(Bella Sofia / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez did not get the result he wanted from Bella Sofia in Saturday’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar but said he was nevertheless happy with how she emerged from her fourth-place finish.

“She looked good and came back good,” Rodriguez said. “It was a very tough trip. I knew it was going to be tough when we drew the outside [post 5]. I didn’t want to draw the outside. In the next couple of weeks, we’re going to talk about her future plans. Maybe we’ll send her back to the farm or maybe we’ll keep her here. I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet, but she seems good.”

The sophomore daughter of Awesome Patriot captured much attention following a superb score in the Grade 1 Longines Test on August 7 at Saratoga Race Course and replicated her winning effort when taking on elders next out in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom on September 26 at Belmont Park.

Bella Sofia previously defeated older fillies and mares in her first-out maiden victory and when defeating winners, both at Belmont Park. She is owned by Michael Imperio, Vincent Scuderi, Sofia Soares, Gabrielle Farm, Mazel Stable Partners, Medallion Racing, Matthew Mercurio, Parkland Thoroughbreds and Barry Fowler.

Not all was lost for Rodriguez last weekend, however. At his Belmont Park home base, Doctor Jeff captured the $100,000 Atlantic Beach going six furlongs over the inner turf. The chestnut juvenile son of Street Boss notched his first stakes win in his fourth career start when commanding through every point of call to win by three lengths.

Doctor Jeff, a dual surface winner, secured a victory on debut in the same frontrunning fashion on July 10 over a Belmont main track rated good en route to a distant fifth as the favorite in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on August 14.

“He ran a big race. Since Day One we liked him a lot,” Rodriguez said. “It was nice to see him do what he did. When you win those kinds of races, it’s always good.”

Rodriguez expressed delight in a runner-up effort from J.W. Singer’s Magic Circle in the $150,000 Tempted on Friday afternoon. The chestnut juvenile daughter of Kantharos stalked the pace from second and made up ground to finish a half-length behind the winner Gerrymander.

Rodriguez said Magic Circle is possible for the Grade 2, $250,000 Demoiselle on December 4 at Aqueduct.

“I am very, very happy with what she did. She always showed signs that she could compete with that level,” Rodriguez said. “I thought we could have got there, but the other filly [Gerrymander] is a nice filly. We’ll talk to the owners about it, but we’ll definitely nominate her for the Demoiselle. I hope she can improve a little bit. She has the quality and the size to be a good filly.”

Going off at double digit odds in all three starts, Magic Circle lit up the tote board at 25-1 in her September 5 maiden victory at Saratoga before finishing fourth in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont.

Rodriguez added that E.V Racing Stable’s Bali’s Shade will likely target the $100,000 Key Cents on November 21 at Aqueduct. The New York-bred son of Bal a Bali broke his maiden at second asking on October 22 at Belmont Park.


Nicky the Vest set for Big A return; Thomas barn well represented on Sunday’s card

Robert LaPenta and Sol Kumin’s Nicky the Vest, a New York-bred sophomore son of Runhappy, is slated to make his return next week at Aqueduct Racetrack in what will be his first start in nine months after having to skip the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino due to a knee chip.

Nicky the Vest is undefeated in two career starts – both against fellow state-breds going a one-turn mile at the Big A – graduating on debut in December ahead of an 11 3/4-length score in the Gander in February.

Trainer Jonathan Thomas said the bay colt, who posted a half-mile breeze in 50.80 seconds Friday morning over the Belmont dirt training track, will be entered in a state-bred allowance.

“He had trained like a very good horse and he backed it up in his races. We were fortunate to win with him in his only two starts,” Thomas said. “The timing of the injury was unfortunate but he’s well-represented with his owners Mr. LaPenta and Mr. Kumin, who wanted to do right by the horse.”

The bay colt was marking his ninth local breeze this morning dating back to September 19.

“He was sent to Ocala to Niall Brennan who did a wonderful job with him and the horse has come back and trained well. We’re looking forward to getting him back,” Thomas said. “He had a nice little move this morning and it went really well.”

Thomas said Nicky the Vest had trained well into what would have been his two-turn debut in April in the Wood Memorial, a key prep for the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby.

“At that stage of his career against 3-year-olds, we certainly felt bullish enough about his ability to try it,” Thomas said. “As time goes on, some of these horses really identify themselves as true two-turn horses but I don’t know yet. He might be a nice one-turn mile horse and if that’s the case that’s fine also.”

Bred by Highclere, Nicky the Vest, a half-sibling to stakes winner Moms Choice, is out of the Cat Thief mare Tazarine.

Augustin Stable’s stakes placed Experienced [post 1, Manny Franco] is entered in Race 3 on Sunday at Aqueduct, an 11-furlong turf allowance for 3-year-olds and up. By Temple City, he is out of the Nureyev mare No Matter What who captured the 2000 Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks at nine furlongs on turf for Augustin Stable.

The well-related sophomore gelding is a half-sibling to graded-stakes winners Utley, Rainbow View, Winter View and Just as Well.

A nose winner on debut traveling one mile and 70 yards over the Delaware Park turf, Experienced followed with a closing second in the 12-furlong Bald Eagle Derby in July at Pimlico. He enters off a more than two-month layoff from a fifth-place finish in the nine-furlong Grade 3 Virginia Derby in August at Colonial Downs.

“He’s training well. I love the post for him drawing the rail and getting the opportunity to save all the ground,” Thomas said. “There’s limited opportunities, especially in the allowance ranks, to run horses this long. I feel the further he goes the better and we’re looking forward to getting him started.”

McConnell Racing Stable’s War Terminator [post 9, Manny Franco], a sophomore son of War Dancer, returns from a six-month layoff in Race 7 here on Sunday, a six-furlong turf sprint for state-breds 3-year-olds and up.

A state-bred maiden winner at first asking sprinting six furlongs over yielding Big A turf in April, War Terminator followed with a close second in a seven-furlong allowance sprint for New York-breds over firm Belmont turf on May 1 that garnered an 80 Beyer.

“He’s come back pretty well. We’ve been able to get a couple of nice works under his belt,” Thomas said. “It’s unfortunate that we’re on the upswing with him at this time of year with the turf season coming to an end – especially as a New York-bred. But we’re happy to be in the entry box and in with a shot.”

Thomas said recent stakes competitors Benbang and Bay Storm are likely to be freshened now with an eye to a return to stakes action in the New Year.

Bridlewood Farm’s Bay Storm, a 3-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Kantharos, won the six-furlong Christiecat in September over firm going at Belmont and followed with a close second in the seven-furlong Glen Cove on October 15.

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Benbang, a 2-year-old Kentucky-bred daughter of Shanghai Bobby, graduated on debut in an off-the-turf maiden tilt over a sloppy and sealed Saratoga main track and followed with an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Spinaway.

Last out, the talented bay was a game fourth in the Stewart Manor, defeated less than a length by the victorious Mystic Eyes in the six-furlong turf sprint on November 6 at Belmont.

“We’re getting to the end of the season and they’ll get a rest now to come back,” Thomas said. “Bay Storm ran great both times at Belmont. It was probably a little longer than she wanted to run last time with a hot pace, but we were so proud of her.

“Benbang was a little green on us in the lane last out and was getting in and she cost herself a place,” Thomas added. “But there was a stride or two where I thought she’d get up to win. I think backing her up in trip to 5 1/2 furlongs, especially at Saratoga next year, she’d be pretty adept.”

Happy Medium faces winners in Saturday allowance

Jay Em Ess Stable’s Happy Medium will attempt to carry a strong second-out maiden coup into allowance company in Race 8 on Saturday, when facing six other winners going six furlongs over the Aqueduct main track.

Trained by Michelle Nevin, Happy Medium emerged off six months’ rest to break his maiden in September going six furlongs at Belmont Park by an emphatic 9 ¼ lengths, garnering a 103 Beyer. The bay son of Runhappy battled to the outside of a rival down the backstretch while under a strong hold from jockey Manny Franco, kicking clear in upper stretch and was wrapped up inside the final furlong.

“He had been training really well into his maiden win,” Nevin said. “He definitely showed up the right way, so we were extremely happy.”

On debut, Happy Medium displayed similar frontrunning tactics going seven furlongs in March at Aqueduct and finished third beaten 3 ½ lengths.

“In his first start, he was in against a salty group,” Nevin said. “Seven furlongs is always a tricky distance to try first out, but he still ran well. He was sort of an immature horse at the time, but we knew he was a good horse.”

Both starts for Happy Medium have taken place over a fast main track, but the weather calls for a high chance of precipitation on Saturday. Nevin expressed uncertainty of how the track might play.

“He’s trained really, really well,” Nevin said. “With the rain, we don’t know how much that will affect the track, but we’re happy with the way he’s going at the moment. We haven’t thought much past this race, we just want to allow him to develop.”

Bred by Colts Neck Stables, Happy Medium was a $300,000 purchase at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and is out of the Coronado’s Quest mare Well Spring, who also produced multiple grouped stakes winner Mendip.

Nevin also entered J and N Stables’ Our Last Buck, winner of the Say Florida Sandy in January at the Big A, as a main-track only entrant for Saturday’s $150,000 Artie Schiller scheduled for the inner turf.

Nevin said multiple stakes-winner My Boy Tate has been training well since his recent stakes victory in the Leon Reed Memorial on October 11 at Finger Lakes. The victory came just one week after defeating allowance company at Parx Racing.

Owned by Nevin in partnership with Little Red Feather Racing, the New York-bred son of Boys At Tosconova won the Hollie Hughes and the Haynesfield at Aqueduct in the winter and has not finished worse than fourth in nine starts this year.

“He’s doing well. He ran two races really close together, so we haven’t picked out anything yet for him,” Nevin said.

Flying P Stable’s Provenzano hoping for solid Big A campaign; Lone Rock could parlay Oaklawn stakes to Dubai trip

Jay Provenzano’s Flying P Stable enjoyed a tremendous fall meet at Belmont Park, posting a record of 28-7-7-4 which was just one win shy of leading owner Klaravich Stables.

Flying P Stable’s top performers Lone Rock and Tell Your Daddy have both proven to be successful claims and the latter will look to provide the outfit a winning start at the Big A fall meet in Saturday’s $150,000 Artie Schiller, a one-mile inner turf test for 3-year-olds and upward.

“When I decided I was going to start claiming at the Fair Grounds with Tom Morley, Tell Your Daddy was the first horse we claimed together,” Provenzano said. “Claims wise, I don’t think anyone brings more horses here from out of state. I claim now at Fair Grounds, Gulfstream, in Kentucky and Oaklawn. I bring a ton of horses here.”

Tell Your Daddy, a 5-year-old son of Scat Daddy, was claimed for $40,000 out of a 5 1/2-furlong turf sprint in January at the Fair Grounds. The dark bay gelding was subsequently stretched out in distance and proved to be an astute acquisition with a win in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap in September at Saratoga.

Tell Your Daddy enters Saturday’s test from a close second in the Grade 2 Keeneland Turf Mile in October at Keeneland.

“He’s a very honest turf horse and we’ve found he wants those kinds of distances,” Provenzano said.

Provenzano said Lone Rock, trained by Robertino Diodoro, is targeting the nine-furlong $200,000 Tinsel on December 18 at Oaklawn Park with an eye to the 10-furlong $12 million Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March at Meydan.

“If everything goes well there we might take a shot if we get invited to go over to Dubai at a mile and a quarter. That’s a serious purse,” Provenzano said.

Lone Rock, claimed back by Flying P Stable for $40,000 in November 2020 at Churchill Downs, has posted a record of five wins and two seconds in seven starts at 1 1/2-miles and beyond dating to a runner-up effort in the Temperence Hill in March at Oaklawn. He launched his campaign with a rallying score at 1 1/16-miles over a sloppy Oaklawn surface in February.

Along the way, the 6-year-old Majestic Warrior gelding has captured the 12-furlong Grade 2 Brooklyn at Belmont in June and the 1 3/4-mile Birdstone in August at the Spa.

In September, Lone Rock finished second to Flying P Stable color bearer Locally Owned in the 13-furlong Grand Prix American Jockey Club at Belmont ahead of an impressive score in the Grade 2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup undercard at Del Mar.

“You play the game for a horse like him,” Provenzano said. “He’s had eight starts this year with six wins and two seconds and he seems to thrive at that long distance. He makes it seem so easy.”

With a number of top horses entering stud – including the first and third-place finishers in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic [Knicks Go and Essential Quality] – Provenzano said he would like to give Lone Rock a shot at 10 furlongs.

“We looked at some of the horses in the Classic that we lose to stud and where there last races are. It doesn’t leave as much talent going a mile and quarter. I know we’ll try him at that distance eventually,” Provenzano said.

Provenzano said he is hopeful that Flying P Stable can again compete for a NYRA meet title and will look to boost their totals in upcoming six-furlong state-bred stakes for juveniles on November 21 at the Big A with colt Hoboken Jack probable for the $100,000 Notebook and filly Cupid’s Heart pointing to the $100,000 Key Cents.

“It’s definitely the goal,” Provenzano said.

Brown wins 10th consecutive Belmont fall meet training title; Ortiz, Jr. and Klaravich Stables earn respective jockey and owner crowns

Chad Brown registered 29 wins to earn his 10th consecutive title at the recently concluded Belmont Park fall meet, while Irad Ortiz, Jr. won three races on Closing Day to pace all jockeys with 33 victories during the 31-day meet.

Inflation Adjusted’s win in Sunday’s 10th race finale gave Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables its eighth win of the meet, which broke a three-way logjam allowing Klaravich to become leading owner of the Belmont Park fall meet for the fifth consecutive year. Flying P Stable and Michael Dubb each finished with seven wins over the course of the fall meet.

Brown extended his dominance of the Belmont fall meet, posting a record of 29-22-18 from 111 starters with earnings of more than $3.7 million. The four-time Eclipse Award-winner for Outstanding Trainer has won at least a share of the Belmont fall meet every year since 2012. Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher concluded the fall meet with 16 wins. Christophe Clement and Linda Rice registered 16 wins each to tie for third.

NYRA’s year-ending leading trainer six years running, Brown saddled eight graded stakes winners at the fall meet, racking up a pair of Grade 1 scores when Rockemperor captured the $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic on October 9 and Jack Christopher won the $500,000 Champagne on October 2. Brown also sent out Public Sector [Grade 2 Hill Prince], Fluffy Socks [Grade 2 Sands Point], Royal Flag [Grade 2 Beldame], My Sister Nat, [Grade 3 Fasig-Tipton Waya] Pocket Square [Grade 3 Athenia] and Sacred Life (Grade 3 Knickerbocker) to graded stakes victories. Shantisara won the $700,000 Jockey Club Oaks Invitational.

“I have to just thank my team, my owners and the horses,” Brown said. “Those are the three real key parts to the whole success and I’m very fortunate in all three areas to have the best. I have great horses to work with and terrific owners and a really super talented team and they deserve all the credit.”

Entering Closing Day, a three-way tie for the riding crown set up an exciting slate, with Ortiz, Jr., Luis Saez and Jose Ortiz all tied with 30 wins. But Ortiz, Jr. won three races, guiding Carom to a victory in Race 3, leading the Brown-trained Orglandes to victory in the $150,000 Zagora in Race 4 and winning aboard Big Package in an allowance optional claiming race in Race 8 that proved to the be the difference in the standings.

The 29-year-old Ortiz, Jr. finished with a 33-35-28 record in 177 mounts with earnings of $3.56 million. His brother, Jose Ortiz, challenged him for supremacy up until the final race, finishing second with 32 wins while Saez, who won aboard Rockefeller in the Grade 3, $150,000 Nashua in Race 9, was third with 31 wins.

“It feels great and it’s always special every time I win a title in New York,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “This is my hometown. I’m happy, I thank my owners, trainers, my agent for doing a great job and I’m also thankful to stay healthy.”

Ortiz, Jr. was aboard for Brown-trained winners Public Sector and Pocket Square and also racked up wins with Annapolis [Grade 2 Pilgrim], Life Is Good [Grade 2 Kelso], Bubble Rock [Grade 3 Matron] and Arrest Me Red [Grade 3 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational].

“We always compete no matter what,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “We try to do our best out there so thankfully it paid off with hard work and dedication.”

For the meet, Klaravich Stables posted a record of 8-8-8 from 40 starters, tallying earnings of $894,549.

Aqueduct Racetrack week 2 stakes probables

Saturday, November 20

G2 Red Smith

Probable: Cold Hard Cash (Linda Rice), Doswell (Barclay Tagg), Price Talk (Tony Dutrow), Serve the King (Chad Brown), Shamrocket (Todd Pletcher), Soldier Rising (Christophe Clement), Tide of the Sea (Mike Maker), Value Engineering (C. Brown)

Possible: Channel Cat (Jack Sisterson)

Sunday, November 21

$100K Notebook

Probable: Bali’s Shade (Rudy Rodriguez), Cool Laoban (Mark Casse), Daufuskie Island (Kelly Breen), Hoboken Jack (Danny Gargan), Senbei (Clement)

Possible: Bustin Pietre (Bruce Levine)

$100K Key Cents

Probable: Caragate (Mitchell Friedman), Cupid’s Heart (Levine), Makin My Move (John Kimmel), Shesawildjoker (David Donk), Silver Fist (James Lawrence)