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ITHA News

DiVito / Riv still Rumbling / Off to the Beach

STICKNEY, Illinois -- A bulky 3-year-old colt named American Mayhem has come this week to Chicago for the first time in his life. No worries – his trainer can show him the ropes.
James P. DiVito was born in 1950 and grew up in the Bridgeport neighborhood on Chicago’s south side. His dad, Peter DiVito, was a horse trainer, and Jimmy DiVito now is in his sixth decade training on his own. DiVito the younger’s first winner came in 1975, and at 72, despite the collapse of Chicago’s Thoroughred circuit, he still is going steady. 
“It feels really good to have been successful all this time even though I always only had about 15 or 20 horses. I’m very proud of it,” DiVito said.
DiVito got up to 18 winners in 1981 and only once, during a rough 2001 season, has his annual win total dipped lower than that. He got all the way up to 71 winners in 2011, his best year, but DiVito’s stable earnings already are over $1 million in 2022. That’s in great part because he has moved the bulk of his string to Kentucky, where purse money flows like water, following the demise of Arlington that left only a grimly rattling skeleton of a Chicago racing season this year. 
DiVito still has a few stalls at Hawthorne, and American Mayhem has joined the small string to start in Hawthorne’s richest race of the fall-winter season, the $100,000 Hawthorne Derby. There are shippers from as far afield as Maryland for this 1 1/8-mile grass contest; it’d be nice to see the winner’s share of the purse go to someone with local roots. 
The late Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley – the first Mayor Daley -- was a Bridgeport neighbor of the DiVitos during the 1950s. The DiVitos, following the horses, wound up in California for a good portion of Jimmy’s childhood, and when DiVito was ready to leave the employ of his father and go out on his own, he decided he wanted to explore new territory. 
“Atlantic City Racetrack in New Jersey – I won my first race there when I was 23,” DiVito said. “I told my dad I wanted to go somewhere else, a different state. He told me to call up Garden State [a defunct New Jersey track]. I said, ‘Where is that?’ He told me to look on a map.” 
DiVito, once established, eventually settled into a Florida-winters, Chicago-summers seasonal rhythm. American Mayhem, who stands a very legitimate chance, would be DiVito’s first Hawthorne stakes winner since Irish Legacy won the Debutante for Illinois-bred 2-year-old fillies in 2018. You can find the name of a DiVito-trained crack sprinter, Coach Jimi Lee, in the track program every time Hawthorne runs a six-furlong dirt race: Coach Jimi Lee ran the distance in 1:07.27 winning an allowance race on Dec. 12, 2003, a track record that probably never will be broken.
American Mayhem is fast in a different way, as a two-turn turf route horse. DiVito picked out the horse at Keeneland’s massive September yearling sale in 2020 and one of his main clients, Richard Templer, who races as Doubledown Stables, bought the colt for a bargain $25,000. American Mayhem debuted this past May and in his second start finished a solid second in a one-turn mile maiden race at Churchill, but the three dirt races to begin his career were only a stepping-stone to turf. American Mayhem’s long, exuberant strides are a much better fit for grass than dirt, and the colt won back-to-back Ellis Park turf races before finishing a good third in the $400,000 Gun Runner Stakes on Sept. 14 at Kentucky Downs. 
DiVito doesn’t think American Mayhem cared for the Kentucky Downs course, a European-style oblong with rises and falls that can throw a big horse off balance. Hawthorne – that’s a standard flat American oval. And it’s Chicago, DiVito’s town. The horse should feel right at home here.

Riv still rumbling

Arlington was the bread and butter of trainer Larry Rivelli’s season. He and his two most prominent owners, Vince Foglia’s Patricia’s Hope and Richard Ravin, ran horses in droves, won scads of races every Arlington summer. 
But don’t cry for Riv. 
Even with no Arlington during 2022, Rivelli is on pace to hit a career-best mark in annual earnings, with $2.8 million in stable purses with three months of racing remaining. During 2021, Rivelli’s runners earned purses of about $3.1 million.
Instead of settling in for the long Arlington meet in May this year, Rivelli, like every other Chicago horse person, had to find somewhere else to race when the Hawthorne spring meeting ended on June 23. For Rivelli, that was Colonial Downs in rural Virginia, where Rivelli-trained runners went 9-11-7 in 55 starts.
“It was great. Everybody there was nice. Good place to race. Hot as hell,” Rivelli said. “It’s good to be back home.”
Rivelli has assembled the bulk of his large operation at Hawthorne this fall. He and Eduardo “Lalo” Rodriguez during the first week of the fall-winter meet were the only trainers with as many as three winners, and Rivelli has horses entered in nine races during the meet’s second three-day race week. It’s not Arlington-level participation, but Rivelli, who said he plans to run at Hawthorne through year’s end, has to be the favorite to emerge as leading trainer. 
“All the help is home and under one roof, which is really good. Hawthorne is a good place to have the horses; from here, we can ship where we need to run with some of the better horses,” Rivelli said.
One of those better horses, One Timer, won’t be running anywhere again this season. One Timer, a two-time stakes-winner at age 2, brought home a $345,960 paycheck to Patricia’s Hope, Ravin, and Rivelli after easily winning the Franklin-Simpson Stakes on Sept. 10 at Kentucky Downs. Under 55-year-old wonder E.T. Baird, One Timer went straight to the front in the Franklin-Simpson and never came close to being headed. But with the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint an unappealing option, One Timer is headed to Ocala, Florida, for a 45-day rest that will lead into a 4-year-old campaign in 2023. 
Rivelli, however, still has Breeders’ Cup hopes stabled at Hawthorne. A Hard Spun colt named Two Phil’s scored a sharp Colonial maiden win in August and on Sept. 17 won the Shakopee Juvenile at Canterbury Park by nearly 10 lengths. Two Phil’s worked a half-mile Sept. 28 at Hawthorne and is on track to make his two-turn debut Oct. 8 at Keeneland in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity. A solid showing there and Two Phil’s would be bound for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Rivelli and Foglia also have Breeders’ Cup ambitions for the 2-year-old filly Back to Ohio, who dominated Ohio-bred competition in the $100,000 Miss Ohio Stakes on Aug. 13 at Thistledown. Back to Ohio is entered in Monday’s Presque Isle Debutante but could instead start in a Keeneland allowance race later in the week. 
It’s Hawthorne now – no Arlington. Larry is making it work.

Off to the Beach basks in glory

Perhaps you did not feel the seismic occurrence that took place on the evening of July 2 in Collinsville, Illinois. 
Off to the Beach, battling $4,000 maiden-claimers, won a race at Fanduel-whatever-they-call-the-track-we-all-know-as-Fairmount Park.
“Overdue” does not give the victory its full due. 
Off to the Beach began his career in July 2018 at Mountaineer Park in West Virginia. He finished a distant seventh in a maiden race, but a couple weeks later, going sprint to route and dirt to turf, Off to the Beach was a solid second facing straight maidens. 
That was promising enough, but by the end of 2018, Off to the Beach still was a 10-race maiden. During 2019, Off to the Beach, a veritable iron horse, managed to get in a remarkable 21 starts. He lost all of those, too. A dozen more races during 2020, all defeats, and Off to the Beach was starting to look like something special. 
When the Fairmount card began on July 2, Off to the Beach had begun to approach rarefied air -- Zippy Chippy territory. Zippy Chippy, who died this past April, was the most famous maiden in racing history, retired with a career record of 100 losses, zero wins. His record is safe. They say there is a race for every horse. This was true even for Off to the Beach, who whipped six Downstate rivals and won by eight lengths, leaving no doubt. 
But fear not! Our hero has returned to his more typical ways. Off to the Beach, still only a 7-year-old, brings a two-race losing streak into the fourth race Saturday at Hawthorne. 
 

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