Apple Picker Bounces Back in $100,000 Skipat Victory

Apple Picker Bounces Back in $100,000 Skipat Victory

4YO Filly Up in Time to Open Preakness Day Stakes Program

LAUREL, MD – Racing over an off track for the first time didn’t faze Michael Dubb’s Grade 3 heroine Apple Picker, who splashed home a 1 ¾-length winner in Saturday’s $100,000 Skipat to kick off the stakes portion of Preakness Day at historic Pimlico Race Course.

The 31st running of the Skipat for fillies and mares three and up sprinting six furlongs was the first of nine stakes, five graded, worth $3.3 million in purses on a blockbuster 14-race program headlined by the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Ridden by Sheldon Russell for his wife, leading Maryland trainer Brittany Russell, Apple Picker ($8.40) covered the distance in 1:12.34 on a main track rated good. It was the second straight win on the day for Sheldon Russell following Nasty Habit ($14.60) in Race 3 against a field that included two of his wife’s horses.

Apple Picker trailed all but one horse after Sweet Shild O Mine and Swall dueled through a quarter-mile in 23.61 seconds. Apple Picker started to gear up for her typical late run entering the far turn and still had work to do once straightened for home but closed stoutly on the far outside after passing 6-5 favorite Disco Ebo in mid-stretch and reeled in Swall approaching the wire.

Swall stayed on for second, 1 ¾ lengths ahead of Late Frost. It was another length back to Royal Poppy followed by Disco Ebo, Sweet Shild O Mine and Anonymously.

It is the third career stakes win for Apple Picker and second in as many tries at Pimlico after capturing the six-furlong Weather Vane last fall. The 4-year-old daughter of Connect opened 2024 with a one-length triumph in the seven-furlong Barbara Fritchie (G3) Feb. 17 at Laurel Park and was able to bounce back from a fourth-place finish in the Distaff (G3) April 6 at Aqueduct.

Bred in Connecticut, Skipat won 26 of 45 career races over six years, earning $614,215 in purses between 1977 and 1981. Two of her wins came in the Barbara Fritchie (G3), in 1979 and 1981, the latter coming the year after she had been retired and bred and brought back to the races.


Winning Trainer Brittany Russell (Apple Picker): “It set up great for her. You always worry on a day when there is moisture in the racetracks, sometimes it favors speed. But she is a tough filly and she’ll kind of run through anything. It set up. Winning stakes races, this is where you want to be (at Pimlico on Preakness Day). The races get a little saltier and it was nice to see that she fit in with this group and she could beat them.

“She is just tough. She’s a racehorse. One of those horses that just shows up to work every day. That’s how she’s been for us in the afternoons”

"The race on my mind is probably the Alma North (July 28) at Laurel. She likes Maryland. She likes being home. It’s 6 ½ (furlongs) and I think it would probably be a good spot. I’ll talk to (owner) Michael (Dubb) and we’ll get a plan."

Winning Jockey Sheldon Russell (Apple Picker): “I really try and ride her the same way every time. Her only weakness is that she takes a while to get into stride. The plan is to try and break her sharp and then creep into the race. I'm always going to be five to six lengths off the pace. Today, down the backside, she crept up nicely on the inside around the half-mile pole. Traveling good turning for home, I could see Flavien [Prat aboard Swall] in front. Apple Picker is the type of filly that if you get her clear and show her some running space, she's going to do her best, and she did that today.”