Day At The Track

Lady Dela Renta making a name for herself

12:31 PM 09 Nov 2019 NZDT
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Lady Dela Renta, harness racing
Lady Dela Renta in prior win
Curtis Salonick photo

YONKERS, N.Y. – The Blindswitch Racing Stable has built success on importing harness racing pacers from Australia and New Zealand over the past several years and Lady Dela Renta is no exception.

Blindswitch purchased the 5-year-old Well Said daughter this spring and shipped her to the U.S. early this summer. Since then, she’s earned six wins in 10 starts and has a chance to claim her second victory in the $42,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Pace at Yonkers Raceway Friday night (Nov. 8).

Despite her impressive stateside record, Lady Dela Renta proved an unlikely candidate to ship to North America. Lady Dela Renta was owned by partners Colin Belton, trainer Annie Belton, and S. W. Hoffmann in Australia. While Hoffmann was eager to sell, the Beltons were attached to their mare. When agent Cameron Lee contacted Blindswitch’s David Litvinsky, the deal proved difficult to settle.

“It was tough to get her,” Litvinsky said. “The owners there, Colin and Annie Belton, they bought her at a sale and raised her and they owned half of her. It was not easy to pry her away from them.”

Litvinsky began researching Lady Dela Renta and liked what he saw. However, he felt the ranking system at Western Australia’s Gloucester Park placed the mare at a disadvantage in many of her starts.

“I started watching her races and replays and she was just a super horse,” Litvinsky said. “She always kind of sat at the back and came home at the end and I figured she’d be perfect for Yonkers. She could take advantage of the early speed. I just kind of fell in love with her from the beginning.

“With the ranking system in Australia, she was racing in Western Australia and she was always drawing outside because of her high rating,” he continued. “She was put in a disadvantage pretty much in every race, unless it was a random draw.”

Finally, Litvinsky made the Beltons an offer they couldn’t reject. In addition, to a generous sum, Litvinsky agreed to race Lady Dela Renta in Belton’s stable in Australia for several starts before bringing her to the U.S.

Lady Dela Renta made her first start for Blindswitch in an AUD$20,000 Gloucester Park overnight April 5, finishing second and becoming Blindswitch’s first Australian starter. Four starts later, Lady Dela Renta connected with a victory at the same level May 18. Lady Dela Renta wrapped up her career Down Under with a win in a Filly and Mare FFA Pace at Gloucester June 21.

“I established a relationship with them and promised to send pictures and videos every chance I get. I promised that I would race the horse there with them for a few months as well, which turned out to be a great move,” Litvinsky said. “She won a few races over there and she won her last race there before she came here, which is really special.

“It was pretty cool. They’re interviewing the drivers in the bike minutes before the race. It’s a whole different perspective, a lot more in your face, and beautiful HD cameras,” he continued. “You can see every aspect of the race. So, it was a new experience for me, which was nice and I like it a lot.

“They race for good money there and they’re not hard on their horses; they don’t go too fast,” Litvinsky said. “And Gloucester Park is a half-mile track, which definitely helped with buying her because I knew she would be able to get around the Saratoga and Yonkers tracks. The first win was very exciting, and the last win was even more exciting.”

After her final Australian start, Lady Dela Renta shipped to the U.S. to join trainer Jose Godinez’s barn at Golden Shoe Training Center in Montgomery, N.Y. While she proved a handful when she first arrived, Lady Dela Renta adjusted to her new surroundings in a few weeks’ time.

“Colin and Annie were super tight with the horse. They sent me a five-minute video of them putting the horse on the trailer to go. I couldn’t even watch the whole thing. It was so sad. She was crying,” Litvinsky remembered.

“They said when you put the gear on her, you have to have somebody standing with her. She gets race ready. When she came over, she was kicking, so we padded her stall with rubber,” Litvinsky said. “Within her first few weeks, she completely relaxed. Now, she’s a complete professional. She’s super before the races and she just does everything right. She’s definitely just accommodated to our training program.”

Lady Dela Renta qualified at Pocono Downs Aug. 14 and made her first start from an outside post Aug. 20. When she drew inside Aug. 27, Lady Dela Renta took a spot in fourth early and came first-over on favored leader Rockin The Boys. The pair tore away from the field around the final turn and Rockin The Boys appeared to give Lady Dela Renta the slip in the stretch, but Lady Dela Renta reengaged nearing the wire and tracked down her rival in 1:50.3. One week later, Lady Dela Renta repeated at Pocono in a lifetime best 1:49.2.

“She was coming around the final turn and Rockin The Boys had a pretty good lead on her. I was like, ‘OK, she’s going to be second,’ and then she just went into another gear,” Litvinsky said. “It looked like she was going to settle for second, but she just grinded it out. I said, ‘alright, maybe we’ve got something that you don’t see often,’ and then September 3, she won first-over in 1:49.2 and I said, ‘alright, we’ve got ourselves something really good here.’ ”

Lady Dela Renta finished fifth in her Yonkers debut Sept. 20 after starting from post seven in the distaff feature. She drew post two in the $42,000 Filly and Mare Open Handicap Oct. 4 and tracked down Feelin Red Hot to win by a neck in 1:52.1.
“When she drew inside on October 4 and went first-over on that Burke monster Feelin Red Hot, I thought this was going to be an interesting year next year,” Litvinsky said. “I think we’re going to stake her. We think she is something really special and we’ll see how far she can go.”

After drawing outside again in consecutive starts at Yonkers Oct. 12 and 18, Lady Dela Renta went to Saratoga, where she posted back-to-back wins in the Spa’s $18,000 distaff feature.

“She was just drawing outside at Yonkers, so we wanted to give her a little break,” Litvinsky said. “Shorter fields and we knew we would be able to get (Billy) Dobson that first week. We took a shot and she was super. And then the last one, she was supposed to race from off the pace, but Frank Coppola had different ideas. He went to the top and she won again.”

Lady Dela Renta is now 20-for-51 with $226,164 earned. She will return to the Hilltop Friday night and will start from post one with Matt Kakaley in the sulky for the first time. The pair are 7-2 on the morning line.

Lady Dela Renta will face five rivals, including Write Me A Song, who was assigned the outside post off a 1:52.4 victory in the distaff feature Nov. 1. George Brennan, who leads Jason Bartlett in the driver standings by five victories, will drive for Ron Burke.

Wisdom Tree will start from an assigned post five in her return to Yonkers. The 4-year-old mare is 4-for-14 this season and enters off a 1:52.0 qualifying victory at Hoosier Park Oct. 30, which followed a fourth-place finish in the Filly and Mare Allerage Open Pace at the Red Mile Oct. 6. Jordan Stratton will take the lines for Jeff Cullipher.
Kaitlyn also returns to Yonkers in this race off a fifth-place finish in the Breeders Crown Mares Open Pace at Woodbine Mohawk Park Oct. 26. Sudden Change and Robyn Camden complete the six-pack.

“She drew between one and three. It’s a short field. I think if she gets some kind of trip and has room, she should close pretty strong,” Litvinsky said. “Obviously, there are a couple other horses that are pretty good and you always need some racing luck when you’re racing these caliber horses. We got Matt Kakaley. I really like the way he drives, and I think he’ll get along with her.

“I’m happy she’s doing well because Colin and Annie follow her. I’m happy they made the right decision by sending her here because she can expand her racing, make a name for herself,” Litvinsky continued. “I feel like she’s graduated the Australian ranks and she can go on to do bigger and better things here in the U.S. and see how far she can go. Maybe in the end, she could go back to Australia and breed her.”

Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. First post time is 6:50 p.m.

By Brandon Valvo, for the SOA of NY

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