Monthly Archives: September 2020

Virginia-Breds Holly Hundy, Lenstar Continue To Propser In Late September

Two Virginia-Bred horses saw their earnings surge into new six-digit levels courtesy of wins this past weekend. Holly Hundy’s victory at Santa Anita pushed her career bankroll to $206,713 while Lenstar’s allowance score at Belmont pushed his to $300,767. The pair were both bred by Lazy Lane Farms and are both out of Cryptos’ Best.

14 of Holly Hundy’s 16 starts have come on the west coast. Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

Holly Bundy’s win was her first since a 3 3/4 length triumph in the 2019 Camptown Stakes at Colonial Downs under Kent Desormeaux. On September 25, the four-year-old Yes Its True filly was one-half length the best in a $59,000 allowance optional claimer for fillies and mares at 5 1/2 furlongs. In 16 career starts, she has four wins, a second and a third. 14 of the 16 outs have taken place at west coast tracks.

Holly Hundy, with Kent Desormeaux aboard, was best in the 2019 Camptown Stakes at Colonial Downs. Photo by Coady Photography.

Lenstar’s 30th lifetime start was in a $70,000 allowance optional claimer where he wired the field and won by a neck as long shot in the field. The six-year-old Shackleford gelding, who is trained by Nick Zito and ridden by Dylan Davis, returned $31.00 to win. He scored his first win of 2020 and fifth overall.
Holding Fast got to the winners circle at Prarie Meadows in a $31,500 allowance, also as long shot in his 30th career outing. The five-year-old Hold Me Back horse went gate to wire and paid $23.60. The winner was bred by Mr. & Mrs. Oliver Iselin III and is out of the Distorted Humor mare, Humor Lee. Holding Fast has 15 “top three” finishes.

Virginia-Certified filly Patriotic Punch spent her six month residency at Ashland’s Eagle Point Farm.

Reform School and Passion Play also scored allowance wins to finish off the weekend. The former connected at Charles Town in a 4 1/2-furlong sprint while the latter was best in a one mile, 70 yard race at Delaware Park. They each collected first place shares of respective $26,000 and $63,000 purses. Crystal Pickett trains Reform School, who was bred by Nancy Terhune & Ernest Frohboese. The three-year-old Munnings colt increased his earnings to $81,330. Passion Play, a four-year-old Iselin-bred gelding, is a Mary Eppler trainee. He has finished “in the money” in 9 of 18 starts and has winnings of $136,147.

Virginia-Certified Grateful Bred is best in an allowance at Pimlico on September 24. Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.

Owners My Meadowview Farm (Lenstar), Crystal Pickett (Reform School) and Reiley McDonald (Passion Play) each earned a 25% bonus for wins courtesy of the Virginia Thoroughbred Association’s Mid-Atlantic Owners Bonus Incentive Program.
One Dozen Virginia-Certified Horses Score Victories In a One Week Period 
Twelve Virginia-Certified horses reached the winners circle this past week, providing owners of those horses with a 25% bonus as well. Six were bred in Maryland, three in West Virginia, two in Pennsylvania and one in New York.
Two-year-old Maryland-bred filly Street Lute captured the $100,000 Small Wonder Stakes at Delaware Park September 26. The daughter of Street Magician is trained by John Robb and is owned by Lucky 7 Stables. A $10,500 purchase at last fall’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Yearling Sale, Street Lute is 2-for-2 and has earned $90,000. She won a maiden special weight at Delaware September 7. The filly spent her Virginia residency at Diana McClure’s DMC Carousel Racing Stable in Berryville.

Virginia-Certified I’d Like To Know Wins a $35,000 waiver claiming race at Pimlico September 26. Photo courtesy of Jim McCue.

Maryland-bred Grateful Bred won a $55,188 allowance at Pimlico September 24 at the 5 1/2-furlong distance. The four-year-old Great Notion gelding is trained by Madison Meyers for Gordon Keys. The winner, who resided at Gordon Keys’ Beaver Dam Farm in Middleburg for six months, is 2-for-4 this year with $73,628 in earnings.
West Virginia-bred Juba Train, owned, trained and bred by John Casey, won a $27,000 maiden special weight race September 25 at Charles Town. The two-year-old Juba filly won for the first time in four starts. Her Virginia residency was spent at James Casey’s Rt. 340 Farm in Boyce.

Ingleside Training is based on the property of James Madison’s Montpelier Estate.

New York-bred Beta also scored a maiden special weight win for owner Louis Ferrari. The three-year-old Alpha gelding was victorious in a $26,500 sprint at Finger Lakes September 23. The Michael Ferraro trainee had five third place finishes this year before breaking through. His Virginia residency was spent at Ingleside Training Ltd. in Montpelier Station.

Maryland-bred Patriotic Punch extended a steady 2020 campaign with a win in a $34,748 starter optional claiming race September 25 at Pimlico. The three-year-old Carpe Diem filly is owned by James Wolf, trained by Anthony Farrier and was ridden by Katie Davis, who competed at Colonial Downs this summer. In seven starts this year, she has two wins and three runner-up finishes, good for $65,068 in earnings. She is a graduate of Eagle Point Farm in Ashland.

Virginia-Certified Patriotic Punch (#7) won a thriller at Pimlico September 25. Photo by Jim McCue.

Other Certified winners were Foalsfillyspecial, I’d Like To Know, Pennsylvania Steel, Dance Lightly, Queen of Anything, Let’s Get Physical and Dance for a Dime.

Midlantic Fall Yearling Sale Scheduled For October 5-6 at Timonium

Fasig-Tipton has catalogued 553 yearlings for its 2020 Midlantic Fall Yearlings Sale, to be held on Monday and Tuesday, October 5-6.  The auction, which will be held immediately following the rescheduled Preakness Stakes, will be conducted at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, Maryland.

Hips 1-200 will be offered in the Monday session, which will begin at 1 pm.  The sale will begin with a large group of New York-breds, which are catalogued together as hips 1-154 this year.

Hips 201-553 will be offered in the Tuesday session, which will begin at 10 am.

Hip 150, a son of Jump Start, brought a top bid of $130,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearling sale. Photo by The Racing Biz.

“This is a strong catalogue, with our entries up 27% over last year,” commented Midlantic Director of Sales Paget Bennett.  “Consignors have a lot of confidence in the Midlantic marketplace and have supported the sale with increased sire power and quality.  We are also pleased to welcome major Kentucky and New York-based consignors to Midlantic this year.”

Bennett continued: “Conducting the sale on the Monday and Tuesday after the Preakness adds another exciting element to this year’s auction, as it provides those participating in Preakness weekend racing a nearby venue to shop for quality yearlings.  With 10 different state-bred programs represented in the catalogue, the sale provides great opportunities for both national and regional racing stables.”

The Midlantic Fall Yearlings Sale ranks among the top of all major North American yearling sales in numerous performance categories, according to statistics recently released by The BloodHorse MarketWatch.  These include percentage of Grade 1 winners, Graded Stakes Winners, and two-year-old winners produced from horses sold.

The catalogue may now be viewed online, and will also be available via the equineline sales catalogue app.  Print catalogues will be available beginning September 8.

Phone bidding and online bidding services will also be available.

Covid-19 Protocols In Place For Yearling Sale  

In advance of the upcoming Midlantic Fall Yearlings Sale in Timonium, Fasig-Tipton has announced the following COVID-19 protocols will be in place in accordance with Maryland regulations:

  • Screening measures, including temperature checks and health screening questions, will be in place to gain admittance to the sales grounds for all staff, participants and attendees;
  • Cloth face coverings are required in accordance with U.S. CDC recommendations;
  • Participants will not be allowed to congregate.  At least six feet of distance must be maintained between people;
  • Seating capacity in the sales pavilion will be reduced below 75% of capacity;
  • No food service will be available in the sales pavilion;
  • Valet parking will not be available;
  • Increased cleaning and disinfection procedures will be implemented with regular sanitation of high touch surfaces at least every two hours;
  • Frequent hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is recommended for all attendees;

The health and safety of sale participants is of paramount importance.  These guidelines are intended as a supplement to assist with safe operations during the COVID-19 pandemic and are subject to change.

For further information:
Paget Bennett

The following Hip Numbers are Virginia-Bred Yearlings for Sale: 167, 310, 334, 340, 345, 350, 386, 400, 407, 465, 475, 480, 505, 535, 540, 548 and 555. 

October 10 Virtual Pony Swim Fundraiser Will Support James River Horse Foundation

Get ready for one of the more unique fundraisers to take place during the Covid pandemic — the James River Horse Foundation will be hosting a virtual Pony Swim on Saturday October 10!

The group will be launching a number of pony “rubber ducks” in Stagg Creek in Ashland from Horseshoe Hill Farm, and one will race its way to victory! Nick Hahn, host of the weekly “Off to the Races” radio show, will serve as the pony/duck race caller.

“Based on the amount of rain we have before the event, it might go pretty quick, or it could be more like a steeplechase race,” said VRC Commissioner Stephanie Nixon, who owns Horseshoe Hill and is on the event’s planning committee.

People based at the Virginia Department Center of Corrections learn to care for the horses based in Barn 4.

A number will be written on each pony corresponding to each entry. Owner of the winning pony will receive 10% of the pot!

All remaining money raised will be used to cover the costs of providing round bales for the James River’s herd this winter. The horses are based in Barn 4 at the State Farm Work Center in Goochland County.

Pony entries are available for $10 per pony and are on special at 3 for $25, or 6 for $50. They can be purchased at Payment can be made through debit or credit card, and via Paypal.

Nixon said the group hopes to sell 300 of the ponies and if successful, might considering making it an annual event.

“Due to the Covid pandemic, we have not been able to conduct some of our regular fundraisers this year so the committee felt this event would be a unique and fun way to proceed in this challenging environment. I hope it will take off so we can do it again even when things get back to normal.”

Horses are based in Barn at the Goochland County Work Center.

Virtual attendees can watch the event live on the James River Horse Foundation facebook page and root for their horse.

In 2019, the James River Horse Foundation replaced in name, the former Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) at James River. The core mission remains the same — to rehabilitate former race horses, adopt them out if possible, and otherwise care for them for life.

At the same time, the Virginia Department of Corrections changed the work force at the State Farm Work Center from men to women. They now have their first class of women learning to care for horses and growing in the process.

Online Betting Handle In Virginia Continues To Surge as Calendar Rolls Into Fall

Online betting handle on horse racing continues to surge in Virginia as handle figures through the first eight months of 2020 were announced. The overall handle through August was $91,903,837 compared with $62,223,376 in 2020, good for an astonishing 47.7% increase.

Top handle producer of the four Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) companies licensed in Virginia was TVG, whose $48,818,924 handle represents a 62.8% gain over last year. In August alone, they accepted $7,790,255 in bets, the third most ever recorded in a single month by an ADW partner. For the year, TVG is averaging $200,077 in bets per day, the highest figure ever attained.

The Windmill OTB is easy to spot when traveling on Rt. 220. The Dutch Inn provides horseplayers with a chance to stay overnight on premise.

Twinspires was next with $26,591,715, a 22.65% increase over last year’s $21,681,171.  Xpressbet experienced a 46.80% percent boost while accepting $12,1467,624 in wagers so far this year compared with $8,275,182 in 2019. NYRABets, newest of the four online partners, showed a 90.53% increase with a handle of $4,345,574 versus $2,280,733 a year ago.

Separating the breeds, thoroughbred racing has experienced a 52.83% gain from ADW handle while harness racing, which was slower to rebound after the Covid-pandemic first hit in mid-March, is up 7.70%.

Authentic won the Derby from the far outside while Belmont winner Tiz The Law was second. Photo by Coady Photography.

Looking ahead, September’s numbers could be strong. The Kentucky Derby was held early in the month and five more Grade I stakes are still on tap including a trio from Santa Anita on the 26th — the $300,000 American Pharoah, $300,000 Awesome Again and $300,000 Rodeo Drive Stakes. Top harness stakes include the $700,00 Little Brown Jug on September 24.

Looking farther ahead, the Preakness — -this year’s third leg of the Triple Crown — is slated for October 3. In addition to ten other stakes that Pimlico has scheduled on the Preakness under card, Keeneland has three Grade I’s the same afternoon and Belmont has two. The Shadwell Turf Mile, First Lady Stakes and Claiborne Breeders Futurity are in Kentucky and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and Belmont Derby Invitational are in New York.

The OTB at Breakers in Henrico has a video wall which shows all the racing action.

In addition to the four online betting sites, racing fans can also wager in person at any Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Richmond, New Kent, Vinton and Hampton, and at any VA-Horseplay OTB in Henrico (Breakers Sports Grille), Chesapeake (Buckets Bar & Grill) and Collinsville (The Windmill OTB & Sports Grill).

Five $75,000 Stakes For Virginia-Bred/Sired Horses Scheduled Friday October 9 at Laurel

The five Virginia-Bred/Sired stakes that were scheduled to run the last night at Colonial Downs have been rescheduled and will run at Laurel Park on October, 9, 2020. Each stake will have a $75,000 purse and all runners will be guaranteed at least a $5,000 purse. All races are scheduled to run on the turf and nominations will close September 25th.

The five races are:

The Jamestown Stakes ($75,000): For registered Virginia-bred or sired two-year-olds which have not been permitted Lasix within 48 hours of Post Time. Five and one half furlongs on turf.

The M. Tyson Gilpin Stakes ($75,000): For registered Virginia-bred or sired fillies and mares, three-years-old and upward. Five and one half furlongs on turf.

The Punch Line Stakes ($75,000): For registered Virginia-bred or sired three-year-old and upward. Five and one half furlongs on the turf (non black-type).

The Brookmeade Stakes ($75,000): for registered Virginia-bred or sired fillies and mares, three-years-old and upward. One mile and one sixteenth on turf.

The Bert Allen Stakes ($75,000): for registered Virginia-bred or sired three-year-olds and upward. One mile and one sixteenth on turf (non black-type).

For more stakes information please see the Laurel condition book or call the Laurel Race Office (800) 638-1859.
*Pending Virginia Racing Commission approval on September 17th.


Despite setbacks, Gold Cup optimistic about future

Established in 1922, the Virginia Gold Cup race meet in May attracts about 50,000 spectators, making it Fauquier County’s largest event.


Photo/Don Del Rosso. Virginia Gold Cup Association President Will Allison hopes the spring meet in May will include spectators

The following appeared in Fauquier Now September 13, 2020 and was written by Don Del Rosso.

I’m confident we’ll go back somewhat closer to the old Gold Cup — that racing will have the usual, wonderful people come who love to cheer the horses.— Virginia Gold Cup Association President Will Allison

Faced with severe revenue challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Virginia Gold Cup Association took unprecedented steps to salvage this year’s spring and fall steeplechase meets at Great Meadow near The Plains.

In March, VGCA board shut its office at 90 Main St. in Warrenton and later decided it would leave the storefront space to help reduce overhead costs.

A month later, the cash-strapped nonprofit group laid off its four-member paid staff.

“The COVID-19 epidemic shattered the financial position of the Virginia Gold Cup for 2020,” VGCA President Will Allison explained. “We were not allowed to sell the things we usually do to raise money” — most importantly admission tickets but also sponsorships to help support the spring steeplechase meet at the 374-acre course in Northern Fauquier.

Though the state’s social distancing mandates prohibited spectators, the organization still conducted the Virginia Gold Cup race meet, which dates to 1922, on June 27 — eight weeks later than normal.

VGCA ultimately refunded about $1 million in ticket sales money because spectators couldn’t attend the event, said Dr. Allison, a Warrenton dentist.

But the “generosity” of the Virginia Equine Alliance and the Virginia Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association allowed the VGCA to hold the June races, he said.

The two organizations combined gave the VGCA $302,000 to fund the June meet’s purses, operational expenses and rent of Great Meadow, according to board Vice President Al Griffin, a Warrenton orthodontist.

VEA and VHPA get their revenue from a percentage of Virginians’ online bets on horseracing. The Gold Cup purses help support the state’s struggling horse industry.

“We couldn’t have (conducted the June 27 meet) without them,” Dr. Allison said of the two groups.

The spring and fall races last year produced $2.3 million in revenue, with expenses of $2.4 million, according the organization’s 2019 audit. The VGCA closed that gap using donations.

About 50,000 people attend the Virginia Gold Cup meet each spring — Fauquier’s largest event. The International Gold Cup races, which will take place Saturday, Oct. 24, at Great Meadow, normally attracts about 30,000.

Because of the pandemic, no spectators will be permitted to attend the fall races, Dr. Allison said.

But the Gold Cup association expects VEA and VHPA ultimately to contribute $250,000 to cover the vast majority of the fall race’s costs, said Dr. Griffin, who also serves as president of the National Steeplechase Association, which represents seven states along the East Coast, including Virginia.

VGCA ordinarily pays Great Meadow $250,000 per year to rent the property for the spring and fall meets.

But because the pandemic effectively stopped VGCA from generating revenue, the Great Meadow Foundation this year agreed to charge the association $125,000, Dr. Allison said.

“They’ve been very understanding,” he said.

The Gold Cup Association staff had occupied the Main Street storefront since 1975, according Dr. Allison.

It pays $2,300 on a month-to-month basis, he said.

Meanwhile, Dr. Allison continues to look for less expensive quarters.

VGCA has “around” $20,000 in the bank, he said.

“Every year — and I’ve been here since 1985 — sometimes we have a little excess” cash after the fall races, he explained. “Most of the time, we’re short. So, we always have to borrow” to pay expenses related to the next year’s spring meet.

The association recently learned The Fauquier Bank will extend it a $100,000 line-of-credit for that purpose, Dr. Allison said. The association plans to repay the loan with spring 2021 race revenue.

The board president remains “confident” that next spring’s races will include spectators, which means ticket, sponsorship and other revenue will return.

“We think certainly, by the turn of the new year, we’ll have a (COVID-19) vaccine,” Dr. Allison said. “We’ll have different restrictions, but I don’t think (the state) will impose” a 1,000-person cap on attendance.

He added: “Gold Cup’s outside. It has natural distancing. So those are favorable things. I’m confident we’ll go back somewhat closer to the old Gold Cup — that racing will have the usual, wonderful people come who love to cheer the horses.”

The pandemic and other factors have caused VGCA’s board to re-evaluate its business model, Dr. Griffin explained.

“What this pandemic has done has forced us to change and modify our way of doing business,” he said. “This is not just Gold Cup. It’s every race meet in America.”

For example, he believes livestreaming meets, which VGCA did last year, shows great promise.

“I think it has the opportunity to create (advertising) revenue for the sport,” he said. “It also increases the sport’s presence.”

Underscoring the importance of making more “efficient” use of resources, Dr. Griffin noted that major sporting events predominantly rely on “electronic” rather than over-the-counter sale of tickets.

“Less than 3 percent of our ticket sales were walk-in,” he said. “And so, we no longer need that (office) space. We don’t do business the same way that we used to 20 years ago. So that expenditure could be placed much better in our budget.”

VGCA will re-staff the operation, but “it’s too soon” to say how that would work, Dr. Griffin said.

Of all the association’s budget-slashing moves, layoffs proved the hardest, according to the two board leaders.

“They were well aware of our situation,” Dr. Allison said of the staff. “They realized we had no money for salaries, and we encouraged them to apply for unemployment. If you’re not selling tickets and setting up tents and all the things of a regular Gold Cup, there’s nothing to do.”

But, “It’s just enough to make you cry. They’ve been wonderful friends and help mates.”

Dr. Griffin called VGCA’s prospects “very positive.”

“We have been one of the very few race meets in America that have been able to actually run,” he said. “We were one of two in the spring. The other race meets — for various reasons — be it health restrictions or financial restrictions — could not run.”

Scenes From the Virginia Breeder’s Fund Thoroughbred Yearling Futurity

On September 9, the annual $22,500 Thoroughbred Yearling Futurity took place at the Warrenton Horse Show Grounds. Owners and breeders of Virginia-Bred and Virginia-Certified horses competed in three categories, and the top two in each advanced to a final round where Grand Champion and Reserve Champion honors are awarded.

The judge for this year’s Futurity was Rick Abbott, a former longtime Pennsylvania bloodstock agent who along with his wife Dixie, had a successful sales consignment business.

Though the Covid-pandemic limited some additonal activities that normally take place at the Futurity, the event saw a great turnout of horses. Here are some photos of the scene/vibe:

2019 Causin Commotion Colt Takes Grand Champion Honors at Virginia Yearling Futurity 

Knockgriffin Farm’s Virginia-Certified 2019 Causin Commotion colt took Grand Champion honors in the annual Virginia Breeders Fund 2020 Yearling Futurity, which was held September 9 at the Warrenton Horse Show Grounds.
The champion is owned/bred by Jim & Katie Fitzgerald at their Marshall, Virginia farm. The dark bay/brown colt is by Unified (Mineshaft).

The Yearling Futurity Champion was a Virginia-Certified 2019 Causin Commotion colt. Photo by Anna Purdy.

Morgan’s Ford Farm’s 2019 Smart Believer bay, who took top honors in the Virginia-Bred/Sired Fillies division, was named 2020 Reserve Champion. She is a daughter of Animal Kingdom (Smart Strike). A total of $22,500 in prize money was distributed between the three divisions. The top two winners from each advanced to the Grand Championship final round.

Virginia Yearling Futurity awards were given out to competitors in three different classes.

In the Virginia-Bred/Sired Colt & Gelding class, Althea Richards’ 2019 Darting colt won top honors. Also named “Best Turned Out”, the dark bay is by Divining Rod (During). Susan Cooney’s Celtic Sea, a chestnut colt by English Channel out of Embarr by Royal Academy, took second. Rounding out the class in order was Knockgriffin Farms’ 2019 Trishas Even colt by Street Sense (Even the Score), Becky & Andy Lavin’s 2019 Falsehood chestnut colt by Madefromlucky (Awesome Again), Knockgriffin’s 2019 Looking Great colt by American Freedom (Include), Daniel Wukich & Quest Realty’s E.P Milton by Jack Milton (Stephen Got Even), Darlene Bowlin’s 2019 Cape Cod Bay gelding by Great Notion (Cape Town) and Frazer Hendrick’s colt, Maximum Momentum by Koda Chrome (Frost Giant).

Althea Richards’ 2019 Darting colt was named top Virginia-Bred/Sired colt. Photo by Anna Purdy.

In the Virginia-Bred/Sired Fillies category, Daybreak Stables’ 2019 Callipepla bay was runner-up behind the Smart Believer filly. The daughter of Cupid (Yes It’s True) was also named “Best Turned Out” in her class. The rest of the field in order was Corner Farm & John Behrendt’s 2019 Senate Caucus bay by MacLean’s Music (Siphon), Morgan’s Ford Farms’ 2019 Pearls by Super Saver (Black Tie Affair), Doug Daniels’ Dulini by Madefromlucky (Light the Fuse), Daniel Wukich & Quest Realty’s Music Queen by Maclean’s Music (Royal Academy), Eagle Point Farms’ Chickahominy by Great Notion (Purple Comet) and Susan Cooney’s Speak Your Mind by Mr. Speaker (Emancipator).

Reserve Champion & top Virginia-Bred/Sired Filly at the Futurity was a 2019 Smart Believer filly by Animal Kingdom. Photo by Anna Purdy.

In the large Certified class which saw colts and filles combined, Lorraine & Dennis Johnson’s colt, Bigshot On Nothing by Mineshaft finished second and was named “Best Turned Out” horse. Joanne Krishack’s filly New Age Bad Girl by Fiber Sonde was next followed by Ron Sapp’s colt Rebel Empire by Sky Kingdom, Kathleen Hamlin’s gelding Man of the Cloth by Fiber Sonde, DMG Racing Stables’ gelding Freegftwthpurchase by Freedom Child, Daniel Wukich & Quest Realty’s filly Lunar Motion by Great Notion and Michael Dalton’s colt Quincannon by Buffum.

The Futurity took place at the Warrenton Horse Show Grounds.

The judge for this year’s Futurity was Rick Abbott, a former longtime Pennsylvania bloodstock agent who along with his wife Dixie, had a successful sales consignment business.

Kentucky Derby: NY Traffic Made Most Of Virginia Sojourn

The following piece appeared on The Racing Biz September 4 and was written by Nick Hahn

In Kentucky, many thoroughbred farms are showplaces, making for wonderful equine scenic drives.

In Virginia, on the other hand, the tendency is for thoroughbred farms to be located at the end of rustic gravel roads, tucked away in hidden hollows, off the beaten path.

But seclusion doesn’t make these farms less ideal, especially for Kentucky Derby hopeful, Ny Traffic, who spent much of his time as a yearling in a nook of the Piedmont’s Southwest Range at Spencer Young’s Sunny Dell Farm.

“It’s paradise valley to us,” commented Young. “It’s the water and the grass that makes a difference. I’ve always had that feeling about this place.”

Ny Traffic galloping at Churchill Downs on Derby week. Photo by Coady Photography.

With a visit to Young’s farm in Barboursville, Virginia, it’s easy to understand how he may know more about horses than people. Located near the end of gravel road, Sunny Dell breathes peace to the young horses that reside in the barns and fields at the toe of a wooded Blue Ridge backdrop. Make sure to use your GPS to get there.

Removed from Thoroughbreds 16 years, Young returned to raising them in 2018 as a participant in the Virginia Certified Residency Program, an incentive program that rewards Thoroughbred owners for bringing their horses to Virginia. Horses must be in Virginia for a period of six months prior to the end of their two-year-old year, and those that are certified earn their owners a 25% bonus whenever they win throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

The program was created to bring business to Thoroughbred farms that were on the decline. For Young, it brought his operation back from the dead. He’d removed paddock fences and was grazing cattle on the farm.

“I was with horses all my life, then I got out and got back in. It’s a pretty nice thing,” Young said. “This will be great. I get to play with Thoroughbreds again. The first year we had a small crop of horses that came in. We put up all new fencing.”

Young took in about a dozen thoroughbreds that first year. One of them was Ny Traffic. Real New York City traffic couldn’t have been farther away.

Ny Traffic is at Churchill Downs just before getting a bath. Phoot by Coady Photography.

“Ny Traffic was one of the ones that came in. He was a nice horse. At first, he was a pretty immature horse. He wasn’t any trouble, but a nice-looking horse and he kept growing into himself. He was really balanced and correct,” recalled Young. “(Owner John Fanelli) kept him here until December before sending him to the trainer, which was nice. It gave him time to grow and run around here. He ran up and down hills. It helps a horse to develop when they get to run up and down hills.”

Ny Traffic’s stay at Sunny Dell was extended longer than the residency program requirement. Young believes the extra time assisted in the young thoroughbred’s mental development as well as his physical development.

“Every horse has a different personality and you get to know the horse and understand what works best for them,” he explained. “As much as you can get them out on the grass and running the hills, the healthier it is for them. This is their last hurrah, cause after they leave here, they go in training and stay in training for quite a while after that. Then they go racing. No more just having fun playing in the paddocks and the fields.”

Fanelli bought Ny Traffic for privately after he was an RNA in the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic two-year-old sale in 2019. He is a NY-bred by Cross Traffic out of the winning Graeme Hall mare Mamie Rellly.

Ny Traffic broke his maiden in his second start at Parx Racetrack last October.

“He wasn’t bred where he’d be in the Derby. He was a $27,000 RNA,” noted Young.  “They sent him to Florida in December, and the next thing I know, he’s winning races. It’s exciting to have a horse from here that’s going to the Derby…a lot of fun to have something like that.”

A six-length win at Gulfstream Park in his first attempt going over a mile for trainer Saffie Joseph, Jr. captured moderate attention and his steady improvement in graded stakes company kept him on many watch lists.

Though he hasn’t won since, he has been second or third in four consecutive graded stakes. In his last start in the Haskell (G1), Ny Traffic and jockey Paco Lopez rallied to within a nose of Authentic to finish second, and the Derby is a furlong farther.

Shortly after this year’s Covid-rescheduled Kentucky Derby, Young will start seeing a seasonal influx of young horses to his “paradise valley,” once seemingly implausible now a ritual. They arrive as weanlings and yearlings and leave ready to begin their jobs as racehorses.

Ny Traffic, at Spencer Young’s Sunny Dell Farm in Barboursville. Photo by Spencer Young.

“You have to handle them a lot — bringing them in and out — so they get all the experience,” Young said. “So they don’t have any problems later on, if they have issues, get it straight early on and take it out of them, so they’re well-behaved on top of being free and running around the fields.”

When it comes to working with thoroughbreds, it’s never too young to start.

Attachment Rate Could Pick Up the Derby Pieces for Romans and Virginia Breeders

By Carl Danbury

The morning line for the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby shows Tiz the Law as the overwhelming favorite to capture the blanket of roses a little after 7 p.m. this Saturday, (Sept. 4). Not since 1989, when entry mates Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring were installed as 3-to-5 favorites, has the morning line been so skewed for the favored horse(s).

Yet, one look at the past performances of the 18 horses entered, his Sackatoga Stable owners should be confident that Tiz the Law will provide them a second Derby champion to stand along Funny Cide. Despite starting from post-position 17 where all 41 previous starters have been denied, with only Forty Niner (1988) cracking the exacta, Tiz the Law will break just inside Authentic and outside of Honor A.P., the other two most likely winners of the race.

Few will give Virginia-bred Attachment Rate, who will break from post-position 13, much of a chance. After all, the son of Hard Spun and Arista (out of Afleet Alex), is one of eight others to be accorded 50-to-1 odds on the morning line and has just one maiden win in eight career tries. However, veteran Louisville-based conditioner Dale Romans, the second leading trainer in Churchill Downs history and winner of 124 graded stakes in 1,010 career starts, believes Attachment Rate could be sitting on his biggest effort to date, and expects he’ll need it to be competitive with Tiz the Law.

Attachment Rate training at Churchill Downs Monday Morning
Cody Photography

Attachment Rate was foaled at Wolver Hill Farm near Middleburg (Mr. and Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III) and was sold as a weanling at the Keeneland sale in Nov. 2017 for $100,000. At the Sept. 2018 yearling sale at Keeneland, Romans, acting as the agent for owners Jim Bakke and Gerry Isbister, purchased the colt for $200,000.

Romans has gotten the cold shoulder from 10 previous hopefuls he sent to the Derby starting gate and his best finishes were with Paddy O’Prado in 2010 and Dullahan in 2012, both who finished third. His lone Triple Crown victory thus far is the 2011 Preakness Stakes with Shackleford, who upset favorite Animal Kingdom in Baltimore. Romans said Attachment Rate reminds him of Dullahan.

“I am excited to watch this horse run because I am still waiting on his biggest effort. And, it could be this week,” Romans said. ”I realize he needs to step up just a little bit and that Tiz the Law needs to stub his toe to get beat, and that’s for all others too, but I believe both of those things are possible.”

Romans has tabbed veteran jockey, Joe Talamo, to ride Attachment Rate. Talamo has been in the irons for the colt’s last two starts, a second-place finish to Art Collector (who will miss the race Saturday due to injury) in the Ellis Park Derby, Aug. 9 and a fifth-place finish in the BlueGrass Stakes at Keeneland, July 11, during which Attachment Rate was cut off and jostled by Rushie shortly after the start.

As for pre-race instructions to his pilot, Romans prefers to focus on the characteristics of the horse because too many unexpected things can happen during the course of a race.

“I never tell a rider what to do, but in a perfect world I’d like to see him sit four or five lengths off the leaders and be a little bit out in the clear where he’s not going to get stopped. If those in the front can’t get to the mile-and-a-quarter, or if the pace is too fast, then be ready to pounce,” Romans related.

Romans is forecasting a quick pace because both Authentic and Tiz the Law prefer being forwardly placed. In fact, Authentic, who has never faced a field larger than seven starters, rarely has had dirt kicked in his face at all, while Tiz the Law has been the premier threatening stalker in all seven of his career starts. Both are likely to break quickly from posts 17 and 18 so as not to get trapped going too wide entering the first turn.

“They’re going to have to go fast to clear us and we should be far enough out not to get covered up,” Romans stated.

The key to Attachment Rate’s success is his stamina and his newfound ability to switch leads.

“If he switches leads, that’s the key. Early in his career, we couldn’t get him to do it but in the last two races he has,” the trainer said. “I am confident that he will do it in this one. It was just a mental issue with him and I think he has turned the corner.”

When it comes to getting the distance, Romans is certain Attachment Rate will have no issues with the 10 panels.

“Every rider that has ridden him has said his best racing came after the wire. They couldn’t pull him up,” Romans asserted.

If the pace falls apart in front of him, Attachment Rate could be there to pick up the pieces, both for a local trainer thirsty for a victory in his hometown and for Virginia breeders hungry for an overdue defining victory.

Derby Notes by the Numbers

  • Smarty Jones and Nyquist are the most recent winners from post position No. 13
  • Tiz the Law’s final quarter mile time in the Travers was a blistering :24.53 and was already in the lead by four lengths at the mile mark
  • The longest-shot and most recent Virginia-bred Kentucky Derby winner, Sea Hero (1992), paid $27.80 to win with Jerry Bailey up.
  • The very first Virginia-bred to win the Kentucky Derby was Reigh Count in 1928, for owners John and Fannie Hertz, of Yellow Cab Co., and rental car fame. Reigh Count sired Count Fleet, the 1943 Triple Crown winner, and Count Fleet went on to sire Count Turf, winner of the 1951 Kentucky Derby. That was the first time that a son and grandson of a Derby winner also wore the blanket of roses.
  • The most recent Virginia-bred starter in the Kentucky Derby was Bodemeister in 2012. He set fractions of :22.32, :45.39, 1:09.80 and 1:35.19 before being overtaken in the final strides by I’ll Have Another.