Fille d’Esprit, Alottahope give Robb strong CT hand

Longtime Maryland conditioner John [Jerry] Robb is certainly no stranger to stakes success at Charles Town, having won stakes there with horses like Anna’s Bandit and Fred High. This Friday night he is looking for a lucrative stakes double with Fille d’Esprit in the $250,000 Misty Bennett Pink Ribbon and Alottahope in the $250,000 Robert Hilton, both contested at the two-turn distance of seven furlongs.

Both Fille d’Esprit and Alottahope will head into their respective stakes off sharp scores.

Fille d’Esprit captured the $150,000 Seeking The Pearl Stakes at Colonial Downs on August 16, one month after she was fifth and last in the $100,000 Alma North Stakes at Laurel Park on a day when she was fractious at the gate, broke slowly and then never reached contention as Chub Wagon prevailed handily as the odds-on choice.

“Her last race at Colonial was just tremendous,” Robb said. “She was unlucky in the beginning, a horse broke down in front of her down the backside, then she worked her way back into it and then really finished up well. That was a great bounce-back race for her after that stakes at Laurel. In ]the Alma North] she reared up in the gate and I think she got her back leg caught up over the gate. I thought they were going to scratch her. But she really lost all chance when she acted up.”

A six-year-old daughter of Great Notion that Robb trains for C J I Phoenix Group and his and wife Gina’s No Guts No Glory Farm, Fille d’Esprit owns two wins from four starts this year and 10 victories and nearly $450,000 banked from 19 career tries heading into the Pink Ribbon. Although she will arrive off a sharp score at Colonial Downs, Fille d’Esprit will likely yield the favorite’s role to Frank’s Rockette, a five-year-old Into Mischief mare trained by Bill Mott who has been second in each of her three starts this year, the last two in graded stakes company.

“It’s a little bit of a quick turnaround for my mare, but I think she’ll be okay,” said Robb, who once conditioned the talented and durable Anna’s Bandit to stakes victories at Charles Town and Laurel Park just one week apart. “She’s coming back in 10 days, but she came out of that last race really good. There are some good ones in there. But if she can get away from the gate well and avoid trouble going into that first turn, I think she’ll do pretty good.”

Alottahope won the Star de Naskra Stakes. Photo Jerry Dzierwinski.

Roughly 30 minutes later Robb will saddle Alottahope in the $250,000 Robert R. Hilton Memorial for three-year-olds. A Maryland-bred sophomore son of Editorial out of a Midnight Lute mare that Robb trains for No Guts No Glory Farm, Alottahope rebounded from a fifth-place finish behind Old Homestead in the Concern Stakes at Laurel on July 2 to romp home 15 lengths clear in the Star de Naskra Stakes there four weeks later.

“He was always seeming to get into trouble in his races,” Robb said. “So, I felt like it was time to try something new. I switched jockeys from Xavier [Perez] to Jevian [Toledo] and that seemed to help. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it will work again this week. But that horse always seemed really unlucky. I thought he had more ability than what he had shown in some of those races. That last start he really put it all together and we’ll see if he can run back to that [on Friday].”

Like Fille d’Esprit, although Alottahope is heading into the Robert R. Hilton off a superb effort last out he will also likely yield the favorite’s role at post time. Old Homestead, sharp winner of the Concern when he finished nearly four lengths clear of Alottahope, finished second to odds-on Conagher in the $100,000 Housebuster at Colonial Downs earlier this month. A Florida-bred, sophomore son of Overanalyze trained by Brett Brinkman, Old Homestead has won four of six starts and earned nearly $300,000 along the way.

Robb also has another runner entered in the Hilton, Al Loves Josie, who is listed as the first horse on the also eligible list. In his most recent outing, Al Loves Josie was a distant third in the Star de Naskra Stakes behind stablemate Alottahope and would be a definitive longshot if he were to draw into the race due to another rival’s late defection.

“I don’t know if he has the ability to go with those other ones in there,” Robb said.