By Dick Jerardi
The two horses that had been acquired for a combined $47,000 in 2019 raced 5 hours apart at Parx last September 21.
It was Pennsylvania Derby Day. Ny Traffic, making the first start of his career, was 47-1 in Race 2. Math Wizard was 31-1 in Race 11, the Pa. Derby.
Fast forward 10 months. After finishing third in that debut, Ny Traffic is now a serious Kentucky Derby contender. Math Wizard, of course, won that Pennsylvania Derby and appears to be back to his very best form.
Last Saturday at Monmouth Park, the horses raced just one hour apart _ Math Wizard finishing second in the Monmouth Cup and Ny Traffic, making an incredible run in the final 100 yards of the Haskell, beaten just a nose by 3-5 frontrunner Authentic.
It was Parx owner John Fanelli who claimed Math Wizard for $25,000 on Jan. 31, 2019 and then went partners on Ny Traffic in a private sale after the colt did not meet his reserve at the May 2019 Timonium sale. The partners bought the New York bred for $22,000.
Math Wizard has won $1,102,740. Ny Traffic has won $565,470.
The Pa. Derby was incredible. The Ky. Derby?
“It’s obviously a dream come true,’’ Fanelli said. “I could have never said this would happen, especially after last year, for this to happen so quickly, back-to-back success in less than a year.’’
It has happened. And who knows what might still be possible?
Rather than go back to Gulfstream Park where they had been stabled, Ny Traffic and Math Wizard were shipped to Saratoga with trainer Saffie Joseph to take advantage of the cooler weather. There are races at Saratoga for Math Wizard. And there is that race on the first Saturday in Kentucky for Ny Traffic.
Last year, Ny Traffic was a nice 2-year-old at Parx for trainer Harry Wyner who recognized the colt’s potential quickly. The horse ran a few races perhaps too close together later in the year and then had some minor physical issues.
Since Ny Traffic was sent to Florida to train with Joseph and started running in longer races, the colt has been a revelation, each race better than the one before it. His Beyer speed figures demonstrate the upward trajectory.
Ny Traffic got a 77 on Jan. 11, followed by an 82 when third in the Risen Star, an 89 when second in the Louisiana Derby, a 95 when second in the Matt Winn and a 100 when just missing in the Haskell.
As patterns go for the Derby, they don’t get much better. Ny Traffic has 110 Derby points, fourth on the list behind Tiz the Law, Authentic and Honor A. P. Art Collector is fifth, King Guillermo sixth. The points list is also the right list at this moment. Ny Traffic is somewhere among the top six Derby contenders.
Fanelli bought out Lenny Liberto, his original partner in Ny Traffic. After selling 20 percent interests in the colt to fellow Parx owners Chuck Zacney and Glenn Bennett, Fanelli then sold 10 percent to Florida owner Paul Braverman.
So Fanelli still owns 50 percent of Ny Traffic and Parx owners are responsible for a 90 percent interest in the horse. In the final weeks before the Derby, this is the most Parx-centric major contender since Smarty Jones in 2004.
“It’s super exciting,’’ said Fanelli. “I just can’t believe it’s happening to me again.’’