GILDED LILY wins her 2nd in a row at Turfway – 4th win out of 9 starts!

GILDED LILY, a 3-year-old Speightstown filly, moved into the 3 path to edge clear  for the win at Turfway for trainer Michael J. Maker and owner  Tracy Farmer. She loves the surface at Turfway and this is her fourth win over it and her second in a row. She was also on the board in the Bourbonette Oaks G3 over the all weather surface.

Tom’s Ready a Beacon for the Bensons

Courtesy of the TDN

Gayle & Tom Benson | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

By Michael Adolphson

After an eight-wide trip and respectable fifth-place finish in Saturday’s salty GI Cigar Mile, Dallas Stewart-trained Tom’s Ready (More Than Ready) capped a 21-race, 28-month career that saw him clash and hold his own against the very best of his generation. The 4-year-old colt closed out his racing tenure as one of the toughest milers in training and finished at the top of his game, including a flashy GIII Bold Ruler S. win in his penultimate start (earning a 107 Beyer Speed Figure).

More importantly, the nearly black grandson of Broad Brush was the ringleader for the racing renaissance of New Orleans’ famed Benson Family, earning more than $1 million, winning three graded stakes and taking his popular Big Easy connections to the biggest dances–the GI Kentucky Derby and GI Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“He was a real war horse,” Stewart said. “He traveled around and ran his race over many different tracks and surfaces. He ran competitively against the best horses and really stepped up a lot on big days. He’s a very sound horse who was a lot of fun to campaign. The Bensons were kind enough to let me train for them and never restrained me. They love racing, come to the races even when they don’t have a horse running and they’re icons in New Orleans. Tom’s Ready was one of the first horses we got for them and I look forward to seeing what he does as a stallion.”

Racing as GMB Racing, Tom and Gayle Benson returned with a flourish into racing after a multi-decade hiatus and channeled the passion they have for the professional sports teams they own–the New Orleans Saints of the NFL and Pelicans of the NBA–into a racing product that competes at the highest level. Tom’s Ready tops a group that includes graded stakes winner Mo Tom (Uncle Mo), talented Saratoga allowance winner Tom’s d’Etat (Smart Strike) and Grade I-placed juvenile Lone Sailor (Majestic Warrior).

Tom’s Ready now heads to stud at Spendthrift Farm, where he will stand for $6,000 and participate in said establishment’s “Share The Upside” program for a fee of $7,500.

“He has been a great horse for us,” Gayle Benson said. “He gives his best effort every time he races and has stayed healthy for us. He and Dallas have been a great fit–in the way Dallas trains and the way this horse has responded. We did not know what to expect (when he first started training), but we are very proud of Tom’s Ready and certainly very proud of what lies ahead for him as a he stands as a stallion at Spendthrift. We have a small broodmare band at Benson Farm, and we will certainly be sending him a few mares.”

GMB Racing is managed by Greg Bensel, who also serves as the Senior Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting for the Saints and Pelicans. Bensel, a long time racing fan, has helped guide the outfit to a 19% strike rate and nearly $26,000 in average earnings per start from 80 races. In 2017, the operation has struck at 22%, giving Bensel and the Bensons added fervor for the future.

“We continue to grow our racing stable for GMB Racing and our broodmare band at Benson Farm,” Bensel said. “We are excited about all of our 2-year-olds, but are keen about Lone Sailor for [trainer] Tom Amoss. Also, Tom’s d’Etat has left Benson Farm after rehabbing and will be back to Al Stall [Jr.] as a 5-year-old.”

The beating heart of the Benson operation has become the aforementioned Benson Farm at Greenwood Lodge in Paris, Kentucky. A 600-acre beauty, it is a favorite getaway spot for the couple, while also serving as a rehab facility in another fashion for their equines.

“We have our established racing operations in GMB Racing and now the Bensons have their farm, where it is mostly a private concern, but we do have some boarders and welcome boarders and other clients that have yearlings that need sales prep,” Bensel continued. “It has all come full circle.”

For now, the focus for GMB is kickstarting a second career for its first stallion Tom’s Ready and hoping the best for its soon-to-be 3-year-old class. It will be difficult, though, to live up to their little blazed beast, who was as tough as he was compact and barreled home with the determination of a Saints running back in the lane.

“We got in the business in 2014 with seven yearlings, of which two made the Kentucky Derby in 2016, so it will be hard to repeat that again,” Bensel concluded. “Our hopes are to be good contributors to the racing and breeding industry as we move forward.

Tom’s Ready Retires to Spendthrift Farm

Son of More Than Ready earned more than $1 million on the racetrack.

Tom’s Ready 

The 4-year-old son of More Than Ready —Goodbye Stranger, by Broad Brush will stand the 2018 season for a fee of $6,000 and he will participate in Spendthrift’s “Share The Upside” program for a fee of $7,500.

“We are excited to offer Tom’s Ready to breeders through our Share The Upside program in 2018,” said Spendthrift general manager Ned Toffey. “More Than Ready is emerging as a promising sire of sires, and Tom’s Ready has tremendous looks and a millionaire’s race record. There’s a lot to like, and we believe breeders will see him as a great opportunity. Tom’s Ready has arrived at the farm and we invite people to come out and see him.”

Tom’s Ready becomes the newest stallion to be offered through Spendthrift’s Share The Upside program. His Share The Upside fee comes with a one-year commitment, and breeders will earn a lifetime breeding right beginning in 2019 after having one live foal and paying the stud fee. For breeders not interested in earning a lifetime breeding right, Tom’s Ready will be offered on a standard stands and nurses contract.

Campaigned by GMB Racing and trainer Dallas Stewart, Tom’s Ready scored the biggest victory of his millionaire career in the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park last year as a 3-year-old. He defeated older horses, including champion sprinter Runhappy , when he took the 2016 Ack Ack Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. He was runner-up to Gun Runner  in last year’s Louisiana Derby (G2) to qualify for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).

As a 2-year-old, Tom’s Ready broke his maiden by 3 1/4 lengths at Churchill before finishing a fast-closing runner-up in that track’s Street Sense Stakes in his subsequent start. This year at 4, he began the season with a third-place finish in the Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by (G2) on Kentucky Derby weekend, falling short by just three-quarters of a length at the wire. He followed that up with a win in the Leemat Stakes in July at Presque Isle Downs.

This summer at Saratoga Race Course, Tom’s Ready finished third in the Aug. 26 Forego Stakes (G1) before capturing his biggest victory of the year in the Oct. 28 Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Belmont Park, earning a career best 107 Beyer speed figure. He retires with earnings of $1,036,267.

Tom’s Ready becomes the newest son to retire to stud by emerging sire of sires More Than Ready, whose son Sebring (AUS) is the sire of Australian Horse of the Year, Dissident (AUS). A $145,000 purchase at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale, the dark bay colt was bred by Blackstone Farm from the Broad Brush mare Goodbye Stranger, a half sister to stakes winners Lemonlime and Miss Moses.

Tom’s Ready ‘Loves New York,’ Gets Mike Smith For Cigar Mile

Courtesy of the PAULICK REPORT

Joel Rosario and Tom’s Ready team up to win the Bold Ruler for G M B Racing and trainer Dallas Stewart

G M B Racing’s Tom’s Ready is set for Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Cigar Mile Handicap presented by NYRA Bets, trainer Dallas Stewart said Friday morning.

The multiple graded stakes winner by More Than Ready has been at Belmont Park since Sunday as he prepares for his seventh career Grade 1 start and his first trip to Aqueduct.

“He shipped in real good,” Stewart said. “He’s coming off a win in the Bold Ruler, so we’re happy with him. It’s a tough race, but it looks like we’ll get the pace we want, so he should be OK. The race is looking real tough, but he loves New York.”

The 4-year-old colt finished 12th in the 2016 Kentucky Derby and exited the Triple Crown trail with a win in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard for his first career graded stakes victory. A ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop was followed by a victory in the Grade 3 Ack Ack at Churchill Downs before he shipped west to Santa Anita, where he ended his campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile

Tom’s Ready settled for a close third behind winner Limousine Liberal and Awesome Slew in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on May 6 in his 2017 debut, then finished seventh in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on June 10 at Belmont. A victory in the Leemat on July 9 at Presque Isle Downs sent the Pennsylvania-bred up north to Saratoga, the site of his first career race in August 2015.


Back-to-back third-place efforts in the Grade 1 Forego on August 26 and the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap on September 26 preceded a winning effort in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler last out on October 28 at Belmont. In his 20th career start, Tom’s Ready went eight-wide into the stretch and came with a late run to best Stallwalkin’ Dude by three-quarters of a length.

The Cigar Mile will be the finale in a successful career that has netted him  $1,013,767 in earnings.

“This will be his last race,” Stewart said. “He’ll go to Spendthrift Farm after his race.”

When Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith breaks from the gate aboard Tom’s Ready in Saturday’s Grade 1 Cigar Mile, it will be the first time Smith has ridden at Aqueduct since 2013 when he finished ninth aboard Laugh Track in that year’s edition of the Mile.

Smith’s last graded stakes victory at Aqueduct came when he rode Phipps Stable’s Boca Grande in the Grade 2 Comely on April 14, 2007 for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey. The last trip to Aqueduct’s winner’s circle followed in 2009 when he piloted Jay Em Ess Stable’s Launch N Relaunch around Ozone Park’s oval to a maiden-breaking win on November 28.

Smith began his career in his native New Mexico, but relocated to the Midwest before shipping his tack to New York in 1989. He was the leading rider in New York from 1991 to 1993, leading in victories with 330, 297 and 313, respectively. The following year, he rode Lure to his first Breeders’ Cup win, in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. Smith moved west in 2000 to make his home base in California, but has shipped east to New York to ride major commitments in graded stakes races, doing so with success.

His most recent victories have come aboard Abel Tasman in the Grade 1 Acorn, Songbird in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps and West Coast in the Grade 1 Travers.

Smith, who won the Eclipse Award as Outstanding Jockey in 1993 and 1994, was inducted to the Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in 2003. The 52-year-old has 5,430 wins, and has earned $305,240,852 from 32,966 starts as of Friday, according to Equibase. He leads all riders in Breeders’ Cup victories with 26.

GILDED LILY wins in allowance company at Turfway – her 3rd win

GILDED LILY, a 3-year-old Speightstown filly, wheeled out for the win at Turfway for trainer Michael J. Maker and owner  Tracy Farmer. She loves the surface at Turfway and this is her third win over it. She was also on the board in the Bourbonette Oaks G3 over the all weather surface.

Earlier on the card trainer Mike Maker won his 2,000th race – this makes 2,001!


Kip Elser has been educating racehorses for more than four decades, and while his roles have changed, the joy Elser gets from working with young Thoroughbreds has not waned. Elser started Kirkwood Stables, a full-service breaking and training operation that also offers consignments and lay-up/rehab services, at Springdale Racecourse in Camden, S.C. Graduates of Kirkwood include Alphabet Soup, Smoke Glacken, Memories of Silver, Winter Memories, Keeper Hill, and Plum Pretty. Elser spoke with BloodHorse Marketwatch to discuss his program, the recent success of Darby Dan’s Manitoulin in the Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (G2T), and more.  




Wirlin Curlin winner of the Christopher Elser Memorial S and Kapalua Starlight second in the Donna Freyer S

Kapalua Starlight had to settle for 2nd in the Donna Freyer S at Laurel.The filly raced on or near the lead and could just not hold on in deep stretch. She is trained by Thomas Albertrani for owner/breeder Robert Masiello.

The stakes is restricted to horses trained in SC and KAPALUA STARLIGHT was prepared for the track at Kirkwood Stables.

The colt race, the Christopher Elser S. was won by WHIRLIN CURLIN who got his start at the Webb Carroll TC.


Courtesy of the Racing Biz
by Frank Vespe | Nov 24, 2017 |

Wise Gal

Wise Gal and jockey Steve Hamilton won the Selima Stakes impressively. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

by Frank Vespe

Saturday’s card at Laurel Park will feature something new, at least to Maryland eyes. The nine-race log includes a pair of stakes restricted to horses that spent at least 90 days in South Carolina by the end of June of this year.

The $50,000 Donna Freyer, for two-year-old fillies, will go as race five. The Christopher Elser Memorial, also a six-furlong test, this one for straight two-year-olds, is carded as race seven. Both carry purses of $50,000.

The twin races had spent the last several years at Parx Racing, which is where they began. This year will mark their first visit to Laurel Park.

“Sal (Sinatra, formerly of Parx Racing and now president of the Maryland Jockey Club) was very helpful in getting them started,” said Kip Elser, a board member of the South Carolina Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, which sponsors the races. “They sort of moved with him, with the help of the (Maryland) horsemen’s association.”

Early returns on the move, Elser said, are promising.

“We have double the entries they had previously,” he pointed out.

The Elser ran with just five horses last year after three scratched. Eleven are entered for Saturday’s tilt. And the Donna Freyer had to be postponed last year as a result of poor entries; nine are entered Saturday.

And that’s despite a purse reduction, from $75,000 down to $50,000. Elser said that the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association agreed to put up the same amount it pays out for a Maryland-bred allowance race — $35,000 — and the remainder of the purse comes from SCTOBA. Handle generated all stays in Maryland.

“We appreciate the welcome of the Maryland Jockey Club and the horsemen,” he said.

The races serve to promote South Carolina’s thoroughbred industry, which, though it has no racetrack, includes a vibrant network of training centers.

“It’s a great place to get young horses started,” Elser said. “A group of us down here said, ‘What can we do to promote the local industry?’ This is what we came up with.”

The most promising of the Freyer runners — at least at this point — is Wise Gal (5-2 morning line). The Dove Houghton trainee was impressive in her first two starts, both grass sprints, winning at first asking and following up with a dominant win in the $100,000 Selima Stakes, also at Laurel. She faltered going a mile in the Chelsey Flower at Aqueduct three weeks ago; Saturday will mark her first try on the dirt.

Five of the nine runners in the Donna Freyer are based at either Laurel or Pimlico.

There are no stakes winners entered in the Christopher Elser. The morning line favorite is Hidden Funds (7-5), the Mike Pino trainee who has one win and two third-place finishes from four starts.

“There’s a long tradition here,” Elser said, “a lot of good horses out of South Carolina.”

And perhaps a couple more in Saturday’s stakes.

Manitoulin Lands Hollywood Turf Cup


Awesome Again gelding out of champion Soaring Softly broke through at Del Mar.

Manitoulin has always marched to the beat of his own drummer.

The striking chestnut was born via elective Cesarean section, with a dedicated team at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute near Lexington ensuring his survival in the fragile moments that followed his delivery.

Descended from a long line of brilliant Darby Dan bloodlines, the product of a mating between Awesome Again and champion 1999 grass mare Soaring Softly, he spent his early days on the farm near Lexington with a nursemare, while his dam healed from the surgery that brought him into this world.

A fighting spirit enabled the fiesty runner to thrive, but it took patience, gelding, 17 starts, a trip to California, and the faith of his Phillips Racing Partnership connections to unearth the talent they knew ran in his veins. Finally, in a 1 1/2-mile test Nov. 24 on the Del Mar lawn, that talent shone through when Manitoulin withstood the late challenge of fast-closing 7-5 favorite Chicago Style to win the $200,000 Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (G2T).

Trainer Jimmy Toner, who conditioned Soaring Softly through her championship career and who landed his first Del Mar stakes score Friday, said he never doubted Manitoulin’s ability. Channeling his energy and that fighting spirit was the challenge.

“I always felt like he had the ability,” Toner said. “But early on, mentally he was not very cooperative about things. We tried to deal with him and he showed flashes of ability, but we knew he wasn’t giving us everything he had. Eventually John (Phillips, Darby Dan owner) and I decided we’d have to castrate him to get his full potential. I always thought he was a very good horse, and now he’s started to show it.”

In previous stakes attempts, Manitoulin was eighth in the 2016 Exacta Systems Dueling Grounds Derby, fourth in the Arlington Handicap (G3T) this July, and seventh in the Oct. 19 Sycamore Stakes (G3T) at Keeneland, which Toner called a “throw-out race” because of an outside post and other unfavorable factors.

“Other than that (Sycamore finish), he’s run some very good races this year, and I think he could compete at the top level next year,” Toner said.

In allowance company this season, the 4-year-old gelding has three wins and a second.

Maybe a familiar connection was felt between Manitoulin and Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who was aboard for the first time in the Hollywood Turf Cup.

“I’ve got some history here. I rode his mother,  and I rode the sire, too,” Smith said.

Toner told the jockey to warm Manitoulin up briskly, and to keep him forwardly placed from the start.

“I think Mike made a big difference today, the fact that he put him in the race early,” Toner said. “We realized there was no pace in the race and when we talked ahead of time, I said, ‘Get him engaged.’

“If you let him relax next thing you know, he’s relaxed and just galloping around there, so you have to put his mind into the game.

“It was just like J.J. told me,” Smith added. “He said, ‘He can get a little lazy on you.’ He said if I dropped my hands, he’d back right out of there. He said, ‘Warm him up good; get his blood pumping. Make him think he’s running a half-mile instead of a mile and a half.’ It worked out just right.”

Beautifully rated in an outside stalking position just off pacesetter Tequila Joe, Manitoulin never disengaged from that rival through easy early fractions of :25.30, :51.36, and 1:17.08. After a 1:43 mile, the eventual winner went to the lead in the upper stretch and showed his gameness when set down for the drive, even though Smith lost his whip near the sixteenth pole.

Chicago Style came flying from sixth in the field of seven, but could not get up in time. Manitoulin held the victory by a neck in a final time of 2:30.16 on firm turf, while Flamboyant finished third by 1 3/4 lengths. Tequila Joe, LottiePrince of Arabia, and Inordinate completed the order of finish. Infobedad and Prime Attraction were scratched.

Sent to the gate at 4-1, Manitoulin returned $10.40, $4.80 and $3.40 while collecting his fifth victory in 17 starts. First money of $120,000 increased his earnings to $394,506. Chicago Style paid $3.40 and $2.40, while Flamboyant returned $2.60 to show.

A trip back to Lexington is in order for the gelding after his California raiding trip.

“We’re going to drop him off at Darby Dan,” Toner said. “He’ll get a freshening down there; he had a tough campaign this year and topped it off today. We’ll send him home now and they’ll freshen him up, and we’ll pick him up mid-winter and hopefully have him ready for Keeneland and a top-level campaign next year.