Happy Tenth Stable sends Yo Yo Candy in search of second Saratoga upset in Monday's G1 Hopeful | NYRA
Sep 3, 2023
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Happy Tenth Stable sends Yo Yo Candy in search of second Saratoga upset in Monday's G1 Hopeful

by NYRA Press Ofiice

  • Happy Tenth Stable sends Yo Yo Candy in search of second Saratoga upset in Monday's G1 Hopeful
  • Bright Future awarded career-best 103 Beyer for G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup triumph
  • Proxy likely to train up to G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic
  • Alva Starr posts 98 BSF for G2 Prioress romp
  • Options aplenty for G2 Flower Bowl winner Parnac
  • G3 With Anticipation victress Gala Brand the ‘pride and joy’ of Arnmore Thoroughbreds
  • Thin White Duke registers 96 BSF in successful Harvey Pack title defense
  • GSW Becky’s Joker scratches from G1 Spinaway; Nutella Fella all set for G1 Hopeful

Happy Tenth Stable enjoyed their first ever graded stakes win when the Daniel Velazquez-trained Yo Yo Candy edged clear to a 2 1/4-length score at odds of 46-1 in the six-furlong Grade 3 Sanford on July 15 at Saratoga Race Course. The Danzing Candy colt will return to the Spa on Monday in search of another upset in the seven-furlong Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful for 2-year-olds.

Tom Lamont, who operates Happy Tenth Stable with his wife, Kathy, were not on hand for the upset win, choosing to instead attend the races at Monmouth Park near their New Jersey home and cheer on their 2-year-old filly Factorbella, who dead-heated for third in a maiden special weight.

"It was one of many bad choices in a life of bad choices," said Lamont, with a laugh. "It didn’t look like we had much of a chance. It's a three-hour drive to Saratoga and the race wasn't until after six and we had a horse running at Monmouth. It seemed at the time like the right idea."

Yo Yo Candy, a debut maiden winner in May at Parx, had finished a distant third to Gold Sweep in the Tremont in June at Belmont Park and was a definite underdog heading into a rematch with his familiar foe in the Sanford. But the odds shifted in the Lamonts' favor when Gold Sweep stumbled at the break and trailed.

"It [the stumble] didn't really register with me at the time. I knew he was back there somewhere and I knew others were coming," said Lamont, who watched the race from home on TV.

Lamont said he experienced a range of emotions familiar to horse owners and handicappers as the race unfolded with Yo Yo Candy tracking comfortably in third before angling out and taking command at the stretch call under returning rider Angel Castillo.

"Our horse was doing alright. The pace looks decent. Holy crap - he could actually win! And sure enough, he did," recalled Lamont.

Gold Sweep, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and piloted by Jose Ortiz, came running late but the race was already over. While Lamont can certainly relate to the ups and downs one can experience in horse racing, he was quick to give Yo Yo Candy some credit after emerging victorious in the nine-horse field.

"Hey, we beat every other horse in the race that didn't stumble," Lamont said.

The 76-year-old Lamont was born in New York but grew up in New Jersey and attended the races at Monmouth Park in his youth.

"My father would take me to the racetrack and I liked that, but what I really wanted to do was get involved in sports from the inside," Lamont said. 

When dreams of owning a baseball team and being part of a syndicate managing prize fighters failed to materialize, he got involved in a harness racing partnership in 1976. In the mid-1980s he made the move to thoroughbred racing with trainer John Tammaro, III and secured their first win with Little Hero in 1985 at Garden State Park. Happy Tenth Stable continued to expand and they now have 16 horses in training spread out amongst Velazquez and his father Freddy Velazquez, as well as former Tammaro, III assistants Tony Wilson and Leslielyn Hardesty.

Lamont is retired from a 40-year career as a reporter/editor for Institutional Investor, a trade magazine reporting on the financial industry that was later acquired by Euromoney. The Lamonts now reside in Clearwater, Florida near Tampa Bay Downs and spend much of the summer months in New Jersey.

Lamont said the buzz of the track continues to bring the couple great joy.

"I love the excitement and thoroughly enjoy all the people we've met along the way. As Red Smith used to say, 'there's a lot of very interesting characters if you hang around a racetrack long enough,'" Lamont quipped. "The best thing about it is the people I've been associated with are all square shooters. They're honest and decent and people you'd want to work with."

He credits Velazquez with running a detail-oriented operation that helped Yo Yo Candy straighten out - quite literally - and close the gap on his more fancied rivals when the trainer fitted the improving colt with blinkers, a new bit and a tongue strap ahead of his Sanford coup.

"He could have finished second in the Tremont but he couldn't run a straight line for the last furlong. So, Danny took a good look at him - he's very systematic and analytical. He added some blinkers and said, 'let's see what happens.' And boom it happened," Lamont said.

The Sanford marked just the third career stakes score for Happy Tenth Stable, arriving 12 years after the Wilson-trained Deliburnsky - whose win photos still adorn their New Jersey home - captured the Jersey Juvenile at Monmouth and Dave's Friend at Laurel Park in back-to-back fashion.

On Monday, they'll look to overcome a 20-1 morning line assessment and possibly longer odds than their 46-1 Sanford score when Yo Yo Candy emerges from post 2 in a field of 11. But Lamont notes their stable does have some form in doubling up against the odds.

"Back in the mid-2000s, we had a horse named Lord Starson and he was a maiden and 0-for-14 and never hit the board. He had one speed - slow," recalled Lamont, with a laugh. "It's 100 degrees at Monmouth and he's in a maiden $10,000 and they open the gate and for whatever reason, a number of horses broke out of there."

The July 27, 2005 race saw a field of eight burst from the gate and the Tammaro, III-trained Lord Starson rated in sixth position some 8 1/2-lengths off the pace under Joe Rocco. But one-by-one, the Lord Carson gelding began to pick off his rivals.

"It was like the tortoise and the hare," Lamont said. "He won the race at 55-1. That was just amazing. We won as much money through the window as we did in purse money. In his next race, he went in against winners at 37-1 and he won again. So, who can tell in this game."

Lamont knows Yo Yo Candy will have an uphill battle on Monday with the returning Gold Sweep, the Brad Cox-trained Timberlake and a pair each from Hall of Fame trainers Bob Baffert [Muth, Mission Beach] and Todd Pletcher [Pirate, Be You] to deal with in a stacked field.

"Between Muth and Gold Sweep, I think they'll take most of the money and that will send everyone else in the other direction [on the odds board]," Lamont said. "The field for Monday looks kind of awesome, but what do I know - with 2-year-olds, from one day to the next they get a lot better or a lot worse. I'd say all in all, it's a tougher field. But, when we win, it's usually anywhere from 5-1 on up. I’m perfectly happy with being overlooked."

Lamont said a good result on Monday could propel the connections - horse, trainer and owners alike - to their first ever Breeders' Cup with the Grade 1, $2 million Juvenile slated for November 3 at Santa Anita Park.

"If we get a good trip, it's reasonable that we can be in the mix. It would indeed be redemption for us," said Lamont, who noted he and Kathy will be onsite Monday at Saratoga. "I would hope if we finish on the board that the Breeders' Cup would be a consideration. The only way I'd ever get to the Breeders' Cup before was to buy a ticket!"

As an added harbinger of impending good fortune for Happy Tenth Stable, it may be worth noting that the Hopeful, like the Sanford, will go as Race 10.

"Kathy and I met on the 10th of April in 1979 and we were subsequently married. In the early days, on every 10th of the month we would say to each other 'happy tenth,'" Lamont said. "So, when it came time to name the stable we decided on Happy Tenth. Well, we're the 10th race again on Monday, so maybe lightning strikes twice."


Bright Future awarded career-best 103 Beyer for G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup triumph

Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable’s newly-minted Grade 1-winner Bright Future garnered a lifetime-high 103 Beyer Speed Figure for his gutsy nose victory over the late-running Proxy in Saturday’s $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, a 10-furlong test for 3-year-olds and up, at Saratoga Race Course.

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher said he was pleased with the effort from the 4-year-old son of Curlin and that he emerged from the race in good order.

“He looks excellent and came out of the race well,” said Pletcher. “Happy guy.”

Bright Future placed his name in the conversation of top older horses with a prominent score in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, guided by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano from one length off the pace set by Warrior Johny to claim the lead at the one-mile call before facing a strong challenge from post-time favorite Proxy in mid-stretch. Bright Future dug in gamely to the inside of Proxy and fended off his foe by a nose in a final time of 2:03.

“He got the trip we were hoping to get in a good stalking position and a good rhythm,” said Pletcher, who won his second Jockey Club Gold Cup after taking the 2020 edition with Happy Saver. “He had to fight to the wire – I was happy [he got] his nose down just in time.”

Pletcher added he was not surprised to see such determination from Bright Future, who entered from a strong 4 3/4-length score in a nine-furlong optional claimer on July 21 at the Spa after a distant off-the-board effort in the 12-furlong Grade 2 Brooklyn in June.

“He’s always been competitive and he’s essentially run well in all of his races except the Brooklyn,” said Pletcher. “That [the Brooklyn] was kind of a trip that he was always kind of bottled up and never really able to get into a comfortable rhythm, which seems to be a key component to having any success in those type of races. Aside from that, he’s always been very competitive.

“[His last race] was a rebound from the Brooklyn and showed that he liked the track and handled the mile and an eighth well,” Pletcher continued. “He galloped out well, too, and kind of gave us the encouragement that he could handle the mile and a quarter. It was something where usually you don’t go immediately from an allowance race thinking you’re going to go into a Grade 1, but in that case we did because we thought it was a good enough performance and the timing of the Jockey Club seemed to fit.”

For his victory Bright Future secured a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4 at Santa Anita Park, where he will likely face his Champion 2-Year-Old Colt stablemate Forte. Pletcher said Bright Future will train up to the Classic and that he believes the charismatic colt belongs in the mix of top older horses.

“I haven’t discussed it all with the team, but that [training up] would be my first reaction,” said Pletcher. “It appears to be a wide-open division at the moment, so I think he’s improving at the right time.”

Bright Future capped a memorable day at the races for his owners and trainer, who also sent out impressive second-out maiden winner Agate Road to capture Saturday’s sixth race, a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden special weight for juveniles.

The son of Quality Road, out of Grade 1-winner Yellow Agate, went wide throughout from post 10 under Irad Ortiz, Jr., but was aided by the trip in the stretch when several foes bumped and lost position well to his inside. Agate Road swept past his troubled rivals to land the neck score in a final time of 1:46.79.

“It was a wild race and we were wide throughout, but that probably benefitted us in the end because that horse came out and then shied away, and it left him clear of all the traffic,” said Pletcher of green moves from Walley World and Vin Santo. “He had a pretty good head of steam built up by that point, and it was an impressive finish.”

Pletcher said Agate Road will now target the Grade 2, $200,000 Pilgrim on October 1 at Belmont at the Big A, a “Win and You’re In” for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Agate Road’s win came one day after Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Walmac Farm’s Locked graduated by 7 1/4 lengths at second asking in a one-mile maiden test for juveniles. The son of Gun Runner stalked a half-length off the pace in the early stages under Jose Ortiz, but took command with ease passing the half-mile call and drew clear in the stretch to complete the course in 1:36. He was awarded a 96 Beyer for the effort.

Pletcher said it was expected Locked would fire a big race after finishing third on debut in a local key maiden on August 5 that will see the victorious Just Steel and the close Pletcher-trained runner-up Be You contest tomorrow’s Grade 1 Hopeful.

“We’ll find out more in the Hopeful, but I thought for finishing third it was as good a third as you could have,” Pletcher said of his debut. “He got an education and got a lot of dirt and kickback and typical of a first-time starter, he was a little green and climbed for a little while. Once he leveled off, he finished strongly and galloped out great that day. He came back with two really good breezes and I thought [yesterday] was a very impressive race from him – 1:36 flat out of the chute.”

Pletcher added the chestnut colt will turn his attention to the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity on October 6 at Keeneland.

“I’ll talk to the connections a little more. I think everyone’s first thought was probably the Breeders’ Futurity to give him some experience around two turns,” said Pletcher. “He’s one that we’ve felt like the further he goes, the better he gets.”

A $425,000 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Locked is out of the winning Malibu Moon mare Luna Rosa, a half-sister to multiple graded stakes-winners Gabby’s Golden Gal and Always a Princess.


Proxy likely to train up to G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic

Trainer Michael Stidham expressed a strong sense of pride in Godolphin’s homebred Proxy who, despite lacking racing room down the backstretch, was able to launch a strong stretch drive to come up a nose shy of victory in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup going 10 furlongs at Saratoga. The gutsy effort garnered a 103 Beyer Speed Figure.

Proxy, a son of multiple Champion-producing sire Tapit, added to a consistent record during his 5-year-old season which includes victories in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap in April and the Grade 3 Monmouth Cup in July. His lone off-the-board efforts this season took place in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup in January at Gulfstream Park [fifth] and the Grade 1 Stephen Foster on July 1 at Ellis Park [eighth], where he drew the rail both times. Proxy also drew post 1 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

“The one-hole has been a huge detriment to us all year long,” Stidham noted. “If you look at his only bad races, they were both from the one-hole in the Pegasus and the Stephen Foster. When I saw we drew the one hole again here, it was very depressing, but he did overcome a lot of it yesterday and almost won in spite of it.”

Nevertheless, Stidham couldn’t be happier with his talented horse’s effort and said the performance was worthy enough to try the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 4 at Santa Anita Park.

“He certainly stamped himself in that top group to go to the Breeders’ Cup,” Stidham said. “I would say right now, we’re looking at just going straight to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Prior to the Jockey Club Gold Cup, Proxy’s lone 10 furlong start took place in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March, where he made up eighth lengths to finish second beaten a neck to Stilleto Boy.

“The mile and a quarter definitely helps him,” Stidham said. “He just came up short both times. It’s right in his wheelhouse. We’ll see how it sets up, but we just hope we don’t draw the one hole again.”

Proxy’s strong run of form is nothing new. As a 3-year-old, he finished second in Fair Grounds Race Course’s Grade 3 Lecomte and Grade 2 Risen Star. He returned as a 4-year-old to post a 6-2-2-2 record, including a triumph at the end of the year in the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs.

“As trainers, we are all striving to get to the very highest level,” Stidham said. “A horse that’s been able to do the right things since he was a 2-year-old is still around at the top level as a 5-year-old is what we all dream about getting to in the industry. I couldn’t be happier or prouder of the horse. The whole situation is a dream come true.”

Stidham and Godolphin have teamed up to campaign a number of graded stakes winners, most notably Mystic Guide, who captured the Group 1 Dubai World Cup in March 2021, as well as Proxy’s older half-sister Micheline – a graded stakes winner on grass.

“It makes my job easier because Godolphin allows us as the trainer to do the right things for the horse,” Stidham said. “That’s what’s so important in this business: putting the horse first. When you do that, it pays dividends like it is right now with Proxy. We had the same program with Mystic Guide. The patience paid off and it took us to the Dubai World Cup and we won a $12 million race because of it.”

Proxy, out of the Grade 1-winning Include mare Panty Raid, now boasts an overall record of 9-6-7-2 with $2,224,970 in earnings.


Alva Starr posts 98 BSF for G2 Prioress romp

P. Dale Ladner’s Alva Starr, bred by Ladner and trainer Brett Brinkman, became the second winner of the Grade 2 Prioress produced from the Brinkman-trained and Ladner-owned Sittin At the Bar when she romped to an 8 3/4-length score under Jose Lezcano in Saturday’s six-furlong test for sophomore fillies at Saratoga Race Course.

“She’s a little tired. We took her back to Delaware last night and got there about 11 o’clock, but other than just being a little tired, she looks great,” said Brinkman. “I was tickled to death with her performance. She’s a temperamental filly to some extent, but she’s really professional once she hits the racetrack usually. She hasn’t missed a beat training and we thought she’d run a good race."

The daughter of Lord Nelson followed her older half-sister Cilla [2021] in winning the historic sprint, but delivered the first graded stakes win of Brinkman’s career after Cilla was saddled by conditioner Charlton Baker when he did not take out a training license in New York that year.

“Cilla was a much rangier, scopier mare than this filly, and she was a lot more accommodating,” said Brinkman. “This filly here is kind of one of those that’s in your face and is just bold about stuff. They’re two different kind of types.”

Alva Starr’s wire-to-wire Prioress score came on the heels of a successful stakes debut in the six-furlong Dashing Beauty on July 8 at Delaware Park, where she posted a similar score against elders by 6 3/4 lengths over Cheetara. Alva Starr has never finished worse than second in five lifetime outings, which included a victory on debut going the Prioress distance last September at Delaware.

“I felt like her last race at Delaware got dismissed in the handicapping a little bit,” said Brinkman. “I thought it was an impressive race because she beat some solid, older mares who have won numerous stakes. That means something to have beat older mares who have won seven or eight races and then you go back to facing 3-year-olds who didn’t even have seven or eight races.”

Brinkman said breeding two winners of the same graded event at the Spa from his own mare is something he could have never imagined. Sittin At the Bar, who finished third in the 2012 Grade 3 Delta Downs Princess, had a modest beginning to her broodmare career in 2014 when she was bred to graded stakes-winning quarter horse Heza Fast Dash, producing the twice-winning appendix mare Standing At the Bar.

“From a breeder’s standpoint, for Mr. Ladner and I to have two horses come from our mare win the Prioress is such a higher level than what we ever expected when we dove into this,” said Brinkman. “It’s just phenomenal and a dream come true. Her first foal was actually a quarter horse that was born to a surrogate mare. I wanted to get a foal out of her and see what the foal looked like and plan a career off of that. That’s what we did and wanted to get a line on her.”

The unconventional start to Sittin At the Bar’s broodmare career has paid handsome dividends, as the mare has now produced three graded stakes-placed or wining foals. Alva Starr will look to add to her dam’s accolades and become her first multiple graded stakes-winner in the Grade 2 Raven Run sprinting seven furlongs on October 21 at Keeneland.

“That’s what we’re thinking and the timing is right,” said Brinkman. “I want to space her races out this year a little bit. We don’t have any grand idea of the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll try and run her once for sure, possibly twice before the end of the year.”

Alva Starr, who is also a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes-placed Club Car and stakes-winner Jack the Umpire, now boasts total purse earnings of $268,900 through a 5-3-2-0 record.


Options aplenty for G2 Flower Bowl winner Parnac

Trainer Christophe Clement enjoyed his eighth stakes conquest of the Saratoga Race Course meet on Saturday when West Point Thoroughbreds and Dream With Me Stable’s Parnac posted a gate-to-wire upset score in the Grade 2, $500,000 Flower Bowl going 1 3/8 miles over the inner turf.

Piloted by Dylan Davis, the 4-year-old French-bred daughter of Zarak was in control throughout the three-turn event and maintained her command in spite of a stretch surge from 2-5 favorite McKulick to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Parnac earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure for the effort.

Clement enjoyed previous Spa stakes success this meet with Roses for Debra, who stuck gold twice when capturing the Grade 3 Caress on July 22 and the Smart N Fancy on August 25 – both 5 1/2-furlong turf sprints – as well as Silver Skillet, who captured the August 16 Suzie O’Cain for New York-breds. Clement captured the John’s Call on August 23 going 1 5/8 miles with Tawny Port. On the August 27 New York Showcase Day, he saddled a trio stakes winners in New Ginya [Yaddo], Drake’s Passage [Albany] and fan-favorite City Man [West Point presented by Trustco Bank].

“They’ve been running very well. We’ve been winning sprinting, dirt, turf, mile and five-eights, so we’ve been all over the place,” Clement said. “We’re extremely lucky to have great owners and a great team. I’m a lucky man.”

Parnac entered the Flower Bowl from a close third-place finish in the Grade 3 Robert Dick Memorial on July 1 going the Flower Bowl distance at Delaware Park which followed a victorious 11-furlong debut over Belmont’s inner turf on June 11.

“She looked well this morning," Clement said. “I’m delighted and still enjoying the win from yesterday. Dylan gave her a great ride on the lead. She’s been improving all year long if you look back at her form. It’s nice when it works out.”

Parnac could have plenty of options moving forward from her Flower Bowl triumph, where she earned an automatic entry into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita. The Filly and Mare Turf is among those options according to Clement, who also mentioned the Grade 3, $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Waya on October 7 going 11 furlongs at Belmont at the Big A, the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor on October 8 going 10 furlongs at Woodbine and the Grade 3 Long Island in November at Aqueduct Racetrack as potential targets.

“We’ll enjoy this for a few more days and start thinking about her next start. There’s the Breeders’ Cup, the Waya, the Long Island, the E.P. Taylor. No need to make a decision now,” Clement said.

Clement also saddled Moyglare Stud Farm’s Amazing Grace to a third-place finish in the Flower Bowl. The 5-year-old German bred Protectionist mare ran an even fourth throughout most of the running before making up ground to round out the trifecta and finished 1 1/2 lengths in arrears of her stablemate. She entered the Flower Bowl from a troubled third behind McKulick in the Grade 2 Glens Falls on August 3 going 1 1/2 miles at Saratoga.

“She also ran a really good race. A longer stretch would probably help her a little bit,” Clement said of Amazing Grace. “Her last two races I thought she ran really well, she was just a touch unlucky in both races because of the pace scenario yesterday and in the time before that she got squeezed at the three-eighths pole. She’s a good mare and something good is going to happen. One day will be her day. I think a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half she’s fine. She just needs pace and a clear trip.”

Clement added that New Ginya will likely target the $125,000 John Hettinger on September 22 at Belmont at the Big A while Albany winner Drake’s Passage will pursue the $250,000 Empire Classic on October 29. Both horses are Robert Evans New York homebreds by Tonalist. City Man, a graded stakes-winning New York-bred millionaire, also will target New York-bred stakes action.


G3 With Anticipation victress Gala Brand the ‘pride and joy’ of Arnmore Thoroughbreds

Megan Jones, managing partner of Arnmore Thoroughbreds, cannot help but speak blessings of newly minted graded stakes winner Gala Brand, who defeated males in Thursday’s Grade 3, $175,000 With Anticipation for juveniles going 1 1/16 miles over the inner turf at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott and owned by Arnmore Thoroughbreds in partnership with Even Keel Thoroughbreds, Gala Brand was a sharp debut winner on August 3 going 5 1/2 furlongs on the Mellon turf. The Violence chestnut was cross-entered in both the With Anticipation as well as the previous day’s $150,000 P.G. Johnson against fellow fillies, opting for the former when the latter race was taken off the turf.

In the With Anticipation, Gala Brand took to the rear of the field with Market Street setting a moderate tempo on the front end. She advanced to a close fourth in the stretch call and outbattled a game Carson’s Run to her inside to win by a half-length and produce a 71 Beyer Speed Figure.

Gala Brand is a fan favorite in the making with her eye-catching color pattern that features white splotches on her underside and tall white markings on all four legs.

“She’s very special to me just as a horse because of the way that she is. She’s the type of horse that you want to be around every single day,” Jones said. “She kind of pulls you in and draws you to her. She’s my pride and joy. She has a lot of leg to her. She’s a tall, stretchy horse. She has that internal quality that all the good fillies seem to have. We go buy fillies that we hope will be good broodmare prospects down the line to build our broodmare band.

“As long as you like the horse as an individual, you’re in a good spot and anything they do on the track is just icing on the cake,” Jones continued. “To come here and win first out on debut and then come back and do what she did against the boys in the Grade 3 was everything we needed.”

Gala Brand was acquired by Jones at the 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $30,000. She is out of the graded/group stakes-winning Lord of England mare Olorda who captured the The Very One going 1 3/16 miles at Gulfstream Park and Bewitch going 1 1/2 miles at Keeneland in 2016 – both Grade 3 events.

Jones said she expected Gala Brand to be an eventual two-turn horse given her pedigree.

“She’s always shown a great deal of talent in the morning,” Jones said. “I know it was kind of a softer group in the maiden race going 5 1/2 furlongs but the way she’s built, that should have been her toughest task and I think she’ll enjoy stretching out. I would have thought that 5 1/2 [furlongs] would have been her only impediment, but obviously she did that easily enough.”

Earlier this summer, Arnmore Thoroughbreds Poppy Flower, bred by Jones and Brenda Harding, secured graded stakes honors in the Grade 3 Intercontinental on June 9 at Belmont Park for Mott.

“As far as how special it was, it ranks right up there with anything,” Jones said. “When Poppy Flower won the graded stake in June, we bred her and raced the mother and she was an RNA that nobody wanted at the sale, that was pretty gratifying too. She’s also pretty special to me. I would say Gala’s right up there with her. That meant the world to us because I bought [Gala Brand] on my own account.”

Jones said she and Mott will let the dust settle before deciding on a next target for Gala Brand. Other graded stakes events for 2-year-old fillies on turf include the Grade 2, $200,000 Miss Grillo on October 2 at Belmont at the Big A and the Grade 2 Jessamine on October 6 at Keeneland. Both races boast “Win And You’re In” status for the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on November 3 at Santa Anita.

“We’ll basically nominate around and wait until she tells us she’s ready,” Jones said.


Thin White Duke registers 96 BSF in successful Harvey Pack title defense

Philip A. Gleaves, Steven Crist, Ken deRegt, and Bryan Hilliards’ New York-bred Thin White Duke came flying from the back of the field in the stretch to win for the first time this year and defend his title in the $150,000 Harvey Pack, a 5 1/2-furlong Mellon turf sprint for older horses run previously as the Lucky Coin.

Trained by David Donk, Thin White Duke has established himself as a strong closer in turf sprints, but it took eight tries this year to come out on top. Piloted by Jose Lezcano, he was last at top of the lane before tipping widest of all and charging down the center of the course to nail the favored Big Invasion.

“We always encourage his riders to be on the outside and in the clear, it is a very European style,” Donk said. “We did say that to Jose, but he had watched the replays. We also said to just be patient and let him make that one run.”

The Harvey Pack was the 5-year-old’s fourth start at Saratoga this summer, that came on the heels of a rally from ninth to fourth in a strong optional claiming tilt on August 23 after a surge to third in the Grade 3 Troy on August 5, both run at five and a half furlongs.

“I think the course played a bit in favor this week. In a lot of the grass races, you were able to come from off the pace. I thought earlier in the meet, maybe because of the rain, speed wasn’t coming back to him,” said Donk. “He was still making his run, but it wasn’t enough. Yesterday was impressive and by far his best performance of the year.”

The Dominus gelding came away from the victory in good order and his current campaign will continue.

“Whatever races are offered back at Aqueduct, he will get two or three more runs this season, then get put away, and we will try to do the same thing next year,” said Donk.

A return to the Grade 3 Belmont Turf Sprint is possible, as Thin White Duke seeks to add a graded victory to his resume. Last year, he ran fifth in that spot after being restless at the gate.

The Gleaves-bred Thin White Duke is now 29-6-4-7 with $682,605 in earnings. He is out of the Distorted Humor mare Aberdeen Alley, who also produced the Donk-trained Yes and Yes.

Owned by Phil Gleaves, Joseph Straus Jr., and the Estate of Hugh A. Fitzsimons, Jr., the 7-year-old Yes and Yes is a turf sprinter, who will reunite with his half-brother Thin White Duke at Aqueduct this fall. He was second in his last two efforts, the 5 1/2-furlong Select on August 13 at Monmouth Park and Van Clief on July 22 at Colonial Downs.

“He’s funny, he’s a different horse who just doesn’t care for the grass courses at Saratoga,” said Donk. “We elected to ship him out of town this year and he ran really well at Colonial and then at Monmouth and will run next Saturday back at Colonial. Then from there, he will run at Aqueduct.”


GSW Becky’s Joker scratches from G1 Spinaway; Nutella Fella all set for G1 Hopeful

Lee Pokoik's Becky's Joker, who made a memorable debut with a 21-1 upset in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on July 13 here, has scratched from today’s seven-furlong Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway for juvenile fillies.

"She's a little under the weather," trainer Gary Contessa said. "She's just not herself - baby stuff. Maybe she's getting sick, but I know she's not herself, so there was no doubt in my mind to scratch. Soundness is no problem."

Piloted by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano on debut, the 2-year-old daughter of Practical Joke rallied from fourth in the six-furlong Schuylerville to post a 3 1/4-length score and garner a lofty 75 Beyer Speed Figure.

The 16.3 hands high filly followed with a flat performance when seventh in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 3 Adirondack on August 6 here, leading Contessa to believe the filly may have been in heat.

Contessa said Becky’s Joker will remain at Saratoga and train up to the Grade 1, $300,000 Frizette on October 7 at Belmont at the Big A, which offers a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on November 3 at Santa Anita Park.

"That would be my ultimate goal, especially since it's a 'Win and You're In,'" Contessa said. "She's done a lot already and gone above and beyond. She'll stay up here and train into the Frizette."

Bred in Kentucky by Warren J. Harang, Becky’s Joker is out of the Elusive Quality mare Becky’s Best – a half-sister to graded stakes winner Vertical Oak, the dam of graded stakes-placed sophomore Giant Mischief.

Contessa will still have one more chance to win a Grade 1 before the Spa meet closes when he saddles Bell Gable Stable’s maiden winner Nutella Fella in the seven-furlong $300,000 Hopeful on Labor Day Monday.

The Runhappy colt, previously trained by Richard Sillaman, earned a 65 Beyer for a 2 1/4-length maiden score traveling 5 1/2-furlongs on July 26 at Delaware Park. He is listed at 30-1 on the morning line and will exit post 3 in rein to Junior Alvarado.

"He could not be better. He is running," Contessa said. "First time out, he did everything wrong and still won the race. That says a lot because his antics in the paddock, in the post parade, in the gate and everything else, you would think that would have cost him 10 lengths and yet he still won like a good horse. He ran a fairly decent number, so 30-1 or not, we don't know how good this horse might be. All I can tell you is he's training damn good."

The $12,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase has breezed extensively at Saratoga, including a five-eighths effort in 1:01.85 August 19 over the Oklahoma training track, a seven-eighths effort in 1:29.66 last Sunday over the main track and a three-eighths effort in 34.80 Thursday on the Oklahoma.

"When it comes to 2-year-olds, you got to be in it to win it," said Contessa. "Nobody knows off of one race - did this horse get it together and run his best race first time out? Or maybe he's 10 lengths better than he was. Training wise, I worked him in a minute on the training track, I worked him seven-eighths on the main just to give him a taste of the difference and then I blew him out a few days ago in 34. He's doing as good going into this race as Becky was going into her first start.

“He's coming into the race great and I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” continued Contessa. “He's a horse that could jump up and surprise everybody. He's undefeated at present, so the sky is the limit.”

Nutella Fella, bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm, is out of the Candy Ride mare Krissy’s Candy, who is a half-sister to the graded stakes-placed duo Danny Boy and Meal Penalty.

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