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.


SCOTT LAKE WINS CLAIMING CROWN RACE, WITTY WINS PA NURSERY FOR A PA RACING FAMILY

 By Dick Jerardi

Saturday at Gulfstream Park, Tuesday at Parx Racing: it was quite a few days for a Parx Hall of Fame trainer and a Pennsylvania racing Hall of Fame family.

Scott Lake has no idea how many horses he has claimed in his career. Has to be in the thousands. He does know Sweet Willemina has to be right near the top of his list.

“When you run a horse eight times and win seven, she’s got to be on your favorite list,’’ Lake said.

When he reached in to claim the 4-year-old filly for $32,000 on June 17 at Churchill Downs, he said to himself: “we’re overpaying by about $7,000 and we’re coming to Parx and you’re going to win me a two life starter for ($16,000), three life starter for ($16,000), have a shot at the four life starter for ($25,000) and maybe an a other than at Penn, Delaware, maybe if you catch a soft spot at Parx.’’

Well, Sweet Willemina blew right through all those conditions and Lake perfectly recited what she has done since coming to Parx after the claim which “was way more than we ever dreamed.’’

She won three races at Parx and one at Delaware Park. She won the $100,000 Salvatore DeBunda PTHA President’s Cup at Parx and then “got beat on an overconfident ride’’ before winning the Dec. 4 Glass Slipper on Claiming Crown Day at Gulfstream Park with a perfect ride from Silvestre Gonzalez.

Sweet Willemina really looked like she was in trouble on the far turn at Gulfstream. Lake thought it was a good thing because of what he saw on replays before he claimed her.

“One thing I loved about her, she got into trouble in like five out of seven races and then she kept coming at them again like she thrived on it,’’ Lake said.

At the quarter pole in the Glass Slipper when Sweet Willemina was kind of stuck in traffic, Lake’s finance said “oh, no’’ and Lake said “oh yeah.’’

Sweet Willemina got away from the traffic, split horses late and got there just in time to win by a head.  The filly has won slightly more than $200,000 since the claim for Lake’s Home Team Stable and Rich Ciavardone.

“(This win) ranks pretty high,’’ said Lake about win No. 6,225 in his amazing career. “I haven’t run in the Claiming Crown since it left Canterbury Park. The purses were so good everywhere else there was no reason to ship that far. To go back to the Claiming Crown with one horse that ended up jumping up and winning it, having all the people we had there…It was pretty special.’’

Lake gives Ciavardone major credit for the stakes win at Parx and the Claiming Crown. He said he: “would not have won the stakes because he would not have nominated her and I wouldn’t have taken her to the Claiming Crown because the $12,500 starter went here a couple of days before we were leaving. I would have ran her here.’’

The Claiming Crown is special for Lake because he is a claiming trainer.

“You’re honoring the horses that are the backbone of the sport, ’’ Lake said. “Seventy percent of the races that are run are claiming races. The Claiming Crown gives those owners an opportunity on a big day to see what it feels like.’’

Tuesday afternoon at Parx, the $200,000 Pa. Nursery, the race that Smarty Jones won in 2003, produced a dazzling winner named Witty for owner/breeder Lizzie Merryman, her son, trainer McLane Hendriks and jockey Carol Cedeno. It was the biggest purse Merryman has ever won and the first win for her son as a trainer.

Merryman laughed when she said she “bred them both,’’ horse and trainer.

The horse and trainer will be winning some more together, those Pa. Bred stakes in 2022 looking very appetizing for a soon-to-be 3-year-old.

“It’s so fun when you raise them from Day One and they just turn out like that,’’ said Merryman, whose farm has a Coatesville address. “It’s such a dream come true. It’s amazing.’’

That her son has taken over the training for her made it even more special.

“What a way to break your maiden,’’ Merryman said. “He’s doing such a great job. He so deserves this. He lives and breathes this horse every minute. I’m so proud of him and the horse.’’

Witty is a half brother to Caravel, the turf sprint specialist that Merryman trained and owned until she sold a piece to Bobby Flay this summer.

“It’s a very special win because obviously, my mom raised him as a foal,’’ Hendriks said. “Just a family connection and delighted to see how impressive a horse he was from the day we put tack on him. Everything he does just keeps impressing us.’’  Witty sat in mid-pack behind some very fast horses, but when Cedeno asked the horse to move up on the turn of the 7-furlong race, he got to the top quickly and ran away from the field in the stretch, winning by 5 1/2 lengths. It may not have been Smarty by 15 lengths, but it was quite impressive visually as if there is much more where that came from. 

BUTCH REID FINISHING OFF CAREER YEAR

By Dick Jerardi

So what do you do for an encore after training the Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old filly in 2020? Just have the best year of your career.

With just a month to go in 2021, Butch Reid needs a bit more than $100,000 in earnings to surpass 2011 when his stable earned $2,275,592.

“I’d be very disappointed if we don’t surpass that,’’ Reid said.

Reid thinks Morning Macha will be favored in a $500,000 New York Stallion race to be run at Aqueduct. Eloquist runs in the Remsen at Aqueduct.

Beren has been the stable star this year, but the 3-year-old Pennsylvania bred is far from the only stakes-caliber horse in the barn. The brilliantly fast 2-year-old filly Disco Ebo just won the $200,000 Shamrock Rose at Penn National. And she is just the latest in the barn from that same family. Reid has three other full sisters or brothers in training. And has trained eight of them altogether.

“She’s pretty good,’’ he said. “I’ve had this whole family.’’

 By Weigelia out of  Katarica Disco, Disco Ebo, who was purchased as a yearling for $52,000 by Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King and Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, will be pointed for the Parx Futurity, one of the five newly announced $100,000 Parx stakes to be run Dec. 28 and 29. Reid thinks he will have horses in four and possibly five of the stakes. Disco Ebo’s full brothers and sisters include Smooth B, Fat Kat, and Disco Rose.

 “We’ve had a ton of them and they’ve all been moneymakers,’’ Reid said.

 Reid thinks he has had around 20 horses by Weigelia. He has 22 horses in his stable at the moment with plans to take five of them to Florida while the rest remain at Parx.

 What has made his 2021, with 174 starters, 45 wins 39 seconds and 22 thirds, more amazing is that he had done it all without what he was certain was going to be the stable star – 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Vequist. After racing just once this year, she was not able to overcome several issues and never made it back to the races. She was sold for $3.4 million at the “Night of the Stars’’ sale.

“Imagine if (Vequist) was still going,’’ Reid said. “I lost my best horse and her little sister Mainstay. They were like the superstars at the beginning of the year. And they’re both on the farm.’’

So why all this success?

“It’s all about having the right owners, Chuck and Glenn and Tom McGrath,’’ Reid said, “They got to the sales, they’re enthusiastic and they do the right thing by their horses. We give them time. Coincidentally, I’ve got a lot of fast horses this year. I’ve never won this many races with 2-year-olds in my career. I’m over a dozen, I think. Talented young horses is the key.’’

That and a great help in the barn.

“I’m lucky enough to have fantastic help this year,’’ Reid said. “They’re really done a great job. The barn is enthusiastic. It’s good when it’s going good. It just seems to build on itself.’’

Reid and wife Ginny have been in a great partnership at the barn for decades. That they are enjoying such success now is a fitting reward for all that work for all those years. And, with all those 2-year-olds running so well, 2022 will start with the potential of even more success.

YOUNG ANDY HERNANDEZ RIDING LIKE A VETERAN

By Dick Jerardi

Andy Hernandez rode his first race on April 1 at Gulfstream Park. He rode race No. 130 last Wednesday at Parx. Hernandez does not ride like an inexperienced jockey. He looks good on a horse, makes smart decisions and rides with confidence.

His 130 mounts have yielded 11 wins, 11 seconds, and 17 thirds. After three rides at Gulfstream Park, he headed north to Delaware Park where he rode his first winner on August 8. He began to ride at Parx in late September. Now, he is a regular, his 7-pound apprentice allowance and obvious skill getting him live mounts with better chances to win. He models how he rides after Mike Smith.

“He’s very intelligent in the races,’’ Hernandez said.

He had no family in racing, but when he came to Florida from Cuba, he lived not that far from Gulfstream. He had a friend who was a trainer. He took him to the track where he started off as a hot walker. Eventually, he graduated to galloping and then to ride in races.

He won that first race on his 20th try. The second came after 14 more losing mounts. He won another right after that and then went 36 races between wins, not atypical for a young rider trying to find a niche. Now, the wins are coming much more frequently.

“I love it,’’ Hernandez said. “The moment inside the gate, that’s a beautiful moment.’’

Like any good jockey, he has a pre-race strategy but is ready to call an audible.

“I have one plan before the race,’’ Hernandez said. “When they open the gate, the race does change. You need a good plan at the moment; get a good position in the race.’’

When he is not at the track, Hernandez likes to fish.

“I love it, same as my agent, ’’ Hernandez said.

His agent is Jim Boulmetis who knows what a good rider looks like and could not wait to get Hernandez to Parx.

It’s still early in his career, but the results so far are quite positive.

Hernandez rode some quarter horses in Cuba, but that’s much “different than here, that’s no saddle, no track, nothing.’’

Hernandez has been in the United States for a bit less than five years. He could not speak English when he first arrived. Just as in the saddle, he has been a quick study with English.

There have been some wonderful apprentice jockeys who have come through Parx over the years and gone on to great careers. Is Andy Hernandez next? Time will tell.

JOE BESECKER PASSES 1,000 WINS

By Dick Jerardi

Joe Besecker owned horses in partnerships for decades. The horses began to run just in his name at the start of the 21st Century. As we hit the 2010s, he began to implement a plan.

“It became with the advent of slots and increased purses a pretty nice business opportunity if you could exploit the inefficiencies that are constant in the racing game,’’ Besecker said. “So that was the big change, kind of the increase in the economics of the sport and you could deploy a business model over top of that.’’

Besecker, a Saint Joseph’s University graduate, was uniquely positioned to marry his love of horses with his understanding of business. As the founder, president, and CEO of Emerald Asset Management which is located in Lancaster, his business acumen was obvious. Apply some of those principles to racing horses and voila, you get sustained success.

“I love racing,’’ Besecker said. “I’m not afraid to bet a horse. It’s not about betting. Right now, you’re taking huge advantage of the reduced herd because the herd is down dramatically. You’re also taking advantage of the ability to run at different venues. There is a cost involved, but if you can overcome that cost, we do take a lot of state breds from out of state and bring them into the state.

“There are just a lot of inefficiencies that exist and if you can take advantage of some of those and go from a lower percentage trainer to a higher percentage trainer and move to a different state with the state-bred situation…There’s a lot of trainers that aren’t particularly good at the condition book. You can tell by where they run them. It doesn’t make sense.’’

Jeff Matty, also a St. Joe’s grad, manages Besecker’s racing operation.

“He’s critical,’’ Besecker said. “The business aspect of racing is chaos whether it be licensing and registration…There is no consistency on the financial side. Some places, you can’t wire, some places you can. In the registration process, some places still have old-fashioned papers. That takes a lot of effort. The more horses you have, the more effort that takes.’’

From 2014 to 2021, Besecker’s horses, racing mostly in the mid-Atlantic, but also, at times, with a string in California, have won 774 races and $16.5 million in purses. He’s had horses at Parx with trainer Carlos Guerrero. Right now, he has horses at Parx with trainers Scott Lake and Jamie Ness.

In 2019, he was the leading owner at so many meets it was hard to keep up. The stable won 199 races and nearly $5 million in purses. At his peak, Besecker had 130 horses racing with eight or nine trainers. But, by the end of the year, Besecker decided it was time to get out, concentrate on his business, charitable foundation, and family.

So, he held a dispersal sale that December at Timonium. A total of 95 horses brought $3 million. A week or two after the sale, he sold all but two of the rest of the horses; approximately 145 were sold in all.

He didn’t know then, but his timing was perfect. Three months later, racing was shut down in much of the country because of the pandemic. If Besecker still owned all those horses, it would have been an economic disaster.    

In 2020, he got back in just a touch, with 142 starters, 38 wins, and earnings of $1 million. In 2021, he got all the way back in with 408 starters, 103 winners, and stable earnings of $2.3 million. Besecker is back to owning 90 horses so he didn’t get out for long.

“It may be more,’’ Besecker said. “It’s hard for me to keep track of the mares and foals.’’

He won his 1,000th race on Aug. 14 at Del Mar as the great Trevor Denman brought Diva’s Finale across the finish line in style: “What a win for owner Joe Besecker, 1,000 wins as an owner.’’

Diva’s Finale’s trainer Doug O’Neill, who has Besecker’s horses in California, had a poignant video message: “Joe, you did it man. I’m sure when you won your first couple of races, you had no idea that you’d be winning a thousand of these. So, just all the men and women that you’ve employed along the way who have been able to work alongside all of your amazing horses, what an amazing achievement, hopefully, we can win another thousand. Knowing the way you are Joe, I know 2,000 is right around the corner.’’

Besecker’s best horse unquestionably was Aztec Sense, a horse he claimed for $12,5000 in 2017. In 2018, Aztec Sense went 8-for-8 and earned $408,540. Four of his wins were at Parx, including the Turning For Home Stakes, the Sal DeBunda PTHA President’s Cup, the Pa. Derby Champion Stakes, and a starter allowance. Aztec Sense was named Park Horse of the Year for 2018.

“That guy gave it to me every time,’’ Besecker said.

And the horse absolutely loved running at Parx.

“There is no doubt his favorite track is Parx,’’ Besecker said at the time.

Besecker sold around 60 of his horses late in 2020 and plans to do the same thing this December.

“It’s just like clearing out a portfolio,’’ he said.

And then he will be building it back up again. The record now is 4,778 starters, with 1,039 winners, 834 seconds, 648 thirds, and earnings of $20,456,284. The horses may change; the results do not.

BRILLIANT BREEDERS’ CUP WEEKEND

By Dick Jerardi

Pennsylvania Derby Day on the last Saturday of September, Breeders’ Cup on the first weekend of November.

Privileged to have been there for both and can hardly wait until 2022 to do it all over again.

Got to Del Mar last Tuesday evening after my first flight in almost 20 months. The track’s lights were on with the darkened Pacific Ocean just to the other side of Highway 101. There can’t be many more glorious settings in sports than the Del Mar Turf Club where the turf actually does meet the surf.

The racing on Friday and Saturday perfectly fit the venue. Two races decided by the tiniest of noses. Six foreign-bred winners. Four winners based in Kentucky, three in New York, three in Europe, two in California and two in Japan, the country’s first BC win. Three wins for Godolphin, trainer Charlie Appleby and jockey William Buick, all by Dubawi, making that stallion the first to sire three BC winners in the same year. Gun Runner became the 10th Classic winner to sire a BC winner, Echo Zulu. Four of the world’s best jockeys _ Buick, the Ortiz Brothers, Irad and Jose, and Joel Rosario _ won 10 of the 14 BC races. And Knicks Go, finishing off a Horse of the Year campaign and the two days with a dominating, front-running win in the $6 million Classic.

Trainer Wesley Ward completely dominated the two turf sprints _ again. Twilight Gleaming wired the field in Friday’s Juvenile Turf Sprint and Golden Pal, seemingly 2 lengths in front two jumps out of the gate in Saturday’s Turf Sprint, became the fifth horse to win different BC events. Knicks Go later became the sixth.

Would not be shocked if trainer Steve Asmussen, who has won every big race there is to win except the biggest race of all, points the filly Echo Zulu to the Kentucky Derby next year. She was every bit as impressive in the Juvenile Fillies as the unbeaten colt Corniche was in the Juvenile. In fact, she ran the mile and a sixteenth in 1:42.24 while Corniche finished in 1:42.50.

Now, there is a question of what happens with Corniche, six months before the Derby. Normally, the colt would have earned 30 Derby points by now, but because trainer Bob Baffert is currently banned from running horses at Churchill Downs (when will the Medina Spirit hearing be scheduled and the positive test issue resolved?), Corniche has no Derby points and the owners may have to make a decision in 2022 to give the horse to another trainer if this does not get resolved in Baffert’s favor.

Nice to see Christophe Clement (was 0-for-41 in BC) finally get that first win when Pizza Bianca flew from last to first in the Juvenile Fillies Turf. (Keep an eye on Bubble Rock for the future. Hers was the greatest 12th place finish you will ever see. She was 5 lengths back and had 10 lengths worth of trouble).

As to the fiasco that was the Juvenile Turf, it was hard to understand the miscommunication between the vets at the gate and the stewards that resulted in the “scratch’’ of favored Modern Games. Harder to handle still was the resulting disaster for bettors who were locked into Modern Games in the double, pick 3, pick 4 or pick 5. When the horse ran for “purse money only,’’ by rule, they ended up with the post time favorite Dakota Gold who, if they had wanted to use him, they would have used him.

When Modern Games won and Dakota Gold finished fifth, the Modern Games multi-race bettors got nothing. How is that fair? In 2021, they really need to develop a software program to address that obviously rare issue. Even if the horse is running for “purse money only’’ and refunds need to be issued for in-race bets (win, place, show, exacta, etc.), there is no reason players that had multi-race wagers should not have been paid off if they had Modern Games.

The great Gamine was beaten in Saturday’s Filly & Mare Sprint when she got into a speed duel and the deserving Ce Ce, brilliantly trained by Michael McCarthy, was there to take advantage, jockey Victor Espinoza getting his first BC win since American Pharoah finished off his epic “Grand Slam’’ in the 2015 Classic.

How good was Life Is Good in the Dirt Mile? And wouldn’t it be cool, if as planned at the moment, Life Is Good and Knicks Go really hook up in the 2022 Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park? Think the fractions will be fast?

Loves Only You gave Japan its first BC win in the Filly & Mare Turf, followed two hours later by 49-1 shocker Marche Lorraine when, after favored Letruska was taken out by a pace meltdown  (21.84, 44.97), the Japanese bred and trained mare took the Distaff by an inch over Dunbar Road.

To me, the most shocking defeat was Jackie’s Warrior finishing sixth in the Sprint when Aloha West, who did not make his first start until Feb. 7, caught Dr. Schivel on the last jump. There is some evidence the rail was not the place to be on Saturday, but, other than that, Jackie’s race did not make much sense.

McCarthy did another fabulous job with Smooth Like Straight who nearly stole the Mile until the Appleby-trained Space Blues, sitting a perfect rail trip, came and got him in the stretch.

 Appleby did it again with Yibir in the Turf, the 3-year-old unleashing an almost impossible late run to blow by the field. It is hard to be certain from the video, but my estimate is that Yibir ran the final quarter mile in 22.50 seconds. That is sprinter speed at the end of a mile and a half grass race. Unreal.

Knicks Go did not need to run his last quarter that fast because the 5-year-old won the race in the first quarter when he cleared the field. Before coming to trainer Brad Cox last year, Knicks Go was 2-for-14, his 70-1 win in the 2018 Breeders’ Futurity and 40-1 second in the BC Juvenile looking like flukes.

All Knicks Go has done for Cox in eight two-turn races was go 8-for-8, winning by a combined 38 lengths. None of those wins were ever in doubt. Knicks Go will be the 2021 Horse of the Year.

I loved the Knicks Go-Hot Rod Charlie exacta and thought I had it until I didn’t. Perhaps, being on the rail hurt Charlie as he faded to fourth.

Medina Spirit outran Essential Quality for second and that will make for an interesting dilemma for Eclipse Award voters when they consider the 3-year-old championship.

Essential Quality won the Southwest, Blue Grass, Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy and the Travers while finishing fourth in the Derby and third in the Classic. Medina Spirit won the Robert Lewis, Kentucky Derby, Shared Belief, and Awesome Again while finishing second in the Sham, San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby and Classic and third in the Preakness.

I think Essential Quality won the better overall quality of races, but Medina Spirit fans will rightly point out that Medina finished in front of Essential Quality in the only two races where they met. It will be a fascinating debate.

There will be no debate about the success of the 38th Breeders’ Cup. It was wonderful, as always. On to Keeneland 2022 next November.

2021 Breeders’ Cup

Dick Jerardi

The Parx Breeders’ Cup winning streak will end at three, but the wins by Jaywalk, Spun to Run and Vequist will live on.

Unless there are multiple late scratches in the Turf Sprint, no Parx-based horses will be in the Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar this weekend. Turf Monster winner Hollywood Talent (who could forget 108-1?) was entered, but was so far down the list of also eligibles, there was essentially no way the horse was going to get to run.

It was a bit surprising that Parx Dash winner The Critical Way was also left out of the main Turf Sprint body. The wonderful Pennsylvania bred filly Caravel did make the race and is not without a chance. Neither is based at Parx, but racing at the track counts for something.

Even without a “Parx’’ horse, there will be no shortage of Parx storylines, all emerging from that wonderful Pennsylvania Derby Day on Sept. 25.

Pennsylvania Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie is a major contender in the $6 million Classic, the race of the year with Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, Belmont Stakes winner Essential Quality, Whitney winner Knicks Go, Woodward winner Art Collector, Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Max Player and Pacific Classic winner Tripoli.

Cotillion winner Clairiere has been working brilliantly in California for her start in the $2 million Distaff. She will be facing a powerhouse field, including Spinster winner Letruska (17 for 22 lifetime), Alabama winner Malathaat and La Troienne winner Shedaresthedevil.

Gallant Bob winner Jackie’s Warrior, nearly perfect in one-turn races, will be a heavy favorite in the Sprint. He will be taken on by, among others, Bing Crosby winner Dr. Schivel, 14-time winner Firenze Fire and Vanderbilt winner Lexitonian.

Life is Good will be a huge favorite in the Dirt Mile and maybe the most likely winner in any of the 14 races over the two days. The Parx Dirt Mile 1-2, Mind Control, and Silver State, originally were both set to run. Mind Control, however, spiked a temperature and was not entered. Silver State likely will be the second choice.

The Turf features defending champion Tarnawa, most recently a hard-luck second in the Arc de Triomphe. In addition to Tarnawa, there are six other horses running Saturday after winning a 2020 BC race – Essential Quality, Knicks Go, Glass Slippers and Golden Pal ( both Turf Sprint), Gamine (Filly & Mare Sprint), and Audarya (Filly & Mare Turf).

I am most looking forward to the Classic which will be on NBC in primetime Saturday night. The nine horses entered have won a combined $19,102,919 and 11 Grade I races. Essential Quality and Knicks Go, stablemates from the Brad Cox barn, enter as co-favorites for Horse of the Year and likely will be 1-2 in the betting.

Essential Quality’s only loss was a very close fourth in the Derby. The 3-year-old has won the Breeders’ Futurity, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Southwest, Blue Grass, Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy, and Travers. His style is adaptable to any situation. Slow pace, he’s close. Fast pace, he’s midpack.

Since being transferred to the Cox barn last year, Knicks Go has been in seven two-turn races and won them all by open lengths. He just goes to the front and none of the other horses can keep up. The colt has won the BC Dirt Mile, the Pegasus World Cup, the Cornhusker, Whitney, and Lukas Classic.

The first 100 yards of the Classic will be critical. Medina Spirit is really fast. Fast enough to make Knicks Go have to run too fast too soon? That will be the key to the race.

If Knicks Go clears the field again, I see him as being very difficult to catch. If it’s a fast contested pace, Knicks Go becomes vulnerable and the race could set up the late run of Essential Quality or the potentially perfect trip-off-the-speed Hot Rod Charlie.

However it plays out, the Classic will be the perfect finale of two great days of racing (the 2-year-olds take center stage Friday). The Breeders’ Cup was conceived 40 years ago by John Gaines. It was a brilliant idea that has stood the test of time and is a perfect final examination for the horses that are so talented and horseplayers that are so dedicated.

Can’t wait to see what happens.

PARX HALL OF FAMER RON GLORIOSO, ONE OF A KIND

By Dick Jerardi

It was the spring of 2015 when Ron Glorioso first told me about Cait the Great. She was, he told me, the best horse he had ever trained. He was thinking about the 2016 Kentucky Oaks before she ever ran.

Anybody that knew Ron, and that would be everybody in the history of Parx Racing, understood as my friend Craig Donnelly said that he was “the most optimistic trainer I ever knew.’’

Ron arrived at old Keystone on Oct. 10, 1974, 25 days before the track was set to open. He only left the stable area when he ran out of horses in 2018 and could never get back because he just could not physically do the job anymore.

But it was horses like Cait the Great or, more accurately, the thought of horses like Cait the Great, that kept him going to the barn despite the lingering injuries from a very bad car accident on March 22, 2011.

 When it came time for Cait the Great to make her debut on July 27, 2015 in the sixth race at Parx, I made the assumption that everybody at the track would know about her. Ron was never one for secrets.

The toteboard, however, kept telling a different story. Cait the Great was hanging around 6-1 during much of the betting. Then, there was a 5-minute delay because of an issue with one of the 2-year-olds at the gate. Serious money started to come in on two other horses. And Cait the Great’s price kept rising, 8-1, 10-1, 12-1, 15-1. She was 18-1 when the horses left the starting gate.

I was watching with Ron on the apron, just behind and to the left of the winner’s circle. Cait the Great, under jockey Ryan Barber, was in third, not far from the lead. Then, she began to move on the turn and kept moving.

“Where is she?’’ Ron asked as the horses hit the top of the stretch and headed for home.

“Let’s go to the winner’s circle?’’ I told him. “This race is over.’’

And it was. Cait the Great was way out on front, the others disappearing in the distance. The margin was 7 lengths at the wire. Cait the Great was everything Ron had said she was.

It was a short walk to the winner’s circle, but I will never forget the look on Ron’s face. It was a look of satisfaction, accomplishment and anticipation. I will never forget that look.

Ron was an unforgettable character in a sport filled with them. His stories were magical. I will forever treasure all of our phone conversations about college basketball and horses. He loved Villanova basketball and I was usually able to get him tickets to one game a season. He really loved Rick Pitino. I was going to take him to meet the Hall of Fame coach during this upcoming season.

Last year, I really missed having our regular lunches at the Continental Tavern in Yardley. The lunches were another pandemic casualty. I will be forever grateful that we were able to have one final lunch this past summer.

Ron never really recovered from that accident. In recent years, he had several surgeries, but walking remained difficult. The most recent surgery was earlier in October. I talked to him several times after the operation, but he just didn’t sound right.

When I got the call last Friday that Ron had passed away, once I recovered from the initial shock, I thought of that walk to the winner’s circle more than six years before.

Ron knew what a good horse looked like and he had one. Who really knew what Cait the Great might become?

After the winner’s circle picture that day, Ron had a request. He wanted to ride with me to Monmouth Park that Sunday to see American Pharoah run in the Haskell, his first race since winning the Triple Crown. Of course.

Ron was in high spirits that day, still reveling in Cait the Great’s tour de force, eager to see what was next for her and what a Triple Crown winner looked like in the flesh.

It was one of those glorious days at the track, the kind you never want to end. When I finally dropped Ron at the Park and Ride near the Scudder Falls Bridge close to midnight, I was thrilled that he was thrilled; a really good man who had a great time at a memorable event.

Ron Glorioso would have turned 80 on June 18, 2022. He grew up at Broad and Erie, went to North Catholic and spent five years in the State Police. But he was likely destined for the race track after his father took him there during his freshman year of high school. And once he decided to become a full time race tracker that was his life until that accident eventually robbed him of his ability to do what he loved.

Cait the Great was never the same after that first race. Ron discovered she had fractured a skull in a barn accident. It was a miracle she had survived at all. She won another race and finished third twice, but that overpowering maiden win was never duplicated, the injury clearly affecting her performance.Unfulfilled promise is a race track theme that has echoed through generations.

But in that one week in late July and early August of 2015, from Monday to Sunday, my friend Ron Glorioso got to see that promise in his barn come to life on the track at Parx and a fulfilled promise on wide display at Monmouth Park. It was quite a week in quite an amazing life.

Turning for Home Horses Perform Well at TB Makeover in Kentucky

By Dick Jerardi

The PTHA’s Turning for Home program was well represented at last week’s Retired Racetrack Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. According to TFH program administrator Danielle Montgomery, 27 TFH horses were originally scheduled to be in the retraining competition, including Barrels, Dressage, and Show Jumping among the ten disciplines. In actuality, 17 TFH horses did compete, and seven made the top ten in their disciplines.

According to Montgomery, the typical attrition rate is 45 percent from the original schedule, but it was even higher this year due to Covid. So, the TFH horses competed at a higher percentage than many other retraining entities that typically bring horses from half the states in the USA, several Canadian provinces, and sometimes from other countries.

Gumdrop’s Chiclet raced just five times from January to

November 2020. The Pennsylvania-bred showed some speed in a few of her races for Bob Hutt’s Uptowncharlybrown Stud LLC and trainer Eddie Coletti, but just wasn’t really competitive, losing those starts by a combined 144 lengths.

Great supporters of the TFH program, the owner and trainer made the decision to retire her with TFH. Gumdrop’s Chiclet, now ridden by Kaitlin Hartford of Full Gallop Farm in Aiken, South Carolina, was retrained and has found disciplines where she can compete. She finished an impressive fourth in Eventing, where she will continue to train up the levels, and eighth in Barrels at the TB Makeover. Uptowncharlybrown progeny are becoming much sought after as natural jumpers, and we can look forward to Downtowncharlybrown entering to compete in 2022 with Hannah Freeman.

One of the main ideas behind TFH is to give retired race horses a chance at second careers. The horses initially go to partner farms and eventually find permanent owners. The TB Makeover is the perfect forum to demonstrate what they have learned.

Southern Kisses raced 63 times from April 2015 to November 2019, with all but six of those races at Parx. The Pa – bred had four wins, seven seconds and 11 thirds with earnings of $222,075. Trainer Joe Taylor had the horse at two different stages of his career. When it became obvious in late 2019 the horse could no longer compete, Southern Kisses was retired to Turning for Home. A9-year-old, Southern Kisses, now named “Pirate” due to his eye having been removed, is doing quite nicely in his second career, and remarkably executed a ninth-place Competitive Trail pattern and decent Dressage performance under the patient training of professional Kate Rakowski.

Cinco Y Cinco began his career at Hawthorne in Chicago on Dec. 2, 2012 and ended it March 14, 2020 at Penn National. The majority of his 77 races came at Parx, as did much of his $300,489 in earnings.

The horse finished his career with trainer Ronald Abrams and was retired with TFH Partner Nina Lyman of TRRAC at Maui Meadow Farm. Now 11-years-old, Cinco Y Cinco finished 20th for Nina, who competed with her husband Charlie to showcase warhorses in Competitive Trail.

D’yer Mak’er, who had several different trainers through his 36-race career, which included $157,848 in earnings, finished an elegant fifth in Freestyle and seventeenth in Dressage at the TB Makeover. Trainer Everton Smith and owner Lee Stable had the horse for the final race of his career on Dec. 23, 2019. That the New York -bred ended his career at Parx was providential. Just about everybody at Parx values the Turning for Home program and what it does for retired racehorses. When the horse is ready, so is Turning for Home.

Star Player ran five times from the fall of 2019 until early winter 2020 at Parx for trainer Lupe Guerrero and owner Emerald Field Farm. The horse had raced in New Jersey and Florida before coming to Parx and getting claimed by Guerrero. Star Player won once for his new connections but was not particularly close in his other four races. So he was retired to TFH and became the Top Team horse in Eventing at the TB Makeover. Lupe also had retiree Bluegrass Demon compete in Dressage.

Poised for Action lived up to his name, running 34 times from October 2015 to June 2019, mostly at Parx for trainer John Servis. The horse was claimed in October 2018 by trainer Patricia Farro and Vaccaro Racing Stable. Poised for Action won $206,718 in his career, but when it was clear he was no longer competitive, his owner and trainer made the decision to retire him to TFH.

Poised for Action loves his second career so much that he was second in Working Ranch and eighth in Competitive Trail at the TB Makeover for adopter Mike Leverette. Watching an ex-racehorse cut

cattle and show Western is always fun to watch. Kelly Lupton of KL Sporthorses helped with the adoption.

Since its inception in 2008, Turning for Home has found new homes for more than 3,200 retired racehorses. And many of those horses have not only found new homes, but new careers which are showcased in wonderful events like the Thoroughbred Makeover.

TENTH PARX HALL OF FAME CLASS

By Dick Jerardi

When the first Parx Hall of Fame Class was inducted a decade ago, it included such legendary horses as Smarty Jones and My Juliet, trainers John Servis and Scott Lake, jockeys Tony Black and Rick Wilson. A decade later, the 10th class, which was inducted on Oct. 12, included three horses, three trainers, one jockey and two special achievement honorees.

Pure Sensation was based in New York with trainer Christophe Clement, but make no mistake, the gray blur was a Parx horse. In the closing-on-50-year-history of the race track, no horse has earned more money at Keystone/Philadelphia Park/Parx than Pure Sensation.

The gelding raced eight times in the two Parx graded stakes turf sprints, the Parx Dash and Turf Monster. He won the Dash in 2016, 2017, and 2019 while finishing third in 2018. He won the Monster in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

“He was always trying,’’ said assistant trainer Christophe Lorieul. “He loved this place. It was something special about here. He was a delight to train.’’

And a delight to watch run.

The wonderful filly Cathryn Sophia began her career with four dominating wins, finished third in the 2016 Ashland Stakes before winning the Kentucky Oaks.

“So many good memories,’’ said owner Chuck Zacney. “We picked her out at the Fasig-Tipton Maryland sale in 2014 for $30,000.’’

 Bought for $30,000, she earned $1.229 million.

“This is really special,’’ Zacney said. “This is my second one. Two years ago, Jaywalk and now Cathryn Sophia. Parx, I consider my home base.’’

The filly was Servis’s fourth Parx HOF along with Smarty Jones, Jostle and Jaywalk.

“She was a filly that showed her talent early on,’’ Servis said. “She just constantly had nagging issues. We just had to be very patient with her. We finally got her to the races and she showed her stuff, went on, had a great career and took us on a heck of a ride.’’

 Indeed she did.

“This is my home and we put all of our effort into Parx, not just training, but on the (PTHA)  board, trying to make this place a better place,’’ Servis said.

Trainer Carlos Guerrero always had high hopes for Spun to Run. The colt rewarded his trainer and owner Bob Donaldson with a powerful win in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile after wins in the Smarty Jones and Ballezzi Appreciation Mile. The colt won $1.14 million that year.

“He did have an incredible year,’’ Donaldson said. “I felt the Ballezzi set us up really well. He ran a 110 Beyer and that was the highest Beyer of a mile or over of that year for a 3-year-old so that’s really what made our decision to go to the Breeders’ Cup.’’

A great decision it was.

Jockey Joe Hampshire, who grew up in South Philly, rode for 33 years from 1983 to 2015. He spent his early career at Keystone/Philadelphia Parx, went to New England for much of the 1990s and early 2000s where he was leading rider 18 times and then returned in 2004 to finish his career at Philadelphia Park/Parx.

“Joe was a star around here for many years,’’ said PTHA board member Steve Appel who accepted on behalf of Hampshire. “He had an amazing career which he finished up here at Parx.’’

Hampshire was ill so he could not attend the ceremony, but he can still be seen most every day at the track as a highly successful jockey’s agent and all-around good guy.

Trainer Butch Reid joins older brother Mark in the HOF. His career really turned when he came to Parx with wife Ginny when the purses took off 15 years ago.

He now has 12 graded stakes winners, including dual Grade I winner, Breeders’ Cup winner and 2020 champion 2-year-old filly Vequist.

“It’s a lifelong dream and struggle and (Ginny’s) been through a lot of it with me along with my daughter Whitney, living various places around the east coast,’’ Reid said.

Now, they are at Parx, winning more than ever with better horses than they ever had before. Reid has 829 career winners and his horses have earned $28.5 million.

Like the Reids, trainer Pat Farro and husband Mike are a backstretch team.

“I can’t believe it,’’ Farro sait.“ It’s still a shock to me. Everything that we’ve accomplished together. It’s great to do something you really love and make a living at it.’’

It really should not have been a shock.She deserves it.

Farro’s horses have won 1,909 races and earned $47.3 million. From 2012-17, she won 704 races, getting more than 100 wins every year during that six-year period

Eugene Euster was the trainer of My Juliet, the only Parx-based horse elected to the National Museum of  Racing’s Hall of Fame. The brilliant filly won 24 of 36 career races. She raced at 16 tracks from coast to coast. She ran 24 times between 6 and 7 furlongs and won 19. She won the Black Eyed Susan, Cotillion and Test in 1975. She beat Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes in the 1976 Vosburgh. And she helped get her trainer elected to the Parx HOF.

Anthony J. Lacovelli, also known as Vince Reed in the Lower Bucks County sports community, was a Racing Analyst at Parx Racing. Vince passed away in 2017. He was such a track fixture that he was an obvious HOF choice in the “Special Contributor’’ category.

“It’s overwhelming,’’ said Reed’s son, also Vince. “He would have loved this. He thought the world of everybody here. This was like another family to him.’’

Reed was elected to the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame in 2004 and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2010.

Roberto “Bobby’’ Velez was a forever fixture at Parx when he suddenly passed away in August. He was another natural as a “Special Contributor.’’

His resume was unending, first as the assistant trainer for Budd Lepman when he had the great sprinter Eillo, winner of the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Then, he was the exercise rider for 1985 Kentucky Derby and Jersey Derby winner Spend a Buck and an assistant to John Servis during the unforgettable Smarty Jones run.

Maureen Donnelly was also a Servis assistant back then and she and Velez became constant companions

“We’re just so proud of him that he was recognized,’’ Donnelly said. “He’s been around (Parx) since the 70s when it was Keystone. It was a special place for him.’’

And he was a special person at Parx as are all of the HOF Class of 2021.

PAUL CONAWAY WAS A SOURCE OF JOY

By Dick Jerardi

Nine days after Paul Conaway, 63, tragically died from injuries suffered in a car accident, family and close friends gathered Sept. 28 at the Red Horse Motoring Club in Pottstown to tell Paul stories at a Celebration of a Life very well lived.

If you were with Paul, he insisted on you having a good time. And nowhere was that more evident than at the 2015 Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland.

After an adventure straight from horse  hell, Favorite Tale, a horse Conaway bred and owned, was going to run in the BC Sprint. The race had been a year in the planning, but then a quarantine at Parx where the Pennsylvania bred was stabled with trainer Lupe Preciado, forced the horse on an odyssey that included other race tracks and training centers. Then, on the way to Lexington, Ky., a van carrying Favorite Tale broke down and the horse had to spend hours in that van by the side of the road. Then, Favorite Tale drew the 14 post against the toughest field of sprinters assembled that year.

No matter. Paul, with his beloved Judi constantly by his side and his family and friends along for the ride, took everybody out to dinner the night before the big race, just anticipating a moment that would last less than 69 seconds. And he made plans for another dinner the next night regardless of how the race played out.

Judi asked me to tell that Breeders’ Cup story at the Celebration as a prelude to a wonderful video Let’s Go Racing producer Bruce Casella masterfully crafted about that day at Keeneland. Mostly, before the video and after, I felt fortunate to listen to so many stories from those who knew Paul best. He lived his life with rare joy, no matter what might be happening.

And he really loved his horses, especially Favorite Tale, the horse which started 24 times from 2014 to 2018 with nine wins, five seconds, four thirds, earnings of $1,026,300 and four stakes wins. One of the biggest wins of the horse’s career came in the 2014 Grade III Gallant Bob Stakes on Pennsylvania Derby Day, the day the great California Chrome raced at Parx. The winner’s circle picture from the Gallant Bob had a prominent place among Paul’s memorabilia at the Celebration.

Favorite Tale’s best performance was in that 2015 BC Sprint. Sent off at 23-1 against the great Runhappy and the very accomplished Private Zone, Favorite Tale was always very wide and always very much in the race.

There were moments in the stretch when it almost seemed possible that he could win it. In the end, “Favorite’’ as Paul and Judi always called him, finished third, just 1 3/4 lengths behind Runhappy and 1 length behind Private Zone. Those two were going to be difficult for any horse in the field to beat. That Favorite Tale had finished in front of the other 11 horses felt very much like winning.

And that was the reaction in the “Conaway’’ boxes overlooking the track. Paul’s face positively glowed. In the biggest race of the horse’s life, Favorite Tale had performed brilliantly.

Those moments were re-lived the rest of that afternoon and well into the night at another dinner Paul hosted. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah’s final race, a tour de force in the BC Classic, may have been the big national story. But, for those from Pennsylvania, there was another celebration for another horse and his people.

That we lost Paul so tragically and far too young was shocking and just so sad. Thankfully, we got to remember him, learn more about his life as a brilliant salesman and how he loved to ride motorcycles and play cornhole among so many other pursuits, hobbies and charitable endeavors. Paul Conaway absolutely was, as so many said, a larger than life figure. Anybody who knew him even a little knew that. So we will all miss him, but we won’t ever forget him.