Monthly Archives: May 2023

The Annual Virginia Thoroughbred Association Championship Awards, at the Virginia Gold Cup

The Virginia Thoroughbred Alliance (VTA) announced the winners of its annual Championship Awards at the Virginia Gold Cup held over the weekend. The awards recognize the top Virginia-bred horses, trainers, and breeders for their achievements in racing over the past year.

2022 2-year-old Virginia Colt Champion Gigante’s connection Hunter Merek with VTA Executive Director Debbie Easter

The VTA presented the Virginia-bred Horse of the Year award to Green Up, a four-year-old filly by Upstart out of the mare Green Punch. Owned by Team Valour International LLC , Green Up has won four of her seven career starts, including a victory in the Cathryn Sophia Stakes at Parx Racing in August 2022 and the Boiling Springs Stakes at Monmouth Park in July 2022.

Green Up in the 2022 Boiling Springs Stakes at Monmouth Park, Photo by Ryan Denver/ Equi-Photo

The 2022 Breeder of the Year award was given to South Gate Farm, and owner Amy Moore, while unfortunately the Kentucky Derby favorite Forte scratched out of the big race In 2022, he won the Hopeful stakes (Gr. 1), Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (Gr. 1), and the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (Gr. 1). In January he was awarded an Eclipse Award as the 2022 Champion Two-Year-Old Colt.

Amy Moore’s Breeder of the year trophy was accepted by her longtime friends Wayne and Susan Chatfield-Taylors

The Trainer of the Year award was given to Susan Cooney After producing her highest earnings year ever in 2021, Susan topped that milestone by about $30,000 in 2022. This is the third time in six years that Susan has been named the Leading Virginia-based trainer. Not only did she top her earnings record from last year, but her win percentage (10%) and her average earnings per start ($4,186) both increased over last year. She was the 7th leading trainer in starts at Colonial Downs and finished 15th in the trainers’ race. Top horses Fionnbharr ($180,942) and Island Philo ($139,390) powered her to the top half of the trainer list at Colonial.

Jill Byrne and the 2022 Viriginia-Based Trainer of the Year, Susan Cooney

In addition, the VTA recognized the top Virginia-bred horses in various categories. The winners of the 2022 VTA Championship Awards are:

  • Virginia-Certified Horse: Leave No Trace, a 3-year-old filly by Outwork, out of Tanquerray, bred by Red Cloak Farm LLC and owned by WellSpring Stables
  • Virginia-Bred Two-Year-Old Cold Champion: Gigante, a colt by Not This Time, out of Summertime Green, bred by Ann Mudge Backer & Smitten Farm and owned by Lapetus Racing & Smitten Farm
  • Virginia-Bred Two-Year-Old Filly Champion: Whichwaze, a filly by Cross Traffic, out of Deherewego, bred by Old Chapel Farm LLC and owned by Tina Casse
  • Virginia-Bred Three-Year-Old Champion: Determined Kingdom, a gelding by Animal Kingdom, out of Filia, bred by Audley Farm Equine LLC  and owned by D Hartman Thoroughbreds and Kingdom Bloodstock INC
  • Virginia-Bred Older Horse Champion: Repo Rocks, a five-year-old gelding by Tapiture, out of Hawaiian Love, bred by Mrs. C Oliver Iselin III and owned by Double B Racing Stables
  • Virginia-Bred Turf Horse: Largent, a seven-year-old gelding by Into Mischief , out of Life in Seattle, bred by Lazy Lane Farms LLC and owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners & Twin Creeks Racing Stables LLC
  • Virginia-Bred Turf Mare Champion: Chambeau, is a six-year-old mare by Karakontie (JPN), out of If Not For Lust, bred and owned by Sam E. English II
  • Virginia-Owned Champion: True Valour (IRE), a nine-year-old horse by Kodiac (GB), out of Sutton Veny (IRE), bred by Mr. P. O’Rourke and owned by R. Larry Johnson
The scene at the finish line of the last race of the Virginia Gold Cup

We are thrilled to recognize the outstanding achievements of Virginia-bred horses and breeders at this year’s Virginia Gold Cup, and we congratulate all the winners and look forward to another exciting year of Virginia racing. For more information about the Virginia Thoroughbred Alliance, visit


Below is a list of Virginia-bred and certified horses entered in next weeks Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-old sale:


Preakness Preview: Mage Evolves from Underdog to Target

Originally posted on on 5/18/2023, Written by T.D. Thornton

This Saturday, May 20th, marks the running of the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown. The race will take place at the Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore, MD, and betting will be available in Virginia at six Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums located in New Kent, Richmond, Hampton, Dumfries, Collinsville, and Vinton. Additionally, VA-Horseplay OTBs inside Breakers Sports Grille in Henrico and Buckets Bar & Grill in Chesapeake will offer betting options, as well as our four partner sites:,,, and

Preakness Day at Pimlico is a highly anticipated event to attend for Mid-Atlantic region race fans.

Onward to Baltimore! Here are the GI Preakness S. entrants listed in “likeliest winner” order.

1) Mage
GI Kentucky Derby winner Mage won’t be a heavy favorite on Saturday. In fact, he projects as the possible second choice in the betting based on the “fresh competition” angle in a Preakness that will feature no other starters who ran in the 18-horse Derby.

Pari-mutuel value notwithstanding, a Preakness victory is within the grasp of this white-blazed, chestnut son of Good Magic ($235,000 KEESEP; $290,000 EASMAY). He’s a lighter-framed colt who might not have taken the pounding that a bigger runner would have in a demanding race like the Derby. And in the eight-horse Preakness, he figures to be more in touch with the pace, and will likely not have to give up as much real estate (four wide on the far turn before floating to the eight path) as he did in the Derby.

Mage | Sara Gordon

We’ve now seen Mage uncork two consecutive, sustained, late-race bids against Grade I competition. One was a slightly premature move in the GI Curlin Florida Derby that catapulted him to the lead, only to be reeled in by the vastly more experienced divisional champ Forte (Violence). The other was a more measured move under Javier Castellano in the Kentucky Derby in which Mage went from 11th to second between the five-sixteenths and the three-sixteenths poles before zeroing in on a tiring (but not quitting) leader while being kept to task under hand-hustling though the final furlong and a half.

Mage’s 105 Beyer Speed Figure stands out as at least seven points better than any number his rivals have run so far, but it remains to be seen whether that rating holds up. It was 11 points higher than Mage’s previous best, and to fully embrace it, you have to have faith that the 2-3-4 finishers in the Derby also realistically upped their Beyers by 4-10-10 points.

2) National Treasure
The draw of post one, the addition of blinkers, and the continued partnership with one of the game’s premier front-end riders all point to John Velazquez seeking the lead in the Preakness with National Treasure.

This $500,000 FTSAUG son of Quality Road sports a past-performance block anchored by mid-90s Beyers and company lines featuring heavy divisional hitters. But there are also some gaps in his training, most notably time missed in early March because of a quarter crack that caused this colt to pass on an expected start in the GII San Felipe S.

National Treasure | Jim McCue

Although he wasn’t finishing with the authority of the top trio in the GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, National Treasure’s fourth-place effort there can serve as a useful bridge to a better effort at 1 3/16 miles considering the nine-furlong try was his first race in three months.

Trainer Bob Baffert has saddled seven Preakness winners. Five of them were Kentucky Derby winners. The two who weren’t both were beaten Derby favorites: Point Given (2001) and Lookin At Lucky (2010).

3) First Mission
This Godolphin homebred by Street Sense debuted too late to make a run at Derby qualifying points, so after breaking his maiden at Fair Grounds in start number two on Mar. 18, his connections opted for the 1 1/16-miles GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. at Keeneland.

First Mission went off favored at 2-1, rolling out of the gate alertly, then conceding the lead while attaining inside position. He started to inch up 4 1/2 furlongs out over a short-stretch configuration, then reeled in an opening-up pacemaker who twice put him in tight at the fence through the stretch.

First Mission prevailed by half a length (98 Beyer), but it was the visual appeal of how he refused to be by intimidated by the more experienced Arabian Lion (Justify) that contributed to this colt being bet down to the 6-1 second choice in the Preakness future wager.

On Saturday you can get a better read on the Lexington S. by seeing how 2-5 morning line fave Arabian Lion runs in Pimlico’s fourth race, the $100,000 Sir Barton S.

4) Perform
Perform required six starts to break his maiden, but since tasked with two turns for the first time, he’s 2-for-2. This $230,000 KEESEP colt by Good Magic has also tangled with Mage once before, having run fourth, beaten 5 1/2 lengths by the eventual Derby winner, when that colt broke his maiden at Gulfstream back on Jan. 28.

Perform broke through with his first victory on the GIII Tampa Bay Derby undercard over one mile 40 yards, and both the second- and fifth-place finishers from that race came back to graduate in their next starts.

Let go at 10-1 odds in the $125,000 Federico Tesio S., Perform dropped out to last and looked unlikely to even hit the board on the far turn, lingering near last after a dueling duo had set a tepid pace and opened up by five turning for home.

Weaving through the pack, jockey Feargal Lynch switched Perform off heels of tiring rivals not once, but three times through the Laurel homestretch, at the three-sixteenth pole, the eighth pole, and again in the run up to the wire. The result was a head victory, and although the 85 Beyer came back a little light, this could be an example of “how he did it” resonating more than “how fast” in terms of overall impression.

“I hope we’re finishing with Mage and can outkick him,” said Hall-of-Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. “But I think that just the two turns on the dirt, the distance, the mile and three-sixteenths, the timing is pretty good. We’ve got plenty of time in between races. He had a good work here last Sunday with Lynch on him, and that’s what made up my mind that, along with his owners, to say, ‘Let’s give it a chance.’”

5) Red Route One
Red Route One has stamped himself as a capable one-run closer from far back. That means he’s going to be picking off horses late, but how many runners he passes in the stretch is largely going to be at the mercy of the pace. The faster they go up front, the better the finish for this Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred.

Red Route One | Jim McCue

By Gun Runner out of a Tapit mare (same cross as stablemate and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Disarm, who was fourth in the Derby), the potential for later development has always figured in Red Route One’s progress. Recall that his sire ran third in the 2016 Derby, finished on the board in a series of graded stakes into the summer and fall, but didn’t truly burst onto the scene until after the Breeders’ Cup, when he won the GI Clark H., and then seven of his eight final races against top-class competition.

Red Route One has run respectably over firm and good turf, plus sloppy and fast dirt, so he handles various types of footing quite well. He went 7 1/2 months between his first and second lifetime victories, but closed with abandon to score in the $200,000 Bath House Row S. at Oaklawn, which was the Plan B option after failing to make the qualifying points cut for the Derby.

6) Blazing Sevens
Blazing Sevens ($140,000 KEEJAN; $225,000 FTSAUG), the third son of Good Magic entered in this Preakness field of eight, is the real handicapping conundrum among the trio. He hasn’t won since the Oct. 1 GI Champagne S., yet his last two efforts have a “can’t be as bad as they look” vibe about them.

Through his first five career tries, Blazing Sevens won twice and was beaten by champ Forte the other three times. Racing for the first time since the Breeders’ Cup in the GII Fountain of Youth S., this colt got pinballed early and was never a factor, finishing eighth while beaten 26 lengths.

Blazing Sevens | Jim McCue

Stretched to nine furlongs in the Apr. 8 GI Toyota Blue Grass S., Blazing Sevens ran a so-so third, with the impression of that result blunted by the arresting stretch battle of the two dominant horses who finished six lengths ahead of him.

Blazing Sevens qualified for the Derby based on points, but was withdrawn by trainer Chad Brown to instead aim for the Preakness. Those skip-the-Derby tactics worked well for Brown in 2017 and 2022, when he won Baltimore’s big race after opting out of Louisville with Cloud Computing and Early Voting, respectively.

Bettors who had a nose for that trend sniffed out 21-1 odds in the Preakness future wager, which is significantly higher than the 6-1 morning line ranking for Blazing Sevens.

7) Chase the Chaos
Chase the Chaos (Astern {Aus}) started his career in Minnesota, winning at Canterbury on the grass before running credibly over Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields in early winter.

One of his two wins there, in the Feb. 11 El Camino Real Derby (lifetime best 82 Beyer), gave him an automatic berth into the Preakness. But this $10,000 KEENOV gelding has been seventh and eighth in two starts since then.

He was outgunned in his only lifetime try over fast dirt in the Mar. 4 GII San Felipe S. at Santa Anita, then was the beaten 5-2 fave when returning to Golden Gate for the Apr. 29 California Derby.

8) Coffeewithchris
The Preakness is always a little more interesting with a Maryland-bred long shot in the mix, and Coffeewithchris fits the bill as this year’s local hopeful after having sold for $2,000 as an EASOCT yearling.

This gelding has been steadily competing in the series of sophomore stakes on the Maryland circuit, and he most recently raced to the front in the moderate-paced $125,000 Federico Tesio S., where he held well under pressure until upper stretch before regressing to fifth.

But they’ll be going a bit quicker in the Preakness, and the 88-85-82 downward arc of the last three Beyers for Coffeewithchris doesn’t bode well for his chances.

His sire, Ride on Curlin, finished second in the 2014 Preakness at 10-1 odds behind California Chrome. He competed in all three Triple Crown races (7th, 2nd, 11th), yet concluded his 22-race career never having won beyond six furlongs.

Gorgeous Weather for Saturday’s Gold Cup in The Plains, Virginia

Originally posted on, on 5/11/2023, written by Tod Marks

As always a special thanks too Douglas Lees for all of the photographs used in this article.

The VEA, VTA, VHBPA Maiden Claiming hurdle winner Hail To The Chief nearing the finish ridden by Gerard Galligan

For the first time in a while, weather wasn’t front and center for the weekend’s races, and beautiful conditions provided the perfect backdrop for a Saturday’s Virginia Gold Cup card in The Plains and Sunday’s Winterthur Point to Point outside of Wilmington, Del.

The $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup, at 4 miles over Great Meadow Race Course, was the marquee event, and it lived up to its billing as the contest turned into a spirited duel between the reigning timber champion, Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu, age 13, and Upland Partner’s Mystic Strike, now 14.

Sent off as the third choice at $2.80-1 in the field of four, Mystic Strike, under Gerard Galligan, sat in third through the first three miles, and was about six lengths behind the leader, The Hundred Acre Field’s Cracker Factory, while the $1.50-1 favorite Andi’amu and Jack Doyle stalked in second. Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Tomgarrow, the 2019 timber champion, was off slowly under Harry Beswick and quickly found himself behind by 15 lengths, but was able to narrow the gap until falling at the beginning of the second lap over the course. That changed the complexion of the Gold Cup, which became a match race when Cracker Factory and Jamie Bargary suddenly veered off course.

Mystic Strike, who came within a nose of defeating his longtime rival in the Middleburg Hunt Cup several weeks ago, remained slightly behind as the duo neared the final fence then took aim and passed his foe at the jump, drawing clear through the long stretch by 2 3/4 lengths.

Trainer Todd McKenna, who engineered another huge upset when he saddled 41-1 Noah and the Ark to take down Snap Decision in the Grade 1 Lonesome Glory at Aqueduct last season, was just as jubilant as he was at the Big A following Mystic Strike’s remarkable performance against Andi’amu, who came into the race riding a three-race win streak.

Both veteran warriors remain at the top of their game with 30 wins between them along with more than $900,000 in purse earnings.

In other action at Great Meadow:

Welshman prevails in $100,000 David Semmes Memorial (G2)

It was great to see the colors of Virginia horseman Sonny Via, who campaigned the magnificent Hall of Fame steeplechaser Good Night Shirt, back in the winner’s circle in open stakes competition, this time with Welshman, trained by another Hall of Famer, Jack Fisher.

With Graham Watters riding, the four-year-old son of Flintshire, coming off of a heartbreaking narrow loss to recent import Caramelised in the Carolina Cup, was always well placed and took command heading to the final fence in the  2 1/8 mile contest.

Riverdee Stable’s Gordon’s Jet put in a solid effort under Jamie Bargary, finishing just two lengths behind the winner in only his second NSA start. He won his first, a 120 handicap, at Tryon last month.

McTigue awarded victory in Smithwick

Making his NSA debut following a long career in Europe, Irv Naylor’s McTigue was placed first in the $50,000 Speedy Smithwick Memorial four-year-old stakes when the runaway winner was disqualified for going off course.

Talk about a tough beat. Michael Smith’s Hoffman, an up-and-comer from the powerful Leslie Young stable, ran a monster race, jumping fluidly and leading by as many as 60 lengths at one point, and coasting to the wire by 20. But upon a review of the videotapes, the stewards confirmed that Hoffman, under David England, had missed a beacon, and thus awarded the victory to McTigue and Jamie Bargary, who was riding for trainer Cyril Murphy. McTigue was clearly second best, finishing eight lengths ahead of the show horse, Metahorse Racing’s Praghas Ceart.

Storm Team storms to victory in $30,000 Steeplethon stakes

At age 9, Sheila Williams and Northwoods Stable’s Storm Team may have lost a step or two after a brilliant career boasting stakes scores over hurdles and timber. But the son of Candy Ride began a new chapter, romping in steeplethon competition that involves navigating additional obstacles including natural brush fences and water.

With Graham Watters aboard for Jack Fisher, Storm Team settled behind Ballybristol Farm’s Mercoeur and Turks Heard Turf’s Brooklyn Speights for much of the race, and responded when Watters asked him for run before the final turn. From there, Storm Team opened daylight through the stretch, extending his lead to 14 lengths at the wire. Brooklyn Speights and Jamie Bargary were second.

The win was Storm Team’s 10th in 40 lifetime starts, elevating his career bankroll to just under $300,000.

Rampoldi Plan takes $40,000 maiden in style

It looks as if the sire Hard Spun, sire of the illustrious Snap Decision, has produced another nice jumper. Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Rampoldi Plan, who just missed in his NSA debut last month at Middleburg, broke his maiden with authority, going almost wire to wire in a crowded field under Jack Doyle.

Doyle, a former NSA champion jockey who returned to his native Ireland several years ago, is back on the circuit riding for leading conditioner Leslie Young. Doyle gunned the four-year-old Florida-bred – who previously had raced in England – to the front early on, steered clear of traffic, and drew off by more than eight lengths through the stretch. Riverdee Stable and Ten Strike Racing’s Rocket One was second with Graham Watters in the saddle.

Merry Maker comes from off the pace to score in $45,000 allowance

Hurricana Farm’s Merry Maker, a lightly raced six-year-old Irish-bred, returned to the scene of his maiden victory last fall, and picked off horses through the stretch to win going away by 2 1/2 lengths in an allowance race for non winners of two.

With NSA newcomer Stephen Mulqueen riding for Arch Kingsley, Merry Maker sat unhurried near the rear of field of nine for the first mile and a half, moved up to fifth with three furlongs remaining, then drew even with the leaders near the final fence, and scooted clear by 2 1/2 lengths at the finish. Hudson River Farms’ Modus Operandi was a determined second, with favored Neotropic third.

Hail to the Chief scores in $25,000 maiden claimer

After two close seconds in the maiden claiming ranks, David Lee Hain’s Hail to the Chief broke through with a victory in the finale at Great Meadow, circling the field of 10 on the final turn and edging clear by 1 1/4 lengths under Gerard Galligan for trainer Kathy Neilson. Flying Elvis Stable’s Be Yourself, with Jamie Bargary up, had a narrow lead heading to the final fence, but was outfinished.

As always a special thanks too Douglas Lees for all of the photographs used in this article.

The Speedy Smithwick Memorial Hurdle Stakes race winner McTique ridden by Jamie Bargary
Mystic Strike in his win of the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup Timber Stakes (Gerard Galligan, up)
Will O’Keefe was honored Saturday at the Virginia Gold Races; the Virginia Gold Cup Timber Stakes race was dedicated to him, and he received a Virginia Gold Cup medal. Pictured with Dr. William H. Allison, co-chairman of the Viriginia Gold Cup
Trainer Todd McKenna and Mystic Strike after the Virginia Gold Cup Timber Stakes in the Winner’s Circle.
Mystic Strike in his win of the $100,000 Virginia Gold Cup Timber Stakes (Gerard Galligan, up)
Jockey Graham Watters had two major wins during the Gold Cup including the $30,000 Steeplethon Stakes and the $100,000 David H. Semmes Memorial Sport of Kings Hurdle Stakes
David H. Semmes memorial Hurdle Handicap $100,000 purse winner Welshman ridden by Graham Watters
Allowance Hurdle winner #8 Merry Maker ridden by Stephen Mulqueen
Steeplethon Stakes winner Storm Team ridden by Graham Watters
Steeplethon Stakes winner Storm Team ridden by Graham Watters
The Virginia Equine Alliance Maiden Hurdle race winner Rampoldi Plan ridden by Jack Doyle

The Annual Virginia Gold Cup is Back in The Plains, Virginia

Originally posted on, on 5/5/2023, Written by Tod Marks

After some rough patches of weather the past few weekends, it looks like the sun will come out for Saturday’s stakes-stacked Virginia Gold Cup Races.

The Gold Cup, first run in 1922, features seven races, four of which are stakes. Two of those stakes, the historic Virginia Gold Cup, at 4 miles over timber, and David Semmes Memorial (Grade 2) each carry a purse of $100,000. The Semmes gets a $25,000 bump in value, making it worth six figures for the first time. Overall, the Gold Cup meet is worth $390,000 making it the second richest stop on the NSA spring circuit, behind only Iroquois in Nashville. As in past years, onsite parimutuel wagering will be available; fans can also bet online via the Twin Spires app.

Headlining the card is the eponymous Virginia Gold Cup stakes, which has drawn a small but select field of top timber veterans, including 2019 and 2022 champion Andi’amu and 2021 champ Tomgarrow, both trained by leading 2022 conditioner Leslie Young, who is dominating the standings this season as well.

Ballybristol Farm’s Andi’amu and Freddie Procter in the 2022 Virginia Gold Cup. ©Tod Marks

At 13, Andi’amu, who runs in the colors of Tom and Roxy Collins’ Ballybristol Farm, hasn’t lost a step. In fact, he’s as sharp as ever. A winner of 11 races – nine stakes – in 15 outings since 2018, Andi’amu has finished second three times. The only blemish on his record came at Great Meadow in 2020 when he went off course in the Gold Cup, a race he has also captured twice. In his 2023 debut two weeks ago, Andi’amu won the Middleburg Hunt Cup by a neck over a hard-charging Mystic Strike, a multiple stakes-winning 14-year-old owned by Upland Partners and trained by Todd McKenna. Mystic Strike returns to take another shot at the champ.

Like his stablemate, Leipers Fork Steeplechasers’ Tomgarrow began 2023 with a win, in the My Lady’s Manor stakes, and comes into the race as the victor in four of his last five starts. However, his endurance will be tested as he has not won at the Gold Cup distance. In last year’s Gold Cup, Tomgarrow was no match for Andi’amu, racing on the lead until running out of gas.

Rounding out the field are The Hundred Acre Field’s Cracker Factory, who finished third in the recent Middleburg Hunt Cup for trainer Mark Beecher, less than six lengths behind Andi’amu and Mystic Strike. Northwoods Stable and Sheila Williams’ Notjudginjustsayin takes a huge class jump for trainer Jack Fisher after reeling off a maiden and allowance score in his final two starts of last season.

Statue of Saulter in front of the Judges tower at the 2023 Virginia Gold Cup

A field of five is also expected in the David Semmes Memorial at 2 1/8  miles over hurdles. Riverdee Stable’s Gordon’s Jet was impressive in his first U.S. start, a 120 handicap at Tryon in April, after a long career in the UK, drawing clear by 3 1/2 lengths. Sonny Via’s Welshman won the Aflac Supreme novice stakes to close out 2022, and looked like a winner in the recent Carolina Cup, only to be overtaken by a length in deep stretch by Caramelised. Both contenders are trained by Jack Fisher.

Madaket Stables and The International Venture’s Going County wasn’t a factor in the Temple Gwathmey (Grade 2) at Middleburg last month, his first start back following a stellar 2022 in which the Keri Brion-trainee went from maiden winner to Grade 1 placed. Nor was Irv Naylor’s Belfast Banter, trained by Cyril Murphy, a threat to Snap Decision and Redicean in the Gwathmey. Though he’s still seeking his first NSA victory since coming stateside a year ago, Belfast Banter has competed in Grade 1 competition and is the starting highweight at 158 pounds, giving away four to 12 pounds to the rest of the field. Tom Rice and Ashwell Stable’s Booby Trap began his jump racing career in 2021 with two straight scores, in maiden and allowance competition, then followed those up with a second in the William Entenmann and a third in the Foxbrook Champion, both novice stakes. He got back on track in his final start of 2022, romping in a 120 handicap at Callaway Gardens for trainer Leslie Young.

The Grounds at Great Meadows

The supporting stakes include the $50,000 Daniel M. “Speedy” Smithwick hurdle stakes for four-year-olds, which is being run in memory of the former rider and trainer who passed away last year, and the 3-mile, $30,000 Steeplethon over timber, natural brush fences, and through water.  In addition, there’s a $40,000 maiden special weights hurdle; $45,000 allowance hurdle; and $25,000 maiden claiming hurdle. All hurdle races are contested at 2 1/8 miles.

Post time is 1 p.m. For full entries, click here.

Kentucky Derby Preview: Virginia Affiliated Horses Leading the Charge into the “Run for the Roses”

The biggest horse racing event of the year is this coming Saturday May 6 — and for the first time ever, there are 14 different places that Virginians can wager the Kentucky Derby! Fans can bet the “Run for the Roses” at any of the six Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in New Kent, Richmond, Hampton, Dumfries, Collinsville & Vinton, at the VA-Horseplay OTBs inside Breakers Sports Grille in Henrico & Buckets Bar & Grill in Chesapeake, at the Virginia Gold Cup Steeplechase Races in The Plains, at the Shenandoah Downs Harness Races in Woodstock, and online via four partner sites—,, &

Post Position and odds heading into the Kentucky Derby

Favored Forte Avoids Unfavorable Draw in Kentucky Derby; The son of Violence will start from post 15.

Originally Posted on on 5/1/2023, Written by Byron King

After watching two of his horses draw the disadvantageous inside post in the Kentucky Derby (G1) the past two years, Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher expressed a measure of relief that Forte secured post 15 for the $3 million race May 6 at Churchill Downs after post positions were drawn May 1.

Though post 15 leaves Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s Forte well out in the track to begin—a position from which he may need to work to avoid losing ground around two turns in the 1 1/4-mile contest—posts in the middle or outside in the Kentucky Derby are considered desirable. There is a run of over a quarter mile to the first turn.

Forte, a son of Violence  , is the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the 149th Kentucky Derby, matched against 19 other fellow 3-year-olds in the first leg of the Triple Crown. He is the most accomplished horse to run in the Kentucky Derby since champion Nyquist   brought an unbeaten record into the 2016 race and prevailed.

The draw of the 149th Kentucky Derby

Three horses are alternates in the prestigious race, known as the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports,” in need of scratches to draw into the field.

With such a large field—most stakes races are capped at 14 starters—there is often a scramble for position as the field compresses to the inside of the racetrack, which can result in horses that are not in the leading cluster getting shuffled back.

Forte, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old male and 2-for-2 this year with victories in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) and Florida Derby (G1), typically closes from the middle or rear of the pack.

Virginia connected Forte is the favorite heading into the 149th Kentucky Derby Photo by Lauren King

Irad Ortiz Jr., unplaced in six prior Derby mounts and who was aboard Pletcher’s two recent rail-drawn starters—Known Agenda   (ninth in 2021) and Mo Donegal   (fifth in 2022)—rides.

Pletcher’s two other starters in Saturday’s race, Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable’s Blue Grass Stakes (G1) winner Tapit Trice  and Spendthrift Farm’s Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Kingsbarns  also avoided extreme inside posts, securing posts 5 and 6, respectively. Horses from post 5 have won 10 runnings of the Kentucky Derby, most of any post. Always Dreaming was the most recent winner from that position in 2017.

“We’re just trying to avoid a really poor post 1 or 20 or something like that, which is pretty straightforward, and hopefully get some tactical position in the first turn and be able to save a little bit of ground and go from there,” Pletcher said.

Pletcher seeks his third victory in the Derby, having won it in 2010 with Super Saver   and seven years later with Always Dreaming. He has started 62 horses in the legendary race, most by any trainer. Should his trio all compete, this will mark the 12th time he has run three or more horses in a given Derby year.

Two Phil’s goes into the Derby with 12-1 odds Photo by Coady Photography

He had hoped to also run Spendthrift Farm’s Major Dude  in Saturday’s race, but opted to enter him in the $500,000 American Turf Stakes (G2T) on the Kentucky Derby undercard when it appeared the 3-year-old would be a Derby also-eligible.

Pletcher calls this year’s lineup the strongest he has run from an odds perspective. Tapit Trice is the 5-1 second choice in the morning line and Kingsbarns is the co-fifth choice at 12-1.

Mike Repole of Repole Stable, a co-owner in 2022 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Mo Donegal, added of Forte’s draw, “Honestly, we wanted anything between 4 and 16, just get us in the middle of the pack where we have no excuse.”

Others were seemingly not as fortunate. Two of trainer Brad Cox’s runners drew the innermost posts, with Gary and Mary West’s Hit Show  landing the rail and the Coolmore-affiliated Verifying  post 2. His other two runners, Jace’s Road  and Angel of Empire , drew posts 12 and 14, respectively. Albaugh Family Stable owns Angel of Empire and co-owns Jace’s Road with West Point Thoroughbreds.

Not since Ferdinand in 1986 has a horse won from the inside post position. The only horse who has won from post 1-3 since then is Real Quiet, the 1998 Derby winner who broke from post 3. Since 1987, the win rate for posts 1, 2, or 3 is just 0.95% (1-for-105).

Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) winner Two Phil’s , trained by Larry Rivelli for Patricia’s Hope, Phillip Sagan, and Madaket Stables and ridden by Jareth Loveberry, starts from post 3.

Larry Rivelli at Churchill Downs

Loveberry is among a group of jockeys riding in the Derby for the first time. Hall of Famer John Velazquez, a three-time Derby winner who is aboard Reincarnate  (post 7), is the most experienced rider in Saturday’s Derby with 24 previous mounts.

Rivelli said he originally wanted to be outside with Two Phil’s.

“But the way the race drew, I think the 3 post will be perfect for him. I think the 6 (Kingsbarns) and the 2 (Verifying) have speed and we’ll just sit right behind,” he said of his horse, who typically stalks the pace. 

The two Japanese-trained horses in the body of the field, Derma Sotogake  and Continuar , are among those outside in posts 17 and 20. Individuals seated at the Continuar’s table at the post-draw event grimaced when his name was announced with the outside post following the random pill draw.

Another Japanese horse, Mandarin Hero , is the second also-eligible. Cyclone Mischief  is the first also-eligible that would get into the race with a scratch. King Russell is the third also-eligible and least likely to gain entrance to the Derby.

Post positions can change with scratches, typically resulting in outside horses moving closer toward the inside. 

Medina Spirit (inside) in deep stretch en route to a Kentucky Derby victory in 2021. Coady Photography.

Through 2019, Churchill Downs used two starting gates—a standard 14-horse gate and an auxiliary gate for the remaining runners—with a small gap before the two. Then in 2020, Churchill Downs introduced a continuous 20-horse starting gate. Not as wide as the two prior positioned together, the continuous gate is positioned on the racetrack to not leave those breaking on the inside as close to the inner rail.

“Well, I’m glad we got a new starting gate,” Cox said. “I don’t think it affects the (inside) as much. But down inside is not where you want to be, you’d rather be out in the middle somewhere. But overall these horses are doing well. They’ll have to work out trips. It’s up to the jockeys to get the big trips and see what happens.”

Cox called post position “overrated—bottom line. People are going to argue with me on that but it’s about getting the trip. It’s more about breaking well and getting good position.”

Tyler Gaffalione on Verifying may use more of his mount’s early speed to secure a forward position from post 2. Verifying pressed the pace in the Blue Grass before being caught by Tapit Trice.

The latter has a history of breaking slowly and disliking dirt kicked in his face when trailing horses—perhaps leaving him in a challenging position with three-quarters of the field outside him if he is away slowly.

The three also-eligibles are in need of withdrawals from the race before scratch time at 9 a.m. ET on Kentucky Oaks Day, May 5.

Last year, a scratch allowed Rich Strike  to draw into the race the morning before the Derby. The overlooked colt, breaking from the far outside post in the field of 20, upset the Derby at 80-1 odds, running down Epicenter   in the closing yards.

Sun Thunder  (post 13) and Rocket Can  (post 18) will race with blinkers on.


Amy Moore and the Lifeboats that Led to Forte

With the shuttering of Colonial Downs after the 2013 summer racing season, racing opportunities for Virginia horsemen reverted to their pre-live, out-of-state, racing days with the export of starts across state lines. Meanwhile, through account and off-track wagering, purse money was still being generated, intended for incentives to slow the erosion of Virginia’s once massive thoroughbred industry.

So what could be the vehicle to maintain and preserve Virginia’s thoroughbred industry?

With the Virginia Certified Residency Program still several years away, Virginia’s horsemen and breeders worked out a deal to run Virginia’s existing stakes races in Maryland as a lifeboat. The Maryland Jockey Club was more than happy to host the races on their slate.

“Once Colonial closed down, things started coming apart,” recalls then-recently hired Virginia Thoroughbred Association Executive Director Debbie Easter. “It was not too long after I had come in. We were just keeping the Virginia stakes going, forming the [Virginia Equine Alliance], and adding pari-mutuel at the Gold Cup races. This was stuff we were doing to hold things together. It was the only way to showcase Virginia horses. They showcased pretty well.”

Forte is the 3-1 Favorite heading into the Kentucky Derby Photo by Lauren King

Rose Brier, Two Notch Road, and Exaggerated were among those winning multiple stakes in Virginia races in Maryland between 2014 and 2018.

Another multiple stakes winner was Queen Caroline, the first horse owned by Amy Moore since she was a partial owner of record of a “family” horse as a teenager.

Upon retirement from Covington and Burling, a Washington, DC law firm at which she was a partner, Moore started looking for fillies to race. At the 2014 Keeneland yearling sale, Moore, who makes decisions based on her own personal experience and background rather than via a bloodstock agent, bought a Blame filly, going $20,000 over her $150,000 budget.

“We had a good group of fillies that were coming up at the same time. I remember her just getting better,” recalls Easter. “It’s amazing that this happened to Amy because it doesn’t happen very often, it’s really unheard of. She’s doing the work herself. She’s not like many owners in how much she thought about everything.”

Queen Caroline was bred in Virginia at Morgan’s Ford Farm in Front Royal, a farm as organic as they come, where Wayne and Susie Chatfield-Taylor eschew herbicides and pesticides. Acting on a recommendation made at that Keeneland sale, Moore hired veterinarian Pug Hart, to evaluate Queen Caroline. 

“I came to the Morgan’s Ford consignment, and I saw Queen Caroline and gave her an A+ in my rating system. She was the only yearling that I saw that I rated an A+,” recalls Moore. “I thought she was a very athletic looking filly, very well-balanced, very light on her feet. It looked like gravity had less of a hold on her than it does on a normal horse. I really liked her.”

Going through law school, Moore would occasionally exercise horses for trainers such as Del Carroll and Felix Nuesch. After law school and during an engaging professional career, Moore would have little involvement in thoroughbred racing short of watching races on television. A year after purchasing Queen Caroline, Moore bought Hart’s farm in Millwood, VA. Queen Caroline, it turned out, would stable only twelve miles from where she was bred – small world, indeed.

The stakes races in Maryland that served as a lifeboat for Virginia racing, would become the stage to showcase Queen Caroline’s racing career. Three of her six career wins in twenty starts came in the Virginia stakes held north of the Potomac. Trained by Michael Matz, she won the Nellie Max Cox at Pimlico in 2016 for her second career win. At Laurel in 2017 she repeated in the Nellie Mae Cox and won the Brookmeade later that summer. 

“I didn’t know when I bought her how important the Virginia-bred program was and is,” explained Moore. “At that time, there was no racing in Virginia. The Virginia program is a terrific program.”

While the Virginia stakes were being held in Maryland, the Virginia Equine Alliance established and implemented the Virginia Certified Residency program, timely to the development of Moore’s South Gate Farm. The incentive program provides bonuses for horses certified to be stabled in Virginia over a period of six months or more. It helped to anchor Moore’s foothold in breeding thoroughbreds. 

“I needed an outside source of income, and the Virginia Certified Program brought a lot of weanlings and yearlings to my farm as boarders to be raised and sales prepped and really was a lifeline for farms like mine,” Moore explained. “It was a tremendous help to Virginia farms, which is what it was intended to be. It is wildly successful.”

One of her former tenants, Simply Super won the Hickory Tree Stakes at Colonial Downs last summer.

Queen Caroline
Queen Caroline after winning a Virginia stake at Laurel Park. Also pictured are trainer Michael Matz (wearing tie), her owner Amy Moore (blue dress), and breeders Wayne and Susie Chatfield-Taylor (to Moore’s right). Photo by Nick Hahn.

Retiring Queen Caroline from racing, Moore’s focus turned to finding the ideal stallion for her first venture into breeding. She identified Violence.

“I’m a commercial breeder so I have to breed what the market wants, and the market wants horses that run two turns on dirt,” observes Moore. “Queen Caroline was successful exclusively on turf. She didn’t care at all for dirt, so I was walking a tightrope between turf and dirt and looking for a stallion that had credentials in both areas.”

Violence, by Medaglia d’Oro, was a Grade 1 winner on synthetic, a Grade 2 winner on dirt, and suffered his only defeat in a four-race career when second to eventual Kentucky Derby winner Orb in the 2013 edition of the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. According to Moore, Violence was a very good physical match for her mare mare. 

Queen Caroline’s first born, Forte, was purchased in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $110,000 by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable. Mike Repole is the developer of Vitamin Water, while Vinnie Viola of St. Elias Stable owns the Florida Panthers.

Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr., Forte’s only loss in seven career starts was in the Sanford Stakes in her second start. He avenged the Saratoga setback by winning the Hopeful over the slop on his way to becoming the two-year-old champion, a status he attained with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Wins in the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby solidified Forte’s Derby favorite status through the spring. In mid-April, Practical Move won the Santa Anita Derby and Tapit Trice won the Bluegrass, winning battles that may have closed the gap on Forte’s favorite status but could not erase it.

Moore’s Clarke County farm is only about eight miles away from Audley Farm, where Bodemeister was bred and sent off as the favorite in the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

“Clarke County gets excited about their Derby horses,” stated Moore. “Right now, I go into the post office or grocery store or whatever and people are all behind Forte, which is nice.”

Located in northwestern Virginia, Clarke County’s recent breeding success is a portion of Virginia’s thoroughbred racing industry whose economic impact was estimated in 2019 by Chmura Economics and Analytics, while Colonial Downs was closed, to be over $542.1 million and to employ over 5,000 people. Through the preservation of the Virginia stakes program and the Virginia Certified Residency program, the industry’s rebound is aptly symbolized with this year’s Kentucky Derby favorite.

“What an opportunity for Virginia on Secretariat’s 50th anniversary to speak for things to be turned around and coming back,” exclaimed Easter about the timeliness of Forte. 

Queen Caroline is currently in Kentucky, sixty days in foal to champion Flightline. Moore, whose first thoroughbred purchase was a stakes winner and whose first breeding to that stakes winner is now the Derby favorite, has one more first in front of her. Next Saturday she’s headed for Churchill Downs for the first time in her life on the first Saturday in May.

From out of the lifeboat into the ride of a lifetime.

Virginia Thoroughbred Owner Marshall Dowell Passes Away at 77

Virginia Thoroughbred Owner Marshall Dowell Passes Away at 77


The Virginia horse industry sends deep condolences to family and friends of Marshall Dowell, 77, who departed this world Thursday, April 27, 2023.  He was preceded in death by his father, Claude Melvin Dowell; mother, Mary Elizabeth “Brown” Dowell; and brother, Claude “Melvin” Dowell, Jr.  

Marshall is survived by his daughter Kimberly Dowell; son, Marshall Dowell, Jr.; grandchildren, Jacob, Tanner, Fairan, and Georgia; sister-in-law, Madeline Dowell; long-time girlfriend, Cathy; and his faithful road trip companion, Kim.  

Marshall grew up in Lakeside (Richmond area) where his tenacious work ethic started.  He worked several jobs as a young man, winning trips for top sales contests.  He joined the Army where he became a special forces member in Vietnam.  His service rendered him several medals.  Returning home, he then turned his sights on the automotive business and became a successful car dealer. While in his tenure, he ventured into the Harley-Davidson Community with great success.

His passion then turned to thoroughbred horse racing, where his success was high among his peers.  His horse, Scrappy T, was his most successful horse courtesy of a second-place finish in the memorable 2005 Preakness with the help of his trainer, W. “Robbie” Bailes. Overall, Scrappy T earned $645,919 from 17 starts including a win in the Grade 3 Withers Stakes, runner-ups in the Grade 2 Indiana Derby and Grade 3 Discovery Handicap, and a third in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial. Local fans got to see Scrappy T compete in the 2008 Old Nelson Handicap at Colonial Downs.

Scrappy T (photo by Tibor & Judit Photography)

Another of Marshall’s best horses was Mint Slewlep who bankrolled $174,556. Career highlights for the bay horse included a win in the 2008 Da Hoss Stakes at Colonial and a seventh in the 2007 Preakness. He also competed in the Colonial Turf Cup in New Kent the same year.

Marshall’s Jakey D, winner of $200,000-plus, broke his maiden at Colonial in 2000. The Chimes Band gelding provided 31 top-three finishes from 64 starts.

Marshall’s final win came last October at Charles Town when his Theola Huggins broke her maiden in gate-to-wire fashion.

Overall, Marshall’s horses made 1,014 starts that produced 138 wins, 160 second place finishes and 139 thirds, good for $3,684,802 in purse monies.

Marshall’s life was one of passion, adventure, travel, and overall lust for life.  He was loved by many.  The family will received friends on Sunday April 30, 2023 at the Mechanicsville Chapel of the Bennett Funeral Home, 8014 Lee-Davis Rd, where services will be held 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 2, 2023.  Interment will follow in Signal Hill Memorial Park.