05/15/2013 1:34PM

Woodbine notes: Parente, Vella seek more stakes success with Black Hornet, Alpha Bettor

Michael Burns
Alpha Bettor won the Grade 2 Eclipse Stakes last Sunday in his 2013 debut.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Pat Parente, who has been training since 2004, came into the 2013 Woodbine meet without a stakes victory on his résumé. Conversely, trainer Danny Vella had 132 stakes wins under his belt in a career that began in 1985.

But the 50-year-old Parente and the 57-year-old Vella are equal on one count, as both saddled their first stakes winners of the season here last weekend. Parente struck Saturday with Black Hornet in the Queenston, a $150,000 stakes for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds at seven furlongs. Vella’s success came with Alpha Bettor in Sunday’s $200,000 Eclipse, a Grade 2 stakes at 1 1/16 miles for 4-year-olds and up.

Both horses were longshots, with Black Hornet returning $35.70 and Alpha Bettor $29.60. And both were ridden by Justin Stein, who has won three stakes at the meeting while riding in seven of the eight run so far.

Black Hornet, a $4,500 yearling purchase at the open local sale, is owned by Parente in partnership with Dean Ventresca and Joe Guerrieri, racing under the name Winview Racing Stable. Although a relative newcomer to the training game, Parente was attracted to horse racing at an early age.

“I used to come with my dad and my uncle, and I fell in love with the sport,” Parente said. “I’ve owned horses since the 1980s, but I had bad allergies and couldn’t get near a barn. In the late 1990s, my allergies had settled down, and I was able to come out.”

Parente has 18 horses in the barn and is off to a good start, with three wins from his first eight entrants.

Black Hornet, of course, is the buzz of the stable after leading throughout the Queenston to score by a half-length in his second start of the season.

In his first outing, the six-furlong Woodstock here April 21, Black Hornet was the 5-2 second choice but faltered to finish last in the field of five after chasing Dan the Tin Man, who returned to double up in the six-furlong Tom Ridge at Presque Isle Downs on Monday night.

“He was fit and ready for it, but he may have just needed the race,” Parente said of Black Hornet’s performance in the Woodstock. “Dan the Tin Man gave him all he could handle.”

The $150,000 Achievement Stakes, a six-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds here June 29, is one option for Black Hornet, but Parente and his partners could opt to stretch out the horse in the $150,000 Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here June 9.

Black Hornet is not nominated to the $1 million Queen’s Plate, the 1 1/4-mile showpiece for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds set for July 7, and would have to be supplemented at a cost of $5,000 by June 1 to be eligible for the Plate Trial.

Alpha Bettor, who had upset last year’s Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup for his first stakes victory, was making his 2013 debut in the Eclipse.

“The biggest surprise for me was the price,” said Vella, who is part of the Bulldog Racing group that owns the 5-year-old horse. “I really felt he would be in the first three. It was a small field, but they’re pretty good horses. I think they could go anywhere and be credible.”

The Grade 3, $150,000 Dominion Day, at 1 1/4 miles July 1, is the next open, two-turn Polytrack stakes here for older males and likely will be Alpha Bettor’s next start. Alpha Bettor has raced beyond 1 1/8 miles just once, finishing a distant fifth in the 2011 running of the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory.

“That didn’t work, but that doesn’t mean anything as far as a mile and a quarter goes,” Vella said. “His breeding says he’ll go that far, and he hasn’t shown me any signs that he shouldn’t handle it.”

Niigon’s Honour set for Ballade

Vella will be looking for a second consecutive stakes score when he sends out Niigon’s Honour in Saturday’s $125,000 Ballade, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

A homebred 5-year-old daughter of the late Niigon owned by Chiefswood Stable, Niigon’s Honour was unplaced in her only start at 3 but was perfect in three appearances last year at distances ranging from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.

“She had a minor injury last year,” Vella said. “It was nothing terrible, but we decided to put her away.”

Niigon’s Honour wintered at nearby Chiefswood Farm and returned when the backstretch opened in early March.

“She’s training unbelievable,” said Vella, who has given the call on Niigon’s Honour to Richard Dos Ramos, her only rider to date.

Trainer Paul Buttigieg will be looking for his first stakes win of the meeting when Let’s Forget It goes postward in the Ballade.

Let’s Forget It, a 5-year-old, was purchased for $37,000 in Kentucky last fall after making her first 14 starts for trainer Malcolm Pierce and Pin Oak Stable.

“I bought her as a broodmare-racehorse prospect,” Buttigieg said. “I’ve got enough broodmares, so I decided to run her this year.”

Let’s Forget It returned immediate dividends when winning a 6 1/2-furlong, restricted allowance for nonwinners of three in her 2013 debut May 3.

“Now she’s out of her Ontario-sired conditions, so we’ll see what happens,” Buttigieg said. “I think the race is too short for her. Seven furlongs, I’d be really happy, but I’ve got to take a shot.”

David Moran returns aboard Let’s Forget It, who breezed four furlongs in 48.60 seconds Monday.

“She came back happy; she’s a sound filly,” Buttigieg said.

Grant has wife as assistant

The husband-and-wife team of Carlos Grant and Analisa Delmas have swapped their assistant trainer and trainer roles at the racetrack. Grant, an assistant to Jake Nemett here from 1989 through 1991 before leaving to train in his native Barbados, was back at Woodbine in 2000 and started working with Delmas in 2006, when she took over as the trainer for the Fieldstone Farm outfit of her father, Ronnie Delmas.

After the two married and started a family, Grant took over as trainer last spring and sent out 18 winners. Analisa Delmas, now the mother of 1-year-old son Dario, has returned to work as Grant’s assistant.

Grant, 42, now has one horse of his own in addition to the Fieldstone runners.

“I decided it was time to branch out and seek new clients,” he said.

Wilson, Clark-Rogers at Pimlico

Emma-Jayne Wilson will be at Pimlico on Friday to compete in the four-race “Battle of the Sexes” jockey challenge for the third consecutive year.

Another local rider on the Friday Pimlico card is Stacie Clark-Rogers, in the Lady Legends race.

Clark-Rogers competed from 1993 through 1996, recording 87 winners and being named a Sovereign Award finalist for outstanding apprentice jockey in 1994. Married to Mike Rogers, the business manager for Stronach Stables, Clark-Rogers gallops horses for Stronach Stables and is the manager of the Adena Springs racehorse-retirement program.

◗ Forte Dei Marmi, trained by Roger Attfield, breezed four furlongs in 47.80 seconds here Wednesday and then hopped on a van for Pimlico and Saturday’s Dixie Stakes. John Velazquez has the mount on Forte dei Marmi in the Dixie, a 1 1/8-mile turf race that offers Grade 2 status and a purse of $300,000.