Jareth Loveberry has a name fit for a Disney prince, and he’ll be vying for the first of horse racing’s three crowns when he hops aboard Kentucky Derby contender Two Phil’s on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Loveberry, a 2005 graduate of Mt. Pleasant High School in Central Michigan, was one of Fair Grounds Park’s top riders this past winter in New Orleans before moving his tack to Kentucky, where he’s yet to win a race in 35 starts at either Keeneland or Churchill, two of the most competitive tracks in the country. But all you need is one good horse, and Loveberry and Two Phil’s did win one very big race — the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park — in the Bluegrass State on March 23, a victory that qualified the jockey-colt duo for the May 6 Run for the Roses.
Loveberry, who rode in his first race before about 100 spectators at now-defunct Great Lakes Downs, almost missed making it into the gate for the Turfway feature, as he broke his leg just three weeks earlier. Clearly, he’s grateful to have been able to keep the mount, as Two Phil’s opened as a 12/1 shot to win the Derby.
Two Phil’s boasts the highest Beyer Speed Figure — 101 in the Jeff Ruby — in the entire Derby field, and he posted a big win as a 2-year-old at Churchill in the Grade 3 Street Sense with Loveberry aboard. Yet despite his obvious talent, there are doubts about his stamina and whether dirt is his optimal surface, as the Ruby was run over a synthetic track.
#10 TWO PHIL'S ($7.64) wins the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) with authority! Jareth Loveberry on the son of Hard Spun for trainer Larry Rivelli. pic.twitter.com/1poCxcUK08
— TVG (@TVG) March 25, 2023
But Loveberry doesn’t seem too concerned. After riding Two Phil’s in his final Derby work at Chicago’s Hawthorne Park before the colt was shipped to Kentucky, Loveberry told the Daily Racing Form, “I felt like I was riding on clouds in the work. He just responded to my slight touch and took off. He pulled up and came back to the barn as high as a kite.”
Northville plan needs tweaks before approval
The 2023 harness racing meet at 79-year-old Northville Downs will be the last at the track’s current location, which is slated for redevelopment. But Northville Downs’ lifelong owners, the Carlo family, have been pushing for a rebirth of Michigan’s last remaining racetrack down the road in Plymouth Township, a proposal that has largely been welcomed by the local community and its Board of Trustees.
But the proposal hit a bit of a speed bump on Wednesday night during a Plymouth Township Planning Commission meeting. Acting on the recommendation of the Northville-based civic consulting firm McKenna, the commission voted to table the Northville proposal for 30 days in order to allow the Carlos and their cohorts time to revise their plan.
“It was tabled for some additions and changes to the final site plan,” Tom Barrett, president of the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association, told MI Bets via text on Thursday morning. “These include some recommended changes to the exterior of the clubhouse, such as additional windows on one side and some variations in the exterior finish. Northville Downs hopes to have the changes made and the site plan resubmitted within the next 30 days. This is normal stuff, especially under a PUD, which is more complicated than a permitted use under existing zoning.”
Plymouth Township Supervisor Kurt Heise confirmed the veracity of Barrett’s account and also sought to dispel a rumor that the new track, if approved, will feature an onsite casino.
“There’s obviously opposition to this project and that’s nothing new. There’s opposition to every proposal,” said Heise. “And I know one of the rumors going around here is there’s going to be a Vegas-style casino, and that’s absolutely not going to happen. I don’t think you’ll ever see another casino get licensed in southeast Michigan.
“What Northville Downs is proposing to do here is everything they’ve been doing for the past 100 (79, actually) years.”
Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images