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Edited NYRA Staff Release – Cloud Nine Stable’s New York-bred Betsy Blue was awarded a 91 Beyer Speed Figure for her last-to-first victory for trainer Linda Rice in Saturday’s $120,000 Garland of Roses, a six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up, at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The 4-year-old daughter of Tonalist arrived at the Garland of Roses just one week after finishing a closing third in the one-mile Grade 3 Go for Wand on December 3 at the Big A, finishing eight lengths behind the victorious Dr B with regular pilot Jose Lezcano up.

Lezcano returned to ride on Saturday and kept Betsy Blue in contention while saving ground in last-of-5 for the first half-mile before rousing her to close six-wide down the center of the racetrack and score the second stakes win of her career by 1 1/4 lengths.

Rice said Betsy Blue gave all the signs that she was ready to run again after the Go for Wand.

“She’s doing great and came out well,” said Rice. “She came out of the last race well and we were really just trying to get a graded placing, and fortunately we were third. That race ended up running very, very fast, but she came out of it well, so we went ahead and ran her right back. Obviously, she liked the distance, it was the right pace scenario for her and it was a good result.”

Betsy Blue has become a barn favorite since joining Rice last March when haltered for $50,000 out of a winning effort at the Big A for previous conditioner George Weaver. Rice said Betsy Blue does her job with professionalism and ease.

“She’s a dream,” said Rice. “She’s real kind and easy to train. She’s a real pleasure to have around the barn and she’s a love. She’s very professional and never does anything out of the ordinary.”

Betsy Blue’s other stakes victory was against fellow state-breds in the Bouwerie last May at Belmont Park, capping a three-win streak that she posted in her first three outings for Rice and Cloud Nine Stable. The consistent bay has hit the board in 15-of-17 starts since being claimed and has amassed over $600,000 in total purse earnings.

Rice indicated Betsy Blue may return for the $100,000 Interborough on January 21 at the Big A with an eye on another graded attempt in the Grade 3, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie on February 18 at Laurel Park.

Bred in the Empire State by Blue Devil Racing Stable, Betsy Blue is out of the stakes-placed Yonaguska mare Honest to Betsy. She is from the family of multiple graded stakes-winner Wild Rush and multiple graded stakes-placed runner/stakes-producing sire Wild Tale.


Hot Peppers targets G1 La Brea

Graded-stakes winning sophomore filly Hot Peppers, who scratched from Saturday’s $120,000 Garland of Roses at Aqueduct Racetrack, will attempt to end her season on a high note when shipping to Santa Anita for the Grade 1, $300,000 La Brea on December 26.

Owned by Michael Dubb and Michael J. Caruso, Hot Peppers was triumphant in her first two starts for trainer Rudy Rodriguez, capturing the Jersey Girl and Grade 3 Victory Ride in wire-to-wire fashion over the summer at Belmont Park. She was only 1 1/2 lengths shy of a Grade 1 victory when second in the August 6 Longines Test at Saratoga Race Course before finishing fourth as the lukewarm favorite in the Grade 2 Prioress on September 2 over the same oval.

She initially targeted the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Keeneland for her return, but was scratched after stepping on a stone in training and developing a bruise.

Hot Peppers breezed a half-mile over the Belmont training track in 48.75 seconds Saturday in preparation for the seven-furlong La Brea.

“She worked well yesterday and seemed to be doing well this morning, so everything is pointing that way,” Rodriguez said. “We were going to run her here because it’s her home track, but the boss wants to try for some more Grade 1 black type. For her resume as a broodmare, it would make sense for us to try that. We just have to get lucky and hope for the best.”

A private purchase from previous owner and trainer Ronald Spatz following an open-lengths maiden coup at Gulfstream Park, Hot Peppers remained with Spatz through her next three starts, including a pair of scores against winners at Gulfstream ahead of a troubled off-the-board effort in the Sophomore Fillies in March at Tampa Bay Downs.

Bred in Florida by Brent Fernung and Crystal Fernung, Hot Peppers has banked $392,950 through a 9-5-2-0 record.

Rodriguez also reported that The Elkstone Group’s New York-bred multiple stakes winner Wudda U Think Now will target the $100,000 Alex M. Robb on Saturday, December 17 at Aqueduct. The Fast Anna gelding captured the Hollie Hughes in February at the Big A, matching a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure from his prior victorious effort. Two starts later he doubled up on stakes scores by capturing the John Morrissey on August 12 at Saratoga.

The Alex M. Robb will be Wudda U Think Now’s first start going one mile since an allowance optional claiming score at the Big A in March 2021.

“I might blow him out a little bit on Monday or Tuesday and hopefully that sets us up,” Rodriguez said.

Dylan Davis, who has worked Wudda U Think Now the past two breezes, will pick up the mount.


Venti Valentine could deliver early Christmas present for NY Final Furlong partners in $100K Bay Ridge

Multiple graded-stakes placed Venti Valentine will attempt to end her sophomore season on a winning note against fellow New York-bred fillies and mares in the $100,000 Bay Ridge going a one-turn mile at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Jorge Abreu and owned by NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds, Venti Valentine was a seven-length winner of the Busher Invitational in March at the Bay Ridge distance before being narrowly defeated in the Grade 3 Gazelle. She parlayed her good form to the Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs where she endured a troubled trip and finished last-of-14.

The daughter of Firing Line has now shifted her focus to one-turn events against her Empire State bred counterparts and will enter the Bay Ridge off a sixth-place finish in the Iroquois on October 30 at Belmont at the Big A.

“She did gallop out well, which is more than we could say from her previous races,” said NY Final Furlong Racing Stable co-managing partner Dan Zanatta. “Her last few breezes have been very good. I think the one-mile configuration at Aqueduct will hit her square in the eyes. I think that’s what she wants to do.”

Venti Valentine is a half-sister to multiple New York-bred stakes winner Espresso Shot, who also won the open-company Busher Invitational during her 3-year-old season. Espresso Shot, who was fifth in the Gazelle as the favorite, went on to have a productive career, garnering stakes wins for the next two seasons.

“Venti Valentine came out of the Oaks in good shape and we pressed on with her,” said Zanatta. “She was able to compete going two-turns early on, but she’s really not a two-turn horse. We kind of had a feeling that would be the case, but it just became evident over the summer. We ran into a similar situation with her sister, Espresso Shot.”

Venti Valentine is out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Glory Gold and was bred in the Empire State by Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stable. She has banked $469,250 through a record of 9-3-2-1.

Zanatta said the stakes-placed Weekend Rags, who finished second to Stonewall Star in the Key Cents for Abreu, could target turf racing in the future. Owned in partnership with WLIR Racing Stables, the juvenile daughter of Street Boss will seek her first career win at some point before the end of the calendar year.

“The Key Cents came up light and we couldn’t resist running in there. Based on nominations and how it came up, she was second best on paper and she proved second best in the race,” Zanatta said. “We were pretty happy with the outcome. We got a stakes placing out of her. It also was the fifth consecutive year we had a 2-year-old earn black type and we’re pretty proud of that achievement. She’ll run one more time this year and head down south. She’s going to be an exceptional turf horse. We’ve breezed her a couple times on turf and she’s pretty special.”

Weekend Rags is bred by Sebastian Murat, Kelly Zanella and Paul Zanella, and was bought for $30,000 as a weanling at the 2020 Keeneland November Sale, where she was consigned by Nicky Drion Thoroughbreds.


Apprentice rider Madison Olver wins first race of career

Apprentice jockey Madison Olver, who launched her career on November 12 at Aqueduct Racetrack, earned her first victory in her 16th attempt aboard Curbstone for trainer Tom Morley in Friday’s sixth race, a $40,000 claiming route, at the Big A.

“I don’t think I would have been happier to win the Kentucky Derby right now,” an emotional Olver said after being doused with water by her fellow celebrating jockeys. “It’s the best kind of cold.”

Curbstone, a 3-year-old homebred for owner Patricia Moseley, scored the second win of his career after breaking his maiden in May at Churchill Downs. The son of Street Sense was sent to post at 12-1 odds under Olver for the first time and stalked in fourth through the first half-mile of the nine-furlong test before coming under a ride from Olver.

Curbstone went three-wide and began to pick off his rivals passing the three-quarters pole, and by the stretch call, had taken a 5 1/2-length advantage on the field. Olver continued steady urging and Curbstone responded, coasting home six lengths in front in a final time of 1:52.82.

“A good horse makes me look good,” said Olver, who was greeted by a large crowd of cheering fans upon her return to the winner’s circle. “He is just honest and I knew he didn’t want kickback, so I took him out where there wasn’t any. He’ll just keep going and he’s a good kid.”

Olver’s win came after hitting the board in seven other races, including five runner-up efforts, one of which happened earlier on the Friday card aboard B C Glory Days. Olver, 23, is represented by agent Joe Migliore and is named on four horses on Thursday’s card at the Big A.

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