Mid-Atlantic Three Stars: August 4

by | Aug 4, 2021 | Breaking, Racing, Regionwide, Top Stories

Leader of the Band

Leader of the Band won the Monmouth Oaks on Saturday. Photo: Ryan Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

Plenty of racing action took place throughout the Mid-Atlantic this past week.

Here’s a look at the “three stars” of each track:


  • FIRST STAR: SHELDON RUSSELL. One of Maryland’s top jockeys achieved a major milestone on Saturday’s card. He won his 1,500th career race, on Hello Beautiful, trained by his wife, Brittany. As the 1-10 favorite in the Alma North Stakes, Hello Beautiful broke on top and never had an anxious moment, cruising home a 3 3/4-length winner. It was the second stakes win of the year for this filly, and her sixth stakes win lifetime. Russell won his first race in 2005, and has been a prominent member of the Maryland riding colony for more than a decade. He’s in sixth place in the rider standings, with 21 wins.
  • SECOND STAR: HARPERS FIRST RIDE. A four-time stakes winner last year, Harpers First Ride earned his first stakes win of the year on Saturday. He won the Deputed Testamony Stakes for the second year in a row, drawing away in the stretch for a 1 1/2-length victory. Angel Cruz sent him to the lead early, then dropped him to the rail from the outside post by the time they got to the first turn. He dealt with some mild pace pressure, but was clear entering the stretch. This Maryland-bred gelding recently returned to the Claudio Gonzalez barn, for owners GMP Stables LLC, Arnold Bennewith, and Cypress Creek Equine.
  •  THIRD STAR: MUCHO. The final stakes on Saturday’s card, the Challedon Stakes, featured three Maryland-breds in the five horse field, including top local sprinters Whereshetoldmetogo and Laki. However, they were defeated by midwestern shipper Mucho, who won by a length. Lebda, looking to give Gonzalez his second stakes win of the day, set the pace, with Mucho in hot pursuit under Reylu Gutierrez. Although Lebda was clear in the stretch, Mucho made his move in the last three-sixteenths, and drove past him late. He won by a length, going six furlongs in 1:10.09, or about 3/5 of a second slower than Hello Beautiful ran in the Alma North. He’s owned by WSS Racing LLC and 4G Racing LLC and trained by John Ortiz.


  • FIRST STAR: SOUND OFF. This hard-knocking gelding has had a great year at Charles Town. He has not missed the top three in nine starts here this year. He won his fifth start of the year on Thursday night, as he prevailed in a starter optional claiming race by half a length. He was last, nine lengths out of it at the opening quarter. In the stretch, he made a four-wide move, and got up under urging from Antonio Lopez for a half-length win. Going back to last year, he’s finished in the top three in fifteen of his last sixteen races. He’s owned and trained by Michael Sandoval. 
  • SECOND STAR: DENIS ARAUJO. Araujo had three wins from six mounts on the Thursday card. He won two races for trainer John McKee: race 1 with Strong Fiber and race 7 with No Change. In between, he won the 4th race on 17-1 shot Warrior’s Estate, for trainer Michael Atkins. Araujo is second in the jockey standings, with 70 wins. He’s already set a personal mark for earnings in a year, with $1.34 million in winnings. 
  • THIRD STAR: DEWAYNE JOHNSON. Johnson went 2-for-2 with his owned and trained horses on Friday card, one of which produced some massive payoffs. He won race 2 with Riding Cloud Nine at 5-2, prevailing by 2 3/4 lengths under Gustavo Larrosa. In race 4, he pulled off a massive upset with 53-1 Beyond Pretty, who won by a length under Ramon Maldonado. 51-1 Carolina Bambina ran second, producing an exacta of $936.20 for $1. Johnson has now won five races on the year from 27 starters.


  • FIRST STAR: LEADER OF THE BAND. John Servis sent out a pair of starters in Saturday’s Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks. Midnight Obsession was the more highly-regarded of the two, sent off as the 7-2 second choice. However, she ended up third, while stablemate Leader of the Band ran down favored Edie Meeny Miny Mo in the stretch and won by two lengths. She was seventh early on, then moved up to third by the time they hit the top of the stretch. Edie Meeny Miny Mo had nothing left in the stretch, and Leader of the Band surged by handily. That was Servis’s first graded stakes win in more than a year. His last one came in the 2020 Gotham Stakes with Mischevious Alex. Frankie Pennington had the mount on the SMD Limited-owned filly. This marked the seventh graded stakes win in Pennington’s career. 
  • SECOND STAR: FOUNDER. One race prior, Founder stormed from last to win the Tale of the Cat Stakes as the favorite. With perfect timing from Paco Lopez, he caught It Can Be Done in the last eighth and rolled by for a strong win, his second career triumph. He’s owned by Jeff Drown and Don Rachel and trained by Chad Brown. 
  • THIRD STAR: PACO LOPEZ. Not only did Lopez win with Founder on Saturday, he also won the Colleen Stakes on Sunday with second-time starter Miss Alacrity for trainer Wesley Ward. On Saturday, Lopez had a four-win afternoon. In addition to his win on Founder, he won race 5 with Sand Dune, trained by Ronald Abrams, race 8 on Wayne Potts’s Runaway Lute, and race 11 on Bramble Bay, trained by Michael Dini. Lopez has established firm control of the lead in the jockey standings, with 48 wins. He’s winning at a remarkable 28% clip thus far. 


  • FIRST STAR: SEANOW. This Jamie Ness-trained gelding has been a star at the Delaware meet, with three wins from four starts here so far. He picked up his third win last Wednesday, prevailing in a washed-off starter optional claiming race by 1 1/2 lengths. Jaime Rodriguez rated him in second early on, behind early leader Hard Belle, then moved past that rival in the stretch and drew away. He’s owned by Charles Lo and Jagger Inc.
  • SECOND STARS: VANZZY. Saturday’s co-feature was a competitive allowance optional claiming race at 7 1/2 furlongs on the grass. Vanzzy, making his second start of the year, prevailed by a neck as the 2-1 second choice. He lacked room as they turned for home, but when a hole opened up, he shot through and made it a four-way battle across the stretch. He got up in the last few strides for the victory, his first since his win in the Jersey Derby last July at Monmouth. He’s a three-time stakes winner in his career, with earnings of more than $280,000. Jorge Gonzalez had the winning mount, for owner Smart Angle LLP and trainer Michael Pino. 
  • THIRD STAR: SWEET SAMI D. One race prior, Sweet Sami D took a class drop from stakes company to an allowance optional claiming race, and found her way back into the winner’s circle. She won by a neck, surging late to defeat Artful Splatter, who had a clear lead in the last eighth. Earlier in the year, Sweet Sami D had races in three stakes races, but was no better than third in any of those starts. She got this win for owners ABL Stable, Bossone, Donnelly, and Oberdorff, and trainer Pat McBurney. 


  • FIRST STAR: ALWAYS SUNSHINE. An open allowance sprint served as the Monday feature. Nine-year-old Always Sunshine, a graded stakes winner, prevailed by a nose. Admiral Abe, already a winner several times at the level this year, set the pace and turned for home with the lead. However, both Always Sunshine and 43-1 shot Midnightcharly overtook him late, and the two hit the wire together. The photo finish camera revealed that Always Sunshine got his nose down in time. He’s now won three times on the year from six starts, while pushing his earnings towards the $750,000 mark. He’s owned by Stonehedge LLC, trained by Edward Allard, and ridden by Jorge Vargas Jr.
  • SECOND STAR: ABNER ADORNO. Adorno had a great day last Tuesday, winning three races. He teamed up with trainer Penny Pearce twice, winning race 5 with I Am Redeemed and race 9 aboard Mr. Walsh. He capped off the hat trick in race 11, scoring on Rittenhouse, for trainer Tyler Servis. Adorno is seventh in the jockey standings, with 45 wins. 
  • THIRD STAR: PRINCE OF RAIN. This 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred was impressive in victory last Wednesday, taking an open n/w1x allowance race by 5 1/4 lengths. As the odds-on favorite, Inoel Beato rated him off the pace on the inside, then seized control towards the rail at the top of the stretch and drew away, covering six furlongs in 1:10.44. He’s owned by Z and Z Stables and trained by Michael Zalalas. 


Deuces wild in Laurel Park stakes

Deuces wild in Laurel Park stakes

In a half-dozen Laurel Park stakes, riders Angel Cruz and Jevian Toledo, trainer Jerry Robb and Brittany Russell, and stallion Munnings all had two winners.

About The Author

John Piassek

John Piassek has written about mid-Atlantic racing for The Racing Biz, Danonymous Racing, and his current website, the Daily Gallop. He graduated from Loyola University Maryland in 2018 with a degree in marketing, and is a member of the inaugural Maryland Thoroughbred Career Program class of 2017. Find John on twitter: @theyreoff.

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