Laurel-Based Celtic Contender Nominated to Triple Crown

Impressive Maiden Winner Possible for Federico Tesio April 20
Federico Tesio, Weber City Miss Nominations Close Saturday
Jockey Raul Mena Doubles on Friday’s Opening Day Program

LAUREL, MD – Lewis Family Racing Stable’s 3-year-old Maryland homebred Celtic Contender, an eye-catching Laurel Park maiden winner in February for trainer Hamilton Smith, is among the newest nominees to the Triple Crown.

By multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Irish War Cry out of the Posse mare Celtic Katie, Celtic Contender was most recently a troubled eighth in the 1 1/16-mile Private Terms March 16 at Laurel, just his third start and first in a stakes. The connections, along with those of eight other horses, paid $6,000 to nominate by the late April 1 deadline.

Nominations by the early Jan. 29 deadline cost $600 and saw 345 horses made eligible. Horses can still supplement to the three Triple Crown races for a fee of $200,000 or to each individual race – the Kentucky Derby (G1) May 4 ($50,000), the Preakness (G1) May 18 at historic Pimlico Race Course ($150,000) or the Belmont (G1) June 8 ($50,000).

Irish War Cry’s last graded win came in the historic 1 3/16-mile Pimlico Special (G3) in 2018. Celtic Katie won the 2014 Geisha at Pimlico and, like Celtic Contender, was bred by the late Dr. Fred T. Lewis, who passed away in March 2022. Katie’s Love, the dam of Celtic Katie, won the 2007 Shine Again at Pimlico; both races were contested at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Smith trains both Celtic Contender and Hunter Joe, a 6-year-old homebred Palace Malice gelding, for the Lewis family. Hunter Joe has been third or better in nine of 25 starts with five wins and $186,480 in purse earnings.

“They don’t have any young horses coming up. [Celtic Contender] is the last one,” Smith said. “They got rid of the broodmares. Once these two horses I have [stop racing], I think that’ll pretty much be the end of it.”

Celtic Contender has raced three times, all this year at Laurel. He debuted Jan. 28 in a six-furlong maiden special weight and finished third, beaten 2 ¼ lengths after being steadied at the half-mile pole from his inside trip. Celtic Contender had a bumpy start as the favorite in his next outing, a one-mile waiver maiden claimer Feb. 18, but was never far from the front, took the lead leaving the far turn and extended it to 10 ½ lengths at the wire.

“That’s what got his owners all excited, naturally, and rightfully so. He did run off and win impressively. They think of big things for him,” Smith said. “A lot of times you try them in an a-other-than and if he runs off again, then you’re off and running. They wanted to run him in a stake and that didn’t go well. They’re thinking about the next stake coming up and using him in there.”

Maryland’s next stakes for 3-year-olds is the $125,000 Federico Tesio going 1 1/8 miles April 20 at Laurel where the winner – if Triple Crown nominated – earns an automatic berth to the 149th Preakness.

“I’m going to work him and see how he does this weekend and we’ll base off of that what we’re going to do next,” Smith said. “We’ve got him nominated for the [Tesio]. They definitely want to run in it, if at all possible. We’ll see what happens.”

Wherever Celtic Contender runs next, Smith expects an improved effort. In the Private Terms Celtic Contender was fractious at the gate, then broke a step slow under jockey Jevian Toledo and got bumped at the start, trailing by 10 lengths after a half-mile. He wound up beaten 18 ¼ lengths by multiple stakes winner Copper Tax, with stakes winners Speedyness third and Circle P fourth.

“The start didn’t help him but he brought most of that on himself. He tried to raise hell in the gate and all that,” Smith said. “He didn’t run a foot. I thought he’d at least pick it up a little bit at some point during the race, but it never did happen. [Toledo] said he never tried. He couldn’t get him to do anything.

“His first two races were good; his last race wasn’t worth [much]. Of course, he raised hell which affected him mentally more than anything else, I guess, and he just didn’t respond. He’s been training well since then,” he added. “It was just a big disappointment. I thought he’d show us a little more grit than what he did. We’ll work him this week and see how that works. It wasn’t him last time. He’s a much better horse than his last race, I can tell you that.”

Federico Tesio, Weber City Miss Nominations Close Saturday

Nominations close Saturday for four stakes worth $450,000 in purses to be run April 20 at Laurel Park led by the $125,000 Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds and $125,000 Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies.

The Triple Crown-nominated winner of the 1 1/8-mile Tesio will have entry and start fees paid for the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 18, while the 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss winner will have entry and start feels paid for the 100th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 17, both at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Also on April 20 are three $100,000 stakes, the first scheduled for Laurel’s world-class turf course – the Henry S. Clark for 3-year-olds and up and Dahlia for fillies and mares 3 and older, both going one mile, and the 5 ½-furlong King T. Leatherbury for 3-year-olds and up.

Nominations can be made by contacting stakes coordinator Eleanor Albert at Eleanor.albert@marylandracing.com or calling 301-725-0400. Entries will be taken and post positions drawn Sunday, April 14 for all five stakes.

Notes: Jockey Raul Mena rode back-to-back winners on Friday’s spring meet opening day program with Order Ofthe Kettle ($35.40) in Race 7 and Quint’s Brew ($2.60) in Race 8 … Paul Berube, Karen Linnell and Heather Hunter’s Quint’s Brew, a Maryland-bred son of Mosler, covered one mile in 1:36.44 over a fast main track to win the entry level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds by 3 ¼ lengths as the 1-5 favorite and improve to 2-0 lifetime … There will be carryovers of $21,996.68 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 5-10) and $2,422.42 in the $1 Jackpot Super High Five (Race 6) Saturday. First race post time is 12:25 p.m.

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