Archive for October 2015


Untitled-1ELMONT, N.Y. – Annual Report got squeezed soon after the start and had to go six wide in the stretch. No problem, not with Joe Bravo in the irons.

Annual Report overcame the adversity to run away from his five rivals in the stretch and win Saturday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Futurity by 1 1/2 lengths at Belmont Park. King Kranz, the 8-5
favorite despite being a maiden, finished second by 4 1/2 lengths over the pacesetting Manhattan Dan. Ready Dancer, Full Salute, and Legend Keeper completed the order of finish.

For Bravo, it was his third graded stakes win of this meet – he won the Grade 1 Champagne and Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic – and his 17th of the year. The latter total is a personal best.
Annual Report, a son of Harlan’s Holiday, was dismissed by the bettors perhaps in part because his high-profile New York connections sent the horse to Parx to win his debut, a 5 1/4-length victory for which he was assigned only a 58 Beyer Speed Figure. But trainer Kiaran McLaughlin had explained that he and owner Godolphin Racing had another horse, Mohaymen, to run in a maiden
race that same day at Belmont Park. Mohaymen won.

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Unlike his debut, which he won on the front end, Annual Report came from last after getting squeezed back at the start by King Kranz and Legend Keeper. He was seven lengths behind after Manhattan Dan ran a quarter in 22.24 seconds. Annual Report got pushed out into the No. 4 path down the backside and moved into fifth place approaching the quarter pole. Six wide but in the clear turning for home, Annual Report ran toward the leaders, lugged in a step on King Kranz before changing leads, and edged clear. Annual Report, a $600,000 purchase as a 2-year-old in training, covered the six furlongs in 1:09.82 and returned $16.80 as the secondlongest price on the board.

Bravo said he wanted to put Annual Report into the race early but couldn’t when he got squeezed at the break.

“What makes a good horse is their head,” Bravo said. “He was really settled and quiet after all that, went a good eighth of a mile down the backside breathing and comfortable while they put on
a good, honest pace. At the three-eighths pole, when he got into gear, it was a nice feeling. It was an even better feeling at the eighth pole when he switched leads and leveled off.” McLaughlin was happy to see Annual Report win from off the pace after going to the lead at Parx. “He took the dirt well and finished strong,” McLaughlin said. “We’ll stretch him out before too

McLaughlin is pointing Mohaymen to the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct on Nov. 4. Mohaymen and/or Annual Report would be considered for the Grade 2, $300,000 Remsen at Aqueduct on Nov. 28 or the Grade 2, $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club the same day at Churchill Downs.


Joe_Bravo_2014_615x400_origJoe Bravo couldn’t contain his excitement Tuesday morning as he walked the Keeneland barn area, checking in on two of his five expected mounts for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships here Oct. 30-31.

Riding since 1988, Bravo, 44, is enjoying his best year in a decade. He is 13th in North American earnings with $7,458,828, within striking distance of breaking his career mark of $8,169,405 for a single season set in 2004. On May 23 at Monmouth, Bravo became the 31st North American rider to reach 5,000 career wins. He has ridden the earners of more than $155.4 million in his career.

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“To be honest with you, I’m just glad to be part of the game,” Bravo said. “If I don’t win another race the rest of the year, I’m (still) ecstatic. It’s just nice to be able to come out here (and ride). I’ve been injured a bunch and it sucks to sit on the sideline and watch the game go by. Every day I can come out here and do this, I’m happy.”

Bravo’s biggest Breeders’ Cup shot could be Harold L. Queen’s homebred Sheer Drama, a leading contender for the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) on Oct. 30. He has guided the 5-year-old mare by Burning Roma to three wins, including the Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga and the Delaware Handicap (G1), and four second-place finishes in seven starts this year.

On Oct. 30, he also is to pilot Conquest Stables’ Conquest Daddyo in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). The next day, Bravo is to ride Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Big Blue Kitten in the Longines’ Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1); Michael Kisber, Bradley Thoroughbreds and Nelson McMakin’s Watsdachances (IRE) in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1); and St. Elias Stable, MeB Racing Stables and Brooklyn Boyz Stables’ Greenpointcrusader in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

Bravo, who rode full time at Keeneland during the Spring Meet and won the Dixiana Elkhorn (G2) on 30-1 longshotDramedy, said he’s looking forward to participating in the Breeders’ Cup.

“I would rank Keeneland as one of my favorite tracks,” Bravo said. “(Coming here) brought it all back to reality when I had a 1-5 shot that got beat and the crowd was sincere in saying, ‘Good try.’ Anywhere else in the country, it’s more of a gambler’s aspect and people are pretty upset (if you lose on a 1-5 shot). Here, everyone is a horseman and about the horse. That’s why I love Keeneland.”


Untitled-1ELMONT, N.Y .- It was not the start jockey Joe Bravo or trainer Dominick Schettino had envisioned for Greenpointcrusader in Saturday’s Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, but it was a finish they will never forget. Breaking last after being impeded leaving the starting gate, Greenpointcrusader recovered nicely and rallied six wide in the stretch to record a dominant 4 1/2-length victory in the $500,000 Champagne and earning a fees-paid berth into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland on Oct. 31.

The longshot Sunny Ridge finished second, two lengths ahead of the maiden Portfolio Manager. It was a half-length back to Sail Ahoy, who was followed, in order, by Tale of S’Avall, Ralis – the 8-5 favorite – Magna Light, and Ready Dancer. Rafting scratched. The victory was the first in a Grade 1 for Schettino, 49, who saddled his first winner in 1993 at Aqueduct. Schettino had won just two prior Grade 3 stakes, both with Serious Spender in 1994.

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“It’s exciting, first Grade 1, you try hard, you work hard, you need the horses,” Schettino said. As late as Monday, Schettino didn’t have a rider for Greenpointcrusader. Javier Castellano had won on him, but he was committed to ride Ralis, whom he had ridden to victory in the Grade 1 Hopeful two days after Greenpointcrusader won. Schettino and the ownership group led by Anthony Bonomo and Vincent Viola ultimately chose Bravo. Schettino wanted Bravo to have Greenpointcrusader up close, but that plan changed when he was impeded by both Ready Dancer and Magna Light leaving the gate. Greenpointcrusader was last.

Bravo said his heart dropped but Greenpointcrusader “recovered so good and so comfortable. He was so relaxed down the backside, he gave me the confidence when we turned for home that he
was going to kick.” Greenpointcrusader was sixth, but only four lengths off the pace as Tale of S’avall ran a half-mile in 46.78 seconds, chased by Ralis and Sunny Ride. Around the turn, Bravo moved Greenpointcrusader further outside and into the clear as Sunny Ridge, under Junior Alvarado, was about to confront and overtake Tale of S’avall. Sunny Ridge had the lead in mid-stretch, but Greenpointcrusader charged down the center of the sloppy main track and drew away while being taken in hand by Bravo in the late stages. Greenpointcrusader, a son of Bernardini, covered the mile in 1:36.25 – 1.51 seconds faster than Nickname’s time for winning the Grade 1 Frizette for juvenile fillies – and returned $15 as the fourth choice.

“He leveled off beautiful. The horse in front I was worried about because he kicked away from horses nicely,” Bravo said. “But the stride that this big boy has; that was fun. The last sixteenth of a mile I geared him down. I didn’t want to get to the bottom of him. You want to save something for the next one.” The next one will most likely be the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he will get to run 1 1/16 miles around two turns. “That’s a big effort, being back there and to come wide like that,” Schettino said. “What’s good about it the more distance the better for him.”

Jason Servis, the trainer of Sunny Ridge said, he would also consider the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He felt his horse prefers to be covered up, but understood why Alvarado had the horse so close
to the pace. “That’s not the way he wants to run, but I understand with the bias what Junior was doing,” Servis said. “If I had to do it all over again and I was back covered up … but he ran big.” Ralis backed up to sixth after being in contention for six furlongs. Jockey Javier Castellano said he believes that perhaps he didn’t handle the wet track. “He was in a great spot turning for home and when I asked him he didn’t respond at all,” Castellano said. “He was spinning his wheels when I tried to ride.”


JoeBravo_BigBlueKitten_winners_circle_2015JoeHirsch-684x456Big Blue Kitten’s tenacious three-quarter length victory in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park was the third graded stakes win of the year for the son of Kitten’s Joy.
Aboard for all of the 7-year-old’s starts this season has been ‘Jersey’ Joe Bravo, who is having a banner year. The New Jersey native reached the 5,000-win milestone in May and has captured 15 graded stakes so far. That places him in a tie with Gary Stevens and Irad Ortiz Jr. for fourth on the American Graded Stakes Standings jockey list.

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In addition to winning the Turf Classic, Bravo has found the winner’s circle on Big Blue Kitten in the G1 United Nations and G3 Fort Marcy. He has also notched victories with Sheer Drama (G1 Personal Ensign, G1 Delaware Handicap, G2 Royal Delta), Watsdachances (G1 Beverly D.Stakes), Conquest Daddyo (G2 Summer), Dramedy (G2 Elkhorn), Living the Life (G2 Presque Isle Masters),
Madefromlucky (G2 West Virginia Derby), Tonalist (G3 Westchester), Middleburg (G3 Cliff Hanger), Rosalind (G2 Sheepshead Bay), and Strict Compliance (G3 Boiling Springs). Beholder’s victory in the G1 Zenyatta Stakes provided jockey Gary Stevens with his 15th graded stakes winner of the season, which kept him in step with both Bravo and Ortiz Jr. on the AGS jockey list. The Zenyatta was Beholder’s fourth graded stakes win of the year to go along with the G1 Pacific Classic, G1 Clement Hirsch, G3 Adoration.

Stevens has also had success with Ashleyluvssugar (G2 San Luis Rey, G2 Charles Whittingham), Catch a Flight (G2 Californian, G2 San Diego), Avansare (G2 Arcadia, G2 Del Mar Mile), Diversy Harbor (G2 Buena Vista), Om (G2 Del Mar Derby), Taris (G3 Rancho Bernardo), Kobe’s Back (G3 Commonwealth), and Firing Line (G3 Sunland Derby). Saham’s victory in the G3 Jefferson Cup provided his sire, Lemon Drop Kid, with his sixth graded stakes winner of 2015, placing him in fifth on the AGS sire list. Lemon Drop Kid is also the sire of Don’t Leave Me (G3 Bourbonette Oaks, G3 Ontario Colleen), Da Big Hoss (G3 Kentucky Cup Turf), Itsaknockout (G2 Fountain of Youth), and Middleburg (G3 Cliff Hanger).


Untitled-2ELMONT, N.Y. – Very little was missing from Big Blue Kitten’s resume when he entered the gate for Saturday’s $600,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic. A Grade 1 victory at Belmont Park was among
the only gaps. On a glorious fall afternoon on Long Island, Big Blue Kitten took care of that in style, catapulting to the front in upper stretch and capturing the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch. In the process, he ran 1 1/2 miles in 2:23.39, obliterating the Belmont Widener Turf course record by nearly a full second.

Fantastic Light owned the mark of 2:24.36 set in 2001. “He was sitting on a big race, happy to have the course record on the horse’s resume,” trainer Chad Brown said. “Fast time. Big race. Not surprised.”

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Big Blue Kitten, ridden by Joe Bravo, defeated Slumber – also trained by Brown – by a three-quarters of a length. Slumber was second by a nose over Twilight Eclipse. It was another 6 1/4 lengths back to Red Rifle, the 8-5 favorite, in fourth.

Shining Copper, Perfect Title, and Quiet Force completed the order of finish. Big Blue Kitten, a 7-year-old son of 2004 Joe Hirsch winner Kitten’s Joy, won for the 14th time in 29 starts. It was his fourth Grade 1 stakes victory. He pushed his career earnings to $2,616,830 for owner/breeders Ken and Sarah Ramsey. Big Blue Kitten also earned a fees-paid bid to the $3 million Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland on Oct. 31. The Joe Hirsch was part of the Win and You’re In series sponsored by the Breeders’ Cup. Big Blue Kitten skipped last year’s BC Turf after running eighth in the race in 2013 at Santa Anita. Saturday, Big Blue Kitten had help from his stablemate, Shining Copper, who, under Manny Franco ran six furlongs in 1:11.45 while opening up a double-digit-length lead. Big Blue Kitten was 13 lengths back after a mile in 1:35.26.

But Big Blue Kitten had run on his mind entering the turn, and when he started running entering the far turn, Bravo did not want to stop his momentum. Big Blue Kitten made a four-wide move
around the turn and into the stretch and he stuck the front around the three-sixteenths pole.

“He started getting on the muscle and started pulling me and man I didn’t want to hesitate with him,” Bravo said. “Once you get the ball rolling, you don’t want to stop and start. I saw everybody was just sitting around the turn so I said ‘let’s make them run.’ “ Bravo did say that Big Blue Kitten idled a little bit on the lead but “when those horses came to him, he picked it up again. But, yes he makes you sweat a little bit,” Bravo added. Slumber, who beat Big Blue Kitten in the Grade 1 Manhattan here, did make a run at Big Blue Kitten but had to settle for second. He is not Breeders’ Cup nominated and is unlikely to be supplemented.

“Slumber ran terrific,” Brown said. “Big Blue Kitten sort of sling-shotted past him, got the jump on him turning for home, but he admirably fought back and earned second right on the wire. A mile and a half is probably not his best trip but nevertheless he ran big to run second to Big Blue Kitten today.”

Red Rifle, coming off two superb performances at Saratoga, finished fourth, beaten seven lengths. He was in second position early, albeit that was 11 lengths back after a half-mile, but he
didn’t show that same kick that he did upstate. “He ran a little flat,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I’d say he probably likes the Saratoga turf course better than Belmont. Those races up there were a little stronger. Maybe he’s better in a three-turn situation.”
The Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland will be a three-turn situation and Pletcher said most likely Red Rifle will be aimed at that race.

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