Blumenfeld mares draw well for Matchmaker leg
April 05, 2018
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Trainer Paul Blumenfeld will start two horses in the fourth leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series Friday night. Vintage Babe and Motu Moonbeam, who both started from post eight last week, each drew the rail in their respective divisions this week. Blumenfeld sees the draw as an opportunity to win key points toward in the final when series leaders Shartin, Twinkle, and Mackenzie took the week off.
"They're just really nice horses and it's a great race. The Matchmaker and the Levy, it's just exciting," Blumenfeld said. "I think they fit good. Obviously, you have those horses that are winning who are impressive, like Mackenzie and Shartin, that have been racing super. But everybody's trying to get their horse into the final. It's a hard series because you're racing a lot. But say you're in the final, everybody goes. I don't think there's going to be a standout."
Blumenfeld acquired Vintage Babe last fall after longtime friend, trainer and owner Jim Ellison passed away. Vintage Babe had been racing at the Open level at Hawthorne and Hoosier Park and Blumenfeld saw the opportunity to bring her back to Yonkers.
"I was friends with Jimmy for years, I knew him for a long time when I raced in Illinois and he passed on and his wife sold all the horses and she was one of them," Blumenfeld said. "A guy called me and said she was for sale and asked if I'd be interested in looking at her. So I flew to Illinois and looker her over and bought her. She's got some sentimental value in her for that aspect."
Vintage Babe previously raced at Yonkers in her 4-year-old season. She made the final of last year's Petticoat Series after overcoming early breaks in stride in both of her starts in the Petticoat preliminary legs for trainer Ed Gannon. Maturity and some equipment changes on Blumenfeld's part have helped the 5-year-old daughter of Vintage Master stay flat on the half-mile track since returning to Yonkers last October.
"When she raced here last year, she raced for another trainer and she used to make breaks. She made breaks, but she still raced fantastic," Blumenfeld said. "She had done a great job for Jimmy on the bigger track. When I brought her to Yonkers, it was a little touch-and-go if she would get around it and she did well. She did mature. Made some changes, made a few rigging changes, shoeing changes."
Although she won a $22,500 overnight wire-to-wire in 1:53.1 in her first start for Blumenfeld Oct. 20 and took a $20,000 overnight in 1:55.4 in similar fashion Jan. 19, Vintage Babe hadn't competed at the Open level at Yonkers when Blumenfeld decided to nominate her to the Matchmaker Series. The talent he saw in those wins gave him the confidence to pay her in.
"She did a good job when she won, she showed a lot of ability," Blumenfeld said. "She won here one night on the front end really impressively and then she raced a couple times from off the pace and she just keeps coming. She's been very unlucky in the legs so far because she's been coming, but she hasn't been drawing good or hasn't had good racing luck."
Vintage Babe is ranked 22nd by points heading into leg four after finishing fourth and third in weeks one and two, respectively. The outside draw last week hindered her chances, but Blumenfeld expects driver Brent Hollard to race her aggressively this week. Vintage Babe is a 6-1 morning line in the first $40,000 Matchmaker split of the night, a field that includes Lady Shadow as the 8-5 favorite.
"I'm hoping she's close to the front the whole mile," he said. "With any racing luck, I'm expecting her to race good."
While Vintage Babe was a relatively new acquisition for Blumenfeld, Motu Moonbeam is a stable stalwart. The New Zealand-bred daughter of Bettor's Delight came to Blumenfeld at the end of her 4-year-old season in 2016. Unlike in Vintage Babe's case, when he made the trip to inspect his prospect in person, Blumenfeld relies on his own research and a handful of close advisors when making a purchase from Down Under.
"When I buy horses Down Under, I have an agent that calls me on a bunch and I watch the one he calls on, plus I look at the other ones in the race and I kind of weed through a lot and I found that I liked Motu Moonbeam because she was a green horse and she went through the ranks for us and has done a good job."
Motu Moonbeam has raced exclusively at Yonkers since arriving stateside. When she began her U.S. career in June 2016, she was still eligible for the non-winners of four pari-mutuel races lifetime condition. She won her way out of the conditions and worked her way to the Filly and Mare Open Handicap by November 2016. Vintage Babe earned her first win in Yonkers' top class for distaffers with a pace-setting 1:54.4 score Jan. 26.
"It's very satisfying. It's like getting a baby and bringing it to the races. It's really gratifying breaking a baby and watching him or her go through the ranks and develop. It was the same thing with her," Blumenfeld said.
Although bettors dismissed Motu Moonbeam as a 47-1 outsider in the Matchmaker first leg March 16, she overcame post six to finish second to Shartin. Despite her good showing week one, another outside draw made her a 36-1 chance in week two. Motu Moonbeam rallied from 9 ¼ lengths behind into a slow :57.1 half to win leg two in 1:54.3. Her placings earned her 155 points for a fifth-place ranking in the series standings coming into leg four.
"I actually loved her, I just didn't like the draw. I just knew if they mixed it up or made a mistake, sometimes, if you go too slow, a horse like her can pick up the pieces too," Blumenfeld explained. "They bunch up on the last turn and she can just swoop them. I told the owners in every leg, I think she's good."
After finishing fifth from post eight last week, Motu Moonbeam is a 7-1 morning line in leg four. The division's 9-5 favorite Lakeisha Hall, a winner in the series last week, will start to Motu Moonbeam's immediate outside. Although Motu Moonbeam has mainly been a closer since she began racing at Yonkers, Blumenfeld expects her to be a factor early in this spot. As with Vintage Babe, Brent Holland will drive.
"She has tremendous gate speed. She has done the work on the front end, she can leave fast, she's quick out of the gate," he said. "She can do it both ways, but to keep longevity on horses, you can't zing them every week.
"All I can say is I'd like to see her race good. I really don't tell the drivers what to do because anything can happen when the gate springs," he continued. "I'm assuming he's going to leave to either be on the front or get good position. If I were driving her, that's what I would be doing." (SOANY)