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Laurel-Loving Honor the Fleet Takes $100,000 Fire Plug
Victim of Love Springs Upset in $100,000 What a Summer
LAUREL, MD – Frank Demarco’s Honor the Fleet, Grade 3-placed as a 3-year-old in 2017, got a patient ride from jockey Alex Cintron to become a stakes winner for the first time in Saturday’s $100,000 Fire Plug Stakes at Laurel Park.
The 24th running of the Fire Plug 4-year-olds and up and the 34th renewal of the $100,000 What a Summer for fillies and mares 4 and older, both contested at 6 ½ furlongs, were among four stakes worth $350,000 in purses on a nine-race program.
It was the second stakes win of the afternoon for Cintron, who earlier upset Anna’s Bandit with Artful Splatter in the $75,000 Geisha for Maryland-bred/sired horses. The winning time for Louis Albertrani-trained Honor the Fleet was 1:17.09 over a main track rated good following morning rain.
Cintron had Honor the Fleet positioned between horses down the backstretch as 23-1 long shot Long May You Run ran the first quarter-mile in 23.13 seconds pressed to his inside by Dupree, racing first off the claim for trainer Hugh McMahon.
Honor the Fleet and Cintron sat in behind horses awaiting room as Threes Over Deuces joined the leaders on the turn, finding an opening when Dupree took the lead and drifted off the rail. Cintron sent Honor the Fleet through once straightened for home and they hooked up with Threes Over Deuces for a drive to the wire, digging in to win by a neck.
“We had a plan. Louis told me how to try to keep him in the clear and give the horse a nice comfortable trip,” Cintron said. “I didn’t really have too much room on the backside. I had to keep inside the whole way and I had to wait for the fence to open up. At the quarter pole, the horse on the lead just moved out and I had a nice trip from there.”
Threes Over Deuces was second, three-quarters of a length ahead of 2019 Challedon Stakes winner Tiz He the One, who had been five-for-six at Laurel. Arch Cat, Dupree, Brother Chub and Long May You Run completed the order of finish, while Grade 2 winner Still Having Fun was scratched.
The win was the fifth in nine starts at Laurel for Honor the Fleet, third behind Timeline in the Pegasus (G3) at Monmouth Park and second to No Dozing in the Concern Stakes at Laurel in 2017. It was just the 16th race for the To Honor and Serve gelding, now 6, after battling minor foot issues.
He went unraced for five months before returning with a front-running three-length triumph in a third-level optional claimer going 7 ½ furlongs Nov. 23 at Laurel.
“He has so much ability and he has run hard against some nice horses – Timeline, No Dozing – and he’s very competitive,” Albertrani said. “We’ve had a little bad luck with him over the last couple years battling abscesses in his feet and quarter cracks. We’ve solved all those problems and he came back good his last race and showed incredible ability so we thought let’s take a shot in the Fire Plug and get 2020 off to a good start.”
The Fire Plug is named for the popular gelding that won or placed in 49 of 54 lifetime starts, mostly sprinting, and registered 14 stakes victories including at least one every year from age 3 to 7. He retired in 1991 with 28 wins and $705,175 in purse earnings.
Victim of Love Springs Upset in $100,000 What a Summer
Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’ Victim of Love was never far from the lead heading into the far turn before opening up through the lane with plenty left to hold off closing favorite Needs Supervision and spring a 9-1 upset in the $100,000 What a Summer.
Ridden by Weston Hamilton for trainer Todd Beattie, Victim of Love ($21) ran 6 ½ furlongs in 1:18.02 to win by 3 ¾ lengths over multiple stakes winner Needs Supervision, the top choice at 3-5 in a field of six.
“She’s really hard-knocking and she always tries really hard,” Hamilton said. “I knew she had a little bit of fire in her; she’s got a little speed. So, I just sat against her nice and she was good enough to get the job done.”
Hey Mamaluke went the opening quarter-mile in 22.02 seconds pressed to her outside by Victim of Love, who took over after going a half in 45.40. Once straightened for home, Victim of Love extended her lead as Needs Supervision, who trailed the field early, began to pick up horses on the far outside.
Needs Supervision had to settle for second, a half-length ahead of 25-1 long shot Last True Love. Angel At War was fourth.
“Really ticked about the way she ran,” Tom Beattie said. “I felt very confident leaving the paddock and talking to Wes; he knew the horse well. He had all the confidence that you could ask for. The filly just answered the bell.”
Hamilton had ridden Victim of Love to victory in a one-mile optional claimer Oct. 1 at Laurel. He was also aboard for her most recent start, a third-place finish behind Needs Supervision in the Safely Kept Stakes Nov. 30.
It was the second stakes win for Victim of Love, who captured the Island Fashion in February 2019 at Sunland Park for previous trainer Dominguez Henry in her fourth career start.
The What a Summer honors the Eclipse Award-winning sprinter of 1977, bred in Maryland and a winner of 18 of 31 lifetime starts. Trained by the late Bud Delp and Leroy Jolley, both Hall of Famers, she won nine stakes including the Fall Highweight Handicap and Silver Spoon Handicap twice, and the Black-Eyed Susan.