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Hello Beautiful won the What a Summer. Photo by Jerry Dzierwinski.

The signs of progress in trainer Brittany Russell’s career are unmistakable. There’s the win total, which jumped from 17 in 2019 to 46 a year ago. The earnings, which rose from just shy of $560,000 to more than $1.6 million.

There are the horses she has at Laurel, Pimlico, and at Florida’s Palm Meadows Training Center. And there’s her ownership roster, which is dotted with high-end participants like Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, and others.

One constant from the latter part of 2019 to today: Hello Beautiful is the best horse in her barn. And on Saturday, Hello Beautiful may go off as the favorite in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie as horse and trainer try to register what would be each of their first graded victory.

Russell likes the way her star is coming into the Fritchie. With regular pilot Sheldon Russell – Brittany’s husband — the four-year-old daughter of Golden Lad breezed a half-mile in 47 3/5 seconds at her Laurel Park base Saturday morning. That was the second-fastest of 89 at the distance.

“She breezed really nice today,” Brittany Russell said later that day. “She’s on good foot. She went a little faster than we expected, but it’s not like he really asked her. I think she’s ready to rock ‘n’ roll.”

Hello Beautiful, a winner of seven of 13 career starts and more than $377,000, enters the Fritchie in the best form of her career. She’s won three straight stakes, the two most recent, in the What A Summer and Safely Kept, her first stakes wins outside of Maryland-restricted company.

That marks a change from earlier in the year. Back in August, Russell shipped Hello Beautiful to Ellis Park for the Audubon Oaks but saw her star get clobbered out of the gate and end up last. In her next start, in the Grade 2 Prioress in Saratoga, she led early but faded to sixth.

A run in the Maryland Million Distaff – which she won by 11 lengths – seems to have gotten her back on track, though, and she’s since added the two local open stakes wins to her resume.

Russell assigns some of the credit to the benefits of running at home. Her star is seven-for-seven over her home track.

“It very well could be maturity, too,” she added. “The way she trains, everything about her is a bit more professional. She just seems like a better filly.”

Among the runners Hello Beautiful will contend with in the Fritchie are Grade 3 winner Sharp Starr for trainer Horacio De Paz, Tampa shipper Estilo Talentoso for Juan Arriagada, and the Lacey Gaudet-trained Dontletsweetfoolya, a winner of five straight, including a pair of stakes.

The continued improvement of Hello Beautiful is also, Russell said, “very satisfying.” That’s because, while some of the promising runners in her barn cost real money at auction, she picked up Hello Beautiful for just $6,500 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2018 December mixed sale before selling her – for a lot more than that – to the current ownership group of Madaket Stables LLC, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stable and Magic City Stables, LLC.

As if to prove that was no fluke, Russell appears to have done the exact same thing with, remarkably enough, Hello Beautiful’s half-brother Hello Hot Rod. The Mosler colt, who last out won Aqueduct’s Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, was a $10,000 auction purchase she made in partnership with Dark Horse Racing. He will go through the sales ring at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale February 9 and is expected to attract bidding well into the six figures.

Both Hellos were bred in Maryland by Hillwood Stables LLC.

“It doesn’t happen, and I’m very realistic,” Russell said, laughing to acknowledge that, apparently, it does happen. “You just enjoy it; proud of it and happy to do it for the right kind of people.”

Russell will be busy on Saturday. She’s also slated to send out Little Huntress in the $100,000 Wide Country and Maythehorsebwithu in the $100,000 Miracle Wood; both are for sophomores, the former for fillies.

Little Huntress had been entered in the Ruthless Stakes at Aqueduct, but when racing there was canceled on Saturday and the card displaced to Monday, Russell called an audible and opted instead to stay at home.

Maythehorsebwithu, meanwhile, breezed a half-mile Saturday in 48 1/5 seconds. In his most recent start, January 16, he was a near-miss second in the seven-furlong Spectacular Bid Stakes at Laurel behind multiple stakes winner Kenny Had a Notion, whom he’ll see again here.

“He’s wonderful,” Russell said of Maythehorsebwithu. “I like that horse a lot.”

The Bullsbay gelding won at first asking in July but lost his next three starts. He seems, however, to have taken a step forward of late, winning an allowance contest December 11 and then running well in the Spectacular Bid.

“He’s starting to act slightly more professional. He’s always been kind of a boy,” Russell noted. “It’s time he took that step forward to be a man.”