Post Time returns with a flourish

 Hillwood Stable’s undefeated stakes-winning 3-year-old Post Time, facing older and more seasoned horses in his first race in 295 days, launched his comeback in impressive style with a powerful and professional victory Friday at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Ridden by Sheldon Russell for his wife, Maryland’s leading trainer, Brittany Russell, Post Time ($3.40) completed six furlongs in 1:11.64 over a fast main track to capture the second-level optional claiming allowance by 4 ½ lengths.

“Once he came around the turn and started to move, it was a great day,” said Hillwood’s Ellen Charles, who paid $85,000 for Post Time as a yearling last fall. “When you have a horse with his talent you wonder after he’s been laid up whether he’s going to want to do it again. I think he showed us today he wants to do it, and he wants to do it his way.”

Post Time, who showed his quirky side as a 2-year-old, was well-behaved in the paddock and warming up and entered the gate as the 3-5 betting favorite. He broke last and trailed the field in the early stages as 40-1 long shot Top Boss was hustled to the front and went the opening quarter-mile in 24.24 seconds.

Russell dropped down to the rail on the backstretch and remained patient as the half went in 47.30 with Top Boss still in front. Leaving the far turn with plenty of horse under him, Russell tipped Post Time off the inside and split Nolo Contesto and Minister for Magic past the eighth pole, quickly reeling in Top Boss and cruising past well in hand.

It was the first time Russell had ridden a race on Post Time, who had ex-jockey Eric Camacho –an exercise rider for the Russell barn – up for all three of his starts last year.

“To be fair, I’d been on him a few times in the morning when we first got him and it worked out where I chose a different [horse] over him and he kept winning, so I just never got a chance to get back on him,” Russell said. “He’s a year older, he’s a year stronger, and let’s hope he’s matured.

“He still shows us signs in the morning where he’s a playboy, but today he didn’t take a step wrong,” he added. “We broke the post parade and, if anything, he was too quiet. I appreciate Ellen giving me the chance to ride him. He was awesome. I hope he stays healthy, and we can have some fun with him.”

Post Time, by three-time Grade 1-winning multimillionaire Frosted, had raced exclusively at Laurel Park at 2, capturing his debut in an off-the-turf maiden special weight by two lengths going 5 ½ furlongs. He returned with a 6 ¾-length romp facing winners for the first time and capped his season with another rallying 3 ¾-length score in the Maryland Juvenile against fellow Maryland-bred/sired horses.

Post Time
Post Time won in his first start in 10 months Friday at PImlico. Phot by Jim McCue.

Pointed to January’s Spectacular Bid, Maryland’s first stakes of the year for sophomores, Post Time went to the sidelines and didn’t return to the work tab until July. He had eight breezes with Brittany Russell’s string at Delaware Park leading up to his return.

“We know this is a nice horse. We gave him time and did the right thing,” she said. “You think you have him ready to go and he has some little quirks about him, so it’s a relief to see that, mentally, he was an absolute star. I felt like he traveled nice. It was a great first run back. It’s the experience you want to see. He won and he enjoyed himself.”

It was the first time that Post Time found himself racing on the inside and within traffic, a situation he handled with aplomb, much to his trainer’s delight. His six opponents had combined for 33 wins from 190 starts.

“If he’s going to be a good horse, we’ve got to put him in these positions. You’re not always going to have the outside post and be able to just loop them. You’re going to have to be able to run through horses, take dirt and be a man. He sure acts like he’s a man,” she said. “He just moves so easy when he gets running, it’s like incredible.”