Alexis Annechino



Heavily favored Liberate rocketed from his outside post in the $75,000 Cleveland Kindergarten Stakes August 3 atJACK Thistledown Racino and romped to an 8 1/4-length victory over It’s Official. First time starter Dr. Zarnett was another two lengths back in third. The race was over about two strides out of the gate. Though he broke out a bit, Alfredo Clemente had him straightened away immediately, never missing a stride. From the turn to the early stretch Clement was looking around for competition – there was none. Liberate galloped home under wraps in the six-furlong race for 2-year-old registered Ohio foals, finishing in 1:12.42 after setting the pace in :22.24, :45.28 and :58.26.

“He’s the most talented Ohio-bred horse I’ve had since [multiple graded stakes winner] Too Much Bling,” said winning trainer Tim Hamm. “He’ll definitely run out of Ohio in his next start, somewhere around the end of August or first of September. There are a few races on the horizon: the $100,000 Sapling at Monmouth at a mile or the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga going seven furlongs are possibilities. He’ll run in the Best of Ohio in October.”

Hamm had nothing but praise for the work of Liberate’s regular rider Alfredo Clemente, both in the irons and in the barn. “His jockey is my main exercise rider,” Hamm said. “He rode for me years ago and has worked for me about 20 years. He did a really good job getting [Liberate] ready, and I told him, ‘Freddy, he’s my best 2-year-old Ohio-bred and if you want to ride him, he’s yours.’ [Clemente] is a huge help in the barn and he deserved it. He told me he never really moved, never even asked him to run in the stretch.”

Off at 1-9, Liberate paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10. Sweetnessncharm completed the superfecta, followed by Precious Jules and first time starters Skytown Cat and It’s a Man’s World. Betchaiwill scratched. Undefeated in three starts, Liberate came into the Cleveland Kindergarten off a similar romp in the Hoover Stakes at Belterra Park. He was bred by his owners, WinStar Farm and Hamm’s Blazing Meadows Farm, and is a gelded son of Gemologist out of Southern Silence, by Dixie Union. His bankroll stands now at $114,250.

The heat wave that splashed over the Midwest in July knocked two Ohio stakes back a week that were scheduled at Belterra Park, luckily, a week no other stakes were scheduled. Sunday, the 28th, turned out to be very profitable day for owner Ron Paolucci and jockey Jose Bracho as they captured both $75,000 stakes on the card.

Jose Bracho celebrates Buckeye Native win aboard Funnel Cake. Coady Photography

You can put the name Funnel Cake on the long list of Paolucci’s private purchases that turned out to be stakes winners. It’s been a frustrating season for the Jeff Radosevich trainee, who had yet to hit the board in three starts. Sometimes change is good for a change and Radosevich elected to put his 4-year-old charge on the turf for the first time in the 1 1/16 Buckeye Native.
Funnel Cake had been rather headstrong in his last two starts, shooting right to the lead and faltering mid-race. He seemed as though he didn’t want to load in his grass debut, but the assistant starters eventually coaxed him in. When the gates opened in the field of ten, Bracho was able to throttle his mount to stalk multiple stakes winner True Cinder who won this race in wire-to-wire fashion last year. It was a dawdling early pace with a half mile in 49.32. The top two picked it up a little after that, separating themselves from a bunched up second flight.
Bracho gave Funnel Cake his head as they approached the stretch and after drawing on even terms with the front-runner, kicked away at the furlong marker to win by 5 ½ lengths in 1:43.03. True Cinder held on to the second spot over Mobil Solution, who finished second in this race last year. The win pushed Funnel Cake’s career earnings to $148,536 from five wins, a second and a third from 17 starts.
Bred by John P. Hicks, William Hart & William Martin he is a son of Kettle Corn out of Bluegrass Ellie by Bluegrass Cat. He was first sold for $18,000 at the 2016 January Horses of all ages sale at Keeneland and returned to that venue to bring a final bid of $35,000 in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Three-year-old fillies shared the stage at Belterra Park on the 28th as a field of eight headed postward in the 1 1/16 mile Norm Barron Queen City Oaks. Hey Adrian, a daughter of Ohio stallion Twinspired, drew favoritism over the registered entrants while coming into the race off of two straight stakes wins. There were quite a few others who had credentials to take the top spot in the Oaks – last year’s 2-year-old champion Drillit, an earner of $205,300; Absorb a three-time winner this season is a daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Orb out of Muir Woods who won this race during her sophomore season; Totally Obsessed was four for 5 this year with a stakes win under her girth and H.F. Carmel came into the race off an impressive victory in Belterra’s Tomboy Stakes at the Oaks distance.

Trainer Gary Johnson, who took a few years off to compete successfully on the national handicapping tour, put that hat on prior to starting Totally Obsessed in the Oaks. “On paper you could see all the speed in there, including our filly,” said Johnson. “I spoke with Jose Bracho and we elected to rate her in the Oaks and let some others go on.” That bet turned out to be a winning one.
Cinder Queen, breaking from the rail set the early pace with Hey Adrian. Bracho was content to sit behind those two while three-wide until the half-mile marker. With plenty in the tank, Totally Obsessed took control into the stretch. Real Fancy took a solid rally towards the leader but it was short-lived. Bracho’s work wasn’t done as H.F. Caramel survived a troubled trip and came flying in the final 40 yards. Totally Obsessed held on by ¾ lengths, while H.F. Caramel was 3 ½ in front of Drillit.
“We had her ready for this race prior to the cancellation last week, so we didn’t have to do much to get her ready,” Johnson stated. “Right now, she is going perfect. I think that job of rating showed her maturity and I think she’ll continue to go forward.” The Paolucci colorbearer was purchased for $50,000 as a 2-year-old at the June Ocala Breeders Sale. She is a daughter of Tale of Ekati out of Dark Obsession by Grand Slam and was bred in Ohio by Shelprock Racing LLC. She currently boasts a bankroll of $223,667 with a record of 12-6-2-0.
Even with the schedule change, an annual tradition continued to take place after the race. Judy Barron, wife of the late Norm Barron presented a check to the Permanently Disabled Jockey’s Fund to Guild representative Jeff Johnston. Norm Barron was a staunch supporter of the Guild and the safety concerns of riders throughout his career and Judy began this tradition in his honor.
Jockey Perry Ouzts was scheduled to ride Cinder Queen in the Norm Barron Queen City but missed the mount as he was taken to a local hospital due to an incident earlier in the day. He won the first race on the card, but in the next fell victim to an equipment failure. According to his longtime agent Jamie Fowler, “As they were loading into the gate the bridle broke and got pulled off by either the starter’s or pony person’s strap. The horse spun and took off and Perry had nothing to control him with. He elected to jump and came down on his shoulder awkwardly. We thought it had broken, but after the exam we found out it was just dislocated. He is expected to ride in a week or two after the tightness subsides.”
A physical phenomenon at age 63, Ouzts is the seventh leading rider of all time with 7,065 victories from 51,218 mounts. He passed racing greats Angel Cordero, Jr. and Edgar Prado in the last year. The majority of Ouzts’ wins over the decades have taken place in Ohio.

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