Joey Freshwater Aiming for G2 True North

Winning Move Stable’s Joey Freshwater made the grade with a narrow neck score over Ninetyprcentmaddie in Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Runhappy, a six-furlong sprint for older horses, at Belmont at the Big A.

Trained by Linda Rice, the 4-year-old Jimmy Creed colt has won 3-of-4 starts this year, beginning with a 1 3/4-length optional-claiming win in January and a swift optional-claiming score on April 4 sprinting six furlongs that registered a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure.

With returning rider Jose Lezcano up in the Runhappy, Joey Freshwater tracked in second position as Straight No Chaser – who stumbled at the break – led through splits of 22.01 seconds, 44.70 and 56.82 over the fast main track. Joey Freshwater surged to the lead inside the eighth pole and fought gamely to the wire to score in a final time of 1:09.41. The winning effort garnered a 91 Beyer.

“We were pretty excited about his back-to-back efforts. He came out of it well,” Rice said.

How I got into horse racingRice claimed Joey Freshwater for $50,000 from a second-out graduation in November 2022 at Churchill Downs. He made 10 sophomore starts for Rice, winning the Grade 3 Bay Shore last April and hitting the board when third in the Jimmy Winkfield here and in Belmont Park’s Gold Fever as well as a runner-up effort in the off-the-turf Quick Call at Saratoga.

“I think he ran very well last year as a 3-year-old, but he was less experienced and less seasoned,” Rice said. “He had a few more mis-steps last year. We tried to take advantage of the straight 3-year-old races, and it got to the point where he was in need of a break, so we stopped on him for four months and gave him a nice rest. He certainly hasn’t disappointed us coming back as a 4-year-old. He’s showing more consistency, more seasoning and more maturity – all good things.”

Joey Freshwater will now target the Grade 2, $350,000 True North presented by F. W. Webb, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for older horses on June 8 Belmont Stakes Day at Saratoga Race Course.

A victory in the True North could put Joey Freshwater among Rice’s top recent claims, including Pioneering Spirit, who was haltered for $40,000 last March and has since won six starts topped by scores in the Spa’s Listed Bernard Baruch and off-the-turf Listed Knickerbocker here.

Rice said Joey Freshwater has a ways to go to best the efforts of Palace, a $20,000 claim that banked more than $1.5 million through graded scores in 2014 in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap, Grade 1 Forego and Grade 2 True North.

“We’ve had some very nice claims and he ranks right up there with some of the best – he hasn’t quite matched Palace yet at this point, but he’s been a good one,” Rice said.

KEM Stables’ multiple stakes-winner Hot Fudge worked five-eighths solo in 1:02.76 Sunday over the Belmont Park dirt training track in preparation for Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Vagrancy, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares.

“She went very nicely. She’s on schedule for the Vagrancy,” Rice said.

The talented 5-year-old Liam’s Map dark bay saw a five-race win streak come to an end last out in the Grade 3 Distaff on April 6 here where she stumbled from the gate and grabbed a quarter.

Hot Fudge won the Big A’s Garland of Roses, Listed Interborough and Correction during her winning streak to bring her career record to 14-8-1-1 for purse earnings of $500,905.


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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 19-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 of the NHC twice. A former executive with and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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