Archive for June 2019

Stakes Triple for Paco Lopez Results in Jockey of the Week Honors

With three stakes wins, including the only Grade 1 event of the week, Paco Lopez was chosen as Jockeys’ Guild Foundation Detox Jockey of the Week for June 17-23, 2019. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America. Jockey of the Week is sponsored by, America’s #1 Equine Toxin Remover.

Click here to read article from Jockey Talk 360.

Paco Lopez was the only North American jockey to win more than one stakes race last week; he picked up wins in three stakes at Monmouth Park. His stakes victories began on Saturday with a win in the $150,000 Eatontown Stakes (G3) with heavy favorite Valedictorian ($3.60) in an easy three-length win.

He returned to the winner’s circle for the feature race and only Grade 1 of the week, the $310,000 United Nations Stakes. Lopez surprised fans and bettors with a win aboard Hunter O’Riley ($30.20), defeating post-time favorite Channel Cat and Bigger Picture, who competed in the race for the fourth time.

He won a third stake on Sunday in the $75,000 Dan Horn Handicap with Golden Brown ($3.80).

With $332,000 earned, Lopez was the leading rider by stakes earnings for the week. He earned $419,853 in total as the second leading rider by total earnings for the week. In 2019, he has earned $2.96 million and has earnings in excess of $88 million in his career to date.

Lopez tied for the third leading rider by wins for the week. He won seven races and finished in the money in half of his 20 starts. Lifetime, he is 2,503 for 12,544 lifetime and has won 72 races in 365 mounts this year.

Golden Brown turns tables on Irish Strait in Dan Horn Handicap

Right out of the gate, the $75,000 Dan Horn Handicap on Sunday at Monmouth Park was a two-horse affair between Irish Strait and Golden Brown.

Click here to read article from DRF.

There were five New Jersey-breds in the 1 1/16-mile turf race, but Irish Strait and Golden Brown swiftly separated themselves from the field with Irish Strait leading through an opening quarter-mile in 23.40 seconds tracked closely by Golden Brown. Jockey Paco Lopez aboard Golden Brown stuck closely with Irish Straight through a half-mile in 46.43, then let his mount settle off the pacesetter as three-quarters went in 1:09.64. Lopez began to ask Golden Brown to pick it up around the turn, and his mount responded willingly to gain ground through the stretch and eventually wear down Irish Strait for a half-length victory. It was 8 1/2 lengths back to Don’s Marsh in third.

The final time over firm turf was 1:40.95 and the winner, sent off at 4-5, returned $3.80. The finish was the inverse of last year’s Dan Horn, in which Irish Strait beat Golden Brown by a half-length.

Golden Brown, trained by Pat McBurney for ABL Stable et al., entered the Dan Horn off a victory in a second-level dirt allowance at Monmouth on May 11. The 4-year-old Offlee Wild colt now owns five wins from 14 starts and has earned $355,000.

McBurney told Monmouth publicity that the Irish War Cry Handicap on July 6 at Monmouth was a possible next target for Golden Brown.

“As it works out, our schedule 13 days from now is another Jersey-bred turf race, so if he bounces out of this good I think we’d be looking at that,” said McBurney. “We’ll stay with Jersey-breds for now with him.”

Valedictorian Follows Dam’s Success in Eatontown

Daughter of Smart N Classy earned her second graded score.

Epic Racing’s Valedictorian returned home to score decisively in the $165,000 Eatontown Stakes (G3T) June 22 at Monmouth Park. The New Jersey-bred mare followed the success of her dam, Smart N Classy, who won the Eatontown in 2005.

This year’s 1 1/16-mile turf test for fillies and mares 3 and up marked Valedictorian’s second graded stakes score, giving her three wins in six starts this season.

Click here to read article from Blood Horse.

A 5-year-old daughter of Temple City trained by Kelly Breen, Valedictorian won her first stakes race nearly a year ago in the Jersey Girl Handicap and added the All Along Stakes at Laurel Park in September. She made the grade this year in the Suwannee River Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park Feb. 9 and won the Sand Springs Stakes there March 30.

Her lone off-the-board finish this year came in the Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (G2T) May 4 at Churchill Downs.

Returning to form Saturday, Valedictorian was held in second by jockey Paco Lopez, who let Conquest Hardcandy speed to the lead. The two were seven lengths ahead of the other four runners when the first quarter-mile went in :23.77 and remained 4 1/2 lengths in front when a half-mile went in :47.86.

The field came together as three-quarters of a mile went in 1:12.29, and Conquest Hardcandy could not maintain her lead. Remaining up front proved no problem for Valedictorian, who pulled away to cross the wire 2 3/4 lengths in front. The final time was 1:43.70 on a turf course rated good.

Valedictorian paid $3.60, $2.60, and $2.10 as the 4-5 favorite.

“It wasn’t what I anticipated (with the early speed duel). But she has rated before, so it didn’t worry me,” Breen said. “The worrisome part to me was the time of the race, that they went (fast) the first quarter. It was a legitimate pace.

“Paco rode her smartly. He got her to the outside, she settled, and when I saw that she was doing it well and Paco had his trademark reins dangling, I knew we were OK. I was just worried she would be too sharp off her last couple of workouts, a little too eager. But it worked out fine.

“There are not too many like her. It’s really fun to have her in our barn. She likes it here, but I didn’t know if she would like it today with all of the rain we had—although she did win on a yielding turf at Laurel. But I was concerned about the footing.”

Maid To Remember rallied from last to finish second in a photo finish over Inflexibility. My Sistersledge, Conquest Hardcandy, and Dynatail completed the order of finish.

“I was a little concerned early because I thought I would be the only speed,” Lopez said. “I was fine taking her back and then going outside after that other horse was pushing for the lead. I was worried about the turf course, but it was good. I thought it would be very wet, and it wasn’t. My horse pulled me to the front, and I knew what I had. I just had to get her to relax. She is a nice mare, very consistent.”

Valedictorian was bred by John Bowers, who raced her under the name Roseland Farm Stable with trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. before Red Diamond Stable and trainer Michelle Nihei claimed her for $25,000 in January of her sophomore season. Epic Racing soon bought into Valedictorian, and she made her debut with Breen in August 2017.

Valedictorian has a 12-6-3 record from 28 starts and $672,765 in earnings.

Smart N Classy, by Smart Strike, has produced five winners from five starters, including a 3-year-old daughter of Stay Thirsty named Stay Smart, a Breen trainee who broke her maiden Friday at Monmouth. Smart N Classy last produced a yearling colt named He’spuregold by Vancouver.

Hunter O’Riley Captures United Nations Stakes

Tiz Wonderful gelding posted narrow win over Zulu Alpha in grade 1 turf test.

It had been a while since Hunter O’Riley last visited the winner’s circle, but that hardly mattered June 22 when the 6-year-old gelding returned to top form at a highly opportune time.

Sean Shay and Michael Ryan’s son of Tiz Wonderful rallied strongly in the stretch and recorded a neck victory over Zulu Alpha to capture the $310,000 United Nations Stakes (G1T) at Monmouth Park for his first victory since July 29, 2017.

Click here to read article from Blood Horse.

“We’re thrilled to get him back in form, and we have some races penciled in for him for the rest of the year that we are very excited about,” trainer Jimmy Toner said. “Coming into this race, he trained as well as he ever has, so I was confident going into the race that he would run good.”

Hunter O’Riley ($30.20) was winless in three 2019 starts before the 66th edition of the U.N., with his best finish a fourth in the Jan. 26 W. L. McKnight Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park. Those were his first starts since he was sidelined by an injury to a ligament in his pastern suffered after a ninth-place finish in Keeneland’s Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes (G2T), his lone outing in 2018.

Toner credited an aggressive ride by Paco Lopez as a key element in the 14-1 victory.

“Paco rode him great. I’m thrilled to death,” Toner said. “He tends to drop into a gallop. He always finishes, but he needs to have someone who keeps him in the race all the way. That was the key to him being able to finish like that.”

Hunter O’Riley was seventh in the field of eight in the early stages while saving ground but then was taken to the outside on the final turn and closed strongly while widest in the stretch to collar Michael Hui’s multiple graded stakes winner Zula Alpha, who had forged to a half-length lead at the eighth pole under Channing Hill.

“At the half-mile, I started to get him outside, and then when I asked him to run, he really gave me what he has. I had good position the whole way. I liked where I was. He fired a little slowly, but then he got rolling,” said Lopez.

Calumet Farm’s Channel Cat, the 9-5 favorite, was third, a half-length behind Zulu Alpha.

The final time for the 1 3/8 miles on a turf course labeled good was 2:17.10 after early fractions of :25.29, :50:36, 1:16.19, and 1:41.46 set by 22-1 shot Arrocha, who wound up sixth.

The victory was the fifth in 22 starts for Hunter O’Riley and increased his earnings to $620,293.

Hunter O’Riley was bred in Kentucky by Mike Rutherford out of the Bernardini mare Oblige, and was the mare’s first of five foals, the most recent of which was a Union Rags filly born Feb. 15. He was purchased by Shay for $50,000 from Niall Brennan Stables’ consignment at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale, after going through the ring for $120,000 to Jarazen Stable from Legacy Bloodstock’s consignment at the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Toner said the next start for Hunter O’Riley would most likely come at Saratoga Race Course in the July 27 Bowling Green Stakes (G2T), which, appropriately enough, served as the gelding’s last win in 2017.

Hunter O’Riley ends skid in United Nations

OCEANPORT, N.J. – Since winning the Grade 2 Bowling Green in July 2017 at Saratoga, Hunter O’Riley had failed to hit the board in six starts sandwiched around a ninth-month layoff. The long-winded son of Tiz Wonderful had been dropping too far back during his races and was unable to make up the ground when it counted.

Click here to read article from DRF.

That changed on Saturday at Monmouth Park when jockey Paco Lopez kept the 6-year-old in contact with the field during the Grade 1 United Nations while saving ground. He wheeled Hunter O’Riley out five wide on the far turn and then ran down Zulu Alpha to take the 1 3/8-mile turf stakes by a neck.

The win was the first in a Grade 1 for trainer Jimmy Toner since Time and Motion won the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in the fall of 2016.

“That was a super ride by Paco,” Toner said of the United Nations. “He saved ground with the field and then tipped him out – maybe a little too far, I thought. But this horse runs better on the outside and at least he wasn’t 15 lengths out of it early.

“The horse has been doing great. He’s been training lights out for this.”

Lopez, a five-time riding champion at Monmouth, has been riding very well since he returned to the saddle June 15 after serving a 30-day suspension for careless riding at Gulfstream Park. The United Nations was Lopez’s third win on the card. He also won the Grade 3 Eatontown and an allowance race. Since his return, Lopez is 8 for 28.

Lopez was happy after the United Nations but downplayed the significance of the most important win of his comeback.

“Whether it’s a Grade 1, a Grade 2, or a $5,000 claimer, I try to win every race all the time,” Lopez said. “I am happy that today I was able to do what Mr. Toner wanted. He told me, ‘Whatever you do, get this horse to the outside.’ ”

Hunter O’Riley is now 5 for 22 and the $180,000 he earned Saturday boosts his earnings to $620,000 for owners Sean Shay and Michael Ryan. The United Nations is his second stakes win.

He had been scheduled to race in the Grade 1 Manhattan on Belmont Stakes Day but was scratched by order of the stewards.

“That was an unfortunate incident,” Toner said. “One of my employees gave the horse some wind [spray] during the course of the day, and security was there, and the rules are you can’t give the horse anything on the day of the race. And, that’s what happened.

“It was very disappointing. Maybe it was a bad thing, good thing since he was able to come back in this race.”

Arrocha was sent from the gate in the United Nations by Antonio Gallardo and made the lead. He was surprisingly tracked by Monarchs Glen, who had lagged far back in his first two starts U.S. starts after having previously raced in Great Britain.

Following fractions of 25.29 seconds, 50.36, 1:16.19, and 1:41.46 over the good course, the field bunched up on the far turn, with Zulu Alpha challenging three wide outside the early leaders and 9-5 favorite Channel Cat bidding for the lead four wide.

Zulu Alpha came away with a short lead over Channel Cat but could not contain Hunter O’Riley, who paid $30.20 while completing the course in 2:17.10 following a 1 1/4-mile split of 2:05.51.

It was a half-length back from Zulu Alpha to Channel Cat in third and 1 1/4 lengths farther back to Bigger Picture, who won the United Nation two years ago. Focus Group, who trailed the field early, finished fifth at 3-1.

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