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.

PERFECT PENNSYLVANIA DERBY DAY

By Dick Jerardi

Perfect rarely happens in life or at the race track. Perfect happened last Saturday at Parx on Pennsylvania Derby Day.

It was a gloriously brilliant day with 13 races that stretched over 6 1/2 hours. The total handle ($13,799,491) broke the old track record set in 2014 by 30 percent. The results were formful and wild, with 1-20 shots and 108-1 shots in the winner’s circle.

Some of the biggest names in the sport won the three major stakes races, but Parx jockeys and trainers were serious players in four of the other five stakes.

The two best performances were by 9-10 Hot Rod Charlie in the Pennsylvania Derby and 1-20 Jackie’s Warrior in the Gallant Bob. Each will be headed to DelMar for the Breeders’ Cup Classic and BC Sprint respectively.

Hot Rod Charlie arrived a week before the Derby. Stabled next to his constant companion Lava Man (claimed for $50,000, won $5 million) in Scott Lake’s Barn 2, HRC had been great and unlucky at the same time during a campaign that began in January. The colt had never run a bad race, but circumstance and a disqualification from first in the Haskell had kept him from a Grade I win.

After leading all the way under Flavien Prat and winning the Pa. Derby by a decisive 2 1/4 lengths, Hot Rod Charlie finally had his Grade I win for his eclectic ownership group and trainer Doug O’Neill. His career-best Beyer speed figure of 111 stamps him as a major contender for the Classic.

“Charlie is a rock star,’’ O’Neill said. “I’m just a roadie but I am a pumped roadie, that’s for sure.”

With good reason.

“When you have speed and stamina and class, you can do some crazy, cool things,’’ O’Neill said. “He displayed today that he has got some special qualities that, if he stays injury free, could lead to big stuff in November. I think he can be a big force in the Breeders’ Cup.’’

The colt cornered poorly into the stretch and came out close to Midnight Bourbon who had been chasing all the way. There was an inquiry and objection from Ricardo Santana who rode Midnight Bourbon. But there was no change. Nor should there have been. Midnight Bourbon had the length of the stretch to get by and was losing ground at the finish.

As good as Hot Rod Charlie was and he was really good, Jackie’s Warrior was perhaps even more dazzling with a blowout win in the Gallant Bob. Now, 8-for-9 with a neck loss in one-turn races, the son of Maclean’s Music never gave four overmatched foes a chance, opening up on the backstretch and being geared down in the stretch by Joel Rosario for trainer Steve Asmussen. The margin was 6 3/4 lengths, but it could have been anything. Jackie’s Warrior got a 110 Beyer.

 “He’s very exciting to watch,’’ Asmussen said. “What a very special horse he’s been. He’s run some game races and obviously, we’re hoping it’s the ideal prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.’’

The deadly Asmussen-Santana combination were the deserving winners in the Cotillion with the ultra-consistent Clairiere. Running in her eighth consecutive graded stakes, Clairiere is now 9-for-9 in the top four and, just like Hot Rod Charlie, she got her breakthrough Grade I win when she came rolling off the far turn and blew by the leaders in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths as the 5-2 favorite.

Clairiere was not the best horse on the card, but there was no disputing she was the best bred. By seven-time Grade I winner, two-time Horse of the Year, and $10 million earner Curlin out of $2 million earner Cavorting (three Grade I wins and three more Grade II), she has always run like a Grade I winner. The Cotillion made it official.

Parx-based horses ran 1-3 in the Turf Monster and Greenwood Cup, the other graded stakes on the card. Parx horses won the two Pennsylvania-bred stakes that began and ended the run of eight consecutive stakes. And the Parx Dirt Mile had the wildest ending of the day.

As an 8-year-old, Hollywood Talent ran third in the 2019 Turf Monster behind the newly-minted Parx Hall of Famer Pure Sensation. Seemingly headed in the wrong direction when entered for an $8,000 claiming race last November, trainer Juan Vazquez nonetheless decided to claim the horse.

Winless in six starts since then and apparently way off his best form, Hollywood Talent was 108-1 in the Turf Monster. But the now 10-year-old, always in a good spot under Santana, running on softer ground that he clearly loved, flew at the finish to win by 1 1/4 lengths,

It was Vazquez who gave the Panamanian Santana his American start in 2012 at Delaware Park and the wonderful jockey paid Vazquez back with a win he will never forget.

The Parx-based Admiral Abe, the $25,000 claim that has earned $381,012 since, looked home in midsretch at 23-1, but got tired late and settled for a terrific third.

Jamie Ness, who has dominated the Parx trainer standings for two years running, had one graded stakes win in his career. He now has two after Magic Michael came from nowhere under Frankie Pennington to run them all down in the Greenwood Cup. This was the horse’s seventh win since being claimed by Ness for $30,000 last November at Churchill Downs. And the biggest.

“You know, we are local,’’ Ness said. “A big day. Took a little bit of a shot here but the horse seems to do well over this track. We have been pointing to this race for two months. It came up a little stronger than we thought it would. But we are here, took a shot and my jock knows this track real well. I think he won the race for me today.’’

Ness and Pennington also teamed up to win the Alphabet Soup, the race after the Pa. Derby. Pennington was chill much of the way on You Must Chill, but when the horse saw daylight in the stretch, he came with a huge run to catch and pass the Parx-based Wait for It to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

The amazing Chub Wagon made it 10-for-11 when she won the Plum Pretty, her first two-turn race. It was a strangely-run race as Chub Wagon was held back in second by Jomar Torres behind a tepid pace. But she opened up on the far turn and had enough to hold off a late run by Vault and the great finisher Rosario.

Parx Hall of Fame trainer Lupe Preciado has done a wonderful job keeping Chub Wagon in top form despite a very busy schedule that most recently included three races in 33 days

The most exciting finish of the day was in the Parx Dirt Mile which had three-million-dollar earners that ended up finishing 1-2-3. Looked like 4-5 Silver State had the race won for Asmussen-Santana when he went by Mind Control by a half-length in deep stretch. But Mind Control, trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, quite possibly the greatest jockey/trainer combo in history, came again to win it by a head. Warrior’s Charge, owned by Parx regular Ten Strike Racing, finished a solid third.  When the day was over, the only regret was that we will have to wait a year to do it all over again. Whatever goes down on Pa. Derby Day 2022, it will be hard to equal or top this day. But we all keep showing up to find out what is going to happen next and, every once in a great while, we experience perfection.

PENNSYLVANIA DERBY DAY RETURNS

By Dick Jerardi

It has been two years so the anticipation for Saturday’s Pennsylvania Derby Day at Parx is as high as it’s ever been. And the race card may very well be the best in the history of the race track.

The 13 races have combined purses of $3.74 million. The eight stakes, starting in race 6 and continuing through race 13, have purses of $3.4 million. The biggest names in the sport have entered horses for the biggest race day in the Commonwealth all year and America’s biggest race day in the month of September.

Four Hall of Fame trainers (Bob Baffert, Steve Asmussen, Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher) have entered 11 horses. Chad Brown, Brad Cox and Doug O’Neill, all headed to the Hall of Fame, have entered five. Two Parx Hall of Famers, John Servis and Butch Reid, have entered 11.

The jockeys are among the very best in the sport – John Velazquez, Joel Rosario, Flavien Prat, Jose Ortiz, Luis Saez, Ricardo Santana, Florent Geroux and Paco Lopez as well as Parx Hall of  Famers Kendrick Carmouche and Frankie Pennington.

And it is called horse racing for a reason. There are so many fabulous horses on the card.

The $1 million Grade I Pa. Derby (race 12) has four of the top seven finishers from the Kentucky Derby, including winner Medina Spirit and Louisiana Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie who finished third. Midnight Bourbon, second in the Preakness, Travers and La. Derby, is the very definition of solid. The race has every top 3-year-old in training with the notable exception of division leader Essential Quality.

 Upsets are always possible, but the winner most likely will be Hot Rod Charlie (O’Neill/Prat) or Medina Spirit (Velazquez/Baffert). Both are fast, accomplished and consistent.

The $1 million Grade 1 Cotillion (race 11) has a terrific cast of 3-year-old fillies, led by Grade I CCA Oaks winner Maracuja who will be ridden by Carmouche for trainer Rob Atras. Asmussen has Clairiere (Santana) who always fires against the best of the division. Army Wife (Mike Maker/Rosario) won the Black Eyed Susan and Iowa Oaks. Servis sends out Monmouth Oaks winner Leader of the Band (Pennington) for local owner Will Schwartz.

The $300,000 Grade II Gallant Bob (race 10) features the fastest 3-year-old sprinter in the country in Jackie’s Warrior, a neck from being unbeaten in eight one-turn races for the Asmussen/Rosario combination. The colt will be a very short price and won’t take long to negotiate the 6 furlongs. The Reid-trainer Beren, with four wins at Parx, will be among those trying to pull off a huge upset.

The $300,000 Grade III Turf Monster (race 9) is headlined by the very consistent Carotari and the brilliant Pennsylvania-bred filly Caravel, unbeaten in five grass races at 5 or 5 ½ furlongs. This race is at 5 furlongs and has been won by such greats as Ben’s Cat, Pure Sensation and Chamberlain Bridge.

The $200,000 marathon that is the Greenwood Cup (race 8) includes Math Wizard, the 30-1 upset winner of the 2019 Pa. Derby, the last one run until Saturday after last year’s cancellation due to the pandemic.

The $200,000 Parx Dirt Mile (Race 7) would be a headliner many days, with multiple stakes winner such as Mind Control ($1,299,229 in earnings) and Silver State ($1,865,094) as well as millionaire Warrior’s Charge, part owned by Parx regular Marshall Gramm’s Ten Strike Racing.

It is such a strong card that lock Parx Horse of the Year Chub Wagon will run in the first of the stakes, The $200,000 Plum Pretty (Race 6) for Pa. Breds. The 4-year-old filly, trained by Parx Hall of Famer Lupe Preciado and ridden by Jomar Torres, will be making her first start around two turns. It is a strong field, but the only chance for an upset is if Chub Wagon is not at all effective at a mile and a sixteenth. She is going to be in front so she will have a distinct tactical advantage.

The $200,000 Alphabet Soup Handicap (Race 13) for Pa. Breds going a mile and a sixteenth on grass, includes the wonderful Wait for It (12 wins, $638,108 in earnings). Almost all of that money has been earned on the main track with one grass start, a third in a 2018  Pa. Bred stake.

If you can’t make it to the track, you can check it all out on PHL 17 (4-6 p.m.), with the Pa. Derby, Cotillion and Gallant Bob live and several other stakes on tape.

More than ever, horse racing is an event-driven sport, with major events more popular than ever. Over the last decade, Pennsylvania Derby Day has become one of those events. And the 2021 version promises to be one of the very best.