Sonny Inspired headlines Md-bred stakes
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
A salty group of runners are slated to go postward in Saturday’s Not for Love Stakes, the second of two added-money events restricted to Maryland-bred or -sired runners.
In the first, the Conniver for older fillies and mares, a lightly accomplished group of eight runners all will be seeking their first stakes victory.
In the Not for Love, run for the first time under this name, favoritism falls to the graded stakes-placed Sonny Inspired, owned by D Hatman Thoroughbreds. Sonny Inspired was a force to be reckoned with last winter in Maryland, winning the Fire Plug and Ben’s Cat stakes and finishing third behind Page McKenney in the Grade 3 General George. What followed were five straight off-the-board finishes and a five-month summer break.
After promising efforts in back-to-back starts including a seven-furlong handicap win at Charles Town Feb. 10, his first victory in 11 months, Sonny Inspired goes up against seven fellow Maryland-breds in the $75,000 Not For Love.
“We were a little bit disappointed with him. We gave him some time off for a freshening and brought him back for the series of races over the wintertime here that he had some success in last year,” trainer Phil Schoenthal said. “He came back and had a couple little minor physical issues, some muscle problems that we were just having a real hard time dealing with and getting him over. We felt like we got him over the hump really the last two races.
“He ran better here in the race two back and then he ran a good race at Charles Town and he’s been training really well since,” he added. “He’s gained about 22 pounds since the last race, so I really feel like he’s back to his old self and he’s ready to run well Saturday.”
Sonny Inspired opened his 6-year-old campaign by overcoming a sluggish start to run third, beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Dubai-bound Imperial Hint, in the six-furlong Fire Plug Jan. 14 at Laurel. Sent off as the favorite at Charles Town, he settled in third early before taking over at the top of the stretch and drawing away to win by a length.
“[The Fire Plug] was kind of the typical kind of race that we have come to expect from him. The first two times he had run off the layoff were kind of subpar efforts considering, so it was the kind of race where as a trainer you’re kind of holding your breath because you feel like the horse is going to run well but he’d run two clunkers in a row,” Schoenthal said. “You’re holding your breath hoping he’s all right, and he proved that he was.
“He came out of that race good and Charles Town was the only real spot for him so he ran down there and he ran well again. He’s been training awful good since. I think that he’s going to run real well. It’s going to take a big effort from somebody to beat him,” he added. “There’s some new shooters in there that are kind of new to the Maryland-bred stakes division. Most of them are in real good form right now. It ought to be a real good race. I’m excited for it.”
A number of his rivals could spoil the party, notably the improving Stolen Love, in the best form of his career at age 7. Stolen Love is entered to make his 58th career start in a race named for his sire, having won a pair of optional claiming allowance sprints at Laurel 17 days apart last month. He was third, beaten less than a length, in his previous stakes try, the Maryland Million Starter Handicap Oct. 22. Nine of his 10 lifetime wins have come at Laurel.
“He ran big the last two times and he’s doing really good,” trainer Claudio Gonzalez said. “He’s a nice horse and he likes Laurel.”
Completing the field are 2016 Maryland Million Sprint winner Nicaradalic Rocks; Blu Moon Ace, making his first start just six days since being claimed for $25,000 by trainer Cory Jensen out of March 12 win at Laurel; Laki, a winner of three straight starts since Dec. 24 in his stakes debut for trainer Damon Dilodovico; Struth and Jeezum Jim.
One race prior, in the $75,000 Conniver, Runway Point Farms’ Bawlmer Hon, second at 24-1 in the Maryland Racing Media Feb. 18 at Laurel for trainer Mark Shuman, is set to make her third straight stakes start. She is 9-5 on the morning line.
Bawlmer Hon, a 4-year-old daughter of multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Silver Train, finished behind promising filly Winter in each of her past two starts, including the Jan. 21 Nellie Morse where she ran fifth as the favorite. She cuts back to seven furlongs for the first time since last summer, having run at about 1 1/16 miles in four of her last five starts.
If I Was a Boy and Next Best Thing are both coming off recent wins at Laurel. If I Was a Boy rallied for a neck victory in an entry-level allowance going six furlongs March 3, while Next Best Thing, who is 2-1 here, captured a one-mile optional claiming allowance by 1 ¾ lengths March 4 despite drifting out late.
“She’s doing good,” Next Best Thing’s trainer, Claudio Gonzalez, said. “She won good the last time going a mile in the two-other-than and she came back good, that’s why I want to run her back. It’s a good time to take a chance now.”
Clem Gem, Great Illusion, Holiday Blues, One Proud Gal and Scip’s Sonata are also entered.