Benny Havens Gives Trainer Aguirre Jr. First Career Win

Benny Havens Gives Trainer Aguirre Jr. First Career Win

American Giant Comes Up Big in Opening Day Feature
Crackin’ Crab Feast Complements Live Racing Saturday

LAUREL, MD – Benny Havens got Laurel Park’s fall meet off to a rousing start, swinging to the lead on the far turn and fending off Mister Frank’s Way the length of the stretch to give trainer Anthony Aguirre Jr. his first career win in the first race on Friday’s opening day program.

Owned by the fledgling trainer and ridden by 2018 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice Weston Hamilton, Benny Havens ($21.20) covered one mile over a firm Bowl Game turf course in 1:38.92 for a half-length triumph in the $33,000 waiver maiden claiming event for 2-year-olds.

“It’s a dream come true,” the 24-year-old Aguirre Jr. said. “I’m just happy to get the monkey off my back and get my first win.”

It was the third career start for Benny Havens and seventh for his trainer, whose first came with Red Clay Road July 18 at Laurel. Aguirre’s father, Anthony, is also based at Laurel and owns 140 wins since 2001. His mother, Kaymarie Kreidel, won 190 races as a jockey between 1992 and 2006 and now works full-time as an outrider for the Maryland Jockey Club at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course.

The younger Aguirre spent $1,500 during Fasig-Tipton’s Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale last October at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium to acquire Benny Havens, a Maryland-bred son of Outflanker out of the Tabasco Cat mare Saucy Countess. His full brother, Flankenstein, won twice last summer at Laurel.

“I picked him out myself. I wanted a Maryland-bred really badly because I’m training in Maryland,” Aguirre said. “I looked back at his breeding. Outflankers, they love to run. People have told me he’s a good poor man’s sire. I looked at the mare. She’s nine-for-nine with her racing foals, they’re all winners, and she’s had a couple stakes winners.

“It’s great for myself to get him here, and I couldn’t have done it without my parents,” he added. “I broke my arm back in April, right when he just came into the track, and they got on him and they helped me get him to this point.”

Aguirre first worked as a hotwalker and groom for trainer Robin Graham, starting when he was 18. He then spent time with trainers Mike Trombetta, Hugh McMahon and Jose Corrales before becoming a foreman for Jeremiah Englehart.

“Every step of the way I learned something from every barn and I just put it all together for my own [program],” Aguirre said. “A lot came from my father; he helped me out more than anybody.”

Aguirre Jr. continues to gallop his horses in the morning, including Benny Havens, who debuted on the Laurel turf Aug. 15 before finishing third in a four-furlong maiden special weight on the dirt 10 days later at Timonium, beaten two lengths.

“I’ve been getting on him ever since I got back from my injury. I know him like the back of my hand,” he said. “I haven’t picked my spot yet, but I’m just super excited to see my project come together. The next spot, we’ll figure it out when we get to it.”

Opening weekend continues with 10-race cards Saturday and Sunday. Laurel’s calendar year-ending 61-day fall meet runs through Sunday, Dec. 29.

American Giant Comes Up Big in Opening Day Feature

Live Oak Plantation homebred American Giant put away heavily favored Still Alive in mid-stretch, reeled in pacesetter Hello Beautiful approaching the wire and edged past to spring a mild upset in Friday’s opening day feature.

Ridden by Julian Pimentel for trainer Mike Trombetta, American Giant ($14.80) ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:04.34 over a firm Exceller turf course to capture the $42,000 entry level optional claiming allowance for 2-year-old fillies by a neck.

It was the second straight win for the chestnut daughter of Grade 1-winning sprinter More Than Ready, following a three-quarter-length maiden special weight triumph going the same distance Aug. 17 on the grass at Colonial Downs in her second start.

“She continues to surprise me. I thought she would need more ground to work with, and then she jumped up and won the sprint at Colonial,” Trombetta said. “I put her in this race and when it went with six horses, I took a hard look at it and said, ‘I better be in it.’ There’s not a whole lot of choices for these 2-year-old winners this time of year. She’s doing good. I still believe she’ll go a little further, but this was nice.”

Sent off at 6-1, American Giant settled in fourth as Hello Beautiful went the opening quarter-mile in 22.53 seconds. With the leader comfortably in front, American Giant ranged up on the outside of 3-5 top choice Still Alive after a half in 46.27 and surged past following five furlongs in 58.01, setting her sights on the leader. Hello Beautiful was second, with Still Alive third.

American Giant gave Trombetta the latest win in his long association with Campbell’s Soup Co. heir Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak racing and breeding operation, which includes dirt and turf stakes winner Win Win Win, who took them on the Triple Crown trail this spring, and Global Access, most recently winner of the Saranac (G3) Aug. 31 at Saratoga.

“I think I’m going on eight years working for them. They’re lovely to work with,” Trombetta said. “Obviously, this year we had the fun with Win Win Win, so they sent me some really nice horses to work with, and it’s been very enjoyable.”

Three Diamonds Farm’s Bossy Bride ($6.20) slipped through an opening along the rail and opened up on her rivals through the stretch to give Trombetta his second consecutive victory in Friday’s Race 6, a $40,000 maiden special weight for fillies and mares 3 and up. The winning time was 1:39.81 over a fast main track.

Hunting Season, a sophomore Pioneerof the Nile filly that fetched $575,000 as a yearling and was making her third start for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, put in a belated run to edge 3-2 favorite We Are Family for second.

In Friday’s ninth-race finale, John Gardiner, Barn Door Stable and Kingdom Bloodstock’s Midship Lady ($4.40) caught co-favored Phil Schoenthal-trained stablemate More Or Less near the wire to win the $40,000 maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies, completing 5 ½ furlongs over the Exceller turf course in 1:04.39.

Crackin’ Crab Feast Complements Live Racing Saturday

In addition to a full card of 10 live races, Laurel Park will serve up its annual Crackin’ Crab Feast Saturday.

Located in the apron tent on the rail of Laurel’s main track, the event runs from 1 to 5 p.m. First race post time is 1:10 p.m.

Tickets are $60 and include all-you-can-eat crabs, perfectly paired side dishes and a souvenir crab mallet. Tickets for kids age 4-12 are $35, while kids under 4 are free. Wine and beer specials are also available.

Seating is on a first come, first served basis. Crabs are for on-site consumption only. For tickets and information, click here.

Notes: Jockey Victor Carrasco registered two wins on opening day, aboard Waiting for a Star ($6) in Race 2 and Bossy Bride ($6.20) in Race 6. Mike Trombetta trains both Bossy Bride and Race 5 winner American Giant ($14.80) … No one selected all six winners in Friday’s 20-cent Rainbow 6, creating a jackpot carryover of $1,297.99 for Saturday (Races 5-10). Tickets with five of six winners returned $139.06 … There will be a carryover of $1,138.58 in the $1 Super Hi-5 for Saturday’s opener. Post time is 1:10 p.m.