Racing & Wagering

Barn Notes: Friday, Sept. 13, 2013

| Churchill Downs Communications | 09/13/2013 #
  • Larry Rivelli

In Today’s Notes: Rivelli Revels in Rewarding Meet; Illinois Turf Queen La Tia Takes on Canada Sunday; Covert Mission Lights Up Tote Board Thursday

Trainer Larry Rivelli is having a banner season at Arlington International Racecourse.  With 11 race days remaining in the 2013 meet, the trainer is currently a clear second in victories (44) behind perennial powerhouse and 10-time training champion Wayne Catalano (65) and 12 wins ahead of third-place Roger Brueggemann.  In 158 starts through Thursday’s card (the same amount of starters the entire 2012 season), the 42-year-old has won 14 more races and eclipsed his earnings of 2012. 

It was apparent in the beginning of the season that Rivelli was loaded.  Winning a race nearly once per day over the first two weeks of racing, the Chicago native has cooled off slightly but been very consistent for the remainder of the meet.  Striking at an impressive 28% and landing in-the-money 54% since, his statistics are nearly identical to those of Catalano, but with 30% fewer starts.

Rivelli is quick to point out two major factors for such success – owners and 2-year-olds.  “Great owners and the fact that my 2-year-olds being more successful has been big for me,” the conditioner reported.  “We’ve hit five or six 2-year-old races so far and we’ve also had the right horses in the right spots.” 

An ex-collegiate athlete with an eye for talent and fitness, Rivelli has done his best to judiciously place his charges.  “We’re doing the same stuff we do every year.  We have a really good staff and a really good team of guys and we try to make sure we give them every chance to run well,” he explained.  “The 2-year-old success has been a huge highlight compared to last year.  It’s hard to get them to races to begin with.”

Rivelli also attributed a marginal portion of his earnings increase to his embrace of the Illinois breeding program.  “We’ve had a lot of Illinois-breds.  One of my owners, Richard Ravin, and I have bred and are racing a lot of those together.  That definitely helps with the purse bonuses.  We also got a great new addition in Patricia’s Hope Stable, which is Vince Foglia – very good guy Illinois guy.  We’re good friends and (he and Richard) good owners,” Rivelli elaborated. 

“I definitely have to praise my owners – they’re such good people and they make this game happen,” he continued.  “If you’re winning 28% of the time, you’re losing 72% of the time.  So, it’s definitely a humbling investment and sport.  I’ve been very fortunate.”

Rivelli’s performance with Ravin horses has been particularly impressive.  Ravin’s stable is currently in second-place in the standings with 14 wins and is striking at a 34% with 54% in-the-money.  In the same breath, Patricia’s Hope Stable has performed very well for a new owner – striking at 20% and landing in-the-money 47% of the time.

Rivelli is equally as thankful for those he allows to ride the equine athletes.  “I think that jockeys are like quarterbacks.  Not every quarterback runs the option; not every jockey rides the same race.  If I see a jock knows a horse and I have recently claimed that horse, I’m rarely going to take that jockey off when I race him,” he explained.  “It takes a while to learn the ropes with jockeys, but I have a good idea of who is best at what.  For example, it’s hard to find a better jockey on the front end than (E. T.) Baird and Noel Vigil is a very talented young jockey who is excellent with young horses.”

Though he has done an impressive job spreading the wealth among the colony, Rivelli definitely has flourished with his go-to guys, as well.  In addition to Baird and Vigil, he has used Quincy Hamilton and Timmy Thornton a great deal during the meet.  Thornton, in particular, has done very well when given a leg-up from the trainer, winning 11 of 27 mounts for a 41% clip – the highest percentage of any jockey-trainer team on the grounds this meet.

While the meet has been a big success, he highly anticipates the future for his stable.  “Having nice 2-year-olds is a nice way to get excited for the future, as well as having a nice older horse like Ojos de Hielo,” said Rivelli.

Ojos de Hielo is a recent Panamanian import who has earned bullets in the morning for Rivelli, as well as placed in a restricted stakes in Texas for the trainer this summer before running unplaced in the $400,000 American St. Leger.  “‘Ojos’ prefers the dirt and we are going to aim him toward the (Grade II) Hawthorne Gold Cup this fall,” Rivelli stated.  “I’ll go to Hawthorne (Race Course) with a lot of my horses because of all the Illinois-breds I have.  I’ll also send a handful to Gulfstream (Park) that fit – like ‘Ojos’ (after the Gold Cup).”

Whatever the future may hold, Rivelli is excited, determined and feels prepared.  “It’s all about having great owners, a good team and good horses, and I’m very fortunate,” he concluded.

The reigning queen of Arlington grass racing, Illinois-bred La Tia, is on her way to Canada to take on a salty group of older turf mares in the Grade II Canadian Stakes at Woodbine Racetrack for owner Hernandez Racing Club and trainer Armando De La Cerda. 

“She’s going great.  She’s leaves for Canada tonight (Friday).  She’s very happy and her work the other day was perfect,” said an excited De La Cerda.  The six-time winning daughter of City Place recently worked five furlongs over the Arlington Polytrack in a solid 1:00.40, the eighth-fastest of 36 at the distance. 

The Canadian drew a strong field of nine with the speedy La Tia drawing the outside post in the one-turn nine-furlong event under Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux.  “She’s really likes the mile and an eighth and she’s won a couple races around one turn when she was on the Arlington Polytrack.  She can do it,” De La Cerda explained.  “Kent is going to ride her again and knows the filly very well, now.”  Desormeaux was on La Tia for the first time last out in the Grade I Beverly D. Stakes, where the mare led until the last eighth of a mile.  Upon being passed by eventual runaway winner Dank, the filly gritted her teeth and finished fifth in a three-horse photo for third with Grade I winner Marketing Mix and the highly regarded Grade III Modesty Handicap winner Ausus. 

La Tia’s main competition will come from Solid Appeal, a multiple Canadian stakes winner who tracked and could never pass La Tia in the Beverly D. and European import Ladys First, who finished ahead of Dank in a race at Royal Ascot in June. 

This will be La Tia’s second trip to Canada.  Last year, in an eventful running of the $150,000 La Lorgnette Stakes, she banged the rail in mid-stretch and still recovered to win the race.  “When La Tia was with (previous trainer) Brian Williamson last year, I worked for him and took her to Canada,” said De La Cerda.  “We’ll do it just like last year.   We’ll leave tonight and tomorrow we’ll get a feel for the track and then run on Sunday.

“She’s a great shipper.  She sleeps all the time – she’ll sleep in the van ride there and will save her energy,”  De La Cerda continued.  “I’m not worried about the ground too much, either.  I know she can handle the soft – she has won on it.  On the firm turf, like in the Beverly D., she may have lost but she ran against some very good fillies in a Grade I.”

De La Cerda is pumped to once again take his local star filly up to Canada to represent Illinois racing.  “It looks like she fits in this field.  The one I know (Solid Appeal) in there who is very good and has some speed finished behind us in the Beverly D., and I think we can beat her.”

The upset victory in Thursday’s ninth race by Silver Wing Stable’s Covert Mission did more than dash any hope of a Jackpot Pick 9 winner.  The Manny Perez-trained son of Strategic Mission, ridden to victory by Carlos Montalvo, lit up the tote board with a meet-high $198.40 win mutuel as well as a season-best $71.20 place payoff.

The 5-year-old gelding also teamed with Joe Kasperski Jr.’s Big Smooth (7-1) for a meet-high Exacta return of $1,528.20 for a $2 wager.  With third-place finisher Lonnie Arterburn’s Slew City Slew (7-1) and fourth-place runner Sugar Daddy Stable’s Name Dropper (4-1) added to the mix, the quartet provided for a dime Superfecta windfall of $4,295.12.

The 1 1/16-mile race was also notable as the first of the season to utilize the alternate finish size as a result of the 10-horse starting field (and 12-horse field at entry time).