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.


28 HOURS IN SARATOGA SPRINGS

By Dick Jerardi

It was some 28 hours from mid-morning Friday at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion to mid-afternoon Saturday across Union Ave. at the old Saratoga Race Course.

First, it was the double Hall of Fame class being inducted Friday and then Steve Asmussen breaking Dale Baird’s North American wins record for trainers on Saturday.

It was two stellar Hall of Fame classes, led by trainers Todd Pletcher and Mark Casse, 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan. Nothing against any of the inductees, all of whom were deserving, but Asmussen’s 9,446th win was a singular achievement. And now that he holds the record, there is every chance he will hold it forever, just as Russell Baze (12,842 wins) is likely to hold the jockeys’ record.

Consider that Asmussen, who typically wins 400 races per year (with a record best of 650 in 2009), is just 55-years-old. If he wins 400 each of the next 10 years, that puts him beyond 13,000. Jerry Hollendofer is currently third with 7,695 wins. He isn’t catching Asmussen. The late Jack Van Berg had 6,523 wins. King T. Leatherbury has 6,507, but has just a few horses. Parx Hall of Famer Scott Lake has 6,195 wins. He should be fourth someday and possibly third, an incredible achievement. But he isn’t catching Asmussen. Nobody is.

“For it to unfold and happen on Whitney Day at Saratoga with a 2-year-old that came through mom and dad’s program in Laredo (Texas) owned by the Winchells…’’ Asmussen said on the FS2 show from Saratoga.

The record win came with first-timer Stellar Tap, a son of Tapit. It was Saratoga’s fifth race and it wasn’t close.

“We’re so blessed to be in horse racing,’’ Asmussen said. “The amazing horses that we’ve had and everything that we’ve learned from every single one of them, they’ve made the Asmussen family possible…It’s amazing what a horse can do to make you feel good about yourself.’’

Asmussen is going to keep improving the record because he has strings in Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and New York. Saturday, he had a horse in a $5,000 claimer at Louisiana Downs and the Grade I Whitney at Saratoga. And that is what makes his stable unique. He wins at the lowest levels of the sport and the highest.

He has trained two-time Horse of the Year Curlin as well Horses of the Year Rachel Alexandra and Gun Runner. He trained the great fillies Untapable and Midnight Bisou and Sprint champion Mitole. He has won 275 graded stakes and just about every big race there is to win _ except one. He is 0-for-23 in the Kentucky Derby. But he vowed he will be going after the Derby as hard as he ever has and one year, he will have the right horse.

Asmussen was 1-for-15 in his first year as a trainer in 1986. Nearly 46,000 starts later, he has won more races than anybody in North American history. He did not get discouraged in that first year. He is not going to get discouraged. He is just going to keep winning and winning and winning.

It took Pletcher what had to seem like forever to win the Derby. Casse has not won it yet, but he won’t stop trying either. That is what separates the best from the rest. And, of course, getting owners to supply you with fast horses.

“I can’t tell you how humbled I am to join this esteemed group,’’ Pletcher said in a typically understated speech. “So many of these guys were my childhood heroes, role models, mentors.’’

Pletcher has won 60 meet titles between NYRA tracks and Gulfstream Park. He has won seven Eclipse Awards as the nation’s leading trainer. He has won 705 graded stakes, including 166 Grade I. His horses have won a record $410 million.

When he went out on his own after being Wayne Lukas’s top assistant for years the question he kept getting was: what is the one thing you learned from Wayne Lukas?

“The answer is there is not one thing, it’s everything,’’ Pletcher said. “Everything matters. Everyone matters. Every horse matters. Every horse owner matters.’’

Casse was so emotional in his speech that when he talked about his parents, he had to get his wife Tina to read it. When she relayed that, after Casse’s parents divorced, it was his mother who agreed to let him stay with his father to be around horses, the trainer’s emotion was understandable. After all, his mother gave up living with her son to let him live out his dream which ended with a spot in the Hall of Fame.

“Who would have thought 50 years ago as I slept right over there  in the Fasig-Tipton parking lot with my dad, had breakfast every day at the Saratoga Snack Shack that I would be standing here today?’’ Casse said. “Horse racing has always been my life. When I was little, I was reading the Racing Form instead of the comic strips. The worst day of the week was Sunday because there wasn’t a Form.’’

This past Sunday at Saratoga was a day of reflection to consider Asmussen’s record and the best of the best who earned induction into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

LEADER OF THE BAND WINS MONMOUTH OAKS

By Dick Jerardi

When Will Schwartz (SMD Limited) claimed Catsuit for $32,000 on May 25, 2004, at Parx, he was not really claiming her to race. He was hoping she would make a good broodmare. She has better than good, culminating on the last Saturday afternoon of July at Monmouth Park.

That claim came full circle when Catsuit’s 3-year-old daughter Leader of the Band, owned and bred in Pennsylvania by Schwartz, stormed past favored front runner Edie Meeny Miny Mo to win the $250,000 Grade III Monmouth Oaks at 10-1.

The filly was ridden by Parx Hall of Famer Frankie Pennington. It was his seventh graded stake winner and 2,694th win of his career. Back in 2004, Catsuit was ridden in the final three races of her career by a 5-pound apprentice with fewer than 100 wins. That would also be Frankie Pennington.

Frankie did not remember riding Catsuit. Nor did Will remember him riding her in her only start for him before he retired her. Neither will forget the 2021 Monmouth Oaks.

“She was stretching out nice, really picked it up,’’ Pennington said. “She really seems to love the two turns.’’

The Oaks was Parx Hall of Fame trainer John Servis’s 33rd graded stakes win and 1,886th of his marvelous career. His horses have earned nearly $64 million.

“Since that Delaware race (third in the Grade III Delaware Oaks), she’s been training lights out,’’ Servis said.

Servis-trained fillies actually ran first and third in the Oaks as Midnight Obsession (Main Line Racing Stable) put pressure on the leader before tiring late to settle for third.

Servis has trained several offspring of Catsuit, including a horse named Ill Conceived that won $160,332. The horse’s name came about because Catsuit was actually bred to the wrong stallion after two halters were mixed up at a farm. Schwartz was notified of the mistake by the Jockey Club after a DNA test. That turned out okay too.

In fact, Servis thought the horse had won the 2012 Battaglia Memorial (a Kentucky Derby prep race) at Turfway Park until they posted the photo that said he was second.

 “I was walking down to the winner’s circle,’’ Servis said, “Graham Motion won the race. I couldn’t believe they put his horse up.’’

No photo was needed Saturday. Leader of the Band won by a decisive two lengths. The $150,000 first prize from the Oaks pushed her earnings to $264,540. Next up, the filly will be able to run right out of her Parx stall in the Aug. 24 Cathryn Sophia, named for the Servis trained Kentucky Oaks winner.

“John Servis is a great trainer,’’ Pennington told the Monmouth Park publicity department. “He does such a great job. He told me before the race how good she was doing…Anytime he says that I feel very confident when I ride for him.’’

Catsuit’s foals have now won more than $800,000. Not bad for a $32,000 claim.

“At that time, I was just starting to get into a little pedigree analysis,’’ Schwartz said. “It looked to me like they were protecting her. For a while, I kept my eyes on her. When they dropped her in for 32 which back then was a pretty serious number…’’

It was a serious number. Catsuit has foaled horses that have produced even more serious numbers. And Leader of the Band has already produced the most serious numbers of all the mare’s offspring.

PARX HORSES, TRAINERS, AND JOCKEYS ON ALL-TIME LISTS

By Dick Jerardi

As I was cruising around the Equibase website doing some research on trainer Steve Asmussen as he pursues the all-time wins record (after Saturday’s races, he trailed Dale Baird by 11 wins, 9,445 to 9,434), my eyes kept darting to the all-time wins list for horses, trainers, and jockeys because I kept seeing horses and people with Parx connections.

Win Man, a Parx Hall of Famer, is second all-time with 48 wins (the records only go back to the 1970s so some horses with more wins are not on the list). Racing from 1987-1995, Win Man, trained by Ernest Cranfield, started 178 times with those 48 wins, 18 seconds, and 23 thirds. Almost all of his races were either at Parx or Penn National.

Jilsie’s Gigalo, with 45 wins, is tied for fourth-most with Guy. Jilsie’s Gigalo raced all over in his 136-race career but made his final eight starts at what was then called Philadelphia Park in 1996. The guy was a Maryland fixture who was golden when he made the lead, hopeless when he didn’t. He raced 161 times from 1976 to 1986. His lone stop at old Keystone was on March 3, 1984.

Cheating Arthur, a Parx HOF trained by a Parx HOF (Dennis Heimer), is tied for 69th on the list with 34 wins after a great career, mostly at Keystone. Dave’s Friend, like Guy, was a Maryland horse until later in his career, but he did race at Keystone. Dave is tied for 53rd on the list with 35 wins. Arthur and Dave were each multiple stakes winners.

Scott Lake, a first-year Parx HOF, is sixth all-time in wins (6,190) for trainers. He has been a Parx regular for years. He is no longer trying to win 500 races in a year. He downsized his stable because the pace was impossible to keep. But he remains one of the sharpest minds in the sport.

Jamie Ness, the 2020 and certain 2021 leading Parx trainer, is 26th with 3,359 wins. At his current pace, he will hit the top 10 (now 4.745 wins) in a decade or less.

Dave Vance (3,186, 30th) was a Keystone regular back in the day. Ron Dandy (2,829, 39th) and Ned Allard (2,730, 46th) won the majority of their races in New England, but spent considerable time at Parx.

Just 37 jockeys are in the exclusive 5,000 wins club. Tony Black is the all-time leader at Parx. Stewart Elliott rode the great Smarty Jones. Each was a first-year Parx HOF. So was the brilliant Rick Wilson who would have joined them in the 5,000-club had his career not been prematurely ended by injury.

Black (5,211 wins) is just ahead of Elliott (5,204) now. Tony is sort of retired, but who knows. Stewart, still going strong, just won the Lone Star Parx meet with 71 wins. They are 31st and 32nd all-time. Rick is 39th with 4,939 wins.

The wonderful Jose Flores, who tragically died in a racing accident, is 44th with 4,650 wins. The great tactician Jeff Lloyd (4,276) is 59th. Each is a Parx HOF. Robert Colton (3,988 wins), who won big at Penn National and Parx, is 81st on the all-time list

Joe Bravo, who really got his career started at Philadelphia Park in 1988 is 24th with 5,498 wins. But he is Jersey Joe for a reason. Jose Ferrer (4,585, 45th) is another rider who spent considerable time at Parx, but, like Bravo, is probably more identified with Jersey racing.

The bottom line, this is an amazing list of accomplishments for some of the best in the sport who just happened to do most of their winning at Parx.

HEY CHUB AND DELVAL UNIVERSITY

By Dick Jerardi

Danny Lopez was just about to retire Hey Chub as a stallion. The New Jersey breeding incentives were gone. Not many people wanted to bring mares to a Jersey stallion anyway. He was frustrated. Then, a friend of his girlfriend said it would be great for the Delaware Valley University Equine program students to work with a thoroughbred stallion.

And that is how Hey Chub, Jersey bred winner of $441,755, ended up in the 24-stall Sydney J. Markovitz Equine Breeding Center at DelVal Univ. in Doylestown, surrounded by 550 acres of the picturesque campus, paddocks and rolling fields right outside his stall.

“Most of our time is caring for Chub and friends,’’ said DelVal’s Breeding Center manager Jenna Reigle. “He’s great to work around on a day-to-day basis. The students groom him, feed him, turn him out, bathe him.’’

Providentially, just 22 miles from the university, Hey Chub’s daughter, Chub Wagon, is stabled at Parx Racing. The Pennsylvania-bred 4-year-old filly has raced eight times and won them all. Owned by Lopez and his friend George Chestnut, Chub Wagon is trained by Parx Hall of Famer Lupe Preciado.

As advertisements for a stallion, they don’t come much better than Chub Wagon. Lopez said he is getting more than a few calls about the 2022 breeding season. Hey, Chub raced from 2003 to 2008 and, despite not getting many opportunities, has five stakes winners and offspring with earnings of nearly $5 million.

Chubilicious won the DeFrancis Dash at Laurel Park and has earned $753,628. Brother Chub has won $548,986. Now, there is Chub Wagon and her $342,800, with the promise of more to come. Chub Wagon has two younger full sisters that hopefully will be getting to the races in a few years.

Hey, Chub first came to DelVal for the 2020 breeding season so 2021 was his second year at the university. The students had worked with standardbred stallions, but those breedings are done through artificial insemination. Hey Chub was their first experience with live cover.

“It was definitely a learning curve,’’ Reigle said. “He’s a quirky stallion. Once you figure out his quirks, he’s amazing to be around. We are excited to have him. The component of the live cover was also really great for our students.’’

Some of the mares just ship for the cover. Others board with the program after being bred. Some end up foaling at the breeding center. In 2020, Hey Chub was bred to five mares. This year, it was nine.

The DelVal Equine program has 120 students. The Equestrian Center has a 52-stall barn. It is Kentucky brought to Bucks County at a university that is celebrating its 125th anniversary of what is termed “Experiential Learning.’’

So Hey Chub and DelVal have been the perfect equine marriage. Lopez, who won 1,533 races as a trainer over 40 years, gets his stallion some action while helping the students. And the university gets the benefit of standing the sire of Chub Wagon, the hottest horse in Pennsylvania.

“I watch her races every weekend when she races,’’ Reigle said. “I have been itching to go to see her race live. Some of the students are now following her and they watch her as well.’’  And, during the breeding season, they get to hang out and care for her sire who turned 21 in 2021 and, after spending the summer and fall back with Lopez in New Jersey, will turn 22 on Jan. 1, just in time for the 2022 breeding season at the Delaware Valley University Markovitz Equine Breeding Center.  

THE PARX CHARACTER THAT IS RALPH RIVIEZZO OR HOW MUCH IS A FREE COFFEE

By Dick Jerardi

If you are at Parx for the races anyday, there are some people you will always see because they are there everyday – fixtures, constants, characters.

They have stories from yesterday and yesteryear. Some of them are even true.

Ralph Riviezzo is one of those people at Parx. The Equibase statistics say he has been training horses since 1976. That’s because the statistics only go back that far. Ralph predates the stats.

The stats say he’s had 6,056 starters, 574 winners, 680 seconds, 674 thirds and $7.28 million in earnings for his owners. But Ralph has never been about numbers. He has always been about the stories and the smiles and the laughs.

He was at the track when it opened in November 1974 as Keystone. Prior to that, he was at old Liberty Bell Park in Northeast Philly, closed more than three decades ago and now the site of the Philadelphia Mills Mall.

“When I was galloping horses and training horses at Liberty Bell, I was also in the mounted police in Philadelphia,’’ Riviezzo said.

Of course he was.

It was a while back when he was asked about his career in horse racing and before racing, but it could have been anytime. The stories never end.

“I’d get done training and I would run to the city,’’ Riviezzo remembered.

If he had the right shifts with the police, he had time for mornings at the track.

“It’s been horses all my life,’’ Riviezzo said.

His family had no background in horses, but if you grew up in Roxborough in the 50s like he did, “everybody had horses, like little stables all along the Wissahickon. I got myself into it actually and then I just stayed with the horses all my life.’’

Riviezzo has never had the big horse or anything close. He’s had seven horses earn more than $100,000, but none more than $200,000. So he is the ultimate grinder and he is still there. In 2021, he has 81 starts with 13 wins, 12 seconds, and 14 thirds, with earnings of $266,359. His best year for money was 2019 when his horses earned $551,431.

Ralph knows every part of the game. He started pulling horses shoes off when he was 12, “working with blacksmiths, dressing the hooves.’’

He learned from George Fulton and they worked on horses for the Wideners. They shod all the horses at the Valley Forge Military Academy. He worked on a horse for President Eisenhower.

“Kings Ranch had given him a horse,’’ Riviezzo remembered. “It was called Ike. Shoeing was my passion. Horses were my passion. The mounted police, we went up to 168 horses and we had a couple of horseshoers get hurt and they called me in one day’’ and asked if he could shoe the horses. He could and he did.

They were, Riviezzo explained, shod differently than race horses, “with a hard metal that kept them from slipping on the street.’’

They had a police vehicle: “with a forge in it. We went around the city and kept shoes on the horses.’’

It was, Riviezzo said, “the biggest mounted police force in the country.’’

They led the Thanksgiving Parade every year.

He remembers when Alabama governor George Wallace was at the Spectrum in 1968 campaigning for president. He and another mounted policeman rode their horses up the steps of the Spectrum to “clear about 75 or 100 people who were fighting in the back of the Spectrum. It was a wild night.’’

When Ralph gets on a roll, it is a stream of consciousness that could start anywhere and end anywhere. Being a cop and on the track was the perfect exacta for times lived and stories told.

“The people that you meet, movie stars, actors, athletes ‘’ Riviezzo said. “I trained for some of the 76ers, Henry Bibby. Al Domenico was a trainer for 25-30 years in the (NBA).’’

Like anybody who spends any time at the track, Riviezzo got injured. He would then go see Domenico to help him recover. One time the trainer said Ralph would have to wait because he “had to get Moses Malone in the tub.’’

Ralph was important, just not as important as the centerpiece of the Sixers 1983 championship team.

“It’s been kind of a wild ride,’’ Riviezzo said. “If you want to know something about how I feel, I love horse people. I respect what they do. I love owners, trainers, hot walkers, grooms. It’s seven days a week.’’

Riviezzo was on the PTHA board for 20 years, arguing along with Mike Ballezzi and Sal DeBunda for slots

“And here we are today,’’ Riviezzo said.

A mounted policeman for eight years. On the track for more than a half-century. Ralph Riviezzo, the ultimate Parx character.

And he will be here.           

“Where am I going?’’ Riviezzo said. “I’m a quart low on embalming fluid and they give me a discount in the (track) kitchen, you know what I mean…I go in and I go `how much is a free coffee?’’’

PARX HORSES RUN WELL IN OUT OF TOWN STAKES

By Dick Jerardi

Horses from the barns of the two Parx trainers with the most stakes caliber talent went north and south over the long July 4 weekend and acquitted themselves quite well in graded stakes, finishing in front of everything except odds-on winners.

And the “weekend’’ finally ended Tuesday when Parx ran its first open stake of 2021, the $200,000 Grade III Dr. James Penny Memorial at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

John Servis sent two fillies to Delaware Park Saturday for the Grade III $300,000 Delaware Oaks. Midnight Obsession (Main Line Racing Stable) and Leader of the Band (SMD Limited) finished second and third so they are now graded stakes placed.

They just happened to run into the 1-5 Ken McPeek-trained Crazy Beautiful who won the race by 6 lengths. It was the third Oaks win of the year for Crazy Beautiful after previously getting the Gulfstream Park Oaks and Summer Oaks at Santa Anita. The CCA Oaks and Alabama could be on her schedule as well as the Sept. 25 Grade I $1 million Cotillion at Parx.

In his first stakes try after breaking his maiden and winning an optional claimer at Parx, the Butch Reid-trained Ridin With Biden (Cash Is King LLC and LC Racing) ran a phenomenal race in Monday’s $250,000 Grade III 1-mile Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park. Sent right to the lead by the great Irad Ortiz, Jr. Ridin With Biden was still leading in deep stretch before getting passed by the unbeaten (3-for-3) $1.5 million yearling First Captain (Terry Finley’s West Point Thoroughbreds is part owner).

Trainer Shug McGaughey was talking Travers with First Captain. Ridin With Biden was beaten by just 1 3/4 lengths while finishing second. The winner earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure while Riden With Biden got an 87

Reid has two very talented 3-year-olds in Beren and Ridin With Biden. Beren is already at Saratoga getting ready for the July 30 Curlin Stakes. Down the road, there is the Aug. 24 Smarty Jones Stakes at Parx and, of course, the $1 million Grade I Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Sept. 25 for 3-year-olds.

The “Doc Penny’’ went to 1-1 favorite Princess Grace. The 4-year-old filly has now won 4 of 5 starts, with her lone loss by a half-length. The Penny was her first start since November for trainer Michael Stidham. Jockey Joe Bravo kept her just off the pace and when a hole opened up on the rail, horse and rider took it. And they needed every bit of a good trip to run down 6-1 Madita right before the wire.

As we hit July and the second half of the racing season, all of the big national races are, one way or another, preps for the first weekend of November when the Breeders’ Cup returns to Del Mar.

There were three “Win and You’re In’’ races over the weekend and two more races that featured defending champions in dominating double-digit length wins.

Max Player upset Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide in Saturday’s Suburban Stakes at Belmont Park to earn a BC Classic berth. The Parx-based, Uriah St. Lewis-owned and -trained Informative finished fifth after his amazing win at 79-1 in the Salvator Mile.

Mind Control beat Firenze Fire after a race-long duel in the John Nerud at Belmont, getting an automatic spot in the BC Sprint. Ce Ce the only Grade I winner in the field won Princess Rooney at Gulfstream Park to earn a spot in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint.

Defending BC Dirt Mile winner Knicks Go could not have been any more impressive at Prairie Meadows on Friday while crushing the field by 10 1/4 lengths in the Cornhusker Handicap and getting a 113 Beyer figure. Defending BC Filly & Mare  Sprint champ Gamine overwhelmed the field in the Great Lady M Stakes at Los Alamitos Monday, winning by 10 lengths. She is now unbeaten in seven one-turn races, winning by a combined 55 lengths.    So the four-month race to Del Mar has officially begun. The Haskell, Travers, and Pa. Derby. The Alabama and Cotillion. The Whitney and Woodward. The Hopeful and Champagne. All the great fall races at Keeneland and Santa Anita. Check out all the big races. They are the tests on the way to the final exams at Del Mar.

LONGTIME HORSE OWNER JOHN NASH JOINS PTHA BOARD

By Dick Jerardi

John Nash was a Saturday patron at the old Garden State Park in the early 1970s. In November 1972, he was playing what was a relatively new bet – the $3 trifecta. On three consecutive Saturdays, he hit a trifecta, first for $1,500, then for $3,300 and, finally, for $9,700. On the last one, he went beyond his normal 4-horse box ($72 investment) and bet $144 when a filly running against colts intrigued him enough to include her. The filly won the race.

“I made a decision at that time, I was going to put half of my winnings on the mortgage and with the other half, I was going to buy a horse,’’ Nash said.

He waited until March 1973 to claim his first horse. On May 5, 1973, the horse won. That just happened to be the same day Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby and set the Derby time record that still stands.

“So I was hooked,’’ Nash said,

Fast forward to 2021 and Nash has owned horses for nearly half a century. He bought a 7-acre farm a few years after that first win.

“I can’t say that I’ve made money, but I’ve made a lot of friends and a lot of associates and had a lot of great experiences,’’ Nash said.

One of those friends was a classmate at Monsignor Bonner, PTHA executive director Mike Ballezzi. When Ballezzi asked Nash to join the PTHA board recently, he did not hesitate to say yes.

Nash, of course, is very well known in the Delaware Valley as the general manager of the Sixers back in the day. He was also an NBA GM in Washington, New Jersey and Portland.

Back in 1973, the Saint Joseph’s graduate was working as the ticket manager for the Flyers. He was there for both of the Stanley Cups.

He was the executive director of the Big 5 before going to work with the Sixers as assistant GM in 1981 when Harold Katz bought the team. When GM Pat Williams left for Orlando to start a team there, Nash was elevated to GM. After working in the NBA for the better part of three decades, Nash retired from basketball.

“I had a good long run,’’ he said.

All the while, he owned horses and spent time at the track whenever he could. Along with who knows how many others, he was “part-owner’’ of 1987 Belmont Stakes winner Bet Twice, owned by his good friend Bob Levy.

Nash has never owned a stakes horse of his own. But he has owned some really neat horses. His favorite was Granite Run, named after the mall.

Nash sold the horse as a yearling. The horse bowed his tendons at Bowie. Nash bought him back as a riding horse. He thinks he paid $750.

He would watch Granite Run in the pasture at his little farm and “he looked pretty sound to me.’’ So he sent him back to the race track.

All Granite Run did in his career from 1977 to 1984 was run 123 times and win 21 races, with 24 seconds and 13 thirds. It wasn’t all for Nash as the horse kept getting claimed from him. And he kept claiming him back.

“He was like a pet,’’ Nash said. “Phil (Aristone) trained him for a while. Phil had him. Everybody had him. I kept him on my farm after his career was over. He lived to be almost 30-years-old.’’

Nash may have been involved with Bet Twice,, but he always has a special place in his heart for the $5,000 claimers.

“I have a great respect for the competitiveness of horses,’’ Nash said, “I love those campaigners.’’

Like Granite Run.

Nash’s farm was in Gradyville (Delaware County) which he describes as “a little dot on the map next to Glen Mills.’’

Nash sold the farm in 2001, but he never got out of the game. He lives not far from the old farm and is a frequent presence at Parx. Now, he is on the Board of Directors for the PTHA, his passion for the game and understanding of it obvious after nearly 50 years around the horses.

TURNING FOR HOME DAY A HUGE SUCCESS AGAIN

By Dick Jerardi

The weather could have been better, but the cause is so good that nothing really was going to stop the celebration that is Turning For Home Day at Parx.

It was Tuesday, with a terrific card that included two $100,000 Pennsylvania bred stakes and two $75,000 Turning For Home Starter Handicaps. There was TFH merchandise for sale and donations to be made. And the day culminated with the raffling off of an Afleet Alex stud halter after the 10th race, the second of the TFH races.

It was the seventh TFH Day as TFH, the brainchild of PTHA executive director Mike Ballezzi, celebrates its 13th year as the nation’s model race track horse retirement program.

“The whole idea of Turning For Home Day is to tell the story, to showcase the alumni, to remind the public that we do take care of these horses after they’re done racing,’’ TFH program administrator Danielle Montgomery said in a soggy winner’s circle.

Two TFH alums, Star of Midnight and Rainbow Valley, led the post parades in the two TFH races.

After horses are finished racing at Parx, TFH facilitates their transition into second careers, So far, more than 3,200 horses have been part of the program.

“What happens is when the owners and trainers decide (horses) can’t race anymore, they shouldn’t race anymore, they give us a call and we’re here for them,’’ Montgomery said. “Turning For Home Day started out to acknowledge our partner farms…It’s about thanking all the people that make all this happen. You can’t possibly know if you’re here and you’re betting the races on what goes on behind the scenes. But we know and I know that I’ve got some great partner farms and they love these horses when they get them and they do everything they can to make sure they go into that second career.’’

All true and for 13 years now.

The day was about Turning For Home, but it was also about some terrific races and one amazing performance.

When the rain took the two stakes off grass, trainer Butch Reid was not at all unhappy. His hot 3-year-old Beren was unproven on grass, but very proven on dirt, having just won two open stakes at Belmont Park, including one on a sloppy track by 10 3/4 lengths.

The only question about Beren, sent off at 2-5 in the mile and a sixteenth Crowd Pleaser, was how he would perform around two turns for the first time. Question answered.

Sitting third in the run down the backstretch under Frankie Pennington, Beren cruised to the lead on the far turn and just kept improving his margin, finally winning by 9 1/2 lengths.

It was, Pennington said, as easy as it looked.

“There is plenty of 3-year-old racing left to do this year,’’ Reid said. “Now that he can get two turns, we’re going to pick out something nice for him…He might have just punched his ticket to make the Saratoga squad.’’

That squad will include Mainstay, the half sister to champion Vequist and a brilliant maiden race winner at Monmouth Park, now pointed for the Schuylerville Stakes opening day (July 15) at the Spa. Reid mentioned the July 7 Indiana Derby at Indiana Grand as a possible next start for Beren.

Precious was the 4-5 favorite in the Power By Far Stakes, but it was Hey Mamaluke, racing for the first time since Nov. 4, that survived an early speed duel in the 5-furlong race and got away at the finish, winning by 1 3/4 lengths over a fast-closing Precious.

“She had a little throat issue that we took care of so that’s why it was so long,’’ trainer Pat Farro said. “It seemed like she could breathe now.’’

The late Tony Correnti trained Power By Far, winner of 15 races, including 10 stakes. This year’s race was run in his honor.

“He’s my friend and I believe he was right here with us,’’ Farro said as she pointed to the sky.

The two starter stakes really did come right down the wire, the camera unable to separate two horses in the first one and a nose separating the top two in the second one.

Enough Love at 52-1 and 16-1 Atina Salsa finished in a dead heat in race 8, just ahead of 9-5 favorite Shero. In race 10, trainer Jamie Ness caught Jamie Ness at the wire, Thundershook beating stablemate Thorny Tale by a nose, with 2-1 favorite Sheer Flattery third.

The races were great, the cause even greater, as Turning For Home was justly celebrated, a source of pride for anybody associated with the race track.

RUSH TO JUDGMENT

By Dick Jerardi

Patience is a lost virtue in our 24/7 society. Once something becomes news, there is a mad rush to get to an immediate conclusion. It is amazing how often the initial “conclusion’’ turns out to be wrong.

I don’t pretend to know how the Medina Spirit betamethasone case will play out, but I am willing to wait it out. I want to know more, better understand the science, see if there are mitigating circumstances.

That is how I thought before I was trained to think that way. The training just reinforced it. Find out what happened by asking questions and then try to arrive at the best obtainable version of the truth.

Unfortunately for trainer Bob Baffert, public opinion does not wait. The headline: “Kentucky Derby winner tests positive’’ becomes the story. There is no nuance.

Baffert becomes Lance Armstrong. It’s not fair, of course. But it is the world we live in, one where perception is reality.

All of us who love the sport want the cheaters out. Horses get mistreated by cheaters. Owners and trainers, who play by the rules, don’t have the deserved success when their horses lose races they should have won.

However, sometimes in our zeal to get rid of the bad guys, we make assumptions before all the facts have been determined. The due process always matters or at least it should.

So here is what we know now. According to the lawyers for Baffert and Medina Spirit’s Amr Zedan, the horse tested positive for the anti-inflammatory betamethasone, a therapeutic medication not allowed to be in a horse’s system on race day in Kentucky. The lawyers also announced that betamethasone was detected in Medina Spirit’s split sample.

I can stand corrected on this, but I have not yet heard a veterinarian say betamethasone is a performance enhancer. It should not be in a horse’s system on or near race day to protect the horse. If a vet conducts a pre-race exam and the anti-inflammatory is still in the horse’s system, it could mask a leg problem.

So what is going on here? Remember Baffert originally said  Media Spirit never got betamethasone. Typically, a horse gets the medication through an injection.

Two days after saying the horse never got betamethasone, Baffert reversed himself and said the horse had been regularly treated with Otomax for a skin rash. Well, it turns out one of the properties in Otomax just happens to be betamethasone.

The way the story came out was clumsy and sounded very much like the dog ate my homework. If this had been a one-off, Baffert may very well have gotten the benefit of the doubt. But he had the two overages for a different medication last year in Arkansas. And then a positive for betamethasone in Gamine after she finished third in the 2020 Kentucky Oaks. And the bizarre scopolamine fiasco after Justify won the 2018 Santa Anita Derby and before the colt won the Triple Crown. And this was the Kentucky Derby. There was going to be major scrutiny.

 It was all just too much. And I absolutely get that, especially in the current environment so soon after the Jason Servis and Jorge Navarro charges.

And how was Baffert winning all those races anyway?  Under the circumstances, it was a reasonable question to ask.

So what are we to believe?

Here is what I think: we don’t have the answers yet. Baffert’s attorneys have filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. I read it and thought what was being asked was not unreasonable

They are saying it was the Otomax that caused the positive. They want another test to determine if there were other properties in the horse’s system that would only be in the Otomax. The horse’s blood has already been tested twice. A third and final blood sample was somehow destroyed on the way to be tested for those Otomax properties.

At a Friday hearing in Kentucky, a circuit court judge was clear that he wanted the colt’s urine sample to be tested to see if the Otomax theory holds up. That should be resolved this week.

Let’s say it was the Otomax. That, at least, changes the perception. Or it should. You don’t treat a skin rash to improve a horse’s performance.

We may never know all of the facts. I hope we do, but that is far from a guarantee.

As a society, we love conspiracies. We really love them in horse racing: This trainer is winning so much because he has some miracle, undetectable, illegal drug. Does that happen? Sadly, yes. More likely, the trainer is winning because he spots his horses well, trains to get them to peak on race day, and employs smart jockeys who formulate intelligent in-race strategies.

Most “conspiracies’’ run by alleged geniuses are typically somebody doing something stupid or just being lazy. And it ends up looking really bad.

There is no argument that what has happened in the Medina Spirit case looks really bad. But was it just something stupid such as using an ointment that contained a prohibited property or something more nefarious?  Time may give us a chance to find out if we are willing to wait long enough for all the questions to be asked and answered.

TRIPLE CROWN ORDER RESTORED

By Dick Jerardi

It took until the first Saturday of June, but after the Kentucky Derby exacta was 12-1 over 26-1 (the final official result to be determined who knows when) and an 11-1 Preakness winner, 2-year-old champion Essential Quality, bet in every pool like the result was preordained, won the Belmont Stakes.

 It was seven months earlier at Keeneland when Essential Quality passed Hot Rod Charlie in deep stretch to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. It was those two again in a private battle in the homestretch at Belmont Park, with Essential Quality, a head behind Hot Rod Charlie in the Derby when they were third and fourth, eventually getting by in the final 100 yards.

 It was the first time the BC Juvenile 1-2 finished 1-2 in a Triple Crown race. Incredibly, Essential Quality was just the fourth BC Juvenile champ to win a Triple Crown race and the first to win the Belmont. Timber Country won the Preakness. Street Sense and Nyquist won the Derby. That is the list. In the 37-year history of the BC Juvenile, there have been 111 Triple Crown races run the subsequent year, with just those four winners.

Essential Quality ran a terrific fourth in the Derby, his only loss in seven races. Essential Quality’s owner and trainer are now in the line for that combined $100,000 bonus if they run the colt in the Sept. 25 Pennsylvania Derby at Parx. The Derby (if that can actually be determined), Preakness, Haskell, and Travers winners also qualify for bonus cash.

Hot Rod Charlie was heroic in defeat, the best runner-up finishes in the Belmont since Smarty Jones exactly 17 years before. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt set a very fast pace but was hounded throughout by Rock Your World and France Go de Ina. Those two dropped out on the far turn and then dropped way back. Hot Rod Charlie never stopped trying, but a really good colt, just cruising on the outside behind the leaders, was too fresh and too good in deep stretch.

It was a satisfying ending to a bizarre Triple Crown that began with trainer Bob Baffert winning his record seventh Derby. Then, it went off the rails a week later when Baffer revealed that Medina Spirit had tested positive for a therapeutic medication that cannot be in a horse’s system on race day.

At this moment, Medina Spirit is still the Derby winner. There will be a hearing before the Churchill Downs stewards about the Derby winner’s positive test for the anti-inflammatory Betamethasone. Eventually, a ruling will be handed down and then the litigation can begin in earnest. Don’t expect a final outcome for quite a while.

Meanwhile, Baffert has been banned for two years from running horses at any Churchill Downs-owned track which obviously includes the home of the Derby. The New York Racing Association has banned Baffert from running horses at its tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Saratoga) indefinitely. No other track has followed suit at this point. In fact, Monmouth Park officials said Baffert is welcome to run horses in the Haskell or any other race at the track. Same with Parx officials who said Baffert can run horses in the Pennsylvania Derby or any other of the track’s races.

Baffert and Medina Spirit became the story after the Derby win and stayed the story throughout the Triple Crown, even after Medina Spirit finished third in the Preakness and Baffert horses left the 2021 TC scene.

That was a shame as it took away from the brilliant performance by Rombauer in the Preakness and even better performances by Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie in the Belmont.

But that is the world we live in. Controversy sells.

The good news is the horses will continue to run and as we head into summer, with the Haskell, Travers, and Pa. Derby looming, the 2020 2-year-old champion Essential Quality, Blue Grass and Belmont win on his 2021 resume, is the mid-year leader for the 3-year-old champion, with absolutely nothing decided.

 REMEMBER THE MAINSTAY

 About 24 hours before the Belmont Stakes, Parx trainer Butch Reid unleashed another powerhouse 2-year-old filly. Mainstay, a half-sister to 2020 2-year-old champion Vequist, overwhelmed maidens at Monmouth Park.  Ridden by Parx Hall of Famer Frankie Pennington and owned by breeder Tom McGrath’s Swilcan Stable and Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, Mainstay was 7 3/4 lengths in front at the wire of the 4 1/2-furlong race and more than 20 lengths in front during the gallop out. Look for Mainstay in a Saratoga stake next.