Story and Photos by Art PetrosemoloOCEANPORT – More than 60,000 veteran and first-time racing fans jammed Monmouth Park August 2, for the 48th running of the $1.75 million William Hill Haskell Invitational. They weren’t disappointed.Triple Crown winner and super horse American Pharoah put on a show dominating the seven horse field over one and one-eight miles on the dirt track under sunny skies and a New Jersey summer heat wave with temperatures in the high eighties.Clad in Zayat turquoise and gold silks, California based jockey VIctor Espinoza and the Pharoah were easy to spot leaving the staring gate in front of the grandstand, all the way around the track into the homestretch where the crowds’ screaming almost drowned out announcer Frank Mirahmadi.Trainer Bob Baffert who won his eighth Haskell Invitation had said pre-race that American Pharoah was training well and he was right on the money. Justin Zayat, the owner’s son, who manages the Zayat racing operations talked, at a pre-race post position press conference about the big horse’s consistency in training.A view of the paddock at American Pharaoh enters the walking ring on Sunday. Photo: Art PetrosemoloComments by the trainer and owner and race predictions by handicappers and fans held true as Pharoah ran the race everyone expected. Breaking well from the gate, he was between the leader Competitive Edge, trained by Todd Pletcher, and Edward Plesa trained Mr. Jordon at the first turn. Sitting off the pace, until the turn for home, he shifted easily into a higher gear and with the shouts of the crowd, headed for home not to be challenged. Pharoah won by 2 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:47.4 Pharoah closing odds were $.10 on the dollar and he paid $2.20 for a $2 win wager. However thousands of tickets were bought as souvenirs and were never cashed.Finishing second to Pharoah was Keen Ice, third in the Belmont, ridden by Kent Desormeaux and Upstart, ridden by Monmouth Park favorite Joe Bravo was third.Announcer Mirahmadi who called the horse’s win April 8th in the Arkansas Derby lead up to the Triple Crown races, said post-Haskell, “American Pharoah gave the crowd what they came for. He is the best horse in the world and no thoroughbred, of any age, can come close to him.”Lines formed at 6 a.m. for the track’s 9 a.m. opening when fans rushed for space in the picnic area and planted beach chairs along the fence by the finish line. The reserved seats, grandstand, clubhouse and picnic area were packed for the 5:50 p.m. race televised by NBC.When American Pharoah came to the paddock to be saddled by trainer Bob Baffert, fans were 12-deep at the rail trying to get a glimpse of the horse, rider Espinoza and New Jersey owner Ahmed Zayat as Paddock Judge Cookie Jones got the field saddled and around the walking ring to the tunnel leading to the track.A roar rose from racing fans as the chestnut colt, out of Pioneer of the Nile, stepped onto the groomed racing surface – to the strains of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run – and paraded before the crowd on the way to the starting gate. The horse known for its huge, ground-covering stride walked quietly, next to a pony, under the hand of jockey Espinoza who has ridden the thoroughbred throughout his undefeated 2015 three-year old season. With the Haskell win, the horse is undefeated in his last 10 starts dating back to September 2014 including eight wins in 2015.Pharaoh paraded in front of crowd by outrider after victory Sunday. Photo: Art PetrosemoloThe Haskell is named for 20th century New York businessman and horseman Amory Lawrence Haskell. Monmouth’s former Monmouth Handicap was renamed for Mr. Haskell in 1968 two years after his death. It is the richest invitational horseracing event in North America.When veteran Monmouth Park starter John Daniels released the Haskell field, Pharoah, there was a roar from the grandstand as the seven horses jockeyed for position before the first turn as lengthening shadows moved over part of the track.Following the win, Espinoza took Pharoah for a long cool down jog to the backstretch and then was lead by an outrider back in front of the grandstand to the delight and cheers of the fans before arriving outside the winner’s circle and being greeted by more than 50 photographers from as far away as Australia.If Espinoza and Baffert orchestrated Pharoah’s race, they had less success in the post-race presentation. Pharoah and Espinoza dug a circular trench in the track dirt as officials and Baffert tried to organize the Zayat entourage into an organized group for post-race photos.When it was over and the super horse headed for the backstretch and his stall in the Kelly Breen barn, the reality of just how good this horse is began to settle in and speculation about his next outing was the talk of the writers in the press box.With his easy victory in the Haskell, Baffert said no plans have been made where or when to run Pharoah next, although they have leaned to the Breeders Cup in October. At one point The Travers Grade 1 stakes at Saratoga in four weeks was discussed but not recently.The colt will need rest and training time for the $5 million Breeders Classic race October 31.Zayat who promised racing fans they would get to see the triple crown winner race again after his Belmont victory in June chose historic Monmouth Park in his home state for the horse’s first test leading up to the Breeders Cup Classic to be run in late fall at Keeneland in Lexington, KY, and ultimately the breeding barn where the stud fees are estimated to be $200,000 or more.* * *Racing fans including families with lots of children took advantage of Monmouth Park’s invitation to watch American Pharoah train the three days prior to the Haskell. Crowds increased each day as the three-year old colt took to the track at exactly 7:30 a.m. to jog and gallop in front of an adoring audience and hundreds of media including news helicopter hovering high over the infield.Monmouth Park welcomed the horse with open arms as it is in the midst of a fight for survival surrounded by tracks in neighboring states with on-site gambling to supplement race purses. The horse, the race and the festival MP planned for the Haskell weekend provided new focus on New Jersey’s horse racing industry and helped bring new fans to the Oceanport facility. The track, now run by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association, is transforming itself into a family destination with activities such as on-site miniature golf, activities for children and a soon-to-open gourmet restaurant near the oval’s final turn.
“Justin changed my life,” D.J. said about his mentor, who is the most important male role model in his world. “I don’t think I would be here without him.”January is National Mentoring Month. Groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth & Middlesex Counties are hoping to bring attention to use the moment to recruit more “big siblings,” especially men, to make a positive difference in a young person’s life.“Everyone has had a mentor in life,” said Marybeth Bull, a resident of Fair Haven who is also director of development at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth & Middlesex Counties (BBBS). “Whether it was a family member, or a boss, somebody in their life who has been there for them and showed them the way and been a positive person in their life.”You don’t need special skills. “You just have to be willing to share time with a child that needs a positive person in their life,” Bull said.Adults 19 years or older who can commit to spend four to six hours a month for at least a year, are great candidates for the volunteer position, she said.“To be a friend, spend time, be an ear for them, be a shoulder for them,” she said. “To point them in the right direction.”Headquartered in Asbury Park, BBBS currently serves 700 children in its program across Monmouth and Middlesex counties.“Littles” – who range in age from 6 to 15 years old – usually join the program at school and may be referred by guidance counselors and other social organizations. They are often from single parent households. The BBBS typically provides girls with a female mentor and boys with a male mentor. Bull said a woman can be a Big Sister to a young boy in certain circumstances, because there are many more female mentors than males. The program has an acute need for men to volunteer as Big Brothers for the large number of boys on the waiting list.Mentors undergo in-depth interviews. Screened applicants are matched with Littles based on similar interests, hobbies, and personal traits. “We’re not going to match a kid who wants to go to the library with someone who wants to play basketball,” Bull said.Although some duos may not immediately hit it off, Bull said matches are usually successful. “We have a wonderful length of our matches,” she said. “An average of 3 ½ years more than the national averages. And a lot of people stay in touch for a lifetime.”Training and case managers who check in regularly and monthly group activities with other Bigs and Littles, help a new mentor break the ice. “We let them know they’re not alone,” said Bull.Bull said the program stresses the duo should participate in low cost, simple activities, such as a trip to the park or shooting hoops. “It’s about building a friendship,” she said. “The child needs special one-to-one attention.”In addition to the traditional community-based programs, BBBS has other programs including one at Monmouth University that pairs college student mentors with Asbury Park high school students, similar to a peer-to-peer mentoring relationship.Bull finds many of the Littles in the program never thought about college but after meeting with the college students and touring the university, they “start to really see themselves in that environment.”She cites a Little Brother who not only went on to attend Monmouth University, but is now a Big Brother in the program.In addition, a program focused on a workplace environment, like Monmouth Medical Center and New Jersey Natural Gas, matches employees at all levels – from IT techs to senior vice presidents – with Littles.“The kids get a sense of a lot of different opportunities,” Bull said.Mentoring allows volunteers a chance to “see life through a child’s eyes again,” said Bull, who has been with BBBS for 15 years. “I’ve gotten to see how it makes such a difference in an impressionable child. How this person can impart their wisdom and help with everything from homework to life skills. D.J. and his Big Brother Justin Brown celebrate D.J.’s induction to the National Honor Society last year. Photo: BBBS“From Day One, it felt so natural, the first time we hung out,” said Justin Brown, 35, who became a Big Brother to D.J. in 2010. “He has such a wide-open personality.” (At the BBBS request, D.J.’s last name is being withheld to protect his privacy.)As a teacher, previously at Lakewood High School and now at Neptune High School, Brown said he sees a lot of kids “missing that strong role model.”In those early days, when D.J. was in 7th grade, he and Brown would go for pizza or take a trip to the beach.D.J. was an active Boy Scout – he is now working on his Eagle Scout project – so they found a common interest in the outdoors. “We did a lot of outdoor stuff – hiking, kayaking,” said Brown, who was also a Boy Scout. “It was all the things I like to do.”“D.J. comes from a good family,” Brown said, and credits D.J.’s grandmother for being very involved in his life. With an older sister who went to college, it was always expected that D.J. would go on for a degree. “His grandmother was pushing him not to let outside forces take him down the wrong road.”As a Big Brother, Brown said, “I think I gave him a big-picture perspective.”“It’s been just a good feeling, just to be there, to see him grow so much,” said Brown. “It’s been a positive influence in my life, too.“As a teacher you develop bonds with students, but with D.J., I really feel he’s part of my family.“He’s just my little brother,” said Brown, “he’s been part of my life.”So much so that two years ago D.J. served as a groomsman in Brown’s wedding.“D.J. will be part of my life forever.”For D.J., who will turn 18 soon, much of his high school senior year has been spent getting ready for college. He has already been accepted to a host of schools, including NJIT, University of Delaware, Drexel University, SUNY Alfred and Monmouth University, and is waiting on decisions from a few more. He plans to study medical engineering.Both men agree college was always in D.J.’s plans.“My grades were spot on – A’s and B’s,” D.J. said. “It was the internal stuff” that he feels he needed from his Big Brother.“I live in a family full of girls,” said D.J. “I have 10 half sisters.”Over the years, D.J. consulted with Brown about everything from homework and colleges to social pressures and girls.“He’s got the girl thing covered,” D.J. said.As mentors go, D.J. thinks his match was perfect. “We share nearly everything in common. He likes everything I love to do,” said D.J. “He’s actually a brother to me.”And now D.J. looks forward to his new role: as “big brother” to Brown’s 5-month old son River. So too will be a special person in his life – his “Big Brother” Justin Brown, a 35- year-old high school teacher who volunteers his time through Big Brothers Big Sisters. By Judy O’Gorman AlvarezWhen high school senior D.J. accepts his diploma at Long Branch High School graduation this June, his family will be proudly watching. “If you think about one child at a time,” she said, and then “if you look at the big picture, it changes lives for generations.”
Considering the quality of the opposition at the single-A division, the Mount Sentinel Wildcats were pleased with their finish at the B.C. High School A Boy’s Soccer Championships in Nakusp.The Wildcats lost four very close games to elite teams from the Lower Mainland and Okanagan before defeating zone rival Nakusp to finish 15th overall. Mallard’s Source for sports would like to applaud the Cats for a job well done with Team of the Week honours.The team includes, back row, coach Dan Szabo, Patrick Falle, Aaron Abrosimoff, Aslan Mackay, Johnny Johnson, Spencer Szabo, Denver Skey, assistant coach Devon Dunkley. Front, Kaden Ellis, Andrew Knapik, Carlos Berger, Bryce Twible, Lucas Raugust, Riley Osachoff and goalkeeper Erik Stewart.
PICK SIX CARRYOVER OF $113,444 INTO THURSDAY, TOTAL PICK SIX POOL COULD REACH $750,000 ARCADIA, Calif. (June 14, 2015)–Based at Golden Gate Fields, longshot Amaranth broke on top and never looked back en route to a 1 ¼ length win under William Antongeorgi in Sunday’s $75,000 Desert Stormer Stakes. Trained by O.J. Jauregui, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred filly by Mr. Greeley got six furlongs in 1:09.42.Idle since running a distant last behind the Desert Stormer favorite, Sam’s Sister, in the Grade I La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita Dec. 26, Amaranth was off at 43-1 in a field of 11 fillies and mares 3 and up and paid $89.40, $29.40 and $12.60.“She ran horrible in the La Brea and I thought she could run a much better race,” said Jauregui. “That race affected her a lot, mentally…so I wanted to give her some time. Dennis Carr (former regular rider who is sidelined due to serious injury) always told me she’s the fastest filly he’s ever been on and I believe Dennis Carr!”Owned by Highland Yard, LLC, Amaranth got her fifth win from 11 starts and with the winner’s share of $48,300, increased her earnings to $227,370.“I’ve worked her the last four or five times,” said Antongeorgi, who is also based at Golden Gate. “Dennis Carr used to ride her, so I spoke with him a few times. He told me she’s a quirky filly, nervous and a speed-ball, so you to try and get along with them…She bounced out of there, she got the lead and she’s super tough when she has the lead, she’s proven that before.”Ridden by Martin Garcia, Wasted At Midnight was attentive to the pace at the rail around the far turn, was second turning for home and could not menace the winner while holding the place by a neck over the late charge of Sam’s Sister. Off at 9-1, Wasted At Midnight paid $9.40 and $4.00.Following her win in the Grade I La Brea, Sam’s Sister took the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes on Jan. 19, but was winless in two out-of-town stakes subsequent to that–the Grade II Barbara Fritche at Laurel on Feb. 14, and the Grade I Madison Stakes at Keeneland April 4. Ridden for the first time by Rafael Bejarano, she rallied wide-out from well off the pace while never threatening the winner.Off at 3-5, Sam’s Sister paid $2.40 to show.“My horse was in a really good position and when I came to the straight, I got clear and she started running, but the winner ran great,” said Bejarano.Fractions on the race, owned by the winner, were 21.38, 44.28 and 56.24.There is a Pick Six carryover of $113,444 into Thursday at Santa Anita and it’s expected the total Pick Six pool will approach $750,000. First post time on Thursday is at 1 p.m., and admission gates open at 11 a.m.