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.


KENTUCKY DERBY FINALLY HERE

BY Dick Jerardi

The Kentucky Derby is only four months late. In 2020, that’s progress

The three favorites in May would have been Nadal, Charlatan and Tiz the Law.

“The’’ favorite in September will be Tiz the Law.

Nadal and Charlatan finished first in divisions of the Arkansas Derby on what would have been Kentucky Derby Day in May. Nadal was injured in training shortly thereafter and retired. Charlatan had a less-serious injury but needed surgery and will miss the Ky. Derby.

Tiz the Law has missed nothing. The New York bred colt won the Belmont Stakes in June and the Travers in August, making him the first horse in history to win the Champagne, Florida Derby, Belmont and Travers. Tiz the Law will be a heavy favorite in the Derby.

Parx will be very well represented by the “other’’ New York bred in the race. Ny Traffic only cost $22,000. He has not won a stakes race. But don’t be fooled. This gray colt gets better with every start. If he can make one more jump, he has a chance in the Derby.

Ny Traffic made his career debut on Pennsylvania Derby Day almost one year ago. He broke his maiden in his next start at Parx and remained at the track with trainer Harry Wyner until he was sent to Florida to train with Saffie Joseph and prepare for a chance at the Derby.

If the race had been in May, Ny Traffic would have been in it, but probably would not have had a realistic chance to win. Even though he had won an optional claimer, finished third in the Risen Star and second in the Louisiana Derby, he just wasn’t fast enough.

Since then, Ny Traffic has finished second in the Matt Winn and second in the Haskell, one more jump from catching 3-5 favorite Authentic. The colt has gotten faster in each start. Now, he is firmly into Derby contender territory.

Ny Traffic is 90 percent owned by Parx regulars _ John Fanelli (50 percent), Chuck Zacney (20 percent) and Glenn Bennett (20 percent).

It was Zacney who explained to Fanelli before a maiden race on Oct. 12 at Parx how much he liked his colt Monday Morning Qb, not realizing at first that Fanelli had a horse in the race. Zacney’s horse ran well, but finished second to Ny Traffic. Zacney was interested in buying a piece of Ny Traffic. After Fanelli bought out his original partner, he did sell those percentages to Bennett and Zacney.

Now, all three of them, together with families and friends, will be at fan-less Churchill Downs Saturday to see if their New York bred can beat the other New York bred and the rest of the first (and hopefully last) September Derby field.

Three-year-olds in September are very different from 3-year-olds in May _ more mature physically, more racing experience, faster, just better in every way.

Tiz the Law was already a very good horse in May. He is a way better horse now.

Ny Traffic was a nice horse in May, a really good horse now.

Is that improvement enough to win the Derby? We’ll know by Saturday evening.

Parx Awards Coming Soon

BY Dick Jerardi

No racing for three months. No open stakes. No Kentucky Derby Day in May.

Since March, nothing has been as normal about 2020 at Parx, with even some carryover from 2019.

We all missed the annual Awards Night in March at Celebrations to acknowledge the best horses to run at the track the previous year. The good news is those horses and their connections are still going to be honored with a day at the track (date to be determined) and video tributes to the winners in all the categories.

The voting has been done, but the winners have not yet been revealed. Most of them are fairly obvious, none more so than 2019 Horse of the Year. It has to be Spun to Run, the 3-year-old colt that completely dominated some of the fastest horses in the world when he blew away the competition in the Nov. 2 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.

Racing for owner Robert Donaldson and trained expertly at Parx by Carlos Guerrero, Spun to Run was being pointed for the Preakness in the spring until he was sidelined for several months due to an entrapped epiglottis.

Outfitted with blinkers for his comeback, Spun  to Run ran third behind Maximum Security in the Haskell Invitational before winning the Grade III Smarty Jones Stakes on that memorable Labor Day when Smarty Jones returned to the track for the first time in 15 years. It was the first graded stakes win of Guerrero’s career, but it was just the appetizer.

After finishing fifth in a strangely-run Pennsylvania Derby, Spun to Run blew away the best older horses at the track in the M.P. Ballezzi Appreciation Mile. That effort was so good that it was decided the ship Spun to Run west for the Breeders’ Cup. He was 9-1, but ran like 1-9, getting the lead immediately and winning convincingly over heavily-favored Omaha Beach, giving Guerrero his first Grade I win.

Spun to Run finished off his season with a strong second to eventual 3-year-old champion Maximum Security in the Grade I Cigar Mile at Aqueduct. All told, Spun to Run won five races and $1,140,660 in 2019. Five of his races and four of his wins were at Parx.

In addition to Parx Horse of the Year, Spun to Run will almost be named top 3-year-old colt or gelding.

There were so many fascinating categories, but none more fascinating than the 2-year-old colts or geldings. What a powerhouse group that includes Monday Morning QB, Johnny Ritt, Ny Traffic and Vanzzy.

Ny Traffic was second by a nose in the Haskell and will run in the Kentucky Derby. Vannzy won the Jersey Derby. The 2020 races, of course, don’t count towards 2019 awards, but it will be interesting to see how the voters looked at the 2-year-old males and all the other categories, including top 2-year-filly, 3-year-old filly, 4-year-old and up males, 4-year-old and up females, outstanding claim and top claiming horse.

MIKE PINO BEEN WINNING RACES FOR DECADES


By Dick Jerardi

It was just about inevitable that Mike Pino would end up at the race track.

“We were raised with horses,’’ he said. “My brother Mario is a jockey. I have another brother who is a blacksmith.’’

Mike went to work for trainer Dick Dutrow as a groom because he wanted to train horses. He learned so well that his horses have won 1,883 races from 1983 until 2020.

Pino came to Parx when the slot machines arrived. He has been one of track’s top trainers ever since.

“I was at Delaware when the slots were the only thing in town and it worked out great,’’ Pino said.

It has worked out even better at Parx where the slot revenue accounts for about 85 percent of the terrific purse structure.

Pino has had some very good horses through the years, including Ten Keys who won $1.2 million and six graded stakes from 1986 to 1990.

“I was a young guy,’’ Pino said. “There was a carpenter I knew at the races. He won some exotic bet and he wanted to claim a horse. We wind up picking this horse for like maiden $14,500.’’

It was January 1987 when Pino claimed Ten Keys. All the horse did was win 21 races and all those stakes. Eight of those wins came with brother Mario riding. All Mario has done in his career is win 6,948 races, 10th all time.

“It taught me a lot and had a lot of fun,’’ Pino said.

Forest Park won nearly $500,000 for Pino. Boston Common won almost $400,000.

Fast forward to 2011 and that was Pino at Churchill Downs as the trainer of Perfect Officer, third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

“We claimed him at Gulfstream that year,’’ Pino said, “He won a couple of stakes.’’

Perfect Officer was claimed for $50,000 and won more than $250,000 the rest of that year. He was also second to the great Ben’s Cat in the Turf Monster at Parx.

Most recently, Pino won the Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park with Vanzzy.

“It was awesome the way he ran,’’ Pino said. “I always thought the horse had talent. He would get a little rank early in his races.’’

Everything went right in the Jersey Derby. The horse took off in the stretch and won by 3 1/2 lengths.

“I was impressed by the way he punched away,’’ Pino said. “A lot of turf horses just don’t punch away like that. It looks like he has some more for the future so that’s what we’re hoping for.’’

Vanzzy has now won $232,726, with more on the way.

If he’s anything like Ten Keys then Pino really has something.

LONGEST DERBY PREP SEASON FINALLY OVER

By Dick Jerardi

When the Belmont Stakes, Haskell, Travers and Ellis Park Derby are major Derby preps, it is by definition a very strange year.

But when the last of the major preps were run for the September Kentucky Derby, we were left with two horses that have separated from the pack _ one that would have been among the favorites in May and another that had not even started in 2020 when the Derby was originally supposed to be run.

Tiz the Law could not have not have been any more impressive winning Saturday’s Travers Stakes at Saratoga. He went by the highly-touted and very talented, but quite inexperienced, Uncle Chuck on the far turn, and it was very quickly over, the New York bred running his final quarter mile in :24.53 seconds while being geared down.

It was quite the performance for a colt that is one unlucky trip last fall at Churchill Downs from heading back to Kentucky a perfect 7-for-7. He will go there as the first horse ever to win the Champagne, Florida Derby, Belmont Stakes and Travers. Now, Tiz the Law is the only horse with a chance to win the backward and very bizarre 2020 Triple Crown.

Art Collector made his seasonal debut on May 17. The colt won easily. He came back a month later and won easily again. A month later in the Blue Grass, it was another blowout win. Sunday in the Ellis Park Derby, Art Collector led all the way and was never threatened, winning with minimal urging again.

Tiz the Law’s trainer Barclay Tagg won the Derby and Preakness 17 years ago with New York bred Funny Cide. Now, he is back with an even more accomplished horse, a colt whose six wins have come by a combined 26 3/4 lengths.

Art Collector’s trainer Thomas Drury, Jr. had never won a graded stakes race prior to the Blue Grass. Now, he’s won two in a month and will be able to train Art Collector at Churchill where the colt has been all summer and where he won twice in May and June.

Tiz the Law and Art Collector are a combined 8-for-8 in 2020. None of their races has been close.

Tiz the Law will be favored because he got a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 109 in the Travers. It wasn’t just how fast the colt ran; it was how he ran fast. He has that speed to get great position and that instant acceleration that leaves opponents helpless.

Art Collector, who got a 100 Beyer in the Ellis Park Derby, has won from well back. He has won on the lead. He has won from just off the lead. In a sport where multidimensional horses are a rare breed, Art Collector appears able to adjust to any situation.

Now, it’s on to the Kentucky Derby for those two and other accomplished horses like Authentic, Honor A.P and Ny Traffic, the horse with all the Parx connections. Given the time of year and how many horses have already shown they are not good enough (many of which would have run in May), it is likely to be fewer than 20 this year, ironically the first year when Churchill has a new 20-stall starting gate.

But the Big Two, Tiz the Law and Art Collector, are fascinating. And so, of course, is the Kentucky Derby whether it’s run on the first Saturday in May or first Saturday in September.

PARX HORSES AND PEOPLE

By Dick Jerardi

The top 3-year-old filly and 3-year-old colt in the Parx stable area were both out of town Saturday, with mixed results.

The filly Project Whiskey, who won the July 4 Delaware Oaks at 38-1, ran another terrific race in the Grade III Monmouth Oaks. But, after running 7-5 favorite Lucrezia out of the race with her speed and stamina, she had to settle for second behind Hopeful Growth from Vinny Viola’s powerful St. Elias Stable.

Frankie Pennington has ridden Project Whiskey in each of her three wins, but he was unable to ride as many jurisdictions are only letting local jockeys ride at their meets because of Covid-19. Jorge Vargas rode the filly well enough, but Frankie knows her best.

Trained by Butch Reid and owned by Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing and Chuck Zacney’s Cash Is King, Project Whiskey had an amazing four weeks, winning and then placing in two Grade III stakes. The filly, who cost just $35,000 at the 2018 Timonium Yearling Sale, has now earned $362,580.

Mischievous Alex, also owned by Zacney and Bennett and trained by John Servis, tried the Grade I Allen Jerkens at Saratoga. The colt, winner of the Grade III Swale and Grade III Gotham this winter, was put right into the 7-furlong race by top jockey Irad Ortiz, sitting third early behind frontrunner and Grade I Woody Stephens winner No Parole and the Bob Baffert-trained Eight Rings. Those two backed out at the top of the stretch. Mischievous Alex was still in the race at the eighth pole, but could not keep up in the final 200 yards, eventually finishing sixth behind runaway winner Echo Town.

Mischievous Alex, a $75,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, has earned $360,730.

Servis was looking for ninth Grade I stakes win and 33rd graded stakes win overall. It would have been his first in a Grade I sprint stake which are hard to come by because there are so few.

MARSHALL GRAMM ON A ROLL

Prominent Parx owner Marshall Gramm, whose Ten Strike silks are so familiar at the track, is one of the country’s best handicapping contest players.

Gramm really liked Echo Town in the Jerkens and parlayed that opinion into a second-place finish in a NYRABETS contest. That got him $14,000 in cash and an entry into the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Betting Challenge (a $10,000 value). In addition to the BCBC, Gramm has already qualified for the 2021 Pegasus Contest and has two entries for the 2021 NHC in Las Vegas. Those three are the highest-value contests in the country.

SANCHEZ AND NESS HARD TO CATCH

As we hit August in this bizarre year where we missed four months of racing, Mychel Sanchez and Jamie Ness have huge leads in the Parx jockey and trainer races respectively.

Sanchez leads Pennington 61 to 37. Last year, they tied with 146 wins each.

Ness leads last year’s winner Joe Taylor, 40-23.

LUPE PRECIADO CLOSING ON 2,000 WINS

By Dick Jerardi

In the history of Parx racing, only one trainer has ever won 2,000 races while spending most of his career with the track as his home base. That would be Scott Lake. (Ron Dandy and Ned Allard have won 2,817 and 2,715 races respectively, but the vast majority of those wins came in New England before they came to Parx).

Well, Scott is going to have some company sometime in the near future. Lupe Preciado, one of very best ever to train a horse at Parx and a Parx Hall of Famer, has 1,987 winners.

“It’s very hard to win 2,000 races,’’ Preciado said. “I’ve got 13 more races. It seems like it takes forever to get to 2,000.’’

It has only taken him since 1989. And, if you could count some of the races his wife Wendy Mutnick won while Lupe was working with her in the years before he took out his license, the family would already be there.

When they started to have children, Lupe took over as the trainer. He has been winning races ever since, including three in a row on Tuesday July 21.

“When the owner is happy, it makes you feel good,’’ Preciado said.

Preciado, who has been making owners happy for three decades, does not have as many horses as he used to, just 18 now. He used to have between 40 and 50. But give the man a good horse and he will find his way to the winner’s circle.

The stable has been in the top 100 for wins eight times. Preciado won 118 races in 2004. His horses have won 12 graded stakes and earned $44 million. He is closing on 12,000 starters.

His best horse was the wonderful sprinter Favorite Tale. He also had two-time stakes winner Caught in the Rain.

Favorite Tale finished third in the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint behind the great Runhappy. And who knows what might have happened if all the plans owner Paul Conaway and Preciado had laid out for a year had not blown up in the final weeks before the race at Keeneland.

Just after Favorite Tale’s final prep race at Parx, the track was quarantined when a 2-year-old filly tested positive for Equine Herpesvirus. Favorite Tale was given special permission to leave. He trained for a time at a private farm and then at Delaware Park before a van ride to Kentucky. Naturally, the van broke down on the way and the horse got the 14 post.

Raceday itself, however, was memorable. Favorite Tale, ran brilliantly, nearly overcame everything, a tribute to his trainer.

“I wanted to win the race because I wanted to make a movie,’’ Preciado said.

Favorite Tale raced 24 times, with nine wins, five seconds, four thirds and earnings of $1,026,300.

After returning from the winter in Florida with most of his horses, the recent three-win day at Parx was nice for Preciado. The trainer remembers winning five in one day. It is quite a long way from going to the races in Mexico City with his brothers as an 11-year-old.

When he first came to the United States in 1974, Preciado went to Monmouth Park and worked as a groom for trainer J. Bowes Bond who told him: “the way you take care of your horse is the way the horse will take care of you.’’

Preciado also worked as a groom for Stanley Hough. He “rubbed some nice horses.’’ The stable had Proud Appeal, the favorite in the 1981 Kentucky Derby and Reinvested who finished third in the 1982 Derby. They also had a really good 3-year-old in 1980 named Irish Tower.

It was a great training ground for a man who has been winning races for three decades now, a special milestone not that far away.

NY Traffic a serious Kentucky Derby contender

By Dick Jerardi

The two horses that had been acquired for a combined $47,000 in 2019 raced 5 hours apart at Parx last September 21.

It was Pennsylvania Derby Day. Ny Traffic, making the first start of his career, was 47-1 in Race 2. Math Wizard was 31-1 in Race 11, the Pa. Derby.

Fast forward 10 months. After finishing third in that debut, Ny Traffic is now a serious Kentucky Derby contender. Math Wizard, of course, won that Pennsylvania Derby and appears to be back to his very best form.

Last Saturday at Monmouth Park, the horses raced just one hour apart _ Math Wizard finishing second in the Monmouth Cup and Ny Traffic, making an incredible run in the final 100 yards of the Haskell, beaten just a nose by 3-5 frontrunner Authentic.

It was Parx owner John Fanelli who claimed Math Wizard for $25,000 on Jan. 31, 2019 and then went partners on Ny Traffic in a private sale after the colt did not meet his reserve at the May 2019 Timonium sale. The partners bought the New York bred for $22,000.

Math Wizard has won $1,102,740. Ny Traffic has won $565,470.

The Pa. Derby was incredible. The Ky. Derby?

“It’s obviously a dream come true,’’ Fanelli said. “I could have never said this would happen, especially after last year, for this to happen so quickly, back-to-back success in less than a year.’’

It has happened. And who knows what might still be possible?

Rather than go back to Gulfstream Park where they had been stabled, Ny Traffic and Math Wizard were shipped to Saratoga with trainer Saffie Joseph to take advantage of the cooler weather. There are races at Saratoga for Math Wizard. And there is that race on the first Saturday in Kentucky for Ny Traffic.

Last year, Ny Traffic was a nice 2-year-old at Parx for trainer Harry Wyner who recognized the colt’s potential quickly. The horse ran a few races perhaps too close together later in the year and then had some minor physical issues.

Since Ny Traffic was sent to Florida to train with Joseph and started running in longer races, the colt has been a revelation, each race better than the one before it. His Beyer speed figures demonstrate the upward trajectory.

Ny Traffic got a 77 on Jan. 11, followed by an 82 when third in the Risen Star, an 89 when second in the Louisiana Derby, a 95 when second in the Matt Winn and a 100 when just missing in the Haskell.

As patterns go for the Derby, they don’t get much better. Ny Traffic has 110 Derby points, fourth on the list behind Tiz the Law, Authentic and Honor A. P. Art Collector is fifth, King Guillermo sixth. The points list is also the right list at this moment. Ny Traffic is somewhere among the top six Derby contenders.

Fanelli bought out Lenny Liberto, his original partner in Ny Traffic. After selling 20 percent interests in the colt to fellow Parx owners Chuck Zacney and Glenn Bennett, Fanelli then sold 10 percent to Florida owner Paul Braverman.

So Fanelli still owns 50 percent of Ny Traffic and Parx owners are responsible for a 90 percent interest in the horse. In the final weeks before the Derby, this is the most Parx-centric major contender since Smarty Jones in 2004.

“It’s super exciting,’’ said Fanelli. “I just can’t believe it’s happening to me again.’’

TRAINER HARRY WYNER ON A ROLL AT PARX

By Dick Jerardi

When the newly turned 3-year-old filly My Best Friend passed the eighth pole with a clear lead in the seventh race at Aqueduct on Jan. 6, 2019, her trainer Harry Wyner could have been excused if his mind started to wonder to what the New York bred owned by John Fanelli might be able to conquer next.

Then, My Best Friend started to shorten stride. She wasn’t getting tired. When you watch the replay now, you can tell something was going wrong. The filly had suffered a major leg injury.

“She spiral fractured a cannon bone,’’ Wyner said, “She still finished second. We had to van her off. We gave her a year and a half off and it’s healed.’’

Dr. Patty Hogan explained to Wyner that surgery was not an option for the injury. So it was just all about time.

“John was a fantastic owner with this horse, lots of patience,’’ Wyner said.

And there was My Best Friend well in front at the eighth pole in the sixth race at Parx on July 7. She kept on running right through the wire, 5 3/4 lengths clear at the finish.

It was a very emotional win for obvious reasons. But not nearly the only win. Wyner’s horses won another race that day and two more the next day.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,’’ he said. “We went through the coronavirus. We never ran a horse. I kept these horses training and my help kept with me and did a tremendous job. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do this. My horses just came back firing.’’

Wyner, originally from Manchester, England, rode steeplechase horses for Michael Dickinson in his native country. When Dickinson moved his operation to America in the late 1980s, Wyner came with him as a groom and exercise rider.

His riding background really helps as a trainer. He tries to get on each of his horses at least twice per week.

Wyner has had some very nice horses in his training career which began in 2004. He had English Manor at the beginning of his career. The horse ended up running an incredible 115 times, with 15 wins, 20 second, 13 thirds and earnings of $344,650.

“He always wanted to be second,’’ Wyner said. “We must have made $100,000 with that horse just being second.’’
English Manor did have seven seconds in the two years Wyner had him before he was claimed in 2014 He also had four wins.

“He was an iron horse,’’ Wyner said.

Winter Ride won six races for Wyner in 2015 and 2016.

“Winter Ride was a beautiful horse,’’ Wyner said. “I bought him for $10,000 off Andrew Simoff. He was a big horse. He just needed time. We gave him time and he just went on and progressed to be a real nice horse. I think he made like $300,000 for me.’’
The trainer’s memory is excellent. Winter ride raced 42 times, with 10 wins, three seconds, nine thirds and earnings of $319,973.

Wyner trained the top 3-year-old Ny Traffic for Fanelli at the beginning of his career last year.

Wyner and Fanelli liked the colt at a sale. He did not bring the sale price so they went back to see what the owner would take. They agreed on $22,000.

“I just liked the way he was built,’’ Wyner said, “He was a late-developing foal. They didn’t break him until December and his rear end hadn’t really developed. I said `John, we give this horse some time, he’s going to be okay.’

“I brought him back here and started doing our work with him. I was getting on him every day. I said to John after the second time I breezed him, `this is going to be an exceptional horse for you, a Derby horse.’ He just laughed and said `from your mouth to God’s ears.’’’

So far in 2020, Ny Traffic has finished third in the Risen Star, second in the Louisiana Derby and second in the Matt Winn. The colt is on target to run in the July 18 Haskell at Monmouth Park, with a trip to the Kentucky Derby after that.

Wyner said he had the option of going to Florida when the colt was shipped south last winter. But he has 25 horses at Parx so Saffie Joseph, who also has horses for Fanelli, now trains Ny Traffic.

Ny Traffic will ship from Florida to New Jersey with $365,470 in earnings, another Harry Wyner success story that he was a big part of at the very beginning.

BUTCH REID WINS DELAWARE OAKS WITH 38-1 PROJECT WHISKEY

BY Dick Jerardi

Butch Reid knew Project Whiskey was better than her last two races indicated. The 3-year-old filly had been training wonderfully at Parx since an unsuccessful trip to Churchill Downs in late May. So he entered her in the July 4 Grade III Delaware Oaks at Delaware Park.

“I expected her to run really well,’’ Reid said. “She had a couple of excuses. Her last Maryland race last year, she came up with a fever the next day. That race in Kentucky was a joke. The filly that beat her ran 1:08 and change. (Project Whiskey) is not that fast. She had just trained spectacularly since then. I thought she’d run a good race, but you never know.’’

No, you don’t. Project Whiskey, off at 38-1, ran the race of her life, stalking the pace three wide until the far turn when she began to move on favored Piece of My Heart. Just at that moment, 9-1 shot Dream Marie rushed up outside Project Whiskey.

Jockey Frankie Pennington, riding Project Whiskey, probably had to ask the filly a bit sooner than he wanted to in order to hold his position. She responded, ran by the favorite, held off the challenge of Dream Marie in the stretch and was actually edging away at the wire to win by a half-length.

“As soon as that horse came to her, she responded,’’ Reid said. “She’s such an easy horse to train. She has no equipment, no tongue tie, no noseband, no blinkers.’’

Project Whiskey had been beaten by 20 3/4 lengths in that Maryland race, but Reid knew why. At Churchill, she chased the very fast filly Frank’s Rockette, who came back to win the Victory Ride Stakes at Belmont Park two hours before the Delaware Oaks. That race followed a nearly six-month layoff and an 11-hour van ride the day before the race.

Project Whiskey, co-owned by Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King LLC and Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, was one of four horses purchased by Reid for the partnership at the Timonium October 2018 yearling sale.

The other three are Johny Ritt, Monday Morning Qb and Bella G. The four cost a total of $116,000 and have already earned a combined $564,450.

An investment banker from the Mufson Howe firm that Bennett was working with when they were talking to private equity about their company, Unified Door & Hardware, termed the company Project Whiskey during the discussions. The company was eventually purchased by Dunes Capital and it has worked out really well. So has Project Whiskey, the filly.

Project Whiskey cost $35,000. After her Delaware Oaks win, she has won $262,580. She is by Tapit’s son Tapizar out of a Malibu Moon mare.

“She’s bred to run long,’ Reid said.

The Oaks was her first two-turn race.

“She’s very well put together,’’ Reid said. “She’s not the biggest horse ever, but she has a very solid body on her.’’

Project Whiskey was Reid’s 10th graded stakes win. The terrific Maximuus Mischief won the Grade II Remsen in 2018. Poseidon’s Warrior won the Grade I A. G. Vanderilt in 2012. Afleet Again won the Grade II Breeders’ Cup Marathon in 2011. All told, Reid has had at least 20 horses make more than $200,000, including Miss Blue Tye Dye, Disco Rose and Fat Kat, all Parx regulars.

Project Whiskey would obviously be a candidate for the Grade I Cotillion at her home track if the race was in its usual September spot. But, like the Pennsylvania Derby, it is unclear if the Cotillion will be run this year because the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are now the first weekend in September and in clear conflict with both of Parx’s signature races.

Wherever and whenever Project Whiskey runs next, one thing is certain. She won’t be 38-1.

 

 

JAMIE NESS ON FIRE AS PARX REOPENS

By Dick Jerardi

Trainer Jamie Ness made a decision when all the mid-Atlantic tracks shut down in March. He was going to keep his horses sharp for whenever Parx reopened.

“I came ready,’’ Ness said. “We’ve been off for a while and I told the owners `dammit, I don’t know when we are going to run, but when we run, we ain’t going to give them a race or need a race, we’re going to be ready.’ So we were ready.’’

Were they ever. The stable won the first race on June 22, the day the track reopened. Ness also won the fourth race and had three horses run second. The next day, he won two more, with a second and two thirds. The day after that, he started two horses and won with both. So, three days, 15 starts, 6 wins, 4 seconds, 2 thirds.

“The way they wrote the races with the starters, a couple of my horses just slid right in like you couldn’t have written a better race,’’ Ness said.

His winners were all short prices so yes they fit, but, as he kept winning, the bettors were catching on. They were betting anything he ran as Ness clearly returned with horses that were ready to run and win.

There was no right or wrong way to deal with the unprecedented shutdown. Some trainers sent a few of their horses to farms. Others just walked theirs. It was so hard because nobody knew when it was going to end.

“We kept going,’’ Ness said. “It kept the horses fit. Seems like that is the best way. I’ve seen a couple of guys that stopped for a month, turned them out, brought them back. Seems like they’re playing catch up.’’

Right now, they are all trying to catch up to Jamie Ness.

“I kept them so I could get them ready when I needed them to be ready,’’ Ness said.

In addition to a full barn of 35 horses at Parx, Ness also has 15 at Laurel, 60 at Delaware Park and a bunch at the farm. He did not have a starter from March 15 until May 30. The Laurel restart came really fast. He had a reasonably good idea of when Parx was coming back so he could plan accordingly.

“I’ve been doing this 20 years and I’ve never been in this situation as most people haven’t,’’ Ness said. “Are you training too heavy, are you training too light? A lot of these old claiming horses that have been going forever, it’s hard to breeze them every week. They’re not used to that. They’re used to racing, jogging; get ready to go race again. It was tough. All of us trainers were kind of out of our element here.’’

Ness figures he was ready two weeks before Parx opened.

“When I thought I was ready, I probably got an extra breeze in that made me really ready,’’ Ness said.

The trainer cut his day rate through the shutdown to try to help his owners. This is his busiest time of the year with 2-year-olds coming in and horses returning off layoffs so he has actually been able to add nine employees to his staff when jobs are precious.

“Financially, it’s been rough,’’ Ness said. “Still is a little rough, but we’re getting back to semi-normalcy.’’

Ness has won more than 3,000 races and his horses have earned $51 million. His career has been a great success. The shutdown offered him a chance to evaluate how he had been training his horses.

“Sometimes, you fall into a rut and we kind of do the same thing over and over again,’’ Ness said. “I got a feeling that I might do a little change, trying to evolve into a different kind of training method. I think it’s going to help me in the long run. Sometimes, you get into a routine, but like in any sport, you’ve got to change.’’

Indeed. What always worked may not work forever. And if you get stuck there, you may get passed.

“Maybe a little more breezing up to races where before maybe I kind of eased back into them,’’ Ness said, “A lot of these horses I’m running, I’m breezing five, six days out harder than I probably would have before. They seem to be responding well that way.’’

The proof is in the results.