Witty is No Joke in $75,000 Ben’s Cat
LAUREL, MD – Gold Square’s Full Count Felicia, racing for just the second time this year, got into a comfortable rhythm on the front end and rolled to her first stakes victory in eye-catching style with an 8 ½-length romp in Saturday’s $100,000 All Along at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 52nd running of the 1 1/8-mile All Along for fillies and mares 3 and up on the grass was the fourth of six stakes worth $650,000 in purses on an 11-race program headlined by the $200,000 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3).
Ridden by Sheldon Russell for his wife, Maryland’s leading trainer, Brittany Russell, Full Count Felicia ($4.60) covered the distance in 1:50.36 over a turf course rated good. It was the third straight win for the 4-year-old daughter of War Front dating back to her 2022 season finale last November at Laurel Park.
“She did have a bit of an issue. Not a big deal, but at that time of year when you have a turf horse you kick them out and you do everything right,” Brittany Russell said. “She’s just a stronger, heartier filly now being a little bit older. You always wonder about that first time off Lasix, too, things like that, but it doesn’t appear to matter.”
Full Count Felicia has won four of five starts since joining Russell last summer, graduating by 6 1/2 lengths in a one-mile maiden special weight at Colonial Downs. She returned to stakes company for the first time since running sixth in the 2022 Virginia Oaks.
Unlike her previous races for the new barn, Full Count Felicia was full of run early and settled nicely through a 23.77-second first quarter and a half in 47.48. Argentinian Group 1 winner Milagrosa Surena tracked in second two wide, with 6-5 favorite Willakia saving ground on the rail in third and Creative Cairo racing outside in fourth.
Full Count Felicia remained in command as the field approached the stretch and opened up on her rivals once straightened for home, drawing away convincingly. Willakia held second, 1 ¼ lengths in front of Creative Cairo, with 40-1 long shot Eight Danzas 1 ½ lengths back in fourth. Eidikos, Milagrosa Surena and My Thoughts completed the field. Mouffy, Kotyle, Queen Judith, Unruly Julie and Myriskyaffair were scratched.
“All I did when I legged Sheldon up was I said, ‘I don’t know what this pace scenario was going to be. Do not choke her out, just let her get comfortable,’ and that’s what he did,” Russell said. “She was comfortable.”
The All Along is named for the French-bred filly that won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Rothmans International, Turf Classic and Laurel’s Washington D.C. International in the span of 41 days in 1983 en route to becoming the first foreign-based horse to be voted U.S. Horse of the Year. A winner of nine races and more than $3 million in purses from 21 starts, she was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1990.
Witty is No Joke in $75,000 Ben’s Cat
After finishing second in his last four starts – and five of his last six – Elizabeth Merryman’s homebred Witty found his way to the winner’s circle with a very game head victory over Sky’s Not Falling in the $75,000 Ben’s Cat.
Witty covered a firm five-furlong turf course in :58.59.
A 4-year-old gelding by Great Notion out of the Congrats mare Zeezee Zoomzoom, Witty’s victory was the fifth of his 17-race career. The gelding also has seven runner-up finishes and earnings of more than $400,000.
A winner of the Pennsylvania Nursery as a 2-year-old and Spectacular Bid at Laurel as a 3-year-old, Witty entered the Ben’s Cat after finishing second in the Laurel Dash and Wolf Hill in July and Marshall Jenney at Parx in August.
After breaking cleanly and racing sixth down the backstretch under jockey Jevian Toledo while Commander General and Matta went an opening quarter in :22.51, Witty moved up around the turn and four-wide entering the stretch. Despite a game try by Sky’s Not Falling, who encountered some traffic down the stretch, Witty wouldn’t let anyone by, gamely getting the victory.
“I think the main thing with him is he’s gotten some confidence on the turf,” Merryman said. As for Witty’s future, she added, “All things working out well, I would love to go to the Maryland Million Turf Sprint.”
Bred, owned and trained by Hall of Fame horseman King Leatherbury, Ben’s Cat won 32 of 63 career races, 26 stakes and more than $2.6 million in purses from 2010 to 2017. A four-time Maryland-bred Horse of the Year, Ben’s Cat died July 18, 2017 of complications from colic surgery.