From a Delaware Park release
A little bit of the past, a whole lot of the present and a glimpse into the future will all combine in what promises to be an extraordinary day at Delaware Park this Saturday. The 21st annual Owners Day will feature a tribute to perhaps the greatest jockey in the history of the track, Ramon Dominguez; a total of 111 entries on an 12-race card, including seven stakes with a pair for 2-year-olds and total purses of $632,000; and a book signing by Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg.
Ramon Dominguez Tribute
The Honorable Governor of Delaware, Jack Markell, has declared the day in honor of the recently retired five-time Delaware Park leading rider, Ramon Dominguez.
In celebration, a limited edition Ramon Dominguez bobble head will be available for $20 each or three for $50, with proceeds benefiting the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, and a commemorative 8 x 10 photo of the defending three-time Eclipse Award-winning rider will be given away a free. The sixth race has been named in honor of the 36-year-old native of Caracas, Venezuela, who rode full-time at Delaware Park from 1998 through 2008.
Dominguez rode Fox Hill Farm’s Havre de Grace, owned by Wilmington, Delaware, native Rick Porter, during her 2011 Horse of the Year campaign.
“He is certainly one of the greatest jockeys of his era,” said Porter. “He is a wonderful guy, a great family man, and anytime he donned the Fox Hill Farm silks, it made me proud. Anytime we could have Ramon associated with one of our horses, particularly one like Havre de Grace, it made it more special having him as part of our team. When he put on those red and white silks and got on one of my horses, the horse never looked better, and I knew I was always going to get a great ride.”
Dominguez rode Better Talk Now, trained by H. Graham Motion, to a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf in 2004.
“Obviously, I think it is going to be an emotional day for everybody,” said Motion, who won the Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom in 2011. “Ramon has been a big part of Delaware because he had been there so long and had so much success. It is a testament to him and a reflection of Delaware Park because he stayed so long before moving to a New York. I always felt very fortunate that we had him for that long because I knew he was going to go on to bigger and better things. I knew my days were numbered, because when everyone else discovered what we knew, it was very clear he was going to take off. He was a big part of my early career, and I was really fortunate to have him riding some of my horses like Better Talk Now and Broken Vow.”
Jack Van Berg Book Signing
Jack Van Berg will be signing his recently released biography Jack, From Grit to Glory, written by television racing analyst and author Chris Kotulak, near the White Grove Tent from 12:30 p.m. until 3:30 p.m.
Jack, From Grit to Glory is the life story of the Hall of Fame trainer from Columbus, Nebraska, best known for conditioning the 1987 Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba.
“Jack lived through the golden age of horse racing, trained champions, broke records and became a Hall of Fame trainer,” said Kotulak. “This biography reveals how a son worshipped his father and how those he mentored would later worship him.”
The racing action will be highlighted by the $75,000 Tax Free Shopping Distaff. The six-furlong event restricted to Delaware-bred or Certified fillies and mares has attracted field of eight.
After running in six straight routes, Barry and Joni Butzow’s Bryan’s Jewel will be shortening up. But the 5-year-old daughter of Rockport Harbor has already proven she can do it all. She has a career record of eight wins, six seconds and five thirds from 25 starts with earnings of $447,778. In her career, she has won on the turf and she has won sprinting. Last year, she won the $75,000 George Rosenberger Memorial Stakes on the Delaware Park turf. In her first start of the year, she won a six-furlong allowance at Oaklawn Park on March 15. At Delaware Park this year, the Kentucky-bred conditioned by McLean Robertson has made four starts, and her two victories, including the Grade III Obeah Stakes, came within a span of a week. She even shipped to Canterbury Park, in Minnesota, and back this summer.
“She has been hard at it all year, but I have not trained her very hard so we are going to run her one time in this sprint and then give her a rest,” said Robertson. “We will send her to the farm to get a rest before we ship to Hot Springs. She has won going short. She beat a nice group of fillies at Oaklawn Park back in March, so I know she can do it, and obviously she really likes Delaware. Also it is the only race she is eligible for this Saturday, so it is sort of by design, but she is adaptable and she is versatile that is for sure.”
Robertson has also entered John Mentz’s Cabo Time, who has a career record of four wins and five thirds from 14 starts with earnings of $156,666. The 4-year-old daughter by Grand Slam has a Delaware Park record of four wins and five thirds from 11 starts. In her most recent, the Kentucky-bred finished third in a five furlong allowance at Delaware Park on August 15.
“She runs hard every time,” Robertson said. “She is another that really likes Delaware Park, and I have been kind of pointing her toward this race. I expect her to run a good race. Obviously, she is not quite the caliber as Bryan’s Jewel, but on her best, she is right with this group.”