Multiple Stakes Winner Sold as Broodmare, Booked to Mage
Trainer Brittany Russell has Four Triple Crown Nominees
Live Racing Resumes Friday, 3YO Stakes Closing Saturday
LAUREL, MD – Deborah Greene was in Kentucky this week to watch Luna Belle, the best horse she ever owned and the last foal her late father ever saw, go through the sales ring. For Greene, it was a process both bittersweet and tinged with excitement.
Two-time Maryland-bred champion and five-time stakes-winning filly Luna Belle, based at Laurel Park throughout her racing career, was purchased for $100,000 by newcomer JR Ranch at Fasig-Tipton’s Winter Mixed Sale Feb. 5 and is booked to be bred to 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage.
“She’s just the best. She’s the sweetest,” Greene said. “She’s going to have a great life, and I’m very happy for her. She’s got a date with Mage, so that’s a nice first date.”
By Great Notion out of the Mojave Moon mare Heavenly Moon, Luna Belle was bred in Maryland by Greene, her father Fred Greene Jr. and their longtime trainer, Hamilton Smith, and campaigned by Greene and Smith. A retired home builder and land developer who successfully bred and owned horses for decades, Fred Greene passed away in 2021 at the age of 94.
Luna Belle raced 13 times between 2021 and 2023 with six wins, one second, three thirds and $391,7680 in purse earnings. She strung together five consecutive wins – all in stakes – from December 2021 to April 2022, and was named Maryland’s top 2-year-old filly of 2021 and 3-year-old filly of 2022.
“I think of my dad,” Greene said when reflecting on Luna Belle’s career. “I enjoyed my ride. There will never be another Luna Belle. Bill Reightler, the agent that sold her, said that she is so professional and so well-behaved. She’s a doll. I think she’ll be a wonderful mama.”
Luna Belle went to the sidelines with bone bruising after finishing 11th in the 2022 Black-Eyed Susan (G2), her graded-stakes debut. She went unraced in 513 days before making what would be her last start in the Marland Million Distaff last October, finishing third.
Entered in Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock sale, Luna Belle was withdrawn with the intention of continuing her racing career. She was entered in but scratched from the Nov. 11 Thirty Eight Go Go at Laurel.
“We had to keep taking her out of training with very minor things but she’s been good to us. We decided not to breed her [ourselves],” Greene said. “She’s great galloping, she’s great around the barn but when you set her down to breeze her she’d develop a slight problem and you’d have to stop with her. We just figured it was her time.
“She’ll be able to be out in the fields and run with other horses, and that makes me happy,” she added. “Ham and I just didn’t want to be breeding anymore, and I think that’s going to be the best life for her.”
Mage is standing his first stallion season at Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky. Jose Aguirre’s JR Ranch, with properties in Ocala, Fla., also purchased four-time stakes winner and twice Grade 3-placed mare R Adios Jersey for $290,000.
“I’m glad [Luna Belle] is going to be in Kentucky. I love Maryland, but my mom was from Kentucky so it has special meaning for me,” Greene said. “She’s very healthy, and when I found out who bought her, because I knew several people were bidding on her, I was very pleased because he bought her specifically for Mage. That speaks very well of her.”
Trainer Brittany Russell has Four Triple Crown Nominees
Laurel Park-based Brittany Russell, Maryland’s history-making leading trainer of 2023, has four horses among the 346 early nominees to the 2024 Triple Crown.
Early nominations to the May 4 Kentucky Derby (G1), May 18 Preakness Stakes (G1) and June 8 Belmont Stakes (G1) were due Jan. 29 at a cost of $600. Late nominations are due April 1 for a $6,000 fee.
Nominees Mission Beach, Mr. McMahon, Regalo and Sneak Preview are all trained by Russell. SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Dianne Bashor, Robert Masterson, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan and Tom Ryan’s Mission Beach cost $400,000 at auction and began his career in Southern California before joining Russell and winning a Dec. 22 optional claiming allowance at Laurel. Most recently he was seventh in the Feb. 3 Withers (G3) at Aqueduct.
Spendthrift Farm, Martin Schwartz, Gandharvi, Big Easy Racing, Winners Win, Jim Bakke, Titletown Racing, Kueber Racing, Golconda Stable, Ali Goodrich and Mark Parkinson’s Mr. McMahon, a $325,000 Candy Ride yearling, was fourth in his Jan. 28 unveiling, a six-furlong maiden special weight at Laurel.
G. Harry Papaleo’s Regalo, purchased for $280,000 as a 2-year-old in training, was second in his debut at historic Pimlico Race Course before reeling off back-to-back wins at Laurel by 9 ¾ combined lengths. The Maximus Mischief colt was fourth in the Jan. 6 Jerome at Aqueduct last out.
Gold Square’s Sneak Preview, by Arrogate, cost $350,000 as a yearling. He had been training with Russell’s string at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. before joining her group at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County. In his lone start Feb. 2 at Gulfstream, Sneak Preview got bumped at the start and chased the pace before finishing fifth as the favorite.
Rose Petal Stables’ multiple stakes winner Copper Tax, based at Laurel with trainer Gary Capuano, is also nominated. The Copper Bullet colt has won five of seven starts including Delaware’s Rocky Run and Laurel’s James F. Lewis III, and is entered in Saturday’s Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.
Trainer Graham Motion has two nominees – Boardshorts Breeding and Racing’s American War Hero, most recently fourth in Laurel’s Dec. 30 Heft, and Amerman Racing’s Trikari, a maiden winner Dec. 28 at Gulfstream, where he is entered in an optional claiming allowance Saturday.
Live Racing Resumes Friday; 3YO Stakes Closing Saturday
An entry-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-old fillies sprinting six furlongs and a 5 ½-furlong dash for 4-year-olds and up top a nine-race card as the winter Heritage Meet resumes Friday at Laurel Park.
D Hatman Thoroughbreds’ Determined Driver is entered to race for the first time since running second to multiple stakes winner Sweet Soddy J in the Timonium Juvenile last September. The daughter of Dialed In won her debut on the Colonial Downs turf three weeks earlier.
The 7-5 program favorite is Rising Sun Racing Stables Inc.’s I’m a Cutie Pie, third or better in five of eight career starts with two wins, the most recent a six-furlong optional claimer Dec. 23 at Laurel. She ran second to multiple stakes-placed Sheilahs Warcloud in a one-mile optional claiming allowance Jan. 12.
There will be a carryover of $2,579.34 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 4-9) from the last live program Feb. 4.
Jockey Forest Boyce remains two wins shy of 1,000 for her career, with four mounts Friday, one Saturday and two Sunday at Laurel. Trainer Cal Lynch sits at 999 with one starter each Friday-Sunday at Laurel and one Thursday night at Penn National.
Free nominations close Saturday for two $100,000 stakes to be run Feb. 24 at Laurel – the one-mile Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds and seven-furlong Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies. Entries for both stakes will be taken and post positions drawn Sunday, Feb. 18.
To nominate, email stakes coordinator Eleanor Albert at Eleanor.Albert@marylandracing.com or call 1-301-725-0400.