parx hall of fame class of 2019 honored

By Dick Jerardi

Click here to see a gallery of this year’s event.

From the first class—which was honored in 2011—to the ninth class—which was presented on Sept. 14—the Parx Racing Hall of Fame has never lacked for deserving enshrinees in its five categories – Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Owner and Special Achievement. And that was certainly true this year with a trainer who has been at the track for 30 years, a longtime owner who was also a well-known public handicapper, a beloved veterinarian and three horses that gave Parx an unforgettable fall of 2018 in Grade I stakes.

Going back to 1984, Alfredo “Freddie” Velazquez has won 1,117 races from 7,077 starters. His horses have taken down nearly $19 million in purse earnings. In a sport where winning any race is difficult, winning 1,000 races is a serious milestone.

“You work all your life to get here and it happened,” Velazquez said. “When you start, you never think you are going to get here.”

Velazquez trained the wonderful Traffic Light who began his career at Parx on Oct. 24, 2011 with a 5 3/4 length win and ended it at Parx on Dec. 21, 2015 with an 8-length win. The horse won three Pennsylvania-Bred stakes and $613,160 in a 29-race career that included 10 wins and seven stakes. All but six of his races came at Parx.

As Traffic Light’s career was playing out, Velazquez got the chance to train the top horse Private Zone for three races in the fall of 2014 and he made them count, winning the Grade I Vosburgh and the Grade I Cigar Mile while running a close third in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Nicholas Saponara was honored in the Special Achievement category and there is no question his unique horse racing resume, which began in 1963 at Liberty Bell, was always going to get him a spot in the Hall.

He was a handicapper for the “Philadelphia Bulletin” for 20 years. He also made the morning line at Brandywine, Liberty Bell and Parx when it was known as Keystone. He was equally at home with the Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds.

He owned harness horses before claiming his first Thoroughbred. His horses race under the familiar Club Risque Stable silks for trainer Randy Allen.

“This is a special day I will never forget the rest of my life,” Saponara said. “I’ve been in racing for 56 years; did it all.”

Dr. James Penny started in Thoroughbred racing in Pennsylvania when the sport began in the Commonwealth—1969 at old Liberty Bell Park. Before that he was the track veterinarian at Garden State Park in the 1940s. He worked at Monmouth Park, Atlantic City and Delaware Park.

Anybody who was around Keystone/Philadelphia Park knew “Doc” Penny. He was such a beloved figure that after his death, a major stakes race at the track was named in his honor. The Doc Penny Memorial on grass is a summer fixture at Parx, and marks the first graded stakes of the year.

“It’s a great honor (for Dr. Penny); it’s a great honor for us too,” said Doc Penny’s son, James “Mac” Penny, Jr. “The family is all here for this induction. He really, really, really liked the life at the race track.”

Horses and the race track were his life. Thus, it was only fitting that Dr. James Penny take his rightful place in the Parx Hall in the Special Achievement category.

Discreet Lover, Imperial Hint and Jaywalk were the 18th, 19th and 20th horses to be elected to the Hall.

That they went in together made perfect sense as it was those three horses, all stabled at Parx, that won a combined five Grade I Stakes in 2018, two by Imperial Hint, including the Vosburgh, two for Jaywalk, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and one for Discreet Lover, the unforgettable stretch run to win the Jockey Club Gold Cup on the final jump.

Imperial Hint ($2,034,155), Jaywalk ($1,623,500) and Discreet Lover ($1,449, 685) have combined to win $5,107,340 and counting.

Imperial Hint is going to run in the Vosburgh again and then try for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint where he finished third last year after finishing second in 2017. Jaywalk is going to run in the Grade I, $1 million Cotillion at Parx on Sept. 21.

Discreet Lover, purchased for $10,000, has been the horse of a lifetime for owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis.

“We’ve been here 30 something years and it’s been working out very good,” St. Lewis said. “To have a horse like this, it’s been fantastic.”

Discreet Lover has been out of training for a while, but just got back to the barn and St. Lewis hopes to run him in 2020.

Imperial Hint is trained by Luis Carvajal, Jr., for owner Raymond Mamone.

“It’s a great achievement, especially for us with such a small barn,” Carvajal said.

Jaywalk, along with Smarty Jones and Jostle, is the third horse to make the Hall for inaugural Hall of Fame member, trainer John Servis.

“It’s pretty special,” Jaywalk’s co-owner Chuck Zacney said. “Growing up in Northeast Philly, coming to Keystone Race Track way back in the ’70s (and) now all of a sudden making the Hall of Fame with Jaywalk means a whole lot to me. It’s great to share it with the Greens.”

Lois Green was at Parx to represent D.J. Stable.

“Jaywalk has been the peak of a long career here at Philadelphia Park, Keystone and Parx,” Lois said. “We started out with Walter Reese as our trainer. The Eclipse Award (as 2018 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly) and Breeders’ Cup were so phenomenally exciting, we couldn’t be happier.”

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