The Monday Special – April 22

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Happy Earth Day! The day to show support for environmental protection coincides with the day racing celebrates its latest Hall of Fame induction class.

The National Museum of Racing unveiled this year’s 16-member class, a group led by jockey Craig Perret and champions Royal Delta, My Juliet and Waya. Perret, on the ballot 11 times and the winner of 4,415 races, and three-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta are the lone contemporary inductees. My Juliet and Waya earned the nod from the Museum’s Historic Review Committee.

The 2019 Hall of Fame class also includes 12 Pillars of the Turf – Ted Bassett III, Christopher Chenery, Dick Duchossois, Will Farish, John Hettinger, James R. Keene, Jimmy Kilroe, Gladys Mills Phipps, Ogden Phipps, Helen Hay Whitney, Marylou Whitney and Warren Wright Sr.

The 16 new Hall of Famers will be honored during the induction ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 2 at the Humphrey S. Finney Pavilion on the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sales grounds.

Want to know more about Perret, Royal Delta, My Julet and Waya? Here’s some information courtesy of our friends at the Hall of Fame:

Perret, 68, was North America’s leading apprentice jockey by earnings in 1967 (prior to the Eclipse Awards) and won the 1990 Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey. A native of New Orleans, Perret won 4,415 races in a career that spanned from 1967 through 2005. He won the Belmont Stakes in 1987 with Bet Twice, denying Alysheba the Triple Crown. Three years later, Perret won the Kentucky Derby with Unbridled. He won four Breeders’ Cup races, including two editions of the Sprint, as well as two runnings of both the Travers Stakes and Queen’s Plate, among others.

Royal Delta (Empire Maker—Delta Princess, by A.P. Indy) was bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments N.V., Inc. and campaigned by Besilu Stables. Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Royal Delta won three Eclipse Awards (champion 3-year-old filly in 2011 and champion older female in 2012 and 2013) and consecutive editions of the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (2011 and 2012). A dark bay, she won nine graded stakes in her career, including six Grade 1 events. Competing from 2010 through 2013, Royal Delta made 22 starts with a record of 12-5-1 and earnings of $4,811,126.

My Juliet (Gallant Romeo—My Bupers, by Bupers) was bred in Kentucky by
J. R. Bettersworth and owned for most of her career by George Weasel Jr. A dark bay, she won the 1976 Eclipse Award for champion sprinter before there were separate championship designations for males and females. Competing from 1974 through 1977, My Juliet raced 36 times with a record of 24-4-2 and earnings of $548,859. Trained for most of her career by Eugene Euster, My Juliet won 17 stakes races, including six graded events. A winner at 15 different tracks in 10 states, My Juliet returned from an injury during her championship season. She suffered a hairline fracture of a cannon bone during her victory in the 1976 Vagrancy Handicap that May and underwent surgery. Off until the fall, she closed out the year with four consecutive wins, including a victory over Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Bold Forbes in the Vosburgh Handicap, one of several wins in her career against males.

Waya (Faraway Son—War Path, Blue Prince) was a bay filly bred in France, where she competed for her owner/breeder Daniel Wildenstein and trainer Angel Penna Sr. She won the Group 2 Prix de l’Opera and the Group 3 Prix de Royaumont as a 3-year-old before being sent to the United States at age 4. In her first American campaign, Waya equaled a world record for 1 1/8 miles on grass, covering the distance in 1:45 2/5 en route to winning the 1978 Diana Handicap at Saratoga. She also defeated males in two Grade 1 races that year at Belmont, the Man o’ War Stakes and Turf Classic. Sold to George Strawbridge Jr. and Peter Brant prior to her 5-year-old season, Waya won the 1979 Eclipse Award for champion older mare while being trained by David Whiteley. She won five stakes that year, including Grade 1s in the Santa Barbara (carrying 131 pounds), Top Flight, and Beldame. Waya was retired at the end of her 5-year-old campaign with a record of 14-6-4 from 29 starts and earnings of $822,948.  


Reduction Time

The Grade 2 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes looked like the perfect spot for Nessy.

The featured $250,000 stakes on the final Saturday of the Keeneland spring meet provided 12 furlongs on the grass and maybe even enough cut in the ground to set up the son of Flower Alley’s late-running style.

Nessy’s name showed up on the overnight when entries for April 20 came out but instead of the Elkhorn he appeared in the fourth race, a 9-furlong turf allowance. He won that turf test on the yielding ground soaked by rains Friday morning and afternoon in what looked like a prep for other grass marathons down the road. Races like the Belmont Gold Cup Invitational, Man o’ War, United Nations and even the Bowling Green immediately coming to mind.

“I don’t think so. Probably not,” Wilkes said in the paddock after he saddled Marsac for the finale. “I think I’ll just keep him going the two turns.”

The two turns are of course a cut back in distance for Nessy, winner of last year’s Grade 3 San Juan Capistrano going 1 3/4 miles and three turns at Santa Anita Park. He placed in five other stakes going, you guessed it, three or more turns, including most recently when third in the 2-mile H. Allen Jerkens in late December at Gulfstream Park.

Wilkes cut Nessy back to 12 furlongs for his next two starts, a sixth in the boggy Grade 3 W. L. McKnight on Pegasus World Cup Day in late January and an eighth in the Grade 2 Pan American on firm ground on Florida Derby Day in late March.

“Those races were tough,” Wilkes said of the two Gulfstream efforts. “Last time they went so slow, he couldn’t close. And nobody closes at Gulfstream on that turf.”

Nessy closed Saturday at Keeneland in his first non-stakes appearance since a late July 2017 allowance-optional at Saratoga. He and Julien Leparoux ran down a stubborn Shahroze in deep stretch for his first win at Keeneland in six tries and his first victory since that San Juan Capistrano last April.

Several of Nessy’s recent foes did show up for the Elkhorn – Zulu Alpha, Soglio, Red Knight, Bigger Picture, Canessar and Hunter O’Reilly among the field of 10. Bigger Picture, one of three in the race for trainer Mike Maker, got the better of Red Knight just before the wire to win for the second time in his last three starts. Bigger Picture went to the post at the highest odds of the Maker trainees – dispatched at 7-1 to Zulu Alpha’s 6-5 favoritism and Soglio’s second choice price of 5-1.

Tyler Gaffalione rode Bigger Picture for his 11th win of the meet, good for a tie for fourth in the standings with three days remaining.

“All the credit goes to Mike and his team; they do a fabulous job,” said Gaffalione, winning his second stakes of the meet after also guiding The Mackem Bullet to victory in the Grade 2 Appalachian during Opening Weekend. “Just good opportunities. I get to ride nice horses for good connections. My agent does a great job, so I’m just very thankful.”

Three cards – and just one stakes – remain on the Keeneland slate before the action shifts west to Churchill Downs for Kentucky Derby Week.


Steeplechase Report

Trainer Jack Fisher and jockey Michael Mitchell teamed to win three races on the Middleburg Spring Races card Saturday in Virginia, including the featured Grade 2 Temple Gwathmey Handicap with Bruton Street-US’s Moscato.

Seventh in the early stages, Moscato rallied with two hurdles remaining to take the lead from Belisarius in the stretch en route to a 3 1/2-length victory. Off since winning the William Entenmann Memorial in September 2017 at Belmont Park, Moscato improved to 5-for-11 over jumps with the victory.

Bruton Street-US, Fisher and Mitchell also teamed to win the opener, a $35,000 allowance at 2 1/8 miles, with Special Relation. Fisher’s and Mitchell’s third win on the day came in the finale, a $20,000 allowance going 2 5/8 miles over timber, with Gil Johnston’s Days Of Heaven.

Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu returned from close to a year-long layoff and improved to 3-for-3 over timber with a victory in the $30,000 Middleburg Hunt Cup under Jack Doyle for trainer Leslie Young. Racing close throughout, Andi’amu drew off late to win by 5 3/4 lengths from Le Chevalier.

Young and Doyle also teamed to win the fifth, a $19,400 maiden claimer at 2 1/8 miles, with Sharon Sheppard’s Moorland. Other winners on the card were KMSN Stable’s Sportswear in the $29,100 maiden at 2 1/8 miles for trainer Jonathan Sheppard and jockey Gerard Galligan and Rosbrian Farm’s Optimus Prime in the 1 1/2-mile training flat for trainer Ricky Hendriks and jockey Ross Geraghty.

Senior Senator continued his reign as the best of his generation with a third victory in the $50,000 Grand National Steeplechase Saturday at Butler Road in Glyndon, Maryland. The 9-year-old won by 30 lengths under Eric Poretz for owner Irvin Crawford II and trainer Joe Davies.

The other winners on the Grand National card were Irv Naylor’s Aquies in the 3 1/4-mile allowance timber for trainer Katherine Neilson and jockey Eddie Keating and Fat Chance Farm’s Flaming Sword in the $10,000 amateur apprentice timber going 3 miles for trainer Leslie Young and jockey Aaron Sinnott.

The race for leading steeplechase handicapper got a bit more tight following the two meetings with a tie for the top spot. Tom picked five winners over the two meets – Senior Senator and Aquies at the Grand National and Special Relation, Andi’amu and Optimus Prime at Middleburg Spring to boost his season total to eight. He’s tied with Joe, who picked Senior Senator, Special Relation and Andi’amu. Sean is one back with seven after picking two winners, Senior Senator and Optimus Prime.

Three meetings on top for this week – all Saturday, come on schedule makers … – with the Foxfield Spring Races in Charlottesville, Va., Queen’s Cup Steeplechase in Mineral Springs, N.C., and the main event, the Maryland Hunt Cup in Glyndon, Md.


Quote of the Week

Did you catch the $1 million Charles Town Classic? Runnin’toluvya came in with an eight-race win streak against local competition and handed the shippers a loss with his 9-1 upset victory. Check out what Tim Grams, who trains the West Virginia-bred son of Fiber Sonde, said about what the victory meant:

“It’s really big. I know this sounds corny but this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me besides me meeting my wife 18 years ago. This is just unbelievable. Especially for a country boy that didn’t have anything. It means anybody who walks through this gate here has a chance and that’s why this business is so great.”


Canadian congrats

Belated congratulations to Mike Penna and our friends at Horse Racing Radio Network for taking down another major prize during Thursday’s 44th annual Sovereign Awards ceremony at Vaughan’s Chateau Le Jardin in Toronto.

HRRN earned the Sovereign Award – to go with an Eclipse Award earned in 2010 in the Multi-Media/Internet category – for outstanding digital audio/visual and broadcast for coverage of the 159th Queen’s Plate last year at Woodbine.

Hayley Morrison, an occasional contributor to This Is Horse Racing, also earned Sovereign Award honors for outstanding writing for her piece “Hail to the War Horses” that appeared in the February 2018 issue of Canadian Thoroughbred Magazine.

The other Sovereign Award winners were:

Horse of the Year/Champion 3-Year-Old Filly: Wonder Gadot
Champion 3-Year-Old Male: Sky Promise
Champion 2-Year-Old Male: Avie’s Flatter
Champion 2-Year-Old Female: Bold Script
Champion Older Male/Male Turf Horse: Mr Havercamp
Champion Older Female: Escape Clause
Champion Female Turf Horse: Starship Jubilee
Champion Male Sprinter: Pink Lloyd
Champion Female Sprinter: Moonlit Promise
Outstanding Broodmare: In Return
Outstanding Owner: Chiefswood Stables Limited
Outstanding Breeder: Tall Oaks Farm
Outstanding Trainer: Mark Casse
Outstanding Jockey: Eurico Rosa Da Silva
Outstanding Apprentice Jockey: Kazushi Kimura
E.P. Taylor Award of Merit: Gustav Schickedanz
E.P. Taylor Award of Merit: William D. Graham
Outstanding Groom Award: Amanda Erwin
Outstanding Handicapper: Nick Noce
Outstanding Photograph: Santino Di Paola
The Jockey Club of Canada Scholarship Award: Bobby Mihalik