Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday with the Chief

Happy Memorial Day to All Our Partners and Friends,

A few of our partners shared something special early Sunday morning. As we all
were leaning against the rail watching the morning workouts, Hall of Fame
Trainer "The Chief" Allen Jerkens seemed to magically appear in the middle of
us. Not a finer gentleman in the game, The Chief shared his views with us in a
ten minute conversation that I don't think anyone wanted to end. When told our
trainer is Bruce Brown he commented "can't go wrong there". Shortly after we
were all treated again when jockey Dave Cohen showed up and spent time with us
sharing his thoughts on Bishop of Nola's third place finish this past Friday.
We were able to see Metrology exercise and Bruce Brown commented how time away
from the track can make the world of difference in a race horse. This brings us
to Rigby, a quality race horse that needs a mental health adjustment. Rigby
will continue to train, but is going to the horse resort to escape the rigors of
a race track. The reports have started to be emailed to the partners in our New
Spring/Summer Claiming Partnership. Rarely does someone slip through the
cracks, but if anyone involved has not received the report please let me know.
Thank you all for your continued support, Joe W.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another CVF Artist

We're happy to welcome another artist to the Castle Village farm partnership. Here's a painting by new partner Teresa Fasolino, of the Belmont paddock.

Barn Report - December 12, 2010

Iguazu finishes 2nd at Aqueduct 12-9-2010

Iguazu made a very nice return from a long layoff this past Thursday. He competed deep into the stretch before tiring and finishing second. It’s quite possible Iguazu will get another start before he reaches the age of four.

Iguazu was chomping away on his hay when Vinny, Steve and myself stopped by on Sunday to congratulate him on his big effort. Bruce Brown thinks Iguazu will be ready to race again by the end of the month. Iguazu had a 68 Beyer speed rating and that number has proven to be competitive at this level. Bruce is considering the Maiden Claiming $60k-$50k on 12/29 and the Maiden Claiming $35-$25 on 12/30. Probably only one of these races will be used, so Iguazu will be entered in both. Bruce and his staff have done a great job schooling Iguazu and now he needs to experience racing. Hope to see everyone at Iguazu's next race.

Castle Village Farm continues to be active racing and looking for new additions to our stable. Here is where we are:

Bruce Brown expects Bishop of Nola and Metrology to come back from their freshenings and have competitive four year old campaigns.

The Fall/Winter Claiming Partnership has exceeded its goal of $25K and continues to grow. Steve and Bruce have not seen anything so far that interests them, but the process continues.

The Two-Year Old Partnership information will be available towards the end of January.

Thank you all for your continued support and have a Happy and Safe Holiday Season.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Barn Report - December 5, 2010

Iguazu with Joe, Mary Ann and John C.

Cold weather, the inner dirt track at Aqueduct and Iguazu is ready to race. Patience is a strong virtue to have when waiting for a young horse to develop. Partners seem to enjoy the anticipation and unknown potential in this type of partnership. Iguazu is entered in the fourth race this Thursday (12/9) at Aqueduct. We hope to see something positive in his first race off a long layoff and the second race of his career.

Bishop of Nola and Metrology are getting a winter freshening in upstate NY. Thank you all for your interest in visiting them, Mike Shrader at the In Front Training Center says he needs a day or two notice for a visit, so just get in touch with me and I'll be happy to set things up.

Fall/Winter Claiming Partnership has reached 90% of the initial monetary goal. Steve sent out the first evaluation a few days ago. If anyone didn't receive this information, either from Steve or myself, please let us know. Shares are still available for anyone interested.

The two-year old partnership is drawing quite a bit of interest as the list continues it's steady climb.

We will be in the Man of War room by noon on Thursday and hope many of you can join us.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Barn Report - Sunday September 19

CVF Partner Vinny DiSpigno with Metrology and Bruce Brown

With Steve still out at Keeneland, Joe had all the fun at Bruce Brown’s Belmont barn this weekend, accompanied by partners Esta, Stu, John, Vinny, Paddy and Ellen. Here’s his report:

Bishop of Nola has been given the nickname of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". Bruce said the Bishop acts like the perfect horse and then suddenly something will just set him off. Bruce attributes it to nerves and nothing physical. The Bishop lost a shoe during the night, and it’s tough to find a blacksmith on Sunday, so Bruce had him jogging around the shed row for 20 minutes. When the Bishop returned to his stall, he eagerly ate carrots fed to him by partners,. Bruce and Steve will be looking at October turf races for Bishop of Nola. Iguazu was also jogged around the shed row this morning. Bruce is being cautious with him, but at the same time wants to keep him moving forward. Partners and I all noticed how muscular Iguazu has become, and a comment was made that Iguazu looks like a Pletcher horse. Time will tell, Bruce said it has only been a week so we will see how Iguazu progresses.

Metrology is doing very well and seemed to enjoy the attention given to him. Bruce brought Metrology to graze in the grass outside his barn, and, after a little bit of hesitation, a group of us were able to feed him carrots. Everybody was surprised at that, because the word when he’d first arrived in the barn was that he was pretty mean. He’s nicer now, but (this is meant for Ellen and others who like to hug our horses), Metrology is still not the huggable type. Bruce said Metrology likes to be left alone at times (every one of us immediately could relate to that feeling). Bruce is pretty confident that Metrology will be racing in October. Steve and Bruce will soon start discussing next race possibilities.

Talking Blues had a very nice breeze yesterday morning. Bruce Brown with stopwatch in hand, along with the partners, watched Talking Blues breeze in company (he won by a long neck). After the breeze, Bruce said, Talking Blues is ready to go. Bruce entered Talking Blues in dirt races for this Thursday and Friday, but neither race was used, so Bruce will try again for a turf race on Saturday, 9/25. Entries for that race are due this Wednesday. As soon as we have confirmation we will do another posting. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at Belmont Park.

If you’d like to join in our weekend barn visits, just get in touch with Joe. Email is and the toll-free phone is (888) 989-RACE (7223).

Meanwhile, you can catch up with what Steve’s been doing at Keeneland by clicking on:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Barn Report - Sunday, August 29th

Most of the New York racing world was focused on Saratoga this past Sunday – understandably – Rachel Alexandra was racing that day. But, even though things are a lot quieter down at Belmont, the backstretch is still full of race horses that need to be exercised every morning. The training track is closed for repairs, so Joe, Steve and partner Vinny DiSpigno couldn’t have their usual couple of hours hanging out on the rail near Bruce Brown’s barn. Instead, they visited with Talking Blues and Bishop of Nola, who were already back in their stalls, after their morning breezes, and then went over to the main track to hang on that rail for a change.

Most trainers send their horses out one at a time, a lot go out in pairs, and, every now and then, there’s a group of three or even four. But the railbirds got to see Christophe Clement’s horses all come out onto the track together. There must have been a dozen of them, prancing and huffing and circling, all in matching saddle cloths. No other trainer in New York sends out that many at a time, mostly because no other trainer can find that many exercise riders. But Clement, who hails from France (and quit smoking Gauloises only a couple of years ago), still trains in the European manner. His exercise riders double as grooms and hotwalkers, so he can keep more of them on as full-time employees. We have to tell you, if races were decided by how a trainer’s string looked in the morning, Clement would win hands down.

On most August Sundays, that would have been the end of live racing for the day for the Castle Village Farm guys. But, at 11:00, as he was driving home from the Belmont backstretch, Steve got a call from Bruce. “Don’t go home yet. Come up here to Saratoga. That horse you wanted to claim, the one I thought wouldn’t be available, well, he is. You want him, we’ll go for him.” So, Steve did, and here’s his report:

Beautiful day for a drive up to the Spa; made it in just over three hours, in plenty of time before the seventh race.

Bruce and I checked out our pick, Dallas Stewart’s three-year-old Henceforth, as he came into the paddock. Nice big, well-muscled horse, walking well, no obvious problems. So Bruce dropped the claim slip at the racing office while I watched from outside the paddock; if a potential buyer is inside the paddock before the race, the claim can be voided. That actually hgppened to us a few years ago. One of our partners found himself inside the paddock at the wrong moment. It wasn’t fun.

Henceforth was a little on edge getting saddled, and was the only horse leaving the paddock for the track to show a lot of kidney sweat. That’s never a good sign. As the gate opened for the race, he stumbled, then tried to make up ground from his far outside post position, racing wide the whole way around. He made some headway down the stretch, but, by the sixteenth pole, he’d faded. He finished next to last. He had lots of excuses, but for someone who’d dropped a claim slip on him, it was not a great feeling. But, I thought, it was the wrong race for that horse, wrong surface, wrong distance, and the horse had a terrible trip. I still wanted him.

So Bruce and I went back to the racing office to see if we had. There’d been a bunch of other claims dropped on that race. We didn’t know who they were for, but so we figured at least a couple of them must have been on Henceforth. We were more right than we’d ever have guessed. There were seven claims in the race – and all seven of them were for Henceforth. The line-up at the racing office counter included Gary Contessa, Dominick Galluscio (dressed for the nineteenth hole in a bright magenta sports jacket), Mike Maker (Maker wasn’t there himself; one of his assistants was standing in for him), Scott Everett, a couple of other trainers, and us.

The racing office is always full of people who don’t seem to have anything to do, maybe because some of them have very specialized jobs, like managing the shake when there’s a bunch of claims on the same horse. In Saratoga, that job belongs to a little guy with big glasses. With seven claims, Little Guy must have felt like he’d done a full day’s work. He slapped the seven claim slips face down in a row on the racing office counter, as if he was dealing a hand of cards.

I thought the shake would be next, but something else happened first, something I’d never seen before. As Little Guy was laying out the claim slips, one by one each of the seven trainers put $100 in cash on the counter next to the slips. Nobody said anything about it; nobody even blinked; they just did it. It was pretty clear that the winner of the horse would also get to take home the $700.

Little Guy dropped seven numbered balls into a cup that looked like it had been made for a couple of dice, gave the cup a good shake, and then tipped it just enough for one of the balls to roll out onto his palm. It was a four. Laboriously, Little Guy counted out the claim slips, from left to right, one to four, and turned over the Little Guy dropped fourth slip. It had Mike Maker’s name scrawled on it; Maker had gotten the horse for owner Ken Ramsey. And his assistant had gotten a cool $700.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Second Career for CVF Horses -- Right at the Race Track

Castle Village Farm takes its responsibility as a thoroughbred owner very seriously. In particular, we try to make sure that all our race horses have a comfortable and productive second career once they're no longer racing. Some of our former horses have become broodmares (Seneca Falls' first foal, Sweetsouthernman, just won a maiden at Calder). Some, including Pinecall and Through Thicknthin, have moved on to become ribbon-winning hunter-jumpers. Some, such as Cinnamon Light, are working in therapeutic riding programs, and some, like Candooz and Key on Richie, are just hanging out with caring, responsible owners.

And three of our former racers are right back where they enjoyed success -- at the race track, working as stable ponies or outrider ponies. We hope, and I believe, that they are delighted to have found a way to keep active in a place that they love.

Diligent Gambler & Leah Gyarmati on the Belmont training track

We claimed Diligent Gambler, a big gray gelding by Diligence, in 2004, and he went on to win 8 races for us from 28 starts, missing an in-the-money finish only five times. Including his efforts for other trainers, his lifetime record was 44-12-8-10, with earnings of over $365,000. And in 2004 he won a total of 9 races, including those before we claimed him, and was named Florida-bred Claimer of the Year.

By 2007, DG had long since been claimed away, and his racing career was winding down. Our partners generously contributed enough money to buy him back from his last owner. We gave him some time for rest and recuperation, and then Leah Gyarmati, who had trained DG for us for all of those 28 starts, was able to bring him back to the track as her stable pony. Every morning DG takes Leah to the track to watch her horses work out. DG also loves to teach the new two-year-olds how to act like professionals. Right now, DG is with Leah at Saratoga, enjoying the clean, fresh upstate air and looking forward, at age 9, to many more years of useful work at the track.

Brave Sir Robin (r) working on the Belmont pony track

We bought Brave Sir Robin (Runaway Groom-Brave Hearted; if you know Monty Python, you’ll know how he got his name) as a yearling in 2003, and he raced for us until his retirement, some 39 races later, in 2008. Although he only won three of those races, Brave Sir Robin tried hard all the time, finished in the money in nearly half his races, and earned over $150,000. Jimmy Ferraro trained Brave Sir Robin for us.

When we retired Robin, complete with a retirement party at a Long Island restaurant, we were fortunate enough to be able to send him to the late John Hettinger’s Akindale Farm in upstate New York. It took him a year or so before he was ready to go to work again. And then trainer Bobbi Rossi, who had been one of Jimmy Ferraro's assistants, decided that he would make an ideal pony. So Bobbi, now training on her own, brought him back to Belmont, where, as the above picture shows, he takes his job of teaching babies very seriously.

Charlie, trainer Keith & groom Curtis head for the Hialeah track

And finally, the first horse ever to run in Castle Village Farm’s colors, Warwhatisitgoodfor, is still, a dozen years later, on the race track, working as an outrider pony at Gulfstream and Calder.

Charlie, as we knew him, for his Charlie-Chaplin-like walk, was claimed by a group of friends who all lived at the Castle Village apartment development in upper Manhattan. Hence the stable name. Along with trainer Keith Sirota and co-owners sportswriter Paul Moran and ace handicapper Stuie Rubin, we raced Charlie in New Jersey and Florida, getting win pictures at Hialeah and the Meadowlands and enjoying the thrill of being in the races.

Charlie kept running until he was 10 years old, then seamlessly transitioned into his role as a pony, leading the young ‘uns to the starting gate. We wish him many more years of productive work at the track.