Hello Hot Rod
Hello Hot Rod, with Trevor McCarthy up, won the Jimmy Winkfield. Photo by Chelsea Durand/NYRA.

A trio of Maryland-based horses are eyeing Aqueduct stakes in the coming weeks – and two others recently won stakes there.

Hello Hot Rod, a three-year-old, Maryland-bred Mosler colt, fought gamely to win Sunday’s seven-furlong Jimmy Winkfield Stakes by a head. Hello Hot Rod led throughout and had just enough to hold off the bid of Return the Ring.

It was Hello Hot Rod’s third consecutive win and first in stakes company. He’s trained by Brittany Russell for herself and Dark Horse Racing LLC and was ridden to the win by Trevor McCarthy. A $10,000 auction purchase, Hello Hot Rod is a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Hello Beautiful.

“I don’t think stretching out would be an issue,” Russell in a release. “We considered other spots going further in distance, but this looked like a good spot to get the year started. It’s nice to win another one with him and use it as a stepping stone to other things.”

One of the foes Hello Hot Rod has defeated in his win streak, Shackqueenking, is pointed to Saturday’s Grade 3, $250,000 Withers Stakes at the Big A. The Withers offers 10 Kentucky Derby points to the winner.

Trainer Gary Capuano said the Shackleford chestnut, who is undefeated around two turns at Laurel Park, will relish the added distance in the nine-furlong test offering 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top-four finishers.

“The two turns is why I wanted to give him a shot up there. Plus, he’s training real good,” said Capuano. “There’s a race at Laurel on the 13th [Miracle Wood] going a one-turn mile, but I like the two turns.”

Shackqueenking ran second to Hello Hot Rod in a one-turn mile allowance December 13. Thirteen days later, he won the 1 1/16-mile Howard County Stakes by a nose.

Capuano traveled the Derby trail in 1997 with Captain Bodgit. The son of Saint Ballado won the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial that year. He was then the beaten favorite in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness. He was second by a head to Silver Charm in the Derby, and then third – again by a head – in perhaps the greatest Preakness of all, with Silver Charm winning again and Free House in second.

“He is nominated for it and if he can take us there that would be great. If he does well there we will keep moving forward, but this will be the test,” Capuano said of Shackqueenking. “He’s a big, strapping horse. I don’t think he’ll have any problem with the mile and an eighth. It’s a good test for him and we’ll see if he’s capable and where we can go from there. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him so far.”

He may see another Laurel-based horse in the Withers, too. Royal Number – third behind Hello Hot Rod and Shackqueenking December 13 – followed that up with a dominant score in a two-turn allowance at Laurel Park and may make his next start in New York.

“The Withers is under consideration. He ran a great race last time,” trainer Mike Trombetta said. “We just have to see what we can do this week in terms of training with the weather.”

Royal Number breezed a half-mile on the all-weather track at Fair Hill January 30, getting the distance in 49 2/5 seconds.

Bred in Maryland by Fitzhugh, Royal Number is out of the Include mare Hartigan, who won four stakes on the Maryland circuit. He is owned by R. Larry Johnson and Trombetta’s own R. D. M. Racing Stable.

On January 18, Trombetta sent another Maryland-based horse, Bella Aurora, to win the Interborough Stakes at Aqueduct, rallying to win by a length as, at 37-1, the longest shot on the board. It was the Virginia-bred’s second career stakes win.

Owned by Country Life Farm, she was retired thereafter and will be bred to Authentic.

Brittany Russell, trainer of Hello Hot Rod, may make a return visit to the Big Apple Saturday with a different runner, Little Huntress.

A $100,000 auction purchase owned Madaket Stables LLC, Wonder Stables, and Robert LaPenta, Little Huntress won at second asking by 14 lengths at Laurel Park December 27.

Little Huntress, a sophomore filly by Tourist, has posted three works since her maiden score, most recently going four furlongs in 48 3/5 seconds January 23.

“We’re strongly considering [the $100,000 Ruthless Stakes]. She worked really well the other day,” Russell said. “We try and give all of our young horses every option in the morning and her best works are just ‘go.’ We’ve tried rating her, but she just wants to go. The way she won last month was really cool to see.”