Illinois Celebrates Its 2015 Thoroughbred Racing Champions

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS - Though Saturday night's Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation Awards Dinner featured more traditional banquet fare, few would have complained had the event been catered by Lou Malnati's.

After all, the evening belonged to The Pizza Man.

In 2015, his six-year-old year, The Pizza Man won four stakes races, three graded.  He became the first Illinois-bred winner of the Arlington Million (GI).  Such exploits earned him a trio of Illinois-bred titles: Champion Turf Male, Champion Handicap Male, and Illinois Horse of the Year.

It marks the second year that a Midwest Thoroughbreds homebred trained by Roger Brueggemann took home Illinois Horse of the Year honours, after Work All Week earned the same title in 2014.  In addition to these racing honours, The Pizza Man was also responsible for one of the breeding accolades.  His dam, I Can Fan Fan, was named 2015's Illinois Champion Broodmare -- wholly on the merits of The Pizza Man's record, since she had no other foals race in 2015.

The Pizza Man remains in training at age seven, and is expected to start next in the Wise Dan Stakes (GII) on June 18 at Churchill Downs.  Richard Papiese of Midwest Thoroughbreds confirmed that he did plan to run The Pizza Man on Million Preview Day: most likely in the Arlington Handicap (GIII), though the Stars and Stripes Stakes (GIII) was not completely out of the picture.  The Pizza Man has won the last two editions of the Stars and Stripes.

Fellow Midwest Thoroughbreds homebred Work All Week was not completely out of the limelight.  His win in the Senator Robert C. Byrd Memorial Stakes and his trio of graded stakes placings last year at age six were enough to earn him Illinois Champion Sprinter honours, as well as Reserve Champion Handicap Male honours behind The Pizza Man.

Work All Week is now retired, and working as a pony in trainer Danny Gargan's barn at Belmont Park.  Gargan currently trains a New York string for Midwest Thoroughbreds.

In addition to his horses with Midwest, one of Roger Brueggemann's charges, House of Sole, was also honoured as Reserve Champion Female Sprinter.  House of Sole is a homebred carrying the silks of Scarlet Stable.  House of Sole did not debut until March of 2015, her four-year-old year.  However, in eleven starts through the year, House of Sole never finished out of the exacta, and finished second in both the Dream Supreme Stakes at Churchill Downs and the Pan Zareta Stakes at Fair Grounds.  She has not raced since the Pan Zareta in December.

Trainer Larry Rivelli, 2015's leading trainer by wins, also spent plenty of time in the limelight Saturday evening.  His fleet turf sprinter Richies Sweetheart, who he co-owns with Richard Ravin and Patricia's Hope LLC (Vince Foglia), was named Champion Female Sprinter, Champion Turf Female, and Champion Handicap Female.  Richies Sweetheart made her stakes breakthrough in the Brandywine Stakes at Indiana Grand last year, and also captured the Turf Amazon Handicap at Parx and the Lightning City Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in 2015.  Richies Sweetheart is entered to race on Monday, May 30 in the Honor the Hero Stakes at Canterbury, a five-furlong turf dash against males.

Lewys Vaporizer, who Rivelli conditions for V-Leaf Stables and Richard Ravin, was elected Champion Three Year Old Male as well as Reserve Champion Male Sprinter.  Though he spent much of the year in the allowance ranks, he posted a third-place finish in the Perryville Stakes in October at Keeneland, and then turned the tables on Bayerd and Hebbronville by winning the Steel Valley Sprint Stakes at Mahoning Valley Race Course the next month.  Lewys Vaporizer has not raced since January at Oaklawn, but remains in training, and has been posting workouts at Arlington through the month of May.

In addition, Richie the Bull was named Champion Two Year Old Colt or Gelding.  Also owned by V-Leaf Stables and Richard Ravin during 2015, Richie the Bull won three of his four starts at age two, including the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity.  His only defeat came in the Juvenile Dirt Sprint Stakes at Keeneland, on the Breeders' Cup Saturday undercard.  Richie the Bull remains in training at age three, including a third-place finish in the Swale Stakes (GII), though he has made both of his starts this year for trainer Joan Scott and owners Richie's Usual Suspects.

One other barn was represented by multiple horses honoured on Saturday night.  Trainer Chris Block conditions Prado's Sweet Ride, winner of the 2015 Regret Stakes (GIII) at Churchill Downs and third in the Pucker Up Stakes (GIII) at Arlington.  Those performances earned her Champion Three Year Old Filly honours, as well as the Reserve Champion Turf Female designation.  Prado's Sweet Ride has raced once in 2016, a ninth-place finish in the Powder Break Stakes at Gulfstream Park on April 30.

In addition, Block also trains Reserve Champion Turf Male Sweet Luca.  Six years old in 2015, Sweet Luca achieved the first open stakes victory of his career, rallying to take the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash.  Sweet Luca remains in training, most recently fourth in his seven-year-old debut in a May 21 allowance optional claiming race at Arlington.

Congratulations to all of the connections of 2015's Illinois Champions!

  • Horse of the Year: The Pizza Man (Owner: Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc.; Breeder: Midwest Thoroughbreds; Trainer: Roger Brueggemann)
  • Handicap Male
    • Champion: The Pizza Man
    • Reserve: Work All Week (Owner: Midwest Thoroughbreds, Inc.; Breeder: Midwest Thoroughbreds; Trainer: Roger Brueggemann)
  • Handicap Female
    • Champion: Richies Sweetheart (Owner: Richard Ravin, Patricia's Hope LLC, and Larry Rivelli; Breeder: Larry Rivelli and Richard Ravin; Trainer: Larry Rivelli)
    • Reserve: Diva's Diamond (Owner: Jerry Namy; Breeder: Asiel Stable, L.C.; Trainer: Karl Broberg)
  • Male Sprinter
    • Champion: Work All Week
    • Reserve: Lewys Vaporizer (Owner: V-Leaf Stables LLC and Richard Ravin; Breeder: Jean White and Larry Rivelli; Trainer: Larry Rivelli)
  • Female Sprinter
    • Champion: Richies Sweetheart
    • Reserve: House of Sole (Owner: Scarlet Stable; Breeder: Scarlet Stable; Trainer: Roger Brueggemann)
  • Turf Male
    • Champion: The Pizza Man
    • Reserve: Sweet Luca (Owner: Fortino, Inc.; Breeder: Fortino, Inc.; Trainer: Chris Block)
  • Turf Female
    • Champion: Richies Sweetheart
    • Reserve: Prado's Sweet Ride (Owner: Darrell and Sadie Brommer; Breeder: Darrell and Sadie Brommer; Trainer: Chris Block)
  • Three Year Old Colt or Gelding
    • Champion: Lewys Vaporizer
    • Reserve: Recount (Owner: Doubledown Stables, Inc.; Breeder: Barney Gallagher and Anne Gallagher; Trainer: James P. DiVito)
  • Three Year Old Filly
    • Champion: Prado's Sweet Ride
    • Reserve: Military Angel (Owner: Military Syndicate; Breeder: Gregg Flanigan and Terri Flanigan; Trainer: Michael O'Callaghan)
  • Two Year Old Colt or Gelding
    • Champion: Richie the Bull (Owner: V-Leaf Stables LLC and Richard Ravin; Breeder: Richard Ravin and Larry Rivelli; Trainer: Larry Rivelli)
    • Reserve: Shogood (Owner: William Stiritz; Breeder: Terry L. Morgan DVM; Trainer: Scott Becker)
  • Two Year Old Filly
    • Champion: Silver Lode (Owner: TNT Thorughbreds, V LLC; Breeder: DLT Thoroughbreds LLC; Trainer: Doug Matthews)
    • Reserve: Delicate Lady (Owner: Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners; Breeder: William Shaffer and Diana Shaffer; Trainer: Todd Pletcher)
  • Champion Broodmare: I Can Fan Fan (Midwest Thoroughbreds)
  • Champion Sire: Road Ruler (JB Stables)
  • Champion Juvenile Sire: Cashel Castle (Team Block, Darrell Brommer, and Sadie Brommer)
  • Champion Small Breeder: DLT Thoroughbreds
  • Person of the Year: Dan W. Arrigo

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