Gary Contessa

Hernandez Continues To Enjoy The Ride Of His Life

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Brian Hernandez had a huge weekend on the first weekend in May. The 38-year-old jockey is hoping for another big one on the second weekend in June. Hernandez is the pilot of the best 3-year-old filly in the country in Thorpedo Anna (Fast Anna). He also is the teammate of one of the best 3-year-old colts in the land in Mystik Dan (Goldencents). Both horses are trained by Kenny McPeek and they gave Hernandez the biggest thrill of his 21-year career last month. Thorpedo Anna won...

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Nutella Fella Targets Woody Stephens

Bell Gable Stable's Nutella Fella (Runhappy), off since winning last year's GI Hopeful S., could return to action in the June 8 GI Woody Stephens S. The bay colt upset the Hopeful at 54-1, but suffered a hind ankle injury while training for the GI Champagne S. and underwent surgery. He has been working at Oak Ridge Training Center in Ocala and is currently back with trainer Gary Contessa's string in Saratoga. "He worked five-eighths in 1:01 in Ocala before I brought him up last week," Contessa said. "He'll probably...

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Nutella Fella Another Stakes Upsetter For Contessa In Hopeful

Trainer Gary Contessa, who sprang a 21-1 upset in the opening-day GIII Schuylerville S., brought the curtain down on the 2023 Saratoga season with another shocker when 54-1 outsider Nutella Fella (Runhappy) ran down the field late to take the GI Hopeful S. Monday in upstate New York. Fractious behind the gate and away slowly, Nutella Fella was well back in last as a four-way speed battle developed up front. After tacking onto the rest of the field approaching the three-eighths pole, Nutella Fella was committed to an inside run...

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Becky's Joker Continues to Defy Odds with Unconventional Spa Schedule

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.--Trainer Gary Contessa believes in Becky's Joker (Practical Joke) and is not going to waver from his against-the-grain approach with the massive 2-year-old filly. On the opening day of the Saratoga season, July 13, Contessa had her make her career debut in the GIII Schuylerville. She won for fun by 3 1/4 lengths at 21-1. According to Equibase, she is just the fifth horse since 1991 to start its career with a graded-stakes victory. After she worked four furlongs in :48.40 seconds on July 26, Contessa said she...

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Becky's Joker from 'Questionable to Probable' for Adirondack

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - After watching GIII Schuylerville S. winner Becky's Joker (Practical Joke) work a bullet half-mile Wednesday, trainer Gary Contessa said he may buck convention, take a step back in time and run her in the GIII Adirondack on Aug. 6. Becky's Joker turned in a stunning performance on opening day, July 13, easily winning the six-furlong Schuylerville by 3 1/4 lengths at 21-1 in the first start of her career. According to Equibase, she is the fifth horse since 1991 to win a graded stakes in her...

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Forte Works Towards Jim Dandy; Becky's Joker To Spinaway

Reigning Champion 2-Year-Old colt Forte (Violence) logged his first breeze of the summer at Saratoga Race Course when covering a half-mile in :48.90 seconds over the Oklahoma dirt training track Friday with regular jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. up for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. The colt worked in company with graded stakes-winner Grand Sonata (Medaglia d'Oro) in preparation for the GII Jim Dandy July 29 at the Spa. "He jumped on the bridle a little early, so I kind of took a little hold away from the horse," said...

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Smiles Abound on Saratoga's Opening Day

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Smiles, hugs and handshakes--especially the smiles--were the currency Thursday for opening day, the annual lovefest at Saratoga Race Course. While the New York Racing Association (NYRA) served up 10 races on the first of the 40 days of the 155th season at the Spa, the crowd of 29,102 celebrated the past, greeting old friends, as well as the present at the historic track. With a line of thunderstorms approaching from the west on a hot, humid and windy afternoon, NYRA sped up post times and was...

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Contessa's Becky's Joker Upsets Schuylerville in Career Debut

Much of the pre-race speculation about Saratoga's GIII Schuylerville S. for 2-year-old fillies going six furlongs on the dirt seemed to focus on which Hall of Famer--D. Wayne Lukas or Todd Pletcher--would be the first to win the traditional opening-day feature for the record seventh time, unless another Hall of Famer--Steve Asmussen--got in the way. Instead, that trio had to settle for filling out the superfecta as it was another veteran conditioner, Gary Contessa, who notched his first Schuylerville win with Becky's Joker (Practical Joke--Becky's Best, by Elusive Quality), the...

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Street Sense Filly Named Champion of MHBA Yearling Show

Trainer Gary Contessa selected a Street Sense filly as grand champion of the 87th annual Maryland Horse Breeders Association (MHBA)'s Yearling Show. The show was held Sunday at the Timonium Fairgrounds with the filly bred by the late Robert T. Manfuso out of GSW Belterra (Unbridled) prevailing. The winner is owned by Katharine Voss of Chanceland Farm and shown by the farm's manager Casey Randall. "We all know that on a horse, the engine is in the rear, and she's got like a 400 horsepower engine in that rear end,"...

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Contessa Nearing Return to Training

Gary Contessa, who stepped away from training in March to try his hand at being a bloodstock agent and a jockey agent, is set to return Apr. 1. He has accepted a job as the private trainer for Nick Beaver's Bell Gable Stable and will be based at Delaware Park. "Nick hired me about four months ago to organize his stable," Contessa said. "He had horses everywhere, with Jamie Ness, Anthony Farrior, Mike Trombetta, and they were scattered all over the place. He told me he wanted to be more...

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Contessa Quits Training

Longtime New York trainer Gary Contessa has announced he is ending his training career after 35 years. In a story originally reported by the Paulick Report, he cited the costs incurred by the Department of Labor investigation and his wife's ongoing illness as his reasons for hanging up his hat. Contessa is one of many trainers in New York to be investigated by the DOL over record-keeping and wages issues with backstretch employees. Several conditioners have already been hit with hefty fines by both the state and federal DOL. This...

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Bilinski and Contessa Form I Think I Love You Animal Foundation

Breeder and vet Dr. Jerry Bilinski and trainer Gary Contessa, along with their wives Darlene Bilinski and Jennifer Contessa, have founded the I Think I Love You Animal Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit formed to serve the welfare of animals in memory of David Cassidy. The David Cassidy Memorial Legacy Group provided some minor assistance with this project. The goals is to help animals in need everywhere through the support of Cassidy's friends and fans. Cassidy was a lifelong animal lover and often donated to animal welfare groups, including those that...

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