By Dick Jerardi

In just his second full year as a jockey, Josue Arce won a Grade I stake. Just a few months into his second full year as a trainer, Arce has won his first stakes with his 266th starter. So which was better? Winning the 2006 Grade I Princess Rooney with Malibu Mint or Saturday’s $75,000 Not For Love at Laurel Park with Breezy Gust? “As a trainer, by far, not even close,’’ Arce said. “I used to lose so much weight when riding. I couldn’t wait to get back home and eat. Now, I can watch from the grandstand and take it all in.”

Arce won 393 times as a jockey over 15 years, but there you just show up in the morning to gallop or breeze a horse and then ride in the afternoon. Training is all day, every day. “You’re around them the whole day, like one of your kids,” Arce said.

Arce claimed Breezy Gust for $15,000 on June 1, 2022. The now 6-year-old Pennsylvania bred gelding has won $155,640 since the claim. And Arce is not just getting the 10 percent trainer’s share. Breezy Gust is owned by Arce’s Trending Stable. So he is getting all of the proceeds, less the 10 percent that goes to the jockey. In the last seven starts, that would be Dexter Haddock.

Haddock and Arce have been having regular discussions about how best to ride Breezy Gust. Back in 2021, Breezy Gust won three straight races by a combined 18 lengths before finishing a close third in the Paige McKenney at Parx. The horse was winning on the lead then. “I wanted to see the horse running from off the pace,” Arce said. “That was my fight with Dexter all the time.”

The tactics worked perfectly at Laurel. Breezy Gust was fifth early in the 6-furlong race, moved up gradually, and won by a convincing 1 1/4 lengths. “I said, Dexter, you got the outside post, the favorite ( Grade III General George winner and $1 million earner Eastern Bay) is inside you, just keep him in there, you have the same running style,” Arce said.

It worked out just like the jockey turned trainer envisioned, with Breezy Gust always to the outside of Eastern Bay who never really looked comfortable and checked in third.

Two races after the claim, Arce put blinkers on Breezy Gust. The horse promptly lost five consecutive races after having won right off the claim and finishing a solid third in the Banjo Picker Sprint. “I tried the blinkers and I don’t think that helped,” Arce said. “I was wrong about that because he looks around a lot, I thought it was going to help him. But I was wrong and took them off him.”

The blinkers came off on January 17, and Breezy Gust has come all the way back to that 2021 form, with a win, a second and now the stakes win with Beyers of 90, 90 and 94 in three starts. “I was just thinking he’s a Pa. bred with some back class,” Arce said as to why he made the claim. If it went bad, Arce figured, as a Pa. bred, you could always get the money back by dropping the horse if necessary. “The upside is if you can work with the horse and get him back to his form, then you have a nice horse,” Arce said.

He not only has a nice horse; he has a stakes winner.

So what was that stakes-winning moment like? “Unbelievable,” Arce said. “I was jumping up and down. I was thrilled, I cried, everything went through my mind.”

Arce has 11 horses in the stable at the moment and he owns almost all of them, including Breezy Gust who has earned 10 times the claim price. And counting.




By Dick Jerardi

The second round of Kentucky Derby preps are now over. The Big Six – Florida Derby, Santa Anita Derby, Blue Grass Stakes, Arkansas Derby, Wood Memorial and Louisiana Derby – are on the immediate horizon.

The mutuel field (all others not listed) was the favorite in each of the first four Derby future pools from Churchill Downs. Pool 5, which was last weekend, saw a significant change. Forte, the 2-year-old champion and powerhouse winner of the March 4 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, was the 3-1 favorite when the betting stopped, with Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapit Trice the second choice at 8-1. Both horses are trained by Todd Pletcher who will be going for his third Derby.

The field is the third choice at 10-1 as it now seems unlikely that some horse so unknown at this stage is going to emerge as the Derby winner. Then, there was Rich Strike last year, 80-1 on race day.

Forte is not only the most accomplished 3-year-old, he is also one of the fastest with his 98 Beyer figure in the Fountain of Youth. His devastating turn of foot makes him absolutely the horse to beat at this point, with the Florida Derby most likely his final prep for the first Saturday in May.

Arabian Knight may be the most talented horse of this 3-year-old class. But he missed some time, came back to work twice and, on Sunday, was declared off the Derby trail with an unspecified issue. Arabian Knight is now back in Bob Baffert’s barn after a brief time with Tim Yakteen (who is again subbing for Baffert as he remains banned from Churchill Downs tracks until after this Derby).

Baffert loves to run his top 3-year-olds in the Pennsylvania Derby so it would be no surprise if Arabian Knight ends up at Parx in September for the track’s signature race, perhaps after a run in the Travers. He also has the very fast Cave Rock who could end up at Parx.

Baffert thinks he may have the two best 3-year-olds and he may be right. But they won’t be ready for the KY Derby.

Arabian Knight was one of many Baffert-trained 3-year-olds recently transferred to Yakteen. This all stems, of course, from 2021 Derby winner Medina Spirit’s disqualification for having a prohibited-on-race-day anti-inflammatory in his system during a post race test.

Interestingly, Yakteen’s best 3-year-old appears to be a horse he has been training all along. A few hours after Forte won in Florida, Practical Move was just about as impressive in winning the San Felipe at Santa Anita. The colt got a 100 Beyer and kept extending his margin during a massive gallop out. Practical Move was 12-1 in the recent Derby pool.

So Forte and Practical Move seemed to have separated from the pack. Even though Tapit Trice was the second choice, that was likely recency bias. The colt got just an 88 Beyer at Tampa Bay Downs and that is not anywhere close to fast enough to give him a chance in the Derby.

 Now, we await those final major preps and try to put them into context, along with what we already know and what we are about to find out.


By Dick Jerardi

The second “Parx Madness” on the first Monday and Tuesday of March featured seven $75,000 stakes races over the two days and on Tuesday, eight overnights named after the Philly Big 5 schools as well as Drexel, Penn State and Delaware Valley. Several former basketball players and coaches from the schools enjoyed the day in the Cotillion Room, telling stories and betting on a few races. Legendary La Salle coach Speedy Morris was there for the second consecutive year. The former players included Mike Vreeswyk, Derrick Brantley, Kevin Clifton and Jerome Dowdell from Temple as well as La Salle’s Keith Morris, Saint Joseph’s Rashid Bey and Penn State’s Ben Luber, now the head coach at George School in Newtown.

The four stakes races Monday were won by four different jockeys and trainers, but, with different tactics in the first stakes, it likely would have been a trainer/jockey combination winning two of the races.

Jockey Paco Lopez, known for being aggressive, made a rare tactical error in The Main Line for 3-year-old fillies going 1 mile and 70 yards. Girl Trouble was 1-5. She had won two stakes at Parx and just finished second in a New York stakes. She had the rail. She had the speed. Only Lopez did not ask Girl Trouble for any speed leaving the gate and she was stuck behind two other fillies who were going very slowly.

“I figured Girl Trouble would be on the lead and hopefully, I could sit off her and that’s how this horse usually runs,” said jockey Frankie Pennington who was riding 6-1 Social Success. “I went to the lead, my horse’s ears went in the air and I was like, “this is good.”

It was very good as Social Success never gave up the lead and got away in the stretch to win by 2 1/2 lengths for Penn National trainer Bruce Kravets and owner Shirley Lojeski.

Girl Trouble checked in a troubled third. Her trainer Butch Reid was understandably not thrilled with the ride, but got the ride he wanted three races later in the mile and 70-yard Brotherly Love (3-year-olds) when Lopez and 1-5 Ninetyprcentmaddie went right to the front from the rail and dominated, winning by 9 3/4 lengths.

“The filly’s trip a couple of races ago was a little disappointing so I was glad to get him out there,’’ Reid said. “Paco got him in a nice cruising speed. I thought all along he could get a route of ground. The Withers was just a throwout. It was a good rebound for him.’’

In his previous race, Ninetyprecentmaddie prompted the pace in the Withers before backing out and losing by 56 lengths. The margin was simply a function of jockey Abner Adorno saving Ninetyprcentmaddie for another day. That day was Monday and judging by the result; there will be more days like it.

Ninetyprcentmaddie is a son of Weigelia whose offspring have done so well for Reid’s stable.

“I didn’t find him until late in life,’’ Reid said. “He’s like (22)-years old this year, Weigelia, but he’s been a great stallion for us and we’ve won a lot of races along the way.’’

Chickieness, trained at Parx by Jamie Ness, and Tappin Jose, trained at Laurel Park by Horacio De Paz, vied for favoritism in the 6 1/2-furlong Society Hill for 3-year-old fillies. The public eventually settled on Chickieness at 6-5 over Tappin Josie (8-5). At the finish, it was Tappin Josie and jockey Kevin Gomez over Chickieness by three-quarters of a length.

Tappin Josie was claimed two races back for $50,000 at Laurel by owner Darryl Abramowitz.

“I liked that she’s a Pennsylvania bred,’’ Abramowitz said. “I know the trainer she came from and usually he drops horses like that. And I liked the form on her and everything else. Obviously, in this game, you take a lot of chances. This one paid off.’’

Anthony Nunez turned 25 Monday. The jockey got some birthday presents from hot 3-year-old No Confession for owner Kingdom Racing and new trainer Linda Simon in the 6 1/2-furlong Rittenhouse Square.

“He does everything easily,’’ Nunez said of the colt he had ridden three times, all no-doubt-about-it-wins.

No Confession took eight starts to break his maiden, but has been unbeatable since then after winning The Rittenhouse Square by 4 widening lengths at 7-2. The three wins have been by a combined 16 1/2 lengths.

The best race of the two days was on Tuesday between 9-5 Twisted Ride and 7-2 Smooth B in The Fishtown going 6 furlongs. The pair hooked up on the far turn and ran together the entire length of the stretch, Twisted Ride and jockey Andy Hernandez barely ahead most of the way and just a head in front at the finish; the race finally declared official after an endless inquiry that involved the winner who was bumped by one horse into the path of another horse.

Owned by Kasey K Racing Stable LLC, Michael Day and Final Turn LLC and trained by Michael Moore, Twisted Ride got his third consecutive win.

“It was long, it was tough, we didn’t really think he should come down, we thought the horse outside of him forced him in,’’ Moore said of the inquiry. “(Twisted Ride) has really matured. He was a handful when he was a little younger. He’s real tough. You could see he battled all the way down the stretch.’’

Disco Ebo was a very talented 2-year-old filly with seemingly unlimited promise in late 2021.

“She got loose one morning and it was traumatic for everybody involved,’’ her trainer Butch Reid said. ‘She got the reins hooked around her hind foot and just kept slamming herself on the ground. She cut herself up bad, but it was mostly superficial injuries. I think psychologically it took her a while to get over that.’’

Well, she is way over it after dominating the 6 1/2-furlong Penn’s Landing for older females at 3-5, winning by 6 3/4 lengths under jockey Frankie Pennington. It was her fifth win in six starts and the most impressive yet for owners Cash is King and LC Racing LLC.

“She’s really moved to a new level,’’ Reid said. “She’s back now, so look out.’’

Forewarned has made the vast majority of his nearly $1 million in Ohio Bred races, but owner/trainer Uriah St. Lewis found a spot at home for his 7-year-old making his 58th start. Coming with his customary late rally from the back under Dexter Haddock, 5-1 Forewarned caught 3-1 Prince of Rain very late to win the 1 mile, 70-yard Washington Crossing by one-half length. That brought Forewarned’s earnings to $981,483.

“Usually, we don’t get a race for him here,’’ St. Lewis said. “When we do get it, we are happy to get it. He did what he had to do.’’

And to have a second millionaire in the barn along with 2018 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Discreet Lover…

“We pray he can make it over a million,’’ St. Lewis said. “He’s just trying; he’s working, he’s working. He’ll get there.’’


By Dick Jerardi

It was the last award of the night at the annual Horsemen’s Awards Banquet. What should have been a total celebration at Celebrations last Friday was a bittersweet moment for trainer Mike Pino when Fortheluvofbourbon was announced by host Dani Gibson as the 2022 Parx Horse of the Year.

The horse that Pino had claimed for $50,000 in 2020 at Churchill Downs raced nine times in 2022 with seven wins, a second and earnings of $361,680 for owner Dan Ryan’s Smart Angle LLP . The Pennsylvania bred finished off the season with six consecutive wins, including four stakes, three at Parx and the Oct. 22 Maryland Million Sprint at Laurel Park.       

“I drove to Kentucky to get him,” Pino remembered. “He was a Pa. bred. He really delivered. We had a lot of fun. It was for a great owner. Every time he won, I was more happy for him than anything.”

Pino figures he has had horses with Ryan for 30 years or so. Fortheluvofbourbon was certainly their best together.

“He stuck with me, very loyal guy,” Pino said.

Pino and Ryan were looking forward to 2023 with Fortheluvofbourbon. Eight days after the Maryland Million while on his way to Parx from his Fair Hill, Md. home, Pino’s phone rang. It was Fortheluvofbourbon’s groom. It was around 4:30 a.m.

“He said the horse was dead in the stall,” Pino said. “I walked around in a daze for maybe two weeks. It was hard to believe it happened. It’s part of the game, but I didn’t want it be him, that’s for sure.”

Horse racing is a sport that sometimes swells hearts and other times breaks them. It is why success must be celebrated. You simply never know what is next.

Fortheluvofbourbon was justly celebrated. Pino trained $1 million earner Ten Keys. He just won his 2,000th race. Fortheluvofbourbon was his first Horse of the Year.

To hear Fortheluvofbourbon’s name called was “very gratifying. We knew he was a champion. You don’t know if anybody else does. I was very appreciative that they appreciated him.”

The voters surely appreciated what Fortheluvofbooubon accomplished in 2022, but he had serious competition for Horse of the Year in what was the greatest year in the history of Parx Racing.

Scaramouche, voted top 3-year-old male, had a Horse of Year campaign as well with six wins from 10 starts, including the Grade II Gallant Bob on Pennsylvania Derby Day. It was one of two divisional champions for trainer Lupe Preciado. He also won with 2-year-old filly Flor de Sombra. Joe Imbesi owns Flor de Sombra. Scaramouche is owned by Nicholas Cammarano.

The top 2-year-old male was Pennsylvania Nursery winner Winning Time for trainer Kate DeMasi and Pewter Stable.

Morning Matcha, trained by Butch Reid and owned by Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing LLC, Gary Barber and Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King LLC, was voted top 3-year-old filly.  She won one stakes and was graded stakes placed three times, including a terrific second in the $1 million Grade I Cotillion at Parx.

Fortheluvofbourbon was also voted champion older male. Love in the Air, owned by Lou Bucky’s Main Line Stable and trained by John Servis, was named top older female. She won two Pa. Bred stakes and finished second in another.

Jamie Ness, as is his recent custom, made more appearances than anybody when awards were presented. He was the top trainer for the third consecutive year with 166 Parx wins. His trainee Exit Right was named the Outstanding Claim as well as Claiming Horse of the Year and also had the most wins (8). Ness’s owners Morris E Kernan, Yo Berbs Racing and Jagger Inc. had 48 wins to be named Leading Owner.

Miguel Rodriguez had a terrific year and was the leading “B” trainer with 29 wins.

Ruben Silvera was once again Leading Jockey with 162 wins. Andy Hernandez was Leading Apprentice with 104 wins and was the regular rider for the Mike Moore-trained That’s Right, a strong candidate for 3-year-old male champion with two stakes wins, including the Grade III Turf Monster.

 The Awards Banquet was a perfect conclusion to the amazing year that was 2022. Now, it’s on to the final 10 months of 2023, with new PTHA president Bob Hutt, now veteran (14 months) executive director Jeff Matty, office manager Vicky Mangini and the entire PTHA staff in charge of what has happened and is about to happen.


By Dick Jerardi

Parx jockey Andrew Wolfson has ridden in six stakes at Aqueduct. He has won three of them and none of those winners were close to favored. There was 44-1 Mandate in the 2021 Artie Schiller, 10-1 Repo Rocks in the Toboggan last month and Sunday, it was 27-1 Cairo Sugar in the $100,000 Maddie May for Parx trainer Alan Bedard. The trainer has started four horses at the winter Aqueduct meet. Three of them won, including 13-1 Jonny Quest in a $14.000 claimer on Saturday.

So why exactly was the Bedard-Wolfsont combo the longest price in the six-horse Maddie May field? Well, Cairo Sugar was jumping from a maiden win to a stakes. But so was second choice I’mhavingamoment who had actually beaten Cairo Sugar when breaking her maiden Dec. 30. Les Bon Temps, favored at 11-10, had won two New York bred stakes so she made sense as the favorite. So Cairo Sugar did not figure to be one of the top betting choices. But 27-1?

Wolfsont was thrilled when he was able to clear the field from his inside post. Cairo Sugar did the rest, holding off the early speed of Luna Loca and then repelling a strong-looking late bid from Les Bon Temps to win the 1-mile race by 1 1/4 lengths.

“I was hoping to hit the board as the longest shot on the board,” Wolfsont said. “We had the rail so the plan was to get a good break and if they let me have the lead, I was going to take it.”

Wolfsont thought the filly just to his outside, Luna Loca, had a bit more speed, but once he got even with her not long after the break and it was evident jockey Jose Gomez was content to sit second, Wolfsont did not wait around.

“I just opened up about a length and a half and felt so comfortable sitting out in front,” Wolfsont said. “It felt like she was just skipping over that track. When we turned for home, I asked for a little bit more and they couldn’t catch her.”

Bedard could not give enough praise to Wolfsont. The jockey was in Texas for the weekend with family, but flew into Kennedy Airport Sunday morning for the ride on Cairo Sugar at nearby Aqueduct.

“Andrew’s done a great job for us lately, great percentages with us, always gives our horse a shot whether we are a longshot,” Bedard 

Bedard changed the bit and the blinkers on Cairo Sugar because the filly had been bearing in during the stretch run. Cairo Sugar needed a shoe repair in the paddock before the race. There were no issues during the race as Cairo Sugar ran straight and true in the fastest race of her career, improving her best Beyer figure by 10 points to a 73.

“Cairo Sugar has just been tremendous for us since she got here,” Bedard said. “Hats off to the owner AP Stable and Randy Knerr. He does a tremendous job doing his homework and buying these diamonds in the rough at the sales.”

Cairo Sugar was purchased for $6,000 at a Saratoga Yearling Sale. She began her career at Penn National last fall with trainer Bruce Kravets before coming to Parx and Bedard following her second race.

A daughter of Cairo Prince, there is every chance that Cairo Sugar could also take to the grass so that could be in her future. Whatever the future holds, Cairo Sugar’s six-race career has been excellent so far with $123,107 in earnings and who knows how much more down the road.