Archive for the ‘Jockey Paco Lopez’ Category.

Navarro gets another with Flowers for Lisa’s Claiming Crown Jewel win

NavarroFlowers for Lisa finished off a banner day for trainer Jorge Navarro Saturday, registering a front-running triumph in the $200,000 Jewel, the grand finale of the $1 million Claiming Crown and an 11-race program on the first day of Gulfstream Park’s 2017-2018 Championship Meet.

Click here to read article from Horse Racing Nation.

About an hour after Navarro saddled 2017 Gulfstream Park Handicap winner Sharp Azteca for a Grade 1 victory in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct, Flowers for Lisa pulled off a 16-1 upset with his 1 ½-length triumph in the Jewel, a 1 1/8-mile stakes for horses that started for a claiming price of $35,000 or less since Jan. 1, 2016.

Claimed for $20,000 by the Flying P Stable at Monmouth Park in July, Flowers for Lisa gave jockey Paco Lopez his third Claiming Crown win on Saturday’s card. The past Championship Meet titlist also scored aboard Blue Bahia in the $110,000 Distaff Dash and the Martini Glass in the $125,000 Tiara.

“I had a little bit of a bad post position, and Navarro told me to do whatever I want. I know we have a bad position, but I know the horse is ready for this race,” Lopez said. “I rushed a little out of the gate, but my horse was very responsive and we won in hand.”

Flowers for Lisa, who finished second in a $32,000 claiming race at Belmont last time out and who has won one of three starts for his new connections, was hustled out of the far-outside post position by Lopez and responded to open a clear lead into the first turn. Flashy Jewel, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, pressed the pace along the backstretch without avail, settling for second at the finish, a head in front of ground-saving Diamond Bachelor.

The winning 4-year-old gelding ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.76 after setting fractions of 23.06 (seconds), 47.06, 1:11.28 and 1:35.67 through the first mile.

“Jorge told me the day he claimed him that this was our Claiming Crown horse. This is a dream for me. The phone hasn’t stopped. I got in this game a long time ago. My father was a jockey years ago, he rode down at Bowie, Timonium, Pimlico, Marlboro, tracks that don’t even exist anymore, some of them,” owner Jason Provenzano said. “I fell in love with horses at a young age but I never thought I’d have the money to own them. I got in a good position in my life and we started claiming horses.”

Gigantic Breeze, the 2-1 favorite who won the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes over Woodbine’s Polytrack surface in his most recent race, was never a factor in his first career start on dirt.

Fire Key earns first stakes win in Autumn Days

fire key the autumn days 2OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Fire Key capped a busy and successful 4-year-old campaign Sunday at Aqueduct, getting a perfect trip under Paco Lopez and rolling to a 2 1/2-length victory in the $100,000 Autumn Days Stakes for fillies and mares, the final turf stakes of the year on this circuit.

Click here to read article from DRF.

Sitting fourth along the inside early on, Fire Key was swung into the 3 path turning for home, and she caught and passed Ultra Brat inside the final furlong to get her first stakes victory and trainer Pat Kelly’s first stakes win in six years.

“It’s been a while,” said Kelly, whose most recent stakes win had come with Spa City Fever in the Alex M. Robb on Dec. 31, 2011.

Two starts back, Fire Key finished second in the Sensible Lady Turf Stakes at Laurel Park. Earlier this month, Fire Key was beaten a nose by First of Spring in a swiftly run allowance race.

On Sunday, Fire Key was second to no one as she sat patiently along the inside while Mo’ne Davis and Ultra Brat dueled through fractions of 23.13 seconds for the quarter and 46.50 for the half-mile. Lopez had no issue swinging Fire Key into the clear turning for home, and the filly did the rest.

Stormy Victoria, the 5-2 favorite, prevailed in a four-horse battle for second by a neck over First of Spring, who was third by a neck over Ultra Brat, who was fourth by a neck over Always Thinking.

Lopez was subbing for Rajiv Maragh, who was at Del Mar on Sunday. Maragh had ridden Fire Key in four of her last five starts and had gotten the filly to settle in her races.

“Maragh had been getting her to relax in her last few starts and finish, and today it worked out even better. She really finished,” Kelly said. “We thought there’d be speed from the outside and she could sit in there and take advantage from that post position and that she’d finish good, and she did.”

Fire Key, a daughter of Friesan Fire owned and bred by Backwards Stable, covered the six furlongs in 1:09.23 and returned $12.

Kelly said Fire Key will have a break and return in the spring, looking for more stakes success.

“We’ll have her back next spring and have some fun, I think,” Kelly said.

Take Charge Paula holds firm to win Smart Halo Stakes

Take Charge PaulaTake Charge Paula won a pace battle and just lasted over the closing Caught Dream’n to win the $100,000 Smart Halo Stakes for 3-year-olds on Saturday at Laurel Park.

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Take Charge Paula was part of a three-horse speed duel with Vertrazzo and Tarawa, the trio setting splits of 22.33 and 46.29 seconds. Tarawa caved, but Vertrazzo stayed on gamely, Take Charge Paula finally taking her measure in the final half-furlong as Caught Dream’n’s late outside run fell just short of the winner.

Chris DeCarlo, the jockey on fourth-place Pacific Gale, lodged an objection against Paco Lopez on Take Charge Paula, alleging interference in upper stretch, and the stewards also posted an inquiry into the incident. But it was actually Vertrazzo who was drifting out, coming into Take Charge Paula’s path as Pacific Gale, just behind that pair and inside another horse, was briefly short of room.

“[Vertrazzo] did bother us a little, but the filly was pretty game,” said Kelly Breen, who trains Take Charge Paula for Bruce Tallisman.

Caught Dream’n, beaten a head, was three-quarters of a length better than Vertrazzo, who held well for a 21-1 shot. Take Charge Paula ($7.40) was the 5-2 second choice behind the narrowly favored Pacific Gale. Jehozacat, who also was 5-2, had a good spot on the inside and just behind the speed but lacked a stretch punch and finished fifth.

By Take Charge Indy and out of the Songandaprayer mare Perfect Paula, Take Charge Paula won for the third time in five starts. She flopped when tried around two turns in the Pocahontas at Churchill but has three wins and a second in her one-turn tries.

• The odds-on My Magician won the $75,000 Geisha Stakes for older Maryland-bred fillies and mares by 2 1/4 lengths. Jomar Torres rode My Magician for the Euro Stable and trainer Claudio Gonzalez, who claimed My Magician for $25,000 on May 17 and now have won three times – including two stakes – from five starts with the 5-year-old mare, a daughter of Street Magician and My Rib, by Partner’s Hero. My Magician ($3.40) ran a one-turn mile in 1:37.40. Moon Virginia was second, with Lucky Malibu third.

“SHAERP AZRECA” WINDS G2 $300,000 KELSO

Sharp AztecaELMONT, N.Y. – Jorge Navarro allowed himself to smile, even if just for a moment.

Navarro was at Belmont Park on Saturday afternoon to watch Sharp Azteca gallop to a four-length victory in the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap, most likely earning Sharp Azteca a trip to Southern California and the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Del Mar on Nov. 3.

Click here to read article from DRF.

But Navarro knows that his horse’s on-track performance will be only part of the story any time he runs a horse. Navarro has a cloud over his head after a video surfaced of him and one of his owners using obscenities and hinting of impropriety as they watched from Monmouth Park a horse trained by his brother, Marcial, win a race at Gulfstream Park in August.

The widely circulated video prompted several tracks to bar Navarro’s horses from running until at least the New Jersey Racing Commission wrapped up its investigation into the case. On Wednesday, Navarro was fined $10,000 – increased from an initial fine of $5,000 – and he was placed on probation for one year.

“It’s not over yet,” Navarro said. “What happened at Monmouth Park, it’s going to take awhile for me to earn people’s trust again. But I’m going to do it.”

There were some fans on the rail outside of the Belmont winner’s circle who wanted to get loud, but were told by NYRA security to be quiet. One fan chanted “Hypo-dermic” but other comments were rather innocuous.

Of the fans, Navarro said, “I’m going to take it. I’m going to show them that I’m a good guy. If I have to earn their trust, I’m going to do it. I won’t give up.”

Navarro said he was somewhat nervous during the day, wondering if he was going to get a call from the New York stewards telling him he would have to scratch his horse.

“Nothing but appreciation for what they’ve done,” Navarro said. “They accepted my horse and I owe them.”

As far as the race went, Sharp Azteca looked like the lone speed on paper, but jockey Paco Lopez said he would have been content to sit off another horse. Sharp Azteca had a half-length lead over Bird Song through a quarter mile in 23.50, and the lead was down to a head after a half-mile in 46.48.

Bird Song was struggling to keep up, but Divining Rod made a menacing move around the turn and looked he might be a threat. But Sharp Azteca was just too good and he pulled away easily, drawing off to win by four lengths while being taken in hand by Lopez. Divining Rod was second, 5 1/4 lengths ahead of Tom’s Ready. Tommy Macho, Ross, and Bird Song completed the order of finish.

“After what we have gone through the last two weeks what else can I ask?” Navarro said. “He’s put a smile on my face.”

Navarro said he would have been much happier had Lopez asked him to run earlier than he did.

“I’m the type of guy if a horse is going to win, let him win; why wait?” Navarro said. “[Lopez] said ‘at the three-eighths pole, I was thinking about you, you’re going to kill me.’ ”

Lopez said he was hoping for a similar trip as he got on Sharp Azteca in the Monmouth Cup, where he sat off another horse before rolling to a 7 1/2-length victory.

“I didn’t want to go too fast, I wanted to be second or third, he relaxed very good last time,” Lopez said. “I had plenty of horse. The other horse is almost head to head with my horse, but my horse was very relaxed, he was not aggressive. When I asked him he wanted to go.”

Sharp Azteca, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Freud, covered the mile in 1:34.12 and returned $3 as the favorite.

Navarro said Sharp Azteca was scheduled to return to Monmouth Park on Saturday night and would prepare there for a start in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. On the same van back to Monmouth was scheduled to be El Deal, whom Navarro shipped up to work – he went five eighths in 1:00.91 Saturday morning – for next Saturday’s Grade 1 Vosburgh.

El Deal, as was the case with Sharp Azteca, will be required to be back on the Belmont grounds Wednesday, at which time he will be placed under security.

“If NYRA wants me here on Tuesday, I’ll be here on Tuesday, whatever they want,” he said. “I’m here to work with them.”

Money’soncharlotte notches fourth straight victory

Money soncharlotteMoney’soncharlotte continued her win streak with a 1 1/4-length victory over Martini Glass in the $200,000 Lady Jacqueline Stakes Saturday at Thistledown, while the latter continued her streak of tough beats in stakes competition.

Click here to read article from DRF.

Money’soncharlotte, trained by Kelly Breen, has now won four consecutive races – three of those stakes. She arrived at Thistledown off a win in the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes at Monmouth, which was preceded by the Lady’s Secret Stakes at the same track. Martini Glass, meanwhile, came into the Lady Jacqueline having finished second by a neck in the Obeah Stakes, and then second by a length to two-time Eclipse Award champion Songbird in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap last month.

Money’soncharlotte, with Paco Lopez in the irons, stalked the pace set by longshot Put Up With It, a length behind through a half in 48.28 seconds. She edged up to head the leader through six furlongs in 1:13.60 and easily took over to power clear in the lane for the victory. Martini Glass, bumped at the start and steadied early, rallied but had to settle for second, edging Mo d’Amout by three-quarters of a length.

The final time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:51.48.

Earlier in the card, Nikki My Darling turned back the formidable Justalittlesmoke, who had been unbeaten on the season, to win the $75,000 Pay the Man Stakes for Ohio-bred fillies and mares.

Nikki My Darling, with Luis Colon aboard for trainer Jeffrey Radosevich, led wire to wire for the victory, repelling Justalittlesmoke when the favorite drew within a length after six furlongs, and powering clear to an eight-length score. She stopped the clock in 1:43.82 for the 1 1/16-mile race.

Justalittlesmoke held second by 4 1/2 lengths over Star Mabee.

This was the third career stakes victory for Nikki My Darling, who now has back-to-back stakes scores. The filly finished sixth in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes at Belmont in June and rebounded for a 6 1/2-length win in the Norm Barron Queen City Oaks at Belterra, establishing a track record for 1 1/8 miles.

Lopez follows Take Charge Paula to Delaware for White Clay Creek

Paco Lopez rides infrequently at Delaware Park, but when he does, it’s usually with a narrow purpose. The star jockey will make one of those trips to the Stanton, Del., track Wednesday to ride a filly named Take Charge Paula in the $50,000 White Clay Creek.

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Trainer Kelly Breen has enlisted Lopez to fly in from upstate New York and reunite with Take Charge Paula, a 4 1/4-length winner of her only start. That eye-catching score at Monmouth Park was enough to make Take Charge Paula the morning-line favorite in the White Clay Creek, the eighth of nine races on a card that starts at 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

“She’s a quick filly that should like a little more ground,” said Breen. “Paco likes her a lot.”

Nine 2-year-old fillies are entered in the White Clay Creek, but Bronx Beauty is a likely scratch after winning the Colleen Stakes on Saturday at Monmouth.

Take Charge Paula, owned by Bruce Tallisman, will break from post 2 in the 5 1/2-furlong race. For Lopez, who has been riding regularly at Saratoga after splitting time between Monmouth and Belmont, this is his fourth quick trip in and out of Delaware this year. Since his first Delaware ride in 2011, he has gone 15 for 55, including 1 for 4 at the 2017 meet.

Lopez was aboard Take Charge Paula on July 7, when fans pounded the filly down to 7-10 odds for her debut. She did not disappoint, controlling the five-furlong race from the outset to earn a 63 Beyer Speed Figure.

Perhaps the main threat to Take Charge Paula will be starting just to her inside: Contrarity (post 1, Katie Davis) will be trying to improve on a 2-for-3 record that includes a four-length allowance score in her latest start July 12 at Delaware.

Other notables include Prancing Warrior and Trickizar, the one-two finishers in a key Delaware maiden race in early June, and Pikachu Princess, a winner of her lone career attempt for trainer Gina Rosenthal. Rounding out the lineup are Dialin, Brexit Revenge, and Miss Deplorable.

Money’soncharlotte takes them all the way in Molly Pitcher

Money soncharlotteOCEANPORT, N.J. – In the paddock before the Grade 3 Molly Pitcher Stakes, jockey Paco Lopez told trainer Kelly Breen it looked like there was a lot of speed in the race and suggested he take Money’soncharlotte back. Breen put his faith in the five-time Monmouth riding champ and agreed.

Click here to read article from DRF.

When the gates opened, Money’soncharlotte took Lopez right to the front and the 1 1/16-mile race basically was over.

“I planned on sitting second or third, but when no one else was going, we did,” Lopez said.

Lopez rated Money’soncharlotte through fractions of 23.78, 47.82, and 1:11.64 and she went on to win by 1 1/4 lengths over a late-running Eskenformoney. Money’soncharlotte, a 5-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast, is now 3 for 3 this year. The Molly Pitcher was her third career stakes win and first graded score.

“She was tailing off at the end of last year and needed a break, so we kept her at Parx over the winter and backed off on her training,” Breen said. “She came back strong for us.”

Breen went on to thank owner George Hall for letting him keep horses in training for numerous campaigns.

“The longevity of horses we’ve had like Pants On Fire, Ruler On Ice, and this mare are a credit to Mr. Hall,” Breen said.

Pants On Fire raced six seasons and won 11 races and $1.6 million. Ruler On Ice, winner of the 2011 Belmont Stakes, raced five years and earned $1.7 million.

Money’soncharlotte paid $20 to win in the eight-horse field. She was timed in 1:42.80.

Todd Pletcher added blinkers to Eskenformoney’s equipment and she finished well in a belated bid. It was 2 1/2 lengths farther back to 7-5 favorite Carrumba in third.

John J. Reilly Handicap: Chublicous wins stretch battle

Chublicious won a quarter-mile battle with Fast Friar to take the $60,000 John J. Reilly Handicap, a six-furlong sprint for New Jersey-breds earlier on Sunday’s card.

The victory was the second straight in the Reilly for Chublicious, who is owned by David Gruskos and trained by Jorge Navarro.

Chublicious stalked three battling leaders early on, went to their outside on the far turn and was almost immediately joined by Fast Friar. The pair brushed once or twice in upper stretch, and then fought to the wire with Chublicious coming out a head the best.

Chublicious, who was ridden by Antonio Gallardo, paid $3.80 and was timed in 1:08.37. He carried high weight of 126 pounds and conceded six pounds to Fast Friar.

In his prior start, Chublicious disappointed at even money in a statebred allowance in late May, finishing fourth.

It was 7 1/4 lengths back from Fast Friar to Visionary Ruler, who was coupled in the wagering with Chublicious.

Sharp Azteca sets course record with Monmouth Cup win

07-30-17 SharpAzteca_MonmouthCup_03OCEANPORT, N.J. – Trainer Jorge Navarro was relieved after Sharp Azteca won the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup on Sunday by 7 1/2 lengths.

Navarro thought Sharp Azteca could handle the two turns of the 1 1/16-mile Monmouth Cup, but he was glad to see him do it so impressively. Navarro also was glad to have the race over with, because Sharp Azteca had been a handful leading up to it.

Click here to read article from DRF.

Sharp Azteca had almost gotten loose at the barn Saturday night, Navarro said. He then flipped and fell on his way from the barn to the paddock prior to the race.

“Now I can relax,” Navarro said.

The 3-10 favorite, Sharp Azteca settled nicely while pressing the early pace in the four-horse Monmouth Cup outside 5-1 second choice Classy Class.

Following relatively easy fractions of 23.94 and 47.13, Sharp Azteca took control on the far turn.

Jockey Paco Lopez shook him up in upper stretch and Sharp Azteca pulled away without need of further urging. He covered six furlongs in 1:10.69, a mile in 1:34.17 and set a track record of 1:40.19. The previous record of 1:40.20 was set by Formal Gold in the 1997 Philip Iselin Handicap in August 1997.

Navarro’s goal for Sharp Azteca is the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Mile at Del Mar on Nov. 3. He plans to use the Grade 2 Kelso, a mile race at Belmont Park on Sept. 23, as a prep.

“Now all I have to do is keep him healthy and happy, and make sure he doesn’t kill himself,” Navarro said.

Sharp Azteca was second-best to Mor Spirit in the Met Mile in his start prior to the Monmouth Cup. Navarro said Sharp Azteca was not at his best for that race.

“He really wasn’t ready for the Met Mile,” Navarro said. “He cut himself and missed a month before that race.”

Sharp Azteca paid $2.60 to win in the Monmouth Cup. He is now 6 for 13 in his career with four stakes wins and earnings of $956,740.

Donegal moon finished second in the Monmouth Cup, 3 1/4 lengths ahead of third-place Just Call Kenny. Classy Class was fourth.

“CHALON” WINS $150,000 JERSEY GIRL

Chalon the jersey girl 4ELMONT, N.Y. – Chalon capped a terrific weekend for California shippers at Belmont Park by rolling to a 6 1/2-length victory in an eventful running of Sunday’s $150,000 Jersey Girl Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters.

Click here to read article from DRF.

Chalon, under Paco Lopez, dueled early with Cajun Delta Dawn, poked her head in front at the five-sixteenths pole, and then pulled away from the field in the stretch for the convincing score. Golden Mischief rallied for second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Sadie Be Good. She was followed, in order, by Yorkiepoo Princess, Pretty City Dancer, and Cajun Delta Dawn.

Vertical Oak, the 6-5 favorite at post time, turned her head at the break and was in the hands of the assistant starter when the gates opened. Effectively out of the race, Vertical Oak was pulled by jockey Jose Ortiz. Following a stewards’ inquiry, Vertical Oak was declared a non-starter because they deemed she was compromised at the start and money wagered on her in the win, place, and show pools was refunded.

“She was a little anxious in there. She moved less than a second before they opened the door and he grabbed her thinking she was going to break through the door and the door opened at the same time,” Ortiz said. “I just pulled her up because there was no point to chase. I was too far behind.”

Meanwhile, Sadie Be Good was pulled up after the wire by jockey Jose Lezcano and vanned off. X-rays taken at the barn showed Sadie Be Good has a fractured right front cannon bone and she will need to undergo surgery, according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

Chalon became the seventh California-based horse to win a stakes race over the four-day race week in which there were 19 stakes races run. She was the second stakes winner for trainer Peter Miller, who on Friday won the Grade 2 True North with Roy H.

“It was a great weekend. I love New York,” Miller said by phone just as he boarded a plane back to Southern California.

The incident at the start regarding Vertical Oak took out one of the speed horses from the race. Cajun Delta Dawn, under Luis Saez, went to the lead but Chalon, under Paco Lopez, went out after her and the two were together through a quarter-mile in 23.41 seconds. Chalon poked a head in front at the five-sixteenths pole and came to the top of the stretch with a one-length advantage.

Chalon, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Dialed In, came a little wide down the lane, but drew away easily while covering six furlongs in 1:10.60. Though 6-1 when the doors opened, due to Vertical Oak being declared a non-starter Chalon’s final odds were 7-2 and she returned $9.30.

“When I saw the pace I felt real confident and she really kicked home strong in 22-and-change the last quarter,” said Miller, who trains Chalon for Gary Hartunian.

Miller said Chalon would ship back to Southern California in the coming days but would likely return to the East Coast for a race this summer, possibly the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga on Aug. 5.

“ROY H” WINS G2 $250,000 TRUE NORTH

Roy HELMONT, N.Y. – What a consolation prize.

Less than an hour after having a horse taken down in a race on the West Coast, trainer Peter Miller was celebrating on the East Coast with Roy H, who won the first stakes of his career with the Grade 2, $250,000 True North at Belmont Park on Friday.

Click here to read article from DRF.

Now, Miller hopes to see the horse develop into a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Whitmore, who was favored while seeking to win his sixth straight race, finished third in the True North.

Roy H ($14.80) sat off the opening quarter set by Chief Lion, then moved to the fore and went on to cover six furlongs on a track rated fast in 1:08.59. It was the horse’s third straight win. The streak started in an optional $40,000 claiming sprint April 8 at Santa Anita and continued with an optional $62,500 claiming sprint win at the same track, for which Roy H earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 106.

“He really ran super, really showed up,” Miller said. “It was a little bit of a vindication.”

Miller trainee Vending Machine won the first race Friday at Santa Anita, but was disqualified and placed fourth. Not long after the True North, Miller won the third race at Santa Anita with Surrender Now.

Roy H, under jockey Paco Lopez, sat in fourth in the True North, off Chief Lion’s opening quarter in 22.28 seconds, then moved to the lead while running the half-mile in 44.82. He went on to a clear win, by 2 1/2 lengths over Stallwalkin’ Dude.

“He was ready,” Lopez said. “I didn’t want to make the lead. I was in good position this time. I waited and let him go and he finished very well.”

Miller has been well pleased with the development of Roy H, a 5-year-old son of More Than Ready who has won both of his starts this year after closing out last season with a fourth-place finish in a first-level allowance in July.

“We gave him time off,” Miller said. “We cut [castrated] him. I think those two things have really changed him.

“He’s been a good horse all along. I thought he could fit with these horses and he proved us right.”

Plans going forward are to be determined, Miller said.

“I think you’d have to think the Breeders’ Cup then work backward from there,” Miller said. “I think we’ll think about a race like the Bing Crosby.”

The Breeders’ Cup remains the year-end objective for Whitmore. He finished 3 3/4 lengths behind Stallwalkin’ Dude and will head back to Churchill Downs, trainer Ron Moquett said. Whitmore rallied from last for third in the True North.

“I think he was a little farther back than usual, and that’s by his own deal,” Moquett said. “I thought the horse that was up there had an easier quarter than what I needed to have for that far back.

“Maybe I ran him back too quick. This is not the end goal for us. The end goal is to figure out everything where he’s perfect … for the Breeders’ Cup.”

Moquett said Whitmore could now target the Vanderbilt at Saratoga.

Roy H earned $137,500 for his True North win for Gary Hartunian. The horse has now won 4 of 14 starts and $291,765.

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