2022 VTA Award Winners Making Waves in Horse Racing Industry

Last year was an exceptional one for a number of Virginia Thoroughbreds. Team Valor International’s Green Up was named Virginia Thoroughbred Association Horse of the Year at the recent 2022 Awards Night celebration, which was held at Great Meadow on the eve of the Virginia Gold Cup Steeplechase. The Upstart filly, who was bred by Althea Richards, also won honors that night as top Virginia-Bred 3-Year-Old Filly.

Green Up was 4-for-5 in 2022, including an early win streak early that led to a respectable fourth place finish in the Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes at Parx September 24. The Todd Pletcher trainee kicked off her sophomore campaign with a $60,000 maiden special weight score at Gulfstream March 31, where she dominated a seven-horse field, winning by 6 3⁄4 lengths. Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. led the 6-furlong effort on dirt.

Green Up Ridden by Paco Lopez in his win of the Boiling Springs Stakes at Monmouth Park; Photo by Ryan Denver

Three weeks later, she had a similar trip at Gulfstream — in front at the head of the stretch — in a $51,000 allowance optional claimer at one mile. Junior Alvarado was up top in the four-length triumph where the filly was a 1-2 betting favorite among a field of six.

In starts three and four, Green Up advanced to black type stakes competition at Monmouth and Parx  and prevailed in both. Paco Lopez led a gate-to-wire performance in the $100,000 Boiling Spring Stakes July 3 in a modest field of four, winning handily by 5 3⁄4 lengths at the one mile, 70-yard distance. Seven weeks later, Green Up was best in the $150,000 Cathryn Sophia Stakes at Parx. Facing four other 3-year-old fillies, she again pulled away from the field in the stretch with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons and hit the wire 3 3⁄4 lengths in front. 

Green Up completed her 3-year-old campaign with a respectable fourth in the $1 million Cotillion where she was sent off as the betting choice. Overall, she has made seven starts, has four wins, a second and a third with purse earnings of $301,848.

Jill Byrne of the VTA awarding Green Ups Connections Robin Richards and Fred Heyman; Photo by Hannah Jones

Gigante is another Virginia horse who had an outstanding year. In a thrilling display, the Virginia-certified Gigante, ridden by Joseph Ramos, emerged victorious in the Caesar Handicap Stakes, held at Horseshoe Indianapolis racetrack. With an excellent performance, Gigante was first to cross the wire, winning the race by a nose.

Just two weeks before the race, Gigante was awarded the 2022 Virginia-Bred Two-Year-Old Colt Champion award by the Virginia Thoroughbred Association. Gigante is owned by Lapetus Racing and Diamond T Racing and Trained by Steven Asmussen. He was bred by Ann Mudge Backer & Smitten Farm.

 In his career he has made six starts, winning three and earning $260,900. He broke his maiden right here in Virginia last summer at Colonial Downs, before proceeding to win the $125,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Kitten’s Joy Stakes, one of Colonial Downs Stake races for the most prestigious two-year-olds in Virginia.

VTA Executive Director Debbie Easter with Gigantes connection Hunter Merek; Photo by Hannah Jones

Other 2022 Virginia-Bred award winners receiving hardware were Whichwaze (2-Year-Old Filly Champ, Old Chapel Farm LLC), Determined Kingdom (3-Year-Old Champ, Audley Farm Equine), Repo Rocks (Older Horse Champ, Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin III), Largent (Turf Horse Champ, Lazy Lane Farms) and Chambeau (Turf Mare Champ, Sam English II). 

Other awards were presented to True Valour (Virginia Owned Champ, Larry Johnson), Leave No Trace (Virginia-Certified Horse Champ, Stevica Djuric, Pat Neusch & Anne Bonda Hartman), Susan Cooney (Trainer of the Year) and Amy Moore (Breeder of the Year).

Virginia Thoroughbreds continue to shine as they campaign around the Commonwealth and the nation. Congratulations to all owners and trainers for their hard work and commitment to their horses and the sport of kings!