Highestdistinction sharp in G3 BWI Turf Cup win

Trainer Lindsay Schultz entered July with no stakes wins in her young career, now in just its second full year. After Highestdistinction’s rousing victory in Saturday’s Grade 3 Baltimore Washington International Turf Cup, she has four, two in graded company.

“It’s pretty special,” she acknowledged of the positive run afterwards. “It’s pretty good.”

Highestdistinction, winless for nearly three years until July 14, now has three consecutive wins, the last two in stakes company. Indeed, the only horse to defeat him since he moved into Schultz’s barn three back is next-out Grade 3 winner Catnip.

Prior to the Turf Cup, Schultz described Highestdistinction as “razor sharp,” and nothing happened on a picture-perfect Saturday at Old Hilltop to alter that analysis. In a race that scratched down to just four runners, Highestdistinction was able to track a couple of lengths off the pace before powering to a 3 ¾-length victory in 1:36.63 for one mile on a turf course rated good.

“We had a good rider [Jairo Rendon], and he knows the horse,” Schultz said. “He looked Smokin’ T in the eye and kicked again.”

Rendon has been aboard for three of Highestdistinction’s last four starts. The lone exception came in a Delaware Park starter allowance which was something of a confidence builder. Off the runner-up finish to Catnip, in which he was 8-1, Highestdistinction was off at 4-5 in the Delaware race.


“He won that race at Delaware and had to kind of grind it out,” Schultz said. “But he got there, and it seemed like it gave him some confidence. The Oceanport was a big, big jump for us.”

In the Oceanport Highestdistinction was back to being a longshot, off at 10-1. With a somewhat similar trip to this afternoon’s, he tracked the pace, took a short lead over favored Big Everest with an eighth to go, and went on to win by 1 ¼ lengths. That win was Highestdistinction’s first in stakes company and Schultz’s first open stakes win.

In today’s contest, Highestdistinction ranged up to the outside of racelong leader King Vega in upper stretch but drifted in slightly as that one drifted out. The result was a solid bump that did little to affect Highestdistinction’s momentum.

King Vega was a clear second, five lengths ahead of show horse Smokin’ T, the 6-5 betting favorite. Highestdistinction paid $7.80 to win and topped an exacta that returned $11.60 on a one-dollar wager.

Highestdistinction won the G3 Baltimore Washington International Turf Cup. Photo by Jim McCue.

Highestdistinction, a six-year-old Point of Entry gelding, now has five wins and $333,542 in earnings from 21 career starts. Schultz trains him for Willow Lane Stable Inc., who also bred him.

The win validated Schultz’s confidence in Highestdistinction – and kept the good times going in her stable.

“It’s been unbelievable really. I mean, we’ve certainly prepared ourselves for this and prepared the horses, but that’s a pretty good run,” Schultz said prior to the race. “I mean, it definitely wasn’t something we were expecting or imagining, at least not at this stage.”

Schultz’s other runner at Pimlico, Creative Cairo, finished a credible third in the grassy $100,000 All Along two races prior to the Turf Cup. But no one had eyes for her afterwards, not after Full Count Felicia ran off the screen to an 8 ½-length victory for the husband-wife team of trainer Brittany Russell and jockey Sheldon Russell.

Full Count Felicia, a four-year-old War Front filly owned by Gold Square LLC, posted her third consecutive victory and fourth in five outings since moved into the Russell barn last summer. All of those wins have been by open lengths.

In the All Along, Full Count Felicia popped the latches on top, and Russell was able to ration her speed while maintaining a clear advantage through solid if manageable fractions.

“Not a little bit” how the team drew it up, Brittany Russell acknowledged afterwards. But she added, “I just said, I don’t know what this pace scenario is going to be. I said, don’t choke her out. Do not choke her out. You know, I said, just let her get comfortable. That’s what he did.”

Full Count Felicia was three lengths clear after six furlongs in 1:12.01 and steadily lengthened her lead from there while geared down in the final sixteenth.  Full Count Felicia, off as the 1.30-1 second choice, returned $4.60. The exacta, with favorite Willakia in second, paid $3.40 for a buck.

She now has four wins and $226,226 in earnings from a dozen career starts.