Johnyz From Albany a multi-state “family affair”

He’s a Maryland-bred with a New York name, and maybe one day if he continues to develop, he’ll have his connections in a Saratoga state of mind.

Johnyz From Albany was one of the most impressive winners of Maryland Million day, cruising to a five-length victory in a sharp 1:11.35 for six furlongs. It was a win that meant more than your typical stakes triumph.

Start with the inspired name. Owner-breeder Chip Reed, a longtime fixture in Maryland racing now living in Florida, often partners with Henry Hoke and Mike Zanella on his horses, and horse-related activities.

“We go to Saratoga every year for two weeks, two separate times, a week each,” Reed said on Off to the Races Radio Saturday on ESPN Richmond. “And Mike is from the Albany area, he grew up in Albany, and his older brother is John Zanella. And every time we would go to Saratoga, John would meet us at the airport, packed with a big picnic lunch with beer and sandwiches, and then take us to the races and take us to wherever we happened to be staying at for that week. He loves the horses and became a very good friend with all of us.”

A couple of years ago, at approximately the same time the horse was born, John Zanella, in his 80s, passed away.

“Henry and I got together and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to name a horse after John?’” Reed recalled. “So we came up with Johnyz From Albany.’”

The name, Reed said, has helped the horse develop a big following in upstate New York among John Zanella’s friends and family and fellow horseplayers. “Kind of a family affair,” Reed called it.

“All those guys were at the OTBs on Maryland Million day, so I’m surprised we went off at 4-1,” he added.

Johnyz From Albany and Jorge Ruiz. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Johnyz paid $10.20 to win and topped an exacta that returned $18.80 for a one-dollar wager.

In truth, though, even before he had a name, Johnyz had some expectations attached to him. He is out of the Oratory mare Monster Sleeping. Reed and trainer Dale Capuano raced her in the early and mid-2010s, and she racked up over $500,000 in career earnings while winning the grassy, nine-furlong Maryland Million Ladies twice.

Johnyz is the first of her offspring to win a stake.

“Oh, it was great,” Reed said. “When the horse came in, Dale and I had a talk, and I said, ‘I think we have another Maryland Million horse. The horse is built right. He looks good, he trains good.’ And sure enough, we got lucky.”

Johnyz is by young sire Blofeld. While Blofeld has put up remarkable overall numbers thus far, the win made Johnyz the first of his offspring to win a stake, though not for long. A couple hours later, another two-year-old, the filly Chickieness, swept up outside to win the Maryland Million Lassie.

“We like to race and breed in Maryland, and we like to go to Maryland stallions, and to breed to the younger stallions,” Reed said.

Blofeld stands at Mrs. Audrey Murray’s Murmur Farm in Darlington, MD, and when Hoke did his pedigree research, he liked what he saw. So Reed and Hoke went out to take a look.

“And we loved him,” Reed said. “We were just basically taking the chance: we like to get them young, and he was local, and he was available, and the rest is history.”

Well, it’s not quite history yet. Johnyz From Albany still has a career in front of him, one with plenty of options. His dam was an accomplished turf router, for example, and Johnyz hasn’t tried turf or routes in his brief four-race career. Those opportunities might come next year.

Meantime, there are upcoming two-year-old stakes at Laurel November 12, December 3, and December 26. The most logical next spot for the Blofeld gelding is the December 3 Maryland Juvenile Championship for Maryland-bred or -sired runners at seven furlongs.

“He seemed to have come out of [the Nursery] great, and there are several spots that we’re looking at,” Reed said. “We’re gonna wait and see what Johnyz tells us to do. So he’ll let us know if he’s ready to go.”


Interview starts at 30:30