Circle P rallies to win Maryland Juvenile

Trainer Flint Stites calls Circle P a lot of things. “A character” is one. “Odd” is another. “Something else” is yet a third.

Now you can add another descriptor to the list: stakes winner.

Circle P benefited from a spirited speed duel up front and a patient Ricardo Chiappe ride to win Saturday’s $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Stakes for Maryland-bred or -sired two-year-olds by 1 ¾ lengths, winning for the second time in four career outings.

Running time for the seven furlongs on a fast main track was 1:24.49.

Circle P didn’t get much love at the windows, going off at nearly 9-1. Perhaps bettors were turned off by his well-beaten third-place finish last time out, a half-dozen lengths behind Speedyness, who went off the 6-5 favorite here.

But Stites was optimistic.

“In that race he broke a little slow when he got hit pretty hard out of the gate,” the Penn National-based trainer said. “He was pushed way back, and he doesn’t like the dirt in his face. But he’s been training super. I thought he would run really well here.”

Maryland Million Nursery winner Catahoula Moon and Speedyness, a winner of two straight since donning blinkers, figured to be major players in this contest, going off as the favorite and second choice. And they hooked up almost immediately, dueling through fast fractions of 22.95 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.66 for the half, at which point Catahoula Moon held a half-length advantage over his rival.

Circle P, meanwhile, was still in sixth and about 10 lengths back. But he was starting to rev up a run.

“He’s still green. He doesn’t like the dirt in his face,” Chiappe said. “I was thinking of going outside, but the horse put himself inside and just flew.”

“When I saw how fast they were going early on, I was really excited,” Stites said. “I thought that we were at least going to hit the board. Once he got rolling, he kept coming.”

In the lane, Catahoula Moon got the edge on Speedyness and gradually put that rival away, opening a three-length lead with a furlong to go while Speedyness drifted towards the center of the track.

That opened an inviting seam for Chiappe and Circle P, and they barged through it to win. Catahoula Moon held second in a game try, while Speedyness was another four lengths farther back in third, well clear of the rest.


Circle P paid $19.80 to win, and the exacta, with the second choice underneath, returned $36.00 for a one-dollar wager. Circle P is now two-for-four in his career with earnings over $101,000.

Circle P
Circle P won the Maryland Juvenile Stakes. Photo by Jim McCue.

Circle P, a Speightster gelding, was bred in Maryland by Marathon Farms Inc. His owners, a partnership called DeSales 85 LLC, picked him up for $47,000 at last fall’s Keeneland yearling sale.

“We kind of were going for PA-breds, honestly, and we found this Maryland-bred late in the book,” said DeSales 85’s P. J. McCall. “[Bloodstock agents Jared Hughes and Phil Hager] said he looks the part, and so we purchased him out of Keeneland and got him to Flint.”

DeSales 85 is so named because a couple of the partners are 1985 graduates of DeSales University, a college in Center Valley, PA. The partnership’s Pete McCall attributed the win to Stites’s training.

“We felt good coming into this race,” he said. “And as Flint said, we felt really good once we saw the hot fractions.”

One race prior, onetime $12,500 claimer Kissedbyanangel made every step a winning one in the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Stakes to earn her first stakes victory. She’s two-for-five since owner-trainer Joanne Shankle dropped the slip on her out of her debut victory.

Off as the favorite, Kissedbyanangel and jockey Angel Cruz repelled a stretch bid from second choice Sheilah’s Warcloud, the runner-up in the Maryland Million Lassie, and went on to win by two lengths in 1:24.94 for seven furlongs.