Dean Martini raises the bar for his one-horse stable owners

Dean Martini raises the bar for his one-horse stable owners
Photo: Jeffrey J. Zamaiko

To Annie Jessee of Louisville, just having the chance to go out to the Churchill Downs stable area is the home run scored when her Raise the BAR Racing partnership claimed Dean Martini for $50,000 out of a maiden-claiming race three starts back.

So imagine her excitement in having the 3-year-old gelding finish a good second in an allowance race, followed by victory in Thistledown’s Grade 3 Ohio Derby and now taking on one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby in Sunday’s $200,000 Ellis Park Derby.

“When people say unbelievable, I do mean that,” Jessee said. “I’m just very happy on Friday mornings when I go to the backside. I love pulling in Churchill Downs and smelling the barn area and hearing horses on the track. That’s my home run, just to be out there and be a part of it, to be a part of this industry. I love horses, and I love being around them.”

Jessee, an attorney and retired school teacher, formed Raise the BAR Racing several years ago with sister-in-law Diane Jessee, Brad Rives and Rives’ daughter’s father-in-law, Rick Riney. Besides the owners being lawyers, BAR also refers to the first-name initials of Brad, Annie and Rick.

And if Dean Martini should pull off the upset Sunday of Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2) winner Art Collector and Indiana Derby (G3) winner Shared Sense, the BAR reference will have another meaning with the group that is hiring a van and driver to take them to Ellis Park.

“We are a celebratory group,” Annie Jessee acknowledged.

Raise the BAR pretty much campaigns one horse at a time, claiming Dean Martini with money earned upon the private sale at the end of the Fair Grounds’ winter meet of a Louisiana-bred horse named Remembermis. Trainer Tom Amoss presented the group with three horses to claim, with Jessee preferring Dean Martini. While the gelding was 0 for 7, he was racing very well, with three seconds and three thirds. He led all the way to win by 6 3/4 lengths when claimed on May 17.

“It's just amazing. We’re a little one-horse stable,” Jessee said. “Tom has been so good to us and very, very careful with our money. It’s been neat, we’ve just had so much fun.”

COVID restrictions made it easier for Jessee to stay home from the Ohio Derby, watching it at her home with Hayley Amoss, the trainer’s daughter who is a close friend of Jessee’s daughter Lizzy.

“We were watching it on my lucky UK basketball TV — you have to have one of those,” she said. “We’re watching the race and Hayley goes, ‘Miss Annie, you’re going to win the Ohio Derby!’ Then we were just screaming.”

Dean Martini was not nominated to the Triple Crown and would require a supplementary payment of $45,000 plus entry fees to run in the Kentucky Derby. With 20 qualifying points for winning the Ohio Derby, he could wrap up a spot in the 20-horse field with a victory (worth 50 points) and likely secure a berth with a second (20 points) and maybe a third (10). But no one in Dean Martini’s camp is looking ahead to the First Saturday in September.

“Oh, he’s tough,” Jessee said of Art Collector. “But we won’t know unless we try. This just tells us where we need to go next. There’s a point where you have to say OK, that’s out of your reach.

“There are a lot of good horses in this race — Shared Sense, you need to be mindful of all of them.”

James Graham, who rode Dean Martini in the Churchill Downs allowance race, is back aboard at Ellis Park.

2020 Ellis Park Derby (LS)

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