Third Consecutive Victory, Second Straight in Stakes, for 6YO Gelding
LAUREL, MD – Willow Lane Stables, Inc. homebred Highestdistinction, better than ever at the age of 6, ran his win streak to three races with a second consecutive stakes triumph and first in graded company in Saturday’s $200,000 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G3) at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The 17th running of the one-mile BWI Turf Cup for 3-year-olds and up was the headliner on an 11-race program that featured six stakes, three each scheduled for grass and dirt, worth $650,000 in purses on the penultimate weekend of Pimlico’s boutique nine-day fall meet.
In earlier turf stakes action, Full Count Felicia wired the $100,000 All Along for fillies and mares 3 and older going 1 1/8 miles and Witty was a determined winner of the $75,000 Ben’s Cat for Maryland-bred/sired 3-year-olds and up sprinting five furlongs.
On the main track, Dollarization sprung an 18-1 upset in the $100,000 Lite the Fuse for 3-year-olds and up, Apple Picker made a successful return to dirt in the $100,000 Weather Vane for 3-year-old fillies, and Intrepid Daydream prevailed in the $75,000 Shine Again for fillies and mares 3 and up that have not won an open sweepstakes, all sprinting six furlongs.
Ridden by Jairo Rendon for Monmouth Park-based trainer Lindsay Schultz, Highestdistinction ($7.80) covered the distance in 1:36.63 over a turf course rated good. It was the fourth stakes victory this summer for Schultz, a former Maryland-based assistant to Tom Proctor that began training full time last year.
Schultz also won the Iselin (G3) with Whelen Springs Aug. 19 and the Oceanport with Highestdistinction Aug. 13, both at Monmouth, and the Edward P. Evans with Alex Joon July 15 at Colonial Downs.
“This pretty special,” Schultz said. “It’s been such a great summer. We’ve been lucky to have some really nice horses, some improving horses and some nice 3-year-olds. We’ve just had a great time.”
The latest career highlight came courtesy of Highestdistinction, bred and owned by Willow Lane’s John Kuehl, who had the Point of Entry gelding with Proctor and trainers Randy Morse and Robert Medina before coming Schultz in the spring.
“This horse came to me because of Tom Proctor, who I worked for most of my time on the racetrack. John Kuehl is an owner. Tom’s become private now so he was able to send me this horse and another one for the owner and it’s been great,” Schultz said. “John decided to give the horse the winter off and kind of let him reset, and he hasn’t looked back.”
Winner of the 1 1/8-mile Buckland last summer, King Vega was hustled to the front from his outside post by jockey Forest Boyce and went a quarter-mile in 23.46 seconds while 6-5 favorite Smokin’ T chased in second racing two wide, multiple New Jersey-bred stakes winner He’spuregold saved ground along the rail and Highestdistinction trailed while kept in the clear by Rendon.
King Vega maintained his advantage after a half in 47.52 seconds as Smokin’ T ranged up alongside to challenge and Rendon began working on Highestdistinction on the far outside. As they were set down for a drive at the top of the stretch, King Vega and Highestdistinction came together briefly before Highestdistinction gathered himself up and steadily pulled clear of King Vega in second.
Smokin’ T, winner of the Lure at Saratoga and third by less than a length in the Mint Millions (G3) in his last two starts for Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, the latter just two weeks prior, edged He’spuregold by a half-length for third. Wolfie’s Dynaghost, Cazadero and main-track-only entrants Doppelganger and Business Model were scratched.
“Jairo really knows how to ride this horse. You don’t want to stop him from his run, you want to let him get going and get into a good stride. Sometimes coming on the outside isn’t the best in turf racing but it seems to work for this horse, so we left it up to Jairo,” Schultz said. “He looked Smokin’ T in the eye there and kind of kicked again.”
Highestdistinction now has five wins from 21 starts. His current streak began with a 7 ½-furlong allowance July 14 at Delaware Park over a turf course rated soft and continued in his stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Oceanport, where he went off at odds of 10-1.
“These older horses, once they start to get some confidence you don’t know how good they can be,” Schultz said. “This horse, he got a little confidence in Delaware and got his nose in front at the wire and we thought we’d try him in the listed race. We’re at home at Monmouth. When he won that we said he’s doing so good we’ve got to try a Grade 3. The owner bred him and still has the mare, so this is huge.”
This marked the third straight year the BWI Turf Cup was held at Pimlico after being contested at Laurel Park from 2015-19. It was run as the Colonial Turf Cup from 2005-13 at Colonial Downs, returned to the schedule in 2015 at Laurel as the Commonwealth Cup, was renamed the Commonwealth Turf Cup for 2016 and was shelved in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Past winners of the BWI Turf Cup include champion English Channel; fellow millionaires Showing Up, Battle of Hastings, Paddy O’Prado, Rahystrada, Mr Speaker and Field Pass, who captured the $75,000 Find Aug. 19 at Laurel in his first try against Maryland-breds. Last year’s BWI Turf Cup was won by Set Piece, who earned Grade 1 credentials Aug. 12 in the Arlington Million.