Chess Chief Named Virginia Horse of the Year

The annual Virginia Breeder’s Awards program has been scheduled at Great Meadow Friday May 6th—the evening before the Virginia Gold Cup Races—in a return to more of a “normal times” format for the first time since 2019. The event will take place in a trackside tent on Member’s Hill overlooking the deep stretch and finish line areas where steeplechase horses are set to compete the next afternoon. A list of awards to be presented that night follows.

Horse-of-the-Year honors go to Chess Chief, who was also recognized as Virginia-Bred Older Horse Champion based on two stakes wins and $446,290 in earnings. The Dallas Stewart trainee struck early and late in the year, connecting at Fair Grounds twice in the Grade 2 New Orleans Stakes March 20 and in the Tenacious Stakes December 26. Bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm, the 6-year-old Into Mischief horse heads into spring with $865,338 in overall winnings.

Honors for Virginia-Bred Turf Horse Champion go to Passion Play who was a perfect 2-for-2 in 2021. Both wins came in Virginia-Bred stakes at Colonial Downs—the Bert Allen in July and the Edward P. Evans in September. Jockey Horacio Karamanos delivered both wins for trainer Mary Eppler. The 5-year-old Hold Me Back gelding was bred by Mr. & Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III and bankrolled $120,000 from the pair.

Boldor, with three wins in 2021, was named Virginia-Bred Sprint Champion. The 6-year-old Munnings gelding captured a trio of stakes—the Punch Line at Colonial, King Cotton at Oaklawn and Sam’s Town at Delta. The Steve Asmussen trainee, who won $217,675 last year, was bred by Carlos SE Moore and Jill Gordon-Moore.

Boldor kicked off 2021 with a win in the Sam’s Town Stakes at Delta.

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Urban Fairytale, courtesy of five “in the money” finishes from six starts and $102,418 in earnings, was named Virginia-Bred Older Filly Champion. The 5-year-old Distorted Humor mare made her presence felt in New Kent, winning the Brookmeade Stakes as betting favorite then finishing third in the Nellie Mae Cox Stakes. Trained by Ian Wilkes, Urban Fairytale was bred by Audley Farm Equine.

Repo Rocks, who made 12 of his 13 starts in New York last year, secured Virginia-Bred 3-Year-Old Colt Champion honors with 9 “top three” finishes from that group. The son of Tapiture won a $90,000 maiden special weight at Belmont June 21 then had back-to-back allowance wins at Aqueduct in fall. Bred by Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III, Repo Rocks accumulated $198,246 from the “baker’s dozen” outings.

Oviatt Class, a west coast competitor who was named Virginia-Bred 2-Year-Old Colt Champion, captured a maiden special weight August 27 at Del Mar, then went on to compete in a pair of Grade I’s—the American Pharoah at Santa Anita where he finished third and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile where he was fifth. The Keith Desormeaux trainee was ridden by brother Kent in all five starts. The Bernadini colt was bred by Godolphin and Morgan’s Ford Farm.

Sparkle Sprinkle, who kicked off her racing career with back-to-back wins, was named Virginia-Bred 2-Year-Old Filly Champion. The daughter of Holy Boss led nearly every step of the way in a Timonium maiden score August 28 and in a Laurel allowance three weeks later. She prevailed by 3 1/2 and 6 1/4 lengths respectively. The John Robb conditioned filly was bred by Nancy Rizer and Eric Rizer.

Mr. Buff, whose career bankroll is $1.4 million, continued to flourish as a 7-year-old and as a result, was named Virginia-Sired Champion. The 2019 Horse of the Year was bred to Friend or Foe—who stands at Robin Mellen’s Smallwood Farm in Crozet—by Chester and Mary Broman. Mr. Buff had a pair of stakes scores last year in the Jazil and Stymie, both held at Aqueduct, and a third in the Grade 3 Westchester Stakes which was held at Belmont. For the year, Mr. Buff added $162,750 to his already stout resume.

Lobsta, with a trio of 2021 wins at Aqueduct, earned Virginia-Certified Colt Champion honors. The now 4-year-old son of Emcee captured a maiden special weight and an allowance optional claimer early then capped off his sophomore campaign with a victory in the $150,000 New York Stallion Series Stakes. Owned by Eddie F’s Racing and trained by Gary Sciacca, Lobsta had six top three finishes last year, good for $218,600 in earnings.

Virginia-Certified filly Street Lute came on the scene in September 2020 with a flourish, winning seven of her first eight races. The final two in that streak came at Laurel in 2021 and were stakes scores in the Xtra Heat and Wide Country. Later in the year, the Street Magician filly captured the Stormy Blues Stakes at Pimlico and the Tax Free Shopping Distaff Stakes at Delaware. That four-pack, along with a trio of thirds, enabled her to receive Virginia-Certified Filly Champion recognition.

Extravagant Kid, who retired from racing earlier this year at the age of 9, bankrolled $751,923 in 2021 from five runner-up stakes finishes and a Group 1 win in the Al Quoz Sprint. The Kiss The Kid gelding will be recognized as Virginia-Owned Champion given those impressive credentials. The Brendan Walsh trainee is owned by Virginia businessman David Ross who races under the stable name DARRS, Inc. Upon retirement, Extravagant Kid’s total winnings stood at $1,704,683.

Virginia-Bred Over Fences Champion honors went to 6-year-old Paynter gelding, Vincent Van Gogo. The Neil Morris trainee had a three-race win streak last year that included a pair at Colonial—one on the flat and one over jumps. The first in that streak came in a Tryon hurdle which he won by a neck, followed by New Kent triumphs at tight margins of one-half length and a neck. Owned by the Flying Elvis Stable, Vincent Van Gogo was bred by Jim & Katie Fitzgerald.

Susan Cooney was named Top Virginia Trainer, while Morgan’s Ford Farm was named Top Virginia Breeder. Cooney’s horses earned $622,309, firing at a 9% win and 36% “in-the-money” percentage clip. Her four wins at Colonial last year were with Pauping, Shelly Island, Skylark and Elementary. Horses bred by Morgan’s Ford Farm earned $1,240,346 in purse monies and of course their Chess Chief led the way with $446,290.

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