Yearly Archives: 2017

Off Track Betting Returns To Chesapeake

The following article appeared in the Virginia Pilot December 24th and was written by Victoria Bourne. Photos were taken by Stephen Katz.

The old gang is back together.

So said Don McDowell, who has been coming to Buckets Bar and Grill three times a week since it started offering off-track betting last month. “I’m a fixture,” the Chesapeake resident said. “You’ll meet some characters here.”

On a gloomy Wednesday afternoon last week, 20 to 30 people filled the newly expanded Buckets, a sports bar in a strip mall on North Battlefield Boulevard just north of the Great Bridge Bridge. The crowd was mostly men, many of or nearing retirement age who said they’ve been gambling for years. One bettor drove from his nearby condominium complex. Another traversed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel from his home on the Eastern Shore. One man said he’d won about $100.

Don Bailey intently watches the finish of a horse race he bet on at Buckets.

Buckets owner Ed Manning said his lunchtime crowd has “exponentially improved” since the off-track betting opened Nov. 18. In the first 10 days of December, the wagering brought in $600,000, he said, “and it’s the slow season.” Horse racing will pick up after New Year’s, he said.
Food orders have skyrocketed, up about $4,500 a week, Manning said.

“It seems to be pretty first-class,” said Dennis Lewis, a retiree from Suffolk. “It’s something to do on a rainy day.” The owner said his lunchtime crowd has “exponentially improved” since the launch of OTB. Buckets marks a return of satellite wagering on horses to Chesapeake.

The city had three off-track betting places from 1996 to 2014. When Colonial Downs, a track in New Kent County, closed in 2014, the off-site wagering facilities across Virginia followed.

Ben Ellis was playing horses at Buckets on December 20th.

Changes in state law in 2015 created the Virginia Equine Alliance and gave it the authorization to have up to 10 off-track betting places. Licensing for the facilities and its employees, as well as oversight, is provided by the Virginia Racing Commission. Two off-track betting places have opened in Richmond and another is planned for Hampton. The Chesapeake City Council approved Buckets as an off-track wagering place in September. Racing officials have said it will be the only one in the city and that Chesapeake could see a $75,000 cut from the first year of wagering.

“Go 8 go!” someone yelled at a quartet of large, wall-mounted TVs showing a live thoroughbred race from Florida’s Gulfstream Park.
Three pool tables in an adjacent room were ignored as more patrons stood with their eyes glued  to even more screens. Buckets’ betting area has more than 40 TVs streaming content from around the country. Other sports are also aired. Bettors sat at high-top tables or saddled up to the bar. They queued up to place bets at self-service machines or relay their chosen horses’ numbers to one of two tellers. An ATM sat between two terminals. One patron brought his own seat cushion.

Buckets has over 40 TVs in the OTB rooms that beam in races from up to 20 tracks a day.

Some people pored over printouts of race statistics – horse  jockey names, past performance times on dirt and turf tracks, etc. – in what they called “the book.” “I don’t say I’m an excellent handicapper,” said Ben Ellis of Suffolk, using a term for someone who uses numbers to predict races. “I can read the book.”

Thoroughbred and harness races were being streamed. Mike Reid, a contractor from Cape Charles, preferred “the trotters,” or harness racers.
“Any horse can run,” Reid said, but it takes “art and patience to trot.”

Some people bet on gray horses, some bet on jockeys. Some won’t bet on long shots, others only bet on long shots, he said. He plays $6 to $12 a ticket on a couple races at a time.

Buckets is located in ther Great Bridge neighborhood and is open 7 days and evenings per week.

Steve Burson and his wife, Deb, said they look for “a closer” – a horse that shows a knack for starting out at the back or middle of the track and coming from behind to win. For them, betting on horse races is a form of entertainment not too dissimilar to going to the movies. They set a budget and stick to it, the couple said.

Don Bailey’s horse had just finished second in a race at Tampa Bay Downs. He’d prefer his horse finish last and lose by a lot, rather than lose by a little, he said. Bailey started frequenting Chesapeake’s off-track betting places when the first one opened in Deep Creek in the late 1990s. He lives in a condominium nearby and pops into Buckets for a “quick fix,” he said. “It’s either a lot of fun,” Bailey said. “Or it sucks.”

A Look Back: Virginia-Bred Christmas Kid Thrives In Cold At Keeneland

The following appeared in and takes a look back 10 years ago at a Virginia-bred named Christmas Kid.

Look Back: Christmas Kid Thrives in Cold at Keeneland
Christmas Kid won the 2007 Ashland Stakes.
Today, 6:00 AM

Christmas Kid is shown after winning the Ashland Stakes in 2007.

On a weekend when temperatures more resembled Christmas in New York rather than Easter in Central Kentucky, and wool coats replaced fancy spring frocks, a Virginia-bred filly named Christmas Kid found an extra gear down the stretch to win the $500,000 Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland April 7.

Christmas Kid finished the 1 1/16 miles over Polytrack in 1:42.90, with Octave a short head back in second. Dawn After Dawn was three-quarters of a length back in third.

In conjunction with Tom Hall’s Throwback Thursday feature in BloodHorse Daily, each Thursday will present corresponding race stories from the pages of the magazine. This week’s Look Back offers a recap of the April 7, 2007 Ashland Stakes (G1) at Keeneland, won by Christmas Kid. The story, headlined “Winter Wonderland,” was written by Leslie Deckard. It ran in the April 14, 2007 issue of The Blood-Horse.

“She kicked in down the stretch unbelievably,” said winning jockey Rene Douglas. “I know Todd Pletcher’s filly (3-5 favorite Octave), and she’s a nice filly. She was coming but my horse had plenty left. I was happy with the way she ran today.”

The way Christmas Kid fought back when challenged down the lane could lend itself to a possible start in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 4 at Churchill Downs even though owner/breeder Edward P. Evans did not commit to a next start. “That (the Oaks) is a question mark,” he said. “That is something I will talk about with (trainer) Jimmy Jerkens. I have to look at the replay and see what happened.”

Assistant trainer Steve Moyer saddled Christmas Kid in the absence of Jerkens, who was at Aqueduct Racetrack to saddle Corinthian in the Excelsior Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G3), where he finished fifth after leaping in the air at the start. Moyer was more excited about a chance to run for the Oaks’ lilies after hitting the winner’s circle trifecta with a filly who has won stakes on the dirt, turf, and Polytrack.
“This filly doesn’t have a whole lot left to prove,” Moyer said. “She’s amazing. She’s a grade 1 winner on Polytrack, a stakes winner on turf, and a graded stakes winner on dirt. What more could you ask for, honestly?”

A daughter of Lemon Drop Kid out of the grade 3-winning Green Desert mare Christmas Gift, Christmas Kid won the grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes on the main track at Gulfstream Park in February, and before the Ashland finished second to Ashland fourth-place finisher High Again in the Bonnie Miss Stakes (G2) in March. Christmas Kid began the year by winning the Tropical Park Oaks on the Calder turf in January.

Christmas Kid earned $310,000 for Evans while becoming his first Ashland winner and increased her career earnings to $526,587 with four lifetime wins in seven tries. The winner paid $21 as the fifth choice in the eight-horse field.

If Christmas Kid races next at Churchill Downs on the first Friday in May, she could become the first Oaks winner for her owner, who is known for racing top-class fillies, counting homebred grade 1 winner Summer Colony and Raging Fever among the elite runners to wear Evans’ yellow silks with black diamonds. Both Summer Colony and Raging Fever have been retired to his Spring Hill Farm, where they are members of Evans’ broodmare band.

Asked to compare Christmas Kid with his other top runners, Evans referred to the pedigrees, saying his Ashland winner has “a very fancy pedigree. Her mother was a very good runner on the turf. She comes from a long line of female stakes winners and producers. The others all have nice pedigrees too.”

Christmas Kid’s fourth dam, Calumet Farm-bred Plum Cake, was the granddam of grade 1 winner Alydar; Sugar and Spice, who won the 1980 Ashland Stakes; and champion Our Mims, who finished third in the 1977 Ashland before taking second in that year’s Kentucky Oaks.

In freezing temperatures that hovered around 30 degrees most of the afternoon and limited the on-track crowd to 12,937, Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) winner Mistical Plan and Elitist dueled for the early lead before Mistical Plan edged clear down the backstretch in the Ashland. Leaving the far turn, as the field began to bunch up, Douglas guided his mount through an opening and she responded, outrunning a powerful Octave down the stretch.

After High Again, the order of finish was Mistical Plan, Grace Happens, Silver Knockers, and Elitist. Hucking Hot was a late scratch after she threw jockey Rafael Bejarano in the post parade, dodged the starting gate by edging against the inside rail, and ran off down the stretch before being caught by the outriders. The California invader was 5-1 at the time. Bejarano, who was not injured in the spill, said the filly was excited in the post parade.

Christmas Kid, on the other hand, acted well in her training and on race day. “She (Christmas Kid) was dragging Douglas, and she sort of trained like that all week; good and confident,” Moyer said. “I said, ‘Boy, she’s going to run a big race.”

“I rode her with so much patience,” Douglas said. “I was a little concerned about being on the rail since it had been slow all day, but she fired really good. Everything went perfectly.”

The Pletcher-trained Octave got bumped from both sides at the start and fell way back early in the race but responded to a rally by jockey Garrett Gomez. She just missed catching Christmas Kid in the final jumps.Pletcher watched the Ashland via simulcast from Aqueduct, where he saddled Magna Graduate to win the Escelsior Breeders’ Cup and Any Given Saturday to finish third in the Wood Memorial (G1).

“She ran very well today,” Pletcher said of Octave, adding that she would remain at Keeneland until the Oaks. “I was frustrated that she went so wide into the turn but hopefully she will spring forward going into the Oaks.”

Virginia-Bred River Deep Wins Fourth Straight Race

Greyvitos may have captured headlines with his big stakes win Sunday in Remington Park’s $400,000 Springboard Mile Stakes, but other Virginia-breds scored nice wins recently including River Deep, Bird Call and Swordfish.

River Deep, a 3 year old Arch colt, began his racing career with just one “in the money” finish in his first four starts. Since then, he has bagged a third, second and most recently, four straight wins including a dominating 7 1/4 length triumph this past weekend at Laurel. In that $45,000, 1 1/16th miles allowance optional claimer, the Phil Schoenthal trainee took the lead from just before the third fraction and powered home convincingly in 1:45.52. He surprisingly paid $13.40. Bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm & F and F Stable, River Deep was again piloted by jockey Sheldon Russell. The winner is out of the Congaree mare, River Fancy. In 2017, River Deep has earned $119,300 from nine starts. Morgan’s Ford Farm, who also owns the horse, collected a 25% bonus as well from the HBPA/VTA Mid-Atlantic incentive program.

River Deep won his fourth straight race in dominant fashion December 16th at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue.


Bird Call, a 5 year old Birdstone gelding bred by Lazy Lane Farms, LLC, won a $10,500 claiming race at Penn National by three-quarters of a length over Lord Baltimore. The victor raced in second throughout then came on in the stretch to capture his fourth lifetime win. The six furlong event featured a large field of 12. Bird Call, out of Silent Greeting by Secret Hello, has bankrolled $51,4812 in career earnings now from 25 starts. Owner/trainer John Jacavone earned a 25% bonus courtesy of the same incentive program.

Swordfish angled out from third with a five wide move in mid-stretch, closed fast on the outside and got up in the final stride to capture a $14,850 claiming race during Remington Park’s closing weekend. The 4 year old Summer Bird gelding topped an eight horse field at the six furlong distance. The winner, bred by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin, is out of Hawaiian Love by Not For Love. In twelve starts this year, Swordfish has 9 “top three” finishes including a trio of wins, good for $60,654 in earnings.

Greyvitos (blue silks) heads to the finish in the $400,000 Springboard Mile Stakes December 17th at Remington. Photo by Dustin Orona.

Several Virginia-breds competed in stakes around the country this past weekend as well. Code West and Sticksstatelydude both took respective fourth place finishes in the Jeffrey Hawkins Memorial Stakes at Remington and the Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds. Trappe Me Later finished sixth in Tampa Bay’s Sandpiper Stakes and One Go All Go was eighth in the Grade 3 Tropical Turf Stakes at Gulfstream.

New Virginia Residency Program Off To Strong Start

When the new Virginia Residency program began in July, there was plenty of reason for industry optimism but nobody could predict how successful it would or would not be by year’s end.  The purpose and details of the incentive program are pretty straightforward. Horses who enter the program must board or train at a certified Virginia farm or training center for six consecutive months prior to December 31st of their two-year-old year. Once certified, they will be eligible for a 25% purse bonus for any non-Virginia restricted win at pari-mutuel tracks in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Less than six months later, initial results are impressive. At the December 14th meeting of the Virginia Racing Commission (VRC), Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) President Easter reported receiving 334 applications for the program, the majority of which are from out of town horses that now reside in the Commonwealth. “We probably have ten farms that are maxed out on space as a direct result of the initiative,” said Easter. “It’s the first time in years we’ve had this kind of situation in Virginia. There are smiles on many faces,” she added.

Karen Godsey owns and operates Eagle Point Farm along with her mother, Donna Dennehy.

Karen Godsey, who owns and operates Eagle Point Farm in Ashland with her mother Donna Dennehy, is one of those who has seen a spike in business. “We’ve been fortunate over the years to stay pretty full but the certified program has allowed us to be more selective in choosing our clients. A year ago we had four weanlings at the farm,” said Godsey. “This year, we have 15. The class of the weanlings is much better as well. They are nicely bred and much better than ones we’ve had.”

A year ago, Godsey cut eight paychecks a week to farmhands. During the week of December 15th this year, she cut 13. “We’re getting better clients and as a result, have more revenue and have been able to take care of some much needed projects on the property.”

Stephanie Nixon, who owns and operates nearby Horseshoe Hill Farm in Ashland, has had similar experiences. “Some of my current clients are staying longer,” said Nixon. “I picked up three weanlings from a phone call just yesterday from a client I’ve been trying to lure for years. I recently had to build a new run-in shed due to the extra business. I wasn’t prepared initially for such a positive response to the program, but I’m thrilled.”

Stephanie Nixon’s Horseshoe Hill Farm is located in Ashland, Virginia.

Diana McClure runs the DMC Carousel Stables with her husband Michael Cooney at Walnut Hall in Berryville. “The six month time frame needed to complete the residency requirement seems like the magic number,” noted McClure. “Just getting one additional horse would have improved my business, but I have nine new ones already.”

In mid-2016, a Virginia-bred owners bonus program was implemented by the HBPA and VTA. Owners of a Virginia-bred or sired horse that won a race at pari-mutuel tracks in the Mid-Atlantic earned an additional 25% bonus on top of their purse winnings. “It was a brand new incentive that created some momentum in Virginia ,” said Easter. “I don’t know if it created any new breeding operations in the state, but it did create value for Virginia-bred horses.”

Woodberry Payne credits that owners bonus program with laying the groundwork for the residency program.  Payne owns the Ingleside Horse Training Center, located on the grounds of Montpelier in Orange, Virginia. He has 75 horses in training, has hired seven new employees, increased the wage base for those employees and has increased his day rate as well. “I’ve had owners that received bonus checks in the mail from the Owner’s Incentive Program. That really has helped bring attention to Virginia-breds and set the stage for the residency program. Virginia is making in-roads in all states in the Mid-Atlantic,” said Payne. “I’ve had to turn away 25 horses, but have referred them to other nearby centers”

Virginia-Bred Greyvitos Proves Much The Best In Springboard Mile

The following appeared in The Paulick Report December 18th.

Handling the outside, number 12 post in the $402,400 Springboard Mile was easy for winner Greyvitos, considering everything the colt has been through in the past two weeks. The gray opened up to win Remington Park’s top race for 2-year-olds by 2-1/4 lengths under National Racing Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza.

Greyvitos (blue silks) heads to the finish ion the $400,000 Springboard Mile Stakes December 17th at Remington. Photo by Dustin Orona.

Owned by Triple B Farms of North Hollywood, Calif. and trained by Adam Kitchingman, Greyvitos arrived at Remington Park on Dec. 13 from his base at Santa Anita in southern California. Prior to that, Greyvitos was stabled at San Luis Rey training center north of San Diego. The training center was surrounded by one of the deadly wild fires that have raged in the state for weeks. Kitchingman managed to get his horses out of danger before the fires took over the facility, killing over 60 horses who were trapped by the inferno. The trainer was extremely relieved, and happy, with the way his colt handled all of the recent challenges to score the richest race of his young career.

“He’s been a really nice horse to be around, the last six months he’s really blossomed and really shown he’s a nice horse. The last two weeks I didn’t know if I was going to be training him. We’ve been getting a lot of offers from the “big boys” and I thought for sure the owners were going to sell him. Then we went through the fire, shipping all around the country, it’s been a rollercoaster.”

Greyvitos received a masterful ride from his Hall of Fame jockey, who had a plan on how to handle post position 12 and the quick run to the clubhouse turn.

Virginia-bred Greyvitos is shown in the winners circle after capturing the Bob Hope Stakes.

“We had the outside and I was just checking everyone to see what they were going to do into the first turn. I just didn’t want to hit the first turn too wide. If I could get to the turn maybe four or five (wide) then I’m in good shape. I decided to track the two-horse (Major Brown) on the lead and I was pretty much cruising along all the way around. I wanted to wait a little bit longer but it seemed like the other horses didn’t really want it in front of me so I took a shot. I felt like I had the best horse in the race and he just ran and opened it up.”

Major Brown set the early pace, handling the opening quarter-mile in :23.51 and a half-mile in :47.16. That’s when Greyvitos made his move and he took the lead early in the final turn and began to pull away, getting six furlongs in 1:11.71 before crossing the finish in 1:37.14 over the fast track. The time was a new stakes record for the Springboard Mile.

Greyvitos was in control coming down the stretch, leaving the only question as to who would finish for the minor awards behind him. Combatant rallied down the middle of the track to gain second while Kingsville worked through traffic near the rail to get third, 7-1/2 lengths behind the winner. Oklahoma-bred Night Strike, last by nearly 30 lengths at the start of the backstretch, rallied to gain fourth, 12-3/4 lengths behind Greyvitos.

The Springboard Mile is a points-eligibility race for the 2018 Kentucky Derby, helping to determine the starting field for the prestigious event. Greyvitos picked up 10 points for the win, Combatant gained four points for second, Kingsville picked up two points for third while Night Strike gets one point for finishing fourth.

Away at 3-1 odds in the betting, Greyvitos paid $8 to win, $3.80 to place and $3.40 to show. Combatant, the betting favorite at 2-1 odds, paid $3.40 to place and $2.80 to show. Kingsville paid $19 to show.

Greyvitos was bred in Virginia by Audley Farm Equine. He is a colt by Malibu Moon from the Najran mare Snow Top Mountain. He adds the Springboard victory to his score in the Grade 3, $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar in November. The winner’s share of $240,000 boosts the career earnings for Greyvitos to $306,345.

It was the first victory in the Springboard Mile for all of the connections of Greyvitos.

Virginia-Bred Greyvitos Can Aid Healing Process In Springboard Mile

The following appeared in December 14th.

The following sappearedSurvivor of San Luis Rey fire carries hopes for connections in one-mile test.
By Alicia Wincze Hughes


Virginia-bred Greyvitos will compete in Sunday’s Springboard Mile at Remington Park.

You go on because that is what life dictates.
You press forward past the grief, putting things that still need emotional processing in a corner of one’s mind until a better moment arises. You try and regain a sense a normalcy in the face of events none should ever have to endure.

Trainer Adam Kitchingman is among many trying to do the above exercise this week. It has been seven days since the Lilac Fire ripped through San Luis Rey Downs Training Center, causing the death of 46 horses on the grounds and immeasurable mental and physical heartache to those who played witness and savior. But the Thoroughbred industry is nothing if not resolute in marching forward, and when the $400,000 Remington Springboard Mile Stakes goes to post Dec. 17, one of Kitchingman’s charges will try and provide a dose of comfort as well as an injection of hope.

Triple B Farms’ graded stakes winner Greyvitos, one of the fortunate who survived the fire unscathed, will gently push forward the process of moving on this weekend when he breaks from post 12 in the Springboard Mile at Remington Park— a race that offers qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) for the first time.

Greyvitos and the rest of his stablemates in Kitchingman’s barn were all able to escape the blaze at the training center and just three days after the tragic incident, the son of Malibu Moon was back on the work tab at Santa Anita Park to complete his preparations for Sunday’s eight-furlong test. That doesn’t mean scars aren’t evident.

Lost tack can be replaced. Structures can be rebuilt. New clothing and housing can be acquired. Trying to unsee a worst nightmare is a different story.

Greyvitos went gate- to- wire in the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar. Photo courtesy of Benoit Photo.

“It’s been a crazy week. A lot of highs and lows, more lows than highs,” Kitchingman said. “We’re getting through it and everyone has been really supportive. It’s great to see the racing community come together to help everyone out … it’s just been very heartwarming to see everyone care.

“We have to move on and we have to go forward, but it doesn’t take away from what happened. There is a lot to learn from what we have gone through. It was terrifying. It was a nightmare what was going on. It was like a horror movie.”

Greyvitos already has a bit of history of providing his barn with a notable lift. In his third start, the gray colt became the second graded stakes winner of Kitchingman’s career when he broke his maiden in the Nov. 11 Bob Hope Stakes (G3), winning by 1 1/2-lengths in front-running fashion at Del Mar. Being out of the multiple graded stakes-winning turf mare Snow Top Mountain, Greyvitos began his career on the grass at Santa Anita this July, but he weakened to finish eighth in that outing.

After getting some time off due to a minor tibia issue, Greyvitos worked well enough on the main track that Kitchingman put him on dirt next time out for a 5 1/2 furlong maiden test at Santa Anita Oct. 21. His greenness was obvious, but so too was his upside. He ran on to get third.
“If you look at the second start, he probably should have won that race,” Kitchingman said. “He had a terrible trip, stuck down on the rail, and didn’t like the dirt in his face. Then when he did get out, he exploded and two more jumps and he probably would have won the race. But he was all over the place in that race.

“Just the last six months he has really blossomed and filled out and grown a bunch. The way he ran last time (in the Bob Hope), he galloped out like he wanted more distance. Especially after going so fast early (:22.66 and :45.20), he didn’t spit the bit and kept on going forward.”

Among those Greyvitos will face Sunday is Redatory, the undefeated winner of the $100,000 Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park Nov. 3. The Texas-bred Oratory gelding broke his maiden Oct. 7 by two lengths in a six-furlong race and captured the seven-furlong Clever Trevor by 2 1/4 lengths in gate-to-wire style.

Larry Jones-trained Believe in Royalty brings a pair of wins —as well as a purple pedigree—to the table for the Springboard Mile. The son of Tapit is out of 2012 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Believe You Can and heads into Sunday’s race off a 3 3/4-length allowance victory going one mile Nov. 19 at Laurel Park, where he headed every point of call.


Pair Of Horses Bred By Lady Olivia at North Cliff Win In Early December

Four Virginia-breds reached the winners circle this past week including Galaxy Express and Wing Fighter, a pair bred by Lady Olivia at North Cliff.

Galaxy Express, who was 4th in the 2016 Jamestown Stakes, was best December 9th in a $27,000, one mile claiming race at Parx. The 3 year old Cosa Vera gelding beat eight others courtesy of a three wide rallying  move at the top of the stretch. The winner crossed in 1:40.86, one-half length better than Fiery Opal. It was the first win this year for Galaxy Express , who also has a pair of seconds and thirds in 13 starts. His 2017 bankroll stands at $42,365. He is out of the Luhuk mare, Alice Phone Home, and is owned by the Home Team Stables, who earned a 25% bonus from the HBPA/VTA Mid-Atlantic Incentive program.

Wing Fighter got to the winners circle farther south at Tampa Bay Downs December 6th. The 3 year old Cosa Vera colt also was part of a large nine horse field and won by a length after leading through much of the one mile, 40 yards race. Except for a brief pocket at the head of the stretch when runner-up Soby Junior took a slight lead, Wing Fighter held the lead spot from start to finish. The winner, out of Shanta by Leroidesanimaux, collected his eighth “top three” finish this year from 15 starts. Wing Fighter broke his maiden September 17th at Delaware, then was 7th in the Punch Line Stakes.

When It Reigns won her first lifetime race December 9th in the snow at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue.

When It Reigns captured her first career win in a six furlong, $22,000 maiden claimer at Laurel December 9th. The 3 year old Fiber Sonde filly, who was seventh in her career bow October 15th at Charles Town, dominated a five horse field by 8 1/4 lengths in Maryland. She was bumped early on but rebounded nicely with jockey Xavier Perez up top. The winner, bred by Nancy & Eric Rizer, is out of the Stormin Fever mare, Minifever. Owner Eric Rizer  received a 25% bonus courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic triumph.

Wild Affair won for the third time in her last six starts on December 8th when she authored a gate to wire effort at Charles Town at the 1 1/8 miles distance. The 4 year old Up Periscope filly beat runner-up Kilt Chaser by two lengths and paid $19.00 in the upset. Wild Affair now has four wins this year to complement a runner-up and a pair of thirds. The winner, out of Vermont Gilan by Black Tie Affair, is owned and bred by the Vermont Farm. They too received a 25% bonus for Wild Affair’s triumph.

Off Track Betting Returns To Henry County

The following appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin November 30th. 

COLLINSVILLE-Off-track betting will soon arrive at Collinsville’s Dutch Inn.

On Wednesday, the Henry County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) granted a special use permit to the hotel, which will allow for off-track betting – state-sanctioned satellite wagering on horse racing – at the hotel’s restaurant and bar.

Speaking on behalf of the Dutch Inn, Jim Farrell said that the hotel recently closed The Flying Dutchman Lounge for extensive renovations, and in 60 to 90 days, the former bar will re-open as an upscale restaurant and sports bar with satellite wagering operated by the Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA), operating as “Virginia Bets.”

The Dutch Inn’s former dance floor area will feature a bank of self betting terminals and a rows of TVs showing horse race simulcasts.

Deborah Easter, President of the VEA, said that her organization represents the various Virginia horse racing and wagering groups in Virginia since Colonial Downs turned in their racing license.

“We’re charged with getting racing and wagering back in the state,” Easter told the BZA. “It helps fuel what we do agriculturally as breeders and as people that raise racehorses. Those moneys that we get out of the wagering facilities go right back into the state, either to produce race days or to incentivize people to do business here in Virginia. I think that as far as the facility, (Dutch Inn owners) the Vaughns and our group are both like-minded.”

A look at the Dutch Inn bar before renovations begin/

Bill Vaughn of the Dutch Inn said that the complete renovation of the former Flying Dutchman Lounge will include the addition of 30-plus televisions, which will broadcast all major sporting events.

“A person that likes sports can come in there and enjoy it, too,” Easter said. “They don’t have to wager if they don’t want to.”

The VEA is investing $300,000 in the renovation, Easter said, and has already received approval for off-track betting from the Virginia Racing Commission. Horse racing is the only form of wagering legal in Virginia and the majority of the U.S., Easter added, and no other forms of wagering will be allowed.

The VEA will operate the satellite wagering portion of the facility, she said, while the Dutch Inn will operate the restaurant and bar portion.

Easter projected that over the course of five years, the off-track betting alone should contribute about $134,000 in tax dollars to the county, in addition to hotel and restaurant taxes. She added that the facility will likely draw tourism from North Carolina, which does not have off-track betting.

Henry County Director of Planning, Zoning and Inspections Lee Clark told the BZA members that off-track betting is allowed in Henry County, but special use permits are required to make sure that the specific location chosen is appropriate. Clark said that he thought the Dutch Inn was an appropriate location, and he did not recommend any conditions to the special use permit.

The BZA approved the special use permit in a 4-0 vote. BZA member Manker Stone was absent from the meeting.

The “Dutch Inn” in Collinsville is easy to spot with its giant windmill in front.

A second attempt

This would be the second attempt to host off-track betting in Henry County. The county’s last off-track betting site was Colonial Downs, formerly located at 3951 Greensboro Road. The site opened in 2005 and shut down Feb. 1, 2014, due to a contract dispute between Colonial Downs and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association.

At the time, both sides told the Bulletin the dispute involved a desire by Colonial Downs to move from races averaging a $200,000 winner’s purse to an annual fall turf festival offering larger purses. The VHBPA rejected the proposal.

Without a contract with the horsemen’s association, Colonial Downs couldn’t allow betting on thoroughbred races, which accounted for 75 percent on average of the wagers placed at the business. Thoroughbred races are those involving a jockey on the back of the horse, with the horse running at a gallop. Harness races, meanwhile, involve a driver sitting behind the horse on a two-wheeled cart. Those don’t require a contract from the horsemen’s association, but only accounted for 25 percent of the bets taken at Colonial.

At the time in 2014, Colonial officials told the Bulletin they had chosen the Henry County site and three others to close because they were the least likely to be viable sources of revenue from harness racing betting.

Trainer Jonathan Thomas’ Catholic Boy Wins The Grade 2 Remsen Stakes

Congratulations to trainer Jonathan Thomas and Catholic Boy, who prevailed in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes December 2nd at Aqueduct. Jonathan is the son of Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) Track Superintendent John Dale Thomas.  The following piece appeared in 

It remains to be seen if Catholic Boy prefers turf or dirt, but trainer Jonathan Thomas is surely confident of something the 2-year-old son of More Than Ready  relishes. As far as distance goes, it’s the more the merrier for owner Robert LaPenta’s juvenile colt.

Tested on dirt and the 1 1/8-mile trip for the first time, Catholic Boy handled the surface switch with aplomb Dec. 2 as he surged to a decisive 4 3/4-length victory in the $250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2), as his connections’ favorite color switched from the green of turf to the brown of Aqueduct Racetrack‘s main track.

Catholic Boy’s win in the Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes gave trainer John Thomas his first graded stakes win. Photo by Chelsea Durand.

“We came over quietly confident he would show us a little something, but we never expected that,” Thomas said.

Catholic Boy’s first three starts came on turf and he was pleasantly successful, winning the With Anticipation Stakes (G3T) at Saratoga Race Course and finishing a close fourth at a mile in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T), when he rallied from ninth to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Mendelssohn at Del Mar.

“He galloped out well at the Breeders’ Cup, which indicated to us he wants some more ground. The day after the race, he was very lively and looked like he exited it well,” said Thomas, who added Catholic Boy was originally tested on grass because of a lack of route races on dirt. “I hate to say it, but the Breeders’ Cup acted like a prep for us.”

Looking ahead, Thomas voiced uncertainty about the colt’s next start, but indicated it will probably be on dirt. As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Remsen netted 10-4-2-1 points to its top four finishers.

“Now we have a lot of thinking to see where he takes us. At this time of year, we’d prefer to have a dirt horse,” Thomas said. “I think we have to consider the next race to be a dirt race for sure, and then we’ll see where it takes us. We’re going to pump the brakes and send him back to Bridlewood Farm (where he was broken) to give him a couple of quiet weeks. We’ll sit back and do what’s best by him.”

Catholic Boy and jockey Manuel Franco were sixth in the field of 10 after an opening quarter-mile in :23.98, as a foursome of Bandito, Millionaire Runner, Avery Island and Vouch were grouped together on the front end. With a half-mile going in :48.97, Catholic Boy swept four-wide on the turn to grab the lead and then pulled away to a safe 3 1/2-length advantage at the eighth pole. The final time was 1:52.50.

Catholic Boy is shown capturing the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes December 2nd at Aqueduct. Photo courtesy of Coglianese Photography.

In winning for the third time in four starts, Catholic Boy, the third-choice in the wagering, improved his career earnings to $314,000. He was bred in Kentucky by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding and was purchased privately by his connections after he was a $170,000 RNA from the 2016 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. He returned $10.20, $5, and $3.70 across the board.

Godolphin Racing’s Avery Island, the 2-1 favorite, held on for second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Lael Stables and Three Chimneys Farm’s Vouch. Shadwell Stables’ Alkhaatam was another 4 3/4 lengths behind in fourth after a troubled start.

“I think (jockey Joe Bravo) felt like (Avery Island) learned a lot today,” said Jimmy Bell, president of Goldolphin USA. “Obviously you want to win, but sometimes you make a step forward just from learning. He was down on the inside, got dirt in his face, and he took it all well. Certainly, the horse that won has some credentials on his own.”

Thunder Gulch, who won the 1994 Remsen, stands as the last horse to win both the Remsen and the Kentucky Derby (G1).

David Ross’s Scuba Surges To Hawthorne Gold Cup Win

The following appeared in November 25th and was written by Claire Novak-Crosby.

Something about the month of November agrees with Scuba.

One year after he won the Marathon Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park, the 6-year-old Tapit  gelding once again found his way to the winner’s circle—this time in the $150,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (G3) at Hawthorne Racecourse.

Entered by DARRS and trainer Brendan Walsh off back-to-back sixths in races he won in 2016—the Oct. 1 Temperence Hill Invitational Stakes at Belmont Park and the Sept. 4 Greenwood Cup at Parx Racing—Scuba found a perfect stalking trip under jockey Alonso Quinonez in the 1 1/4-mile Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Scuba won the Grade 3 Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap over Thanksgiving weekend. Photo by Four Footed Fotos.

While 16-1 shot Side Pocket showed the way through opening fractions of :24.66 and :50.13, Quinonez had 2-1 second choice Scuba racing just out of striking distance off the first flight. Shifted inside to advance to third as three-quarters went in 1:14.56, Scuba made up ground on the leader and moved out three-deep on the far turn to get positioned for his final run.

Futile, who stalked the pace in second throughout, obtained the advantage after a 1:38.72 mile, but a solid late response under brisk handling carried Scuba to victory by a half-length in a final time of 2:03.12.

With his win at Hawthorne, Scuba has now bankrolled $671,210.

“First of all, I want to thank the connections for giving me this opportunity,” Quinonez said. “We have been working with this horse. He had been going for the lead but tiring, so we decided to try to get him to settle behind horses. It worked.

“I thought we were in a good position and I knew I had horse, but then the 2 (Futile) went to the lead and I knew we had our work cut out for us. But when I asked Scuba, he responded and finished very well.”

Side Pocket held for third, while favored Eagle, Volgograd, Hay Dakota, Empirestrikesagain, and Van Damme completed the order of finish.

Scuba paid $6.20, $3.40, and $3 across the board, while Futile brought $4 and $3. Side Pocket returned $4.60 to show.

Bred in Kentucky by Palides Investments N.V., out of the Smoke Glacken mare Cuaba, Scuba was a $105,000 purchase by David Ross from Mill Ridge Sales’ consignment to the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. He also went through the ring at Keeneland in 2011, where he sold for $375,000 from Chanteclair Farm to Ampad Investments.

Scuba improved his record to 7-6-3 from 24 starts, for earnings of $671,210.