Archive for October 2012

Lopez, Rocco Jr., Cohen Join Churchill Colony

Paco LopezThe jockey colony at Churchill Downs will get more competitive this fall with the addition of Paco Lopez, Joe Rocco Jr., and David Cohen, who are scheduled to ride their first full meet at the Louisville track.

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Lopez, who turned 27 Oct. 18, moved to the United States in 2006 and began riding professionally in 2007. He was honored with an Eclipse Award as the top apprentice rider in 2008 and scored his 1,000th career victory at Monmouth Park in August. A leading rider at Gulfstream Park, Calder Casino & Race Course, Meadowlands, and Monmouth, Lopez has just eight career mounts at Churchill Downs with one victory, which came in the 2010 Alysheba aboard Arson Squad.

“We fell in love with Keeneland and we decided to stay in Kentucky until Gulfstream,” agent Cory Moran said in a release. “We want to break into Kentucky and come back every year. You want to be in Kentucky if you’re in this business.”

Rocco Jr., son of veteran rider Joe Rocco, is just 42 victories away from the 1,000-win milestone. One of the leading riders in the Mid-Atlantic region, the younger Rocco’s top mounts this year included grade III winners Colonial Flag and Tiz Miz Sue. In his lone mount at Churchill Downs, Rocco Jr. finished ninth aboard Atrial Flutter in the 2001 Mrs. Revere (gr. II).

Rocco was involved in an Oct. 19 spill at Keeneland but sustained no serious injuries and will be ready to ride opening day at Churchill Downs.

“He was a little sore, but he’s doing fine now and he’s riding today (Oct. 24) at Keeneland,” agent Lenny Pike said in a statement. “I think he’s going to have a good meet.”

Cohen, who has more than 1,100 career victories, is a two-time grade I-winning jockey with victories in the 2005 Malibu aboard Proud Tower Too and the 2012 Travers on Golden Ticket. In his only mounts at Churchill Downs, Cohen finished 10th aboard Tamarind Hall in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) and ninth on Vexor in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. Cohen started his career in Southern California and then moved his tack to the East Coast in 2007.

“I’m very excited and I’m looking forward to making Kentucky my home,” Cohen said.

Delta Downs: Bern Identity points to Delta Jackpot after sharp Jean Lafitte score

Cory MoranBern Identity will head to next month’s Grade 3, $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot after he easily won his two-turn debut Saturday night in the $200,000 Jean Lafitte. He was a three-length winner of the one-mile race that served as the local prep for the Jackpot, which is to be run Nov. 17.

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Bern Identity ($3) was the 1-2 favorite in the Jean Lafitte on the strength of his summer form at Saratoga, where he won the Grade 2 Sanford then finished third to divisional heavy Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 2 Hopeful. Saturday night, Bern Identity broke with the field and settled in fourth along the rail as Manewal and Mr. Bandini’s Band dueled through fractions of 23.15 seconds  for the opening quarter and 47.95 for the half-mile.

Bern Identity angled off the rail down the backside, advanced four-wide around the final turn and went on to win by three lengths over Mylute. It was another four lengths back in third to Mr. Bandini’s Band. Bern Identity covered the mile on a track rated fast in 1:39.47.

“I had a lot of horse,” said Paco Lopez, who was in to ride the winner for George and Lori Hall and trainer Kelly Breen.

Breen said the Jackpot, to be run at 1 1/16 miles , is the next objective for Bern Identity.

“We have the big one in four more weeks,” he said. “We’ll come back for the Jackpot.”

The Jean Lafitte score gives Bern Identity first preference into the Jackpot. The horse also earned $120,000 for his win in Saturday night’s race to improve his career record to 3 for 5 for earnings of $426,000. Bern Identity was the second straight Jean Lafitte winner for the Halls and Breen behind My Adonis in 2011.

Simington breaks collarbone

Jockey Don Simington broke his collarbone in the second race Saturday night when he was thrown from his mount, Sweet Boston Lady, who broke down. Simington was transported to a hospital in nearby Lake Charles, La., was treated and was released, said his agent, Ron Ardoin.

Ardoin said Simington could be sidelined anywhere from a month to six weeks. Simington is a leading rider at Delta and Louisiana Downs.

Sharp Delta Jackpot Tuneup for Bern Identity

Lafitte StakesOdds-on favorite Bern Identity made quick work of seven rivals in the $200,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs Oct. 20 (VIDEO) in preparation for next month’s $1 million Delta Jackpot (gr. III).

We need the big one,” said Kelly Breen, who conditions Bern Identity for George and Lori Hall. “Four more weeks and we’ll come back for the Jackpot.”

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Sent off as the 1-2 choice with Paco Lopez aboard, Bern Identity won ridden out by three lengths over Mylute. Mr. Bandini’s Band was four lengths farther back in third. The final time for the one-mile distance on a fast track was 1:39.47.

Bred in Kentucky by Galleria Bloodstock, Crosshaven Bloodstock, Petaluma Bloodstock, et al., Bern Identity is out of the graded stakes winner Maddalena, by Good and Tough. The bay colt sold for $75,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in September 2011.

Bern Identity graduated in his second start at Belmont Park June 1 and captured the Sanford Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Race Course in his next outing seven weeks later. He ran third in the Three Chimneys Hopeful (gr. I) in his most recent effort Sept. 3 at Saratoga.

Bern Identity raced mid-pack near the inside as first Manewal and then Bandini’s Band led through fractions of :23.15 and :47.95. Ive Struck a Nerve stuck a head in front on the outside after three-quarters in 1:13.74. But Bern Identity moved to the outside to soon challenge four wide and took the lead midway on the final turn. He was in firm control at the head of the stretch and left his rivals behind with little urging from Lopez.

“He got some experience, a little dirt in the face,” Breen said of the winner.

Bern Identity has won three of five starts with a second and a third. He has earned $426,000.

Under 117 pounds he paid $3, $2.40, and $2.10 while topping a $15.20 exacta. Mylute, ridden by Gerard Melancon, returned $6.20 and $3.80. Mr. Bandini’s Band was $5.60 to show.

In a strung-out finish, Ive Struck a Nerve was fourth, followed by Ledokol, Show Some Magic, Dee Notional, and Manewal. Sir Yes Sir scratched.

Paco Lopez Makes Keenland Debut Friday

The first race on Friday marks the Keeneland debut of Paco Lopez, who won the 2008 Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice. A two-time leading rider at Gulfstream Park who has titles at Calder, Monmouth Park and The Meadowlands, Lopez comes to Keeneland after success at Monmouth, where he won 10 stakes and remains second in victories.

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“I’m excited to be here. It’s beautiful at Keeneland,” said Lopez, who turns 27 on October 18.

Lopez had planned to make his Keeneland debut in April but was injured in a spill at Gulfstream in March that sidelined him for a time. He also has a mount in Friday’s second race and a much busier schedule on Saturday when he will ride Corporate Jungle in the Shadwell Turf Mile (G1), Pataky Kid in the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Chamberlain Bridge in the Woodford presented by Keeneland Select (G3).

From Mexico, Lopez began riding Quarter Horses as a youngster and won more than 5,000 races aboard the sprinters at unsanctioned racetracks in that country. He moved to the United States in 2006 and began his pursuit of riding professionally by exercising horses at Palm Meadows Training Center.

Lopez won his first race in July 2007 at Calder and scored his 1,000th victory at Monmouth in August. He has career earnings of nearly $29.4 million. Lopez’s richest win came aboard Headache in the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2) in 2011.

Moran said Lopez will ride at Keeneland the entire meet, missing only October 13 to return to Calder for the Festival of the Sun which features five stakes races.

“We just need opportunities,” Lopez’s agent, Cory Moran, said about competing at Keeneland. “We love being here. Everyone’s so friendly.”

Calder: Brave Dave much the best in Birdonthewire

Paco LopezMIAMI – Brave Dave returned to the scene of his maiden win earlier this summer and made it look even easier the second time around, cruising to a 4 3/4-length victory over Sr. Quisqueyano in Saturday’s $100,000 Birdonthewire Stakes for 2-year-olds at Calder.

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Brave Dave launched his career with a 1 1/4-length triumph over Singanothersong going six furlongs here on June 30. Brave Dave shipped north for the summer shortly after his debut, finishing fourth after drifting wide off the final turn in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Sanford before winning the Grade 3 Sapling earlier this month at Monmouth Park.

With regular rider Paco Lopez aboard, Brave Dave broke in stride and quickly opened a clear lead, controlled the pace under confident handling, and was never seriously menaced through the stretch. Sr. Quisqueyano rallied wide to narrowly outfinish Singanothersong for second while suffering his second straight setback after opening his career with three consecutive wins.

Brave Dave, a homebred son of Put It Back, is trained by Eddie Plesa Jr. for his wife, Laurie, and David Mellin. He completed six furlongs in 1:11.51 and paid $3.40.

“There were a couple of legitimate horses in this field,” said Plesa, who viewed the race from his summer base at Monmouth. “It wasn’t like we were coming down there to just take the money. And to watch him perform like this against a group like that makes me all the more confident and validates what I’ve thought about this colt all along.”

Plesa said it is unlikely Brave Dave would be pointed for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint.

“He’s not Breeders’ Cup nominated so it doesn’t really make sense to supplement him into the race,” said Plesa. “It’s a long winter, there are a lot of big races at Gulfstream. And at some point we’ll see if we can stretch him out. I don’t know when I want to do that, but one of these mornings you’ll see him have one of those easy mile works and then we’ll see what’s available.”

Dreaming of Sophia wins stakes debut in Cassidy

Dreaming of Sophia made her stakes debut a winning one, edging away to a two-length victory over the late running Touch Magic in the Cassidy.

Dreaming of Sophia, a homebred daughter of Lewis Michael owned by Frank Calabrese, benefitted from a dream trip under jockey Manoel Cruz. Dreaming of Sophia stalked the early pace of longshot Magical Madam, readily took command leaving the turn, lugged in briefly while well clear approaching the eighth pole, and was not seriously threatened thereafter.

Jewel in the Sky, the 2-1 favorite, was never a factor and finished ninth in a field of 10.

Touch Magic, undefeated in two previous starts, rallied from last after the opening quarter-mile to finish second, a head before the wide-running Crumb.

Trained by Luis Ramirez, Dreaming of Sophia covered six furlongs in 1:12.81 over the fast track and returned $6.40 for her second victory in three career starts.

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