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LEONA’S REWARD BEATS THE BOYS IN $75,000 CATLAUNCH STAKES
2016 Accredited-bred Champion Female Leona’s Reward bested her male counterparts in a stakes race for the second time this season in the Catlaunch Stakes at JACK Thistledown September 16. On Ohio Derby Day she bested the boys by a nose over Eightthehardway in the George Lewis Memorial. They are both offspring of the Mr. Prospector stallion Parent’s Reward. Eightthehardway came into the race off a solid second to 2016 Ohio Horse of the Year Mo Dont No in the Governor’s Buckeye Cup and was installed as the favorite.
True Cinder, coming off back-to-back stakes wins going 1 1/16 miles on the turf at Belterra Park in wire to wire fashion, set all the pace in the Catlaunch. Mixed Colors tracked in second, while Leona’s Reward settled into the fourth spot saving ground on the rail. Pablo Morales shifted her out two-wide late in the stretch and with left handed encouragement she dug in gamely and got up by a half-length. True Cinder held on by a nose over a fast-closing Mixed Colors.
“She’s been great to work with, but we decided to make a career change for the sake of her longevity,” said trainer and breeder Tim Hamm, who owns her in partnership with Michael Friedman. “I talked to Pablo Morales three races back and told him that we needed to change tactics. I wanted her off the lead. He is one of the most talented riders in this region and a very strong finisher.”
The 4-year-old filly Leona’s Reward pushed her career earnings to $326,856 with her win in the 1 1/16 mile Catlaunch. Was this a prelude to an appearance in The Best of Ohio series? “I’m going to enter and take a look at the field. Right now I’m 50/50,” said Hamm. “There are some accredited races at the end of the season and I want to maximize her earnings potential.”
That Saturday was a doubly good day for Hamm. At the National Awards Dinner at Calumet Farm, the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association recognized his Blazing Meadows Farm as the leading Ohio Breeder of 2016.
The Catlaunch Stakes is named for the Ohio-bred millionaire gelding who finished an 11-year career with 40 wins including 24 stakes, 22 seconds and 15 thirds in 108 starts. Twelve years old when he collected his final stakes trophy, Catlaunch was an Ohio champion 13 times, including Horse of the Year in 2008 and 2010. He was bred and owned by Ron Fields’ Scioto Farm Supply and is now retired at Old Friends in Lexington, Ky.
RUBERTO RACING STABLES BRINGS FAMILY AFFAIR TO THE $75,000 LOYALTY STAKES
Midnight Mikey is no stranger to the Ruberto Racing Stable. The homebred was born on their farm in Lisbon, Ohio and is a son of Dark Kestrel who stands stud there. Bred by Mr. & Mrs. Louis V. Ruberto, Jr., the 2-year-old colt is trained by Sharon Ruberto.
Play Ball, an impressive winner in his debut at Thistledown in a hand ride was sent away as the prohibitive favorite. Under Rex Stokes III, he bobbled at the start, but quickly regained his stride and led through the stretch. Midnight Mikey was never far from the pace and edged out and around the heavy favorite to pull clear in the late stages by 2 ¼ lengths. Play Ball held the second spot by one length over longshot Mobil Solution.
The 2-year-old colt Midnight Mikey earned $45,000 for his effort and may well be back at Belterra Park for a two-turn challenge on Best of Ohio Day, October 7. His sire, Dark Kestrel is a son of Stormy Atlantic and Stands for $1,500.