“Jack on the Rocks roars back to win under Sheldon Russell! It’s Sheldon Russell—make his a double on Maryland Million Day! Jack on the Rocks!”
That call by Dave Rodman is one of Richie Munk’s favorite racing memories, and he’s got no shortage of them from which to choose. Munk has nearly 20 years in the racing business under his belt, working first with Karakorum Racing Team, then with Castle Village Farm, two Thoroughbred partnership groups based in New York. About seven years ago, he established the partnership that bears his name, the unforgettable Funky Munky Stable.
Funky Munky claimed the Maryland-bred Jack on the Rocks, then a 4-year-old, for $30,000 at Aqueduct in January of 2009. When they lost him in a claim at Belmont in May of 2011, he’d earned more than $280,000 for the partnership and won the first and only stakes race of his career, the Maryland Million Sprint Handicap in October 2010.
“You want to see a good race?” asked Munk rhetorically in late September, sitting near the paddock at Belmont Park, his voice full of admiration four years later. “It’s an incredible race because he loses the lead in the stretch, and usually when a horse goes to the front, once they lose the lead, it’s over.
“But for him to come back – it’s a great call by the announcer.”
Jack on the Rocks was the second Thoroughbred in the Funky Munky partnership; their first, Call Tiger, had been claimed from them in January 2009, and they used the claim money to claim Jack, as they call him.
He was bred by Maryland’s David DiPietro, the former president of the Maryland Million, and it was he who got to present the trophy for the Sprint Championship to Munk and his partners at Laurel.
“This horse was bred when we started the Maryland Stallion Station back in 2003,” said DiPietro last week. “We were looking for mares that matched up reasonably well with some of the stallions we were standing, and one of my partners found this mare; someone offered her to us.”
That mare, the stakes-placed Susie Q, by Norquestor, was, said DiPietro, a “good racehorse, hard-knocking.” He bred her to Outflanker, his favorite of the stallions.
“He’s been a great regional stallion,” he said, praising the soundness of Outflanker’s offspring. “He was very, very durable, with one of the highest number of starts per horse of any stallion ranked nationally.” To date, Outflanker’s offspring average more than 21 starts in a career.
Certainly, Jack on the Rocks adds to that legacy: he fashioned a record of 14 wins, 12 seconds, and 8 thirds and earned more than $450,000 in his seven-year career. He made his 70th start on August 2, and it was then that Rich Munk and his partners stepped in to make sure it was his last.
“In November 2013 I got a notice from my virtual stable that he was entered into a race,” said Munk. “I don’t remember how he did, but I do know that I didn’t hear anything about him again until [the summer]of 2014, when I got another virtual notice. Now he’s a 9-year-old and he’s been off for six months, and he’s in a $5,000 claimer at Charles Town.”
“I just didn’t have a good feeling,” continued Munk, “being that he was off for six months, and it’s very unusual to bring a 9-year-old Thoroughbred back after six months. I decided, ‘It’s time to get this horse off the track.’”
He sent an e-mail to the Funky Munky partners, and nearly four dozen pitched in to claim Jack back and retire him.
Through his trainer David Donk, Munk connected with the West Virginia-based trainer Leslie Condon, who claimed Jack on the Rocks from that August 2 race, in which the horse finished fifth and essentially last, as the sixth horse in the race was pulled up after breaking badly.
“He’s a sweetheart,” said Condon. “He was in pretty poor condition when we claimed him back, but for his age and wear and tear, he’s fairly sound.”
He’s been with Condon for the last two months as she lets him down from the track and gets weight back on him; she and Munk are exploring options for his future, but for now, she said, “We’re just letting him hang out and be a horse.”
Jack on the Rocks is the first horse that Funky Munky has re-claimed and retired.
“This was important to me and the partners because he was good to us,” said Munk. “Winning the Maryland Million Sprint, making $300,000 in two years…we felt we owed it to him. I think it’s our responsibility: if a horse is good to us, we really do need to do something like this.”
Funky Munky partner Ed Filush recalled that it was Jack on the Rock who gave him his first win as a Funky Munky partner. He also feels a special affinity for the horse because of how he got introduced to the races.
“My uncle Jack took me to the track when I was 10, so I’ve been here for over 50 years, and this horse is named Jack,” he said. “Even before my wife Terrie and I got the e-mail from Richie, we had discussed [trying to re-claim him]. I was watching and saying, ‘Oh, jeez, it’s getting worse.’”
“That’s what upset us so much,” said Filush’s wife Terrie. “He was so good, and he was so much fun to watch. He was feisty, he wanted to get out there and run; he had fire in his eyes. To see what was happening to him was very difficult for all of us. We really wanted to get him back.”
Breeder DiPietro felt a similar impulse.
“I tried to claim him for the same reason,” he said. “About a year ago, I think, he was entered in a race at Charles Town. I had been traveling and didn’t see it until it was too late; I didn’t have money in my account there.
“The next time he was entered in a starter allowance, so I couldn’t get him.”
But thanks to the vigilance of people who hadn’t owned him in three years, Jack on the Rocks is now happily retired and “doing very well,” according to Condon. She and Munk are taking their time as they decide what happens next for him. He may become a stallion; he may become a riding horse.
“We’re sorting through some facilities, we’re look at our options,” Condon said. “We’re being careful about his placement, and we really want to make sure that he’s taken care of for the rest of his life.”
Until that decision is made, he’ll stay at Condon’s farm, supported by Funky Munky Stable, with the full approval of the partners who contributed to retire him.
“We didn’t get into this to make money,” said Ed Filush. “It’s important that we take care of the horses.”