Effinex marks the spot in New York

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Effinex gave his connections reason to be proud after a gallant run at Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. He validated the performance a month later winning the Grade 1 Clark Handicap and was honored as the best from New York Monday night.

Effinex was crowned as New York-bred Horse of the Year and champion older dirt male for 2016 during the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Annual Awards Banquet at Saratoga National Golf Club.

Bred by veterinarian Russell Cohen and owned by his mother Bernice Cohen’s Tri-Bone Stables, Effinex won four of eight starts on the season and really came to hand at the end of the season in his division’s marquee events. He as fourth, third, second and first in his final four starts, all Grade 1s, in the Woodward, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Breeders’ Cup Classic and Clark Handicap.

Winners in the non-voting categories were Mark Vondrasek’s Elkektikos Stable, breeder of two-time 2016 New York-bred champion and Eclipse Award winner La Verdad, as breeder of the year, Linda Rice (trainer) and Jose Ortiz (jockey). Noble Fire, dam of La Verdad and champion New York-bred 3-year-old filly Hot City Girl, was named broodmare of the year.

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: FROSTY MARGARITA

Dk. b./br. f. Frost Giant-Mango Margarita, by Not For Love.
Breeder/Owner: Gabrielle Farm. Trainer: Rudy Rodriguez.
2015 record: 6-3-3-0, $285,800. 2015 stakes: Key Cents, New York Stallion Fifth Avenue Division.

When you’ve got a product of your small breeding operation with as much quality and consistency as Frosty Margarita it’s difficult to pinpoint a singular moment as the highlight of the season.

So Chip Acierno III went with two moments for the pride of his family’s Gabrielle Farm operation, one race he saw in person and another that he did not.

“They were all special, but my favorite race and unfortunately I wasn’t there, was the New York Stallion Stakes,” Acierno said of Frosty Margarita’s victory over heavily favored Behrnik’s Bank Dec. 20. “I was in Miami because we always go there for Christmas. Gus Rodriguez actually called me on the phone and gave me the breakdown of the race on the phone. He was screaming like it was the first time he ever won a race. That was pretty cool.

“It was also pretty cool when my wife Maria, who has been to the races with us through the years but had never been when we won a stakes, was able to walk a horse into the winner’s circle. She did it with Rudy (Rodriguez) the trainer. That was the Key Cents. That was special.”

Frosty Margarita made three trips to the winner’s circle in 2015, the aforementioned stakes in back-to-back starts late in the season and a maiden win in late August at Saratoga Race Course. The daughter of Frost Giant also placed in back-to-back stakes in between her maiden win and consecutive stakes victories.

“The rewarding part is that she’s a homebred,” Acierno said. “That makes it that more special. It’s great to buy horses but when you breed them they’re kind of like your kid.”

The Aciernos bred Frosty Margarita and her dam, the unraced Not For Love mare Mango Margarita, who is out of a mare they raced in partnership. They board Mango Margarita, who was bred in 2015 to Central Banker, and their other broodmare, stakes winner Saltamontes, at Dan and Kathy Barraclough’s Saratoga Glen Farm in Schuylerville.

 

TWO-YEAR-OLD MALE: FLEXIBILITY
B. c. Bluegrass Cat-Santa Vindi, by Vindication.
Breeder: WinStar Farm. Owner: Klaravich Stable & William Lawrence. Trainer: Chad Brown.
2015 record: 3-1-2-0, $136,000.

The start of Flexibility’s career didn’t come early enough for him to make any of the other top juvenile New York-bred stakes that his fellow champion 2-year-old male nominees contested.

The beginning was impressive enough though – and early enough, too – to justify his connections entering him in stiffer tests in back-to-back graded stakes in New York to end the year.

The son of Bluegrass Cat showed he belonged in those spots, finishing second behind leading classics contender Mohaymen, beaten 1 1/2 lengths each time, and establishing his own credentials at the same time.

Two days after the calendar turned to 2016, Flexibility landed one of those prizes of his own when he won Aqueduct’s Grade 3 Jerome Stakes by 4 1/4 lengths. The graded score got him mentioned as one of the year’s early classics contenders. He followed that with a fourth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Withers at Aqueduct, but was still in the discussion with major preps still on the horizon.

The Jerome victory marked a point of continued improvement for the $185,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, an upward curve that started back  in October.

Flexibility broke his maiden in his career debut going 6 1/2 furlongs against state-breds Oct. 10 at Belmont Park. That win earned him a spot in a pair of Grade 2 stakes – the Nashua and Remsen, both won by Mohaymen.

Flexibility was foaled at Vinery New York at Sugar Maple Farm. He is the third winner produced by the placed Vindication mare Santa Vindi, who was purchased by the colt’s breeder WinStar Farm for $60,000 at the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Santa Vindi, a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner and successful New York sire Golden Missile, is also the dam of winners Yabuquiva (4-year-old full-sister to Flexibility) and two-time winner and Southern California graded stakes competitor Alfa Bird.

 

THREE-YEAR-OLD FILLY: HOT CITY GIRL
Ch. f. City Zip-Noble Fire, by Hook and Ladder.
Breeder: Eklektikos Stable. Owner: Lady Sheila Stable. Trainer: Linda Rice.
2015 record: 9-4-2-0, $452,550. 2015 stakes: Charles Town Oaks (G3), Safely Kept.

Linda Rice considered bringing Hot City Girl back off a three-month layoff looking to end a four-race losing streak for the filly late in the 2015 Saratoga Race Course meeting.

The Prioress Stakes seemed like a logical enough spot, a Grade 2 worth $300,000 and just a short walk from Rice’s barn across Nelson Avenue from Clare Court.

When the overnight came out Rice saw Hot City Girl drew the rail in what she called a “big bulky field” and the presence of Grade 1 winner Cavorting wouldn’t make the task any easier for the daughter of City Zip.

She pulled an audible and the plug on the notion of a Saratoga start for the filly. Instead she waited for the Charles Town Oaks 11 days later, a race that still offered graded status (Grade 3) with a larger purse by $50,000.

“We had been trying to get her graded placed or a graded win,” Rice said.

Rice and owner Sheila Rosenblum, who purchased Hot City Girl privately from her breeder, Mark Vondrasek’s Eklektikos Stable, got the graded stakes win in West Virginia and it jump-started a strong stretch for the younger half-sister to Eclipse Award winner La Verdad.

Employing her signature front-running style, Hot City Girl rattled off two more wins after the Charles Town Oaks before finishing the season with a hard-luck second in the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita Park.

Hot City Girl is the third foal and third winner from as many starters out of Noble Fire. Like her champion half-sister, Hot City Girl has plenty of speed and plenty of size. Rice trained Noble Fire and City Zip, so she knows the source of many of the filly’s attributes.

“Noble Fire has been a fabulous broodmare. She had a lot of speed and she was a big filly as well. I think that’s where they get their size, La Verdad and Hot City Girl,” Rice said earlier this winter. “City Zip was such a great race horse. As a stallion, he puts speed in a horse. He puts run in all of his horses. Over the course of time, he’s always moved up mares, instills a desire to win and the same raw talent and speed, which of course (Hot City Girl) has.”

 

THREE-YEAR-OLD MALE: UPSTART
Dk. b./br. r. Flatter-Party Silks, by Touch Gold.
Breeder: Joanne Nielsen. Owner: Ralph Evans. Trainer: Rick Violette Jr.
2015 record: 7-1-2-1, $786,480. 2015 stakes: Holy Bull (G2).

Ralph Evans knows he’s got a lot to boast about when it comes to Upstart. The champion New York-bred 2-year-old male in 2014 upped his game even more in 2015, starting the season with a graded stakes victory, placing in two others (one via a questionable disqualification that cost the Flatter colt a win) and earning a spot in the Kentucky Derby.

“When I think about it, I had maybe the fourth- or fifth- or sixth-best 3-year-old in the country. That’s pretty cool,” Evans said. “That gave me some pride if you will. He wasn’t a million-dollar yearling and he wasn’t a million-dollar 2-year-old in training. He clearly exceeded our expectations.”

Upstart came into the year with fairly high expectations, after a juvenile campaign that saw him win the Funny Cide at Saratoga, finish second in the Champagne and third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He earned his spot in the Derby field with a victory in the Grade 2 Holy Bull at Gulfstream, where he also officially was second in both the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth and Grade 1 Florida Derby. The disqualification came in the Fountain of Youth, a decision Evans still wasn’t happy about in mid-March.

Upstart bounced back from his 18th-place showing in the Derby with a third in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational and a fourth in the Grade 1 Travers. Those three races featured Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“We probably should have ducked American Pharoah the third time,” Evans said of the Travers. “But we thought maybe by the end of the year he might not be at his best, but he clearly was an outstanding horse. Overall we probably ran once too many in retrospect, but we were competitive.

“We had some tough luck in Florida. The disqualification was, well, what can we say without being too … well, that was a little disappointing. Then we got beat on the square in the Florida Derby, although we ran awfully well. We got a lot of big thrills even though we didn’t win anything. We got to travel. We got to different places. For a little guy like me, to be fawned over at various racetracks, was kind of cool. It was very positive for Rick Violette, who is not a high-profile trainer. All in all we were very pleased with the year.”

 

TURF FEMALE: INVADING HUMOR
Dk. b./br. m. Invasor-Very Funny, by Distorted Humor.
Breeder: Dr. James R. Mcglinn. Owner: Bloodlines Racing Partnerships. Trainer: Bruce Levine.
2015 record: 5-2-0-0, $197,100. 2015 stakes: Mount Vernon, Ticonderoga.

There are a lot of promises in horse racing. And, sometimes, they even come true. Bloodlines Racing Partnerships explains its business plan on its website. It goes like this…

We can offer the One Time Cost method of ownership because the Management of Bloodlines Racing expects that our Racehorses will be able to earn sufficient money to cover all of their expenses. We are breeding quality racehorses and we are willing to put our own money behind them. If for some reason a racehorse does not cover all of its expenses, you would not have to pay any of these costs. These would be paid by the Management. It is a risk the Management is willing to take. Also, the breeder and General Manager of our partnerships will own a significant percentage of each racehorse.

Invading Humor and Distorted Beauty have done their part to make the business model work. Racing for breeder Dr. James Randall Mcglinn’s Bloodlines Racing Partnerships and trainer Bruce Levine, the full-sisters have won 14 races and $896,406.

In 2014, Invading Humor won four in a row, including the John Hettinger Stakes while Distorted Beauty won four races and finished second in the Pebbles. In 2015, Invading Humor won two stakes, the Mount Vernon and Ticonderoga while Distorted Beauty won allowance races at Belmont Park and Saratoga.

 Returning from a winter break, Invading Humor rallied from fourth to win the Mount Vernon at Belmont Park. She followed with eighth-place finishes in the Perfect Sting and Yaddo before bouncing back to win the Ticonderoga in October. Jose Lezcano placed her on the lead in the New York-bred stakes and she staved off Distorted Beauty by 1 ¾ lengths. She paid $60.50 and led a hunch exacta of $358.50. No doubt, the partners in Bloodlines Racing had that one. Cold? Probably not cold.

Invading Humor and Distorted Beauty are the first two foals from the Distorted Humor mare Very Funny. Bred by Adena Springs, Very Funny fetched $400,000 as a 2-year-old in 2006. Campaigned by Jayeff B Stables, Very Funny went winless in 12 starts before Mcglinn purchased her for $16,000 at Keeneland January in 2009.

It’s been One Time Cost ever since.

 

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.
2015 record: 7-4-0-1, $346,650. 2015 stakes: Kingston, West Point, Mohawk.

The New York-bred male turf division is as good as racing gets. For the second consecutive year, Kharafa, King Kreesa and Lubash are finalists and they all deserve trophies. Their credentials are that good.

In this corner stands Lubash. He made seven starts, won four, and earned $346,650. The 2014 champion defeated both rivals in the Kingston in May, edged 2013 champion King Kreesa in the West Point in August, lost to Kharafa in the Ashley T. Cole in September and then avenged that defeat by a head in the Mohawk at Belmont in October.

And he’s not finished.

“He’s doing great,” trainer Christophe Clement said in March. “He doesn’t have a clue that he’s 9 years old.”

Lubash is indeed 9 and as good as ever, though much of the success in 2015 nearly didn’t happen. He got loose while training at Belmont Park in July, ran behind the starting gate and banged into the rail. He missed two weeks of training, but returned to make his fifth consecutive start in the West Point at Saratoga.

Bred and owned by Leonard Pivnick’s Aliyu Ben J Stables, Lubash has won that turf stakes twice (2012 and 2015) and has finished second (2014, by a head to King Kreesa) and fourth twice.

Clement hopes for a return assignment this year. The horse named after former New York Times crime reporter and Pivnick’s childhood friend Arnold Lubasch came off his usual winter break with the Clement stable and was training in Florida.

“He’s a difficult horse to train, not difficult – different,” Clement said. “He’s got some idiosyncrasies, he’s difficult to put the bridle on, difficult to get to the paddock. Sometimes it can take the groom 20 minutes to catch him in the stall. You cannot have a stronger personality than that horse, but it’s fun and I think it helps him be as good as he is.”

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

 

FEMALE SPRINTER/OLDER DIRT FEMALE: LA VERDAD
B. m. Yes It’s True-Noble Fire, by Hook and Ladder.
Breeder: Eklektikos Stable. Owner: Lady Sheila Stable. Trainer: Linda Rice.
2015 record: 8-5-1-0, $722,500. 2015 stakes: Vagrancy (G3), Distaff (G2), Gallant Bloom (G2), Iroquois.

Mark Vondrasek set a pair of goals for his fledgling Eklektikos Stable operation back when Noble Fire was forced into early retirement and became the initial member of his broodmare band. He almost got them both thanks to La Verdad.

“I had two goals in racing, one was to have a horse that was an Eclipse Award winner and the other was what we almost got done and that was to win a Breeders’ Cup race,” Vondrasek said in March, referring to La Verdad’s taking home the Eclipse Award as champion female sprinter in January after nearly winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in October. “To come that close, it’s almost hard to explain how satisfying that is.”

La Verdad initially raced for Vondrasek, winning three of her first four starts, before she was sold privately to Sheila Rosenblum’s Lady Sheila Stable. La Verdad didn’t miss a beat for Rosenblum, who kept the daughter of Yes It’s True with Linda Rice, and she won six of 11 starts to become a finalist for New York-bred female sprinter and dirt female champion in 2014.

The 2015 season was even better. La Verdad won five of eight starts, including three Grade 2 stakes, and was second in the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland. She earned $722,500 and that sum, plus another $60,000 for winning the Interborough Stakes in early January, pushed her career bankroll to $1,563,200.

La Verdad, the second foal produced by the Hook and Ladder mare Noble Fire, ranks behind Dayatthespa and Fleet Indian as the third leading female New York-bred earner of all time and 14th overall. It’s an amazing accomplishment, for the mare, her recent connections and her breeder, who admits his foray into the breeding end of the business was “a bit of a flyer.”

“The breeding thing kind of fell to us,” Vondrasek said. “We’d owned horses before but when that big mare got injured so early in her career I didn’t know anything about the breeding game. You have an option when you’ve got a young mare who got hurt on the track and seemed to have a little bit of promise. Maybe it’s a game you want to take a shot with.

“To be honest it was a bit of a flyer and I didn’t know anything about it but it’s worked out so well.”

 

MALE SPRINTER: PALACE
B. h. City Zip-Receivership, by End Sweep.
Breeder: Peter J. Callahan Revocable Trust. Owner: Antonino Miuccio.Trainer: Linda Rice.
2015 record: 7-1-2-2, $237,000. 2015 stakes: Hudson.

Linda Rice could never imagine where she and owner Antonino Miuccio went after putting in a claim slip for the then 3-year-old Palace back in the fall of 2012.

Rice trained City Zip, who blitzed his way through the 2000 Saratoga meeting by winning all three of its graded stakes for 2-year-olds before eventually retiring a near millionaire with a stall in one of the premier stallion farms in the world. She sometimes feels a connection, or at least a familiarity, to many of his offspring and she felt it with Palace.

“I trained his father, and City Zip was a special horse,” Rice said. “I thought I could see the same things in Palace. I just knew there was something special under the hood, and he shows it each time.”

She knew something was there. But did she know he’d wind up a two-time Grade 1 winner, a seven-time stakes winner overall and a $1,586,550-earner? How about one of the top New York-breds of all time, a two-time state-bred champion sprinter or an Eclipse Award finalist?

Not likely. She was optimistic that he’d be a worthwhile claim, looking back at it years later.

“He’s improved so much over the course of time, from the time I claimed him in October of 2012 and then into 2013 when we won the Chowder’s First at Saratoga and I was happy with that,” Rice said last year.

Rice does remember telling Miuccio that she thought Palace would win a stakes at Saratoga.

He did that in the Chowder’s First and then pulling off the Grade 1 double of the Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Forego in succession in 2014. Palace wasn’t able to defend those crowns in 2015, slowed early in the season after not bouncing back from an illness following the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Sprint and then dealing with various other minor physical issues.

Palace did collect another significant victory in 2015 winning the Hudson on the Empire Showcase card, his second win in the sprint stakes. He placed in three other sprint stakes after that win, before heading to Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky to begin his next career.

 

OLDER DIRT MALE AND HORSE OF THE YEAR: EFFINEX
Dk. b./br. h., Mineshaft-What A Pear, by E Dubai.
Breeder: Dr. Russell Cohen. Owner: Tri-Bone Stable. Trainer: Jimmy Jerkens.
2015 record: 8-4-1-1. $1,767,100. 2015 stakes: Excelsior (G3), Suburban (G2), Clark (G1).

Mike Smith pulled down his goggles, pried a dirty saddle off a sweat-stained back and walked to the scales after the Breeders’ Cup Classic.  

The Hall of Fame jockey had just finished second in America’s most lucrative race. Smith, as competitive as a walk-on special teams player, was far from disappointed.

“I’m so proud of our horse,” Smith said. “I’m just so glad he ran that way, he ran a gallant race, a great second.”

Tri-Bone Stable’s Effinex had just held off the best handicap horses in the country, dispatching the likes of Honor Code, Keen Ice and Tonalist in the $5 million stakes. 

Holding off those Grade 1 winners was an accomplishment, tackling the front-running Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, well, that was impossible.

“I had seen he had us beat and knew the race was for second, we got a great second so I’m extremely happy,” Smith said. “At about the three-eighths pole, he hit another gear that I knew I didn’t have, so I thought you know, instead of going this early, just wait for what I thought was a reasonable time for us to go and we got second.”

As the world celebrated American Pharoah, Smith still had work to do.

“If I was farther back, I might have become a fan and watched American Pharoah,” Smith said. “But I was all out to be second, that’s a lot of money.”

Effinex pocketed a cool $900,000 for finishing 6 ½ lengths behind American Pharoah and 4 ½ lengths clear of Honor Code. The check contributed to a lucrative season for Russell Cohen’s homebred son of Mineshaft. Effinex earned over $1.7 million in 2015. Trained by Jimmy Jerkens, Effinex won three graded stakes, including a year-capping triumph in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Effinex missed a check just once in 2015, when he bolted and was pulled up in the Brooklyn at Belmont Park.

“The only time he was off the board was when he bolted, why he bolted, we still don’t know,” Jerkens said. “He’s been great, unbelievable.”

 

TRAINER: LINDA RICE
Sheila Rosenblum joked from the stage inside the Sport of Kings Theater at Gulfstream Park during the 45th annual Eclipse Awards that Linda Rice “begged me to buy” La Verdad when the eventual champion was late in her 3-year-old season.

Considering Rice’s record in recent years, not to mention a career filled with successful accomplishments, Rosenblum and any other owner for that matter might want to take heed if the veteran conditioner pleads her case for a horse.

Rice is well regarded for her judgment and was spot-on in her assessment of La Verdad, who had won three of four starts at the time but went on to win 13 more races – 11 of them stakes and four of them graded stakes.

“Everybody should have a horse like her,” Rice said of La Verdad, who racked up $722,500 of the $5,927,599 her stable earned in 2015.

That earnings total was a seasonal best for Rice and her 100 victories in 2015 were second only to the 102 her stable won in 2013.

The highlights don’t end there.

Rice’s seasonal total of more than $5.9 million ranked her 16th among all trainers in North America by earnings, a position she also earned in 2014. She’s won $5 million in purses in back-to-back seasons and earned $1 million or more for 19 consecutive seasons from 1998 to 2016 (Rice’s stable earned $1,131,979 through March 23).

Rice won her seventh career Grade 1 in 2015 when Princess Violet captured Keeneland’s Madison Stakes and she won five graded stakes with three horses during the year – La Verdad, Hot City Girl and Princess Violet.

As a trainer of New York-breds Rice was in a league of her own. She sent out 266 New York-bred starters in 2015, won 60 races with 56 seconds and 35 thirds for a top three strike rate of 57 percent. Of her more than $5.9 million in stable earnings, $4,020,802 came from New York-breds, who earned an average of $15,116 per start.

Rice, who trained five individual finalists for either all or a portion of their 2015 campaigns, is the leading trainer of New York-breds for the third straight year and fifth time overall. She also topped the New York-bred list in 2009 and 2010.

 

JOCKEY: JOSE ORTIZ
One horse does not make a jockey’s year, but Jose Ortiz and his agent Jimmy Riccio surely counted on New York-bred mare La Verdad in 2015. The star of Lady Sheila Stable won five of eight starts (and was disqualified from a sixth win) and helped push Ortiz to a second consecutive New York-bred jockey championship.

The award is based on earnings, and Ortiz piled up more than $8 million aboard New York-breds in 2015. The total went a long way toward a career year for the 22-year-old, who wound up fourth in the nation by earnings with $17,327,026 and seventh by wins with 244.

“It’s obviously a thrill,” said Ortiz’s agent Jimmy Riccio of the success. “We love to win, everybody loves to win. But it’s not just the money. It’s the excitement and being able to wake up and get on live horses. It’s not like having a job, it’s fun.”

Champion female sprinter in the nation last year, La Verdad won her first six starts – Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Distaff, Belmont Park’s Grade 3 Vagrancy and Dancin Renee, Saratoga’s Grade 2 Honorable Miss, Belmont’s Grade 2 Gallant Bloom and the Iroquois for New York-breds. She wound up losing the Honorable Miss for a prohibited substance-, not that it took anything away from Ortiz’s year.

Trained by Linda Rice, La Verdad bounded out of the Iroquois to finish second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint seven days later. She finished the year with $722,500 in earnings.

Riccio called her a shiny spot in an already bright year.

“Every time she went out there for us I feel like she was that horse you could count on,” he said. “If you were in a slump and you knew she was going to run you had a good feeling – like, ‘She’ll turn it around.’ “

Ortiz, who rode his first American race in 2012 after attending the jockey school in his native Puerto Rico, has not endured many slumps. His victory total has increased by 10 in each of his three full seasons – to 244 last year. With a little more than a month to go in the meet, he led the Aqueduct winter-meet standings with 85 wins (six more than his older brother Irad Ortiz Jr.).

“The kid’s been riding dark days at Parx, he works horses all the time and he works hard at it,” said Riccio. “He just loves to be on horses and ride. Obviously, he has a shot when he rides but he and his brother are good young men too. You forget how young they are sometimes.”

 Beyond La Verdad, New York-bred stars ridden by Jose Ortiz in 2015 included stakes winners Upstart, Hot City Girl, King Kreesa, Loki’s Vengeance, Possessed and Sheriffa, plus Palace and Princess Violet.

“New York-breds are better, a lot more people have them and we’re here year-round so we have a bit of an edge,” said Riccio. “We ride a lot of New York-breds for Linda Rice, Mike Hushion and a lot of people really.”

 

BREEDER: EKLEKTIKOS STABLE
Mark Vondrasek freely admits his initial foray into the world of Thoroughbred breeding as “a bit of a flyer.” He also acknowledges that his Eklektikos Stable never had the numbers of some of the more high profile and well-publicized players in the industry. Neither of those factors slowed his passion to be the best and the accomplishments of 2015 are testament to Vondrasek’s goals.

Eklektikos Stable, which means “eclectic” in Greek, was chosen as by the board of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Inc. as the state’s outstanding breeder following a 2015 season highlighted by the Eclipse Award win from multiple graded stakes-winning millionare La Verdad and graded stakes winner Hot City Girl.

“For me I’m not a big breeder and I don’t have the numbers of horses that … so many others out there that breed more, so what this shows is you really can be a small-time player in this business and still have a dream come true,” said Vondrasek, a resident of Stamford, Conn., and an executive with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “To be recognized by that board for the year that we were fortunate enough to have with these horses is great. I don’t have a stable of mares and I’m not in this like others are, although I certainly want to do more, it’s certainly more fulfilling.

“It’s a great message for people that are starting out that are interested in breeding that maybe don’t have the ability to start with more than a mare or two, it gives them, I hope, the confidence to know you can get in this game, do remarkably well and that you’ve got a fair shot. We’re living proof of that. It’s incredibly humbling and exciting to be recognized in this way for the work that we were able to do.”

Ironically Eklektikos wins the state’s top breeder award at a time when Vondrasek isn’t directly involved in the industry.

Vondrasek sold his only broodmare, the winning Hook and Ladder mare Noble Fire, the dam of La Verdad and Hot City Girl, privately to Three Chimneys Farm shortly after co-breeding the now 2-year-old Frued filly Noble Freud with the Kentucky farm.

The success of La Verdad and Hot City Girl have inspired Vondrasek to reinvest in the future, so don’t expect the Eklektikos name to disappear.

“We’re not a big breeding shop and we’re just now getting back into looking at other mares after the success of these few, but we’ve really stayed very small,” he said. “We’re going to be a bit more aggressive, and some folks have reached out and want to partner up on some stuff. It’s a fascinating space to be in and I think we’ll do a lot in it over the next few years.”

 

Click on the cover to check out this year’s program.