(Byhubbyhellomoney and trainer Bob Dunham / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Trainer Bob Dunham, who turns 85-years-old today, will try to keep the celebration rolling when he saddles Jupiter Stable’s Byhubbyhellomoney in Thursday’s $100,000 Bay Ridge at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Byhubbyhellomoney worked an easy five-eighths over the Belmont Park dirt training track on December 23 in preparation for the nine-furlong test for New York-breds 3-years-old and up.

“I enjoy it. Training horses is a passion. I was there on Christmas Day,” Dunham said. 

Earlier this summer, Byhubbyhellomoney won the Fleet Indian at Saratoga Race Course. Dunham said he loves his summers at the Spa which allow him to dabble in his favorite pastime – fly fishing.

“Training horses is like fly fishing – it gets into your blood,” said Dunham, with a laugh. “I love going up to Vermont. It’s only 55 miles from Saratoga and you can smell the change in the air, it’s so much clearer and so fresh. There’s a beautiful river I like there that goes from Manchester all the way down to New York to the Hudson called the Battenkill.”

The veteran conditioner, who trained 4-year-old filly Chou Croute to Champion Sprinter honors in 1972, has met a lot of interesting people through his career, both on and off the track – including broadcaster Charles Osgood and the late actor Steve McQueen.

“I was in the water fishing one morning – maybe seven years ago – at 6:30 in Arlington, Vermont and this guy gets in about 40 minutes later,” Dunham recalled. “As the morning moves along we end up closer together and he hollers at me, ‘catch anything?’”

While Dunham had caught a couple, the friendly fisherman upstream had been shut out. When the fishing was done, the two strangers sat down for a cup of coffee and traded tall stories as ‘Bob’ and ‘Charlie.’

“He had on these sunglasses that wrapped around, a Tilley hat and waders,” Dunham said. 

Before he left, Dunham asked the man for his surname and he replied, ‘Osgood’ – as in Charles Osgood, longtime host of the CBS News Sunday Morning and The Osgood File.

“I told him I enjoyed his show on Sunday mornings. He’s really a nice guy,” Dunham said. “Later, I invited him to the races at Belmont and he showed up for a nice lunch and we talked about the horses and the radio.”

Dunham also recalled shipping a small string of horses to Santa Anita nearing the tail end of 1972, including Chou Croute, who won the Las Flores Handicap on December 28 and came back January 16, 1973 to win the Grade 2 Santa Monica Handicap.

Dunham said he enjoyed spending time at Santa Anita with the late Willard Proctor, father of conditioner Tom Proctor.

“He was a good friend of mine and he liked to go out for a drink. He knew a lot of actors out there,” Dunham said. 

On one occasion, Proctor introduced Dunham to racing fan and acting legend Steve McQueen, who was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actor in 1967 for his portrayal of Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles.

After a few drinks, McQueen asked Dunham if he had any horses entered that he liked.

“I had a filly in that I loved. She’d had a couple races at Fair Grounds,” Dunham said. “We’d sprinted her a couple times and she was a route filly. She was entered going a mile and a sixteenth and I didn’t think she could get beat, but I didn’t tell Steve McQueen that. I said, ‘I think she’s got a chance.’”

Sure enough, the filly came through at a price.

“She won and McQueen came up and gave me a hug. I’m not sure how much money he bet,” Dunham said, with a laugh. 

McQueen, known as a ‘The King of Cool’, kept in contact with Dunham through the years.

“He took us out to dinner several times and we exchanged numbers. Every time I had a horse in he called me,” Dunham said.

And while Byhubbyhellomoney, listed at 6-1 on the morning line, may be a little cool on the board Thursday, Dunham said he expects a big effort.

“She’ll do good, but I don’t know that she’ll win,” Dunham said. “But every little bit helps.” 

***

G2 Remsen winner Brooklyn Strong returns in Alex M. Robb

Brooklyn Strong, a New York-bred son of Wicked Strong, returns from a six-month layoff in Friday’s nine-furlong $100,000 Alex M. Robb, a nine-furlong test for New York-breds 3-years-old and up.

“The long layoff is a big question, but he’s doing really well,” trainer Daniel Velazquez said. “We think he’s going to fire, but we just don’t know for sure if he’ll need a race. We know he can get the distance, it’s just a physical thing now.”

Owned by Mark Schwartz, Brooklyn Strong won the one-turn mile Sleepy Hollow in October 2020 at Belmont to secure Velazquez his second career stakes win – just one race after Laobanonprayer provided the conditioner his first stakes score in the Maid of the Mist. 

Bred in the Empire State by Cheryl Prudhomme and Dr. Michael Gallivan, Brooklyn Strong completed a terrific juvenile campaign in December 2020 with a neck score in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Remsen at the Big A.

Brooklyn Strong left the inside post in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Wood Memorial in April at the Big A, passing tiring horses late to finish fifth ahead of a distant 15th in the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby on May 1 at Churchill Downs.

He was last seen finishing fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Pegasus on June 13 at Monmouth Park.

“We scoped him after the Pegasus and he bled a little bit. We noticed he dropped a lot of weight and he just wasn’t the same horse after the Derby,” Velazquez said. “So, we decided he needed a mental pause and we could bring him back fresh. He gained a lot of weight coming in off the farm in New Jersey and he’s doing everything he’s supposed to do moving forward. He’s matured a lot and I think the pause did him well.”

Brooklyn Strong has trained steadily at Parx dating back to early November, including a six-furlong breeze from the gate in 1:17.03 on December 21.

“We popped him out of the gate and the surface was real deep that day, so the time wasn’t the fastest but he did it easily,” Velazquez said.

Velazquez said he is looking forward to seeing his star pupil back in action.

“He’s a real important horse for me. He’s the horse that put me on the map and took me to the Derby, so he has a lot of sentimental value for me,” Velazquez said. “Moving forward, he’s doing really well and doing everything I want him to be doing. He looks great. I just want to see him compete and show that he’s back.”

Velazquez said Laobanonaprayer – who is also owned by the conditioner – returned to his care at Parx three weeks ago to prepare for a 2022 campaign.

Bred in New York by Christina Deronda, the 3-year-old daughter of Laoban followed her Maid of the Mist score with an eight-length romp in the 2020 NYSSS Fifth Avenue. Boasting a record of 9-3-2-1 with purse earnings of $301,150, Laobanonaprayer completed her sophomore season with an allowance win against older company on July 24 at Delaware Park.

“She’s just back in training. We gave her a little time off after her win at Delaware. She’s about two months out,” Velazquez said.

Velazquez will saddle Collin’s Grey Lady, a promising 2-year-old daughter of Frosted, in Wednesday’s seven-furlong $100,000 Parx Futurity. 

Owned by Charles Fiumano, the Kentucky-bred debuted sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs against the boys with a troubled sixth on November 24 at Parx. She followed up two weeks later at the same track to best a field of six juvenile fillies by four-lengths in a one-mile maiden special weight.

“I think she has a good future,” Velazquez said. “We debuted her against the boys – not by design – we just missed the filly race. She got a lot of experience that race. I still think she could have won. She had a terrible trip stuck on the inside – checked, stopped – it was just bad racing luck that day. We ran her back two weeks later going a mile and she won with ease.

“She still has a lot of maturing to do,” Velazquez added. “She has to learn her lead changes, but she’s doing really well.”

Listed at 6-1 on the morning line, Collin’s Grey Lady will exit post 4 under Abner Adorno.

New York-bred Battle Station is entered in the six-furlong $100,000 Blitzen today at Parx. 

Owned by Robert Bone and Edward Brown, the 6-year-old graded stakes placed son of Warrior’s Reward boasts a record of 41-8-8-5 with purse earnings of $625,075.

A turf sprint specialist the past two seasons, Battle Station enters from an optional-claiming score over the Laurel Park dirt on November 14.

“I need a barn full like him. He’s awesome,” Velazquez said.

Listed at 8-1 on the morning line, Battle Station will emerge from post 13 under Angel Cruz.

***

Shalimar Gardens pointing to upcoming allowance tilt

Barry Schwartz’ New York homebred Shalimar Gardens worked a half-mile in 49.75 seconds December 24 over the Belmont dirt training track for trainer Horacio DePaz.

The sophomore daughter of Uncle Mo, out of the Grade 1-winning Officer mare Princess Violet, graduated impressively at third asking in September, wiring older, open company by 11 3/4-lengths in a one-turn mile over Big Sandy.

She followed with a good fourth in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Raven Run at Keeneland after exiting the inside post in a solid field of 11 sophomore fillies. Last out, Shalimar Gardens finished a distant fourth in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Comely on November 26 at the Big A.

DePaz said Shalimar Gardens will target an allowance tilt in mid-January.

“We swung for the fences going to Keeneland with her in the Raven Run and then we tried the race at Aqueduct,” DePaz said. “She has all her conditions, so we’ll regroup and rebuild her confidence, and point towards a spring campaign with stakes caliber horses.”

DePaz said he was impressed with the first two career starts by Shalimar Gardens – both on-the-board efforts sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs at Saratoga.

“The races at Saratoga were too short for her but she finished up really well,” DePaz said. “I was impressed with her Raven Run. It was a big task to ship to Kentucky and then we drew the one hole and she ran fourth against a solid field of fillies down there. I think the mile and an eighth last time was a bit too far and the track was a bit too testing for her. A mile may suit her better.”

While veteran sprinter Amundson has contested the last two editions of the Hollie Hughes at the Big A, DePaz said the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Curlin is likely to return in an optional-claiming tilt.

Sporting a ledger of 16-5-1-2, Amundson won the 2020 Hollie Hughes and finished fourth in his title defense in February. The bay gelding won a state-bred optional-claimer in July at the Spa but was off-the-board one month later in a difficult second level optional-claiming sprint in August at Saratoga won by graded stakes placed Beau Liam.

“He’s still eligible for the open ‘2X’ which is a very tough condition in New York. We’ll see if we can slip into one of those spots,” DePaz said. “We ran him for a tag in Saratoga and he won and he came back in open company and that was a tough spot, the Asmussen horse Beau Liam was just a monster in that race.

“Hopefully, he can step up,” DePaz added. “He’s getting older but he can show up with some really good efforts. He seems to like some spacing between his races.”

DePaz said he may have two possible starters in Schwartz homebreds Winners Laugh and Our Man Mike for the upcoming Hollie Hughes, a six-furlong sprint for state-breds 4-years-old and up slated for February 19 at the Big A.

“Our Man Mike is more of a closing sprinter but Winners Laugh would definitely fit the Hollie Hughes a little bit better,” DePaz said.

Winners Laugh, a 4-year-old son of Broken Vow out of the graded-stakes placed Bernardini mare Bridgehampton, won a state-bred allowance sprint on May 9 at Belmont and followed three weeks later with a distant third in the one-turn mile Commentator over a muddy Belmont main track. Winners Laugh returned last out on December 3 in a state-bred optional-claiming sprint at the Big A, finishing sixth while racing off a six-month layoff.

Our Man Mike, a 3-year-old son of Street Boss, boasts a ledger of 11-1-2-4. Last year, he finished second in both the Aspirant and New York Breeders Futurity – a pair of six-furlong sprints at Finger Lakes.

The dark bay gelding graduated at fifth asking in a one-turn mile in April at Aqueduct and has hit the board in 3-of-6 starts since.