Manny Franco wins three on New York Showcase Day | Belmont Stakes
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Jun 9, 2024
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Manny Franco wins three on New York Showcase Day

by NYRA Press Office

Manny Franco, the reigning NYTB Jockey of the Year, won three races - including a pair of stakes - on Sunday’s New York Showcase Day program on Closing Day of the four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course.

The lucrative card, which featured six New York-bred stakes to celebrate the best of racing in the Empire State, was 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.

"Having New York Showcase Day close out this year's Belmont Stakes Racing Festival is special in promoting the advantages and rewards of breeding and racing in New York," said New York Thoroughbred Breeders, Inc. executive director Najja Thompson. "Today is a credit to every participant in the program and our partners at NYRA and the NYS Breeding & Development Fund for making this day special.”

Sunday’s program, initially slated for 12 races, was scheduled to kick off with the Grade 1, $150,000 Beverly R. Steinman for open-company older horses at 2 3/8-miles over hurdles, but inclement weather and significant morning rainfall forced races off-the-turf. As a result, the Grade 1 Beverly R. Steinman, in consultation with the National Steeplechase Association, will be brought back on Thursday, June 20 at Belmont at the Big A with entries to be taken on Friday, June 14.

Franco, who won the Commentator and the $125,000 Kingston, kicked off the card in Race 2 by taking an open-company claiming race with the New York-bred Excellent Timing.

A special card was influenced by the mare Glory Gold, who produced a pair of stakes winners on the day. Final Furlong Racing purchased Glory Gold for just $13,000 at the 2018 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale and she has since produced Venti Valentine [2019 foal], winner of the co-featured $200,000 Critical Eye; and Landed [2021 foal], who captured the $125,000 Bouwerie.

NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Venti Valentine [No. 2, $7.90] enjoyed a perfect stalking trip under Irad Ortiz, Jr. to easily secure her sixth career stakes win, rallying wide in the final turn to overtake pacesetting Bon Adieu and win the Critical Eye [Race 8] by 6 3/4-lengths over Bustin Bay. The Jorge Abreu trainee covered the nine furlongs in a final time of 1:52.51 over the muddy and sealed footing.

Bon Adieu completed the trifecta with Sunset Louise, Midtown Lights and Fingal’s Cave rounding out the order of finish. Sweet Mystery, Amanda’s Folly and Lavon were scratched.

The Firing Line chestnut, bred by Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable, added to scores in the 2021 state-bred Maid of the Mist at Belmont Park; the Listed Busher Invitational and state-bred Bay Ridge in 2022 at Aqueduct; and last year’s state-bred Johnstone Mile Handicap at the Spa and the Jack Betta Be Rite at Finger Lakes. Along the way, the ultra-consistent mare has picked up graded placings at the Big A in the 2021 Grade 2 Demoiselle, 2022 Grade 3 Gazelle and last year’s Grade 3 Go for Wand.

“Any place on New York Showcase day is a dream. But to be here, Belmont Stakes at Saratoga weekend, and have her win like that - that's the race you plan, and today it happened,” said Vincent Roth, co-managing partner of Final Furlong Racing Stable.

Venti Valentine is a half-sister to multiple stakes-winner Espresso Shot, who was trained by Abreu and campaigned by NY Final Furlong Racing Stable, Maspeth Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds.

"It's a true honor," said Shaun Nettleton of Final Furlong Racing Stable. "We owned Espresso Shot who was a great New York runner, turned around and had Venti Valentine who has given us the ride of a lifetime, and now to watch her younger sibling [Landed] just keep following those winning ways on the New York circuit, we are thrilled to support the family and couldn't ask for any more."

Robert S. Evans’ homebred Drake’s Passage [No. 2, $3.80*] made every pole a winning one en route to a four-length score in the Commentator in Race 6.

Trained by Christophe Clement and ridden by Franco, the 4-year-old son of the Clement-trained 2014 Belmont Stakes-winner Tonalist was hounded throughout by Donegal Surges before pulling clear to win in a final time of 1:49.32 over the muddy and sealed track. Donegal Surges completed the exacta by 10 1/4-lengths over Whittington Park with Dr Ardito, Sheriff Bianco and Union Fleet rounding out the order of finish. Olympic Dreams was scratched.

“When he got to an easy lead, I thought he'd be very dangerous, because I know he stays a mile and an eighth, and he's probably the closest horse I've ever trained by Tonalist, because he looks like Tonalist,” Clement said. “I'm very grateful to Mr. Evans. It's all about his breeding program, and he used to own Tonalist as well."

Drake’s Passage, out of the graded stakes-placed Speightstown mare Raucous, improved his record to 10-4-2-2.

Tristar Farm’s Doc Sullivan [No. 4, $4.20*] kicked off the stakes action in Race 3 with a facile score as the even-money favorite in the $125,000 Mike Lee, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores contested over a sloppy and sealed main track.

Trained by Michael Miceli and piloted by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, the Solomini colt made an early move down the backstretch to press the pacesetting That’s Money. Doc Sullivan took over into the turn and never looked back en route to a four-length win in a final time of 1:22.61. Grand Opening edged Elysian Meadows for second with That’s Money completing the superfecta and Mischief Joke rounding out the order of finish. Antonio of Venice was scratched.

Doc Sullivan, bred by Seamus Coughlan, was purchased for $59,000 at the OBS June 2-Year-Olds and Horse of Racing Age Sale.

Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Tango Uniform Racing and Steven Rocco’s Silver Skillet [No. 1, $8.40] provided Clement with his second stakes win on the card with a gate-to-wire score in Race 10, the $125,000 Mount Vernon for older fillies and mares, which was initially slated for one-mile over the inner turf but contested at one-mile out of the Wilson Chute.

Expertly piloted by Hall of Famer Joel Rosario, the 4-year-old Liam’s Map gray took control over the muddy and sealed going through splits of 24.31, 47.35 and 1:11.21 en route to a four-length score in a final time of 1:37.55. Stonewall Star and Tough Street rounded out the trifecta with Sweetest Princess, Lisa’s Vision and Overacting rounding out the order of finish. Lady Jasmine, Masterof the Tunes, Marvelous Maude, and Snowy Evening were scratched.

Silver Skillet, bred by Robert Chasanoff, is the reigning NYTB Champion Turf Female. She added to a turf stakes win here last summer in the state-bred Suzie O’Cain.

Lael Stables’ Landed [No. 7, $5.50*], a half-sister to Venti Valentine, won a pace duel with Sunday Girl and kept on going to capture Race 11, the $125,000 Bouwerie going seven-furlongs for sophomore fillies.

Trained by Wesley Ward and piloted by Hall of Famer John Velazquez, the Omaha Beach bay took command at the top of the lane and drew clear to win by 1 1/4-lengths in a final time of 1:23.61. Caldwell Luvs Gold rallied late to complete the exacta with Tricky Temper, The Shoe Lady, Bernietakescharge, La Banquera, Sunday Girl, P Mutter Pickle and Carol T completing the order of finish. Tough Love Torres was scratched.

Like Venti Valentine earlier, Landed was bred by Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable. She entered from an open-company allowance win last out at Keeneland and improved her record to 5-3-1-1. She was purchased for $500,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale.

Closing out the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival in Race 12 was the $125,000 Kingston for older horses. Originally scheduled for 1 1/16-miles on the Mellon turf, it was contested at one-mile from the Wilson Chute.

Franco completed his hat trick with Spirit of St. Louis [No. 1, $3.70*], who surged into contention into the final turn and responded to his rider's urging with a powerful turn-of-foot to surge past Jerry the Nipper and the pacesetting Disarmed to score by 5 3/4-lengths in a final time of 1:37.44.

Disarmed completed the exacta with Maker’s Candy, Jerry the Nipper and Jackson Heights following in order. Itsallcomintogetha, Coinage, Conman, Eye Witness, City Man, Dakota Gold, Chulainn, Saratoga Flash, Ruse, Barrage and Be of Courage were scratched.

Trained by Chad Brown, Spirit of St Louis won for the seventh time in nine career starts and added to state-bred stakes wins last year in the Ashley T. Cole and Mohawk at Belmont at the Big A to go along with a course-record victory in the Listed Danger’s Hour in April at Aqueduct.

Bred by Chester and Mary Broman, Spirit of St Louis was purchased for $280,000 at the 2023 Keeneland April Horses of Racing Age Sale.

Live racing returns on Friday as racing moves back downstate to Aqueduct

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