Happy homecoming for Nothhaft as Grand Prix takes New Start

by | Jun 3, 2017 | Breaking, PA Racing, Pennsylvania, Top Stories

Racing at Penn National. Photo by The Racing Biz.

by Frank Vespe

Finest City, say hello to your little sister.

Grand Prix, a half-sister to Finest City by Tale of the Cat, powered to a one-length victory in today’s $100,000 New Start Stakes for three-year-old Pennsylvania-bred fillies at Penn National today.

And that brought a smile to Hank Nothhaft’s face.

Nothhaft, a Pennsylvania native and retired tech entrepreneur who describes himself as “an adrenaline junkie,” found plenty to be excited about today — after Grand Prix’s triumph.

“It’s like the business world. You can’t ride the sine wave of emotions. You have to take the highs and lows and sort of level them out. So I was very unemotional and stoic [before the race],” he said in the winner’s circle afterwards, “and after we won I had a very strong emotional reaction.”

Under jockey Javier Castellano, Grand Prix pressed the early pace of Risque’s Diamond, took over after a half-mile in 44.61 seconds, and held Rose Tree’s late rally safe. It was another couple of lengths back to Ianthe in third.

Running time for the six furlongs was 1:09.61. Grand Prix paid $5.80 to win as the second choice of five in the field, and the $1 exacta was good for $5.00.

Nothhaft, who owned the deceased stallion Silver Train, had in 2011 purchased Be Envied, then in foal to City Zip with what would become Finest City, to help support Silver Train — a plan rendered moot by Silver Train’s untimely death.

“Our goal was to buy highly pedigreed fillies with good race records that nicked well with Silver Train in foal and try to sell the first foal to [cover expenses],” he explained. ”That’s how I sold Finest City, but I was smart enough to keep the other two.”

One of those, Grand Prix, had given hints of talent in her nine-race career without much real success. In nine starts, she had just a single win to her credit, though she also had earned a stakes placing on the synthetic at Golden Gate.

But in her prior start, in an allowance at Santa Anita, she ran a good second while earning a career-best Beyer speed figure of 83.

“We finally got her moving to what we thought she was,” Nothhaft said.

But that left another challenge; what’s a PA-bred to do in California?

So Nothhaft and trainer Gary Mandella agreed they would ship the horse to the East Coast because “It’s too lucrative not to run a good PA-bred in Pennsylvania.”

While here — and it looks like she’ll be here a while — she is in trainer Keith Nations’ Delaware barn though still running under Mandella’s name.

Nothhaft said the plan would be for Grand Prix to run in the $100,000 Malvern Rose Stakes for state-bred fillies in August on the synthetic at Presque Isle Downs and the grassy $100,000 Mrs. Penny Stakes, also state-restricted, in September at Parx Racing. And there might be one other race in there, prior to the Malvern Rose.

But all that’s a problem for a different day. Today, Nothhaft, who now lives in California, could celebrate a happy homecoming.

“From Sharon, PA,” he said of his background, “via the Naval Academy — that’s why we’re navy blue and gold silks – via the Marine Corps… You can tell I’m having a good time.”

NOTES: In other PA-bred stakes on the Penn Mile undercard, Firsthand Report won the Lyphard for fillies and mares on the turf and The Critical Way took the Danzig. All three PA-bred stakes were won by jockey Javier Castellano.