Monthly Archives: March 2021

Virginia-Owned Extravagant Kid Wins Grade 1 Al Quoz Stakes In Dubai

The following appeared on Horse Racing Nation March 27 and was written by Ron Flatter. Extravagant Kid is a Kentucky-bred horse owned by Virginia businessman David Ross, who also is President of the Virginia HBPA. Extravagant Kid won the Grade 1, $1 million Al Quoz Sprint Stakes in Dubai March 27 in his 50th career start. His 36th lifetime start was a winning effort in the 2019 Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs. 

With Ryan Moore riding on the grandstand side of the track, 8-year-old Extravagant Kid (16-1) made a late charge to the lead with less than 150 yards to go on the way to a half-length triumph the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (G1), a straight, six-furlong dash on the turf.

Extravagant Kid prevails in the $1 million Al Quoz Stakes in Dubai. Photo provided by Dubai Racing Club.

“When he did come running, he really did come running,” Walsh told Horse Racing Nation in a telephone call from New Orleans. “He has never let us down on any occasion.”

[Related: Mystic Guide takes Dubai World Cup]

Final Song (12-1) finished second, a neck ahead of Acklam Express (65-1) with Equilateral (10-1) another 1 1/4 lengths back in fourth. The favorite Space Blues (1-1), bidding for a sixth consecutive win, was squeezed at the start and finished ninth.

There were two other U.S. starters in the Al Quoz. True Valour (28-1) was sixth and Cowan (13-1) finished 10th in the field of 13.

Breaking through after finishing second in his three most recent U.S. starts, the last two on dirt, Extravagant Kid’s winning time was 1:09.26. It was his 50th start – and his first win in three Grade/Group 1 tries.

Extravagant Kid wins the Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs in 2019. Photo by Coady Photography.

“It was just a matter of time before he won a big one for us,” Walsh said. “I had a bit of a hunch the travel would freshen his mind.”

Moore had to make snap judgments throughout what he called “a very messy race,” thinking first of going left to the inside before making a commitment to the outside. “The speed looked like it was going to be stand side,” he said, “but we had to make a decision.”

Extravagant Kid has come a long way for owner David Ross, who claimed the Kiss the Kid gelding three years ago for $75,000. He has now won 15 races and purse money exceeding $1.6 million.

“What an unbelievable race,” Ross said. “He really liked the venue here, and we thought we would take advantage. As an 8-year-old, what about that?”

Moore summed up the result with compliments for both Extravagant Kid and Walsh.

“He is a very talented horse,” Moore said. “You’ll have to watch out for Brendan when he comes back here.”

David and Dana Ross are shown with the Da Hoss trophy courtesy of Extravagant Kid’s 2019 win at Colonial Downs.

A native of Ireland who is based in the U.S., Walsh also won two years ago with Plus Que Parfait in the UAE Derby (G2). This time he was on a flight from Miami to New Orleans.

“I saw the race on the flight,” Walsh said. “But I had no Wi-Fi. When I got off the plane, my phone was blowing up.”

Walsh said he had no plan yet for Extravagant Kid’s next race, saying he would wait until he was shipped back to the U.S. to decide. He did not rule out the possibility of another trip overseas for a big race.

As he put it, “We have nothing to lose with him anymore.”

Winner’s Pictures From the Piedmont Hounds Point-To-Point March 20 In Upperville

Weekend #2 of the spring Point-to-Point season took place at the Salem Course in Upperville March 20 with the Piedmont Fox Hounds Point-to-Point which featured seven races. A total of 42 horses participated. Below are pictures from the festivities courtesy of Douglas Lees, who graciously provides them for our use. A complete list of results and future meet dates can be found at

Paddy’s Crown captured the Maiden Flat with rider Chloe Hannum up top. The winner is trained by Richard Valentine.

Sisters Flora and Chloe Hannum celebrate after Paddy’s Crown’s Maiden Flat win.

Coastal Moon and rider Teddy Davies, second over this jump, goes on to win the Amateur & Novice Timber. #3 Hafajay (Chris Gracie) led at this point.

Rokeby Bowl winner Just Wait And See i owned by Kinross Farm and was ridden by Chris Gracie.

Maiden Timber winner Indian Hawk has the edge over Include It. McLane Hendricks rode the winner and Chris Gracie rode the runner-up.

Onarock (Graham Waters) leads the Open Flat field. The winner. The Neil Morris trainee went on to win.

VHBPA Flat winner Vincent Van Gogo leads the field initially.

A trio vie for the lead in the Ladies Race. Cocodimama (far right) with Chloe Hannum ended up winning over Bridge Builder (left) and Aggressive (middle).


Virginia Raised Sadler’s Joy Set To Compete In Grade 2 Pan American Stakes March 27

Sadler’s Joy is shown here as a yearling at Woodslane Farm in The Plains. Photo by Nick Hahn.

Four years after earning the first graded-stakes victory of his long career in the same race, Woodslane Farm’s Grade 1 winner Sadler’s Joy returns looking to snap a nine-race losing streak in Saturday’s $200,000 Pan American (G2) presented by Rood and Riddle at Gulfstream Park.

The 60th running of the 1 ½-mile Pan American for 4-year-olds and up on turf is part of a blockbuster program that includes 10 stakes, six graded, worth $1.85 million anchored by the $750,000 Curlin Florida Derby (G1) presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms at Xalapa, one of the country’s premier Triple Crown preps.

Sadler’s Joy is owned by Rene and Lauren Woolcott’s Woodslane Farm, which is located in northern Virginia. Though he was bred in Kentucky, Sadler’s Joy spent his formative years in the Old Dominion. Woodslane, who bred Sadler’s Joy, also bred 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist.

Now 8, Sadler’s Joy won the Pan American in 2017 and was fourth in 2018, but did not run in either of the past two years as trainer Tom Albertrani has looked to spread out his stable star’s races. The Kitten’s Joy gelding has started once this year, closing to be fourth by 2 ¼ lengths in the 1 ½-mile W.L. McKnight (G3) Jan. 23 at Gulfstream.

“He’s doing as well as ever so hopefully we’ll get another good trip out of him and go from there,” Albertrani said. “We just keep him on a regular routine, training-wise. You look at his work tab and you don’t see the fancy, fast works or anything; just normal, kind of routine works just to keep him ticking over between races.”

Sadler’s Joy scored his biggest win August 26th, 2017 in the $1 Million Sword Dancer Invitational. Photo courtesy of NYRA.

Sadler’s Joy is, by far, the richest horse in the Pan American with a bankroll of more than $2.6 million from 35 starts, with seven wins, four seconds and 11 thirds. All but one of his last 29 races have come in graded-stakes, his most recent win coming in the Red Smith (G3) at Aqueduct in the fall of 2019.

Last year, Sadler’s Joy went 0-for-8 with four thirds including the Mac Diarmida (G2) at Gulfstream and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) and Manhattan (G1) at Belmont Park, and was disqualified from first to fourth for interference in the Bowling Green (G2). He won the Mac Diarmida in 2018, the year after becoming a Grade 1 winner in the Sword Dancer at Saratoga.

“If he wasn’t in the barn, it’d be pretty strange. When that day comes, it’s going to be a sad day when we don’t see him walking down the shedrow anymore,” Albertrani said. “He’s just been one of those types of horses that tries every race. He puts everything into every time he runs and its’ just a pleasure having a horse like that.

“He puts up a game effort every single time, whether he gets beat a neck or a head in so many of these close races. And it’s only because of his running style that prevents him from getting up in time,” he added. “We just need to get everything to work, as always.”

Albertrani also won the Pan American in 2013 with Twilight Eclipse, who set the world record for 1 ½ miles on the grass (2:22.63). Twilight Eclipse raced until the spring of his 8-year-old season, making the last of his 40 career starts for trainer Graham Motion.

Sadler’s Joy captured the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida Stakes at Gulfstream in 2018. Photo courtesy of Coglianese Photography.

“It would be nice to chalk up another win in there. That was just a really great day. I didn’t actually know it until I heard the announcer say it was a track record. Then when we found out it was a world record, it was great, and for a horse like him, too,” Albertrani said. “He was another warrior. We’ve had a few and the ones that stuck around the barn a long time, they’re more of a pleasure to have around.”

Jose Ortiz is named to ride from Post 3 in the field of eight.

Sadler’s Joy certainly has the edge on the field in terms of accomplishments. The only other graded stakes winner in the group is the Mike Maker-trained Cross Border, winner of the 2020 Grade 2 Bowling Green. He most recently finished third in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Turf.

This article appeared in The Racing Biz March 25. Listen to “Off to the Races” powered by the Racing Biz, every Saturday from 10-11 AM on Richmond’s ESPN 950-AM and at

Important Updates For The Virginia-Certified Residency Program

The Virginia Thoroughbred Association (VTA) is announcing two very important changes to the Virginia-Certified Program effective 4/1/2021. These changes will affect all horses currently registered in the Virginia-Certified Program (horses registered prior to 4/1/2021) as well as those that are registered on or after 4/1/2021.

The entrance to 350 acre Byrd Hill Farm in Palmyra. There is plenty of room on site to accommodate more horses in the Virginia-Certified program.

1.    As of 4/1/2021, when a registered Virginia-Certified horse wins an eligible race in the Mid-Atlantic region (NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, WV & VA) the Virginia-Certified bonus will be paid to the person or entity that owned the horse when it made its first start, from now on referred to as the “Developer”.
Previously the person or entity that owned the registered Virginia-Certified horse at the time it won an eligible race in the Mid-Atlantic region received the bonus award. Starting 4/1/2021, the “Developer” will receive the bonus award when the registered Virginia-Certified horse wins an eligible race in the Mid-Atlantic region, even if the Developer no longer owns the horse at the time of the win. (As was true in the past, bonuses are not paid for wins in Virginia Restricted races). As a result of this change, if a registered Virginia-Certified horse is sold or claimed, any Virginia-Certified bonus the horse earns on or after 4/1/2021 will be paid to the “Developer” rather than to any subsequent owner of the horse. The “Developer” will receive the bonus regardless of whether the subsequent owner acquired the horse before, on, or after 4/1/2021.

The training track at Virginia-Certified Legacy Farm in Bluemont — located 15 miles north of Upperville

2.    As of 4/1/2021, when a registered Virginia-Certified horse wins a restricted West Virginia state-bred race of any kind, the Virginia-Certified bonus will be calculated as 10% of the lesser of (i) the winner’s purse share published on the Equibase chart or (ii) 60% of the published purse on the overnight.
Previously the Virginia-Certified bonus for a win in restricted West Virginia state-bred races of any kind was 25%; starting April 1, 2021 it will be 10%. This reduction affects only Virginia-Certified horses running in restricted West Virginia state-bred races. If a registered Virginia-Certified horse—including a West Virginia state-bred horse–wins an open race in West Virginia, it will continue to earn a 25% Virginia-Certified bonus.
If you have any questions concerning these changes, please contact
Debbie Easter at 434-977-3716 or

Meet Virginia Horse Owner & Breeder Larry Johnson, Whose True Valour Will Compete In Dubai

What are the odds that two Virginia-based horse owners could see their charges square off against each other — in Dubai? The longshot proposition will indeed happen when Larry Johnson’s True Valour and David Ross’s Extravagant Kid compete in Saturday’s (March 27) $1 million Al Quoz Sprint at Meydan Raceourse in Dubai. The six-furlong straight turf race will be contested at 9:30 AM (EDT), several hours before the featured $12 million Dubai World Cup takes center stage.

Much has been written about Extravagant Kid, whose second place finish in the February 13 Colonel Power Stakes at Fair Grounds pushed the 8-year-old Kiss The Kid gelding’s bankroll into seven-digit range. Since a solid a fourth place finish in November’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Extravagant Kid has had three straight runner-up finishes in stakes. Ross is President of the Virginia HBPA.

Johnson’s True Valour is a 7-year-old Irish-bred horse he purchased last July for $225,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Sale for Horses of Racing Age in Lexington, Kentucky. At the time, he had won a Group 3 stakes in Europe and both a Grade 2 and 3 in the U.S..

“He was by a well-regarded stallion named Kodiac, so I was interested in his current and long-term racing potential, and stud value as well,” said Johnson. “Graham (Motion) took over training after the purchase and based on his prior form, which was long on the turf, we were disappointed with his initial performance in a Grade 2 at Pimlico on Preakness Day. He didn’t seem to be performing as well as he had trained.”

Based on pedigree, the decision was made to switch to a shorter distance and the move paid immediate dividends. True Valour won a 6 1/2-furlong wide open turf allowance at Woodbine then went on to record a solid third in Aqueduct’s Turf Sprint Stakes November 28. Most recently, he was runner-up in the Grade 2 Joe Hernandez Stakes at Santa Anita on New Years Day.

“We started thinking about Dubai after he got beat by less than a length at Santa Anita,” said Johnson. “We gave him a month off to do basically nothing because he traveled quite a bit over his last five starts. He started back training and did well, so we decided to nominate him to the Al Quoz. We ended up getting invited and accepted,” he added. “Joel Rosario, who in my opinion is the best turf rider in the country, will be up. True Valour is a pretty professional horse and can handle just about anything.”

“He arrived there last Wednesday,” Johnson said earlier this week, “And breezed Monday morning to stretch his legs. He has trained well. He shipped well. With every day that passes, the realization that this is actually going to happen gets even more exciting.”

Johnson said all owners receive first class airfare and hotel but with the current pandemic, he will watch remotely instead. “I wish I was going to be there but with current Covid restrictions and masking, I decided to take a pass. I’ll be watching from home though of course.”

Johnson owns Legacy Farm in Bluemont, which he purchased 20 years ago. At the time, it encompassed 175 acres but Johnson has since further developed it and added more fields, run-in sheds and most significantly,  a 3/4-mile synthetic racetrack.

“It’s been a terrific benefit for us and a big help in getting young horses ready,” noted Johnson. “We’re able to get them to where they’re ready to go to the track, ready to be breezed, and adjusted and acclimated to the starting gate.”

Johnson hired former steeplechase rider Jonathan Smart to manage the farm a year and a half ago. Smart rode for a dozen years on the NSA circuit and won a number of big races. “Through a relationship Graham Motion had with him, I was able to hire Jonathan and he’s done a great job getting horses ready after the winter layoff and with rehab horses too.”

As an owner, Johnson has accumulated 375 wins from 2,584 starts. He also has 361 seconds and 345 third place finishes. His horses combined have earned $12,387,854. “This has been a labor of love for the last 20 years he said. “I enjoy living in Virginia and now with the Certified Residency program, it’s economically viable to raise horses here.”

Asked what gives him the most satisfaction from all the horse-related aspects he participates in, Johnson declared it a tie between breeding and raising a horse that goes on to compete successfully, particularly a stakes caliber one, and to be able to breed and raise a commercial sales yearling that attracts a substantial price in the marketplace.

“It’s a different outcome and a different process,” Johnson said of each. “There’s equal excitement between running in a race and watching your horse come into a ring. Both only last a few minutes and you’re either really disappointed or elated. But when you’re elated, it’s very rewarding.”

Sir Rockport won a combined 11 races races as a 7 & 8-year-old the past two years. He kicked off 2021 with a victory. Photo by Jim McCue.

Sir Rockport is a horse he bred in 2012 and even at age 9, the son of Rockport Harbor continues to provide Johnson with breeder’s incentive bonus checks for each win. He isn’t a stakes caliber horse but one that holds a special place still. From 71 career starts, he has earned $339,432 and has 16 wins. Amazingly, 12 of those have come in the past two years.

“He’s an old warrior. I think I sold him at Timonium for maybe $15,000,” Johnson recalled. “I have him in my stable mail so I can keep up with his races. He’s a tough old horse and is still out competing in mid-level claimers. A barnful of horses like him wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

Johnson has plenty to keep him busy besides his horses. He is CEO of a litigation consulting firm, which takes up most of his time, and he also owns the West End Wine Bar & Pub in Purcellville, which he has had for five years now. The restaurant is in a historic 1900’s house that Johnson restored and converted into a high-end fine dining establishment that features an old-style English pub in the lower level.

“The restaurant was on a good trajectory before Covid,” said Johnson. “The last twelve months has been challenging to say the least though. We’ve had to close a couple times because staff tested positive but we’re looking forward to warmer patio weather soon and vaccinations being out there.”

Johnson is also optimistic about horse racing’s future in the Commonwealth. “The Certified program has been terrific,” he said. “I had some initial involvement working with Debbie Easter and staff when we were struggling to come up the kind of incentives needed to keep farms open here and make them financially viable. The program has done wonders. It has reinvigorated farms in Virginia. And the return of racing at Colonial Downs is terrific. Last year was so difficult and unexpected between the weather, Covid, then the shutdown. I’m looking forward to this year with an increased number of race days and purses back to the 2019 level if not even a little higher. I’m going to run a bunch of horses at Colonial whether they are Certified or not,” added Johnson. “Overnight purses are great and the stakes program is great. Virginia racing is in top form now and great opportunities lie ahead.”

Secretariat’s Virtual Birthday Celebration Scheduled For March 26, 27

Online Gathering to Honor Birth of 1973 Triple Crown Champion

For the second consecutive year the Secretariat Birthday Celebration at the Meadow will not take place due to the continued COVID challenges. However, we are delighted to announce a virtual gathering via Zoom and Facebook will take place March 26-27 to continue our tradition of honoring the birth of a racing legend.

Co-hosts for the online festivities will be Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of the Meadow’s Penny Chenery, and Leeanne Meadows Ladin, former tourism manager at Meadow Event Park and co-author along with Ms. Tweedy of the award-winning book Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend and Riva Ridge – Penny’s First Champion.

The Birthday Celebration will offer a selection of activities for all Big Red fans beginning with a virtual Secretariat Julep cocktail party to kick off the festivities on Friday, March 26 and followed by the Celebration’s main activities on Saturday, March 27, including a selection of Fan Forums and special appearances with jockey Ron Turcotte, Lucien Laurin assistant Steve Jordan, and other distinguished guests.

Celebration highlights include the viewing of rare lost film footage of Secretariat and the public debut of a never-before-seen photo of the champ as yearling, a visual history of several of the Meadow Stable’s most accomplished stars, a Florida Derby/Kentucky Derby Rankings preview with acclaimed sports journalist Steve Haskin, a tribute presentation to the entire Meadow Team, and the opportunity to bid on an amazing collection of memorabilia from the Secretariat/Meadow Stable Archives.

Don’t get left at the gate, purchase your All-Access VIP Birthday Celebration Pass now and receive a free commemorative color foal print created specifically for this year’s event. A collectible keepsake when you join us and your fellow Secretariat fans for this joyful virtual event!

Miniature horse Mia has become a companion to Groundshaker at The Meadow. Courtesy of The Paulick Report.

Friday, March 26 – Secretariat Birthday Celebration Virtual Kickoff Julep Party (Free)
The Secretariat Birthday Celebration begins with a virtual Kickoff Party on Zoom where Big Red fans can see old friends and meet new ones. From 7 to 8:30 p.m. EDT, Kate Chenery Tweedy and Leeanne Meadows Ladin will host a get-together that will be highlighted by a Secretariat Julep toast that is sure to taste better when sipped from your own commemorative Birthday Celebration Julep Cup. Activities planned include a trivia contest and individual breakout rooms with some of our distinguished guests, and perhaps a few other surprises!

The Kickoff Julep Party is a free event, but capacity will be limited and space will be filled on a first-come basis. To guarantee your participation, please sign up for the All-Access VIP Birthday Celebration Pass now available for purchase. Otherwise, we are now accepting Julep Party Registration, while space is still available.

Saturday, March 27 – Secretariat Virtual Birthday Celebration 
We are delighted to present our ticketed virtual Fan Forums through the electronic meeting technology of Zoom and free Birthday Celebration video premieres throughout the day on our Facebook page at @SecretariatOfficial. Please review our selection of virtual activities below:

Fan Forums on Zoom: Our popular limited capacity Fan Forums will provide fans access to discussions with our hosts and special guests along with the opportunities to ask questions and hear insiders’ perspective on many Secretariat-related topics. Listed Fan Forum times are Eastern Daylight and may be subject to minor changes, and we encourage you to confirm the schedule prior to the event. We recommend downloading the Zoom app on your phone, tablet or desktop prior to the event. Fan Forums require pre-registration and registrants will receive an access link by email prior to the event. For technical assistance, please email

Secretariat’s annual birthday celebration will be online this year.

  • (TICKETED) “Meadow Stars” 11:30 a.m. – In addition to Secretariat and Riva Ridge, the Meadow racing stable was represented in winner’s circles across the country dating back to late 1930s. Learn more about some of the most accomplished Meadow horses, both in the breeding shed and on the racetrack in this illuminating visual history presentation. Horses to be discussed include Hill Prince, First Landing, and Cicada, as well as blue-hen broodmares like Hildene, Imperatrice and Somethingroyal. As an added bonus, jockey Ron Turcotte will join in providing his experiences aboard Secretariat’s and Riva Ridge’s younger brothers Capital Asset and Capito. Approximate length 40 minutes with Q&A to follow. Advance ticketing to guarantee your space in this Forum is now available for purchase through an All-Access VIP Birthday Celebration Pass. Individual tickets on sale now for $25, while quantities last.
  • (TICKETED) “Secretariat Virtual Vault” 1:00 p.m. – This highly anticipated event includes rare and never-before-seen Secretariat film footage and photography, including the public debut of the only known image of Secretariat as a yearling that was recently discovered in one of the original Meadow Farm files dating back to the early history of Penny Chenery’s management of the renowned farm. Among the historical treasures to be viewed are period film commercials of Secretariat produced by the New York Racing Association and First & Merchant National Bank as well as outtakes and photography associated with their filming. Approximate length 40 min with Q&A to follow. Individual tickets on sale now for $40, while quantities last.
  • (TICKETED) “Florida Derby Preview and Derby Rankings” 3:00 p.m. – Hall of Fame racing journalist, handicapper, and historian Steve Haskin will host this discussion that coincides with the running of the Florida Derby later in the afternoon on Celebration Saturday. This Forum will provide an in-depth analysis of the important prep race as well as a look at the key contenders for the 2021 Kentucky Derby. As a live video extension of his weekly Derby Rankings column, the forum promises spirited discussion, candid predictions, prognostications, and perhaps even a wagering suggestions. Leeanne Meadows Ladin will join in the fun, identifying the horses who trace back to Secretariat and other horses associated with the Meadow. Approximate length 50 minutes with Q&A throughout. Individual tickets on sale now for $15, limited space available.

To guarantee your space in all three Fan Forums as well as the Kickoff Julep Party, a convenient All-Access VIP Birthday Celebration Pass is available for purchase. 

Facebook Premieres: Posting throughout the day on our Facebook page at @SecretariatOfficial Facebook page  (You will need a Facebook account to access the page.) For technical assistance, please contact @SecretariatOfficial via Facebook Messenger.

  • (FREE) Meadow Farm Foaling Shed and Yearling Barn Virtual Tour Posting– While Meadow Event Park remains closed to the public, join us for a virtual tour with host and Meadow Stable historian Leeanne Meadows Ladin. Peek into the foaling shed where Somethingroyal gave birth to Secretariat as Leeanne recounts the story, and enjoy other snippets from the pastoral farm. Approximate length is 10 minutes.
  • (FREE) Meadow Team Tribute Posting – Though many of the key figures who comprised the Meadow Team have left us over the years since the glory days of the stable, time has not diminished their impact on racing nor their fans’ admiration. From visionary founder Christopher Chenery to the First Lady of Racing Penny Chenery to all who helped raise and race the Meadow champions and run Meadow Stable, we will never let them be forgotten. It has been said that “the land made them all,” and together they made history with the greatest racehorse of them all. This presentation will highlight their contributions. Approximate length is 20 minutes
  • (FREE) Collectors’ Chat – Posting throughout the day – Kate Chenery Tweedy and Leonard Lusky will host a series of short discussions sharing backstories and their personal insights for several artifacts originating from the personal residence of Penny Chenery and the Secretariat Meadow Stable Archives that are currently being offered for auction at

We look forward to returning to the Meadow one day to celebrate the birthday of Secretariat. But this virtual format affords fans opportunities and experiences that we would not be able to share at an in-person event. We hope that you will join us for this celebratory spring weekend — no matter where you are!

Virginia-Bred Chess Chief Rallies to Grade 2 New Orleans Classic Win On March 20

The following appeared in March 21 and was written by Bob Ehalt. Virginia-bred Chess Chief earned his fourth career victory March 20 at Fair Grounds in the $400,000 New Orleans Classic Stakes (Gr. 2) in nice come from behind fashion. The 5-year-old Into Mischief horse has now earned $632,084. He was bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm.   

“You just have to put yourself in the hands of your jockey,” Stewart said.

Chess Chief wins a $46,000 allowance at Fair Grounds to kick off his 2020 campaign. Picture courtesy of Hodges Photography.

As it turned out, Chess Chief was in the highly capable hands of Luis Saez March 20 as a well-timed ride combined with the long stretch at Fair Grounds Racecourse & Slots carried the Estate of James J. Coleman Jr.’s Chess Chief from a narrow last-to-first victory over favored Owendale. It was the 5-year-old son of Into Mischief ‘s first graded stakes win.

“Luis thought the leaders moved a little soon and he caught them at the wire,” Stewart said about the head victory. “We needed every inch of that long stretch.”

The victory provided a rollercoaster of emotions for the Coleman family, who live in New Orleans and reveled in winning a major stakes named after their hometown. Yet there were also twinges of sadness in memory of the family patriarch, James J. Coleman Jr., who passed away in March 2019.

Since then, his son, Jamie, has been at the helm of the stable.

“It’s a special win for the family, being from New Orleans,” Stewart said. “It’s a shame how it came down with (James) who started the stable passing away and not being here, but it was a great moment for Jamie and everyone else.”

The victory was the fourth in 23 starts for Chess Chief, bred in Virginia by Morgan’s Ford Farm, and it washed away memories of last year’s New Orleans Classic when he finished third but was disqualified and placed sixth for interference.

Chess Chief (left) wins the 2021 Grade 2 New Orleans Classic by a head over Owendale (right). Photo by Amanda Hodges Weir.

Out of the Mineshaft  mare Un Blessed, he has blossomed at the current Fair Grounds meet, winning an allowance optional claimer and then finishing third in the Feb. 13 Mineshaft Stakes (G3).

“He really acted like he picked up his game the last two weeks,” Stewart said.

Chess Chief, who has earned $632,048, is the lone stakes winner from five foals produced by his dam, three of whom have raced. Her latest offspring is a yearling son of Ghostzapper.

Breaking from the rail, it was Roadster who grabbed the early lead in the 1 1/8-mile New Orleans Classic with 4-5 favorite Owendale in closest pursuit. He led by a half-length after a half-mile in a comfortable :48.30, but a layoff of a little more than a year caught up with him in the stretch as Rapp Racing’s Owendale inched past him and seemed en route to victory until Chess Chief came charging into the picture from the outside.

Last in the field of seven after a half-mile and fourth with a furlong to go, Saez took Chess Chief to the outside in the stretch and won the bob at the wire over the Brad Cox-trained multiple graded stakes winner as Enforceable rallied strongly along the inside to take third.

Chess Chief covered the 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.24 and paid $12 to win.

Owendale, who made it an exacta for sons of Into Mischief, had a half-length on John C. Oxley’s Enforceable, a son of Tapit  trained by Mark Casse.

Online Betting Handle Up 42% In 2021 So Far; Major Derby Prep Races Are On Deck

A total horse racing handle of $9,450,356 was wagered by Virginians via four online wagering partner companies in the month of February, a sizeable boost over the $7,093,550 recorded for the same month a year ago. The upward trend of online activity has continued into the new year, after 2020 saw a 56.4% increase in business.

Each Rosie’s has an OTB area which features live simulcasting from up to 20 tracks on a daily basis.

TVG led the way in February with a handle of $5,239,968. When added to January’s $5.7 million figure, they are up 45.9% over the same two-month period from a year ago. Twin Spires, up 34% during the same time frame, handled $2,472,071 in February while Xpressbet, up 38.03%, took in monthly wagers totaling $1,362,762. NYRABets, newest of the four Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) services to do business in the Commonwealth, handled $375,553 and their combined two-month tally of $874,064 is a 73% boost from last year.

The overall two-month handle total was $20,140,787 compared with $14,147,851 in 2020, a 42% rise. Interestingly, both the thoroughbred and harness handle have grown proportionately at the same 42% figure.

A third VA-Horseplay OTB is located in Collinsville — the Windmill OTB Sports Grill.

In person wagering did well too. The eight simulcast centers at Colonial Downs’ Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums and VA Horseplay OTBs combined to handle $4,926,972 during the first two months. Buckets Bar & Grill in Chesapeake led the way with $1,094,939 and Breakers Sports Grille in Henrico was next with $1,003,862.

An uptick in handle should continue as the next month features key Kentucky Derby prep races most every weekend, leading up to the “Run for the Roses” on May 1.

The $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby (Gr. 2) is next on March 20 at Fair Grounds, which has a trio of Grade 2 stakes on the under card.

Gulfstream Park will host ten stakes in a massive program on March 27 highlighted by the Grade I Florida Derby. The same day, Turfway Park holds their big Derby prep — the $250,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks Stakes (Gr. 3) — along with five others. And the Dubai World Cup card takes place that morning from Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Two Virginia owned horses — Extravagant Kid (David Ross) and True Valour (Larry Johnson) — will compete there at 9:30 AM (EDT) in the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint (Gr. I) at six furlongs on the straight. The World Cup post is 12:15 PM.

Bob Baffert’s Authentic won the Kentucky Derby September 5, 2020. The 2021 edition will be May 1. Photo by Coady Photography.

The biggest race day of 2021 to date will take place on April 3 when a trio of major preps occur. The $750,000 Wood Memorial (Gr. 2) is at Aqueduct along with four other graded stakes. Keeneland hosts the $800,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Gr. 2) and five additional graded events. And the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (Gr. I)  headlines out west, and they have five other stakes programmed.

The final Derby prep is the following Saturday, April 10, when Oaklawn hosts the $1 million Arkansas Derby (Gr. I).

Virginia-Bred Winners Update – Divine Interventio Wins Twice In Seven Days

The 8-year-old Malibu Moon gelding won most recently March 6 in his 50th career start, when he was a neck better than Jamminwithbrandon in a one-mile starter optional claimer. Divine Interventio had different connections though than he had in his start the week prior. On February 27, he also conquered a dirt miler, going three-wide in the turn and finishing 2 3/4 lengths the best, but was claimed out that race by Gene Gould for $12,500. John Robb took over training duties from Hugh McMahon as a result.

Divine Interventio wins the first of two straight at Laurel on Feb. 27. Photo by Jim McCue.

Bred by the William Backer Revocable Estate, Divine Interventio has 11 wins, 12 runner-up finishes and 10 thirds with earnings of $406,924. He is out of the Out of Place mare, Art Show.

This win, March 6, pushed Divine Interventio’s bankroll over the $400,000 mark. Photo by Jim McCue.

Other Virginia-breds have reached the winners circle in the past several weeks. Distant Thunder had a maiden claiming score March 5 at Laurel at the six-furlong distance. The 5-year-old Wilburg gelding won by a length in gate-to-wire style and crossed in 1:11.91. He is bred/owned by Sam English II and is out of Scotish Tune by Bellamy Road.

Distant Thunder completes a gate-to-wire effort at Laurel March 5. Photo by Jim McCue.

Cool Enough, who earned a maiden claiming triumph this past summer at Colonial, reached the winners circle at Charles Town for his second career score. The 3-year-old Tamarkuz filly prevailed in a seven-furlong claiming race and pushed her bankroll to $29,336 from nine starts. She was bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm and is out of the Macho Uno mare, Make Waves.

Well-traveled Mucho Mas, by Mucho Macho Man, came home strong and beat ten others in a Sam Houston claimer after crossing the half in eighth. Bred by Jim & Katie Fitzgerald, the 5-year-old mare has also competed at Churchill, Keeneland, Lone Star, Louisiana Downs, Remington and Oaklawn, where she recorded a maiden special weight victory. Through 20 career outs, Mucho Mas has earned $114,544.

Tiz Auction Time holds off Whats The Chance in a 5 1/2 furlong claimer at Laurel. Photo by Jim McCue.

Owner/breeder Michael Anderson’s Tiz Auction Time was best in an 11-horse claiming sprint at Laurel, his second win in three starts this year for trainer Ham Smith. The 4-year-old son of Tizdejavu beat Whats The Chance by three-quarters of a length. Tiz Auction Time is out of My Magnolia by Mineshaft.

Attachment Rate gallops at Churchill Downs in advance of the 2020 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Coady Photography.

Attachment Rate, who competed in the 2020 Kentucky Derby, had a nice showing at Gulfstream Park, connecting in a $65,000 one-mile turf allowance. The 4-year-old Hard Spun colt was seven lengths behind at the third fraction but rallied late to win by one and record his best career speed rating. The winner was bred by Mr. & Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III and is trained by Dale Romans. Out of the Afleet Alex mare, Aristra, Attachment Rate has $212,422 in earnings.

Virginia-Owned Extravagant Kid Heads To Dubai To Compete On Dubai World Cup Under Card

Extravagant Kid, owned by Virginia businessman David Ross — who is President of the Virginia HBPA — will compete in the $1 Million, Grade I Al Quoz Sprint March 27 at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai as part of the Dubai World Cup under card. The race has been carded as the fourth and will go off at 9:30 AM (EDT).

Extravagant Kid become a million dollar earner with a  second place finish in the February 12 Colonel Power Stakes at Fair Grounds. The 8-year-old Kiss The Kid gelding has bankrolled $1,001,610 from 49 starts, which includes 14 wins and 16 runner-up finishes.

Virginia owner/breeder Larry Johnson, whose Legacy Farm is based in Bluemont, has entered True Valour  in the same race. The 7-year-old Irish-bred has made 30 starts, the last 16 of which have been in the U.S. He is a three time graded & group stakes winner and will be competing overseas for the first time in nearly three years.     

The following piece appeared in The Paulick Report March 3. 

Irish-born U.S. trainer Brendan Walsh is ready to head back to the Dubai World Cup meeting, which should inspire all potential competitors to take notice. From his lone starter on the world-renowned card, the 24-time graded/group stakes winner has a victory with Plus Que Parfait in the 2019 $2.5 million UAE Derby (G2) to show for it. The former Godolphin employee looks to bring one of America’s top turf sprinters back to his old stomping grounds in the form of DARRS Inc.’s Extravagant Kid for the Group 1 $1 million Al Quoz Sprint over a straight six furlongs.

Extravagant Kid won for the third time in four starts last May at Churchill Downs. Photo by Coady Photography.

“He’s never ran a bad race and when he really shows up, he’s right there,” Walsh said. “In the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (on Nov. 7), he was only beaten a length or so after a horrendous draw—14 out of 14—and going wide the whole way and lost a tone of ground. He’s one of those horses who no matter the company he’s in, he holds his own. He’s done it on turf and dirt and it’s always been in the back of my mind that he’d be a good horse to bring to Dubai. He’s getting on in age and I think this is a good time to go.”

In his 50th start, Extravagant Kid he will hope to break a case of seconditis (runner-up in five of his past six efforts) while seeking his 15th career tally. He will also look to cure the bridesmaid status of American runners in the grass dash.

Over the past 10 runnings, his compatriots have done well, but fallen short of victory. California Flag and Green Mask were third in 2010 and 2015 and Long On Value was a brutal nose second in 2017. In 2018 and 2019, Americans finished second and third; Stormy Liberal and Conquest Tsunami in 2018 and Belvoir Bay and Stormy Liberal in the following edition.

“The straight six will suit him perfectly,” Walsh continued. “It’ll be very interesting. I don’t plan on doing anything with him to get him used to it once he’s there. I think the novelty of something different in the race will help the horse. He’s very smart and I’m waiting for him to one morning actually start talking to me—he’s that intelligent. He’s also tricky to ride and we always try to change things up to keep him interested. I think the travel, being in Dubai and the straight six furlongs might just work.”

Extravagant Kid wins the Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial Downs in 2019. Photo by Coady Photography.

A strong closer with enough tactical speed to make his own luck, the dark bay nine-time stakes winner ran a superb race in the aforementioned Breeders’ Cup against some of the world’s top turf sprinters. Breaking well from the outside post, he raced in mid-pack—between four- and six-wide throughout—before grinding his way past five horses to a fourth-place run, beaten two half-lengths and a head by Glass Slippers, Wet Your Whistle and Leinster. Finishing astern him that day were the likes of Got Stormy, Wildman Jack and Imprimis.

“I think he can operate from wherever,” Walsh explained. “He’s never too far away. He’s got a really high cruising speed, so I don’t think he’ll be too far back on a straight course. We’ll see how the race is set up and where he’s drawn and come up with a plan from there, but normally he’s a horse who sits a few lengths off the lead and comes running.”

Walsh looks forward to hopefully making the trek to Dubai in person, but such is reliant on his obligations with his burgeoning stable that includes one of the nation’s top-rated horses, Maxfield, and the highly exciting sophomore Prevalence. Both are owned by Godolphin, with the former running this Saturday in the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap (G1).

“He’s a horse who gets your heart going, that’s for sure, and he has all the talent in the world,” Walsh said of the former. “He’s doing well and this will be a good test for him over 10 furlongs.”

David and Dana Ross are shown with the Da Hoss trophy courtesy of Extravagant Kid’s 2019 win at Colonial Downs.

His attention will thereafter shift markedly toward Dubai and hoping his Extravagant Kid flourishes in the land of excess.

“Dubai has a place in my heart and it always will,” the 47-year-old conditioner concluded. “It will be nice to have a horse who can come out there and compete again. We had a great time last time, but it’s always great when you win. They always put on a great show and take care of you. It’ll be a pleasure to come back.”