Trainers Jim Chapman, Saffie Joseph Jr., and Brittany Russell are among a number of conditioners that will have a presence at Belmont Park for the first time at its upcoming spring/summer meet April 22-July 11, the track announced March 18.
The 48-day spring/summer meet will offer its highest ever overnight purse schedule supported by significant monetary increases across most race categories, including maiden special weight races featuring a purse of $90,000, while horsemen participating in the claiming ranks will compete for purse money ranging up to $100,000.
A total of 59 stakes races worth $16.95 million in purses will highlight the meet, including the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (G1) June 5.
The 49-year-old Chapman, currently based in Kentucky, said he will have 12 stalls at Belmont and will focus on 2-year-old maiden races.
“If I can take down one of those $90,000 purses with one of my $10,000 horses, that’s a home run to me,” said Chapman. “I’m going up there to sell horses, too. I’m taking my best horses to New York.”
A multiple graded stakes-winning trainer, Chapman has won 1,960 races and more than $8.8 million in purse earnings. A former rider, Chapman is best known as the trainer of Caller One, who took back-to-back editions of the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) in 2001-02.
An astute judge of young racing stock, Chapman’s best sales success came at the 2002 March Barretts Equine Limited Selected 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale when he sold Atlantic Ocean, a daughter of Stormy Atlantic , to The Thoroughbred Corp. for $1.9 million after purchasing her the year before at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $31,000. She became a multiple graded stakes winner for trainer Bob Baffert.
“I have 56 juveniles. I buy everything at Keeneland. Whether I buy in November and keep some and then flip some back in September as yearlings, I just try to keep the wheel turning,” said Chapman. “I have some Frosted 2-year-olds that are really nice. I have a Fast Anna colt that will come to New York. There are some by Gun Runner and Empire Maker that will be ready later on.”
The Fast Anna colt, Actualize, has already posted a pair of works at The Thoroughbred Center near Lexington. Out of the Hard Spun mare Beijos Do Brasil, Actualize was purchased for $12,000 by Will Win Stables at the 2020 Keeneland September sale from the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment. Chapman calls him “big and fast.”
“I have enough 2-year-olds that I can see who does and doesn’t want to do it,” said Chapman. “It may be a different story at Saratoga when the bigger horses start popping up, but maybe I can stir up some dust before those ones start going. And maybe I have some that will keep up and can go to Saratoga.”
Chapman said he will ship to New York following opening weekend at Keeneland, which kicks off April 2.
The veteran conditioner said owners Stuart Tsujimoto, along with Vanessa Camperlengo, co-founder of Classic Legacy Thoroughbred Aftercare, made the New York venture possible.
“They’ve really helped me this year. Stuart has been the backbone of my deal since I stopped riding and started training in California,” said Chapman. “Vanessa has got more involved and has 25 horses with me. They trust me with their horses and it makes it easier. They’re the reason that I’m able to do this.”
The South Florida-based Joseph will be in action in New York before the Belmont Park meet begins. He is aiming Mischevious Alex toward the Carter Handicap (G1) and Drain the Clock for the Bay Shore Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack, both April 3.
“He’s at his best at one turn,” said Joseph of Cash is King and LC Racing’s Mischevious Alex, who won the Gotham Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct last year for prior trainer John Servis.
Joseph will look to fill 12 stalls at the Belmont spring/summer meet. Then the emphasis shifts to Saratoga Race Course, which runs a 40-day meet from July 15-Sept. 6.
“The spring and summer meets in New York have the best outfits,” said Joseph. “You have Chad Brown, Todd Pletcher, and all the biggest names. To win among them and do well will attract a different kind of clientele. Plus, the owners we have now already want to race their horses in New York.”
The Maryland-based Russell is currently fifth in the Laurel Park trainer standings with a record 11 wins from 32 starters and purse earnings of $422,259.
Russell, who will have 10 Belmont stalls, earned her first win with her first career starter—Oh My— in February 2018 at Laurel Park. She previously worked for trainers Ron Moquett, Jimmy Jerkens, and Brad Cox before going out on her own.
Russell enjoyed stakes success at the Big A in January when Maryland-bred Hello Hot Rod shipped to win the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes. The up-and-coming conditioner, who has worked hard to grow her stable to 40 horses, also notched a pair of wins last summer at Saratoga, including an allowance score with So Gracious.
“That’s why we do this—to win at the bigger race tracks and especially in New York,” said Russell. “That’s where the owners want to be racing, with the bigger purses and at the big meets. Just shipping up and having some luck in the small portions that we have so far, people notice that. It’s big for my career.”
Her Belmont barn will be overseen by assistant Amanda Olds, while Russell said she will shuttle back and forth between Maryland and New York.
“I spent time in New York when I worked for Brad Cox, and I really enjoyed training there,” said Russell. “It’s a nice place to train horses and my assistant is really familiar with New York as well. The whole thing just works for the plans we have right now.”
NYRA made a significant capital investment at Saratoga ahead of last year’s summer meet to enhance safety and upgrade the heavily-trafficked main track, including the addition of a rider safety rail, and a modernized drainage system creating a more consistent surface for horses and riders.
Capital improvements are continuing at Saratoga in advance of the 2021 summer meet with work taking place at the Oklahoma Training Track to renovate the track base layer and cushion, and add modernized drainage and a rider safety rail.
Russell said sales at Fasig-Tipton this summer at Saratoga could also provide an opportunity to look for horses outside of her current Maryland focus.
Her husband, jockey Sheldon Russell, sits second in the Laurel jockey standings with 30 wins from 122 rides.
“Sheldon will be based in Maryland but hopefully as COVID restrictions lift there will be a few that he can come up and ride,” said Russell.