(Trainer Larry Rivelli / Photos by Coady Photography)
Trainer Larry Rivelli harbors no illusions that 4-for-5 Act a Fool can measure up to the ability of his Kentucky Derby runner-up and $1.5 million-earner Two Phil’s, who impressively won the June 24 Ohio Derby only to sustain a career-ending injury.
But Rivelli will be plenty thrilled if Act a Fool proves good enough to win Saturday’s Grade 3, $300,000 Indiana Derby at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Act a Fool is co-owned by Vince Foglia’s Patricia’s Hope LLC, the majority owner in Two Phil’s.
“There’s not much sting with Two Phil’s,” Rivelli said of his stable star’s premature retirement. “It was bad luck and stuff happened. But he’s going to have a career as a stallion, hopefully a really successful one. We just ended up retiring him a couple of races earlier than we probably would have, that’s all.
“As far as this horse, he’s got to step it up a little bit. But he hasn’t done anything wrong. It’s time to take that next jump. His last race, the Hawthorne Derby, was a little bit of a jump. There were a couple of horses in there better than the horses he’d beaten before. He kind of ran them off their feet. It wasn’t even close. He was in front and never looked back.”
Hence, Rivelli makes no bones about his tactics: Make ’em catch Act a Fool, who has been on or very near the early lead in all his victories, expanding his margin through the stretch. The pace those days was moderate, if not pedestrian, so the question remains if Act a Fool is best on the lead or just towered over his Hawthorne rivals and found himself in front by being more athletic.
“He definitely can rate outside of one or behind one,” Rivelli said. “(But) I’m going to send him to the lead and let those guys figure it out. I’ll be in front, I promise you that.”
Act a Fool’s wins have all come at Rivelli’s home track of Hawthorne Race Course since a disastrous debut Jan. 13 over Turfway Park’s Tapeta surface, when he faded to last of 12, beaten 60 lengths. Act a Fool won three races on dirt at the Chicago track by 16 1/2 lengths before rolling to a 4 1/2-length romp in the $100,000 Hawthorne Derby at 1 1/8 miles over yielding turf.
“I’ve always thought he was a pretty nice horse,” Rivelli said. “We ran at Turfway and had high hopes that day, and he just didn’t run at all. I don’t know what it really had to do with. We went back to the drawing board, and I put him in at Hawthorne. It’s obviously an easier venue, and he hasn’t lost since.”
That he thrived on grass was not a surprise, with Act a Fool being a son of turf standout Oscar Performance.
“I don’t know if it’s dirt, turf, if he likes one better, but he’s certainly taken care of the competition there pretty easily,” Rivelli said. “Much deeper waters here, but he definitely warrants a shot to see if he can hang with these kind of horses.”
Rivelli also is running Patricia Hope’s speedy turf sprinter Nobals in Friday’s $100,000 William Garrett Stakes. Nobals — a $3,500 yearling purchase for his prior owner and winner of Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Twin Spires Turf Sprint at 38-1 odds in his last start — is the 8-5 favorite in the William Garrett.
Lobo-trained Transect seeks first stakes in Indiana Derby
Trainer Paulo Lobo hopes that the sensational young stallion Gun Runner adds to his stakes-winning progeny when OXO Equine’s Transect runs in Saturday’s $300,000, Grade 3 Indiana Derby.
Transect — bought for $300,000 as a weanling in 2020 well before Gun Runner’s first runners hit the track — is 3 for 4. Lobo considers the 10th-place drubbing in the slop for New York’s Gotham (G3) a throw-out. Transect bounced back with a front-running victory in a mile allowance race at Horseshoe Indianapolis in his two-turn debut. He’ll break from the rail under Gerardo Corrales, who is 2-for-2 on the chestnut colt.
“Nice colt,” Lobo said. “He’s improving a lot. The way he has trained and the way he won at Indiana, I think he can go longer.” As far as his potential, “Let’s wait until Saturday. Everybody is waiting for Saturday, me, the owners, the manager to see how good this colt might be.”
Lobo also has In Love in the $100,000 Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial for older horses on grass and Justify My Love in the $100,000 Indiana General Assembly for fillies and mares on turf. Both Brazilian-bred horses are owned by Bonne Chance Farm and Stud RDI and started out racing in Argentina.
In Love went from winning a restricted stakes at Kentucky Downs in 2021 to taking the Grade 1 Keeneland Turf Mile in his next start. He has yet to replicate that lofty achievement, but Lobo is hoping In Love follows the path of his 2020 Keeneland Turf Mile winner Ivar, who captured last year’s Schuster in his first start of the year.
Like Ivar, In Love comes into the Schuster off a freshening — just not as long — since he struggled home in Keeneland’s April 14 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1). Ivar used last year’s Schuster as a launching pad to finish second in three Grade 1 races and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf in four starts before retiring to stud.
“In Love is doing well,” Lobo said. “Let’s see if he can do what Ivar did last year.”
Justify My Love won a Churchill Downs allowance race in her third U.S. start last fall and comes into Saturday’s race off a close third in another Churchill allowance won by Henrietta Topham, the 3-1 favorite in the Indiana General Assembly’s full field of 12.
“She is coming from a very good race at Churchill Downs and she’s also doing very well,” Lobo said. “I like her. She won at Churchill, was third by a head at Churchill in a very tough allowance. Now she’s ready to try a little bit tougher race.”
Heartyconstitution on roll heading into Mari Hulman George
The hunch bet in Saturday’s $100,000 Mari Hulman George could be Heartyconstitution, given the stakes falls during the week of July 4. Of course, she’s also the favorite, riding a three-race win streak into the 1 1/16th-mile race for fillies and mares.
Heartyconstitution, a daughter of promising young WinStar Farm stallion Constitution, races for owners Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch’s Highlander Training Center in Sulphur Springs, Texas.
Trainer Joe Sharp scratched out of last Saturday’s Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Ellis Park to give Heartyconstitution an extra week from her last race. Heartyconstitution shipped to Penn National to win the $100,000 Lyphard Stakes on turf June 3 for Pennsylvania-for horses. That followed allowance victories on dirt at Churchill Downs and turf at the Fair Grounds. Overall, she’s 4-2-1 in eight starts as she seeks her first stakes victory against open company.
“I think she’s a little better on dirt than she is the grass, as much as ‘dual surface’ as she’s shown she is,” Sharp said. “The numbers just suggest she’s a touch better on dirt. She is very good on grass as well. I mean, she’s just one of those fillies you could run her down asphalt and she’d give you the same effort. She just isn’t really particular. She’s a racehorse. She doesn’t get her feelings her hurt easily. I just think she’s a touch faster on the dirt.”
Having won sprinting and around two turns, on turf and dirt, “she’s shown a hearty constitution,” he said.
“That being said, her owners have shown hearty constitution in the fact that they’ve been very patient,” continued Sharp, who is married to former standout jockey Rosie Napravnik, who oversees the couple’s farm operation outside of Louisville. “They gave her the time she was asking for last summer. She showed a lot of talent as a 3-year-old. We had a little bit of a respiratory issue when we took her to Saratoga. We tried all the things you can do in the barn to help get her over it. At the end of the day, the only thing that was really the answer was time.
“Being that she was on the East Coast, we took her back to my place, and Rosie rehabbed her there. We brought her back, and the owners didn’t have any timeline on her as far as an agenda was concerned, which makes my job a lot easier. She was able to tell us when she was ready. We made our first start at the Fair Grounds and being patient has paid them dividends by letting her put a three-race win streak together.
“They did a great job at Highlander. When she came in as a 2-year-old and we were working her at Oaklawn, she was top of the list, top of the barn. With that, she put a lot into her first few races and her body said she needed a little time to grow up some more. She’s a big filly. We gave her that, and she’s turned into a really nice mare.”
Lovell looks for Just Might to rebound in William Garrett
With 11 wins and 27 top-three placings, millionaire Just Might would need no apologies if he began tailing off at age 7. However, Michelle Lovell, the gelding’s trainer and co-owner and co-breeder with Griffon Farms, doesn’t believe it’s Father Time as much as the unforgiving nature of turf sprints that led to Just Might being beaten in his last six starts in a career where he’s won nine stakes.
The Churchill Downs-based Lovell is hoping win No. 10 comes in Friday’s $100,000 William Garrett Stakes at five-eighths of a mile on turf at Horseshoe Indianapolis.
“I thought it was a nice little spot,” she said. “He’s doing awesome, he really is. He’s training very well, he’s really healthy. He’s been in some pretty good races. He’s messed his opportunities up, being a little rambunctious in the gate. He cannot break flat-footed (and expect to win), and when he does, he has a hard time of it. Especially the races he’s been in because they’re very competitive. We’re trying to find that spot where he can get a win again because he’s doing excellent, as good as he ever has.
“There’s no margin for error in turf sprints, and he causes his own problems. He’s run well tracking speed, so that’s not a problem. But if he breaks bad, you’re giving everything up. It’s all about the break.”
Just Might is Lovell’s first million-dollar earner in a training career the former jockey launched in the latter part of 2003 with a horse named Mick and Bubba. The gelding is out of a Texas-bred mare named Dynamite Babe, who died giving birth in 2017 to a full sister to Just Might, both being by Justin Phillip.
Dynamite Babe, a starter-allowance horse who won nine races, was owned and bred by Dr. Robert Griffon and trained by Lovell.
“She got cheap, and we lost her in a claiming race, and we claimed her back,” Lovell said. “We won with her after we claimed her back and I talked to my owner about breeding her. He really wasn’t interested, but I said, ‘Let’s go halves, and I’ll pay everything just like you. Let’s have some fun. She’s been good to us.’ He agreed and she gave us four winners. She was a queen, had some nice babies.”
Indiana Derby Day, the state’s biggest day of horse racing, will be complemented by numerous activities, including a Virtual Reality Jockey Station, cigar rolling station to the first 500, $600 Indiana Derby Hat Contest, $2,500 Indiana Derby Legends Handicapping Contest, and a drawing for one $3,000 Megabet across the board on the Indiana Derby. A total of eight premier races are on the program featuring purses in excess of $1.1 million.
Doors open at 10:30 a.m. with ample seating both indoors and outside on a first come first serve basis. Free parking and free general admission offered to guests of all ages on the racing side. Reservations are still available in the Clubhouse by contacting Beth Litteral at (317) 421-8801. For more information, visit the website at www.caesars.com/horseshoe-indianapolis/racing-promotions or follow the track on Twitter @HSIndyRacing.
The 21st season of live Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing extends through Friday, Nov. 17. Live racing is held Tuesday through Thursday with Saturday racing added in during the summer months. First post Tuesday and Wednesday is 2:30 p.m. Thursday racing begins at 2:10 p.m. The Summer Saturday Racing Series includes four more all-Quarter Horse dates July 22, Aug. 12, Sept. 2, and Oct. 7 beginning at 10:45 a.m. Indiana’s featured event, the Grade 3 $300,000 Indiana Derby is set for 12:10 p.m. Saturday, July 8. For more information on live racing at Horseshoe Indianapolis, visit www.caesars.com/horseshoe-indianapolis.