Monthly Archives: August 2017

Ten Year Old Two Notch Road Turns Back The Clock In Winning The Meadow Stables Stakes

Ten-year-old Virginia-bred Two Notch Road turned back the clock with a thrilling come from behind victory Saturday  in the $75,000 Meadow Stables Stakes at Laurel Park.

Two Notch Road (outside) just edged Tiz Our Time (inside) to capture the $75,000 Meadow Stables Stakes August 5th at Laurel. Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.

The Glenn Thompson trainee (outside) trailed Tiz Our Time (inside) by 4 1/2 lengths at the top of the stretch, but methodically pecked away at the leader with each stride. Two Notch Road ended up winning by a head, his first victory since June 25th last year.

Jockey Alex Cintron happily guides Two Notch Road back into the winners circle after capturing the Meadow Stables Stakes. Photo by Jim McCue.

The Partner’s Hero gelding, bred by James Hackman, saw his lifetime bankroll surge over the $500,000 mark. On Virginia Day Saturday at Laurel, it was fitting a horse that authored a top three finish in the Virginia Derby did well — Two Notch Road finished third in the 2010 Derby! Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.
The afternoon festivities concluded with another thrilling race. Sweet Sandy, who trailed by 16 lengths with a quarter mile to go in the $75,000 William Backer Stakes, stormed back to nip Armoire by a neck. 

Sweet Sandy (outside) just edges Armoire in the inaugural William Backer Stakes. Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.

The 5 year old Flatter mare had not won since June 1st last year, but trainer Danielle Hodsdon was confident today heading into the 1 1/16 miles event. “I had a good feeling but was a little worried about the short distance,” she said. “The filly wants to go 1 3/8ths or 1 1/2 miles, but the soft turf set up a pace to her liking. We looked at a race in Delaware today but opted for the Virginia-bred stakes.”

Trainer Danielle Hodsdon collected her first stakes win when Sweet Sandy took the William Backer Stakes. She is to the right of jockey Jevian Toldeo.

This was Hodsdon’s first stakes win — she was a steeplechase rider for 15 years prior to being a trainer. Sweet Sandy was bred by Lazy Lane Farms, LLC and was ridden by Jevian Toldeo. Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.

Early Grey’s Maiden Win Kicks Off Virginia Day At Laurel Park Festivities August 5th

Early Grey captured a $30,000 maiden special weight race to kick off the first of five Virginia-bred races at Laurel Park Saturday afternoon (August 5th).

Early Grey captured a $30,000 maiden special weight race for Virginia-breds August 5th at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue.

Jockey Sheldon Russell led the effort for owner/breeder Morgan’s Ford Farm. The 4 year old Flatter gelding broke his maiden over a year ago at Laurel in a similar Virginia-bred race, but he was disqualified and placed last. Not so on Saturday.

Jockey Sheldon sits atop Early Grey after the 4 year old’s maiden win at Laurel August 5th. Photo by Jim McCue.

The winner settled into fifth inside in the nine horse field, moved outside to second at the top of the stretch, caught the leader with a furlong to go and crossed 1 1/4 lengths in front of Black Prong in 1:42.62. The Phil Schoenthal trainee is out of the Black Tie Affair mare, Pearls.

Stakes Lineup For Saturday August 5th – Whitney, West Virginia Derby, Virginia-Bred Stakes & More

August 5th is one of the busiest days of the season for horseplayers. Saratoga, Meadowlands, Mountaineer Park, Del Mar and Laurel all have major stakes races to showcase. To keep everything straight, here is a schedule to plan your afternoon.

A giant video wall at Breakers displays signals from 10 different tracks around the country in the afternoon and another 10 in the evening.

The new Richmond OTBs will be showcasing all the action Saturday — at Breakers Sports Grille in the west end, and at Ponies & Pints downtown. Virginia residents can also bet via our on line wagering partners —,, and

Saratoga – 1:00 PM first post

*$200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya Stakes (Gr. 3) – Race 3 (2:10 PM)

*$500,000 Longines Test Stakes (Gr. I) – Race 8 (5:10 PM)

* $1.2 Million Whitney (Gr. I) – Race 9 (5:46 PM)

Mountaineer Park – 2:00 PM first post

*$200,000 West Virginia Governor’s Stakes – Race 7 (4:35 PM)

*$750,000 West Virginia Derby (Gr. 3) – Race 8 (5:21 PM)

The Meadowlands – 12 Noon first post

*$360,000 Peter Haughton Memorial Trot – Race 4 (1:00 PM)

*$330,000 John Doherty Memorial Trot – Race 5 (1:20 PM)

*$300,000 John Cashman Memorial Trot – Race 6 (1:40 PM)

*$330,000 Cane Pace – Race 7 (2:00 PM)

*$100,000 Hambletonian Elimination Races – Races 8, 9 (2:20, 2:40 PM)

*$220,000 Sam McKee Memorial Pace – Race 11 (3:20 PM)

*$500,000 Hambletonian Oaks Trot – Race 12 (3:40 PM)

*$1 Million Hambletonian Trot – Race 13 (4:00 PM)

*$200,000 Lady Liberty Pace – Race 15 (4:40 PM)

Laurel – 1:10 PM first post – 4 Virginia-bred stakes!

*$75,000 Hansel Stakes – Race 4 (2:40 PM)

*$75,000 Camptown Stakes – Race 5 (3:10 PM)

*$75,000 Meadow Stables Stakes – Race 8 (4:40 PM)

*$75,000 William Backer Memorial Stakes – Race 10 (5:40 PM)

Del Mar – 5:00 PM first post

*$200,000 Sorrento Stakes (Gr. 2) – Race 6 (7:30 PM)

*$200,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes (Gr. 2) – Race 8 (8:30 PM)


Deadline to Take AHC Survey to Update Economic Impact Information Extended Until August 18th

If you have not already completed an American Horse Council Economic Impact Survey, please do so. The Virginia Horse Industry Board has contracted with the AHC to provide economic impact data for Virginia’s horse industry. The plan is for these surveys to be conducted on a regular basis so there is current data to use when speaking with local and state government officials.

The American Horse Council Foundation (AHCF) announced that it will be extending the deadline to complete the horse owner and supplier survey to update the National Economic Impact Study to August 18th.

The main survey is designed to capture the impact of individual horse owners (whether commercial or recreational) and industry suppliers of equine-related goods and services. To take the horse owner & supplier survey please click here:
Please note, all personal information collected in the survey will be confidential and will not be distributed. The AHC encourages individuals to share the study link above via email, social media, etc. in order to ensure maximum participation.

The 2017 Economic Impact Study will contain expanded demographics with youth participation and additional segments of the industry, including Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies, Equine Sanctuaries and Rescues, Equine Academic Programs, and Equine Youth Organizations. If you are interested in receiving one of these survey links, please contact the AHC at

Special Envoy, Queen Caroline Look To Double Up In Virginia-Bred Stakes

From a Maryland Jockey Club release

It took every inch of the one-mile Edward P. Evans Stakes for Mr. and Mrs. Bertram Firestone’s Special Envoy to earn some long-deserved black type. Six weeks later he returns to Laurel Park aiming for his second straight stakes victory in the $75,000 Hansel Stakes.

Joining Special Envoy in seeking to repeat in a Virginia-bred route stake will be the four-year-old Queen Caroline, who won the Nellie Mae Cox June 24 and is entered in Saturday’s William M. Backer Stakes.

Queen Caroline won the Nellie Mae Cox Stales for the second straight year at Laurel June 24th. Photo by Jim McCue.

The 1 1/16-mile Hansel for 3-year-olds and up is one of four stakes restricted to Virginia-bred/sired horses to be contested over Laurel’s world-class turf course on an 11-race program that begins at 1:10 p.m. and includes the $75,000 William M. Backer at 1 1/16 miles, as well as the $75,000 Camptown and $75,000 Meadow Stable, each at 5 ½ furlongs.

Special Envoy, trained by Fair Hill-based Arnaud Delacour, will benefit from both the added distance and the absence of recently retired multiple stakes winner Rose Brier, who the 6-year-old Stroll gelding edged by a nose in the June 24 Evans. It was a reverse of the 2016 finish, when Rose Brier got the best of his rival by a length.

“He’s always been very competitive. That showed that he’s still competitive at this level. Obviously Rose Brier is retired so that is one less tough customer to worry about,” Delacour said. “He’s an easy keeper. He’s kind of a chubby horse and we just have to keep him fit, but he’s doing well and we’re very happy with him.”

Special Envoy (outside) battles with Rose Brier (inside) in the $75,000 Edward Evans Stakes. photo by Jim McCue.

Special Envoy does his best running near or on the lead, and Delacour expects to see him in a similar spot in the Hansel, where he will be ridden by Daniel Centeno at topweight of 120 pounds from the rail in a field of seven.

“Everything depends on the pace. I didn’t think the last time the pace was too fast but I would say he likes to be right there,” Delacour said. “Depending on the pace scenario I’d like to see him close or in front.

“I always thought that his best distance was a mile and an eighth,” he added. “It worked out the last time going a mile but I don’t mind the added distance. I wouldn’t mind even if it was longer. I’m very comfortable with that.”

Also returning from the Edward Evans are Speed Gracer and Jump Ship, who ran third and fourth, respectively, separated by two lengths. Speed Gracer enters the Hansel without a race since while Jump Ship was third by two lengths in a 1 1/16-mile starter optional claimer July 9 at Laurel.

Dream of Peace, Mr. Magician, Titan Alexander and Virginia Royal are also entered.

The Hansel goes as race four on the 11-race program.

Six races later, Amy Moore’s Queen Caroline returns to Laurel hoping to regain her winning form as the horse to beat in the $75,000 William M. Backer for fillies and mares 3 and up.

A 4-year-old daughter of Blame, Queen Caroline was a comfortable front-running winner of the one-mile Nellie Mae Cox June 24, her first victory since the second of back-to-back stakes triumphs last fall at Indiana Grand.

Back in against open company for her most recent start, Queen Caroline stalked the pace for a half-mile but failed to respond at the quarter pole and ran a flat fifth in the Indiana General Assembly Distaff, beaten 5 ½ lengths. She comes back on three weeks’ rest for the Backer.

“I don’t think it’ll be a concern, or we wouldn’t be doing it,” trainer Michael Matz said. “I don’t know what happened the last race. It wasn’t typically her. I don’t know if it was the ship out or the change of rider. Maybe she wasn’t good enough. This is probably a little easier spot and we’ll just see where she goes from there. Hopefully it’ll give her her confidence back.”

Queen Caroline will meet a familiar cast in the Backer with seven other horses exiting the Nellie Mae Cox including runner-up Armoire, third-place finisher Complete St. and Secret Or Not, who ran fourth. Armoire and Well Blessed, a winner of her last two races at Delaware Park, are both Firestone homebreds trained by Delacour.

Sweet Sandy, Andrasta, Street Miz and Grace Is Ready, sixth through ninth, respectively, in the Nellie Mae Cox, complete the field. Since the stakes Street Miz came back to win a one-mile claiming event July 9 at Laurel and Sweet Sandy was second in an entry-level allowance July 10 at Delaware.

Virginia Breeder Backer’s Legacy Endures At Saratoga

The following piece was written by Ron Mitchell and appeared on August 1st.

When the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale takes place next week, it will feature three horses that represent the lasting legacy of the breeding program put together by the late William M. “Bill” Backer.

Backer and his wife Ann, established Smitten Farm near The Plains, Va., after his illustrious career in the advertising industry. A member of the Advertising Hall of Fame, Backer was best known for creating the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” jingle in 1971 for Coca Cola and for the “Miller Time” slogan for SABMiller Brewing.

From the time he developed his Thoroughbred operation until his untimely death last year at 89, Backer pursued his passion for Thoroughbred breeding with the same zeal that had taken him to the upper reaches of Madison Avenue. He was a member of The Jockey Club, served on the boards of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and National Sporting Library board and took an active interest in helping better the sport on a national level and in Virginia, as well as conservation programs.

William Backer (left) is pictured with Wayne Chatfield Taylor (right).

The quality of the broodmare band that Backer maintained at Smitten is reflected in the three yearlings consigned to the Fasig-Tipton sale by Taylor Made Sales Agency on behalf of Smitten Farm and the Estate of the William M. Backer Revocable Trust.

Two yearlings in the consignment trace back to Applause, a daughter of Shecky Greene who was one of Backer’s blue hen mares.
Purchased for $30,000 out of the 1981 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale, Applause won or placed in 31 of 35 starts and earned $362,437. Included among her 14 wins were seven stakes.

Hip 204 is a Virginia-bred Violence   filly produced from the Capote mare Hepburn, whose two stakes winners to date include Her Smile, the Prioress Stakes (G1) winner who was subsequently sold for $1.5 million at the 2014 Keeneland November sale in foal to Tapit  .

Snit, a Maryland-bred daughter of Fit to Fight who won the 1997 Cotillion Handicap (G2) at Philadelphia Park and three other stakes while racing for Backer, is the dam of Hip 61, a Bodemeister   filly bred in Virginia. The filly is a half sister to Backer homebred and grade 3 winner Blind Date and to multiple stakes winner Sales Tax.

Princess Roberta and Queen Ribot, the yearling filly’s second and third dams, respectively, were also stakes winners for Backer. Princess Roberta won four stakes in 1982-83, while Queen Ribot annexed the 1977 Fairway Fun Stakes at Latonia.

The third yearling offered on behalf of Smitten Farm is Hip 78, a First Samurai   colt out of the Cryptoclearance mare Talent, the dam of stakes winner Mr. Keeper.

Applause is the second dam of Hip 78 and third dam of Hip 204.

“We’ve known Mr. and Mrs. Backer for some 30 years and have always admired their program,” said Taylor Made’s Mark Taylor. “He was an incredible guy with so much passion for horses.”

Taylor said Backer had been planning to reorganize his bloodstock holdings, as he and his wife had winnowed their broodmare band in recent years.

“It was a big loss,” Taylor said of Backer’s death. “Last year they had a reduction and cut back on their number of mares and sold quite a few yearlings. But Mrs. Backer enjoys it and still wants to participate. She loves going to Saratoga and we are taking three lovely foals up there for them.

“She loves the horses and they have a beautiful farm. When you go there, it’s like going back in time. I’m very happy they are going to try to add on to Mr. Backer’s legacy.”

The Fasig-Tipton sale takes place in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Aug. 7-8, with sessions beginning at 6:30 p.m. daily.

Fall Colors, American Dubai, Code West Set To Compete In Stakes This Week

Virginia-breds will be well represented in stakes races around the country this week. Entries for Saturday’s “Virginia Day” at Laurel Park”, featuring a four pack of Virginia-bred stakes, will be drawn Wednesday (August 2).

Fall Colors, bred by Mr. & Mrs. Bruce Smart, will compete in the $75,000 Mrs. Ogden Phipps Steeplechase Stakes Thursday at Saratoga. The event is for fillies and mares four and up, and is at the 2 1/16th miles distance. The James Day trainee is by Northern Spur out of Leaves of Autumn by Expelled. The 7 year old mare has earned $45,036 from 20 career starts. The stakes will kick off Saratoga’s card at 1 PM.

American Dubai, captured his first race of 2017 Feb. 14 at Sunland. Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

On Saturday, Virginia-breds American Dubai and Code West will face each other again in the $200,000 Downs at Albuquerque Handicap. The pair finished third and fourth respectively last month in the Grade 3 Cornhusker Handicap at Prarie Meadows. American Dubai was bred by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin and has earned $292,122 from 14 outings. Code West, a 7 year old bred by Edward Evans, has earnings of $726,227. The stakes has been carded as race 6.

Ned Evans-bred Code West won the Governor’s Stake at Remington Park in August,. 2014, one of his seven lifetime victories. Photo Courtesy Dustin Orona Photography.

Check back mid-week for a preview of the four Virginia-bred stakes at Laurel Saturday. It should be a fun week!