Barn Notes 12/31/23

Compiled by Robert Yates

Like father, like son.

Apprentice jockey Joseph Bealmear recorded his first career victory when We Miss Arlington broke his maiden by 1 ½ lengths in Saturday’s second race at Oaklawn.

We Miss Arlington ($20.40) represented the 11th career mount for Bealmear, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, and came almost 44 years after his father, retired jockey Ben Bealmear, recorded his first career victory at Oaklawn.

Joseph Bealmear, 19, rode his first race Nov. 30 at Turfway Park in Kentucky. An emotional Bealmear celebrated his first victory by pumping his right arm twice after crossing the finish line.

“I just couldn’t contain it,” Bealmear said Sunday morning. “I just let it out. A lot of people asked me if I was nervous. But honestly, from the post parade, to the gate, to the finish line, that’s the most confident I’ve ever been in a race. I think the horse felt that. I felt it and it all just worked out great.”

Bealmear grew up near Lexington, Ky., and said he’s been around horses his entire life. Bealmear’s father won 66 races as a jockey in 1979-1982 and his mother, Laura, saddled 50 winners as a trainer during her career (2007-2020), according to Equibase.

Before becoming a jockey, Joseph Bealmear said he regularly galloped horses for nationally prominent trainer Wesley Ward. Bealmear began laying the groundwork for his riding career approximately 18 months ago when he met retired jockey Robby Albarado, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1996 and 1997. Albarado, who won more than 5,000 career races, is an exercise rider at Oaklawn trainer for Kenny McPeek and is also Bealmear’s agent.

“Hopefully, everything goes well here and kind of piggyback on to Kentucky,” Albarado said. “That’s the hope. I think he’s going to be that kind of rider.”

Bealmear rode We Miss Arlington for co-owner/trainer Jimmy DiVito in the maiden-claiming sprint for 2-year-olds. We Miss Arlington was Bealmear’s third mount at Oaklawn. He also has eight mounts at Turfway Park. Bealmear rides with a 10-pound weight allowance.

Ben Bealmear’s first career riding victory was aboard Tailback Todd ($8.20) March 24, 1980, at Oaklawn. He was also a 10-pound apprentice at the time.

Skelly Scores Again Saturday

Skelly stretched his winning streak to six with a front-running 1 ¼-length victory in Saturday’s eighth race at Oaklawn, a $143,000 allowance sprint for 3-year-olds and upward. It marked the gelding’s first start since late May.

Favored at 4-5 under regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr., Skelly covered 6 furlongs over a fast track in a meet-best 1:09.66.

“We’re just extremely fortunate to be associated with him,” Steve Asmussen, Skelly’s Hall of Fame trainer, said following Saturday’s victory. “That’s (six) in a row. He went (1:09) and change or something crazy. Just a very fast horse. The racetrack’s not yielding those sort of times. I guess that’s because Skelly ain’t been running.”

Skelly developed into Oaklawn’s top older male sprinter last season after being gelded and adding blinkers. He won his final four starts of the meeting, including the $500,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) and inaugural $150,000 Lake Hamilton Stakes. Skelly was making his first start since the $100,000 Speightstown Sprint Stakes May 29 at Lone Star Park. All five of those victories were at 6 furlongs.

Asmussen said he decided to freshen Skelly following the Speightstown Sprint and point for the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting that began Dec. 8.

“It was quite obvious with how well he ran here last year, how much sense it made to target this meet, with him being a gelding and with how much money we run for,” Asmussen said.

Asmussen said the $150,000 King Cotton Stakes for Jan. 27 comes up “too quick” for Skelly. Oaklawn’s sprint stakes series for older horses continues with the $250,000 G3-Whitmore March 16.

Saturday’s victory, Skelly’s seventh in 11 lifetime starts, raised his career earnings to $787,413. Skelly, a 4-year-old son of Practical Joke, is owned by Chris Hicks.

Finish Lines

Jockey Luis Fuentes recorded his first career Oaklawn riding double Saturday, winning the first race aboard Priddis ($11.80) for trainer Matt Williams and the third race aboard Music Mistress ($50) for trainer Joe McKellar. Priddis was the first career Oaklawn victory for Williams, the older brother of trainer Sean Williams (two victories earlier in the meeting). … Jockey Nik Juarez recorded his 985th career North American victory aboard Backyard Money ($9.80) in Saturday’s 10th race at Oaklawn, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. … Grade 3 winner Hot and Sultry returned to the work tab Sunday morning at Oaklawn, covering a half-mile in :50 for trainer Norm Casse. The track was fast.