Keith Jones

Dick Jerardi is an award winning sports writer as well as a radio/television host and commentator, and is arguably best known for covering the sport of Horse Racing.

Though his work as a journalist at The Philadelphia Daily News, Dick has covered every Triple Crown race since 1987 (he is a five-time winner of theRed Smith Award for Kentucky Derby coverage). Dick Jerardi famously chronicled the remarkable Smarty Jones during the Triple Crown chase of 2004 s the Thoroughbred won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes for trainer John Servis.

Since 2011 Jerardi has been an on-air analyst for the live television broadcasts of The Pennsylvania Derby from Parx Racing, most recently for NBC Spots Philadelphia.

Many fans know of Dick Jerardi’s work from the long running Let’s Go Racing TV program where he works alongside fellow Parx Hall of Fame members Keith Jones and producer Bruce Casella.

Dick also continues to provide color commentary for the live broadcasts of Penn State basketball.


RIDIN WITH BIDEN DOMINATES IN MARYLAND

When Ridin With Biden finished a very strong second to First Captain a year ago in the Grade III Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park, it really looked like the son of Constitution had the potential to finish off his 3-year-old season with a flourish. But it did not happen.

“I don’t have a real good explanation for why he wasn’t as good I thought he was moving forward last summer other than that he was so tough on himself last year,’’ trainer Butch Reid said. “He was a bad stall walker. He would use himself up a lot before he would go to the race track.’’

So, the decision was made by owners Chuck Zacney (Cash Is King) and Glenn Bennett (LC Racing) to have the horse gelded when he went to Florida in January.

“That’s made a world of difference,’’ Reid said.

After his return to Parx, Ridin With Biden has been everything the owners and trainer had hoped for and maybe even more than they could have imagined. The gelding’s Beyer speed figures became consistent and then took a giant leap to a 94 when second to the highly-regarded Tax in a stake at Delaware Park.

And then came Saturday in the $100,000 Deputed Testamony at Laurel Park. Jockey Frankie Pennington put Ridin With Biden on the lead in the 9-furlong race and the horse ran away from the field in the stretch to win by 6 1/4 lengths, earning a 100 Beyer.

Now, Reid is considering the $1 million Charles Town Classic on Aug. 26.

`It’s a mile and an eighth and he proved that he can certainly do that,’’ Reid said. “And that’s a lot of money.’’

There is also the Parx Mile and the PTHA Presidents’ Cup in September at his home track. Suddenly, Ridin With Biden is a player with options.

DAZZLING AT THE SPA

Trainer Steve Asmussen, 150 wins from the magic 10,000 mark, unleashed two of his stable stars within an hour Saturday at Saratoga. We got to see the amazing Jackie’s Warrior at Parx last September when he overwhelmed the field in the Gallant Bob. And there is a chance we might see Epicenter this September in the Bet Parx Pennsylvania Derby.

If there were not other horses in the Alfred Vanderbilt, one could have been fooled into thinking Jackie’s Warrior was on the track for a workout. At no time did jockey Joel Rosario ask the 2021 Sprint Champion to run. Still, Jackie “ran’’ 6 furlongs in 1:09.74 and won with total ease, the 4-year-old’s fifth Grade I win and 11th graded stakes win overall.

By winning the Vanderbilt, Jackie’s Warrior became the first horse in Saratoga’s history to win a Grade I in three straight years. Last year, it was that memorable win in the Jerkens over Life Is Good. In 2020, it was the Hopeful.

All Jackie’s resume lacks is a Breeders’ Cup victory. Two years ago, the colt got in a speed duel at a distance that was not his best. Last year, another speed duel and a dead rail at Del Mar.

This year, Jackie’s final race will be in the Sprint at Keeneland before he is retired to Spendthrift Farm. His final BC prep will be in the Forego on Travers Day when his fans at Saratoga will be able to see him off in style.

Epicenter was favored in the Kentucky Derby and ran a race that would have won just about any other year. Epicenter was favored in the Preakness and ran another terrific race. But just did not win.

The Jim Dandy had just four horses in it, but the four included the winners of the Preakness, Blue Grass, Louisiana Derby and Ohio Derby. Epicenter was favored again, ran great again and finally got rewarded.

The pace was moderate and Epicenter was last for much of the race. It did not look good – until Epicenter exploded in the home stretch and ran by Early Voting, Zandon and Tawny Port.

Epicenter has now been first or second in each of his eight route races. The colt still does not have a Grade I win, but that was more because he stayed in Louisiana where there are no Grade I Derby preps. Epicenter is absolutely a Grade I horse.

The Travers is next. Epicenter will be favored again. However the colt does, Asmussen will have a decision to make. Does he train Epicenter up to the BC Classic in November? Or get him a final prep in the Sept. 24 Pa. Derby, the colt’s final chance to run against straight 3-year-olds.

It was great to see Jackie’s Warrior at Parx last year. Would be quite nice to see Epicenter here this year.

LEADER OF THE BAND LEADS STRONG PARX SHOWING ON HASKELL DAY

By Dick Jerardi

The national story was how it was all Chad Brown all the time at Monmouth Park Saturday – until it was time for the $1 million Haskell. As Brown and jockey Flavien Prat were winning all the graded stakes races before the Haskell, Parx horses were giving giant efforts all afternoon long.

And none was more impressive than Will Schwartz’s (SMD Racing) Leader of the Band in the Grade III $400,000 Molly Pitcher. The day before the race, trainer John Servis said the 4-year-old filly had never been better. He expected her to run the best race of her life. And she absolutely did.

There was no beating 3-5 Search Results (winner of a Grade I, Grade II and Grade III and most recently a hard luck third in another Grade I). The race really was for second and 16-1 Leader of the Band won that decisively after a typically smart rail ride from regular jockey Frankie Pennington.

Servis kept the Pennsylvania bred Leader of the Band with his string at Monmouth Park this summer because that is where she would be racing. She won the Grade III Monmouth Oaks a year ago and the Lady’s Secret there last month. She got a career-best 92 Beyer in the Molly Pitcher and, with 14 races, 5 wins, 4 seconds, 3 thirds and earnings of $578,690, appears to be getting better as she gets older.

Informative has raced 34 times for owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis, with just three wins. But wins are not the right metric to judge his horses. It is earnings. After finishing third in The Monmouth Cup (behind two Chad Brown-trained horses), Informative has now earned $357,040. His only win in 2021/2022 came in the Salvator Mile at Monmouth when he was a mere 79-1. Meanwhile, the horse keeps grabbing checks and the earnings multiply.

The amazing Admiral Abe finished third in the Wolf Hill Stakes at 23-1. Claimed for $25,000 on Jan. 6, 2021 by trainer Bobby Mosco for Stefcon Racing (Ed Stefanski and Bill Conlin), The Admiral has won eight races and $449,012 since the claim.

No Parx horses in the Haskell, but we could certainly see a few of the Haskell horses at Parx on Sept. 24 for the Bet Parx Pennsylvania Derby.

Unbeaten and essentially untested Jack Christopher was the odds-on favorite to finish off a perfect day for Brown. The colt was always in great position, but just got tired in the final 100 yards. Cyberknife, racing for Al Gold who grew up in the area and spent countless days at Monmouth, ran, by far, the best race of his career, coming up the rail and holding off the late charge of Taiba who looked lost on the far turn and then came flying down the center of the track to lose by just a head. Jack Christopher had to settle for third.

Cyberknife set the mile and an eighth track record (1:46.24), a record that had stood for 2 1/2 hours after having stood since 1985 when the great Spend A Buck set it. The records were due to the insanely fast main track surface.

Regardless, Cyberknife was really good. So was Taiba. Cyberknife will go on to the Aug. 27 Travers Stakes at Saratoga. Taiba seems likely to run in the Pa. Derby as his trainer Bob Baffert is still banned from running his horses at NYRA tracks, even though his 90-day suspension is up.

The 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner is the sire of the 1-2 Haskell finishers. As good as he was on the track, Gun Runner looks to be as good as a sire as his offspring are winning major races everywhere.

The Travers should be great with the possibility of Cyberknife, Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, Preakness winner Early Voting, Derby and Preakness runner up Epicenter and Derby third Zandon all pointing for the race.  Then, it will be a month until the $1 million Pa. Derby, with its $50,000 owner/trainer participation bonuses for any horse that won the Derby, Preakness, Haskell or Travers. Belmont Stakes winner Mo Donegal is out for the year, but Parx is going to get several of the big names in the last Grade I race of the year for 3-year-olds. 

CHUB WAGON, BEREN INVADE MARYLAND, DOMINATE

Dick Jerardi

Lupe Preciado and Butch Reid have trained some very good horses in their careers. Favorite Tale won more than $1 million for Predicado and finished third in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Vequist was the 2020 2-year-old filly champion, Afleet Again a BC Marathon winner and Poseidon’s Warrior a Grade I winner for Reid.

But the two Parx Hall of Famers now have the most consistent high class performers they have ever had and who knows what the final accomplishments will be for Pennsylvania breds Chub Wagon and Beren? They both shipped to Laurel Park Saturday for stakes and absolutely dominated the competition.

In many other years, Beren would have been the 2021 Parx Horse of the Year. Unfortunately, Chub Wagon was also running last year at the track. Beren was an overwhelming choice as 3-year-old male champion, just as Chub Wagon was for Horse of the Year.

Chub Wagon was 4-5 in the Alma North. The 5-year-old mare broke perfectly under Silvestre Gonzalez and was just outside the speedy Cheetara. Chub Wagon ran away from her at the top of the stretch and the high-class closer Kaylasaurus was never a threat in the stretch as Chub Wagon won by a comfortable 3 lengths, running the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.03.

“She does everything right,’’ Gonzalez said. “She’s got a lot of class and she loves to run. She showed her grit today on a sloppy track. She overcame that and she ran well.’’

Chub Wagon is now 12-for-13, her lone loss being a second when she was beaten by a horse running the race of her life. She now has 8 stakes wins and earnings of $648,600. She is very simply one of the best horses ever based at Parx.

Co-owner/breeder Danny Lopez said via text that Chub Wagon’s next race likely will be at Colonial Downs or Presque Isle Downs. Like the Alma North, the Aug 16 Colonial race is part of the Match Series which concludes Oct. 3 at Parx. The Presque Isle race is Aug. 15.

Beren had a much more difficult assignment in the
$150,000 Frank De Francis Memorial Dash, his post position between graded stakes winners Special Reserve and Wondrwherecraigis. Sent off at 6-1, Beren, ridden by Frankie Pennington, was stuck in between those two for a time as the field took off down the backstretch. It was the kind of trip where a lesser horse might have backed out and not gutted it out. Beren actually seemed to relish the competition and when the field hit the top of the stretch, it was Beren who was rolling to the lead and he finished it off with a 2 3/4 length win, the 6 furlongs in 109.66

“He loves that wet, sealed track,’’ Reid said.

Beren has now raced 18 times with 8 wins, 5 seconds and earnings of $609,420. He has won six stakes. Reid thinks Beren, owned by St Omers Farm and Christopher Feifarek, will run next on the Aug. 22 Pa. Day at the Races card at Parx.

The DeFrancis has a great history with winners like Housebuster, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Cherokee Run. That the race was run at Laurel, just 10 miles north on Route 1 from the University of Maryland campus where Reid went to college, also had special meaning for the trainer. So does Beren.

“He tries every time,’’ Reid said. “He’s such a nice horse. He stood there in the paddock like he was going for a stroll in the park.’’

And Beren ran like he always runs – hard from the start and right through the wire.

PRINCESS GRACE WINS DOC PENNY AGAIN

By Dick Jerardi

Princess Grace has won races at Colonial Downs, Monmouth Park, Churchill Downs, Del Mar and Kentucky Downs. The only track where she has won twice is Parx. The only race she has won twice is the Dr. James Penny Memorial.

The brilliant 5-year-old mare won the 2021 Penny after a nearly 8-month layoff. She won the 2022 version on July 12 in just her second race of the year. Princess Grace has won for five different jockeys, but Florent Geroux, who came up from Kenutcky for the race, is the only one to win on her more than once. In fact, he is now 3-for-3 with Princess Grace.

The Grade III Penny, run at 1 1/16 miles on the grass, was essentially over in the first 100 yards as Princess Grace cruised to an uncontested lead.  When fractions of 24.51 and 49.08 were posted, it was just a question of the winning margin. It was 3 lengths at the wire for 8-5 Princess Grace, with 3-2 favorite Flirting Bridge’s late run good for a clear second, but never a threat to the winner. Main Line Stable’s Love in the Air, owned by Main Line Stable and trained by John Servis, chased Princess Grace the whole trip and held on nicely for third.

Did the jockey think he was going to get such an easy lead?

“See how she breaks and go from there,’’ Geroux said. “I tried to get out as fast as I could. If somebody else wanted the lead, I was fine letting them go. I thought I had the best horse in the race, good tactical speed and I took it from there.’’

Princess Grace was just one-half length from winning her first seven starts. Then, she went west and ran two solid thirds against serious grass horses last November. The plan had been for her to run in January’s Pegasus Filly & Mare Turf, but a jaw abscess derailed that plan. So trainer Michael Stidham finally got her back to the races in the June 18 Eatontown at Monmouth Park. That turned out to be a nightmare trip for her after a nightmare trip for Geroux who never made it to the track for the ride.

“He was scheduled to ride four or five horses at Monmouth, most of the stakes and a couple of the supporting races,’’ Geroux’s agent Doug Bredar said.

Geroux was supposed to fly from Louisville to Newark the morning of the races. That flight got delayed for hours and Bredar is not sure if it ever took off. So Geroux drove to Cincinnati to get a flight to Philadelphia. That flight got canceled. He drove back to Louisville and caught a flight to Philadelphia. It actually got to Philly, but it took 45 minutes for the gate crew to open the door. He had an Uber waiting to take him to Monmouth, but, by then, it was too late so he had the Uber take him to Newark Airport where he caught a flight home.

“He tried everything known to mankind,’’ Bredar said.

Mike Smith ended up riding Princess Grace at Monmouth and whatever could go wrong did go wrong. She was wide, stuck behind a very slow pace, never got comfortable and finished last of 7.

Well, Princess Grace got very comfortable at Parx and ran to her normal top class form. Interestingly, Princess Grace’s dam Masquerade broke her maiden at Parx on June 9, 2012. She was trained at that point of her career by Steve Klesaris and was ridden by Parx Hall of Famer Stewart Elliott. She ran nine times at Parx before heading out of town.

Princess Grace earned $112,800 of the $200,000 Penny purse for owners John and Susan Moore. That made her racing’s newest millionaire with earnings of $1,086,160. In 11 lifetime starts, she has 7 wins, a second, two thirds and five graded stakes wins.

MICHAEL MOORE HALFWAY HOME TO A CAREER YEAR

By Dick Jerardi

Over two June days at Monmouth Park, 62 miles from his Parx base and 48 hours apart, trainer Michael Moore sent out a 3-year-old that very much looks like a coming star and a 10-year-old that is a throwback to another era of horse racing.

That’s Right was a colt which had become a bit frustrating in six dirt starts, running well, but never well enough to find the winner’s circle. Tried on grass for the first time the day before the Preakness at Pimlico, the colt won by 5 lengths at 14-1, strongly suggesting he had found his niche as a grass sprinter. That’s Right proved the Pimlico win was no fluke when he crushed grass sprinters again on June 17 at Monmouth, winning by 5 1/4 lengths.

Two days later, Moore sent the venerable Brother Chub out for his first start of 2022, nine months after his last start. It was race No. 63 for the New Jersey bred. And he got to the wire first, making it win No. 18 in an incredible career.

“(That’s Right) always showed talent, he was always very quick,’’ Moore said. “He just wouldn’t finish the race well.’’

A small knee chip was discovered so that was removed and the horse got some time off while transitioning from 2 to 3. When That’s Right returned, he kept getting run down late again. So owner Jim Shannon and Moore tried him on grass. He was entered for $25,000 at Laurel Park, but providentially did not get in the race.

“Thank God, he got excluded,’’ Moore said. “If he happened to get claimed which wouldn’t have been out of the question, it would be tough watching him right now.’’

The race at Pimlico was a special weight, the Monmouth race a first-level allowance. That’s Right won’t be in any claiming races for the foreseeable future.

The colt got blinkers and a new rider in Andy Hernandez prior to the Pimlico race. While Moore does not discount those changes, he is pretty well convinced it’s the grass that has made That’s Right so dominant.

“On the turf, he looks like a totally different horse, full of run,’’ Moore said. “The action looks totally different. He looks like he’s loving running on it.’’

They are pointing That’s Right to the $100,000 My Frenchman Stakes at Monmouth, 5 1/2 furlongs on the grass for 3-year-olds on July 17.

Brother Chub had already run 23 times when Moore put in a claim slip for $12,500 on March 7, 2017 at Parx. Since the claim, the horse has 39 starts, 14 wins, 12 seconds and earnings of $551,365.

Brother Chub won the Claiming Crown Express in 2019 and the Reilly for Jersey breds in 2018. Mostly, the son of Hey Chub has earned his money the hard way by winning conditioned allowances and optional claimers.

Brother Chub broke on top in his comeback race, tracked in second, took over at the top of the stretch, opened up a nice lead and held firm. Announcer Chris Griffin summed the horse up perfectly when, in the final yards he said: “Brother Chub needs the wire, he knows where it is.’’

Brother Chub really does seem to know where the wire is. His last four 2019 wins came by a head, a head, a head and a nose.    

Through June, Moore has 22 wins, 21 seconds 14 thirds and earnings of $754,760 from 96 starters. He won 24 races last year. His  best years were 2019 (35 wins) and 2018 (34 wins). Moore historically has won about 15 percent of the time. This year, he is at 23 percent. So he is on pace to have the best year of his career.

“This year has been great so far,’’ Moore said. “Some things just go your way and the horses fit well…I’ve been on my own for nine years so I think you’re always learning.’’

Moore has 16 horses in the barn, including a tough old horse, a young potential star and a bunch of horses that are finding the wire. And 2022 is only halfway home.

CHUB WAGON BACK TO THE RACES AND BACK IN THE WINNER’S CIRCLE

By Dick Jerardi

Chub Wagon ended her incredible 2021 season on the last Saturday of September during the Pennsylvania Derby Day undercard. She began her 2022 season on the last Monday of June. The 2021 Parx Horse of the Year ended both races where she has been after every race but one during her 12-race career – in the winner’s circle.

The now 5-year-old Pennsylvania bred mare had to work for it in the off-the-grass (after a downpour) 5-furlong $100,000 Power By Far Stakes for Pennsylvania bred fillies and mares. Hey Mamaluke, who won the 2021 Power By Far, was alone on the lead until the far turn. That’s when Silvestre Gonzalez, riding Chub Wagon for the first time, let his mount start to close in.

Hey Mamaluke, ridden by Andy Hernandez, was still in front with 100 yards to go, but anybody who has ever watched Chub Wagon run knew what was going to happen. The mare eased by in the final yards and won by three-quarters of a length. It was 8 lengths back to Castilleja, trained by Hall of Famer King Leatherbury in Maryland.

“She was comfortable the whole time,’’ Gonzalez said. “If I had asked her a little bit earlier or it was a little bit more distance, she would have given me even a little bit more. She’s that type of filly that she’s going to give it her all.’’

Chub Wagon is now 11-for-12 with one second in a career that began Nov. 16, 2020. It was her seventh win at Parx and seventh stakes win, four at Parx, two at Pimlico and one at Delaware Park.

Trained by Parx Hall of Famer Lupe Preciado for owners Danny Lopez and George Chestnut, Chub Wagon has now earned $593,600. She is a bit more than 1 length from being unbeaten (her lone loss came last August at Parx). She came into the Power By Far with a series of very fast workouts, but the hard race should set her up nicely for the rest of the season.

“It’s been (nine) months, she had the vacation that she needed, got back into training, but every three, four days, it would rain, she couldn’t be trained,’’ said Lopez in explaining why it took until late June to get her back to the races.

Lopez said Chub Wagon may race next in a few weeks at Laurel Park. And then they might look at some of the bigger out-of-town races.

“As long as she shows that she still belongs against the company she’s been facing, because she’s going to have to step it up some in the future,’’ Lopez said.

Chub Wagon has not yet run in a graded stakes race. She has been managed carefully but smartly. And she always delivers.

The $100,000 Crowd Pleaser, also off the grass and for 3-year-old Pa. Breds going a mile and a sixteenth, was a tour de force for Greg and Caroline Bentley’s Runnymoore Racing and trainer Cal Lynch. They won the April 25 Unique Bella together with Cinabunny. They went one better in the Crowd Pleaser going 1-2 with Undercover Kitty and Loose Ends.

Undercover Kitty was sent immediately to the front by jockey Charlie Marquez. She was just in front much of the race and then re-broke in the stretch to win by 6 lengths with her stablemate a clear second and Epic Luck along for third.

“(Undercover Kitty) had run in an allowance race at Pimlico last time and he was the only 3-year-old in that race,’’ Lynch said. “We were shooting a little bit (high) that day, but this (race) was in mind and we’re happy it all worked out right.’’

Lynch, who was based at Parx for years until moving his stable to Laurel, now works out of the Bentley’s barn at Fair Hill (Md.). They have some very good horses together and are buying more. Lynch has started 35 horses at Parx this year, with 10 wins and 9 seconds.

“Mr. Bentley has a lot of very nice stock coming along and we’re very optimistic we’ll be back,’’ Lynch said.

2022 MATCH SERIES AT PARX

By Dick Jerardi

The 2002 Match Series paid a visit to Parx Tuesday June 14 with races in two divisions and is scheduled to return for the series grand finale on Oct. 3 with races in all four divisions, including the Sal Debunda PTHA President’s Cup.

The Match Series, first run in 1997, began this year at Laurel Park on April 23, continued at Penn National on June 17, and is back at Laurel July 16 and Colonial Downs Aug. 16 before concluding at Parx. This year, the series of races has $2.2 million in purses and $400,000 in bonus money for owners and trainers. The four divisions are: long on turf for males and females and sprints for males and females.

The races on June 14 came in the two grass divisions and featured terrific stretch duels between accomplished horses and two top jockeys who came down from New York for the day.

The $100,000 Neshaminy (females 1 1/16 miles turf) had an odds on favorite in High Opinion, trained in New York by former Parx favorite Tony Dutrow. John Servis saddled the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid for Dutrow. Flavien Prat, who won the 2021 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Hot Rod Charlie, rode the 5-year-old mare who had been second or third in three graded stakes in New York over the previous 11 months.

Prat had High Opinion in fifth early, just a few lengths off the leaders. The mare began to make her move on the turn, but what looked easy on paper turned out not to be so easy in reality. It took some serious urging for High Opinion to get by the horses in front and, as soon as she finally did, 34-1 Tic Tic Tic Boom, trained at Parx by Alan Bedard and ridden by Trevor McCarthy, was coming with a huge move outside the favorite.

High Opinion, however, held on nicely to win by 3/4 of a length, with Tic Tic Tic Boom second and 15-1 Wicked Groove third.

“It’s fun when you ride good horses that are ready to win,’’ Prat said. “Obviously, she was ready to run a really good race.’’

The Neshaminy came 72 hours after Prat rode Flightline, the fastest horse in America, to a dominating win in the Met Mile on Belmont Stakes Day

 How good is this horse?

“He’s a really special horse, a lot of talent and is getting better; really grateful to ride him, try to enjoy every single minute on him,’’ Prat said.

Where does Flightline rank among the horses he’s ridden?

“Probably the best,’’ Prat said. “Wherever he goes, I’ll try to go.’’

And, of course, there are great memories from Hot Rod Charlie’s Grade I win at Parx.

“It was a great run from that horse,’’ Prat said.

It was Prat and McCarthy together again in the stretch in the $100,000 Bensalem (1 1/16 turf males); Prat on 3-10 favorite Beacon Hill for trainer Michael Matz, McCarthy on 9-1 Eons for trainer Arnaud Delacour.

Beacon Hill had been incredibly consistent for a year, always in the top 4, never beaten by more than 3 lengths in seven races against some serious competition, winning twice, with two seconds and a third. Eons had not won in two starts this year, but had some back paper, including a win last July in a $150,000 stakes at Colonial and a win in the 2019 Kent Stakes at Delaware Park when ridden by McCarthy.

Eons got first run on the far turn, but Beacon Hill really looked like he was going by in deep stretch – until Eons just dug in and refused to let the favorite go by, McCarthy’s horse beating Prat’s by a nose.

“I said `’let me kind of get the jump and get him rolling,’’’

McCarthy said. “He never likes to win far. He likes to win by a head, he likes to win by a neck. He’s very game.’’

McCarthy knew it was Prat and Beacon Hill that were coming.

“On paper, I said I really like my horse, it’s a two-horse race, me and Flavien,’’ McCarthy said. “We got the pace we wanted. It set up beautifully for us and he was kind of stuck inside so I tried to take advantage by making a middle move and it worked.’’

 King Cause, ridden by Parx Hall of Famer Kendrick Carmouche,

finished third.

When the Match Series returns to Parx Oct. 3, in addition to the President’s Cup (grass females), the other races will be the Bucks County Stakes (grass males), and Roamin Rachel Stakes (female sprinters), and Liberty Bell Stakes (male sprinters). Championships will be on the line and, if those four races are anywhere as good as the first two, it should be a fascinating day at the races.

SERIOUS STAR POWER ON BELMONT STAKES DAY

By Dick Jerardi

The fastest (and most valuable) horse in the country evoked memories of the sport’s all-time greats on Belmont Stakes Day. The best 3-year-old in America ran 4 1/2 hours before the Belmont Stakes. The 2021 Cotillion winner at Parx ran the best race of her career. Finally, on what will be the best racing card of 2022 outside of Breeders’ Cup Saturday, order was restored to a bizarre Triple Crown season when Mr. Belmont Stakes himself Todd Pletcher finished 1-2 in the mile and a half classic.

It is very rare for a star performer in any sport to exceed the hype, Tiger Woods did it. LeBron James did it. Flightline is doing it.

The son of super sire Tapit was purchased for $1 million at the 2019 Saratoga yearling sale by Terry Finley’s West Point Thoroughbreds. Several partners joined in. The colt was eventually sent to trainer John Sadler in Southern California.

Word was out on Flightline before he made his debut in April 2021. He won big, but then he didn’t race for more than 4 months when he won big again.Then, it was almost 4 months before the next race. He won big again – three races all won by double-digit lengths, Beyer figures of 105, 114, 118, really unprecedented.

Then, the colt was away from the races for 5 1/2 months before he appeared in the starting gate for the Met Mile, his first race out of California, his first race against a field with three Grade I winners.

So what happens? Flightline misses the break, has to steady twice when trying to come up the rail, works his way outside top class Speaker’s Corner (five consecutive triple digit Beyer figures) on the turn, proceeds to leave that horse in just a few strides and runs away from Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Happy Saver in the stretch while Speaker’s Corner fades badly and Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Aloha West is never a factor.

Flightline ran the mile in 1:33.59, won by 6 lengths, got a 112 Beyer and, if you kept watching past the finish line, you saw a horse that was looking for more. If his minor issues that kept him from the races are behind him and this colt has a regular schedule from now to the Breeders’ Cup, there is simply no telling what we might see.

Jack Christopher is, by far, the fastest 3-year-old in America and proved it when dominating the Woody Stephens, running the 7 furlongs in 1:21.18, winning by 10 lengths and getting a 107 Beyer. Unbeaten and untested in four starts, Jack Christopher goes next in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Many races to run, but today I would rank Jack Christopher as the most likely 3-year-old champion when all those races are run.

There was eight Grade I stakes at Belmont Park. Trainer Chad Brown won three of them, two on grass and the Woody Stephens. He has Preakness winner Early Voting, Blue Grass Stakes winner Zandon and Jack Christopher so for the first time ever, he is loaded in horse racing’s glamor division. Expect to see at least one of that group in the Sept. 24 Pennsylvania Derby.

Last year’s Cotillion winner Clairiere, who may be the best-bred horse in America, was relentless in the Ogden Phipps, out finishing the 2021 3-year-old champion Malathaat in a wonderful stretch duel that was certainly set up by a wild speed duel between Letruska and Search Results, the Ortiz brothers running each other out of any chance of winning.

Clairiere is a daughter of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin out of $2 million earner Cavorting (winner of the 2016 Phipps). She never ran a poor race last year, but kept coming up short until her breakthrough win in the Cotillion. She will be a major player in the older female division the rest of the year after getting a career best 106 Beyer in the Phipps.

Reflecting the strange 2022 Triple Crown, this was the first time since 1954 that the Kentucky Derby winner did not run in the Preakness and the Preakness winner did not run in the Belmont Stakes. But the Derby winner did run in the Belmont (well Rich Strike was in the race, but he didn’t do much running, sort of like all those other races except the Derby).

Most importantly, Pletcher had two horses in the Belmont, the very consistent colt Mo Donegal and the very consistent filly Nest. In the last 15 years, Pletcher has perfected the Belmont winning formula: run in the Derby or Kentucky Oaks, take the horses back to his Belmont Park home base, and await the Belmont Stakes. In those 15 years, Pletcher now has four wins and six seconds from 29 starters after Mo Donegal (98 Beyer) and Nest ran 1-2, with Rich Strike a no-factor sixth, nearly 14 lengths behind Mo Donegal, a horse he had beaten by almost 4 lengths in the Derby. The Ortiz brothers ran 1-2 in the Belmont, with Irad winning on Mo Donegal, and Jose second on Nest.

Turned out the much-maligned Wood Memorial was the key Triple Crown prep this year, with the winner (Mo Donegal) and runner-up (Early Voting) winning the Belmont and Preakness. Didn’t see that coming off recent history and still have no clue where Rich Strike came from, but maybe a TC without Bob Baffert was always going to be strange.  Well, Baffert is due back off his suspension in 3 weeks and we have a great summer and fall racing season to look forward to with Flightline, Jack Christopher, Clairiere, Jackie’s Warrior, Life is Good and Golden Pal among so many stars on the track. Can’t wait.

STEVE KREBS’ CONTINUING HORSE EDUCATION

By Dick Jerardi

Steve Krebs figures he was out of high school for like a week when he went to work for Parx Hall of Famer Bob Camac during the period the trainer had several serious stakes horses in his barn, including Class of 2013 Parx Hall of Famers Fire Plug and Cagey Exuberance (combined 46 wins in 95 starts and $1,342,942).

That was 3 1/2 decades ago. Krebs has been at the track ever since, working out of Barn 3 at Parx where he trains nine horses at the moment. He was actually around horses even before he came to the track full time.

“When I was like 5-years-old, my dad was given a free thoroughbred stallion,’’ Krebs said. “I got a picture of him somewhere. The poor horse was tied to a tree in somebody’s backyard, skin and bones. My dad took him and nursed him back to health. I guess he liked it so much he ended up buying this whole chicken farm down in Williamstown (New Jersey), 25 acres and made a farm out of it. The next thing you know, we had 10 broodmares and went from there. My childhood was pretty much spent  on the weekends at the race track and in the summertime at the track track.’’

Krebs’ first starter as a 22-year-old trainer was on June 18, 1990 at Atlantic City Race Course. The horse, Immitation, was beaten by 35 lengths. Eighteen days later, Imitation came back, won and paid $85.

Krebs did not have that many horses to train through the 1990s, but he eventually became an assistant to trainer Scott Lake when Lake was winning hundreds of races each year.

“It was a really hard decision (to leave Lake when he was approached about taking on some new owners as their trainer),’’ Krebs said. “We were on an unbelievable roll, making money. I had a few of my own horses.’’

His two best horses after he went out on his own full time were for owner Danny Limongelli who passed away on Jan. 18, 2021. They claimed Parx Hall of Famer Banjo Picker for $15,000 on Aug. 21, 2004. All the Pennsylvania bred did for them was start 40 times, with 15 wins, 5 seconds, 6 thirds, earnings of $619,026 and a win at 47-1 in the Grade III Gravesend Handicap on Dec. 18, 2005 at Aqueduct. Banjo Picker was ridden in all 40 of those starts by Tara Hemmings; the trainer and rider have been together for 20 years now.

“She did a great job with him,’’ Krebs said.

Krebs is known for his exuberance when cheering his horses home. The Gravesend, he said, may have been his best “root’’ of all.

“I watched the race down in the horsemen’s lounge at Aqueduct and I’m screaming and screaming and screaming,’’ Krebs said. “I thought he won. I ran out the door. I got halfway down the hallway, turned around and came back to watch the replay. And Billy Turner of Seattle Slew fame is sitting there watching and I’m going `did he win, did he win?’ And he was just laughing at me.’’

Banjo Picker won by a neck.

Krebs’ second best horse was Lothar, also owned by Limongelli. In the fall and winter of 2002, Lothar won six consecutive races.

Krebs won 65 races in 2006, 39 in 2015. But it has not all been smooth sailing. There were some years when wins were hard to find.

“It’s tough,’’ Krebs said. “I just had to pick myself off the canvas. Right now, I have some really good owners. They let me do what I have to. They put some money up to get some horses. I’m enjoying it again.’’

Tara is right there exercising Steve’s horses. Now, all they need to do is find another Banjo Picker.

JOSUE ARCE WON AS A JOCKEY, WINNING AS  A TRAINER

By Dick Jerardi

It was the summer of 2006. Two years into his riding career, Josue Arce hatched an ingenious plan that would end up with him on a Grade I winner.

Arce had ridden Malibu Mint when she broke her maiden for trainer James Chapman at Calder. She was 12-1 that day and won by 5 1/4 lengths. Chapman had brought Malibu Mint to Kentucky the next year, but she didn’t run well in two Keeneland stakes and then stumbled out of the gate, losing her jockey at the start of the Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on the day Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby,

So, Arce got the ride on May 27, 2006 when Malibu Mint was second by a neck at 50-1 in the Winning Colors Stakes at Churchill Downs. The trainer headed back to Florida, but Malibu Mint stayed behind and Arce was getting on her every day.

He wanted to know when she was going to run next. Kept asking and nobody would tell him. Finally, the

horse’s groom said: “Arce, I think he’s going to take her to Florida for a Grade I race.’’The groom did not know when the race was going to be run so he told Arce to look it up in the condition book. He found out the Grade I Princess Rooney was going to be run at Calder on July 15.

So he called Chapman and said if you need me (in Kentucky) from July 12 to July 16, “I won’t be here. I will be in Florida.’’

“Why?’’ Chapman asked.

“I’m going down to Miami to see my family,’’ Arce said. “Hopefully, I get one or two mounts and they see me ride again.’’

 And Chapman told him: “you might be in the right place at the right time.’’

 “Really, why?’’ Arce asked innocently.

 “I’m going to run in the Princess Rooney and if you are going to be there, you might as well ride her,’’ Chapman said.

 “You kidding me?’’ Arce replied.

The plan had worked perfectly.

Now, he just had to get from Louisville to Miami. He flew the day of the race. He wasn’t going to see his family at all. He missed his first flight and got there late.

How late?

“It was close,’’ Arce said. “I know the clerk of scales. I had him on the phone. He shouldn’t have allowed me to ride the horse. I was there so late. I was `man, I’m going to get caught in a lie because I told him I was going to be there.’ It was meant to be.’’

Indeed it was. Malibu Mint was 23-1 in the Princess Rooney. Dubai Escapade, ridden by Edgar Prado, was 1-5.

“We passed the three-eighths (pole) and I just started making my move and I remember Prado asking and I’m full of horse and I’m `oh my God, I’m going to win.’’’

In fact, Malibu Mint crushed the field, winning by 3 3/4 lengths. Dubai Escapade was off the board.

It was a $500,000 race. The winner’s share was $294,000 so Arce got $29,400.

“I blew it,’’ he said.

But he had a story for the ages. Arce rode Malibu Mint a few weeks later when she was second in the Honorable Miss Stakes at Saratoga. Malibu Mint finished her career with seven wins and five seconds from 25 starts, with earnings of $723,829. In six starts with Arce, Malibu Mint had two wins, three seconds, a third and $366,169 in earnings. Arce never rode her again after that Saratoga race, but, in a riding career that went from 2004 to 2018 and included 393 wins, that Princess Rooney, the win and how he made it happen, will be a forever memory.

Arce told that story last Wednesday at his Parx barn where he is now a trainer, the weight he always battled, was finally too much to overcome so he made the transition to training last year.

He groomed and walked horses in Puerto Rico before moving to Miami where he became a jockey after finding a way to reduce from 130 pounds. Eventually, he worked his way to Parx where he had some success as a jockey and exercise rider over a career that included $8.8 million in earnings and a career-best 77 wins in 2008.

Arce and trainer Scott Lake had and have a very close relationship.

“Scott taught me a lot about the condition book, how to enter,’’ Arce said. “He’s just a brilliant guy, such a smart person. He knows how to take care of the horse, how to keep him sound, how to keep him happy.’’

Arce has 13 horses in his barn for three owners. That he gets on all his horses in the morning is a nice edge that so far he has parlayed into 7 wins, 13 seconds and 15 thirds from 96 starters.

He does not miss riding races. Trying to constantly lose weight just became too much. Now, he is all the way up to 140 pounds, much more reasonable for someone around 5-7 or 5-8.

Training horses requires attention to detail considering all possibilities and being ready for any opportunity. When he was presented with the opportunity of a lifetime back in 2006, Josue Arce found a quite creative way to take advantage. That kind of quick thinking will serve him quite well as a trainer.