten who had been on the lead from the start and cost $410,000 at the prestigious Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2019 and 7-1 Brooklyn Strong, the New York bred gelding who had made a sustained run from fourth and cost $5,000 at the Ocala Sale last April.
The favorite was trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. The 7-1 shot was trained by Velazquez whose father Alfredo is a winner of 1,144 races and a member of the 2019 Parx Hall of Fame class.
By the wire, it was Brooklyn Strong by a neck, with Ten for Ten nearly 9 lengths in front of the third horse.
“I was very confident going in,” Velazquez told the NYRA press office. “I knew the distance was key and I was confident about the off track. I was happy with his performance. He really dug in. Today was a big showcase for him against tougher competition and I couldn’t be happier. It’s tough. They paid a lot of money for him [Ten for Ten] and we paid $5,000. You start to second guess yourself, but I knew he had the heart to grind it out.’’
Jose Ortiz had ridden Brooklyn Strong when the gelding won the Sleepy Hollow Stakes on Oct. 24, New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park. He opted to ride Ten for Ten in the Remsen. So Joel Rosario became the fourth rider for Brooklyn Strong in four career races, three wins and a third.
Brooklyn Strong earned 10 Kentucky Derby points with the win. And the trainer is absolutely thinking Derby Trail.
“We’ll come back healthy and then start picking our spots,” Velazquez said. “This is a big prep for the Derby moving forward. Now, we’re definitely Derby dreaming.”
Barely an hour after the Remsen, Carmouche gave the Parx-based 7-1 Portal Creek a perfect, front-running ride in the Grade III Go For Wand Handicap, only to get run down in the final strides by 6-5 favorite Sharp Starr, ridden by that man Jose Ortiz.
Portal Creek, a $25,000 claim by Marshall Gramm and Clay Sanders’s Ten Strike Racing back in February at Oaklawn Park, had been transferred to trainer Carlos Guerrero at Parx over the summer. She won her first race for Guerrero by 14 lengths. Then, she finished third before winning twice more, all at Parx.
It was 12 lengths back to third in the Go For Wand so it would appear as if Portal Creek has a big one with her name on it.
Never one to get discouraged after a tough defeat, Carmouche left no doubt in the Grade I Cigar Mile.
In the 20,377th ride of his career, Carmouche was aboard True Timber, a horse that had been 0-for-19 in stakes, a 6-year-old owned by Calumet Farm who was second in the 2018 Cigar Mile and third in the 2019 Cigar Mile.
In a ride that was emblematic of his career, Carmouche put True Timber in perfect position in the long run down the backstretch, a few lengths behind dueling leaders in third and well clear of the fourth horse. It was the classic perfect trip orchestrated by a jockey whose more than 3,300 wins have never come by accident.
When it was time, Carmouche let True Timber loose and the horse just blew by the leaders and was 5 1/2 lengths clear at the wire, so alone that Carmouche was able to look to his right at the wire to get a perfect pose for the cameras.
“It took me 20 years to get my first Grade I,’’ he told NYRA’s Maggie Wolfendale in the winner’s circle. “It’s just so joyful and so happy. To all my fans around the world (growls for the camera), we got this. We got it. We finally got it…I’m so joyful; I’m the man on the moon today, my brother.’’
The very next day, Carmouche won his first New York riding title when he finished with the most wins at the Aqueduct Fall Meet. In the sixth race, the $250,000 New York Stallion Stakes, Carmouche and Velazquez teamed up to win it with 2-year-old filly Laobanonaprayer, the horse that started that two stakes Danny V. streak on Oct. 24 that ended with Brooklyn Strong.
So the Remsen for a Parx star on the rise; the Cigar Mile for a Parx legend, one perfect first Saturday in December at Aqueduct, followed by a Sunday where they got another big one together.