Book’em Danno takes charge in G1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun
Stakes Recap
Jun 8, 2024
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Book’em Danno takes charge in G1 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun

by Keith McCalmont

Atlantic Six Racing’s Book’em Danno sat off a scintillating pace before swooping to an impressive victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Derek Ryan and expertly piloted from the inside post by Irad Ortiz, Jr., the son of Bucchero entered from a more than three-month layoff following a heartbreaking head loss to then undefeated Forever Young – the eventual Grade 1 Kentucky Derby third-place finisher - in the Group 3 Saudi Derby on February 24 at King Abdulaziz Racecourse.

Ryan recalled his multiple graded stakes-winning filly Irish Jasper finishing fourth in the 2015 Grade 1 Test here after exiting post one in a race won by the Ortiz, Jr.-piloted Cavorting.

“The one-hole wasn't great. I had a filly in the Test a few years ago. But I don't really have too many good horses like this, and she finished [fourth] because of the one-hole,” said Ryan, who secured his first Grade 1 win. “So I was hoping that Irad could work a good trip out. They were going pretty fast. But it's Irad. You don't have to worry when you've got Irad."

Frost Free broke alertly from post 5 under Jose Ortiz, but the Tyler Gaffalione-ridden Barksdale demanded the lead and rocketed to the fore to mark the opening quarter-mile in a swift 21.37 seconds over the fast main track as Boom’em Danno, who bobbled at the break, advanced up the rail to settle in sixth.

A freewheeling Barksdale led to the turn with Frost Free hanging on through a rapid 43.08 half-mile, but when Ortiz, Jr. asked Book’em Danno to engage he surged past the stalking duo of Imagination and Valentine Candy before vaulting outside the dueling pacesetters to arrest control of the race

Book’em Danno stayed on strong down the lane as the pacesetters retreated and the Flavien Prat-piloted Prince of Monaco, who was bothered at the break after being bumped by the stumbling Reasoned Analysis, emerged from the pack as a late threat. But there was no denying Book’em Danno, who staved off the late bid to score by a half-length in a final time of 1:21.30. It was a further 1 1/4-lengths back to the previously undefeated Grade 1 Hopeful-winner Nutella Fella in third.

Reasoned Analysis, Valentine Candy, Be You, Imagination, Maximus Meridius, Nash and the tempo-setters Barksdale and Frost Free rounded out the order of finish. Vlahos was scratched.

Ortiz, Jr. said Book’em Danno was relaxed behind the hot pace.

"When I started moving, he started finding really well on the turn,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “He started responding really, really good on the turn so that helped a lot. Turning for home, I was still in a hold, then I asked him, and he gave me a good kick at the end. That was great. He is a nice horse.”

Ryan indicated that Book’em Danno could return to the Spa for the seven-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial on August 24.

"Seven furlongs is perfect for him. The Allen Jerkens would be the main goal for the rest of the summer,” Ryan said.

Book’em Danno won four of his first five starts, taking the Smoke Glacken in September at Monmouth Park and the off-the-turf Futurity in October at Belmont at the Big A. He was a close second in Aqueduct’s Nashua in November and subsequently romped by 12 1/2-lengths in the seven-furlong Pasco at Tampa Bay Downs before heading to Saudi Arabia.

Prince of Monaco, trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, won a pair of graded events last year at Del Mar with scores in the Grade 3 Best Pal and Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. He was a non-threatening fifth last out in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November at Santa Anita Park.

“The horse beside me stumbled out of there and hit my hind-end,” Prat said. “I lost a couple of lengths there. After that we regrouped, and he made a nice run.”

Jockey Junior Alvarado said the Gary Contessa-trained Nutella Fella, who won the Grade 1 Hopeful here last summer at 54-1, was valiant in defeat off a nine-month layoff.

"I was at the back of the pack, like I was expecting with him, and with a lot of pace in front. By the three-eighths pole I started picking them up little by little. He was there for me,” Alvarado said. “When I asked him at the five-sixteenths I felt that I had a lot of horse underneath me, so I pulled him outside. He came out with a great run. Nothing to be ashamed of with this third today coming from a big layoff. Mr. Contessa did an amazing job to get him this good until this point, and hopefully we can move forward from this race."

Bred in New Jersey by Gregory Kilka and Bright View Farm, Book’em Danno banked $275,000 in victory, while improving his record to 7-5-2-0. He returned $7.70 for a $2 win bet.

Live racing resumes Sunday at Saratoga for Closing Day of the four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival that kicks off with the Grade 1 Beverly R. Steinman Hurdle Handicap in Race 1 before the New York Showcase Day program begins with six state-bred stakes worth $900,000, headlined by a pair of nine-furlong $200,000 contests for 3-year-olds and up in the Commentator and the Critical Eye for fillies and mares. First post on the 12-race card is 12:50 p.m. Eastern.

America’s Day at the Races will present daily coverage and analysis of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit

NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Belmont Stakes Racing Festival, and the best way to bet every race of the four-day meet. Available to horseplayers nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at

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