Monthly Archives: December 2021

Virginia-Bred Chess Chief Edges Happy American in the Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds

The following appeared in the Daily Racing Form was written by Marcus Hersh. Chess Chief, bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm, was making his 30th career start. With the stakes win, the 5-year-old Into Mischief gelding’s bankroll rose to $810,338.

Something – a dazzling spell, a sense of lightness and well-being – must descend upon the 5-year-old horse Chess Chief whenever the horse trailer in which he’s riding crosses into Orleans Parrish and makes its way onto the Fair Grounds backstretch. 

In 20 starts outside New Orleans, Chess Chief never has won. Zero, zilch, nada. But at Fair Grounds, his beloved Fair Grounds, Chess Chief ran his record to five wins from 10 starts with the slimmest of scores over Happy American in the $100,000 Tenacious Stakes on Sunday.  

Chess Chief, in the post parade of the Blue Grass Stakes in 2019.

Chess Chief got a sweet ride from Reylu Gutierrez and was home by a head-bob over Happy American, who came flying up the inside after lagging in last much of the Tenacious under James Graham.  

“I was worried. That horse really came running in the lane. What a battle,” Gutierrez said.  

Pirate’s Punch, who disputed splits of 23.75 and 47.20 with Ebben and Warrior in Chief, both of whom faded out of contention, gamely held third. Chess Chief was timed in 1:43.39 over a fast dirt track and paid $22.20. 

Chess Chief broke well from post 10 but wound up pulling a stalking trip that found him in heavy traffic for much of the backstretch run.

Chess Chief (inside) edges Happy American (#12) in the Tenacious Stakes (Hodges Photography).

“It was tight on the backside; I had to point my way into the clear,” Gutierrez said. In the homestretch, Chess Chief loomed on the far outside as Happy American, finishing with a flourish, hit holes on the inside, looking like a winner at the sixteenth pole. In live action, it appeared Happy American had gotten his head down on the wire, but it was Chess Chief who had the fortunate bob at his favorite racecourse. 

Dallas Stewart, born and raised in New Orleans East and long ago a valet at Fair Grounds early in his racing career, trains Chess Chief for the Estate of James Coleman Jr. Chess Chief, a 5-year-old son of Into Mischief and Un Blessed, by Mineshaft, won the Grade 2 New Orleans Classic this past March and was dropping in class Sunday from a pair of Grade 1s and a Grade 3.  

“He ran against the best trying to win a Grade 1,” Stewart said. “Maybe we’ll try again next year.” 

Halo Again glows in turf debut  

Less than a half-hour after winning the Tenacious on dirt, Reylu Gutierrez steered Halo Again to a front-running upset in the $75,000 Buddy Diliberto Memorial Stakes on turf.  

It was the third win on the Sunday card for Gutierrez and his second on the day for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.  

“It means the world to me,” said Gutierrez, riding his first Fair Grounds meet.  

On paper there were other speed horses in the Diliberto, but Gutierrez came out firing aboard Halo Again, a Canadian-bred who had run well on synthetic surfaces but never had raced on turf. Halo Again made a comfortable lead, going his half-mile in a manageable 47.96 seconds and, after taking a deep breath from the five-sixteenths to the quarter pole, Halo Again spurted clear in upper stretch and never came close to being caught.

Pixelate, a half-length behind the winner, won the photo finish for second, beating out Mike Maker-trained stablemates Monarch’s Glen and Forty Under for the place. Big Dreaming, surprisingly favored at 9-5, got a good trip just behind the speed but had no finish, checking in fifth. 

Halo Again, a 4-year-old son of Speightstown and Halo’s Verse, by Unbridled’s Song, finished last of 14 in the 2020 Queen’s Plate and then went more than a year between starts. Solid facing graded stakes competition in a pair of post-layoff Tapeta stakes runs at Woodbine, Halo Again, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing, took to turf in his first try. 

“He ran well before on the synthetic,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said. “It just worked today.” 

Gutierrez, too, had it working.

Six-Pack of Virginia-Bred Horses Reach Winners Circle with Holiday Season Scores

Congratulations to six Virginia-bred horses who won pre-holiday races at tracks around the country in mid-December.

Repo Rocks had the biggest win of all — in an $82,000 allowance race at Aqueduct which boosted his career bankroll to $206,071. The 3-year-old Tapiture gelding was best of 11 in a 6 1/2-furlong dirt test. Bred by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III and winner of two straight in New York, Repo Rocks is out of the Not For Love mare, Hawaiian Love. From 12 starts in 2021, he has 3 wins, 3 runner-up finishes and 2 thirds with $181,846 in earnings.

Virginia-bred Repo Rocks won an $82,000 allowance at Aqueduct Dec. 10 (Coglianese Photography).

Ready and Rich snagged his sixth career trip to the winners circle with a three-quarter length triumph in a $19,000 claiming race at Penn National. The 5-year-old Super Saver gelding beat seven others in the 6-furlong race. Bred by Chance Farm, Ready and Rich captured his second straight win while his bankroll inched closer to $200,000 — he now has $195,552. It was his 20th career “in-the-money” finish. He is out of the More Than Ready mare, Ready Reply.

Virginia-bred Ready and Rich wins her third career race, a starter optional claimer, at Laurel in June, 2020 (Jim McCue)

Susan Cooney’s Jestful authored a dominant 9-length win at Mountaineer December 14 in a one mile, $18,800 allowance race. The 4-year-old Majesticperfection gelding crossed in 1:41.60 and has now bagged eight straight “top three” finishes between Laurel, Colonial, Pimlico and Mountaineer. Jestful’s ’21 report card shows 2 wins, 5 runner-ups, 2 thirds and $58,754 in earnings. He is out of Sister Graceful by Mr. Greeley.

Strands of Pearls and Ichigo broke their maidens at Penn National within two nights of each other — the former in a 2-year-old filly sprint December 10 and the latter in a maiden claimer for ages 3 & up December 12.

Strands of Pearls, a daughter of Super Saver, went gate-to-wire in her effort and crossed one length the best at 6-furlongs with a $17,000 purse. Bred and owned by Morgan’s Ford Farm, the she is out of the Black Tie Affair mare, Pearls. 

Raleigh Colston Minor’s Ichigo, a 4-year-old Fierce Wind gelding, won handily by 7 1/4 lengths at 1 1/16th miles with Julio Hernandez in the irons. The winner, who Minor also bred, is out of Little Often Anni by Awad.

My Boss Lady’s win at Oaklawn December 12 completed the Virginia six-pack. The 3-year-old filly, bred by Lazy Lane Farms, won a $25,000 claiming race by 1 3/4 lengths as betting favorite. The daughter of Street Boss has 2 wins and 3 seconds from 8 starts in ’21, good for $45,161 in purse winnings. She is out of the Malibu Moon mare, Moonlight Lady. 

Five of the six winning owners will receive a 25% bonus on top of purse earnings as part of the VTA’s Mid-Atlantic Owner’s Bonus incentive program which rewards owners of Commonwealth-breds for wins at any track in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Virginia-certified Baba pushed her bankroll over the $100,000 mark with a claiming win at Aqueduct Dec. 9 (Coglianese Photography)

Among Virginia-certified horses who scored recent victories was Kentucky-bred Baba, who won a $28,000 claiming race at Aqueduct and pushed her bankroll into six-digit range. The 3-year-old filly, bred by Woodslane Farm, previously won a maiden special weight at Aqueduct and a claiming race at Saratoga in 2021. The December 9 win pushed her earnings to $104,920.

Susan Cooney’s 4-year-old gelding Flank Speed also got his picture taken at Penn in a $28,000 allowance race December 10. The Maryland-bred is less than $5,000 away from $100,000 in earnings — $69,100 of that has come this year alone. He is by Midshipman out of Leva Mae by Emancipator.       

Virginia Racing Commission Approves Colonial Downs Expanded 2022 Meet Dates

Fresh on the heels of a record setting thoroughbred race meet in 2021, racing dates for an expanded Colonial Downs presented by Woodford Reserve summer race season in 2022 were approved today (December 15) at the Virginia Racing Commission meeting which was held at the New Kent track. 

The upcoming 9-week campaign will run from July 11 – September 7, an increase in length by two weeks from this summer’s 7-week meet. The number of race days will increase from 21 to 27, and daily average purse monies will rise from $522,000 in 2021 to an expected $600,000 next year. 

The race day schedule itself will mirror the ’21 slate, with racing every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at 1:30 PM (EDT).

The highly successful 2021 meet featured 21 race days and an average daily betting handle of $2,240,000. A total of $10.4 million in purse monies were distributed and average field size was a healthy 8.36 starters per race.

 Details on the 2022 stakes schedule, including the Grade 3 New Kent County Virginia Derby, will be announced in the coming days. Colonial Downs is home to the Secretariat Turf Course, widest grass racing surface in the country, and a 1 1/4 miles dirt oval, second longest only to Belmont’s 1 1/2 miles track.

For more information, visit             

Rosie’s Finishes Facility Expansion In Vinton; More Than Doubles In Size

The following appeared at

VINTON, Va. (WDBJ) – From jackhammers to jackpots, Rosie’s Gaming Emporium in Vinton has more than doubled its games and its space with the completion of a new expansion.

The facility has expanded its entertainment in more ways than one.

“Our customers, simple supply and demand, wanted more gaming space,” says Ernie Dellaverson, Regional General Manager for Rosie’s Gaming Emporium. “We went from 15,000 square feet, we added an additional 18,000 square feet. 350 additional games and these are new games that nobody has seen in the area before. We actually brought another component in too that we’re very excited about, a live stage as well. So we have a venue here.”

Guests also have extra parking with the addition of a 280-space parking garage.

“There’s been a lacking entertainment component in the area,” he explains. “There are a couple places in Downtown Roanoke, but now we’re bring it out to the Vinton area and I think there is demand for this adult entertainment in our area.”

The project was fully underway in the spring and cost $28 million.

“The Town of Vinton loves it,” adds Dellaverson. “This has been such a great drive for them, such a great economic engine. I beg a lot of people to go down and check out the downtown Vinton area. It has a lot of fantastic little shops that they incorporated in there. New restaurants. It’s been a win-win situation for both of us.”

Rosie’s says before the expansion it could hold about 480 people at a time.

Pair of Longshot Virginia-Certified Horses Kick Off December With Impressive Wins at Aqueduct

The month of December kicked off in grand fashion for a pair of Virginia-Certified horses that competed in races at Aqueduct. 

Lobsta, who spent his six-month Virginia residency at Woodberry Payne’s Ingleside Training Center in Orange, prevailed in the $150,000 New York Stallion Stake Series on December 5th after being sent off at odds of 28-1! The 3-year-old Emcee gelding was best of 11 horses in a gate-to-wire performance at seven furlongs. He crossed in 1:24.87, one-half length ahead of betting choice My Boy Tate. The winner was ridden by Javier Castellano and is trained by Gary Sciacca.

Lobsta was best of 11 horses in the New York Stallion Stake Series. Photo by Susie Raisher.

Lobsta was fresh off a pair of third place finishes in the New York Derby July 19 at Finger Lakes and the Mike Lee Stakes, May 31 at Belmont. The New York-bred added to a solid 2021 resume that boasts three wins, a runner-up finish and a pair of thirds in seven starts with purse earnings of $218,600. Lobsta is out of the Chief Seattle mare, Salty Lil Sis.

Javier Castellano rode Lobtsa to victory at Aqueduct. Photo by Chelsea Durand.

Kentucky-bred Lost My Sock captured an even tighter win two days earlier in a $80,000 maiden special weight for 2-year-old filles at six furlongs on the outer turf course. The daughter of Tourist, who spent her Virginia residency at Madison Meyers & Kieran Norris’s Ballyerin Racing at the Middleburg Training Center, beat Glitter Up by a neck after being overlooked at odds of 51-1.

Lost My Sock edged Glitter Up in a maiden special weight at Aqueduct. Adam Coglianese photo.

The victorious filly sat seventh in a ten-horse field at the quarter but trailed by just 2 1/2 lengths. She moved up after that fraction, hit the top of the stretch in second — just 1 1/2 lengths off the pace — before catching frontrunner Glitter Up and jockey Trevor McCarthy just in time. The Derek Ryan trainee, ridden by Raul Mena, crossed in 1:10.42 in her first lifetime start. The winner returned $110.42 for a $2 win bet.

The developer of each Certified winner will receive a 25% bonus award (capped at $10,000) for the wins at Aqueduct. Details on the lucrative bonus program are available at