Luna Belle seeks fifth straight in Weber City Miss

Luna Belle, Maryland’s champion 2-year-old filly of 2021 that has gone unbeaten through three starts at 3, goes after her fifth consecutive stakes victory and a chance at possible graded glory in Saturday’s $125,000 Weber City Miss at Laurel Park.

The Weber City Miss for 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles serves as co-headliner with the $125,000 Federico Tesio for 3-year-olds on a 10-race program featuring four stakes worth $450,000 in purses. First race post time is 12:40 p.m.

Owned by Deborah Greene and trainer Hamilton Smith and bred by Smith, Greene and her late father, Fred Greene Jr., Luna Belle continues to thrive with racing, having made at least one start every month since her debut on the Colonial Downs turf last July. She was third or better five times in seven tries at 2 including a maiden win third time out in her dirt debut and a victory in the Maryland Juvenile Fillies at Laurel to launch her streak.

“She bounces back from every race so far real good and seems no worse for wear, so we’ll just go on with her. We pointed for this one, we’ll see how she does and reevaluate again after this race,” Smith said.

“The plan, hopefully, is that she can get the job done and get the automatic [berth] for the Black-Eyed Susan. That’s more or less what we’re pointing for right now,” he added. “If we get that accomplished, then after the Black-Eyed Susan we’ll give her a little break and come back mid-summer and start her up again and hope for the Maryland Million and all those races in the fall.”

Luna Belle started this year winning the six-furlong Xtra Heat by six lengths Jan. 29 and the seven-furlong Wide Country by three lengths Feb. 19, coming from off the pace each time, the latter in a last-to-first move despite a troubled trip. Stretched out to a mile for the first time in the March 19 Beyond the Wire, she was never more than a half-length from the leaders, took over the top spot after six furlongs and went on to win by 3 ½ lengths.

“She was up closer naturally because she was going a little further, for one thing. She looked like she was a little more aggressive with [jockey Denis Araujo] than she normally was in the prior several races,” Smith said. “He finally got her to relax a little bit down the backside. She went to the lead around the turn and she did win it pretty impressively. I was very pleased the way she did it.

“I’m not crazy about having her on the lead or anything like that. I’d rather she sit off the lead a little bit like she did in her sprints,” he added. “Maybe not as far back, but just off the lead a little bit and when he asks her to, let her go. I prefer that better than being with the front runners. We’ll just see how it goes.”

Smith is confident Luna Belle can handle her first attempt at two turns in the Weber City Miss. Her streak began with the addition of Araujo, who rides back from Post 5 of six at topweight of 124 pounds.

“I like the way they’ve got the program set up, advancing an eighth of a mile or so each race. It gives a horse like her an opportunity, instead of going from a three-quarter-mile race to a mile and a sixteenth,” Smith said. “At least she’s got the steps to go in it. I think that’s a good thing for a young horse. She seems so far in all her races she’s handled things pretty easy, and she seems like she can keep going further than she has been.

“So far she looks like she’s been taking her races OK and things have been working out fine,” he added. “She had several works between races and she worked OK and all. We’ll just have to hope for the best.”

Luna Belle is the 3-5 morning line favorite. A pair of shippers are the only other horses in single digits in the six-horse field, with Chardonnay, who spent the winter at the Fair Grounds, at 7-2 for trainer Mike Stidham and recent maiden winner Khuluq 9-2 for trainer Chad Brown.