Primonetta on Radar for G3 Fritchie Winner Hibiscus Punch

Primonetta on Radar for G3 Fritchie Winner Hibiscus Punch

Rainbow 6 Carryover for Laurel’s Eight-Race Program Sunday

LAUREL, MD – The $100,000 Primonetta April 24 at Laurel Park, as well as the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship Series that makes its season debut in mid-May at Pimlico Race Course, are among the races being considered for Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) winner Hibiscus Punch.

Edward and Beverly Seltzer’s 6-year-old homebred mare breezed a half-mile in 49 seconds over Laurel’s muddy main track Saturday morning, just her second timed work since her 41-1 upset of the Fritchie Feb. 20.

“The work was really nice. The track was a bit muddy so we didn’t really want to overdo it,” trainer Justin Nixon said. “We just kind of let her skip along a little easy half, but she finished up real nice and galloped out well. She’s doing great.”

Hibiscus Punch became a stakes winner in the seven-furlong Fritchie, her graded debut, springing a 41-1 upset over a field that included multiple stakes winners Dontletsweetfoolya, Hello Beautiful and Needs Supervision and Grade 3 winner Sharp Starr. The Into Mischief mare sat just off the pace, assumed the lead at the top of the stretch and went on to win by 2 ½ lengths.

“Yeah, we watch the replay quite a bit. I’m guilty of that,” Nixon laughed. “I do go back and watch the replay and it’s definitely a ‘wow’ kind of a race, isn’t it?”

The six-furlong Primonetta for fillies and mares 3 and up is among seven stakes worth $750,000 in purses on Laurel’s Spring Stakes Spectacular program headlined by the $125,000 Federico Tesio, a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 15, and the $125,000 Weber City Miss, a ‘Win and In’ event for the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan May 14, both at Pimlico.

In addition to the Primonetta, the seven-furlong Derby City Distaff (G1) on the undercard of the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1) is also under consideration for Hibiscus Punch, who missed a planned start in the April 3 Madison (G1) at Keeneland while Laurel was under quarantine for the equine herpesvirus.

Favored Kimari won the seven-furlong by 2 ½ lengths over Fritchie runner-up Estilo Talentoso.

“We’re looking at both of those options. Nothing’s been decided 100 percent yet,” Nixon said. “We were a little disappointed not to go to Keeneland due to the herpes lockdown, but that is what it is. We would have liked to have tried the Madison, but circumstances are what they are. We had to miss that.”

The MATCH Series, which returns after being shelved in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, offers 24 stakes for 3-year-olds and up, male and female, worth $2.75 million in purses. It launches over Preakness weekend with the $200,000 Pimlico Special (G3) at 1 3/16 miles and $150,000 Allaire du Pont (G3) for fillies and mares going 1 1/8 miles, and continues Preakness Day with the $150,000 Maryland Sprint (G3) and $100,000 Skipat, both sprinting six furlongs, the latter for fillies and mares.

Sixteen of the remaining MATCH Series stakes will be run at Laurel. There are four divisions, two each for males and females sprinting and going long. Laurel’s first MATCH Series race for female sprinters is the $100,000 Shine Again at seven furlongs June 12.

“Staying at home, sometimes it’s easier on the horse and there’s lots of money to race for. Nothing wrong with that at all,” Nixon said. “We’ve got a lot of options for her and, hopefully, we just pick the right ones.”

Notes: Jockey Sheldon Russell won twice Saturday, with Visual Artist ($5.40) in Race 1 and Malibu Beauty ($9.60) in Race 6 … Jevian Toledo also doubled, aboard Hemp ($4.40) in Race 7 and Bandolini ($2.60) in Race 9 … Both Visual Artist and Bandolini are trained by Mike Geralis … Terry Overmier’s Whiskey and You ($4.40) slipped between horses in deep stretch to register his second consecutive win, a popular feature triumph in Race 8, a second-level optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up. The winning time for 6 ½ furlongs was 1:17.16 over a muddy main track … There will be jackpot carryover of $7,930.72 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 for Sunday’s eight-race card that begins at 12:40 p.m. Multiple tickets with all six winners Saturday each returned $950.46.