WONDRWHERECRAIGIS? PIMLICO WINNER’S CIRCLE
Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group, Madaket Stables and Bethlehem Stables’ Wondrwherecraigis, coming off a subpar effort out of town last month, returned home and resumed his winning ways with a popular and impressive 5 ¾-length triumph in Sunday’s stakes-quality feature at historic Pimlico Race Course.
With jockey Sheldon Russell up for his wife, trainer Brittany Russell, Wondrwherecraigis ($5.20) led all the way while completing six furlongs over a fast main track in 1:09.64 for his fourth win from seven career starts and second in three tries this year, both at Pimlico.
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The performance was reminiscent of his season debut, a three-length optional claiming allowance triumph in front-running fashion May 15 on the undercard of the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1), his first race in 9 ½ months. Last out, he was fifth as the favorite after setting the pace in a June 19 optional claimer at Delaware Park.
“I don’t really know what happened last time. He ran such a big race on Preakness Day off the layoff. He came out of the race and worked good in between that race and the Delaware race,” Sheldon Russell said. “We went up to Delaware thinking he was going to run good, but I don’t know if he just didn’t take a liking to the track. The track maybe wasn’t favoring speed that day, but we came back shaking our heads.
“He’s come back, and he’s worked better than ever,” he added. “I’m just glad that he showed up today. When he’s good, he’s very good.”
Breaking from Post 5 in a field of six that included stakes winners Eastern Bay, Arthur’s Hope and Kenny Had a Notion, the lone 3-year-old racing facing elders for the first time off a five-month layoff, Wondrwherecraigis was intent on the lead and held it through splits of 23.50 and 45.99 seconds pressed to his outside by Arthur’s Hope.
Russell was able to let out a notch approaching the stretch and the 4-year-old Munnings gelding, sent off as the 8-5 betting favorite, responded by opening up through the lane under a hand ride as Russell peeked back and War Tocsin closed to pass Arthur’s Hope for second. Whiskey and You, Eastern Bay and Kenny Had a Notion completed the order of finish.
“On Preakness Day he had an outside post and I sort of had to bang him out of there running, and when you get him running he’s a big, stout horse,” Russell said. “[It was] a smaller field today, I was able to relax him in the first quarter and it was just easy after that. I’m just very happy that he got back to his winning ways.”
Brittany Russell was in Saratoga Sunday to watch her horse, Madaket Stables’ Lil Stevie, a 2-year-old colt by 2008 Carter (G1) and General George (G3) winner Bustin Stones, run sixth as the favorite in his career debut, a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight for New York-breds.
“She left me to take care of the dogs. Her and [daughter] Edie woke up this morning at 3:30 and left the house by 4 to go to Saratoga to watch Brittany’s 2-year-old run,” Sheldon Russell said. “It’s going to be a busy summer. I’m off to Colonial [Downs] tonight, we’ll see what we can do.”
Wondrwherecraigis was one of six starters Brittany Russell had at Saratoga last summer, finishing fourth in the Amsterdam (G2) one start after being beaten a head in the Gold Fever at Belmont Park. Russell also won twice at Saratoga, her first at the track where this year she has a string for the first time.
“I’m happy for her. It’s nice that she gets to go up there and see her horses, and especially to go up there on a race day,” Sheldon Russell said. “I know it’s something she’s been wanting to do, so I’m happy for her.”
Wondrwherecraigis is among 25 horses nominated to the $100,000 Challedon for 3-year-olds and up sprinting six furlongs July 31 at Pimlico, along with multiple stakes-winning stablemate Whereshetoldmetogo.
“I leave it to Brittany and the owners. Hopefully, he comes out of the race good and we can plan for a little stakes race somewhere along the way,” Russell said. “He’s a cool horse and I’m just excited to be on him.”