Tag Archives: Hawthorne

Hawthorne Spotlight: Dittman Thunder


Jockey Tim Thornton and trainer Mike Reavis have been friends for nearly 10 years.  Tim Thornton was the Jockey King of Chicago in 2013, and has started 2014 the same way he finished the fall meet, leading the jockey standings at Hawthorne by taking five trips to the winners circle on opening day.  Looking at today’s card, he could be smiling for the camera at least three times today.

Tim has been riding horses for Reavis for many years in Chicago, and they have been a successful team.  But, when Tim Thornton puts his toes in the irons of an unraced three year old for Mike Reavis, a different side of the floppy-haired, laidback Thornton emerges.  He loves racing three year olds, and rarely gets the chance to get on a good one (as is the story of thousands of other jockeys).  Today in Race 3 at Hawthorne, he gets Dittman Thunder, a Reavis three year old colt which has never been tested.  However, Dittman Thunder is familiar with the Hawthorne dirt (and snow).  Worked one mile his first time out and backed down to 6 furlongs after that.  He did breeze from the gate only once on February 13 and most recently finished 3/8 on March 1 at six furlongs.

There’s really nothing very interesting about this colt, certainly not the pedigree (After Market – Glenbriar Girl, by Gold Case), he hasn’t had impressive works, but Dittman Thunder is the only first time starter in Race 3 and he is 7/5 on the morning line.  What’s interesting is that this colt, in particular, is the three year old Reavis gives to Thornton.

The Racing Dudes took you through the late Pick 4 at Hawthorne, so I’ll give you Races 1-4:

Thornton and Larry Rivelli team up with back-to-back three year old fillies in Races 1 and 2.

Race 1:

#6 Read to Me

#1 Cartiac Arrest

#3 Supermane

#4 Gangster Chick (Thornton/Rivelli)

Race 2:

#3 Miss Dancing Shoes

#1A Bayago

#2 Lewis Meadow (Thornton/Rivelli)

Race 3:

#4 Dittman Thunder (Thornton/Reavis)

#6 Holy Bomber

#2 Stivers

Race 4:

#4 I Make the Rules

#1 Kentucky Bourbon

#2 Slew City Sin

Of Note:  Race 6:  #3, Epic Phelps.  I missed the barn switch on this one from Gabe Retena to my go-to trainer Clay Brinson.  Anxious to see what Epic Phelps does after being in the Brinson barn.  Hawthorne Lady Bug Stephanie Slinger gets the mount.  In tough company though with #2 Come On Man and #4 Henry’s Time with the other Lady Bug Heidi Rose aboard. Would like to see Hawthorne continue its history-making season of having all-female trifectas, but with Taylor B. Rice moving on to a stellar season at Aqueduct, and Rosemary B. Homeister, Jr. still at Oaklawn, we’ll have to settle for the exacta.

Firmly in the Irons: Jockeys to Watch in 2014

Taylor B. Rice:  This Lady Bug is making it hard for us to ignore her.  In her first year of riding, she finished third for the riding title at Hawthorne.  She repeatedly impressed being part of several all-female trifectas at Hawthorne.  She started 2014 with 7 mounts, 3 win and 2 second place finishes at Aqueduct, where she is currently riding.  Proud of this little Lady Bug for taking on the challenge of Aqueduct, unfortunately the competition begins with the Ortiz brothers, who currently rule that track.  Which brings me to …

Jose Ortiz on Strong Mandate
Jose Ortiz on Strong Mandate

Jose Oritz:  How this kid didn’t get an Eclipse nom is beyond me.  He and his brother, Irad Ortiz, Jr., are currently the top jocks at Aqueduct.  Jose is a multiple stakes winning jockey winning the Grade 1 Hopeful on Derby contender Strong Mandate for D. Wayne Lukas.  Jose also rode two winners in Grade 2 stakes and two winners in Grade 3 stakes races in 2013.  He ranked 11th by earnings and 10th by wins.  In 2012, he was an off-the-radar 91st in earnings.  Jose started his year at the Big A with a second place in the Judy Soda stakes aboard Tahoe Tigress.  After picking up wins on Jan. 9 and 10, Jose surpassed his brother Irad as the leading rider at Aqueduct, but that could change at any minute.  The brothers are followed closely by Eclipse Apprentice nominee Manuel Franco.

Dylan Davis:  Since his riding career began in 2012, Dylan has gone from 90 starts to 881 in 2013.  He has accumulated careers starts of 1,001; 132 firsts, 115 seconds and 112 thirds.  Those are huge numbers for a young rider.  So far in 2014, he has 32 starts and has hit the board on 16.  Dylan raised his apprentice earnings from $65,000 to $2.7+ million in 2013.  To make it more impressive, he’s riding at Gulfstream, where the big boys go to ride.  This young rider is holding his own against the biggest names in racing, finding himself currently in fourth place, between Luis Saez and Jose Lezcano.  Dylan consistently rides for Wesley Ward, including a winner on Jan. 5 aboard Round Midnight.  He has upcoming mounts for Nick Zito, Tom Proctor and Todd Pletcher at Gulfstream.

Irving Orozco:  Talking about holding your own at a high-profile track! Irving is perfecting his riding skills by taking style tips from some of the best jockeys in the country at Santa Anita Park.  In 2013, he had 409 starts, 46 first, 40 seconds and 61 thirds.  So far in 2014 he has 22 starts at Santa Anita and has hit the board in 11 of them.  He started the year with five mounts on Jan. 5, and took two trips to the Winner’s Circle on Two Blue Hens and Italian Mirage.  He recently had mounts for Ron Ellis and Kristin Mulhall.  He raised his total earnings from $500,000+ in 2012 to $1.6+ in 2013.  Irving is narrowly behind Martin Garcia in fifth place for wins at Santa Anita.

Alex Canchari:  I have been following Alex Canchari’s career since he first put his toes in the irons.  He’s a Minnesota boy from Shakopee home of Canterbury Park.  This is an incredibly driven and focused young man.  He has remarkable vision on the track.  I’ve seen him squeeze a horse through a hole and catapult to victory more than once. Alex won the 2012 Fall riding title at Hawthorne, but was unable to repeat in 2013.  At Oaklawn in 2013, Alex got his first stakes win on Devil and a Half before arriving at Canterbury Park in the Spring of 2013.  His patient, yet explosive, riding style soon launched him into contention for the riding title at Canterbury.  After a suspension, Alex returned 12 back of leading rider Dean Butler, but a five-win card brought him within reach going into the last week of the meet.  He lost the title to Butler by 2 literally on the last day of the meet.  Alex won more stakes races at Canterbury than any other jockey during the 2013 Canterbury meet.  He rode nearly exclusively for Mac Robertson, Canterbury’s leading trainer, and picked up good mounts for Clay Brinson.  His stakes wins are impressive, in fact during the Festival of Champions, he won three.  He also swept the Princess Elaine and the Blair’s Cove.  He won the Northbound Pride Oaks on Stoupinator, the HPBA Distaff on Starry Eyed Kate, and took a trip to Canada and won the Manitoba Lotteries Derby on Assembly Hall for Bryan Porter.

Alex Canchari on Assembly Hall
Alex Canchari on Assembly Hall

He entered the 2014 Oaklawn meet on opening day with mounts for Allen Milligan and picked up a mount for Calumet Farms and D. Wayne Lukas, where he finished third on Chalybeate Springs.  On opening day, he had five mounts and was in the money on four of them, including a third place finish for Allen Mulligan in the Dixie Belle Stakes.  2014 will be Alex Canchari’s breakout year, but only if he skips Chicago and heads to the East Coast between the Canterbury and Oaklawn meets.

Eclipsing the Competition: Horse of the Year, Top Jockey

John Velazquez and Wise Dan
John Velazquez and Wise Dan

With 2013 now in the home stretch, I’m sure that most analysts and experts will hitch their cart (or ballot) to Will Take Charge for Horse of the Year in 2013.  The blaze-faced chestnut certainly proved impressive, yet finishes slightly behind Mucho Macho Man in total earnings.  (He also found himself slightly behind Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.)

This racing fan and part-time blogger/handicapper has been following the career of another blazed-faced chestnut, Wise Dan.  The connections’ decision not to run him in the Classic could have been the proverbial nail in Wise Dan’s repeat as Horse of the Year.  However, the decision was made to put the best miler in racing on the biggest and most lucrative stage for milers – the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.  It’s been said that the competition was not the same as it was in the Classic.  I am increasingly intrigued at the strategy put forth at the beginning of a racing season with an obvious power horse like Wise Dan, Will Take Charge and others of their magnitude.  The weight put into the stakes races and the grades for each stakes race, is remarkable and masterfully calculated by the owners and trainers.  It helps as well when you have the top jockeys getting the mount on one of the most well-breed power racehorses in the country.  With John Velazquez aboard Wise Dan, they were fierce and fearless barreling toward the finish line.  John knew how to control the horse underneath him with precision and patience.  Wise Dan’s loss to Silver Max was not only shocking but unexpected, and that’s what makes this sport so exciting.  Wise Dan will finish 2013 with victories in six of his seven starts.  His only loss was a second place finish on a wet Polytrack at Keeneland.

Yes, the Will Take Charge lobbyists, such as Gary West of ESPN, are saying that the field of Grade 1 winners in Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile were minimal compared to the competition Will Take Charge had to contend with in the Classic.  Mr. West also goes on to point out that not only in the Breeders’ Cup but in most of Wise Dan’s perfectly placed stakes races were there little or no strong milers who could possibly defeat him.  His biggest plug for Will Take Charge winning Horse of the Year is that in this year of racing there is a multitude of worthy and deserved would-be/could-be winners and therefore no horse should repeat with the honor.  Traditionally, Horse of the Year accolades go to dirt racers.  Only two exclusive turf milers, All Along in 1983 and Kotashaan in 1993, were named Horse of the Year.  Will Take Charge did indeed have a variety of racing surfaces over the past year but also had 11 starts and finished first or second in seven of those races.  There’s some numbers missing there.  Some unaccounted for, maybe not-so-great, or just by a neck, finishes.

Wise Dan
Wise Dan

Wise Dan, on the other hand, had seven starts and seven finishes in the top 3.  That’s 100%, my friends.  In a game of probability and numbers, what’s wrong with a little complete domination?  Somehow, the perfectly placed turf mile stakes races seem to make perfect sense once the numbers flush out.  Wise Dan dominated the field in his specialty and proved to be the top of the food chain at his preferred distance (and analysts act like it’s a bad thing).   Jennie Rees of USA Today also casts her opinion in favor of Wise Dan, by default, unfortunately, with the poor performances of Game On Dude and Princess Sylmar at the Breeders’ Cup.  Without dismissing the competition, she takes particular note of Wise Dan’s performance at the Woodbine Million where he set a course record.

Brian Zipse (Zipse at the Track) wrote a concise yet witty comparison of the top contenders without giving away his choice.  Here’s the link to his blog: http://www.horseracingnation.com/blogs/zatt/Who_is_the_2013_Horse_of_the_Year_123

My vote, if I could, would be for Wise Dan to retain the crown as Horse of the Year.  Voting ends on January 3, 2014.

Johnny V. and Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Johnny V. and Irad Ortiz, Jr.

With discussion of Horse of the Year comes the discussion of the top jockey of 2013.  With his fall at the Breeders’ Cup which ultimately sidelined John Velazquez’s 2013 riding season, Javier Castellano rose to the top of the earnings chart with approximately $26 million, followed closely by Joel Rosario with $21 million.  Despite his injury, Velazquez will finish in third place.  Rosario’s second place finish may be considered a remarkable accomplishment because he broke his foot in mid-season and was unable to race.  Rafael Bejarano may not have finished on the top of the earnings chart (4th place) but there is no question that he dominated West Coast racing this year, winning riding titles at Santa Anita and Betfair Hollywood Park.  No surprise thus far in the standings, until you reach the rider in the fifth spot.  With an exceptional riding career at Aqueduct, 21-year old Puerto Rican rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. finds himself in the fifth spot between two future Hall of Fame riders:  Bejarano and Jose Lezcano.

Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Irad Ortiz, Jr.

The baby-faced jock has been picking up (and winning) mounts for trainers like Steve Amsussen and 2013 top trainer, Todd Pletcher, this season.  On December 26, Ortiz, whose younger brother Jose is an apprentice in New York, had nine mounts and finished in the money in four of them.  Irad and his brother consistently finish in the top 3.  Irad has only been riding since 2011 with his earnings were $2.8 million.  As of today, his earnings in 2013 are a staggering $13.9 million.  This is certainly a jockey to watch going into 2014.  He is currently the leading rider at Aqueduct with 43 wins.  However, I’m curious to see if he can ride on the West Coast.   He’s been at the New York barns since his apprenticeship and arrival from Puerto Rico.

2013 may have been the year of the seasoned riders like Mike Smith and Gary Stevens but they may need to keep checking over their shoulders.  2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse, but it also might be the year of the young jockeys to grab the reigns and fly!

I shall not close without mentioning the riding title at Hawthorne.  You basically could have wrapped up the trophy in a big BLUE ribbon back in mid-November.  Tim Thornton accumulated 20+ wins over his closest competitor Rafael Manuel Hernandez and 30+ over third-place finisher Israel Ocampo.  Tim has raised his winning percentage significantly.  He even stated that a 15% winning percentage is remarkable in this business.  At the end of the Hawthorne meet, his winning percentage is 20%, total earnings at $1.1 million and a 48% chance of top 3%.  A very impressive 2013 season for this talented and likeable rider.

I started writing this blog in October.  My first racetrack to cover outside of Minnesota was Hawthorne Racecourse.  I have continually been impressed with my brief interaction with Jim Miller on Twitter, and appreciate that he did not discard a rookie, female handicapper such as myself.  I have learned a great deal about the jockeys, trainers, horses and connections in Chicago and find them all to have a genuine love and concern for this sport.  I look forward to covering Hawthorne next year.

I appreciate the opportunities that have presented themselves to me this past year and intend to make each one successful in 2014.  So, I begin 2014 with coverage at Oaklawn and Turf Paradise (following the Minnesota connections).

Alex Canchari
Alex Canchari

As promised, Minnesota’s own young racing star, Alex Canchari, will be my Jockey Feature next month in honor of his January birthday.

Todd Schrupp from TVG has one of the best “sign offs” in broadcasting: “Until next time, may all your photo finishes be winning ones.”  I need to get one of those for this blog.  I have trouble with conclusions – or maybe I just have trouble with “endings.”



With jockey John Velazquez out for the remainder of 2013 due to an injury he suffered at the Breeders’ Cup, it has brought to light the unpredictable nature of racing thoroughbreds and the dangers jockeys face.

Leading Hawthorne rider, Tim Thornton, is certainly no exception to the risk of injury when going 40 mph on a 1,200 pound animal with nothing more than your toes holding you in the stirrups.  Tim has suffered numerous injuries over his 10 year career but maybe none more horrific then the accident at Canterbury Park this past summer.

Tim flew in from Chicago to ride a favorite for trainer Joel Berndt and visit his buddy, Tanner Riggs, who works for Berndt.  Tim was on Key the Code when the horse was bumped hard, clipped heels with the horse in front and went down.  The horse running behind Tim’s was also involved in the accident.  Jockey Justin Sheppard was thrown from his mount in the incident and was the first to get to Tim, whose face was covered in blood.  He suffered two fractures in his skull, both on his forehead; another above his right eyebrow, and fractured his sinus cavity, not to mention a clean break of his humerus and a mild concussion.  Fearless, resilient and determined are a few adjectives used to describe Tim Thornton.  After his accident, he was out of racing for five weeks but was able to ride in Arlington’s Fall meet.

Dealing with injury and setbacks is nothing new to this 26-year old.  He is from a family of rodeo riders, and as a young teenager Tim was a bull rider in local rodeos in his hometown of Utopia, Texas and in Louisiana (hence his passion for crawfish boils).




In 2012, Tim starred in a video blog entitled “Behind the Silks” produced by Arlington Park’s TV analyst Jessica Pacheco.  Tim wore a helmet cam for every race during Arlington’s meet and allowed viewers inside the life of a jockey (early morning workouts, the jockey room, and he even sat down for a Q&A with track handicappers – which never happens).  In researching for this feature, I watched all 20 episodes of Behind the Silks. I would encourage any race fan or horse player to watch the series.  Tim Thornton is infectious – with his floppy, long hair, his way of speaking, his mannerisms, charisma, cool, yet mischievous attitude, his layered Polo shirts (with all the collars popped), and his genuine love of racing horses and for his young daughter, who is featured in the Father’s Day episode.  And, yes, the explanation of those iconic blue boots!


In one episode, Tim is asked to throw out the first pitch at the White Sox game.  I checked to see if there had been any other jockeys who were given this sporting honor, and indeed there have been.  Mario Gutierrez and Garret Gomez, both threw out first pitches at L.A. Dodgers games.  I hope they did better than Tim, who looked goofy and awkward – a few more adjectives that make you want to spend a day hanging out with him and in Behind the Silks, you get to do just that!

Tim is currently riding in Chicago at Hawthorne Racecourse and is the leading jockey with about six weeks of racing left (six wins ahead of Rafael Hernandez and 10 ahead of Israel Ocampo).  Tim consistently takes mounts for leading trainer Roger Bruggemann as well as Mike Reavis and Larry Rivelli, both of whom helped Tim get good mounts when he was a young rider.  Tim won the 2013 Spring riding title at Hawthorne and looks to be on his way for a sweep at Hawthorne.

Checking the Miss Stakes

Hawthorne will be running two stakes races on Saturday, November 9; the Showtime Deb and Sun Powers Stakes each with a $100,000 purse.

I’m hoping Alex Canchari gets back the few steps he lost after leaving an amazing summer at Canterbury and setting foot in Chicago.  He has a couple chances on Saturday’s card.

Sun Power Stakes:  A small field of two-year old colts and geldings go six furlongs in this one for a chance at the $100,000.  Five will head to the gate with the early morning line favorite the #1 Solar Flair ridden by Rosemary Homeister.  The Rivelli horse, Rambling Richie, gets the next pick followed by Bad Boy Peter with Seth Martinez in the irons.  I’ll take Bad Boy Peter for the win.  (3, 1, 2)

The Showtime Deb Stakes is the 7th race on the card and Canchari will have to pull out one of those long shot miracles he has in order to win on the #8 Immoral Lifestyle who goes off at 20/1.  I hope he can beat the odds on this one but it’s a big field of 12 and lots of contenders.  The Illinois favorite is the always-dependable, Cow Catcher.  Wayne Catalano has Alittlebitofcandy with Israel Ocampo getting the mount.  Prairie Vista is another one to watch with leading Hawthorne jockey Tim Thornton aboard.  But, I’m going with the #6 Church Road at a cool 5/1 on the line.  (6, 4, 9)

The best races on the Saturday card are the #5 and #6.

In Race 5, fourteen $25,000 claimers (including the also-eligibles) go for the $20,000 purse. Canchari picks up Kentucky bred Stig’s Deputy.  Two other Kentucky horses are also here, Artful Bee and Oh My Todd, all of which are racing well in Chicago.  Canchari is also listed on the also-eligible IfoundmyMojo (let’s hope he has).  Other Florida shippers include Yankee Injunuity and Wekiva Wachee.  The morning line favorite is Minnesota’s Jost Van Dyke at 7/2.  The home-state horses are Uno Pecador, Big Looie, Sahm Like It Hot, Peters Rock and Luck With a Kiss.  Luck With a Kiss is a Reavis horse ridden by Thornton.  I have to go with this one and also put the lone Iowa entry, Jifquick, on my ticket.  This will be a good race.  They all run well at Hawthorne.  If Jost Van Dyke makes it to the gate, I’ll put him and Stig’s Deputy in my Super.


(Alex Canchari on Devil and a Half)

Race 6 reunites Alex Canchari with the horse that gave him his first stakes victory.  He remounts Devil and a Half for Hugh Robertson.  Canchari and Devil and a Half won the Arkansas Breeders’ Stakes at Oaklawn on April 7.  This horse has one victory on its record and that was the Arkansas Breeders with Canchari aboard.  Devil has been in Chicago but finally Canchari gets the leg up.  I want a win for both of them.  It would be good for Devil and good for Alex.  Unfortunately, they’ll have to deal with Runaway Pepper, Jack’s Tiger (MN), Part’n Parcel, When Willy Win and Stunning Split (the favorite), to name a few.

Runaway Pepper just might be my horse to watch and am hoping he gets out of Chicago.  Trained by Dale Bennett, Runaway Pepper has 12 starts in 2013 and has been in the money all 12 times!  Five of the 12 were first place finishes.  He recently joined the Hawthorne stables from Keeneland with a victory on October 19.  Runaway Pepper is normally ridden by Calvin Borel but Edgar Perez will get the mount at Hawthorne.



(Turf Paradise, Phoenix, Arizona)

Several Minnesota riders and trainers drop tack in Phoenix, Arizona for the winter.  The winter in Minnesota is long and at Turf Paradise so is the racing season!  Live Racing from October 5, 2013 – May 6, 2014 which means riders can finish the Canterbury meet in September and move straight to Phoenix and be back to Canterbury for the start of the summer meet again.  Riders who don’t like to gather up their gear every three or four months, head for Phoenix.

Turf Paradise hosts some familiar names.

Trainers, David Van Winkle, Dickie Martinez, Miguel Silva, Valorie Lund, Dan McFarlane, Sherri Laing and Louis Canchari all have horses running at Turf Paradise.

Minnesota-connected jockeys Scott Stevens, Anne von Rosen, Patrick Canchari, Giovanni Franco, Marcus Swiontek, Juan Rivera and Jake Barton (even though he came to Canterbury from Canada, we still claim him as ours) all ride in Phoenix and are having a successful meet as the current standings indicate:

1.  Jorge Carreno
2.  Scott A. Steven
3.  Geovanni Franco
4.  Jake Barton
5.  Anne Von Rosen

Veteran’s Day at Turf Paradise brings out several Canterbury connections.  Parris Island Babe, Sixtysix Margaux, Mancala, Maj’r Ruler, and Chisenau get on the card. Familiar horses in the heat include, Contact, trained by Dan McFarlane, takes to the Turf Paradise track on November 10.  Contact hasn’t been able to find the Winner’s Circle – like never.  His best performances were a second place on Oct. 20 at Turf Paradise and a second place finish on August 23 at Canterbury.  Contact – always the bridesmaid.

Sixtysix Margaux certainly knows her way to the Winner’s Circle!  She’s been there three of her last three starts.  Her most recent win coming on Oct. 14 on this track.

Mancala is in Race 5 on the card and needs to show some improvement.  One thing about Mancala – he’s consistent.  Consistently in fourth place.

Maj’r Ruler, trained by Miguel Silva, had his best finish at Canterbury winning on May 27.  He’s improving at Turf Paradise with a second place finish on October 9.

Ah, Chisenau.  I always like Chisenau.  His last win was June 15 at Canterbury.  In 16 starts, he has hit the board nine times.  Giving him a 56% chance of getting in the money and he has always been in the top 4 finishers.  Good bet on a Superfecta ticket.

Some of the best show up on November 12:  Borealis Way, Hava Cigar and Claypool are all in.

Borealis Way had an impressive meet at Canterbury, hitting the board three out of four start and finished fourth in the H.B.P.A. Distaff Sprint at Canterbury as well.  However, Borealis Way must not like the heat in Phoenix.  Best finish is sixth at Turf Paradise back on Oct. 23.

Claypool, however, is the complete opposite.  With Scott Stevens aboard, Claypool got the only two wins of his career at Turf Paradise.  A dismal ninth place finish in the Manitoba Lotteries Derby made this horse look towards the West early!

Hava Cigar is also a consistent runner.  Ran only four times at Canterbury and got in the money four times!  So far in 2013, Hava Cigar has finished either first or second in 6 out of his 9 starts.  This is a horse to watch.  Anne Von Rosen is his usual rider and she keeps that mount in Race 6.

Good luck!  Be sure to follow my next blog.  Miss Post Parade will be back with the first jockey feature.  I know I promised Paco Lopez, but am going to finish out the Hawthorne meet with top rider Timothy Thornton.  Let’s hope I don’t put the “Sports Illustrated” curse on him!