Zonda Denies My Sistersledge in Maryland Million Ladies

Zonda Denies My Sistersledge in Maryland Million Ladies

Mr. d’Angelo Captures Stakes Debut in $125,000 Maryland Million Turf
Hello Beautiful Shines in $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie

LAUREL, MD – On the outside looking in when the day began, Matt Schera’s Zonda drew into the field with an early scratch and went on to deny My Sistersledge a chance at history in Saturday’s $125,000 Ladies at Laurel Park.

The 1 1/8-mile Ladies for fillies and mares 3 and older and the $125,000 Turf for 3-year-olds and up were among seven stakes and four starter stakes that helped comprise the 34th Jim McKay Maryland Million Day program, the groundbreaking concept named for the late Hall of Fame and 13-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster that debuted in 1986.

Ridden by Victor Carrasco for trainer James ‘Chuck’ Lawrence II, Zonda ($13.20) earned her first career stakes victory in her fifth try, completing the distance in 1:50.46 over a firm Dahlia turf course.

My Sistersledge, aiming to become the third horse to win three straight editions of the Ladies and just the seventh in event history with a trio of Maryland Million victories, was unable to catch the winner after trailing early and held on for second by a nose over late-running Ghoul’s Night Out.

“Honestly we didn’t think we’d get in today. We were pointing her for a race at Belmont next weekend,” Lawrence said. “She’s been training so well. I told Matt Schera, this filly is really doing well. She breezed incredibly last week. She was going into the race so well. She was just peaking, which is so nice.”

Something Magical was fastest from the gate and in front after going the opening quarter-mile in 24.79 seconds and the half in 49.85, flanked by Zonda with Ghoul’s Night Out and 40-1 long shot Love Legends in pursuit while 4-5 favorite My Sistersledge settled last in the field of eight.

Zonda took command after six furlongs in 1:14.19 and had to fend off a challenge from My Sistersledge, who picked off horses on the far outside approaching the stretch to get into a contending position, but Zonda had plenty left to draw clear.

“I knew my filly was getting weight [from My Sistersledge] and was on the improve. When we had that advantage, I thought she’d be hard to catch,” Lawrence said. “I thought there would be a little bit more speed in the race and we’d be sitting third or fourth. Going into the race, I was just leaving it up to Victor whether he was on the lead or sitting third or fourth. It played out good.”

Purchased for $155,000 as a yearling at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga 2017 sale, Zonda went unraced at 2 before launching her career with a maiden claiming win on Laurel’s main track May 4. Fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Virginia Oaks Aug. 31, she faced males in the 1 ½-mile Bald Eagle Derby Sept. 21, when she was bumped while on the lead by eventual first-place finisher Jais’s Solitude and wound up sixth. Jais’s Solitude was disqualified and placed behind Zonda for interference.

“She has just blossomed. Ever since the Virginia Oaks race, she has steadily gotten better. I was disappointed we got hit in the last race; we thought we were going to be second or third in there against the boys,” Lawrence said.

“We’re going to try to pick out a light fall for her,” he added. “We want to give her some time off. We really think she’s going to be a nice filly next year. We might get one more in her before the end of the year and then give her a little time off.”

Countus In (1989-91) and Mz. Zill Bear (1993-95) had previously won three Maryland Million Ladies. My Sistersledge won by a nose in 2017 and a neck in 2018, becoming the race’s first back-to-back winner since Hail Hillary in 2003-04.

Countus In, Mz. Zill Bear, Docent, Eighttofasttocatch, late Mid-Atlantic legend Ben’s Cat and Hall of Famer Safely Kept are the only horses with three career Maryland Million victories.

Mr. d’Angelo Captures Stakes Debut in $125,000 Maryland Million Turf

Kevin Morgan’s homebred Mr. d’Angelo, stepping up to stakes company for the first time, came with a steady late run down the center of the track for a 1 ¾-length upset victory in the $125,000 Maryland Million Turf.

A confirmed closer, Mr. d’Angelo ($36.60) trailed all but two horses in the field of 14 through fractions of 24.37 and 48 seconds before beginning to weave his way through traffic under jockey Jevian Toledo leaving the backstretch.

Toledo stayed patient awaiting room to run, which came once the field straightened for home. After finding daylight between horses, Mr. d’Angelo powered through the stretch to win in 1:36.88 over a firm Dahlia turf course.

Somekindofmagician, second in the 2017 Turf, was runner-up again at odds of 30-1, with fellow 21-1 long shot Pretty Good Year rallying from last to be third, another half-length back. Street Copper wound up fourth.

“I just sat behind horses, hoping the speed came back and that’s what happened,” Toledo said. “When I turned into the stretch, I thought I had a chance to hit the board but not to win. Then when I hit him once he took off and I thought, ‘I have a chance to win.’”

A confirmed closer, Mr. d’Angelo had run second in each of his previous two races, beaten less than two lengths. Unraced at 2, the sophomore Seville gelding debuted with a maiden claiming win April 27 at Laurel. All seven of his races have come against older horses.

“The thing with him is he’s lost so many opportunities this year because he’s been stuck on the rail or shuffled back. Any horse that comes from off the pace, that’s what you run into,” trainer Tim Woolley said. “He’s a horse with a lot of heart and he’s very game, he just needs the right trip. You saw today he can really kick in when he gets the right trip.”

Hello Beautiful Shines in $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie

Trainer Brittany Sheldon turned the celebration of her first stakes victory into a family affair Saturday at Laurel Park, where husband Sheldon Russell guided Hello Beautiful to a 3 ¾-length triumph in the $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie.

“To win a stakes here on Maryland Million Day is just super special,” said Sheldon, who was joined by her husband and their 2-month old daughter, Edy, in the winner’s circle. “Sheldon rode her; I have my baby here. It’s exciting.”

Hello Beautiful left the starting gate alertly to pressed the pace set by Halfinthewrapper on the backstretch past fractions of 22.24 and 45.64 seconds for the first half-mile of the six-furlong sprint for 2-year-old fillies. Hello Beautiful moved to the lead on the turn into the homestretch and drew clear.

“The filly has always flashed speed. We weren’t worried about the outside [No. 12] post today because she always breaks very well. I was happy she broke nicely. I was able to cross over straight away. She just traveled so smoothly. At the top of the stretch, I just waited until she popped over to the right lead. Fair play to her, she was right there when I needed her,” Sheldon Russell said. “Brittany and her team have done a great job. This was always the goal.”

Owned by Madaket Stables, Albert Frasetto, Mark Parkinson, K-mac Stables and Magic City Stables, Hello Beautiful ran six furlongs in 1:10.33. Stickingtogether finished second, 2 ¾ lengths ahead of Worstbestideaever.