MM Distaff Winner Fille d’Esprit Returns in $75,000 Politely
LAUREL, MD – Madaket Stables, Ten Strike Racing, Michael Kisber and BTR Racing, Inc.’s Whereshetoldmetogo, exiting his first loss of the year, returns to his preferred track and distance as he seeks a second straight victory in Friday’s $75,000 Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial at Laurel Park.
The seven-furlong Bender for 3-year-olds and up and $75,000 Politely for fillies and mares 3 and older sprinting six furlongs, both restricted to Maryland-bred/sired horses, come on the first of back-to-back stakes days over Thanksgiving weekend.
On Saturday, Laurel will serve up three $100,000 stakes – the 1 1/8-mile Richard W. Small for 3-year-olds and up, City of Laurel for 3-year-olds and Safely Kept for 3-year-old fillies, each going seven furlongs.
Post time for the first of nine races Friday is 12:15 p.m.
A 7-year-old gelding trained by Laurel’s fall meet leader Brittany Russell, Whereshetoldmetogo owns 17 career wins, 13 in stakes, and is 8-for-11 over his home track including a rallying neck victory in last year’s Bender. It was his last time trying seven furlongs, a distance where he has four wins and a second from six tries.
In his most recent start, Whereshetoldmetogo ran second as the favorite, beaten a half-length by No Cents in a 5 ½-furlong open allowance sprint Oct. 29 at Delaware Park under jockey Sheldon Russell. The loss snapped a four-race win streak, all in stakes, that began with the restricted Not For Love March 19 at Laurel.
“He didn’t run bad last time. Sheldon just really had no chance to get him out,” Brittany Russell said. “The winner got the jump on him on the outside, and 5 ½ [furlongs] really isn’t ideal. I think he ran his race.
“He’s good,” he added. “Everything’s good. He’s full of himself, happy, wanting to do more in the mornings, so it’s good to see. He seems to be in a good place.”
Since joining Russell, Whereshetoldmetogo has 10 wins, nine in stakes, from 17 starts and is on the verge of $1 million in lifetime earnings at $967,795. A win in the Bender would push him over the top.
“That’s just it, he’s staying where he is and holding his form so well. That’s an accomplishment for everybody,” Russell said. “For him, to be an older horse and still be at the top of his game, it’s nice.
“He still loves it. He’s happy. This is what he knows. He loves the lifestyle. Trust me, he’s got a great life,” she added. “He gets to go out in the round pen, he comes out in the afternoons, he’s got a really good schedule and I think he’s just happy with what he does every day. It’s just good. If he started to lose interest and show that he doesn’t want to do it, no problem. He doesn’t owe us anything.”
Jevian Toledo is named to ride from Post 3 in a field of eight. Whereshetoldmetogo can pass retired multiple stakes-winning mare Hello Beautiful as the richest horse Russell has ever trained.
“Hello Beautiful would have been my next horse kind of like [him], but she kind of showed us when she was tailing off,” she said. “He hasn’t done that yet, and I hope he doesn’t.”
Among the competition for Whereshetoldmetogo are fellow stakes winners Monday Morning Qb, Alwaysinahurry and Tappin Cat. Claimed by owner-trainer Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash for $62,500 in August at Delaware Park, Monday Morning Qb has raced three times for his new connections including a fifth in the Maryland Million Classic, a race he won in 2021.
Monday Morning Qb returns to sprinting after four straight starts at a mile and 70 yards or longer. Most recently he was a popular one-length winner of a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance Nov. 7 at Laurel under apprentice William Humphrey, who gets the return call from Post 5.
“He likes the front end. He just kind of drags to the front end regardless of where he’s at, sometimes to his own detriment,” Cash said. “His last race he was getting out really bad and we were sure needing the wire, and we got it. So, the seven furlongs may help him a little more. It seems like he’s got the natural speed to just get there. He just pushes and pushes and pushes.”
Monday Morning Qb ran one more time following the 2020 Maryland Million before going to the sidelines, ending a 19-month gap between races in a June 21 allowance at Parx. Two starts later, Cash dropped the slip to claim him.
“I’m still not completely sure that he’s 100 percent in shape. He’s getting better every race,” Cash said. “When we claimed him it was early in his comeback. He had some issues that took him out for a year and I think maybe they went easier on him to make sure he didn’t reinjure himself. I don’t know that we don’t do that a little bit, too. I think he’s still getting better every race. We’re hoping he can get there and catch the lead.”
Mopo Racing’s Alwaysinahurry won the 2021 Concern at historic Pimlico Race Course and has placed in two subsequent stakes attempts, most recently finishing third by less than two lengths in the Maryland Million Sprint Oct. 22. Non Stop Stable’s Tappin Cat won the Governors Day Handicap last fall and July 7 Sussex at Delaware, where he also ran third behind Whereshetoldmetogo in the Sept. 30 New Castle.
Completing the field are Monday Morning Qb’s stablemate Going to the Lead, cross-entered in an optional claiming allowance Monday at Laurel; Twisted Ride, also entered in Saturday’s City of Laurel; One Ten and Antipoison.
Late longtime owner-breeders Howard and Sondra Bender were fixtures at Maryland racetracks for nearly four decades. Among their more than 500 winners were graded-stakes winners Secret River, Foufa’s Warrior, Promenade Girl, Green Darlin, London Lane and La Reine’s Terms.
MM Distaff Winner Fille d’Esprit Returns in $75,000 Politely
C J I Phoenix Group and No Guts No Glory Farm’s Fille d’Esprit, popular winner of the Maryland Million Distaff in her prior start, looks to join some good company and give trainer Jerry Robb his third straight victory in the $75,000 Politely.
Robb won the Politely with Anna’s Bandit in 2019 and Princess Kokachin in 2021. Honoring Maryland’s Horse of the Year in 1967 and 1968, the Politely was not run in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic altered the stakes schedule.
Fille d’Esprit is an 11-time career winner of $553.381 in purse earnings from 22 starts that went off as the favorite in the seven-furlong Distaff, taking comfortable lead into the stretch and going on to win by 1 ¼ lengths over fellow multiple stakes winner Malibu Beauty. It was her fourth stakes win and second at Laurel following an eight-length romp in the March 19 Conniver.
“She came out of it well,” Robb said. “We’re just trying to pick the easiest spots we can, and this looks like pretty good spot.”
Fille d’Esprit drew outermost Post 6 under regular rider Xavier Perez, aboard for 17 of her starts.
“I like the post,” Robb said. “She’s on the outside, so she can just stalk.”
Cash is King and LC Racing’s Juror Number Four returns to Laurel for the first time since early May after racing the summer and early fall at Delaware Park where she hit the board in five of six starts including two wins and a third in the Sept. 30 Tax Free Distaff.
Based at Laurel with fall meet leading trainer Brittany Russell, Juror Number Four has a 3-2-1 record in eight tries over her home track. Fourth in the 2021 Miss Preakness (G3), she has faced such horses as multiple stakes winners Fraudulent Charge and Cinnabunny, the latter Grade 3 placed.
“This is just a consistent filly, and she’s hooked some good fillies in her time,” Russell said. “She’s done well. She’s just ultra-consistent in the morning. She never misses a beat, and she loves to train. She seems like she’s been making good runs in the afternoon to chase them down, so if we can get her a bit of a setup I think she can be a bit of a factor.”
Jeremy Rose comes down from Delaware to get a leg up for the sixth straight race, including a half-length optional claiming allowance triumph Oct. 19 in her most recent start. They will break from the rail.
“Her last race was a great race, and Jeremy really rides her well. They have a good thing going and he’s going to come ride her, which is good,” Russell said. “We were kind of toying around with what to do with her. She’s a sound, honest racehorse so we’re going to keep racing her as long as she wants. She’s Delaware-certified and Maryland-bred, so she’s the kind of horse you want to have around.”
Hollywood Walk, who has made seven of her nine starts on turf or synthetics; fellow last out winner Paisley Singing; Queen Sheba and Targe are also entered.
Bred and raced by Mrs. Richard du Pont, Politely won 13 stakes and placed in eight others from age 2 to 5, setting an Atlantic City track record in the 1967 Matchmaker and matching it the following year. Retired following the 1968 season, she won 21 of 49 career starts and was a member of the inaugural Maryland-bred Thoroughbred Hall of Fame Class of 2013.