Wednesday, November 29, 2023
Best of the best return to Hallandale Beach . . .
    HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Hall of Fame and champion jockey John Velazquez says he’s returning to his “second home.”

    Velazquez, who spent the past two winters riding primarily in California, will return to South Florida to ride at Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet and join one of the world’s most competitive and talented riding colonies.

    The Championship Meet, which begins Friday, will not only be playing host to Velazquez but Irad Ortiz Jr., leading jockey at the Championship Meet four of the past five years, five-time leading rider Javier Castellano, three-time leading rider Luis Saez, Tyler Gaffalione, Paco Lopez and several newcomers, including Sean Levey and Oisin Murphy from Europe, Vincent Cheminaud and Chris Emigh. Popular Joe Bravo is also returning after spending several of the past winters in California.

    Velazquez, leading rider during the Championship Meet twice, says returning to South Florida is also a return to a “normal routine.”

    “California, obviously, was a different opportunity,” Velazquez said. “The experience was something different. I enjoyed it a lot. I was given a lot of opportunity because guys from the east who go west don’t always get the opportunities I did. It was a good experience, and the people were very good to me, but Gulfstream is my second home after New York.”

    Velazquez will begin riding the weekend of Dec. 8. Defending riding champ Irad Ortiz Jr. will begin riding Dec. 6. Jose Ortiz, who will be honored with a bobblehead in his likeness during the Championship Meet, will begin riding Friday. Sean Levey arrives from the United Kingdom and will ride December through February.

    Levey was born in Swaziland, moved to Ireland as a teenager, and apprenticed for approximately six years at Aidan O’Brien’s before going to England in 2011. He won his first Group 1 in the 2018 1000 Guineas at Newmarket aboard Billesdon Brook. Levey won two more Group 1 events in 2019 aboard Billesdon Brook in the Sun Chariot Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot on King of Change. In 2022 he won his first Group 1 in France with Aristria in the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville.

    Murphy, a three-time champion in the United Kingdom, is scheduled to ride from late December through January.

    Cheminaud first came to the U.S. in 2015 to ride Flintshire, whom he guided to victory in the Gr. I Sword Dancer at Saratoga. He returned in 2018 to ride Victorine, who finished fourth in the Gr. II Sands Point at Belmont. The 29-year-old French Derby-winning jockey ventured to Kentucky to ride full time in 2021, winning 41 races. He has won 29 races from 206 mounts this year.

    “I ride a lot for Christophe Clement and Shug McGaughey, so I decided to come here,” Cheminaud

    Emigh is well known in the Midwest, where he’s ridden the past year in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana and has won riding titles at Arlington, Hawthorne and Delta Downs. 
Riding the Championship Meet has “been on my bucket list for a while but I never got the chance,” the winner of nearly 4,400 races, said.
Monday, November 27, 2023
It will be introduced Friday . . .

    HALLANDALE BEACH - The new turf course at Gulfstream Park received rave reviews from jockeys Edgard Zayas and Luca Panici after riding a pair of Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained horses in company for a half-mile this morning.

    “It feels great. It’s beautiful,” said Zayas, who captured the riding title during the Sunshine Meet that concluded Saturday. “I can’t wait to ride on it Friday.”

    The 2023-2024 Championship Meet gets underway on Friday while offering the first turf races at Gulfstream since the renovation of the grass course began in May.

    Zayas was aboard Sunshine Frolic, a 3-year-old son of California Chrome who worked inside General Ledger, a 2-year-old son of Summer Front ridden by Panici.

    “Right now, the turf isn’t dry. It’s nice and moist. They got over it great,” Zayas said. “I can’t wait. I love turf racing. It’s my favorite. I’m really excited about the new turf and I’m excited turf racing’s back.”

    Sunshine Frolic, who broke his maiden on Tapeta in his second career start, and General Ledger, who won his debut impressively on dirt, ran as a team from the half-mile pole to the finish line before galloping out with energy. Both horses were timed in :48.14 seconds. 

    “It’s nice, very consistent. They got over it nice.,” Panici said. “It’s not hard. It’s looking good.”

    Joseph used the opportunity to participate in the first workouts on the new turf course to introduce Sunshine Frolic and General Ledger to grass. “Both of them have never run on it. Both of them most likely want to run on the grass, most likely,” Joseph said. “One has won on the Tapeta and the other is bred for all grass.” Joseph was visually taken by the pristine surface. “It’s a beautiful piece of ground,” he said.

    Two races on turf have been carded for Friday’s opening-day program, including a $72,000 optional claiming allowance, a five-furlong sprint featuring the return of Yes I Am Free, who has won the last two runnings of the Gr. III Gulfstream Turf Sprint. Multiple graded stakes-placed Bad Beat Brian is slated to make his local debut for owner/trainer Brittany Vanden Berg in the Race 9 feature.

Sunday, November 26, 2023
Both wind up with 33 winners . . .

    HALLANDALE BEACH - Saffie Joseph Jr. and Victor Barboza Jr. finished in a dead-heat for the training title for the Sunshine Meet that came to a close Saturday at Gulfstream Park with 33 winners each.

    Joseph saddled Mojave Desert ($9.20) for a victory in Race 1 to pull even with Barboza, who entered Saturday’s card with a 32-31 edge. Barboza countered in Race 2 with Grand Daniel ($7). Joseph came back to tie it up in Race 6 with Breezero ($2.60).

    Joseph has won eight consecutive training titles at Gulfstream Park, including the last two Championship Meet crowns. Jose D’Angelo, who had been in the thick of a three-way battle for the training title, finished third with 30 winners.

    Unlike Joseph and Barboza, Edgard Zayas held a commanding lead among the riders throughout the meet that started Sept. 9. The 30-year-old Puerto Rico native, who rides first-call for Joseph, finished with 59 wins, 21 more than runner-up Miguel Vasquez.

    “It’s been great. I’ve been getting support from all the owners and trainers,” Zayas said after riding Breezero to a six-length maiden victory in Race 6. “I’m so happy to be healthy.” He is looking forward to the Championship Meet that gets underway next Friday and runs through March 31.

    “My agent (Tito Fuentes) always told me this is the most important meet of the whole [off-season], because you’ve got to go into the Championship on a roll,” said Zayas, who rode a pair of winners on the closing day program, “This is an important meet going into the Championship Meet.”

    The 20-cent Rainbow 6 gross jackpot pool will be guaranteed at $125,000 Friday. The multi-race wager went unsolved Saturday for the sixth program following a $136,285 jackpot hit.

    The Rainbow 6 sequence will span Races 4-9, headlined by a $72,000 five-furlong optional claiming allowance over the newly renovated turf course. Laura Cazares-trained Yes I Am Free, a multiple graded-stakes winner who has dominated his competition at Gulfstream in turf sprints the past few years, returns from a three-month freshening in the deep field of 12. Championship Meet newcomer Brittany Vanden Berg is scheduled to saddle multiple graded stakes-placed Bad Beat Brian. Joseph-trained Axthelm, a graded stakes-placed son of Into Mischief, returns to Gulfstream off a third-place allowance finish at Keeneland.

    A mandatory payout of the Rainbow 6 Jackpot Pool will be held on Saturday’s program.

   Leon King Stable Corp.’s Bentornato will put an undefeated record on the line next Saturday in a quest to sweep the 2023 Florida Sire Stakes series for 2-year-old colts and geldings. The Jose D’Angelo-trained son of Valiant Minister breezed five furlongs in 1:04.80 Saturday morning at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training center in Palm Beach County.

    “Bentornato worked so good. Last week was his hard workout. This week, he went good. He started slow and finished the way I wanted,” D’Angelo said. “He’s ready to go.” Bentornato has three stakes victories on his unblemished four-race resume, including commanding triumphs in the $100,000 Dr. Fager and the $200,000 Affirmed in the Florida Sire Stakes series.

Thursday, November 23, 2023
Gomez wins first trip over the track . . .

    OLDSMAR - Several thoughts flashed through Kevin Gomez’s mind as his mount in Wednesday’s first race, 2-year-old Florida-bred gelding Lord Knows, bred by Joe and Helen Barbazon at Pleasant Acres Stallions, powered to a 6 ½-length victory on the renowned Tampa Bay Downs turf course.

    Once the result was made official, the 29-year-old jockey wondered where this racetrack has been through his nine-year career. “It feels amazing,” Gomez said of winning the first race he ever rode at the Oldsmar oval on the Opening Day card. “You always want to start a meet on the right foot, and this will let trainers see my name and give me a chance to ride their horses.”

    A light mist fell between the third and fifth races, but the conditions did nothing to lessen the quality of racing nor the enjoyment of a festive holiday crowd of 2,821. The all-sources handle for the day reached $3,358,896.
    Despite finishing second at the recent Delaware Park meet with 59 winners, Gomez has been overshadowed by many of the more experienced jockeys here leading up to the 2023-2024 meet. That might not last for long.

    “I’ve been here for two weeks, and I’m really liking it,” Gomez said. “My agent, Mark Mace, kept asking me if I wanted to come here, and I got a lot of advice from other people telling me to try it. So, here I am.

    “I love the weather, of course, and the grass racing, and the friendly atmosphere. The jockeys help each other before the races, but once you break out of the gate you have no friends – you’re on your own,” Gomez said.

    Gomez earned his second victory in the sixth race, piloting 2-year-old filly Lady Prospect to a front-running 3 ¾-length victory from the late-closing Copper Bound in the 5 ½-furlong maiden event. Lady Prospect is owned by Morris E. Kernan Jr., and Jagger Inc., and trained by Jamie Ness, who won a record nine consecutive Tampa Bay Downs training titles from 2006 through 2015.

    Gomez’s fellow jockey and competitor Alonso Quinonez is delighted to return. He rides for trainer Tim Padilla, and the duo has enjoyed plenty of success in recent summers at Canterbury Park in Minnesota, where Quinonez tied for fifth in the jockey standings and Padilla took sixth among trainers.

    They teamed to win the second and third races with a pair of 3-year-old Florida-breds. Their filly Miss Mac Mac, bred and owned by Peter D. Mattson, improved to 3-for-7 with a 6-furlong tally in the second race, followed by their gelding Summer All Year’s triumph going a mile-and-40 yards. Summer All Year was bred and is owned in partnership by Mattson and Padilla.

    “I just want to say thank you to the connections, Tim Padilla and Peter Mattson,” said Quinonez, a heady veteran whose 11 career graded stakes victories include five Gr. I's. “Tim has been doing this for a long time, and he knows how to get his horses ready and put them in the right races.”

    Win or lose, Quinonez enjoys returning to the Tampa Bay area, an emotion of course heightened in proportion to his trips to the winner’s circle.

    “I love the weather here. I love the people,” Quinonez said. “It’s a good environment for racing.”

    Samy Camacho, who is bidding this season to win a fourth consecutive Oldsmar jockeys' title and fifth overall, was the third jockey to ride two winners. Camacho scored in the fourth race on Vegas Playboy, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Monmouth Stud and Pinnacle Racing Team and trained by Gregg Sacco. Camacho added the seventh on the turf on Never So Lucky, a 3-year-old filly owned by Monster Racing Stables and trained by Jose H. Delgado.

    In the featured eighth race, a $53,000, 6-furlong allowance/optional claiming race for horses 3-years-old-and-upward, 6-year-old Florida-bred Feast responded to strong urging from jockey Jose Ferrer, pulling away late for a 6 ¼-length victory from 66-1 shot Big Louie. Bring Theband Home was third.

    Feast is owned by Winning Stables and Averill Racing and trained by Gerald Bennett, the track’s reigning training champ and owner of Winning Stables. A stakes-winner who is now 8-for-25, Feast was gelded over the summer, then turned out for some “R & R” at Martin Goodell’s Swanzey Stables South in Ocala. The surgery and the rest, followed by two super-sharp workouts on the Oldsmar oval surface, had him about at his peak, as he raced the distance in 1:09.49, .82 seconds off the track record.

    Bennett has won the last eight Oldsmar training titles.

    Around the oval - Tampa Bay Downs is closed today to enable track employees, horsemen and jockeys to celebrate Thanksgiving with their loved ones. Racing continues Friday with a nine-race card beginning at 12:42 p.m. The co-features are the fourth and seventh races, both $54,000 allowance/optional claiming races on the turf.

    The fourth race, for fillies and mares 3-years-old-and-upward at a distance of a mile, has drawn 11 entrants, while the seventh, for horses 3-and-upward sprinting 5 furlongs, has attracted 14. Both races are restricted to 10 runners.

Monday, November 20, 2023
Nyquist colt best by 8 3/4 lengths . . .

    Baoma Corp.’s Nysos (Nyquist – Netta Z) is two for two and a graded stakes-winner after an effortless romp in the $100,000, Gr. III Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar on Sunday.

    Last of four in the early going, the 2-year-old colt by Nyquist came around his rivals on the turn, took over in the stretch, and drew away to score by 8 3/4 lengths, running seven furlongs in a rapid 1:21 3/5. After taking both starts for trainer Bob Baffert by a combined 19 1/4 lengths, he has earned $96,600. Consigned by Best A Luck Farm to the 2023 OBS Spring Sale, he was sold for $550,000 to Donato Lanni, Agent for Baoma Corp. after turning in an eighth in :9 4/5 at the Under Tack Show.  

    Georgia Antley Hunt, Jeff Giglio and John L. Rogitz’s Nothing Like You (Malibu Moon – Miss Derek) saved ground off the pace in Saturday’s $100,000 Desi Arnaz Stakes at Del Mar, came off the rail in the drive and caught OBS March graduate Tambo (Enticed – Flatter Me First) late to win by a nose.

    It’s the second straight win and first stakes victory for the 2-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon, trained by Bob Baffert, now 5-2-1-0 with earnings of $117,160. At the 2023 OBS Spring Sale, she breezed an Under Tack eighth in :10 flat and was purchased out of the Wildheart Thoroughbreds consignment for $190,000.  

OBS grads scored a pair of stakes wins on Saturday.

    Colts Neck Stables' Nothing Better (Munnings – One True Love (IRE)) successfully defended his title in the $150,000 Aqueduct Turf Sprint Championship Stakes, taking the lead at the start and never looking back en route to a 1-1 3/4-length victory. 

    That’s three stakes wins for the 6-year-old son of Munnings, trained by Jorge Duarte Jr., now 25-9-5-3 with $566,217 in earnings. After breezing an Under Tack eighth in :10 1/5, he was purchased for $230,000 out of the Brick City Thoroughbreds consignment at the 2019 OBS Spring Sale.   

    Mark H. Stanley’s Tricky Temper (Into Mischief – Winter Book) tracked the pace from the start of the $100,000 Key Cents Stakes, wore down the leader to take the lead a sixteenth out and was best by a neck at the wire. It’s the first stakes win for the 2-year-old filly by Into Mischief, purchased for $230,000 out of the Sequel Bloodstock consignment at the 2012 OBS Spring Sale after working an Under Tack eighth in :10 1/5. She's now 5-2-1-0 for trainer Jeremiah C. Englehart.