Heaven’s Runway solid at 7
For the bulk of his five seasons on the racetrack, Heaven’s Runway ground out a steady living, racing seven to 10 times a year and earning between $80,000 and $100,000 a season. Not bad for a horse who won five of his first 39 starts, but distinctly blue collar.
Now, at this advanced stage of his career, Heaven’s Runway seems to have turned a corner. Since being claimed by Rudy Rodriguez for $62,500 out of a second-place finish in an optional-claiming race at Saratoga, he has gone 2 for 3, with the victories coming in stakes, and earned $164,000. On Saturday at Laurel Park, he will go postward as one of the top choices in the Grade 3 General George, a seven-furlong stakes for 4-year-olds and up.
“He didn’t win a lot, but we always liked him because he was a consistent horse,” Rodriguez said.
Heaven’s Runway made his first 29 starts for his breeders, K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman, while racing for seven different trainers. He started his career in 2012 by winning two of his first four starts, all at Presque Isle Downs, including the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile.
Heaven’s Runway would win only three of his next 35 races, with his most important victory coming in the $50,000 Hockessin Stakes at Delaware Park in July 2015. When Rodriguez claimed him last summer, he was winless in 10 starts over 13 months dating back to that race.
Since joining Rodriguez’s stable, Heaven’s Runway has finished fourth in an optionalclaiming turf sprint at Belmont Park, run down expected General George favorite Stallwalkin’ Dude to win the Grade 3 Fall Highweight at Aqueduct, and scored a half-length victory in the Dave’s Friend Stakes at Laurel.
In typically modest style, Rodriguez deflects credit for the turnaround.
“I think we were lucky and got him at the right time,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a nice horse and he tries very hard for us.”
Now 7, Heaven’s Runway seems primed for his best season yet.
Sound the Horns has potential
The best races on the Friday card at Laurel are the sixth and seventh. Race 7 is a first-level allowance for 4-year-olds and up. Race 6 is a maiden race for 3-year-olds.
Sound the Horns is by far the most lightly raced horse in race 7, but he also is the most promising.
A $255,000 buy at the 2015 Ocala Breeders’ Sale March sale of 2-year-olds by West Point Thoroughbreds, Sound the Horns didn’t start until Dec. 30 of his 3-year-old season when he finished second. He returned on Jan. 28 to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Sound the Horns, a son of Include trained by Graham Motion, will be stretching out from six furlongs to a mile on Friday.
In race 6, Clubman raced well in his only start, and may improve while stretching out in distance from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. A son of Not for Love trained by Jason Egan, Clubman chased front-running favorite Dancing With Maude throughout after breaking from post 1.
The race was ultimately won by 2 1/2 lengths by deep closer Tiz He the One. Clubman finished fourth, beaten 3 1/4 lengths, with four horses tightly bunched in the battle for second.
Dharmaster, who lagged well back to the stretch, finished with a belated bid to be fifth, a half-length behind Clubman. Trainer Mike Trombetta will add blinkers to Dharmaster’s equipment Friday.
Monmouth stalls available
Stall applications are now available on the Monmouth Park website and in the track’s administration building for this season’s meet. They are due by March 16.
The New Jersey Racing Commission has approved a 71-day Thoroughbred season for 2017, which includes 56 race days at Monmouth and 15 turfonly cards at the Meadowlands.
Monmouth, however, is the only track in the Mid-Atlantic without an alternative revenue stream from casino gaming and is having difficulty keeping its purse structure competitive with other tracks in the region. Monmouth averaged $3.44 million per day in all-sources handle at its 57-day meet last year, a drop of more than 25 percent from 2015.
The possibility exists that the 2017 season could be shortened if Assembly bill A4246 is passed by the legislature. The bill would reduce the required minimum number of racing days in the state to 50.
The bill passed the Assembly (77-0) and is waiting to be heard by the Senate Economic Growth Committee.
Michael Campbell, the executive director of the Thoroughbred Breeders Association of New Jersey, posted a memo on the organization’s website Tuesday, alerting the membership to possible upcoming schedule changes.
Campbell pointed out that although the approved Monmouth season is set to open May 13 and run through Sept. 24, the stall application form has the dates listed as May 13 to Sept. 10.
The Meadowlands turf dates are scheduled for May 5 and 6, and Oct. 6 through Nov. 11.
Heaven’s Runway will be one of the top contenders in Saturday’s Grade 3 General George.