Jemison posts sharp debut victory

Shedaresthedevil’s little sister made her belated debut April 10 at Laurel Park, and while it certainly took a while, it looks like the wait may have been worth it.

Under jockey Jevian Toledo, Jemison, a four-year-old filly by Outwork, simply dominated her competition – five overmatched colts and geldings – en route to a 7 ¼-length victory in a maiden special weight contest.

“I’m delighted. She’s awesome,” said trainer Brittany Russell. “I mean, she’s a racehorse.”

The word was out on Jemison, who is a half to the multiple Grade 1 winner. Though it was her maiden voyage, and she was facing males, she went off at odds of 1.10-1. She was fractious behind the gate – more about that in a moment – and bobbled slightly after the start. But she soon righted herself, tugged her way up to press the pace of Heaven’s Got Fire, and took over at will.

Running time for the six furlongs was 1:10.95 over a fast main track. Heaven’s Got Fire held second, 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Mutasallem.

Now, about that fractiousness. It wasn’t only prior to the race; she also wasn’t all that interested in standing in the winner’s circle.

“Be ready to scatter,” Russell warned a couple of her owners.

The physical talent is plentiful. It’s Jemison’s mind that has posed challenges for her connections.

“We just have to keep her together and keep her brain right,” Russell said.

“You want to call her quirky?” pondered co-owner Steve Weston of Parkland Thoroughbreds. “She’s a tough, tough girl.”

Weston’s Parkland Thoroughbreds, along with First Row Partners, Team Hanley, and Paul Braverman, purchased Jemison privately in 2020 from bloodstock agent Liz Crow, who’d grabbed the filly for $150,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale in 2019.

“She showed she had ability all along,” Weston said. “We gave her to Brad Cox, and we just had issues – not with Brad. Brad had issues with her.”

They sent her back to the farm to try to regain focus. “To run around and get her mind right,” said co-owner Roger Kaplan. “To find out if she’s ever gonna be a racehorse.”

“It’s been a process,” Weston sighed.

“She’s been a project, but we knew the talent was there,” Russell agreed. “That’s why we kind of continued.”

Her headstrong nature, of course, contributes to the challenge. So, too, does her talent.

“I think she was always very forward in early training,” Russell said. “They knew she had talent, but probably so forward that she didn’t have a lot of work besides horses. So we had to kind of go back to the beginning and figure out how to teach her how to run besides horses and things like that. But on the other hand, she’s coming by here, clocking fifteens, and you’re like, ‘Well, how do you put her with horses?’”

In today’s contest, Jemison broke from the outermost post in the compact field – probably to her benefit. Of course, winners – and different post positions – await Jemison. But not too many local fillies have these kinds of bloodlines – or debut so impressively.

And, anyway, it’s usually best in racing to celebrate today’s victories rather than worrying about tomorrow’s challenges.

“Brittany did a great job,” Weston said. “Getting her here. Getting her in the gate. We were concerned she just gets in the gate.”