Robert Molaro Stakes | Jareth Loveberry | Bring on the Turf

CHICAGO – To win the $75,000 Robert S. Molaro Stakes on Saturday at Hawthorne, Larry Rivelli will have to beat his old horse.

Rivelli, nip and tuck with Antonio Meraz for leading trainer at the ongoing meet, saddles Valiant Vinny in this six-furlong dirt race for older Illinois-bred sprinters. Four-year-old Valiant Vinny, a Maclean’s Music gelding bred by Ben Barnow and owned by Richard Ravin and Vince Foglia’s Patricia’s Hope, eked out an open first-level allowance victory April 10, his first start since October.

“I like him. He needed that race. He was about two works short, but I wanted to run him. I think he got a lot out of that race,” said Rivelli.

Among Valiant Vinny’s six rivals is What’s Up Dude, bred by Rivelli and Ravin, owned by Patricia’s Hope, and trained by Rivelli until Danalisa Racing and trainer Mark Cristel claimed the horse for $20,000 way back in May 2018. Eight-year-old What’s Up Dude has gone on to win seven races and close to $300,000 since being claimed. His 53rd career start last month marked his 14th race on the Hawthorne dirt; What’s Up Dude closed strongly into a fast pace and won, the best he’s ever run at Hawthorne.

“Claiming is funny,” Cristel said. “You might claim 10 of them and not get one that works out.”

What’s Up Dude has worked out exceedingly well for his current connections, but don’t cry for Rivelli. He and Ravin still own What’s Up Dude’s dam, Rooney Doodle, and she has proven to be a star broodmare, first in Illinois, but more recently in New York.

Rooney Doodle, who’s 18 now, raced once to little effect and was part of a group of mares Ravin bought en masse from the famed trainer Wesley Ward, who also breeds and races his own stock.

“It’s not like she was picked out specially or anything; she just happened to be one of them,” Rivelli said. “She looks like an Appaloosa pony, but she’s gotten nothing but runners, every one of them.”

What’s Up Dude was Rooney Doodle’s fourth foal to race. Before him came Nevermesswithrichie, an 11-time winner with a bankroll of about $175,000; Hollarforadollar, who won three races and about $75,000; and Unscathed, an 11-time winner with earnings over $216,000. Those were the early foals. Rooney Doodle then produced her most successful horse, Jean Elizabeth, who won 15 of 21 races including 10 stakes, one of them a Grade 3, and earned a little less than $663,000. Then came Rooney Doodle’s first New York-bred, Dugout, who won 10 of 22 starts, three stakes, and earned more than $563,000; and Adios Asher, a 3-year-old currently training at Hawthorne who has a stakes win among his two victories and earnings of almost $137,000.

Rooney Doodle has a yearling on the ground and an unnamed 2-year-old filly by Laoban stabled with Rivelli. No surprise – the 2-year-old’s a runner. “We’re taking her to Saratoga,” Rivelli said.

Jean Elizabeth, now retired, is carrying her first foal, by super stallion Into Mischief. Rivelli and Ravin plan to sell the horse at auction.

What’s Up Dude can go ahead and win the Molaro on Saturday – her former connections are doing just fine.

Arlington champs Colonial-bound

Jareth Loveberry, easily leading rider at Arlington during the 2021 meet, drives regularly to his chiropractor in the northwest suburb of Palatine.

“I get off at the same exit I took to Arlington, drive right by the track, and think, ‘We’re supposed to be here right now.’ It’s kind of heartbreaking,” Loveberry said.

Loveberry was reached Thursday in Indiana; when Hawthorne isn’t racing, Loveberry has been travelling to Horseshoe Indianapolis to ride. Loveberry has a family and is based in Chicago; the setup isn’t ideal, but that’s the case for so many Illinois horsemen with Arlington shuttered this summer and Hawthorne taking a Thoroughbred break between the end of June and the end of September.

Loveberry came north from winter quarters in New Orleans full of momentum. After a slow start at Fair Grounds, he wound up riding 36 winners, a fine haul for his first full season at the track. Back in Chicago, Loveberry has been fairly dominant at Hawthorne: Through last week’s racing, he had 24 winners from 67 mounts, nearly double the next-highest jockey win total. That’s a strike rate of nearly 36 percent, which is about as good as it gets for a journeyman rider.

“I ride the right horses there now, and when you’re winning, people want you more,” Loveberry said. “Things really picked up for me at Fair Grounds after New Year’s, and they kept going.”

The Indiana sojourns likely won’t persist. Loveberry and his agent, the indefatigable Steve Leving, are following their main client, Larry Rivelli, to Colonial Downs in Virginia after the Hawthorne meet wraps up.

“I’m taking all 80 of them down there,” Rivelli said. “We leave June 30 and stay to the end of the meet, then come back to Chicago. It’s a pain but the money is good.”

Colonial is fairly isolated geographically, stable employees difficult to find. Rivelli said his crew is following the horses; if they weren’t, he couldn’t make the move.

Loveberry is following, too, and with steady work at Colonial not far off, he can pick and choose the mounts he accepts in Indiana. It’s not perfect, but it’s a way to keep racing through a Thoroughbred-less summer in Chicago. Every day, people who called Arlington home think about what’s not here.

“It feels terrible,” Loveberry said.

Turf? Finally?

Hawthorne hoped to be conducting grass racing early in May. Fickle, unpredictable nature had other plans.

A protracted, cold late winter and an unseasonably chilly spring combined with untimely rain to render the Hawthorne turf course unusable – until now.

“We’ll be on it this weekend,” said Jim Miller, Hawthorne’s director of publicity and racing analyst. “There was so much rain leading up to last Saturday. It just needed a chance to dry. They moved the rail all the way down to the inside and mowed it. The course looks like it’s in really good shape.”

With only about 20 racing days left this meet and no Thoroughbreds around after that until Sept. 23, Hawthorne can make liberal use of the course once it’s usable. Miller said racing secretary Allen Plever “will use whatever he can in there,” suggesting three turf races per day wasn’t unreasonable. That ought to help the day-to-day Hawthorne product, which has gotten spread a little thin since two-day race weeks expanded to three the first Friday in May.