The Virginia Thoroughbred Association (VTA) held its 2015 Championship Awards Night Friday at Great Meadow in the VTA’s trackside Turf Club Tent on the eve of Saturday’s Virginia Gold Cup Races.
2015 Virginia-bred Horse of the Year honors went deservedly to Stellar Wind, bred by Peggy Augustus’ Keswick Stables & Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, Inc. The now 4 year old daughter of Curlin won the Eclipse Award as top 3 year old filly based on four graded stakes wins and a photo finish defeat to Stopchargingmaria in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland. Stellar Wind was victorious in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (Gr. 3), Santa Anita Oaks (Gr. I), Summertime Oaks (Gr. 2) and Torrey Pines Stakes (Gr. 3). She is out of the Malibu Moon mare, Evening Star.
Top 2 Year Old Filly honors went to Away We Go, who was bred by Beverly Nicewonder. The daughter of Tizway competed only twice last year, but captured the $60,000 Jamestown Stakes at Laurel and was a runner up in a maiden special weight race at Timonium. She is trained by Rodney Jenkins and is out of the Salt Lake mare, Gone To Utah.
Top 2 Year Old Colt honors went to Sticksstatelydude, who was bred by Canyon Lake Thoroughbreds and is trained by Greg Burchell. The freshman son of First Dude had a win and runner-up finish in maiden special weight company at Saratoga and Churchill respectively, then finished fourth in the Grade I Clairborne Breeders’ Futurity. Out of the Gilded Time mare, Placerita, he finished the year with $82,860 in purse winnings.
In addition to Horse of the Year accolades, Stellar Wind was named top 3 Year Old Filly while One Go All Go was named top 3 Year Old Colt. Bred by Albert Coppola, the Fairbanks colt won the Grade 2 Commonwealth Derby at Laurel Park and in a twist of irony, became the first Virginia-bred to capture that stakes in the only year it had been run outside of Virginia in its 17 editions. Out of the Marquetry mare, See Ashleigh Run, One Go All Go earned $248,400 under trainer Pavel Matejka.
Valid continued a solid career as a 5 year old in 2015, and for compiling $403,660 in purse earnings and winning four stakes, the son of Medaglia d’Oro was recognized as Top Older Horse. Bred by Edward Evans, Valid reached the winners circle in the Fred Hooper Stakes (Gr. 3) and the Philip H. Iselin Stakes (Gr. 3) along with the Groomstick and Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream. Out of the Grand Slam mare, Grand Prayer, Valid added a trio of top three graded stakes finishes and was fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
Top Turf Male was Middleburg, a 6 year old by Lemon Drop Kid out of Rum Charger by Spectrum. Bred by Mr. & Mrs. Bertram Firestone, Middleburg had a solid 2015, collecting $163,200 in purse monies. His two wins came in the Grade 3 Cliffhanger Stakes at Monmouth in August and an allowance race at Gulfstream in March. In 17 career starts, the consistent performer has 15 top three finishes.
Top Turf Filly went to Exaggerated, who won the $60,000 Oakley Stakes in September on the Virginia-Bred stakes day program at Laurel. The 4 year old daughter of Blame was bred by the Hart Farm and earned $87,060 as a sophomore. She also collected victories at Laurel in an August maiden special weight race and in a November allowance test. Exaggerated is out of the Valid Appeal mare, Miz United States.
Go Blue or Go Home was named top Turf Sprinter based on a triumph in the Grade 2 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine July 5th, the same stakes he also won in 2013. The 7 year old son of Bluegrass Cat was bred by the Morgan’s Ford Farm & Winstar Farm, LLC, and is approaching $500,000 in career earnings. He is out of the Lion Cavern mare, Go Baby Go.
Top Virginia Owned Filly/Mare honors went Diane Manning’s Miss Mischief, who received two Sovereign Awards in April at the Jockey Club of Canada’s annual “best of” showcase. The elite 5 year old Into Mischief mare won both Champion Older Female & Champion Female Sprinter. On November 15th, she won the Grade 2, $200,000 Bessarabian Stakes at Woodbine, which followed a victory in Presque Isle’s H.B.P.A. Stakes. Out of the Lemon Drop mare, Kid Majic, she earned $261,517 in 2015.
Best Virginia Owned Male Horse honors were bestowed upon Dortmund, a Bob Baffert trainee who finished 16th in earnings as a three year old last year with $353,080. With 5 wins from 7 starts, the Kaleem Shah owned colt was third in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in The Preakness. His triumphs all came in stakes races — the Robert Lewis, San Felipe, Santa Anita Derby, Big Bear and Native Diver. Dortmund is by Big Brown out of Our Josephina by Tale of the Cat.
Honors for top Virginia Raised Horse went to Tonalist, a 5 year old son of Tapit who finished 7th in overall earnings last year with a stellar $1,695,000. With victories in NYRA’s Grade 3 Westchester Stakes, Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes and Grade I Cigar Mile Handicap, Tonalist’s career bankroll soared over the $3.6 million mark. Bred in Kentucky but raised at the Woodslane Farm in The Plains by Rene & Lauren Woolcott, Tonalist was fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, third in the Grade I Whitney and second in both the Grade 2 Suburban and Metropolitan Handicaps.
Ivy Mills was recognized as Leading Virginia-Bred Over Fences. Bred by the Lazy Lane Farms, the 6 year old daughter of Broken Vow won a maiden special weight at Foxfield in September and the Springdale Stakes at Camden in November. In 2015, she did not see the racetrack until September but made up for lost time by starting five times before year’s end.
Peggy Augustus of Keswick Farms was named Leading Breeder, and her efforts with Stellar Wind have been well documented. Stellar Wind is the last offspring of the last mare bred by Keswick Stables, the end of a family story that began when the Augustus family purchased Old Keswick Farm in 1952.
Finally, James Day, who trains in Berryville, Virginia was recognized as Leading Virginia Based Trainer. A winner of four Grade I steeplechase stakes in his career, Day had 111 starts in 2015, collected a dozen wins, 16 runner-up finishes and 19 thirds, good for purse earnings of $448,496.