The secret is out. Owners who live all over the United States and Canada are taking home huge New York Sire Stakes purses.
Last Wednesday through Saturday, 14 divisions of the NYSS were contested at Vernon Downs, Yonkers Raceway and Batavia Downs. Only two of the 14 winners were purely New York-owned: Ken Jacobs’ two-year-old pacing colt Doctor Butch and Steve Pratt’s two-year-old trotting filly Barn Babe.
The others? New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Delaware, Maryland, Florida, Kentucky, Texas, South Dakota and Ontario, Canada.
“The New York Sire Stakes program is great,” said Andrew Stafford, who trains and co-owns his two-year-old colt Framed Art with his dad in Harrington, Delaware. Thursday night, Framed Art, a son of Artiscape, powered to a two and a quarter-length victory in the first of four $71,000 divisions of the NYSS Two-Year-Old Colt and Gelding Pace at Yonkers Raceway.
Framed Art went off the 6-5 second choice in a field of seven, made the lead with Mark MacDonald in :27.3 and coasted to a handy victory in 1:55.1. Two weeks earlier, he broke his maiden in a $67,000 NYSS division at Saratoga in 1:53.4. He now has two wins, a second and a third from five starts, and ranks third in NYSS points. The top eight point-getters earn berths in the $225,000 NYSS Final on the Night of Champions at Yonkers, September 22.
“I hope to God we’re there,” Stafford said.
Already, Framed Art has taken Stafford to places he’d never been. “This was my first time visiting Monticello, Batavia and Saratoga,” he said. “Everywhere I went, I’ve been treated like royalty.”
He just wishes those tracks were a bit closer to Delaware, where he campaigns 10 horses. “It’s a little hard for me, because it’s a lot of travelling,” he said. “Every track is six, seven hours away, except Yonkers.”
Are the trips worth it? “Absolutely,” he said. “We race for a lot of money and race pretty much each week. But it does take a certain horse to race on half-mile tracks.”
Framed Art is obviously one of them, and Stafford is certainly in the market for another New York-bred. “I’ll be looking at the sales, just because I’ve seen what the program entails.”
The subsequent divisions at Yonkers were taken by Jacobs’ Doctor Butch in 1:54.5; driver/trainer and co-owner Pat Lachance’s Sir Carys Z Tam in 1:54.4 and Swift As A Shadow in 1:57. Linda Toscano trains both Doctor Butch, a son of Art Major who now has four wins and two seconds in six starts, and Swift As A Shadow, a son of Bettors Delight who is now three-for-five with one third for Winbak Farm in Chesapeake City, Maryland.
'Rita' Rockin' 'N Rollin'
Last Wednesday night at Vernon Downs, Connie and Homer Hockstetler and South of the Track Racing Stable in Illinois won the first of three $38,000 divisions of the NYSS Two-Year-Old Filly Pace with Ritascape, a daughter of Artiscape trained by Homer, though his good friend Larry Rathbone was listed as the trainer in the program.
“We took her to Saratoga and she wasn’t quite set,” Connie said. “They wanted to race her at Vernon. We left her with Larry. He only had her four, five days.”
The Hochstetlers purchased Ritascape at the Harrisburg Sales.
“We wanted to buy a trotter, which we did,” Connie said. “Then we went to look at this filly. Linda Toscano had her dam, Rita J. Homer asked her about Rita J., and she said he loved her. We’ve had a lot of luck with Artiscapes. We got her for $12,000. These people, South of the Track, Bill, Mark and Diana Hunter, asked if they could buy a third of her and a couple others and we said, `yes.’ Homer thinks she’s one year away from being a real good horse.”
She was good enough at Vernon to score in 1:52.4 in just her third lifetime start, but she may not be pointed to the Night of Champions. “I don’t think so,” Connie said. “We’re going to keep her on the bigger tracks.”
The Hochstetlers will continue to look for New York-breds at the sales. “Homer liked the program, and we just started buying at the yearling sales about four years ago,” Connie said. “So far, so good.”
Ritascape’s mark was the fastest mile by a two-year-old pacing filly at Vernon Downs this year, but it didn’t last an hour. Burke Racing Stable’s Summertime Lea, a daughter of Lislea trained by Ron Burke and driven by Jim Morrill Jr., upped her record to four-for-five with one second with a one and a quarter-length victory in 1:52.2.
Park N Orchard, owned and trained by George Zitone, took