Day At The Track

Healthier Mamora Bay returns in Hudson

04:52 AM 03 Sep 2017 NZST
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Mamora Bay
Mamora Bay
Mike Lizzi Photo

YONKERS, N.Y. - After a bout with a persistent sickness hindered Mamora Bay’s early season, harness racing trainer Sam Schillaci gave the 3-year-old filly some time to recover and brings her back in tonight’s $119,010 Hudson Trot. Schillaci is confident his star trotter is back to her old self and feeling better heading into the Grand Circuit Stakes, one of four on the card at Yonkers Raceway.

“She hasn’t quite been herself as far as being really aggressive at the end of the mile because she developed this virus earlier in the year. She’s kind of been fighting it all year. I think as of recent, she seems to be getting healthy again,” Schillaci said. “I feel she’s very good. I think she’s as healthy now as she was her first couple of starts of the year. I’m very optimistic going into this race that she’s going to do very well.”

Mamora Bay stood out as a 2-year-old in New York Sire Stakes last year. She won five of nine starts and placed in another four, earning $182,371. Mamora Bay finished second to Barn Bella in the $225,000 New York Sire Stakes Final at Yonkers to end her season. Schillaci drove her in all but one start.

“She really did have a tremendous season,” Schillaci recalled. “I think everything came so easy for her, that’s what made her so good last year as a 2-year-old horse. Driving her as a 2-year-old was like driving an aged trotter. That’s what made everything so easy for her because a lot of younger trotters have gait issues, you have to hold them together and steady them. That wasn’t the case with her.”

Mamora Bay’s success came as a surprise to Schillaci and owner Peter Barbato. Barbato purchased mare Giulie Bi in foal to Chapter Seven out of the 2014 January Mixed Sale for $22,000. Giulie Bi, by Supergill out of the Speedy Crown mare Traffic Jam, had already produced two foals at that stage, including Romeus, a 2012 son of Muscles Yankee who sold for $70,000 at the 2013 Harrisburg Sale. It was the first time Barbato bought a pregnant mare, but for the price, he couldn’t go wrong.

“He liked the breeding of the mare and he went to the Meadowlands Sale and got the feeling to buy the mare in foal,” Schillaci said. “He was looking at some other ones and he loved this particular mare. He liked the breeding on her and he just bought her.”

Giulie Bi foaled Mamora Bay three months later and Barbato later gave the filly to Schillaci. Training down, Mamora Bay was nothing special. Although she trotted well and was easy to handle, she was afraid of everything and was the horse Schillaci let barn visitors drive in the morning.

“Training her down as a 2-year-old, she was one that I actually seldom sat behind,” Schillaci remembered. “I have some friends and some other owners that come on training days and they always want to train a young horse or train a baby. I would always let everyone go with her because she never did anything wrong.

“She was very slow developing as far as being a racehorse,” he continued. “She just sat in the back and basically just followed along. She was scared to pass horses, she wouldn’t get up to any horses because she would shy from them, but she never made breaks.”

Once Mamora Bay trotted past 2:10, she started to figure out her job. She began beating all of Schillaci’s other trotters in the mornings and enjoyed her work. For Schillaci, who trains with his wife Jodi, bringing a horse through that process and seeing the light bulb go on in the horse’s mind is gratifying.

“I used to love it when I was younger, just being a catch-driver, but now that I’ve gotten older and gotten more horses to train, it’s much more rewarding to train and drive your own horses,” he said. “It’s just very rewarding when you buy your own horses as babies and make them into racehorses.”

After her breakout freshman year, Mamora Bay started her 3-year-old campaign in May with a second in New York Sire Stakes at Tioga. She got sick around her next start in the Empire Breeders’ Classic Final at Vernon June 18 and finished sixth beaten 10 3/4 lengths. Since then, she has a win, a pair of thirds, and a fourth in Sire Stakes company.

Mamora Bay last raced August 4 at Yonkers before Schillaci gave her some time. He qualified her back at Northfield August 17, adding lasix. She won by 3 lengths in 1:57.2. When the Hudson Trot attracted eight entrants and no eliminations were required, Schillaci qualified Mamora Bay again last week and she won by 9 in 1:58.0.

“The adding of lasix was because of health reasons. The qualifiers are basically just to keep her tight. She’s not really a horse that’s a good trainer, so we’ve just been racing her in qualifiers to just keep her tight,” the trainer explained. “I was actually hoping that there would have been an elimination to the Hudson Filly Trot last week rather than qualifying her, but there wasn’t, so we had to give her another tightener.”

Mamora Bay drew post five in the Hudson Trot and will race on lasix for the first time with Schillaci in the sulky again. She is a 6-1 morning line chance. Trond Smedshammer’s Celebrity Ruth, earner of $221,433 this season after going unraced at 2, is the early favorite at 5-2 from post 4. The field also includes Dangle Then Deke, Chapter Too, Lexi Marie, Sunshine Delight, Evelyn, and Ice Attraction.

Although Schillaci would like to be aggressive in a spot like the Hudson, Mamora Bay’s fear of the starting gate may prevent that. As a 2-year-old, Mamora Bay wouldn’t get within a length of the gate and she was never closed than third to the opening quarter. Recently, Mamora Bay has gotten better at the start, Schillaci said.

“She’s gotten to the point recently over the last two or three starts where now she’ll go right up to the gate and she’s really good that way. She still really hasn’t developed a lot of gate speed. She tends to fall off the gate as it opens,” he said. “If she would be a horse with gate speed, I probably would be approaching it a lot differently, to try to get out there a little bit and maybe get a little bit better position.”

“With a horse like her, there’s really not a lot of reading into the program and looking to get a spot. It’s wherever you land when the gate opens and then you’ve got to kind of make a game plan after that,” he continued. “I definitely think the horse to beat is (Celebrity Ruth). I’m assuming that horse is going to go to the lead. My biggest hope would be that somebody else leaves in there and they get some kind of early speed and then I think that we’ll have a pretty decent shot of being right on the wire.”

The Hudson Trot is one of four stakes on the card Saturday night at Yonkers Raceway. The card also features the $500,000 Yonkers Trot, the $500,000 Messenger Stakes, and the $113,880 Lady Maud Pace. First post time is 7:10 p.m. For entries for the card, click here.

by Brandon Valvo for the SOA of NY

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