Shake Em Loose
Shake Em Loose stunned ’em in the Heft. Photo Jerry Dzierwinski.

JR Sanchez Racing Stable’s Shake Em Loose, making his seventh career start and the first for new connections, paid immediate and thrilling dividends by collaring Last Romance approaching the wire and pulling away to a 59-1 upset in Sunday’s $100,000 Heft at Laurel Park.

The 20th running of the Heft for 2-year-olds and 14th renewal of the Gin Talking for 2-year-old fillies, both sprinting seven furlongs, were among six $100,000 stakes on a nine-race Christmastide Day program.

Ridden by Yomar Ortiz for trainer Rodolfo Sanchez-Salomon, Shake Em Loose ($120.80) completed the distance in 1:25.69 over a fast main track to beat Last Romance by three-quarters of a length. It was 1 ¼ lengths back to 3-5 favorite Life Is Great in third, followed by Run to Daylight, Uncle Buddy, Dontcrossfuzzy and Amidships.

“I was feeling really good about him, that’s why I ran him in there,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “I was going to run him for [$25,000] but I couldn’t by the way he was training, and God helped us.”

Claimed for $16,000 out of a maiden victory Nov. 19 at Laurel and racing as a new gelding, Shake Em Loose found himself trailing the field but gaining momentum as Uncle Buddy led through a quarter-mile in 23 seconds and a half in 46.85 chased by Dontcrossfuzzy and Life Is Great down inside. Run to Daylight overtook Uncle Buddy on the turn and was passed by Last Romance as they straightened for home, as Shake Em Loose came rolling on the far outside. Shake Em Loose reeled in Last Romance and surged past for his second straight win.

“I thought he was going to be a little closer. He broke a little bad coming out of the gate but the jockey put him right in the race. Thank God he came to the wire first,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “I was hoping to improve 20 percent from what he did last time, and he did.”

Shake Em Loose, by Shakin It Up, had one win, one second and one third through six starts dating back to Aug. 7 at historic Pimlico Race Course. He notched a popular 3 ¾-length score in mid-November over Heartness, who came back to win a Parx maiden claimer by 10 ½ lengths Dec. 22.

“I was following this horse for a while,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “Thank God I got him.”

One race prior to the Heft, Hope Jones’ Buy the Best collared pacesetter Beneath the Stars in mid-stretch and edged past to extend her win streak to four races with a popular two-length victory in the $100,000 Gin Talking.

Buy the Best, a Tapiture filly trained by Cal Lynch and ridden by Jaime Rodriguez, has now won four of six and earned more than $177,000. She had won the Smart Halo over the strip Nov. 13 and went off today at odds of 1-9.