Memorial Day Weekend came and went, another notable start to the summer season with top-tier racing from coast-to-coast, a special Friday card at Fair Hill and a watchful eye on the conclusion of the American Triple Crown now in less than two weeks’ time.

The Belmont Stakes brings the Triple Crown to a close and the field for the 151st running of the longest U.S. classic firmed up a bit over the weekend. A field of nine was projected Monday, a group led by Preakness winner War Of Will, Wood Memorial winner and adjudged Kentucky Derby third Tacitus and Preakness runner-up Everfast. The others listed as probable are Intrepid Heart, Master Fencer, Sir Winston, Spinoff and Tax, with Joevia listed as possible.

The 1 1/2-mile Belmont anchors a strong card next Saturday that includes seven other Grade 1 stakes. The New York Racing Association communications staff released probable for those stakes plus two others on the undercard. Here they are with trainers in parenthesis:

Grade 1, $1 million Manhattan: Probable: Bricks and Mortar (Chad Brown), Channel Cat (Pletcher), Channel Maker (Bill Mott), Olympico (Chad Brown), Qurbaan (Kiaran McLaughlin), Raging Bull (Chad Brown), Robert Bruce (Chad Brown). Possible: Arklow (Brad Cox).

Grade 1, $1.2 million Runhappy Metropolitan: Probable: Coal Front (Todd Pletcher), Firenze Fire (Jason Servis), Mitole (Steve Asmussen), McKinzie (Bob Baffert), Promises Fulfilled (Dale Romans), Thunder Snow (Saeed bin Suroor)

Grade 1, $700,000 Ogden Phipps: Probable: Come Dancing (Carlos Martin), Electric Forest (Brown), Escape Clause (Don Schnell), Midnight Bisou (Steve Asmussen), Pacific Wind (Brown).

Grade 1, $700,000 Acorn: Probable: Bell’s The One (Neil Pessin), Cookie Dough (McLaughlin), Guarana (Chad Brown), Jeltrin (Alexis Delgado), Proud Emma (Peter Miller), Queen Of Beas (Jorge Abreu), Serengeti Empress (Tom Amoss).

Grade 1 $700,000 Longines Just A Game: Probable: Beau Recall (Brad Cox), Bellavais (Todd Pletcher), Daddy Is A Legend (George Weaver), Environs (Chad Brown), Got Stormy (Mark Casse), Precieuse (Chad Brown), Rushing Fall (Chad Brown).

Grade 1, $400,000 Jaipur Invitational: Probable: Bound For Nowhere (Wesley Ward), Dirty (Jeremiah Englehart) Disco Partner (Christophe Clement), Undrafted (Wesley Ward), World Of Trouble (Jason Servis).

Grade 1, $400,000 Woody Stephens: Probable: Mind Control (Greg Sacco), Wendell Fong (Jeremiah Englehart). Possible: Mucho Gusto (Bob Baffert).

Grade 2 $400,000 Woodford Reserve Brooklyn Invitational: Probable: Campaign (John Sadler), Marconi (Todd Pletcher), Rocketry (Jimmy Jerkens).

$150,000 Easy Goer: Probable: Dream Maker (Mark Casse), Last Judgment (Todd Pletcher), Nolo Contesto (John Sadler). Possible: Mucho Gusto (Bob Baffert)

 

Doubleheader at Fair Hill

The spring steeplechase season wrapped up Saturday at the 85th Fair Hill Races with a special two-day card in Cecil County, Md. and 10 races on tap.

Gil Johnston’s Amnicalola won the meet’s featured event, the $50,000 Iris Coggins Memorial filly and mare hurdle stakes. Trainer and ridden by the spring season’s leaders, Jack Fisher and Mikey Mitchell, respectively, Amnicalola won the scratch-depleted event by 2 3/4 lengths from Sarah Joyce. Mavourneen finished third with Dawn Wall fourth of the quartet.

Fisher sent out a pair of winners Saturday, Amnicalola and the 1-2 finishers in the $30,000 hurdle for 4-year-olds in Our Legend and Knockholt. Also ridden by Mitchell, Rather Be Racing’s Our Legend won by a half-length from his stablemate with Bet The Pot third in the field of seven.

Trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Ross Geraghty also doubled up Saturday, winning the opening $15,000 maiden claiming hurdle with Morning Star Farm’s Shoreline and the second division of the $30,000 maiden hurdle with Rosbrian Farm’s Teodoro.

Other winners Saturday were Petticoats Loose Farm’s Gaye Breeze for trainer Meriwether Morris and jockey Sean McDermott in the first division of the $30,000 maiden hurdle and Robert Kinsley’s No Wunder in the $40,000 Valentine Memorial handicap hurdle for trainer Elizabeth Voss and jockey Jack Doyle.

Fisher picked up two victories to the start the weekend with scores in Friday’s timber races, sending out Woodslane Farm’s Overwhelming in the $10,000 amateur apprentice hurdle and Mrs. John R.S. Fisher’s Schoodic in the $25,000 novice timber. Brett Owings rode Overwhelming and Mitchell rode Schoodic.

The other two races on Friday’s twilight card were training flat events for amateur riders. Ballybristol Farm’s Silver Crescent won the first, the Cecil County Economic Development going 1 1/4 miles, under McLane Hendriks for trainer Leslie Young. Morning Star Farm’s Good And Proper won the other, the Fair Hill Volunteers going 1 1/4 miles, under Elizabeth Scully for Ricky Hendriks.

Handicapper’s Report

How’d the TIHR Handicappers do at Fair Hill? Tom Law rode the Fisher train in the two timber races Friday, picking Overwhelming and Schoodic to raise his spring tally to 25 heading into Saturday’s card.

The victories were more difficult to come by Saturday, except for Sean, who tabbed three of the six winners to gain a touch of respectability for the spring stand.

Sean picked Shoreline, Teodoro and Amnicalola. Tom managed a single winner – Our Legend – and Joe did the same with No Wunder via the scratch of Belisarius.

Tom followed up on his title from last autumn with the spring crown, picking 26 winners to 22 for Joe and 18 for Sean.

The handicappers – and the jumpers – won’t be in action until June 21 at Monmouth Park to start the summer season that includes all the action from Saratoga Race Course starting July 17.

 

Worth Repeating

“I talked to Mike Repole on the phone and he said to make sure to thank him because he’s the one who gave me instructions to win the race. So, thank you Mike and thank you Todd.”
Jockey John Velazquez after winning the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita Monday aboard New York shipper Vino Rosso

“I’m about to cry right now. … I’m really happy for my team really happy for Keith Brackpool and his group… They allowed me to take the time to get the horse back at a very gentile and slow pace and it worked. It’s hard to say in words what this means, I can’t verbalize it. He means everything to our barn. He’s the chief.”
Trainer Carla Gaines on 7-year-old gelding Bolo winning his first Grade 1 in Monday’s Shoemaker Mile

 

By the Numbers

9: Wins at the Preakness Meet at Pimlico for Jamie Ness, his first Maryland training title.

13: Victories at the Preakness Meet for jockey Trevor McCarthy, tops among all riders.

15: Victories this spring for top steeplechase jockey Mikey Mitchell, who also leads by money won with $406,450 in purses.

22: Races won during the spring season for trainer Jack Fisher, well clear of his peers and atop the National Steeplechase Association standings heading into a break before the summer season.

$267,250: Purses won by leading NSA owner Bruton Street-US through the Fair Hill Races.

 

Hammond dedicates life to helping horses and humans

Courtesy of Maryland Jockey Club publicity department

Since the age of 3, when she first sat on a pony in the parking lot of the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Jessica Hammond’s life has been one consumed by horses.

As she grew older, so did her passion. Whether counseling backstretch workers, as an owner, or in helping find them forever homes, horses have always been part of the equation.

Just weeks shy of her 42nd birthday, Hammond will for the first time this year be a participant in the annual Canter for the Cause, a June 2 charity event sponsored by the Maryland Jockey Club and The Equiery to benefit the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.

Canter for the Cause is a unique event that allows riders of various ages to walk, trot, canter or gallop their horses on the same Pimlico Race Course main track that has hosted such champions as Seabiscuit, War Admiral, Secretariat and recent Triple Crown winners American Pharoah and Justify.

Hammond will compete in Group III’s War Admiral walk and trot division aboard 11-year-old gelding Zabarajad, one of four retired Thoroughbreds she owns with her husband, Scott, a former trainer for the family’s Somerset Racing venture. Scott Hammond will compete in the same class aboard 12-year-old gelding Moran Gra.

“He used to gallop on the racetrack, so it’s going to be funny for him to come out here and just walk and trot,” Hammond said. “But, he’s really coming to just be support for me and to help keep my horse calm.”

Zabarajad made 18 starts, the first 10 in Europe and Dubai and the last eight in the U.S., including an April 25, 2013 win for Somerset sprinting 5 furlongs on the grass at Pimlico. Ridden by Horacio Karamanos, the Irish-bred returned $83 in his lone North American triumph.

“He’s pretty fast. I have never ridden on the track in my life and I have a horse that has actually won on this track, so it’s going to be something,” Hammond said. “I’ve been a part of racing for a long time, but not in a physical way. I was an owner, I put money into it, I came and watched the races. But one of the coolest things about him is that he was a racehorse, and this will be me getting to see a little part of what that’s like – in a minor way.”

In reality, just participating in Canter for the Cause will be a major victory for Hammond, diagnosed in her teens with the genetic muscle disorder fascioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). Muscular dystrophy refers to a progressive muscle degeneration, with increasing weakness and muscle atrophy. In FSHD, weakness first and most seriously affects the face, shoulders and upper arms, but the disease usually also causes weakness in other muscles.

FSHD usually progresses very slowly and rarely affects the heart or respiratory system. Most people with the disease are able to have a normal life span.

“I was probably born with it, but I didn’t get diagnosed with it until I was a teenager. Before I rode a ton I was actually a ballerina, and I couldn’t dance anymore because I couldn’t raise my arms over my head,” Hammond said. “I was riding a little bit and I wanted to ride more but dancing was taking up so much of my time. I was disappointed to not be able to dance anymore when I realized what was wrong with me was going to be permanent, but then I just thought, ‘Well, OK, now I can ride more,’ and that’s what I did. I switched from dancing to riding because I don’t have to hold a horse over my head.

“There’s no treatment for it, so there’s not really anything special that I do. I’ve gone to physical therapy in the past, which has helped me get stronger and helped get me stronger for riding, but riding really keeps me in pretty good shape. And just barn chores, too.”

Hammond and her husband lease a 92-acre farm in Fallstaff, north of Baltimore. He manages the Timonium OTB and clocks horses in the mornings at Pimlico, and she works as benevolence and counseling director for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and program administrator for Beyond the Wire, the MTHA’s Thoroughbred aftercare program.

“I’ve gone through periods where I’ve had anxiety in things because I don’t know how much I can count on my strength and I don’t know if I’m going to get weaker or not,” Hammond said. “Sometimes riding, even more in this past year than I have been in a while, it’s totally given me confidence in my physical abilities and just lowered my anxiety in general, because I see the strength that I’ve gained by riding in the past year. It just makes you feel good. Riding and being around horses just makes you feel good in general.”

Holder of a degree in psychology, Hammond has been able to combine her passions for helping both horses and humans. Launched in early 2017, Beyond the Wire has retired nearly 200 horses to various TAA-accredited facilities over its first two years including MidAtlantic Horse Rescue, Foxie G Foundation, New Vocations, Akindale Thoroughbred Rescue, After the Races and Life Horse.

“The only thing I was missing working at the track was that I didn’t get to be in the barn all the time directly working with the horses,” Hammond said. “I loved doing the counselor administrator position for the MTHA but I really missed being able to interact with horses as part of my job, so as soon as they offered that I just had the best of both worlds. Now I get to do the work I love with people and I get to do the work I love with horses.

“The response has been extremely positive. The horsemen, it took them a while to understand the program and to become familiar with it and now I get calls all the time, literally all the time. We’ve retired at least 180 horses now. We started out with two TAA-accredited facilities and now we have eight facilities that we work with, so it’s expanded as the need has expanded. The more familiar people became with the program, and it spread by word of mouth, the more horses we were getting in.”

Hammond is often inundated with texts and emails from the new owners of former Thoroughbreds she has helped retire that have gone on to successful second careers.

“I always tell people I truly believe that Thoroughbreds are the most athletic breed of horse there is. There’s nothing they can’t do,” she said. “They can participate in any equestrian discipline.”

Hammond said she is able to draw both inspiration from and a parallel to the horses that have come through Beyond the Wire and been given a second chance at life.

“There’s a lot of types of muscular dystrophy and I didn’t know that until I had it,” Hammond said. “Riding-wise it makes things complicated because I have weakness throughout my entire body, but I think it kind of makes me feel a kinship with some of these horses in a way. When you kind of meet them and there’s a job that they can’t do and somebody’s disappointed in them in one way because they can’t be a racehorse, now there’s something else that they can do.

“I know there are some other jobs that they are going to be great at. There’s certain things that I can’t do, but I’m really motivated to go on to things to try and be successful and I kind of see that same thing in horses. I’m happy with where I am and what I’m doing.”

Registration for Canter for the Cause must be completed before 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 28. To register or for more information, call the Pimlico ticket office at 877-206-8042 or visit http://www.pimlico.com/events/2019-06-02/canter-cause

For full Canter for the Cause event description and rules, go to www.usponyracing.com

For information about Beyond the Wire, Maryland’s Thoroughbred aftercare, visit www.beyondthewire.org