Dayatthespa rules NY-bred champions

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The accolades continue to pour in for Dayatthespa. A little more than five months after the mare became the first New York-bred to win a Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup race and less than three months removed from collecting the Eclipse Award as North America’s champion turf female, Dayatthespa stole the show at the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Annual Awards Banquet.

Dayatthespa took home three individual honors during the event Monday night at the Saratoga National Golf Club in Saratoga Springs. The now 6-year-old daughter of City Zip was named New York-Bred Horse of the Year, champion older female and champion turf female. Dayatthespa’s dam, the Doc’s Leader mare M’Lady Doc, also was named Broodmare of the Year. Other winners in the non-voting categories were Chester and Mary Broman (outstanding breeders), Linda Rice (trainer) and Jose Ortiz (jockey)

Each of the winners was profiled in a special commemorative program produced by the team at ST Publishing and The Saratoga Special. Here’s a look at the individual champions.


Two-Year-Old Filly: Wonder Gal
Dk. b./br. f. Tiz Wonderful-Passe, by Dixie Union.
Breeder: Apache Farm. Owner: Treadway Racing Stable. Trainer: Leah Gyarmati.
2014 record: 4-1-1-2, $395,000. 2014 stakes win: Lynbrook.

Wonder Gal met New York-breds once in 2014. Well, she met them and barely got past the handshake. Owned by Treadway Racing Stable, the daughter of Tiz Wonderful won the Lynbrook Stakes in her career debut, trouncing New York-bred 2-year-old fillies by 14 ½ lengths.

“I liked her a lot, she acted like an older horse, she always did everything right,” trainer Leah Gyarmati said. “I took a shot in the stake first time out because only one New York-bred maiden had run and that was the week before that so I didn’t think there could be much in there other than maidens. She’s pretty much a big laid-back filly who goes with the flow.”

Purchased for $210,000 at OBS March 2-year-old sale, Wonder Gal never faced state-bred competition again.

Gyarmati placed Wonder Gal in the Grade 2 Adirondack for her second start. She finished third behind Cavorting and Angela Renee. For her third start, Wonder Gal tackled the Grade 1 Frizette, and finished second behind By The Moon. For her fourth start, Wonder Gal ventured to California for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, finishing third, just a length behind champion Take Charge Brandi and Top Decile.

With a win, a second and two thirds from just four starts, Wonder completed a dynamic duo for Gyarmati in 2014.

Sweat Reason won the Grade 1 TVG Acorn and the Grade 1 Test. Trainers don’t like to compare horses, but with these two, it’s hard not to compare.

“She’s got that attitude like Sweet Reason,” Gyarmati said. “Nothing bothers her, she’s not scared of anything, she doesn’t jump around, she’s easy to work around, she seems very intelligent, she knows what she’s supposed to do. Horses like her and Sweet Reason get the idea that they’re supposed to be in front at the end of the race, doesn’t matter how they start, it’s how they finish.”

After finishing the year with a third in the Breeders’ Cup, Wonder Gal took some time off and returned to the work tab in February. She had posted five breezes by mid-March and was actually scheduled to run before weather canceled racing at Aqueduct.


Two-Year-Old Male: Upstart
Dk. b./br. r. Flatter-Party Silks, by Touch Gold.
Breeder: Joanne Nielsen. Owner: Ralph Evans. Trainer: Rick Violette Jr.
2014 record: 4-2-1-1, $463,800. 2014 stakes win: Funny Cide.

Nine days. That’s how long it took to solidify Upstart’s transition from impressive maiden winner to championship contender in the New York-bred ranks. He later showed he belonged with the best in North America, placing in a pair of the 2-year-old division’s marquee late-season events, but that came after the nine-day span at Saratoga.

Upstart made a stylish debut just past the midpoint of the Saratoga meeting, winning a 5 1/2-furlong race easily. Shortly after the win, trainer Rick Violette called owner Ralph Evans to discuss running the ridgling son of Flatter back in a stakes race.

“Rick did call me after he won his maiden race and asked me, well, we discussed, let’s put it that way, ‘I’m thinking of running him back in nine days. I don’t normally do it, but the maiden race took nothing out of him,’ and so forth,” Evans said in January, shortly after Upstart solidified his potential with a win in the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.

The inaugural Funny Cide Stakes for 2-year-olds, one of six stakes on the inaugural Saratoga Showcase program, was the race. Violette liked the spacing between the 6 1/2-furlong Funny Cide and the Grade 1 Champagne at a mile 41 days later. The Champagne would be a possible path to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Violette wanted some space between those races, so he gambled with the quick turnaround.

“When you have a trainer and you are not an expert in anything except signing the checks, you go along with what he says,” Evans said. “In other words, most of the time when Rick asks me something it’s more out of courtesy than anything else. He’ll say, ‘I’m thinking about using this rider,’ or ‘I’m thinking about doing this.’ I don’t recall ever having said no, because when you start saying no perhaps you don’t have the right trainer.”

Upstart won the Funny Cide, finished second in the Champagne and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He earned $463,800, a good return on the $130,000 Evans paid at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale.

“I try to pick out some pedigrees that I believe I can afford,” Evans said. “Rick goes to the sales … finds potential purchases that he likes and then calls me. There are some on his list that I don’t particularly care for or won’t spend the kind of money it would take. It was one of the rare occasions where my pedigree preference aligned with Rick’s examination of the horse.”


Three-Year-Old Filly and Female Sprinter: Artemis Agrotera
B. f. Roman Ruler-Indy Glory, by A.P. Indy.
Breeder/Owner: Chester and Mary Broman. Trainer: Mike Hushion.
2014 record: 5-3-0-0, $541,800. 2014 stakes wins: Ballerina (G1), Gallant Bloom (G2).

Mike Hushion walked down the stairs to the winner’s circle at Saratoga after Artemis Agrotera dominated the Ballerina and summed up one of the best performances of the year.

“I’ve loved her every day I’ve had her,” the trainer said. “This is the her that I always knew she was.”

Chester and Mary Broman’s homebred filly had just crushed former champion My Miss Aurelia and veteran Willet in the Grade 1 stakes. Artemis Agrotera overcame an inside post, beat older fillies and mares, won for the fourth time in six starts and improved her unbeaten record at Saratoga to 3-for-3.

Artemis Agrotera sandwiched three wins between two losses (in the Grade 1 TVG Acorn and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint) to complete her season with a 3-for-5 record and $541,800 in earnings.

Her three-race win streak began with a 10-length score against New York-breds at Saratoga, included her romp in the Ballerina and culminated in a rallying head decision over La Verdad in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom in September at Belmont Park.

Foaled on the Bromans’ farm in Chestertown, north of Saratoga, Artemis Agrotera holds a special place in Jeff Raine’s heart. The Bromans’ farm manager led her into the winner’s circle after the Ballerina.

“Winning a Grade 1 at Saratoga, it gets to you,” Raine said. “Chills. Just thinking about it is chills. I pulled her out, that’s my job there, to get them out safely. She was another foal, another event on the farm. Nothing strange happened. Last year, I took one of her Jockey Club registration photos and blew it up. She looked like she does now, only a smaller version. I remember she was a good student.”

The good student won her debut at Saratoga in 2013, won the Grade 1 Frizette in her next start before finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to complete her 2-year-old season.

She’s out of Indy Glory, winner of the Videogenic Stakes and second in the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes for the Bromans in 2001.


Three-Year-Old Male: Samraat
Dk. b./br. c. Noble Causeway-Little Indian Girl, by Indian Charlie.
Owner/Breeder: My Meadowview Farm. Trainer: Rick Violette Jr.
2014 record: 5-2-1-0, $745,000. 2014 stakes wins: Gotham (G3), Withers (G3).

A late arrival to the races probably cost Samraat a chance at the New York-bred 2-year-old male championship in 2013. An early start to his 3-year-old campaign more than likely clinched – or at the very least solidified – the chances for My Meadowview Farm’s homebred to make good and win the crown in 2014.

That Samraat started the season with back-to-back victories in key Triple Crown graded stakes races against open company certainly helped, too, and his courage in defeat also gave his connections reason to be proud.

“He’s just an amazingly brave horse,” said Rick Violette, who trains Samraat for Leonard Riggio’s My Meadowview. “He always found more and you always got every ounce of his ability and effort out there.”

Samraat showed his tenacity in those first two starts of 2014 – the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 3 Gotham on the inner track at Aqueduct.

Tested in both of those starts by fellow finalist Uncle Sigh, Samraat won them both and earned trips to the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in the process. The son of the late Noble Causeway was second in the Wood, fifth and only 5 3/4 lengths behind Horse of the Year California Chrome in the Derby and sixth and 4 lengths behind Tonalist in the Belmont.

“It was a terrific run,” Violette said. “You don’t know if horses have that until they’re confronted with the challenge. He just gutted it out all the time and won most photos that he was in. He gave us an awfully, awfully good run.”

Samraat’s sophomore campaign was cut short when he suffered a stress fracture in his right shin preparing for the Grade 2 Jim Dandy. Violette said it’s been a “painfully slow process” getting Samraat healed and back in training, but credited the colt’s owner and breeder with showing tremendous patience.

“The horse comes first with (Riggio and his team),” he said. “They know that when you do right by the horse, everything kind of takes care of itself. They expect very, very little and I know it was very special to them when a homebred, by their stallion, wins graded races. I was just over-the-moon happy for the whole family.”


Older Female, Turf Female, Horse of the Year: Dayatthespa
Ch. m. City Zip-M’Lady Doc, by Doc’s Leader.
Breeder: Castellare DiCracchiolo Stable, Cracchiolo and Goldsher.
Owners: Jerry & Ronald Frankel, Steve Laymon & Bradley Thoroughbreds. Trainer: Chad Brown.
2014 record: 4-3-1-0, $1,450,000. 2014 stakes wins: Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), First Lady (G1), Yaddo.

Steve Laymon, Pete Bradley and Chad Brown laughed it up, sipped champagne and kidded with Ronny Frankel in the Trustees Room at Saratoga Race Course, less than a half-hour removed from Dayatthespa’s victory in the 35th running of the Yaddo Stakes.

They seemed like men at the top of the mountain.

Who knew at the time it would only be a small taste of what was ahead for Dayatthespa and her connections?

The victory in the Yaddo on the inaugural New York-breds Saratoga Showcase program was certainly nothing to scoff at, especially considering it was Dayatthespa’s first win of 2014 and her first trip to the winner’s circle since the 34th edition of the Yaddo more than a year earlier.

The City Zip mare’s win also marked her fourth consecutive year of success at Saratoga, no small feat considering the competition every year and the fact that Dayatthespa was on the comeback trail after an injury in the Grade 1 Matriarch at Hollywood Park in December.

“Four years in a row, that doesn’t happen all the time,” Laymon said of Dayatthespa, New York-bred champion turf female in 2012 and 2013. “It’s taken a long time to get here, but it’s exciting. Chad’s done a great job with her, patient. She’s so, not a mean filly, but she’s very excitable and she wants to run.”

Dayatthespa certainly ran for her ownership group and trainer after the Yaddo, winning the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland and then posting a dramatic gate-to-wire score in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita.

The Breeders’ Cup victory, which came two days before Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings bought her for $2.1 million at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale, locked up the Eclipse Award for champion turf female.

She figures to hold a strong hand for divisional honors in the New York-bred ranks, as turf female and older female, as well as Horse of the Year. 


Turf Male: Lubash
B. h. Freud-Nasty Cure, by Cure the Blues.
Breeder: Aliyuee Ben J Stable. Owner: Aliyu Ben J Stable.
Trainer: Christophe Clement. 2014 record: 7-4-3-0, $311,720.
2014 stakes wins: Tropical Turf (G3), Ashley T. Cole.

Lubash crossed a milestone and added a second graded stakes victory – all in the same race and amazingly it didn’t need to come at the expense of one of his pesky fellow New York-bred rivals.

The race was the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Handicap during the Gulfstream Park West meeting in South Florida, a rare out-of-town sojourn for the now 8-year-old son of Freud, and the $59,520 payday pushed Lubash’s career earnings ledger to $1,010,599.

For a change the win didn’t come against either Kharafa or King Kreesa, finalists again in the New York-bred male turf category.

Lubash lost only three times in seven starts in 2014 and each time he finished second – in the Kingston and Mohawk to Kharafa and in the West Point to King Kreesa.

Trainer Christophe Clement has described the rivalry as “fun” in the past – usually after one of Lubash’s dozen career victories – while crediting King Kreesa and Kharafa as “always tough.”

Lubash, owned and bred by Leonard Pivnick’s Aliyu Ben J Stables, is plenty tough himself. In addition to the Tropical Turf, Lubash won the Ashley T. Cole for the second time in his career. He’s won eight stakes in his career, at 3, 5, 6 and 7.

Pivnick named Lubash in honor of his childhood friend, the late respected New York Times journalist Arnold Lubasch.

The two went to baseball games at Yankee Stadium and Ebbett’s Field growing up, even attending Babe Ruth’s farewell ceremony at the former in 1947.

Foaled at Carapan Farm in Freehold, Lubash is out of the stakes-placed Cure the Blues mare Nasty Cure.

She’s produced four other winners and produced her last foal, the unraced 3-year-old Freud full-sister to Lubash named Miriam, in 2012.

Another of Nasty Cure’s foals was the New York-bred stakes-placed Meadow Flight horse Netcong, who won 10 of 87 career starts and earned $327,924.honors in the New York-bred ranks, as turf female and older female, as well as Horse of the Year.


Older Male and Male Sprinter: Palace
B. h. City Zip-Receivership, by End Sweep.
Breeder: The Peter J. Callahan Revocable Trust. Owner: Antonino Miuccio. Trainer: Linda Rice.
2014 record: 8-3-2-1, $797,500. 2014 stakes wins: A. G. Vanderbilt (G1), Forego (G1), True North (G2).

The caller made an assumption shortly after Linda Rice picked up the phone and agreed to talk about the four horses she trains that are up for champion New York-bred honors in 2014.

“No, you could say he was the best. He’s a Grade 1 winner,” Rice said. “That makes him the best. We had a great year with him. He’s probably our best chance to get a winner there, maybe sprinter of the year and maybe he’ll be older horse of the year. He’s in the running for that, too.”

The horse in question is Palace, not only a Grade 1 winner in 2014 but a two-time Grade 1 winner in 2014. He registered those wins four weeks apart on the state’s biggest stage at Saratoga Race Course. The son of City Zip won the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Forego in succession at Saratoga, victories that along with the Grade 2 True North on Belmont Stakes Day put him in the running for the above-mentioned honors and among the contenders  for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and the Eclipse Award as champion male sprinter.

“He’s improved so much over the course of time, from the time I claimed him in October of 2012 and then into 2013 we won the Chowder’s First Stakes at Saratoga and I was happy with that,” said Rice, who claimed Palace for owner Antonino Miuccio for $20,000. “I told my client we were going to win a stakes at Saratoga, but the horse just continued to improve.”

Palace’s productive campaign earned him champion New York-bred male sprinter honors in 2013. He’s a strong favorite again in 2014, despite losses in the Vosburgh Invitational and Breeders’ Cup Sprint to end the season. Rice hopes for another good year in 2015.

“He really doesn’t relish the inner track at Aqueduct so this year I decided to just give him a break,” she said. “He’d gotten sick on me when I shipped him back from California. He’d run hard for months, ran fantastic, but he spiked a pretty good fever when he got back so I decided to turn him out right then. He’s training great and we’re hoping to have another big year. Hopefully we’ll get back to Saratoga and try to win those two Grade 1s, I don’t know if any horse has ever done that before. He is a fantastic horse and he’s a pleasure to have in the barn.”


Steeplechaser: Cat Feathers
Dk. b./br. m., Catienus-Mistress Hemming, by Quiet American.
Breeder: Happy Hill Farm. Owner/trainer: Kate Dalton. 
2014 record: 5-1-1-1, $66,200. 2014 stakes win: Mrs. Ogden Phipps.

The Widener family’s roots in racing run deep – through Belmont Park, the building of Hialeah, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, Elmendorf Farm, Raise A Native, Eight Thirty, Phalanx and dozens upon dozens of major winners.

And Cat Feathers is carrying on the family tradition.

The champion New York-bred steeplechaser of 2014 was bred under the name of  Happy Hill Farm, the Pennsylvania home of Cortright Wetherill and his wife Ella Widener-Wetherill. Their son, Peter Wetherill, took over the farm’s Thoroughbred interests and supported the New York-bred program.

When he died in 2010 a 2-year-old filly was in Camden, S.C. with Kate Dalton. While settling the estate and identifying likely sales candidates, attorneys asked Dalton for an opinion.

“She probably wants to be 4,” Dalton told them. “And she’s really going to be a lovely 6-year-old.”

The estate sold Cat Feathers to the trainer for $1,000 and Dalton’s assessment wasn’t all that far off. Cat Feathers – who goes by Beatrice around the barn – ran four times at 3, winning a maiden claimer over hurdles in November, became a stakes winner as a 4-year-old, placed in two stakes at 5 and had her best year in 2014 with a win, a second and a third in three stakes starts.

The daughter of Catienus earned $66,200 to go past $164,000 for her career, most of it while being ridden by Dalton’s husband Bernie. The Daltons live in Camden, but met in Saratoga (she was galloping horses for Jonathan Sheppard; he was riding out for Kiaran McLaughlin) and still ship north to the Spa every year. They’ve followed horses to Dubai and back and now run a breaking/training operation while running a small steeplechase stable as well.

Cat Feathers is the star, for now. She thrives at Saratoga, where New York-bred purse bonuses add to the opportunity, with two wins, three seconds and a fourth in six tries. She won the Mrs. Ogden Phipps Stakes in 2012 and repeated that score in 2014. All three runner-up efforts have come in the Mrs. Walter Jeffords Stakes.

And she’s continually on the improve.

“When she won here two years ago, she was just a flat track horse, she was weak and leggy. She’s still weak and leggy but she’s a lot stronger,” Bernie Dalton said after the 2014 Phipps win. “She always upholds her end of the deal if she’s right.”

Also champion New York-bred jumper of 2012, Cat Feathers is approaching her 2015 debut, with Saratoga on her travel schedule. Her dam Mistress Hemming lost all three starts for Happy Hill and has produced two winners.


To read the full program, with profiles of all divisional nominees by TIHR writers, click on the program cover below: