Hibiscus Punch among top noms to Fritchie

Hibiscus Punch
Hibiscus Punch scored a stunner in the 2021 Fritchie. Photo by Jerry Dzierwinski.

Defending champion Hibiscus Punch and fellow graded-stakes winners Leader of the Band, Sharp Starr and undefeated R Adios Jersey are among 27 accomplished older female sprinters nominated to the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie (G3) Saturday, Feb. 19 at Laurel Park.

The 70th running of the Barbara Fritchie for fillies and mares 4 and older, and the 46th edition of the $250,000 General George (G3) for 4-year-olds and up, both sprinting seven furlongs, headline a program featuring six stakes worth $900,000 in purses including the $100,000 Miracle Wood, the next stop in Maryland’s series for 3-year-olds.

Hibiscus Punch sprung a 41-1 upset in the 2021 Fritchie over a field that included multiple stakes winners Hello Beautiful, Dontletsweetfoolya and Needs Supervision; graded winners Sharp Starr and Estilo Talentoso; and stakes winner and multiple graded-stakes placed Club Car. Hibiscus Punch has run twice since, finishing fifth in the Derby City Distaff (G1) last May before returning to be ninth following a troubled trip in the Jan. 29 What a Summer at Laurel.

Club Car (third), Sharp Starr (sixth) and Dontletsweetfoolya (seventh) are all returning nominees to the Fritchie, which debuted at 1 1/16 miles in 1952 at Bowie Race Track and has been run exclusively at seven furlongs since 1964.

Leader of the Band won the 1 1/16-mile Monmouth Oaks (G3) last summer and was second in the Cathryn Sophia, contested at a mile and 70 yards, but has not raced since finishing sixth in the Sept. 25 Cotillion (G1). Kentucky Derby (G1)-winning trainer John Servis also nominated Bold Confection, a last-out optional claiming allowance winner Jan. 5 at Parx.

Sharp Starr won the 2020 Go For Wand (G3) at Aqueduct and the 2021 Empire Distaff at Belmont Park and most recently finished third in the Dec. 30 Bay Ridge. R Adios Jersey is six-for-six in her career, including victories in the Sophomore Fillies, Charles Town Oaks (G3) and City of Ocala in succession spread out over nine months, the latter Dec. 11 at Tampa Bay Downs.

Also nominated are multiple stakes winners Jakarta, most recently third in the Inside Information (G2) Jan. 29 at Gulfstream Park, and Bank Sting; Belle of the North and Kaylasaurus, both stakes winners at Laurel; Euphoric, beaten a nose when second in the 2021 Miss Preakness (G3) at historic Pimlico Race Course; stakes winners Glass Ceiling and Prodigy Doll; and Fraudulent Charge, never worse than third in eight starts including four seconds in Laurel stakes.

The General George, which began at Bowie in 1973, attracted 25 nominations graded-stakes winners Chateau, Green Light Go, Phat Man and Laurel-based Wondrwherecraigis. Trained by Brittany Russell, Wondrwherecraigis has finished first in each of his last five starts, all stakes, but was disqualified to second for interference in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3). He rebounded with a victory in the Bold Ruler (G3) at Belmont and returned from a minor foot issue to capture the Jan. 29 Fire Plug at Laurel.

Last out winner of the Dec. 19 Gravesend at Aqueduct, Chateau won the Tom Fool (G3) and was fourth in the Carter (G1) last year, also finishing second in the Runhappy (G3) and third in the Fall Highweight (G3). Green Light Go won the Saratoga Special (G2) and was second in the Champagne (G1) in 2019 for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Second in the 2021 Fall Highweight, he returned to the winner’s circle with a nine-length optional claiming allowance triumph Jan. 13 at Aqueduct.

Phat Man won the 2020 Fred Hooper (G3) at Gulfstream and has raced up and down the East Coast since, including last fall’s Polynesian at Laurel, where he finished third but was placed second. Most recently he was last of seven in failed grass attempt ini the Jan. 8 Tropical Turf (G3) at Gulfstream.

Hillwood Stable’s Cordmaker has won his last three starts, all in Laurel stakes – the Richard W. Small in November, Robert T. Manfuso in December and Jennings Jan. 29. Trainer John Ortiz nominated the trio of multiple stakes winner Hollis; Grade 1-placed Mucho, winner of the six-furlong Challedon last summer at Pimlico; and stakes-placed Top Gunner.

Other prominent nominees include 2021 Maryland Million Sprint winner Air Token; Grade 3-placed Happy Medium; and stakes winners Penguin Power, Shackqueenking, Sir Alfred James, Threes Over Deuces, Timeless Bounty and Wendell Fong.