Luna Belle, Fille d’Esprit sparkle in Laurel stakes
The boys were great, but the fillies were the true stars of the show Saturday at Laurel Park.
Shake Em Loose, Dontmesawithme, Whereshetoldmetogo – they all looked good in winning their Saturday stakes on a clear, sunny day.
But Fille d’Esprit and Luna Belle? They dazzled.
The lightly raced Fille d’Esprit – six years old but with just 13 starts in her career – laid waste to a pretty accomplished field of Maryland-breds in the Conniver winning by eight lengths in 1:24.54 over a fast main track.
And then Luna Belle went her one better, dominating the Beyond the Wire by 3 ½ lengths in a time of 1:38.93 for the one-turn mile that was faster than older boys had managed it one race earlier in the Harrison Johnson Memorial.
The three-year-old Luna Belle has made pretty short work of her local stakes rivals and appears to be on a collision course with the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes May 20 at Pimlico. The Beyond the Wire was her fourth consecutive stakes win, all under jockey Denis Araujo.
Luna Belle had made a habit of rallying from well out of it to win, but in the Beyond the Wire she was on the engine early, three wide and part of a three-horse vanguard in front through a 24.19-second opening quarter-mile.
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“Not my plan,” Araujo said with a laugh about his filly’s early eagerness.
“Hammy [trainer Hamilton Smith] said to try to be a little bit closer,” he added. “She showed so much speed at the beginning, it was surprising to me.”
Fortunately, he adapted readily. Luna Belle pressed the pace, bid on the far turn, and took over turning for home. She drew off to win comfortably while ridden out.
It was her fifth career win from 10 starts and pushed her earnings past $300,000. Smith co-owns the Maryland-bred with Deborah Greene. Luna Belle paid $2.40 to win as the overwhelming favorite. Recent maiden winner Candy Light was second.
“She’s an amazing filly,” Araujo said. “And she handles everything.”
Also handling pretty much everything with aplomb was Fille d’Esprit. The Great Notion mare earned her first career stakes win with an eight-length triumph in the Conniver, beating multiple stakes winners Kiss the Girl and Artful Splatter
A $10,000 claim in August 2020, Fille d’Esprit has gone on to win three allowance races and last out was third, beaten a length, in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie. Today she cruised home ridden out, stopping the timer in 1:24.54. Kiss the Girl was second, and Fille d’Esprit paid $3.40 to win.
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Since returning from a 10 month layoff last October, Fille d’Esprit has now won twice while earning nearly $125,000. Which is a pretty nice ROI on a $10,000 claim.
“I claimed her just because of the breeding,” trainer Jerry Robb said. “There’s only a couple mares around by that sire [No Armistice] that [Anna’s Bandit’s] mare was by. When I saw this, I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ That’s the only reason I took her.”
Anna’s Bandit, like Fille d’Esprit a daughter of Great Notion out of a No Armistice mare, earned more than $800,000 for Robb and his and wife Gina’s No Guts No Glory Farm.
“It’s all Jerry,” said co-owner Carl Iannotta. “He’s a genius. And Gina is incredible, too, with the babies. It’s a perfect team.”
Fille d’Esprit looks like she can swim in deeper waters; she clearly wasn’t outmatched in the Fritchie. But Robb is known for making hay while the sun shines, and the easiest hay to be made generally involves racing at his home track.
But not always.
“She ran good off the Lasix in the Fritchie, so she doesn’t need it,” he said. “She could go to New York – if she had to.”
NOTES Whereshetoldmetogo continued his trend of strong performances off the layoff. The Brittany Russell trainee wore down Jaxon Traveler to win the six-furlong Not for Love for Maryland-breds for the 14th win of his career. Under jockey Jevian Toledo, the seven-year-old moved closer to the $800,000 mark… Dontmesawithme posted an 18-1 upset in the Harrison Johnson Memorial. The Flint Stites trainee, ridden by Abner Adorno, was up close throughout and went on to win by 1 ½ lengths. Odds-on choice Galerio was third…