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.


CHARTCALLER LEW ZAGNIT RETIRES AFTER 45 YEARS

By Dick Jerardi

The track was nearly enveloped in darkness late in the afternoon of Dec. 30. There were two lights still shining atop the Parx grandstand after the last race of the day.

There were the lights from the announcer’s booth as Keith Jones bid his farewell. On the floor above, Lew Zagnit, after nearly 40 years at Parx and 45 years in the business, was finishing up his work for the day.

But the fans never heard Zagnit. They just saw his work in the charts and the past performances. He called the horses as they hit the poles, separating them by heads and lengths, never permitted to skip a horse. That 10th race on Dec. 30 was his last race too, even if, as was his custom, he did it with no fanfare.

Zagnit got his start at “Daily Racing Form’’ in the late 1970s, learning the trade from Mike Mercer at what was then called Keystone. He estimates he’s called charts at 30 tracks and “about 10 of them are closed.’’

There was Centennial in Colorado, Bowie in Maryland, Commodore Downs (Erie, Pa.) and Garden State Park. There was River Downs (now Belterra Park) in Cincinnati, Latonia (now Turfway) in Kentucky.

Back then, there were not many year-round circuits so chart callers would follow the horses.

Zagnit was told he would be working the 1981 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and “then you would be on your way home’’ to Pennsylvania.

“I packed enough clothes for a week,’’ Zagnit.

While he was at the Derby, he was asked to go to Centennial. He was there for six months.

On the way home, he stopped at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and “worked a meet there.’’

“Probably about 11 months later, with my week’s worth of clothes, I came back,’’ Zagnit said.

It was that kind of life until he settled in to be the regular chartcaller at Parx in the mid-1980s. He was there until he decided to retire.

There were times when Parx and Garden State were running simultaneously so he was calling charts seven days a week.

Lew and his brother Bruce got into chart calling through their cousin, Herb Goldstein, a DRF columnist back in the day. Bruce still calls charts at Penn National.

Bruce worked as a groom for the great Don Levine at old Garden State, but Lew had no horse racing background.

“My first day at work was my first day at a race track,’’ Lew said.

Zagnit estimates he called 80,000 race charts.

He had a call taker for most of his tenure, somebody who would listen to Zagnit calls the horses and then write down on a sheet where the horses were at different points of call. Lew would always write the footnotes that would accompany the charts. And those charts, of course, became the basis for the past performances the next time the horses in a race would run.

“Mike Mercer was a great teacher and a great chart caller,’’ Zagnit said of the man who became the longtime publicity director at Keystone/Philadelphia Park.

Like announcers, chart callers have to memorize a group of names for 8 or 9 or 10 races per day, immediately forget them and repeat the process all day.

“To this day, if you introduce yourself, within three minutes, I would forget your name,’’ Zagnit said.

He remembers calling a 15-horse field going 5 furlongs at RiverDowns. His brother was the call taker.

“I got every horse,’’ he said.

And he had to get every horse.

“It wasn’t like if we got stuck, we could stop at the sixth horse,’’ Zagnit said.  “We’ve got to keep on going.’’

He called the great All Along winning the

1983 Washington D.C. International at Laurel. He called Spend A Buck at Garden State in April 1985 before the colt won the Derby and returned to win the Jersey Derby and a $2 million bonus. He called Smarty Jones’s first two races at Parx in 2003.

“I did the best job I could every day,’’ Zagnit said.

And he did it very well. He was dedicated, accurate, and consistent. If you saw a Lew Zagnit chart or read his footnotes, you did not need to see a replay. He painted a picture of exactly what happened.

He won’t be at the track, but he will still be working at his Animal Rescue. Lew and his wife Karen have adopted out more than 300 dogs. He has been a volunteer for Trenton Animal Shelter.

“I will keep myself busy,’’ Lew Zagnit promised.

CAPO KANE WINS JEROME ON NEW YEARS DAY

By Dick Jerardi

One Kentucky Derby prospect clearly is not enough at Parx in 2021.

On the first day of the new year, trainer Harry Wyner sent newly turned 3-year-old Capo Kane to Aqueduct, aka Parx north, for The Jerome.

The colt immediately hit the front; let 7-5 favorite Swill hang around until the stretch and then ran away from the field, winning by 6 1/4 lengths and running the mile in 1:38.02 which computed to a Beyer Speed Figure of 84.

It was the first stakes win of Wyner’s career. And it sets up a potential showdown between Parx-based Brooklyn Strong (trainer Danny Velazquez) and Capo Kane in the Feb. 6 Withers Stakes, also at Aqueduct.

When it was suggested to Wyner that it would be nice if the Parx horses ran 1-2, he said: “Hopefully and hopefully me on top.’’

As for the $150,000 Jerome, when Capo Kane opened up in the stretch, Wyner said: “I was screaming so loud, I nearly fell off a balcony. I knew the horse was going real well. I figured I could be in the top three, but I didn’t think he’d win like that.’’

Capo Kane won like there is more winning in his future.

After finishing second in his debut on Oct. 28, Capo Kane wired a field of maidens going a mile and 70 yards on Nov. 25. Those races were at Parx.

Dylan Davis rode Capo Kane in The Jerome.

“I told Dylan in the paddock, look this horse has speed, just see where you lay and ride your race, you know the race track better than I do,’’ Wyner said.

Bottom line, Davis was on the right horse.

“Dylan said he had so much horse, it was unbelievable, even after the race, he couldn’t pull him up, he just wanted to keep going,’’ Wyner said.

Capo Kane was purchased for owners Lenny Liberto and Tony Como at Timonium last year.

“We had no intentions of even looking at him,’’ Wyner said, “but he came into the ring and I went `wow, this horse looks great.’’’

The plan was to go $20,000 and then stop. That is what they did. The bidding ended there, but the reserve was $30,000.

So they went back after the sale and tried to make a deal. They settled on $26,000 and they got themselves a stakes winner for that $26,000.

Capo Kane is a California bred by 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense out of an unraced mare by Hard Spun, the Grade I winning Pennsylvania bred who finished second in that Derby to Street Sense.

Wyner had NY Traffic in his barn last year. He knew early on that horse had Derby potential. But then he was sent south to Saffie Joseph and Wyner had to watch the horse run in the Derby last September.

“I was kind of upset because I knew that horse was a nice horse too,’’ Wyner said. “Obviously, I wanted to take a shot at the roses myself. Here I am a year later with another shot. It’s unbelievable. People dream about this, right.’’

HAKIM STABLE HAVING A GREAT YEAR AT PARX

By Dick Jerardi

There is no racing where he lives and works 20 miles from Charlotte, North Carolina. So Gabrielle Hakim, who learned to love horse racing in his native Venezuela, has slowly built a powerful stable at Parx with trainer Mario Dominquez.

“We do everything together,’’ Hakim said of his trainer. “He does everything inside the barn…I find the right horses to claim, put them in the right spots.’’

As we hit the final days of 2020, The Hakim’s Stable LLC has the most starts (138), third most wins (22) and fourth best earnings ($449,709) at Parx in 2020.

The Hakim horse racing business began in 2015. The owner got together with Dominguez in 2018. They had six horses then, 21 now

“My dad owned horses in Venezuela,’’ Hakim said. In fact, he has some pictures from 1980 when he was at the track with his father.

His friend, Parx jockey Angel Castillo, told him about the racing at Parx.
Hakim owns a residential remodeling company, a business he began in 2006. It was almost a decade later when he started claiming horses and has slowly built up his stable.

Back in 2016, Hakim claimed Broadway Bay for $10,000 at Parx. The horse won five races in seven starts over a four-month period before he was claimed for $8,000. The horse won nearly $150,000 for Hakim. The New York bred was still winning races last year in a career that included 17 wins in 59 starts. But nobody had a run with him like Hakim.

In 2020, the stable has had a similar run with Petulant Delight. He was claimed for $7,500 in November 2019.

“He’s a great horse, has a big heart,’’ Hakim said.

In his seven starts this year, the 5-year-old has three wins, a second and two thirds for earnings of $48,890. Hakim actually had the horse for one race in 2019. After he claimed the horse for $12,500, Petulant Delight won right back by 6 lengths for $16,000. But he was claimed again.

When the horse was in for $7,500 nearly four months later, Hakim put in a claim slip, but there was more than one claim and he was outshook. When the horse was back in for the $7,500 three weeks later, Hakim again dropped a claiming slip. He was alone this time and got the horse back.

“I love this horse,’’ Hakim said “When I claimed him the second time, he come with a big issue.’’

The horse had a little fracture. So, the owner gave him time to recover.

“I wait for him for seven months,’’ he said.

On July 14, Petulant Delight was back in for $7,500, There were no takers. The horse won by 7 lengths. He has not been in for a claiming tag since.

Fran’s Worrier was another great claim. After the stable claimed the horse for $7,500 in November 2019, the horse won five of nine starts this year before being claimed for $8,000 a year and a day after they got him.

Hakim comes to Parx every other week to watch his horses run.

“My plan next year is to get us some babies,’’ Hakim said., “I want to go step by step.’’

So far, so good.

KEITH JONES NEARING HIS FINAL PARX RACE CALL

By Dick Jerardi

Keith Jones remembers his first race call quite well.

Track Announcer Keith Jones at Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA courtesy Equi-Photo/Bill Denver

Track Announcer Keith Jones at Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA courtesy Equi-Photo/Bill Denver

“Six horses going a mile,’’ he said. “They started right in front of me so I could see them. The winning horse was Blue Bella. If the horses down the backstretch hadn’t spread out, if they had been in a bunch, I would have been screwed because my hands were shaking. I couldn’t hold the binoculars.’’

It was 9:50 p.m. on June 24, 1985 at Garden State Park, the fifth race, six maidens going from finish line to finish line at the 1-mile track.

His last call at Parx is going to be the last race on Dec. 30.

Jones estimates he has called 70,000 races since becoming the full-time announcer in 1987 at what was then called Philadelphia Park.

The new Garden State Park opened April 1, 1985. Jones was there as part of the new matrix board operations team. He had always wanted to be an announcer, but really was not thinking horse racing when he was growing up hard by the seventh fairway at Merion Golf Club.

His matrix board compatriots encouraged him to go out on the roof and try two practice calls per night. So he did.

After about two weeks of secret practice calls, word got to GSP PR director Steve Nagler that Jones was doing it. He got called into Nagler’s office and he was made to play the tapes in front of 10 or 12 people.

“I was embarrassed,’’ Jones said. “At that point, they’re terrible.’’

Nagler took the tapes down the hall to GSP president Bob Quigley’s office. Jones was then told they both wanted him to keep practicing.

By that June night, backup announcer Vic Stauffer had left for another gig. So, when he was deemed ready, Jones replaced regular announcer Ralph Siraco for one race. And he was off, calling one race per night.

By that fall, he was Siraco’s assistant at the harness meet and was the backup for the 1986 thoroughbred meet. He became the full-time harness announcer later in 1986.

It was in the winter of 1987 when longtime Philadelphia Park announcer Jack Lamar was let go. Jones became the full-time announcer at Philly Park that year. And he has been there ever since.

So it has been a 34-year run for Jones as the Parx announcer. His first “job’’ began when he was a kid with pretty bad allergies who at times “was forced to stay inside and I used to play little baseball games on the floor and I would announce them.’’

He had always wanted to be an announcer and through timing and some providence, he ended up at Garden State in 1985.

“I loved baseball, I loved football, hockey,’’ Jones said. “I never in a million years would have thought it would be horse racing.’’

His final few months of high school at The Haverford School, Jones, like his fellow seniors, was given “an independent study project. You did something outside the classroom for six weeks and then wrote a big paper about it.’’

One of his classmates was Herb Clarke’s son. Clarke, the longtime weatherman at Channel 10, got Jones a job at WCAU radio where he worked with Pete Silverman who was an executive producer for the Flyers. Silverman told Jones to stay in touch so when he finished at the University of North Carolina, Jones called and was hired as a production assistant with the Flyers.

When he was working with the Flyers, he met the great Marv Bachrad who knew everybody in sports. By then, Jones had developed an interest in horse racing and was a semi-regular at Liberty Bell. When Garden State was about to open, Bachrad got Jones an interview. So it was that association with Pete Silverman in his final high school months that led Jones to that roof and eventually to the booth.

He was a DJ at his college radio station.

“I was a terrible DJ,’’ Jones said.

But he had a wonderful voice. Still does.

That was obvious early on when he first started calling races.

Even with that, it took some time for Jones to get comfortable.

“Two or three years,’’ he said. “Nagler was a big (Tom) Durkin fan. When I got started, he wanted me to listen to Durkin tapes.’’

Still unsure of himself, Jones said he would try to imitate Durkin in his early calls before eventually developing his own signature voice.

“Over the course of time, you begin to develop your own sense of what you’re doing,’’ Jones said. “Then, you begin to get your own personality.’’

Many people have noted the similarity in the voices of Jones and legendary Flyers announcer Gene Hart.

“I don’t know how that is, but it’s just a complete coincidence,’’ Jones said.

Hart was the caller for years at Brandywine Raceway in Delaware and a great help to Jones early in his career. Jones worked with him when he was with the Flyers, but the voices just happened.

You call 70,000 races, memorizing one set of horse names, forgetting them immediately after the race to memorize a new set, the races blend together. But some races stand out.

Like calling the first two races of Smarty Jones’ incredible career, Western Playboy’s record-setting Pennsylvania Derby in 1989, Preakness winner Summer Squall in the next year’s Pa. Derby.

In the last decade, when the Pa. Derby and Cotillion became major attractions, Jones got to call some of the biggest names of the sport _ California Chrome, Songbird, Nyquist, Untapable. _ Derby winners, Preakness winners, Belmont Stakes winners, Kentucky Oaks winners, Travers winners, Breeders’ Cup winners.

“That’s what every race caller wants to have a chance to see, the real stars of the sport,’’ Jones said. “It makes you as a race caller want to up your game just a little bit more. I’m glad it happened before my career went away. That was one of the best decisions the track ever made, to move the (Pa. Derby) away from the Travers. It just grew into great stuff. I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.’’

In addition to Parx and Garden State, Jones called races at the short Atlantic City meet, as a fill-in at Monmouth Park, and for auditions at Hawthorne and Golden Gate. Jones and his wife Kelly are moving to Texas to be closer to her family as well as to “have the opportunity to enjoy lake living and some great golf.’’ He said he no longer wants to call full-time, but if, say, there is a need for a caller at Sam Houston for a day or a few days, Jones said he would do that.

Meanwhile, there are his final calls at Parx and that final/ final call on Dec. 30.

“I keep thinking about it, but I just can’t get a grasp on it right now,’’ Jones said. “I guess my sense of professionalism tells me that I should just handle it as any other race, but I know emotionally, I may handle it professionally on the outside; on the inside, there will be a lot of emotion.’’

BIG DAY FOR PARX AT BIG A

By Dick Jerardi

Just over three hours after the son of a Parx Hall of Famer got the biggest win of his young career, a Parx Hall of Famer got the biggest win of his incredible career that began 20 years ago.

It was some Saturday at Aqueduct for trainer Danny Velazquez and jockey Kendrick Carmouche, the trainer winning his first graded stakes, the jockey winning his first Grade I. The only way it could have been better is if they had done it together. That had to wait a day.

It was some show on Saturday.

When two horses came together in the final 100 yards of the Grade II Remsen Stakes, it was 6-5 favorite Ten for Ten who had been on the lead from the start and cost $410,000 at the prestigious Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2019 and 7-1 Brooklyn Strong, the New York bred gelding who had made a sustained run from fourth and cost $5,000 at the Ocala Sale last April.

The favorite was trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey. The 7-1 shot was trained by Velazquez whose father Alfredo is a winner of 1,144 races and a member of the 2019 Parx Hall of Fame class.

By the wire, it was Brooklyn Strong by a neck, with Ten for Ten nearly 9 lengths in front of the third horse.

“I was very confident going in,” Velazquez told the NYRA press office. “I knew the distance was key and I was confident about the off track. I was happy with his performance. He really dug in. Today was a big showcase for him against tougher competition and I couldn’t be happier. It’s tough. They paid a lot of money for him [Ten for Ten] and we paid $5,000. You start to second guess yourself, but I knew he had the heart to grind it out.’’

Jose Ortiz had ridden Brooklyn Strong when the gelding won the Sleepy Hollow Stakes on Oct. 24, New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park. He opted to ride Ten for Ten in the Remsen. So Joel Rosario became the fourth rider for Brooklyn Strong in four career races, three wins and a third.

Brooklyn Strong earned 10 Kentucky Derby points with the win. And the trainer is absolutely thinking Derby Trail.

“We’ll come back healthy and then start picking our spots,” Velazquez said. “This is a big prep for the Derby moving forward. Now, we’re definitely Derby dreaming.”

Barely an hour after the Remsen, Carmouche gave the Parx-based 7-1 Portal Creek a perfect, front-running ride in the Grade III Go For Wand Handicap, only to get run down in the final strides by 6-5 favorite Sharp Starr, ridden by that man Jose Ortiz.

Portal Creek, a $25,000 claim by Marshall Gramm and Clay Sanders’s Ten Strike Racing back in February at Oaklawn Park, had been transferred to trainer Carlos Guerrero at Parx over the summer. She won her first race for Guerrero by 14 lengths. Then, she finished third before winning twice more, all at Parx.

It was 12 lengths back to third in the Go For Wand so it would appear as if Portal Creek has a big one with her name on it.

Never one to get discouraged after a tough defeat, Carmouche left no doubt in the Grade I Cigar Mile.

In the 20,377th ride of his career, Carmouche was aboard True Timber, a horse that had been 0-for-19 in stakes, a 6-year-old owned by Calumet Farm who was second in the 2018 Cigar Mile and third in the 2019 Cigar Mile.

In a ride that was emblematic of his career, Carmouche put True Timber in perfect position in the long run down the backstretch, a few lengths behind dueling leaders in third and well clear of the fourth horse. It was the classic perfect trip orchestrated by a jockey whose more than 3,300 wins have never come by accident.

When it was time, Carmouche let True Timber loose and the horse just blew by the leaders and was 5 1/2 lengths clear at the wire, so alone that Carmouche was able to look to his right at the wire to get a perfect pose for the cameras.

“It took me 20 years to get my first Grade I,’’ he told NYRA’s Maggie Wolfendale in the winner’s circle. “It’s just so joyful and so happy. To all my fans around the world (growls for the camera), we got this. We got it. We finally got it…I’m so joyful; I’m the man on the moon today, my brother.’’

The very next day, Carmouche won his first New York riding title when he finished with the most wins at the Aqueduct Fall Meet. In the sixth race, the $250,000 New York Stallion Stakes, Carmouche and Velazquez teamed up to win it with 2-year-old filly Laobanonaprayer, the horse that started that two stakes Danny V. streak on Oct. 24 that ended with Brooklyn Strong.

So the Remsen for a Parx star on the rise; the Cigar Mile for a Parx legend, one perfect first Saturday in December at Aqueduct, followed by a Sunday where they got another big one together.

A LIFETIME WITH HORSES

By Dick Jerardi

Bobbi Anne Hawthorne has been a licensed trainer for three decades. She has been around horses essentially forever.

“My mother trained horses as well,’’ she explained in the shedrow of her immaculate Parx barn. “We did hunters, jumpers, eventing, foxhunting. Anything horse related, we loved it.’’

Bobbi Anne has nine horses in her barn, some of them owned by her son Andy. They got a good one back in February when they claimed Manolete for $12,500.

“The pandemic I think helped us with him because he was a bleeder and he did get the 90 days turned out which I think really helped him,’’ Hawthorne said. “He’s come back and run well for us.’’

Manolete was off four months between the claim and his first start for Hawthorne. He won his second race for the trainer and has been good ever since.

Manolete, a 6-year-old son of Mineshaft, has been claimed five times during his 45-race career. With 13 wins and $276,590 in earnings, Manolete has been good for everybody. But the horse just ran the best race of his life on Nov. 19 at Penn National, earning an 87 Beyer even though he was dismissed by the bettors at 26-1. It was his third win for Hawthorne, once in July at 12-1 and then again in September at 4-1.

Hawthorne grew up in Mt. Laurel, N.J., and lives now on Four Leaf Farm in Medford, N.J. She has been on the track since “I was about 12.’’

She spent time at Garden State Park, Atlantic City, Monmouth Park.

Bobbi Anne remembers Jersey-bred Charley’s Diamond as the best horse they had in the barn. And no wonder. Charley’s Diamond won 10 races and nearly $300,000 for the Hawthornes from 2006 to 2010.

Andy Hawthorne is very much part of the barn scene and he has some horse stories of his own.

“I was riding bulls when I was in eighth grade,’’ Andy said. “When I got a little smarter, I focused on the race track.’’

Yes, he was in the rodeo. Seriously, riding bulls?

“It’s very extreme,’’ Andy agreed. “It’s a very unforgiving sport. Any bull rider will tell you this: it’s not a matter of if you get hurt, it’s when…I’m just trying to focus more on the race track, maybe not break so many bones and see where Hawthorne Racing goes.’’

For the uninitiated, it’s easy to keep score in bull riding. Stay on for eight-second or you lose.

Andy has a fake shoulder, reconstructed knee, and an ankle that has been damaged many times. He has traded all that to be with his mom in the “sedate’’ world of the race track.

LUPE PRECIADO GETS 2000TH WIN

BY Dick Jerardi

Guadalupe Preciado’s first win as a trainer came at Philadelphia Park on June 4, 1989, with a first-time starter named Broadway Bouncer. His 2,000th win came at Parx Racing on Nov. 16, 2000, with a first-time starter named Chub Wagon.

It was the same footprint where he had first won 31 years before. His 12 graded stakes wins and amazing run to the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint with Favorite Tale came in between those milestones for the man who first attended the races as an 11-year-old in Mexico City.

Two days after Preciado got 2,000, he got 2,001 at Parx with a horse ridden by Mychel Sanchez. Where is the 2,001 sign, Sanchez asked Preciado with a smile.

Every win has been earned by a man who has trained 20 horses with more than $200,000 in earnings, including Caught in the Rain, Mr. Nasty, and Favorite Tale, a $1 million earner who won the 2014 Gallant Bob at Parx and 2015 Smile Stakes before running third in the BC Sprint. Preciado has started 11,909 horses with those 2,001 wins, 1,829 seconds, 1,722 thirds and $44,714,767 in earnings. It has been some career.

“Mr. Nasty ran against the best horses in New York every time,’’ Preciado remembered. “He won the Tom Fool. He beat Rubiano.’’

It was July 13, 1991, when Mr, Nasty, ridden by the great Angel Cordero, wired the field and upset favored Rubiano in the Tom Fool. Mr. Nasty was owned by Jack Mondel who Preciado has long credited with giving him his start and some of his best horses.

Mr. Nasty, Preciado remembered fondly, won races with Cordero, Julie Krone, Jerry Bailey, and Mike Smith, Hall of Famers all.

Preciado worked with trainer J. Bowes Bond when he first came to the United States. Later, he went to Churchill Downs with 1981 Kentucky Derby favorite Proud Appeal, the colt trained by Stanley Hough. Then, he worked with his wife Wendy Mutnick when she trained the horses. He took over as the trainer when she had their first child. They can be seen at their Parx barn together every day.

The trainer has 18 horses in his barn these days, many fewer horses than he had in years like 1994 when he won 116 races, 1997 when he won 120 and 2004 when he won 118, 30th best in the country. This year, it’s 125 starters with 25 wins, 20 seconds, and 16 thirds. In his career, he has won with a solid 17 percent and 47 percent in the top three.

Preciado’s first starter came two weeks before his first win. That was at Garden State Park on May 20, 1989. So he has lasted 20 years longer than the track where his first horse ran, a perfect tribute to the man who started winning early in his career and never stopped.

THE 2020 FINISH LINE

By Dick Jerardi

In mid-March, when nearly every track in the country, with the notable exceptions of Gulfstream Park, Oaklawn Park and a few others, shut down for weeks or months, it was unclear if the Triple Crown or the Breeders’ Cup would even happen.

It was uncertain what racing would look like when or if it returned. It was several months before racing at Parx came back. It was unfortunate, but understandable, that the Pennsylvania Derby, Cotillion and other open stakes did not happen in 2020, the purse money going to the owners who support the track all year long. With the casino also closed and the slot money that supports 85 percent of the purse structure turned off for several months, it absolutely made sense for any purse money to be reserved for the horsemen that call the track home.

So we did not have our championship September at Parx, a month that has gotten the track into the national conversation with all the important stakes races that culminate with Pennsylvania Derby Day where some of the country’s best 3-year-old colts and 3-year-old fillies race in the track’s two Grade I races.

We all missed the enjoyment and exposure that month and those races have brought the track. But it’s 2020 so we take what we get, have to be thankful racing came back at all and everybody has had a chance to earn a living.

It is no secret that the Triple Crown is the biggest thing in the game. Not sure what 2020 would have been like without it. Thankfully, the races all happened, if out of order and at the wrong times. But think about it: with the mid-June Belmont Stakes, the early September Kentucky Derby and early October Preakness, we got to see memorable performances by Tiz the Law in New York and Authentic in Kentucky, ending with the Swiss Skydiver-Authentic epic in Maryland.

When Tiz the Law dominated the Belmont and Travers, there was talk of a Triple Crown and, if it happened, would it be the same? It wouldn’t have been the same obviously, but nothing has been or could be the same in 2020. If Tiz the Law had gone on to win the Derby and Preakness, it would have been an incredible achievement, especially with the Travers in the middle of it.

But Authentic’s early speed and a classic Bob Baffert-training job put Authentic in the Derby winner’s circle. Tiz the Law’s Derby race would have been good enough most years, but not against a talented colt readied by a master trainer, Authentic getting the dream trip alone in front.

Tiz the Law dropped out of the Triple Crown after the Derby, trainer Barclay Tagg opting for more time to get the colt that had won the Holy Bull, Florida Derby, Belmont and Travers ready for a run at Horse of the Year in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

So it was on Authentic and the filly Swiss Skydiver to give us the race of the year in the Preakness, the filly winning a stretch-long duel by a neck.

As the moveable feast that is top-class horse racing arrived at Keeneland for the Breeders’ Cup, everything was on the line in the $6 million Classic – Horse of the Year, 3-year-old champion, all of it.

A wonderful 10-horse field, including the 2019 Derby winner for 20 minutes Maximum Security, the hottest older horse in the country Improbable (the 2019 Derby and Preakness favorite), Tiz the Law and Authentic, lined up for the final showdown.

It was once again Authentic’s early speed that carried the day. Immediately in front, Authentic looked like a winner the whole way, running away from stablemate Improbable’s
challenge in the stretch, giving Baffert a 1-2 finish in America’s richest horse race and the great jockey John Velazquez his first Classic.

So Authentic, winner of the Sham and San Felipe, second in the Santa Anita Derby, winner of the Haskell and Kentucky Derby, second in the Preakness and dominant winner of the Classic will be 2020 3-year-old champion and Horse of the Year.

The colt has been retired to stud, along with many of the other big names which made this unprecedented year so special.

Tiz the Law is the only horse to win the Champagne, Florida Derby, Belmont Stakes and Travers. But the wonderful colt, who was clearly uncomfortable running inside horses in the Classic and finished out of the money for the first time in his career, will end 2020 without any championships which almost seems unfair.

The good news is that Tiz the Law will race on in 2021, his first goal the Pegasus at Gulfstream Park in January. The New York bred will have a new jockey, the man who was on Authentic, the colt that cost Tiz the Law the 3-year-old title. Johnny V. will ride Tiz the Law and, perhaps 2021 will be the year the colt gets a championship.

PARX WINS AGAIN AT BREEDERS CUP

By Dick Jerardi

It is becoming an annual fall tradition, be it at Churchill Downs, Santa Anita or Keeneland. A horse trained at Parx arrives at the Breeders’ Cup, gets ignored in the betting and dominates a BC race.

It was Jaywalk in the Juvenile Fillies two years ago at Churchill, Spun to Run in the Dirt Mile at Santa Anita last year and, last Friday, the brilliant Vequist in the Juvenile Fillies at Keeneland.

Three of the best at Parx trained the winners: John Servis (Jaywalk), Carlos Guerrero (Spun to Run) and Butch Reid (Vequist). It was actually Reid’s second BC win as Afleet Again ran away from the field in the 2011 Marathon.

Few deserved this win more than Butch and his wife Ginny, linelong race trackers who looked like they had their horse of a lifetime heading into the 2019 Triple Crown season. Maximus Mischief was easily the best 2-year-old stabled at Parx since Smarty Jones. The colt was a real threat to win the Kentucky Derby. Then, he got hurt and the dream was over almost as soon as it started.

The Reids have been winning races together for years. They had that BC win and a Grade I win with Poseidon’s Warrior, but they don’t have zillionaire owners who spend millions at the sales for horses that win the seven-figure races.
But they do have terrific owners like Tom McGrath’s Swilcan Stable. It was McGrath who, on Reid’s recommendation, bought Vero Amore for $15,000 at the 2013 Timonium Sales. She finished second in three stakes, including losing a photo in the 2014 Black Eyed Susan Stakes.

Vero Amore was a nice race horse, but she will be known into the future as the dam of the 2020 2-year-old filly champion, Vequist, a McCrath homebred. The brilliant daughter of 2016 Derby winner Nyquist got the trip in the BC she did not get when second to Dayoutoftheoffice in the Frizette. Jockey Joel Rosario never left the live rail with Vequist and ran by the filly in the stretch she could not catch at Belmont Park.

The Reid entourage was supposed to end up at the Breeders’ Cup event Friday night to celebrate, but it wasn’t really their style.

“It was a little too stodgy,’’ Butch said.“Everybody’s got jackets and ties. We got (brother) Brian and the crew. It wasn’t really the right crowd for us.’’

So they took good care of the manager, got a nice table at Jeff Ruby’s in Lexington and had “plenty to eat.’’

So where does this win rank?

“That was the biggest, plus it gets you the champion,’’ Butch said. “I wasn’t sure I’d ever train a champion in my career.’’
Hopefully, there will actually be a 2021 Eclipse Award ceremony that the Reids can attend when Vequist is officially named division champion.

After her first race, an inch loss at Parx, Gary Barber and Adam Wachtel bought interests in Vequist. She was sent to the Grade I Spinaway as a maiden and and blew away the field by almost 10 lengths. She finished second by 2 lengths in the Frizette. But there was no doubt about the Juvenile Fillies. Dayoutoftheoffice got an easy lead on a speed-favoring track, but Vequist was always in range. When Rosario asked her to go through a tiny hole between the leader and the rail, she was very eager and powered home a decisive 2-length winner.

Vequist left Kentucky for Florida Sunday where she will hang out at Dr. Barry Eisaman’s farm for 45 days before Reid meets up with her at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla. She will train there over the winter, hoping to return to Kentucky next spring for the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs.

 THE BEST TWO DAYS IN SPORTS

I have been to 33 Kentucky Derbys, 27 Final Fours, three World Series, two Summer Olympics,, two NBA Finals, one Super Bowl, the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl. But whenever anybody asks me about my favorite annual event on the sports calendar, the answer is always the same: the Breeders’ Cup.

My only regret is that, once it starts, I can’t pause it on occasion to savor the moments. By the time one of the 14 championship races over two days ends, it always seems like the post parade is underway for the next one.

I missed the first one in 1984 at Hollywood Park, but attended every one from 1985 to 2011. Superstorm Sandy got me in 2012 as planes were grounded most of that week and I could not get to Los Angeles. I did not make it the next year either or in 2016. Other than those four years, I have been at every Breeders’ Cup. This will be miss number five.

This will be the Breeders’ Cup that just about everyone that is not a participant will miss. But I will be at Keeneland vicariously and I won’t miss a minute on television Friday or Saturday, from the Juvenile Turf Sprint right through the Classic.

Santa Anita and Churchill Downs have played host the most times. This will be Keeneland’s second Cup after American Pharoah left everyone searching for adjectives in 2015.

I always enjoyed the Cup at old Gulfstream Park. It is a shame it has not been at Belmont Park since 2005. Hollywood Park is the only Cup track that is no longer a track, having been torn down to make way for the spectacular new football stadium where the Rams and Chargers play. Few remember anymore that the second Cup was at Aqueduct. It was a little drab and dingy that day, but the racing was, as always, sensational.

Aqueduct is among the tracks that have hosted just once. They also include Woodbine (1996), Arlington (2002), Lone Star (2004), Monmouth Park (2007), Keeneland and Del Mar (2017). I have special memories of everyone.

The Cup returns to Del Mar next year and then back to Keeneland in 2022. If you said it could be only once placed, I would vote for Santa Anita. It’s big enough that it doesn’t feel crowded. The San Gabriel Mountains backdrop is spectacular. And the weather is always wonderful.

Parx, of course, has become a major Breeders’ Cup player the last few years with Jaywalk winning the Juvenile Fillies in 2018 and Spun to Run the Dirt Mile last year. Vequist won’t be favored in the Juvenile Fillies Friday, but she has a big chance against a terrific field.

It won’t be the same without being there, but the good news will be that the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup were held in 2020. And they will be held in 2021, hopefully with huge crowds again.

FOREWARNED DOES IT AGAIN

When Uriah St. Lewis purchased Forewarned for $40,000 in December 2018, the 3-year-old had four wins and three seconds in 11 starts, all racing on the Ohio circuit (Thistledown, Belterra Park, Mahoning Valley).

The now 5-year-old horse has raced 19 times since the purchase. Based at Parx with his owner/trainer, Forewarned has run at his home track seven times, Aqueduct, Saratoga, Belmont Park, Laurel, Pimlico, and Charles Town. The horse has run in such prestigious races as the Whitney, Woodward, Cigar Mile, and Pimlico Special. He has also returned three times to Ohio where he was born.

Last October, Forewarned was at Mahoning Valley for the $150,000 Best of Ohio Endurance Stakes. Running against Ohio breds instead of horses like McKinzie and Vino Rosso and going off at 7-5 instead of prices like 89-1, 97-1, and 135-1, Forewarned, running at a mile and quarter, won convincingly by 2 3/4 lengths.

Saturday, a year after that last visit to Mahoning Valley, Forewarned did it again in the same race. Sent off at 1-1 and coming from well off the pace, Forewarned hooked up with fellow Ohio bred Wicked Warrior at the top of the stretch and the pair raced together for the wire, Forewarned eventually prevailing by a half-length. The third horse was 12 3/4 lengths behind.

So that $40,000 purchase has now earned $380,920 in his two years with St. Lewis. Like most of the trainer’s horses, Forewarned does not have much early speed, but endurance is never an issue, the farther the better.

And you will know right where to look for Forewarned in late October 2021 _ at Mahoning Valley against those Ohio breds going for a threepeat.