Juvenile Fillies heroine Ria Antonia likely to begin 2014 season in New York; Castellano, Maragh, Lezcano add to Breeders' Cup trophy count
By NYRA Press Office | 11/03/2013 03:39 PM ET
Jeremiah Englehart, trainer of Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia, began competing regularly on The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit in the autumn of 2011 and has seen the move pay off handsomely in 2013.
With Ria Antonia's Breeders' Cup victory via disqualification, the 2-year-old filly has surpassed King Kreesa, a New York-bred turf horse who has won three stakes at Belmont in 2013, as the Englehart barn's top earner this year ($1,156,140 vs. $413,000).
"If you would have told me two weeks ago [after King Kreesa won the Mohawk on October 19 at Belmont] that a horse in my barn would have had more earnings that King Kreesa, I would have laughed," said Englehart, who also competes at Finger Lakes Racetrack. "It's an exciting time for both me and my clients."
The Juvenile Fillies was Ria Antonia's second start for Englehart. After finishing fourth in the Swynford in August over Woodbine's Polytrack, she was purchased privately by Christopher T. Dunn and Ron Paolucci's Looch Racing Stable and transferred to Englehart.
Although Ria Antonia was beaten six lengths when fifth in the Grade 1 Frizette in October at Belmont Park, her connections remained undeterred with their plans to compete in the Breeders' Cup.
"The owners bought her with the Breeders' Cup in mind, if she took to the dirt," said Englehart. "We learned a lot of things when we ran her in the Frizette, and we thought she still had a chance to do well [in the Breeders' Cup]. We learned what type of horse we have. In the Frizette we gave instructions to Jose [Ortiz] to take her back, but she doesn't have a quick pop or a strong turn of foot. She has a beautiful, long stride."
Englehart said he'd like for Ria Antonia to begin her 3-year-old campaign by competing in New York, citing the success Princess of Sylmar had with that strategy this year.
"That's our plan right now," said Englehart. "We could still send her south for a while to give her some rest, but we haven't decided yet. As far as a racing schedule, [competing in New York] is what we'd like to do. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't."
Winning jockey Javier Castellano, who rode Ria Antonia for the first time, said Sunday morning he thinks the filly has enormous potential.
"She looks like she's going to run longer, and I think two turns is going to be better for the future," said Castellano, who with the win earned his third Breeders' Cup triumph, having won the 2012 Filly & Mare Turf with Zagora and the 2004 Classic with Ghostzapper. "She won the Breeders' Cup with the best fillies in the country. I think if she follows in the steps of Princess of Sylmar, step by step, I think it would be great for the future."
The jockey added that the addition of blinkers was a key factor in Ria Antonia's victory.
"I had the opportunity to work her before the race, and Jeremiah Englehart made a great decision to put blinkers on her," he said. "She worked phenomenally in blinkers, and it worked out perfect in the race."
Picking up his second straight win in the Filly & Mare Sprint aboard champion Groupie Doll was Rajiv Maragh, who now has four Breeders' Cup victories on his resume.
"Some people might have doubted her a little bit this year, but going in to the Breeders' Cup with a filly like Groupie Doll, I was confident because from my perspective, she's always been consistent," said Maragh, who won the 2011 Dirt Mile with Caleb's Posse and the 2012 Juvenile Sprint aboard Hightail. "She's never run a bad race for me and you know what you're going to get with her. I always ride her knowing she's the champion."
Although Groupie Doll is scheduled to be sold at Keeneland during the November breeding stock sale, Maragh is hoping her new owners won't retire her immediately.
"It's totally out of my control, of course, but I would love to keep riding her - every week, for another 10 years," he said with a laugh. "I have such a great bond with her, and her trainer [William "Buff" Bradley] has done such a great job keeping her at a high level. He expressed to me how much he'd love to keep training her, and I was kidding with him last night - I told him, 'She galloped out a good eighth of a mile, so she's ready for the Cigar Mile.'"
As he had done three times previously, Jose Lezcano proved to be an excellent substitute for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez aboard reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan. Called into service after Velazquez was injured during the running of the Juvenile Fillies, Lezcano piloted Wise Dan to a three-quarter-length victory in the Mile after the 6-year-old gelding stumbled at the start .
Lezcano, who had also ridden Wise Dan to Grade 1 victories in the 2012 Shadwell Turf Mile and the 2013 Maker's 46 Mile at Keeneland, and the 2013 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, now has three Breeders' Cup wins. He took the inaugural running of the Juvenile Fillies Turf in 2008 aboard Maram and rode Royal Delta to win the 2011 Ladies' Classic.