Still Having Fun looks for second straight stakes win in Miracle Wood

by | Feb 15, 2018 | Breaking, Maryland, MD Racing, Racing

Still Having Fun was by himself at the end of the Frank Whiteley, Jr. Stakes. Photo by Laurie Asseo.

From a Maryland Jockey Club release

Stakes-winning sophomores Still Having Fun and He Hate Me take the next important step in their promising careers when they meet up for the first time in the $100,000 Miracle Wood for 3-year-olds Saturday at Laurel Park. Meanwhile, seven sophomore fillies will contest a wide-open renewal of the $100,000 Wide Country Stakes contested at seven furlongs.

The 23rd running of the one-mile Miracle Wood presented by B&B Commercial Interiors and the 25th renewal of the seven-furlong Wide Country presented by Fidelity First & Blackwell Real Estate are among six stakes, two graded, worth $950,000 in purses on the 11-race Winter Carnival program.

Highlighting the card are the $300,000 Barbara Fritchie (G2) for fillies and mares 4 and older and the $250,000 General George (G3) for 4-year-olds and up, both at seven furlongs, joined by the $100,000 John B. Campbell and $100,000 Maryland Racing Media, also for older horses.

Gary Barber, Wachtel Stable and Terp Racing’s Still Having Fun opened his 3-year-old campaign with a commanding 4 ½-length triumph in the seven-furlong Frank Whiteley Jr. Jan. 27 at Laurel, just his third career start and second in stakes company. Barber and Wachtel purchased an interest in the horse, a $12,000 yearling purchase, following his debut.

“He had been training great and I absolutely expected that effort from him last time. He seems to be getting a little bit better with each start. He came out of the race super and I’m looking forward to running him the mile,” trainer Tim Keefe said. “Our idea has always been to slowly start stretching him out to see what he can and can’t do, and so far he hasn’t really shown me anything he can’t do yet. He’s been doing great.”

Keefe, who is listed as a co-breeder of Still Having Fun, was not concerned about the three-week turnaround from the Whiteley. The bay Old Fashioned colt faced a similar time frame when second by a neck to multiple stakes winner Whirlin Curlin despite a slow start in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity Dec. 9 at Laurel to cap his juvenile season.

“I’m fairly conservative so I like giving my horses lots of time, whether it’s a $5,000 claimer or this horse running in a stake. I don’t like running them right back,” Keefe said. “I do think three weeks is a good amount of time, especially just being around this horse. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the bottom of him. Each time he comes back from a race he seems to come back better and better.

“It might be a little different story if he’d been wiped out after the last race and kind of took a while to bounce back, but he never showed me that it took a lot out of him. He’s coming into this race as well as I could hope,” he added. “The races are going to get tougher and we want to see how good the horse is. The spring schedule is going to be a little tough but we’ll let him tell us if he can handle it and, so far, everything he’s told me is that he can handle what we’re doing with him right now.”

Feargal Lynch, aboard for all three starts, has a return call on the 8-5 program favorite from the rail in a field of seven. All horses will carry 116 pounds.

Sagamore Farm’s He Hate Me won his first two starts last spring and summer for trainer Horacio DePaz before being sidelined following a 3 ¼-length triumph in the 5 ½-furlong Tremont Stakes at Belmont Park in June. He didn’t race again until running a distant but clear second to World of Trouble in the Pasco Stakes Jan. 20 at Tampa Bay Downs.

“He’s doing good. He had that layoff and came back with a really good effort to lose to a really nice horse of Jason Servis’ so he should bounce back from that well,” DePaz said. “At least he showed he wanted to be competitive and tried to make a run at him. We want to try the mile and see if he likes the distance.

“He just got sick on me after he went to the Tremont and when we got him back home he got a little bit of a shin on him so we decided to give him extra time and just start him up at the beginning of the year,” he added. “We definitely have high hopes for him and that’s why we gave him that extra time so that he would be right. He’s a smaller type of horse but he’s got a lot of heart.”

A bay Algorithms colt that brought $90,000 as a yearling, He Hate Me has been spent the winter with DePaz’s string at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County.

“We wanted to get him going and not risk missing any more time with him,” DePaz said. “Having had that last race will help him a lot. He was carrying the high weight, 124 pounds, and he drew the rail and had never gone farther than 5 ½ furlongs. There were a lot of negatives, but he showed that he wanted to be competitive to be able to move on.

“We definitely want to try him farther,” he added. “When you have a 3-year-old that has talent you’ve got to see how far they want to go and then you kind of regroup with them if you have to later on in the year.”

Jockey Manuel Franco, up for the first time in the Pasco, rides back from outside post 7 as third choice in the morning line at 7-2.

Joshtylane Farm and Main Line Racing Stable’s Wentz will wear blinkers for the first time in the Miracle Wood after ducking out dramatically late in the Whiteley, almost losing rider Frankie Pennington but holding on for second in his stakes and Laurel debut.

New York-based Kendrick Carmouche, who guided Wentz to his maiden triumph in November at Parx, returns to ride from Post 5. Wentz, second choice in the program at 5-2, is the only horse in the field not among the early nominations to the Triple Crown.

“He’s trained very well with the blinkers so I expect a good race from him. He’s got a lot of talent,” trainer John Servis said. “From Day 1 we’ve been excited about him. He’s a very nice horse, [but] very immature. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and let him mature on his own, but hopefully the blinkers will help.”

Keith Crupper and Team Gaudet’s undefeated Dynamic Asset (15-1) makes his stakes debut in the Miracle Wood, just his third start and first since an optional claiming win going six furlongs Sept. 15 at Laurel. Finishing third in that race was the well-regarded V.I.P. Code, also third in the Whiteley who returns in the Miracle Wood.

“He had a little issue that he needed time for, but he never left us,” trainer Lacey Gaudet said. “Between the weather and everything we haven’t been able to set him down as much as I would have liked. We’ve always liked him. We have a little bit of high hopes for him, but I’m a little worried about him being a little short going into this race.”

Completing the field are Gumpster Stable and Jagger Inc.’s Oldfashioned Club (10-1), two-for-four at Laurel, and Jacks or Better Farm’s maiden homebred winner Old Time Revival (12-1), who ran fifth and seventh, respectively, in the Whiteley.

Seven Sophomore Fillies to Gather for $100,000 Wide Country

With Maryland’s top 3-year-old filly in Limited View absent, three horses that finished behind the multiple stakes winner last time out return among a competitive field of seven in the $100,000 Wide Country.

Last True Love, Enchanted Ghost and Aggregator ran second, third and fifth, respectively, in the six-furlong Marshua Jan. 27 at Laurel, separated by four lengths, and each makes the three-week turnaround looking for their first career stakes victory.

Steve and Debbie Jackson’s homebred Last True Love will break from the far outside post under regular rider Julio Hernandez. Eighth following a troubled trip in the seven-furlong Gin Talking Dec. 30 at Laurel, the Yes It’s True filly dueled for the lead and was unable to hold off Limited View over the final three-eighths, coming up short by three parts of a length.

Mens Grille Racing’s Enchanted Ghost had a two-race win streak snapped in the Marshua, getting stuck inside horses until managing to find room on the outside and make a belated run to be third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths.

Prior to that, the bay daughter of Hall of Famer Ghostzapper won a 5 ½-furlong maiden claimer and stretched out to one mile for a 1 ½-length optional claiming victory 25 days apart in December at Laurel for trainer Hamilton Smith. She is the co-second choice on the morning line at 3-1 with Last True Love.

“She’s doing good. She’s been running right along and we’ll probably give her a little break after this one,” Smith said. “She ran good last time. She was a little up inside there going into the turn and it got a little bit tight and the kid had to take a little bit of a hold, nothing real serious but enough that the outside horses were running by them at that point.

“She maneuvered out of there pretty easily turning for home and she just couldn’t run them down. That may have cost her a half a length or so. He just didn’t get a chance to have her running free like he wanted to,” he added. “I think she can carry herself a little further, too. I’d like to get her around two turns, I think it would be better for her She’s maturing good and she’s a very easy horse to work with. Every time she runs she tries hard and that’s all you can ask of her.”

Swilcan Stable and The Harp Racing Stable’s Aggregator opened her sophomore season with a 2 ¾-length open allowance victory Jan. 9 at Parx prior to the Marshua, where she was bumped at the start and was never in contention. Mychel Sanchez has the mount from Post 6.

Wise Racing’s Fools Gold, the narrow 5-2 program favorite off her 7 ¾-length maiden special weight win Jan. 26 at Aqueduct; Frigid Sister, unraced since running eighth in the Smart Halo Stakes Nov. 11 at Laurel; Deep Red, an optional claiming winner Jan. 21 in her first start since finishing second in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Dec. 9; and Shemakesmehappy, a 6 ¾-length open allowance winner Jan. 30 at Parx, round out the field.