by NYRA Press Office
When Robert Clay launched Grandview Equine in 2018, he wanted to invest in colts that could one day become quality stallion prospects. On Saturday, the former owner of Three Chimneys Farm has a big chance to watch his business plan come to fruition when Olympiad pursues his first Grade 1 victory in the $1 million Whitney at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, Olympiad brings an unbeaten record in five starts this year, all at two turns. He posted a flashy 2022 debut in an optional-claimer at Gulfstream Park, winning by 7 1/4 lengths on the pathway to four graded stakes wins this year.
Olympiad is owned by Grandview in partnership with LNJ Foxwoods [Larry, Nanci and Jaime Roth] as well as Everett Dobson’s Cheyenne Stables. In addition to Olympiad, the trio of owners have enjoyed prosperity with graded stakes winner Scalding and Grade 1-placed Shoplifted. The ownership group uses Alex Solis II and Jason Litt of Solis-Litt Bloodstock to select their horses at sales, including Olympiad who was bought for $700,000 at the 2019 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
“This partnership consists of partners and customers of mine before we put this group together,” Clay said. “We took a shot at buying some colts and we have two seasons of colts.”
Clay said his longstanding relationships with the ownership group has been beneficial.
“It’s an easy one to manage because these people know what the risks are and they can take bad news because they’ve had plenty of it,” Clay said. “When the Roths first got into the business, they came to us and we had their mares at Three Chimneys. Alex Solis was their advisor, so we had a relationship with them. Everett Dobson was an investor with me in some stallions, so we had all done business together. I was looking to spread the risk a little bit. I threw this proposition at them and made a two-year commitment, and the rest is history.”
During his tenure at Three Chimneys, which was purchased by Goncalo Borges-Torrealba in 2013, Clay was responsible for the management and oversight of multiple influential stallions including Seattle Slew and Dynaformer. His current venture has allowed him to switch roles and acquire unproven but promising young horses that could eventually be stallion prospects.
“I was always raising capital to buy stallions and we had some good luck,” Clay said. “Once I sold the farm, I said to these guys, ‘Let’s try to take to the other side of the street.’ It’s a high-risk business buying colts. We played a numbers game and buy enough of them where maybe we can strike it with one or two and then sell them back to the stallion farm. That flipped the business plan a bit.”
A veteran in the breeding game, Clay understands the risks that come along with having a model that is geared more towards colts than fillies. He said he takes a strength in numbers approach to his plan.
“It’s like drilling oil wells. If you drill enough of them, you’re going to hit one,” Clay said. “You have to have enough of them, but you also need to have a skillset on the buying end that gives you a fair chance. Fillies have residual value and you can get her to breed, get her in foal and sell it. That’s not the case with colts. Unless you have one that’s good enough to be a stallion, it’s a high risk game. You have to play enough numbers. There are several partnerships right now that are playing the same game, at the same time there are people that aren’t playing as strong as they were before. It’s not a bad time to be doing this.”
Olympiad appears to be a shining example of what Clay’s operation has been looking for. The 4-year-old son of Speightstown has earned in excess of $1.2 million this year along with graded stakes victories in Fair Grounds Race Course’s Grade 3 Mineshaft and Grade 2 New Orleans Classic.
After a victory against returning rival Happy Saver in the Grade 2 Alysheba at Churchill Downs, he returned to the Louisville oval with flying colors under regular pilot Junior Alvarado, turning back fellow Whitney aspirant Americanrevolution in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster. His last loss took place in his final start last year when fourth in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets.
A second-out graduate in September 2020 at the Spa, Olympiad did not race again until the following September where he finished second behind stablemate Baby Yoda. He defeated winners for the first time in a next-out Keeneland allowance going seven furlongs.
“He’s taken a big step forward,” Clay said. “We were really excited about him as a 2-year-old. He won up here and then he had a setback his 3-year-old year, so we lost some time. We weren’t sure what we had until he came back and won at Keeneland and then went in the Cigar Mile, where he had an unfortunate trip. Since then, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He seems to get better every race and he’s been a real pleasure. Billy’s done a great job with him and he’s been a fun one to watch.”
While disappointed that Olympiad missed out on the Triple Crown trail, Clay remained confident in the seven-time winner’s future.
“When you get a good 2-year-old that you think might be on the Derby trail and you have a setback, you just have to take the attitude that he’s getting the time he needs,” Clay said. “We knew he had talent and we brought him back when he was ready. We went for the Grade 1 win and that didn’t work out, but since then he’s done everything right. He loves the two turns and it seems like the longer he goes, the better. He sort of has it all so now we’re running against the gorilla in the room and find out how good he is. I think he’ll run a good race, he’s training really well.”
Clay said Olympiad’s two-turn debut made it clear that routing is what he was meant to do.
“He’s got a good pedigree and he’s bred to do that as well,” Clay said. “Each race has been a little bit tougher, and a better feel and he hasn’t looked back. He’s done what he’s had to do. He’s a horse that once you ask him to go, he goes. You dream of those. We’ve had fun with it.”
Olympiad earned a “Win and You’re In” entry to the Grade 1, $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 5 at Keeneland in capturing the Stephen Foster. With the Classic as the long term goal, Clay said Olympiad could race once more between the Whitney and the Breeders’ Cup with the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 3 here and the Grade 1, $500,000 Woodward on October 1 at the Belmont at the Big A fall meet as potential targets.
“Distance is not a limitation for him. The options are obvious. The Jockey Club is four weeks away and the Woodward is five weeks from the Breeders’ Cup, plus it’s a two-turn race now,” Clay said. “We’re just going to take it one race at a time and see how he comes out of his races. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do.”
Gilded Age, who Clay owns in partnership with Don Alberto Stable, finished a late-closing second to Artorius in the restricted Curlin on July 29. He said the Mott-trained son of Medaglia d’Oro will be nominated to the Grade 1, $1.25 million Runhappy Travers on August 27.
“It’s a big mountain climb but he seems to be getting better every race and we think he’ll like the distance,” Clay said. “We’ll see. He just went back to the track Tuesday morning. We’re going to nominate and take a look.”
Lukas hopeful Ethereal Road takes to turf in G1 Caesars Saratoga Derby
Gilbert and Aaron Sones’ Ethereal Road will try to transfer his dirt talents to turf in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
A son of Quality Road, Ethereal Road was last seen seen finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby on June 25 at Thistledown where he tracked in the rear of the field the entire way and made little improvement. The distant effort came on the heels of a strong 4 3/4-length victory in the Sir Barton on May 21 at Pimlico Race Course, a breakout race that showed what the bay colt is capable of.
Lukas said the Ohio Derby is a race he’d rather forget.
“I don’t remember that at all,” Lukas joked. “That was really bad. It just started out bad and got worse. It was a hot day and the track was loose. Every step he made was an effort for him and it was hard to believe it was even him. I’d throw that race right out.”
Despite running his entire career on dirt, Ethereal Road will now try the grass for the first time, something Lukas said he’s been wanting to do for some time with the son of the War Front mare Sustained, who was Grade 3-placed on turf.
“I don’t have any grandiose idea that we’re going to all of a sudden find out that we’ve got a superstar, but I do want to see how he handles the turf and what he does," Lukas said.
The unassuming Ethereal Road first flashed his talents with a four-length maiden score at fourth asking in January at Oaklawn Park. He quickly became a buzz horse on the road to the Kentucky Derby when a close second to upset winner Un Ojo in the Grade 2 Rebel at the same track, but followed that effort with a distant seventh in the Grade 2 Blue Grass in April at Keeneland. He returned to his best form with his Sir Barton romp two starts later.
When asked if Ethereal Road seemed like a top stakes performer early on, Lukas responded with a straightforward, “no,” and added the colt has continued to prove himself each step of the way.
“He had to convince us and sell himself to us every day. He was never one that we thought there was brilliance to,” said Lukas. “But he got better and better and more focused, and he’s been an overachiever.”
Lukas said he is cautiously optimistic that Ethereal Road will take to turf as his half-brother Turned Aside did when he won the 2020 Grade 3 Quick Call over the Spa turf.
“He’s got that pedigree. He’s out of a War Front mare – the dam was a turfer and produced a turf horse,” said Lukas. “Pedigree wise, we have a tendency as trainers to think we can predict turf or dirt, and we can to some degree, but people have opinions and horses have the facts.”
Lukas will be represented in Sunday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Adirondack by Naughty Gal as his other nominee, Summer Promise, will not run and will await another race down the line. Summer Promise was last seen finishing second to Just Cindy in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on Opening Day at the Spa where she battled for the lead with the subsequent winner and was overtaken at the stretch call.
“Summer Promise is doing well. She’s a good one and she was a little bit short though,” Lukas said. “I underestimated the surface and I think she just came up a little short. She had her [Just Cindy] right where she wanted her and she let her off the hook.”
As for the star of Lukas’ barn, Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath, plans for a next start in the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama on August 20 at Saratoga are still on track after she exited her runner-up finish to Nest in the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks on July 23 to post a solid five-furlong work over the Oklahoma training track in 1:00.29 on Tuesday.
“Secret Oath’s works have gotten better and better, and I think it’s because she’s getting used to the surface. She’s getting better all the time,” said Lukas. “I was looking at her this morning out there grazing and her coat has turned a deeper red and she’s enjoying it here. She’s had a great two weeks and she came out of [her last race] really well. She’s been a favorite in the barn and done everything right. She’s a perfect child and comes right along. Everything we ask her to do, she does it well.”
Trainer Mike Maker closing in on 3,000 career wins; Stolen Base and Somelikeithotbrown look for Saratoga stakes scores
Veteran trainer Mike Maker is closing in on his 3,000th career victory on Thursday at Saratoga Race Course, a milestone he is currently one win away from after taking the Thursday opener with Sicilian Grandma. He sends out the entry of Atone and Maxwell Esquire in today's ninth race.
Maker will also look forward to sending out Stolen Base and the New York-bred Somelikeithotbrown in stakes this weekend at the Spa, with the former cross-entered in both Friday’s Grade 2 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame and Saturday’s Grade 1 Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational; and the latter entered in Saturday’s Fasig-Tipton Lure.
Three Diamonds Farm and Deuce Greathouse’s Stolen Base, a 3-year-old son of Bodemeister, was last seen finishing a distant last-of-12 in the Grade 1 Caesars Belmont Derby Invitational where he ran the 1 1/4-mile distance for the first time in his career. He previously scored his first graded victory when he closed from 4 1/2 lengths off the pace to capture the Grade 2 American Turf on the May 7 Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs.
Maker said seeing Stolen Base make the grade was rewarding after some troubled trips when placing in the Grade 2 Bourbon in October and the John Battaglia and Texas Turf Mile earlier this year.
“It was great, and on Derby Day. It was well-deserved,” Maker said. “He had some trouble in his races and bad trips.”
Stolen Base fought on valiantly to win the American Turf after clipping heels with a rival going into the first turn and racing wide from post 8 in the field of 10, something Maker said was all “class.”
As for the Belmont Derby, Maker said he could not explain the distant finish.
“We couldn’t find any [excuse], so it was just an off day I guess,” said Maker. “He’s been training super since.”
Maker added that he is waiting on a decision from Stolen Base’s owners on whether he races in the Hall of Fame or the Caesars Saratoga Derby.
Skychai Racing and David Koenig’s millionaire 6-year-old Somelikeithotbrown will make his third outing of the year in the restricted Fasig-Tipton Lure on Saturday’s lucrative Whitney card.
Somelikeithotbrown, a multiple graded-stakes-winning son of Big Brown, looks to improve from a fifth in the Kingston against fellow state-breds in May at Belmont Park and a good third last out in the Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial at Horseshoe Indianapolis where he set the pace and fought back gamely to finish just 1 1/4 lengths back of the victorious Ivar.
“Hotbrown never disappoints us. He’s just a good horse,” said Maker. “He looks great and trains great, so we’re looking forward to finishing up the year [well].”
Bred in the Empire State by Hot Pink Stables and Sand Dollar Stables, Somelikeithotbrown is out of the Tapit mare Marilyn Monroan, who also produced stakes winner Jolting Joe.
Hot Peppers gears up for G1 Longines Test; Bella Sofia to return in G1 Ballerina
Michael Dubb and Michael J Caruso’s Hot Peppers will try for Grade 1 glory in Saturday’s $500,000 Longines Test, a seven-furlong main track sprint for sophomore fillies at Saratoga Race Course.
Purchased privately by Dubb over the winter from former owner/conditioner Ronald Spatz, the lone blemish in Hot Peppers’ calendar year came in March in her only career off-the-board finish in the seven-furlong Sophomore Fillies at Tampa Bay Downs. Following that race, Dubb and Caruso shipped the daughter of Khozan to New York and the care of trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
A perfect 2-for-2 downstate at Belmont Park, her New York debut was a commanding 6 3/4-length victory in June in the six-furlong Jersey Girl. Hot Peppers followed by making the grade last time out, capturing the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 3 Victory Ride while defeating four rivals, including Sterling Silver, who she will see again on Saturday.
“She’s a filly that needs attention and she’s progressing every time that we run her,” said Rodriguez. “For us to run in the Test is already a plus. It’s a Grade 1 and a very special race and if we win it, it would be a home run.”
Rodriguez said winning a Grade 1 at Saratoga is one of the best things that could happen for his team.
“We work very hard here. Most of the people have been here with me since Day One when we went out on our own,” said Rodriguez. “It’s very special when we win a Grade 1.”
Tied for the most wins in the field with the morning-line favorite Matareya, Hot Peppers enters with a 7-5-1-0 record and $277,950 to her name. She is undefeated in races where she has never been headed.
Luis Saez, aboard for both her Belmont wins, has continued to work her in the morning and will be piloting again on Saturday from post 6-of-7. The Grade 1 Longines Test is carded as Race 9 on a 12-race card that also features the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney and Grade 1, $1 million Caesars Saratoga Derby Invitational.
Rodriguez said Michael Imperio, Medallion Racing, Sofia Soares, Vincent Scuderi and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Bella Sofia, winner of last year’s Grade 1 Test, is in good order following an uncharacteristic third-place finish in the Grade 2 Honorable Miss Handicap July 27 at Saratoga Race Course.
“She seems good. She’s already been galloping the last three or four days,” said Rodriguez. “Hopefully, we just draw a line and regroup.”
Rodriguez said he will look to run the 4-year-old daughter of Awesome Patriot back on August 28 in the Grade 1, $500,000 Ballerina, a “Win And You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint this November at Keeneland.
“It’s a little quick but she seems happy and sound. I’m going to try again. We’ll put her into the race early and hopefully that’s what she wants to do,” said Rodriguez.
Bella Sofia sports a lifetime record of 9-6-1-1 with over $864,000 in earnings and four triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures. Bella Sofia’s lone off-the-board finish came in last year’s running of the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar.
Prank, half-sister to G1 winner Mo Donegal, dazzles in Sunday debut
StarLadies Racing, LNJ Foxwoods and Gainesway Stable’s 2-year-old filly Prank has big shoes to fill after her half-brother, Mo Donegal, took the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets in June.
But the daughter of Into Mischief showed that she may be able to rise to the levels of her famous sibling after she posted a brilliant debut in Race 6 on Sunday at Saratoga Race Course for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher.
“She’s all Into Mischief when you look at her,” said Pletcher. “She looks like her stallion and she’s been a consummate pro since Day One.”
Prank, who emerged from post 6 with Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons, was hurried to the front to dictate the pace and was briefly held to a half-length lead by High Class at the half-mile call. She quickly shook off her rival and widened her margins at each point of call, pulling away easily with a few shakes of the reins and one right-handed tap of the crop.
Ortiz, Jr. peeked back just before the sixteenth pole and eased up on the filly to coast under the wire 9 3/4 lengths the best, completing the 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight in 1:03.94.
Pletcher said he was expecting Prank to give a strong performance after showing her maturity in a series of workouts that included a five-furlong breeze over the main track in 1:01.66 on July 11.
“I always try to underplay it, but I’ll put it this way – it did not surprise me,” said Pletcher. “She caught onto everything first time and learned quickly. She’s done everything right.”
Pletcher added that Prank could potentially make her next appearance in the seven-furlong Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway on September 4 at the Spa.
Ortiz, Jr., who worked the filly once from the gate prior to her debut, said he was also expecting a good effort from her.
“She did it very nicely. She’s a nice filly,” Ortiz, Jr. said. “I worked her in the morning from the gate and she was very nice. She gave me a good feeling – she broke sharp, I took ahold of her and never let her run and she went in 48 or 47 [seconds], so I was excited. I wanted to see what she would give me, and obviously she was nice.”
Out of the Pulpit mare Callingmissbrown, Prank was a $500,000 purchase from the Ashview Farm consignment at last year’s Keeneland September Yearling Sale. She was bred in Kentucky by Ashview Farm and Colts Neck Stable.
Early look at Saratoga Week 5 stakes probables
Wednesday, August 10
$135K Tale of the Cat
Probable: Awesome Gerry (Saffie Joseph, Jr.), Isolate (Tom Amoss), Mr Phil (Rob Atras), Repo Rocks (Gregory DiPrima), Southern District (Chad Brown)
Possible: Swiftsure (Rodolphe Brisset)
Thursday, August 11
Probable: Artos (Rusty Arnold), Breeze Easy (Christophe Clement), Delmona (Jamie Begg), Derrynane (Clement), Freedom Speaks (Jeremiah Englehart), Makin My Move (John Kimmel), Poppy Flower (Bill Mott)
Friday, August 12
$125K John Morrissey (NYB)
Probable: Reggae Music Man (Patrick Reynolds), Saint Selby (Atras), Senbei (Clement), Wudda U Think Now (Rudy Rodriguez)
Possible: My Boy Tate (Michelle Nevin)
$125K Union Avenue (NYB)
Probable: Eloquent Speaker (Natalia Lynch), Snicket (David Duggan), Time Limit (Mike Maker)
$125K Johnstone Mile (NYB)
Probable: Brattle House (Bill Mott), Courageous Girl (Horacio De Paz), Make Mischief (Mark Casse), Mashnee Girl (Mark Hennig), Pay Grade (Clement)
$125K Evan Shipman (NYB)
Probable: Bankit (Steve Asmussen), Brooklyn Strong (Victor Barboza, Jr.), Listentoyourheart (Clement), Market Alert (James Ryerson), Sea Foam (Michelle Giangiulio), Therisastormbrewin (Rodriguez), Three Jokers (John Terranova), Wild Banker (Michael Dini)
Possible: My Boy Tate (Nevin)
Saturday, August 13
G1 Fourstardave BC WAYI
Probable: Casa Creed (Mott), Front Run the Fed (Caio Caramori), Masen (Chad Brown), Regal Glory (Chad Brown)
Possible: City Man (Clement), Get Smokin (Casse)
G2 Saratoga Special
Probable: Damon’s Mound (Michelle Lovell), Gulfport (Asmussen), Owen’s Leap (Amoss)
Possible: Super Chow (Jorge Delgado), Valenzan Day (Rodriguez)
Sunday, August 14
Probable: All In Sync (Asmussen), Asymmetric (Wesley Ward), Cadamosto (Joseph O’Brien), Editorial Comment (Ken McPeek), That’s Right (Michael Moore)