Saddle Up Jessie returns for Listed $150K Heavenly Prize Invitational; Be Your Best targets G2 Buena Vista
Feb 8, 2024
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Saddle Up Jessie returns for Listed $150K Heavenly Prize Invitational; Be Your Best targets G2 Buena Vista

by NYRA Press Ofiice

  • Saddle Up Jessie returns for Listed $150K Heavenly Prize Invitational; Be Your Best targets G2 Buena Vista
  • Spiked returns from 10-month layoff in $150K Heavenly Prize
  • Kant Hurry Love patiently awaits Broadway after Laurel cancellations

Michael J. Ryan’s Saddle Up Jessie will return to the Big A for Saturday’s Listed $150,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational, a one-turn mile for older fillies and mares.

Trained by Brittany Russell, the 5-year-old More Than Ready mare was last seen finishing a close second here on January 6 in the nine-furlong Ladies when a neck back of the victorious Comparative, who exited that effort to win the Grade 3 Bayakoa at Oaklawn Park.

Saddle Up Jessie, who was bred in Kentucky by Ryan’s Kinnickinnic Stables, was haltered for $20,000 last January at Santa Anita Park and has since posted a record of 7-4-2-0 topped by a win in the nine-furlong Carousel in December at Laurel Park.

A $270,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, Saddle Up Jessie is out of the Ryan-campaigned Bernardini mare Zondaq, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-winners Discreet Dancer and Travelin Man as well as the graded stakes-placed Sweet N Discreet.

“She was a beautiful yearling,” Ryan said of Saddle Up Jessie. “It was very gratifying to get the stakes win. It doesn't often work out that way, but Brittany accepted the challenge.”

Saddle Up Jessie, listed at 8-5 on the morning line, will exit post 7 under Manny Franco.

Ryan spoke highly of Zondaq, who has also produced King's Gamble, an Irish-bred sophomore son of Kingman that won on debut and finished third in the Group 2 Gimcrack in August at York. In addition, Ryan owns an unnamed 2-year-old out of Zondaq currently training down in Florida that is sired by Too Darn Hot, who boasted four Group-winners last year as a first-crop sire led by Group 1 Moyglare-winner Fallen Angel.

“The 2-year-old in England [King’s Gamble] won his first start easily in August and then he came back and was third in a Group 2, but had a setback. They tell me he's a pretty nice horse,” Ryan said. “The mare has a 2-year-old in Ocala by Too Darn Hot, who is a freshman sire sensation over there. It's a family I like and I’m delighted that she has rewarded our patience.

“That mare is going back to Nyquist and I'll try and breed on the same cross as Nysos,” Ryan continued. “Nysos was so impressive the other day in the Robert Lewis, geared down the last sixteenth of a mile and still got a 105 Beyer.”

Ryan, from County Meath, Ireland, made his way to North America in 1974 to learn the ropes from the legendary E. P. Taylor of Windfields Farm fame.

"I came here in the summer of '74 and worked in Ocala for a while," Ryan said. "I brought yearlings up to Saratoga and worked the sale for Clay Camp. But my main reason for going to the sale is that I wanted to meet E.P. Taylor. I had an introduction to him by a good friend of my dad – George Blackwell - who bought Lady Angela, the dam of Nearctic, for E. P. Taylor in Europe."

Taylor offered Ryan a job at Windfields Farm in Oshawa, Ontario and he was fortunate to then work closely with a number of legendary stars of the sport.

"I loved my time there. It was a great learning experience," Ryan said. "Most of the foals were Canadian-bred and foaled in Oshawa like Northernette, Storm Bird and The Minstrel. They would then ship them to the Maryland farm to get prepped for the yearling sales. I'd take my summer vacation and go to the Keeneland sale to learn and observe."

One of the greats he saw foaled out at Windfields Farm was Canadian Hall of Famer Glorious Song, a multiple Grade 1-winner and a Champion on both sides of the border. By Halo and out of the Herbager mare Ballade, Glorious Song was equally important as a broodmare, producing the Blushing Groom colt Rahy as well as Singspiel by In The Wings.

"She was a little bitty thing, but she could really run and she turned out to be a great broodmare, too," Ryan said. "She was very tough and very good."

Ryan spent four breeding seasons at Windfields before moving on to work at an agency for Jean-Louis Lévesque and eventually landing in Kentucky where he opened his own operation in 1979.

"I knew I didn't want to be a farm manager. I loved racing too much," Ryan said. "I was exposed to a lot of good horses there [at Windfields] with the stallions they had, especially Northern Dancer, and all the great mares. Mr. Taylor would go to the summer yearling sales every year and buy four or five well-bred fillies and turn them into broodmares. He understood the value of top yearling fillies. He was a great man, E.P. Taylor."

Ryan has long since established his name, selecting future stars at the sale in Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winners Rushing Fall and New Money Honey, who were both campaigned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and trained by Chad Brown. He also bought Breeders’ Cup winners-turned Champions in Good Magic, Bricks and Mortar, and Saint Liam and also bred 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner More Than Real.

Ryan, who won the 2018 Grade 2 Demoiselle here with the Rodolphe Brisset-trained Positive Spirit, now has a number of promising horses stabled with New York-based trainers led by dual Grade 1-placed Irish homebred Be Your Best for conditioner Horacio De Paz.

A 4-year-old daughter of Muhaarar, Be Your Best won the Spa’s P.G. Johnson at second asking in September 2022 one month before a third-place effort in the Grade 2 Miss Grillo here.

She competed exclusively in graded company through seven starts last year, completing the exacta in the Grade 2 Wonder Again in June before shipping to the West Coast in search of firm ground for Grade 1 placings behind Anisette in the Del Mar Oaks in August and the American Oaks in December at Santa Anita.

Ryan praised Be Your Best’s penultimate start last year – a close eighth when just 1 3/4-lengths back of the victorious Seal Team when facing males in the nine-furlong Grade 2 Twilight Derby in November at Santa Anita.

“Irad Ortiz rode her and she got squeezed coming out of the gate and we were last the whole way,” recalled Ryan. “She made a huge run from the top of the lane and got beat a length and three-quarters for everything. Irad was very impressed with her. He told me she gave an unbelievable turn of foot to make up the ground she did.”

Ryan said Be Your Best, who has stayed in training on the West Coast in the care of Michael McCarthy, will target the one-mile Grade 2 Buena Vista on March 2 at Santa Anita as part of the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap undercard.

“Mike has kept her for us and he and Horacio are very good friends and worked together when they worked for Todd Pletcher,” Ryan said. “We're keeping our fingers crossed we can win a graded stakes with her and then bring her back East.”

Be Your Best has banked $344,250 through an 11-2-3-1 record and Ryan noted that her dam, the Medaglia d’Oro mare Kamakura, will be bred to Cody’s Wish.

Ryan also owns the DePaz-trained sophomore filly Tiarella, by Nyquist, who checked in a prominent second in her January 14 debut here in a six-furlong maiden special weight sprint.

Tiarella breezed back five-eighths in 1:01.90 Friday over the Belmont Park dirt training track and is nominated to the seven-furlong $100,000 Ruthless on February 17 here.

“We're looking at it [Ruthless]. It depends how tough it comes up,” Ryan said. “She wants more ground. She ran very well and we were pleased because she's a big filly and we've taken our time. Horacio brought her along slowly. Her work pattern was not stressful at all. We knew she'd need a race but she ran very well. She wants to go further. If she'd won her maiden, you’d be going in a stake anyway. There's a maiden race the following week going a mile, but we'll take a look.”

The $90,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, a half-sister to stakes-placed Sweet Solare, is out of the Quality Road mare Elusive Checkers, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Cause to Believe and stakes-winner Imaginary Sailor.

“This filly is bred to get a mile and an eighth. She wants to run all day. She has a big stride,” Ryan said. “She was a raw backwards filly as a 2-year-old. I didn't even take her to a yearling sale. She's growing into her frame now. I'd say she's every bit of 16.2 hands.”

Ryan also owns the Irish-bred Message of Hope, a sophomore No Nay Never colt who debuted at the Big A and recently finished third in a nine-furlong turf maiden in January at Santa Anita in the care of conditioner Rick Dutrow, Jr.

“Rick is conservative with his 2-year-olds. He doesn't hammer on them in the morning as you can see by the breeze patterns,” Ryan said. “He ran well at Santa Anita and just got nailed for second on the wire. A mile and an eighth at this point in time might have been a touch beyond his capability. At the mile, we almost had it won, but the winner hooked us mid-stretch and we went head-and-head with him for a bit and the big Justify horse of Baffert nailed us for second at the wire.”

Message of Hope could target a one-mile maiden tilt later this month at Santa Anita.

Ryan said he is excited to be working at the top levels of the sport, including with Bob Edwards of e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Seth Klarman of Klaravich Stables, both outfits that factor regularly in graded events here in New York.

“I was fortunate to meet some good people and got lucky,” Ryan said. “We've had a lot of success with Bob Edwards and Mr. Klarman is terrific to work for. It’s very gratifying to see all these good horses winning at the Breeders’ Cup level - it's what keeps you motivated.”


Spiked returns from 10-month layoff in $150K Heavenly Prize

Curragh Stables’ Spiked will make her first start in nearly 10 months when taking on seven rivals in Saturday’s Listed $150,000 Heavenly Prize Invitational, a one-turn mile test for older fillies and mares, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

“We had her in a ‘2X’ a few weeks ago, but then it was canceled. She’s training really well, so we’ll give it a shot,” said trainer John Terranova. “We had sent her out for a bit – she just wasn’t right – so we gave her a bunch of time off. She’s been training steady for a little while now and we were just looking for a spot. It seems like the timing is right and maybe we’ll get some black type for her.”

The 5-year-old Unified dark bay was last seen annexing a nine-furlong optional claiming contest by a head over subsequent stakes-winner Know It All Audrey in April at the Big A. That effort was her first official victory against winners two starts after crossing the finish line first in a similar nine-furlong tilt that saw her disqualified and placed third.

The consistent mare has hit the board in 6-of-8 starts, including a second-out graduation in June 2022 at Belmont Park going a one-turn mile. Spiked will make her stakes debut in the Heavenly Prize, but has kept top company throughout her career. She finished second to eventual dual Grade 1-winner Gina Romantica on debut in March 2022 at Tampa Bay Downs two starts before another runner-up effort to next-out stakes-winner and eventual graded stakes-placed Fingal’s Cave in an allowance at Saratoga Race Course.

“She’s a mile, mile and an eighth type,” said Terranova. “She likes to be competitive and wait on horses a little bit. We’ve always liked her a lot and she’s run against quality fields every time. We ran into Gina Romantica the first time and she’s faced some talent throughout. But, she’s bigger and stronger now and she looks great. We’re hoping she comes back just as well.”

Spiked has worked consistently over the Belmont Park dirt training track since November, most recently covering a half-mile in 50.11 seconds Saturday.

“The way she’s been training, she’s showing us some good stuff. Lately, the last several works, she’s really put it together,” said Terranova. “A month ago, we might not have been willing to try this, but based on how she’s doing now – for sure.”

Terranova added he is pleased with the draw for Spiked, who will emerge from the outermost post 8 in rein to Jose Gomez.

“Having the outside is nice because she can get a nice position from out there, especially coming off a long break,” said Terranova. “It will get her head back in the game. We’re looking forward to it.”

An $85,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Spiked is out of the winning Congrats mare La Canela, who is a half-sister to graded stakes-winner Center Aisle. Spiked’s third dam is the multiple graded stakes-winning Juddmonte homebred Skimble, who produced the multiple graded stakes-winning multimillionaire Skimming.


Kant Hurry Love patiently awaits Broadway after Laurel cancellations

Ken Wheeler, Jr.’s stakes-winning New York-bred Kant Hurry Love is eyeing a start in the state-bred $100,000 Broadway going seven furlongs on February 17 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The daughter of Kantharos was originally entered in the six-furlong What A Summer two weeks ago at Laurel Park, but was forced to change course when the race was canceled due to inclement weather.

“You can’t dwell on it. It is what it is, and we have an option,” said trainer David Duggan. “Because of the situation in Maryland, we altered our plans.”

The 5-year-old bay was last seen finishing a determined second to Hot Fudge in the six-furlong Garland of Roses on December 9 at the Big A when pouncing from 4 1/2 lengths off the pace to come up just a neck shy. Kant Hurry Love has hit the board in 7-of-8 starts since transferring to Duggan’s care one year ago, including a nose victory over Grannys Connection in the six-furlong Dancin Renee in June. Her lone outing at seven-furlongs was a fading fourth two starts back in the Pumpkin Pie on November 5.

Duggan added Wizard Stables’ Walk With Me remains on target for the one-mile $100,000 Maddie May against fellow New York-bred sophomore fillies on February 18. Last out, the daughter of Central Banker finished a game second to My Shea D Lady in the seven-furlong $500,000 NYSSS Fifth Avenue against fellow eligible state-sired juvenile fillies on December 16 at the Big A.

“She’s doing well and trending in the right direction,” said Duggan. “She ran great last time.”

Walk With Me was a determined winner by a head in her November debut at the Big A in wire-to-wire fashion in state-bred company. She most recently breezed a half-mile in 50.28 seconds over the Belmont Park dirt training track Wednesday.

Duggan recently sent out Race Point Stables’ Andiamo a Firenze to a third-place effort in the state-bred Say Florida Sandy on January 28 in his first start since being haltered for $62,500 out of a close runner-up effort in December.

Duggan said the 4-year-old Speightstown colt, who is a half-brother to the multiple graded stakes-winning multimillionaire Firenze Fire, has been privately sold following the Say Florida Sandy.

“He was sold as a stallion in the Philippines,” said Duggan. “I’m not sure if they’ll race him again or not. It was always their plan, so that’s that.”

Andiamo a Firenze banked $338,526 through a record of 14-3-3-2 that included a stakes triumph in the 2022 Funny Cide presented by Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital and a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Sanford the same summer at Saratoga. His last win came in a six-furlong allowance in September at Delaware Park.

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