Benny Havens got Laurel Park's fall meet off to a rousing start, swinging to the lead on the far turn and fending off Mister Frank's Way the length of the stretch to give trainer Anthony Aguirre Jr. his first career win in the first race on Friday's opening day program.
Owned by the fledgling trainer and ridden by 2018 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice Weston Hamilton, Benny Havens ($21.20) covered one mile over a firm Bowl Game turf course in 1:38.92 for a half-length triumph in the $33,000 waiver maiden claiming event for 2-year-olds.
“It's a dream come true,” the 24-year-old Aguirre Jr. said. “I'm just happy to get the monkey off my back and get my first win.”
It was the third career start for Benny Havens and seventh for his trainer, whose first came with Red Clay Road July 18 at Laurel. Aguirre's father, Anthony, is also based at Laurel and owns 140 wins since 2001. His mother, Kaymarie Kreidel, won 190 races as a jockey between 1992 and 2006 and now works full-time as an outrider for the Maryland Jockey Club at Laurel and Pimlico Race Course.
The younger Aguirre spent $1,500 during Fasig-Tipton's Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale last October at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium to acquire Benny Havens, a Maryland-bred son of Outflanker out of the Tabasco Cat mare Saucy Countess. His full brother, Flankenstein, won twice last summer at Laurel.
“I picked him out myself. I wanted a Maryland-bred really badly because I'm training in Maryland,” Aguirre said. “I looked back at his breeding. Outflankers, they love to run. People have told me he's a good poor man's sire. I looked at the mare. She's nine-for-nine with her racing foals, they're all winners, and she's had a couple stakes winners.
“It's great for myself to get him here, and I couldn't have done it without my parents,” he added. “I broke my arm back in April, right when he just came into the track, and they got on him and they helped me get him to this point.”
Aguirre first worked as a hotwalker and groom for trainer Robin Graham, starting when he was 18. He then spent time with trainers Mike Trombetta, Hugh McMahon and Jose Corrales before becoming a foreman for Jeremiah Englehart.
“Every step of the way I learned something from every barn and I just put it all together for my own [program],” Aguirre said. “A lot came from my father; he helped me out more than anybody.”
Aguirre Jr. continues to gallop his horses in the morning, including Benny Havens, who debuted on the Laurel turf Aug. 15 before finishing third in a four-furlong maiden special weight on the dirt 10 days later at Timonium, beaten two lengths.
“I've been getting on him ever since I got back from my injury. I know him like the back of my hand,” he said. “I haven't picked my spot yet, but I'm just super excited to see my project come together. The next spot, we'll figure it out when we get to it.”
Opening weekend continues with 10-race cards Saturday and Sunday. Laurel's calendar year-ending 61-day fall meet runs through Sunday, Dec. 29.
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