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DelVal Horse to Run in Preakness Stakes, Second Leg of the Triple Crown

This Saturday, Uncle Heavy, a Delaware Valley bred and trained horse, will run in the $2 million Preakness Stakes, the second race in the Triple Crown.

Uncle Heavy was bred in 2021 by Mark and Barbara Reid at Walnut Green farm in Kennett Square. Reid’s brother, Butch Reid, trains the horse at Parx Racing in Bensalem.

The big bay thoroughbred—over 16 hands tall and 1,200 pounds–has won four of seven races he’s run. He was selected as a second alternate to compete in the Kentucky Derby, but Butch Reid decided to rest Uncle Heavy and race him in the Preakness instead. Held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, it’s the shortest of the Triple Crown races at 1 3/16 miles.

As of this writing, Uncle Heavy had early odds of 20-1.

Derby winner Mystik Dan, who bested two other horses in a close three-way photo finish at the Derby, will also run in the Preakness.

“We know most of the names that’ll be going in there,” said Butch Reid. “With our eyes wide open, a little bit of a fight, but the horse couldn’t be training any better. He’s coming up extremely well. His last two races were just out of sight.”

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity, and we think he’ll be competitive,” he said.

Mark Reid said he was a trainer before his brother, but they get along.

His dad and grandfather both bet on the ponies. One day, when Mark Reid had gotten mononucleosis and had to spend six weeks at home “moping around,” his dad took him to the Atlantic City Racetrack.

“And I fell in love with it,” said Mark Reid. “The horses, not the gambling aspect.”

After graduating college, he worked in industrial sales for a year and a half. But he yearned for the racetrack.

“I told my wife I was casting my lot at the racetrack,” said Mark Reid.

After working for Richard “Dick” Dutrow, a well-known trainer, he built his own string to 150 horses. When his three sons were in high school and playing sports, he decided to spend more time with them, and cut back. One son died while in college, he said. But eventually, he got back in the game.

Mark and Barbara Reid leased their farm in 2005 and bought a bloodstock agency, he said. But after some health problems, Mark Reid, 73, again cut back and he and Barbara have only one mare, Expect Wonderful, who is Uncle Heavy’s mother.

Uncle Heavy, named for one of the Reid’s brothers who was a a former captain of University of Maryland’s wrestling and ACC Champion, who went by the nickname “Heavy.”

Asked when he knew Uncle Heavy was special, Mark Reid said, “He always was nice physically and did everything right. So there was no reason to expect that he wouldn’t be an okay athlete and probably a decent Pennsylvania bred to run around here locally. You never know until they go out in the world whether they’re going to achieve like he did.”

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. will ride Uncle Heavy in the Preakness.

“He’s one of the best riders in the world,” said Butch Reid. “I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

Uncle Heavy has been training well.

“I think we’re coming up to this race just the way we want to be,” said Butch Reid.

Asked about the 20-1odds, Mark Reid said Uncle Heavy had a poor post position, number 13, in a previous race, and another horse fell next to him during the race.

In the Preakness, Uncle Heavy will be in post position 2, near the rail, a much better slot. But the Preakness will “have the Derby winner and a lot of good horses” to compete against, said Mark Reid.

Williamston, N.J. resident Mike Milam, majority owner of Uncle Heavy. Milam has known the Reid brothers for years. Their fathers first met at the racetrack. The minority owner of Uncle Heavy, is Glenn Bennett of LC Racing, a resident of Moorestown, N.J.

Parx will have a Preakness Stakes Day on May 18 to cheer on the hometown favorite. The track will host live racing beginning at 12:40 p.m. and will simulcast the Preakness for fans to watch at the track. Attendees at Parx’s Preakness Stakes Day will also enjoy food and beverage specials, souvenir merchandise, moon bounces, face painting, and more fun for all ages.

Post time for the Preakness is 6:50 p.m. NBC will broadcast the race.

Turning For Home and Maui Meadow Farm Help Retired Racehorses Find New Homes

They have trained to run like the wind for three to six years, competing against their peers on dirt or turf.

Suddenly, their careers end. Now what? While the best of the best go off to become parents of the next generation of Thoroughbreds, others can face an uncertain future.

Enter the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred horsemen’s  Association (PTHA), which offers programs to rehabilitate racehorses after their racing careers end. Turning For Home, a nonprofit program at Parx Racing in Bensalem. The horsemen support the second careers of their racehorses by sending them to farms for rehabilitation, retraining, and eventually rehoming. The Thoroughbreds start new lives as polo ponies, show jumpers, barrel racers, police horses, or pleasure riding mounts. It has placed more than 3,800 former racehorses.

“Thoroughbreds are so versatile and can do anything,” said Danielle Montgomery with Turning For Home. “Thoroughbreds are the most versatile, athletic, and intelligent horses.”

She noted that not only does Parx contribute to the program for retired racehorses but jockeys who ride there do, as well.

Maui Meadow Farm in West Chester, one of 20 Turning For Home partners, is Pennsylvania’s oldest working Thoroughbred farm. The farm’s Thoroughbred Retirement Rehabilitation and Careers (TRRAC) program is a nonprofit set up to help with the cost of the care for the horses during their stay, which can last for months or longer.

Maui Meadow owners Charles Lyman III and his wife, Nina, lovingly care for the 45 horses living at their 65-acre farm, along with Lyman’s mom, Erika, two full-time employees, and a slew of volunteers. Even their 5-year-old son, Kai, helps. Eleven of the equines are permanent residents, including Kai’s pony.

Nina Lyman takes R. Rajun Bull for a ride in Maui Meadow Farm’s training ring.

“The beauty about aftercare is we’re making sure the horse has all it needs,” said Nina Lyman. “We’re making sure the horse is relaxed. We’re making sure the horse is a good fit for the adopter. We want to have successful adoptions.”

The other horses welcome the newcomers into their herd.

‘We do get some support from the tracks. We require owners who turn horses in to pay a one-time stipend fee. Veterinarians see horses. We do a freeze brand and microchip them if they are not already microchipped,” she said. Their brand is a circle with an L in the center.

“We give the horse some light sedation (before branding). It’s very cold. It is registered with the state agriculture department. Still, many people on social media know that brand, so if that horse ends up somewhere it’s not supposed to or not being taken care of or stolen, that horse is easily identifiable,” she said.

They also accept privately surrendered Thoroughbreds that do not come from the racetracks. The owners must pay a fee for their care.

“We rehome them under strict contracts,” said Montgomery. “We’ll take any of our horses back any time or for any reason. And we probably take back one a month. Our horses are all over the country now.”

She said it can be expensive to take care of a horse, and sometimes people’s circumstances change, so they ask to return it.

Veterinarian Emily Rule examines The Big One while volunteer Brooke Henwood, 13, a student at Patton Middle School, holds the lead.

Charles Lyman’s grandfather, General Charles B. Lyman, and his granduncle were originally from Hawaii. After serving in World War II, they founded the Thoroughbred farm in 1946, hence the name “Maui Meadow.” It was originally 124 acres, but they sold part to fund the 12-foot-deep therapeutic swimming pool for the horses.

The pool helps horses rehabilitate or train without putting stress on their legs or muscles.

“We receive some of the hardest cases,” said Nina Lyman.

When a horse comes in, they are assessed physically and mentally,” she said. They are also evaluated for how well they perform for an ordinary rider.

Charles Lyman said it is a myth that Thoroughbreds are more nervous or hard to handle than other breeds once they are no longer in racing mode.

Nina Lyman also grew up on a horse farm and competed in the Devon Horse Show.

When horses are ready to be adopted, Nina Lyman makes a Facebook post and page on their website. The baseline fee is $2,500. They do have a program for older horses that is available for less.

Montgomery said, “If they can’t afford to buy their horse, how do we know they can feed it?”

“We’re always looking for grants and donations,” said Charles Lyman.

They follow up with the new owners to be sure the horses are well cared for.

A horse swims in the Maui Meadow Farm therapeutic pool.

Nina Shaffer is a trainer who helps train their horses and rides them to show to potential owners. Shaffer owns the nearby Grand Slam Equestrian and adopted three older horses through Maui Meadow Farm’s program.

The horses receive veterinary care, such as X-rays.

Emily Rule, VMD, with the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, came to care for a bay mare named The Biggest One, who had previous surgery to remove bone chips in her leg.

As The Biggest One stood patiently while Rule took the sutures out and rebandaged her leg, Charles Lyman said, “She’s a well-broke, well-trained animal.”

Rule also used a portable X-ray machine to check Strong Magic, a bay gelding, who had previously had surgery to remove bone chips. Nina Lyman was concerned that he might be “a little bit lame,” said Rule.

Nina Lyman also takes her therapy horse, Liquid Aloha, to visit residents in nursing homes, hospice, and memory care facilities.

“He loved it,” she said about the first time she took him to a nursing home.

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First Woman Thoroughbred Announcer Calls Races at Parx Racing

Jessica Paquette fell in love with horses when she was a little girl.

“I would have teachers tell me I needed to broaden my horizons because every project I did was about horses. Every book report I did was about horses. Everything was about horses,” she said.

Paquette remains passionate about horses, an enthusiasm that is evident when she is at the microphone. The 37-year-old is the track announcer at Parx Racing in Bensalem. She is the first and only woman in North America to call horse races on a regular basis. She also serves as the track’s cable TV host and on-air handicapper and is involved in its social media efforts.

Paquette has done it all at various facilities over her two decades in the racing industry. She has worked in marketing and public relations as an analyst, handicapper, and director of racing operations. She was also a consultant on integrity and safety issues. she is director of communications and annual fund for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

She called her first race at Suffolk Downs in her native Massachusetts in 2014 when the regular announcer was delayed getting to the track. Later, she called some quarter horse races in Texas on a fill-in basis.

Jessica Paquette with racehorse Ridin’ with Biden

“The more I did it, the more fun it became,” she said.

She was familiar with Parx after assisting with the track’s coverage of the Pennsylvania Derby in 2020 and 2021. When track announcer Chris Griffin took a job at Monmouth Park in New Jersey last fall, Paquette replaced him. She made her Parx debut on November 15.

She makes the trip from Massachusetts, where she lives, each Sunday night in advance of her three-day work week in Bensalem. The track typically runs races on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, save for special occasions such as the days of the Triple Crown races, the Pennsylvania Derby, and Father’s Day.

Paquette’s task is daunting.

There are 11 races on each day’s card. She must memorize the numbers and colors of the silks of each horse in each race and then forget them instantly the moment the race concludes and begin preparing for the next one. It is the hardest task there is in the realm of sports broadcasting and public address work.

The night before each card, she will create a replica of the next day’s program and add the colors of each horse’s silks to the chart for each race.

“I color the silks because I’m fundamentally an anxious person,” Paquette said, “and I like to come as prepared and with as much homework done as I can before the day of racing.”

When talking about her job requirements, Paquette, who has a journalism degree, thinks back to her days as a student.

“I was very good at memorizing and then promptly forgetting,” she said. “I would cram for a test, do well on the test, and then forget absolutely everything. That has been just a natural skill of mine.

“But, I really liken it to a muscle. Certainly, memorization was really hard for me the first couple of weeks. And the more I do it, I feel like the stronger it gets. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised and flexed. And you memorize it, you absorb it, you associate the colors of the silks.

“And occasionally some stick. There will be some horses That I will probably always be able to tell you so and so’s silks look like this, and then there are some that the second they cross the finish line, he’s gone. Until I have to speak of them again.”

Paquette strives to strike a balance between providing basic necessary information, including each horse’s position in the field, and adding anecdotes to her presentation.

“As I continue to develop my craft, I am trying to stick to the basics as much as possible,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lot of great advice from some very good announcers, and one that stuck with me was, ‘Don’t be cute until you’re good.’

“The better I get and the stronger and more confident, then I can start trying to be a little clever and a little more colorful. But for now, I’m focusing on getting them around, having the correct horse in the right place, and giving the most accurate information possible.”

The ability to keep track of horses during a race is an acquired talent. Paquette’s mentors in the business include, among others, Larry Collmus, the voice of the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup races for NBC, Griffin, and T.J. Thornton, who worked in various roles at Suffolk Downs and officiated at Paquette’s wedding.

“(Thornton) was the one I called my first week when I said, ‘Oh my God, what have I done?’” Paquette recalls. “He’s been a great sounding board.”

Paquette’s first weeks at Parx had a learning curve. Inevitably, she has attracted detractors whose criticisms have ranged from humorous to profane and vulgar.

“Imagine having your first day of a job having thousands of people watching you and telling you every mistake that you made,” she said. “How you’re the worst person to ever do this job and getting many opinions, not all of the kind or constructive on the job that you’re doing. It’s been certainly challenging.”

But Paquette understands her role in the history of thoroughbred racing and as a role model for women following behind her.

“The first one through the wall gets the arrows, right?” she said. “So, I’m hoping the path is a little easier for a woman coming behind me to do this.

“I think it’s a rare honor and an opportunity to make the sport or whatever profession you’ve dedicated your life to better for what comes (after you). That’s the best legacy you could ever hope to leave, right? Leave it just a little bit better than it was when you were there.”

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Showing Appreciation for Workers at Parx Racing

If you have ever been to the racetrack or watched the Kentucky Derby on TV, you probably never thought about the hundreds of behind-the-scenes workers who make the event happen.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association held their first annual Pennsylvania Horse Racing Caregivers Appreciation Day at Parx Racing in Bensalem.

The workers—grooms, hot walkers, exercise riders—were treated to lunch in their community clubhouse, an area with seating, a cafeteria, pool tables, and a laundry. About 200 workers live in dormitories on the backside of the racecourse property. Another 100 commute, said Jeffrey Matty Jr., PTHA executive director.

He noted the workers start early in the morning, taking care of the 1,300 or so horses in all kinds of weather.


Groom Jonathan Diaz and trainer Daniel Velazquez

“Horses don’t understand what a holiday or a weekend is. They still need to eat, be provided fresh water, get their exercise, and be groomed,” Matty explained. “These men and women are out here daily making sure the horses properly care for and nurtured.  We appreciate all they do, and this is our small way of acknowledging their significant contributions to horse racing and, by extension, the state’s overall agricultural industry.”

The workers also receive the services of an onsite chaplain.

The Rev. Rick Bunker, a “very ecumenical” American Baptist, offers prayers, counseling and leads 12-step programs.

Groom Sean Fittipaldi said, “I think it’s great that people here recognize our hard work and dedication. They rely on me to be here every day and every evening.”

Trainer Kate Demasi and Fittipaldi took reporters on a tour of their Parx barn. Fittipaldi takes care of eight horses. Demasi trains 35 horses at Parx and another dozen at Penn National Race Track in Harrisburg.

Demasi started as a groomer and worked her way up to trainer. She said at first there were not many women in those jobs, but more women are at the track now. Parx recently debuted the first woman announcer, Jessica Paquette.

Both say they love their work and could not imagine being cooped up in an office.

Demasi grew up on a farm in Maryland and got her start with horses there before moving to Pennsylvania.


Groom George Diaz with Love Channel


“We think of ourselves as a big family,” at Parx she said. “You see everybody at their best and worst.”

“We have all our mares in Pennsylvania,” said Demasi with Pewter Stable. There are state incentives for Pennsylvania breeders paid for through slot machine revenue.

The purse for a given race is typically divided with 60 percent going to the winner, 20 percent going to second place, 10 percent going to third place, fourth place receiving 5 percent, and fifth place receiving 2.5 percent, according to Pete Peterson, a PTHA spokesman. Any horse that finishes sixth or worse receives splits of the remainder.

The breeder of a registered Pennsylvania bred receives an award whenever that horse finishes first, second or third in any pari-mutuel race in the state. For Pennsylvania-breds sired by registered Pennsylvania stallions, the state breeder award amounts to 50 percent for maiden races (which are limited to horses that have not previously won a race) and 40 percent in all other races of the purse earned. For those sired by out-of-state stallions, the award (non-Pennsylvania-sired breeder award) is 25 percent (maiden races) and 20 percent (all other races), he said.

“It pays to breed them in Pennsylvania,” said Demasi. “Breeding is not a cheap thing to do. You’ve got three years into a horse before he runs. You’ve got the whole gestation year and then two years to grow up,” Demasi said. That is “three years of putting money through the Pennsylvania industry.” There are different caretakers on the farms, veterinarians, and hay and grain producers. “This is one piece of a puzzle, the piece that can actually make money.”

One of her horses, Winning Time, recently won the Pennsylvania Nursery Stakes, a race for 2-year-olds.

Demasi is on the PATHA board and a member of its Hall of Fame, as well as chair of its Hall of Fame, said Matty.

Another Parx trainer, Daniel Velazquez, said, “I train racehorses for a living, and I think that’s really cool. It’s a hard business to be in but it’s really rewarding when a horse wins and you see him cross the wife.”

One of his horses, Brooklyn Strong, ran in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

“It’s the greatest accomplishment as a trainer,” said Matty. Everyone at Parx was rooting for the horse, he said.

Velazquez has a trick. He bribes his horses with mint candy.

“They’ll sell their soul for mints,” he said.

Velazquez got his start as a jockey. He rode for five years, and his dad also trained horses at Parx for 35 years.

One of his grooms, Jonathan Diaz, works with the racehorses day in and day out.

“I come here at 4 o’clock in the morning,” said Diaz. “I come here every day. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s rewarding.” His dad also worked at the racetrack.

“My dad, when I was 13, told me to get my butt to work,” he said.

Demasi said, “There’s no difference from zookeepers. Anywhere you have animals, you have to have someone there. Sometimes a horse might not seem like himself.”

Fittipaldi said, “You’ve got to read them.”

When horses can no longer race, PTHA offers Turning for Home, a nonprofit program to retrain and rehabilitate them and place them with new owners.

Danielle Montgomery, who runs the program at Parx, said horses race an average of five years and some as long as 10 years, but they live for about 30 years.

“We care about the horses,” said Demasi. Thoroughbreds make excellent jumpers, dressage horses, pleasure-riding mounts, and polo ponies she said.

Parx offers horseracing all year long. It is slated to have 151 race days in 2023.

At the luncheon, the caregivers received a winter hat and hooded sweatshirt from the Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association and the PTHA.

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