Maidens How Lovely, Chocolate Shake Graduate in Debut Saturday
LAUREL, MD – Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, Madaket Stables and Michael Caruso’s Grade 3 winner Wondrwherecraigis steps back into allowance company for the first time in more than a year in an attempt to recapture his winning form Sunday at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Wondrwherecraigis is the 3-5 program favorite in featured Race 9, a stakes-quality third-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs on the main track. His five rivals have combined for 26 career victories including the past two winners of the Maryland Million Sprint, Air Token (2021) and Karan’s Notion (2020), and 2021 Concern winner Alwaysinahurry.
“I’m excited to get him back in an allowance race. They’re never going to be easy spots when you’re a horse like ‘Craig,’” trainer Brittany Russell said. “You’re going to have to run against horses that maybe aren’t in their best form today but they have some back class and they’re good horses.”
Wondrwherecraigis has raced four times this year winning the Jan. 29 Fire Plug at Laurel Park in his season opener. From there, he traveled to Dubai to contest the $2 million Golden Shaheen (G1) March 26, finishing 10th, before returning with a runner-up effort in the July 16 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash.
In his most recent effort, the 5-year-old Munnings was fourth in the seven-furlong Russell Road Aug. 26 at Charles Town, where he pressed the pace before taking a brief lead near the quarter pole but flattened out and wound up 4 ¾ lengths behind winner Sir Alfred James, edged by a neck for third by Dontmesawithme.
“When you look at the [speed] number, it actually came back ok. He ran fast, he maybe just didn’t like the track, or he didn’t like the trip,” Russell said. “Whatever it was, I just want to draw a line through it and hopefully get him back on track. Maybe this will be the spot where we can get him back winning.”
Because of Charles Town’s bullring configuration, seven-furlong races are contested around two turns which Wondrwherecraigis had never done before. He won the Bold Ruler (G3) last fall Belmont Park in his only previous try going seven-eighths.
“I hate making an excuse for a horse. If you’re a good horse, you’re just going to overcome things and win races. I honestly think he was confused. He traveled, he ran around that [first] turn, he ran down the backside and then it was sort of like, ‘Wait a minute,’” Russell said. “You can’t say it was the seven-eighths, because he won a graded-stake going seven-eighths. I wasn’t upset with him. I was disappointed that it didn’t work out, but we’ll move on. It’s a new day.”
Wondrwherecraigis drew Post 2 under jockey Sheldon Russell, aboard for four of his five career wins. It will be the first non-stakes for Wondrwherecraigis since he won an optional claiming allowance last July at Pimlico, where he is 2-0 lifetime.
“He ran big at Pimlico last year. Obviously, Sheldon knows him,” Russell said. “There’s a lot of positives. He came out of that last race in really good order and since this race did go, we felt like we needed to be in it.”
Owned and trained by Jose Corrales, Air Token is second choice on the morning line at 4-1. The 5-year-old Golden Lad gelding has won once in six races following his breakthrough stakes victory, a Jan. 21 optional claiming allowance going six furlongs at Laurel, but owns two wins and two seconds in four tries at Pimlico.
Mopo Racing’s Alwaysinahurry (6-1) was beaten 1 ½ lengths, a length behind runner-up Karan’s Notion, when third in a 6 ½-furlong optional claiming allowance Sept. 4 at Timonium. Second to former stablemate Kenny Had a Notion in the 2020 Maryland Million Nursery, the 4-year-old Great Notion gelding is winless since last July’s Concern at Pimlico, running second to subsequent Grade 3 winner Jaxon Traveler in the 2021 Star de Naskra.
Sunday’s opener is a maiden special weight for fillies and mares ages 3, 4 and 5 scheduled for five furlongs on the grass that drew 11 entries including Twentyfourkaratrose for main track only. The wide-open field is topped by narrow 9-2 program favorite French Kissing, a 3-year-old Newtown Anner Stud Farm homebred that ran second against older horses in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight Aug. 6 at Monmouth Park for trainer Michelle Hemingway.
Race 8 is an entry-level optional claiming allowance for fillies and mares 3 and up scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the turf where Russell-trained My Candy Girl – an optional claiming winner July 30 that was beaten less than a length in an open allowance Aug. 19, both 1 1/16 miles at Laurel – is favored on the morning line from the rail at 3-1. In outermost Post 11 is Jubilee Bridge (7-2), making her U.S. debut in her first race since an allowance victory last July in her native England.
Notes: Jockey J.D. Acosta doubled Saturday aboard Amicalola Falls ($7.20) in Race 3 and Spicy Margarita ($3.80) in Race 9… Audley Farm Stable’s How Lovely ($14.60) overcame a rough start where she was bumped and steadied to split horses in mid-stretch and draw off for a 1 ½-length debut victory in Saturday’s Race 2, a maiden special weight for 2-year-olds sprinting five furlongs on the grass. The winning time was 59.25 seconds over a firm course … Saturday’s other maiden special weight came in Race 5 for horses ages 3, 4 and 5 going six furlongs on the main track and was also won in debut by K E M Racing Stable’s 4-year-old Twirling Candy gelding Chocolate Shake ($9.60) in 1:11.74.