Archive for the ‘General News’ Category.

Tune Me In pulls a shocker in Oceanport Stakes

Paco LopezTune Me In, the longest price in the race, pulled off a 25-1 upset in the Grade 3, $152,500 Oceanport Stakes on the turf Sunday at Monmouth Park.

In his usual fashion, Get Serious went right to the front, only to find the gray Tune Me In his constant companion.

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The pace was painfully slow, 25.85 seconds and 50.12 as they raced as a team.

“I knew no one wanted to go with Get Serious, so we did,” Alexander said. “The whole race was won when they went in 25 and 50.”

They were still inseparable throughout the stretch run, with Tune Me In finally gaining a narrow advantage in the final sixteenth of a mile on his way to a half-length win. Queen’splatekitten, the 13-10 favorite, rallied up the rail to edge Get Serious by a neck for the place spot.

The victory snapped a six-race losing streak dating back to a second-level allowance race here last September. Tune Me In was seventh in his prior effort in a Belmont allowance race.

The time was 1:43.39 for the 1 1/16 miles on the course rated firm. Tune Me In, a 5-year-old gelding ridden by Paco Lopez, paid $53.60 to win.

Admiral Perry was fourth, followed by Magnifi Cat, Roman Tiger, and Crepuscolo.

Photo Credit: Nikki Sherman

Senator Beck Scores In Desert Vixen Stakes

Senator Beck Desert Vixen StakesTee-N-Jay Farm’s Senator Beck closed with a rush down the straight to post a half-length victory in the $60,000 Desert Vixen Stakes at Monmouth Park on Saturday.

Ridden by Paco Lopez, Senator Beck stepped the mile and a sixteenth over firm turf in 1:43.49 and returned $14.20, $4.40 and $2.60.  Peace Preserver, the 6-5 favorite in the field of six 3-year-old fillies, completed the $26.60 exacta and paid $3 to place and $2.20 to show.  It was another length and three-quarters back to Composition, who paid $2.20 to show.

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“I liked where she was down the backstretch,” said winning trainer Tim Hills.  “She kind of got bounced around in her last (Grade 3 Boiling Springs at Monmouth on June 23) so we ran her back here, which was a little bit of an easier spot and she ran huge.”

Senator Beck, named for New Jersey State Senator Jennifer Beck of Monmouth County, scored for the third time in eight career starts by taking the Desert Vixen.  The NJ-bred daughter of Artie Schiller from the Benny the Dip mare Go for a Dip has now banked $92,254 for her connections.

Live racing continues at Monmouth Park on Sunday, July 29 – when the racetrack presents the 45th running of the Grade 1 $1 million Haskell Invitational.  Gates open at 10 a.m., with the first of 14 races slated for noon.  The Haskell is set as the 13th race with an estimated post of 6:17 p.m.

Snow Top Mountain, Turbo Compressor win at Colonial

Paco LopezFor video of the Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes (G3), click here.

For video of the Colonial Turf Cup Stakes, click here.

by Nicole Russo

Snow Top Mountain rallied up the rail to post a narrow victory in the 100,000 Edward P. Evans All Along Stakes (G3) Saturday night at Colonial Downs.

Speak Easy Gal and Thundering Emilia bounded away from the field of nine fillies and mares, leading the rest of the pack by as many as ten lengths through early fractions of :24.09 and :48.21.

Fourth after three-quarters of a mile, Snow Top Mountain saved ground around the far turn under Paco Lopez and found running room along the rail in midstretch, poking a head in front near the sixteenth pole. She held off a furious late bid from Clare Skies Ahead, who closed six-wide, to prevail by a neck. The final time for 1 1/8 miles on turf rated firm was 1:49.48.

Shimmering Moment finished third, a head behind Clare Skies Ahead.

Trained by Tom Proctor, Snow Top Mountain won the Suwannee River Stakes (G3) in February at Gulfstream Park but had finished unplaced in two graded stakes tries since. The five-year-old Najran mare has won seven starts from 23 career starts with earnings of $486,103.

A homebred for Barbara Hunter, Snow Top Mountain is out of the Storm Cat mare Motokiks and is a half sister to multiple graded stakes winner Keertana.

One race later, budding turf star Turbo Compressor led gate-to-wire to top a strong field in the $500,000 Colonial Turf Cup Stakes. He finished 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.15 under Joe Bravo.

Multiple graded stakes winner Air Support finished second, 1 ¼ lengths behind Turbo Compressor, and defending champion Rahystrada finished third.

Turbo Compressor, trained by Todd Pletcher for P and G Stables and Off The Hook LLC, is two-for-three this year since being switched to turf, winning an allowance optional claiming event at Gulfstream Park before finishing eighth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (G1).

The four-year-old Halo’s Image ridgling was a multiple stakes winner on dirt last year. Overall, he has won six wins from 13 starts with $620,960 in earnings.

For Equibase charts, click here.

Jockey Paco Lopez is riding to his dream

Monmouth Park jockey Pascacio “Paco” Lopez, 23, was once a poor boy in Mexico with a big dream. In just more than two years, he’s been making that dream come true from the back of a race horse while keeping his ambitions simple.

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So far in 2009, the jockey has won more than 1.1 million in purse money at Gulfstream Park, in Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Lopez’s biggest achievement was winning the 2008 Eclipse Award for “Best Apprentice Rider” in North America, an award bestowed upon individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of champion in their respective division, said Cory Moran, his agent.

He is now one of top riders at Gulfstream, behind leading jockeys Jose Lezcano and Elvis Trujillo, a rank he received by riding the third most horses in one season at Gulfstream Park.

He made headlines when he won first place riding Smooth Air during the $300,000 (G2) Gulfstream Park Handicap, in April 2009. And, Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens named Lopez their leading Champion Rider of 2008, Moran said.

He’s young and fearless, with an aggressive but not dangerous riding style, Moran said, noting that Lopez had more wins than any apprentice jockey in the nation in 2008. Lopez’s drive has earned him the chance to ride on top mounts, he added.

Today, Lopez is riding and winning stake races at Monmouth Park and Belmont, N.Y.

He’s racked up other honors: winning 13 stake races in Miami within four months during a four-day a week racing schedule and sweeping the Florida Stallion Stake Series at Calder Race Course aboard Big Drama on Oct. 18, 2008 — his 23rd birthday.

In Lopez’s first meet last year as a journeyman rider, a rank reached after apprenticing as a jockey for one year after their fifth race — he won races on a regular basis. He became in demand among some of the best trainers in the country, Moran said.

Lopez’s dreams for a better life as a child didn’t include horses, though. Growing up in a home without without electricity or running water in Veracruz, he jsut knew he wanted more.

He left home at 12, moving to Tierra Blanca to live with one of his three sisters — he also has two brothers — led to horses. In Tierra, at first he made $30 a week shining shoes and working at a car wash. One day, a customer approached him and asked if he knew of someone who could clean stables and care for horses.

He said to the man, “Yeah, I’ll go.”

Soon, he was cleaning stalls and riding quarter horses without a helmet on bush tracks, Moran said.

“Mexico has all those crazy races there,” Moran said. “There is no pari-mutuel (mutual betting), no stewards (judges) and no regulations . . . no nothing.”

They’re like match races — it was a straight-shot run with a starting gate, he added, laughing.

“He (Lopez) started winning all the races down there. It got to be where he was like the king of quarter horse races in Mexico.”

He won more than 5,000 races by the time he was a teenager and won 13 races in one weekend alone, Lopez said.

Dressed in a dark blue polo shirt, jeans and a Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 baseball cap, Lopez spoke softly as he answered questions, with Moran assisting as a translator because Lopez’s English is spotty.

“I wanted to be a jockey when I won the race and heard the people clapping and cheering,” he said.

In 2006, he moved to South Florida to pursue his dreams of riding professionally. After riding bush tracks in West Palm Beach, he found his way to Calder, where he meet Moran.

His goals are simple now, Lopez said. He wants to own his own ranch in the United States and live there with his wife, Elizabeth Lynn (Nobles) Lopez, he said. They married in April.

He doesn’t drink or use drugs, Moran adds, laughing, referring to the hat.

Lopez saves his money to help his family in Mexico. They’re using the money to fix up their old house while building another one. They now have electricity and running water and his siblings watch his races on a computer, Lopez said. “Paco is very simple,” Moran said. “He’s simple. He can sleep on the floor. The bed will be there but he’s very like Crocodile Dundee.

“Can you imagine going from being dirt poor to winning an Eclipse?” Moran adds.

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