sanford stakes and 4,000 wins

By Dick Jerardi

Yo Yo Candy was 46-1 in Saturday’s Grade III Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. Made some sense. After all, the colt, owned by Tom and Kathy Lamonte’s Happy Tenth Stable and trained at Parx by Danny Velazquez, had been beaten by 10 1/4 lengths in the Tremont by 1-5 Sanford favorite Gold Sweep.

Here is what the bettors did not know.

“Early on, he was working lights out,” Velazquez said.

But the horse was still learning the game. After the Tremont, I said to (jockey) Angel Castillo: “We’ve got four weeks to prepare. I want this horse switching leads, I want his head down, I want more speed so we’ve got to get to work.”

Added blinkers. Took the colt to the gate three times. Added a tongue tie.

“It’s trial and error,” Velazquez said.

And here is what the bettors could not have anticipated.

Gold Sweep stumbled badly at the start and never really got into the race until way too late, eventually finishing second behind decisive winner Yo Yo Candy.

It gave the trainer his second graded stakes win (Brooklyn Strong, 2020 Remsen) and Parx jockey Angel Castillo his first North American graded stakes win (he would three G-I in Venezuela).

“It’s been mayhem, but a good mayhem coming off the cloud and enjoying the moment, really taking it in a little better than 2020,” Velazquez said of the days after the race.

Velazquez said he felt his dad (Parx Hall of Famer Alfredo  Velazquez) next to him after the race. He has no memory of how he got from the stands to the winner’s circle, so he told a TV interviewer he jumped.

Velazquez bought the colt for $35,000 at the March OBS sale. That he was a California bred “wasn’t that appealing, but he looked good.”

And he can run, as he proved by stalking the Sanford Stakes pace early and running away late to win by 2 3/4 lengths.

That the win was for Lamonte made it even more special as he had been a longtime client of father and son.

“He’s a guy that deserves this more than anything because he’s put a lot of money into this business and has seen not that much return,”  Velazquez said “He’s won races, but nothing like this so I’m really happy for him.”

If all goes well, back to Saratoga for the Sept. 4 Hopeful Stakes.

And there was Sunday’s first race at Laurel Park, a claimer for horses that had never won two races, the kind of races Parx trainer Jamie Ness has been winning his whole career. When Sing Scat got loose early and never looked back, it gave Ness win No. 4,000, good for 16th all time. He promptly won two more at Laurel that day, two at Parx the day after that and one more at Parx the following day. So, he was at 4,005 by the time we spoke.

“It puts you up in rarefied air,” Ness said of 4,000 wins. “To me, it’s a longevity achievement. I’ve been around doing this a long time so it means more than a flash in the pan.”

Ness has about 140 horses in training. He has 64 employees and a full-time van driver. He also has “broodmares, yearlings, 2-year-old layups, surgeries.” He does not want to know how many horses all told. His wife Mandy, who was a jockey and is from a racing family, is in charge there.

Ness is at Parx Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, at Delaware Park Thursday, Friday and Saturday. And last Sunday, he was at Laurel for 4,000.

I sleep well,’’ he said. “The drive is still there.”

Back in the day, Ness was selling mutuel tickets at Canterbury Park to pay his feed bill. Some weeks, that mutuels paycheck was zero because he also liked to bet.

Now, Ness has a great family, a farm in Chesapeake City, Md., a house 5 minutes from Parx and a Mid-Atlantic training and racing infrastructure that churns out so many winners that he may be in the top 10 all-time in the not too distant future.

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