Royal Ship Launching Comeback in $100,000 Frank Whiteley

Six Stakes Winners to Line Up in $100,000 Native Dancer
‘Cats’ and ‘Kisses’ Top $100,000 Heavenly Cause
Disco Ebo Looks to Bounce Back in $100,000 Primonetta

LAUREL, MD – A career that began in 2019 in his native Brazil and included a three-year stay on the West Coast punctuated by a pair of graded-stakes wins will get another restart Saturday when Fox Hollow Racing’s 8-year-old Royal Ship lines up against eight rivals in the $100,000 Frank Y. Whiteley at Laurel Park.

The seven-furlong Whiteley is among four $100,000 stakes on an 11-race program along with the 1 1/8-mile Native Dancer, also for 3-year-olds and up, and a pair of events for fillies and mares 3 and older – the one-mile Heavenly Cause and six-furlong Primonetta.

First race post time is 12:25 p.m.

Bred in Brazil, Royal Ship won his last five races at home capped by the Estado do Rio de Janeiro (G1) and Frederico Lundgren (G3), both going one mile on grass. He arrived in the spring of 2020 in southern California where he made all but one of 17 domestic starts for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.

Mandella, whose top horses include Grade 1-winning Brazilian imports Sandpit, Siphon and Redattore, kept Royal Ship on turf for three of his first four U.S. starts including a one-length loss when fifth in the Frank Kilroe Mile (G1) before making a full-time move to the dirt. There, he won three stakes topped by the 1 1/8-mile Californian (G2) in 2021 and 1 1/16-mile San Diego Handicap (G2) in 2022.

Winless in six starts over the next 12 months, Royal Ship was given a break and sent to Kentucky after running sixth in the San Diego last July. When it was time to come back, Fox Hollow’s Scott Porter ultimately redirected the gelded son of Midshipman to trainer Graham Motion at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton Md.

Porter is a son of the late Rick Porter, a Mid-Atlantic-based auto dealer magnate that campaigned such successful horses as Eclipse Award winners Kodiak Kowboy, Songbird and Horse of the Year Havre de Grace before succumbing to cancer in June 2021.

“The owners had approached me about taking him,” Motion said. “They gave him some time off to be in Kentucky. I spoke to Mr. Mandella and the owners about him, and they just thought he needed a little freshening up. Even though he’s an older horse they thought the time would do him good. They wanted to run him closer to home, and they also thought Fair Hill would be a good environment for him. He’s kind of an exciting prospect. He really hasn’t missed a beat since he came to me.”

Getting the stamp of approval from Mandella meant a great deal to Motion, a winner of more than 2,700 career races that is himself a third-time finalist for induction into racing’s Hall of Fame.

“He was very supportive of the horse coming to Maryland and thought it would be a good location for him. It just gave me the confidence to go on training him,” Motion said. “Trust me, it’s exciting. It’s cool to have an older, classy horse like that. I’m looking forward to getting him started.”

Royal Ship had his first timed breeze in nearly seven months Feb. 10 at Fair Hill, and has worked eight more times over its main track including a six-furlong move in 1:15.60 April 7 in the final tuneup for his comeback. He drew Post 4 and will be ridden by Victor Carrasco.

“He’s been going right along all winter,” Motion said. “I’ve only ever breezed him on his own. I don’t really have any older horses of his caliber to breeze him with, honestly. He always shows a lot of class in the morning and handles everything pretty easily from what I’ve seen. He settled right in and, I must say, some days he doesn’t act like an 8-year-old, either. He keeps everyone on their toes.”

Third or better in 13 of 24 starts with $733,905 in purse earnings, Royal Ship will carry 120 pounds, six less than co-topweights Coastal Mission and Prince of Jericho. Coleswood Farm, Inc.’s Coastal Mission has won 11 of 18 races, three in stakes, and nearly $600,000 in purses and is 1-for-7 away from his home track of Charles Town. Michael Dubb and Morris Bailey’s Prince of Jericho won the 2023 Spectacular Bid and Concern, both sprinting seven furlongs at Laurel, and made a successful return from six months away in a Laurel allowance Feb. 23.

Also entered are Laurel’s 2022 Harrison Johnson Memorial winner Dontmesawithme; Twenty Four Mamba, fourth in Aqueduct’s Tom Fool (G3) March 2; Brilliant Ice, Union Fleet, Brother Conway and Swiftsure.

The Whiteley honors the Centreville, Md. native best known as of the trainer of Ruffian, ranked among the greatest fillies of all time, as well as fellow superstars Damascus and Forego and 1965 Preakness winner Tom Rolfe. Whiteley joined Ruffian and Damascus in racing’s Hall of Fame in 1978 and was followed by Forego in 1979. He retired in 1984 after a career spanning six decades and died in Camden, S.C. in 2008 at age 93.

Six Stakes Winners to Line Up in $100,000 Native Dancer

Six Laurel Park stakes winners and Hay Chief, riding a two-race win streak, are entered to square off in a competitive edition of the $100,000 Native Dancer, honoring the legendary Hall of Famer that won 21 of 22 starts including the 1953 Preakness (G1) and was a two-time Horse of the Year before going on to a prolific stud career at Sagamore Farm in Reisterstown, Md.

Morris Kernan Jr., Yo Berbs and Jagger Inc.’s Magic Michael, never worse than third in six tries at Laurel including two wins, won the 2021 Greenwood Cup (G3) and has placed five times in eight starts since returning from a year layoff last fall. Repole Stable homebred Be Better won the 2023 Deputed Testamony to cap a three-race win streak after joining trainer Brittany Russell and exits a 2 ¼-length allowance victory March 17 over 2022 Bald Eagle Derby winner Vance Scholars, also entered in the Native Dancer.

Paul L. Fowler Jr.’s Shaft’s Bullet has won two straight including his stakes debut last out in the one-mile Harrison Johnson Memorial March 16 at Laurel. A gelded 5-year-old son of 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, he has raced exclusively at Laurel with five wins, two seconds and a third from nine tries.

“He shows up every time,” trainer Gary Capuano said. “He’s been very consistent. He’s improved and matured and gotten a little bit better each year. We’re just fortunate right now that he’s doing well.”

Chuckie, Inc. and Mona Bowley’s It’s Sizzling Time gave trainer Valrie Smith her first career stakes win in the John B. Campbell Feb. 17, the 40th lifetime start for the 6-year-old Not This Time gelding. He ran second, beaten four lengths by Shaft’s Bullet, in the Harrison Johnson.

Matt Spencer, Kelly Jo Cox and Bonuccelli Racing’s Ain’t Da Beer Cold, promoted winner of the 2023 Maryland Million Classic, and Mi Patria Racing and J R Sanchez Racing Stable’s Hay Chief, whose last two wins have come at one and 1 1/16 miles, complete the field.

‘Cats’ and ‘Kisses’ Top $100,000 Heavenly Cause

Stakes winners Cats Inthe Timber and Too Many Kisses and Intrepid Dream, whose four-race win streak dates back to 2021, are among six talented older females set to contest the $100,000 Heavenly Cause.

Haymarket Farm homebred Cats Inthe Timber raced twice at 2, breaking her maiden in October 2022 at Delaware Park. Her first four starts as a 3-year-old came at Laurel, winning a one-mile optional claiming allowance last January and the 1 1/16-mile Weber City Miss two starts later. The Weber City earned her an automatic berth in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) at Pimlico, where she ran sixth in her graded debut.

Cats Inthe Timber raced once more at 3, finishing eighth in the Delaware Oaks (G3), before going to the sidelines. The daughter of Honor Code ended an eight-month gap between starts running fourth in a one-mile optional claiming allowance March 2 at Laurel where the top two finishers, Intrepid Dream and Doctor Abbie, also return in the Heavenly Cause.

“We have high expectations for her this year,” Haymarket’s Chip Montgomery said. “She can go a little bit of distance, we think, and we hope that we can explore that at some point this year.”

Cynthia McGinnes and Francis Clemens’ Too Many Kisses has won back-to-back starts and three of her last four races capped by a last-to-first victory in the seven-furlong Conniver March 16 at Laurel. She returns to open company where she graduated against her elders in a six-furlong maiden special weight last fall despite being bumped and stumbling at the start. Forest Boyce returns to ride for a fifth straight time.

Paul L. Fowler Jr.’s Maryland homebred Intrepid Dream is an older full sister to Intrepid Daydream, voted Maryland’s champion sprinter, older female and Horse of the Year for 2023. The 6-year-old Jess’s Dream mare debuted in September 2020 and has raced just six times with five wins including a four-length optional claiming allowance triumph March 2 at Laurel, her first race in 476 days. The Heavenly Cause will mark her stakes debut.

Stakes-placed shippers Doctor Abbie, a seven-time winner, Sweet Shild O Mine and Pistol Liz Ablazen are also entered.

Named for the Maryland-bred mare trained by Hall of Famer Woody Stephens whose eight career stakes wins included the 1981 Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Acorn (G1) and 1980 Frizette (G1) and Selima (G1), the latter at Laurel, the Heavenly Cause returned to the stakes calendar in 2022 for the first time since 2003.

Disco Ebo Looks to Bounce Back in $100,000 Primonetta

Cash is King and LC Racing’s Disco Ebo, fourth in the Feb. 17 Barbara Fritchie (G3), returns to Laurel Park looking to bounce back with a fourth career stakes victory in the $100,000 Primonetta.

The 5-year-old Pennsylvania-bred mare, a 10-time winner of nearly $600,000 in purses from 21 starts, has won stakes at Penn National, Mahoning Valley and Parx, her most recent coming in the 6 ½-furlong Penn’s Landing last March. Disco Ebo has won two of five subsequent races, was beaten less than three lengths in the seven-furlong Fritchie and returns to a distance where she is five-for-nine lifetime.

New York-bred stakes winners Secret Love and Kant Hurry Love ship down looking to snap losing streaks. Needlaw Stable’s Secret Love was fifth in the six-furlong Correction March 9 at Aqueduct and has faced open company in seven straight starts since running third in the 2022 Iroquois.

Ken Wheeler Jr.’s Kant Hurry Love was beaten a nose when second in the Correction, her second straight start over an off track, drew outermost Post 7 and will have the services of regular rider Trevor McCarthy, a four-time overall riding champion in Maryland that owns 13 meet titles between Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course.

“She seems to always really break well and run out of there, so it’s just kind of going to make those guys force their hand to either go or take back,” McCarthy said. “It’s great because she’s very versatile. She loves to be in a tracking spot. She has good speed and I can kind of do whatever I want, especially with the post I got.”

Diane Balsamo’s Anonymously is a 10-time career winner that owns seven wins, one second and one third in 12 starts since joining trainer Jose Corrales last year. The 8-year-old Gio Ponti mare has been beaten a neck in each of her last two races, finishing second and third in a pair of 5 ½-furlong allowance sprints.

Rounding out the field are Photo Finish, a winner of two straight making her stakes debut; Centre Court Champ, who has won each of her last two races since being claimed by Heritage Meet leading trainer Jamie Ness; and multiple stakes-placed Beneath the Stars, who has earned six of her seven career wins at Laurel.

The Primonetta is named for the champion handicap mare of 1962 that won or placed in 21 of 25 career starts including the Alabama, Spinster and Delaware Oaks. Her victory in the 1960 Marguerite at Pimlico made her the first stakes-winning daughter of Hall of Famer Swaps. A full sister to champion Chateaugay, she was named Broodmare of the Year in 1978. She died at age 35 at Darby Dan Farm in Ohio in January 1993.

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