Monthly Archives: April 2016

Virginia Racing Commission Meeting Recap From Wednesday April 27

The Virginia Racing Commission (VRC) held its monthly meeting yesterday at the John Tyler Building in downtown Richmond and the members of the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) provided progress updates on the upcoming Virginia Gold Races, Off Track Betting Centers, harness racing at Shenandoah Downs and thoroughbred racing at Morven Park.

Dr. Will Allison, President of the Gold Cup, said they are expecting a record crowd of over 70,000 for the May 7th event at Great Meadow and have arranged to purchase an additional 200 acres to not just accommodate the people, but to help traffic flow into and out of the tailgating and parking areas. He noted that  since pari-mutuel wagering started at the Gold Cup several years ago, interest has really picked up and has helped drive the record attendance.

Dr. Al Griffin, Race Director of the Gold Cup, was pleased with early nominations for the races and especially the Secretariat Stakes — a 1 1/2 miles flat race. He said entries for all eight races will close this Monday at 11 AM.  He thanked the horsemen for their participation and noted that half the funding of the races comes from the horsemen and the other half from sponsors.

VEA Executive Director Jeb Hannum said his group has verbal agreements with two Richmond area restaurants to open Off Track Betting (OTB) Centers inside their establishments. One is on the east end of town and the other is on the west end. The VEA needs to finalize lease agreements with them, but both restaurant owners are excited about the partnership opportunity. A contractor has already viewed the properties and provided work estimate costs. A formal application for VRC approval of the OTBs will be presented at the next Commission meeting.

VEA President Debbie Easter noted that once those two OTBs are open, the VEA will explore getting its own Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) kiosk system up and running, which is the key to getting into the Northern Virginia market.

In regards to Morven Park in Leesburg, Mr. Hannum noted the VEA has been busy over the past six months moving that project forward. The track itself will be part of a broader Horse Park plan that Morven is putting together so all entities will need to work together in unison. Mr. Hannum praised representatives from both Morven Park and Loudoun County, who are behind the racing effort and are currently assisting with the permitting process.

The biggest challenge in preparing the turf course for regular flat racing has been addressing the undulations in the grass oval that currently exist from its days as a steeplechase course. Mr. Hannum has been encouraged by the latest engineer drawings/renderings and thinks they can break ground in summer to create a safe, level and first class surface. Mr. Hannum described the process but said Track Superintendent John Dale Thomas would give a thorough presentation at the next VRC meeting. The VEA’s goal is to get the grass growing in late summer or early fall, to give it sufficient time to nurture with hopes of racing on it in fall, 2017. Mr. Hannum added that the track will be based on the Kentucky Downs model, and the VEA received advice and feedback from horsemen at a meeting Tuesday that was attended by the combined boards of both the HBPA and VTA. He summed up the Morven project as “something evolutionary but not radical, comprised of turf racing and short meets in a beautiful setting.”

Dr. Scott Woogen, President of the Virginia Harness Horsemen’s Association (VHHA), provided an update on the upcoming fall harness races in Woodstock at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds. Moving forward, the track there will be called Shenandoah Downs and the VHHA hopes to race five consecutive weekends there beginning September 10th. They are working through the budget process now and will have a formal race date request to present at the next VRC meeting. Dr. Woogen said all construction permits have been signed and track renovation work to widen the course and bank the turns will begin tomorrow. They already have solicited bids for tote, teletimer, audio/visual and photo finish work. He would like to expand the breeders program and would like to discuss the topic at a future VRC subcommittee meeting.

Commissioner Van Clief asked for an update on the status of the three graded stakes that were run in Maryland last year. Frank Petramalo, Executive Director of the HBPA, said they are in the process of negotiating a two year deal with the Maryland Jockey Club (MJC) to hold both the Grade 2 Commonwealth Derby and Grade 3 Commonwealth Oaks at either Laurel or Pimlico until the new track at Morven is ready to host graded stakes. As part of the deal, the VEA would relinquish rights of the Grade 2 Commonwealth Turf Cup to the MJC. Mr. Petramalo said he would keep everyone informed as current negotiations progress.

Commissioner Van Clief also provided an update on several VRC subcommittees with the intent of making them active again and to keep horse racing in the Commonwealth moving forward. Those included the Breeders Fund Advisory Panels (for both breeds), the Legislative Strategy Committee, Racing Safety & Medication Committee, Marketing/Wagering Technology Committee and the VRC Executive Secretary Search Committee.

In closing comments, all the Commissioners praised the recent efforts of the VEA and were summed up best by Vice-Chairman Dawson who said “it was a very positive report and I’m excited to be part of this.”

Virginia-Breds Enjoy a Prosperous Saturday

Saturday was a big day for Virginia-bred horses as four got to the winners circle, all at different tracks. Rose Brier, bred by William Backer, captured the $75,000 Henry Clark Stakes at Laurel while All Call, bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm, won a starter optional claimer at Hawthorne. Lockport, bred by the Hart Farm, was victorious in a claiming race at Parx and Virginia Rose, bred by David Ross, prevailed in a fillies and mares claimer at Penn National. To top it off, Highland Sky — bred by Virginian Bonner Young — won the $100,000 Woodhaven Stakes Saturday at Aqueduct too. All in all, a pretty good day!

Rose Brier is a 7 year old Mizzen Mast gelding that has now won three straight. The streak began last September with the Bert Allen Stakes at Laurel and continued with a starter optional claiming triumph in March at Gulfstream. On Saturday, the Jane Cibelli trainee went gate to wire in the one mile turf test in 1:33.11, finishing 1 1/4 lengths better than Golden Sabre. Rose Brier never led by more than one length though at any station until the stretch. Out of the El Gran Senor mare, Mexicali Rose, the victor earned his 12th lifetime win and now has $376,726 in earnings.

All Call continues to thrive on diversity as each of his four wins dating back to last September have come at different tracks. The 5 year old Cowboy Cal gelding settled along the rail early in Saturday’s one mile starter optional claimer at Hawthorne, split horses at the 3/16ths pole and drew off. He led by two at the top of the stretch and won by five lengths in 1:35.38. All Call, who is 2 of 4 this year, has recent wins at Gulfstream (February 15), Tampa Bay Downs (December 26) and Arlington (September 10). Out of the Honor Grades mare, Honorett, the winner now has a bankroll of $130,339.

Saturday’s other pair of victors each reached the winner’s circle for the first time in over a year. Lockport connected in a one mile, 70 yard claiming event, his first victory since February, 2015 while Virginia Rose came from way back in a one mile fillies and mares claimer to score for the first time since October, 2014.

Lockport is a 4 year old gelding by Temple City out of Tico Breeze by Carson City. He went off as second favorite in a field of seven, saved ground unhurriedly early, rallied between horses in the final turn and took the lead mid-stretch. Lockport won by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:46.40 and paid $7.00. The start at Parx was his 20th and he now has 9 “in the money” finishes.

Virginia Rose is a 6 year old daughter of City Zip and really had to work to gain her 4 1/2 length triumph. She was last at the quarter and trailed by a dozen lengths in the six horse field, was ten behind at the half then rallied in the final turn. The Scott Lake trainee, out of the Tale of the Cat mare, Sure Can Purr, came on in the final 1/16th and crossed in 1:44.15. She was making her 47th career start and is now about $5,000 shy of the $100,000 mark in purse winnings.

Virginia breeder Bonner Young’s Highland Sky won the $100,000 Woodhaven Stakes for 3 year olds Saturday at Aqueduct. The Sky Mesa colt, who was 6th in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, got his first win of the year in last to first fashion. Heading down the backstretch of the 1 1/16th miles turf stakes, Highland Sky came outside from behind in the field of nine, made a move early in the turn and tangled with pacesetter Mighty Mo through the stretch. Young’s sharp sophomore was one half length better at the finish and crossed in 1:43.69. In 5 career starts, Highland Sky has 2 wins, a runner-up finish and purse earnings of $134,500. Barclay Tagg trains for co-owners Joyce Young & Gerald McManis. if all goes well, Highland Sky’s connections are pointing to the Grade I Belmont Derby July 9th.

TVG, XPressBet & Twin Spires Show March Business Increases From Virginians

Wagering figures are in for the month of March and once again, TVG, XPressBet and Twin Spires showed significant increases in betting handle from Virginia residents when compared to the same month a year prior.

Total combined handle from the trio in March was $5,661,814, and when added to January’s $5,771,149 and February’s $5,504,056, brings the 2016 first quarter total to $16,937,019.

TVG remained the front runner with a March total of $2,663,816, or $7,895,436 for the quarter. Twin Spires handled $2,002,767 for the month and $5,896,752 for the quarter and XPressBet customers bet $1,025,230 in March and $3,144,830 for the quarter. Respective business increases for those three Advance Deposit Wagering (ASW) companies were 13%, 6%, and 26% when comparing the 2016 January through March period versus that of 2015 .

The overall quarterly total dropped 25% though compared to 2015, because a year ago, there was a 4th ADW company — EZ Horseplay — that was the top handle generator. Since EZ Horseplay went out of business early last April, future reports will reflect more of a true total handle comparison since there were three operating ADW companies a year ago and three still today.

Pair of Virginia-Breds Set To Compete Saturday In Laurel’s Henry Clark Stakes

Special Envoy and Rose Brier, both Virginia-bred horses, will compete in Saturday’s (tomorrow’s) $75,000 Henry Clark Stakes at Laurel. The former was last year’s third place finisher in the Clark while the latter has won two straight races including the 2015 Bert Allen Stakes. A field of 11 will compete one mile on the turf and will go to post at 5:53 PM. It will be race 10 on the card.

Rose Brier is shown here winning the 2014 Bert Allen Stakes. Photo by Jim McCue.

Rose Brier is shown here winning the 2014 Bert Allen Stakes. Photo by Jim McCue.

Special Envoy is 8-1 early, and is fresh off an allowance optional claiming victory at Tampa last time out on March 11th. The 5 year old gelding was bred by Mr. & Mrs. Bertram Firestone and is by Stroll out of Diplomacy by Cozzene. The Arnaud Delacour trainee has 12 “in the money” finishes from 15 career starts and has earned $143,890. Jockey Daniel Centeno will ride Saturday.

Rose Brier is 4-1 early and also is fresh off a win in Florida — a starter optional claiming event at Gulfstream.  Bred by William Backer, the 7 year old son of Mizzen Mast captured both the ’14 and ’15 Allen Stakes at Laurel and has bankrolled $331,726 from 30 career outings.  Trevor McCarthy will be in the irons for trainer Jane Cibelli and the Panic Stable, LLC. Rose brier is out of the El Gran Senor mare, Mexicali Rose.

On Sunday, another Virginia-bred will compete in the $100,000 Memories Of Silver Stakes at Aqueduct. Invite, conditioned by Bill Mott, will be making just her fifth lifetime start in the 1 1/16th miles turf test against 8 other challengers. The 3 year old daughter of Include won a maiden special weight clash at Belmont October 29th and was sixth in the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes at Aqueduct in late November. Bred by the Morgan’s Ford Farm, Invite is out of the Tobasco Cat mare, Cat Alert. Junior Alvarado will ride on Saturday for the Gainesway Stable. The stakes race is the 8th at Aqueduct and will go to post at 5:11 PM.

Virginia residents can bet the weekend action on line via TVG, XPressBet and Twin Spires.

$1,250,000 Charles Town Classic is This Saturday, April 23rd

The Kentucky Derby prep race season may be over as horseplayers await the May 7th “Run for the Roses” from Churchill Downs, but there is still plenty of action to watch and wager in the days & weeks leading up to thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown.

This Saturday, April 23rd, nearby Charles Town Race Track in West Virginia plays host to their biggest annual race program, highlighted by the $1,250,000 Charles Town Classic (Gr. II). The stellar under card includes the $150,000 Sugar Maple Stakes, the $100,000 Robert Hilton Memorial and four West Virginia-bred Stakes — the Coin Collector, Confucius Say, It’s Binn Too Long & Original Gold. There will also be a $100,000 Guaranteed All-Stakes Pick-4 wager available to play.

Keeneland continues its annual spring meet through April 29th and this Saturday, will host the Grade 2, $200,000 Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes. On the west coast, Los Alamitos will host the Grade 2, $200,000 Great Lady M. Stakes and back on the east coast at Laurel, Virginia-bred Rose Brier will compete in the $75,000 Henry S. Clark Stakes. Rose Brier, who is 2-for-2 at Laurel, won the $60,000 Bert Allen Stakes last September.  The 7 year old Mizzen Mast gelding has 11 lifetime wins.

Rose Brier captures the 2015 Bert Allen Stakes at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue

Rose Brier captures the 2015 Bert Allen Stakes at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue

In harness racing, Yonkers Raceway plays host to a couple monster series finales on Saturday evening — the $606,000 George M. Levy Pace (Race 9 at 9:50 PM) and the $309,800 Blue Chip Matchmaker Pace (Race 7 at 9;10 PM). Wiggle It Jiggleit, 2015 Horse of the Year, will compete in the Levy.

Virginia residents can play all these races along with others every day of the week, via one of our on line betting partners — TVG, XPressBet and Twin Spires. This is the best time of year to sign up for an account because with Derby Day right around the corner, they are all offering great bonuses! TVG has a $150 sign up bonus once you bet your initial deposit of $150. Bet $100 with XPressBet and you’ll get $125. And Twin Spires will match your deposit up to $100. Shop all three before the Derby and take advantage of these great  opportunities.

It’s the best time of year to be a horseplayer!

Virginia-Breds Exaggerated & Tough Weather Are Streaking

With victories over the weekend, a pair of Virginia-bred horses continued impressive streaks that has seen each win five times in their last seven starts.

In winning Saturday’s $100,000 Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland, Exaggerated bettered her career record to that stellar 5 of 7 mark while at Penn National the day prior, Tough Weather’s victory established her own 5-for-7 streak, though the 5 year old Wiseman’s Ferry mare has made 22 career starts.

Exaggerated captured the $100,000 Giant's Causeway Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

Exaggerated captured the $100,000 Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

Exaggerated squared off against a full field of 12 on a stakes filled card at Keeneland, and the Lael Stables’ 4 year old Blame filly was up to the task by completing a solid gate to wire effort in 1:02.81. Bred by the Hart Farm, Exaggerated led by a length early on in the 5 1/2 furlong race, opened up by two at the top of the stretch and won by 1 1/2 lengths. Sent off at 10-1, the winner hit early fractions of :21.96, :45.26 and :56.82. Julien Leparoux, who was in the irons for trainer Arnaud Delacour, directed the effort. Exaggerated, out of the Valid Appeal mare, Miz United States, is 2-for-2 this year and earned her first stakes score since winning the Bert Allen Stakes at Laurel last September. She has bankrolled $159,660 from her seven starts.

Bred by the Hart Farm, Exaggerated won by 1 1/2 lengths in Saturday's Giant's Causeway Stakes. Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

Bred by the Hart Farm, Exaggerated won by 1 1/2 lengths in Saturday’s Giant’s Causeway Stakes. Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

Tough Weather may not have the same earnings per start ratio, but the Sam English bred mare is on an identical hot streak. She has won her recent five in claiming races at Laurel and Penn National that date back to December 15th when the run began. On Friday, she faced seven other foes and like Exaggerated, went gate to wire in her $14,300 six furlong sprint. Tough Weather was sent off as the betting choice, had a comfortable lead throughout, got collared at the quarter pole but shook off the challenge, then crossed in 1:13.57. Out of the Montreal Red mare, Soft Weather, the Scott Lake trainee paid $4.60. With the triumph, her bankroll stands at $113,414.

Tough Weather win December 18 at Laurel was the first of her recent five. Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.

Tough Weather’s win December 18 at Laurel was the first of her recent five. Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.

General a Rod To Compete in Grade 3 Stakes Saturday at Keeneland

A pair of Virginia-breds — Exaggerated and Rapid Rhythm — will compete in this afternoon’s $100,000 Giant’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland while another horse bred by the Hare Forest Farm of Orange, Virginia will vie in the Grade 3 Ben Ali Stakes earlier on the same card.

General A Rod winning the Gulfstream Park Derby. Photo courtesy Leslie Martin.

General A Rod winning the Gulfstream Park Derby. Photo courtesy Leslie Martin.

General a Rod was bred by Anne Poulson, who owns the Hare Forest Farm, and in 2014, the son of Roman Ruler was only one of three horses to compete in all three legs of the Triple Crown — the others were California Chrome and Ride On Curlin. General a Rod finished 11th in that year’s Derby, 4th in the Preakness and 7th in the Belmont.

Wildcat Red (4), under Luis Saez, edges General a Rod (5), under Javier Castellano, to win the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22, 2014.

General a Rod (5), under Javier Castellano, competes in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 22, 2014.

He enters today’s stakes at Keeneland with $513,915 in career earnings from 15 starts. The Todd Pletcher trainee has a pair of starts this year — a win January 28th in an allowance optional claiming event at Gulfstream and a 9th place finish in last month’s Santa Anita Handicap. Out of the Dynaformer mare, Dynamite Eyes, the now 5 year old General a Rod is second early favorite at 7/2 and his race goes to post at 3:53 PM. That 7th race kicks off an All-Stakes Pick-4, which can be wagered via, and Twin

A Pair of Virginia-Breds Will Start Next To Each Other in a Saturday Stakes at Keeneland

Two Virginia-bred 4 year old fillies will start next to each other in this Saturday’s $100,000 Giants’s Causeway Stakes at Keeneland! Exaggerated, bred by the Hart Farm, will leave from gate position 9 while Rapid Rhythm, bred by the Lazy Lane Farm, will depart from post 10.

Exaggerated (shown here courtesy of Jim McCue), by Blame out of Miz United States by Valid Appeal, won her only start this year and is 4-for-6 lifetime. She captured the $60,000 Oakley Stakes in September and heads to Keeneland with a bankroll of $99,960.

Exaggerated connects in the 2015 Oakley Stakes for the Lael Stables, who won the '06 Colonial Turf Cup with Showing Up

Exaggerated connects in the 2015 Oakley Stakes for the Lael Stables, who won the ’06 Colonial Turf Cup with Showing Up

Rapid Rhythm, by Successful Appeal out of Patriot Miss by Quiet American, is a perfect 2-for-2 at Fair Grounds this year. She won a claiming race there February 9th and an allowance optional claimer on March 10th. She has bankrolled $38,400 in 2016 and $85,686 in her career.

The stakes has been carded as Keeneland’s 8th race and will go to post at 4:26 PM. A full field of 12 have entered the 5 1/2 furlong sprint. Keeneland has a trio of other stakes on the program that cover races 7 thru 10, including the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes, final prep race for the May 7th Kentucky Derby.

As a Virginia resident, you can bet play the action via one of these three on line wagering companies — TVG, XPressBet and Twin Spires.

Pair of Virginia-Breds Now Boast 6-Digit Career Bankrolls Thanks to Wins Sunday at Laurel

A pair of Virginia-breds upset their respective fields this past Sunday at Laurel Park and in winning back-to-back races on the card, saw their career bankrolls zoom into the six digit category.

Made Bail, a 4 year old Closing Argument gelding bred by Susan Cooney, captured a $45,000 allowance optional claiming race while Just Funnin’ Ya, a 5 year old daughter of City Zip bred by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin, III, was best in an $18,000 fillies and mares claimer.

Made Bail captured a $45,000 allowance race at Laurel April 10th. Photo by Jim McCue.

Made Bail captured a $45,000 allowance race at Laurel April 10th. Photo by Jim McCue.

Made Bail actually had to fend off another Virginia-bred that brought quite a bit of class into the race. Two Notch Road, winner of both the 2014 & 2015 Punch Line Stakes, was favored in the 5 1/2 furlong sprint that included a field of six, but he had to settle for runner-up status. Jockey Victor Carrasco had the eventual winner positioned second at the 3/8ths mark before zipping by front running Make My Saturday midway through the turn. Made Bail, out of the Emancipator mare, Leva Mae, opened up by 2 1/2 at the top of the stretch and held off fast closing Two Notch Road to win by 1 1/4 lengths.

Cooney’s gelding, which she also owns and trains, was making his first start of the year. He crossed in 1:03.18, paid $13.40 and earned the winners share of the purse — $25,650 — which helped boost his career earnings to $111,724. Two Notch Road, a 9 year old Partner’s Hero gelding who was 4th in the 2012 Virginia Derby, was solid in his first start since an 8th place finish at Belmont last October.

Just Funnin' Ya earned her fifth lifetime win at Laurel April 10th. Photo by Jim McCue.

Just Funnin’ Ya earned her fifth lifetime win at Laurel April 10th. Photo by Jim McCue.

Just Funnin’ Ya, sent off at 16-1 odds, surprised nine other competitors in the very next race, contested at the same 5 1/2 furlong distance. The William Wolfendale owned and trained mare chased the pace two wide around the turn, swerved to the outside to take control near the 1/8th pole and won by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:03.98. Out of the Distorted Humor mare, Humor Lee, Just Funnin’ Ya collected her fifth lifetime victory and went back to her barn with a $106,317 career bankroll. She returned $34.40 to her backers.

VTA Awards Reception Slated For Friday May 6 At Great Meadow

Celebrate Virginia’s finest breeders, owners & trainers on Friday May 6th at the annual trackside awards reception in the VTA’s Turf Club Tent at Great Meadow. The event is from 5-8 PM and features an open bar, hor d’oeuvres, betting on the Kentucky Oaks (that day) and advance betting on the Kentucky Derby (the following afternoon). Casual dress is encouraged.

Hronis Racing's Stellar Wind and jockey Victor Espinoza win the Grade I $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks Saturday, April 4, 2015 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA.   ©Benoit Photo

Hronis Racing’s Stellar Wind and jockey Victor Espinoza win the Grade I $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks Saturday, April 4, 2015 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA.
©Benoit Photo

Stellar Wind (shown here), 2015 Virginia-bred Horse of the Year, will be recognized along with many others, including leading breeder, leading VA-bred over fences, 2 year old colt and filly, 3 year old colt and filly, older horse, turf male and filly, turf sprinter, VA owned male and filly/mare, VA raised horse and leading VA based trainer.

The beautiful VTA Turf Club tent on Gold Cup day. Photo courtesy Sherry Whiting.

The beautiful VTA Turf Club tent on Gold Cup day. Photo courtesy Sherry Whiting.


Make reservations by April 29th — call 434-977-3716 or e-mail