Racing Still the Future for Maryland Champion Filly Luna Belle

Racing Still the Future for Maryland Champion Filly Luna Belle

Pulled from Sale, 4YO Entered in Saturday’s $100K Thirty Eight Go Go
$100K James F. Lewis III, $100K Smart Halo for 2YOs Also on Card

LAUREL, MD – While her connections were mapping out the future, one that earlier this year did not include racing, multiple Maryland-bred champion filly Luna Belle had other ideas.

As a result, instead of being sold at auction in Kentucky later this week, the five-time stakes winner will continue her comeback in Saturday’s $100,000 Thirty Eight Go Go at Laurel Park.

The 13th running of the 1 1/16-mile Thirty Eight Go Go for fillies and mares 3 and up is the last of three $100,000 stakes on a nine-race program, following the Smart Halo for 2-year-old fillies and James F. Lewis III for 2-year-olds, both sprinting six furlongs.

First race post time is 12:25 p.m.

Owned by Deborah Greene and Laurel-based trainer Hamilton Smith and bred by Smith, Greene and her late father, Fred Greene Jr., Luna Belle was entered as Hip No. 1180 during the fourth session of Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock sale, which begins Wednesday and runs through Nov. 16.

Before that, the 4-year-old daughter of Great Notion, sent to the sidelines with bone bruising after having a five-race win streak snapped in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) last May, would have another start in the Maryland Million Distaff Oct. 14 at Laurel.

Racing for the first time in 513 days, Luna Belle closed to be third, beaten 4 ¼ lengths Intrepid Daydream. Among the five horses that finished behind her were Fille d’Esprit, a three-time Maryland champion in 2022 including horse of the year, and multiple stakes winner Malibu Beauty.

“I was so excited and so nervous the last time she ran. I was so afraid of her getting hurt. Ham said that would probably do me in, and I said it probably would,” Greene said. “I think she got a little tired but I thought she ran great. She beat some good horses.”

Encouraged both by the effort and the way she emerged from the race, Greene and Smith pulled Luna Belle from the sale with designs on continuing her racing career.

“They wanted to put her in as a racing prospect and broodmare, and I didn’t want somebody else to race her. She came out of the race fine, so that’s what we decided to do,” Greene said. “It was a big factor, how she came out of the race, on what we did, too. Ham sees her all the time and knew her condition and he wasn’t as gung-ho to sell her as I was. The day I saw her run I said, ‘I don’t want her to go.’”

So, Luna Belle was entered against nine other horses including I’m Gittin There, her Smith-owned and bred stablemate; Intrepid Daydream, Malibu Beauty and fellow multiple stakes winner Hybrid Eclipse; July 1 Delaware Oaks (G3) runner-up Opus Forty Two; Milagrosa Surena, a group stakes winner on turf and dirt in her native Argentina last year; and Sweet Willemina, third or better in 35 of 48 lifetime starts with 17 wins, two in stakes, and more than $600,000 in purse earnings.

“It’s great to have her back. She’s doing well. [Monday] is his walk day and Ham said that she was just bouncing around the shedrow,” Greene said. “She’s grown a lot. She’s bigger than she was before. She’s more muscular. She really looks the part.

“This race looks pretty tough, but they’re all going to be tough. None of them are easy, but the races she won were pretty tough, too,” she added. “We’ve had a lot of fun with her, and I expect to have a lot more fun with her.”

Luna Belle was named Maryland’s champion 2-year-old filly of 2021 following a campaign that saw her run a troubled fourth by a length in the Maryland Million Lassie, second to subsequent stakes winner Buy the Best in the Smart Halo, and first in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies.

As a sophomore Luna Belle opened with consecutive stakes wins in the Xtra Heat, Wide Country, Beyond the Wire and Weber City Miss, the latter earning her an automatic berth in the Black-Eyed Susan, her graded debut. Despite not racing the second half of the year, she was voted Maryland’s champion 3-year-old filly.

“We’ll just take it one step at a time, and she’ll tell us what she wants,” Greene said. “If and when we plan on selling her, having her graded-stakes placed would look better on her resume, too. I’m not thinking that right now, but that’s part of it. She’s still getting back into conditioning and getting used to it. It was a year and a half of not running.

“Everything Ham has asked her to do, she’s done, and she’s come out of it well,” she added. “It’s all about how she comes out of it. She’s come out of all her works well and this last race well. She’s doing everything like she used to, and hopefully she’ll come back to form. Third in her comeback race was pretty darn good. I’ll take it.”

The Thirty Eight Go Go honors the two-time Maryland-bred champion bred and trained by Hall of Famer King Leatherbury. Eight of her 10 career wins came in stakes including the Gardenia (G2), Tempted (G3) and Maryland Million Lassie in 1987 and three consecutive runnings of the Geisha (1988-90).

Harold Queen’s Florida homebred Sheer Drama, trained by South Florida-based David Fawkes, earned her first career stakes victory in the 2014 Thirty Eight Go Go before going on to become a three-time Grade 1 winner with more than $1.6 million in purse earnings.