Horse racing: Hilda’s Passion fetches $1.2M, could win Eclipse

Hilda’s Passion did enough on the track to command a sizeable price at the Fasig-Tipton November Sal

Hilda’s Passion did enough on the track to command a sizeable price at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale in Lexington, Ky. on Sunday.

Now Starlight Partners hopes that she did enough to gain an Eclipse Award, also.

The winner of the Grade I Ballerina, purchased privately by Starlight last year for $125,000, was sold to Katsumi Yoshida, chairman and CEO of the American division of Ricoh, for $1,225,000.

Many of the season-ending awards are up for grabs among voters, including female sprinter.

Starlight, co-managed by Don Lucarelli of Duanesburg and Jack Wolf of Saratoga Springs, believes that Hilda’s Passion, who set a track record at Gulfstream Park in March, deserves the award despite the fact that she missed the Breeders’ Cup due to injury.

The partnership has, in conjunction with Taylor Made, which consigned Hilda’s Passion at the Fasig-Tipton sale, made a little bit of a Heisman Trophy-like push to promote her Eclipse Award bid.

That effort includes her own website, a highlight DVD and a greeting card that plays a recording of Tom Durkin’s Ballerina race call when the card is opened.

In the meantime, she has changed hands for the second time in her career and will likely become a broodmare, now that another chip has been discovered in her knee.

“We took the heat from the wives in the partnership, because she’s so mild-mannered,” Lucarelli said. “They don’t want us to sell anything, and Hilda would soak up all the love you could give her. The fact is, you’ve got to take some of them off the table if you want to stay in this business, so it worked out.”

With her win in the Ballerina at Saratoga Race Course, she qual­ified for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, but missed that race because of a condylar fracture suffered in the Ballerina.

Two days before she was to hit the sales ring, a chip was found in her knee.

Starlight set an auction reserve price of $800,000, with the idea that they would counterbid her up to their true objective, $1.2 million, then let the first overbidder have her.

“He definitely wanted her,” Luc­arelli said of Yoshida. “We bid $1.2 million, and there she goes. As far as selling her, it met our expectations.”

Lucarelli said they got a good sign earlier in the day that the sale would go well when another Starlight filly, Ailalea, a two-time Grade III winner, went for $310,000.

Hilda’s Passion, 8-2-0 from 14 lifetime starts, won the listed Bennington by 83⁄4 lengths at Saratoga and almost had a five-race winning streak, except for a neck loss to Tar Heel Mom in the Grade III Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream.

She came back from that race to win the Hurricane Bertie and set the seven-furlong Gulfstream track record in 1:20.45 in the Grade II Inside Information.

Hilda’s Passion was three lengths behind her chief rival in the div­ision, Sassy Image, in the Grade I Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, then neither made it to the Breeders’ Cup because of injury.

But the front-running Hilda’s Passion got her payback in the Ballerina, when she won by 91⁄4 lengths over Tar Heel Mom, with Sassy Image finishing last of six.

“The Ballerina made her value,” Lucarelli said. “That probably added half a million right there.”

By the time of Hilda’s Passion’s Ballerina win, Starlight had man­euvered to buy her half sister, the Woodbine claimer Greenbackhasvalue.

She’s in the sale today, and Starlight expects to make a profit on their investment.

“It’s not often that everything goes according to plan, but this one did, with the thought that Hilda would get a Grade I at some point and increase her [Greenbackhasvalue] value,” Lucarelli said.

Starlight still had the pesky problem of getting Hilda’s Passion an Eclipse without being able to race her in the Breeders’ Cup because of the condylar fracture.

To help her cause, they ident­ified Musical Romance as a filly who could pull a BC upset over two Eclipse contenders, Switch and Turbulent Descent.

Starlight offered to pay Musical Romance’s $130,000 nomination fee in exchange for a percentage of some future purses, but the owners, Pinnacle Racing and trainer Bill Kaplan, wouldn’t agree to the deal. Then ran her anyway. And she won, by 11⁄4 lengths over Switch at 21-1.

“We wanted somebody to beat Turbulent Descent and Switch,” Lucarelli said. “We were willing to roll the bones and put up the dough, but we just couldn’t come up with the numbers. Oddly enough, they did put up the dough, and she won, anyway.

“I would say it’s between us and Switch, and it’s probably 60-40 in our favor. The way she won the Ballerina and reversed what Sassy Image did on a super-biased track, she’s done more in performance with her times and winning the way a sprinter should, it would be fitting for her. She’s fast.”


Mucho Macho Man, off since finishing seventh in the Belmont Stakes, made a triumphant return to the races on Wednesday, by 53⁄4 lengths over Gallant Fields in a $55,000 allowance at Aqueduct.

He is one of three horses to have run in all three legs of the Triple Crown.

“We just let him do what he wanted to do,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “He’s feeling really good today. He’s been training great, so I thought he would run well today. I really didn’t expect anything — I just wanted to get a good race into him for a comeback. We definitely have some options, but we’ll wait to see how he comes out of the race and go from there.”

“We didn’t have an established plan; we were just kind of playing it by ear,” jockey Ramon Dominguez said. “I wasn’t going to be surprised if both the four [Gallant Fields] and the five [Southern Ridge] would go for the lead, but he broke superb and made the lead very much within himself, very easy. He was just on cruise control; turning for home he switched leads right and just took off again. Very, very, nice.”


Graded-stakes winner Inherit the Gold, owned and trained by Jim Hooper of Fort Edward, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite against nine rivals in the seven-furlong Thunder Rumble on Sunday’s New York Stallion Series card at Aqueduct.

After a layoff, Inherit the Gold returned to the races by finishing seventh behind Haynesfield in the Oct. 22 Empire Classic. . . .

Emerald Beech is 8-5 in today’s Long Island at Aqueduct, off a fourth in the Grade I Flower Bowl.

She won the Glens Falls at Sar­atoga. . . .

Boys At Tosconova, the 1-5 fav­orite, rolled to a 21⁄2-length victory Friday in the $54,000 allowance feature at Aqueduct.

It was the second win in two starts this season for a standout 2-year-old from 2010 with a win in the Hopeful at Saratoga and a second-place finish to Uncle Mo Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He missed the Triple Crown, and most of this campaign, with an ankle injury.

Ramon Dominguez was aboard for trainer Rick Dutrow as Boys At Tosconova ran the 61⁄2 furlongs in 1:17.46, paying $2.60, $2.10 and $2.10. Hillswick returned $3.30 and $2.50. Starforaday paid $3.20 to show. . . .

Jockey Jean-Luc Samyn celebrated his 55th birthday on Sunday by retiring from riding after over 30 years in the saddle.

He took out his agent license, and will be representing Filiberto Leon.


John Velazquez won the Bill Shoemaker Award as the most outstanding jockey of the 28th Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs.

Velazquez, who also won the award in 2004, won on Friday on Stephanie’s Kitten in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and on long shot Perfect Shirl in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

On Saturday, Velazquez tallied second-place finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon on Birdrun and on Force Freeze in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He also finished third on Brilliant Speed in the Breeders’ Cup Turf. . . .

Writing on behalf of the Jockeys’ Guild, of which he’s chairman, Velazquez posted a letter in the Louisville Courier-Journal asking executives of CDI, which owns Churchill Downs, Arlington Park, Calder and Fair Grounds, to return to negotiations over a new contract.

CDI, like most tracks in North America, had been a regular contributor to the jockeys’ disability fund, but has refused to renew its agreement, which expires at the end of the year.

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