Archive for November 2015


internetLOUISVILLE, Ky. – In seven starts in Europe prior to coming to North America, Button Down was a maiden and not a very good one at that. But on this continent, she has developed into a higher
class of filly – a fact on display Saturday when she took the Grade 3 Cardinal Handicap at Churchill Downs to score her first graded stakes victory.

Relishing a rain-dampened Churchill course contested on yielding ground – similar conditions to what she faced when she ran second in the Grade 2 Canadian at Woodbine in September – she stalked the leaders as they set a legitimate pace in the Cardinal over the tiring grass and blew past in early stretch to score a comfortable 1 1/2-length victory over the longshot Lady Fog Horn. The 2-1 favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Cardinal, Button Down was well positioned by jockey Paco Lopez, settling in midpack behind early fractions of 24.02 seconds and 48.85, set by Invading Humor. Then as the pace slowed to 1:14.94 on the second turn, she advanced into third, and after asserting command in early stretch, she maintained a clear advantage over Lady Fog Horn,
who chased her in vain after being in traffic early.

“I had a little trouble in the first turn, bumped a little bit,” said Lopez.”Then the second quarter, I had better position.”

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With success now comes reward. Winning trainer Josie Carroll said Button Down, a 4-year-old British-bred daughter of Oasis Dream, now has earned herself a five- to six-week winter vacation
before she embarks on a 5-year-old campaign in 2016. Owned by Greenwood Lodge Farm, she raced 1 1/8 miles on turf in 1:56.19, a slow clocking reflecting the tiring conditions of the course.
It was the only turf race contested Saturday at Churchill Downs after a prior turf race was moved to dirt due to inclement weather. Longshots followed Button Down across the wire, with runner-up Lady Fog Horn going off at 20-1, followed by the third-place Lacy at 23-1 and the fourth-place Street of Gold at 36-1. Carroll, reached by telephone at Woodbine, where she also won the Glorious Song with Ami’s Mesa on Saturday, said that when she came to her last winter, “I was surprised she was a maiden.”

She said she couldn’t pinpoint why Button Down had improved so much, other than the obvious. “I know she likes our racing,” she said.

Bagg O’Day goes last to first in Bet on Sunshine

A race earlier, Bagg O’Day rallied from last to first behind a hot pace to take the $82,700 Bet on Sunshine Stakes under Joe Rocco Jr.
Wisely allowed to fall farther off the pace than usual as longshot and eventual last-place finisher Brewing set a furious opening quarter in 20.74 seconds, Bagg O’Day swooped into contention on the turn, and from there, he proved the strongest finisher, outrunning W.B. Smudge by threequarters of a length, with Alsvid another half-length back in third.
The winner, a 4-year-old gelded son of Four Star Day, raced six furlongs on a fast Churchill track that had been dampened by light rain in 1:09.91.


Untitled-1LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trifecta bettors wouldn’t normally expect a very big payoff when the respective 1-2-3 finishers are trained by Todd Pletcher, Graham Motion, and Christophe Clement.
But given the wide-open nature of the Grade 2, $200,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes on Saturday, the whopping $9,514.60 payoff on a winning $1 tri combination came richly deserved.

Isabella Sings, a 27-1 shot ridden by Paco Lopez, took the early lead from 13 other 3-year-old fillies in the 1 1/16-mile turf race and never looked back, holding off 44-1 Rainha Da Bateria by a half-length. Devine Aida was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third. “My filly relaxed real nice,” said Lopez. “She was strong when I asked her.”

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Unchallenged through fractions of 23.50 seconds, 48.07, and 1:13.41, Isabella Sings continued along her merry way as a group of would-be closers gave futile chase after straightening for home.
Onus, the 2-1 favorite, and Partisan Politics, the 3-1 second choice, were among a group that swung wide at the quarter pole, but neither had any kick when finishing ninth and fifth. Only Rainha Da Bateria, who had weaved her way through rivals down the stretch under Robby Albarado, kept the race from being a stunning blowout.

Isabella Sings returned $56.60 to win after finishing in 1:44.74 over a course rated good. She is the second-longest-priced winner in the 25- year history of the race, after Caught in the Rain (32-1) in 2002. Isabella Sings, bred and owned by Siena Farm, is a Kentucky-bred by Eskendereya. The victory was her fourth from 11 career starts and her first in a graded race, with the $112,840 winner’s share lifting her earnings to $303,950. In her two preceding starts, she had finished second by a head in the Grade 3 Boiling Springs in September and a tired fourth in the Pebbles Stakes behind Partisan Politics and Devine Aida in October.

Pletcher, speaking from New York after the Mrs. Revere, said Isabella Sings will now get a freshening at Siena in Paris, Ky., before being sent to Florida to get started on a 4-year-old
campaign. Besides the giant trifecta, mutuel payoffs also included a $2 exacta (10-13) of $1,799.20 and a 10-cent superfecta (10-13-6-12) worth $6,381.79.
A trophy presentation was made by Dr. Hiram Polk and the family of Dr. David Richardson, who was unable to attend. Polk and Richardson campaigned Mrs. Revere in the mid-1980s.


Untitled-1Hebbronville snuck up the rail under jockey Joe Bravo to kick off Saturday’s card at Keeneland with a flying finish, stealing the $100,000 Perryville Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters in the final strides. The race was one of three stakes on the Breeders’ Cup undercard.

In a wild scramble down the backstretch, Lewys Vaporizer, making his stakes debut, assumed command through a brisk opening quarter of 22.15 seconds. The gelding still led through the half in 44.79, but Lord Commander and Prime Engine were revving up on his outside. Lewys Vaporizer fended off those initial challenges, but Hebbronville ($18) and Bravo, who had saved ground all the way after breaking from the rail, rallied up the inside to seize the lead inside the final sixteenth, edging his way to a half-length margin at the wire. The colt stopped the clock in 1:09.78 on Keeneland’s track, rated fast.

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Bayerd rallied on the outside to edge Lewys Vaporizer by a head for second, with the top three finishing another four lengths clear of Prime Engine. Hebbronville, trained by Lynn Whiting, was
coming off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 3 Gallant Bob at Parx, a race Bayerd was also a close third in. The race’s runner-up, Limousine Liberal, goes later in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Earlier in the summer, Hebbronville won the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Stakes. He now owns five career stakes wins or placings.


Untitled-1LEXINGTON, Ky. – On the morning of May 2, with the focus of the racing world on Churchill Downs and the 141st Kentucky Derby, jockey Joe Bravo was at the Louisville airport, taking the first flight out of town. While 20 of his colleagues were getting ready for their chance of a lifetime, Bravo was just happy to have a chance to ride that afternoon at Belmont Park.

Entering that day, Bravo in 2015 had ridden just seven winners from 157 mounts, not the kind of numbers that attract interest from a trainer with a Derby contender. However, at Belmont Park that day, there were important races to be run and significant horses in need of a rider. Bravo made the most of the opportunity, winning five races, including the Grade 3 Westchester on Tonalist, the Grade 3 Fort Marcy on Big Blue Kitten, and the Grade 2 Sheepshead Bay on Rosalind.

“My phone was blowing up,” said Bravo, who listened to the Kentucky Derby on the radio on his drive home to New Jersey that night. “Twenty-seven texts before I got to the jocks’ room, double that on the way home that night. It’s a good feeling to be wanted. I’m not going to lie, it was nice.” It was also the start of a remarkable turnaround for Bravo, who had enjoyed so much success for so long that the slump he was enduring in the first quarter of this year was hard to fathom.

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Six months later, as the racing world converges on Lexington, Ky., for the 32nd Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland, that slump is a distant memory. Bravo is smack dab in the middle of the action with
seven mounts, including Sheer Drama, the potential favorite in Friday’s $2 million Distaff ( ; Greenpointcrusader, the 4-1 morning-line second choice in Saturday’s $2 million Juvenile ( ; and Big Blue Kitten, an 8-1 morning-line shot in Saturday’s $3 million Turf ( His mounts Watsdachances (Filly and Mare Turf ( ) and Conquest Daddyo (Juvenile Turf ( ) are not without a chance. Merry Meadow (Filly and Mare Sprint ( ) and Mr. Z (Dirt Mile ( ) are longshots.

“If you take any one of these horses, it would probably be my best chance ever in a Breeders’ Cup,” Bravo said.
Bravo, 44, has had only eight previous Breeders’ Cup mounts, with three of those rides coming in 2007 at Monmouth Park, a track at which Bravo dominated in the 1990s and 2000s, winning 13
riding titles. His best finish in any Breeders’ Cup race was a fourth on Mystic Rhythms, a 23-1 shot in the 1995 Juvenile Fillies. His most recent Breeders’ Cup mount was Big Blue Kitten in the 2013 Turf. He finished eighth, beaten only 4 1/2 lengths. Bravo began riding Big Blue Kitten in the summer of 2013, finishing second on him in the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes. When he got off the horse that day, he asked trainer Chad Brown to let him ride the horse back in the Grade 1 United Nations.

“Joe got off that horse and said, ‘I’m going to ask you a favor. I want to ride that horse in the U.N. I really learned so much about him today. I’m telling you, he will win for sure,’ ” Brown recalled Bravo telling him. Big Blue Kitten won the U.N., and Bravo has been Big Blue Kitten’s regular rider since. In 13 rides on Big Blue Kitten, Bravo has finished first or second 11 times with him, including another victory in this year’s U.N. and, most recently, a win in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont. Brown further credited Bravo with giving him “terrific feedback” on Big Blue Kitten throughout the horse’s career.

“He’s got a turn of foot better than any turf horse I ever sat on,” Bravo said. “I can’t wait to see what his babies are going to do.” Bravo became the regular rider of Sheer Drama this year. They finished second the first time he rode her, but he was given the opportunity to ride her again by trainer David Fawkes. They finished second again in the Grade 3 Rampart after the winner, House Rules, came in near the eighth pole, forcing Bravo and Sheer Drama to check. The stewards let the result stand, but many felt that House Rules should have come down.
Sheer Drama has three wins and four seconds this year and comes into the Distaff off Grade 1 victories in the Delaware Handicap and Personal Ensign. It helped that Fawkes and Bravo are close friends. During the winter at Gulfstream, Bravo and Fawkes went fishing on dark days. While the two had a good time, Fawkes could tell that Bravo was disappointed in the lack of business – and success – at the Gulfstream meet. Fawkes recommended that Bravo hire Cory Moran as his agent.

“It’s really been a very good marriage,” Fawkes said. “Joe’s the kind of guy, he likes an agent that does the job and leaves him alone. Joe doesn’t want to be bugged to do this and do that. He likes to do his own thing. Cory and him, it really worked out well.” Bravo said he wasn’t that discouraged about his slow Gulfstream meet, during which he went just 7 for 126 from Jan. 1 through April 9. Bravo said he allowed himself to enjoy the south Florida weather while getting himself in shape.

“I wasn’t as busy as I personally would have liked to have been, but everything happens for a reason,” Bravo said. “Maybe it was time to take a step back, enjoy the winter of sunshine in
Florida, working out and getting my body physically right. I didn’t plan it that way. I went to Gulfstream to try to do the best I could.”

Two weeks after his five-win day at Belmont, Bravo rode his 5,000th career winner, becoming the 31st jockey to hit that milestone. Appropriately enough, it came at Monmouth Park. This summer,
Bravo went on a whirlwind tour of America’s racetracks, winning graded stakes at 10 different venues, including Arlington Park, Belmont Park, Delaware Park, Mountaineer, Presque Isle Downs, and Saratoga.

“What was I thinking on the flight home every night?” Bravo said. “How did that just happen?” Regardless of what happens this weekend at Keeneland, Bravo will be on a plane bright and early Sunday morning headed for California to ride Living The Life for Gary Mandella in the $200,000 Goldikova Stakes at Del Mar.
For the last six months, Bravo has certainly been living right.

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