“Something from Grandmother” helps Post Time win Carter

Buying a horse at auction can be a laborious process, involving nicks and mating systems, poring over pedigree pages and examining radiographs. 

Or you could do what Ellen Charles did at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern Fall Yearling Sale. 

“My grandmother was Marjorie Merriweather Post,” said Charles in the winner’s circle at Aqueduct Racetrack on April 6. “I always wanted a horse out of the mare Merriweather.”

To be fair, Merriweather, a Maryland-bred by Opening Verse out of the Affirmed mare Satin Lilly, had more going for her than just her name. Though unraced, she produced four six-figure earners, including Vielsalm, a 2010 filly by Fairbanks that earned $329,325, topping Merriweather’s progeny. 

In 2020, Vielsalm foaled a gray/roan colt by Frosted, and it’s that colt that caught Charles’ eye, in the consignment of Becky Davis. For a bid of $85,000, Charles had her Merriweather racehorse.

And that Merriweather racehorse, now named Post Time, became a multiple graded stakes winner on Saturday at Aqueduct, winning the Grade 2 Carter Stakes by a well-earned neck. His clever name is also an homage to Charles’ grandmother, whose parents founded the Post cereal empire. 

Post Time was bred in Maryland by Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Bowman, their son Dr. Brooke Bowman, and longtime breeding partner Milton Higgins.

The 8-5 morning line and odds-on favorite at the gate, Post Time brought a confirmed closing style to the race, but even knowing that the four-year-old lags early and closes late, both Charles and trainer Brittany Russell had some anxious moments during the race. Post Time looked like he had little chance until he hit the sixteenth pole, running multiple lengths behind sluggish early fractions, then swinging four-wide coming into the stretch. With second choice Super Chow looking home free, longshot Castle Chaos began to sneak up the rail to challenge the leader while Super Chow drifted to the middle of the track, herding Post Time out in the process.

But when he kicked in, Post Time passed Super Chow and ran down Castle Chaos in the final strides.

Post Time was ridden by Sheldon Russell, the trainer’s husband.


“Sheldon got little wide on the turn, and I was kind of like ‘oh, jeez,’” said the trainer. “But he’s a good horse and got the job done.” 

“I was afraid that this was maybe going to be the second time he gets beat,” said the owner. “But he didn’t disappoint me.” 

Post Time
Post Time won the Carter Stakes. Photo by Angelo Lieto.

Charles’ own racing pedigree runs deep. Her mother was an accomplished equestrian who got her owner’s license in 1929, and her father worked for the Maryland Jockey Club for thirty years, holding a variety of positions, including paddock judge, placing judge, and horse identifier. 

She has owned horses since at least 2005, and prior to the Carter, her three graded stakes wins all came in the General George at Laurel Park, with Bandbox, Cordmaker, and most recently this year with Post Time. For years her horses were trained by Rodney Jenkins, and one day at Laurel Park, Jenkins’ assistant invited her to lunch at the track with Russell. 

“I thought to myself, ‘Hm, she’s doing so well, let’s see if she has room for me,’ and she did,” said Charles.  

Charles runs in the name of Hillwood Stable, named for the Georgetown estate purchased by her grandmother in 1955. The home and gardens are open to the public, and Charles served as chair of Hillwood’s board of directors for 25 years, stepping down a decade ago and now serving as chairman emerita. 

Ellen Charles and Sheldon Russell enjoy the moment. Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk.

Charles “loves to run at home” in Maryland, said Russell, and while a race at Pimlico on Preakness day would be “a lot of fun,” the trainer doesn’t think the track configuration in Baltimore would best suit her horse, despite his winning at distances from 5 1/2 furlongs to a mile. Pimlico’s one-turn race distance is six furlongs – perhaps a bit shorter than Post Time’s best – and its two-turn races are 1 1/16 miles, perhaps an inch too far.

“Pimlico is tricky,” she said. “I’m not sure it’s the best thing for him.” 

Russell won the Carter last year, too, when it was a Grade 1, with Doppelganger, a horse with high-class breeding and an ownership group comprising a who’s who of U.S. Thoroughbred racing. His yearling purchase price exceeded Post Time’s by nearly a factor of seven. 

“Ellen has been so supportive from the beginning,” said Russell. “She’s awesome to train for, and to have a horse like him for her is super-special.” 

“My grandmother was a remarkable woman,” said Charles, smiling a bit nostalgically, maybe a bit mystically. “And you know what? I do believe that Post Time has gotten something from her.”