Grateful Bred to make return in Leatherbury Stakes

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When it comes to her stable star, trainer Madison Meyers has plenty to be Grateful about.

Gordon Keys’s Maryland homebred Grateful Bred provided Meyers with her first victory at a recognized flat track July 11, 2020 at Laurel Park, after she recorded previous wins in a 2016 amateur event at Great Meadow in Virginia and a hurdle race in the fall of 2019 in Aiken, S.C.

Grateful Bred’s first stakes victory in the Meadow Stable last July at Colonial Downs was also the first for his trainer, whose small string at the Middleburg (VA) Training Center mixes Thoroughbred and steeplechase horses.

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A victory in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint last fall was another career highlight, followed up by a trip to New York where Grateful Bred was injured in a starting gate incident and wound up staying overnight at an equine clinic.

“He’s really awesome to be around, and we’re just lucky to have him,” Meyers said.

Grateful Bred is set to make his season debut Saturday in the $100,000 King T. Leatherbury, a 5 ½-furlong sprint that is one of the year’s first three stakes scheduled for Laurel’s turf course on a five-stake Saturday. He is 5-2 on the morning line and the second choice in the field of 10.

Grateful Bred has not raced since his front-running 1 ½-length triumph in the 5 ½-furlong Maryland Million Turf Sprint Oct. 23, a space of 183 days between starts. He was entered in the Aqueduct Turf Sprint last November but had to be scratched after breaking through the gate and getting loose.

“He ended up in the clinic there and got a bunch of stitches,” Meyers said. “He had a pretty large laceration to his hind leg, but we got him all healed up. Since he started back, he has not missed a beat.”

Named by Keys’s son, David, as a tribute to the Grateful Dead, his parents’ favorite band, Grateful Bred’s injury coincided with his annual winter vacation, one spent with Meyers rather than taking up his typical residency at the Keys’s Virginia farm.

“We would have stopped anyway because of the turf [season ending]. That would have been his last start of the year and normally he just goes home for about 60 days and then comes back to me,” Meyers said. “Instead, we just kept him with us to take care of the cut and everything and then started back and gone from there.”

Grateful Bred resumed training in February and has had five timed works at Middleburg since mid-March for his comeback. He made his 2021 debut in mid-June off an eight-month break between starts to capture a restricted five-furlong allowance on the turf at Pimlico Race Course.

“The only difference would be that he didn’t go back to the farm and get turned out. He stayed with us. It will be interesting to see if there’s any difference in him coming back, but so far in the mornings he seems happy and the same ol’ horse,” Meyers said. “I hope he runs a big race.”

Jevian Toledo is named to ride Grateful Bred from Post 2 in a field of 10. The Great Notion gelding has five wins and two seconds in 11 career races with purse earnings of $224,015.

“He just lays it all on the line every time, and he really tells you when he’s ready to run. He’s very easy to read that way. He just tries hard. He’ll gut it out no matter what it takes, and that’s pretty much all you can ask for in a racehorse,” Meyers said. “He’s showing all the signs he’s ready to run. Hopefully he does what he’s good at.”

Among Grateful Bred’s rivals is R. Larry Johnson’s True Valour. The 2-1 morning line favorite is a Group 3 winner in his native Ireland that is coming off a more extended layoff. Winner of the City of Hope Mile (G2) and Thunder Road (G3) eight months apart in 2019 at Santa Anita, the 8-year-old horse trained by Graham Motion has not raced in more than a year since finishing sixth in the March 2021 Al Quoz Sprint (G1) in Dubai.

Other notables in the field include Battle Station (4-1), second by a nose in last August’s Grade 3 Parx Dash for trainer Daniel Velazquez, and Fair Catch (8-1), who was third in this event a year ago and arrives on a three-race win streak for Bruno Tessore.

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