Greatbullsoffire, Item score in Million juvenile races
Item wins the Lassie. Photo by Laurie Asseo.
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Saturday’s two Maryland Million juvenile races looked remarkably similar, each decided by just a head.
In the Nursery, for two-year-olds, favored Greatbullsoffire narrowly edged longshot Dancing With Maude. In the very next race, the Lassie, for two-year-old fillies, Item delivered a similarly narrow win. Both runners led, were passed, and then re-rallied to earn their victories.
Kathleen Willier’s Greatbullsoffire moved to the lead on the turn into the homestretch, poised to live up to his even-money favoritism in Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Million Nursery when 69-1 longshot Dancing With Maude swept past him to lead the way into the stretch.
Dancing With Maude opened up by more than a length in mid-stretch, but the favorite wasn’t ready to concede the six-furlong stakes for Maryland-sired 2-year-olds, finding a second wind that caught the eye of Laurel Park announcer Dave Rodman.
“Goodness gracious! Greatbullsoffire!” bellowed Rodman as the Hamilton Smith-trained colt responded to the urging of jockey Victor Carrasco, rallying to post a courageous victory by a head.
“It was a gutty performance for him. He looked like a beat horse down the lane. The kid (Carrasco) didn’t give up and the horse didn’t give up,” Smith said. “Once he asked him to go on, he dug back in and came on. We were lucky to get up.”
Greatbullsoffire stalked an early pace contested by Apolodorodedamasco and In Arrears along the backstretch and around the far turn before making his move on the turn into the homestretch. Although unable to withstand the outside challenge by Dancing With Maude entering the stretch, the son of Bullsbay kept digging in through the stretch to prevail. Dancing With Maude held second under Steve Hamiliton, 3 ½ lengths ahead of Maryland’s Best. Greatbullsoffire ran the six furlongs in 1:11.48.
“Hammy told me to get a good position. When they came to me he told me to go instead of letting him wait on them. I was doing fine until that horse passed me at the 16th-pole, and I had to go to work. I wasn’t expecting anyone to pass us like that,” Carrasco said. “Hammy never lets me down and he had this one ready today. This horse can run on any surface and can only improve from here.
Greatbullsoffire debuted with a turf victory at Laurel July 17 before notching a stakes victory on dirt at Delaware Park Aug. 4. Back on turf for his most recent start, the Maryland-bred colt set the pace before tiring to third in the Laurel Futurity Sept. 10.
“He ran two good races on grass and he hasn’t been beat on dirt. I think I’ll stick with the dirt from here on, for the rest of the year anyway. He’s a pretty versatile. I hope we can get him to go further,” said Smith, reported his plan to race Greatbullsoffire two or three times this year before giving him a break.
Greatbullsoffire earned $55,000 for his third victory in four starts, boosting his bankroll to $122,140.
“We normally get the sales catalog and narrow it down to four or five, then let Ham help us from there,” said Willier to purchased her Nursery winner for $50,000 at the 2015 Timonium October sale. “He’s (Greatbullsoffire) been great for us so far.”
The next race also was a thriller.
Thomas Coulter’s Item ($15) held on to register a narrow victory in Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Million Lassie at Laurel Park after setting the pace and gamely withstanding intense late pressure to her inside and her outside in the six-furlong sprint for Maryland-sired 2-year-old fillies.
The daughter of Orientate set fractions of 22.62 (seconds) and 46.70 under Tyler Conner before meeting the two-pronged challenge by She’s Achance Too on her inside and Small Batch to her outside. Although headed in deep stretch by the former, Item fought back to prevail by a head, completing six furlongs in 1:12.45.
“She really kicked it in when she was pressured from both sides. Her first start at Penn was similar but we were on the outside. She really dug in today, and it’s nice to have a horse that runs like that,” said jockey Tyler Conner. “I am very excited to get my first stakes win here [at Laurel Park] today. I rode a little bit here last year, but this is really great.”
She’s Achance Too, who raced extremely wide before being guided to the rail by jockey Jevian Toledo in the stretch, held second by a neck over Small Batch, who swung extremely wide into the stretch under Yomar Ortiz.
Item had one previous start, a front-running triumph at Penn National Oct. 8.
“I have several nice two-year-olds for Mr. Coulter. This horse won at Penn national, and I expected her to do well here,” said trainer Rodrigo Madrigal Sr. “We have a stakes race coming up at Parx that we will run in next. The main thing with young horses is that you have to keep them sound, fit and healthy. Then run them where they have a good chance to win.”