Hello Beautiful
Hello Beautiful won the 2020 Maryland Million Distaff. Photo by Allison Janezic.

Already a two-time winner in Maryland Million competition among her seven career stakes victories, 4-year-old filly Hello Beautiful can join some elite company with a third event triumph in Saturday’s $100,000 Distaff at Laurel Park.

The seven-furlong Distaff for fillies and mares 3 and older is among eight stakes and four starter stakes on the 36th Jim McKay Maryland Million program, ‘Maryland’s Day at the Races’ celebrating the progeny of stallions standing in the state.

Since its inception in 1986, only six horses have won three Maryland Million races and not since Eighttofasttocatch captured his third Classic in four years in 2014. The others are Ben’s Cat, Countus In, Docent, Mz. Zill Bear and Hall of Fame mare Safely Kept, who won the Distaff from 1989-91.

Madaket Stables, Albert Frassetto, Mark Parkinson, K-Mac Stables and Magic City Stables’ Hello Beautiful won the Lassie as a 2-year-old in 2019 before her 11 ¼-length romp in last year’s Distaff.

“She’s had a good year, anyway. I like to be humble about things,” trainer Brittany Russell said. “Our filly’s doing good and I hope she runs her race. Just stay humble and be happy that she’s healthy.”

Hello Beautiful enters the Distaff off back-to-back front-running victories in the Alma North July 31 at historic Pimlico Race Course and Weathervane Sept. 18 at Laurel, both going six furlongs. The Alma North was jockey Sheldon Russell’s 1,500th career win and the Weathervane came by 10 ¼ lengths under Jevian Toledo after Russell – the trainer’s husband – injured his foot Sept. 9 and remains sidelined.

“Since she won last time she’s been great, and I’m very pleased with her,” Brittany Russell said. “Nothing in the morning or watching her come out of that last run would indicate a regression. Of course, you don’t know until you run but all signs are positive with her right now.”

Hello Beautiful has won nine of 17 career starts with $524,610 in purse earnings, is 8-for-12 lifetime at Laurel and owns three wins in four tries at the distance including the Distaff and Safely Kept to cap a 2020 season interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic that altered racing and included unsuccessful road trips to Ellis Park and Saratoga for stakes.

“We tried some things last year. It was a bit of a tough year and just to get her back on track on [Maryland Million] day was huge, and to get a second Maryland million win,” Russell said. “It’s fun to have a filly like this for a day like this, [one] that you hope can keep kind of making us all proud.”

Toledo gets the return call from Post 1 aboard Hello Beautiful at topweight of 122 pounds, giving four to six pounds to her rivals. Russell said her stable star continues to thrive since her most recent victory.

“Her exercise rider jumped off of her [Tuesday] morning and he was all smiles. He was like, ‘Wow.’ If she was good on Sunday, she was even better today. That just makes you feel good,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to see her next year as a 5-year-old. I don’t know quite yet what the plans are, but it’s exciting.”

To achieve her milestone win, Hello Beautiful will face a stiff challenge from eight-time stakes winner Street Lute, a 3-year-old daughter of Street Magician owned by Lucky 7 Stables and trained by John ‘Jerry’ Robb in what is expected to be an intriguing matchup of speedy fillies.