Five answers from this weekend’s Midlantic stakes

by | Dec 9, 2019 | Breaking, Racing, Regionwide, Top Stories

Miss J McKay

Turf stakes winner Miss J McKay looks to earn her first stakes score on dirt in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship. Photo by Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club.

Prior to this weekend’s racing, we raised five questions whose answers we were seeking in the weekend’s stakes.

Here’s how they got answered:

1) Can the comebackers, you know, come back?

Something of a mixed bag. None of the three — Las Setas, Alwaysmining, and Still Having Fun — ran badly and none was far behind the winner at the end. But none of ’em won, either.

Las Setas, making her first start since the Black-Eyed Susan in May, led the six-furlong Politely Stakes through the opening quarter- and half-mile calls and held a head advantage after the latter, zipping through that distance in 46.31 seconds. She was still there, just a head behind, leaving the furlong grounds but tired from there and finished fifth (and last), beaten by winner Anna’s Bandit, a Jerry Robb trainee, by three lengths.

In the Howard and Sondra Bender Memorial, a six-furlong sprint for three-year-olds and up, Still Having Fun posted the best result of the three comebackers, rallying from sixth after a half-mile to finish second, just a neck behind winner Lewisfield. It was the Tim Keefe trainee’s first start since running in the Grade 1 Churchill Downs this past May. Alwaysmining, the Kelly Rubley trainee who carried local hopes into this year’s Grade 1 Preakness, raced close to the pace for much of the way before fading late to finish fifth in his first start in nearly five months.

2) Speaking of the Bender Memorial, how good is this race?

Pretty good, indeed.

The hard-hitting Lewisfield snapped a six-race losing streak by rediscovering his early speed, going to the lead, and fending off challenger after challenger in the lane to win by a hard-fought neck in 1:09.97 for six furlongs. It was a very game performance for the Jeff Runco trainee, who had Horacio Karamanos in the irons, and it ended up being a tightly contested event: Oldies But Goodies, who finished seventh and last, was just 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

3) Can Newstome keep it going in the PA Nursery?

No, but he didn’t run poorly at all.

The Mike Trombetta trainee went off the even-money favorite in the $100,000 test for Pennsylvania-bred two-year-olds, was part of the early duel, stuck a head in front after a half-mile, but could not quite go on and had to settle for third. He finished two lengths behind the winner, 13-1 longshot Hockey Puck, and a length-and-change behind runner-up Golden Candy, who went off the second choice in the field of 11. Having raced at four different racetracks and three different surfaces already, Newstome has proven himself a reliable and versatile runner to watch.

4) Hello Beautiful? Or Miss J McKay? Or someone else altogether?

Hello Beautiful — and how.

Trained by Brittany Russell and ridden by her husband, Sheldon Russell, Hello Beautiful took another big step forward in winning the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship in absolutely dazzling fashion. The Golden Lad filly went right to the front, didn’t look back, and widened her advantage at every point of call to its final margin of 11 3/4 lengths over runner-up Miss J McKay, who went off as the second choice in the field of eight.

How good was this effort by Hello Beautiful?

  • The final time of 1:22.43 was more than a full second faster than the juvenile boys managed it (1:23.51) just one race later.
  • Her six-furlong time was 1:09.88. That was slightly faster than the five-year-old gelding Lewisfield went six furlongs in winning the Bender Memorial (1:09.97).
  • She earned a Beyer speed figure of 95. That’s the third-best of any two-year-old to date and the fastest by a filly.
  • She earned an Equibase speed figure of 106. That’s tied for the third-fastest of any two-year-old to date and is the second-fastest by a filly, behind another Maryland-bred, Sharing, who earned a 108 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.

5) Value in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity?

Not particularly.

With the scratch of morning line favorite Monday Morning Qb, the bettors toggled among three horses — Laddie Liam, Sir Back in Black, and Raging Whiskey — for favoritism, with the last-named finally ending up the 2-1 favorite, while Sir Back in Black went off at 2.10-1 and Laddie Liam was 2.30-1.

It was Laddie Liam who was all by himself at the end, though, winning easily by over four lengths for his third win, first in stakes company. He paid $6.60 to win.

Laddie Liam was trained by Hugh McMahon and, like Hello Beautiful, ridden to victory by Sheldon Russell. Laddie Liam is scheduled to be sold Tuesday as part of the dispersal of Joe Besecker’s stock.


About The Author

Frank Vespe

Frank Vespe, the founder and publisher of The Racing Biz, has owned, bought, sold, claimed, written, and talked about horses, in varying combinations, for a decade. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @TheRacingBiz.

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