Laurel: Mauritius sails to maiden score

Trainer Brittany Russell received a call a couple months back from bloodstock agent Tom Ryan. Did she want to take a couple of horses?

“Some of these horses, they’re just looking for another circuit, a little easier spot,” she said. “They’re obviously nice horses and maybe have some little things here or there.”

Oh, and one of those was a three-year-old Twirling Candy colt named Mauritius. He had run second in his debut in March in a maiden special weight contest at Santa Anita. Second, that is, behind Taiba – who is now a multiple Grade 1 winner and millionaire.

“So, yeah, that was a good phone call to receive,” Russell said with a big laugh.

In Sunday’s second race at Laurel Park, Mauritius had his local unveiling, and he made it a winning one. Jockey Sheldon Russell put Mauritius on the lead early, controlled the pace, and had plenty in the tank to hold the closers safe.

The final margin was 2 ¼ lengths, and the running time for six furlongs on a fast main track was 1:12.88.

Mauritius was heavily bet, going off at odds of 1-2 and paying just $3.00 to win. The exacta, with the second choice underneath, returned $3.40 on a one-dollar wager.

He now has one win and $48,620 in earnings from three career outings. Out of the Quiet American mare Special Still, he still has a ways to go to make up the $130,000 that Ryan’s SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, and others paid to acquire him at the 2020 Keeneland September yearling sale.

But Russell, for one, is happy with where her new charge is in the process.

Mauritius broke his maiden at Laurel Park. Photo by Jim McCue.

“He’s great – super classy,” she said. “He hasn’t had a bad day, always works well, and has been an absolute pleasure.”

Trained in his first two starts by Bob Baffert, Mauritius came to Russell’s Laurel Park operation a couple of months back and had recorded a half-dozen works prior to today’s contest. Those included a sharp five-furlong move September 30 – second-fastest of 26 – and a bullet half-mile October 23.

“There was a maiden race at the beginning of the month, and he tricked me one morning,” she said. “He worked really good. And I thought, ‘No, you know what, I better just wait here. This horse could definitely use two more.’”

The wait seems to have done the trick. Once put on the lead, Mauritius was never under real threat in the lane but did have to be kept to task by his rider.

“Sheldon said he was playing around, so I don’t think it was a matter of fitness,” the trainer said. “I think it might have been just kind of he’s out there just doing his thing. And he kind of was wondering what’s going on.”

He’ll likely be headed into a local first-level allowance next, Russell said. And then? Well, time will tell.

“I think at this stage, you just want to keep horses like this winning, and hopefully he kind of drags us into a bigger spot,” she said. “He seems like the classy type that could.”