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Artful Splatter Upsets Anna's Bandit in $75,000 Geisha
Alwaysmining Gets Job Done in $75,000 Jennings
LAUREL, MD – James C. Wolf’s Artful Splatter, making her stakes debut, overcame an eventful trip and a pair of objections to hand 10-time stakes winner and heavy favorite Anna’s Bandit her first loss in seven races in Saturday’s $75,000 Geisha Stakes at Laurel Park.
The 47th running of the Geisha for fillies and mares 4 and older was the first of two $75,000 stakes for Maryland-bred/sired horses going one mile on the Big Four Stakes program, followed by the 78th renewal of the Jennings for 4-year-olds and up.
Headlining Saturday’s nine-race card were the $100,000 Fire Plug for 4-year-olds and up and $100,000 What a Summer for females 4 and older, both 6 ½-furlong sprints.
Artful Splatter ($18.80) earned her fourth consecutive win, all since being claimed by for $16,000 last fall and moved to the dirt by trainer Kieron Magee. The 4-year-old daughter of Bandbox completed the distance in 1:39.46 over a main track rated good after morning rains.
“She really is a nice filly,” Wolf said. “I knew that my first stakes win would be difficult, but not this difficult.”
Artful Splatter, breaking from the rail, was hustled to the lead by jockey Alex Cintron and held it through a quarter-mile in 23.96 seconds and a half in 47.77, chased closely by multiple stakes winner Limited View. Another stakes winner, Enchanted Ghost, tracked four wide in third with Anna’s Bandit settled in fourth.
Cintron and Artful Splatter maintained their advantage into the stretch as regular rider Xavier Perez began to ask Anna’s Bandit for run. Artful Splatter ducked out a few paths in mid-stretch after Cintron went to the left-hand whip, crossing in front of Anna’s Bandit, who then dove inside for the run to the wire but came up a half-length short.
Following objections from Perez and trainer Jerry Robb and a steward’s inquiry, the order of finish stood. Enchanted Ghost followed the top two in third, 2 ¼ lengths behind Anna’s Bandit, whose last loss came when fourth in the Jameela Stakes last July over Laurel’s world-class turf course.
“I feel like I had a ton of horse. My filly was moving very well,” Cintron said. “I hit her once and when I went to hit her a second time, she went out so quick and moved out a couple paths but thank God we were clear enough to not bother the other horse. I know I crossed right in front of the other horse, but I don’t think I cost her momentum. As soon as she felt the other horse coming, she kept fighting.”
Anna’s Bandit won nine of 11 starts in 2019, finishing in a seven-way tie for most wins of any horse last year.
The Geisha honors Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s Maryland-bred mare, foaled at Sagamore Farm in 1943. Bred to Preakness winner Polynesian, she is best known for producing Native Dancer, one of the greatest racehorses and sires of the 20th century.
Alwaysmining Gets Job Done in $75,000 Jennings
Runnymoore Racing’s multiple stakes winner Alwaysmining collared stubborn longshot pacesetter Bustoff in mid-stretch and edged clear to a 1 3/4-length victory in the $75,000 Jennings.
Ridden by Julien Pimentel for trainer Kelly Rubley, 4-year-old Alwaysmining ($2.60) powered to the wire in 1:37.75 as the 1-5 favorite to earn his eighth career win, all at Laurel, and first over older horses.
“He had a tough campaign last year. He did a lot of winning, which was spectacular, but then he deserved some time in the pasture and time to be a horse,” Rubley said. “I think it’s paying us back.”
Alwaysmining was making his third start off a 4 ½-month gap between races, having finished fifth in the Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial and second in the Native Dancer last month at Laurel, beaten two lengths both times.
Pimentel, aboard for the fourth straight race, kept Alwaysmining in the clear two wide behind 20-1 Bustoff, a winner of five of his previous six starts, who sailed through splits of 24.57 and 48.25 seconds with John Jones, a stakes winner on turf and dirt, in third on the rail.
Alwaysmining ranged up to the leader on the turn, was set down once straightened for home and went on to register his first victory since the Federico Tesio Stakes last April, the last in a five-race win streak that earned him an automatic trip to the Preakness (G1), where the Maryland-bred ran 11th.
“It was just a great trip. The speed went and I was right behind it,” Pimentel said. “I took my time and when it was time to go I just pushed the button and he went on. I had a lot of horse the whole way around there.”
Other stakes wins for Alwaysmining came in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity and Heft at 2 and Miracle Wood, Private Terms and Tesio at 3.
“He certainly deserved a break and I’m glad to see him come back to where we were hoping to be,” Rubley said. “I’m never going to look far ahead but we’re glad to here today and we’ll regroup and figure it out.”
John Jones finished second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Clubman. It was a neck back to Bustoff, followed by Bonus Points and Alwaysmining’s stablemate Pretty Good Year.
The Jennings is named for William Jennings Sr., one of Maryland’s all-time great horsemen. Jennings’ Glengar Farm, located six miles from Pimlico Race Course, came to national prominence in the late 1800s thanks to horses like 1887 Preakness winner Dunboyne. Jennings’ grandson is Hall of Fame trainer Henry S. Clark, honored with his own stakes in Maryland.