Bell Seeks Pace Glory With El Rey
Friday, July 14, 2023
Since it’s inception in 1977, the Meadowlands Pace has been regarded as one of, if not the most important Grand Circuit stake for the 3-year-old colt pacers and a difference maker for a horse that is a potential stallion prospect.
The list of winners of the previous 46 editions of the Pace includes some of the most iconic horses of the past half century, many of which transitioned to a career in the breeding shed. Some of those enjoyed successful stallion careers and some disappointed, but no Pace winner has been more prolific in the breeding shed than the winner of the 2013 edition, Captaintreacherous.
“The Captain” had a great racing season as a sophomore, winning virtually every major stake while earning over $2 million of the year for his connections, led by Managing Partner Myron Bell and trainer Tony Alagna. That pair is back with a shot on Saturday, sending out a son of their champion of a decade ago who carries royalty both in his pedigree and in his name, El Rey (translated from Spanish to The King).
Myron Bell has been the Racing Manager for George Segal’s Brittany Farms for decades and together with Art Zubrod as the storied farm’s manager from day one, they have cultivated the great Standardbred nursery to a long list of accolades, including Dan Patch Breeder of the Year for 2019 & 2020. Brittany has bred 45 million dollar winning horses that include several of the most important sires of the past 40 years.
Beyond Brittany, Myron has assembled ownership groups led by the Riverview Racing moniker he shares with wife Stephanie. The intent has been to breed or buy the finest in pedigreed yearlings to be pointed toward the major stakes and ultimately have the tools to become commercial sires. Those goals have been accomplished a number of times, with Captaintreacherous clearly the jewel of his efforts.
“I go to the yearling sales to buy the best horse,” is Myron’s philosophy. “We do the work; my strength is pedigree and there are families I believe in. They produce champions time after time. We have a talented team that examines the horses physically, another vital piece of the puzzle. By the time they get to the ring, we have narrowed the 500 yearlings down to 10, maybe even fewer, that we want to buy. Then with our groups and with Tony, we set out to buy what we think is the best.”
“With Captaintreacherous evolving into the type of sire that he has, I have split my focus to now also try to buy fillies to breed to him. El Rey is a product of that focus. Stephanie and I now have 15-20 quality mares to breed, including several “Captain” fillies we raised as he has been a great filly sire as well. I like our spot,” he smiled.
The partnership on El Rey includes Brittany along with a group racing under the eponymous stable name comprised of Myron and Stephanie as Riverview Racing, Steve Head, Larry Denley, trainer Tony Alagna and Robbie Pryde, in one of his first forays as a Standardbred owner as Pryde Stables, Inc.
Tony Alagna has been an integral component of the team since he opened his public stable in 2010 and recently eclipsed the 2,000-win mark with more than $67 million earned by horses he trains. Tony trained Captaintreacherous throughout his illustrious racing career and has trained countless sons and daughters of his best pupil to date.
El Rey is a Riverview homebred, the result of years of curating a broodmare band that can produce champions, often intertwined with Brittany blood. His dam, Mystery Game, is a Brittany pedigree that when bred to Captaintreacherous has produced the Grand Circuit stakes winning filly Don’t Fence Me and El Rey among her four foals old enough to race that all have records.
Despite flashing ability that fostered high hopes training down, racing success did not come instantly for El Rey. He labored anonymously through the KYSS at Red Mile, but a pair of winning efforts in overnights during the Grand Circuit meet led to two more in the Corbin KYSS in Kentucky before coming to The Meadowlands for the Governor’s Cup where he and driver Scott Zeron connected.
After a “feeling out” elimination, Zeron quickly recognized the talent and strengths of El Rey then used his serious stretch kick to win the $430,000 final in a photo.
The training prep back from age 2 to 3 was impressive and the second qualifier awesome, but the return to racing was again fraught with disappointment. The month of June in Canada for the NA Cup was discouraging, with sub-par performances in all three starts.
Returning to his home environment in Jersey brought good things to El Rey where a :25.2 sprint home in an overnight led to renewed optimism for the connections. Tony made three key adjustments for the Pace eliminations last week, a bridle change, lighter shoes and the addition of Lasix in an attempt to get the colt as good as he could be.
The results were positive as the colt, despite Zeron having to navigate through heavy traffic, waiting for and getting a path very late, blasted home the final sixteenth of a mile to get within a half length of the winner and Pace final favorite Confederate to be second.
The mile was impressive enough to keep his driver, as Scott Zeron won the earlier elimination with the sharp Cannibal who he had been driving regularly as well. Zeron stuck, the post position draw was OK for a horse that does his best racing off cover and all systems are go for Saturday’s $668,000 Meadowlands Pace final and beyond.
The El Rey group will assemble on Saturday to root for “The King” and hope that the royal blood coursing through his veins will carry the day.
It’s all happening on Saturday night at The Meadowlands where the “Biggest Party in Harness Racing” takes place with more than $2.3 million in purses offered to the best horses in the game.