Lyon in the fast lane with Blue Lion Thoroughbreds

February 14, 2022

Gander-winner Barese possible for G2 Wood Memorial, Golden Code possible for G3 Gotham; NY-bred G3 Sam F. Davis runner-up Shipsational picks up Derby points 

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Dave Lyon of Blue Lion Thoroughbreds is beginning to experience a high level thrill of ownership with Morello and Fromanothamuthawho are slated to make their next start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham on March 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

The one-turn mile Gotham offers 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

Owned by Blue Lion Thoroughbreds in partnership with Craig Taylor and Victoria Taylor, Morello was victorious in his stakes debut in last Sunday’s seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield, winning by five lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
The son of Classic Empire maintained stalking position down the backstretch and was hand ridden by Jose Lezcano through the final furlong, recording an 84 Beyer Speed Figure. The victory built on a 4 1/4-length debut win sprinting six furlongs in November at the Big A, defeating next out winner Inevtabl Conection.

“We thought it was a logical next step,” Lyon said of the Gotham. “His breeding doesn’t say sprinting and seeing him gallop out was impressive. It Iooked like he had a lot left in the tank and we’re excited to see what he can do next. I don’t think we’ve seen his best yet. Jose didn’t really touch him, so we’re pretty excited about how he’s headed next.”

Lyon said he named the chestnut colt after Tom Morello, the lead guitarist for Rage Against the Machine.

“We’ll see how far Morello takes us,” Lyon said. “I had this named reserved for quite some time and wanted make sure it was something special.”

Lyon, co-owner of Manhattan-based real estate appraisal firm Metropolitan Valuation Serves, was raised in Saratoga Springs, New York. An alumni of Saratoga Springs High School, Blue Lion Thoroughbreds’ blue and white silks are a nod to his alma mater.

When Lyon was younger, he spent several summers working at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga where he recalls delivering breakfast to Thomas and Elizabeth Valando, the owners of multiple Grade 1-winner Fly So Free. Lyon said it was this experience that piqued his interest in thoroughbred ownership.

“I spent every morning bringing Elizabeth Valando breakfast. But I had it in my head that I had to meet these people one day,” Lyon said. “I’ve always been a fan growing up. If you grow up in Saratoga and don’t catch the bug you aren’t paying enough attention.”

Lyon recalled fond memories of attending the races at the Spa, but said it was the “Sultan of Saratoga”, the New York-bred gelding who won at least one race each year at Saratoga from 1987-1994 that made him fall in love with the sport.

“Fourstardave really captured my heart, and not just because of being my namesake,” Lyon said. “Winning all those years at Saratoga and the way he did it was remarkable.”

Launched in 2016, Blue Lion Thoroughbreds didn’t hit the ground running until 2018 when partnering with several other owners on different horses. In addition to founding Blue Lion Thoroughbreds, Lyon has also been a part of several racing syndicates including West Point Thoroughbreds, Belladonna Racing and Little Red Feather Racing, with whom he owns a piece of multiple stakes-winner My Boy Tate.

Lyon expressed a desire to keep his ownership group small. Right now, Blue Lion Thoroughbreds own five horses in training.

“The group consists of mostly people I grew up with, and some newer people I met just in the business by going to the sales,” Lyon said. “We’ve been able to expand our small group, but I’m not looking to be a big outfit. We want to keep a small group of people that know each other and have a good time at the track.”

In addition to Morello, Blue Lion Thoroughbreds also is co-owner of the Ray Handal-trained Fromanothamutha, who broke his maiden on January 13 at Aqueduct at sixth asking in a seven-furlong maiden special weight. The son of Unified kept salty company through the maiden ranks, finishing behind subsequent stakes winners Mo Donegal, My Prankster and Chattalot.

Fromanothamutha, who worked a half-mile in 49.07 seconds Sunday over the Belmont dirt training track, is also targeting the Gotham.

“A lot of the focus is on Morello but Fromanothamutha deserves a lot of credit,” Lyon said. “He’s a very durable colt, we think he’s a really nice horse. We raced him five times as a 2-year-old and he’s run into some nice horses like Mo Donegal and My Prankster. I’m not sure how far he can go, but he likes to get on the lead and he’s a powerful animal.”

Other horses owned by Blue Lion Thoroughbreds include the Handal-trained Monshun, a Unified sophomore filly who broke her maiden defeating eventual stakes-placed Morning Matcha in August at Saratoga. She was initially targeting the Grade 1 Frizette in October 2021 at Belmont, but was ultimately put on the shelf and returned to training at the end of last year.

Other Blue Lion Thoroughbreds trainees include maidens Union Dolly [Handal] and Family Band [Asmussen].

Exhibiting a long stride Barese wins the Gander in style under Dylan Davis. (Chelsea Durand) 

Gander-winner Barese possible for G2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino

Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s Barese relished a stretch out in distance to capture Saturday’s one-turn mile Gander, giving his connections reason to consider a start in the nine-furlong Grade 2, $750,000 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 9 at Aqueduct Racetrack. The Wood Memorial awards 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

Trained by Mike Maker, the 3-year-old son of Laoban bobbled at the start of the Gander losing his left front shoe, but recovered quickly to stalk the pace in third under Dylan Davis, making up ground in the four-path as the field entered the turn.

Barese looked to be running for place honors as post-time favorite Bold Journey drew away to a four-length advantage at the top of the lane. As Bold Journey began to toil at the sixteenth-pole, Barese made a flying finish to his outside to take command and come home 1 1/4 lengths the best to remain undefeated in three starts.

“He didn’t get away well and had a bit of a bobble,” Maker said. “He had quite a bit to do and in the process, he pulled off a shoe and was still able to run like that. It was only his third start and his first time at a mile, so everything he’s done so far has impressed me. He came back in good order.”

The bay colt’s Gander win was his second consecutive stakes triumph after a 2 3/4-length victory in the 6 1/2-furlong Rego Park on January 9 at the Big A, marking a strong return from an eight-month layoff since his debut maiden win in May at Belmont Park.

“We always had high hopes for him and he came back off an injury and didn’t seem like it affected him one bit,” Maker said. “We never missed a day with him [since his return to training] for any reason.”

Paradise Farms Corp.’s Peter Proscia said Barese has proven to be well worth his $150,000 purchase price at the Fasig-Tipton Florida 2-Year-Old Sale in 2021.

“Laoban had unfortunately passed away and so we were looking at his last crops,” Proscia said. “We were actually eyeballing [Barese] for the grass; Mike had picked him out. They wanted me to stop bidding at $110,000, but I kept going. I’m glad I did.”

Maker, who would prefer to keep Barese at route distances in the future, said the Wood Memorial is one of several options for the colt’s next start.

“Everything is on the table right now and I’ll get together with Peter and see what his thoughts are,” said Maker.

Maker also enjoyed another win on Friday at Aqueduct with 3-year-old colt Rotknee, who skipped away to a state-bred optional claiming victory in Race 7 for owner William Butler.

Like Barese, Rotknee was given time off after his maiden win at Saratoga Race Course last summer, sitting out for seven months while recovering from a minor injury. The New York-bred son of Runhappy returned in impressive fashion, setting the pace for the six furlongs under Manny Franco and never looking back to drive away to a definitive three-length victory.

Maker said that although the dark bay had entered the race off two bullet works over Belmont’s dirt training track, the colt was still not fully back to where he was before his layoff. 

“We had to stop on him after his win at Saratoga,” said Maker. “I was impressed with him yesterday. He wasn’t fully cranked up and he’s another one who always showed a lot of talent from the get-go. I think he won that one more on talent than training.”

Maker said multiple graded stakes winning New York-bred Cross Border had a good first work back after finishing fifth in the Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational at Gulfstream Park on January 29 and will likely target the Kentucky Cup Classic on April 2 at Turfway Park next.

The 8-year-old son of English Channel breezed a half-mile in 53.42 seconds over the Gulfstream Park dirt Saturday. Bred in the Empire State by Berkshire Stud and B. D. Gibbs, Cross Border boasts a record of 40-11-8-5 for earnings of $1,114,479.

Under Luis Saez Shipsational (#4) was the victor over Overstep (#2) by 1/2 a length in the Sleepy Hollow on Oct. 20, 2021 earning Black Type. (NYRA/Coglianese)

New York-bred Shipsational picks up Kentucky Derby points with runner-up effort in G3 Sam F. Davis

Iris Smith Stable’s multiple New York-bred stakes winner Shipsational rallied to finish second in Saturday’s Grade 3 Sam. F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs, picking up four Kentucky Derby qualifying points in his open company debut.

Trained by Eddie Barker and piloted by Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, Shipsational closed from eighth position in the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis to finish 3 3/4-lengths back of the victorious Classic Causeway, who graduated impressively on debut in September at Saratoga Race Course.

Barker said he was impressed by the effort from Shipsational.

“Javier said that he broke behind the field a little bit yesterday just because he had his head cocked to the left, which didn’t help him,” Barker said. “Then on the backside the guy inside of him kept carrying him out. We ended up going six-wide on the turn and all that. But you know what? He was the only horse running at the end. It was a big effort. The thing about him is that he’s got such a long, efficient stride.”

Barker said Shipsational will stay in Florida and target the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 12 which offers 50-20-10-5 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

“I’m really excited, and I’m excited for the owner, too,” Barker said. “She’s a wonderful person. I’ve been trainer for her for about three or four years, and I trained for her father-in-law, Seymour Smith, for seven or eight years. We won a lot of races together. She’s a really nice person and she deserved to get a really nice horse. I think we got one for her.”

The Midshipman colt graduated by 6 3/4-lengths at first asking in July at Saratoga, sprinting 5 1/2-furlongs over a sloppy and sealed main track. Two starts later the talented chestnut stalked and pounced to victory in the seven-furlong Bertram F. Bongard in September over a fast Big Sandy. Shipsational followed with a gate-to-wire score on October 30 in the one-turn mile Sleepy Hollow over a sloppy and sealed Belmont main track to best Overstep, a well-regarded $360,000 yearling sale purchase trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher.

Barker said he’s thrilled that Shipsational was able to step up against open company, while passing the two-turn test.

“This is exciting. It really is. In all my years I’ve never had a horse on the Derby trail. He had a lot to prove yesterday,” Barker said. “We ran against good New York-breds. Todd Pletcher had the horse we beat [in the Sleepy Hollow] that was a really good Into Mischief colt. Todd was very high on him. We had to run against stakes horses yesterday and he had to prove himself, which he did. He’d never been around two turn and he handled that. We checked off a lot of boxes yesterday.”

Barker said Shipsational, who garnered an 83 Beyer, exited the race in good order.
“He came back really good. Nothing bothers that horse, it really doesn’t. He’s got the mind of a 10-year-old,” Barker said. “We’re going to go to the Tampa Bay Derby and then we’ll see. We’ll play it by ear after that. He’s kind of a light-framed horse. He’s not a big horse, but he’s just so efficient.”

Barker said he will return to New York tomorrow night to look after his Belmont string, while his assistant, Joe Falcone, will stay in Tampa with Shipsational and four other trainees, including the recent maiden winner Idaka.

“Joe’s been working for me for 25 years and he’s a really good guy and an exceptionally good rider. He really is; he’s old school,” Barker said. “The horses all look good here. We’ve only run one other horse and she won [Idaka on January 19], so I feel very comfortable leaving this horse in his care.”

Barker, still in search of a graded win, said Shipsational is his best horse since the popular graded stakes placed Yorkiepoo Princess, who posted a record of 27-7-3-2 for purse earnings of $551,177 led by stakes scores at Aqueduct in the 2016 Furlough, 2017 Ruthless, 2017 Busher, and 2018 Autumn Days.

“Yorkiepoo Princess was second in the [2017, Grade 2] Charles Town Oaks and she ran in those stakes in New York. She was really nice. I had a couple of really nice horses, but in graded stakes I’ve run four seconds,” said Barker, with a laugh.

Barker’s other horses to complete the exacta in graded stakes are Kristen’s Baby [1994 Grade 3 Lawrence Realization Handicap at Belmont] and Stake [2004 Grade 3 Next Move Handicap at Aqueduct].

Bred in New York by Mr. and Mrs. Bertram R. Firestone, Shipsational is out of the Thunder Gulch mare Regal Approach, who is a half-sister to 2015 Grade 3 Red Smith Handicap-winner Mr Maybe.

Saturday’s 11-race card at Tampa Bay boasted plenty of New York flair with Irad Ortiz, Jr. winning five races, including the Sam F. Davis with Classic Causeway; the Suncoast aboard Grade 2 Demoiselle-winner Nest for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher; and the Pelican with New York-bred Bank On Shea for conditioner Carlos David.

In addition, four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown, who has won seven straight NYRA year-end trainer titles, notched three wins on the Tampa card and captured two more races Saturday across state at Gulfstream Park.

Mischevious Alex (on the rail, pink cap) leads the field to victory in the 2020 Gotham. 

Golden Code possible for G3 Gotham

A runaway state-bred maiden victory last Saturday from Calumet Farm’s Golden Code has his connections pondering a start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham on March 5 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the bay son of Honor Code never relinquished through the seven-furlong journey over a muddy Big A main track, gliding home a 10 3/4-length winner under Kendrick Carmouche. The impressive win followed a runner-up debut effort in December to Bold Journey, who finished second as the favorite in Saturday’s Gander.

“He’s possible for the Gotham if he trains well enough for it,” said Pletcher’s Belmont-based assistant Byron Hughes said. “He’s always trained well. I don’t think we expected him to win that impressively last out. We thought he could win that race, but he exceeded expectations.”

Bred in New York by Barry R. Ostrager, Golden Code is out of the stakes-winning Banker’s Gold mare Jb’s Golden Regret. He was purchased for $95,000 out of the 2019 Keeneland November Sale.

On Saturday, Hughes saddled debut maiden winner Best Idea for Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable. The son of Honor Code, bred in New York by Joanne Nielsen, recorded an 85 Beyer, romping to victory by 5 3/4 lengths in a six-furlong state-bred maiden special weight.

Best Idea had trained into his debut with Pletcher’s winter division at Palm Beach Downs.

“He was training well in Florida and came up here in good shape,” Hughes said. “He’s bred to go longer, so I assume we’ll be stretching him out in the near future. We’ll see what’s in the book.”

Don Alberto Stable’s First Constitution, who recorded a 100 Beyer when capturing the Jazil in January, shipped to Palm Beach Downs, where he breezed a half-mile in 49.60 seconds on Saturday. The Chilean-bred son of Constitution was initially under consideration for the $100,000 Stymie on February 26, but Pletcher will likely be represented in the one-turn mile by Wertheimer and Frere homebred Waxman.

Waxman, a 4-year-old son of Empire Maker, was last seen defeating winners going nine furlongs on January 9 at the Big A. He worked a half-mile in 48.80 Saturday over the Belmont dirt training track.

“He breezed well. He’s doing well and we’re happy with his training,” Hughes said. 

NYRA Press Release

Photo: Morello winning the Jimmy Winkfield at Aqueduct Feb. 6, 2022. (Chelsea Durand)

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