(Gufo / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

From the NYRA Media Team:

First-time horse owner Dr. Stephen Cainelli has struck gold with multiple Grade 1-winner Gufo, the 8-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park.

The retired Cainelli, who operates under the nom de course Otter Bend Stables, is the owner and co-breeder of Gufo. Cainelli partnered with longtime friend and thoroughbred breeder Dr. John Little in the now 4-year-old Declaration of War chestnut.

During the course of their lengthy friendship, Little, an anesthesiologist, would study pedigrees, bloodlines and conformation when not practicing medicine or playing softball with Cainelli in his current hometown of San Angelo, Texas.

Little moved to Lexington, Kentucky in 2004 to establish Cave Brook Farm, where he keeps a small string of broodmares. Cainelli retired nine year later and although he was not initially interested in racing, he decided to get involved in a racehorse with his longtime friend.

“In 2013, we really started talking about it. Because I was retired, I had the freedom to go up there whenever I could,” Cainelli said. “It was just something to give me an excuse to go up there to Lexington to see him. I said to him, ‘How about we breed a horse together? That’ll give me an excuse to get involved’.”

But Cainelli said he did not want to be involved with just any horse. He wanted in on the best horse that Little could breed, settling on Gufo’s dam Floy, a Petionville broodmare whose top progeny at the time was multiple stakes-winning turf sprint veteran Hogy.

Cainelli said they initially considered breeding Floy to Bodemeister before sending her to Declaration of War, an unproven sire at that time with no offspring of racing age.

“Bodemeister was very high on the list, but because Floy had a couple miscarriages, we were turned down,” Cainelli said. “Declaration of War was our second choice, so we went with him. When he was born, John said, ‘This might be one of the best horses I’ve ever had’.”

Little was not the only one to sing praises on behalf of a young Gufo. Rey Hernandez, who broke Gufo at T.K. Stables in Lexington, saw ability in the horse at a young age as well.

“I’ve been breaking babies for a long time, and he caught my eye pretty quickly,” Hernandez said. “From Day One, he was a pretty special horse. Everything that we asked him to do, he did pretty easily. He was a very smart horse and he never misbehaved or anything like that.”

Cainelli recalled a prophetic conversation he had with Hernandez.

“He said, ‘Take care of this one, he’s your Derby horse,’” Cainelli said.

Hernandez was right. Gufo was in fact a Derby horse, just not the Kentucky Derby.

Gufo began his 2020 campaign with aplomb winning four straight races through the maiden, allowance, stakes and graded stakes ranks, securing his first graded win in the Grade 3 Kent last July at Delaware Park. His foreseen “Derby” victory came in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational last October at Belmont.

Cainelli credits trainer Christophe Clement for expertly placing Gufo through a consistent career thus far, never finishing off the board in a dozen starts.

“I was told to get any of the top ten trainers, and he’ll win some races,” Cainelli said. “I chose Clement because we believed he was a turf horse. I was really impressed because Christophe only takes a limited number each year. He’s really a hands-on trainer. He has a good record. I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t hold him in high regard.”

Gufo made good showings in his first pair of starts as a 4-year-old with late closing efforts in Grade 1 turf events at Belmont when second in the Man o’ War and third in the Manhattan.

Clement then added blinkers and stretched Gufo out to 12 furlongs resulting in a win in the Grand Couturier on July 5 at Belmont before fending off multiple Group 1-winner Japan to capture the Grade 1 Resorts World Sword Dancer on August 18 at Saratoga.

Cainelli said both factors were agreed upon by Clement and Gufo’s jockey, Joel Rosario, who has been aboard for all four starts this year.

“He always told me that he thought he was a longer distance horse – a mile and a quarter mile and a half, somewhere in that range,” Cainelli said. “Between Rosario and Christophe, they both agreed he would function much better with blinkers. They knew what they were doing. He’s like a big kid. He’s always been smart and he’s a pretty good size. That’s part of the reason they put blinkers on him – he just likes to look around.”

Through a 12-7-2-3 career, Gufo has paid back dividends for Cainelli, who has achieved millionaire status with earnings of $1,138,510.

Cainelli said he never imagined having so much success with his first horse.

“I didn’t. In fact, I told my wife [Candi] that I was going to put aside a quarter million for a racehorse,” Cainelli said. “I calculated that it would take about two to three hundred thousand to breed, train, and race a horse through ages three and four. So, I put that money aside to pay expenses. But it hasn’t affected anything, and I haven’t had to dip into that at all.”

While the unanticipated financial success with Gufo has been exciting for Cainelli, he said his largest pleasure from this experience is continuing a longtime friendship with Little.

“It was really more of a fluke than anything else. It was done so we could strengthen our friendship, and it’s done just that,” Cainelli said.

Well-related Mainstay takes to turf in G3 Matron

Swilcan Stable and LC Racing’s Mainstay will make her turf debut in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Matron, a six-furlong inner turf sprint for juvenile fillies.

Trained by Butch Reid, Jr., Mainstay is by Astern and out of the Mineshaft mare Vero Amore, making her a half-sister to 2-year-old Champion Filly Vequist, who will be sold as Hip 253 at Fasig-Tipton’s upcoming The November Sale.

Mainstay breezed a half-mile in 48.85 August 27 on the Oklahoma training turf and followed with a pair of sharp works on the main track at her home base at Parx Racing.

“She’s doing very well. She’s had a couple nice breezes over the track down here and a nice gallop this morning. She’s ready to ship out tomorrow morning,” Reid, Jr. said. “I thought her turf work was very good. I was impressed by it. She was near the outside fence and zooming around there in 48 and change, in hand, with a 145 pound exercise rider on. It looked to me like she was gliding over it pretty good.”

Mainstay won her June 4 debut by 7 3/4-lengths sprinting 4 1/2-furlongs on a sloppy Monmouth Park main track and followed with a runner-up effort to Pretty Birdie in the six-furlong Grade 3 Schuylerville in July at Saratoga.

Last out, Mainstay finished a fading fourth in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 2 Adirondack on August 8 at the Spa.

Reid, Jr. said he has given Mainstay time to grow and mature and is hopeful she will prove as successful on the Belmont turf as fellow Astern progeny Sail By, who captured last weekend’s Grade 2 Miss Grillo here for trainer Leah Gyarmati.

“We ran her three races in pretty quick succession. We gave her a couple months and now we’ll get her to the turf,” Reid Jr. said. “We’ve noticed that horses by her stallion are handling the turf very well. She’s earned the opportunity.”

Reid, Jr. said a good effort Saturday could earn Mainstay a trip to the Grade 2 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on November 5 at Del Mar.

“I would consider the Juvenile Turf Sprint,” Reid Jr. said. “She’s not going to be a distance horse like her big sister was, but that race is a possibility.”

Mainstay will exit post 11 under Kendrick Carmouche in her turf debut.

Reid, Jr. said St. Omer’s Farm and Christopher Feifarek’s Pennsylvania-homebred Beren, who won the Gold Fever and Paradise Creek in May at Belmont Park, will target the six-furlong $100,000 Danzig on October 22 at Penn National.

The Weigelia sophomore colt has won 6-of-10 starts this year but finished a distant fifth last out in a loaded renewal of the Grade 2 Gallant Bob won by Jackie’s Warrior on September 5 at Parx.

“He’s a very smart colt and I think he knew that day wasn’t his day against the likes of those horses. We’re giving him a little freshening and then there’s one more Pennsylvania-bred race left at Penn National in a couple weeks,” Reid, Jr. said.

The veteran conditioner said the hard-knocking bay will have earned a rest following the Danzig, having already banked $349,290 this campaign.

“And that doesn’t include the breeders’ bonuses the owners have picked up, he’s earned well over half a million for the owners,” Reid, Jr. said. “He’s certainly earned a nice rest after that race. He’s run really hard and done really well for us. We’ll make sure we take care of him.”

Cash is King and LC Racing’s Morning Matcha, a juvenile bay daughter of New York-sire Central Banker, garnered a 68 Beyer in a fifth-out maiden score sprinting 6 1/2-furlongs on September 25 at Parx.

Reid, Jr. said the Pennsylvania-bred bay, who finished second in the Finest City on September 13 at Presque Isle Downs, will target the seven-furlong NYSSS $500,000 Fifth Avenue on December 18 at the Big A.

“We think she’s a route horse and we’ve been keeping that New York stallion race in mind. We may actually run her a mile first and then turn her back for the seven-eighths. We’ll see what comes along. In the meantime she’s doing very well,” Reid, Jr. said.

Reid, Jr. said Cash is King and LC Racing’s Disco Ebo, an impressive 10 3/4-length maiden winner on September 6 at Parx, will point to the $200,000 Shamrock Rose on November 26 at Penn National.

The 2-year-old Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Weigelia earned a 73 Beyer in her gate-to-wire score sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs.

“There’s a Pennsylvania-bred race at Penn National for her in late November,” Reid, Jr. said. “She’s definitely a quality filly and could turn up just about anywhere. We’re excited about her.”

Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to hold silent auction of original artwork Saturday at Belmont

The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF), in collaboration with TRF board member Anita Motion, will host a silent auction of original artwork to benefit the nearly 500 horses in the care of the organization. The event will be held at Belmont Park on Saturday.

The display featuring the artwork will be set up in the Clubhouse Lobby at Belmont Park and will run throughout the day starting when gates open at 11:00 a.m. The auction will close at approximately 4:52 p.m. the start of the day’s ninth race on the eleven race card. Art must be paid for and picked up by 5:30 p.m. on the day of the event.

The artwork up for auction features original pieces by acclaimed artists featuring Off the Track Thoroughbreds thriving in second careers and was organized by TRF board member Anita Motion.

“There is nothing more beautiful than a Thoroughbred,” said Motion. “These pieces showcase the beauty and versatility of these amazing athletes and we are excited to offer racing fans a chance to get one of these incredible pieces for their own home all while benefiting a very deserving cause.”

For more information visit: https://www.trfinc.org/.

Belmont Park Week 5 stakes probables

Friday, October 15

$100K Glen Cove

Probable: Alwayz Late (Bill Mott), Batyah (Graham Motion), Bay Storm (Jonathan Thomas), Caldee (Brad Cox), Honey Pants (Christophe Clement), Igloo (Thomas), Invincible Gal (Motion), Messidor (Clement), Miss Dracarys (Neil Drysdale), Spirit of Bermuda (William Haggas), Tuscan Queen (John Kimmel)

Possible: Marlborough Road (Kent Sweezey), Por Que No (Sweezey)

Saturday, October 16

G2 Sands Point

Probable: Jordan’s Leo (Todd Pletcher), Our Flash Drive (Mark Casse), Plum Ali (Clement), Runaway Rumour (Jorge Abreu)

Possible: Core Values (Victoria Oliver), Perseverancia (Darwin Banach)

Sunday, October 17

$150K Floral Park

Probable: Alms (Mike Stidham), Drop a Hint (Antonio Arriaga), Gogo Shoes (Derek Ryan), Introduced (Jorge Duarte, Jr.), Madeline Must (Clement), Pacific Gale (Kimmel), Raven’s Cry (Cox), Risky Mischief (Jeremiah Englehart), Too Sexy (Clement)