The Week in Review by TD Thornton
The annual Claiming Crown races took place two weeks ago. But a surprise black-and-white holiday for blue-collar campaigners came over the Thanksgiving weekend, when horses that once claimed tags of up to $10,000 and $16,000 ran three of five stakes at Laurel Park, and a child for 8 years he bought. last year for $10,000 he topped a complete trifecta of previously claimed sprinters in the GIII Fall Highweight H. at Aqueduct.
The relic known as the Fall Highweight — where nominees are assigned weights a few notches above the current norms — is very much a throwback concept. So it’s only fitting that the 109th running of this six-state sprint was won by a powerful old-school car under a £130 fee.
Greeley and Ben (Greeley’s Conquest), who ranked as the second winningest horse in North America in 2021 with 11 trips to the winner’s circle, earned his seventh win of the season on November 26. This brings his lifetime record to 23-7-2 since age 39. you start.
This $882,698 winner was a top performer from the start. Taken at odds of 94-1 in his Oct. 15, 2016 debut at Keeneland, Greeley and Ben just missed out, running second by a head.
Proving the effort was no fluke, he won start number two, and while he didn’t advance to the stakes as a minor or sophomore, he kept company at allowance levels against contemporaries who eventually ran for the GI Kentucky Debry from 2017 and to future editions of the Breeders’ Cup.
Although Greeley and Ben has won six times through the start of 2021, there were no takers the first two times a $10,000 tag appeared at Oaklawn Park. This was likely due to the gelding’s abrupt withdrawal from a $32,000 win at Churchill Downs. Was then-coach John Ortiz’s downward plunge in class a red flag or bluff?
Coach Karl Broberg was willing to bet $10,000 to find out, and when he dropped his own outfit (End Zone Athletics) the third time Greeley and Ben were inducted at that level (after previously winning and running runner-up), he had no idea the bowl would become a three-time stakes winner for him, financing about 45 times his initial purse investment at Oaklawn, Prairie Meadows, Remington Park, Delta Downs, Fair Grounds and Sam Houston.
Broberg’s amazing run with Greeley and Ben would last until April 24, 2022, when he retired the Grade III sprint company in a $62,500 optional claimer at Oaklawn. Favored 2-5, Greeley and Ben won again that afternoon at Oaklawn, but were reclaimed by trainer Melton Wilson.
After finishing second and fourth in stakes last spring and summer at Monmouth and Delaware for trainer Bonnie Lucas, Greeley and Ben were auctioned for $80,000 at the Fasig-Tipton July sale of racing-age horses.
The gelding spent time in the barns of David Jacobson and Jeffrey Englehart in the fall, and while Greeley and Ben had to get used to new surroundings every few weeks, his production remained consistent: he claimed $40,000 from a win at Saratoga on September 4th. , then ran second unentered for a tag in an optional $55,000 claimer at Laurel on October 8.
Still, the last four weeks are emblematic of what Greeley and Ben are all about. On Oct. 29, he finished a very creditable fourth—beaten just three-quarters of a length at odds of 20-1—in the GIII Bold Ruler S. at Aqueduct, coming off Lasix (as required in stakes races at New York) for the first time in his career after making all 36 of his previous starts on her.
Twelve days later on November 10, Greeley and Ben were awarded a $10,000 starting allowance, also at Aqueduct, and won as overwhelming 1.5 to 10 favourites.
Then on Saturday, pulling back 16 days, the bowler was more or less rejected by punters at odds of 7-1 in the Autumn Highweight category. Jockey Manny Franco patiently saved ground at the fence, and when Greeley and Ben cut the corner for home, he was full of running.
The competition fought back, however, and Greeley and Ben had to doggedly claw back the lead not once, but twice deep after conceding a header. He won by a neck in a furious photo finish, with the two favorites just behind him, separated by head bobs. The 98 Beyer Speed No Stakes Lasix score was a career best for the 8-year-old.
Darryl Abramowitz owns Greeley and Ben, and Fall Highweight was the first graded stakes win for New Jersey conditioner Faith Wilson, who has been a licensed trainer for just 18 months.
Meanwhile, in Maryland…
Friday’s 5 3/4 trouncing of the $75,000 Politely S. for Maryland breeders at Laurel was run by another rising claimer bought once for $10,000.
Fille d’Esprit (Great Notion) is now 12 for 23 and has won five stakes so far in 2022, including open company races, while winning her MATCH Series division and the $100,000 Maryland Million Distaff. Since that claim on August 21, 2020, the 6-year-old mare has been trained by John Robb and owned by the partnership of CJI Phoenix Group and No Guts No Glory Farm.
Saturday at Laurel featured three $100,000 open company stakes, and two of them were won by claiming box bargains.
It rocked back and forth (Straight Talking) captured Safely Kept S. by 3 1/4 lengths at odds of 6-1 for Baxter Racing Stable and trainer Mario Serey, Jr. The victory came exactly six months to the date of that outfit, claiming 3 years- Old filly for $16,000 from an 8 1/4 length maiden game. Including the win the day she was claimed, Swayin to and Fro is now 6 for 10 on the year with two stakes wins.
Armando R (Blame) was another runner you could have bought from a winning effort for $16,000, which is exactly what current owner Ronald E. Cuneo and trainer Damon Dilodovico did a year ago on Nov. 28 2021. This 6-year-old gelding has since won by his ‘2x’ condition and in the last 60 days has won two hundred thousand listed stakes at Laurel, Japan Turf Cup S. at 10 furlongs on the slope October 1st. , and Richard Small S. over nine furlongs on fast ground November 26.
Six for the road…
News Quiz: Can you name the jockey who won six races in a single day of racing over the holiday weekend? In case you need a hint, his last name is only four letters long and ends with Z.
If you guessed Mid-Atlantic Angel Cruz, you’re right.
But Cruz probably isn’t the first jockey you thought of. You’d also be right to guess Luis Saez, whose six wins at Churchill Downs on Saturday put him atop the leaderboard there and atop the national news cycle.
No disrespect to the world-class Saez, but Cruz rarely gets much press ink, which is why we’re highlighting him here.
Additionally, Cruz’s feat was a bit more unique because he had to hit the road to earn his six-pack.
On Friday afternoon, Cruz, who is currently second in the Laurel standings, won the $75,000 Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial S. aboard the Maryland-bred Alwaysinahurry (Great Notion).
Cruz then commuted about 90 minutes west to ride under the lights at the Charles Town Races, where he swept races two through six (and barely missed race eight, running second on his only other mount in night).
Serving up a fitting name for a horse that just completed a six-pack, the name of Cruz’s eventual winner on Friday was Always Drinking (Speightster).
Monday’s Walk in the “Park”
It would not seem right to complete a column on the upward mobility of lower-level applicants without making a mention of Beverly Park (Munnings), the winningest horse on the continent so far in 2022. The 5-year-old will aim for his 13th win in his 28th start of the year on Monday when he takes on starter-allowance company in the sixth race at Mahoning. Valley.
The Nov. 28 race is limited to horses that have started for a claim tag of $8,000 or less in the past two calendar years. Beverly Park won a $5,000 N2L claimer by 15 lengths at Belterra Park on July 8, 2021. Next time he was claimed for $12,500 by his current owner/trainer, Norman Lynn Cash, whose horses race as Built Wright Stables.
Beverly Park hasn’t started for a tag since being claimed, celebrating exclusively with starting allowances, optional claimers where he wasn’t entered for a tag and in the $100,000 Ready’s Rocket Express on the Claiming Crown card two weekends ago- hate.
Between claiming Cash and finishing second at Charles Town on Nov. 19, Beverly Park is 19-for-35 with earnings of $453,688 (about 36 times his initial investment of $12,500). His career record is 22-7-4 in 44 starts.