STICKNEY, Illinois – The veteran Illinois trainer Michele Boyce doesn’t start a lot of 2-year-olds, so it’s hard to say what’s waiting in the pipeline, but there’s no doubt the Boyce stable has a gaping hole to fill following a rash of retirements this fall.
Illinois-bred mares Puntsville and Lovely Loyree’s will race for the final time this week, while Illinois-bred My Mertie already has been retired to become a broodmare. All three horses – Puntsville and Lovely Loyree especially – have been fixtures in stakes races, both Illinois-bred and open, for years.
“It’s a lot to lose,” said Boyce.
But in an era when horses often are rushed off the racetrack to become breeding stock, Boyce and her owners have maximized the racing career of all three of these horses. Boyce has expressed pride, and rightfully so, about managing Puntsville and My Mertie through their 7-year-old seasons on the track, and Lovely Loyree, after she runs at Churchill Downs this week, will be calling it a career at the ripe age of eight.
Puntsville, a homebred owned by Steve and Diane Holland, races Friday at Hawthorne in the $50,000 Powerless Stakes, a race that comes five years and four months after she made her career debut during the summer of 2014 at Arlington. Puntsville was trained then by Christine Janks, who has long since retired from training, and has won 13 times from 30 starts while being judiciously spotted by Boyce and the Hollands. By the Illinois-bred Cashel Castle and out of the extremely productive mare Deville, Puntsville, through strong sprint performances on dirt, synthetic surfaces, and turf, has earned nearly a half-million. Even now, on the cusp of retirement, Boyce likes her chances. “I think she’s sitting on tilt for this race,” she said.
Lovely Loyree, by Cactus Ridge out of Chicago stalwart mare Lil Cora Tee, made her career debut about four months before Puntsville and has compiled a record of 29-8-6-7 with earnings of $410,054. Lovely Loyree would have started considerably more than that but for her penchant to be entered in turf races that wound up being rained onto dirt. Lovely Loyree requires turf route races to perform effectively and wet weather limited her 2017 campaign to merely two starts, but even this season, at an advanced racing age, she has finished third and fourth in open six-figure stakes races.
My Mertie never has been the same kind of horse as Puntsville and Lovely Loyree, but this past summer, making the 31st start of her career, she did something Lovely Loyree never accomplished in winning a graded-stakes race. My Mertie, a 33-1 shot, bolted home June 29 to capture the Grade 3 Chicago Handicap at Arlington, defeating Hotshot Anna, the bet synthetic-surface sprinter in North America the last two calendar years. Bred like Lovely Loyree by Barr Three LLC, My Mertie is by Magna Graduate out of Kate the Great (also trained by Boyce), and leaves the track with eight wins from 32 starts.
Boyce said My Mertie could be bred to First Samurai while mating plans for Puntsville and Lovely Loyree remain more uncertain.
The older males in the Boyce barn still are going strong. Blue Sky Kowboy was entered in a Thursday allowance race at Churchill Downs but will start there Saturday in the River Cities Stakes if the earlier race is moved from turf to dirt. The Illinois-bred 5-year-old will subsequently get a winter break in Florida before gearing up for a 2020 campaign. And on Saturday, Boyce starts the 5-year-old gelding Devileye in the $50,000 Lightning Jet, a six-furlong dirt sprint at Hawthorne that marks just his third start of 2019.
“It’s been a brutal year for him, but he’s doing good now and finally ready to run,” Boyce said.
Boyce stayed patient, didn’t push when Devileye, a half-brother to Puntsville, had issues earlier this year – which is how you wind up with a bunch of productive 7- and 8-year-old horses in your stable.
Finally, it’s Wynn Time
Wynn Time, one of the more accomplished Illinois-breds of the last couple years, is set to make his return to racing Saturday at Hawthorne in the $50,000 Lightning Jet Handicap following an 11-month layoff.
Wynn Time is a 5-year-old but has made only 11 career starts owing to knee problems. Hugh Robertson, who owns Wynn Time’s sire, Three Hour Naps, and trains him for owner-breeder John Mentz, said the speedy, game gelding has undergone two knee surgeries on both forelegs.
“He’s training as good as he ever has, but he’s older now and it takes a toll when you go into the knees that many times,” Robertson said.
Robertson has taken plenty of time with Wynn Time, who posted his first post-layoff workout way back on July 11 at Arlington. Robertson was in no hurry with the gelding, who has done much of his best work at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. Wynn Time made his first two starts, in August and October 2017, against Illinois-breds and won both easily, and the Lightning Jet will be his first race in statebred-restricted competition since those early efforts. After coming close in a pair of open stakes races during the winter of 2018 at Oaklawn Park, Wynn Time captured the Thanksgiving Handicap, the Bonapaw Stakes, and the Duncan Kenner Stakes last fall and winter at Fair Grounds.
Also stabled with the Robertson string at Hawthorne are Hotshot Anna, who won the $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Master for the second time in a row in September and is pointing for a winter turf campaign in New Orleans; and Amy’s Challenge, the track female dirt sprinter whom Robertson is legging up following a layoff for his son, trainer Mac Robertson.
Rivelli-trained siblings still going strong
Four-year-old filly Jean Elizabeth will be an odds-on favorite Friday in the $50,000 Powerless Handicap at Hawthorne while her 3-year-old full brother, Dugout, is being aimed at the $250,000 Steel Valley Sprint, an age-restricted six-furlong dirt race Nov. 25 at Mahoning Valley in Ohio.
Both Jean Elizabeth, an Illinois-bred, and Dugout, a New York-bred, are by Adios Charlie and out of the Lit de Justice mare, Rooney Doodle. Rivelli co-bred both horses with Richard Ravin and the two campaign then with Vince Foglia’s Patricia’s Hope, LLC. What’s Up Dude, a 5-year-old by First Dude also out of Rooney Doodle, starts for Danalisa Racing and trainer Mark Cristel on Saturday at Hawthorne in the Lightning Jet Handicap.
Jean Elizabeth is an awesome 9-4-2 from 15 career starts and comes into Friday’s race at Hawthorne after landing the Grade 3 Ontario Fashion Stakes at Woodbine. Rivelli acknowledges that the filly hits per peak on synthetic surfaces like Woodbine’s, but she’s also won both her Hawthorne dirt starts and ran well in open dirt stakes last fall at Churchill Downs and Aqueduct.
Dugout has two wins and two second-place finishes from a four-start 2019 campaign, but Rivelli said he was unable to find an appropriate New York-bred stakes for the gelding this season. In 2018, Dugout won two rich New York-bred stakes while banking close to $300,000.
Turf season over in Chicago
Unseasonable cold and snow early this week put a halt to the grass-racing season in Chicago, with Hawthorne shutting down it’s frozen turf course after last week’s racing. Partly due to a reduced three-day race week this fall, Hawthorne got in only 19 grass races during the 2019 fall-winter meeting. That’s down from 29 during the 2018 fall-winter meet, while Hawthorne hosted 46 grass races during fall 2016 and 62 during 2015.