Photo by Chelsea Durand
By Ryan Martin
OZONE PARK, N.Y. – NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Venti Valentine closed the curtain on her sophomore campaign with a redeeming victory in the $100,000 Bay Ridge for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-years-old and upward going a one-turn mile at Aqueduct Racetrack.
The victory showed a return to winning form for the Jorge Abreu-trained Firing Line sophomore, who had not earned a trip to the winner’s circle since capturing her 2022 debut in the open company Busher Invitational on March 5 at the Big A.
She arrived at the Bay Ridge off a troubled sixth under Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the 6 1/2-furlong Iroquois on October 30 at Belmont at the Big A, where she was bumped at the break and lacked racing room to launch an effective bid. Venti Valentine was in the clear the whole way this time around, securing fourth position to the outside of runners and took control in mid-stretch to win by 3 3/4-lengths under Dylan Davis.
“I think last time she got into a lot of trouble in the inside. Irad told me she didn’t have anywhere to go, but he had plenty of horse in the gallop out,” Abreu said.
Breaking from post 5, Venti Valentine sat two lengths off Mashnee Girl’s early foot through an opening quarter-mile in 23.24 seconds over the muddy and sealed main track with Empire Distaff victress Let Her Inspire U in second to the outside of Know It All Audrey.
Venti Valentine advanced into third position through a 46.94 half-mile with Mashnee Girl still to catch. While Jose Lezcano began to get busy aboard Let Her Inspire U, Davis followed the post-time favorite and began coaxing his charge for more. As Mashnee Girl dropped out of contention, Know It All Audrey maintained her rail-skimming position and found herself on the front end and battled with Venti Valentine in the stretch. But Venti Valentine proved her superiority, pulling away from Know It All Audrey passing the eighth pole and completing the mile in 1:39.19.
Know It All Audrey finished 6 3/4 lengths ahead of Spungie, who earned black type for the second straight race. Let Her Inspire U, Mashnee Girl and Fight On Lucy completed the order of finish.
Venti Valentine, last year’s New York-bred Champion 2-Year-Old Filly, earned her third career stakes triumph in the Bay Ridge, adding to a resume that includes a win in last year’s Maid of the Mist at Belmont Park as well as a narrow runner-up finish to Nest in the Grade 2 Demoiselle last December at the Big A.
Banking $55,000 in victory, Venti Valentine now boasts $524,250 in earnings through a 10-4-2-1 record. She returned $6.90 for a $2 win wager.
Davis, who guided Venti Valentine through a half-mile move in 48.65 seconds last Saturday over the Belmont training track, said he was comfortable the whole way around.
“I was really impressed with her and happy to be able to ride her today. I wanted to break well and get her in a good spot,” Davis said. “I thought we’d be stalking, and she was very comfortable for me, and handling the track well. She was waiting on cue, and she was really quiet for me. She’s a textbook filly and does whatever you want her to do. We got to the stretch, and she was there for me. That wasn’t 100 percent – if she had a challenger, you would have seen a lot more from her, but I was just taking care of her that last sixteenth.”
Abreu said he was equally as pleased to see things work out in the filly’s favor.
“Everything worked out great today. Being in the outside post [helped], too. I don’t think she likes being on the inside,” Abreu said. “I felt pretty comfortable turning for home and Dylan was just sitting there. He had plenty of horse and everything played out good.”
Venti Valentine was a close second in the Grade 3 Gazelle here in April following the Busher, prompting her connections to try the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks on May 6 at Churchill Downs, where she finished last-of-14. Following a fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Mother Goose in June at Belmont, Venti Valentine was rerouted to state-bred company and finished a distant third in the nine-furlong Fleet Indian on August 26 at Saratoga Race Course before the Iroquois.
Dan Zanatta, co-managing partner of NY Final Furlong Racing Stable, acknowledged the somewhat frustrating campaign this year.
“It’s been a little rough patch with her and it took her a little while to rebound out of the Oaks,” Zanatta said. “She had heat stroke after the Mother Goose. We kind of figured out she wasn’t a two-turn horse after the Fleet Indian, and the Iroquois was a little too short for her. I think a lot of the success today was because of the one-mile, one-turn configuration. I think that’s really what she wants to do. She’s been training well and it all worked out.”
Venti Valentine, bred by NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Maspeth Stables, is a half-sister to multiple New York-bred stakes winner Espresso Shot, who also was owned and co-bred by NY Final Furlong. Both are out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Glory Gold, who was purchased by NY Final Furlong when she was in foal with Venti Valentine.
“The best part of today is the breeders’ awards we’ll get from it. Being the breeder of a stakes horse always makes it extra meaningful,” Zanatta said. “We still have the mare and she’s in foal to Munnings and will go back to Uncle Mo next year. We’re really supporting her and we have a lot of progeny we’re waiting for. The New York breeding program is great, and we’ve invested a lot of money into the breeding program, not just the racing program. We’re big supporters of it.”
Abreu, who also trained Espresso Shot, said an affinity for the Big A appears to run in the family.
“A one-turn mile or seven-eighths is her gig, especially here. She’s just like her sister – she loves Aqueduct,” Abreu said.
Venti Valentine will leave on Tuesday for Ocala, Florida, where she is scheduled to get 60 days of rest before preparing for her 4-year-old season. Zanatta mentioned the possibility of targeting the Big Apple Showcase Day, typically run on Memorial Day weekend in May.
“I think that’s what we’ll target and start off on next year. Maybe the Belmont showcase day will be good timing for her once she gets a break and comes back. We’ll let her tell us next year,” Zanatta said.
Live racing returns on Sunday at the Big A with a 10-race card. First post is 11:50 a.m. Eastern.