Shimmering Aspen favored in Twixt Stakes
From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Hillwood Stable’s Shimmering Aspen, dominant while earning her first stakes victory eight weeks earlier, returns from her summer vacation as the horse to beat in Saturday’s $75,000 Twixt at Laurel Park.
The seven-furlong Twixt for fillies and mares 3 and older is one of two stakes on the 11-race program along with the $75,000 Polynesian for 3-year-olds and up, also at seven furlongs. First race post time is 1:10 p.m.
Following a 5 ¾-length romp in the seven-furlong Alma North against fellow sophomore fillies June 17 at Laurel Park, trainer Rodney Jenkins had initially considered the 6 ½-furlong Victory Ride (G3) July 9 at Belmont Park for Shimmering Aspen.
Instead, Jenkins opted to give the gray or roan daughter of Malibu Moon a break after running four times in 10 weeks. She notched a pair of optional claiming allowance wins by 10 ¾ lengths combined, followed by the 1 1/8-mile Black-Eyed Susan (G2), in which she broke from the rail and took a short lead into the stretch before fading to seventh over a tiring sloppy, sealed track.
“She’s a nice filly and I just gave her some time,” Jenkins said. “There was absolutely nothing wrong with her, but she had run three hard races in a row and that’s just my way of doing things. I’m not really anxious with one, but she’s doing well.”
“She looks beautiful. She’s been training good and she had a good work here the other day for the race, so we’ll see,” he added. “She likes seven-eighths and that was the plan to bring her back here. She’ll probably be keen, but that’s her. She’ll try to be up near the front. She’s quick enough to be there.”
Shimmering Aspen is four-for-six lifetime and undefeated in her only two tries at seven furlongs, both at Laurel. In the Alma North, contested over a good, sealed main track, she was tested all the way around and still pulled clear to a decisive win under jockey Steve ‘Cowboy’ Hamilton, who returns to ride from Post 4 at 119 pounds.
“You had to be impressed because she was pushed by that horse Crabcakes all the way down the backside,” Jenkins said. “It wasn’t like it was an easy lead, and then she cut in again at the head of the lane and finished well. I was very pleased. Anything can happen in a race, but she’s doing well.”
At 3-1, Shimmering Aspen is the lukewarm morning line favorite.
Sheffield Stable’s Line of Best Fit (8-1) enters the Twixt after finishing third by three lengths behind champion Songbird in the 1 ¼-mile Delaware Handicap (G1) July 15 at Delaware Park, her graded-stakes debut. It was another 10 ½ lengths back to Miss Mo Kelly in fourth.
“The owner thought I was crazy. I thought the race would come up light so we nominated her and took a shot and it all worked out great,” trainer Kieron Magee said. “We told the rider, don’t worry about the favorite. Let her do her thing and let’s run for second or third and we picked up [$82,500] for third, nothing wrong with that. She finished third to the best horse in the country and her first time hitting the board in a stake was in a Grade 1. She’s a nice mare.”
Line of Best Fit, a 7-year-old daughter of Trajectory, has won five of her seven starts since joining Magee’s Laurel-based stable last May. Five of those starts have come at a mile or longer after being primarily a sprinter for her previous connections.
“All the years before I got her they ran her short, and she made a nice living running short. We ran her once short and she won and then I said to the owner, ‘What would you think of stretching her out and trying her and let’s see?’ She runs like she wants to go long,” Magee said. “She’s just gotten better and better.
“You had to hustle her to get her going early and then she would come running late. And the way she trained in the morning, we breezed her a few times and my exercise rider kept saying this horse needs to go long. We decided to give it a shot,” he added. “When you watch the way she runs, she’s aggressive going long and wants to be up there close from all the years of running short, and I’m hoping that seven-eighths might be the distance that she’s been looking for all her life. She can lay a little close and keep running. When you run her long, she wants to drag you to the lead and you have to hold her back off of it so much, maybe the seven-eighths will hit her right between the eyes.”
Julian Pimentel, out of action with back and knee injuries suffered in a fall during training hours July 1 at Laurel, is named to ride from the rail post.
Multiple stakes winners My Magician, who captured the Dashing Beauty July 8 at Delaware last out; Discreet Senorita, running first off the claim for New York-based trainer David Jacobson; and Sweet On Smokey, second in the Dashing Beauty, share topweight of 124 pounds.
Also entered are 2016 Summer Colony winner Rachel’s Temper, making just her second start since last October; multiple graded stakes-placed Mayla and Sweetgrass; Sky Flower, a winner of five straight over Presque Isle Downs’ artificial surface; Enterprising Lady, Mo’ne Davis and Unbridled Holiday.
The Twixt is named for the Maryland-bred mare that won 26 of 70 starts and $619,141 in purses from 1972-75. Seven of her 18 stakes wins came in graded company, including the 1975 Top Flight (G1) and back-to-back editions of the Barbara Fritchie (G2) in 1974 and 1975. In 2013, she was named to the inaugural class of the Maryland Thoroughbred Hall of Fame.