Bob Marco Looks to Extend Win Streak to Five in John B. Campbell

Bob Marco Looks to Extend Win Streak to Five in John B. Campbell

Hybrid Eclipse Set to Make Title Defense in Nellie Morse
Six Triple Crown-Eligible Horses Among Miracle Wood Nominees

LAUREL, MD - Helen Marshall’s Bob Marco, a front-running winner of four straight races, looks to make it five in a row as he steps up to stakes company for the first time against eight rivals in the $100,000 John B. Campbell at Laurel Park.

The 1 1 8-mile Campbell for 4-year-olds and up is the first of four stakes worth $600,000 in purses on a 10-race Winter Carnival program co-headlined by the $200,000 General George (G3) and $200,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3), the latter for females, each sprinting seven furlongs.

Claimed for $20,000 out of a runner-up finish last June at Laurel, Bob Marco ran fourth in his debut for trainer Kieron Magee. The 5-year-old Arrogate gelding was second in back-to-back starts before embarking on his win streak, which has come by 25 ¾ combined lengths.

A $250,000 yearling purchase claimed out of his second start from Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, Bob Marco has raced exclusively on dirt for Magee after making 11 of 12 starts on grass or synthetic surfaces prior to the claim.

“I thought he needed the dirt and that’s why we took him, for dirt. He just turned around,” Magee said. “The first couple races weren’t his best and he just kept getting better and better. He started getting all this speed, and now that’s him. He’ll go hell for leather as long as he can.”

Bob Marco opened up by as many as 18 lengths after six furlongs in a starter optional win Dec. 16 and took a 12-length lead into the stretch of his season debut Jan. 28, both going 1 1/16 miles at Laurel. All four wins during his streak have come under five-pound apprentice Martina Rojas.

“Martina loves him. She comes by the barn just to visit him,” Magee said. “Helen Marshall is so funny. When he won the last race she said to [track photographer] Jim [McCue] in the winner’s circle, ‘Do me a favor. Put my name down as Helen Marco. Bob is my husband.’”

In 2019, Magee claimed Artful Splatter after six unsuccessful grass races and she promptly reeled off five consecutive wins including the 2020 Geisha. That fall she would win the George Rosenberger Memorial at Delaware Park, also on dirt.

“We did the same thing with Artful Splatter,” Magee said. “She was running on the grass when we got her. We took her off the grass and she just kept on winning.”

Magee also nominated Bob Marco to the General George but wanted to keep him around two turns. He has raced shorter than one mile just twice in 22 starts, the most recent a six-furlong starter optional claimer Nov. 4 at Laurel that he won by 4 ¼ lengths.

“There are some nice horses in the General George and he would have gotten a lot of pressure. I just thought the better shot we had was going longer,” Magee said. “As good as he’s doing, now is the time to take a chance. He’s a cool horse. He trains in the morning like he runs in the afternoon.”

Bob Marco, second choice on the morning line at 5-2, drew outermost Post 9 in the Campbell, which drew a field that includes Grade 3 winner Double Crown, Grade 3-placed multiple stakes winner Forewarned, and stakes winners Ain’t Da Beer Cold, 2-1 program favorite Be Better, Yodel E. A. Who and Vance Scholars. Martini Martin and It’s Sizzling Time are also entered.

“It probably isn’t the best spot,” Magee said. “Since he likes to go to the lead we’re going to have get over, which won’t be a problem for him, but it would have been a shorter trip toward the inside. He’s quick enough and we have plenty of time to get over.”

Hybrid Eclipse Set to Make Title Defense in Nellie Morse

The Elkstone Group’s Hybrid Eclipse will be heavily favored defend her title in Saturday’s $100,000 Nellie Morse as she makes her 6-year-old debut chasing a sixth career stakes victory. The first of five, all at Laurel, came in the 2022 Caesar’s Wish, after which she was purchased by Elkstone’s Stuart Grant.

“She’s rock solid,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “She was a good buy for Stuart way back when.”

The 1 1/16-mile Nellie Morse for fillies and mares 4 and older is the second of four stakes worth $600,000 on a 10-race Winter Carnival program co-headlined by the Fritchie for females and $200,000 General George (G3), both going seven furlongs.

Hybrid Eclipse, the even-money program favorite over six rivals, owns nine wins and $594,324 in purse earnings from 25 starts. She is racing for the first time since finishing second in the Dec. 23 Carousel at Laurel to stablemate Saddle Up Jessie, who came back to win Aqueduct’s Heavenly Prize Invitational Feb. 10.

“When I had to run them against each other, they’re coming down the stretch, Hybrid’s running and Jessie’s winning, and I’m like, ‘This is weird,’” Russell said. “I still think she ran really well and she was flattered with how Jessie came back. I mean, the form’s good.”

Hybrid Eclipse has alternated wins and losses in each of her last four races, taking the Caesar’s Wish and Thirty Eight Go Go and running fourth in the Twixt to multiple graded-stakes winner Interstatedaydream prior to her run in the Carousel.

“She’s ready to go and I think she’s on a good cycle now,” Russell said. “She always seems to cycle on and off a race. She runs ok and then she runs big and then she runs ok. I think she’s back ready to roll.”

Completing the field are twice stakes-placed New Hire; Charming Way, riding a three-race win streak into her stakes debut; In My Opinion, a winner first time for trainer Lacey Gaudet Dec. 17 at Laurel; 10-time career winner Hashtag Lucky; and Frosty O Toole, a last-out optional claiming winner going 1 1/16 miles Jan. 7 at Tampa Bay Downs.

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said Rosie’s Halo, the 5-2 second choice, will scratch in favor of Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile Royal Delta (G3) at her home track of Gulfstream Park. Joseph will be represented at Laurel by Bluefield and Intrepid Daydream in the Barbara Fritchie.

Six Triple Crown-Eligible Horses Among Miracle Wood Nominees

Triple Crown-eligible Circle P and Copper Tax and fellow stakes winners Chi Chi and Sweet Soddy J are among 24 sophomores nominated to the $100,000 Miracle Wood Feb. 24 at Laurel Park.

The one-mile Miracle Wood is the next step in Maryland’s series of stakes for 3-year-olds on the road to the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1), Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, May 18 at historic Pimlico Race Course. The first race, the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Jan. 27, was won by New York-based Guanare.

DeSales 85’s Circle P was a 1 ¾-length winner of the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile Dec. 2 at Laurel in his fourth start and stakes debut. A minor issue kept him out of the $100,000 Heft three weeks later and he has been training steadily at Penn National for his season opener, breezing a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 Feb. 9.

Rose Petal Stable’s Copper Tax put together five consecutive wins last year including Laurel’s six-furlong James F. Lewis III before running sixth in the 1 1/8-mile Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct. He was originally entered in the Spectacular Bid but when winter weather pushed the race back a week, he was rerouted to the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3) Feb. 10 at Tampa Bay Downs, where he wound up 10th.

Sam Wilensky’s Chi Chi is the lone filly nominated to the Miracle Wood. Based in South Florida, she won stakes at Gulfstream Park and Remington Park last fall and most recently was third in the seven-furlong Forward Gal (G3) Feb. 3. Built Wright Stables’ Sweet Soddy J won the Timonium Juvenile and Heft at 2 and exits a decisive second in the Spectacular Bid.

Also prominent among nominees are Triple Crown-eligible American War Hero, Maximus Meridius, two-time Laurel winner Regalo and Startswithadream, 10-1 upset winner of his Jan. 28 unveiling at Laurel; Cool in Blue, third in the Heft; and Speedyness, third in the Maryland Juvenile.

Chi Chi is also one of 24 nominees to the $100,000 Wide Country for 3-year-old fillies, a seven-furlong stop on Maryland’s road to the 100th Black-Eyed Susan (G2) May 17 at Pimlico. Mens Grille Racing’s Roanan Goddess won the first race in the series, the $100,000 Xtra Heat sprinting six furlongs Jan. 27 for trainer Hamilton Smith.

In 2022, Smith swept the Xtra Heat, Wide Country, Beyond the Wire and Weber City Miss with two-time Maryland-bred champion Luna Belle, recently sold for $100,000 as a broodmare prospect and booked to 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage.

Cash is King and LC Racing’s Carmelina is already a three-time stakes winner, having taken the Keswick at Colonial Downs, Shamrock Rose at Penn National and seven-furlong Gin Talking at Laurel in her final three dirt starts at 2, the latter Dec. 30. DARRS, Inc.’s Cap Classique ran second in the Gin Talking after winning Laurel’s six-furlong Smart Halo in mid-November.

Narrow Leaf Farm’s Miss Harriett sprung a 62-1 upset of the Maryland Million Lassie in her career debut last fall at Laurel. Fifth in the Smart Halo, she rebounded with a front-running seven-length optional claiming allowance triumph sprinting 5 ½ furlongs Jan. 14. Stronach Stable Inc. homebred Shamans Girl won the six-furlong Shady Well Dec. 2 on Woodbine’s all-weather surface in her lone start.

Other Wide Country nominees include Kissedbyanangel, winner of Laurel’s Maryland Juvenile Filly last fall; CC Royal, third in the Xtra Heat; Living Magic, a stakes winner on turf and all-weather surfaces last year, and Phil Schoenthal-trained stablemate Determined Driver, second against boys in the 2023 Timonium Juvenile; Irish Maxima, fifth behind Eclipse Award-winning Just FYI in the Frizette (G1); and stakes-placed Perfectly Wicked, Princess Mayfair and Sheilahs Warcloud.