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Blumenfeld On His Matchmaker Starters

Published: April 5, 2018 11:59 am ET

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Trainer Paul Blumenfeld will start two horses in the fourth leg of the Blue Chip Matchmaker Series this Friday night (April 6). Vintage Babe and Motu Moonbeam, who both started from Post 8 last week, have each drawn the rail for their respective divisions this week. Blumenfeld sees the draw as an opportunity to win key points toward in the final, seeing as though series leaders Shartin, Twinkle and Mackenzie have taken 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 (Vintage Babe and Motu Moonbeam) fit [well]. 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 four-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 five-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 (on October 20) and took a $20,000 overnight in 1:55.4 in similar fashion (on January 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 [at Yonkers] 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 [well] or hasn’t had good racing luck.”

Vintage Babe is ranked 22nd by points heading into Leg 4 after having finished fourth and third in Weeks One and Two, respectively. The outside draw last week hindered Vintage Babe’s chances, but Blumenfeld expects driver Brent Hollard to race her aggressively this week. Vintage Babe is 6-1 on the morning line for the first $40,000 Matchmaker split of the night, a field which includes Lady Shadow as the 8-5 early favourite.

“I’m hoping [Vintage Babe will be] close to the front the whole mile,” Blumenfeld said. “With any racing luck, I’m expecting her to race [well].”

While Vintage Babe was a relatively new acquisition for Blumenfeld, Motu Moonbeam is a stable stalwart. The New Zealand-bred daughter of Bettors Delight came to Blumenfeld at the end of her four-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. Motu Moonbeam earned her first win in Yonkers’ top class for distaffers with a pace-setting 1:54.4 score January 26, 2018.

“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 first leg of the Matchmaker (on March 16), she overcame Post 6 to finish second to Shartin. Despite her good showing in Week One, another outside draw made her a 36-1 chance in Week Two. Motu Moonbeam rallied from nine and a quarter lengths behind into a slow :57.1 half to win Leg 2 in 1:54.3. Her placings earned her 155 points, which gives her a fifth-place ranking in the series standings heading into Leg 4.

“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 8 last week, Motu Moonbeam has been assessed at 7-1 on the morning line for Leg 4. The division’s 9-5 favourite, Lakeisha Hall, who was 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 on Friday. 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 [well]. 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.”

First post time Friday night is 6:50 p.m.


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