Carmelina Goes the Distance in $100,000 Gin Talking

Carmelina Goes the Distance in $100,000 Gin Talking

Sweet Soddy J Cruises to $100,000 Heft Victory

LAUREL, MD – Cash is King and LC Racing’s multiple stakes winner Carmelina, pressed by Cap Classique from the start, put away the previously undefeated favorite in mid-stretch and pulled clear for a front-running two-length victory Saturday’s $100,000 Gin Talking at Laurel Park.

The 15th running of the Gin Talking for 2-year-old fillies and 22nd edition of the $100,000 Heft for 2-year-olds, both sprinting seven furlongs, shared top billing on a nine-race program that wrapped up Maryland’s 2023 stakes schedule.

With Sheldon Russell up for trainer Robert E. ‘Butch’ Reid Jr., Pennsylvania-bred Carmelina ($6.60) earned her third stakes win and first in open company following the five-furlong Keswick in August at Colonial Downs and six-furlong Shamrock Rose Nov. 22 at Penn National, her most recent start.

“Unfortunately we’ve had to go all over the East Coast to kind of find races for her but she’s gotten better with each start,” Reid said. “Today was a very professional effort by her. She rated very nicely. I actually thought she was going to run off and be a little further in front, but she rated well and Sheldon did a fantastic job, and she finished well for him.”

Drawn in Post 2, Carmelina inherited the rail post with the early scratch of Go Sherry Go, breaking sharply and coasting to the lead with Cap Classique at her right hip. The opening quarter-mile went in 23.12 seconds and the half in 46.15, when the top two began to gain separation from their rivals on the far turn.

Cap Classique, a winner of her first three starts by 9 ½ combined lengths including the six-furlong Smart Halo Nov. 11 at Laurel, drew alongside Carmelina at the top of the stretch but the juvenile daughter of Maximus Mischief had something in reserve and responded to Russell’s urging to draw away.

“I thought she’d be a little easier in front, to be honest with you. I didn’t see a lot of speed in the race,” Reid said. “Sheldon and I had talked previous to it and I thought she’d make the lead a little easier than she did today. It’s good to see her be resilient and fight back like that.”

Cap Classique finished second, 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Munny Grab, followed by Roanan Goddess, Kissedbyanangel and Shine On Moon.

Reid is keeping his options open for Carmelina, out of the St Averil mare Complete St., who has raced in five consecutive stakes including the Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga and 1 1/16-mile Selima Sept. 30 on grass at Laurel.

“We’re taking it one step at a time. I trained her father, and her father got a mile and eighth without any problems, and her mother was actually a turf horse, which is why we came down for the Selima and tried her on the turf, which was a failed experiment, unfortunately,” Reid said. “We’re going to see just how far she can go and stretch her out step by step.”

Gin Talking was named Maryland’s 2-year-old filly champion in 1999 after a perfect 4-0 season that included three stakes wins. She won three more stakes in 2000 including the Anne Arundel (G3) to earn both champion 3-year-old filly and Horse of the Year honors. She was retired after two starts in 2001 to become a broodmare; her first foal, Dixie Talking, won the 2005 Cicada (G3) and was the dam of 2013 Illinois Derby (G3) winner Done Talking.

Sweet Soddy J Cruises to $100,000 Heft Victory

Built Wright Stables’ Sweet Soddy J went straight to the lead under jockey Jeiron Barbosa and never looked back, opening up through the stretch and powering to a six-length upset victory in the $100,000 Heft.

Sweet Soddy J ($18.40) hit the wire in 1:24.04 to win for the first time since opening his career with back-to-back victories this summer, the latter in the Sept. 2 Timonium Juvenile.

“I’m feeling good,” trainer Norman ‘Lynn’ Cash said by phone from Kentucky. “The plan was to tuck in behind somebody and try to hold him back so he could finish. The horse just takes himself to the lead. Going around the corner there, as soon as I saw Barbosa look back I knew he was resting the horse so that made me feel better. The big thing is the horse changed leads right at the top of the stretch. As soon as he changed leads I knew we were gone.”

Sweet Soddy J got away cleanly as American War Hero to his inside stumbled at the break. Barbosa settled the gelded son of Bee Jersey in front through splits of 22.69 and 46.14 seconds, going six furlongs in 1:11.25 with Great Opportunity, an impressive debut winner Dec. 3 at Laurel, tracking in second.

Once straightened for home Sweet Soddy J was set down for a drive and quickly gained separation from the field, snapping a five-race losing streak that included stakes stops at Presque Isle Downs, Aqueduct for the Champagne (G1), Keeneland, Laurel and Oaklawn Park. In his only other try over the track, he took a short lead into the stretch before tiring to fourth in the James F. Lewis III Nov. 11.

Great Opportunity was second, two lengths ahead of Cool in Blue. American War Hero, Davyjonz, 4-5 favorite Catahoula Moon and Deposition completed the order of finish.

“He looks like wants to go further. When you look at the horse you say, ‘This isn’t a sprinter. This is a distance horse,’ but he’s had trouble changing leads,” Cash said. “We’ve really worked on that in the last little bit and he was pulling away. We knew he was a nice horse. I felt we would have gotten the last one at Laurel except he didn’t change leads the whole way.”

Having debuted as the Marylander in 1975, the Heft was renamed in 2016 to honor Maryland native and longtime horse owner Arnold Heft who campaigned such horses as millionaire Eighttofasttocatch, a three-time Maryland Million Classic winner, and fellow multiple stakes winners Red’s Round Table, Pulverizing and Baldski’s Choice. He passed away in 2014 at age 94.