WONDRWHERECRAIGIS HEADED TO G3 DE FRANCIS
It’s on to the $200,000 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) for newly minted stakes winner Wondrwherecraigis, who tuned up for his return to graded competition with an easy half-mile breeze Saturday morning at Laurel Park.
Madaket Stables, Michael Dubb, The Elkstone Group and Bethlehem Stables’ 4-year-old gelding Wondrwherecraigis went four furlongs in 49 seconds over Laurel’s main track, which underwent a multi-million dollar reconstruction over the summer.
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It was the second work for Wondrwherecraigis since earning his first career stakes victory Aug. 13 in the Tale of the Cat at Saratoga. He also breezed a half-mile in 49.20 seconds Sept. 3.
“That’s all we wanted,” trainer Brittany Russell said of Saturday’s work. “He’s great. He’s in good form. He’s happy and he’s training well. We have a lot going on at the moment, but it looks like we’re going to move forward to next week.”
The six-furlong De Francis for 3-year-olds and up headlines four stakes worth $500,000 in purses Saturday, Sept. 18 at Laurel, which launched its calendar year-ending fall meet Thursday. Joining the De Francis are the $100,000 Weather Vane for fillies and mares 3 and up sprinting six furlongs and a pair of $100,000 stakes going one mile, the Polynesian for 3-year-olds and up and Twixt for females 3 and older.
All four races are part of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championship (MATCH) Series.
Named for the late president and chairman of both Laurel and historic Pimlico Race Course, the De Francis’ illustrious roster of winners includes Hall of Famer Housebuster, fellow sprint champions Cherokee Run, Smoke Glacken, Thor’s Echo and Benny the Bull, and Lite the Fuse, the race’s only two-time winner (1995-96) honored with his own stakes race in Maryland.
Wondrwherecraigis has won each of his last two starts, both in front-running fashion. Saratoga meet champion Luis Saez was aboard in the six-furlong Tale of the Cat, beating fellow De Francis nominee My Boy Tate by 2 ¾ lengths in 1:10.09. He was a popular 5 ¾-length winner of a July 18 optional claiming allowance at Pimlico under Russell’s husband, jockey Sheldon Russell.
The connections will need a new rider as Sheldon Russell suffered a broken foot after being thrown from his horse during the post parade of Thursday’s opening day finale at Laurel and will be out indefinitely.
Other jockeys to have ridden Wondrwherecraigis include Jose Lezcano and Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, the latter in the 2020 Amsterdam (G2) last August where they ran fourth in the Munnings gelding’s only previous graded-stakes attempt.
Sheldon Russell is also the regular rider for six-time stakes winner Hello Beautiful, trained by his wife and owned by Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stables and Magic City Stables and scheduled to start in the Weather Vane. Hello Beautiful, who gave Russell his 1,500th career victory in the July 31 Alma North at Pimlico, breezed a half-mile in 48.60 seconds Sept. 8.
“We’ll just regroup here the next couple days and see what we’re going to do,” Brittany Russell said.