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Anna’s Bandit Puts Streak to Test in $75,000 Geisha
John Jones Aims for Third Victory in $75,000 Jennings
LAUREL, MD – No Guts No Glory Farm’s Anna’s Bandit, a winner of six consecutive races to end 2019, will get the chance to extend her streak into the new year when she faces six rivals in the $75,000 Geisha at Laurel Park.
The 47th running of the Geisha for fillies and mares 4 and older is the first of two $75,000 stakes for Maryland-bred/sired horses going one mile on a nine-race program, followed by the 78th renewal of the Jennings for 4-year-olds and up. First race post time is 12:25 p.m.
Anna’s Bandit, bred in West Virginia by trainer Jerry Robb, is coming off a campaign where she won nine races, seven of them stakes, and $401,803 in purse earnings. The newly turned 6-year-old mare finished in a seven-way tie for most wins by a horse last year; her bankroll was the highest.
“I’m very proud of the year she had. We’re going to try to do a better one this year,” Robb said. “We’ll look at all but one or two of the same races. I’ll stay away from the turf. We’re looking forward to a good year.”
Anna’s Bandit ran fourth in the 2018 Geisha, the last time it was run. She has won or placed in 10 of 12 races since, the only exceptions being the Skipat on Preakness (G1) weekend at Pimlico Race Course and Jameela over Laurel’s world-class turf course in back-to-back starts last spring and summer.
Her win streak began immediately after the Jameela with a mid-August allowance at Laurel, followed by five stakes wins at Timonium, Charles Town and Laurel, the last two in the Maryland Million Distaff Oct. 19 and Politely Dec. 7. Jockey Xavier Perez will be aboard for the 27th consecutive race, breaking from Post 4.
“We’ll keep her around running as long as she’s sound enough to run,” Robb said. “She’s something special.”
James Wolf’s Artful Splatter brings a three-race win streak into the Geisha for trainer Kieron Magee. All three victories have come since the 4-year-old Bandbox filly was claimed out of a runner-up finish Sept. 7 at Laurel.
Enchanted Ghost, by 2004 Horse of the Year and 2012 Hall of Famer Ghostzapper, won the Maryland Racing Media Stakes and was third, a neck behind Anna’s Bandit, in the Conniver Stakes last winter at Laurel. The 5-year-old mare will be making her second start for trainer Michael Stidham, having finished fifth in the Bob Fortus Memorial Stakes Dec. 26 at Fair Grounds.
Completing the field are multiple stakes winner Limited View, who has rattled off back-to-back victories following a 10-race losing streak; 2019 Miss Disco Stakes runner-up Bunting; Le Weekend, fourth last out in the Maryland Million Distaff; and No Mo Lady.
John Jones Aims for Third Victory in $75,000 Jennings
Matt Schera’s John Jones, a stakes winner on both turf and dirt for trainer Lacey Gaudet, will be racing at his favorite course and distance as he goes after a third career victory in the $75,000 Jennings.
A gelded 8-year-old son of 2004 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner Smarty Jones, John Jones will break from the rail in a field of nine under jockey Trevor McCarthy, Maryland’s leading rider in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2019.
John Jones finished third or better in five of nine starts last year with two wins, one of them coming Aug. 17 in track-record fashion for a mile on dirt at Colonial Downs. It followed a season where he was winless in eight tries and was his best campaign since winning six of 13 races and more than $250,000 in 2016.
“In 2018, he didn’t win a race. Then to come back and have such a great campaign in 2019, it’s so much fun,” Gaudet said. “He always tries. If it’s a race where he gets beat or he’s off the board, it’s no fault of his own. He just had such a wonderful campaign last year and I think a lot of the spots really lined up for him. He loves that one-turn mile at Colonial. It was a fun year for him and I really hope he can follow it up in 2020.”
John Jones won the Jennings in 2017 and 2018 and was third in his bid for a three-peat last winter, when the race was run at the end of December. It was moved to the first stakes weekend of the year for 2020
“We had for months kind of planned that the race was going to be in December, but really a difference of 18 days is not a problem. He had a nice little blowout [Tuesday] morning and he’s all prepared for it,” Gaudet said. “He’s primed and ready to go.”
In his most recent race, a third-level optional claimer Dec. 14 at Laurel, John Jones took a short lead into the stretch but wound up second by a length going seven furlongs over a sloppy, sealed track. He is 10-for-30 lifetime at Laurel, and eight-for-14 for his career at the one-mile distance.
“I’m excited,” Gaudet said. “I think the steps that we’ve taken with him to cut back a little bit and now stretching him back out to a mile, I hope it’s going to help him. I think that it will.”
Among John Jones’ foes will be Runnymede Racing’s multiple stakes winner Alwaysmining, making his third start off nearly a five-month layoff. The 4-year-old Stay Thirsty gelding was beaten two lengths when fifth in his return in the six-furlong Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial Dec. 7, then was second to another son of Smarty Jones, Someday Jones, in the 1 1/8-mile Native Dancer Dec. 28.
Trainer Kelly Rubley also entered Lead Off Stable’s Pretty Good Year, a 4-year-old Great Notion gelding that ran third in the Maryland Million Turf and is exiting a 1 ½-length allowance win Dec. 7.
Multiple stakes winners Bonus Points and Clubman; Bustoff, a winner of seven of his last eight starts; 12-time winner Jeezum Jim; Toughest ‘Ombre, second in the Copingaway Stakes on turf Sept. 7 at Gulfstream Park; and Tappin Cat, third in the 2019 Maryland Million Classic, complete the field.