By Dick Jerardi
It was the first full week of March so what better time for “Parx Madness?’’
Seven $100,000 stakes Monday and Tuesday named after local landmarks, starter allowances honoring local colleges and with a number of prominent basketball coaches, players and graduates as trophy presenters on Wednesday.
Perfect weather Monday, a bit chilly on Tuesday, rainy and cold Wednesday.
The three stakes Monday went off perfectly. After a backstretch quarantine was announced, 17 of the 37 horses in the four Tuesday stakes were scratched because, once on the grounds, horses were not able to leave until the problems that caused the quarantine can be isolated. Good races Wednesday and a record $505,292.94 Philly Big 5 carryover jackpot that was sure to attract major play because of a mandatory distribution, attracted $2,527,400 in handle, making the three-day total handle just more than $12 million.
Parx Madness indeed.
The seven stakes were won by seven different trainers and seven different jockeys.
First up on Monday was The Washington Crossing for 4-year-olds and up going 1 mile and 70 yards.
It was kind of a bad deja vu for Smarty Jones fans when 8-5 favorite Dreams Untold, a son of Smarty owned by Pat Chapman and trained by John Servis, survived a speed duel, took the lead in the stretch and was run down by 5-2 Bird King, bred by Mary Lou Whitney who owned Birdstone the horse that caught Smarty Jones in the final yards of the 2004 Belmont Stakes.
“He was coming into the race real good,” Bird King’s trainer Michael Pino said. “He’s always a hard luck horse getting a check in some tough races. We figured we’d try him in this race and he got a great trip. It all worked out in our favor.”
Bird King is owned by Gregory Carlevale and was ridden perfectly by Angel Castillo in The Washington Crossing.
The 6 1/2-furlong Penn’s Landing (4 and up fillies and mares) was dominated start to finish by 5-1 Hey Mamaluke. The mare took the lead under apprentice Andy Hernandez and was never in any danger of losing even when drifting out late. Jakarta, who won the $100,000 Mrs. Claus at Parx on Dec. 28 at 18-1, was 3-5 this time. She could not keep up with Hey Mamaluke early and came on very late to be second, running her career earnings over a half million.
“She got an easy lead, that was good, nobody was pressuring her,” Hey Mamaluke’s trainer Pat Farro said. “And she’s fast. She got out there in front and I knew she’d hang in there as long as she could.”
It was the first stakes winner for Hernandez.
“That was incredible for me,” he said. “That’s my first stake.”
Joseph Capriglione owns Hey Mamaluke who is closing on a half million in earnings herself.
Speed killed again in The Fishtown, run at 6 furlongs for 4 and up. Hollywood Jet blasted out of the gate at 7-5, made the lead, fought off multiple challenges and held on for jockey Luis Ocasio and owner/trainer Carlos Milian. It was the gelding’s fifth straight win.
“This horse is very honest, always tries his best,” Milian said.
The Main Line, run at a mile and 70 yards for 3-year-old fillies, was the first of the Tuesday stakes and looked like a one-filly race on paper. It played out exactly that way as 1-10 Butch-Reid trained Morning Matcha, sat behind her three rivals early, responded in an instant when jockey Frankie Pennington gave the signal, inhaled the field and won by 6 3/4 dominating lengths.
“She’s been a cash cow ever since we bought her,” Reid said. “We bought her relatively inexpensively, only $18,000. And she’s never been worse than third in her career and that’s her third win. She’s been a great find.”
Morning Matcha has already won more than $325,000. She’s been second in three other stakes. Her connections, Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing, Chuck Zacney’s Cash is King and Gary Barber, are going to try her in another stake soon and, only if she fits, perhaps consider a race like the Kentucky Oaks.
Instead of speed winning, a wild speed duel set up the winner of The Society Hill. Disco Ebo (4-5) and Starship Laoban (6-5) tore out of the gate and into each other in the 6-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies. They battled through fractions of :22.16 and :45.76. Disco Ebo gave way first, but Starship Laoban was still there in the final 100 yards.
But Dylan Davis had brought Kisses for Emily through on the rail before switching outside for the stretch run. When Starship Laoban finally started to tire, Kisses for Emily went right on by to win it for trainer Lou Linder and owners Branjam Stable and Dave Clark.
“Just a perfect trip for her with a lot of pace,” Linder said. “And Dylan knows her, goes to let her settle, she starts picking up and she got to them. With the hot pace, it paid off.”
Davis came in from New York for the ride and could not have timed it much better.
“There was a hot pace in front of me which I liked,” he said. “I just rode the rail as long as I could and then was able to tip out and she was able to keep her momentum all the way to the wire.”
Dance Code was the 2-1 favorite in The Rittenhouse Square for 3-year-olds going 6 furlongs. But he never really fired and had to settle for fourth.
Scaramouche, for trainer Lupe Preciado, got a great start under jockey Silvestre Gonzalez and won off by 5 ½ lengths. The gelding, owned by Nicholas Cammarano, Jr., won his previous start by 5 lengths and looks to have a very promising future.
“I rode him last time out to break his maiden,” Gonzalez said. “He broke very sharp and I just let him get comfortable on the lead and he gave me a kick down the stretch…I knew if we were in front, we could dictate the pace. He finished up great today.”
The final stakes race of the two days may have had only three horses, but it was by far the most exciting of the seven races.
Twisted Ride, under Ruben Silvera, quickly jumped to the lead in The City of Brotherly Love run at a mile and a sixteenth for 3-year-olds. But Smarten Up was always just to his inside, with 3-5 Courvoisier just in behind.
Twisted ride and Smarten Up hooked up on the far turn and ran as one from there to the finish line. The favorite could not keep up.
It was Smarten Up on the inside, trained by Freddy Velazquez and Twisted Ride on the outside, trained by Kate DeMasi, each Parx Hall of Famers. Twisted Ride was always slightly in front, but, at no time, was Smarten Up not in with a real chance. In the end, it was Twisted Ride, in just his third third career race, winning it by a nose. It was a wonderful race from two very talented horses.
“He was pricking his ears down the backside so I knew Ruben had plenty of horse,” DeMasi said. “This horse is really learning, but he showed me a lot of gumption today….I was so proud of his effort. He just kept digging in. I just loved what I saw today.”
On Wednesday, Big 5 Hall of Famers Mike Vreeswyk and Howie Evans (Temple), Speedy Morris (La Salle) and Harry Perretta (Villanova) were among the trophy presenters who attended a luncheon in the Cotillion Room, along with many PTHA board members. It was a wonderful time for all and a perfect ending to a terrific racing week, the first “Parx Madness” of what hopefully will be many more to follow.