Multiple Stakes Winner Witty Makes Successful Return to Dirt

Multiple Stakes Winner Witty Makes Successful Return to Dirt

4YO Gelding, Half to Caravel, Easy Winner of Saturday Feature
Jockey Jevian Toledo Wins Five Races, Takes Over Fall Meet Lead

LAUREL, MD – Witty, a multiple stakes winner on both turf and dirt, made a triumphant return to the main track and gave jockey Jevian Toledo his fourth of five wins on the card in Saturday’s feature at Laurel Park.

Bred, owned and trained by Elizabeth Merryman, Witty ($2.80) is a younger half-brother to recently retired millionaire Caravel, a two-time Grade 1 winner on turf including the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.

“This is a very special horse. He can do everything,” Toledo said. “He can run grass or dirt. He’s just a really nice horse. All the credit to Liz, she has done an excellent job.”

Sent off as the 2-5 favorite in the second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up, Witty broke sharp but was shuffled back to last racing along the rail as Kadri and Top Boss battled up front through a quarter-mile in 22.04 seconds and a half in 45.83. Toledo was able to tip out leaving the backstretch, sweep past his rivals with ease and draw off to win by 4 ¼ lengths in 1:10.43 over a fast main track.

“He broke like he always did and they kind of squeezed me a little bit, so I just kind of kept after him to keep him close,” Toledo said. “He picked the bridle up right away nicely and when I asked him he just went right away.”

Represented by agent Marty Leonard, Toledo also won Saturday aboard Dwelling Legacy ($7) in Race 1, Bella Bettina ($11.20) in Race 5, Running River ($5) in Race 6 and American Odalisque ($7.40) in the Race 9 finale. He now leads the fall meet standings with 47 wins, one more than Jaime Rodriguez

“I’m very blessed. All the trainers and owners that give me the opportunity,” Toledo said. “My agent does a great job finding all the good horses.”

A three-time winner on dirt including the 2022 Star de Naskra at Laurel to kick off his 3-year-old campaign, Witty was moved to the grass this summer and ran second in three straight stakes before winning the Ben’s Cat at historic Pimlico Race Course and the Maryland Million Turf Sprint at Laurel.

“That’s an amazing kind of horse. Really amazing. I’ve never had one like that,” Merryman said. “Actually, most of his speed numbers are higher on dirt so he’s a legitimate dirt horse. He almost lost his eye in the Gallant Bob last year and the turf’s a little easier on him because he always likes to spot the field a lot of lengths. Not having all that dirt in his face is easier on him, that’s why I switched him. Plus, Caravel didn’t hurt, so I felt stupid not to try it. I think he’s equally good on both.”

Witty had his win streak snapped last out when fifth in the Turf Sprint Championship Nov. 18 at Aqueduct. Before Saturday, his last dirt race was May 25 when he finished second in an optional claiming allowance at Pimlico.

“This took away the wonder of if he would switch back, because you never do know,” Merryman said. “He was so full of himself coming out of the New York race and training so good and that took nothing out of him.

“I was going to stop him his last race but I thought with the two-other-than sitting right there and the good weather hanging on, I’d rather stop on him now hen the weather starts to get crappy,” she added. “He can have a little bit of a break now and come back in the spring.”

Laurel will wrap up the weekend with a nine-race card Sunday starting at 12:25 p.m. Race 3 is a maiden special weight for horses ages 3, 4 and 5 sprinting seven furlongs that features the Maryland debut of Castle Island, a 3-year-old City of Light colt that fetched $440,000 as a yearling and is owned by similar connections as Preakness (G1) winner National Treasure.

Castle Island ran twice over the winter for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, finishing second in his Feb. 11 debut, but has not raced since March 11. He joined trainer Brittany Russell last month and shows three breezes over Laurel’s main track for his comeback. Also in the race is Richard Brushworth’s Nasty Habit, runner-up in similar spot going six furlongs Nov. 19 at Laurel for trainer Anthony Farrior, his first start since mid-April with Hall of Famer Bill Mott. The 4-year-old son of Violence sold for $550,000 as a 2-year-old in training in March 2021.

Sunday’s feature comes in Race 8, an open six-furlong allowance for fillies and mares 3 and up where Team Gaudet, David Bernsen and Susanna Wilson’s Beneath the Stars is the 8-5 program favorite from Post 5 in a field of 7. The 4-year-old filly is seeking a third straight win, most recently capturing a similar optional claimer Dec. 1 at Laurel. Also in is Mens Grille Racing’s Whiskey and Rye, herself riding a two-race win streak including an off-the-turf Sensible Lady going five furlongs Sept. 10 at historic Pimlico Race Course.

There will be carryovers of $3,715.72 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 4-9) and $473,18 in the $1 Jackpot Super High Five (Race 6).