After Romping in Pasco, Jersey-Bred Star Book’em Danno On His Way to Saudi Derby

by Bill Finley

   Bred in New Jersey, Book ‘em Danno (Bucchero) is a 3-year-old, has been beaten only once in five starts, has won three stakes, and is coming off a career-best effort when beating up on five inferior rivals in the Jan. 13 Pasco S. at Tampa Bay Downs. With most owners and trainers, to have a horse like that would mean they’d be hyper-focused on getting to the GI Kentucky Derby. But not trainer Derek Ryan or the partnership that races under the name of Atlantic Six Racing LLC. They’re headed to Saudi Arabia for the $1.5 million Saudi Derby on Feb. 24. The Kentucky Derby is not under consideration.

   “The Saudi Derby is a one-turn mile, he’s a gelding, there’s a lot of money,” Ryan said. “I have no Derby dreams. I’ve been down that road before and it didn’t do me any good. I think the Derby is overrated, but that’s just me. We were never really considering the Derby trail. The Derby trail, you always have to make works, make races. You put the horse under a lot of pressure.”

   Atlantic Six Racing LLC is made up of six friends who reside on the Jersey Shore. They are Frank Camassa, Jeff Resnikoff, Mark Rubenstein, James Rubenstein, Jim Scappi and Jay Briscione. It was Mark Rubenstein who came up with the name Book’em Danno, which is what Steve McGarrett said at the end of each episode of Hawaii Five-O after nailing a guilty criminal.

   The group never had the type of money needed to buy a highly-rated horse at the sales but did have some luck with a high-priced claimer named Counterfeitcurency (Currency Swap), who made nearly $200,000. That gave them enough money to look around for some younger horses and an advisor pointed them in the direction of Book ‘em Danno, who was being shopped around by his breeders, Greg Kilka and Christine Connelly of Bright View Farm. There was not a lot to go on. Book ‘em Danno is the second foal out of Adorabella (Ghostzapper) who never raced. The first foal had just broken her maiden when Atlantic Six privately purchased Book ‘em Danno and did so by just a half-length in a slow time. But she turned out to be a runner. Named Girl Trouble (Fast Anna), she has won two stakes, the Future Stars Filly Division S. and the Parx Futurity.

So the team was optimistic when Book’em Danno made his first start and won a maiden race for Jersey breds by 9 ½ lengths.

   “He always acted like a nice horse,” Ryan said. “I don’t crank horses up to win first time out because unless you really have a superstar there’s no place to run them. Nowadays, if you break your maiden the only races available to you are stakes races. I only had him 70 percent right for that first race, which told me I had a good one.”

   He returned a month later and beat open company in the Smoke Glacken S. at Monmouth and followed that up with a win in the Futurity at the Belmont at Aqueduct meet. He then ran well in defeat when second in the Nashua S. at Aqueduct.

   Atlantic Six and Ryan weren’t the only ones cheering Book’em Danno along. Kilka bought Adorabella for $14,000 at the 2020 Keeneland January Sale. They sold Girl Trouble for just $15,000 and probably didn’t break the bank when selling Book’em Danno. But their rewards were about to come. They sold the third foal, a colt by Classic Empire, at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearlings sale for $135,000. They then sold Adorabella for $550,000 at Fasig-Tipton November. She was believed to be in foal to Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado {Ire}) at the time, but the foal was aborted.

    After the defeat in the Nashua, Ryan and the owners began to formulate their plans for Book’em Danno’s 3-year-old campaign. Ryan confirmed that he wanted no part of the Derby. He had started one horse in the race in Musket Man (Yonaguska), who finished third in 2009.

   With Book’em Danno being a gelding and possibly a horse who would prefer one turn, Ryan wanted to pick out spots with big purses that would fit the gelding’s style. Even before the Pasco, he had set his sights on the Saudi Derby.

   But first the Pasco. It was not a particularly strong field and Book’em Danno was sent off at odds on 1-10. A soft spot or not, he could not have won any easier. With Samuel Marin aboard, he inched up to the leaders while four wide on the turn. Marin never seemed to ask his horse for his best run, but he nonetheless drew off in the stretch to win by 12 ½ lengths.

   “After the race, I had to pinch myself,” Briscione said. “It would have been one thing if he won by a length or something, but for him to draw off the way he did and win so easily. That was something. He moves somewhat effortlessly. It’s very exciting for all of us. We thought he’d run good but that was crazy what he did.”

   At the invitation of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, Ryan was planning to hop on a plane to Riyadh on Jan. 17 so that he could get the lay of the land before sending the horse over.

    “This is a great position to be in,” Briscione said. “We’re a little group and we don’t have the experience some of the big groups have had but we’re always trying to figure out what’s best for the horse. There are rewards and risks. The reward in Saudi is the money. The distance seems to suit him. The only issue is that once you come back you’ll probably need about three months before you’re ready to race. That’s ok if you run good. If you don’t it can be a problem. But who would have thought we’d ever be going to Saudi Arabia. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It’s a lot of fun. It’s also a little nerve-wracking. We couldn’t be more excited about this.”

   The Saudi Derby won’t be easy. Horses from 10 countries have been nominated and an American contingent could include horses from the stables of Christophe Clement, Brad Cox, Ken McPeek, Rick Dutrow, Brendan Walsh, Steve Asmussen, John Sadler, Bob Baffert, and Todd Pletcher. All have at least one horse nominated.

   But Book’em Danno is not to be underestimated.

   “You can never take anything for granted in this sport,” Ryan said. “But we think we’re in a great position.”

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